People returning from Portugal and Greek islands to self-isolate after Welsh Government adds them to quarantine list

  • Live report by ITV Wales' Megan Boot

The first passengers to return to Wales under new quarantine rules arrived at Cardiff Airport after the Welsh Government removed a number of places off the list of safe destinations.

The changes, which sees people returning from Portugal and six Greek islands to self-isolate for 14 days, were introduced in the early hours on September 4.

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething defended the Welsh Government’s decision to add the areas to the quarantine list, despite criticism that the rules were causing confusion due to different guidelines in England.

In a statement on Thursday September 3 Mr Gething said, "I have decided to remove mainland Portugal, Gibraltar, French Polynesia and the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos and Crete from the list of exempt countries and territories.

One passenger told ITV Wales he "can't complain" because his family took the decision to go on holiday, but the decision "leaves a lot of questions to be answered".

Another said when anyone books a holiday, they "take the risk" due to the situation "changing daily". He said he "hopes" his employer will be understanding. "I'll find out Monday morning" he added.

The Azores and Madeira will remain exempt.

Mr Gething said the action is being taken as a result of a "large number of cases of coronavirus have been imported into Wales from tourists returning from the Greek islands, in particular."

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has defended Wales' quarantine measures. Credit: PA

One holidaymaker in Crete slammed the Welsh Government's decision as "an absolute joke" and said it was "beyond sense that they are taking this approach".

But Mr Gething told the BBC's Today programme there had been "very clear advice" from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), as well as a number of cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales.

The Welsh Government also advised passengers returning from Zakynthos to quarantine for two weeks and offered Covid-19 tests within 48 hours of their return, as well as eight days later.

"That was because in the week before we had over 30 cases from four different flights, two of which had landed in England," Mr Gething said.

"On that flight which landed in Cardiff on Tuesday, there are over 20 direct cases - that's more than 10% of that flight.

"Seeing a rising tide of infections coming in from that list of islands, having that direct experience in Wales and very clear advice about the higher risk to UK public health from the JBC, I did not feel that there was any course of action other than taking some form of action.

The UK Government later announced it would be imposing restrictions by introducing guidelines that from Wednesday September 9 at 4am, anyone returning to England from the Greek islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

Scotland and Wales have also imposed 14 days of isolation on arrivals from Portugal.

Scotland is also including Greece on its quarantine list, though in Wales the restriction only applies to the six named Greek islands.

When asked about the different approach taken by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in Westminster, Mr Gething said: "I'm very content this is the right thing to do."

"It's not for me to explain why others haven't done that, but I'm very clear that we're following that advice and keeping Wales safe."

"It's in line with the risk assessments we received from both the JBC and Public Health England."

He said the reason the Azores and Maderia had been excluded from Wales' list was because they had a different rating, as well as testing on entry.

Mr Shapps told ITV News already "confusing" quarantine advice for the separate UK nations could potentially change in the coming days, before the announcement of changes in England were made.

What is the coronavirus rate like in those countries?

In Portugal there were 23.0 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the country in the seven days to Wednesday, up from 15.3 a week earlier.

There were 13.8 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Greece in the seven days to Wednesday, down from 14.9 a week earlier.

A seven-day rate of 20 is the threshold above which the UK Government will currently consider triggering quarantine conditions.