No quarantine checks carried out on arrivals to Scotland

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman says staff don't have security clearance to access passenger details.

No quarantine checks carried out on arrivals to Scotland Getty Images
Freeman: Quarantine checks have not been carried out.

No quarantine checks have been carried out on visitors arriving in Scotland from overseas, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman admitted on Sunday.

Two-week quarantines were imposed on new arrivals to the UK from June 8, with fines for anyone who breaches the measure in a bid to prevent new waves of coronavirus from abroad.

But The Sunday Post reported public health officials in Scotland have not carried out a single follow-up check on people flying in from abroad since quarantine was introduced.

Ms Freeman told the BBC’s Politics Scotland that staff have been unable to check arrivals were sticking to the rules because they don’t have security clearance to access passenger details 

“Our officials had to get that necessary security clearance in order to be able to access that data that then allows the follow-up calls to be made,” she said.

“That’s now thankfully resolved and those calls begin this week.”

The Sunday Post reported that no follow-up checks were carried out north of the border, despite Public Health England calling a random sample of arrivals to ensure they were sticking to the rules.

Ms Freeman said: “We had to have our Public Health Scotland officials security cleared in order to access the Home Office systems.

“That’s the system you need to access to get passenger data – in order to protect people’s data.”

She added Public Health England was already a part of the Home Office system while the equivalent agency in Scotland was not.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said follow-up calls with people arriving in Scotland “will begin imminently, including retrospective cases of travellers who have arrived into Scotland in the last two weeks”.

The spokesman said: “Quarantine regulations exist to protect people and limit the introduction of new chains of transmission of the virus. 

“Everyone entering Scotland from abroad must complete a Passenger Locator Form with onward travel and contact details, including where they will be staying, and self-isolate for 14 days.

“Border Force report good compliance and throughout all of this, passengers have been made aware of the quarantine requirements in Scotland.

“The outstanding issues – including giving Public Health Scotland staff access to passenger contact data collected in transit and stored by the Home Office, and ensuring appropriate data governance – are now resolved.”

Nicola Sturgeon said last week Scotland is likely to relax quarantine for people arriving from “low-risk” countries in the coming days.

She also branded the UK Government’s decision-making process on air bridges “shambolic”.

The First Minister said it had been “challenging” for Scotland to come to a position on proposals to lift quarantine restrictions on those flying into the country from other parts of the world.

The 14-day self-isolation policy for people returning to or visiting England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany has been lifted by the UK Government.

But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not agreed to the plans.

Ms Sturgeon said on Friday: “When so much is at stake as it is right now we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of, to be quite frank about it, another government’s shambolic decision process.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is also exempting a number of countries from its advisory against all non-essential travel, which has been in place since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The change in travel advice for England came into force on Saturday, while the quarantine policy will be amended from July 10.