NICOLA Sturgeon will not rule out quarantining people from other parts of the UK as she warned that England does not appear to be trying to eradicate coronavirus.
Scotland’s First Minister said she was not currently planning to force people arriving from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to quarantine but would consider doing so “if it is required from a public health perspective”.
Sturgeon told the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing “we have to be on our guard against cases coming into Scotland from elsewhere”.
She explained her Government’s coronavirus strategy was to “get as close to elimination as possible” but suggested the UK Government was “letting it circulate at higher levels”.
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Sturgeon said: “I would really welcome a statement from the Prime Minister that England’s strategy was about trying to eliminate the virus as well, as opposed to what appears to me to be perhaps letting it circulate at higher levels, as long as it doesn’t threaten to overwhelm the National Health Service.
“We have to keep these things under review if we want to keep our levels of infection as low as we can get them.”
She added: “I’m not trying to be overly critical here, I’m just being very clear with people what the Scottish Government’s strategy is, which is to get to elimination if we possibly can.
“But also being clear that – if that is our strategy and other countries or other parts of the UK have a different approach which might mean infection levels are higher – then clearly we then have to consider how we mitigate against our infection levels rising.”
Asked about whether further quarantine measures could come into force for travellers to Scotland from other parts of the UK, she added: “We have no plans to introduce any measures like this right now, but I’m not ruling anything out.”
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“We are taking the time to consider the UK Government’s proposals around air bridges for the arrangements between parts of the UK and other countries,” she said.
“So if we did see an ongoing divergence between infection rates and levels in Scotland and other parts of the UK, from a public health perspective, we would be required to give consideration about how we mitigate that and guard against infection rates rising in Scotland as a result.”
On the issue of border and immigration powers being reserved to the UK Government, Sturgeon argued that rules over quarantine were linked to public health and therefore under Scottish Government control.
She expressed disappointment that the emergency Cobra taskforce had not met “for weeks” and that said she would welcome “genuine substantive discussions” involving the four nations in advance of certain decisions being taken.
The First Minister’s comments yesterday came after a pandemic expert suggested that Scotland could see an end to the coronavirus pandemic by the end of the summer.
Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, stated that this would require close checks on those who come here.
She said: “Elimination here is being used as a push towards zero-Covid, a zero-Covid Scotland, which means there’s no acceptable level of number of cases, and they get driven down to become negligible, so we can get the economy going and society going at that point.
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“But we’d have to obviously have good checks in place for imported cases. This is the situation we’re also seeing in countries in East Asia and out in the Pacific, such as New Zealand, where you get rid of community transmission, and you just keep in place checks for any imported cases coming in which might set off chains of infection.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “On the issue of quarantine we have taken a four-nation approach to these matters throughout. We have worked closely with the devolved administrations at all times and this continues.”
Asked whether Scotland’s First Minister could block the plan, the spokesperson said: “We do continue to work with the Scottish Government on this.”