Boris Johnson “might be wanting to wait a bit longer” before bringing England fully out of lockdown restrictions, the Welsh First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford handed out his advice at Welsh Government’s three-weekly review of Covid measures, when he suggested the Prime Minister needed more information about the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus before opening up England fully.
There have been calls from the Independent SAGE group to delay the planned easing of restrictions on June 21, with the UK Government saying it will not make a final decision about it until June 14.
Mr Drakeford, who is worried spikes of the variant in the north-west of England could spread to North Wales, said a meeting with Mr Johnson and the leaders of the other devolved nations this week had led to a “frank exchange of views” about how to work “better together” in the future.
He said Mr Johnson was “fully engaged in the discussions and I think he was well briefed”, before remarking he’d made “regular contributions” to the talks.
He added: “I’m afraid I’ve got no insights into whether or not the Government for England has any plans in respect of unlocking their restrictions for June 21.
“Quite certainly myself were I in that position, looking at the numbers from the Delta variant, I think I might be wanting to wait a bit longer to make sure I had the best possible information about the variant and its impact.”
He went on to rail against the UK Government’s policy on foreign travel, a subject he said his Government had always “urged a more cautious approach” towards.
Putting the country on the amber travel list yesterday the Joint Biosecurity Centre said from 4am on June 8 anyone returning from Portugal will have to quarantine for 10 days.
They will also have to take a Covid test prior to travelling and pay for two more after arrival.
However the First Minister praised Mr Johnson for removing Portugal from the “green list” of countries the Government declared were safe to travel to, in the light of the new data.
Mr Drakeford said: “We argued in the very beginning for an approach in which all countries in the rest of the world would be on a red list and you’d only be allowed to travel there by exception.
“I still think that would have offered us greater protections against the re-importation of the virus into Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.
“Specifically on the decision overnight regarding Portugal, I think that is the right decision given the figures the joint biosecurity centre have reported about the prevalence of the virus in that country.”
The First Minister revealed large outdoor events involving 4,000 people standing, or 10,000 seated, can resume from Monday subject to safety checks.
He confirmed it meant people in Wales would be able to watch delayed Euro 2020 matches in special “fan zones”, as long as they satisfied safety criteria.
He also announced up to three families could now meet indoors, plus a single householder or single adult with caring responsibilities will also be able to join them.
A decision on whether indoor events can restart will be taken by June 21, as an outbreak of the Delta variant in North Wales is being tracked.
The further changes being considered by the Welsh Government by that date include bringing in the rule of six for meeting indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation, increasing numbers allowed to attend indoor organised gatherings and indoor events – and opening ice-skating rinks.
Should Boris Johnson have closed up travel and stopped people coming into the UK during the pandemic? Have your say in the comment section below