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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Introduction 

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

Risk for Travellers

COVID-19 is present in all countries and poses a risk to all travellers.

Your risk of being exposed to COVID-19 during travel relates to:

  • the number of cases in the country you are travelling to (your destination)
  • your means of travel, for example by car, boat or aircraft
  • the activities you undertake at your destination

The number of positive cases in a country will vary over time, as will the public health measures that each country uses to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures may include:

Recommendations for All Travellers

You should ensure that you have had the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the UK COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.

Before planning or booking international travel, you should read the information on the:

These pages detail the points you must consider before, during and after travel to comply with public health measures and stay healthy. 

Reducing your risk of exposure to COVID-19 during travel

There is an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 when travelling in enclosed shared spaces, such as on trains, buses and aircraft, due to the close proximity of people.

To help reduce your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) during your trip, follow these simple measures:

Physical distancing

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

  • Avoid crowded public areas and enclosed spaces, including elevators, cafes, bars, night clubs as much as practically possible, and 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 place.
  • Only visit cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars if you are able to remain physically distanced.
  • Walk or cycle where possible. Wear a face covering on shared or public transport.

Hygiene Measures

Pay strict attention to your 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. Dispose of used tissues immediately in a waste bin.
  • Wear 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, remembering 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

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

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • a new continuous cough

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.

Overview of the Disease

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe infections like MERS-CoV and SARS.

In January 2020 China discovered a new coronavirus causing chest infections in people in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China.

  • This new infection was named COVID-19 and the virus causing it is called SARS-CoV-2.
  • The virus spread quickly, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on the 11 March 2020.
    • This meant COVID-19 had spread worldwide.

The virus spreads from person to person through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

  • If you are near the person when they cough or sneeze (within 2 metres) these droplets might land in your eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.
  • Infected droplets also land on surfaces and objects such as handles, tables, telephones.
    • If your hands touch these surfaces or objects, the virus passes onto your hands.
    • When your hands come into contact with your face the virus can cause infection through your mouth, nose, eyes.

The Illness

Most people with COVID-19 have a mild illness, or no symptoms, and fully recover.

Symptoms of COVID-19 start up to 14 days after catching the virus.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary but often include:

  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • a new continuous cough

Other symptoms that can occur include headache, altered or loss of smell or taste, tiredness, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea, vomiting and confusion.

A small percentage of people develop more severe illness and require hospital care. More severe infections can lead to death.

Severe illness is more likely in people who:

  • are aged over 70 years or frail
  • those at any age who:
    • have weakened immune systems due to medical conditions or medical treatment, including chemotherapy for cancer
    • have medical conditions that affect their brain, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys
    • are diabetic
    • are pregnant
    • are severely overweight

Treatment and Testing

Most COVID-19 infections get better without any treatment. For those at risk of severe infection or who require admission to hospital, therapies that make the illness less severe and save lives are available.

Antibiotics do not work because it is a viral infection.

Testing

Guidance on testing in the UK nations is available from the following websites:

COVID-19 testing for the purposes of international travel is not available on the NHS.

  • Pre-travel COVID-19 tests are available in the private sector. 
  • If you need to travel internationally for work and require evidence of a test, you should speak to your employer or occupational health adviser.

Vaccination 

COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK.

You should ensure you have been vaccinated as part of the UK vaccination programme.

Further information on COVID-19 vaccines, including how to arrange an appointment for vaccination is available from:

At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccines available just for the purposes of travel. 

Further Information

Links to the UK 4 nations guidance on COVID-19, including information on local measures and restrictions:

Further information on COVID-19 is available from the World Health Organization

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