Employment and Immigration Law Update - Quarantine changes and “Test to Release”


18 December 2020

This month, the Government amended the quarantine requirements for international travellers.

Previously, people arriving in the UK were required to quarantine for 14 days. However, as of 14 December 2020, the Government has reduced the mandatory quarantine period to 10 days. The quarantine period starts from the date of arrival into the UK.

The requirements remain unchanged in that individuals who are coming into the UK from ‘travel corridors’ are not required to quarantine. The list is frequently being updated, therefore when travelling into the UK it is advised that the latest list is referred to. This can be found on the Government website.

The quarantine exemption also still applies to individuals whose jobs are listed as being exempt. A list of qualifying jobs can also be found on the Government website.

In order to potentially reduce the quarantine period even further, the Government introduced the ‘Test to Release for International Travel Scheme’ with effect from 15 December 2020. As part of the scheme, anyone who is required to self-isolate upon entry to the UK can opt to take a privately funded COVID test. If the test result is negative, individuals can end their self-isolation early.

However, it is to be noted that the earliest that a private test may be taken is five full days after entering the UK. Therefore, this will reduce the quarantine period to approximately six or seven days and this can be longer depending on when a negative test result is received.

To participate in the scheme, it is recommended that a test is booked with a provider that meets the Government’s minimum standards. A list of recommended providers can be found on the Government website.

In addition, to participate in the scheme, it is mandatory that individuals opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form, which must be completed before entering the UK. However, if an individual decides to participate in the scheme after entering the UK, they will be able to do so by simply completing a new passenger locator form.

Similarly to a publicly funded test, an individual will either be posted a testing kit or will be required to attend a testing site. Individuals are permitted to leave the house to post the test or travel to the testing site. However, it is important to remember safe travel guidance must be followed whilst travelling to take the test.

We are aware that many of the providers have struggled to keep up with demand, leading to processing delays. Some have found it so stressful they even asked to be removed from the list. Bearing in mind the costs associated with the test and the fact that delays mean it may not result in individuals being released that much earlier than the new 10-day requirement, we anticipate interest in the test may start to reduce.

This article is from the December 2020 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For more details regarding any of the matters covered in this update, please contact Janice Leggett in our Immigration Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2020.

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