The UK’s new Covid-related entry rules are starting to get a bit confusing. Pre-departure Covid tests, quarantine rules, flight bans, travel bans (yes, they’re separate things!), special forms to fill in and procedures to follow…

So here’s the no-nonsense lowdown on what you need to know if you’re planning a flight to the UK.

Quarantine Rules

The UK closed all travel corridors from January 18. This means there will now be no exemptions to the quarantine-on-arrival rules – all inbound international passengers (including UK citizens) will need to self-isolate for ten days. In most cases, you can reduce this by getting a test after five days in the country. Crew are exempt – they do not need to self-isolate on arrival.

Pre-Departure Covid Tests

All passengers (including UK citizens) now need proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days of their departure to the UK. This test can be an antigen test, or a nucleic acid test (PCR or LAMP test). Crew are exempt – they do not need proof of a test prior to arrival. Full guidance can be found here.

Flight Bans

Direct passenger flights from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cape Verde, Portugal and South Africa are banned, except for air ambulance flights and emergency diverts. EGTT Notams B0154/21 and B2756/20 are the ones to check for these.

Travel Bans

Flight bans ban flights. Travel bans ban travel. Separate things!

So there are some restrictions on inbound travel, which were introduced following the discovery of new coronavirus strains in Brazil and South Africa.

Entry to the UK is now prohibited to anyone who has been in or transited through these countries in the past ten days:

  • South American: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela
  • Southern African countries: Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Seychelles and Mauritius.
  • Cape Verde
  • Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)

For guidance on the South America / Cape Verde / Portugal ban – click here.
For guidance on the Southern African countries – click here.

These bans do not include British and Irish Nationals, or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK – who are all still allowed to enter the UK but are required to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival. With travel from these countries, there’s not the option to reduce the length of quarantine to 5 days.

But Foreign Crew Beware!

Foreign crew need to watch out here. The guidance for these countries listed above says that “any exemptions usually in place – including for those related to employment – will not apply.”

That effectively means that foreign flight crew will be denied entry to the UK if they have been in a banned country within the past 10 days. We got in touch with the UK Border Force at several UK airports, who all confirmed this is the case.

Passenger Locator Form

All inbound passengers need to complete a passenger locator form before they arrive in the UK (except if travelling from one of the following places, and they were there for 10 days or more: Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man). Crew need to complete the form too, unless they travelled in a part of the aircraft that is not accessible to passengers, for example a fully enclosed cockpit. You cannot submit the form until 48 hours before you’re due to arrive in the UK.

Enhanced General Aircraft Declaration Process

Operators headed to the UK still need to adhere to the Enhanced General Aircraft Declaration process that was introduced back in May 2020. You can view the full government-issued guidance here, but here are the important bits:

First off, there’s an announcement you need to make prior to letting your pax off the plane. The UK government has written the script they’d like you to read:

All inbound flights must also file a General Aircraft Declaration (GAD), confirming that they’ve got no symptomatic pax on board. Here’s a copy of this form, which you can download from the UK government site:

The Health Control Unit at Heathrow are the people you need to send this to (heathrow.hcu@phe.gov.uk) – as well as the local authorities at whichever airport you’re flying to. Full instructions on what to do can be found here, but here’s a summary of how it works:

  1. Before you set off: Send the GAD to the Health Control Unit at Heathrow before you set off.
  2. While in flight: Notify them of any potentially symptomatic passengers while in flight, and give them a further update within two hours of arrival.
  3. Prior to disembarkation: Hand over the GAD to the local airport operator and PHE prior to disembarkation. All this may trigger further protocols once you are on the ground.
  4. Disembark: If no suspected symptomatic passengers onboard, you can disembark.

Emergency medical attention will always supersede any public health intervention – if you or a passenger needs an ambulance on arrival, follow SOPs for a medical emergency.

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