4 October 2021 – More Changes to the Rules for International Travel

Life for vaccinated travellers becomes a little more straightforward from 4am on 4 October 2021. However, life for the unvaccinated adult gets a bit more difficult.

The end is nigh for traffic lights with the disappearance of the green, amber and amber plus categories, to be replaced with two categories, a red list and the rest of the world.

This article deals with some of the actions tour operators should now take. This position is correct at 30 September 2021.

All travellers

  • All travellers need to check the entry requirements for the country to which they are travelling; each will have their own entry requirements.
  • All travellers arriving in the UK must complete a passenger locator form.
  • All travellers must have a Covid-19 test after arrival in the UK.
  • Covid-19 tests must meet the specific requirements set out in the regulations. Travellers may not use NHS tests (except for confirmation of a lateral flow positive test result – see below rules for vaccinated travellers).
  • All travellers arriving from red list countries are required to take a compliant Covid-19 lab test with an approved provider in the 3 days prior to travel.
  • All travellers arriving from red list countries need to have booked a quarantine hotel package prior to arrival, which includes the required tests.
  • All travellers who have been in or through a red list country in the 10-days prior to arrival in England will have to follow the stricter red list rules.
  • A breach of the regulations attracts fines for the traveller of up to £10,000 depending on the nature of the offence.

Vaccinated travellers (from 4 October 2021)

  • Fully vaccinated travellers includes people vaccinated in the UK, the EU, the US or a number of other recognised countries as well as those aged under 18. If a traveller is vaccinated outside the recognised list of countries unfortunately, they will have to follow the rules for unvaccinated travellers.
  • Fully vaccinated travellers arriving from non-red list countries will not be required to have a PCR or lateral flow test prior to arrival in the UK.
  • Fully vaccinated travellers will not need to quarantine or self-isolate when arriving from a non-red list country but they must have booked and paid for a day 2 test.
  • From the end of October, the day 2 test may be a lateral flow test (the date is not yet confirmed.) Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost to the traveller.

Unvaccinated travellers

  • All returning non-vaccinated travellers must take a compliant Covid-19 lab test with an approved provider in the 3 days prior to travel.
  • Unvaccinated travellers will need to self-isolate at home for 10 days and must have booked and paid for a day 2 and a day 8 test (unless they pay for a test to release).
  • There is currently no difference between someone who chooses not to be vaccinated and someone who cannot have the vaccination for medical reasons.

Information obligations

“Operators” of a commercial transport service – most commonly an airline or ferry operator (not the tour operator) have specific duties to provide prescribed information to their passengers at various points. They must also ensure that passengers have completed passenger locator forms, (where appropriate) have a negative test before travel and meet the other requirements for entry. It is sufficient for the operator to show that they provided the prescribed information to the person who made the booking (who might be the tour operator.)

Under the Package Travel and Linked Arrangements Regulations 2018 (PTR) tour operators and/or retailers have a duty to provide specific information to the traveller prior concluding the contract, this includes general information on passport, visa requirements and health formalities for the country of destination. There is no requirement to provide such information about a traveller’s return to England. Ensuring travellers have this information is clearly good practice.

The PTR also provide that the organiser must provide assistance to the traveller if they are in difficulty of any kind.

Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office advice

Tour operator booking conditions sometimes include a contractual commitment to follow FCDO advice, if yours do, you may want to review whether to maintain this. The government has been under pressure from the travel industry to align FCDO advice with the traffic light system. Although there has been a shift away from blanket advice against non-essential travel, it is not completely aligned. Once a country is removed from the red list, the FCDO may still advise against all non-essential travel to that country for Covid and/or non-Covid reasons.

Public liability insurance held by tour operators may contain specific provisions about coverage linked to FCDO advice so you should be aware of this and check your policy terms.

What does this mean in practice for tour operators?

  • Providing up to date advice to travellers about outbound and return entry requirements will be essential.
  • A traveller who fails to book a test or obtain a test result for their return trip may ask for help from the tour operator. The tour operator should not be liable for the costs associated with the delayed return, however, this may depend on the specific circumstances.
  • The airline or other commercial transport provider will be entitled to refuse to transport travellers who do not comply with the requirements for entry to the UK. It is therefore, advisable that tour operators provide clear and prominent information to travellers to ensure that they are informed in advance of travel.
  • Tour operators will need to consider how to manage travel to red list countries, both where the advice changes after booking and for those clients who wish to travel to such destinations.

Actions to consider:

  1. Review the information you are providing, how this is provided and at what points.
  2. Check booking conditions to ensure that they are up-to-date, deal with the Covid-19 situation and what you do, or intend to do, in practice.
  3. Review your position on travel to red list countries.

 

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If you have any queries about anything in this article please contact Becky Cackett (becky.cackett@mb-law.co.uk) or Claire Ingleby (claire.ingleby@mb-law.co.uk).

 

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