Nicola Sturgeon regrets not acting earlier on international travel

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NICOLA Sturgeon has told Holyrood she wishes she had taken a tougher approach to international travel earlier in the pandemic.

The First Minister made the admission today after announcing a significant ramping up restrictions yesterday with people coming into Scotland from overseas being subjected to mandatory hotel quarantine, in a bid to tackle new strains from entering the country.

Five cases of a new South African variant have been found in Scotland with all those infected having recently travelled from the country.

At First Minister's Questions this afternoon, Labour's Pauline McNeill asked what measures were being taken to ensure the cases would not spread further.

Sturgeon responded to McNeill's question to say protocols around isolation and contact tracing were in place for the cases identified and underlined that the public health message was not travel unless it is for an essential purpose adding "that is the most important thing we can do to minimise the risk of new variants coming into the country".

She then said: "I often get asked what are the mistakes I wish I could go back redo what we did and last summer not being tougher on international travel is one of the things I would turn the clock back on and do differently. I am not prepared to allow us to make that mistake again." 

The new travel restrictions, announced in Holyrood yesterday, are tougher than the arrangements due to come into force in the rest of the UK, where only those arriving from 30 “high-risk” countries are expected to quarantine.

Sturgeon told MSPs yesterday: “The firm view of the Scottish Government is that in order to minimise the risk of new strains coming into the country, managed quarantine must be much more comprehensive.

“I can therefore confirm today that we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.”

The First Minister also said that she could not “unilaterally” impose such restrictions on people landing elsewhere in the UK and travelling to Scotland, but hoped the other administrations would work with the Scottish Government to reduce the number of people doing so.