What Are the Current Travel Restrictions and Why Is India On the Red List?

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View from aircraft window heading towards France from UK, photo by A Howse
View from aircraft window heading towards France from UK, photo by A Howse

What does essential travel only mean?

The current restrictions mean it is illegal to travel abroad from the UK for holidays. All non-essential travel is still banned in the UK.  In England you must have a permitted reason to travel abroad and complete the declaration form if choosing to do so. Essential work, voluntary work or education that could not be carried out in the UK are all deemed valid reasons.

Organising activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property is also a reasonable excuse, as is carrying out a legal or judicial duty. Accessing medical treatment or providing emergency assistance to another person is also deemed a proper reason. Attending a close family wedding or a funeral is also allowed. (1)

The UK government guidance directs that “All arrivals are to have a negative Covid test from within the past 72 hours, taken while still abroad.”

“Mass testing of all arrivals: All passengers arriving in the UK will be tested for coronavirus on day two and day eight of their isolation regardless of the country they come from and whether they are at home or in hotel quarantine.” (2)

Red list days are here for now

Passengers arriving from countries on the ‘red list’ (where new strains of Covid-19 have been identified) have to quarantine in government sanctioned hotels. (3)

This spring Boris Johnson and the Department for Transport have stated that “Anyone arriving in England must quarantine for 10 days and take 2 coronavirus tests while in quarantine.”

“If you have been in a country on the travel ban red list in the 10 days before you arrive, you will need to quarantine in a government approved hotel.” (4)

Red list countries include several South American, African and Asian countries. On April 9th Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and Philippines were all added to the UK’s red list. (5) This week on Monday (19th) it was announced on the BBC that India will join countries on the red list from 4am on Friday 23rd April. (6)

For a full list of rules regarding international travel from and to the UK see the link to the UK government website below. (1)

Why has India been added to the red list? 

“Experts are currently investigating the B.1617 variant (found in India) to see whether it is more transmissible, deadly, or it can evade vaccines.” reported ITV News today (Tuesday 20th April) This is following Boris Johnson cancelling his trip to India because of the potential threat to himself and his team. Unfortunately more than 150,000 new cases a day have been recorded in India for three weeks and a new strain of the virus first identified there has now been found in Britain. (6)

(1) ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): declaration form for international travel’ Gov.UK Guidance, 20 April 2021 ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): declaration form for international travel’ Gov.UK Guidance

(2) ‘Calls for sweeping border curbs to protect UK against new Covid variants.’ Jessica Elgot, Ian Sample, Peter Walker and Sarah Boseley, The Guardian, 8 Feb 2021 ‘Calls for sweeping border curbs to protect UK against new Covid variants.’ Jessica Elgot, Ian Sample, Peter Walker and Sarah Boseley, The Guardian

(3) Covid: ‘Not practical’ to close UK borders, says Boris Johnson’ Caroline Davies, Transport Correspondent, BBC News, 3 Feb 2021 Covid: ‘Not practical’ to close UK borders, says Boris Johnson’ Caroline Davies, Transport Correspondent, BBC News

(4) ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): travel corridors, Department for Transport’, 11 February 2021 ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): travel corridors, Department for Transport’

(5) ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): red list travel ban countries’, 9 April 2021 ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): red list travel ban countries’, 9 April 2021

(6) ‘Covid: Boris Johnson to lead coronavirus press conference as India variant concerns grow’ ITV News, 20 April 2021 ‘Covid: Boris Johnson to lead coronavirus press conference as India variant concerns grow’ ITV News