Scotland will have the strictest managed quarantine protocols of the four UK nations, the First Minister has announced, a move that has been slammed by one of the country’s largest airport operators.
Briefing the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced lockdown restrictions will remain in place until at least the end of February, as part of efforts to allow children back into the classroom.
Travellers entering Scotland from anywhere overseas will be required to stay in quarantine in hotels.
But the owners of Aberdeen and Glasgow airports have criticised the Scottish Government for failing to consult with them for the “third time” since restrictions were brought in.
Nursery youngsters, P1-P3 primary aged children and senior secondary pupils will begin a return to the classroom from February 22 on a phased basis, Ms Sturgeon announced, but will be subject to a confirmatory announcement closer to the date.
Ms Sturgeon said the “hope” is the country can move back to a tiered restriction structure by March, but the priority is to get children “back into classrooms”.
But scientists are currently working out if the newest strain of the virus is more likely to result in people being admitted to hospital, according to Ms Sturgeon. She added there is little evidence is was more likely to result in death.
Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS (Aberdeen Glasgow Southampton) Airports, said without a recovery plan for the country’s airports, the industry will remain in a “perilous position”.
He said: “This is the third significant announcement regarding travel restrictions in as many weeks which, once again, have been introduced without any consultation whatsoever. We’re also lacking any detail on how the latest layer of restrictions will be implemented.
“We understand the need for short-term emergency measures, and we all want to see this virus brought under control as quickly as possible, however, it’s imperative government engages with industry on developing a recovery plan.
“Our airports are effectively closed, they have been for almost one year and without a recovery plan from government there is no end in sight. We need to see sector-specific support beyond the rates relief, otherwise our entire industry will remain in a perilous position.”
Announcing the measures, Ms Sturgeon said: “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 we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.”
She said she could not “unilaterally” impose such restrictions on people landing elsewhere in the UK and travelling to Scotland, but hoped the other administrations would work with the Scottish Government to reduce the number of people doing so.
Statistics and vaccine rollout
Ms Sturgeon said Covid-19 prevalence in Scotland has fallen under the lockdown regulations, dropping from 302 per 100,000 in the week ending January 8 to 136 per 100,000 last week.
More than 611,000 people have received the first dose of vaccine.
Ms Sturgeon accepted her government wants to “accelerate the overall progress” of the campaign.
She reported to MSPs that just under 35,000 first doses were administered on Monday – the highest daily total so far and 55% more than the number of injections given on the same day last week.
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said Ms Sturgeon had spent the week “rubbishing criticism” levelled against her.
She said: “All the evidence shows the rollout is slow, stuttering and lagging way behind the rest of the UK.
“All throughout January, the First Minister has rubbished any and all criticism.
“She’s still trying to claim the SNP are catching up on over 80s but the same delays are happening in the next age cohorts.
“The SNP have managed to vaccinate just a quarter of the proportion of over 75-year-olds compared to south of the border. That is a damning figure even the First Minister won’t try to defend.
“The problem extends further, to all of the over 70s who are still waiting on the letter that the health secretary promised would arrive last week.
“It’s another missed target, another delay and yet another let-down for everyone desperate to get the vaccine.
“Nicola Sturgeon didn’t explain why the rollout in Scotland is so far behind. She’s finally accepted this isn’t going well but we still don’t know how the SNP are going to fix it.”