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Welsh police could use number-plate recognition to catch travellers from Covid hotspots

POLICE in Wales could use number-plate recognition to catch people from British coronavirus hotspots illegally entering the country, the First Minister said today.

Mark Drakeford said that having officers patrol highways was one way to enforce a travel ban on visits to Wales scheduled to come into force at 18:00 on Friday.

The ban is aimed at people living in areas of England, Scotland and the north of Ireland with high levels of Covid-19.

Mr Drakeford’s comments came after the Police Federation of England and Wales described the restrictions as “unenforceable” owing to the difficulty in identifying where people were travelling to and from. 

Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast: “I believe the police will have a range of techniques that they will be able to use.

“Number plates are one of the ways in which they are able to identify cars that are travelling long distances, but that won’t be the only way.

“They will have ‘long practice’ techniques developed earlier in the year, and they will apply those again over the weeks to come.”

The practices Mr Drakeford referred to were used to enforce Wales’s “stay local” rule earlier in the pandemic, when travel within Wales was restricted to a five-mile radius without a reasonable excuse.

Those who breached the rules faced an initial £60 fine, with regular instances of travellers from England being issued with the penalties by Wales’s four police forces.

National Police Chiefs’ Council figures published after the five-mile rule ended in July showed that out of the 281 fines issues in north Wales, 81 involved local residents while 188 involved visitors from England.

Mr Drakeford added that fines were “the last resort, not the first resort,” with officers in the first instance explaining the rules and turning vehicles around.

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