Scotland

Coronavirus: 'No plans' for Scotland to quarantine UK visitors

welcome to Scotland sign Image copyright Getty Images

There are "no plans" to quarantine people who travel to Scotland from other parts of the UK, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

But she said the country had to be "on our guard" to prevent cases of Covid-19 coming in from elsewhere.

And she said Scotland would need to "be able to consider all options" to stop a resurgence if the infection rates "diverge" in different parts of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon has said Scotland is "not far away" from eliminating the virus.

On Monday, she said no coronavirus deaths had been recorded for the fourth successive day.

There were only five new confirmed cases in Scotland, and just 10 patients are currently in intensive care wards.

One leading scientist and Scottish government advisor, Prof Devi Sridhar, said the country could eliminate coronavirus by the end of the summer if the decline in new cases continues

She said the "biggest challenge" would be how to stop new cases being imported from the outside - with hundreds of cases a day still being reported in England.

There have also been reports that Scottish ministers are worried about an influx of infectious travellers when the tourist industry begins to open up again.

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Image caption Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland is "not far away" from eliminating the virus

At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said that "right now we have no plans to introduce quarantine for people coming to Scotland from other parts of the UK".

However, she added that "as infection rates continue to fall, we have to be on our guard against cases coming in to Scotland from elsewhere".

She said: "If we did see an ongoing divergence between infection rates and levels in Scotland and other parts of the UK, from a public health perspective we would require to give consideration about how we mitigate that and guard against infection rates rising in Scotland as a result.

"This is not political and certainly not constitutional - this is something that other parts of the world are already doing or considering.

"I hope that need won't arise because I very much hope we will see infection levels fall in Scotland and fall in the rest of the UK."

Ms Sturgeon said she hoped it would be possible to introduce localised measures to contain any localised outbreaks or clusters of infection.

"But from a public health perspective we have to be able to consider all options if it is required to try to stop a resurgence of infection in Scotland," she said.

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Image caption People arriving in the UK from overseas are currently required to go into self-isolation for 14 days, or face a fine

The Scottish Conservatives said the first minister "needs to rule out any attempt to close off Scotland from the rest of the UK", with leader Jackson Carlaw saying: "This should not be used as an issue to drive a wedge between Scotland and England."

Ms Sturgeon said it would be "really inappropriate" to consider the issue through "the prism of Scottish politics or the constitutional debate", and that there were international examples of quarantine plans in countries like Germany and the US.

Ms Sturgeon also said she wanted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to confirm that the UK government's strategy was also to wipe out the virus, saying: "I genuinely don't know if it is nor not."

The Scottish government is considering its response to the idea of "air bridges" with other countries to allow people to holiday abroad without going into quarantine.

Ms Sturgeon said an announcement would be made in the coming days, after health advice has been considered.

Currently any overseas traveller entering the UK must self-isolate for 14 days, but UK ministers have said blanket restrictions are due to be eased from 6 July to allow more people to take trips abroad.

Border control is reserved to Westminster, but quarantines could still be imposed in Scotland as public health is a devolved matter.

The UK government is set to publish a list of countries with which "air bridges" could be formed, but Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government was "still considering our response and our own proposals".