If you’re looking to book a summer holiday this year, there’s now one more thing to bear in mind: whether you have to self isolate when you return to the UK.
It’s a question that was largely debated when the government first proposed the idea of travel corridors earlier this year, to allow countries to make agreements about travel and when tourists should self isolate on their return home. It was a decision made to kickstart the travel industry after months of lockdown.
But now with more cities going into a local lockdown, government guidance weekly and most recently, the restrictions on how many people can gather inside and out in the UK, the question of when you should self isolate upon returning from a trip abroad has become even more important.
A list of 60 countries was announced by the government on July 10 – with popular holiday destinations like Spain, France and Greece all originally on the no-quarantine list. Countries like Sweden and Portugal were excluded, however, due to the worries around the quarantining measures and rise in cases in the countries.
But now the list has changed and as more information around the topic grows, many keen travellers are wondering, ‘when do I have to self-isolate?’. All your questions answered…
When should you self-isolate?
If you have returned to the UK from one of the countries not on the quarantine exempt list, as updated by the government, then you have to self isolate for two weeks. This is regardless of whether you travelled to the country by plane, ferry, train or car, etc.
You also have to quarantine if you stopped off and you or other passengers got off the mode of transport, mixed with other people (at a service station, etc), and then got back on again.
Most recently Slovenia, Guadeloupe, Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia and Réunion have been removed from the quarantine-free list 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 placed on it.
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”.
This means that many islands in Greece as well as France and Spain, just three of the UK’s top holiday destinations, have been taken off the quarantine-free list and travellers have to self-isolate for two weeks on their return.
But there are plenty of countries, such as Italy, where you don’t have to self isolate….
Quarantine list UK: These are the countries where you do not have to self isolate on your return
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- Cayman Islands
- The Channel Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Greece (excluding seven islands: Lesbos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and Zakynthos)
- Hong Kong
- The Isle of Man
- Macao (Macau)
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- San Marino
- South Korea
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- St Bathelemy
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
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.
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.
Which 7 Greek islands are now on the quarantine list?
After a rise in cases in Greece and instances of travellers returning from the islands to the UK testing positive for coronavirus, the British and Welsh governments have put seven of the Greek islands on the quarantine list.
This means that those travelling to specific islands, rather than the whole country, will have to go into self-isolation for two weeks upon their return.
However, Scotland has placed the whole of Greece on the quarantine list. This means that those returning to Scotland from anywhere in Greece will have to self isolate for 14 days.
The islands now no longer exempt from quarantine include:
- Zakynthos (also known as Zante)
Greece is still subjecting incoming travellers to entry restrictions as well. To go on holiday in Greece, you must complete a Passsenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before travel.
From August 17, anyone coming into Greece via any land border in the country will have to give a negative coronavirus test result. The test has to be conducted in the country you departed from and provided within 72 hours of passenger arrival into Greece.
Which Greek islands are not on the quarantine list?
If you’re still looking to go to Greece on holiday this autumn, then you’re in luck – unless you live in Scotland – there are still some islands you can go to without having to quarantine on return.
These include the popular destinations of Skiathos, Lefkada, Sifnos, Paxos, Hydra, Milos, Corfu, Amorgos, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Syros, Rhodes and Kos.
However, with the quarantine list changing every week, those looking to go to Greece in the coming months should be prepared to self-isolate on their return or if they choose to cancel, risk not getting a refund for their holiday.
Is Spain still on the quarantine list?
For those looking to go to Spain this summer, the government has advised that on return you have to quarantine for two weeks.
This follows a significant rise in cases in the regions of Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia, which includes popular destinations for tourists like Zaragoza, Pamplona and Barcelona.
If you do travel to Spain, you will also have to follow three requirements:
- Provide the Spanish Ministry of Health with contact information and any history of exposure to coronavirus in the 48 hours before travel.
- A temperature check.
- You have to undergo a visual health assessment, which could include a Covid-19 test.
Is France on the UK quarantine list?
On August 13, it was announced by the UK government that those coming back from trips to anywhere in France would have to self-isolate, which means that France is no longer on the list of countries exempt from qurantine.
The quarantine for those returning from France began on Saturday August 15 at 4am and will continue until ministers advice that it’s safe enough.
The announcement came as France’s prime minister recognised that the country’s infection numbers were going “the wrong way” and informed the UK that France would be taking “reciprocal measures”.
This could mean that those entering France from the UK will also have to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival into the country.
Will Italy be added to the quarantine list?
Holidaymakers looking to head to Italy for some sun will be pleased to hear that, for the moment, Italy is on the quarantine-free list. This means that those looking to travel to Italy will not have to quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival back into the UK.
However, the quarantine-free list is subject to change and as we have seen over the past couple of months, many popular destinations for tourists have been added to the list and visitors have been forced to quarantine.
While Italy may be quarantine-free for now, others such as Greece, Spain, France and Malta have been taken off the list.
Who needs to self isolate and how do you do it?
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.
It’s easy to do, especially if you can work from home, and there are just some simple rules 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.
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.
In Spain, anyone over the age of six is required to wear a mark in many public indoor spaces, with many region making them mandatory in outside spaces as well. This includes 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.