Will I have to quarantine if I go on holiday this summer?

Spending two weeks in self-isolation could take the shine off a trip

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 12 August 2020 12:00 BST
Two-week quarantine rules for UK arrivals come into force

While the travel industry is doing its level best to restart in earnest, there are still several big hurdles that could put the kibosh on your summer holiday plans for 2020.

One is the Foreign Office travel advice, and the other is the dreaded Q-word: quarantine.

Here’s everything you need to know about the latter.

Will I have to quarantine when I go on holiday?

This is largely dependent on the country in question. Some places are still all but closed to foreign visitors – for example, New Zealand – while others are tentatively reopening their borders.

In Europe, countries permitting entry to British visitors without any quarantine period or need to produce a health certificate include Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Croatia, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland.

France previously required Brits to undergo a two-week quarantine (though it was somewhat voluntary in nature), but has lifted this measure since the UK did likewise for travellers entering the country from France.

Click here for The Independent’s list of countries where you won’t have to quarantine when you get there or get back, and where the FCO warning against non-essential travel has been lifted.

Will I have to quarantine when I get back to the UK?

If you do manage to slip away to foreign climes, when you touch down back on UK soil you might have two weeks of mandatory quarantine to look forward to.

The policy was implemented on 8 June and put in place indefinitely, subject to regular review.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced the relaxation of self-isolation measures from 10 July for those entering England, Wales and Northern Ireland from certain countries, while Scotland published its own list.

Inbound travellers from a range of places regarded as “low-risk” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – are exempt from quarantine.

There are currently more than 60 countries and territories on the exempt list, including popular holiday destinations such as France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. But the list is subject to last-minute changes and updates: as of 28 July, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia and St Vincent and the Grenadines have been added, while Serbia and – controversially – Spain have been removed. Luxembourg also got the boot after a surge in cases, as did Belgium Andorra and the Bahamas.

Just because a country is on this list, it doesn’t mean there is a reciprocal agreement in place – you may still have to self-isolate when you arrive there, just not when you get back to the UK.

There is also a separate list of places where the Foreign Office has lifted its blanket advice against all non-essential travel.

What are the current rules on quarantining in the UK?

The presumption will be that you are carrying Covid-19. You should ideally occupy a room separate from any other members of the household where you’re staying.

“Avoid contact with the people you’re staying with and minimise the time you spend in shared areas,” says the Home Office.

You must not go to work, school or to any public areas, or use public transport or taxis (although it is permissible to use the latter when travelling from the airport).

You should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential support.

Do not go out to buy food or other essentials “where you can rely on others,” officials say.

Will the quarantine be enforced?

Public Health England have set up an assurance service to contact people at random to ensure they understand the requirements and are self-isolating.

Officials can telephone or call at the nominated address at any time during the 14 days. If the traveller is not at home or out with a valid excuse, a £1,000 fixed penalty notice will be issued in England and Wales (£480 in Scotland).

However, so far only one person has been fined for breaching quarantine.

Will the quarantine be effective?

The home secretary Priti Patel said: “These measures are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe.”

However, senior public health experts, MPs and travel industry representatives have all questioned the efficacy of the policy, which was devised by Dominic Cummings.

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “Measures like this are most effective when the number of cases is very low, and they’re most effective when they’re applied to countries from higher rates.”

Speaking to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee about the quarantine, Sir David Skegg, a New Zealand professor of preventive and social medicine, said: “It’s not clear to me what the UK strategy is for dealing with this disease… From the UK’s point of view, it doesn’t look very logical to me to have 14 days quarantine for people coming from countries with a much lower incidence and prevalence of Covid-19.

“These border measures would be most effective if they were conducted very early.”

When will the quarantine be lifted?

The policy was eased on 10 July. Although the quarantine will stay in place for everywhere else, certain low-risk countries will not be subject to the two-week quarantine for those entering the UK.

Unwell tourist arrives at Heathrow about to get on tube and does not know he has to quarantine

The list of exempt destinations includes France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.

The policy is due to be reviewed regularly, with more countries added as they meet the government’s criteria, or removed if there is a spike in coronavirus cases, as was observed in Spain.

While previously the government said the list would be reviewed every few weeks, this will now be done more regularly.

The DfT said in a statement: “Government will update GOV.UK with any changes on a weekly basis (should any be required) to reflect the shifting international health picture. We are prepared to respond rapidly if the health situation of a country deteriorates.”

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