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U.K. to Impose a 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine on Travelers

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Travel to the United Kingdom from the United States is currently allowed with no requirement for self-isolation—but that will soon change.

Photo by S. Borisov/Shuterstock

Travel to the United Kingdom from the United States is currently allowed with no requirement for self-isolation—but that will soon change.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to reopen the country’s hospitality industry by July, but travelers from abroad will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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As part of its multi-phase approach to easing coronavirus lockdown measures, the United Kingdom hopes that some of its hospitality industry will be able to reopen by July, but with one big caveat—a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from abroad.

“To prevent reinfection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time—with transmission significantly lower—to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an address to the nation on Sunday. The government later clarified that travelers by sea and train would also be subject to the same measures.

Johnson did not set a precise date for when the quarantine measures will begin (details are forthcoming according to government officials). When they do go into effect, people entering the United Kingdom, including both international visitors and British nationals returning home, will have to provide their contact details and the address of their U.K. accommodation where they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. If international travelers can’t provide a location where they will self-isolate, the government will provide accommodation for them—and we’re guessing it won’t be a five-star hotel.

The country’s police and local authorities will fine noncompliant visitors, with fixed penalty rates starting at £100 (or approximately US$123) for the first offense. Travelers coming from France will be exempt, according to a joint statement of the French and U.K. governments. Those from Ireland will be exempt as well.

The move has been met with dismay by the country’s travel industry, with the Institute of Travel and Tourism’s Steve Freudmann saying that “a 14-day quarantine imposed on all overseas arrivals in the U.K. would have a devastating impact.”

Travel to the United Kingdom from the United States is not currently recommended by either government but it is not forbidden either—and there is currently no isolation required for international arrivals. That’s because “the scientific advice shows that when domestic transmission is high, cases from abroad represent a small amount of the overall total and make no significant difference to the epidemic,” according to a coronavirus FAQ provided by the U.K. government.

But as domestic transmission in the United Kingdom begins to recede and as countries around the world begin to lift their lockdown measures, “it is the right time to prepare new measures at the border,” the U.K. government stated.

Currently, anyone who flies to the United Kingdom from abroad is subject to enhanced screenings and is being asked to report any symptoms they develop during the flight, upon arrival, or after leaving the airport.

On Tuesday, May 12, Spain joined the UK in imposing a two-week quarantine period for arrivals between May 15 and May 24.

What is and isnt allowed in the U.K.

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While you can currently get to the United Kingdom, there hasn’t been much that potential travelers can do once they get there as the country slowly emerges from a March 23 lockdown. Most U.K. hotels have been closed until further notice. There are a handful of properties in London that are open for passengers who are in transit, with some stays at those hotels limited to between 24 and 48 hours, according to a notice from the U.S. embassy in the United Kingdom.

Since March 23, citizens of the United Kingdom have been asked to limit their movement to shopping for basic necessities, to one exercise-related outing per day, travel for any medical needs, and traveling to and from work.

But this week, that will change. Starting May 13, citizens can spend time outside and exercise outdoors as often as they want, and they can take day trips to an outdoor open space in their own car as long as they follow social-distancing recommendations.

Public pools and playgrounds are still off limits, as are any attractions, and it’s still forbidden to gather in a group of more than two people (other than members of the same household).

Opening of nonessential retail is expected to happen in phases starting on June 1. The government anticipates that no earlier than July 4, the hospitality industry will be able to reopen, including businesses such as restaurants, pubs, and accommodations as well as as cinemas, all of which is contingent on a constant and ongoing monitoring of coronavirus cases throughout the country.

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