UK travel restrictions: Which countries can I visit without quarantining?

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October 22, 2020
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By Eleanor Lawrie
BBC News

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

People on a Canary Islands beach

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionPeople coming to England from the Canary Islands will no longer have to self-isolate from Sunday

People entering the UK from most other countries must self-isolate for two weeks.

Many of the “travel corridors” set up to allow tourists to avoid restrictions have been suspended and options for travellers are limited.

Where can I go without quarantining?

In early summer, travellers could visit popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy and France without having to quarantine.

There are now only a handful of places travellers from England can visit without facing restrictions – either when they arrive at their destination, or return.

  • Canary Islands (from Sunday at 04:00 GMT)
  • Greece – (including from Sunday at 04:00 GMT, Mykonos)
  • Foreign tourists can fly into Cuba at certain entry points
  • Gibraltar
  • Germany – travellers who haven’t recently visited parts of the UK

    deemed ”high risk” can visit without quarantining

  • Madeira and the Azores – if travellers cannot show proof of a recent negative test, they will be tested on arrival and have to quarantine until the result comes back (about 12 hours)
  • Maldives non-tourists must quarantine for 14 days on arrival. Non-tourists must take a private Covid test no less than 96 hours before travelling
  • Sweden

There are separate exemption lists for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Travellers from the common travel area (CTA) – the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man – are exempt from UK quarantine.

However, some parts of the CTA, including Ireland and the Isle of Man, impose restrictions on travellers entering from England.

How does the UK’s infection rate compare with other countries?

The UK’s rate of coronavirus has risen sharply in recent weeks. As of 22 October it stood at about 201 out of every 100,000 people.

This gives the country a similar rate to Spain (207), but a lower rate than France (260).

The UK’s infection rate is higher than many other holiday destinations including Croatia (144), Portugal (142) and Turkey (15).

Travellers from all or parts of these countries face quarantine restrictions when entering England.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) – set up by the government to monitor coronavirus – works with the chief medical officers of each UK nation and advises on which destinations should be on the quarantine list.

In the past, the decision appears to have been triggered when 20 or more people out of every 100,000 in a country, or island, are infected over seven days, but other factors are also considered. These include:

  • the estimated proportion of the population that is currently infectious
  • trends in the number of cases and deaths
  • information on a country’s testing capacity
  • how much the virus has spread, including clusters of cases and the level of transmission in the community

Why have regional travel corridors been introduced?

Countries can now share more robust and detailed breakdowns of their coronavirus rates.

That’s prompted the UK to introduce regional travel corridors. These allow quarantine measures to be introduced for a country’s mainland, but not its islands, for example.

As a result, travellers to England have needed to quarantine if they return from some Greek islands, or from mainland Portugal.

So far, it has been too difficult to distinguish between mainland areas of a country.

What about airport testing?

There are hopes coronavirus testing for passengers could make travel to more destinations possible, by providing proof of a negative result.

In the UK, Heathrow is offering an £80 pre-flight coronavirus test on flights to Hong Kong, which requires a recent negative test for entry from the UK.

The rapid saliva swab is available on some British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific flights from Terminals 2 and 5, and is known as a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification).

Other counties such as Greece, Cyprus, the Bahamas and Bermuda will not accept the results of a Lamp test, which unlike the NHS-preferred PCR test, does not require analysis in a lab.

image copyrightGetty Images

These tests are only for passengers departing the UK. But ministers say they could soon formally approve the idea of arrivals paying for a test after a week of self-isolation. This would lead to early release from quarantine if they are negative.

People will have to pay for their own private tests.

Why can the UK nations make different quarantine decisions?

image copyrightGetty Images

Health is a devolved policy, meaning each UK nation sets its own quarantine list. But until recently these have generally been identical.

In early September, Scotland and Wales decided to apply quarantine measures to all, or parts, of Greece after a number of cases of the virus were traced back to travellers from there.

They have also both added Portugal to their quarantine list, after cases rose.

But England and Northern Ireland did not immediately apply quarantine restrictions to travellers from Greece and Portugal at that point, although did for some areas of those countries at a later date.

media captionHow do I quarantine after returning from a holiday abroad?

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