Currently, people arriving in the UK from outside the Common Travel Area (the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) must self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Any person arriving into the UK must provide an address for where they intend to self-isolate for the entire 14-day period. For example, this could be a self-arranged stay in a hotel. This differs from certain other countries, such as Greece and China, where government block-booked hotels are provided for the quarantine period and where COVID-19 testing is government mandated. At present, there is no obligation for incoming travelers to the UK to take antibody tests or to prove through any official medical test that they are COVID-19 negative. The policy simply requires that any person who has Coronavirus symptoms must continue to isolate beyond the 14-day period until they are treated or no longer show symptoms.
People arriving in the UK can be fined £100 for refusing to provide an address, and up to £1,000 if found to be breaching their quarantine.
The mandatory quarantine will be implemented on all travellers to the UK, regardless of their nationality or immigration status unless a special exemption applies, for example cross-border lorry drivers, In addition, any person who has taken a COVID-19 antibody test will still be expected to adhere to the quarantine requirements for the full isolation period.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spain will be ending its two-week quarantine requirement for UK tourists on 1 July 2020. Italy has also begun easing its travel restrictions, but with differing rules depending on the traveller’s country of residence. In France, whilst from 15 June EEA and UK travellers no longer need to demonstrate that their travel is essential or hold an international travel certificate, a similar 14-day quarantine period remains in place to that in the UK.
The UK Government is coming under increasing pressure to scrap its own 14-day quarantine period given that the UK has a higher rate of COVID-19 than most other countries, and so the risk of imported infections is far lower than for that of many other countries. There has also been some criticism regarding the timing of the restriction, which has been implemented significantly later than most other European countries. The UK seeks to impose quarantine measures as Spain, France and other countries seek to begin easing travel and border restrictions.
Other than for those either usually based in the UK or those planning to visit for a significant period of time, the mandatory quarantine policy effectively blocks almost all tourism. With the summer holiday season fast approaching and the UK Government’s recent announcement that hotels, bars and restaurants can begin reopening from 4 July, the UK hospitality industry is lobbying for the policy to be reconsidered. The impact of the quarantine is far-reaching as it deters short-term visitors and tourists from travelling to the UK. Tourism contributes an astounding £106 billion to the UK economy, and in July 2019 alone London welcomed 3,960,000 tourists generating almost £3 billion.
‘Airbridges’ have been proposed as one solution to bring in external tourism this summer. Individuals travelling between the UK and another specified country would be exempt from the quarantine, not needing to isolate on arrival at their destination or on returning home unless showing Coronavirus symptoms. It is thought that the UK is in discussion with up to 12 countries regarding the arrangements, including Germany, Turkey and Portugal, with agreement expected to be reached by the end of this month. However, there are concerns that other countries may be wary given the UK’s rate of infection. The European Union Commission has also warned that any arbitrary application of such policies by Member States may be considered discriminatory treatment of different countries, and that they should therefore apply them in a uniform manner across countries with similar rates of infection.
Announcements on further plans for both the 14-day quarantine period and airbridges are expected periodically over the coming month. If you are not sure whether the 14-day quarantine period applies to you, or you would like further information on how this may affect your travel plans to the UK, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.