What are the new rules for testing and hotel quarantine?

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People arriving in the UK now have to take two coronavirus tests while quarantining, and some must pay to self-isolate at a hotel.

It's one of a number of rules aimed at stopping the spread of new, potentially more resistant Covid strains from other countries.

Rule-breakers face stricter penalties, including a prison sentence of up to 10 years for those who lie about having been in a banned "red list" country, such as Portugal.

What are the testing rules?

All incoming passengers must complete a passenger locator form in advance, including their departure country and UK address.

They also have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before travelling, to be allowed entry.

Travellers must then self-isolate for 10 days.

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Arrivals must take a coronavirus test on days two and eight of quarantine, at a cost of £210. If they test positive, they must self-isolate for a further 10 days.

There is a £1,000 penalty for not taking the test, followed by a £2,000 fine for failing to take the second one, with quarantine automatically extended to 14 days.

The government says these measures will provide a "further level of protection", enabling authorities to track new cases more effectively.

A few workers are exempt from quarantine, including pilots and some seasonal agricultural workers.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own travel rules, which differ slightly.

Can I pay for a test to shorten quarantine?

Under the "test to release" scheme, travellers from countries not on the red list can take a test on day five of isolation.

People who test negative can stop isolating. Those who test positive must quarantine for 10 more days after the test.

Anyone using the scheme still has to take a further test on the eighth day.

Which countries are on the red list?

There are concerns existing vaccines may not work quite so well against some variants of coronavirus, including the South Africa and Brazil variants.

There are currently travel bans on 33 countries "where the risk of a new variant is greatest".

Travellers who have been in the following countries in the the 10 days before travelling are already banned from entry, unless they are UK residents or Irish nationals.

  • Europe: Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
  • Middle East: United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Africa: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela

The government has warned that other countries could be added with just a few hours' notice.

Hotel quarantine for 'red list' travellers

UK residents and Irish nationals arriving in England from red list countries will have to quarantine in hotels selected by the government.

People entering Scotland from any country by air have to isolate in hotels. Arrivals from countries in the Common Travel Area - the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands - are exempt.

These travellers can only enter the UK at five airports:

  • Heathrow
  • Gatwick
  • London City
  • Birmingham
  • Farnborough Airfield

In England, this will cost £1,750 per passenger travelling alone, to cover transport, tests, food and accommodation.

Every additional adult, or child over 12, costs £650, while children aged five to 12 cost £325.

Accommodation must be booked in advance through an online booking system.

Heathrow Airport has warned that "red list" travellers may face suspended flights and long queues at the border.

Arrivals will be escorted straight to their hotel and must stay in their rooms for 10 nights, with security guards accompanying them if they go outside. Households will be allowed to quarantine together, and some hotels may allow them to exercise.

Those who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel face fines of £5,000 to £10,000. Anyone who lies on their passenger locator form about having been in a country on the red list will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Hauliers travelling from Portugal are exempt from hotel quarantine and do not have to present a negative test.

Who is allowed to travel outside the UK?

Lockdown rules mean people must only travel abroad for essential reasons. These are the same as the "reasonable excuses" for domestic travel, including:

  • Work that cannot be done from home
  • Medical appointments
  • Educational reasons

People leaving England will soon have to make a declaration on why they need to travel, which will be checked by carriers prior to departure.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don't show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the "curve" is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren't working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS's 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced "R-naught", is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body's immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body's normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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