A quarantine “loophole” allowing overseas travellers to avoid self-isolation still exists less than a day before the policy comes into force, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has admitted.
Travellers flying directly into Scotland from outside the UK will have to self-isolate for 10 days in one of six hotels at a cost of £1,750, unless specifically exempt.
But because the UK Government will only require hotel quarantining for visitors from a “red list” of 33 countries, travellers can exploit a loophole by entering Scotland via England or Ireland.
Visitors would still have to self-isolate for the 10-day period, but would not have to do so at one of the designated hotels due to a lack of agreement between Scottish and Westminster governments.
With the quarantining policy coming into effect from Monday, Mr Matheson warned that the UK Government could “potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland” and described the situation as “unacceptable”.
Speaking on the BBC’s The Sunday Show, he said: “It is a loophole that has been created by the UK Government and its failure to take action on the basis of the clinical, expert advice that has been provided on this matter.”
Mr Matheson said he would try and convince the UK Government to change its mind and added: “The simplest and the safest approach to dealing with this is to have a comprehensive system in place.
“If the UK Government aren’t prepared to do that, we could resolve the issue by simply ensuring those who are transferring on to Scotland have to go to a quarantine facility near to the airport they arrive at in England.”
On Friday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government must give “serious thought” to border controls to stop travellers entering Scotland by landing elsewhere in the UK.
Asked about the possibility of border checks, Mr Matheson said it would be “very challenging” to implement due to the number of vehicles travelling between England and Scotland.
Mr Matheson also told the programme that six hotels have been booked by the government for quarantining travellers; three near Edinburgh Airport, two close to Glasgow Airport and one near Aberdeen Airport.
Explaining what will happen to non-exempt overseas visitors when they arrive, he said: “There are three things you need before you should board the flight and the airlines are meant to check that.
“One is that you’ve completed your passenger locator form, which is a Home Office form to identify where you’re coming from and where you’re going to.
“The second thing is a pre-departure test that is negative and has taken place 72 hours before you travel, and you’ve also booked at the necessary quarantine arrangements in advance of your arrival into Scotland.
“When you arrive at the airport, border force will check all three of these and once you have come through the border point you will then be met by security who will then take you to baggage reclaim and then on to transport, which will then take you directly to the hotel that you’ve been allocated.”
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