Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
In line with changes being made in the rest of the UK, I am today confirming all fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Wales will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of the current requirement to take a PCR test.
The changes will come into force in Wales on Sunday 31 October.
From Sunday 31 October all adults in Wales, who have completed their two-dose course of the Covid-19 vaccine and the majority of under 18s, who have travelled from countries which are not on the red list, will be able to take a lateral flow test, on or before day two of their arrival into the UK.
If people have a positive lateral flow test on their return from travelling overseas, they will be required to isolate for 10 days and take a follow-up PCR test.
People will continue to have the option of booking and taking a PCR test as the required day two test as they currently have.
The UK Government will introduce these changes for England on Sunday 24 October. We are unable to introduce the changes at the same time as we have not received sufficient or timely information from the UK Government on how these changes will operate in practice.
This is not ideal. However, despite the differences for a short period, Welsh residents wishing to travel will be able to do so. The only difference from English residents will be that up until the 31 October Welsh residents will need to continue to book a day 2 PCR test. NHS PCR tests can be booked on the CTM booking portal and private sector tests can be booked from a private provider listed on GOV.UK.
We remain concerned about the UK Government’s approach – and the speed at which it is opening up international travel and its decisions to change the border health measures, which are important protections to prevent the risk of new cases – and new variants of coronavirus – from entering the UK.
We have consistently urged the UK Government to take a precautionary approach towards reopening international travel.
However, it is difficult for us to adopt a different testing regime to that required by the UK Government, as the majority of Welsh travellers enter the UK through ports and airports in England. Having different testing requirements would cause significant practical problems, confusion among the travelling public, logistical issues, enforcement at our borders and disadvantages for Welsh businesses.
We have reached this decision by balancing the public health needs with those of the travel sector against a backdrop of the increasing opening up of international travel. Having considered the implications in detail, I have reluctantly decided that for practical reasons close alignment with the UK Government’s arrangements is the most viable option.
We continue to encourage people to only travel for essential reasons.
I am concerned that in its haste to introduce these latest changes to international travel, the UK Government has created a system which lacks oversight and standards for the market to operate within. I have written to the Department of Health and Social Care to seek assurances that the system for day two lateral flow tests will be strengthened to:
- Automatically send a PCR test to everyone who has a positive result to minimise any delays in the process
- Address how the system will be enforced and how concerns highlighted by the Competition and Markets Authority about a ‘race to the bottom’ on PCR tests will not be repeated for lateral flow tests
- Ensure the timely and accurate flow of test results from private test providers into Welsh systems, so the ability of NHS Test Trace Protect to contact trace people arriving in Wales is not compromised.
Decisions about international travel must be taken on a true four-nation basis. These are decisions which affect people living in all parts of the UK and we cannot make them in isolation of each other.