Welsh first minister insists PCR tests should be retained

Wales’ first minister has insisted the UK government is mistaken in its plan to replace day 2 PCR tests for returning travellers – but said the Welsh government had yet to decide whether to follow suit.

Mark Drakeford said the UK government’s approach to international travel had been “amongst the most chaotic parts of its response” to the pandemic.

He added that it was “very hard indeed to follow their thinking” on replacing PCR tests with cheaper lateral flow options, but admitted that it could be hard to maintain an opposing stance given the number of Welsh customers who use English airports and ports.

Drakeford said: “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.”

He added: “So, we do have a decision of our own to make. 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.

“Nevertheless, we continue to think it through, to discuss it with those of you who would have to relay, and we will come to a decision shortly on it.”

Drakeford said: “The real answer should have been to have retained day 2 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.”

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