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Sturgeon’s hotel lockdown is ultimately futile

As of the 15th of February, anyone entering Scotland (with the exception of those entering via the common travel area (CTA)) will be required to isolate in a hotel of the government’s choosing for 10 days at a personal cost of £1,750.

This policy has been enacted in order to further stem the spread of covid yet, despite the draconian undertones, it will ultimately have very little effect as the UK Parliament has taken a substantially different approach.

Instead, Westminster is continuing with the self-quarantine at home for all international arrivals, and a hotel quarantine required only if you’re unlucky enough to be arriving from one of 33 countries on their ‘red list’.

Since Scotland’s rules only apply to direct international arrivals those coming here from countries not in the CTA or England’s red list can just make a stop in England or Ireland (for example) before continuing to Scotland in order to avoid hotel quarantine.

Notably, the United States is absent from the list of countries who must isolate upon arrival to England. This is a fatal error in decision making as, although the Biden administration has taken great strides in enacting federal corona measures Trump didn’t even consider, cases have not dropped to the extent that US arrivals should be considered as an exception to stricter quarantine rules. I say this as an American who has had to self-isolate twice – in August for 14 days and in January for 10. So I know i’m proposing.

If the UK Parliament does not follow the actions of the Scottish Parliament in regard to further regulation, then not only will Scotland’s latest enforcements do nothing, but there is likely to be an increase in international travel into the common travel area, which could lead to a rise in cases. Utterly defeating the point of the policy.

From my own experiences of booking flights from the US to the UK during this pandemic, I know that there are very limited options as to how you can enter – most either go through Amsterdam, Dublin, or London Heathrow, (Charles Du Galle (Paris) if you’re really desperate.) But given that flying into Scotland from Amsterdam now means you’ll be subject to hotel quarantine with a price tag nearing the £2,000 mark. Would we really be surprised if more arrivals redirect their flights to get a layover somewhere in the common area? Once there they may spread the virus to domestic commuters on their plane or train ride to Scotland. Exponentially worsening the problem.

On the Scottish side, more could have been done as well. The Scottish government should have implemented some form of assistance in regard to the payment for hotel quarantine before enforcing it.

If someone is entering Scotland with a work or student visa, it is likely they already have a residence which they are paying rent for, and an expense as large as 1,750 accumulates to multiple months’ rent payment for some.

Some students also have to pay their own tuition fees, which this new rule will make all the more difficult. There is also the question of the quality of the hotel facilities and whether they are worth such a high price given that hotels near airports are usually on the more affordable side. Additionally, some may have rewards points with certain hotel chains that make the cost of a room basically free, will the government make them pay money they don’t have to because they’re (for some reason) not allowing them to select which hotel they’d like? 

Though this policy has good intentions, ultimately it should not have been passed.

Without the cooperation of Westminster, it has far too many loopholes and if Westminster was truly interested in passing a hotel quarantine policy, they would have done so already. Some might say that the ‘talks’ between some MPs and MSPs may bear fruit, but I’d be surprised if the UK Parliament and Boris Johnson in particular, decided to bow to the wishes of Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Parliament.

How this will all play out is still unclear, though it’s looking like the Scottish government may in the near future have to have a conversation about closing their border to England. 

Image via Flickr

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