There are two key risks to Scotland through our borders from Coronavirus:
- the re-importation of known strains, as we had in the summer
- the importation of new variants and strains of COVID-19 to Scotland with potential vaccine resistance or with higher rates of transmission
For this reason, international travel restrictions form a key part of our strategic approach. They do not work in isolation but complement our testing and broader approach to restrictions
There have been mutations both at home and abroad against which vaccines have varying efficacies. In consultation with our clinical and scientific advisors we feel that it is appropriate to act pre-emptively to minimise the risk of importation of these new strains.
As such rather than wait for new variants of concern to be identified and to show up in testing (sporadic across countries of the world) we are taking a proactive stance and putting in place measures to prevent non-essential international travel and to monitor those who feel they have no choice but to travel.
Looking at international best practice and the accumulated scientific knowledge from other countries we have implemented a process of managed quarantine for all those arriving on direct flights from outside the Common Travel Area and on flights from the Republic of Ireland (Dublin) if they have been in or passed through red list countries in the previous ten days.
Testing and contact tracing is also a crucial part of this. All international arrivals must take tests on day 2 and day 8 of their quarantine period. The day 2 test is timed to maximise recovery of positive samples for genomic sequencing and ensure that variant intelligence is received and can be actioned through enhanced contact tracing and testing contacts before the end of the isolation period. The day 8 test is designed to provide assurance that an individual is not infected on exit from quarantine.
We continue to urge the UK Government to adopt a similarly comprehensive and proactive approach to quarantine rather than reactively waiting to identify countries where new variants have developed and are spreading. Since December when only one country was put on the red list this number has grown to now to over 30. We have asked the UK Government to work with us to enable us to extend the requirement to go into managed isolation to all international travellers whose final destination is Scotland irrespective of their point of entry into the UK.
Key actions to reduce importation of the virus.
- prohibiting non-essential international travel to and from all areas of Scotland
- making it a requirement for passengers travelling to Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area (the UK , the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) to have a valid negative COVID-19 test result before they travel, and they must self-isolate for 10 days on their arrival, during which time they must take two further tests
- making it a requirement for all direct international arrivals to Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area or those arriving from the Republic of Ireland if they have been in or passed through a red list country in the last 10 days, to go into managed isolation for 10 days on arrival in Scotland
- continuing to work with the UK Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and to press for a comprehensive pan-UK approach to managed isolation
- keeping international travel restrictions under review and will consider further measures necessary to protect public health
- committed to working on a four nations basis as part of wider international consideration of ways to assist the recovery of international travel, consistent with WHO advice, not as a replacement for managed isolation but as a means by which elements of international travel might be safely opened up
- restricting travel within Scotland and to and from other parts of the UK and the wider CTA to limit transmission of the virus and opportunities for any new variants to spread