COVID-19: £5,000 fine for holidays and £1,750 hotel quarantine stays – the current coronavirus travel rules

Britons are currently only permitted to leave the UK for specific reasons, with the prospect of a £5,000 fine for anybody attempting to take a holiday abroad.

What are the current rules around travelling during the pandemic?

At the moment there is a ban on leaving the UK without a reasonable excuse – with a hefty fine for those breaking the rule.

COVID-19 laws state that no one can "leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom", apart from some exceptions.

Fines of £5,000 can be issued to those who break this rule, according to the regulations.

Foreign travel for a holiday is already illegal, but the punishment is a new measure.

A £200 fixed penalty notice can already be issued to those who fail to fill in a travel declaration form, which includes personal details and reason for travel, for those leaving the UK.

There are a number of exemptions to the ban, which are travel for:

• Work
• Study
• Legal obligations or to vote
• Moving, selling or renting property
• Childcare reasons or to be present at a birth
• Visiting a dying relative or close friend
• Attending a funeral
• Getting married or attending the wedding of a close relative
• Medical appointments
• Escaping a risk of harm

The ban does not apply to those travelling to the common travel area of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland – unless that is not the final destination.

What are the rules around the types of travel that are permitted?

From 15 February, UK and Irish residents arriving in England who have been in "red list" countries in the previous 10 days have been required to quarantine in a hotel room for 10 days on their arrival.

They have to book online through a dedicated portal in advance and pay for a quarantine package, which includes assigned transport to their hotel, COVID testing and food and drinks.

The charge for a single adult is £1,750 and the government booked 4,600 rooms across 16 hotels.

Fines from £5,000, rising to £10,000, can be issued to arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.

Passenger Locator Forms, which are already required for presentation at the UK border, now also not only have to detail a passenger’s travel journey but also their quarantine and testing package.

What is a ‘red list’ country?

There are currently more than 30 countries on the UK’s travel "red list".

These are countries from which only British and Irish nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK, will be able to enter the UK.

If you do not have residence rights in the UK, you will be refused entry at the UK border if you have been in one of the "red list" countries in the previous 10 days.

The 33 countries currently on the UK’s "red list" are:

Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Anyone attempting to conceal that they have travelled in a "red list" country faces the prospect a £10,000 fine or prosecution and up to 10 years in prison.

What if I’m not arriving from a ‘red list’ country?

If you are arriving in England from a country that isn’t on the UK’s travel "red list" you will not have to quarantine in a hotel room.

However, you will have to complete a 10-day quarantine period at home.

COVID testing

Currently, everyone arriving in the UK has to show proof of a negative COVID test result from up to 72 hours before their journey.

The testing regime for those coming from abroad has been expanded, with all arrivals now having to undertake two mandatory PCR tests – on day two and day eight of their 10-day quarantine period.

Tests must be booked by passengers from a list of government-approved providers, through an online portal, before their journey to the UK.

If either of these post-arrival tests is positive, they’ll have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test.

Any positive test will be sent for genomic sequencing to confirm whether they have a variant of concern.

The existing "test to release" scheme, which allows people to exit home quarantine if they test negative after five days, can still be used in addition to the two mandatory post-arrival tests.

However, this scheme cannot be used if you are arriving from a "red list" country.

A £1,000 fine will be handed to any arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, followed by a £2,000 fine for anyone who fails to take the second mandatory test.

This will be accompanied by an automatic extension of the quarantine period to 14 days.

Are these UK-wide measures?

The rules will be slightly different in Scotland, where all international travellers arriving directly on flights have to enter quarantine hotels.

However, the Welsh government has said it will put in place the same arrangements in Wales as the UK government is doing for England.

When could travel for holidays resume?

Under the prime minister’s roadmap for easing England’s COVID lockdown, the earliest international travel without a reasonable excuse can resume is 17 May.

The findings of a government review is due to be set out on 5 April.

According to reports, holiday destinations could be ranked under a "traffic light system", with fewer restrictions for places with low coronavirus rates and high vaccination take-up.

Countries would be graded either green, amber or red, according to how well they are coping with the pandemic, under plans discussed by ministers for resuming foreign travel.

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