Scotland to bring in hotel quarantine for all foreign arrivals, Sturgeon confirms

2 February 2021, 14:50 | Updated: 2 February 2021, 15:56

Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement on Tuesday
Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement on Tuesday. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Travellers coming to Scotland from any country are set to be asked to quarantine in a hotel, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister said a system of "managed quarantine" would be put in place for anyone travelling directly to Scotland, going further than systems announced in the rest of the UK.

It comes amid reports the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned the UK government weeks ago that only quarantine hotels for all arrivals or a total border shutdown would stop coronavirus variants entering the country.

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Five cases of the South Africa variant have been identified in Scotland, it was revealed on Tuesday. All of them are linked to travel, so there is no evidence of community transmission.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: "The firm view of the Scottish government is that in order to minimise the risk of new strains coming into the country, managed quarantine must be much more comprehensive.

"I can therefore confirm today that we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from."

The First Minister added she could not "unilaterally" impose such restrictions on people arriving in Scotland via the rest of the UK, but hoped the other administrations would work with the Scottish Government to reduce the number of people doing so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his plan last week for travellers coming from 30 "red list" countries to face up to 10 days in hotel self-isolation. 

However the proposal was lighter than that advised by SAGE a week before, according to The Times, and there is still no date for when it will be implemented.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas Symonds and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have been among those to attack the Government over its handling of the issue.

Updating MSPs in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon also announced that Scotland's lockdown will continue until at least the end of February, but it is hoped some pupils will return to schools from February 22, subject to confirmation nearer the time.

Ms Sturgeon said progress had been made in the fight against coronavirus as a result of compliance with lockdown restrictions.

Cases went from 302 per 100,000 in the week ending January 8 to 136 last week, she said.

She added: "Test positivity has also reduced. In the seven days up to January 29 it averaged 6.6% - still higher, but closer than it has been in recent weeks, to the 5% that the WHO consider to be indicative of an outbreak being under control."

But she said "continued caution" was needed.

"Pressure on our NHS continues to be severe", she said. "The number of Covid patients being treated in hospital remains around 30% above the high point of the first wave last April.

"However, hospital admissions in this wave appear to have peaked on January 12.

"They have now stabilised and are starting to reduce, albeit slowly."

The First Minister said there could be some "gradual easing" from the start of March.

She said: "If our progress continues, then I am cautiously optimistic that, as more and more people get vaccinated and with the protection of some of the additional measures that I will cover shortly, we may be able to begin looking towards a careful and gradual easing around the start of March."

An update on possible easing will be given in two weeks, she added.