Scotland will introduce a mandatory hotel quarantine requirement for all international arrivals, first minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Tuesday (2 February).
No date has yet been set for the country’s "managed quarantine" regime to come into effect, although Sturgeon said it would be introduced "as soon as practically possible".
It comes after the UK government last week set out its plans to introduce hotel quarantine for arrivals from 33 "red list" countries to guard against the import of new Covid variants. It is yet unclear when these measures will come into effect.
Sturgeon, though, said the measures didn’t go far enough.
"As levels of the virus continue to fall in Scotland, it becomes ever more important we stop the virus from being imported again," said the first minister.
"The threat of new variants is real and we must be ever-more vigilant. That is why we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.
"We want to work with the UK government to avoid travellers side-stepping restrictions and arriving in other parts of the UK before travelling to Scotland.
"However, the most effective approach to prevent this and to stop new variants being imported is for the UK government to introduce a compulsory quarantine for anyone travelling into the UK from overseas.
“Since we still have work to do, these measures will not be introduced this week, and more detail will follow shortly."
Mike Tibbert, vice-president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said that while the SPAA supported the measures, the travel industry needed more guidance on how the government planned to lead the sector out of a "terminal situation".
"Measures which protect public health are vital and the SPAA has always supported a stance which guard our borders, particularly against newly identified strains," said Tibbert.
"We understand there must be restrictions in the short and medium term until the vaccination programmes across the world give more confidence about travel.
"What the SPAA has been asking for since the early days of the pandemic is a clear roadmap out of what is realistically a terminal situation for the Scottish travel sector.
"Scotland urgently needs a plan for how our country will return to travel, and targeted financial support for the whole sector."
Tibbert stressed the outbound tourism sector’s £1.7 billion worth to the Scottish economy, sustaining more than 26,000 jobs.
"Incoming visitors to Scotland bring £11 billion to the Scottish economy annually through the wider supply chain, and inward investment brings further billions along with high value jobs," said Tibbert.
"We can’t just pull the plug on all of this economic activity as without a plan for how to reinstate it.
"It’s not enough to assume that what we stop now can, or will, resume automatically when we want it too. Routes are a valuable and vital ’commodity’.
"Many of the destinations accessible directly from Scotland have been hard-won routes. Our country needs its connectivity more than, ever as this is how our economy will recover from this pandemic as our businesses trade internationally.
"We understand the public health rationale behind the planned enforced quarantine. However, what we also need is a clear plan which outlines the role that vaccinations and testing will play in restoring free movement for Scotland’s people and goods."
Scotland’s move comes after UK health secretary Matt Hancock clashed with SNP health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford in the Commons on Tuesday (2 February) over the UK government’s quarantine plans.
Whitford said with efforts under way to trace non-travel related instances of the South African Covid variant in England, the measures outlined by the UK government last week amounted to shutting the barn door after the horse had bolted.
"Sage [the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] had warned limited travel bans would not be enough to keep out new variants," she said.
"The only way to stop them would be mandatory quarantine for all new arrivals. Why did the government choose not to follow this advice?"
Whitford said the new variant was present in many countries and others that were more resistant could also evolve. She asked Hancock if the government would reconsider its "minimal" quarantine proposals and extend them to all incoming travellers.
"As new strains, brought in by holiday travel last year, contributed to the second wave of Covid, is the prime minister seriously suggesting people should go abroad on holiday this summer?"
Hancock replied: "We have already in place rules against non-essential travel with a clear ‘stay local’ guidance and we also have mandatory isolation for new arrivals; so yes, we have tightened in response to the new evidence."
He said it was because of the roll-out of the vaccine across the UK that it was possible to protect people against the old variant and the Kent variant. "That is the way we will get out of this situation."