Nicola Sturgeon has announced the introduction of a “managed quarantine” system for anyone arriving in Scotland, as she described the current UK-wide restrictions as “too reactive”.
Boris Johnson last week resisted calls for blanket border measures, unveiling a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine policy for those arriving in the UK from 33 countries designated “high-risk” by the government.
But the Scottish first minister said the measures need to be “much more comprehensive” in order to combat the possibility of new variants being imported into the country.
She said: “The four UK nations have already agreed that travellers coming into the UK from countries with a travel ban in place will be required to quarantine in hotels. That is a necessary measure but in the Scottish government’s view it does not go far enough.
“I can therefore confirm today that we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.”
The first minister also said that she could not “unilaterally” impose such restrictions on people landing elsewhere in the UK and travelling to Scotland, but hoped the other administrations would work with the Scottish government to reduce the number of people doing so.
It is not yet clear when Scotland’s measures will take effect. The expectation in the travel industry is that they will begin at the same time as England’s rules, expected to be in the week beginning 15 February.
The new rule is unlikely to apply to arrivals from the Republic of Ireland due to long-standing Common Travel Area agreement. With the current number of international arrivals direct to Scotland, the impact is likely to be minimal.
Almost all flights from overseas to Scotland have ended, with currently only a handful from Norway and Qatar to Aberdeen and Edinburgh respectively. It is not clear what measures, if any, will apply to passengers who arrive in England – particularly at Heathrow or Manchester airport – and travel north.
After a review of the lockdown restrictions, the Scottish first minister added that the measures were working, but announced the “stay at home” orders will need to remain in place until at least the end of February.
In an update the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said the Covid-19 situation remained “fragile” and the government was examining evidence of the new variant causing increased hospitalisation.
She said she was “cautiously optimistic” of the Scottish government being able to gradually ease some restrictions at the beginning of March and would update MSPs again in two weeks’ time.
Subject to the review of measures, the Scottish first minister added some pupils will return to schools on a phased basis from 22 February. She said all children under school age in early learning and childcare will return and pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 will also be allowed back into school, as will those in the senior phase of secondary school.
However, the first minister stressed older pupils will only be able to return to ensure practical work important to achieving qualifications is completed and only between five per cent and eight per cent of any school’s roll should be able to return.