Air bridges with ‘low-risk’ countries likely in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government wants to once again welcome visitors from around the world.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland is likely to relax quarantine for people arriving from “low-risk” countries.

But she 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.

Sturgeon said: “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.

“We want to welcome visitors again from around the world and we also want to allow our own citizens to travel.

“We also want, if possible for obvious practical reasons, to have alignment on these matters with the rest of the UK.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will also exempt 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 comes into force on Saturday, while the quarantine policy will be amended from July 10.

The First Minister said it was “very likely” that the Scottish Government will be able to agree the low-risk countries on the air bridge list over the next few days.

Sturgeon said: “I think I can say now it is likely, very likely, that we will be able to agree the list of countries the UK has categorised as low-risk, although we will need to do a proper assessment of that.

“But we need to take some particular care in our assessment of the risk categorised as medium-risk, because that is where there may be some countries that have a higher prevalence of the virus than Scotland does right now.”

She said she hoped a decision could be made “quickly”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told STV News he doesn’t blame the Scottish Government following the delay of the UK Government’s release of its full list of countries that will be exempt from quarantine.

Instead, he believes any issues could be resolved ahead of July 10 when the new rules come into force.

He said: “I wouldn’t blame anybody for it, but I said on Monday that I would be announcing this later in the week and I know every day people are saying ‘when’s the list coming out?’ and I did want to just hold back to see if we could get the four nations all signed up at the same time.

“That may well still happen because the date of this is July 10.

“So although the list is coming out today, from July 10 you won’t need to quarantine for 14 days if returning from any of these countries and territories on the list.

“So, it’s up to Scotland of course to decide – Wales, Northern Ireland – they all have their own processes and decisions to go through.”

It was also revealed at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing that one further person has died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The official death toll in Scotland stands at 2488, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths suggest the most up-to-date total is now more than 4100.

Sturgeon stated that total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 18,276 – a jump of 12 in the last 24 hours.

The figures on daily deaths, produced by Health Protection Scotland, only count confirmed cases, while weekly figures from National Records of Scotland include suspected cases.

As of last Sunday, 4155 people have died where Covid-19 was registered on their death certificate.

Health Protection Scotland has reported a further six deaths of confirmed cases, indicating a total death toll of at least 4161.

More than 43,000 people have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus across the whole of the UK.