Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
The Welsh Government, together with others, have consistently urged the UK Government to take a more precautionary approach towards international travel to prevent coronavirus being re-imported into the UK, especially new and emerging variants, which may not respond to the vaccines.
Last week, the UK Government decided to merge the green and amber travel lists into one and to remove the requirement for pre-departure testing. We will align with the other UK nations and intend to make these changes by 4 October. We will also consider which countries to expand the vaccine certification recognition system to, over the coming weeks.
However, we continue to be concerned about the UK Government’s decision to move away from PCR tests for returning travellers on day two – this is because we have real concerns about the possibility of the introduction from other parts of the world of a new more aggressive variant of Covid which may be able to get around the protection we currently have as a result of our vaccination programme.
The day two PCR test, combined with genetic sequencing of all positive tests, continues to be a key plank in our surveillance for coronavirus, and should be retained. Sequencing enables skilled scientists to identify new variations in coronavirus. Without a PCR test, it is very difficult to see how the UK Government will be able to do that.
Having different testing requirements in the four nations of the UK does create communication and enforcement challenges, particularly as so many Welsh travellers return to the UK via an English port or airport.
The real answer is to retain day two PCR testing throughout the UK – we will continue to press the UK Government to reinstate UK-wide testing, while we continue to thoroughly examine the evidence for a Wales-only testing regime.