Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update

02 February 2021

Article: 55/0501

Travel restrictions and self-isolation (quarantine) rules have been implemented across the UK since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of the public. To help achieve this, the range and type of measures have varied over time as the pandemic has evolved. In recent months, new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, have been detected around the world, including the UK, with some, including the UK variant, able to transmit more easily between people. Concern remains that further virus variants could emerge that may cause more severe illness, or evade immunity provided by COVID-19 vaccines. The stringency of current UK travel restrictions is aimed at avoiding new variants being imported into the UK, while also stopping travellers exporting the UK variant during international travel.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides guidance on travelling abroad, including the latest information on COVID-19 and other non-COVID-19 risks such as safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings. This advice is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice.

Country specific COVID-19 risk

The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, with every country being identified as high, moderate or low risk and each rating accompanied by appropriate travel advice. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating is based on a robust public health assessment of the COVID-19 risks for travellers to each country and is regularly reviewed.

In January 2021, the COVID-19 risk for UK travellers was increased in 20 countries. As of 29 January 2021, Rwanda was the latest country to be added to this list. The outbreaks index on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and the news section of the fitfortravel (for the public) websites can be consulted for further details.

The COVID-19 risk rating and travel advice from the FCDO is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice. All travellers are advised to continue following sensible precautions and consider the sources of information listed below.

Advice for travellers

Before planning or booking international travel, please check: 

COVID-19: Health Considerations for Travel

Travellers from international destinations, including returning UK nationals, must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The test must be undertaken a maximum of 72 hours prior to departure for the UK. Travellers will have to make arrangements in the destination country to access testing. Failure to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or a valid exemption, may result in boarding being denied for the journey, or a fine on arrival. This measure is in addition to the need to self-isolate on return to the UK.

Information relating to travel and COVID-19 is available on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and fitfortravel (for the public) websites.

Information on COVID-19 for the general public is available on the NHS Inform (Scotland) and the NHS.UK (rest of the UK) websites.

Information and resources on COVID-19 for health professionals is available on the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) (Scotland) and Public Health England (PHE) (rest of the UK) websites.

Source: TRAVAX, 29 January 2021