Shropshire Star

Call to ban use of second homes until pandemic subsides

Senior doctors want the Welsh Government to outlaw all second home use until the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

Mark Drakeford has been asked to ban the use of second homes

The open letter, which has been signed by 15 clinicians from across Wales, urges the First Minister to make holiday home use illegal and outlines the danger of non-essential travel “in relation to the current public health emergency”.

Mark Drakeford has already hinted that regulations on people travelling to Welsh second homes could be tightened, with an announcement expected by the weekend.

All non-essential travel, including to second homes, is already illegal under the existing coronavirus guidelines.

But according to the open letter, there are concerns that the existing rules contained within The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Wales) Regulations 2020 are “insufficient” and need bolstering.

According to the senior GPs, covering authorities from across Wales, the Welsh Government should 'make second home use illegal until the risk posed by Covid-19 has abated, even when lockdown restrictions begin to ease in other areas of Wales and the UK, in order to prevent a “second peak”.'

They should also 'prolong lockdown measures in rural tourist hotspot areas of Wales, specifically targeting non-essential travel into these areas', and 'empower police to enforce the above, with the power to compel those breaching these restrictions without reasonable excuse to return to their primary residence'.

The letter adds: “Tourism and holiday home use facilitate non-essential movement into rural areas, increasing the population and thus placing additional pressures on local health and emergency services,” states the open letter, warning that north and west Wales could see a “second peak” unless such measures are followed.

“This could happen at the very worst of times – when staff resilience will be at rock-bottom, after weeks and months of pressure, and when global supplies of medical and personal protective equipment have been depleted.

“We appreciate the economic value of tourism, but this cannot be at the cost of the health of our rural population.

“We hope that the Welsh Government will show the value of devolution by being prepared to act in a swift, innovative, agile and decisive manner to safeguard the people of Wales.

“Where necessary this must diverge from Westminster to meet our nation’s unique needs and challenges. Let history show that the Government of Wales acted when it mattered the most.”

The Welsh Government has been asked to comment.

By Gareth Williams - Local Democracy Reporter

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