The decision to restrict access to Wales from those in high-prevalence Covid areas in other parts of the UK has been the story of the week (so far…) and has resulted in more animation on social media and the press than anything since the last General Election. As ever, those who shout the loudest are the most extreme in their shouting.
What we are seeing is a battle of hyperbole on all sides. Those most passionately in favour of the new rules do not accept in any way there is any downside to effectively Wales making laws for people in other parts of the UK. And nor do they seemingly care that there isn’t much evidence at all the Covid is actually being spread to parts of Wales from parts of England. After all, the worst affected areas seem to be the central valleys of South Wales, which is hardly a tourism hotspot, and two of the four counties which border England aren’t actually locked down in any way.
From the other perspective, let’s be clear what the latest travel restrictions are not. They are not aimed just at English people, and they are not even aimed at all English local authority areas. Rather, they are to be targeted at those areas with a higher tier Covid prevalence. So when the MP for Shrewsbury declares he now wants to abolish the Assembly (sic) for getting too big for its boots and impacting on his constituents, he is profoundly misinterpreting the situation. Not only is Powys not subject to the rules since it is not locked down in any way, but neither is anywhere in Shropshire restricted since that area is not locked down either.
I doubt whether the decision by the Welsh Government will have changed many minds. People seem very entrenched in their viewpoints on this issue, and if you look at social media there are as many screaming Victim England as there are screaming Victim Wales. Covid is becoming the new Brexit: an issue on which those looking for common ground, often on the basis of common sense, get squeezed out and drowned out.
But let’s also be clear that, based on the data, crossing the border cannot be interpreted as a major cause of Covid spread in Wales. That’s not to say it does not contribute, just that it seems to be a very minor factor in transmission. Let’s also be clear that the current system of lockdowns in Wales or England does not seem to be working either. So regardless of how the Welsh Government or the UK Government wants to reassure us they have cases under control, they do not. And until cases start falling and stabilise, they won’t.