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10 February 2021
Since the beginning of 2021, the government has implemented a raft of additional travel and entry measures to minimise the spread of new COVID-19 variants in the United Kingdom, including:
Plans have also been announced to review the list of occupation-based self-isolation exemptions and to start using managed isolation hotels for those arriving from countries on the travel ban list.
This article outlines the recent developments for travel to England. Notably, conditions for travel, entry and post-entry are rapidly changing and likely to become more restrictive in the short term. Therefore, travellers should prepare to meet the requirements in good time, including checking for updates to the position throughout the two weeks leading up to departure and seeking immigration advice where needed.
The requirements for entry to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are broadly similar; however, there are some differences, including to when specific changes become effective. Travellers to these destinations should ensure that they check the current information published by the government of the relevant nation.
Since 4:00am on 18 January 2021, all international passenger arrivals to England by air, sea or rail must have proof of an acceptable negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the departure of their transport to the United Kingdom. If the length of a person's journey means that they are unable to take a test within three days of their departure for England (eg, if they will be transiting airside), they should take a test as close as possible to when they start their journey.
There is no specific list of authorised test providers; however, the test providers and test types must meet the government's published minimum performance standards for specificity, sensitivity and viral loads. Some visa services providers such as VFS Global are coordinating COVID-19 testing services in various countries around the world; however, the requirements for entry to England should be checked with the individual provider.
If a passenger has transit stops on their journey to England, they can take a test part-way through their journey; however, they should check whether this is logistically possible before they set out. This is because some countries have entry restrictions or other requirements that may make testing impossible. If a person is denied entry to the country in which they planned to take their test, they will be allowed to continue their journey but risk being fined at least £500 on arrival due to not having a valid test result.
Flights and vessels have been banned from arriving directly in the United Kingdom from a 'red list' of countries to which a travel ban applies. The list has been expanded since mid-January 2021 in response to the appearance and movement of new COVID-19 strains identified in Brazil and South Africa.
Individuals who have been in or transited through a red list country in the 10 days before they arrive in the United Kingdom will be refused entry, unless they are a British or Irish national or a person with residence rights in the United Kingdom, as defined on GOV.UK. There is also currently a specific exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal.
Those who are permitted to enter the United Kingdom after being in a relevant country within the past 10 days will need to use an indirect route to arrive or be brought to the United Kingdom on a repatriation service. At present, on arrival to England, individuals must self-isolate for a full 10 days, along with their household, and are ineligible to use the Test to Release scheme to reduce their self-isolation period.
On 27 January 2021 the government announced that the current self-isolation arrangements for those arriving from travel ban countries will be replaced by managed isolation in hotels. At present, further details are unavailable, including with regard to whether entire hotels will be government-managed for this purpose and what the cost to travellers will be.
Since 18 January 2021, all travel corridors to the United Kingdom have been suspended until further notice. The effect of this change is that only arrivals from the Common Travel Area are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate, along with those who are exempt because of their occupation.
The list of occupation-based exemptions does not apply to individuals who have been in or transited through red list countries in the 10 days before their arrival in England. The exemptions have been narrowed three times already since the beginning of 2021 and a full review is currently underway with a view to reducing them further.
Due to the national lockdown implemented from 4 January 2021, visitors arriving in the United Kingdom may be refused entry if their reason for seeking admission is not considered to be for an essential purpose. There is currently no definition of this and reasons for travel will be considered by Border Force on a case-by-case basis.
For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne or Kathryn Denyer at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000) or email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.
The materials contained on this website are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.
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