Covid in Scotland: Scottish airports 'urgently need testing regime'

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Aviation industry leaders have called on the Scottish government to "make urgent progress" on introducing a testing regime for travellers.

AGS Airports, Edinburgh Airport and Airlines UK claim Scottish aviation is "being left behind" because of a lack of a testing strategy.

The call came as a Test to Release scheme for international travel was launched in England.

The Scottish government said the claims were "simply not true".

It added that while a final decision had yet to be made, it was "not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection".

Test to Release is aimed at cutting quarantine times for travellers arriving in England.

Under the scheme, travellers are allowed to end self-isolation early if they pay for a coronavirus test and get a negative result five days after arriving.

'Step in right direction'

In a joint statement, the aviation industry leaders described the scheme as "a step in the right direction that offered light at the end of the tunnel".

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports - which operates Aberdeen and Glasgow - said airports and airlines in England could now start making plans "to safely restart international travel and get the aviation industry moving again".

He said: "There are no such plans in place for Scotland.

"We now risk being left behind as airlines will opt to relocate their aircraft and with them what's left of our connectivity and the jobs that rely on them.

"We have been calling for the introduction of a testing regime for months and despite putting proposals in front of the Scottish government, we're no further forward.

"We can't have a piecemeal approach when it comes to reopening aviation, which is why we need to see urgent progress from the Scottish government on the introduction of testing which needs to go hand-in-hand with the vaccination roll-out."

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Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the introduction of Test to Release in England was a "huge step forward" for the aviation industry.

He added: "That Scotland has failed to put in place a testing regime at all - not even a trial - is hugely disappointing and somewhat at odds with its status as an aviation nation, and it does place Scottish airports at a serious competitive disadvantage."

'Incredibly disappointing'

Edinburgh Airport said it was "incredibly disappointing that Scotland has decided not to take its seat at that table".

A spokesman added: "Scottish airports have presented plans shown to improve on the current quarantine system to the Scottish government.

"These plans are being considered by ministers and we hope they will lead to a pilot."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "These claims are simply not true.

"It is precisely because we value the aviation and travel sector so much that the current measures won't be in place for a moment longer than is necessary to protect public health and stop transmission of the virus.

"We absolutely recognise the impact Covid-19 has had on the industry and know how essential it is to our economy and the challenges that we face in helping it recover."

She added: "Throughout the pandemic all decisions on testing and quarantine have been informed by clinical and scientific advice to minimise the risk to public health.

"While we have not made a final decision, we are not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection."