Quarantine hotels look set to be put in place in Scotland after the Deputy First Minister said the Scottish Government would go “at least as far” as the UK Government on travel restrictions.
Speaking at a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, John Swinney said restrictions should be done “on a four-nations basis” to better prevent Covid-19 cases being imported in the UK.
Mr Swinney’s comments come as an announcement is expected on Tuesday evening from Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the idea, which would see travellers from abroad made to stay in hotels for a period of time before they are allowed into the country.
“The Scottish Government believes that a comprehensive system of supervised quarantine is required and so I can confirm that the Scottish Government will initially go at least as far as any UK Government announcement in enhancing quarantine arrangements, including through the use of hotels,” Mr Swinney told MSPs.
He added: “However, if these UK restrictions are at a minimal level, we will look at other controls we can announce, including additional supervised quarantine measures that can further protect us from importation of the virus, and we’ll set those out next week.”
The Deputy First Minister also pressed the UK Government to provide support to the aviation industry, which will be further impacted upon by any restrictions placed on travel into the country, adding that any support from Westminster would be passed onto the sector in Scotland.
Mr Swinney was challenged by Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie to go further, allowing hotel stays for people forced to self-isolate in the community.
Mr Harvie said the initiative had proven successful in other countries, and should be put in place in Scotland.
Mr Swinney said parliament would be updated “at the earliest possible opportunity” on the use of hotels.
Mr Harvie asked if there would be an issue around hotel capacity, something the Deputy First Minister said he did not think would be a problem, given the number of empty hotel rooms due to current lockdown restrictions.
“I don’t think there would be any operational challenges in that respect,” he said.
“What we obviously have to make sure is that there’s an aligned system to make sure that all cases can be properly dealt with as appropriate.”
He also pointed to support already in place for people to self-isolate, including the self-isolation support grant, the criteria for which he said the Scottish Government planned to extend.
“The government has put in place already measures around self isolation, financial support,” he said.
“We’re looking afresh at that to determine whether it is adequate and we will come back to make further announcements about that in due course.
“One of the most effective ways to interrupt the spread of the virus is to make sure that individuals are self-isolating where they are testing positive.
“For some individuals in society, that will be easier given their domestic and financial circumstances than it will be for others and we have to respectfully approach that issue.”
Initial figures from the first two months of the support grant showed only 26% of all applications made in October and November were granted by local authorities.