You’re allowed to leave England if you’re self-isolating for 14 days following a trip abroad

19 August 2020

A number of readers have asked us about the rules around quarantine when you return from a foreign country. At the moment you have to quarantine yourself on arrival in England for 14 days if you return from any country outside the UK and Ireland not on the exempt list. We’ve written about the rules around this before and if you want to know more specifically about how to quarantine, where to find help and what to do if you develop symptoms then start here.

Lately our readers have been asking us one very specific question. If you return to England from a country and have to self-quarantine for 14 days after, can you travel again to a second country during that quarantine period?

You can.

We first wrote this article in August 2020, and as of 7 October the rules on this have not changed. In August, we spoke to the Department for Health and Social Care and it told us that it was possible to travel to another country during your 14 days of self-isolation, provided that you travel there “directly”.  

The legislation says the same thing. It says that if someone returns from a non-exempt country they must quarantine after visiting until “the end of the 14th day after the day on which they last departed from or transited through a non-exempt country or territory”, until the end of a further period of self-isolation if they have been in contact with someone with Covid-19 or have tested positive for it, or until “their departure from England”, whichever is earlier. 

It also says that during that period, the legislation lists a number of reasons a person who is self-isolating following travel may leave where they are self-isolating, for example, to seek medical assistance or to escape harm. But the legislation also specifies that they can leave their place of isolation “to travel in order to leave England, provided that they do so directly”.

The Department for Health and Social Care also told us that the rules on how long you had to quarantine for when you returned vary depending on your second destination. This is based on whether the country is on the list of places exempt from quarantine restrictions.

It told us: “If while self-isolating you were to go to another country that is exempt then when you return to England you do not need to re-start your self-isolation and only need to self-isolate for the period remaining since you were last in a non-exempt country.”

“If you go to another country during your period of self-isolation that is not exempt, however, then when you return to England you will have to self-isolate for 14 days, i.e. re-start your period of self-isolation, in accordance with the regulations.”

So, for example, if you’ve been to Spain (a country that, at the time of writing, is not on the exempt countries list) you have to quarantine for 14 days upon your return to England. But you could still travel to another country during those 14 days, as long as you went there directly. 

If you went to (say) Germany for two days after spending five days in quarantine, you would only need to spend another seven days in quarantine on your return from Germany because at the moment Germany is on the exempt list. However, if you went to the Netherlands for the same time, you would need to start a new 14 days of quarantine on your return, as the Netherlands is not currently exempt. (These examples are correct at the time of writing on 7 October, but may well change in the future as countries are added to and removed from the exempt list.)

And it doesn’t matter if you take a test at some point in that 14 days and it comes out negative. You must continue to self-isolate for the full 14 days.

Update 8 October 2020

We updated this piece to include reference to legislation saying that you can leave the country during self-isolation following a trip abroad.

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