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COVID-19: Health Considerations for Travel

Introduction

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has severely disrupted international travel. Many countries are restricting entry for UK travellers.

Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales each have specific guidance on coronavirus restrictions, rules on international travel, testing, entry and quarantine requirements for when you return to the UK.

  • You should always follow the guidance for the country you live in, or will be arriving in.

Official guidance can change at short notice to reflect required changes in pandemic response and this may impact planned travel. Countries can lift or implement travel bans or quarantine measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

  • You must comply with local public health authority guidelines in the country that you are visiting.

Risk for Travellers

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection which is spread by droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Your risk of being exposed to COVID-19 during travel relates to:

  • the number of confirmed cases in the country you are travelling to (your destination)
  • your means of travel, for example by car, boat or aircraft
  • the activities you undertake at your destination

The number of positive cases in a country will vary over time, as will the public health measures that each country implements to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures may include:

Before Travel

You should carefully review and follow all of the guidance below if you are planning to travel internationally. Be aware that guidance is updated regularly and can change between booking or planning your trip, and your departure.

1. Read the FCDO foreign travel guidance

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issue travel guidance and details of any restrictions, including if you are advised to avoid travelling to a country.

  • FCDO foreign travel advice: provides the latest information on COVID-19, safety and security, travel warnings and entry requirements including if you need a negative COVID-19 test, proof of vaccination status or to quarantine on arrival at your destination.
    • Even if the FCDO permits travel, this does not guarantee your destination country will let you in.
    • You must check the entry requirements section of each FCDO country page.
  • FCDO travel abroad and coronavirus: guidance for British people travelling abroad during the pandemic, if able to travel under current UK COVID-19 restrictions.

2. Review the traffic light system guidelines on returning to the UK

The UK Government’s Global Travel Taskforce have implemented a traffic light system which sets out different testing and self-isolation (quarantine) requirements for anyone entering the UK from abroad.

  • Every country has been rated as being red (high risk), amber (moderate risk) or green (lowest risk).
    • Different rules might apply depending on if you are returning to Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or Wales. You should always check and follow the rules for the country which you live in.
  • You will have to comply with the rules relating to the countries you have visited in the 10 days before returning to the UK.
  • You must follow these rules, even if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Be prepared to make some arrangements before you travel, so that you are able to comply with the traffic light system rules on your return, such as:

  • completing a passenger locator form
  • arranging for COVID-19 testing at your destination in the three days prior to your return to the UK
  • booking and paying for hotel quarantine (if returning from a ‘red’ country)
  • making arrangements to quarantine at home or in the place you will be staying (if returning from an ‘amber’ country)
  • booking and paying for COVID-19 testing following your return to the UK, as indicated by the traffic light system rules in the country you live in

3. Check your Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19) at your destination

The risk of exposure to COVID-19 in every country is listed on the fitfortravel destination pages under the ‘alerts’ section.

4. Check if you need a negative COVID-19 test or to prove your COVID-19 vaccination status to travel abroad

Many countries now require you to have a negative COVID-19 test, or prove that you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter their country.

Please be aware that COVID-19 testing for the purposes of international travel is not available on the NHS. You will need to find a private healthcare provider who meets the UK government’s minimum standards for commercial COVID-19 testing.

If you are living in:

5: Consider other health issues

To reduce your risk of requiring medical care abroad, ensure that you:

  • are up to date with any recommended travel vaccinations
  • have antimalarial tablets if required
  • are in good health before you travel

You can review the relevant fitfortravel country page for up to date travel health recommendations, advice on health risks to be aware of at your destination, and to check if you may need to consider vaccinations or antimalarial tablets before you travel.

You should not travel if you are feeling unwell. Even if your symptoms are not related to COVID-19, you will increase your risk of being denied boarding or being quarantined if your illness is detected at entry or exit screening at airports, during your flight, or when crossing borders.

6: Make sure your travel insurance will cover your trip

Travel insurance is essential. You should always check your policy for exclusions as some may not cover claims related to COVID-19.

  • If the FCDO advise against travel to a country and you continue with your trip, your travel insurance may become invalid.
  • Contact your travel insurance provider if you have specific questions around what your policy covers.

During Travel

Check with your travel agent or travel company ahead of planned travel what physical distancing and precautionary hygiene measures have been implemented, and consider how these will affect you.

  • Expect delays and allow extra time for travel.
  • Be prepared to queue or take different routes in and around stations and airports to comply with physical distancing measures.
  • Check the GOV.UK Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer air travel guidance on safety precautions to take if you’re flying.

Make sure you plan ahead for your trip and consider packing plenty of snacks, particularly if you are travelling with children, or have any medical conditions such as diabetes.

  • Shops and restaurants in airports and transport hubs may not be operating as normal, or may have restrictions in place.
  • Food and drinks may not be available to purchase on board aircraft or other public transport during your trip.

Reducing your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19)

There is an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 when travelling in enclosed shared spaces, such as on trains, buses and aircraft, due to the close proximity of people.

Follow these simple measures to help reduce your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) during your trip.

Physical distancing
Try to maintain physical distancing (1-2 meters) from others as much as possible.

  • Avoid crowded public areas and enclosed spaces, including elevators, cafes, bars, night clubs as much as practically possible, and comply with local guidance on physical distancing.
  • Avoid the use of indoor gyms, swimming pools or exercise areas if physical distancing and hygiene measures are not in place.
  • Only visit cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars if physical distancing is maintained. Consider using room service, or purchase take-away meals to eat in your room or other non-crowded areas.
  • Walk or cycle where possible. Try to limit your use of shared or public transport, and wear a face covering if you have to do so.

Hygiene Measures
Pay strict attention to your personal hygiene:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, particularly before eating and drinking, after being in public areas, using public transport and using the toilet.
  • Carry an alcohol based hand sanitiser, containing at least 60% alcohol, for use when soap and water is not immediately available. Remember this should be 100mls or less to comply with airport liquid/gel restrictions.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately in a waste bin.
  • Wear a face covering when physical distancing isn't possible in public areas or enclosed spaces.
  • Purchase travel tickets online and use e-tickets and contactless payment where possible.
  • Sanitise your tray table and arm rests on public transport with disinfectant wipes, remember to sanitise your hands afterwards.

Try to avoid:

  • touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • sharing food, drinks and personal items such as mobile phones
  • touching common surfaces such as handrails and doorknobs as much as possible

You must isolate yourself immediately if you become unwell during your trip with symptoms such as:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change in taste or smell

If your symptoms become severe, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Follow the guidance of local public health authorities at all times to avoid spreading the virus.

Take a COVID-19 test at your destination prior to returning to the UK

All travellers arriving into the UK (including UK nationals) are required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken in the 3 days before starting your journey to the UK. These measures have been introduced to help protect against new strains of coronavirus circulating internationally.

You will need to find a test provider in the country you are departing, that meets the required pre-departure test standards for Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Failure to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test may result in denial of boarding, or you could be fined upon your arrival in the UK.

After Travel

You will need to follow the latest guidance on testing and quarantine measures upon your return to the UK which is determined by the traffic light system and the countries you have been in the 10 days before returning to the UK.

You must follow the UK Border Force rules for entering the UK.

Travelling from the airport

If you are required to quarantine at a managed quarantine hotel, you will be transported to your quarantine hotel from the airport as part of the quarantine package which you booked.

  • Consider if you may need to extend your airport parking and pay any additional charges.

If you are required to quarantine at home, you should proceed straight to your home or accommodation from the airport.

  • Only use public transport if you have no other option; and keep your distance from other passengers, wear a face covering and sanitise your hands regularly.
  • If you are unwell you should avoid public transport whenever possible.

Test to Release 
The Test to Release for International Travel scheme to reduce your self-isolation period on return to the UK is only available for travellers returning to England.

UK COVID-19 restrictions
Once back in the UK, you should follow the latest local COVID-19 restrictions for Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

If you develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19 you should self-isolate immediately and follow the latest guidance for Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

You may need to discuss with your employer before you return to work after travelling abroad.

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