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Travelling back to England from abroad? Here are the rules

·6-min read
 ( Unsplash)
( Unsplash)

6 January 2022 Update

From 4am, Friday 7 January all fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s arriving in England will no longer need to take a pre-departure test or self-isolate on arrival.

Additionally, from 4am, Sunday 9 January, all fully vaccinated arrivals and over 5s arriving in England will be able to take a lateral flow test on Day 2 of arrival, rather than a more expensive PCR test. Tests can be booked from 7 January.

If you test positive for Covid, you must self-isolate and take a free NHS PCR test to confirm the result.

As currently required, travellers must book their tests before completing a Passenger Locator Form, in the 48 hours before arriving in England.

As PCR tests can still be used, anyone who has already purchased one can take the test rather than the lateral flow variety.

The changes come as data shows Omicron is the dominant variant in the UK and spreading widely, rendering certain Covid testing measures useless in curbing its spread.

Rules for unvaccinated arrivals will remain the same. You must:

  • book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 Covid-19 PCR tests – to be taken after arrival in England

  • complete a passenger locator form – anytime in the 48 hours before your arrival in England

  • take a PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test within 48 hours of departure

After arriving in England, you should quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days and take a PCR test on or before Day 2, and on or after Day 8.

You may be able to leave quarantine early by paying for a private Covid-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

Regarding the changes, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As we learn more about the Omicron variant it is right that we keep our testing and border measures under review to ensure they remain proportionate”.

A full review of the measures will be carried out by the end of January.

6 December Update

Anyone planning to travel or return to the UK from countries and territories not on the Government’s Red list must show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test taken within the 48 hours before departure, from Tuesday 7 December. This new rule, brought in response to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, applies to all travellers aged 12 and above, regardless of their vaccination status.

From 4am on Wednesday 15 December, Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia will all be removed from the Government’s Red list, it has been announced. The latest move means that, from this date, no country or territory remains on the Red list (subject to future announcements).

On 4 October, the UK government replaced its previous pandemic traffic light system of ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ countries with a single Red list of countries, while placing the rest of the world on a single footing.

For more information about the rules for travelling back to the UK’s other devolved nations see Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Here’s a round-up of the travel rules for England as they now stand.

Travelling to England from 7 December

NON-RED LIST COUNTRIES

Prior to departure from abroad

Travellers who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days must:

  • book and pay for a Day 2 Covid-19 test, to be taken after arrival in England*

  • complete a passenger locator form, any time in the 48 hours before arrival in England

  • take a PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test within 48 hours of departure

  • take a Covid-19 test on or before Day 2 of arriving in England

*From 30 November all international arrivals will be required to take a Day 2 PCR test in the first two days of landing in England and then self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

There will be no need to take a Covid-19 test on Day 8. There’s also no need to quarantine for 10 days after arrival in England.

In-bound travellers must be able to prove that they have been fully vaccinated, either with an online or printed document produced by a national or state-level public health body.

Without the relevant paperwork, in-bound travellers will have to follow the rules as applied to non-vaccinated individuals (read more below).

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must:

  • complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before your arrival in England

  • take a PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test within 48 hours of departure

  • book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 Covid-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England**

After arriving in England, you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days

  • take a Covid-19 test on or before Day 2, and on or after Day 8.

You may be able to leave quarantine early by paying for a private Covid-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

** These must be PCR tests, not lateral flow tests.

TRAVEL FROM RED LIST COUNTRIES

Note that from 4am on Wednesday 15 December, the removal of 11 African countries including South Africa and Nigeria, means that no countries or territories will appear on the Government’s Red list. The list has not, however, been scrapped. The following relates to the latest guidance for travel from Red list countries to the UK and could still apply if countries are subsequently re-instated on to the Red list.

If you have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you are a British or Irish national, or if you have residence rights in the UK.

Before you travel to England you must:

  • complete a passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before arriving in England

  • take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – to be taken in the three days before you travel to England

  • book a quarantine hotel package, including two Covid-19 tests

  • when you arrive in England you must quarantine in a managed hotel, including two Covid-19 tests

Travelling with children

There are different age limits for children that need to take various Covid-19 tests:

  • test to enter another country – check foreign travel advice for the country concerned

  • test before travel back to England – children aged 10 and under do not need to take a test

  • Day 2 and Day 8 tests after arrival in England – children aged four and under do not need to take a test

  • Test to Release test – children of all ages must take the test if adults in their household are taking part in the scheme

Non-UK residents are not permitted to enter the country if they have been in the listed countries in the past 10 days.

Those travellers who are permitted entry to the UK, must quarantine in a government approved facility for 10 days and take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of their return.

You can visit the government website for the rules currently in force for travellers arriving in England from these countries.

Targeted testing and contact tracing is underway as the number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in England reached 104 on 3 December.

Wearing a face covering in shops and on public transport has been compulsory since Tuesday, 30 November, but hospitality settings are exempt.

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