Latest quarantine changes: Is your holiday hit?
The UK Government has announced the latest changes to its quarantine exemption list of countries.
Travellers entering England from mainland Portugal and Hungary will be required to self-isolate from Saturday, while people arriving from Sweden will no longer have to quarantine after it was added to the travel corridor list.
Here’s a guide to the latest changes:
– Which countries are off the travel-safe list for England?
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday that Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion will removed from the travel corridor list, along with Portugal, but excluding the Azores and Madeira regions.
Travellers arriving in England from any of those destinations after 4am on Saturday will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
However, Mr Shapps also said that Sweden would be added to the exemption list, meaning people arriving in England on Saturday will no longer be required to quarantine.
– What about Scotland and Wales?
Travellers arriving in Scotland from Hungary and Reunion must quarantine on arrival from 4am on Saturday, the Scottish Government said.
Sweden will also be added to the list of exempt countries at the same time.
Meanwhile, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said they were also bringing in a self-isolation rule for arrivals from Hungary and Reunion, and lifting the requirement for any passengers from Sweden.
He said the Welsh regulations will also come into force at 4am on Saturday.
– And Northern Ireland?
The Northern Ireland Executive has also announced that from Saturday people arriving from Portugal (excluding Madeira and the Azores), Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
They are also adding Sweden to their safe-list from 4am on Saturday.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “There is no doubt that the situation with Covid-19 is not only changing rapidly locally, but also globally. As always the safety of the citizens of Northern Ireland will always be my priority.”
– How is it that mainland Portugal is no longer on the exemption list but the Azores and Madeira are?
Mr Shapps said England will start applying a regional approach to its coronavirus quarantine policy for international arrivals.
In a statement to the Commons on Monday, Mr Shapps said islands can now be individually added to or removed from England’s quarantine-free list.
This means that island groups can be treated separately from their mainlands – in both lowering and lifting of restrictions.
– Why has the approach to international travel changed?
The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) has been commissioned to assess the most popular island destinations for British tourists.
“Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them – distinct from the mainland – as infection rates change,” Mr Shapps said.
“This development will help boost the UK’s travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe.”
– Can regions within a country’s mainland be added and removed?
The Department for Transport said it is not safe to implement a fully regional system for international travel corridors because there can be too much movement between regions within countries.
However, it said that when a region has natural boundaries – like an island – the risks reduce, so changes will only apply to land that has a clear border and “robust, reliable and internationally comparable data” is available.
The island must also have direct flights to the UK, or transport must have taken place through exempt territories.
– I’ve got a holiday booked to a country that is not on the travel corridor list – what should I do?
The Foreign Office advises British nationals against “all but essential travel” to the countries that have not been declared travel corridors.
In England, those who still decide to travel to one of these countries must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return or risk a fine of up to £1,000, and of up to £3,200 if they falsify details on their contact-tracing form.
Scotland is issuing fixed penalty notices of £480 for those who fail to quarantine, while Wales will also fine travellers up to £1,000 if they refuse to comply with the rules.
– My holiday destination still has no self-isolation requirement, will that change?
Those who head to a country on the travel corridor list must keep a close eye on their respective government’s announcements to ensure their destination’s status does not change while they are abroad.
Some tourists have had to pay hundreds of pounds to change to earlier flights in order to make it back before the quarantine requirement comes into force.
The UK Government and the devolved administrations make their decisions based on the fluctuating rate of transmission rates in each foreign country. Scotland has already warned that Gibraltar is on the verge of losing its travel-safe status.
– What about employers whose employees have to quarantine after their trips?
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has previously said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put on sick pay.
He said that if someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating, “they can’t have penalties taken against them”.
“The Government is urging employers to be understanding of those returning from these destinations who now will need to self-isolate”, he DfT said.