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Travel to the UK during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go


CNN Staff

Editor's note: Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on March 4.

(CNN) -- If you're planning to travel to the UK, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

The United Kingdom has seen one of the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 in the world, resulting in multiple lockdowns.

Most recently, the Omicron coronavirus variant spread across the UK.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, most legal coronavirus restrictions were lifted over summer 2021, but restrictions remained in place across the UK regarding international travel and some nations kept certain domestic measures.

The UK reintroduced some measures following the emergence of Omicron -- most of which have since been lifted -- but regulations continue to vary across the four nations. See more details below.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland divide countries into "red" or "green" categories. There are different travel rules depending on your vaccination status.

There are currently no countries on the UK's red list.

What's on offer

In London, the UK has one of the world's greatest cities. But beyond the architectural marvels and nightlife of the capital, there is much to explore -- the rugged peaks of the Scottish Highlands, distant Welsh lakes and the wide sweep of Cornish beaches, for starters, plus historic towns and cities such as Bath, Oxford and Harrogate.

Who can go

Fully vaccinated travelers and under 18s can enter the UK without any additional testing requirements.

Non-vaccinated travelers can also visit the UK, but are subject to additional testing and quarantine requirements. See below.

What are the restrictions?

All UK arrivals must complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

Red list countries

There are currently no countries on the UK's red list.

Previously, UK residents and British and Irish nationals arriving home from red list destinations had to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense, and non UK-residents from red list countries were banned from entering the UK.

The UK government has announced that the infrastructure for hotel quarantine will "be fully stood down" by the end of March 2022. The UK government says if red list restrictions needed to be reintroduced, home isolation would likely be the preferred option.

Green list countries

Any destination not on the red list is considered green -- so currently all destinations are green -- but some green destinations don't currently permit nonessential travel from the UK.

Fully vaccinated travelers and under 18s can enter the UK without any additional testing requirements.

The list of countries with UK-approved vaccination program includes EU countries and the US. The UK also recognizes Covid-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization's Emergency Use Listing. See the full list of countries and examples of proof of vaccination status here.

Non-vaccinated travelers to the UK from green list countries must show a pre-departure negative test and book and pay for a day two test.

Non-vaccinated travelers no longer have to do a day eight test or quarantine upon arrival in the UK (unless they test positive). Non-vaccinated travelers must continue to take a pre-travel test and a day two PCR test.

For full UK government guidance on traveling to the UK, see here.

Other developments:

Cruising recommenced in the UK last summer. See government guidance here and check the specific cruise line for regulations.

It is not currently required for travelers to show evidence of a booster for travel to the UK.

As of February 24, the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid-19 has been removed in England. Self-isolation is still a requirement in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland -- see below for more information.

What's the Covid situation?

The UK suffered a devastating first wave of coronavirus in 2020, followed by a troubling winter 2020/2021 following the discovery of the Alpha variant.

Cases dropped in early summer 2021, but then rose again amid concerns about the Delta variant.

Towards the end of 2021, the Omicron coronavirus variant started to spread rapidly across the UK.

Cases are now falling again but remain quite high. There have been over 19.2 million Covid cases and over 162,400 deaths in the UK as of March 4.

As of March 4, over 141.2 million vaccination doses have been administered in the UK and over 73.3% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

In March 2020, there was a UK-wide lockdown that lasted until the summer. Since thenEngland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have developed their own region-specific measures -- see below for detail.

What can visitors expect?

  • England

All legal Covid restrictions -- including Omicron response "Plan B" -- have been lifted in England.

Face coverings are no longer mandatory anywhere -- they're not required on public transport. However Transport for London "strongly encourages customers to wear face coverings on its services."

Venues operating with large numbers -- like theaters, concert venues and nightclubs -- no longer require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR test or negative rapid lateral flow test taken within the past 48 hours.

It's now up to individual venues to decide if they want to enforce proof of vaccination -- so it's worth checking the website of the specific venue you're visiting.

People living in England can show this proof via a "vaccine passport" called the NHS Covid Pass. NHS stands for National Health Service.

People living in England who were vaccinated abroad are also able to use the NHS Covid Pass.

International visitors may show any proof of vaccination that's accepted at the UK border to enter these venues. The UK government also advises that international visitors could register negative rapid lateral flow or PCR test with the NHS and subsequently show an NHS text or email confirmation of a negative result.

The UK government has said it will phase out domestic use of the NHS Covid Pass from April 2022.

There are no rules on household mixing in England, and English shops, museums, theme parks, bars, pubs, hotels, B&Bs, cinemas, theaters and nightclubs are open without restrictions.

For England-based Covid guidance, see here.

  • Wales

Wales is currently at what the country calls Covid alert level 0.

There no limits on people meeting indoors or outdoors, in public places or private homes.

Nightclubs -- which closed following the emergence of Omicron -- are now open again.

Face masks are mandatory in certain indoor settings for people over 11 years old, including on public transport and in stores. See full Welsh face mask guidance here.

As of February 18, people living in Wales are no longer required to show an NHS Covid Pass to enter venues with large numbers of people, including cinemas and theaters.

It's now up to individual venues to decide if they want to enforce proof of vaccination -- so it's worth checking the website of the specific venue you're visiting.

International travelers can show a recent Covid test or the same proof of vaccination that they presented at the airport to enter the UK.

Full details on Welsh Covid rules are available here.

  • Scotland

Scotland recently lifted some rules that were enforced following the emergence of Omicron. There are no limits on meeting others inside or outside.

Restaurants, bars, pubs and tourist attractions are open, and Scottish nightclubs recently reopened.

Face coverings remain mandatory in indoor public places and public transport.

Proof of full vaccination or a negative Covid test is compulsory for entry to events with large numbers of people in attendance -- such as nightclubs, but not smaller venues like cinemas or theaters.

People in Scotland must show they've had a booster jab to be considered fully vaccinated if their last vaccine dose was more than four months ago.

People in Scotland can use the NHS Scotland Covid Status App to confirm they're jabbed. International travelers can show a recent Covid test or the same proof of vaccination that they presented at the airport to enter the UK. As of February 28, displaying this vaccine certification will not be a legal requirement, but businesses and venues may continue to require proof of vaccination or a recent test.

All remaining legal Covid requirements in Scotland -- such as the use of face masks -- are set to be removed on March 21.

For Scotland's current Covid guidance, see here.

  • Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland recently lifted its remaining Covid rules.

There are no longer limits on how many people can sit together in Northern Irish hospitality settings. Nightclubs recently reopened.

Hotels and B&Bs are open, as are museums and other indoor leisure and visitor attractions.

Until recently, no more than 30 people could meet in a private home in Northern Ireland for a gathering or to stay overnight. This rule has now been removed.

It is no longer a legal requirement for venues like nightclubs to ask for proof of vaccination before entering, however some venues may still require this.

People resident in Northern Ireland can use the COVIDCert NI app. International travelers can show a recent Covid test or the same proof of vaccination that they presented at the airport to enter the UK. It is no longer a legal requirement for businesses to ask for proof of vaccination or a recent test, but some venues may still require this for entry.

Face coverings continue to be required on public transport and all indoor public settings, such as museums and galleries and cinemas.

For exact guidelines, see here.

UK traffic light system

Wales regulations

Scotland regulations

Northern Ireland regulations

Passenger Locator Form

Our recent coverage

We recently got a peek inside London's abandoned Down Street station.

Planned New Year's Eve events in Edinburgh and London were canceled, due to concerns about Omicron.

Last fall, we examined the dual impact of Brexit and the pandemic on the UK tourism industry.

Check out our list of the top places to visit in the UK, or if it's England specifically you're interested, here are some of the loveliest spots in the country. You'll find our list of Scotland's top spots here.

The town of Clovelly in southwest England made our recent list of the most beautiful towns in Europe.

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