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COVID-19: Health Considerations for Travel

Introduction

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has severely disrupted international travel. In March 2020 the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advised British people against "all but essential" travel. 

On 4 July 2020 the FCDO published a list of countries exempt from "all but essential" travel.

Self-isolation (quarantine) on entering the UK

The 4 UK national governments issue official advice on self-isolation (quarantine) rules for individuals returning from overseas to the 4 UK nations.

Official guidelines are subject to change at short notice as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

This page aims to provide you with advice on protecting yourself against COVID-19 when travelling and ahead of planning any future travel. 

Risk for Travellers

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection which is spread by droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

Your risk of being exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19) during travel relates to the number of COVID-19 cases in the destination country, your means of travel (car, boat, aircraft etc) and your activities at your destination.

  • The number of cases in different countries will vary over time, as will the measures the countries put in place to control coronavirus (COVID-19), including physical distancing and hygiene measures.
  • There is an increased risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in enclosed shared spaces, such as trains, buses and aircraft, due to the close proximity of people.
  • Maintaining physical distancing and hygiene measures will reduce your risk of being exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19) during travel.

Countries may lift or implement travel bans or quarantine measures at any time to curtail the spread of COVID-19.  These may impact your trip.

  • You must comply with local public health authority guidelines in the country that you are visiting.
  • Further up to date information can be found by visiting the country information on the FCDO website. 

Before Travel

You should not proceed with travel if you are already feeling unwell. Even if your symptoms are not related to COVID-19, you will increase your risk of either being denied boarding; or being quarantined if your illness is detected during your flight, at entry or exit screening at airports, or when crossing borders.

Before making travel plans you should check all of the following:

See frequently asked questions (FAQs) for pre-travel COVID testing.

FCDO Travel Advisory Notices 

Check the FCDO website for the latest country specific outbreak advice including:

  • Travel restrictions: The FCDO issue Travel Advisory Notices (travel restrictions), including if you are advised to avoid all travel to a country. This is updated regularly and can change between booking/planning a trip and your departure. You must regularly check for the latest country specific advice here: FCDO website 
  • Entry requirements set by your destination country in response to COVID-19
  • Reports of COVID-19 at your destination and measures the country is taking in response to the outbreak

Cruise Travel: On 12 March 2020 the FCDO advised against cruise ship travel for all British Nationals aged 70 and over, and those with pre-existing health conditions. Further information can be found here: FCDO website 

Your Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in every country worldwide is listed on the individual country pages of fitfortravel. Click the 'Alerts' link on a fitfortravel country page for details.

If the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) is:

  • high -  you are advised to avoid non-essential travel to this country.
  • moderate - you are advised to consider avoiding non-essential travel to this country if you are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19. 
    • To find out if you are at increased risk of severe COVID-19, check the following websites: 
      • Scotland: NHS inform website    
      • England, Wales and Northern Ireland: see NHS.uk website 
  • low  - your travel can proceed as planned.

See FAQs for how the risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) is determined.

Your risk is also influenced by your activities, and will be higher if you do not maintain physical distancing and hygiene measures during your trip. If you proceed with travel, ensure you are familiar with ways of reducing your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

UK Nations self-isolation (quarantine) border control rules

Check the GOV.UK website before both your outbound and inbound journeys for any self-isolation (quarantine) rules you must follow on your return to the UK. These may change at short notice and can vary between the 4 UK nations.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential and must cover medical evacuation and repatriation in the event that you become unwell and have to be transported home.
  • If the FCDO advise against travel to a country and you continue with your trip, your travel insurance may become invalid.
  • If you already have travel insurance and the FCDO advise against travel after you have booked, you may be entitled to a full refund.
  • Even with good travel insurance, you will need to follow the guidance of local public health authorities at all time, including self-isolating if you develop symptoms. This may mean your return home could be delayed.
  • Be aware that some travel insurance policies may not cover any claims related to COVID-19.
If you booked your trip before the COVID-19 outbreak there is a possibility that travel arrangements and accommodation may be affected, rescheduled or cancelled. We recommend you contact your airline or travel agent to confirm if your trip will be affected.

Medical Facilities

Before you travel, make sure that you know how to access health care at your destination. Local healthcare at your destination may be impacted by COVID-19, meaning that accessing medical care for any reason may be challenging.

To reduce your risk of requiring medical care abroad you should ensure that you are up to date with any recommended travel vaccinations, have antimalarial tablets if required, and that your health is in good condition before you travel. 

During Travel

It is important to check with your travel agent or travel company ahead of planned travel what precautionary measures they have implemented including physical distancing, face coverings and additional hygiene measures, and consider how these will affect you. These measures may include less people being able to travel on aircraft, buses or trains at any one time, and crowd control in transport hubs and airports.

  • Expect delays and allow extra time for travel.
  • Be prepared to queue or take different routes in and around stations and airports to comply with physical distancing measures.

Make sure you plan ahead of your trip and consider packing plenty of snacks, particularly if you are travelling with children, or have any medical conditions such as diabetes.

  • Shops and restaurants in airports and transport hubs may not be operating, or have restrictions in place
  • Food and drinks may not be available to purchase on board aircraft or other public transport during your trip. 

You will need to comply with local public health authority guidelines at all times, in the UK and at your destination including with measures such as entry requirements, quarantine measures and possible testing for COVID-19. Consider how these may impact your trip. 

Reducing your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Simple measures will help reduce your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) during your trip.

Physical distancing

Try to maintain physical distancing (1-2 meters) from others as much as possible

  • Avoid time in crowded public areas and enclosed spaces, including elevators, cafes, bars, night clubs etc, as much as practically possible. You should comply with local guidance on physical distancing.
  • Avoid the use of indoor gyms, swimming pools or exercise areas if physical distancing and hygiene measures are not in use.
  • Only visit cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars if physical distancing is maintained. Consider using room service, or purchase take-away meals to eat in your room or other non-crowded areas. 
  • Walk or cycle where possible, and try to limit your use of shared transport.

Hygiene Measures

You should pay strict attention to personal hygiene:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, particularly before eating and drinking, after being in public areas, using public transport and using the toilet.
  • Carry an alcohol based hand sanitiser, containing at least 60% alcohol, for use when soap and water is not immediately available. Remember this should be 100mls or less to comply with airport liquid/gel restrictions.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue and dispose of used tissues immediately in a waste bin.
  • Wearing a face covering may be mandatory in some countries when in public. If it is not, consider wearing a face covering when physical distancing isn't possible in public areas or enclosed spaces. 
  • Purchase travel tickets online and use e-tickets and contactless payment where possible.
  • Sanitise your tray table and arm rests on public transport with disinfectant wipes, remember to sanitise your hands afterwards.

Try to avoid:

  • Touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Sharing food, drinks and personal items such as mobile phones.
  • Touching common surfaces such as handrails and doorknobs as much as possible.

You must isolate yourself immediately if you become unwell during your trip with symptoms such as:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change in taste or smell.

If your symptoms become severe, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.  Follow the guidance of local public health authorities at all times to avoid spreading the virus.

For further information see respiratory hygiene and COVID-19 pages.

After Travel

You should follow the latest UK guidance on measures you need to take upon your return to the UK including instructions regarding self-isolation (quarantine). 

  • UK guidance, including links specific to each of the 4 UK nations, is available on GOV.UK website.

You should proceed straight to your home or accommodation after you arrive back in the UK if you are required to self-isolate.

  • Only use public transport if you have no other option; and wear a face covering if you do so.
  • If you are unwell you should avoid public transport whenever possible.

If you develop any symptoms compatible with COVID-19 you should self-isolate immediately and follow the latest guidance, available on:

  • Scotland: NHS inform website
  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland: NHS.uk website

You may need to discuss with your employer before you return to work after travelling abroad.

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