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COVID-19: What Are The New UK Travel Rules?

14 January 2021. BBC: A ban on flights from South America and Portugal has been announced to try to protect the UK against new strains of coronavirus.

The measure will come into force on Friday 15 January. On 18 January, most international passengers will have to test negative for coronavirus if they wish to travel to the UK.

Which countries are under a travel ban?

The UK has placed a travel ban on South American countries to try to protect the UK against a new and potentially more contagious strain of coronavirus that has emerged in Brazil.

From 04:00 GMT on 15 January, anyone who has been in – or transited through – South America and Portugal in the previous 10 days will not be allowed to enter the UK.

Travel is already banned from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola, the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The rules do not apply to British and Irish nationals, long-term visa holders or those with residency rights – but they must self-isolate, even if they would normally be exempt. Hauliers coming from Portugal are also exempt.

What are the new rules on testing?

From 04:00 GMT on 18 January, 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, This may be taken up to 72 hours before their journey begins.

All forms of polymerise chain reaction or PCR tests will be accepted, the government says, as will other tests with at least 97% specificity and 80% sensitivity.

This includes some rapid lateral flow tests and Lamp saliva swab tests, both of which can give a result in under an hour.

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

Who is exempt from testing?

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

  • 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.

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.

What are the quarantine rules on arrival in the UK?

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 transport
  • Go to work, school, or public areas
  • Have visitors except for essential support
  • Go 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.

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:

  • Diplomats
  • Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • Border officials
  • Bus, coach and goods vehicle drivers taking goods in and out of the UK
  • Aircraft pilots and crew and certain rail workers

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.

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