Scotland’s Health Secretary has told of his “frustration” about changes to the coronavirus testing regime for international travel being announced for England only – despite UK-wide discussions on what the rules should be.
While talks had taken placed between the four nations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced changes on Wednesday for England only.
It means pre-departure Covid tests for travellers arriving in England will be scrapped, as will the requirement for travellers to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a negative PCR test.
The rules will instead revert to the system in place in October, with people required to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two after their arrival.
In Wales, health minister Eluned Morgan said the rules there will “reluctantly” follow suit.
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf promised an update for MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday afternoon.
But earlier in the day, he said: “Although we engaged in a conversation with the UK Government, it is a source of frustration that if the UK Government unilaterally decides to move in a certain direction we end up with potentially a double whammy if we don’t align.”
Mr Yousaf said that if Scottish ministers opt to follow a different course, this would cause further damage to the travel industry north of the border, without any public health benefit, as travellers could instead opt to fly to and from English airports.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Yousaf said: “It would be helpful if these discussions could not just happen on a four-nations basis, but any announcements could take place on a four-nations basis.
“Our aviation sector, which has undoubtedly been significantly affected throughout the course of the pandemic, gets a further hit and also we don’t end up realising any benefit if we have different public health measures in place, because ultimately a number of people may well travel from English airports if that is seen to be easier of cheaper.”
He said Scottish ministers will update Holyrood on Thursday afternoon by writing to the “relevant committees” of the Scottish Parliament.
The tougher travel regime had been brought in following the identification of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in South Africa last November.
But the Prime Minister said on Wednesday that with the variant now “so prevalent” in the UK, the measures are only having “limited impact on the growth in cases, while continuing to pose significant costs on our travel industry”.
He told MPs: “I can announce that in England from 4am on Friday, we will be scrapping the pre-departure test, which discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense.”
The announcement covers passengers who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18.