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What Is The Latest UK COVID-19 Travel Restrictions?

In recent months, it has become a challenge for the public to keep up with the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and rules. When the UK introduced the travel corridor system, which permitted travel to and from some countries without the need to self-isolate, new destinations were being removed and added on a weekly basis. In recent days, as a result of the worrying new virus variants, travel restrictions have been ratcheted up significantly. The UK is now more locked down in terms of international travel than it has been at any point during the pandemic. In this article, we will summarise the latest travel restrictions both for those leaving and entering the UK.

It Is Now Illegal To Travel Abroad For Holidays

The latest COVID-19 travel restrictions on the Home Office website states, “Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so”. In the last few days, influencers and others travelling overseas unnecessarily have drawn the ire of politicians such as Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who expressed her frustration by saying, “Even at St Pancras, people have been turning up with their skis…That is clearly not acceptable”. “We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world that they are in, mainly in sunny parts of the world….Going on holiday is not an exemption, and it’s important that people stay at home”.

Principally, you will only have legal permission to travel if the purpose of your journey is for your work (which you cannot do from home), education, or a medical reason. While some, including influencers, may argue their trip to Dubai is for work, this would most likely be considered a breach of the new rules, especially if they are photographed by the press sunbathing on a beach.

The Government Has Introduced Quarantine Hotels

One of the most radical changes in policy in relation to COVID-19 and travel in recent days is the introduction of the use of quarantine hotels, following the precedent set by Australia, China and New Zealand. Only those entering the UK from the highest risk (so-called ‘red list’) countries will need to quarantine in a hotel, for a period of ten days. The main purpose of requiring travellers to stay in hotels is to prevent the spread of new strains of COVID-19, such as those which originated in South Africa and Brazil.

The hotels will be government-provided, but this does not mean they will be paying, rather the cost will be footed by the traveller. Those who do not self-isolate face a fine if up to £10,000. This new policy will affect anyone travelling from one of the following countries: Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).

A date is yet to be confirmed by the Home Office for when quarantine hotels will come into force. This is to allow time to prepare the hotels in readiness for travellers and to ensure the people and processes are in place to manage the new system. As the Institute for Government explains, “The government will need to find enough suitable hotel rooms to quarantine new arrivals to the UK. They will also need to ensure people are looked after safely and securely from their arrival in the UK to when they are cleared to leave quarantine. This means organising security and transport to the hotels and monitoring the health and welfare of those in quarantine, via testing and assessments. This will require suitably qualified health professionals, who are in short supply across the health service”.

Those Entering The UK Now Need A Negative COVID-19 Test Result

The latest COVID-19 rules on travel to the UK require that travellers bring with them a valid negative COVID-19 test result; “If you intend to travel to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to three days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival”. This policy applies to anyone travelling to the UK, including British citizens. Those who have not flown directly to the UK must show a negative test that was taken no more than three days before boarding the final flight to the UK. Anyone travelling to the UK without a valid negative test result risks a fine of £500. The test has to meet the performance standards of ≥97% specificity, and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. Valid tests may include:

  • a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
  • an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device

If the border control officer believes that the test you had did not conform to these standards, they may refuse the result certificate provided. The guidance also states that your test certificate must include the following information:

  • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
  • your date of birth or age
  • the result of the test
  • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
  • the name of the test provider and their contact details
  • the name of the test device

Final Words

Much has changed in recent weeks when it comes to travel to and from the UK. We recommend keeping up to date with the latest guidance on the UK Government website before you travel or make a travel booking. We will keep you updated with the key changes to travel in the coming months.

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