Passengers ‘should be tested on arrival in Scotland’

A committee of MSPs said the measure would protect public health and could shorten quarantine times.

Passengers ‘should be tested on arrival in Scotland’ Getty Images
Travel: Passengers arriving in Scotland should be tested, according to the Health Committee.

All passengers travelling to Scotland should be tested for coronavirus on arrival, a committee of MSPs has said.

Holyrood’s Health Committee said the measure would protect public health and potentially shorten quarantine times.

Those arriving from many countries around the world currently have to self-isolate for 14 days.

A report said it is “vital” that every effort is made to stop the virus being imported into Scotland.

It added: “We further consider there would be benefits to testing passengers on arrival both as a health protection measure and as a means to shorten the required period of quarantine.

“We ask the Scottish Government for their views on these approaches.”

The Health Committee’s pre-Budget report also called for an urgent assessment of the impact of cancelled hospital operations.

Figures suggest just under 60,000 planned operations took place in Scottish hospitals from March to August of this year, compared with 168,000 over the same period in 2019.

The committee also said detail must be provided on when the backlog of NHS work caused by the pandemic will be resolved, in order to provide clarity on future funding.

Committee convener Lewis Macdonald said: “Covid-19 has caused a huge disruption to many NHS patients and treatments, with Public Health Scotland data showing hospital admissions, attendances at A&E departments, and people attending out of hours services all falling to around half the average levels seen in 2018-19.

“As the pandemic continues to impact every aspect of our health service, the consequences of cancelling all non-urgent care must be measured and the backlog of treatments and waiting lists resolved as quickly and safely as possible.

“The pandemic has created a huge degree of uncertainty over current and future health and social care budgets and we are keen to be given more detail on the long-term implications of this uncertainty.”

The report raised further concerns that some GPs have not been seeing patients as a result of the pandemic.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We fully understand industry concerns and will continue to explore whether there is a better balance around quarantine, but we are clear that the risk to public health must be minimised.

“We are not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection – people in the early stages of incubation of the virus could test negative and go on to develop the virus and spread it.

“There are a number of logistical and clinical considerations to be resolved, and the Scottish Government and industry agree any potential impacts to existing testing capacity must be carefully considered.

“However, we are continuing to engage with airport representatives on how testing at airports could work and to assess and understand the impact on public health.”