Since the UK reopened its borders over the summer, travellers arriving from most other countries (including returning UK residents) have had to self-isolate for 14 days. The only exceptions have been for those coming one of around 70 countries with ‘travel corridor’ arrangements (this now excludes most major European destinations) or from the Common Travel Area (Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).
On Monday, the mandatory quarantine period was reduced to ten days. And as of Tuesday, those arriving in England are able to cut the amount of time they have to quarantine by even more – as long as they pay for a private Covid-19 test five days after they arrive. These will typically cost between £65 and £120 and produce results within 24 to 48 hours, meaning returning travellers who test negative could be free to leave quarantine six days after arrival.
It should also be noted that as of December 5, ‘high-value’ business travellers are exempt from quarantine altogether. Certain performing arts professionals, TV production staff, journalists and recently signed elite sportspeople will also no longer have to self-isolate.
Currently, most travellers returning from any countries not on the ‘corridor’ list must provide an address where they will self-isolate for ten days (or risk a fine of up to £1,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or £480 in Scotland). Persistent offenders could be fined up to £10,000. During those two weeks, they cannot go to work, school or any public place, nor have visitors (except for essential support). Those rules will all stay in place under the new, shorter quarantine.
Now we’re very much counting down to Christmas and New Year, we’re sure a little less of all that will make a big difference to a lot of people’s lives – and that hefty fee could well prove a price worth paying for a few days’ extra freedom.
Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.