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Families hit out at rules stopping them from reuniting with loved ones abroad

Frustrated families have called on the First Minister to deliver on promises to help reunite loved ones abroad.

Nicola Sturgeon said “family ­reunification” would be prioritised over breaks for holidaymakers travelling abroad when rules were relaxed.

But families say nothing has been done – with rules stricter here than in England.

They have called on the Scottish ­Government to introduce a test and release system similar to England that allows people to stop quarantining after just five days instead of 10 and bring down the cost of “prohibitive” testing.

Scotland has the highest price for mandatory PCR testing on flying into the country.

It costs £85 for each test but tests in England can cost just £30.

Families are angry no allowances have been made to reunite loved ones torn apart by the pandemic.

They’ve now come together under the banner of an international movement called Love Not Tourism.

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of breaking promises to families who have loved ones abroad

Claire McCeney, 31, has flown back from her home in Virginia, US, to see her mum and dad Caroline and dad Peter Pendergast, who live near ­Glasgow, but will spend her entire break at their home quarantining.

The mum of two who works with accountancy giant KPMG said: “I had my second child, Marie in February and have been desperate for my mum and dad to meet her in person.

“They also haven’t seen my son ­Matthew since he was 18 months old – he is now three. My husband and I are both fully ­vaccinated and I have become ­increasingly stressed out by it. We decided to bite the bullet and fly back despite the huge cost.

“There is nothing being done to
help families like mine despite what has been said.

“At the very least we should be able to get the same system as England where you can stop quarantining after five days if you test negative.

“Instead, I am left in a situation where I’ve flown in, am stuck in my parents’ home for 10 days and then fly back.

“We are making the best of the ­situation but it seems unfair.”

Caroline, 54, said: “It just seems like there’s been a lot of empty words over helping families out like ours.

“There’s not many people who would think spending two weeks in a house in Mosspark was a holiday but that’s what the Scottish Government think.

“I’ve felt so helpless over it all. We are trying to make the best of the situation.”

Families hit out at rules stopping them from reuniting with loved ones abroad
John Fergus Halforty wrote a letter to Sturgeon

John Fergus Halforty, seven, has been so upset about not seeing his gran in Italy, who he calls Nonna, that he wrote to the First Minister for approval to fly to Bologna for a visit.

The Hamilton schoolboy has received a letter back from Sturgeon saying, “I want you and other children to be able to visit and hug families ­wherever they are in the world… Although some travel to other countries has started back, I know it is still not easy for you and your family to go to Italy.

“As soon as we can change the rules to make it easier for you to travel, we will make sure we let that happen so that you can hug your Nonna again.”

But John’s mum Corinna Sala, 43, said not enough was being done.

The nursery practitioner, who also has daughter Brunella, three, said: “I’m a fan of Nicola Sturgeon but she’s wrong when she says she will do all she can for families like mine.

“It’s not true. The cost of testing is higher than in England and there is no test and release system here.

“Both my husband and I have been fully vaccinated.

“Some people think when I say I’m going to Italy, it is for a holiday.

“It’s not. It’s for family reasons. If my mother lived in Inverness and I could’t visit her there would be anger.

“There’s a lot of people like me who have spent the last two years not being able to see their families. Now ­restrictions have lifted it was hoped that would let us see loved ones again but the cost will stop a lot of ­people.

Each adult – and child over 11 ­– needs to pay £170 each for tests when
coming back.

“That’s more expensive than the rest of the UK.

“It just penalises poor families. But rich holidaymakers won’t think twice about spending it to get a break in the sunshine.”

Mandatory PCR tests for returning Scots are ­organised by Australian-based CTM and cost £88 despite being carried out by the NHS Test and Trace in England.

Families hit out at rules stopping them from reuniting with loved ones abroad
John with mum Corinna

Alexander Russell, who runs the Reunite Binational Partners and Families UK, said: “As soon as the ­Scottish Government agreed to a four nations approach to international travel they should at
least have the same options as the rest of the UK.

“They don’t really want people ­travelling and are making it ­unbelievably difficult even for families trying to be reunited.”

Last week, it was revealed the UK Government was considering easing restrictions for people who have been fully vaccinated. Speaking ahead of the Scottish elections on BBC, Sturgeon said: “We talk about holidays when we talk about international travel but we should never forget that for many ­people, international travel means visiting ­family who they’ve been separated from for some time.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully understand why many people are keen to be able to travel ­overseas – not least those who have been unable to visit family – but previous experience has shown the risks ­associated with international travel and why restrictions are required.

“Importation of new variants that can undermine the vaccine programme is one of the biggest risks we face.

“Travel restrictions are in place to protect Scotland from importing more cases of the virus, especially new ­variants.

“As the virus has an incubation period of 14 days, there is still a high risk that someone can become infectious after a test on day five.

“A 10 day isolation period, with ­negative tests on days two and eight, provides much greater reassurance to limit the risk of importation.”

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