On 7 May the UK government published new rules for people entering the UK from outside the Common Travel Area (this is a long-established group of territories comprising the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands). All other countries will be temporarily included on one of three lists: red, amber and green.
These rules will apply from 17 May. There are separate rules for entering England, Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland. The rules for England are published at gov.uk/guidance/red-amber-and-green-list-rules-for-entering-england. The rules for Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland may differ slightly, generally being stricter than England.
All those arriving in England who have been in an amber or red list country during the 10 days prior to arrival in England will have to quarantine at a fixed address for 11 days (including the day of arrival in England), as well as taking PCR tests for Covid-19 infection before and after your arrival in England. For red list countries the quarantine must be pre-booked and pre-paid at an hotel on the official list. For amber list countries the quarantine must be at a single address. This quarantine requirement effectively makes it impossible to visit England from a red or amber list country for a walking tour unless you quarantine in England before starting the tour.
The green list will initially be quite short, and includes only the following major countries: Australia, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal and Singapore, together with some smaller island territories.
For those arriving in England from a green list country (and who have not been in a red or amber list country during the previous ten days) the rules from17 May will be as follows:
Before you travel to England you must (a) complete an online passenger locator form; (b) take a high performance Covid-19 test (PCR or LAMP or antigen) during the 3 days prior to your journey to England (see gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-testing-for-people-travelling-to-england); (c) book and pay for a PCR Covid-19 test to be taken after arrival in England but not later than the 3rd day in England (including the arrival day). Note: the test in England must be taken at one of the numerous private agencies listed by the UK government. Prices currently listed vary mostly between GBP 100 and GBP 250 per test. See gov.uk/guidance/providers-of-day-2-and-day-8-coronavirus-testing-for-international-arrivals
On arrival in England you must (a) take a PCR Covid-19 test not later than Day 2 (i.e. the 3rd day in England, including the arrival day); (b) if this test result is positive you must quarantine. Note 1: as I understand it this quarantine must be at a single address but does not have to be at an hotel on the official list. Note 2: you should ensure that your travel insurance covers the eventuality that this test is positive.
Obviously we hope that more countries will soon be moved from the amber list to the green list. The UK government has indicated that the rules and composition of the lists will be reviewed after 3 weeks, so in early June. In the meantime we advise prospective overseas clients for any Discerning Traveller tours in England or Wales to postpone booking except for starting dates from 1 September onwards. In any case please contact us if you are thinking of booking a Discerning Traveller tour this year, or for advice if you have already booked a tour from overseas. We are cancelling all Discerning Traveller tours booked from overseas with starting dates up to 30 June, and making a full refund of deposits (down payments).