What is a ‘valid reason’ to leave the UK, what forms do I need to fill in and what is happening with quarantine hotels? Vital Q&A on latest foreign travel rules
Lockdown-weary Britons are dreaming of being on an exotic beach or taking a city break on the Continent to escape the daily grim Covid news in the UK.
But taking a trip away in the next few months is going to be tricky, with travellers needing to have a ‘valid reason’ to leave their homes.
Only today Home Secretary Priti Patel warned those trying to leave country on fake work jaunts they will be turned back at airports.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson said legitimate travellers returning from ‘red list’ countries will be sent to quarantine hotels for 10 days.
The limited Australian-style quarantine scheme follows concerns about new Covid variants entering Britain.
Confusingly, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons earlier 22 countries will be on the quarantine list.
But the current ‘red list’ of countries from where only British nationals can come to the UK is much wider than that.
Here, MailOnline answers some of the key questions on the latest foreign travel rules that would-be passengers need to know:
A man is pictured pushing his luggage at Heathrow airport in west London on Wednesday
For what reason can I travel to another country?
You can only travel internationally when you have a legally permitted reason to leave home.
Work trips are allowed, so you will have to show some proof that your flight or sea crossing is vital for your employment. However, there are a range of other reasons for ‘essential travel’.
These are the same at the reasons for leaving your house: medical care, to escape harm, compassionate visits – for example a funeral – and weddings.
The list of travel exemptions will be urgently reviewed so that only the most important and exceptional reasons are included.
People are also advised to consider the public health advice in the country they are visiting before they go.
Anyone who does not have a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home and may face a fine as their reason for travel will be checked.
The Home Office said there will be an increased police presence at ports and airports fining those in breach of the stay at home regulations.
Priti Patel said: ‘Going on holiday is not a valid reason, so we will introduce a new requirement so that people wishing to travel must first make a declaration as to why they need to travel.
‘This reason for travel will be checked by carriers prior to departure.’ Travel operators are also expected to face fines if they fail to inspect these forms.
How can the Government stop Britons from going on holiday?
Lockdown rules already ban people from international travel unless it is for work. Leaving home is only permitted for a small number of reasons.
Under the lockdown laws introduced at the start of January and which will run until March 31, people in England are allowed only to leave the house for a very slim range of activities.
But the rules, which are largely the same as for the second lockdown in November, also ban foreign leisure travel, just as they prohibit domestic leisure travel.
These are the daily average of cases per million people in the countries on the UK quarantine list
Who is going to enforce these rules?
It is not clear whether airlines and other travel operators will have the unilateral ability to decide whether someone has given a genuine reason for a trip on their forms, or it will end up being referred to police.
There will also be an increased police presence at ports and airports, fining those in breach of the stay at home regulations.
Why is this being highlighted now?
The Home Secretary lashed out at social media influencers who have been posting images of themselves in sunny parts of the world like Dubai during the lockdown.
Many have claimed they were travelling for work, but have attracted a backlash from people stuck at home after also enjoying the nightlife and beaches.
Ms Patel also singled out people ‘turning up with their skis’ at London’s St Pancras station to catch the Eurostar to European resorts, adding: ‘That is clearly not acceptable.’
What does the hotel quarantine mean for arrivals in the UK?
Priti Patel said Britons returning from around 30 ‘red list’ Covid countries will be forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense.
Hundreds of arrivals each day are expected to be escorted directly from airports to rooms.
They will have to stay there for the duration of their isolation and pay a bill estimated at £1,500.
It will only affect British travellers, as foreign citizens who have been in the countries are already banned from entering altogether. It has not kicked in yet.
What places require a ten-day quarantine in a hotel after?
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
What will happen on arrival at the hotel?
Travellers who face enforced quarantine will be taken by bus to a hotel where they will have to remain for ten days.
Officials have begun talks with hotel groups about block-booking rooms that can be used for isolating.
In Australia, people are required to stay in their room the entire time with security guards patrolling the corridors. Hotel staff are forbidden from cleaning the rooms during a person’s stay.
Can you upgrade your hotel?
Travellers will not get a choice of hotel, meaning it does not matter if you paid for a more expensive trip away.
In Australia, people do not know in advance where they will be staying and are warned there is no guarantee of access to a balcony or open window.
What are you supposed to do all day?
In Australia, exercise outside is not allowed so guests are encouraged to do stretches or yoga in their room.
A guide given to travellers to help prepare for hotel isolation suggests planning different activities to break up the day.
Examples given include getting in contact with different friends and family, learning a foreign language on a mobile phone app, trying out a new hobby such as knitting and calligraphy, and catching up on ‘life admin’.
The advice recommends planning ‘rewards’ to look forward to such as a phone call with a loved one or the delivery of a treat.
People sharing rooms with partners and family members are encouraged to set ground rules for the stays such as scheduling a time each day when everyone does a ‘quiet’ activity to help avoid disagreements.
Last summer an outbreak of coronavirus in Melbourne was blamed on security guards having sex with guests at one of the quarantine hotels.
Mr Johnson is expected to sign off on plans this evening to divert travellers entering the UK from high-risk Covid countries into hotels to stop new mutant strains of coronavirus like the ones from Brazil and South Africa entering the UK.
Who pays the hotel bill?
The Government will arrange transport for travellers to their accommodation, but they will have to cover the cost of their hotel room, estimated to be about £1,500.
The cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel is £1,692 for an adult in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand.
What if I am a Brit abroad now?
UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. But you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.
What should foreign nationals in the UK do to get home?
Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.
If you are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination.
What do I need on return to the UK?
Passengers arriving in the UK need to provide evidence of a negative pre-departure Covid test.
People arriving from abroad also have to self-isolate on arrival and they have to complete a passenger locator form, with fines for those who do not.
What is a passenger locator form?
Earlier this month the government announced passengers had to complete online passenger locator forms to tell officials where they are staying after arriving in the UK.
It has to have the person’s address on it where they will isolate for ten days or five days if they take another test which comes back negative.
Coming back to the UK without a locator form will result in a £1,000 fine.
What do I need for a passenger locator form?
You will need: your passport details, Your travel details, including times and dates, the address where you will stay in the UK (if applicable), a booking reference number and the name of the test provider, if you’re using Test to Release to find out if you can end self-isolation early.
You can include multiple journeys in your form if you’ll enter the UK more than once in a 48-hour period.
Where can I get one?
Passenger locator forms are available to download from gov.uk here.
What happens then?
After you complete the form you will receive a QR code via email. You can print this out or show it on your phone as proof of completion.
What if you are travelling with other people?
Each adult must complete their own form. You can include someone under 18 years old who is travelling with you on your form, if you are staying together at the same UK address. If you’re entering Scotland, they must be under 16.
When do you not need to fill one out?
If you are travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and were there for more than ten days.
Passenger locator forms are available to download from the UK government website
Do any jobs qualify for travel exemptions?
Yes, if you do one of the following you may qualify for an exemption from one or more of the travel restrictions.
- Aerospace engineers
- Aircraft pilots and crew
- BBC broadcasting transmission network and services
- Border security duties – UK officials and contractors
- Border security duties – non-UK officials and contractors
- Bus and coach drivers
- Channel Tunnel system workers
- Civil aviation inspectors
- Clinical trials or studies
- Crown servants or government contractors
- Data infrastructure maintenance
- Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
- Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences
- Downstream oil facility workers
- Drivers of goods vehicles
- Electronic communications networks
- Elite sportsmen – international
- Elite sportsmen – domestic
- Medical examinations for elite sportsmen
- Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management
- Eurostar International workers
- Eurotunnel workers
- Government contractors – the conduct of negotiations
- High-speed rail workers
- International prison escorts
- IT and telecoms workers
- Medical evacuation
- Medical treatment
- Urgent medical treatment
- Medicines – human and veterinary
- Network Rail workers
- Nuclear personnel
- Nuclear emergency responder
- Offshore oil and gas workers
- OPCW and IAEA inspectors
- Postal workers
- Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines
- Registered health or care professionals
- Regular work abroad
- Regular work in the UK, living abroad
- Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories
- Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
- Seasonal agricultural workers
- Seasonal poultry workers
- Specialist technical workers – sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure
- Specialist technical workers – goods and services
- Specialist technical workers – waste
- Specialist technical workers – power infrastructure
- Specialist technical workers – space infrastructure
- Transiting airside through the UK
- Transporting human cells or blood
- Water supplies and sewerage services workers
For more information visit gov.uk
What about the so-called vaccine passports?
At least eight companies have been awarded government grants to develop vaccination passport schemes, it was reported earlier this week.
The projects, worth a total of £450,000, could allow users to securely carry digital proof that they have received an approved Covid-19 vaccine.
It is hoped such a scheme would help get people back to work and also allow for the reopening of international travel.
The government on Sunday denied such a scheme was being considered, and cabinet minister Michael Gove said they were ‘not the plan’.
But ministers have contradicted each other on the issue, including Boris Johnson’s vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi who said they were ‘looking at the technology’.
The scheme is being considered by many countries, including Cyprus and the Seychelles, who hope their use would open up society for people who have received a jab.
EU officials have demanded vaccines made in the UK be exported to Europe to help plug shortfalls in its own jabs roll-out, which is among the slowest in the world
Should I book a holiday abroad this spring?
There are two factors to consider. The first is whether concern over new strains of coronavirus will lift enough to allow quarantine-free travel – and if you can afford to come back to ten days in isolation.
The second is where can you go. It is not clear what destinations will be open to Britons, where the virus is still a major problem.
What about in the summer?
Ministers have warned in recent days that it is ‘too early’ to speculate around future holiday plans.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously said: ‘I think we’re going to have a great British summer.’ Whether he meant a great summer at home in the UK or abroad is unclear.
A deserted Levante beach in Benidorm today as the Government urged Britons not to book summer holidays in yet another blow for struggling airlines and holiday companies
What about ski season?
Most resorts have already cancelled the ski season in February, with Inghams, Ski Total, Esprit Ski and Flexiski among those to halt bookings until after the 27th.
Some are open with the hope government rules will change after the school half term.
How about a staycation in Britain this summer?
It is hoped restrictions will have given way enough by July for people to stay somewhere in the UK.
A surge in bookings for resorts, hotels and self-catered accommodation is anticipated.
Center Parcs, Haven and Butlins have all hiked their prices for Easter as they plan to reopen in March despite concerns that the national lockdown will still be in place.
Are lorry drivers bringing trade facing the same measures?
Hauliers are exempt from quarantine to keep trade flowing across the border.
What do airlines say?
Airline bosses have demanded that the Government provides an ‘urgent road map for the reopening of air travel’.
What do public health experts say?
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said quarantine hotels are ‘absolutely essential’ and suggested the lack of quarantine measures earlier in the pandemic had been ‘a major factor’ in contributing to the current situation.
When will this all end?
The government says the list of travel exemptions will be urgently reviewed so only the most important and exceptional reasons are included.
The law under which the holiday ban falls lasts until March 31, unless it is renewed. It is reviewed every two weeks.
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