In line with the reopening of international travel, the government has published guidance on how to travel safely in airports and on aircraft during the Covid-19 pandemic. This guidance may be useful for employers requiring employees to travel on business or businesses with sponsored workers who are travelling to the UK to take up a new role. Below, we explore the key points that are emphasised in the guidance.
Travel restrictions – outbound
There are no longer any legal restrictions on leaving England to travel internationally, for work or otherwise. However, to protect public health in the UK and the vaccine rollout, the government advises against travel to countries or territories on the red and amber lists. If travelling to a country on the red or amber list, it is advisable to review the restrictions within these countries before asking employees to travel and also to consider whether or not they will have to quarantine on their return.
More information can be found here.
There are no requirements for employees to be tested or to quarantine after boarding domestic flights within the UK. However, anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should not travel.
Before booking flights
There are a number of things to check before booking international flights, including:
- Checking government travel advice for the destination country
- Checking what employees will need to do on arrival/return to the UK including in relation to completing forms, testing and quarantine requirements
- Speaking to the relevant travel insurer
Some countries may require proof of a negative Covid-19 test or vaccination before allowing employees to enter. In some cases people in England who have had a full vaccine course (two doses) can demonstrate their vaccination status for outbound international travel using an NHS App. However, vaccinated employees will have to follow the same requirements as non-vaccinated employees when returning to the UK. Employers should think carefully when asking employees to travel abroad for work based on their vaccination status to avoid the risk of discrimination.
Keeping safe while travelling
The government also advises the following in order to reduce face-to-face contact while travelling:
- Using online check-in before the day of travel
- Avoiding touching surfaces where possible
- Washing hands after using self-service check-in and luggage trollies
- Following social distancing rules
- Paying using contactless card
- Only removing your face mask to avoid injury, take medication, eat or drink (if reasonably necessary) or to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading
- Remaining seated on the flight as much as possible
- Leave the destination airport as quickly as possible
- Do not ask family/friends to meet you at the airport unless it is essential
Travel restrictions - inbound
Everyone travelling to the UK must:
- Book at least one Covid-19 test for after arrival (and in some cases more than one is required)
- Provide contact details by completing the online passenger locator form
- Provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test (in English, French or Spanish) taken at least three days before departure
- Follow the Covid-19 testing and quarantine rules in the UK.
It is a criminal offence to travel without proof of a negative Covid-19 test or without having completed the passenger locator form. Travellers may be fined, refused permission to board and may not be permitted to enter the UK.
Quarantining and testing
There are restrictions in place for everyone entering the UK but what they will need to do depends on where they have been in the previous 10 days. People who have travelled through a country or territory on the:
- green list - must book a Covid-19 test for after they arrive and take the test on day two after arrival in the UK
- amber list - must book two Covid-19 tests to take on days two and eight after arrival in the UK and quarantine in the place they are staying
- red list - must book two Covid-19 tests to take on days two and eight after arrival in the UK and quarantine in a government approved hotel
The list of countries and their current status can be found here. Some people are exempt from some or all of Covid-19 travel and entry requirements because of their jobs. Details of these roles can be found here. There are also special rules detailed in the guidance for those transiting through the UK.
It is possible to end quarantine early in some cases under the Test to Release scheme by paying to take a private Covid-19 test on day five after arrival in the UK. This does not apply if you are required to quarantine in a government approved hotel after visiting a red listed country.
General guidance in the UK
The guidance also reminds travellers of the rules on social contact in the UK, including social distancing, handwashing and face coverings.
For further details on all of the above, see the full guidance note here.