Coronavirus: What are the UK’s travel rules and which countries can you visit?


By Eleanor Lawrie
BBC News

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

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People planning to go abroad this summer have been warned that “no travel is risk-free” at the moment, and they should factor in potentially having to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

The reintroduction of quarantine for people entering the UK from Spain in late July caught many travellers by surprise.

Since then, rising coronavirus rates has prompted to reimpose restrictions on travellers from Luxembourg, Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas.

How does the government decide which countries go on the quarantine list?


Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBS) – the body set up by the government to monitor coronavirus – advises which countries should be on the quarantine list, and which should be exempt.

The JBS looks at range of factors, including:

  • an estimate of the proportion of the population that is currently infectious
  • trends in incidence and deaths
  • transmission status
  • information on a country’s testing capacity

Why were the rules changed for Spain?

Spain was removed from the list of exempt countries on 26 July following “a significant change… in both the level and pace” of coronavirus cases, the UK government said.

The Covid-19 infection rate in Spain over the last 14 days is 81.4 cases per 100,000, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, while the UK’s rate is 14.3.

In Luxembourg and Belgium, which have since been removed from the list, rates per 100,000 people stand at 187.8 and 49.2 respectively.

The list is kept under constant review, and the government says it ”will not hesitate” to remove more countries if conditions worsen.

Popular holiday destinations exempt from quarantine, but with higher coronavirus rates than the UK include the Netherlands, with 24 cases per 100,000 people, France with 23.4 and Croatia with 20.8.

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image captionTravellers re-entering the UK from Greece currently do not have to quarantine

Where can I go without quarantining when I get back?

Travellers are exempt from quarantine if they arrive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from countries that – according to the government – pose a “reduced risk” from coronavirus. These include:

Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Barbados, BES Islands, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macau, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Réunion, San Marino, Seychelles, South Korea, St Barthélemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, Slovakia, Slovenia, St Vincent and the Grenadine, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Vatican City, Vietnam

Those entering the UK from the common travel area – the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man – have always been exempt from the quarantine rules.

The 14 British Overseas Territories are also exempt.

Health measures like quarantine are set by each UK nation separately.

Wales and Northern Ireland have introduced quarantine exemptions for the same countries as England. Scotland is also allowing exemptions, and has updated its own list of countries with which it is now allowing travel without quarantine.

Which other countries are not on the list?

You will still have to isolate for 14 days if you arrive back in the UK from Canada, the US, much of Central and South America, and some countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Travellers from Sweden, Portugal, Russia and anywhere else not on the list also have to quarantine.

Further restrictions may also be placed on UK travellers if its infection rate rises.

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What about restrictions at my destination?

Travellers leaving the UK could still face restrictions – including quarantine – when they arrive in one of the exempted countries.

About half the countries and territories on the list have restrictions for arriving UK visitors. These include:
  • New Zealand has barred almost all foreign travellers
  • Australia requires an exemption visa if you are not a resident or a citizen and everyone entering needs to quarantine for 14 days
  • South Korea requires all arrivals to be tested and to isolate for 14 days
  • Adult visitors to Iceland can either pay for a test or go into quarantine, with a second test required if you plan to stay 10 days or more
  • Anyone who has been in the UK in the previous 14 days is not currently allowed to enter Japan

But these restrictions may change.

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