Scottish leader defends Manchester travel ban after backlash

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s leader has defended the ban on non-essential travel between the country and the northwestern England city of Manchester after its mayor lambasted the decision and called for businesses to be compensated.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Monday that the ban on people from Manchester and nearby Salford entering Scotland was taken on public health grounds based on COVID levels in the area, which was one of the first parts of England to witness the spread of the delta variant first identified in India.

New coronavirus infections around the Greater Manchester area are running higher than most places in England. Recent surveys point to around one in 200 people in the Greater Manchester area having the virus, three times higher than the rates of infection in Scotland.

“These are public health measures,” Sturgeon told the BBC. “I have a duty, and it’s one I take very seriously, to keep Scotland as safe as possible.”

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the ban, which came into force on Monday, was disproportionate and had “come out of the blue.” He said he thinks the Scottish government should compensate businesses that are set to suffer from the ban.

Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party which wants to take Scotland out of the U.K., countered by suggesting that Burnham, one of the highest-profile politicians in the Labour Party, was playing politics.

“I’ve always got on well with Andy Burnham and if he wants to have a grown-up conversation, he only has to pick up the phone but if, as I suspect might be the case, this is more about generating a spat with me as part of some positioning in a Labour leadership contest in future, then I’m not interested,” Sturgeon said.

“We’ve all got a serious job of work to do right now and I’m serious about doing that job in a way that keeps Scotland as safe as I possibly can,” she added.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Associated Press

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