What are the UK’s COVID-19 Travel Entry Regulations?
- 19 January 2021 19 January 2021
The UK’s travel entry regulations have tightened drastically in an effort to lessen the spread of coronavirus. All travel corridors have been closed, and from 18th January most international passengers will have to produce a negative PCR test in order to travel to the UK. The UK has also introduced a travel ban on all flights from South America and select countries due to the detection of a new strain of the virus in Brazil.
Which countries are affected by the travel ban?
Anyone who has been in, or travelled through, any country in South America or Portugal in the past 10 days will be denied entry into the UK. Portugal is included due to its strong ties to Brazil, as are Cape Verde and Panama. These travel bans have been put in place to protect the UK from a new and potentially more transmissive strain of the virus.
Travel is already banned from any country in South Africa due to another COVID variant that was identified in December.
The rules do not apply to UK citizens, long-term visa holders or those with residency rights - but they will have to self-isolate upon return to the UK. Hauliers travelling from Portugal to transport essential goods are also exempt.
What are the new rules on testing?
From 18th January, anyone travelling to the UK, whether by plane, boat, or train, including UK citizens, will have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding. The test may be taken up to 72 hours before their departure.
The government says it will accept any test with at least 97% specificity and 80% sensitivity.
If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.
Who is exempt from testing?
- Children under 11
- Passengers 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
- Travellers from St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda arriving in the UK before 21 January
What happens if you enter the UK without a PCR test result?
Those who do not comply with the rules will face a fine of £500. Border Force officials will be carrying out spot checks.
Do travellers entering the UK need to quarantine?
The UK has closed all travel corridors until at least 15 February. This means that even with the new testing requirements, most travellers - including UK citizens - must still self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.
Exceptions are made for people coming from the Common Travel Area. Some business travellers no longer have to quarantine when re-entering the UK, and a small number of other jobs are exempt, including arts professionals, journalists, defence personnel and drivers.
Is there a way to shorten quarantine?
Travellers arriving in England from certain countries can shorten their quarantine by ordering a private test through the Test to Release scheme. The test must be booked by travellers before their journey, and it can only be taken after five full days of self-isolation. Tests cost between £65 and £120, and results are normally received within 48 hours. People who test negative can stop self-isolating once they have their result. However, 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.
Will you be fined for breaking quarantine rules?
Breaking quarantine rules is a criminal offence. People not abiding by the rules 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 now doubled to £10,000.
There is also a fine of £100 for not filling in the passenger locator form, and people can be fined up to £3,200 in England for providing inaccurate contact details, or £1,920 in Wales.
What do the new rules mean for your travel plans?
Though travel - unless under specific circumstances - is not currently advised, restrictions are likely to ease up after lockdown. For more information about where you can go and what regulations there are in different countries, read our blog on which countries require a PCR test for entry. You can also get up-to-date information at our COVID-19 information hub.