The Scottish Government has defended reinstating quarantine on travellers from Greece after the UK transport secretary suggested Holyrood ministers “jumped the gun”.
Grant Shapps said he respected the right of Nicola Sturgeon’s government to make its own decisions on quarantine measures, but claimed different advice in the four home nations “creates confusion” for holidaymakers.
He was defending the UK Government’s decision not to impose restrictions on arrivals to England from Greece and Portugal.
Northern Ireland also opted not to enforce a quarantine from the two popular holiday destinations, but Scotland and Wales have both ordered periods of 14-day isolation for returning holidaymakers.
Shapps said the Scottish Government had announced quarantine for travellers from Greece before looking at the latest data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC).
But Scottish ministers said their decision had also been driven by “a worrying number of people in Scotland” testing positive for Covid-19 after returning from Greece.
They also criticised the UK Government for announcing it would be not be imposing restrictions on Portugal for arrivals to Enfland before devolved ministers had been able to look at the JBC data for the country.
That latest update had shown the prevalence of coronavirus rising in Portugal, the Scottish Government added.
From 4am on Saturday, travellers returning from Portugal and French Polynesia to Scotland will have to self-isolate for a fortnight, while quarantine measures for Greece began on Thursday.
But Shapps said Westminster had decided not to add Greece and Portugal to the quarantine list of countries because figures suggested cases were falling.
The UK transport secretary told BBC radio: “The Scots decided, without using the Joint Biosecurity Centre data for this particular decision, that the people from Greece would be excluded and sort of jumped the gun on that and it is their right to do it but it doesn’t make the overall message any clearer.”
The cabinet minister said the UK Government’s review concluded no changes were necessary partly because test positivity in Portugal came down while the number of cases overall in Greece had fallen.
There were 418 coronavirus cases recorded in Portugal on Thursday, the country’s largest total since July 10.
It means its seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 people is 23.1, with 20 the threshold at which governments in the UK usually consider triggering quarantine measures.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our decisions on quarantine measures for travellers are based on the scientific evidence available.
“We have, for the most part, aligned closely with the approaches taken by the other three governments and regular discussions continue with them.
“But ultimately, we make judgements on how best to keep the people of Scotland safe and that sometimes means our decisions differ from those made by the other three governments.”
He continued: “In the case of Greece, we had a worrying number of people in Scotland who had tested positive for Covid-19 and who had returned from Greece within seven days of the onset of symptoms.
“The Scottish Government could not afford to ignore that growing threat to public health.
“In the case of Portugal, it was unfortunate that the UK Government announced their decision yesterday before ministers from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland met and before considering the latest JBC data.
“This indicated a significant rise in both the prevalence of the virus in Portugal and in test positivity.
“As ministers have said repeatedly, we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the situation in many countries can change suddenly.”
Students have been told they can return home from university accommodation on a long-term basis, as long as they follow rules on self-isolating.
Updated guidance from the Scottish Government sets out what those who are studying higher education can do if they wish to change households.
Students have been asked to follow self-isolating rules and not use public transport if they decide to permanently return to another home, while still saying it is an “offence” to undertake short stays without a “reasonable” excuse.
Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “We would encourage students to remain living in their current accommodation where they are able to, so they can continue to benefit from both a blend of digital and in-person learning, where that is possible and the opportunity to engage with others, within the restrictions, to build new networks and to make new friends.
“However, we know that many students may be struggling with the prospect of not being able to return home to visit family and other support networks, especially if it is the first time in their life they have been away from home.
“Knowing what to consider in deciding whether to return home will help support wellbeing and enable students to make informed choices, but it is important to stress that adjusting to life away from home is always challenging.”
Current guidance states that people should self-isolate at home for 10 days if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or tested positive, or 14 days if living with someone who has.
Mr Lochhead has written to principals and student accommodation provider networks to set out the new guidance.
It has been developed in consultation with NUS Scotland and Universities Scotland.
The guidance sets out that students should “consider how you may benefit from in-person learning” if returning home on a permanent basis.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced measures which came into force on Wednesday which ban indoor visits between households.
Students had previously been asked by university bosses to not visit pubs and restaurants this weekend as part of efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.
NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly said: “Today’s guidance provides welcome clarity to the students in halls, who will be considering their next steps.
“We welcome that students will be able to return home on a permanent basis.
“However, we are disappointed that the government continues to talk up in-person teaching, which may keep students on campus and increase risks unnecessarily.”
Gerry McCormac, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government’s additional guidance about households puts the emphasis on staying within existing households and avoiding overnight stays elsewhere for now, but not at the expense of an individual’s wellbeing.
“It also makes clear that a change of household is possible but offers guidance to limit this to cases where a change then becomes the person’s main or only residence on a long-term basis.”
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is urging the Government to call a special summit to avoid the threat of a “Covid generation” of unemployed young people.
Mr Brown said there were “fundamental flaws” in the jobs support plans announced last week by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
A UK-wide jobs summit is urgently needed to avoid the threat of at least 500,000 young people being unemployed, he said.
Mr Brown will tell a Communication Workers Union conference on Monday that the Government should “reboot” its plans.
He will say he had argued for a jobs retention plan, adding: “But I now believe – facing a winter of massive job losses, rapidly-mounting unemployment and a wave of businesses bankruptcies – the Chancellor must go back to the drawing board, call a jobs summit to understand the despair in communities and rewrite his winter plan by fixing its fundamental flaws.
“The newly announced job support scheme offers nothing new for the 1.5 million currently unemployed, nothing new for the 900,000 on Universal Credit who will soon be registered as unemployed, and nothing new for the three million excluded from the furlough scheme as self-employed.
“And, shamefully, nothing additional to the inadequate Kickstart scheme for young people, 500,000 of whom will likely end up on the streets or isolated at home, falling through the net in ‘breadline Britain’ with absolutely nothing to do and becoming this century’s lost generation.
“Nor was there anything new for the struggling town centres and high streets to speed up much-needed infrastructure investment or to expedite a job-creating Green New Deal.”
Mr Brown will tell conference delegates that the impending “tsunami” of unemployment and a wave of business bankruptcies had driven him to help form the new UK-wide Alliance For Full Employment.
“We must bring all parts of the country – nations and regions – together to demand action to save and create two million jobs.”
The alliance is calling for a UK summit of national and regional leaders, including metro mayors and business and unions, to examine a new jobs plan
It could take up to ten years for Scottish courts to return to their normal level of backlog unless a number of measures are taken, MSPs have warned.
Holyrood’s Justice Committee said “unpalatable” steps are needed to address the lengthy delays in the criminal justice system.
Most criminal cases were put on hold during the initial stages of the pandemic.
The committee has been investigating the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s courts.
It heard that while delays to criminal cases were a problem before the pandemic, simply returning to that level of backlog would take eight to ten years if nothing is done to speed up court business.
While the committee praised the introduction of remote jury centres in cinemas, it said even more digital technology was needed, as well as potentially extending court sitting hours.
Sentencing discounts for accused people who plead guilty at an early stage were also suggested.
Holding criminal trials without juries has been discounted as this was considered to be too fundamental a change to the justice system.
Committee convener Adam Tomkins said: “The scale of the challenge faced by our courts is not to be underestimated.
“Current delays are not acceptable for the victims, witnesses or those accused of crimes.
“While that point may not be controversial, we need to ensure changes to improve the situation, whether long or short term, have the widest possible backing.
“To that end, we want the Scottish Government to convene a meeting of all interested parties to agree a way forward. Time is of the essence.”
The MSP added: “Although the problems are at their worst in the criminal courts, there is still a mismatch in our civil courts, which are largely functioning, and other services linked to them, such as family contact centres, which are at best partially open.”
At the time, unlike now, people with symptoms were simply told to stay home for seven days to try to get better.
Generally speaking, only those whose condition deteriorated to the point of needing hospital treatment were tested.
This meant that as Scotland’s epidemic peaked during the month of April, in fact the country was only testing an average of about 1300 people per day – and sometimes considerably less.
That’s peanuts compared to the figures posted most days now.
Meanwhile, the Scottish and UK governments were building up their testing capacities, albeit not as quickly as some would have liked.
Their chief weapon was the new UK Government-managed regional testing network, with Scottish centres predominantly based at the country’s airports.
But this separate branch of testing data caused all sorts of havoc for those updating the Scottish Government’s spreadsheets, with huge gluts of test results dumped on them in mid-June which dated back months.
And then again, in early July, a whole tranche of backlogged data related to home testing kits and care home tests was belatedly added to the daily totals, meaning test figures in Scotland suddenly skyrocketed.
Since then, we’ve been consistently looking at far higher testing numbers than at any previous point in the pandemic.
They peaked in late August and early September, with the country seeing nearly 30,000 tests carried out on a number of days, testing around 16,000 Scots each time.
Since then, however, those figures have fallen back quite a bit, to an average of around 17,000 daily tests in September – or about 7400 people tested per day.
The difference between daily tests and newly-tested people is to do with the amount of individuals who are being repeat-tested, for example, care home workers.
A mountain rescue team have called on hill walkers to park their cars responsibly after facing “significant delays” during an emergency call out.
Lomond Mountain Rescue were called to an incident on Ben Lomond in the Trossachs on Saturday, following reports that a hillwalker was lapsing in and out of consciousness.
The group say they were delayed in responding to the incident due to inconsiderate parking and heavy traffic, with the road to Rowardennan reduced to a single lane.
They added vehicles had blocked the emergency access track that allows rescue teams to reach incidents higher on the hill.
The group have warned the delays could have been life threatening for the hillwalker if the incident had been more serious.
David Dodson, Team Leader for Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, said: “Getting along the road is really quite difficult at the best of times, but it was particularly bad yesterday because of the sheer volume of traffic and cars which were parked pretty inconsiderately.
“I think all we would ask folk to do is to use their common sense and try and think of other road users and not park in such a way is to prevent our vehicles going along the road.”
Andy Murray’s return to clay was a chastening one as he was brushed aside by old foe Stan Wawrinka in the first round of the French Open.
Much had been made of the pair being drawn together again three years after a brutal semi-final at Roland Garros proved the end of Murray’s right hip.
The cold and damp conditions were the same but the similarities ended there as 2015 champion Wawrinka took just an hour and 37 minutes to ease to a 6-1 6-3 6-2 victory.
It was so cold that Murray was wearing leggings under his shorts and there was sluggishness about the 33-year-old’s movement and particularly his serve.
He won just 11 points on serve during the first set as Wawrinka reeled off six games in a row.
There were a few more positive signs in the second set but Murray, who was unusually reserved, was still left motionless far too often as Wawrinka bulldozed the ball into the corners.
A break of serve right at the start of the third set brought the finish line closer, and Murray was unable to take any of his first three break points when he had Wawrinka at 0-40 in the next game.
The Scot looked underpowered compared to his opponent and he was left rooted to the spot once more as Wawrinka drilled a backhand winner into the corner to break for 5-2 before serving out the victory with an ace.
The mother of a child who died in a flagship hospital is seeking compensation from the health board.
Kimberly Darroch, whose 10-year-old daughter Milly Main died in 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow after contracting an infection, has launched legal action against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Ms Darroch believes that Milly, who was recovering from leukaemia treatment, died as a result of contaminated water at the £842m hospital.
However, an independent review published in June found there were no avoidable deaths caused by the design and maintenance of the building.
Ms Darroch told the Scottish Sun on Sunday: “We still feel in the dark about what happened to our beloved daughter.
“It’s incredibly painful to relive our ordeal, but we are determined to deliver justice for Milly and answers for all affected patients and parents.
“Our hope is that by taking action we can ensure no other family ever has to go through what we did.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We continue to offer our sympathies to Milly Main’s family for their loss.
“We remain keen to meet with Milly’s family and we would be happy to arrange this if they would like to discuss Milly’s care.”
An inquiry was launched by health secretary Jeane Freeman last year after the deaths of two adults and a child from infections at the hospital.
The investigation started last month and is chaired by Lord Brodie.
Delays to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh will also be scrutinised, after Freeman stepped in to halt the move of patients between sites over fears around the ventilation system.