By Lewis McKenzie & Louise Scott
Nicola Sturgeon has urged people not to travel abroad if they do not have to do so, after Portugal was added to the UK’s amber travel list.
The First Minister said that the Scottish Government would still assess and categorise the risk of those that must travel for essential reasons.
On Thursday, Portugal was removed from the UK’s travel green list amidst concern over a rise in cases and a Covid mutation in the country.
It means that travellers returning to Scotland from Portugal will have to self-isolate at home for ten days, after the changes are applied from 4am on June 8.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, Sturgeon warned that the virus is “changing all the time”.
“We have to strike all sorts of balances all of the time and I’ve been very consistent all along and have, perfectly legitimately, faced a lot of criticism from certain sectors on this,” she said.
“I’ve been very clear that whatever the red, amber or green list categorisations say, if you don’t have to travel abroad right now, don’t do it, because it’s safer not to, safer for yourself, and safer for the country, not to.
“But, there is a need for some people to travel for essential reasons, so we have to assess and categorise the risk of that.
“It’s really important that as we take those decisions, any decisions in the face of Covid, we don’t get stuck in decisions just because we’re frightened to change our mind.
“Because this is a virus that is changing all the time and if we don’t and aren’t prepared to show flexibility, and the willingness to change our mind in the face of it, then it will beat us and we absolutely can’t have that.”
She added: “So, sometimes when you have to change decisions, you get criticism, but I’d rather change decisions than stick with a wrong decision and put people more at risk as a result.”
The decision to move Portugal to the UK’s amber list has been met with a backlash from the travel industry.
Andrew Flintham, manging director for TUI UK, said: “This latest announcement is another step back for our industry.
“After promises that the Global Travel Taskforce would result in a clear framework, removing the damaging flip flopping we all endured last summer, the Government decision to move Portugal straight from green to amber will do untold damage to customer confidence.
“We were reassured that a green watch list would be created and a week’s notice would be given so travellers wouldn’t have to rush back home. They have failed on this promise.”
João Fernandes, president of Algarve Tourism, said: “As you can imagine we are bitterly disappointed to be moved to the amber list.
“In the Algarve region we host two thirds of the British overnight hotel stays in Portugal. And since the start of the pandemic the Algarve has had the lowest number of cases and better indicators than the rest of the country.”
He added: “The millions of Brits that visit us each year contribute to the livelihoods of many people in the region.
“Our hotels, tour operators and airline partners will also once again be put in a difficult situation, trying to plan around these ever-changing rules.”