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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

What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals, what you can’t check in - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas.

What you should know if you're travelling to Spain in December

December is a busy travel period with many foreigners leaving Spain to celebrate Christmas with their families back in their home countries and many others travelling to Spain for a holiday or to spend time with their loved ones here.

Airline strikes and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging, but here’s everything to need to know, so you can be prepared. 

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

There is still one important Covid travel rule in Spain

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Although it is no longer compulsory to present a negative Covid-19 test to fly, Spanish health and airport authorities ask that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms avoid travel.

It is no longer necessary either for travellers to fill in health control forms before flying to Spain as was previously the case, and there are no bans or restrictions on non-EU or other specific countries.

Which are the least busy days for travelling to Spain in December?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, which has analysed nine million searches for people looking to travel to Spain over the festive period, some of the quietest days to travel to Spain are from the 18th to the 23rd, with the 23rd being the least popular before Christmas.

If you’re wanting to fly to Spain after Christmas, however, you’ll find it even quieter on December 28th, as well as January 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th. You may find Spanish cities to be fairly busy however as December 6th and 8th are public holidays.

Conversely, the most popular days to travel are between December 12th and the 17th, so avoid those days if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Who is travelling to Spain this December? 

According to new data released by Spain’s Tourism Ministry, during the last month of the year, 7,066,101 people have booked seats, which implies a recovery of 97.4 percent compared to the same month of 2019. 

Forecasts for the early December holidays reveal that Italians, Germans and French are the main tourists who will be visiting Spain. During the puentes and public holidays on December 6th and 8th, Italians will make up the majority of tourists travelling to Spain (23 percent), followed by Germans (17 percent), French (16 percent), British (10 percent) and finally the Portuguese (6 percent).

Airline strikes

Several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

The Vueling strikes are due to take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. They began on November 1st 2022 and will run right through the Christmas period to January 31st 2023.

Specifically, this means that those travelling on December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th,10th and 11th may be affected by cancellations. 

Additional days that will be affected include December 24th, 31st and January 5th 2023, affecting those passengers who plan on travelling for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day.

The workers are demanding a wage increase in line with the rise in prices due to inflation, as well as protesting over the precarious work conditions that have been experienced within the sector since even before the pandemic.  

Many passengers are currently being offered alternative flights, refunds or other compensation if their flights are cancelled. 

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

It’s likely these airports will include Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville, however, it’s worth noting that Ryanair has said that it doesn’t expect this strike to cause that much disruption.

Bringing food and goods in from the UK and other non-EU countries

One of the advantages of going back to your home country for Christmas is not only to see your friends and family but also to stock up on treats and ingredients you’ve missed while living in Spain. Think mince pies, custard powder and Marmite for those going back to the UK.

But as this is the second Christmas since Brexit came into force, many may still not be totally aware of what they’re now allowed to bring to Spain from non-EU countries.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products are not allowed. This means no Christmas puddings with suet, no British bacon and blocks and Wensleydale or Cheddar cheese to bring back with you.

If you want to know exactly what you can and can’t bring in this Christmas, read our detailed guide here

Bringing food from Spain into the UK, is a little easier as you’re still allowed to bring in EU products, so packets of jamón and Manchego cheese are ok to take.

Travel within Spain

Those who are planning on travelling within Spain this Christmas, either to visit friends and family or simply for the fun of travel should know that there are currently lots of travel discounts, particularly on trains.

Multi-journey tickets are currently free on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains and are worth paying the €10 or €20 deposit for if you’re going to be making the same journey several times during your trip.

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For example, if you’re planning on spending the holiday in the small Catalan town of Sitges, but know that you’ll be making several trips to Barcelona during that time for sightseeing, shopping or eating out, then it could be worth it.

Unfortunately, the free tickets are not available on long-distance trains, but you can still get a bargain on these this winter as Spain’s new low-cost train operator Iryo recently launched.

This means that you can get tickets from Madrid to Barcelona as well as Valencia and Málaga for an average of €18 each. 

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