COVID-19 travel restrictions
26 February 2021
Faced with concerns about new variants entering the UK from abroad, the Government has continued efforts to restrict travel and strengthen UK borders.
Border officials will be asking anyone leaving the UK to justify the reason for their travel. Remember it is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays or leisure purposes. According to the government’s road map published this week, the earliest this restriction may be lifted is 17 May 2021.
Meanwhile it remains the case that anyone travelling into the UK must complete a pre-departure COVID test, fill out a passenger locator form and quarantine for 10 days on arrival. Anyone who does not follow the requirements will be subject to a fixed penalty fine of up to £10,000.
There is a list of exempt professions, but this has been reduced over the last month.
Most people arriving in England will be permitted to quarantine at home or in some other location of their choice. In addition to the option to take a COVID-19 test after five days to enjoy the “test and release” scheme, there is also now a requirement to take a test on day two and day eight. Tests should be booked before travelling to the UK via this website.
However, from Monday 15 February 2021, anyone who is coming from one of the “red list” countries is required to stay at a quarantine hotel. This must be pre-booked and details included on the passenger locator form. The test to release scheme does not apply. The only exception is for lorry drivers who have been in or through Portugal, Madeira or the Azores in the 10 days before arrival in the UK and who can demonstrate the travel is part of their job.
In practice, travel from a red list country is banned. However, exceptions are made for British and Irish nationals and people with residence rights in the UK.
There are no direct flights from the red list countries, so arrivals will inevitably enter the UK from somewhere else. Therefore quarantine hotel rules apply to anyone who has passed through one of the red list countries in the last 10 days. Anyone who lies about whether or not they have been in a red list country may face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Currently, the red list countries are: Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe. It is important to check this list at the time of travelling, to ensure any countries have not been added.
Those who have been in a red list country in the last 10 days are only permitted to arrive at certain designated ports. Currently, this includes Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport and Farnborough Airport. However, it is important to check this list at the time of booking travel to the UK, as individuals who do not arrive at a permitted port, will be subject to a penalty of up to £10,000 plus the cost of transportation to the nearest designated port.
A quarantine hotel must be booked before arriving into the UK.
The cost of staying for 10 days and 11 nights at the quarantine hotel is:
- £1,750 for one adult
- £650 for an additional adult or child over 12 years old
- £325 for an additional child between 5-12 years old.
If an individual needs to stay in the hotel beyond 10 days, daily rates will apply. Anyone who is receiving an income-related benefit will be able to apply for a deferred repayment plan at the time of booking.
The package includes quarantine transport from the port to the hotel, food, essential services, security and two COVID-19 tests which will need to be done whilst in quarantine.
Whilst at the quarantine hotel, visitors will not be permitted unless for emergency assistance, emergency care or assistance, medical assistance, veterinary service and certain critical public services.
Individuals will only be allowed to leave their room in very limited circumstances, this includes travelling directly outside the Common Travel Area, to fulfil a legal obligation, to seek urgent medical assistance, to avoid injury illness or to escape harm, to access critical public services or to access urgent veterinary services. Exercise may be permitted, but permission from security will be required.
These articles are from the February 2021 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 further information please contact a member of Birketts’ 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 February 2021.