One of Scotland’s leading epidemiologists has backed the Scottish Government’s decision to keep PCR testing in place for international travellers.
The UK Government has announced it will allow vaccinated travellers to replace the PCR test currently required on day two of their return to England with a cheaper lateral flow test from next month. They will also no longer have to take a pre-departure test before returning.
But those arriving north of the border will still be required to take the pre-departure test – including from non-red list destinations – before returning, even if they are fully vaccinated, and the day two test will have to be a PCR.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Saturday, Professor Devi Sridhar, a professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, said she fully supports the Scottish Government’s decision to keep the testing regime in place.
She said: “Letting go of PCR testing is letting go of one of the main ways we would identify new variants, and be able to even know if it was coming in, if it was being seated.
“And secondly, to be able to catch positive cases that we have tried to control and keep the numbers as low as we can and the pressure off the NHS.”
Prof Sridhar also said the Government needs to make PCR testing more affordable and accessible for those travelling to and from Scotland.
She said: “It is important to keep the testing in place because I was looking at some of the numbers yesterday and of the people arriving into the UK – and again, these are people who need to have a negative lateral flow test before flying – about 400 people are arriving testing positive after being fully vaccinated and about 1,000 people are testing positive for being unvaccinated.
“If we’re not testing for those people coming in, they wouldn’t even know they’re positive and need to isolate, nor would we be able to sequence those to know if there’s a new variant coming in, which is one of the main things we are concerned about going into winter.”
The Scottish Government also confirmed in a statement on Friday that it will end its current traffic light system for international travel.
From October 4, the green and amber lists will merge but the red list will remain.
Current amber list rules – which allow fully vaccinated people to avoid isolating – will be the default for non-red list countries.
Vaccinations that took place in 17 countries including Canada, Australia, Israel and New Zealand will now be regarded as eligible under the rules, joining jabs in UK, the EU, the USA and the European Free Trade Association.
Eight countries – including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives – are also being removed from the red list with effect from 4am on Wednesday.
Travellers from Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also no longer be required to quarantine in a hotel from that date.