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Nicola Sturgeon hits out at UK Government’s ‘shambolic’ approach to air bridges

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NICOLA Sturgeon has condemned the UK Government’s “shambolic” decision-making on setting up air bridges to travel destinations. 

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier revealed quarantine restrictions for people returning to or visiting England from destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Germany will be lifted from July 10.

This means English travellers will not have to isolate for 14 days after visiting these countries.

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But speaking during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister criticised the “shifting sands” of the UK policy and a lack of consultation, and said Scotland is making its own assessment.

It is not clear how different rules north and south of the Border would be enforced.

Ms Sturgeon said: “When so much is at stake as it is right now, we can’t allow ourselves to be dragged along in the wake of, to be quite frank about it, another Government’s shambolic decision process.

“We want to welcome visitors again from around the world and we also want to allow our own citizens to travel.

“We also want, if possible for obvious practical reasons, to have alignment on these matters with the rest of the UK.”

Ms Sturgeon said it has been “really challenging” for Scotland to come to a position on the UK Government proposals with speed.

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She added: “Just to illustrate the point (on) the shifting sands of the UK Government’s position – the list of countries that they were yesterday demanding that the Scottish Government sign up to, and suggesting we were a barrier to getting an agreement on, is not the same as the list they have shared with us today.”

She added it is “very likely” the Scottish Government will be able to agree the low-risk countries on the air bridge list over the next few days.

But she warned: “We need to take some particular care in our assessment of the risk categorised as medium-risk, because that is where there may be some countries that have a higher prevalence of the virus than Scotland does right now.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted “it will not be the case” that Scottish tourists would be able to fly into England and avoid any difference in quarantine rules between Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

However it is not clear how this would be enforced.

Currently, anyone entering Scotland from overseas must go into quarantine for two weeks or face a £480 fine, with similar measures in place in England.

The Scottish Government has assessed the prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland is currently five times lower than it is in England, Ms Sturgeon added.

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The First Minster also announced that one more person has died after testing positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,488.

A total of 18,276 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 12 from 18,264 the previous day.

Also speaking during the briefing, national clinical director Jason Leitch said there are now 11 cases in a cross-border outbreak identified earlier in the week.

The cluster emerged in Dumfries and Galloway and the north-west of England.

He said 23 people had been traced through the contact-tracing system.

“They have been spoken to, all offered testing, all been told to self-isolate and we believe they are all self-isolating,” he said.

He said testing is complete at two factories and a second day of testing is taking place at a Youngs factory, but he stressed there is only a contact connection with these businesses and there is no suggestion the outbreak started or spread there.

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