Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
Our message continues to be clear – this is the year to holiday at home.
We continue to ask people to only travel overseas for essential reasons. We have all sacrificed so much to bring coronavirus under control in Wales over the winter months that we do not want to see new cases – including new variants of the virus – imported into Wales as a result of overseas travel.
International travel re-started on May 17 but strict rules are in place, in response to concerns about the emergence and spread of variants of coronavirus around the world. These rules mean international travel is very different to how it was pre-pandemic.
We have adopted the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK. Countries are classified as green, amber and red – depending on their public health situation and vaccination rates – and a review takes place every three weeks. The categorisation of countries draws on expert advice from the UK-wide Joint Biosecurity Centre.
Travellers may have to pay for PCR tests before departure and some governments are requiring proof of full vaccination for travellers to be allowed into their country.
Depending on the traffic light classification of the country travelled from, people may have to quarantine in the UK – either at home or at their own expense in a designated quarantine hotel. Travellers are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests before their return journey home.
All these steps are designed to prevent coronavirus and new variants coming back into the country but they are not fool proof – the risks of international travel can be reduced but they cannot be eliminated.
Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the red list are required to quarantine for a full 10 days on return at a designated UK port in a government-managed facility (sometimes referred to as a ‘covid hotel’) at their own cost, starting from £1,750 per person. This includes taking mandatory PCR tests on day two and day eight. All UK entry points for arrivals from red list countries are in England and Scotland, meaning people who live in Wales must quarantine outside Wales. Anyone who does not follow the rules for red-list countries faces fixed notice penalties of £10,000.
Travellers arriving from amber countries are required to quarantine at home for at least 10 days. This is a legal requirement. Travellers are also required to book and pay £170 for mandatory PCR tests on day two and on day eight. There is no test to release scheme in Wales.
Countries categorised as green do not require travellers to quarantine on return to Wales. However, travellers must book and pay £88 for a mandatory PCR test to be taken on or before day two. There are very few countries on the green list – it is limited to locations such as the Falklands, Faroe Islands and St Helena. This is one of the reasons why we are recommending that people holiday in Wales this year and support our own tourism industry.
To protect public safety, travellers arriving from countries on the amber and green lists are contacted regularly and offered support to help them comply with the testing and isolation requirements, including doorstep visits.
Since February, the Arriving Travellers Team – part of the National Contact Tracing Team (hosted by Cardiff Council) – has handled and supported more than 24,000 arriving travellers. This has included calls to ensure people’s welfare and to confirm travellers have completed their mandatory tests.
Following the removal of legal restrictions on travel, we are anticipating a significant increase in people travelling abroad. But international travel is not risk-free and is much more complex than it was before the pandemic.
This is the year to holiday at home; to enjoy the beauty of Wales and to protect all the gains we have made.