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Coronavirus (COVID-19): how to self-isolate when you travel to the UK
When you arrive in the UK, you will not be allowed to leave the place where you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK (known as ‘self-isolating’) unless you’re arriving from an exempt country.
This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear. If you’re travelling to the UK for less than 14 days, you will be expected to self-isolate for the length of your stay.
If you’re travelling from an exempt country you will not need to self-isolate. You should check the list of exempt countries before you travel. If you travel from an exempt country but have been in a country that is not exempt within the last 14 days, you will need to self-isolate for the remainder of the 14 days since you were last in a non-exempt country.
You should follow separate advice if you need to self-isolate in:
Before you travel to the UK from anywhere outside the Common Travel Area, you should provide your journey, contact details and the address where you will self-isolate. You will be able to complete the public health passenger locator form 48 hours before you arrive. You must present these details on your arrival in England.
You may be refused permission to enter the UK (if you are not a British citizen), or fined if you do not to provide your contact details or do not self-isolate, unless you arrive in the UK from an exempt country.
In England, if you do not self-isolate, you can be fined £1,000. If you do not provide an accurate contact detail declaration – or do not update your contact detail form in the limited circumstances where you need to move from the accommodation where you’re self-isolating to another place to continue self-isolating – you can be fined up to £3,200.
Who must self-isolate
These rules are for UK residents and all visitors coming into the UK.
You will need to complete a public health passenger locator form unless you are travelling within the Common Travel Area, and have been in the Common Travel Area for the past 14 days. If you’ve been outside the Common Travel Area at any time in the last 14 days you will need to complete a public health passenger locator form.
You do not need to self-isolate if you’re travelling from an exempt country and have been in an exempt country for the last 14 days. You should check the list of exempt countries before you travel. Exempt countries include all parts of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
If you travel from an exempt country but have been in a country that is not exempt within the last 14 days, you will need to self-isolate for the remainder of the 14 days since you were in a non-exempt country. If you transit through a country that is not exempt you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
For example, if you arrive in the UK from a country that is exempt, but you travelled to the exempt country 4 days ago from a country that is not exempt you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. If you’re travelling to the UK for less than 10 days you will need to self-isolate for the length of your stay.
There are other reasons why you might not need to self-isolate. Read the detailed guidance on who does not need to self-isolate.
If you are exempt, you will still need to stay alert and stay safe.
Why self-isolating is important
When you arrive in the UK, it is very important that you stay in your declared accommodation for 14 days. It can take up to 14 days for you to develop coronavirus symptoms after you catch the virus and in this time you can unknowingly pass it on to others, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Self-isolating will reduce the chance of a second wave of coronavirus in the UK and help prevent family, friends and the community from contracting coronavirus, as well as helping to protect the NHS.
Arrivals from countries that are exempt from the requirement will not be required to self-isolate, because they’re travelling from places that have been assessed as low risk.
How to travel to the place where you are self-isolating
If you develop coronavirus symptoms when you’re travelling to the UK, you should tell one of the crew on your plane, boat, train or bus. They’ll let staff in the airport, port or station know, so they can tell you what you should do next when you arrive.
When you arrive in the UK, go straight to the place you’re staying.
Only use public transport if you have no other option. If you do use public transport, wear something that covers your nose and mouth and stay 2 metres apart from other people. Pack a face covering or scarf to cover your nose and mouth before you travel. If you have coronavirus symptoms, you will not be allowed to travel by public transport and will need to demonstrate that the accommodation where you will self-isolate is safe.
If necessary, and you have a long journey within the UK to arrive at your self-isolation accommodation, you can stop overnight in safe accommodation before continuing your journey. You must self-isolate and provide the address of your overnight stop on your public health passenger locator form in addition to your declared accommodation address.
How to self-isolate in your accommodation
You should self-isolate in one place for the full 14 days, where you can have food and other necessities delivered, and should stay away from others unless you travelled to the UK with them. You must self-isolate at the address you provided on the public health passenger locator form.
This can include:
- your own home
- staying with friends or family
- a hotel or other temporary accommodation
You should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing:
- emergency assistance
- care or assistance, including personal care
- medical assistance
- veterinary services
- certain critical public services
You cannot go out to work or school or visit public areas. You should not go shopping. If you require help buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, you should ask friends or relatives or order a delivery.
In England, you must only exercise within your home or garden. You cannot leave your home to walk your dog. You will need to ask friends or relatives to help you with this.
NHS Volunteer Responders are also available if you need help collecting shopping, medication or would like a telephone ‘check-in and chat’. Call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) to arrange volunteer support. You can arrange one-off support, or schedule more regular help whilst you are self-isolating.
In England, you can only leave your accommodation in limited circumstances and while outside your accommodation, you should stay alert and stay safe. These include where:
- you are travelling directly in order to leave England
- you need urgent medical assistance (or where your doctor has advised you to get medical assistance)
- you need urgent access to veterinary services (or on the advice of a veterinary surgeon)
- you have exceptional circumstances (such as those described below)
- you need to fulfil a legal obligation such as participate in legal proceedings
- to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
In England, you can also leave your accommodation where there are compassionate grounds such as:
- going to the funeral of a family member or someone you live with
- visiting a dying or critically ill family member or someone you live with
In England, you are allowed to leave your accommodation in exceptional circumstances. This includes such things as:
- accessing basic necessities like food and medicines where you cannot arrange for these to be delivered
- moving to a different place for self-isolation where you can no longer remain where you are
There may be other exceptional circumstances which may permit you to leave your place of self-isolation. You will need to consider carefully whether your circumstances are exceptional circumstances that require you to leave your place of self-isolation. It may be useful to seek advice from a medical or other professional to discuss your circumstances so that you can decide whether, for example, you have a health condition or a disability that would be seriously exacerbated if you were not able to leave the accommodation (and its outdoor areas) where you are self-isolating to take exercise.
You are not allowed to change the place where you are self-isolating except in very limited circumstances, including where:
- a legal obligation requires you to change address, such as where you are a child whose parents live separately, and you need to move between homes as part of a shared custody agreement
- it is necessary for you to stay overnight at accommodation before travelling to the place where you will be self-isolating for the remainder of the 14 days
- there are exceptional circumstances in which it becomes impracticable to remain at the original address
If this happens, you should provide full details of each address where you will self-isolate on the public health passenger locator form. If, in exceptional circumstances, you cannot remain where you are staying, you must complete a new form as soon as possible.
Support to help you self-isolate in your own accommodation
The people you’re staying with do not need to self-isolate, unless they travelled with you or you develop symptoms of coronavirus.
If you cannot safely self-isolate for 14 days, you should tell Border Force Officers when you pass through UK border controls. They will provide you with details of a booking service which you can use to obtain accommodation and self-isolate in at your own expense. Staying at home may be difficult, frustrating or lonely, but there are things that you can do to help make it easier.
NHS Volunteer Responders are also on hand to have a friendly chat. If you would like a telephone ‘check in and chat’ please call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) to arrange volunteer support.
Read information on your employment rights on return to the UK following a period of travel.
Within your accommodation
The people you’re staying with do not need to stay at home, unless they travelled with you.
If you’re staying in a hotel or guest house, you must stay away from others who didn’t travel with you, so it’s important that you don’t use shared areas such as bars, restaurants, health clubs and sports facilities. Stay 2 metres apart from other people staying there at all times.
It’s important to avoid as much contact with other people as possible in your home in order to reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus. You should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that can be opened, separate from other people in your home.
Washing your hands and keeping good hygiene
Everyone should wash their hands regularly, but this is particularly important for people who have recently travelled to the UK because you could have contracted coronavirus and not yet developed symptoms. Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, for at least 20 seconds, rinse and dry thoroughly. Use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of tissues into a plastic waste bag, and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, rinse and dry thoroughly.
After self-isolating for 14 days
If you do not have any coronavirus symptoms after 14 days, you can stop self-isolating. You will then need to follow the same rules as people who live in the UK. Check the rules for the part of the UK you’re staying in:
What to do if you get coronavirus symptoms
You should look for any of the following symptoms in the 14 days after the day you arrive in the UK:
- new continuous cough
- high temperature
- loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
If you have any of these symptoms, you should continue to self-isolate at home. If you are staying with others and you develop symptoms, the whole household that you are staying with will need to begin self-isolating.
You should apply for a test if you have the symptoms of coronavirus. You can register for a test on the NHS website. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 119 to arrange for a test.
If your test for coronavirus is positive you will be asked to share your contacts with the NHS test and trace service, and your contact detail declaration may be used to alert people who travelled to the UK alongside you.
If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 10 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus (COVID-19) service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
If you develop symptoms, you must self-isolate for at least 14 days from the point you arrived in the UK and if you get symptoms during that time for at least 10 days from symptom onset and until you are better and no longer have a high temperature. You will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the time that you arrived in the UK even if you have had and recovered from coronavirus symptoms in this time. If you are tested and receive a negative result for coronavirus, you must continue to self-isolate until you have been in the UK for 14 days, even if your symptoms have gone.
If you arrived in the UK more than 14 days ago, you do not need to continue self-isolation once you have had symptoms for 10 days and your temperature has returned to normal. Symptoms of a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste can last for several weeks after the infection has gone and so you can stop self-isolating even if you have these symptoms. The household you are staying with should self-isolate for 14 days from the point that your symptoms start.
If you develop new symptoms or your existing symptoms worsen within your 14-day isolation period, then please contact NHS 111 again and follow their advice.
A small proportion of people travelling to the UK to maintain essential supply chains, critical national infrastructure or to contribute to crisis response or other essential government work will not need to self-isolate and some will not need to complete the public health passenger locator form.
People travelling from exempt countries will also not need to self-isolate, if they have been in an exempt country for 14 days.
If you are a seasonal agricultural worker, you must complete the public health passenger locator form and remain on the farm where you are working and staying for 14 days.