What does Freedom Day mean for travel in the UK?

Jul 19, 2021

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The long-awaited “Freedom Day” has finally arrived. From 19 July, most social distancing restrictions in England have now ended. It means for the first time since the pandemic began, you can dance in a nightclub, socialise in unlimited groups, and even walk into a pub without a reservation and order a drink at the bar.

What does this mean for travel? Let’s have a look for both travelling into and around the United Kingdom, as well as abroad.

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Most importantly, you should note that “Freedom Day” only applies to England, not the entire United Kingdom

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions still in place. For example, you will still need to wear a face-covering when entering hotels and pubs in Scotland. If you are travelling to or within these nations,  check when local rules which are relaxing, but not at the same speed as England.

Within England, you will still need to wear a face-covering on public transport like the tube, buses and planes. The requirement to wear a face-covering from walking into an airport until you walk out of the airport at your destination is unlikely to change anytime soon even if you are flyingn domestically within England.

Related: Passengers should expect to wear face masks on aeroplanes after 19 July

However, you can now keep your mask in your pocket if you wish during many other indoor travel experiences with England from now on. You won’t need to wear a face-covering to enter or move around supermarkets, pubs, cafes, hotels, restaurants or nightclubs in England though the government “recommends” wearing them in crowded spaces.

You can also move freely around these venues and socialise with other tables – there’s no longer a requirement to stay seated, have a pre-booked table or limit your indoor mixing to six people including at weddings, funerals and worship. Venues will no longer be operating with limited capacity, so if you’ve struggled to book a table at a restaurant or bar, you should find it much easier from today.

Venues may now also choose to no longer ask you to check in using the NHS Test and Trace app, or require your contact details if you do not have the app to check in. Some venues may choose to require a negative covid test, or proof of vaccination for entry.

Individual businesses may still ask customers to wear a face-covering indoors if they choose. Customers can of course continue to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing if they wish, regardless of the change in rules.

If you are travelling abroad most restrictions remain in place for the foreseeable future. In addition to the existing mask requirements for air travel, you will still need to comply with the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to, which may be proof of a negative test results, a vaccination certificate, and a passenger locator form. These rules can and do change very regularly, so check the FCDO website before heading off.

On your return to the United Kingdom, the traffic light system remains with quarantine requirements for returns from amber or red list countries. You’ll also need to ensure you have taken and booked all necessary COVID-19 tests depending on where you are returning from.

Related: Can I go on holiday to an amber list country right now?

However, as of 4 a.m. on Monday 19 July, fully vaccinated travellers who have received both doses of their vaccine in the U.K. will no longer need to quarantine on return to England from an amber country.  Under 18s will no longer need to quarantine on return from amber countries. The move effectively extends the green list for fully vaccinated U.K. tourists.

If you are travelling abroad, not much changes today, though within England then Freedom Day is a huge step towards normality.

Featured image by Tolga Akmen via Getty Images

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