Coronavirus: Ban second home use, doctors tell First Minister, Wales

Senior doctors from across Wales have written to the first minister calling on him to make using second homes illegal during the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Felicity Evans Political editor, Wales https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-52055456

In the letter, the 15 clinicians warn non-essential travel to the homes is “highly likely” to increase the presence of coronavirus in rural areas.

Mark Drakeford has said ministers are considering strengthening regulations on people travelling to second homes.

On Monday, he said more details will be announced by the end of the week.

All non-essential travel, including to second homes, is illegal under the current rules.

But the doctors’ letter says second homes “facilitate non-essential movement into rural areas” placing “additional pressures on local health and emergency services”.

It express concern that existing rules are “insufficient” in protecting rural Wales against the dangers posed by tourism and holiday home use in the current public health emergency

The clinicians, who all lead health clusters in different parts of Wales, call on Mr Drakeford to do three things:

  • Make second home use illegal until the risk posed by Covid-19 has abated, even when lockdown restrictions begin to ease in other areas of Wales and the UK, to prevent a “second peak”
  • Prolong lockdown measures in rural tourist hotspot areas of Wales, specifically targeting non-essential travel to these areas
  • Give Wales’ police forces the power to force those breaking the rules to return to their main home

The doctors say that without such action “we face a very real possibility of a second peak in areas such as north and west Wales” at the worst moment, when staff resilience is low and global supplies of personal protective equipment is depleted.

“We appreciate the economic value of tourism, but this cannot be at the cost of the health of our rural population.

“We hope that the Welsh Government will show the value of devolution by being prepared to act in a swift, innovative, agile and decisive manner to safeguard the people of Wales.”

“Let history show that the government of Wales acted when it mattered the most.”

Arfon assembly member Sian Gwenllian, who speaks for Plaid Cymru on local government, called on ministers to “listen to the clinicians and act quickly to protect local communities in Wales”.

“For weeks we have been calling for tougher measures to stop the few irresponsible individuals who have ignored travelling rules,” she said.

First Minister Mark Drakeford told the assembly on Wednesday his government receives weekly reports from chief constables across Wales on the enforcement of regulations.

“Let me be clear again, travelling to a second home is not an essential journey and police in Wales are and will stop people attempting to do so,” he said.

Earlier, one of the GPs who signed the letter, Dr Eilir Hughes, told BBC Wales: “As we understand it, second residence use isn’t specifically prohibited and the police are finding enforcement is difficult particularly once tourists have arrived at their second home.

“This must be strengthened.”

 

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