Covid Scotland: Travel restrictions set to end in Scotland from Friday despite Scottish Government concerns
The Scottish Government followed an earlier announcement by UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who said the changes would allow “greater freedom in time for Easter” and would mean “you can travel just like in the good old days”.
However, a statement said the Scottish Government had only “reluctantly agreed” to align on a “four nation basis” after expressing concerns about the lack of border control measures.
All restrictions including the requirement for unvaccinated people to be tested for coronavirus will end for travel to the UK from 4am on Friday. to the delight of tourism industry bosses.
As airlines welcomed the announcement, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “These measures significantly open up international travel and were agreed on a UK wide basis despite the Scottish Government raising concerns over the lack of border controls.
“However, we recognise the benefits of acting on a four nation basis and this will bring a high degree of normality back to travel and is extremely welcome for Scottish tourism, the aviation sector and travellers alike.
“There will be continued surveillance by the UK Health Security Agency to monitor for developments of concern and a contingency toolkit is being progressed which will enable an agile and rapid response in future to any changes.
“This could include tailored restrictions where appropriate and people may wish to continue to observe sensible measures while travelling such as frequent hand washing and respecting social distancing.”
It comes as Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm on Tuesday whether the end to all legal restrictions on March 21 will go ahead, amid rising Covid cases and a 13-month high in hospitalisations.
Over 1,800 people are in hospital with Covid in Scotland, an increase of more than 100 since Friday. No data was released on Monday on case numbers, deaths or vaccinations, due to a technical issue faced by Public Health Scotland (PHS).
The Scottish Government has said decisions are kept under “continual review”, while chief medical officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said on Monday he is keeping a “close eye” on rising levels of infection.
The Scottish Conservatives warned ministers on Monday “not to backtrack” on plans for easing from March 21 previously set out, and to instead accept the risks of “living with Covid”.
“The First Minister must not use the rise in infection rates as an excuse to kick the can further down the road,” said Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said.
“The last remaining Covid restrictions must end, as planned, next Monday.
“Of course, we must all remain vigilant and use common sense because Covid has not gone away – but the First Minister accepted last month that we have to learn to live with it.”
Scottish Labour also pushed for the relaxation of restrictions to go ahead, but called for contact tracing to continue and testing to remain free in an effort to support the NHS.