Coronavirus: Air bridges to low-risk countries ‘very likely’

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The quarantine rules are due to be relaxed in England – but not Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish government is “very likely” to agree to relax quarantine for people travelling to Scotland from “low risk” countries.

But she said it needed to carefully scrutinise “medium risk” countries on a list drawn up by the UK government.

Under Westminster’s plan, people arriving in England from 50 countries including Spain, Italy and France will no longer have to isolate from 10 July.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not yet agreed to the proposals.

Scottish ministers have said they are concerned about the plan and frustrated at the way it has been handled.

At the daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said the government hoped to reach a decision on the issue in the next couple of days.

Earlier UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was still time for the Scottish government to agree to “air bridges” before they are implemented.

The boss of two of Scotland’s leading airports has warned that failure to adopt a four nations approach will put further jobs at risk.

Most travellers arriving in the UK currently have to isolate for 14 days but the Department for Transport has confirmed that the rules will change for England from next week.

It is due to publish a full list of exempt countries posing a “reduced risk” from coronavirus later.

The Foreign Office is also changing its advice against all but essential travel to a number of countries from Saturday.

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About 50 countries are expected to be on the list of “air-bridges”

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he had been given 30 minutes to look at a list of countries under consideration for “air bridges” before being asked to make a decision on Wednesday night.

He told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme the Scottish government wanted to take a “four nations” approach and he asked for more time consider the issue.

“It just makes sense for the devolved administration… that we take our time to look at the public health impact this will possibly have on our own country and come to a quick and swift decision, which is what we’re quite keen to do.

“And therefore it’s quite disappointing that we haven’t been given the courtesy of working together on that four nations approach.”

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Humza Yousaf said people were a higher risk to Scotland than England

Mr Yousaf said the prevalence point – the estimated proportion of the population currently infectious – of the virus in Scotland was 0.037 while in England it was “five times higher”.

“There’s some countries that may not be as high-risk as England or a lower risk than England but, clearly, coming into Scotland, if they are a higher risk – France, Italy, Spain all have a higher prevalence point than Scotland does – then clearly that’s going to have a different potential impact in Scotland than it does in England,” he added.

“If our chief medical officer’s advice is such that the impact could be really negative in relation to the progress that we are making, then ultimately we will have to take a different approach but it’s not something I would do lightly.”

‘Devastating impact’

In the Commons earlier this week, Grant Shapps called on the Scottish government to “get on board” with the establishment of air bridges so the UK government could “get this thing announced”.

Speaking to the BBC on Friday, he said there was still time for the devolved nations to join the plans.

“Remember this isn’t changing until the 10 July so there’s still an opportunity for them to do that and they may well,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see countries come on board.

“I very much hope we can do this as four nations at the same time I think that would very much simplify it for people but they will need to make that decision themselves.”

Meanwhile, Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports – which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports – said regional variations will endanger livelihoods.

He added: “Having a piecemeal approach will compound the devastating impact the blanket quarantine measures have had on our aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors.

“People are rightly concerned for their health, however, they’re also fearful for their jobs.

“This isn’t just about people being able to go on a summer holiday, it’s about safely re-establishing the routes that drive trade and investment.”

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