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by Jack Thomson
27 January 2021
First Minister 'concerned' UK travel measures will not go far enough


First Minister 'concerned' UK travel measures will not go far enough

The First Minister has said she is "concerned" UK proposals on travel restrictions - including supervised quarantine - do not go "far enough".

The Scottish Government already confirmed it will at least equal UK Government's steps on quarantine arrangements but Nicola Sturgeon said she will be looking to "persuade them to go much further".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced in the House of Commons that UK nationals and residents returning from 22 countries, where there is a risk of known variants, will be required to isolate in government provided accommodation - such as hotels - for 10 days. 

They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine. 

Sturgeon, who conceded more should have been done on restricting cross-border travel in the early stages of the pandemic, said earlier her government could set out additional measures next week.

Speaking at the lunchtime briefing, she said: "Travel restrictions will be a key way in which we help to stop new cases and in particular new variants of this virus being imported into Scotland.

"As we found out and have learned to a cost over the summer, the virus travels when people travel and there will be a need for restrictions on travel perhaps even after vaccination is even more widespread than it is right now.

"Indeed at a time when there is rightly a focus on lessons that we should be learning from earlier stages of the pandemic, this is one that I would highlight that we perhaps should have done more at an earlier stage to restrict travel across our borders.

"Now we've been in discussion with the UK Government for some time about improving border controls and these discussions we have raise the issue of quarantine hotels, where people who are returning to the UK can self-isolate.

"The Scottish Government believes a comprehensive system of supervised quarantine is required for this next stage of the pandemic as we suppress cases here to mitigate against the risk of new cases and new variants being imported into the country.

"I've just taken part in a four nations call and I've been briefed on what the Prime Minister is likely to announce later on. I'm not going to preempt his announcement... but I think I do have a duty at this point to say I am concerned that the proposal does not go far enough and I've made that point very strongly in the four nations discussions that we've just had today."

Sturgeon said a united approach on the issue of quarantine across the UK would be preferred but confirmed she would not hesitate to put stronger rules in place in Scotland. 

She added: "While the Scottish Government will initially emulate the UK Government's steps on enhancing quarantine arrangements we will be seeking urgently to persuade them to go much further and indeed to move to a comprehensive system of supervise quarantine.

"Given the obvious practical issues involved we are very clear that our preference is to have consistent quarantine rules across the UK, but if there is no agreement to go further on a four nations basis we will be considering going further ourselves and we will set out any such additional measures next week."

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