Can I travel abroad during lockdown? The current rules on travel from the UK

The rules are set to change over the next few months, under the government's new roadmap.
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  • The disparity between what the third UK lockdown rules are and what some people are doing has left many asking, ‘can I travel abroad during lockdown from the UK after all?’.

    Travel abroad during lockdown from the UK was a huge point of contention over the winter, as social media influencers flocked to warmer climates and skiers tried to get to Switzerland despite warnings over infectious new Covid-19 variants.

    The latest lockdown measures are in force until March 8 under the government’s roadmap, after which there will be some restrictions lifted. But with limited information over how the new plan will affect travel, people are getting concerned about booking a holiday abroad in 2021 and whether we’ll even be able to travel within the UK.

    This is what you need to know about where and how far you can travel under the latest lockdown travel rules…

    Can I travel abroad from England during the lockdown?

    At the moment, the answer is still no. Travel abroad during lockdown from the UK isn’t allowed except for in very specific circumstances, such as travelling for work (e.g. cabin crew, hauliers) and officials have made it clear that a holiday or non-essential trip of any kind is absolutely off the cards for the time being.

    Even under the roadmap out of lockdown, there is no concrete date for when international travel will be allowed again. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says it will resume no earlier than May 17, following a review by the new Global Travel Taskforce in April.

    It’s just one of the four governmental reviews that will take place over the next few months, after kids go back to school after lockdown on March 8. In his address to the House of Commons on February 22, the prime minister said, “A second review will consider the resumption of international travel which is vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation.

    “A successor to the Global Travel Taskforce will report by 12 April so that people can plan for the summer.”

    Some travel restrictions in the UK will be lifted before this date though. From March 29, the general ‘stay at home’ order will be lifted so travel outside of your local area will no longer be prohibited but ‘stay local’ guidance will remain in place. Holiday lets, hotels and hostels will reopen later in April, potentially alongside campsites and caravan sites, if all the lockdown lifting criteria are met. This means that holidays within the UK could be back on the cards in time for the summer holidays.

    In the meantime, to help enforce the rules and to protect the country against the variants, a complete travel ban came into place from Monday January 18 at 4am and is still in place now. The ban effectively made travelling for non-essentials reasons illegal, so anyone suspected of going on a non-essential trip could be turned away at the airport and face a significant fine for breaking lockdown rules.

    Additionally as of February 15, anyone coming back from one of the 33 countries on the government’s ‘red list’ has to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. There are rules and extra security in place for the duration of the stay and travellers will have to pay for the self-isolation period themselves.

    Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the government’s plan, as she said, “There are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day. The rules are clear – people should be staying at home unless they have a valid reason to leave. Going on holiday is not a valid reason.

    “As we have done throughout this global health emergency, we will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the public and help prevent the spread of the virus.”

    Man on flight wearing face mask as he travels abroad from the UK

    Credit: Getty

    What does closing travel corridors mean?

    Closing the travel corridors means that no one is able to travel abroad during lockdown from the UK and return without having to self-isolate on their arrival back into the country. This is for a mandatory period of 10 day quarantine for all travellers, taking place in their own homes if the country they’ve come in on isn’t on the ‘red list’.

    It also means new rules around being tested for Covid-19 before travelling. As explained by Boris Johnson when he announced the new travel rules, “This means that if you come to this country, you must have proof of a negative Covid test that you have taken in the 72 hours before leaving and you must have filled in your Passenger Locator Form, and your airline will ask for proof of both before you take off.

    “You may also be checked when you land and face substantial fines for refusing to comply.

    “And, upon arrival, you must then quarantine for ten days – not leaving your home for any reason at all, or take another test on day 5 and wait for proof of another negative result.

    “And we will be stepping up our enforcement – both at the border and in-country.

    “And it is vital to take these extra measures now when day by day, hour by hour, we are making such strides in protecting the population.”

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps followed the announcement up on Twitter and confirmed, ‘There will be more enforcement checks & fewer exemptions. International arrivals will need to have a negative COVID-19 test & self-isolate for 10 days or Test to Release after 5. This action will slow the spread of new variants whilst millions receive their vaccinations.’

    Can I travel abroad from Scotland?

    Scotland has their own set of restrictions in place but in making the travel announcement, Boris Johnson added that it was a joint effect “with the devolved administrations, we will act together so that this applies across the whole of UK”. This means that travel from Scotland during the lockdown is not allowed at all.

    Similarly, the prime minister is working alongside ministers in Scotland with the roadmap but they will draw up their own plan in the coming weeks. There are limited details on what the travel rules will look like for Scotland, however, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commented, “I think it’s vital that we learn from past experiences and similar to us, it seems that they will prioritise children and education and getting life back to normal for young people before doing other things.”

    She said the plan would be similar to England’s but differ in some ways. “I think the principles will be the same, we’re living through the same pandemic, there is a limit to how much it is sensible to diverge in the circumstances we are facing in common.

    “But clearly we will make our own judgements about the particular order and the particular timing of that because the data is not identical in each of the four nations.”

    Can I travel abroad from Wales?

    Currently, travelling abroad from Wales is not allowed either. The whole region has been in alert level 4 for some time now, which has meant that people have to:

    • Follow social distancing rules with people you don’t live with or who are not in your support bubble.
    • Wear a face covering (if you are able to) in all indoor public places.
    • Stay at home.
    • Not create an extended household (single adults or single parents may join with one other household to form an exclusive support bubble).
    • Meet only the people you live with or your support bubble indoors.
    • Meet only your household or support bubble in private gardens.
    • Meet only your household or support bubble outdoors.
    • Work from home if you can.
    • Not travel without reasonable excuse.
    • Not travel internationally without reasonable excuse.

    However unlike in England, schools and colleges have remained open.

    group at the airport set to travel abroad during UK lockdown

    Credit: Getty

    Wales currently doesn’t have a roadmap out of lockdown, so there’s little idea of when the restrictions in Wales will change. Ministers said they were holding back on producing a plan, as they didn’t want to raise people’s hopes “too early”.

    Can I travel abroad from Northern Ireland?

    Just the same as Wales, Scotland and England, travelling abroad without a reasonable excuse is not allowed in Northern Ireland.

    In a statement, First Minister for Northern Ireland said, “We cannot be complacent because our Health Service remains under huge pressure. Any spike in cases puts pressure back on all those working so hard on the front-line to save lives.”

    Similarly, Northern Ireland’s ministers will produce a roadmap out of lockdown in the coming weeks to give further clarity on when international travel will be allowed.