Drakeford: Foreign holidays risk bringing Covid variants back home

Adam Hale, PA Wales Correspondent
·3-min read

Going on foreign holidays this summer risks bringing new variants of coronavirus back from countries where cases are on the rise, Wales’ First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford repeated his calls for people in Wales to holiday domestically even if Boris Johnson lifts international travel restrictions for the whole of the UK in the coming months.

He cited France as an example of a country where rising cases has prompted a new national lockdown.

Coronavirus – Tue Mar 23, 2021
Mark Drakeford has warned Welsh citizens against taking foreign holidays because of the risk of bringing back new variants of coronavirus

At Thursday’s Welsh Government press conference, Mr Drakeford was asked if his plea for people to refrain from international travel would risk shaming those who choose to do so.

“If foreign travel resumes from England then its not a practical proposition to say Welsh citizens can’t take advantage of that if they want to,” he said.

“I’m regularly asked what my advice to people would be. This is the year to stay at home. This is the year to enjoy everything that Wales has to offer.

“Everybody will have seen the actions that have happened in France just overnight. Not just in France, but in Italy and Germany, in other parts of the continent where the virus is in circulation again.

“It’s not simply that the numbers of people suffering from coronavirus is going up so quickly, but new variants are present in those outbreaks, and what I don’t want to see is those new variants being reimported into Wales.”

He added: “It’s not to shame anybody, but when I’m asked my advice, my advice to them is not to take those risks.”

Mr Drakeford also said there were “many practical and ethical issues” around the introduction of vaccine passports, which he said had been discussed with Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, but that there were also “positive prizes to be won”.

Joining Mr Drakeford at the press conference, Dr Frank Atherton, Wales’ chief medical officer, said the certificates proving vaccination could be necessary in order to travel internationally to countries which may require them to enter.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Drakeford said he hoped Boris Johnson will push back the May 17 date for the UK allowing international travel again in order to protect the country from rising Covid cases elsewhere in the world.

He told Good Morning Britain: “I’ve long argued that it is over-optimistic, that it doesn’t reflect the risk of reimporting coronavirus from other parts of the world where there are new variants in circulation.”

Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast that he hopes to be able to lift travel restrictions in Wales on April 12 if England does the same – meaning people there could cross the border and make use of self-contained Welsh holiday accommodation which reopened on March 27.

“At the moment, people in Wales can travel anywhere inside Wales but the instruction in England remains to remain local and people are not able to stay anywhere overnight,” he said.

“The English road map says that that will change on April 12, and if it does change, then we will change our arrangements so that people will be able to travel more freely in and out of Wales.”