Government issues contradictory advice on travel quarantine

10 July 2020
What was claimed

You no longer have to quarantine if you have returned to England from an exempt country before July 10.

Our verdict

This has been claimed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as a government minister. However, advice from the Department for Transport on the government’s official website says you must follow the rules that were in place when you arrived in England.

“If your mother arrived in the UK from one of the exempt countries, then she can stop quarantining on the 10th July.”

Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice on Twitter, 10 July 2020

“Self-isolation is subject to current legal requirement for anyone who is returning to England before 10 July. We would not seek to enforce self-quarantine after 10 July.”

Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice on Twitter, 9 July 2020

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised people on Twitter that they can stop quarantining after travelling to England from certain foreign countries from 10 July. In one tweet, the FCO incorrectly suggested these rules apply to the whole UK. It has also been reported that transport minister Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast on 3 July that, from 10 July onward, “you will be legal not to quarantine yourself.” 

However, guidance published on the government’s official website by the Department for Transport (DfT) says that you must follow the rules that were in place on the date that you arrived in England. A spokesperson for the DfT confirmed that this is the correct guidance to follow. Since this story was published, the FCO has confirmed it has deleted one of the tweets and added corrections linking to the DfT guidance.

This means you cannot end your quarantine period early if you arrived in England before 10 July. In England, if you do not self-isolate after travelling when you are supposed to, you can be fined £1,000. On Twitter, the FCO said it would not enforce this after 10 July, but guidance on makes no mention of this.

Government guidance says you must self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in the UK from a country outside of the common travel area (which includes the UK, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man).

On 10 July, new travel corridor exemptions came into force for people arriving in England. This means that, if you are arriving in England from certain countries or territories, you will not have to quarantine. This applies to all travel, including air, train, ferry and coach (the FCO still advises against cruise ship travel). If you have visited or made a transit stop in a country that is not on the travel corridor list in the 14 days before your arrival in England, you will still need to self-isolate and check the guidance for how long you should isolate for.

When responding to queries about the rules on Twitter, the FCO travel advice account told members of the public that people who have travelled from the exempt countries before 10 July can automatically stop quarantining on that date. In one tweet it incorrectly said someone returning to the UK does not have to quarantine from 10 July, but the travel corridor exemptions only apply to England. People arriving in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should check the guidelines for that nation as they differ slightly.

Guidance from the DfT clearly states: “If you arrived back in England before 10 July 2020, you should follow the self-isolation rules that applied at the time you arrived.”

You should not travel if you have symptoms of Covid-19. If you develop symptoms when you return to England, you and your household should self-isolate.

Guidance for people travelling overseas can be found here.

Update 14 July 2020

This story was updated to include a response from the FCO.

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