When should you self isolate? These are the countries on the UK quarantine list, including Turkey, France and Greece

The quarantine-free list of countries for the UK has changed this week.
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  • The quarantine list has been in play now since the summer, when a list of 60 countries was first announced by the government as safe to travel to during the pandemic.

    Since then a lot has changed and the quarantine list that came out in July is certainly not the same one that we see today. Major UK holiday destinations like France and Spain were some of the first to be removed from the list as a second wave of coronavirus swept across Europe. Other countries soon followed and lockdown travel restrictions were put in place in November, when England went into a second lockdown and the other UK nations enforced more restrictions.

    Now with the new tier lockdown system coming into place from December 2, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that plans to reduce the quarantine period for people arriving in England from abroad will make travel easier and driver international business. He suggested also that those looking to avoid the 2-week self-isolation could pay around £100 for a Covid test and receive a negative result five days later to be allowed out of quarantine early.

    So what’s in store for travel for the rest of the year? And after months of lockdown, where can we travel to after December 2 for a holiday without having to quarantine on return?

    Countries recently added to the quarantine list

    Greece put on the quarantine list at 4am on Saturday 14 November, excluding the islands of Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zakynthos. Denmark, previously on the ‘safe list’ of countries, was also put back on the quarantine list. This means that those travelling to Greece, Denmark or are in the country at the moment and looking to come back to the UK, will have to self-isolate when they return. The addition of Denmark to the quarantine list comes after a mutated strain of coronavirus, found on some of the country’s mink farms, was confirmed to have been passed onto humans.

    From Sunday November 1, Cyprus and Lithuania were put on the British government’s travel quarantine list, meaning that those returning from these two countries had to self-isolate on their return back to the UK. Recently Italy, San Marino and the Vatican City were all added to the quarantine list on Thursday October 15, so now anyone returning back into the UK from those countries as of October 18 has had to self-isolate for 14 days. It joins Turkey and Poland on the list which were all removed from the quarantine-safe list in the first week of the month. After the announcement, the government emphasised that those who fail to follow the rules on self-isolation could face fines of up to £10,000 for multiple offences.

    Female traveller standing in front of Flight display schedule in the International airport

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    Iceland and Slovakia were put on the quarantine list for the UK as of September 26. The latter was removed in October but then put back on the list as of early November. But Slovenia, Guadeloupe, Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia and Réunion have also been added to the quarantine-free list recently, and those coming back into the UK from these countries will have to quarantine for two weeks. But Sweden, which was originally not included on the list, along Thailand and Singapore have now been made exempt so there is no need to self-isolate on return from these countries.

    In early September, Scotland and Wales announced that Greece had been removed from their own quarantine-free lists of countries. It came after a flight from Zante to Cardiff carried seven people from three different groups who all tested positive for the virus. After pressure was put on England to do the same, the government removed seven of the Greek islands from the quarantine exempt list of countries. On August 29, the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland were removed from the list and as of August 22, those coming into the UK from Croatia and Austria were made to quarantine for 14 days upon their return into the country. While from Saturday August 15, those returning from France, Aruba, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands and Turks and Caicos Islands had to quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival back into the UK. 

    Luxembourg was one of the first countries to be removed from the list, with the news shortly following the announcement that Spain would be removed from the list as of July 27.

    Upon making the quarantine list announcement months ago now, Transport Secretary Grant Schapps said, “As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly. Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required”.

    Which countries are not on the quarantine list? These are the destinations where you do not have to self isolate on your return

    Tourists are packing luggage for travel

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    • Anguilla
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • the Azores
    • Bahrain (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • Barbados
    • Bermuda
    • Bonaire/St Eustatius/Saba (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • British Antarctic Territory
    • British Indian Ocean Territory
    • British Virgin Islands
    • Brunei
    • Cambodia (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • the Canary Islands
    • Cayman Islands
    • the Channel Islands
    • Chile (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • Cuba
    • Dominica
    • Estonia
    • Falkland Islands
    • Faroe Islands
    • Fiji
    • Finland
    • Gibraltar
    • Greek islands: Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, Zakynthos
    • Greenland
    • Grenada
    • Hong Kong
    • Iceland (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • Ireland
    • the Isle of Man
    • Israel and Jerusalem (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • Japan
    • Laos (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • Latvia
    • Macao (Macau)
    • Madeira
    • Malaysia
    • Maldives
    • Mauritius
    • Montserrat
    • Namibia (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • New Caledonia
    • New Zealand
    • Northern Mariana Islands (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • Norway
    • Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
    • Qatar (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • Rwanda (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • Seychelles
    • Singapore
    • South Korea
    • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    • Sri Lanka (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • St Barthélemy
    • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Pierre and Miquelon
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Taiwan
    • Thailand
    • Turks and Caicos Islands (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • United Arab Emirates (arrivals before 4am 14 November need to self-isolate)
    • Uruguay (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • US Virgin Islands (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)
    • Vietnam

    However, if you are returning from one of these places on the quarantine-free list and you or anyone in your household experience the symptoms of coronavirus, then it’s important that you still stay at home and self-isolate. The government also suggests that you take a test for Covid-19 to find out if you have the virus and download the NHS track and trace app, which will help locate spiking areas in England and Wales. 

    Now with rising coronavirus rates across the country and the government warning people that further, nationwide restrictions could come into place over the next few weeks, it’s expected that there will be many more changes to the quarantine exempt list in the next month or so.

    Do you have to self isolate after coming back from Turkey?

    hot air ballons in turkey, which is not one of the countries on the self isolation list

    Credit: Getty

    The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on October 1 that Turkey would be removed from the quarantine-free list and placed on the isolation list as of October 3. This means that those coming into the UK after visiting Turkey will have to quarantine upon their return to the UK or risk a hefty fine.

    According to Grant Shapps, the decision came as “the Turkish Health Ministry has been defining the number of new COVID-19 cases in a different way to the definition used by international organisers such as WHO and ECDC, so we have updated our risk assessment for the country.”

    Upon entry to Turkey, everyone will have to still have a medical evaluation for symptoms of Covid-19, which will include temperature checks. National guidance by the government also says that if you are found to show symptoms when you arrive, then you have to take a PCR test for coronavirus and all passengers must complete a locator form.

    Will Italy be added to the quarantine list?

    After changes to the quarantine list on Thursday October 15, Italy is now on the quarantine list. This means that anyone returning to the UK from Italy, San Marino or Vatican City will have to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. For many holiday makers looking to take a trip this year, this will come as a major blow as Italy was one of the biggest UK destinations left on the list as Turkey was removed earlier in the month.

    Italy was removed from the ‘safe-list’ as cases in the country rose to their highest daily count of just over 8,800, with 64 cases out of 100,000 people. To be placed on the quarantine list, with visitors have to quarantine on their return to the UK, a country has to reach over 20 cases per 100,000 people.

    Is Dubai on the UK quarantine list?

    Dubai is currently not exempt from UK quarantine, so those looking for some winter sun in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will not be able to go without self isolating on their return. There are also very strict conditions on entry into the country, including taking a coronavirus test within a certain time frame before taking off and being able to produce a negative test result before arrival.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced, “All travellers to the UAE must have carried out a COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test within 96 hours and received a negative result prior to their departure. You may also need to undertake a second test on arrival and complete a period of self-isolation. You should check with their airline to confirm what proof of testing they need to present to the airline before travelling.

    “All travellers departing from the UAE to the EU and UK will need to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 96 hours prior to their departure. This is also a requirement for travellers to other countries that require a negative COVID-19 PCR test before arrival.”

    Is France on the UK quarantine list?

    In France, many areas are currently experiencing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, which led officials in the UK to remove France from the quarantine list on August 15 and vice versa. The government now only recommends ‘essential travel’ to the country, with a period of isolation needed if you go to France and then return to the UK.

    The current guidelines also include Corsica on the quarantine list, meaning those looking to get away over the autumn will have to avoid France if they do not want to self-isolate on their return to the UK. Other countries added to the list at the same time include the Netherlands, Monaco, Aruba, Malta and Turks & Caicos.

    In August, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that “extending as much as possible the obligatory wearing of masks in public places” would be enforced in the coming weeks, and is now widely practiced in many regions of the country, to prevent the risk of cases surging even more. Those in Paris, for example, are required to wear a face mask in all public spaces whether inside or outside the home as the PM announced that the virus was once again “gaining ground” across the country. Following this, President Emmanuel Macron announced a national lockdown for the country beginning on October 30 where all non-essential businesses will close, everyone will work from home where possible and only essential outings for supplies or medical reasons will be allowed. It’s expected that the French lockdown, along with a similar one happening in Germany, will be in place at least for the next month.

    Is Greece on the quarantine list?

    After a drop in cases, there has been a decision to remove Greece from the quarantine list so those looking to visit the mainland or any of the islands won’t have to quarantine when they return to the UK. This now includes all islands previously requiring self-isolation on return, including Crete, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos.

    Now, Mykonos has also been removed from the quarantine list so those returning from the island after October 25 won’t have to self-isolate when they get back to the UK.

    greek tavern on a greek island in Greece

    Credit: Getty

    Scotland was the first country in the UK to put Greece on their quarantine list, after cases begun to rise earlier in the summer. But they are included in the UK’s decision to remove the country and allow visitors to the mainland or the islands to return to Scotland without having to self-isolate.

    Is Spain still on the quarantine list?

    On return to the UK from Spain, travellers are required to self-isolate for two weeks and this has been the rule since late July. Unfortunately as a national curfew has now been imposed in the country, it looks as though Spain won’t be open for quarantine-travel for a little while yet.

    The curfew came into effect on Sunday October 25 and will in place between the hours of 11pm and 6am, for as little as 15 days but Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has warned that he would ask parliament to extend the rules for up to 6 months. Under the new ruling, local authorities can also ban travel between the different regions in Spain.

    It comes as Spain was one of the countries hit hardest during the first wave of coronavirus back in March and is now being hit hard with a second wave, even after their highly restrictive lockdown which was largely considered the harshest in the world. The new restrictions also include limitations of only 6 people in public or private gatherings, but the different regions have been granted an hour’s flexibility over the curfew times to make it acceptable for the independent needs of their region.

    The prime minister said over the weekend, “The situation we are going through is extreme. It is the most serious in the past half century.”

    When to self isolate?

    As well as quarantining when you come back from one of the countries on this list, it’s important to self-isolate if you experience any of the coronavirus symptoms which are a fever, continuous cough and loss of taste or smell.

    Self-isolating is also necessary if anyone in your household or support bubble has symptoms of the virus or you’re advised to self-isolate if you are contacted by track and trace.

    So how do you self-isolate and when should you do it?

    Who needs to self-isolate and how do you do it?

    mum and son at home - when to self isolate

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    If you are coming back from any country that’s been taken off the ‘safe’, quarantine-free list of countries, then you have to self isolate for 14 days when you get back to the UK or risk a penalty.

    So even though the rules are changing all the time and there’s even been discussions of a circuit breaker lockdown, amongst the implementation of the new three tier system, it’s important to still follow the rules. It’s easy to do, especially if you can work from home, and there are just some simple guidelines to follow. It’s been advised that you get a test if you start to develop symptoms, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that if you don’t have symptoms you shouldn’t get a coronavirus test as it makes it harder for those who do need tests to get them.

    When you arrive back into the UK, you should self-isolate, which means you can’t:

    • Stop off anywhere on your journey to the place where you’ll be self isolating and if possible, you should use private transport means to get there. 
    • Have visitors to your accommodation, unless they are providing essential care. 
    • Share facilities with others in your accommodation, i.e. if you quarantine in a hotel, you should not go to the bar or restaurant. 
    • Leave your accommodation to go to work, school, public spaces. 
    • Leave your accommodation to go shopping. You should have shopping delivered to the place where you’re quarantining, or it should be dropped off by a friend or relative.
    • Leave your accommodation to walk your dog, or for any other reason unless it’s a medical emergency. 

    If you don’t follow the quarantine rules on your return to the UK, you can be fined up to £1,000 in England and Wales.  A fine will also apply if you give inaccurate information or don’t update your contact details if you move to another location during the quarantine period, which will be up to £3,200 in England and £1,920 in Wales. In Scotland, the fine is set at £480 if you don’t follow the quarantine rules and in Northern Ireland, you can be fined £60 if you don’t provide contact details and £1,000 if you leave your quarantine location without a good excuse. 

    MORE: Will there be a second wave of coronavirus in the UK – and would we go back into lockdown?

    In light of this, there has been some more safety guidance given to schools about when to send a child in, for example: can you send a child to school with a cough or cold?, to help parents navigate these tricky times.

    Do you get paid if you have to self-isolate for 14 days?

    woman on tablet - fines imposed if you don't self isolate when told to

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    All those returning from a country not on the government’s quarantine exempt list have to self isolate for 14 days or otherwise risk at hefty fine, but unfortunately, for many people it will be unpaid. If you are able to work from home then it’s likely that you will be able to carry on as normal, especially as all those who returned to the office in September have been told to work from home again anyway by the prime minister.

    However, if you work in an industry or job where it’s not possible to work from home and you are not currently experiencing any of the symptoms of coronavirus, then most employers will make employees take an extra 14 days annual leave to cover the quarantine. ACAS, the industry relations body, states that employees are “not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they’re self-isolating any returning to the UK and cannot work from home.” They do say that an employer can choose to offer SSP if they want to, or put employees on furlough (until the scheme ends) for the 14 day period. For this to be in-keeping with government policy, however, the furlough would have to be for a minimum of three weeks.

    From September 28, anyone told to self-isolate has to do so by law, so the those in low-income households who are unable to work from home while they are self-isolating have been told that a £500 payment will be offered to them in compensation.

    What are the fines for breaking quarantine?

    Whether you’ve just got back from abroad or have received a test result, if you’ve been told to self-isolate and you fail to do so, you can be fined up to £10,000 under new government ruling. From Monday September 28, it’s now illegal to not self-isolate if you are COVID-19 positive or are told that you’ve been in contact with someone who is.

    The hefty fine has been put into place in England to deter people from going out, as the BBC reveals that only 18 per cent of those who have symptoms actually voluntarily go into self-isolation. The UK is currently experiencing the biggest rise in cases since coming out of lockdown, with reports indicating that the number of people contracting the virus is doubling every 8 days.

    MORE: If you have had coronavirus, are you immune? Plus how to request an antibody test to see if you have had the virus

    While £10,000 is the maximum amount someone can be fined for breaking quarantine, this is the fine given out to repeat offenders or serious breaches. The fines begin for first time offenders at £1,000, which is still a big rise from the initial sum at the beginning of the pandemic. The new law will be enforced by the police, who will be checking that people are following the rules in coronavirus hotspots and among high-risk groups by using “local intelligence”.

    Has quarantine been reduced to 7 days in the UK?

    Recently, there has been discussion that the two-week quarantine period for the contacts of those who test positive for coronavirus could be cut to just 7 days. This is not the case under the updated UK self-isolation rules, so anyone needing to self-isolate will have to still do so for 14 days.

    The reduction in quarantine is a method under consideration to keep the government’s test and trace system functioning, following the news that a large number of people told to self-isolate are not doing so correctly. King’s College London have suggested that just over 10% of those traced by the system actually stayed at home under self-isolation for the full two weeks. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also previously said that he was “very hopeful” about reducing the time needed in self-isolation on arrival into the UK from a country on the quarantine list.

    Which countries are in lockdown?

    Although the skies have opened up for many countries around the world, there are some that are now struggling with a new rise in cases and have gone back into some form of lockdown. This includes countries like New Zealand, South Korea, Italy and some parts of the UK.

    While there has not been a total lockdown enforced, as there was in March for most of the world, but some new safety measures and restrictions have been put in place.

    New Zealand is experiencing the first significant rise in cases after 102 days with no positive cases of coronavirus in the country. Residents in the city of Auckland are currently in a stage three level lockdown and are only allowed to leave their homes for essentials.

    Following a rise in cases, South Korea has ordered all nightclubs, churches and buffet restaurants to close their doors. Sports events can no longer have fans present, with ticket sales prohibited. Although schools reopened in early June across the country, those students in Seoul have gone back to remote learning.

    Italy is much the same, after a rise in cases saw the country introduce some lockdown measures for the first time after the country reopened. Now, both indoor and outdoor nightclubs have closed again and face masks must be worn at all time between 6pm and 6am in all public spaces where social distancing is not possible.

    Face masks must be worn in any place where social distancing is not possible in France, whether that’s inside or outside. This is particularly the case in Paris and Toulouse, Nice, Lille and Lyon. They also have to be worn in many workplaces including factories and office buildings.

    Even before the national curfew and new guidelines were enforced, anyone over the age of six in Spain was required to wear a mark in many public indoor spaces, with many region making them mandatory in outside spaces as well. This included children, who are required to wear their masks during the school day.

    While Denmark is currently facing restrictions not dissimilar to those currently being levied across the UK. Face masks are compulsory on all public transport, in restaurants, bars and cafes. And now with cases spiking around metropolitan areas like Copenhagen, restaurants, nightclubs and bars close at 10pm.

    However in all of the countries enforcing new measures, there has been no confirmation from the government of a complete lockdown.