Data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England (PHE) has indicated a significant change in both the level and pace of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in those destinations, leading to ministers removing these from the current list of travel corridors.
A range of factors are taken into account when deciding to remove a country from the exemption list, including the continued increase of coronavirus within a country, the numbers of new cases, information on a country’s testing capacity, testing regime and test positivity rate and potential trajectory of the disease in the coming weeks.
There has been a consistent increase in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population in Estonia over the past week, with a 25% increase in total cases over this time period.
At the same time, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to Estonia.
The government has made consistently clear it will take decisive action if necessary, to contain the virus, including removing countries from the travel corridors list rapidly if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high.
National restrictions introduced on 5 November remain in place meaning everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons, including for work or education. This means people can no longer travel to take holidays or travel internationally unless for work or other legally permitted reasons. Those in breach of the rules face penalties starting at £200 and rising to a maximum of £6,400.
People currently in Estonia and Latvia are encouraged to follow the local rules and check the FCDO travel advice pages on GOV.UK for further information. The government is urging employers to be understanding of those returning from these destinations who now will need to self-isolate.
COVID-19 has profoundly changed the nature of international travel. Travellers should always check the latest advice from the FCDO, given the potential for changing coronavirus infection rates to affect both the advice about travelling to other countries and rules about self-isolation on return.
All travellers, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show a complete passenger locator form on arrival into the UK unless they fall into a small group of exemptions.
Penalties for those breaching the self-isolation rules when returning from non-exempt countries have increased from £1,000 for first offences up to £10,000 for subsequent offences, mirroring penalties for those breaching self-isolation following a positive COVID test or contact from Test and Trace.