Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is ‘concerned’ that the UK’s plan to forcibly quarantine some passengers entering the country ‘does not go far enough’, warning that Scotland may consider introducing more stringent measures.
In her daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon backed plans to force anyone entering the UK to be sent to designated quarantine facilities – mainly hotels – to undergo two weeks of supervised quarantine and testing, arguing for a ‘comprehensive’ approach to enforcing travel restrictions.
The comments came shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in the House of Commons that travellers from 22 ‘high-risk countries’ – mainly in South America and southern Africa – would be forcibly quarantined in government-funded accommodation for 10 days.
Commenting on the plans, Sturgeon said:
Fundamentally, we believe that tougher travel restrictions, however unwelcome they are, for all of us are essential to managing the risk posed by new variants, and by new cases coming into Scotland.
I think they will become increasingly important as case levels in Scotland, we hope, continue to fall, and that makes it all the more important that we do everything we can to protect against the risks of re-importation.
The UK has faced criticism for its relatively lax quarantine policies compared with other countries, with the government until recently asking those arriving from ‘high-risk’ countries to quarantine for 10 days at home, with little or no supervision from authorities. Many countries with strict travel restrictions, such as Australia and New Zealand, have been successful in containing the spread of the virus, leading to frustrations in some corners with the UK’s approach.
In the past month, the UK has upped its efforts to prevent inbound passengers from spreading the virus, after concerns emerged that new strains of Covid-19 from South Africa and Brazil may be resistant to vaccines. All passengers must now register a negative Covid test at least 72 hours before travelling, while authorities are now regularly checking in on new arrivals during their two weeks of quarantine.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to lay out the plans for hotel quarantine in more detail later today, however Sturgeon’s comments raise the possibility that Scotland may decide to expand the list of countries whose arrivals are asked to undergo supervised quarantine, in what would be a decisive break from the four-country strategy that has been in place so far.
Sturgeon also criticised plans for the prime minister to visit Scotland tomorrow, saying that the countries leaders ‘have a duty to lead by example’ by restricting their travel.
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