The British government has done “the least it can get away with" instead of "the most it should” in imposing restrictions on the UK border and international travel, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Sunday.
Drakeford told the Guardian that Wales was having problems acting unilaterally to prevent people flying into Cardiff, as arrivals could just travel in through another airport elsewhere in the UK.
“When a new variant happens somewhere in the world that is not on the list of 33 countries, people will have traveled here and the variant will be here and we will hear again the sound of the stable door being shut after the horse has bolted”, he said.
He said that what should be happening is "the mirror image of what the UK government is doing".
"The UK government has an approach in which the world can come to the UK apart from a red list of countries who will have to observe quarantine", he added. “I would have done it the other way round. I would have had the default position that anyone coming into the UK would be expected to quarantine and then you would have had exceptions for countries where you were confident that was not required.
He urged for a "four-or five-nation approach [including Ireland]" and called on the government to "build the wall higher to prevent the hard work that people in Wales and elsewhere have done to drive down infection being undermined".
Rates of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wales have dropped to 118.9 per 100,000 people, the lowest in four months, and Drakeford said he would hope to start easing restrictions by Easter.
Wales has now vaccinated 22.77% of its population, surpassing England as the highest UK constituent nation in vaccine administration.
— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) January 23, 2021
The first minister added that there was a "fragility" to that plan due to the "unpleasant surprises" associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
As of 15 February, all arrivals into the UK from certain countries will have to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days. The "red list" of countries refers to 33 countries of origin deemed to be high risk.
The list of countries include coronavirus hotspots such as Portugal, South Africa, Lesotho, the United Arab Emirates, and the majority of South America
This comes as the UK governments are facing increased criticism for not shutting down borders and quarantining all international arrivals earlier amid rising concerns of new variants of the coronavirus emerging in other parts of the world.
Rebuking demands by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for tougher restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "not practical" to introduce a complete travel ban.
The premier stressed that the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) did not recommend a complete border close and that the UK had "one of the toughest regimes in the world".
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) February 3, 2021