A LEGAL travel ban between Scotland and parts of England with high levels of Covid cases is being introduced from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister made the announcement at her latest coronavirus briefing today from St Andrew's House in Edinburgh, the first since the election on May 6.

She said the measure was being brought in from Monday because of a high number of the Indian variant (termed the April-02 variant) of the disease in certain English regions.

The ban will apply on travel between Scotland and Bedford, Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, with the First Minister saying it would "hopefully be temporary".

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon update: Glasgow, Moray, and East Renfrewshire's lockdowns

She said: "From Monday onwards we are imposing hopefully temporary travel restrictions on travel between Scotland and those three local authority areas in England. 

"So if you are planning to visit friends or relatives or to stay in those areas Bedford, Bolton, Blackburn and Darwen you must delay your visit."

However, she added that a wider legal ban would not be placed on other areas of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Bedfordshire.

She added: "We are not placing legal restrictions on travel to Lancashire or Greater Manchester more widely or to areas around Bedfordshire. 

"If you are planning to visit these areas in the next few days please consider whether you need to make the visit or whether it can be delayed.

"Finally remember this situation with this new variant changes quickly, so if you are travelling to somewhere else in the UK look and see what the situation at your point of destination is. 

"At the moment we would advise against travel to any part of the UK where there is an active health protection response connected to the April-02 variant [the Indian variant]". 

She added: "We hope that these rules and guidelines will not be in place for very long, but at the moment they are a further way of reducing the risk that people will bring the April-02 variant into Scotland from those locations.”

The new travel ban will be reviewed in a week.

A legally enforceable travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK was imposed in November last year and lifted on April 26 when the country moved from Level 4 lockdown to Level 3.

Travel between Britain to Northern Ireland continues to be limited with the advice being only to visit if essential such as work, caring duties, accessing health care or attending a funeral of a member of your household or close family member.

The Northern Ireland Executive says if you are coming to Northern Ireland from Britain and plan to stay for more than 24 hours, you should self-isolate on arrival for 10 days - but this is not law.

Earlier today it emerged that Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley, both in East Lancashire, have the second and fourth highest coronavirus infection rates in England, due to the continued increase in the prevalence of the Indian variant.

The latest figures have revealed that Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley have seen some of the biggest week-on-week rises in infection rates, behind Bolton and Bedford respectively. 

Blackburn with Darwen's infection rate jumped from 104.9 cases per 100,000 people to 159.7 after 239 new cases were detected.

During the televised briefing the First Minister announced that Glasgow will stay in Level 3 for another week, while Moray will move to Level 2.

She said that East Renfrewshire, where cases are also rising, will stay in level 2 for now.

In Glasgow, the number of cases have now risen to 112 per 100,000 people of the population and as it is suspected that this is being driven by the April-02 variant. 

East Renfrewshire, where the number of cases per 100,000 is actually slightly above Glasgow but is in identifiable "household clusters", will stay in level 2 but will be kept under "close review".

On Moray, Sturgeon said: "I’m very pleased to say the situation in Moray has actually improved very significantly, last week the area was reporting 98 cases per 100,000 of the population, that’s now fallen to 37."

in Scotland, Level 1 restrictions continue to apply in:

  • the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney
  • all islands in Highland, except for Skye given its fixed link with the mainland
  • the Inner Hebrides islands in Argyll, including Islay, Jura and Mull

Level 2 restrictions will apply across all of mainland Scotland from midnight tonight May 21, 2021, with the exception of the Glasgow City local authority area.

Travel to, and from, Glasgow continues to be prohibited other than for exempted reasons. Reasons permitted for essential travel in and out of Glasgow include for work, caring responsibilities and for medical purposes such as attending a hospital or doctor's appointment.

Responding to the First Minister’s Covid briefing, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said:

“There is good news for Moray, but unfortunately there is some concern in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire, which we will need to tackle in the coming days.

“This is clearly disappointing news for Glasgow, and as someone that lives in the spike area and who has seen the impact of that I know all too well about the challenges we face in the city.

“It will be devastating news for businesses, employers and employees that restrictions have been extended. The best way to confront the challenge is to make sure we are seeing what happened in Moray happen in Glasgow.

"So, let’s have a mass roll-out of PCR testing and rapidly accessible vaccinations so that we can bring the case load down and have a consistency across the country."

Commenting on the First Minister’s decision to refer to what had been known as the ‘Indian’ variant as the ‘April-02 ’ variant, Sarwar added: 

“At the outset of the pandemic you had people referring to China, and with that came racism and scaremongering around certain minority ethnic communities across Scotland.

“I have heard concerns from the Indian community about the impact that the use of the term ‘Indian’ variant was having, so I welcome the use of a different title for it.

“This is a virus that has affected the world. It doesn’t discriminate between ethnicity, it doesn’t discriminate against background or faith, we are all in this together.”