We must continue to minimise the risk of importing new cases of the virus as a result of international travel. The emergence of new variants makes this even more important: we cannot take the chance that one of them undermines the vaccination programme. But we want to ease restrictions on international travel, including the requirement for some travellers to enter managed isolation on arrival in Scotland, as soon as it is safe to do so. So we will be discussing with the aviation sector what conditions would need to be met to restart nonessential travel to some international destinations again.
Like the UK Government, we are certain that this won’t be possible before 17 May and maybe for some time after, particularly as the position in many of our closest European neighbouring countries is deteriorating at the moment. Data in other countries on vaccination rates, prevalence, test positivity and variants of concern will be important factors, as well as the situation in Scotland. Even when overseas travel does resume, it is very likely that pre-departure and post-arrival testing will remain in place for some time to come. However, we will keep this under close review.
Currently non-essential travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK and the wider Common Travel Area (CTA) (i.e. the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) is prohibited as a measure to reduce the risk of importation of the virus. Travel within the UK and the wider CTA is important to many families and to the tourism sector. We will keep that ban under review, taking account of trends in prevalence and the restrictions in place in the other CTA countries and the confidence we can take from that about the risks of travel resulting in importation of the virus, with a review to relaxing the ban – or targeting it only on travel to and from particular areas in the rest of the CTA – when it becomes safe to do so. We will continue to communicate our thinking with the tourism sector.