Going on holiday abroad this year ‘puts others at risk’: Welsh First Minister

Going abroad for holidays this year “puts other people at risk”, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Travellers returning from amber list countries who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will not have to self-isolate from July 19, following a decision by the UK Government.

Mr Drakeford said he regretted that choice, which he described as “very difficult to understand”, given the risk of importing coronavirus from other parts of the world and of new variants.

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But he told the Senedd that it would be “untenable” for the Welsh Government not to follow the same decision, given the majority of international travel in Wales is through England.

However, those returning from amber list countries to Wales must take a PCR test on day two and should not visit a hospital or care home for the duration of a normal self-isolation period.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government would continue to advise against all but essential travel and recommended that people should holiday at home this summer.

“If we were to try to have a rule in Wales that you couldn’t travel abroad to amber list countries, people would simply go to airports elsewhere and do it anyway,” Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff.

“I do regret it though. I do think that going abroad on holiday this year is not an essential thing, it’s a matter of choice and it’s a choice that puts other people at risk.

“Here in Wales, our problems in the autumn of last year undoubtedly began when people returned to Wales from other countries in Europe, bringing the virus with them.

“There is the risk of new variants occurring elsewhere and new variants where the vaccine may not be as effective against them as the vaccine is against the Alpha and the Delta variants.

“All of those seem to me to be risks that we could have mitigated by doing more to persuade people this year, one year, to stay at home.

“The weather in Wales is absolutely beautiful today and Wales is a beautiful country.

“I think spending one year holidaying at home is not a great hardship for most people and will be making a contribution to keeping us all safe.”

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(PA Graphics)

Mr Drakeford was asked whether he believed the approach taken by the UK Government was reckless.

He replied: “I don’t want to say reckless because they’ve made a calculation, and all these calculations are risk-based and you make your own assessment on where on that risk spectrum you think we should be.

“We would have calculated it differently. Of all the things that we have dealt with together, this was probably the area where we have had the biggest disagreements with the UK Government.

“We would have put everybody on a red list and only allowed travel by exception. We would have put India on the red list far earlier than the UK Government did.

“It’s been a series of decisions where we would have taken a more precautionary approach.”

Mr Drakeford said the UK Government would have weighed up the options and reached their conclusions but added that the Welsh Government “would have done it differently”.