With the global coronavirus pandemic continuing to disrupt international travel, certain states have imposed bans on the entry of people arriving from particularly-hard hit countries in order to limit the spread of the virus. At the moment, India’s COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the worst in the entire world. With the country’s health system overwhelmed and thousands of deaths daily, the United States recently took the unprecedented step of banning the entry of most Indian travelers into the U.S. If you are someone who frequently travels between the United Kingdom and India, you may be wondering, “will the UK tighten travel restrictions due to India’s COVID-19 variant?” Today’s blog will therefore provide COVID-19 travel advice for those looking to travel to the UK from India, including the current travel quarantine rules in the UK, and travel restrictions for arrivals from India. “Is India on the UK travel red list?” “What is India COVID variant?” Find the answers to these questions, and more, below: 

India’s COVID-19 crisis

  • At the moment, India is experiencing what has been described as the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands have died, and thousands more are infected daily. With so many patients, the country’s medical system is stretched beyond critical capacity, meaning that many who need care are unable to receive it. 
  • By now you are probably wondering “what is India COVID variant?” and why is it so deadly? Technically described as the “B.1.617,” the Indian variant is a deadly strain that emerged in the fall of 2020. Since then, it has been slowly but steadily gaining ground across the country, and even abroad (cases of the Indian variant have also been identified in over twenty states around the world). 

Will UK tighten travel restrictions due to India’s COVID-19 variant?

  • Because the travel restrictions affecting travelers from India are currently so strict (India is already on the UK red list of countries) it is unlikely that the UK will further tighten or impose additional restrictions. 
  • While England, Scotland, Wales, and/or North Ireland have country-specific entry-requirements for travelers, in general, all travel to the UK from India is severely restricted. 
  • Britain put India on the UK travel red list on April 23rd, and it has remained on what is essentially a ‘banned states list’ since then. Because India is a “red list” country, only travelers who are UK/Irish citizens and/or residents are granted entry permissions. This means that if you are not a UK citizen or resident, you will be denied entry to the country if you are arriving from India. Additionally, entry is also not allowed for those who have previously transited through India (including those on connecting flights) or those who were in the country 10 days before seeking entry to the UK (with the exception of UK/Irish citizens/residents). 
  • Therefore, if you are non-UK/Irish citizen who does not have any residency status in the country, and you are either arriving from India or have spent any time at all in the country within the past 10 days before you seek to fly into the UK, you will be denied access to England and the rest of the Kingdom. 
  • In addition to quarantining, travelers from India (and elsewhere) should fill out a passenger-locator form, at least 48 hours prior to entering the UK. 
  • As of May 17th, anyone entering the UK from India (or from any other red-list country) is required to schedule two separate coronavirus tests in advance of his or her arrival in the country.  
  • While it is still possible to fly from India to the UK (and visa-versa) the number of available flights between the two countries has been significantly reduced.    

Travel quarantine rules in UK

  • At the moment, all travelers arriving to the UK from foreign countries, including India, are subject to mandatory quarantines upon arrival. 
  • This means that if you arrive to the UK from abroad, you will have to self-isolate, either at home, or at a government-managed quarantine facility. 
  • Travel restrictions for arrivals from India include mandatory quarantine periods of a minimum of 10 days. Therefore, even if you are allowed to enter the UK (as a UK/Irish citizen/resident) after spending time in India, you will still have to quarantine upon arrival in the UK. And you can’t simply quarantine at home— all travelers from red list countries must quarantine in an official government facility (hotel). 
  • In addition, quarantined travelers will be subject to mandatory coronavirus testing, twice throughout their stay (on day 2 and day 8). 
  • Breaking quarantine or failing to abide by other country-specific restrictions could result in fines of £10,000, and even imprisonment. 
  • Finally, keep in mind that the above advice applies generally to the UK and specifically for England. If you seek to enter Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland from India, make sure you research the specific entry requirements for those specific countries. For example, while Wales also has India on its “red list” of banned countries, and (like England) theoretically allows the entry into the country of certain people traveling from red list countries, it does not allow anyone traveling from a red list country to enter Wales directly (meaning if you want to enter Wales after coming from India, you will need to enter through Scotland or England, through a specific access point). 

Travel to India 

  • As a result of the health crisis in India, the majority of countries offering COVID-19 travel advice have cautioned against all but the most essential travel to the country. Therefore, if you are looking to travel from the UK to India, your reason for doing so must be one that is recognized by current travel law.  
  • Please note that after May 17th, 2021, UK travelers will have the option of showing their vaccination status, which will theoretically enable increased access to certain countries who accept proof as a condition of entry (it remains unclear if India will be accepting proof of vaccination). 
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