Amid the ongoing global COVID-19 crisis, the United Kingdom continues to struggle to contain the pandemic. Like other countries throughout the world, the UK has taken a number of measure to reduce the spread of the virus domestically and throughout the rest of Europe. These include lockdowns, and travel bans, and other restrictive measures. Anyone thinking of visiting the UK should be aware of the current state of the pandemic in the country. This blog presents an overview of the current COVID-19 situation in the United Kingdom, including all relevant information for would-be travelers looking to enter the country.
Summary: Currently, only those who show evidence of having tested negative for COVID-19 are allowed to enter the UK, and travelers from certain countries remain banned from arriving in the country. While it is possible for non-UK citizens to enter the country right now, the majority of travelers should avoid traveling to Great Britain unless they have an essential and/or unavoidable reason for doing so. This recommendation is based on the high number of cases in the country and the national lockdown currently in place, which includes limitations on travel within the state, bans on large gatherings, and the closure of all but non-essential stores and service provers.
Current state of COVID-19 in the UK
At the moment, the UK is dealing with a large number of COVID-19 cases, which threatens to overwhelm the country’s National Healthcare System (NHS).
By most estimates, the UK has the most COVID-19 cases in Europe, and one of the highest infection rates in the entire world.
In addition to the large caseload, the country is also currently dealing with a particularly virulent strain of the virus known as UK-variant (so-named due to the fact that it is believed to have originated in the country).
In order to limit the spread of the virus domestically, the government has imposed a national lockdown. UK residents are encouraged to remain at home and follow all the rules related to internal travel and assembly. Domestic travel is permitted for essential purposes, including work and school, but many business are closed, and citizens are working and studying from home whenever possible.
All non-essential business in the UK remain closed amid the ongoing lockdown. Indoor dining facilities have been ordered to close, with restaurants limited to selling food for takeaway. Salons and beauty parlors are closed, as are all sports facilities, including gyms and outdoor fields, and other entertainment facilities, including movie theaters and other indoor and outdoor venues hosting large crowds for recreational purposes.
Large gatherings are currently restricted throughout the country. People who are caught disobeying the COVID-19 related rules on large gatherings may be subject to fines upwards of 10,000.
Shops and businesses allowed to remain open include supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, doctor’s offices and health clinics, funeral homes, laundromats, veterinarian facilities, gas stations, and churches/synagogues/mosques.
Travel to the UK
Like other European Union (EU) and Schengen countries, the UK has imposed travel bans aimed at limiting (or even restricting) the entry of travelers from certain countries or regions.
At the moment, the UK has imposed an entry ban on travelers who have passed through a number of countries in Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe within 10 days of their seeking entry to the UK.
Please note that the below list of countries is subject to change. If you seek to travel to the UK, please make sure that your state has not been added to the list of banned countries, which currently include the following:
Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Preconditions of UK entry
Those granted entry to the UK from outside the country are subject to certain preconditions and post entry restrictions, including mandatory testing and quarantines.
At the moment, travelers seeking to enter the UK must show evidence of having obtained a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. All travelers—including people with proof of having already obtained a COVID-vaccination and UK nationals—are subject to this requirement.
In order to enter the UK, you must be tested three days prior to departing for the UK.
If you tested negative for COVID but fail to supply evidence of that test (both electronic proof and printed out test results are accepted) you will likely be prevented from getting on your flight. If you are allowed to board without showing your test results, you will likely be fined up to £500 upon arrival.
If you test positive for coronavirus, you will not be allowed to travel to the UK.
UK Post-Entry requirements
In the event that you successfully and legally gain entry to the UK, you will be subject to a number of post-entry requirements and regulations meant to limit the internal spread of the virus.
All travelers to the UK, regardless of whether or not they have presented evidence of a negative COVID-19 test and/or proof of vaccination, must submit to a mandatory quarantine period post-entry.
Your mandatory self-isolation stage will last for a minimum of 10 days, although this period of time can be cut in half for those who take a new covid-19 test after 5 days and successfully test negative.
This scheme, known as “Test and Release,” is not covered by the UK government, meaning those who pursue it must pay for it out of pocket. Please note this option is limited to travelers arriving from certain countries (i.e. those not on the banned list.
Anyone who does not take advantage of the “Test and Release” program must spend the full 10 days quarantining (self-isolating).
Arriving international travelers must fill out a passenger locator form, which states where they will quarantine post-arrival. After landing in the UK, travelers are required to proceed directly to the place where they intend to quarantine. Failure to proceed and remain at the address specified on your pre-arrival form could result in serious consequences, including large fines.
In general, failure to follow the post-entry self-isolation rules could result in you being subject to fine of up to £10,000. After emerging from your quarantine, you must continue to follow all the general UK lockdown rules in order to avoid being fined.
Where the UK is banned
A number of other countries internationally (including in Europe) have severally restricted or even banned the entry of travelers from the UK, due to the intensity of the outbreak there.
This is something to keep in mind—if you are considering entering the country in the immediate future, you may have difficulty easily accessing other countries afterward in the event that they have restrictions on the entry of travelers arriving from the UK.
Destinations where the entry of most travelers from the UK are banned include the United States, France, and Italy.