Scotland’s first minister said a traffic light system that allows international travel amid the ongoing pandemic puts the UK at risk from further coronavirus variants that could be faster spreading, more severe or undermine the efficacy of vaccines.
“We don’t know where the variants of real concern are going to come from, which is why an approach to international travel that tries to categorise risk with some countries labelled as red-list countries and others deemed to be safer poses a risk,” Ms Sturgeon told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
“None of us know where the next variant that might be really problematic is going to occur.”
International travel could resume from as early as 17 May under proposals that grade countries by risk in a traffic light system to dictate whether travellers must isolate on returning to England.
Passengers would have to take Covid tests before leaving and on returning, even from low-risk “green” countries.
But Ms Sturgeon said longer overseas travel restrictions are something all should be prepared to live with.
Currently, anyone flying directly to Scotland from outside of the UK must quarantine at a hotel for 10 days on arrival.
Ms Sturgeon said she was trying to persuade the UK government to adopt a similar approach and admitted that international travel restrictions were lifted too early last summer at the end of the first lockdown.
“What we’ve got to recognise about Covid is that it is mutating and we’re seeing new variants appear in different parts of the world,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon’s comments came as Boris Johnson prepares to travel to India, from where a new variant has entered the UK.
Public Health England reported that 77 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been detected in the UK.
India is not on the government’s red list for travel and the variant is classed as a variant of interest, rather than of concern.
George Eustice, the environment secretary, said there was no evidence to suggest that B.1.617 is able to “get around” the vaccine.
He added that the prime minister’s trip to India should go ahead because although public health comes first, it should not mean “there should be no visits at all for business purposes”.
“Measures will be taken to ensure that the visit is Covid-secure,” Mr Eustice told Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
He continued: “But I think it is important that the business and the business of politics if you like does continue and doesn’t stop completely – we just need to make sure we take the right precautions.”