Exemptions, fines and transit: How the UK and France's quarantine rules work

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Exemptions, fines and transit: How the UK and France's quarantine rules work
Photo: AFP

The UK is now imposing a quarantine on all arrivals from France and the French government says it will reciprocate. So what do we know about how these restrictions will work?


What's happening in the UK?

From 4am on Saturday, August 15th, the UK will impose a 14-day quarantine on any arrivals from France.

READ ALSO: BREAKING UK imposes quarantine on travellers from France

The UK has in fact since June had a blanket quarantine requirement in place for all countries, but had in recent weeks brought in exemptions - which it dubbed 'travel corridors' - to countries including France.

France's exemption has now been removed so it goes back to the standard quarantine regulations.

These rules are that anyone arriving in the UK from France must self-isolate for 14 days or face a £1,000 (€1,105) fine. This applies to all arrivals, whether by air, sea or tunnel and to all nationalities.

You can self-isolate at an address of your choice and you can travel from your arrival point to the address where you intend to self-isolate.


The rules apply to both UK nationals and other nationalities, although there are some groups who are exempt.

They include:

  • Lorry drivers and other delivery staff and transport staff eg Eurostar drivers
  • Foreign officials travelling for work, such as the French police officers who work in British ports and the UK officials who work on the French side
  • Government contractors travelling to the UK for essential work
  • People who travel between the UK and France for work at least once a week
  • Diplomats or representatives of international organisations
  • Airline passengers on a connecting flight through the UK
  • Anyone travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal agricultural workers  
  • Workers with specialist technical skills to ensure vital production, movement or storage of goods or vital utilities work
  • Nuclear personnel working on a licenced nuclear site
  • People arriving for pre-arranged medical treatment in the UK
  • People engaged in urgent or essential work for the BBC

For the full list of exemptions, and the supporting documents required, click here.


You will also need to complete the contact locator form before you board transport to the UK, giving details of your contacts and the address where you will stay in the UK. You can find the form here. It's quite long, so it's probably best not to leave that until you are on the train platform or ferry dock to start filling it in.

The UK government has advised against all but essential travel to France, an important point as this invalidates most travel insurance policies.

And what about France?

France says it will 'reciprocate' the measures, but has provided little detail so far.

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Thursday that he had spoken to Shapps and France would 'harmonise' restrictions so they are the same on both sides of the Channel.

During the last period of UK quarantine for French arrivals, the French government again said it would impose reciprocal measures.

However in this case the French quarantine was voluntary and there was no enforcement and no fines in place.

When asked about the French measures on Friday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "France will rapidly put in place reciprocal measures, the practicalities of which are being studied."

France does not currently have compulsory quarantine measures in place, instead it has compulsory testing for people arriving from 16 'high-risk' countries.


Does this mean you cannot go to the UK for less than 14 days?

This is the big question for people who live in France and had been planning a trip to the UK. This UK guidelines say that you must self isolate for the 'first 14 days' of your stay in the UK.

However advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office indicates that you can enter the UK for a shorter trip, but you would have to self-isolate for the entirety of your stay.

The British Embassy in Paris says in its Q&A on travel rules: "If you are returning to the UK from or through France, you will need to self-isolate while you are in the UK. However, you are able to return to France or to travel onwards within the 14-day period.

"You should check to see if there are any restrictions on travel from the UK or France in your country of onward destination."

How long will the quarantine last?

We don't know. The UK generally reviews its border policies every two weeks but really everything depends on the numbers.

The UK appears to have based its decision on the number of new cases being reported in France, although France's death rate remains consistently lower than the UK's.

However the number of new cases in France is climbing rapidly and French health authorities are concerned.

READ ALSO: 'Clearly worsening' – France records highest number of new Covid-19 cases since May

Across Europe there is a general trend of rising case numbers as lockdown measures are loosened and people go on holiday. The rising rates are also partially explained by the fact that many European countries have stepped up their testing programmes.

Experts have long warned of a possible 'second wave' of cases in the autumn.

What if I have a trip booked?

Despite the advice from the UK government not to travel to France, you are not automatically entitled to a refund of a pre-booked trip – find out more here: Quarantine, cancellation and insurance – what are your rights?

What if I'm just passing through France?

The rule applies to anyone who has arrived into the UK from France, unless you were travelling through the country and only had a transit stop.

This is defined as a stop where no new people got on and no-one on the transport mixed with people outside. If you are driving you don't need to self-isolate if no new people got into the vehicle in France and none of the passengers got out and mixed with other people, for example at a motorway service station.

The British Embassy in Paris has a fuller explanation of the transit stop rule here.

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Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2020/08/14 15:32
Britain should hold its head in shame as the people coming from the UK have been likely to be caring the infection to their foreign holiday spots more than the other way round. UK still outstrips the rest of Europe in numbers of infection per day, Yet Europe allowed UK visitors to come unrestricted. <br />

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