The Health Secretary rejected Andrew Marr’s assessment of Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland. The BBC host claimed people in Scotland are “taking this much more cautiously” as the First Minister delayed the easing of lockdown measures. Andrew Marr added: “If you had done what Nicola Sturgeon has done, maybe grandparents in England would be able to hug their grandchildren now.”
To which Mr Hancock blasted: “The truth about what happened in Scotland is that they’ve done almost exactly the same things as we’ve done in England at almost exactly the same time.”
But as the BBC host claimed the lockdown was “stricter” in Scotland, Mr Hancock added: “It’s interesting, because we also tracked movements and outer movement that there is in Scotland, for instance on roads, and it did go down further but then it’s gone up and it’s now higher than in England.
“So, I just query the narrative that you and Nicola Sturgeon are setting there.
“Actually, the whole UK went into lockdown essentially together and it’s coming out essentially together.
“And a difference of a few days makes very little difference.”
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It comes as Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to “maximise alignment” on coronavirus but criticised the UK’s Government’s “shambolic” decision-making.
Now the Scottish leader is being urged by the aviation industry to make urgent decisions about air bridges to avoid damages.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) said Scots could travel south of the border to fly from Newcastle or Manchester to go on holiday.
A decision on the list of countries which will have reduced travel restrictions is expected within the next few days.
Joanne Dooey, president of the SPAA, said: “Scotland’s aviation sector is at serious risk.
“Scotland needs its aviation sector and the Scottish Government needs to act decisively to prevent irreversible long-term damage to the economy.
“Our aviation sector plays a critical role in connecting Scottish business to the world.
“This is not just about family holidays to Torremolinos being under threat – it’s about a whole sector of the Scottish economy being in immediate jeopardy.”
She added: “It’s hard to understand why the scientific advice is robust enough for the English traveller to be permitted to travel but not for the Scots traveller.
“It appears that a core list of ‘safe’ destinations has remained consistent so it’s hard to understand why these core destinations have not been given the go-ahead on Friday with additional destinations added as future decisions are made.”
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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The UK Government has announced a list of countries it intends to remove from quarantine restrictions, in relation to travel to England.
“Scottish ministers are actively considering the public health impact of these proposals, as well as the data and evidence underpinning them. Once they have done that they will announce any changes in relation to Scotland.
“We hope to conclude our analysis over the next few days and will announce our decisions quickly.”
The spokesman continued: “We will take decisions based on scientific advice to protect communities in Scotland.
“Of course the prospect of cases coming in from elsewhere poses a risk, not just to health but also to our economy.
“It is important to stress that, at any point, changing prevalence of the virus could lead to quarantine requirements on travel from different countries being put in place.”