European travellers warned they may have to self-isolate in UK

Arrivals in the UK should know about self-isolation rules.
Arrivals in the UK should know about self-isolation rules. Photo: Ben Fathers/AFP
People vaccinated in an EU or Schengen zone country are being warned that they may have to self-isolate if they travel to the UK, since the British contact tracing service does not recognise them as being fully vaccinated.

After initially refusing to recognise any Covid vaccine administered outside the UK, the British government now counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ for travel purposes people who had both doses of the vaccine in an EU or Schengen zone country.

That means that those fully vaccinated can enter the country without having to quarantine.

However, once in the country, if they are alerted by the Test and Trace service as a contact case, they will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

Fully-vaccinated people are exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if a contact case – but this only applies to people who received their vaccines in the UK. The Test and Trace programme refuses to recognise any vaccines administered outside the UK, meaning that anyone vaccinated in the EU faces a 10-day self-isolation period. The ten days are counted from the time of contact with the person who tested positive.

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The Local asked the Department for Transport how they could justify the different treatment of people who had received the exact same vaccines in different countries and were told: “If a person has been vaccinated abroad they are required to self-isolate if they test positive or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, even if they have received a vaccine equivalent to those approved by the MHRA for use in the UK.

“Our domestic verification process currently only recognises the vaccination status of individuals who received their vaccine in the UK. We continue to keep this under review.”

Daily average of confirmed new cases of Covid per million people for the UK, plus the countries covered by The Local. Map: Our World in Data

The UK government rules also state that anyone who has Covid symptoms should self isolate for 10 days, unless they have had a negative Covid test. This applies to everyone, including people who were fully vaccinated in the UK or abroad.

Self-isolation can be done at a private address if you are staying with family or friends, but those staying in hotels or Airbnb face having to extend their stay and rearrange transport home while they complete their 10-day self-isolation.

New cases in the UK are currently running at an average of about 50,000 – by far the highest in western Europe – so coming into contact with an infected person while on a visit to the UK is not unlikely.

Although most people vaccinated in Europe can now travel to the UK without having to quarantine on arrival, the UK government does not recognise people who had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard policy in many European countries – so people with this option will still have to quarantine.

Reader question: I’ve had one vaccine dose after recovery from Covid – what are my travel options?

Find more detail of the UK Test and Trace rules here.


Member comments

  1. Happened to me last week! Is there any way you guys can keep an eye on this and update the article if they update their rules in the UK? That would be super helpful!

  2. Track and Trace has been a failure and they are just going through the motions. I plan to travel by train from Provence to Wales in March. The French Govt continues to apply sensible précautions and the majority of French people (at least where I live) continue to répond in a responsible manner. Most of those on the TGV and Eurostar will have been double jabbed and will be wearing masques. I will not feel unsafe until I alight at St Pancras. I may be inclined to voluntarily self-isolate on my return to France. There is a far greater risk of me bringing infection back from the UK than carrying it in.

  3. This happened to me. While I was visiting the UK from October from Germany, I got pinged by NHS Track and Trace 2 days before my flight home (presumably they automatically sign you up from details on the UK Passenger Locator form?). I was told that I was “Legally Mandated” to self isolate for 10 days BUT ONLY because my double-vaccinated status was not recognized due to being given in Germany (incidentally where my BionTech vaccine was developed). I took absolutely no notice whatsoever (apart from doing 2 negative lateral flow self-tests before leaving), and took my flight as normal. Don’t worry, the NHS TnT people are so incompetent, it is very unlikely that they would ever catch anyone, and I was fully prepared to legally challenge this purely political spite. So, will absolutely sign up to the UK petition when available online. Thanks!

  4. I was pinged from the NHS track and trace in August and had to stay in the UK an extra week which caused me problems with my German employer

    I have just started a gov.uk petition for this to be reviewed. Unfortunately it won’t be published for a week due to the review process. But if you can, please search under https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions?state=open&q=covid for “Recognise EU COVID Vaccination Certificate for NHS Test and Trace exemption” next week and join the petition.

  5. So “Track and Trace” recognises only English (or is it UKGBNI?) vaccinations, presumably including non-Brits worldwide who have been vaccinated in England (or is it UKGBNI?). Will “Track and Trace” or the person/authority concerned please tell us why. If he/she/it/they won’t, why not?
    Could it be one of these reasons: 1) England (or is it UKGBNI?) considers itself the only country capable of properly delivering vaccinations? 2) Does England’s (or is it UKGBNI’s?) choice of vaccines rule out the relevance or efficacy of other vaccines? 3) Is the special treatment viewed as an aide to preventing further spectacular increases in England’s (or is it UKGBNI’s?) covid count from new cases to deaths? 4) How wide is the contact area for “Test and Trace” to feel compelled to act – eg. an aeroplane cabin, a train or chunnel carriage, a cross channel ferry, an airport terminal, a motorway service station – you get my drift? 5) Is this because Morocco has put England (or is it UKGBNI?) on its red list? 6) Was it a misprint in some administrative/governmental memo?
    Can someone throw some light on the matter, apart from being bewildered?
    Chris L-W.

  6. Is this actually across the whole UK, or is it true only for England? My daughter lives & was vaccinated in Scotland & she has told me she had to self-isolate when Track & Trace identified her as a contact case.
    I know it’s hard to keep up with all the details but ‘UK’ is so often used as a proxy for England when the devolved governments are often following different policies.

  7. My first reaction, as someone who has London reservations for early December, was that this was bullsh*t. But, come to think, if I were notified in France that I’d been in contact with an infected person here, I’d probably be inclined to self-isolate even though I’m vaccinated. Given the much higher likelihood of that happening in the UK, with its much higher infection rate … well, I’ve been considering cancelling my trip anyway, and this may cinch it. Tough luck, London hotels and concert halls.

  8. I was contacted by the Track and trace in September, just said I had been vaccinated (I didn’t tell them where ) and that was it.

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