Scotland to relax arrival rules despite concerns over variants

The Scottish Government has announced it is to
mirror new rules for arrivals that are due to come into force in England on 4 October. It
will mean fully vaccinated travellers arriving in Scotland from countries that do not appear on the UK government red list can skip both the pre-departure and the day 8 Covid test.

However, the Government has said it will consider
how additional safeguards and surveillance of inward travel can be
implemented to guard against the importation of new variants. It said details would be set out in due course and that any measures would be at no cost to travellers.

Scotland’s cabinet secretary for net zero, energy
and transport, Michael Matheson, said: “We have concerns that the UK Government’s
proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some
travellers could weaken our ability to protect the public health of
Scotland’s communities.

“However, we also recognise that not having UK-wide
alignment causes significant practical problems and creates disadvantages for
Scottish businesses. Also, if non-alignment led to travellers to Scotland
choosing to route through airports elsewhere in the UK, the public health
benefits of testing would be undermined in any event.

“We have urgently considered all these implications,
weighing any possible impact on the public health and the logistical realities.
After liaising at length with stakeholders from the aviation sector to
understand the impact of adopting a different approach in Scotland, we have
reluctantly concluded that, for practical reasons, alignment with the UK is the
best option.”

Joanne Dooey, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said, The removal of the pre departure in-destination test and the change to an initial lateral flow test on arrival back in Scotland is hugely welcome, but the delays which Scottish travellers experience with the confirmation of these changes does nothing to instil confidence to travel to and from Scotland.”

“Our outbound travel industry is an important sector for the whole Scottish economy supporting 26,000 jobs and delivering almost £1.5 billion in economic spend. Going forward, it needs support and it needs consistency.”

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said, “Testing
requirements have been a huge barrier to foreign travel for many people,
stalling the travel industry’s recovery, so it is really welcome news that
Scotland plans to relax testing requirements, in line with those in England,
from October. 

“A consistent approach across all four nations is
crucial to ensure consumers understand the rules and feel confident to travel
again, which will enable the travel industry to get back on its feet, and we
made this clear in a letter to the devolved administrations this week. While it
is encouraging the Northern Ireland Executive will also drop pre-departure
tests, we urge them to go further and remove the requirement for day two PCR
tests as well and want the Welsh Government to take the same approach.” 

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