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Travel restrictions and the education sector

Education / 08 December 2021

17.12.2021: By way of update, since the original article was published the following developments have occurred:

  • All countries have now been removed from the red list
  • All individuals entering the UK are required to receive a negative Covid-19 test in the two days before they travel

Organisations should still familiarise themselves with the actions we have recommended as many remain relevant and given the pace things have changed, further restrictions may be introduced again at short notice. 


The emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, has seen the government swiftly re-implement use of the red list for individuals travelling from designated locations.  

In further developments, all travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, now require a negative Covid-19 test to enter the UK*.

With the festive period fast approaching, the education sector may see these changes impact both staff members and students who have planned to travel outside the UK during the holiday season.

What is the red list? 

Restrictions are placed on individuals travelling to the UK where they have been in a red list country in the 10 days before they arrive in the UK.

Entry to the UK is restricted to the following people only:

  • British or Irish Nationals
  • Individuals with residence rights in the UK

Individuals without residence rights who have been in a red list country in the 10 days before entering the UK cannot enter the UK.  This will primarily affect visitors.

Individuals arriving from a red list country will need to do the following:

  • Complete a negative Covid-19 test in the 48 hours before arrival in the UK
  • Quarantine for 10 full days in a managed hotel
  • Take day 2 and day 8 PCR tests

These rules apply regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

The quarantine package costs £2,285 for a single adult with additional costs for family members travelling together.  Individuals can be fined up to £4,000 where this is not booked ahead of travel in addition to paying the quarantine package fee.

What are the potential impacts?

  • Individuals returning from red list countries will be unable to physically attend their workplace or lessons for the duration of their quarantine period.
  • Quarantine hotels have limited capacity and there are already reports of lack of availability for specified dates – demand for these spaces may increase greatly towards the end of the festive period, or if more countries are added to the red list, potentially leading to delays in individuals returning to the UK.
  • The reintroduction of testing for all travellers may see increased numbers of individuals prevented from returning from non-red list countries where they test positive for Covid-19.

What should education institutes consider?

  • Communications on outbound travel – following the loosening of restrictions over the last few months it will be worthwhile revisiting communications with employees and students to ensure they understand the risks associated with travel to mitigate against any disruption.
  • Review policies on remote working and study – do policies need to be updated to reflect individuals working remotely, either from a quarantine hotel or from overseas? Do these include any potential restrictions on the type of work that can be carried out overseas in line with local laws?
  • Who bears the cost?  – institutions will want to consider who should pay for the quarantine hotel and implement the appropriate policies and processes to facilitate this, for example where there is a business need for an individual to commence work as soon as possible, or the initial travel to a red list country was employer driven.

What next?

Ministers have reacted quickly to the identification of a new variant of Covid-19.  In the week since the original six countries were added to the red list, a further five countries had been added with little notice by 6 December.

Organisations should therefore keep updated on developments, review travel data and make contingency plans against potential disruption to their operations should more countries be added to the red list.


*note that each of the devolved powers operates its own rules and there may be some differences in approach depending on the country of entry. This note focuses on the rules for England.  


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This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email:

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