Nicola Sturgeon has been asked to release the scientific evidence behind her decision to quarantine travellers arriving from Spain and subsequent plan to lift the restrictions.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie wrote to the First Minister to raise concerns about the decisions, citing reports the infection rate in Spain is now three times higher than when quarantine measures were imposed.
When Ms Sturgeon announced the “difficult decision” to continue quarantine measures for people coming to Scotland from Spain or Serbia on July 8, the Spanish infection rate was 8.76 per 100,000 of the population, according to figures quoted by Mr Rennie.
Since then, a report by Reuters suggests the infection rate has trebled to 27.39 per 100,000, with 1,527 new cases on July 20 – up from 341 the day before Ms Sturgeon’s announcement.
With the restrictions on travellers from Spain due to be lifted on Thursday, Mr Rennie wrote: “I have increasing doubts that you are basing the decisions on sound science.”
Urging her to immediately publish the scientific data that informed her decisions, he added: “People need to have confidence in the basis for decisions made during the pandemic.
“Families and businesses will potentially be thousands of pounds out of pocket, or their health could be at risk, if the Scottish Government suddenly changes policy contrary to prevailing public science.”
Asked about the basis for the easing of Spanish travel restrictions at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said its infection rate is “now very close to ours”.
She said: “The decisions we’re taking around air bridges and international travel are based on assessments of prevalence data.
“A couple of weeks ago, I decided not to exempt Spain from quarantine requirements because, at that point, the prevalence data we had for Spain showed that it was significantly higher than ours.
“The most up-to-date prevalence data for Spain, which is why we took the decision to include Spain on the exempt list earlier this week, shows that the prevalence estimate is now very close to ours.”
Despite the exemption of Spanish travellers from quarantine, Ms Sturgeon advised Scots against booking foreign travel because the restrictions are being reviewed “on a daily basis” and could change “at very short notice” while travellers are abroad.
“I would love to give you that certainty but I can’t because this virus is volatile and unpredictable,” Ms Sturgeon added.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The decisions to exclude, and then add, Spain to the exempt list for quarantine were based on the most up-to-date prevalence data provided by the UK Government, which has fallen from 330 per 100,000 to 15 per 100,000.
“As the First Minister made clear today, due to volatility of virus rates around the world, that data is kept under regular review and the list could change at very short notice.
“Anyone booking a holiday overseas should be aware that quarantines may be imposed before they have completed their trip.
“We understand that people want certainty, however public health must continue to be paramount.”