Covid Scotland: Isolation and pre-departure tests axed for international arrivals

SNP ministers have axed the need for fully vaccinated international arrivals into Scotland to self-isolate after Boris Johnson announced the move for England yesterday.

From tomorrow, people arriving into Scotland who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 will also no longer be required to take pre-departure tests and will not have to self-isolate on arrive until they’ve received a negative result.

But people will still need to take a test on or before day two after arriving in the UK – which can be a lateral flow device rather than a PCR test from Sunday.

Anyone who tests positive on their lateral flow test will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test.

The new measures apply across the UK after agreement between the UK Government and the three devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Humza Yousaf vents ‘frustration’ at Boris Johnson’s England-only travel changes

Pre-departure tests, the requirement to self-isolate and mandatory PCR tests were re-introduced in December to help stem the spread of the Omicron variant, but politicians now believe they are not required because Omicron is now the dominant strain in the UK.

Ministers have also agreed to approve vaccine certificates for a further 16 countries and territories from 4am on January 10, allowing quarantine-free travel to Scotland. The red list of highest risk countries will remain unchanged with no countries currently on the list.

All four nations are also discussing what the requirements should be for border travel in the future.

Net Zero, Energy and Transport Sectary, Michael Matheson, said: “Given the rapid spread of Omicron last year it was essential that we took immediate steps to protect public health in Scotland, particularly with regards to international travel.

READ MORE: Omicron: Nicola Sturgeon drawing up new framework to move to ‘less restrictive’ Scotland

“We still have significant concerns over Omicron, but we recognise that, now it is the most dominant strain in Scotland and across the UK, it is sensible to review the measures currently in place.

“We also fully understand the impact of the restrictions on staff and businesses in the travel and aviation sectors and these changes demonstrate our commitment not to keep measures in place any longer than necessary.”

He added: “However, people still need to be extremely careful when travelling and to remember that both our and other countries’ Covid-19 requirements can change at short notice as things can evolve very quickly.

“People should therefore ensure they have travel insurance and carefully check their booking terms and conditions, as well as ensuring compliance with the latest regulations for the country being visited.”

Business leaders have welcomed the changes to the rules and have called on UK and Scottish minsiter to co-operate to help the sector recover from the pandemic.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:  “Scotland’s airports and our travel operators continue to be hit incredibly hard by the travel testing requirements introduced last month which resulted in a major slowdown in our recovery, increased costs for passengers and further undermined both business and consumer confidence.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Testing and isolating has to adapt to Omicron – and the post-vaccine pandemic

“Scotland’s airports and international connections are vital to securing a strong economic recovery and businesses will welcome the decision by the Scottish Government to align pre-departure and return testing requirements with those in England.

“Any divergence on international travel testing between Scotland and the rest of the UK has a damaging impact on Scotland’s economy and urgent confirmation that any further reductions will be made on a four-nations basis is essential to keeping Scotland’s airports competitive. 

“The Scottish Government should now use this opportunity to engage constructively with Scotland’s travel and airport industries to ensure they can look forward to recovery. Businesses linked to Scotland’s aviation sector need focussed policies to drive growth, supported by urgent action by the Scottish Government.”

Earlier, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf vented his “frustration” at Boris Johnson announcing England-only changes to testing rules for international travel despite four-nations talks over the issue.

While talks had taken placed between the four nations yesterday, Mr Johnson announced changes for England only.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Yousaf said: “It would be helpful if these discussions could not just happen on a four-nations basis, but any announcements could take place on a four-nations basis.

“Our aviation sector, which has undoubtedly been significantly affected throughout the course of the pandemic, gets a further hit and also we don’t end up realising any benefit if we have different public health measures in place, because ultimately a number of people may well travel from English airports if that is seen to be easier of cheaper.”

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