Editor’s Note: Apologies for the lateness of this post – my day job takes priority so I didn’t have a chance to put something about this together until the evening.
Today marks the implementation of a new British Government policy. From today, and for the foreseeable future, all foreign arrivals in the UK must go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival to help combat the spread of Covid-19.
I’m going to leave my opinions mostly out of this, my goal with this post is to inform you about the policy and what it means for anyone considering a trip to Britain.
To be clear, no one should be travelling to Britain right now for leisure and tourism. Covid-19, despite how things appear on the telly with all the protests, is still a serious threat. It’s not ‘over’ by any means. There are no tourist attractions open that you can visit anyway. Hotels still haven’t re-opened fully. If you have to travel to the UK right now, it should be in extreme circumstances to be repatriated or to visit loved ones in an emergency.
That being said, despite not having this policy in place for the last few months when it would have been more useful, the British Government seems to think that now is the time to mandate a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
- Passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train – including UK nationals – will be asked to provide an address where they will self-isolate for 14 days. Travellers can be fined £100 for failing to fill in a form with these details.
- Surprise visits will be used to check they are following the rules. Those in England could be fined up to £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate.
- Passengers should drive their own car to their destination, where possible. If they don’t provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation at the traveller’s expense.
- Once at their destination they must not use public transport or taxis. They must not go to work, school, or public areas, or have visitors except for essential support.
- They are also not allowed to go out to buy food, or other essentials, where they can rely on others.
- Employers should agree future working arrangements with staff before they travel internationally.
So, pretty strict then. If you were a tourist, expecting to arrive in London for a week’s vacation, you would have to spend the entire time in your hotel or rented accommodation and rely on room service to eat. If your trip is only a week long, you have to say in the hotel for the whole week, then leave the country immediately.
Another key thing here is that before departing for Britain by air, rail or sea to the UK, you must fill in a Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours before you are to arrive. It includes travel details and contact information so they can be reached if they, or someone they may have been in contact with, develops the disease.
Many are probably wondering: what about Ireland? Yes, Ireland is exempt from this because of the Common Travel Area and close relationship between the two countries. Many thought that you could, in theory, fly into Ireland, then take a sea crossing to Great Britain and circumvent the quarantine. This loophole has been closed, as you still have to report if you’ve been outside the Common Travel Area in the previous 14 days. Ireland is still under somewhat of a lockdown anyway, and you aren’t supposed to be travelling around Britain right now, either, unless it’s essential.
The legal authority runs until 8 June 2021 but it will be reviewed (with possible workarounds for key destinations) every three weeks. I found that date alarming. Many of us in the travel industry sort of assumed that things would be somewhat back to normal by next summer – and this is key – THEY MAY VERY WELL MIGHT BE – however, the government will have the authority to impose these quarantines until then. This instantly makes booking any trips to Britain in 2021 risky if this policy ends up going on for months.
All of this is going ahead despite protests from the travel industry who say it will devastate any semblance of recovery and from medical experts who say that it’s too late to make any real difference in Covid-19 infection rates. Britain never closed its borders so, until today, anyone could have come and gone as they pleased and spread the disease around. Airlines and travel industry groups have threatened legal action and there are petitions going around to try and stop this.
We’ve been asked several times over the last few weeks when people can start going back to Britain – how soon is too soon? I think travel will somewhat start to resume by the autumn. But with this new policy, I would not book anything right now until this policy has ended or has an end date. If you already have a tripped booked, you need to be prepared to cancel it because, unless you’re going for a couple of months, there’s no point in departing. There will be no semblance of certainty until there is a working vaccine for Covid-19; which could take until next year.
We will monitor this policy and let you know as soon as it’s lifted (or going to be lifted).