Scottish international arrivals may escape quarantine via England

Concerns that international passengers travelling to Scotland could escape strict new quarantine rules if they go via English airports have been raised by the Transport Secretary.

A comprehensive "block booking" of hotel rooms in Scotland will be implemented through a single contract with the UK Government to support the new self-isolation system for international arrivals to suppress the spread of coronavirus, Michael Matheson has confirmed.

The Scottish Government is seeking an arrangement with the UK Government that would mean all international arrivals at airports south of the border who are intending to continue on to Scotland should be forced to stay in hotel rooms under the strict new rules on self-isolation.

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At the moment, the UK Government is only demanding the ten-day quarantine periods in hotels rooms should apply to passengers from a "red list" of countries.

But the Scottish Government will use a stricter regime applying to all international rivals. It means arrivals from non "red list" countries south of the border could then travel on to Scotland.

Mr Matheson told Holyrood’s health committee on Tuesday a UK-wide system would be the "safest and most effective way" to reduce the risk of new viruses.

"The challenge remains for those who are arriving into English airports where they are travelling onto Scotland," he said.

"We're working with the UK Government to see if we can introduce a mechanism which would allow us to have these individuals carry out their managed quarantine at the point of entry into the UK no matter where it is.

"However, we haven't been able to get agreement on that."

Discussions are continuing to ask the UK Government to expand its approach to all international arrivals.

There have been concerns the new quarantine system may not be ready for its scheduled start on Monday after it emerged over the weekend that no hotel rooms had been booked.

But Mr Matheson said: "We block-book the hotel facilities which we are taking forward with the UK Government, so there is one contract for all these hotels which is being taken forward on our behalf.”

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In Scotland, only Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports are currently receiving international arrivals. The quarantine estimates being used by ministers is based on weekly modelling of these numbers.

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