The Welsh Government is considering imposing quarantine restrictions on people travelling into Wales from areas of the UK with high prevalence of coronavirus, its health minister has said.
Vaughan Gething said ministers were assessing their options after Boris Johnson said he did not want to introduce measures to restrict people living in parts of England under lockdown going on holiday in Wales.
First Minister Mark Drakeford had previously written to the Prime Minister to introduce travel restrictions for people in areas of England under local lockdown.
In Wales, people must not enter or leave an area subjected to such restrictions without a reasonable excuse, which does not include travelling for a holiday.
Mr Gething told the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 press briefing on Monday: “We’re actively considering what we should do and I’ve discussed it this morning with the First Minister.
“We have quarantine regulations for international travel.
“So for some of the hotspot areas in the north of England, the North East and North West, and the West Midlands, if they were other countries or territories, we would have quarantine regulations for them to return to the UK.”
Asked if the Welsh Government was considering imposing quarantine restrictions on people living elsewhere in the UK, Mr Gething said: “From high incidence areas across the UK, yes, we’re actively considering it.”
He added: “We’ll have to consider the matter today.
“We’ll have to take some advice from the scientific and medical advisers, public health advisers here.
“And we’ll then need to consider whether this is the right course of action because the measures we’ve introduced in Wales are about isolating areas with a higher prevalence of coronavirus and protecting lower prevalence areas.
“So that underpins the rationale we’ve taken.
“It’s consistent with the approach all four UK nations have taken to international travel and quarantine restrictions, where we recognise that higher prevalence areas in other parts of the world represent a risk to coronavirus being re-imported or having an opportunity to spread further within the UK.
“Now, it’s disappointing that we haven’t had a response to the First Minister’s letter but we’ve seen the interview with the Prime Minister, where he indicated he’s not prepared to do that at this point in time.
“So we then have to consider our own responsibility, our own powers and how we’ll draw that in a way that is proportionate to the risk we face.”
Mr Gething told the press conference that coronavirus had “grown significantly” in Wales over the past month.
Last week, an average of 73 people per day were admitted to hospitals in the country with the virus.
Six months ago, this figure was around 150 per day and intensive care units were “very close to being overrun” despite extra capacity, Mr Gething said.
“If we can’t control the spread of the virus locally, we will see this happening again,” he warned.
When asked about the Welsh Government’s proposals, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That’s for the Welsh Government to determine.
“In terms of our own guidance, you can see the steps we have put in place in the North East, Liverpool and elsewhere relating to travel.
“For instance, we have been encouraging people where they can to cycle or walk rather than to use public transport.”
Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, cast doubt on the Welsh Government’s ability to impose the restriction, describing Mr Gething’s statement as “nonsense”.
He told the PA news agency: “To try and limit people’s travelling across the UK is extremely dangerous.
“Do they intend to stop people at the border? Do they have the powers to do that? I suspect not.
“How do they intend to quarantine people who were just travelling perhaps from one low-risk area in Wales to another? I think it’s absolute nonsense.”
He added: “I think we need to rely on people’s common sense. People shouldn’t be travelling if they don’t have to. That’s the guidance here in Wales, and I’d like to think that people will use their common sense and do that.”
Andrew RT Davies, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, told BBC Wales he believed that quarantine measures would be a “dangerous slope” to go down.
“If you start introducing such restrictions in Wales, does that mean then there’s a quid pro quo that England, Scotland and Northern Ireland start doing to Welsh residents?” Mr Davies said.
“There’s all sorts of questions to answer before you even entertain implementing such dramatic action.”
On Monday, Public Health Wales said a further 596 people had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases to 26,447.
No further people with coronavirus were reported to have died, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,630.