Police patrols on main routes into Wales to enforce coronavirus travel ban

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that extra police patrols will be put in place in a bid to stop people travelling to Wales from coronavirus hotspots in Wales.

The detail came after his announcement that people from parts of England with the highest rates of coronavirus will have travel restrictions placed on them if they visit Wales.

He took the decision after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ignored his repeated requests to impose rules stopping people from English lockdown areas travelling to Wales.

They will come into place from Friday.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Mr Drakeford said: “The police will act as they did earlier in the year when we had a stay local rule in Wales, the police will have extra patrols on the main roads coming into Wales.

“If they don’t realise what the guidance in England is, that you shouldn’t travel if you live in such an area, and you don’t realise the rules in Wales don’t allow you, the police will explain that and make sure they understand the rules.

“Most people will be happy to comply with those rules. If there are a minority who knowingly and fragrantly breach the law then fixed penalty rules will have to be applied to them.”

He said the plan had been discussed with police forces and police and crime commissioners in Wales before making the announcement.

Mr Drakeford said: “They (police forces) will take the action they need to take.

“Enforcement is the final resort, what we want to do is to reinforce the message to people that this is a public health emergency. That they should not be travelling from high incidence areas to low incidence areas wherever they are.

“This is an attempt to make sure that, just as Welsh people in high incidence areas aren’t able to travel out of those areas, people from beyond Wales aren’t able to do that either.”

He said police would have a range of techniques they would be able to use as part of the enforcement rules, including checking number plates.

Cases in your area:

Mark Bleasdale, the Welsh lead of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has raised concerns about the ban being “unenforceable” saying policing in Wales is already “overstretched”.

He said: “On the face of it, this is unenforceable because of the difficulty of identifying where people are coming from and where they are going to.

“There will also be plenty of individuals travelling legitimately from areas which are not high risk, and this will only add to the other difficulties officers face when policing the existing regulations.

“Some areas of Wales are already in lockdown, and many individuals are already unable to travel in and out of counties unless they have good reason. In other locations provisions are more relaxed, so this proposed travel ban adds yet another level of complexity to policing.

“We would ask members of the public to continue to be supportive and realise this is an extremely challenging period for frontline officers.

“Policing in Wales is already over-stretched due to the pandemic and because crime rates have returned to pre-Covid-19 levels. However, my colleagues will continue to do their utmost to protect the public in their usual professional manner.”

Police carrying out checks in Wales
(Image: Mark Lewis)

But speaking on Thursday, Wales Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he was confident it could be policed.

He told BBC Radio Wales: “We have already had a version of different travel rules that were in operation. Remember the stay local rules we had with the five mile guidance.

“There was a rule about staying local. The police were able to successfully enforce those different rules in different parts of the UK. I understand there will be some concerns by some of our operational police colleagues, but when it comes to what is already in practice, the police have shown they can enforce different travel rules.

“We are not asking them to do something radically different this time around. We are asking them, again, to help us as they have done throughout this pandemic to help keep the country safe by enforcing the necessary public health laws that we have had to introduce to cope with this unprecedented pandemic.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford also said he couldn’t understand why Boris Johnson had ignored his request for a ban on people travelling from English hotspots.

“I am genuinely baffled by the Prime Minister’s unwillingness to take an action, which I think, is very simple and straightforward, and which would have reinforced the sense of acting together across the United Kingdom,” he told BBC Breakfast. “I never wanted this to become an issue of the border and people coming in and out of Wales.

“I have always thought this was an issue of high incidence areas and low incidence areas, wherever they may be. The Prime Minister says he has issued guidance, but the problem with guidance is that the police can’t take action on guidance. They have to have the force of law.

“The Prime Minister could have acted, he could have helped people in Wales, and elsewhere, to protect themselves against the flow of virus into areas where the virus is still effectively suppressed.

“He could still contact me today, he could still change his mind, and then we wouldn’t need to do what we are doing, but so far I have no success in persuading him of this simple and straightforward course of action. This is a public health emergency, I am obliged to take action to help to keep Wales safe.”

And asked about the upcoming half term and the First Minister said that holiday accommodation places in Wales should “not be accepting bookings” from people living in English hotspots.

He added that bookings that had already been made would “no longer be able to be honoured”.

“We are taking this action now to give people time to understand that if you did book a holiday in those parts of Wales, that holiday will no longer be able to take place,” Mr Drakeford said.

WalesOnline – Wales News