Five destinations removed from UK travel exemptions list

The UK government has announced the removal of Turkey, Poland, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba from its travel exemptions list following an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Five destinations removed from UK travel exemptions list

People arriving into the UK from Turkey, Poland, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba as of 3 October 2020 will be required to self-isolate for two weeks as the countries are removed from the UK government’s travel exemptions list. At the same time, from 2 October 2020, the penalties issued to people who breach self-isolation after returning from a non-exempt country will increase. 

The penalties, which mirror those recently announced for those breaching self-isolation following a positive COVID-19 test or contact from the Test & Trace app, will now increase incrementally for repeat offenders – rising from £1,000 for first offences to up to £10,000 for subsequent offences. 

Data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England has indicated a significant change in both the level and pace of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Poland, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, leading to UK Ministers removing these from the current list of travel corridors.  

A range of factors are taken into account when deciding to remove a country from the travel exemptions list, including the continued increase of coronavirus cases within a country, the numbers of new cases, information on a country’s testing capacity, testing regime and test positivity rate and potential trajectory of the disease in the coming weeks.  

The Turkish Health Ministry has said that it has been defining the number of new COVID-19 cases in a different way to the definition used by international organisations – such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) – meaning that the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s risk assessment for Turkey has been updated to reflect the likely impact of this on the data for incidence and test positivity rates. 

Data from Poland shows a 66 per cent increase in the weekly incidence (cases) per 100,000, rising from 14.7 on 23 September to 24.4 on 30 September 2020. Test positivity for Poland has nearly doubled in a week, increasing from 3.9 per cent to 5.8 per cent, too. 

Data shows there has been a consistent increase in newly reported cases in Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba over the past two weeks, with a 740 per cent increase in newly reported cases from five between 10 and 16 September 2020 to 42 between 24 and 30 September 2020. 

At the same time, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to Poland and Turkey. The FCDO already advises against all but essential travel to Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. 

The UK government has made it consistently clear that it will take decisive action if necessary to contain the virus, including removing countries from the travel exemptions list rapidly if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high. 

People currently in Turkey, Poland, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba are encouraged to follow the local rules and check the FCDO travel advice pages for further information. The UK government is urging employers to be understanding of those returning from these destinations who now will need to self-isolate. 

COVID-19 has profoundly changed the nature of international travel. Travellers should always check the latest advice from the FCDO, given the potential for changing coronavirus infection rates to affect both the advice about travelling to other countries and rules about self-isolation on return. All travellers, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show a complete passenger locator form on arrival into the UK unless they fall into a small group of exemptions. 

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