Sturgeon: Scotland to look at alternatives to quarantine loopholes

Conor Riordan, PA Scotland
·3-min read

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will have to “look at alternatives” if an agreement cannot be reached on international quarantine rules with the rest of the UK

People flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel, under new regulations which took effect on Monday.

Unless exempt, a passenger has to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels in a bid to avoid importation of the virus.

However, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on Sunday that a “loophole” allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still exists which could “potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland”.

In England, the UK Government will only require hotel quarantine for visitors from a “red list” of 33 countries designated as high risk, meaning travellers arriving from elsewhere could avoid it by entering Scotland via England.

Visitors would still have to self-isolate for the 10-day period, but would not have to do so at one of the designated hotels due to a lack of agreement between the Scottish and Westminster Governments.

The first international flight subject to the new rules arrived in Scotland from Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday morning.

It had been due to carry around 65 passengers but fewer than five made it on board, due to issues at departures.

Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “It would be better if we had that four nations approach, or at least a three nations approach where the border of the island that Scotland, England and Wales share, had the same provisions in place.

“My responsibility is to try and protect Scotland as much as possible so if it just proves impossible to do that then we have to look at alternatives, but it would be far better to try to come to a reasonable agreement on a four nations, or at least a three nations, basis.”

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that he is happy to discuss the matter with the Scottish Government.

Six hotels have been block-booked in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with up to 1,300 rooms available.

Screens at airport
Screens are in place at Edinburgh Airport to separate passengers (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish Government guidance stipulates that those subject to quarantine require a negative Covid-19 test no more than three days before travelling and to have booked at a room at a quarantine hotel in advance.

They will also have to submit a passenger locator form to the Home Office, declaring which countries they have been to in the 10 days before arrival in the UK.

Airlines have been asked to check for these and they will also be checked on arrival by Border Force officers, who can issue fines of £480 for non-compliance.

Security officers will then escort passengers to baggage reclaim and to pre-arranged transport to their quarantine hotel.

On arrival at the hotel, they will be given two home testing kits to be used on days two and eight of isolation.

These are covered by the cost, as are three meals per day, fruit and soft drinks.

If they test positive at any point they will be required to stay in the hotel for 10 days after the test, at an additional charge starting from £152 daily for the first adult.