The Welsh Government’s updated Coronavirus Control Plan has cast further doubt on the prospect of people taking foreign holidays this summer.

The document, which was updated on Friday and includes new details on plans for re-opening venues including gyms and outdoor attractions as well as further plans on unlocking, warns that “international travel continues to pose a risk”.

The risk of vaccine-resistant variant strains of Covid-19 and the prospect of a possible winter lockdown were cited as reasons for continued caution around the possibility of travel abroad.

In the foreword to the 34-page document First Minister Mark Drakeford and health minister Vaughan Gething wrote: “Last year, we successfully supressed the virus in Wales over the summer months through a combination of gradually relaxing restrictions and basic precautions, only to import new cases as people returned from their holidays overseas.

“International travel continues to pose a risk – it’s not just a potential source for importing new cases of the virus into Wales but introducing new strains and variants, which may be resistant to our vaccines.

“We will continue to work with the UK Government, the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to manage this risk. This may mean ongoing international travel restrictions to protect the integrity of our vaccination programme. We do not want overseas summer holidays to result in another wave of infections or a winter lockdown.”

In practice the governments in Wales and Westminster have overlapping responsibilities which will determine how practical foreign travel is. But the greatest obstacle is most likely to be the willingness of governments overseas to accept visitors from the UK.

As foreign affairs is largely not devolved and the UK’s biggest airports are in England decisions made by the UK Government and its relationships with the governments in popular holiday destinations will play the biggest role in shaping what holidays will look like this year.

According to the roadmap for England announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month large-scale international travel will not happen until May 17 at the earliest.

In the updated Welsh Government plan it states: “UK-wide measures to prevent the importation of infection – especially new variants – as a result of international travel is important. To mitigate public health risks, a suite of border control measures is in place.

“These require passengers to provide personal and travel details and evidence of a negative coronavirus test before departure to the UK. All travellers are also required to quarantine for a full 10 days upon arrival at a UK port and take further tests during that quarantine period. This ensures we can sequence any positive tests to identify whether any variants of concern have been brought

into the UK.

“New variants are one of the biggest risks to our vaccination programme and the easing of restrictions. If a variant that our vaccines are not effective against establishes itself in the UK the NHS could quickly become overwhelmed as people once again become seriously with a new strain of coronavirus, despite having had a vaccination.

“The UK has introduced a ‘red list’ of countries where there are particular risks from variants of concern. Everyone arriving from a red-list country must quarantine at a managed facility near the UK port of entry. For arrivals from other countries quarantine is at home.

“These measures go some way to protect against the importation of Covid-19 and the introduction of new variants into the UK.

“We believe these measures should be strengthened. We are ready and willing to support the UK Government in applying managed quarantine to all UK arrivals and gradually opening up travel where we are confident risks are managed.

“While difficult, this would be the right thing to do to guard against new variants and protect the gains from the vaccination rollout.

“Most people visiting or returning home to Wales will do so from English airports (such as those in London, Manchester, Birmingham or Bristol) as well as ferry and rail ports. Unilateral restrictive managed quarantine measures in Wales would therefore have very limited impact as they would currently only apply to a very small number of passengers coming via Cardiff Airport, or other Welsh entry points.

“We recognise the interconnectedness we have with England and we will have in place the same restriction on non-essential international travel until at least May 17. Continued restrictions on international travel beyond this may be warranted if we see case rates begin to increase, either in the UK or across the globe.

“We will work with the UK Government and with Scotland and Northern Ireland on how international travel can be re-opened in the safest way possible.

“But we do not want to see history repeat itself. Our successful efforts to suppress the virus last summer were undone in part by importing the virus from our summer holidays overseas. We do not want to see the same happen with a new variant.”

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