What are the quarantine rules if you return to the UK from abroad?

4th Aug 2020

If you travel to the UK from a country outside of Ireland and the UK’s Crown Dependencies, you will have to self-isolate for 14 days, unless the country you are coming from is exempt. Our readers have asked us to explain the rules. 

If you have coronavirus symptoms, you should not travel.

When do you need to self-isolate?

The government has published a list of countries and territories which are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate on arrival from them. (Separate, but similar, lists exist for people travelling to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). If you have visited a country that is not on this list, you must self-isolate. This applies to all travel, including by train, ferry, coach or air.

In certain cases, you need to self-isolate even if you only stopped off or transited in a country that is not on the exempt list. If new passengers got on during this transit stop, or you or other passengers got off, mixed with other people, then got on again, in the 14 days before you arrived in the UK, you must self-isolate. 

If, for example, you are planning to spend four days in a country that is on the exempt list, but on the way there, changed flights in a country that isn’t on the list, you would need to self-isolate for 10 days upon return to the UK.  

It is important to note that government decisions about which countries are and are not exempt can change at any time and at very short notice—as has recently happened with Spain. This means you may have to self-isolate after a trip even if the country you have visited was exempt when you arrived. If you return to the UK from a country that is not exempt, and then the country is subsequently added to the exempt list, you will still have to complete 14 days self-isolation. 

You do not need to quarantine if you are travelling within the common travel area (UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Ireland). 

People in some professions including lorry drivers and specialist engineers are exempt from having to self-isolate after travelling to the UK from a non-exempt country. Full details of who is exempt from self-isolation can be found online and there are some differences across the UK.

How do you self-isolate?

Before you travel to the UK from anywhere outside the common travel area, you must provide your journey information, contact details and the location you’ll be staying at for your first 14 days in the UK. 

If you have to self-isolate when you arrive in the UK, you should travel directly to the location where you will be self-isolating, and only use public transport if you have no other option. If you do use public transport, you must wear a face covering and stay two metres away from others. If necessary, for example if you have a long journey, you can stay overnight somewhere before reaching your quarantine accommodation, but you must declare this. 

You should stay in your accommodation for the full 14 days. You can self-isolate in your home, with friends or family or at a hotel or other temporary accommodation, but you should not have any visitors unless they are providing essential care. The people you are staying with do not need to self-isolate unless they travelled with you or develop symptoms. If you are staying at a hotel, you should not use shared facilities like bars, restaurants or sports facilities.

During this period, you cannot leave to go to work, school or public places. The guidance says you should not go shopping, but should order deliveries or ask friends or relatives to help pick up groceries or medication. 

You can only leave in limited circumstances, including seeking urgent medical assistance, accessing food and medicine if they cannot be delivered, attending a funeral or fulfilling a legal obligation. You can only change the place where you are self-isolating if absolutely necessary, such as if you are a child and need to move between your parents’ homes as part of a shared custody arrangement or if there is an emergency.

In England, you should only exercise within your home or garden and the guidance specifies that you cannot leave your home to walk your dog.

In England, you can arrange volunteer support by calling the NHS Volunteer Responders on 0808 196 3646 and in Scotland, you can contact the national helpline on 0800 111 4000. People in Wales can apply for help online.

In England and Wales, if you do not self-isolate you can be fined £1,000. If you provide inaccurate contact information, or do not update your contact details if you need to move to a new location while you self-isolate, you can be fined up to £3,200 in England and £1,920 in Wales. 

In Scotland, you can be fined £480 if you do not self-isolate, while in Northern Ireland you can be fined £60 if you refuse to provide passenger information and £1,000 if you leave where you’re self-isolating without reasonable excuse.

What do you do if you develop coronavirus symptoms? 

The main symptoms of Covid-19 are a high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. If you have symptoms, you should not travel. If you develop symptoms while travelling, tell a member of staff or crew. 

If you are self-isolating following travel, you can stop after 14 days, as long as you don’t develop symptoms in that time.  If you do develop symptoms,  you should self-isolate for at least ten days from the day you got symptoms, until you no longer have a high temperature.If you still have other symptoms after ten days, you don’t need to continue to self-isolate, as these could continue for a while after you stop being infectious.Others in your household will also need to self-isolate.You can register for a test on the NHS website.

Even if you have Covid-19 symptoms and recover from them during your quarantine, or even if you are tested and receive a negative result, you will need to remain in self-isolation for the full 14 days after arriving in the UK.