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.”