Can I travel abroad during lockdown? New rules explained
Written by on 8 January 2021
People arriving in the UK will now need to test negative for coronavirus before being allowed into the country in a bid to bring spiralling cases under control.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that passengers arriving by plane, ferry and train will need to provide a negative test result from the previous 72 hours if they are to be let in.
This brings the country in line with many others around the world.
Under new lockdown measures, people living in the UK are largely banned from travelling abroad.
Here Sky News breaks down the new rules.
Can people enter the UK?
The UK has not completely shut its borders, so people can still travel here from other countries.
But they will now only be allowed to enter if they have an antigen test result – for example PCR or lateral flow – that shows they do not have coronavirus. The change will come into force from the middle of next week.
The test result has to be from the last 72 hours.
It is up to the passenger to arrange the test before they travel, as they will be denied entry without proof they don’t have the virus.
These restrictions apply to anyone travelling to the UK by plane, ferry or train – apart from returning UK nationals and permanent residents – who are exempt, but may need to isolate for 10 days, depending on the country.
Hauliers will also be exempt, the government has said.
New COVID-19 testing for UK arrivals
Can I travel abroad?
This means people are strongly advised to stay at home and are not allowed to travel abroad unless they have a “legally permitted reason”.
For the most part, you will not be allowed to travel unless you have to for work purposes, but there are some exceptions.
If you are travelling abroad you may have to self-isolate on arrival, depending on the country.
Some countries have removed the requirement to self-isolate for those travelling for work purposes.
However, a number of countries have banned travel to and from the UK altogether as they try to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus variant.
UK-based airlines have suspended flights to these destinations and you should check which ones they are before travelling.
The UK government has banned all direct flights to South Africa over concerns of a second variant of the virus.
People returning to the UK from South Africa will have to isolate for 10 days alongside members of their household, ministers announced in December.
Shapps: Arrivals will need to take COVID test
Can I go on holiday?
No, under lockdown rules you should not travel internationally or stay overnight away from home within the UK unless you have a “legally permitted reason”.
“This means you must not go on holiday,” according to government rules.
What were the rules before?
Until the latest announcement, the UK was operating a travel corridor policy.
This meant that people arriving from certain countries deemed “safe” would not have to self-isolate for 10 days on their return.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced changes to the list for England every Thursday, which would come into effect the following Saturday.
If you travelled somewhere that wasn’t on the list, you had to quarantine for 10 days.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had separate travel corridor lists.
A “test and release” scheme was introduced in December to allow people to pay for a private test five days after their arrival in a bid to reduce their isolation period.
Foreign countries had their own travel restrictions, which may have meant an isolation period on arrival as well.
During the first lockdown in spring last year, the government argued against introducing border restrictions while the prevalence of coronavirus was so high in the UK, with experts arguing it would do little to bring down infection rates.
But a quarantine period was introduced in June after the first peak and when cases were more under control.
There have long been calls to impose a mandatory negative test result for UK arrivals – from backbench members of the Conservative party and Labour.
The new changes brings the UK into line with many countries around the world, which have had the requirement in place since the start of the pandemic.