Mandatory Covid-19 Tests And The Only ‘Safe’ Overseas Destination

One week is a long time in the travel industry during a pandemic and this week has seen many countries ban U.K. travelers from arriving, the U.K. has banned several other countries from doing the same and it will introduce mandatory testing for all arrivals from Friday 15 January.

From Friday 15 January, all arrivals into U.K. must have negative test results

Anyone arriving into the U.K., including U.K. residents, must now take a Covid-test 72 hours before departure–hauliers, under-11s and those from countries whose infrastructure doesn’t support testing, are exempt. Only those people with a negative test result will be allowed entry into the U.K.

Everyone must also complete a passenger locator form.

Arrivals from some countries are currently banned

As of 9 January, people who have been in South Africa in the past 10 days are currently banned from entry due to the rising Covid-19 infection rates of the new South African variant. This also applies to arrivals from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The policy will be reviewed in 2 weeks.

UAE cut from the safe list on 12 January after rising rates

Since June 2020, the U.K. has been determining which arrivals from which countries need to quarantine for 14 days under a travel corridor list, removing or adding countries every Friday in accordance with Covid-19 infection rates in those countries–the holiday industry has been operating on a stop-start basis, selling different countries from one week to the next, and many holidaymakers have been left stranded.

In December, quarantine was reduced from 14 to 10 days and incoming travelers to the U.K. can now ‘test out’ of self-isolation after day 5, if they pay for a private test (so as to not deluge the National Health Service).

Tuesday, 12 January, the UAE was taken off the safe list of countries, so anyone arriving after 04.00 Tuesday 12 January will need to quarantine for 10 days, although this number can be reduced by ‘testing out’ of quarantine with a negative test after day 5.

Scotland removed the UAE city of Dubai off its safe travel list a few hours before–the BBC reported a 52% increase in the number of Covid-19 cases over the past seven days. Whilst travel is currently limited from the U.K., except for work or exceptional reasons, many people might have left the country before the government imposed its current lockdown on 5 January–they will now need to go into self-isolation on their return.

The Department for Transport said that these quarantine rules for traveling back from the UAE were now in place for all 4 U.K. nations. Many U.K. celebrities and influencers have been criticised for leaving the country over the festive period.

The Telegraph reported on how some people have bemoaned the fact that the U.K. has cut off the UAE, arguing that it should be the other way around; U.K. holidaymakers might have transported Covid-19 with them on holiday and now Dubai is paying the price.

The 1 overseas place where U.K. residents can travel freely

There are over 60 countries currently on the U.K. government’s safe list for travel, meaning that it isn’t necessary to quarantine upon return. However, some of these countries have completely closed their borders to everyone and others are not currently allowing U.K. visitors due to the new variant of Covid-19 which appears to be more easily transmissible from person to person.

This means that there are actually very few countries which currently allow unimpeded access to U.K. residents on arrival and upon return. Time Out currently places that number at seven (Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Dominica, The Maldives, Rwanda, St. Lucia, and Turks and Caicos) although all of these require testing of some description.

The Telegraph states that the only place, where there are no actual rules around U.K. arrivals on either end, is Gibraltar, a British Territory Overseas. There are 19 others with feasible conditions, e.g. travelers can go to Iceland if they’ve already had Covid-19, and the other 18 such as Cuba involve a test on departure or upon arrival.

Regardless, since leisure travel is currently not allowed from the U.K. during the current lockdown, the idea of where a traveler might go on holiday is actually a moot point.