The Scottish government has announced the removal of quarantine restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber destinations from July 19.
The announcement brings Scotland into line with international travel restrictions in England, announced last week, which will remove the need to self-isolate on return for those fully vaccinated by the NHS from Monday and also remove the need for a second PCR test eight days after arrival.
However, the Scottish government will continue to advise against non-essential travel to amber destinations, unlike the UK government which plans to remove such guidance from Monday July 19.
Restrictions on arrivals from green and amber destinations remain unchanged and passengers arriving from amber countries will still require a negative Covid test before their return flight and a PCR test on the second day after their arrival.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the change as she confirmed a relaxation of Scotland’s domestic restrictions with a move to ‘Level Zero’ in the government’s road map.
But unlike the Westminster government, Sturgeon insisted: “We will do so with certain amendments and some mitigations. A requirement to wear face coverings in public places will remain not just for now but for some time to come.”
She said: “From July 19, self-isolation will no longer be required for arrivals from amber list destinations. But we continue to advise against non-essential travel at this time. We continue to take a cautious approach.”
Sturgeon argued “This is a time for continued caution. Covid remains a threat we must take seriously. A gradual approach stands the best chance of being a sustainable approach.”
From July 19, all parts of Scotland will mean to level 0 restrictions. For the hospitality sector, this means there will no longer be a requirement to book “but customers will still be required to wear face coverings accept when seated”.
Hospitality venues will also be required to close by midnight “reflecting the fact that indoors hospitality remains a relatively risky environment”.
Sturgeon also announced a postponement of plans for “a gradual return to work” for those working from home.
Insisting on the need to retain the requirement to wear face coverings, Sturgeon implicitly criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying: “If government believes measures like this are necessary we should say so. We shouldn’t make the public take responsibility for doing the right thing.”
She promised a further lifting of restrictions by August 9, with an update in the week before.
Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, said: “We are really pleased to hear that Scotland will move in tandem with England’s plans to remove the need for fully vaccinated travellers to quarantine on their return from amber destinations. It is particularly encouraging to see this move in time for the last few weeks of the summer school holidays.
“At this crucial stage in recovery, it is vital that the UK continues to adopt a four-nations approach and we hope that future decisions about outbound travel are not as fragmented and disjointed as we have seen over this last year.”
Joanne Dooey, president of the SPAA, said: “The first minister’s announcement today is undoubtedly good news. We expect that enquiries will increase now for summer holidays, but operators and airlines will require time to rearrange packages so it’s unlikely that the travel agent tills will be ringing later today.”
An Abta spokesperson said: “It is welcome that self-isolation restrictions will ease on 19 July for fully vaccinated individuals returning to Scotland from amber list countries, but the first minister must urgently review the ongoing advice against ‘non-essential’ international travel.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “This is a positive step forward that will provide much more opportunity for families to travel this summer season, and offer greater certainty and reassurance to our passengers looking to get away.
“It must, however, in short time be accompanied by further progress on the green list, opening up many more countries to quarantine-free travel for everyone, as well as testing – with the Scottish government providing more and cheaper options for post-arrival tests. Travel this summer must be within reach and affordable for all, not just the wealthy.”