Wales politics

Coronavirus: Dealing with UK ministers on quarantine 'shambolic'

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Media captionMark Drakeford says dealing with the UK government has been "shambolic"

Dealing with the UK government on plans to lift quarantine measures for travellers from abroad has been "utterly shambolic", Wales' first minister has said.

People arriving in England from more than 50 countries will not need to quarantine from 10 July.

Mark Drakeford said he wants to allow the UK scheme to operate in Wales.

But he said it had been "impossible" to get a "sensible answer" on how UK ministers intended to make the changes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it had been "trailed" for "a very long time" and that the UK nations were following "very similar paths, if at slightly different speeds".

UK ministers have said people arriving in England from countries including France, Spain, Germany and Italy will be exempted from quarantine rules.

Mr Drakeford's comments were echoed by the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who also said the UK government's decision making on the matter had been "shambolic".

Although foreign affairs is not devolved, the implementation of the changes under public health legislation means it needs to be signed off by the governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"Dealing with the UK government, over the last few days, has been an utterly shambolic experience," Mr Drakeford said, in some of the strongest comments the first minister has made about his political rivals in Westminster during the pandemic.

"If ever there was an example of making an announcement first and then trying to work out what you meant by it, that is what we have seen since," the first minister said at his daily Welsh Government briefing.

"Day after day we have attempted to get a sensible answer from the UK government of how they intend to make these changes - which countries they intend to extend the new arrangements to, and I just have to say it's been an impossible experience to follow."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Spain is amongst the countries UK ministers intend to exempt from quarantine rules

Earlier Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary, said he had "held off" from his announcement in the hope that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would reach a decision at the same time as England.

He said there was "still an opportunity" for them to co-ordinate ahead of the changes coming into effect on 10 July.

The first minister said he does not expect the Welsh Government to disagree with the list.

"But the law requires that we ask our chief medical officer to take an independent assessment of the list", he said.

"If he were to come to any other conclusion then we will pursue his views, first of all with the UK government and then in terms of what we would do here in Wales."

The quarantine restrictions only came into force in early June, to try to stop coronavirus entering the UK at a time when UK infections were falling.

'Similar paths'

Boris Johnson, at a Downing Street press conference, said: "We've trailed this for a very long time."

He said the "administrations in Wales and Scotland may have their own take on this".

"But my impression of the way we've been working as a UK is that we, generally speaking, are following very very similar paths if at slightly different speeds."

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