17 Jun 2020

Although the government introduced a quarantine requirement on 8 June 2020 requiring all international travellers to the UK (including British citizens returning from abroad) to self-isolate upon arrival, a long list of exemptions to the rules has also been published. As with all government legislation and guidance produced at the present time, there are several question marks on the operability and scope of these rules.

Exemptions include:

  • People involved in essential maintenance and repair of data infrastructure required to reduce and resolve outages, or in the provision of goods and services to support these activities; and
  • Information technology or telecommunications professionals whose expertise is required to provide an essential or emergency response to threats and incidents relating to the security of any network and information system and ensure the continued operation of any network and information system.

Anyone whose job description falls within the above definitions is exempt from self-isolating for 14 days on their arrival to the UK.

Whilst this clearly covers those individuals who are travelling to the UK to do the work in question, it is not clear whether this also covers those individuals who are ordinarily resident in the UK, but returning to the UK following urgent work outside the UK within these industries. There is a specific exemption for those who, although they may live in the UK, travel outside the country at least once a week for work. These individuals will be exempt from quarantine although are required to show evidence of frequent travel.

What about those who need to travel for a one-time urgent project outside the UK? The Regulations state that the above covers ‘A person who has travelled to the United Kingdom for the purposes of their work in essential infrastructure industries’. It is therefore open to interpretation whether the exemption covers all those who work in these industries, and not just those who are coming to the UK to do the work in question.

The government will review the Regulations and this requirement every 21 days, with the first review scheduled to take place by 28 June. Whilst each circumstance is different, travel is best avoided unless essential. However, if travel is unavoidable, it’s advisable and prudent to seek advice on how these exemptions apply in a particular set of circumstances.

Quarantine: I’ll be visiting the UK for less than 14 days. Do I need to self-isolate for a full 14 days?

There may be instances where individuals need to visit the UK for a short period of fewer than 14 days, but are not exempt from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days. In these instances, will individuals need to self-isolate for a full 14 days, even where the intended duration of the trip is less than this period?

Helpfully, the government has provided guidance confirming ‘If you are travelling to the UK for less than 14 days, you will be expected to self-isolate for the length of your stay.’ In practice this means that if, for example, an individual needs to visit the UK for two days, and is not covered by exemptions, then they will only need to self-isolate for the two days.

The first review is expected to take place by 28 June and it is our hope that these measures will be relaxed in the near future.

Articles and commentary by our legal experts on the impact of Covid-19 are all available here.


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