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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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1040 Abroad

The Latest Covid Travel Regulations

All the up to date information you’ll need to navigate traveling in the pandemic.
By News Team
Published on February 19, 2021

Covid passengers Travel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Credit Chad Davis

Updated March 5, 2021. Check the links at the bottom of this page to see if there are any changes before you book or fly. Rules and regulations (and even the websites!) are changing all the time.

Flying to the US:

It's not easy! There are extra forms and extra costs, but it can be done. The key to entry into a country is where you have been in the previous 10 days. You may be one of the lucky ones whose profession means they don't have to isolate and test (see links at foot of page). But it is getting easier, with rapid tests available at international airports.

When booking flights, check that any transit countries are allowable to both the United States (for US citizens) and the UK, and that they don't trigger 10 days isolation and more Covid tests. Direct flights are much simpler. As private PCR Coronavirus testing prices vary, and you'll need one in the UK and in the US before you fly, and another quarantine one in the US, it is worth asking your tour operator or airline if they have any discount arrangement with a test provider.

Warning: there are real and serious fines for not providing the right information and test results, at the right time, especially at the UK end. Most things need to be done in advance. Also for breaking quarantine.

The Presidential Proclamation banning visitors from the UK from traveling to the US is for foreign nationals, and doesn't include US citizens, Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), most immediate family members of US citizens, or other individuals who are identified in the proclamation.

In the UK you are only permitted to travel internationally for the same reasons that you are allowed to leave home during the lockdown.

NEW: We said before it would be good to carry something in writing with your stated reason for travel. The UK Government have just introduced a form for this to be used from March 8th. Download and complete the Declaration form from gov.uk and either print and carry, or upload to your mobile cell. This declares your permitted option for travel to your airline carrier before boarding.

The US Embassy in London recommends that if the travel restrictions do not apply to you, you carry documentation demonstrating why you are exempt (i.e. your US passport and proof of necessity of travel) and a printed copy of the proclamation when you travel.

You will need to wear a mask on the flight and any public transport.

Air Passengers Arriving in the US – CDC advice at 5 February 2021:

The CDC's order for Air Passengers arriving in the US, dated February 5, 2021, applies to all air passengers, 2 years of age or older, traveling into the US, including US citizens and legal permanent residents.

You will need to get tested no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel) to the airline before boarding the flight. Air passengers will also be required to confirm that the information they present is true in the form of an attestation.

[The 3-day period is the 3 days before the flight's departure. The Order uses a 3-day timeframe instead of 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the traveler. By using a 3-day window, test validity does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test was administered. For example, if a passenger's flight is at 1pm on a Friday, the passenger could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Tuesday or after.]

Make sure to be tested with a viral test (NAAT or antigen test) to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19. Test results should state any/all of the following: 1) negative, 2) Sars-CoV-2-RNA Not Detected, 3) SARS-CoV2 Antigen Not Detected. These are also called ‘Fit to Fly' tests or Flight Certificate tests. Travelers should avoid antibody tests which look for prior infection and will detect a vaccine.

Make sure that you receive your results before your flight departs and have documentation of your results to show the airline using the Passenger Attestation Form (a 2 page PDF) provided on the CDC website: you can click here for the printable version, or here to fill it out online and download. An attestation is a statement that confirms that the information provided is true. It needs to be countersigned by a GP or medical professional that the results are negative and were within the specified time frame.

There's a link to contact details for approved private English laboratories for COVID-19 general testing at the foot of the page. Some companies offer rapid tests, including at the airport (antigen tests). Travel PCR tests are a PCR test (lab processed, with results in 24–48 hours usually), but they put your passport number on the certificate, which some countries require.

In Scotland, private testing is available at a number of facilities:

In Northern Ireland:

In Wales:

UK-wide:

  • Boots – major cities. Book appointment online.

CDC Recommendations when you get there:

Get tested 3-5 days after you arrive AND stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel.

  • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected
  • If you don't get tested, it's safest to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not

Always follow state and local recommendations and requirements related to travel. It is important that you check quarantine regulations for the state you are visiting before you depart. You can find the most-up to date information on the CDC website and your state's health department website. Please note you will still be required to quarantine as required by CDC and local guidelines even if you are an automatic exception to the current Presidential Proclamations or have received a national interest exception in order to travel directly to the United States.

Returning to the UK:

Before you leave the UK, or starting at least 10 days before your return, you need to do a few things:

For England and Wales, you need to book and pay for a ‘Travel Test package' (£210), and note the booking reference number. This is for a coronavirus test on days two and eight of your return 10 day quarantine. You can quarantine at home.

For England, there is bit of good news – you might only have to do 5 days' quarantine! Of course, this comes at a cost – you elect to take an additional, privately paid for (not NHS Test & Trace) on Day 5 (the fifth full day in the country), and you can leave quarantine if it's negative. You can only use an approved provider (see links below) and you have to opt into this and provide booking details for this extra test.on the Passenger Locator Form. Or if you're going stir crazy on your return, you can book and pay for this extra test and fill in another Passenger Locator Form. It's called Test to Release.

If you live in Scotland you HAVE to isolate in a quarantine hotel for 10 days (11 nights), and take two Covid tests. So you'll need to book and pay for a Managed Isolation Package. Do this at least 10 days from arrival, via the portal. Remember you need to put your ‘managed isolation package' booking reference number on the Passenger Locator Form.

For Northern Ireland, you can isolate at your home for 10 days. You don't have to take post-travel Covid tests at the moment, but you do have to complete the full 10 days. Things are changing fast and we have heard Northern Ireland may be introducing Covid tests, so check.

At least 48 hours before you arrive back in the UK, for all UK countries, you need to fill out the online Passenger Locator Form (link at bottom of page) with contact details, travel details and the address of where you will self-isolate. You also need to put your booking reference number for your Covid Test Kit (Travel Test package) or Managed Isolation Package if applicable. You may be refused entry or fined if you don't purchase the necessary package or supply this form before you arrive. You will need to show the Passenger Locator Form on arrival.

You will need to book your Covid test kits, or your quarantine hotel and test kit package, at the booking portal run by international business travel company, CTM. The link is below, but if you have trouble with the portal, If you're experiencing any difficulty booking through the booking portal, you can phone them on +44 (0)1274 726424.

You must get a negative coronavirus test while you're still in the US, in the 3 days before you leave, so make sure you book it well in advance. It is best to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test aka 'Fit to Fly' test. The proof must be in English, French or Spanish (Translations will not be accepted).Your test result can be provided as a printed document, an email or text message you can show on your phone - make sure your device is charged. You must provide the original test result certificate. 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
  • the name of the test device

You must provide the proof to the company you're traveling with, i.e. the airline.

The US and Canada are not currently on the UK's ‘Red List', however at the time of writing it is being suggested in news media that teh US and Spain may be added to it. The US and Canada are on the Amber List (any country outside of the Common Travel Area and not on the RED list) so, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days, which is counted from the day after you left your country of origin before returning to the UK (unless you're returning to England and elect to do the 5 day option). If you test positive, you must self-isolate for a further 10 days, as do any people who share a household with anyone self-isolating.

You can't change your quarantine location, unless there is a real emergency, and if you do you have to fill in another Passenger Location Form.

It's a 1,000 fine for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory coronavirus test. This will be followed by a 2,000 fine for failing to take a second test, with quarantine automatically extended to 14 days.

For both the US and UK, if your Covid test is positive, you have to follow quarantine and testing rules for the country you're in, and the country you want to go to, until you obtain a negative result.

Go directly to your isolation destination, preferably not by public transport.

It looks likely the Passenger Locator Forms and testing will be the ‘new normal' of international travel. Hopefully without the quarantining!

UK International travel rules

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home#international-travel

UK–English testing labs:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/962717/covid-private-testing-providers-general-testing-18022021.csv/preview

UK English 'Test to Release' rapid testing labs:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/962716/covid-private-testing-providers-test-to-release-18022021.csv/preview

UK List of exempt professions:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-travellers-exempt-from-uk-border-rules/coronavirus-covid-19-travellers-exempt-from-uk-border-rules

US Proof of Negative test Passenger Attestation form:

https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/pdf/Attachment-A-UK-Passenger-disclosure-and-attestation_CLEAN.pdf

US Presidential Proclamation:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/25/proclamation-on-the-suspension-of-entry-as-immigrants-and-non-immigrants-of-certain-additional-persons-who-pose-a-risk-of-transmitting-coronavirus-disease/

UK Self-isolation:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-how-to-self-isolate-when-you-travel-to-the-uk/coronavirus-covid-19-how-to-self-isolate-when-you-travel-to-the-uk

https://gov.wales/how-self-isolate-when-you-travel-wales-coronavirus-covid-19

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-checks-at-borders/

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-international-travel-advice

UK Red List of countries:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19

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