Covid-19 (South African Variant)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2021.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

Can the First Minister confirm that, in the five cases of the South African variant that have been identified in Scotland, which have been linked to travel, the people concerned have been given the necessary support to isolate and are actually isolating, and that all those who have been in contact with those individuals are doing the same to prevent further spread? It would be good to get that assurance.

Can the First Minister also confirm that airport testing will be part of the solution as we move forward, as having a system that identifies the virus in travellers seems a sensible approach?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Yes, I can give that assurance on the five cases of the South African variant that have been identified so far in Scotland—I stress “so far”. As they all have connections with international travel, at this stage we have no evidence in Scotland of community transmission of that variant. All the individuals concerned are being treated with the utmost caution, with all the correct protocols around isolation and contact tracing in place. It is extremely important that we try to stop that variant becoming one that circulates in the community.

I am sure that testing will have a role to play in relation to international travel as we move forward but, right now, the key message is this: do not travel unless it is essential to do so. That is the most important thing that we can do to minimise the risk of new variants coming into the country. I often get asked about mistakes and what I wish that we could redo, and not being tougher on international travel last summer is one of the things that I wish I could turn the clock back and do differently. I am not prepared to allow us to make that mistake again. Do not travel right now unless it is essential.

I am sure that many of us are desperate to get away on holiday to warmer climates, but if we want to have greater normality domestically, to see our loved ones and to do the things that we all like doing, I am afraid that, at the moment, summer holidays—and holidays—may be the price that we have to pay for that. Therefore, my overriding message is: please do not travel right now.