Couple reunited after two years as Covid travel rules ease

Nikita Coleman and Richard Jenkins embraced at Edinburgh Airport just hours before Covid travel rules were modified.

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A couple have finally met again after two years apart due to Covid restrictions in Scotland and Australia.

Nikita Coleman and Richard Jenkins embraced at Edinburgh Airport on Thursday, just hours before rules eased for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Scotland.

Nikita told STV News: “We’ve been apart for two years now, we haven’t actually seen each other for two years.

“I’m from Australia and our government has been way too strict in keeping us confined in our own country when we used to live together over here. So it’s been really, really tough.”

Richard added: “There are no words. No words.”

The couple’s long-awaited reunion in the capital came on the same day the Scottish Government announced that fully-vaccinated travellers returning to Scotland from abroad no longer have to take pre-departure Covid tests or self-isolate upon arrival until they have received a negative result.

The change in rules, which also applies to people under the age of 18, came into effect at 4am on Friday morning.

Travellers will, however, still need to take a test on or before day two after arriving in the UK, which can be a lateral flow device rather than a PCR test from this Sunday.

Anyone who tests positive on their lateral flow test will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test.

The new measures apply across the UK after agreement between the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “Given the rapid spread of Omicron last year it was essential that we took immediate steps to protect public health in Scotland, particularly with regards to international travel.

“We still have significant concerns over Omicron, but we recognise that, now it is the most dominant strain in Scotland and across the UK, it is sensible to review the measures currently in place.

“We also fully understand the impact of the restrictions on staff and businesses in the travel and aviation sectors and these changes demonstrate our commitment not to keep measures in place any longer than necessary.

“However, people still need to be extremely careful when travelling and to remember that both our and other countries’ Covid-19 requirements can change at short notice as things can evolve very quickly.

“People should therefore ensure they have travel insurance and carefully check their booking terms and conditions, as well as ensuring compliance with the latest regulations for the country being visited.”

Pre-departure Covid tests, the requirement to self-isolate and mandatory PCR tests were re-introduced in December to help stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

The Scottish Government says those rules are now seen as less necessary because Omicron has become the dominant strain in the UK.

Furthermore, Scottish ministers have aproved vaccine certificates for a further 16 countries and territories from 4am on January 10 to allow quarantine-free travel to Scotland.

These are Bhutan, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Fiji, Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Palau, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, The Gambia, Uzbekistan, as well as North Cyprus and Papua New Guinea.

Mike Tibbert, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector in Scotland said: “The announcement today of the removal of pre departure testing requirements and the change to lateral flow tests over PCRs on day two after arrival in Scotland for fully vaccinated adults and under 18s, is hugely welcomed by all of us in the Scottish travel sector.

“Hopefully we can start to see the restoration of confidence in international travel, which is such a valuable sector for the entire Scottish economy.

“We hope this is the start of positive messaging about travel and an end to mixed messaging, sudden U-turns and unexpected, lightning reversals of regulations.

“What we need now is a properly organised, structured, four nations road map to ensure a stable future for Scottish travellers and the recovery of the Scottish travel industry.”