Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in Wales from non-red list countries will be able to take lateral flow tests instead of more expensive PCR versions from October 31.
Arrivals in England can use the cheaper tests from Sunday (October 24), so the change has come too late for Welsh holidaymakers travelling during the school half-term break.
Eluned Morgan, the Welsh health minister, said on Friday (October 22) that she made the decision “reluctantly” and explained why there was a delay.
“We are unable to introduce the changes at the same time as we have not received sufficient or timely information from the UK government on how these changes will operate in practice. This is not ideal,” she said.
Her statement added: “We remain concerned about the UK government’s approach – and the speed at which it is opening up international travel and its decisions to change the border health measures, which are important protections to prevent the risk of new cases – and new variants of coronavirus – from entering the UK.
“We have consistently urged the UK government to take a precautionary approach towards reopening international travel.
“However, it is difficult for us to adopt a different testing regime to that required by the UK government, as the majority of Welsh travellers enter the UK through ports and airports in England.
“Having different testing requirements would cause significant practical problems, confusion among the travelling public, logistical issues, enforcement at our borders and disadvantages for Welsh businesses.
“We have reached this decision by balancing the public health needs with those of the travel sector against a backdrop of the increasing opening up of international travel.
“Having considered the implications in detail, I have reluctantly decided that for practical reasons close alignment with the UK Government’s arrangements is the most viable option.
“We continue to encourage people to only travel for essential reasons.
“I am concerned that in its haste to introduce these latest changes to international travel, the UK government has created a system which lacks oversight and standards for the market to operate within.”
She has written to the Department of Health and Social Care to seek assurances that the system for day two lateral flow tests will be strengthened to automatically send a PCR test to everyone who has a positive result to minimise any delays in the process.
Morgan also wants to ensure the ‘race to the bottom’ on PCR tests will not be repeated for lateral flow tests, and asked that decisions about international travel must be taken on a “true four-nation basis”.
Picture of arrivals at Cardiff airport by jax10289/Shutterstock.com