Covid: What are the new UK travel rules?

1 week ago 20

Published41 minutes ago

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From 04:00 GMT on Monday, most international passengers will have to test negative for coronavirus before leaving their home country to travel to the UK.

This will help protect the country against new strains of coronavirus, identified in countries such as South Africa, the government says.

Most passengers must still quarantine when they get to the UK.

What are the new rules on testing?

All international arrivals, including UK nationals, will have to present a negative Covid-19 test before they board a plane, train or boat bound for the UK, taken up to 72 hours before their journey began.

All forms of polymerise chain reaction or PCR tests will be accepted, the government says, as will other tests "with 97% sensitivity and 99% specificity".

Transport Minister Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast that acceptable tests included those that give a result "in 20 or 30 minutes".

This suggests it will accept rapid lateral flow tests, which are generally cheaper and easier to obtain than the "gold standard" PCR tests, which must be developed in a lab.

The rule had been due to come into force on Friday, but the government said people needed time "to prepare".

Those who don't comply will face a fine of £500, with Border Force officials carrying out spot checks.

Passengers will also have to fill in a Passenger Locator Form and obey the national lockdown rules.

Arrivals from countries which aren't on the government's list of "travel corridors" with the UK, must self-isolate for ten days, regardless of their test result.

This extends to arrivals from the United Arab Emirates - including Dubai - after a spike in imported Covid cases prompted the UK government to remove the country's travel corridor.

Who is exempt from testing?

Some travellers don't have to provide evidence of a negative test:

Children under 11Passengers from the Common Travel Area (the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man)Travellers from the Falkland Islands, Ascension Islands and St Helena Hauliers, air, international rail and maritime crew.

Some countries will be temporarily exempted due to issues with local testing capacity. For example, it will not apply to travellers from St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda arriving in the UK before 21 January.

Which countries are under a travel ban?

Since 9 January, anyone who has been in - or transited through - a number of African countries in the previous 10 days is not allowed to enter the UK. The countries affected are: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola, the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The rule will be in place for at least two weeks. It does not apply to British and Irish nationals, long-term visa holders or permanent residents - but they must self-isolate, even if they would normally be exempt. This is because of a coronavirus variant linked to South Africa, which may be more contagious.

What are the quarantine rules?

Most travellers arriving in the UK from the majority of countries - including British nationals - must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of any test result.

Exceptions are made for people coming from the Common Travel Area and countries on the list of "travel corridors" with the UK.

All travellers must provide contact details and their UK address.

After arrival, people quarantining should not:

Use taxis or public transportGo to work, school, or public areasHave visitors except for essential supportGo out to buy food, or other essentials, if they can rely on others

Anyone who has to self-isolate after a trip may not get statutory sick pay unless they meet the required conditions - such as displaying coronavirus symptoms.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own quarantine rules, which differ slightly.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionMost UK arrivals need to self-isolate for 10 days

Who is exempt from quarantine?

Some business travellers no longer have to quarantine when re-entering the UK.

Performing arts professionals, TV production staff, journalists and recently signed sports professionals are also exempt.

A small number of other jobs are also exempt, including:

DiplomatsDefence personnel, visiting forces and government contractorsBorder officialsBus, coach and goods vehicle drivers taking goods in and out of the UKAircraft pilots and crew and certain rail workers

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionEssential business travel is still allowed during the lockdown

Can I pay for a test to shorten quarantine?

People arriving in England from some countries can reduce their quarantine period by paying for a private Covid test.

Passengers using the voluntary scheme must book their test before leaving for England through a private provider, and enter details on their passenger locator form.

The test cannot be taken before the fifth full day of self-isolation, either through a home kit or at a testing site. You can leave the house to visit the testing site or post back the test.

The tests cost between £65 and £120, with the results are normally received within 24 to 48 hours. People who test negative can stop self-isolating once they have their result. Those who test positive must quarantine for another 10 days from the date of the test.

The government has published a list of approved private testing companies.

Can you be fined for breaking the rules?

Breaking quarantine rules is a criminal offence, and people risk being fined and could end up with a criminal record.

Failure to self-isolate can mean a £1,000 fine in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or £480 in Scotland. Fines in England for persistent offenders have doubled to £10,000.

People can be fined up to £3,200 in England for providing inaccurate contact details, or £1,920 in Wales.

There is also a fine of £100 for not filling in the passenger locator form.

How is the quarantine list decided?

The Joint Biosecurity Centre - set up by the government to monitor coronavirus - advises on which destinations should be on the list.

It considers a range of factors including:

infection rate per 100,000 peoplepercentage of tests coming back positivethe speed at which the situation is changing in a countryWhether there is a significant risk on transmission through return journeys to the UK.
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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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Antibodies test

A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.


Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don't show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

Containment phase

The first part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.


One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.


The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

Delay phase

The second part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

Fixed penalty notice

A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

Flatten the curve

Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the "curve" is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.


Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.


Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren't working.

Herd immunity

How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.


A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

Incubation period

The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

Intensive care

Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.


Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Mitigation phase

The third part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

NHS 111

The NHS's 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.


Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.


An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

Phase 2

This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.


PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.


The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.


R0, pronounced "R-naught", is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.


This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.


Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

Social distancing

Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

State of emergency

Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

Statutory instrument

These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.


Any sign of disease, triggered by the body's immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.


A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.


A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.


A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body's normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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