The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has not ruled out the possibility of banning people crossing the border from England if cases of the Covid variant first detected in India continue to rise there.
Drakeford announced on Friday a string of relaxations to Covid restrictions coming into force on Monday, including the reopening of indoor hospitality and the restart of foreign holidays.
But he also revealed the Welsh cabinet had discussed the possibility of allowing more people to mix and giving the go-ahead for some small public events such as food festivals – and decided against this because of the variant.
Drakeford said there were 26 cases of the variant in Wales but added that there was more concern about the “significant spread of that India variant across our border” in England, including a “significant cluster in the north-west of England”.
He said: “We know that the border between the north-east of Wales and the north-west of England is a porous one, so we’re keeping a particular watch on developments there. Should it be necessary to take action, we will do so.”
Drakeford said he had no plans to ask Boris Johnson to stop people travelling from England to Wales but added that he did not rule out the possibility. “Were we to need to take action ourselves, we have demonstrated during the coronavirus crisis that we are prepared to restrict travel in and out of Wales.
“If it became necessary to limit people’s ability to travel across the border, we wouldn’t shrink from doing that. There’s no indication at this point it is something we are going to have to do.”
Drakeford said he was anticipating a third wave of Covid in the summer but said he did not believe it would require the country going into another full lockdown. He said he did feel people would have to keep wearing masks for the rest of the year and into next.
People from Wales will be able to go abroad on holiday from Monday but Drakeford urged them to think very carefully before doing so.
“We call on people to think about whether they need to travel overseas at this time,” he said. “We should be cautious about going abroad in light of the ongoing risk of coronavirus and the presence of variants of concern in many countries. My clear message to everyone is make Wales your destination of choice this year.”
Asked if people should be made to feel guilty if they go abroad on holiday, the first minister said: “I’ve no wish to make anyone to feel guilty. All I want is that they make those decisions with their eyes open.”
Asked if Welsh football fans should travel to Italy or Azerbaijan for Euro 21 matches, he said: “It is for individuals to weigh up for themselves the risks they are running and choices they are making. it’s not for me to make judgments.”