WELSH Government have not ruled out bringing back a cross border travel ban in light of COVID variants spreading in North West England.

Cases of the variant in Wales were scattered across the county, Mr Drakeford said, with individuals having travelled “from India in particular, but there are probably some cases from the broader subcontinent”.

Concerns were raised that this variant may run rampant in Wales if the cross border travel rule – which was relaxed in April – remains unchecked.

At Friday’s Welsh Government press briefing, Mr Drakeford said: “The advice I have is not that we need to be overly concerned about the situation in Wales at the moment, it’s that we need to understand better and get better advice about it.

“There is a significant cluster of the variant in the north-west of England and we know the border with Wales there is very porous, we are keeping a particular watch on developments there.”

The minister said that, if he need to take action, then we will do.

“The levels of vaccination amongst the most vulnerable population in Wales is already high. If there is more we need to do, then of course if we get that advice we will follow it.”

Our sister title, the Bolton News, reports that the majority of cases of the so-called Indian variant in the UK have been detected in the Bolton, Blackburn and Merseyside areas.

Questions were posed about how these new variants would impact the plan to leave lockdown behind in Wales and enter the lowest alert level.

Mr Drakeford said: “If things continue to be as good as they are in Wales and we continue to make progress in the right direction then we will be in a position to move to level 1, which we would like to do, but we will only make those decisions in light of the public health situation in three weeks’ time.”

He once again stressed that he does not like to set out plans too far in advance as situations can change so rapidly as has been witnessed across the world throughout the last 12+ months.

The Labour MS added: “We'll only be able to deliver a move to Alert Level One at the beginning of June if the situation remains as good as it is and continues to improve.”

The country’s leader said that he wouldn’t hesitate to act differently than UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – should the advice tailored for Wales call for it.

Mr Drakeford says that the nation’s chief medical officer – Dr Frank Atherton – continues to argue that there remains a need for hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing measures beyond the summer months

However, Mr Drakeford said Wales was “in a very good position already”.

He said the nation has already ploughed ahead with vaccinating vulnerable groups - with over 90 per cent of care home residents and 91 per cent of people aged over 70 having received a second dose being two statistics he had top hand on Friday.

But he said the country could calibrate the vaccination programme to take account of a new variant “if that was sensible”. If the variant did prove to be a cause for concern it would “inevitably slow down our ability to go on lifting restrictions”.