Severity: Warning Alert

Exit/Entry: England, UK, to add several countries, including Portugal and Hungary, to quarantine list Sept. 12 due to COVID-19 activity.

Alert Begins 10 Sep 2020 05:25 PM UTC
Alert Expires 24 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and travel disruptions

Authorities in England have announced that international travelers from mainland Portugal, Hungary, French Polynesia, and Reunion will need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival effective 0400 Sept. 12 due to elevated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity in these countries; the restriction does not apply to travelers arriving from the Portuguese islands of Madeira or the Azores. Additionally, as of the same time, travelers arriving from Sweden will no longer be required to self-isolate upon arrival.

Authorities in England had earlier mandated that, as of Sept. 9, all international travelers entering from the Greek islands of Crete, Lesbos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos, and Zakynthos must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival due to an increase in COVID-19 cases observed in UK nationals returning from those destinations. Authorities in Wales already required travelers entering from Portugal (mainland only), Gibraltar, and French Polynesia, as well as from the Greek islands of Crete, Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesbos, Paros, and Antiparos, to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Authorities in Scotland also require travelers entering from Greece as a whole, Portugal, and French Polynesia to self-isolate for 14 days.

Although more than 70 countries and overseas territories - including Australia, Cuba, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, and New Zealand - are exempt from the requirement, international passengers of any nationality arriving from nonexempt locations must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the UK. Health officials may perform spot checks to ensure compliance. Persons without suitable accommodations are required to stay in facilities arranged by the government at their own expense. Freight drivers and healthcare workers are exempt from the requirement. All international travelers entering the UK must still provide contact details and their travel history over the previous 14 days. Officials review the measures every three weeks, or on a need-driven basis, in response to significant changes in disease activity abroad.

Authorities in England will also tighten restrictions on social gatherings from Sept. 14 due to concerns over the accelerating transmission of COVID-19. Indoor and outdoor social gatherings of more than six people from different households will be prohibited; previously, police had no mandate to prevent gatherings with fewer than 30 participants. Current rules regarding schools, places of work, team sports, weddings, and funerals will not change.

Each of the UK's constituent countries has authority for imposing its own COVID-19-related travel and other restrictions, though they have typically remained closely aligned in their actions, with some variations. In Northern Ireland, up to six people from two different households are permitted to meet socially; in Scotland, the limit is eight people from three different households; and in Wales, up to four designated households can meet.

The UK had previously eased most domestic restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, though tighter measures remain in force in some locations, including Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Authorities reimposed a local lockdown, including a ban on all social gatherings between people from different households, in the Manchester borough of Bolton Sept. 8 due to high COVID-19 case numbers. Most nonessential businesses around the UK have reopened; however, they must adhere to strict hygiene practices, including limits on the number of customers in stores to maintain social distancing and encouraging customers to use hand sanitizer when entering the premises, among other things. International flights remain limited, but cargo and repatriation services have continued. Facemasks remain mandatory on public transport nationwide and in many enclosed public spaces.

Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice, depending on disease activity over the coming weeks. Government officials claim that improved COVID-19 data now allows a more targeted approach to imposing quarantine requirements on international arrivals, partly removing the necessity for national-level restrictions. Further impositions or relaxations of international entry restrictions could therefore apply at subnational levels, particularly to islands and offshore territories.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Arrive at the airport early to prevent your seat from being reallocated to a standby passenger. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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