Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Due to the ongoing risks of coronavirus, including the recent and rapid emergence of the omicron variant, we continue to advise against all but essential international travel at this time.
Just a few weeks after its notification to the World Health Organisation, omicron has spread around the world and is now the dominant form of the virus in the UK.
In line with decisions being taken elsewhere in the UK, I have today reluctantly agreed to remove the requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s to take a pre departure test (PDT) and a day 2 PCR test when arriving in the UK.
All fully vaccinated travellers will need to take an LFD test at day 2 and, if positive, a follow-up PCR test to enable genomic sequencing to be carried out. The requirement to self-isolate until a negative test has been received has also been removed.
The requirements for non-vaccinated travellers remain unchanged.
These changes will begin to come into force from 4am on Friday 7 January. Lateral flow tests will be accepted as post-arrival tests from 4am on Sunday 9 January.
We are concerned at the speed at which the UK Government is re-opening international travel, given on-going concerns of importing new variants and adding additional pressure to our health services.
Day 2 PCR testing acts as something of a surveillance system for international travel – if we had retained the requirement for a day 2 PCR test, we may have been alerted to the presence and introduction of omicron earlier.
Given the UK Government’s decision to remove PCR testing, it is vital we work across the four nations to ensure a system of bio-surveillance is maintained to provide a way of guarding against the importation of future variants.
I have also agreed to add the following to the list of countries and territories of recognised vaccination programmes;
Bhutan, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Fiji, Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, North of Cyprus, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, The Gambia and Uzbekistan.
These changes will come into force at 4am on Monday 10 January.
While our public health system is working very hard to minimise the spread of cases already in Wales, it is imperative that we do everything we can to avoid undermining these efforts by importing new cases of coronavirus infections via international travel.
We continue to encourage everyone in Wales to get vaccinated including having a booster vaccine, which is vital in increasing protection against the omicron variant.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.