Nicola Sturgeon has said the Prime Minister’s plans for some travellers to quarantine after arriving in the UK do not go far enough.
Boris Johnson has set out measures to prevent the arrival of new strains of coronavirus into the UK, including plans for a ten-day quarantine in hotels or other Government-provided accommodation for travellers from high-risk countries.
The move will initially cover countries which are already subject to a travel ban due to concern over mutant strains, including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.
But following a call with members of the UK, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments about the plan, Ms Sturgeon criticised the “minimal” proposals and said they leave “far too many weak points and gaps” for Covid-19 and any variants of the virus to enter the country.
Speaking about the Prime Minister’s proposal, the Scottish First Minister said: “It’s probably the least that could be done on the issue of supervised quarantine.”
She said Scotland could diverge from a UK-wide approach to travel restrictions if the Westminster Government does not “go further”.
Speaking at her coronavirus briefing prior to Mr Johnson’s announcement of the new measures, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think I do have a duty at this point to say that 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.
“So 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 supervised 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.
“If you impose [quarantine measures] purely for the countries where there is a travel ban in place, the very fact that there is already a travel ban in place tells you you’re going to be reaching very, very small numbers of people because nobody should be travelling from these countries even for essential purposes already.
“And if you focus just on countries with a variant has been identified – South Africa, or countries where it is known to have been identified – then you possibly miss countries where it has already travelled to but hasn’t yet been identified.
“When you’re trying to stop a virus getting into the country and, in particular, stop new variants getting into the country, you really have to have as comprehensive a protective ring as possible because the virus will find the holes in the net and it will get through the holes in the net.”
“We will try to encourage a four-nations approach that goes much further – much further.
“If we can’t reach that or we can’t reach that quickly enough, we will consider what it is practical for us to do it ourselves and we will set that out in the coming days.”
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said passengers arriving from red-list countries will be “met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine”.
Setting out more details of the measures, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Despite the stay-at-home regulations we are still seeing people not complying with these rules.
“The rules are clear, people should be staying at home unless they have a valid reason to leave.
“Going on holiday is not a valid reason, so we will introduce a new requirement so that people wishing to travel must first make a declaration as to why they need to travel.
“This reason for travel will be checked by carriers prior to departure.”
Travel operators are expected to face fines if they fail to inspect these forms.