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TRAVELLING TO FRANCE

European travellers warned they may have to self-isolate in UK

People vaccinated in an EU or Schengen zone country are being warned that they may have to self-isolate if they travel to the UK, since the British contact tracing service does not recognise them as being fully vaccinated.

Arrivals in the UK should know about self-isolation rules.
Arrivals in the UK should know about self-isolation rules. Photo: Ben Fathers/AFP

After initially refusing to recognise any Covid vaccine administered outside the UK, the British government now counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ for travel purposes people who had both doses of the vaccine in an EU or Schengen zone country.

That means that those fully vaccinated can enter the country without having to quarantine.

However, once in the country, if they are alerted by the Test and Trace service as a contact case, they will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

Fully-vaccinated people are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if a contact case – but this only applies to people who received their vaccines in the UK. The Test and Trace programme refuses to recognise any vaccines administered outside the UK, meaning that anyone vaccinated in the EU faces a 10-day self-isolation period. The ten days are counted from the time of contact with the person who tested positive.

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The Local asked the Department for Transport how they could justify the different treatment of people who had received the exact same vaccines in different countries and were told: “If a person has been vaccinated abroad they are required to self-isolate if they test positive or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, even if they have received a vaccine equivalent to those approved by the MHRA for use in the UK.

“Our domestic verification process currently only recognises the vaccination status of individuals who received their vaccine in the UK. We continue to keep this under review.”

Daily average of confirmed new cases of Covid per million people for the UK, plus the countries covered by The Local. Map: Our World in Data

The UK government rules also state that anyone who has Covid symptoms should self isolate for 10 days, unless they have had a negative Covid test. This applies to everyone, including people who were fully vaccinated in the UK or abroad.

Self-isolation can be done at a private address if you are staying with family or friends, but those staying in hotels or Airbnb face having to extend their stay and rearrange transport home while they complete their 10-day self-isolation.

New cases in the UK are currently running at an average of about 50,000 – by far the highest in western Europe – so coming into contact with an infected person while on a visit to the UK is not unlikely.

Although most people vaccinated in Europe can now travel to the UK without having to quarantine on arrival, the UK government does not recognise people who had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard policy in many European countries – so people with this option will still have to quarantine.

Reader question: I’ve had one vaccine dose after recovery from Covid – what are my travel options?

Find more detail of the UK Test and Trace rules here.

Member comments

    1. I was contacted by the Track and trace in September, just said I had been vaccinated (I didn’t tell them where ) and that was it.

  1. This happened to me at the end of September. There is no need to isolate on arrival if you are fully vaccinated but if you are identified as being in contact with someone (e.g. on the flight to the UK) then you have to isolate until the 10th day after contact. Those vaccinated in the UK don’t need to isolate, just non-UK vaccinated. I didn’t have to isolate until the 6th day there when I was contacted by the NHS Track and Trace. Schrödinger’s Vaccinated.

  2. My first reaction, as someone who has London reservations for early December, was that this was bullsh*t. But, come to think, if I were notified in France that I’d been in contact with an infected person here, I’d probably be inclined to self-isolate even though I’m vaccinated. Given the much higher likelihood of that happening in the UK, with its much higher infection rate … well, I’ve been considering cancelling my trip anyway, and this may cinch it. Tough luck, London hotels and concert halls.

  3. Is this actually across the whole UK, or is it true only for England? My daughter lives & was vaccinated in Scotland & she has told me she had to self-isolate when Track & Trace identified her as a contact case.
    I know it’s hard to keep up with all the details but ‘UK’ is so often used as a proxy for England when the devolved governments are often following different policies.

  4. So “Track and Trace” recognises only English (or is it UKGBNI?) vaccinations, presumably including non-Brits worldwide who have been vaccinated in England (or is it UKGBNI?). Will “Track and Trace” or the person/authority concerned please tell us why. If he/she/it/they won’t, why not?
    Could it be one of these reasons: 1) England (or is it UKGBNI?) considers itself the only country capable of properly delivering vaccinations? 2) Does England’s (or is it UKGBNI’s?) choice of vaccines rule out the relevance or efficacy of other vaccines? 3) Is the special treatment viewed as an aide to preventing further spectacular increases in England’s (or is it UKGBNI’s?) covid count from new cases to deaths? 4) How wide is the contact area for “Test and Trace” to feel compelled to act – eg. an aeroplane cabin, a train or chunnel carriage, a cross channel ferry, an airport terminal, a motorway service station – you get my drift? 5) Is this because Morocco has put England (or is it UKGBNI?) on its red list? 6) Was it a misprint in some administrative/governmental memo?
    Can someone throw some light on the matter, apart from being bewildered?
    Chris L-W.

  5. I was pinged from the NHS track and trace in August and had to stay in the UK an extra week which caused me problems with my German employer

    I have just started a gov.uk petition for this to be reviewed. Unfortunately it won’t be published for a week due to the review process. But if you can, please search under https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions?state=open&q=covid for “Recognise EU COVID Vaccination Certificate for NHS Test and Trace exemption” next week and join the petition.

  6. This happened to me. While I was visiting the UK from October from Germany, I got pinged by NHS Track and Trace 2 days before my flight home (presumably they automatically sign you up from details on the UK Passenger Locator form?). I was told that I was “Legally Mandated” to self isolate for 10 days BUT ONLY because my double-vaccinated status was not recognized due to being given in Germany (incidentally where my BionTech vaccine was developed). I took absolutely no notice whatsoever (apart from doing 2 negative lateral flow self-tests before leaving), and took my flight as normal. Don’t worry, the NHS TnT people are so incompetent, it is very unlikely that they would ever catch anyone, and I was fully prepared to legally challenge this purely political spite. So, will absolutely sign up to the UK petition when available online. Thanks!

  7. Track and Trace has been a failure and they are just going through the motions. I plan to travel by train from Provence to Wales in March. The French Govt continues to apply sensible précautions and the majority of French people (at least where I live) continue to répond in a responsible manner. Most of those on the TGV and Eurostar will have been double jabbed and will be wearing masques. I will not feel unsafe until I alight at St Pancras. I may be inclined to voluntarily self-isolate on my return to France. There is a far greater risk of me bringing infection back from the UK than carrying it in.

  8. Happened to me last week! Is there any way you guys can keep an eye on this and update the article if they update their rules in the UK? That would be super helpful!

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said. 

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