Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething has raised significant doubts about the prospect of people taking holidays abroad this summer.
He was asked about the possibility of being able to take holidays in the UK or abroad this summer after confirming that all eligible adults in Wales should be vaccinated by July 31.
But he said that it was too far into the future to forecast properly and that lots of elements needed to be taken into consideration before extensive travel was possible including the vaccination programmes in other countries.
Mr Gething also used the example of last summer when cases of coronavirus were brought into Wales by people coming back from holiday.
According to the roadmap for England unveiled by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, February 22, international travel in the UK will not happen until May 17 at the earliest.
But Mr Gething told the latest coronavirus briefing for Wales on Wednesday: “I would be delighted if all the stages in the English roadmap are possible and we are able to suppress coronavirus jointly, across the UK, to the extent that that could happen.
“But I think the idea that we can have lots of foreign travel and foreign holidays in May is something I have real concern about how realistic that is.”
He pointed out that last summer the coronavirus infection rate was suppressed to between two and three in 100,000 people (the latest current figure is 75.7 per 100,000 of population) but Covid-19 was still imported from foreign holidays.
“You recall the Zante flight where the rules had to be changed while it was in mid-air,” he said. “I took that decision because I thought it was the right thing to do to keep Wales safe.
“We also need to look at the vaccination rates in other countries and what is happening there too. There is a lot to consider.”
He did, however, repeat the comments from First Minister Mark Drakeford last week that it may be possible to open self-contained accommodation in Wales at Easter.
If that is going to be possible it will be announced at the next review of restrictions on March 12. The roadmap for England has set out that this would not happen until after April 12 on the other side of the border.
Mr Gething said: “It would be in line with the next stage of three week reviews in Wales. That would be slightly earlier than England who are contemplating this on April 12, after the Easter period.
“If we are going to do it we need to know what the rules and guidance are on travel and what that might mean.”
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He also warned about trying to predict too far in the future, saying: “When it comes to that longer-term forecasting beyond the middle of April I think you are very much into real difficulty.
“A much more sensible approach is being led by data, not dates. To try to forecast what the public health will be then, is to me, more like astrology rather than science and public health advice.
“We haven’t done that. It is a deliberate choice. Trying to give that long-term forecast is almost impossible.”
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