Wednesday, 28 October, 2020

Covid: Sir Keir Starmer calls for travel restrictions agreement

Northern Ireland closes schools in effort to combat COVID-19 UK's first 'Covid-19 border' in the works as entry into Wales from coronavirus hotspots to be restricted
Deanna Wagner | 18 October, 2020, 13:59

Under the new regulations people living in England's Tier Two - "high" alert level areas which include Chester and Cheshire West and Tier Three - "very" high level - which includes the Liverpool City Region will be banned from travelling into Wales.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart wrote to Mark Drakeford yesterday said that he is "worried that without rapid explanation, this approach risks stirring division and confusion in Wales".

The introduction of local lockdowns in 17 areas of Wales affecting more than 2.3 million people had slowed the virus, he said, but had "not worked enough".

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It was updated in 2010 to give public authorities "more comprehensive powers and duties to prevent and control risks to human health from infection or contamination".

17 areas of Wales are now under local lockdown restrictions.

Mr Drakeford said there will be extra police patrols on main routes into Wales who will use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology and other "well established" techniques to identify where vehicles have come from.

It confirmed that people from areas with high levels of coronavirus will still be allowed to enter Wales for work, education and medical care.

Ahead of such a move, however, Wales is taking steps to limit the spread by introducing the travel ban from areas with high caseloads, which was first proposed on Wednesday.

It is set to apply to all residents from areas in Tier Two and Three lockdowns - now more than 30million people - as well as the central belt of Scotland, and the whole of Northern Ireland.

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"Earlier in the year, we had a ruling Wales that said you have to stay local".

The first minister added: "This is not about stopping people from England coming to Wales. He could have helped people in Wales and elsewhere to protect themselves against the flow of virus into areas where the virus is still effectively suppressed".

"Our police were very successful in persuading those people that they had crossed the border into Wales where the rules were different, they weren't allowed to travel onwards and those people turned around and went home".

Meanwhile the Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg called Mr Drakeford's plan for stricter measures at the Welsh border "unconstitutional".

Mr Drakeford added that fines were "the last resort, not the first resort", with officers in the first instance explaining the rules and turning vehicles around.

He pointed out this morning that while the government has said people should not leave a Covid hotspot, as guidance the measure is not enforceable by the police.

Those who ignore the restrictions will be breaking the law and could face fixed penalty notices starting at £50 - but there have so far been no reports of drivers being stopped.

It will also affect those living in areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland with a high prevalence of Covid-19.

The move came as the United Kingdom government debated whether to extend tough new social restrictions to more parts of England as its three-tier plan for slowing the spread of COVID-19 takes effect.

The Welsh Labour leader has written twice in recent weeks to Mr Johnson asking for travel to be restricted in and out of areas with high levels of transmission in England.