Travellers returning from six African countries will be required to self-isolate upon their return to Scotland following concerns over a new strain of coronavirus.
On Thursday, the Scottish Government announced that travellers arriving in the country from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana will have to self-isolate and take two PCR tests from noon on Friday, regardless of their vaccination status.
Managed quarantine will be put in place for any arrivals from the six countries from 4am on Saturday.
It follows concerns over the emerging B.1.1.529 variant, which has the potential to evade immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new variant identified in South Africa “may be more transmissible” than the Delta strain and “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”
He added: “Now to be clear, we have not detected any of this new variant in the UK at this point in time.
“But we’ve always been clear that we will take action to protect the progress that we have made.”
The First Minister tweeted that the variant is “of significant concern” and that the situation is being “monitored closely”.
Meanwhile Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport said: “International travel restrictions are necessary to protect the greater public health.
“While many restrictions have been significantly relaxed – largely thanks to the success of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 vaccine roll out – we have always said it may be necessary to quickly impose fresh measures to protect public health in Scotland.”
The variant has been classed as a “variant under investigation” in the UK, with one senior UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) expert describing it as “the worst variant we have seen so far”.
Only 59 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.
The variant has over 30 mutations – around twice as many as the Delta variant – which could potentially make it more transmissible and evade the protection given by prior infection or vaccination.
Experts from the UKHSA have been advising ministers on the issue.
Anyone who has arrived on Scotland from any of the six countries in the past ten days will be required to enter managed quarantine on arrival.
Travellers will require a day two and day eight coronavirus test regardless of their vaccination status.