All international travellers arriving into Scotland will have to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country, it has been announced.
The plans, which are also being introduced in England, will see all passengers arriving by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.
Officials were said to be working closely with the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland on adopting the measures there.
The measure, set to be introduced “as soon as possible”, aims to protect the public against imported cases and new strains of the virus such as those identified in Denmark and South Africa.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Travel into or out of Scotland is currently illegal and that will remain the case while we work to suppress the new strain of COVID-19.
“The Scottish Government has been consistently clear about the risks associated with international travel and the importance of public health measures in helping to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“That is why we have been in regular dialogue with the UK Government and the other devolved administrations about what further measures can be put in place, including the introduction of pre-departure testing (PDT).
“The requirement for pre-departure testing will add to our suite of public health measures as we seek to help drive down transmission of the virus to safeguard health, protect the NHS and save lives.
“It is important to emphasise that this additional measure does not remove the requirement for all passengers arriving from countries not on the quarantine exemption list to self-isolate for ten days, even with a negative test.
“Likewise, all passengers will continue to have to complete a Passenger Locator Form and, of course, they will be subject to national lockdown restrictions, which currently bar people from leaving their home or other fixed address without a reasonable excuse for doing so.
“As the UK Government has made clear, there are still some outstanding issues to address and it is important that we consider the implications, but we are keen to implement this as soon as it is possible.”
The airline industry – which has been devastated by the pandemic – acknowledged the need for the restrictions but urged ministers to lift them as quickly as possible.
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said: “This should be a short-term, emergency measure only and once the rollout of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery.”
Under the new rules, passengers will need to present proof of a negative test result to their carrier on boarding while the UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrivals.
All passengers arriving from countries not on the Government’s travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their test result.
Hauliers crossing the Channel to France will also still need a negative test before departure following a decision by the French government on Thursday.