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With realities of Brexit looming, the UK is making sweeping changes to its quarantine restrictions for inbound travelers. From December 5th, plans were already announced to shorten quarantine from 14 days to 5, provided a traveler submits to a covid-19 test, and returns a negative result. Now, the UK is taking things further, adding a quarantine exemption for “high value” business travelers, which means they won’t need to isolate at all.

UK “Quarantine Free” Business Travel

Business travel is essential to any global economy, and the UK will grant a quarantine exemption for business travelers deemed high value, from December 5th, 2020, along with sports people, journalists and members of the performing arts and media.

Most notably, the new “no quarantine needed” exemption applies even for travelers arriving from countries deemed high risk, or not found on the UK ‘Travel Corridor’ list.

As reported by Business Traveller, short stay business travel for trips of 3 days or less had already been discussed as a specific quarantine exemption, but the news means broader business trips will not be required to quarantine, and meetings can go ahead from the minute a traveler hits the ground. Which brings us to the important question.

What defines a high value UK business traveler?

According to Grant Shapps, the UK’s Transport Secretary, a person traveling on business who is exempt from any quarantine upon arrival in the UK is defined to be…

  • A ‘High value’ business traveler
  • “Certain” performing arts professionals
  • TV production staff
  • Journalists
  • Recently signed elite sportspeople

In adding detail to “high value” business travel, the UK typically defines this as someone dealing in a manner which will serve to benefit 50+ jobs, or are “individuals undertaking specific business activity which would deliver a significant benefit to the UK economy”.

It’s hard to imagine if, or how this will be monitored or policed, at all, given the vague nature of who can define themselves as traveling on business, but it’s ultimately excellent news for the travel industry.

Many leaders in travel, and across the health sector still advocate for pre-flight testing, and arrival testing in place of quarantine measures, and this move does nothing to encourage more rapid testing, and other ways to ensure greater safety.

Industry categories including workers from humanitarian efforts, buyers or engineers aren’t specifically included, which has some business travelers wanting wider acceptance of the term ‘business’ in writing.

Importantly, the business travel quarantine exemption isn’t a free pass to live it up at the pub. The exemption only applies to business related meetings, and does not allow travelers to mix socially.

Presumably, if someone wanted to do so, they’d need to take a covid-19 test on the 5th day after arrival, to then be exempt from quarantine like everyone else.

British businesspeople returning home would still be required to isolate for 5 days, and then take a covid-19 test to release the quarantine, if they wish to do anything outside of official work duties.

Full UK Government rules can be found here.

This is absolutely huge news for airlines desperate to draw back lucrative business travelers who have been grounded for nearly a year. Quarantine restrictions and lack of exemption from the UK Government brought the aviation industry to its knees, but the news alone will bring an influx of bookings. With restrictions to keep any contact to business only settings, it’s a well calculated risk.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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