<p>Mark Drakeford speaking in July 2021 </p>

Mark Drakeford speaking in July 2021

Day two PCR tests for travel should be kept, says Welsh first minister

‘Very hard to follow’ UK government’s thinking on scrapping PCRs, says Mark Drakeford

Lucy Thackray
Wednesday 22 September 2021 10:57
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Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has spoken out about UK government plans to scrap PCR testing for travellers from the end of October, calling it “a step away from the duty that the UK government owes to the health of people in this country.”

The change in rules, which was announced on 17 September, means that vaccinated travellers entering England will be able to take a cheaper lateral flow or antigen test, rather than the more costly PCR test, within the two days after their arrival.

With no exact date set for the change, details are expected to be clarified by the Department for Transport during the next month.

Wales, along with Scotland, has not announced whether it will follow suit with plans to allow non-PCR tests.

Drakeford said it was “very hard indeed to follow [the UK government’s] thinking” around allowing lateral flow tests for arrivals, but acknowledged that it will be hard to set tougher restrictions in Wales, given the number of Welsh travellers who use English airports and ports.

He pointed to PCR tests’ function in identifying new variants of concern, saying: “In Wales, we genomic sequence a higher proportion of tests than any other part of the United Kingdom, and it is that sequencing that allows the very skilled scientists who do it 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.”

The international travel rules set on 17 September apply to England initially, with the devolved regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland able to implement their own guidelines and restrictions.

“We do have a decision of our own to make,” continued Drakeford.

“It is a very difficult decision in a practical sense because so many Welsh travellers return to Wales via an English port or airport, and having a separate Welsh system advertised to them, communicated to them at that point is not something that English ports have been keen to do.

“The real answer should have been to have retained day two PCR tests across the United Kingdom, and the failure to do so I think really is a step away from the duty that the UK government owes to the health of people in this country.”

On Sunday, Drakeford announced that people in Wales will have to show the NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and large events from 11 October onwards.

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