Quarantine ‘loophole’ still exists hours before rules begin

There are fears travellers will fly to England or Ireland before coming to Scotland to avoid the £1,750 hotel isolation period.

Quarantine ‘loophole’ still exists hours before rules begin Getty Images

A “loophole” that allows overseas travellers to avoid the Scottish Government’s quarantine rules remains open less than a day before the policy comes into force.

From 4am on Monday, February 15, all international passengers arriving in Scotland must isolate in one of six hotels for 10 days at the cost of £1,750, unless specifically exempt.

In England, the hotel quarantine rule only applies to those arriving from the 33 “red list” countries.

This means that travellers destined for Scotland could fly into England or Ireland before making their way north of the border or catching a ferry and isolating at home.

Scotland’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson, has said it is “absolutely critical” that the UK closes the loophole.

Speaking on the BBC’s The Sunday Show, he said: “It is a loophole that has been created by the UK Government and its failure to take action on the basis of the clinical, expert advice that has been provided on this matter.”

The UK government said it had put in place “some of the toughest border regimes in the world” to raise defences against new strains.

Edinburgh Airport criticized the Scottish Government for its “whole approach” which they said was inadequate amid concerns that passengers would not know what was required when they arrive on Monday.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “We are hours away from this policy going live and still the government is changing its mind on a key issue around arrivals from Ireland and the need for quarantine, with connecting passengers from amber countries potentially able to avoid managed isolation altogether.

“This uncertainty does not inspire confidence for airports and we understand airlines have yet to be fully briefed, which makes it likely some passengers will be completely unaware of this new requirement when they arrive on Monday.

“We have written to the First Minister to once again offer our support but primarily raise our concerns about this whole approach which does not feel adequate.”

Police Scotland said there would not be border checks to prevent people exploiting the loophole.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to support the collective effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.

“At this time there are no plans to establish road checks anywhere across Scotland simply to enforce coronavirus regulations.”

Matheson said he would try and convince the UK Government to change its mind and added: “The simplest and the safest approach to dealing with this is to have a comprehensive system in place.

“If the UK Government aren’t prepared to do that, we could resolve the issue by simply ensuring those who are transferring on to Scotland have to go to a quarantine facility near to the airport they arrive at in England.”

Matheson said he wanted the UK Government to have passengers arriving in airports in England but going on to Scotland to quarantine in English hotels before coming north.

The Scottish Government has booked six hotels for quarantining travellers; three near Edinburgh Airport, two by Glasgow Airport and one near Aberdeen Airport.

Passengers arriving in Scotland will be required to have three things, Matheson said, which are: a Home Office passenger locator form, identifying where they are coming from and their destination, a pre-departure negative Covid test, taken 72 hours before travel, and a booking of the necessary quarantine arrangements in advance of arrival.

Border force staff will check that passengers have all of the above in order when they arrive before security personnel escort them to baggage reclaim and then to transport directly to the hotel.

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