Exactly one year ago, all Britons coming home from EU countries faced 10 days of isolation – even if they were fully vaccinated. The law applied: if you violated the quarantine, you risked a fine of 10,000 pounds. We’ve spent hundreds of pounds to prove our health, wiped our noses before, during and after our summer holidays – and faced loads of paperwork just for one sweet week in Greece, Italy or Spain.
But these days you’d be lucky to escape at all. Travel chaos has now firmly replaced the threat of the virus: it’s a summer of flight cancellations, traffic strikes, debilitating delays. Covid is no longer a problem. Or is it? Unfortunately, while many countries have abandoned their pre-travel tests, a positive result at home still has the power to ruin your vacation—and you may be legally forced to disclose it.
As cases mount, here’s what those two red lines could mean for your summer vacation.
I have Covid – can I go on holiday?
Legally, yes. There is no legal requirement in the UK to self-isolate if you test positive. The current NHS advice reads: “For five days, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people […] this starts the day after you take the test’. Under 18s: “they should try to stay at home” for three days. Morality rules instead of legality.
But the fine print on your holiday booking can legally force you to accept the result and bear the consequences, warns Javed Ali, legal adviser at Hill Dickinson: “If you are booking your travel arrangements, whether as part of a package holiday or booked separately, you may be legally required under your terms and conditions to contact your travel provider to inform them of your Covid status,” he explains. “[This] it can most likely result in the cancellation of your holiday. That’s why you should take out travel insurance for such cases.”
And of course, if you’re traveling abroad, the laws and guidelines in your destination may differ from those in the UK – so check gov.uk. Failure to comply can result in fines, voiding your insurance or even jail time.
Am I legally required to disclose my positive result to my airline or tour operator if they do not ask?
Airlines will only ask for proof of your Covid status if your destination requires it, and many countries will accept your vaccination certificate or proof of recovery instead of a Covid test – if they ask for one at all. Many summer holiday hotspots have completely dropped their entry requirements due to Covid: Greece, Turkey, Portugal (and its islands), Croatia, Italy, Germany and Poland do not require tests, certificates or declarations at all. Find out more about how to get a Covid travel card here.
But that doesn’t mean you can hide your positive status, warns Ali: “Even if your airline or country doesn’t require a test or ask you to confirm that you’re negative on the border entry form, your tour operators” Conditions and the booking terms may contain some wording about Covid.
“Depending on the terms of your contract, you may be legally required to inform your tour operator, airline or accommodation provider of your Covid status. Therefore, carefully check the terms and conditions of your holiday reservation.”
I recently got over covid and have recovered – can I go on holiday?
You certainly can. Your subsequent ‘proof of illness’ documentation can even make your trip easier: for example, Monaco accepts a previous positive test result (taken 11-180 days ago) instead of a vaccination certificate. Find out more about how to prove you’re over covid so you can travel here.
However, as above, watch the fine print of travel companies. for example Airbnb states that travelers “do not sign up for the list [if they] have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 30 days.” It warns that it will “investigate reports of violations specific to these guidelines and may take action […] including removing the Airbnb account.”
If your destination requires a negative PCR test (like Hong Kong and China, even for fully vaccinated arrivals), be aware of the risk a ‘false positive’ result caused by inactive virus residues. “10-30 percent of individuals may be positive [on a PCR test] up to one month after the initial infection,” says dr. Alasdair Scott, clinical director of test provider C19 Testing. If allowed, do a lateral flow test rather than a PCR, as they do not detect prior infection.
How do I get a Covid test for travel?
While NHS tests are not approved for travel use, PCR and antigen tests suitable for flying are still available from companies such as Express test, Randox Health and Qured – with sidestream kits priced from £10. All major airports and transport hubs still have testing facilities, although many remote clinics have closed. Travelers bound for the UK no longer need to be tested before or after arrival. Find out more about how to get a Covid test for travel here.