Scotland scraps pre-departure travel tests and PCRs on arrival

Scotland has updated its testing restrictions for international arrivals, meaning all four UK nations are now aligned.

From Friday, January 7, people travelling to Scotland from abroad who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 will no longer need to take pre-departure Covid tests, and will also no longer be required to self-isolate on arrival until they’ve received a negative result.

They will still need to take a test on or before day two after arriving in the UK – which can be a lateral flow device rather than a PCR test from Sunday, January 9.

Anyone who tests positive on their lateral flow test will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test.

The new measures are the same as those introduced by the UK government for England yesterday, and taken up by Wales and Northern Ireland since.

Pre-departure Covid tests, the requirement to self-isolate and mandatory PCR tests were re-introduced in December in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant, but authorities say they are now less necessary because Omicron is the dominant strain in the UK.

Cabinet secretary for transport, Michael Matheson, said: “Given the rapid spread of Omicron last year it was essential that we took immediate steps to protect public health in Scotland, particularly with regards to international travel.

“We still have significant concerns over Omicron, but we recognise that, now it is the most dominant strain in Scotland and across the UK, it is sensible to review the measures currently in place.

“We also fully understand the impact of the restrictions on staff and businesses in the travel and aviation sectors and these changes demonstrate our commitment not to keep measures in place any longer than necessary.

“However, people still need to be extremely careful when travelling and to remember that both our and other countries’ COVID-19 requirements can change at short notice as things can evolve very quickly.

“People should therefore ensure they have travel insurance and carefully check their booking terms and conditions, as well as ensuring compliance with the latest regulations for the country being visited.”

Mike Tibbert, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said the update was “hugely welcomed by all of us in the Scottish travel sector”.

“Hopefully we can start to see the restoration of confidence in international travel, which is such a valuable sector for the entire Scottish economy,” he said. “We hope this is the start of positive messaging about travel and an end to mixed messaging, sudden U-turns and unexpected, lightning reversals of regulations.

“What we need now is a properly organised, structured, four nations road map to ensure a stable future for Scottish travellers and the recovery of the Scottish travel industry.”

Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel, agreed the update was “very welcome – particularly as January is typically the travel industry’s busiest booking period”.

She added: “These costly tests added a financial burden to many who were simply looking to reunite with loved ones over the festive period. We know our customers will be relieved because these changes mean travel testing is now more accessible and more affordable.

“There is no place for differing travel rules across the UK: it confuses travellers and dampens the recovery of both inbound and outbound tourism businesses. We hope that all travel updates will continue to move in unison as we look ahead to a strong recovery during 2022.

“There is no doubt that these changes will trigger a major boost to customer confidence and will be welcomed by every area of the travel industry – including inbound and outbound businesses. There is high demand to travel during 2022 – continued consistency and simplicity from all governments will therefore be key to restoring the industry and reassuring travellers.”

Murray Burnett, managing director of Aberdeen-based Munro’s Travel, also welcome the news and stressed: “Going forward, it is critical that the UK and devolved governments align and develop a robust plan for dealing with future variants and keeping our borders open.

“Travellers need the confidence of a structured future for international travel where they can be certain that the regulations won’t change overnight, and this should be done on a four nations’ basis. This can only be good for the Scottish and wider UK economy.”

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