All people travelling to Scotland from abroad will need to take pre-departure Covid tests to help stem the spread of the Omicron variant, the Scottish Government has announced.
From 4am on Tuesday, international travellers will have to provide a negative pre-departure test taken two days before travelling, in addition to a negative PCR test on or before day two after arrival, under measures agreed on a four-nation basis.
Nigeria has also been added to the red list for international travel from 4am on Monday December 6, meaning all travellers returning to Scotland from there will be required to quarantine on their arrival in managed accommodation for 10 days.
Pre-departure tests are currently only required for people arriving from places on the red list and unvaccinated travellers from all countries of origin.
The Scottish Government said the changes were informed by a UK Health Security Agency risk assessment.
Under the new rules, agreed on a four-nations basis, only UK and Irish citizens and residents travelling to the UK from Nigeria will be allowed to enter.
Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “It is essential we take steps now to keep people safe, protect the rollout of the booster programme and reduce the chances of unsustainable pressure being placed on the NHS over the winter.
“We have always said it may be necessary to quickly implement fresh measures to protect public health in Scotland, particularly with regards to international travel, and these restrictions are proportionate and necessary to that aim.
“We fully understand the impact the changes will have on staff and businesses in the travel and aviation sectors, particularly as the new variant came at a time when we were beginning to see some signs of recovery. We will not keep the restrictions in place any longer than is necessary.”
The countries currently on the red list are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Joanne Dooey, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) – the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector in Scotland, said: “Tonight’s news is the early Christmas present none of us in the travel sector wanted or needed. It’s a crushing blow for the travel sector in Scotland and travel agents are truly battle weary.
“The confidence which was returning to international travel will be stamped out following this announcement. The reintroduction of pre departure tests from Tuesday means that anyone travelling back into Scotland must take a test before they leave their destination, within 48 hours of travel back into the UK, or risk being unable to travel back and quarantining on foreign soil at their own expense.
“It leaves everyone currently overseas, who has a scheduled return to the UK from 4am this Tuesday, scrambling to find testing which meets the Scottish government regulations.
“We expect that travel agents’ phones will be ringing off the hook with customers who wish to cancel or postpone their holidays, business trips and Christmas visits to families overseas.”