Visitors have been urged to stay away from Scotland amid fears they could pose the greatest risk of increasing the spread of coronavirus.
Politicians said they were concerned that people from around Britain were being encouraged to travel to rural Scotland to self-isolate and inadvertently carry the virus into unaffected regions.
Meanwhile, skiers and resort operators faced criticism yesterday as the slopes remained opened while the rest of the leisure sector went into lockdown. A picket line was formed at the Glencoe Mountain resort range by locals in a bid to turn away snow sports enthusiasts and curtail a possible spread of Covid-19.
Rural Economy and Tourism secretary Fergus Ewing MSP yesterday urged a halt to travel to remote areas. He said: “I am furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highland and Islands. This has to stop now. Let me be crystal clear, people should not be travelling to rural and island communities full stop. They are endangering lives. Do not travel.”
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil also urged tourists to stay away. He said: “The message is don’t come on holiday. The biggest risk is the traveller. They leave their own place where they have a potential chance of infection, they travel to areas which are potentially infected and they meet others who are potentially infected. The holiday season has been cancelled. It is pandemic season and the more connections you make with people the more you help the virus.”
He added: “Skiers are putting themselves at risk by mixing with other skiers who might have coronavirus.”
Finance secretary Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “If you live elsewhere, please don’t use the Highlands as your means of self-isolation. People live here who are trying to follow government guidance and the continuing flow of campervans and other traffic who appear to be escaping the cities is not helping.”
Ian Blackford MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, highlighted one operator continuing to send customers to tourist spots. He said: “I have contacted Sykes Cottages to ask why they are still sending tourists to rental properties in the Highlands and Islands given only essential travel should be taking place.
“This is a health emergency and they are risking a further spread of Covid-19. Suspend all bookings now.”
Sykes Cottages responded to the criticism last night: “It’s understandable people would want to arrange private accommodation in more remote locations. We are continuing to provide a service for customers and property owners until any further government instructions are imposed.”
The ski season is expected fall in line with other sectors and begin to close down from today. Andy Meldrum, managing director of Glencoe Mountain Resort, said they would shut for “the foreseeable future”. Nevis Range has also shut down.
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