UK Government Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that the UK must be “cautious” around borders, and that the situation has changed because of new variants of Covid-19 discovered abroad.
He told the Andrew Marr Show: "The argument has changed, and the conversation around borders has changed, because of two things: one, the new variants, and two, the success of the vaccine rollout programme, which means that we cannot put all of this progress at risk. “
There are 77 known cases of a new South African variant of the disease in the UK, Mr Hancock said, adding that they are under close observation but there are not yet any cases of community transmission of this variant.
There are nine known cases in the UK of the first new variant discovered in Brazil.
Mr Hancock added: “International travel right now should not be happening unless it’s absolutely necessary, for instance for a medical emergency [...] on international travel we are being very cautious and we don’t rule out further measures.
"We’re working together across government to make sure we have the right rules in place to keep this country safe, especially from the new variants. Really I’m worried about the South African variant."
Deputy First Minister John Swinney told the BBC on Sunday that the establishment of quarantine hotels in Scotland is “being explored to assess its detail and its effectiveness”.
“It has the potential to be one other aspect of the measures that we take to ensure that we are as robust as we can be in all the steps that we take,” he said.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously raised logistical concerns over quarantine hotels, especially around the question of who would pay for the hotel stay.
In the week ending January 17, some 7,550 people arrived to Scotland from outside the UK. A total of 14,628 people arrived the week before.
From Monday January 18, new arrivals to Scotland are required to provide a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure.