The First Minister has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ban people from travelling to Wales from coronavirus hotspots in England.
Unlike in Wales, where people in areas in local lockdown are banned from leaving the county without a reasonable excuse, in England there are no such restrictions.
Welsh local lockdown rules tell people not to travel outside that area unless they have a reasonable excuse – and going on holiday is not deemed a reasonable excuse.
This means that people in Bolton in Greater Manchester, which in a local lockdown and had 231 cases per 100,000 people in the last week, are able to travel to Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire on holiday whereas people in Newport, Gwent, which has 50 cases for the same number of people, can not.
When WalesOnline questioned Welsh Government minister Vaughan Gething at Monday’s press conference he indicated there were no plans to restrict people coming into Wales from English Covid hotspots.
However in Plenary today the First Minister said he had written to the Prime Minister about the issue.
Responding to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price he said he “wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday urging him” to put travel restrictions English on lockdown areas].”
Mr Drakeford said he would not want to bring in border controls but instead called on Mr Johnson to act.
He said: “I don’t think it is right for us to institute a set of border controls trying to prevent people from elsewhere visiting Wales.
“I think that would lead us into all sorts of anomalous and difficult territory, but I do think that as we act to prevent people who live in hotspots in Wales from travelling to England and taking the risk of the virus with them. So the Prime Minister in his capacity as the Prime Minister of England in this case ought to do the same to prevent people from English hotspots from travelling elsewhere in England to Wales or other parts of the United Kingdom because of the risk that that undoubtedly poses.
“I wrote to him yesterday asking him to do that, urging him to call a COBRA meeting for this week, as the First Minister of Scotland did at the weekend, and I look forward to a reply.”
In his letter Mr Drakeford wrote: “I am writing to raise again one of the issues we discussed at last week’s meeting. I have significant concerns about the potential infection risks arising when people travel from areas of high infection to other parts of the UK.
“We have taken a decision in Wales to place travel limits on people living in each of our areas under local restrictions, with the primary objective of limiting the spread of the virus. These mean that people in these areas are not allowed to leave their local areas without a reasonable excuse.
“My concern, as I set out at COBR(M), is that under the current model of local restrictions in England, people living in high-infection areas are still able to – and do – travel long distances from these areas into others, potentially spreading the virus well beyond their locality. This is clearly of particular concern in cross-border areas.
“Our equivalent local regulations in Wales, which we have already implemented in several areas of high infection, mean that people in those areas are prevented from travel without, reasonable excuse, thereby reducing the risk of spreading the virus.”
The First Minister added that in “the interests of UK solidarity and co-ordination expressed at the COBR(M) meeting… I ask that you give urgent consideration to the introduction of similar travel restrictions in the current high infection areas of England to those we have here in Wales.
“This would be a significant step in lessening the risk that we collectively face, and give communities in border areas considerable reassurance that we are taking every possible step to protect them.”
Commenting on the letter Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price MS criticised the delay on raising the issue.
He said: “When tighter restrictions were introduced nearly three weeks ago were not alert to the inconsistency on travel advice.
“Allowing people in Covid hotspots in England to travel to Wales undermines attempts to control the virus. The First Minister has dithered before raising this as an issue with the Prime Minister and there has been no public information campaign by the Welsh Government targeted at those living in areas of local restrictions over the border. This delay is putting commuities at risk.”
Earlier today Prime Minister Johnson issued an apology after a bumbling attempt to clarify the new coronavirus restriction in England.
In the north-east of England, mixing between households in pub gardens and outdoor restaurants spaces will not be allowed from midnight. But speaking today at a press conference, Mr Johnson delivered a confused and incorrect message in which he gave two directly opposing versions of the rule within seconds.