How to self-isolate when returning to the UK
Updated: Feb 16
As part of its strategy to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus, the government has introduced a programme of self-isolation or quarantine for all those who arrive in the UK from specified foreign countries. The programme is backed up by regulations, restrictions and a schedule of financial penalties that can be imposed on people who break the quarantine.
If you are returning from an exempt country, you will not need to self-isolate. You should check the list of exempt countries before you travel. However, this list may change at very short notice, so pay careful attention to the media and government announcements at all times.
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.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may have different rules and travellers should check with their respective governments to find out what the situation is there.
Providing contact and location details
Before returning to the UK, 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, 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 are self-isolating to another place to continue self-isolating – you can be fined up to £3,200.
Who should self-isolate?
You will need to complete a public health passenger locator form unless you are travelling within the Common Travel Area (the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), and have been in the Common Travel Area for the past 14 days. If you have 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 are 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 Common Travel Area.
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 are travelling to the UK for less than 10 days, you will need to self-isolate for the length of your stay.
How to travel to the place where you are self-isolating
When you arrive in the UK, go straight to the place you are staying. No detours are allowed (although see the next paragraph below). Only use public transport if you have no other option. If you do use public transport, wear a face covering or scarf to cover your nose and mouth and keep 2 metres from other people.
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.
At the place where you are self-isolating
You should self-isolate in one place for the full 14 days, where you can have food and other necessities delivered, and stay away from others. 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 essential care. The only friends and family who you can have contact with are those who travelled with you or people with whom you are staying.
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.
Leaving the property
In England, you can only leave your accommodation in limited circumstances. These include where:
you need urgent medical assistance (or where your doctor has advised you to get medical assistance)
you need access to basic necessities like food and medicines, but only in exceptional circumstances such as where you cannot arrange for these to be delivered
you need to access critical public services such as social services and victim support services, but only in exceptional circumstances
you need to go to the funeral of a family member or someone you live with
you need to visit a dying or critically ill family member or someone you live with
you need to fulfil a legal obligation such as participating in legal proceedings
there is an emergency
Changing the self-isolation address
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 is an emergency
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 update the form as soon as possible.
Inability to safely self-isolate
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.
Within your accommodation
It is 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.
If you are staying in a hotel or guest house, you must stay away from others who did not travel with you, so it is important that you do not use shared areas such as bars, restaurants, health clubs and sports facilities. You should stay 2 metres apart from other people staying there at all times.
After self-isolating for 14 days
If no coronavirus symptoms have developed after 14 days, self-isolation can end.
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.
The list of exemptions can be found here
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