Wales could extend travel ban on visitors from England

Izzy Lyons
·4-min read
Wales entered a national lockdown on October 23 which will remain in place until November 9 - Getty
Wales entered a national lockdown on October 23 which will remain in place until November 9 - Getty
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The travel ban on English visitors to Wales could continue even after the firebreak lockdown ends, the First Minister has warned.

Mark Drakeford on Friday said that restrictions introduced last week preventing people from crossing the border into Wales could be extended due to the "significant gap" in transmission rates between England and Wales.

He said the measure was necessary to stop the virus being "imported from elsewhere".

Police stopped more than 500 vehicles last weekend in a bid to catch border-crossing rule breakers. Among them was a family who had driven five hours from their home in Sussex to Carmarthenshire. When questioned, they admitted they were travelling for non-essential reasons and were escorted back to the border.

In a separate incident, a man from Rotherham in South Yorkshire told officers he broke the rule because he wanted to "climb Mount Snowdon alone". He was instructed to leave North Wales immediately.

Wales lockdown
Wales lockdown

Wales was put into a 17-day lockdown on Friday Oct 23 owing to the rising number of Covid-19 cases, meaning people must stay at home and non-essential businesses have to close.

Speaking at a Welsh Government press conference on Friday, Mr Drakeford said: "I will want to study, over this weekend and into next week, the comparative incidence rates between Wales and parts of England which are under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions.

"The point of asking people in those places not to travel into Wales was because the rate of virus circulation was so much more than it is here and I'm afraid there is still a significant gap between those places and Wales.

"If that remains the same, then we will expect to have a similar regime after Nov 9 as we had prior to Oct 23 because it doesn't make sense to add to the difficulties we already face by the virus being imported from elsewhere."

The 17-day lockdown was introduced to stem an increase in Covid-19 cases; however, figures show they have continued to rise during the new restrictions.

Friday's press conference was told that there were 1,700 more confirmed infections on Friday and 1,191 patients in hospital, up 20 per cent in a week.

Three-tier Covid lockdown map
Three-tier Covid lockdown map

"They tell us, as I said earlier, just how important, and just how necessary, this firebreak period has been," Mr Drakeford said of the figures.

"Our hope has to be that the actions we are all taking will change the course of this disease," he added, saying the weeks that follow will show "its full impact".

An estimated 26,100 people in Wales had Covid-19 in the week to Oct 23, the Office for National Statistics said.

Mr Drakeford previously defended his decision to ban people entering Wales, insisting it was not an action against people from England.

"I pleaded with the Prime Minister to protect low incidence areas in England by acting in the way that we have and I'm still baffled by his unwillingness to take that simple, common sense course of action," he told BBC Radio 4.

"So this is not at all about trying to create a border. I was very keen indeed to avoid that. It is about public health, it is about protecting areas and communities who feel very nervous, very under threat, very anxious that people will come from outside and spread the virus in parts of Wales where we don't have big hospitals and we don't have big infrastructures.

"These are rural parts of our country and people are very, very fearful of what might happen to them."

Mr Drakeford ruled out further local lockdowns after the 17-day firebreaker.

He said putting regions under separate and varying restrictions was not a sufficient way of dealing with the "onslaught" of the virus and "didn't work well enough".

He added: "For the sake of clarity and simplicity, our decision is that the other side of the firebreak period from Nov 9, we will have a set of national rules that will apply in all parts of Wales. I hope that will help people, just to be clearer about what they are being asked to do".