Everything You Need To Know About The 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine Rule

Travellers will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival to the UK – so is going abroad this year cancelled?

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As part of the government’s easing of lockdown measures, a mandatory 14-day quarantine period is to be introduced for almost all travellers arriving to the UK starting from June 8, to avoid a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK government has confirmed that most arrivals by air, ferry and train will be required to self-isolate for a fortnight, leaving many holidaymakers with questions about what this means for their summer breaks – and beyond.

Health minister Matt Hancock said prolonged social-distancing measures mean the holiday season, as we know it, won’t look the same this year. “It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer,” he said on ITV’s This Morning.

This means staycations and local getaways closer to home could be the future.

But with the travel industry desperate to get back to business and airlines such as Ryanair announcing an increased schedule of flights from July and European officials restarting international travel, you might be considering booking that holiday you’ve missed out on already – or simply hankering after a break.

So, how will quarantine work and should you even be flying at all? As with other areas covered by the new 51-page government guidance, people have been left with more questions than answers – many have already lost holiday bookings and are keen to know when, safely, they can travel again and what it will involve.

Here’s what we know so far about how the new measures may impact travel.

What are the new travel quarantine rules?

The Covid-19 Recovery Strategy document states all international arrivals will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. As well as self-isolation upon arrival, travellers will need to supply their contact and accommodation information via a digital form, and are strongly advised to download the NHS contact-tracing app.

If you cannot demonstrate where you will self-isolate, you could be placed into government quarantine accommodation.

In England, there will be random spot checks. If you don’t comply or flout the rules, you could face fines of up to £1,000 and potential prosecution. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will have their own penalty enforcements.

Summer, sun, waves, and cozy beach chairs under umbrella
Nataniil via Getty Images
Summer, sun, waves, and cozy beach chairs under umbrella

A spokesperson for ABTA, the travel trade association, said the measures should be “proportionate, targeted and limited only to what is necessary to protect public health and as circumstances change, measures need to be adjusted.”

Who do the quarantine measures apply to?

Passengers on flights arriving from Spain and every other country in the world, with the exception of Ireland, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and France will be subject to quarantine. This also includes UK holidaymakers returning from other destinations, as well as visitors and tourists. The measures also apply to those arriving by other modes of transport such as ferry, train and bus.

There’s an exemptions list for certain professions, including lorry drivers, police officers, pilots, and healthcare professionals travelling to the UK to provide essential healthcare.

Are there alternatives to quarantine?

There have been calls from the travel industry and politicians for “air bridges” to be introduced by the end of this month. This could allow people in the UK to travel to countries with low Covid-19 infection rates without the need to quarantine when they return. However, this proposal overlooks the reciprocal agreement of the destination country, which is a flaw in the plan.

The proposal, put forward by senior Tory MP Huw Merriman, is currently being discussed by ministers and officials, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

sommersby via Getty Images

What are the rules while under quarantine?

The same rules apply to the people who are self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms. However, individuals quarantining will be permitted to shop and stock up for food essentials and medicines. They’ll be able to take public transport to their designated accommodation.

The quarantine plan is an ongoing process and will be reviewed every three weeks, with the first review due at the end of June.

What about face masks, gloves and temperature checks when travelling?

Although not mandatory, people are advised to wear face masks or face coverings on public transport and in enclosed spaces where they come into contact with strangers and where social distancing is not always possible.

Airports and airlines operating in the UK say they will follow whatever guidance the government gives.

Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports have told travellers and airport staff to cover their faces and wear gloves. Temperature screening trials are already rolling out at Stansted while the UK’s busiest airport, Heathrow, is already trialling large-scale temperature checks.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, says there hasn’t been enough direction. “Messaging needs to be consistent because if travellers are going to feel secure that they want those rules to be designed by health experts, not by airport airlines,” he said.

Should people even be flying?

The government guidance recommends only essential travel and travelling when absolutely necessary. Passengers displaying any symptoms of coronavirus should not travel.

Almost all of the largest UK airlines are still flying, but their schedules have been reduced down to a handful of flights. Some routes are still open for UK residents stranded abroad and essential key workers who may need them.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the time to be booking foreign holidays and I know we were all really keen to get back to travelling,” says Boland. “There’s a high chance of those holidays being cancelled, or worse you could face disruptions and be out of pocket is significantly high. We need to wait until the picture is clear before we start booking holidays again.”

Can you book extra holiday or work the quarantine period from home?

Worried you’ll need to book an extra fortnight’s leave to cover the quarantine period? Given the majority of Brits are still house-bound, it’s a bit up in the air when we’ll be taking time off to travel again.

But talk to your employer about your company’s rules around annual leave and your rights to work any period quarantine from home. All employees, including key workers, will be entitled to carry annual leave over to 2021.

What about cancellations, refunds and rescheduling?

Airlines including British Airways, Easyjet or Ryanair are grounding their fleets, which means travellers can get their airfare back, offered vouchers or rebook online for a later date – though claiming processes can be fiddly and time-consuming.

Mike Cooper, chief executive officer for Eurostar, confirmed to HuffPost UK in a statement: “We’ve also reduced our timetable over the coming weeks due to lower demand and will be in touch with anybody who is affected.”

You won’t be entitled to a refund for any flight that does go ahead and when airlines, train and bus operators do increase their schedules and capacity again, be aware that many flights may still be cancelled or rescheduled, given the changing circumstances around the Covid-19 situation.

Thinking of a staycation instead? “Despite government guidance against UK holidays, we’ve found some of the biggest holiday cottage rental sites using unfair and unclear terms and conditions to refuse customers refunds for cancelled trips,” Rory Boland warns.

“The CMA has already announced an investigation into this sector and it must be ready to take firm action against any company acting unfairly, so holidaymakers are not left out of pocket for cancelled holidays.”

What about travel insurance?

In light of the new guidance and ongoing crisis, the major insurers don’t include coronavirus cover in their policies, meaning holidaymakers with cancelled trips will struggle to claim losses on their insurance or will only be offered vouchers or credits from airlines and tour operators.

“There isn’t a single policy available that doesn’t have a coronavirus-related exclusion and certainly from the large providers,” says Boland. “Even though you might have an existing policy, when it comes up for renewal, it’s likely to end up with those exclusions.”