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COVID-19: Updated Guidance on Travelling to the UK and Jobs that Qualify for Travel Exemptions

With the possible end of the current lockdown insight and with children having returned to school in the UK, we thought this would be an opportune moment to take stock of the latest COVID-19 travel guidance. Indeed, a great deal of progress has been made in bringing the pandemic in the UK under control, compared even to just a few weeks ago in January. Case rates, hospitalisations, and deaths attributed to the virus have all fallen substantially, almost back to levels seen in September 2020. Despite this substantial improvement in the overall situation, the government and Home Office are keen to pursue a policy of slowly reopening in stages, with gaps of five weeks between each. This will, hopefully, avoid the situation whereby too many restrictions are lifted simultaneously, leading to an uncontrolled explosion of cases. It is expected that the Winter will see a large rise in COVID-19 cases again, but due to the effectiveness of the vaccination programme (nearly 23 million people have received their first dose as of the time of writing), the death rate is likely to be broadly equivalent to that of the flu. In this article, we will look at the latest guidance for those planning to travel to the UK and explain which jobs are exempt from travel restrictions.

What Are The Current Travel Restrictions In Place For Those Arriving In The UK?

The current travel restrictions are conditional based on where you have been in the ten days prior to arriving in the UK, as follows:

If You Have Come From A Country On The ‘Red-List.’

If you not a British or Irish national or someone with the right of residence in the UK and you have come from or travelled through a country on the ‘red list’, then you will not be allowed to enter at present (if you do manage to travel to the UK, you will be refused entry by the border force and be required to return to your place of departure). The countries currently on the banned/red list are Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

British and Irish nationals and those with residence rights can come to the UK from a red-list country but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for ten days. Those in this situation have to pay for the cost of their stay in the hotel. This is currently £1,750 for one adult in one room; an additional adult in the same room is £650 (this also applies to children over 12); the hotel room rate for children between 5 and 12 is £325. The government are making it clear that no one should attempt to avoid quarantine where it is required; the Home Office guidance states, “you could be fined up to £10,000, imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both if you do not provide accurate details about the countries you have visited in the ten days before you arrived in the UK. If you break the quarantine rules, you may face a penalty of up to £10,000”.

If You Come From A Country Not On The ‘Red-List.’

Travellers coming from countries, not on the red list are required to self-quarantine in the place they are staying. In addition, they are required to take two COVID-19 tests after their arrival in the UK (these must be booked prior to your travel to the UK). It is also possible for non-red-list travellers to pay for private COVID-19 tests to end their quarantine early – this is referred to as ‘Test and Release’. The official Home Office guidance on Test and Release states, “The earliest you can take a test is five days after you arrive in England. For example, if you arrive on a Monday, you can take a test from the following Saturday”. On this basis, as soon as you have a negative result after this mandatory five days, you are free to end your self-isolation. If the test is not conclusive, you will need to self-isolate for a further ten days. To use Test and Release, you will need to book an appointment with an approved private test provider and state on your passenger locator form that you intend to do so.

Which Jobs Are Eligible For COVID-19 Travel Exemptions In The UK?

Some people are not required to self-isolate in the UK due to the nature of their occupations, however, the restrictions which apply (or do not apply) vary by job type. The job types which are exempt from some or all travel restrictions to the UK are as follows:

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Aircraft pilots and crew
  • BBC broadcasting transmission network and services
  • Border security duties – UK officials and contractors
  • Border security duties – non-UK officials and contractors
  • Bus and coach drivers
  • Channel Tunnel system workers
  • Civil aviation inspectors
  • Clinical trials or studies
  • Crown servants or government contractors
  • Data infrastructure maintenance
  • Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences
  • Downstream oil facility workers
  • Drivers of goods vehicles
  • Electronic communications networks
  • Elite sportspersons – domestic
  • Elite sportspersons – international
  • Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management
  • Eurostar International workers
  • Eurotunnel workers
  • High Speed 2 rail workers
  • International prison escorts
  • IT and telecoms workers
  • Medical evacuation
  • Medical treatment
  • Urgent medical treatment
  • Medicines – human and veterinary
  • Network Rail workers
  • Nuclear personnel
  • Nuclear emergency responder
  • Offshore oil and gas
  • OPCW and IAEA inspectors
  • Postal workers
  • Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines
  • Regular work abroad
  • Regular work in the UK, living abroad
  • Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories
  • Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Specialist technical workers – sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure
  • Specialist technical workers – goods and services
  • Specialist technical workers – waste
  • Specialist technical workers – power infrastructure
  • Specialist technical workers – space infrastructure
  • Transiting through the UK
  • Transporting human cells or blood
  • Water supplies and sewerage services workers

If your role fits into one of these categories, then it is important to look at the Home Office website for the guidance and restrictions which apply to you. This will explain what you will not need to do and specifically who the exemptions apply to. It is also possible for travellers in these occupations to travel to the UK from red-list countries, however, they will be required to quarantine for ten days in a government-approved hotel.

Final Words

The guidance on COVID-19 related travel restrictions is constantly changing. Indeed, the UK has been especially slow to put in place international travel restrictions and processes and procedures at the border, however, this is now more established. If you have any questions regarding travel to the UK, check the Home Office website or speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you.

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