As UK travel slowly gets back to its feet and recovers from the crushing impact that the pandemic has caused on the industry, many of us are unsure of the particular tests, verifications and documents that are needed upon leaving and entering the UK. With rules varying due to vaccination status and the amount of time after having and recovering from COVID, it’s hard to prepare and know exactly what’s needed.
It’s safe to say the UK travel sector has suffered huge perils from the pandemic, not least the many businesses and corporations which make up the industry that brings in £106 billion to the British economy, whilst supporting supports 2.6 million jobs. However, the public have been starved of being able to go abroad freely and enjoy time away from the UK. This has not just been decimating to the wellbeing of the public, but also to the many businesses who need to travel in order to work.
With the recent news that the rules on testing are to be eased for people travelling to England, we break down the exact ins and outs of going on holiday as well as look to the future of tourism sector post-COVID.
What Are The Rules & Regulations For Travelling To The UK & What Needs To Be Provided If I’m Vaccinated?
As of 04:00AM GMT on Friday 7th January 2022, the UK government announced that fully vaccinated travellers coming to England will no longer have to take a test before they travel. As well as this, as of Sunday 9th January 2022, rather than taking a PCR test on day two of arrival, travellers just need to take a lateral flow test.
Before you travel to England you must:
- book and pay for a COVID-19 test – to be taken after you arrive in England
- complete a passenger locator form – to be completed in the 48 hours before you arrive in England
If you’re in England for less than 2 days, you still need to book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test.
To qualify under the fully vaccinated rules for travel to England, you must have proof of full vaccination with a full course of an approved vaccine. You must have had your final dose of the vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in England. The day you had your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days.
The proof of vaccination must have been issued by either:
- the UK vaccination programme
- the United Nations vaccine programme for staff and volunteers
- an overseas vaccination programme with an approved proof of vaccination for travel to the UK
The rules for children differ according to age. The new rules state:
- Children aged 4 and under do not have to take any COVID-19 travel tests.
- Children aged 5 to 17 have to follow the testing and quarantine rules for people who qualify as fully vaccinated on arrival in England.
This means that children aged 5 to 17 must take a COVID-19 test after they arrive in England (before the end of day 2).
Despite the new rules coming into force for travelling or returning to the UK, other nations have differing restrictions in place. It’s crucial you check beforehand what is needed in the particular destination you’re travelling to. This can be done through the UK Government’s dedicated foreign travel advice service, by simply clicking on the nation you are travelling to.
What Are The Rules & Regulations For Travelling To The UK & What Needs To Be Provided If I’m NOT Vaccinated?
If you do not qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, you must take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England from abroad. It’s worth noting that children aged 17 and under do not have to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England.
If you do not qualify as fully vaccinated, the test must meet the performance standards set by the government (≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity) at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.). You will need to find a private test provider to take a valid test, as NHS tests cannot be used for the purpose of pre-departure testing before travel to England. You cannot take an NHS test abroad with you to use on yourself before you return. Valid tests could include:
- a nucleic acid test, including a PCR test
- a LAMP test
- an antigen test, such as an LFD (lateral flow device) test
If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases. If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test. If you are an EU resident or citizen, you can use the EU Digital Covid Certificate (EU-DCC) to provide proof of your test result. This can be in either digital or paper format.
If you are not an EU resident or citizen, which is the case for the majority of UK nationals, you must provide the original test result notification. Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted. Your test result can be provided as either a printed document or an email or text message that can be show on your phone. It must include the following information:
- your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
- your date of birth or age
- the result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
- the name of the test provider and their contact details
- confirmation of the device used for the test, or that the test was a PCR test
If you do not present proof you tested negative, you may not be able to board your transport to England. It is important that you check with your test provider that the test meets the standards set. The test could be:
- a face-to-face or in-person test
- a self-administered test with video or photo verification
If your journey to England is considerably long, and involves stopping in another country on the way, you should try to take a test in the country you’re travelling through. This is so you take the test in the 2 days before you board the final service to England. For example, if you’re driving from Germany and you stop for a few days in Belgium, you should take a test in Belgium.
If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you can take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg. However, where possible, you should get a test within 2 days of your final departure point to England.
What Does The Future Look Like For The UK Tourism Sector?
The future of the travel and tourism sector has lay in murky waters during the entirety of the pandemic. As holidaymakers, tourists, and small businesses suffered great lengths in restrictions, operations, and profits, the inevitable economic outlook predicted immense damage.
By 2025, the sector is expected to be worth £257 billion which would equate to just under 10% of UK GDP. For 2022 alone, it is forecasted that inbound visits to the UK are to increase to 24 million, with spending at approximately £19.2 billion. This is 59% and 67% respectively of the visits and spend levels recorded in 2019, signalling the huge detrimental effect that COVID has had on UK tourism.
By the end of the end of 2022, it is forecasted for visits to have recovered to around 68% of pre-COVID levels, however this of course will hinge on travel restrictions not being tightened significantly from current levels, as well as a gradual return of traveller confidence. For many people, the choice of a domestic ‘staycation’ holiday seems far more appealing than going abroad currently, which of course contributes extensively to supporting UK tourism.
Moving forward though, the general public opinion could sway as COVID’s grip on the world continues to loosen, resulting in an increased uptake in going abroad and having a good old holiday.
We hope this has outlined to you exactly what the new restrictions and requirements are for travel and returning to the UK. If you require any further information on any government legislation concerning travel restrictions, or anything accounting related for that matter, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens where one of our trusted advisors would be happy talking you through your query.