Anyone planning to fly overseas from the UK should keep up to date with the latest air corridor information on the Government website (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors)
The situation for travellers and travel businesses has never been more uncertain in recent times as a result of COVID-19. Whether travelling for leisure or business, it has become almost impossible to plan ahead knowing the situation which applies today may be very different tomorrow. The recent change of policy on travel to Spain illustrates how overnight, decisions made by the Government, to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus, can cause severe implications for travellers already on holiday or planning to travel, and the travel industry grappling to make sense of how to handle the situation.
In this article, we will list the current air corridors permitted by the Government, and what travellers will need to do on their return home if they do need to self-isolate.
What is an air corridor?
An air corridor (often referred to as an air bridge) is a reciprocal arrangement between two countries allowing travel without the need to quarantine for 14 days. These are typically allowed between two countries which currently have low coronavirus infection rates. Air corridors are under constant review based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in each location. The first air corridors following the COVID-19 lockdown came into force on 4th July 2020.
Which air corridors are currently open?
There are three broad types of locations which are currently exempt from self-isolation when arriving in England: 1) areas covered by the travel corridor exemption, 2) areas within the common travel areas of Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, and 3) British Overseas Territories.
The countries currently included in the travel corridor exemption, as listed on the Government website of 28th July 2020, are as follows:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- Bonaire, St Eustatius, and Saba
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- The British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- the Channel Islands
- Czech Republic
- Estonia (added 28th July – if you arrived in England from Estonia before 28th July, you will need to self–isolate)
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- French Polynesia
- Hong Kong
- the Isle of Man
- Latvia (added 28th July – if you arrived in England from Latvia before 28th July, you will need to self–isolate)
- Macao (Macau)
- the Netherlands
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- San Marino
- Slovakia (added 28th July – if you arrived in England from Slovakia before 28th July, you will need to self–isolate)
- Slovenia (added 28th July – if you arrived in England from Slovenia before 28th July, you will need to self–isolate)
- South Korea
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- St Barthélemy
- St Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines (added 28th July – if you arrived in England from St Vincent and the Grenadines before 28th July, you will need to self–isolate)
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- Vatican City State
As you can see, several new air corridor exemption countries have been added today, and it is likely that more will be added (and removed) in the days and weeks to come. As Spain was removed from the exemption list on Sunday 26th July 2020, travellers from Spain who arrived in the UK before this date may not need to self-isolate; those that came after this date will need to self-isolate.
Do I Need to Self-isolate In England If I Transit Through a Country Not on the Air Corridor List?
This is where matters can become somewhat confusing. The current government guidance states that if you have transited through a country not on the above list, you will need to self-isolate if new passengers got on the plane, or if you and the other passengers got off the plane and mixed with others. If no new passengers got on, or if no one got off and mixed with others, or if some passengers got off but not back on the plane, you may not need to self-isolate. The challenge for travellers may be in knowing whether any passengers got on or off the plane.
What if My Time was Split between Countries on the list and not on the List?
If you spent some time in a country which is not on the list, and then travelled to a country on the list, you will need to work out how much time you will need to self-isolate. For example, if you spent time in the past two weeks in a country that is not on the list, and then you spent six days in a country which is on the list, after which you then travelled to England, you will then be required to self-isolate for eight days, rather than 14 days. This is because six of the 14 days where spent in an exempt country.
What is Meant by Self-isolation?
Self-isolation effectively means that you cannot leave the place where you are staying in the UK for the first two weeks after arrival. The time is set at 14 days as it is believed this is how long it takes for COVID-19 symptoms to appear. This means that you must travel straight to the place where you are staying, and ideally, you should avoid using public transport if it is avoidable. When you are in the place in which you are staying, whether this is your own home, you are staying with friends or family, or in a hotel or temporary accommodation, you should (as taken from the Government website):
“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 who you are staying with.
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. You cannot leave your home to walk your dog. You will need to ask friends or relatives to help you with this.
NHS Volunteer Responders are also available if you need help collecting shopping, medication, or would like a telephone ‘check-in and chat’. Call 0808 196 3646 (8 am to 8 pm) to arrange volunteer support. You can arrange one-off support, or schedule more regular help whilst you are self-isolating.
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 participate in legal proceedings
- there’s an emergency
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 the accommodation before travelling to the place where you will be self-isolating for the remainder of the 14 days
- there’s 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”.
The air corridor list is likely to change on a daily basis, and this will inevitably lead to considerable inconvenience for some travellers and travel businesses. While this may be deeply frustrating, especially if you are waiting for a holiday that has already been postponed once due to COVID-19, air corridor changes are to make to minimise the spread of the virus in the UK and to hopefully avoid the prospect of a second spike.
Which Countries Can A UK Visa Holder Travel To? COVID 19 : UK Immigration Application Centres Re-open How COVID-19 Has Worsened the Plight of UK Migrants How to Apply for a Schengen Visa How to get travel information UK Business and Investment Opportunities Post Coronavirus