Nicola Sturgeon tells Scots to think 'very carefully' about travel and refuses to rule out ban on 'high risk' cross-border trips

Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to “think very carefully” about travelling anywhere outside of their health boards as Covid-19 case numbers continue to surge to record levels.

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 5:27 pm
CARTER BAR, SCOTLAND - JULY 13: A general view from the view point on the A68 at Carter Bar, at the top of Redesdale in the Cheviot Hills on the border between Scotland and England on July 13, 2020 in Carter Bar, Scotland. In a TV interview on Sunday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she could not rule out possible quarantine requirements for visitors from elsewhere in the UK to Scotland, which has gone four days without recording a Covid-19 death. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
CARTER BAR, SCOTLAND - JULY 13: A general view from the view point on the A68 at Carter Bar, at the top of Redesdale in the Cheviot Hills on the border between Scotland and England on July 13, 2020 in Carter Bar, Scotland. In a TV interview on Sunday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she could not rule out possible quarantine requirements for visitors from elsewhere in the UK to Scotland, which has gone four days without recording a Covid-19 death. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The warning came as Wales imposed strict rules banning those from high risk areas in England travelling into the country, something Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford was necessary to “prevent the spread of infection within Wales”.

The First Minister explicitly backed the the move from the Welsh Government and said repeatedly that she did not rule out similar measures in Scotland.

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The Welsh move came after Northern Ireland announced a four week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown for their country which will see schools close for a fortnight during October.

Ms Sturgeon also told Celtic and Rangers fans not to travel to England to watch the Old Firm game and specifically highlighted Blackpool which has been linked to 180 cases of Covid-19 in Scotland.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing where she announced the deaths of 15 people from Covid-19 and nearly 1,500 new cases of the disease, the First Minister said travel to and from high risk areas in England and Scotland should only be done if it is essential.

She said: “My general advice for everyone at the moment across the country is to think very carefully about whether you need to travel at all and if you must travel, if your trip is necessary then travel carefully and safely.

“The advice to think carefully before travelling is especially important in relation to areas with high rates of infection. and so of course that advice applies – not just to travel to and from the central belt of Scotland and the more general advice I’ve just given to everybody but it applies to travel to and from parts of England with high levels of infection.

“We are currently advising against non-essential travel to the parts of England which are classed as very high or high alert areas under England’s new three tier system. And I’m asking people from these areas not to travel to Scotland either.

Blackpool warning

As an example of the potential risk, the First Minister highlighted a high number of cases linked with Blackpool where an incident management team has been set up to deal with those who have travelled between the town and Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said the town was being mentioned “far more than any other location” outside Scotland by Test and Protect contact tracers.

The First Minister also backed the Welsh move to ban travel restrictions to prevent movement of people from areas of high prevalence into Wales.

Mr Drakeford had written to Boris Johnson claiming his decision not to impose travel restrictions for English lockdown areas was “undermining” Wales’ ability to control the spread of coronavirus before imposing such a ban today.

Ms Sturgeon made a point in saying that she agreed with the Welsh First Minister and said she would write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “seek urgent talks” on the issue.

The First Minister also echoed Mr Drakeford’s call for another Cobra meeting with the UK Government and the devolved nations to discuss “further measures” which could be taken on a four nations basis.

Giving a indication of the possible direction of travel for Scotland’s restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter: “Fully support @fmwales on this. These are public health decisions, and nothing to do with constitutional or political debates. @scotgov will also take whatever action we consider necessary to control COVID.”

When asked about potential travel restrictions being introduced in Scotland in the five health boards under stricter rules, the First Minister said that while that had been an option ahead of her announcement last week, the Scottish Government had decided not to do so.

However, she refused to rule out that possibility in the future.

She said: “If we think putting formal travel restrictions in place is necessary we will do that and I don’t rule that out.

"Obviously the police cannot stop everybody on the roads to check whether they are travelling for essential purposes so there is always going to be around this and enforcement on a whole range of these aspects may have a part to play.

"Ultimately we are going to succeed and fail on this by what we all do voluntarily for the right reasons. This is the moment more so than at any other point since the Spring of this year that it really matters, for everybody to sit up, take notice, and remind themselves of what this is all about.

"It is about protecting the NHS and fundamentally it is about saving lives. We are in a global pandemic and my advice would be don’t travel if you don’t have to.”

Alison Johnstone, health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens called on Sky Sports to air the Old Firm game, due to be played on Saturday at 12.30pm in Glasgow, on free-to-air TV to avoid seeing fans travelling to pubs in England to watch the game.

She said: “The First Minister has raised concerns that people may go to one another’s homes or even travel to pubs in England to watch the game. This would risk increasing transmission of the virus just at the time when we’ve brought in additional measures to bring it under control.“That’s why I’m calling on the Scottish Government to urgently engage with the football authorities, and Sky Sports, to establish whether it might be possible to broadcast Saturday’s Celtic vs Rangers game on free to air TV.

"I’m confident the overwhelming majority of people will continue to follow the rules as they have throughout this crisis, but broadcasting the game free to air would allow everyone to watch at home, reducing the risk of people heading out to watch the game and spreading the virus.”

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