NHS workers are no longer exempt from quarantine restrictions when returning from abroad

By Claire Schofield
Friday, 31st July 2020, 2:28 pm
Updated Friday, 31st July 2020, 2:28 pm
NHS and healthcare staff will now have to self-isolate for 14 days if they come back from a high-risk country (Photo: Getty Images)
NHS and healthcare staff will now have to self-isolate for 14 days if they come back from a high-risk country (Photo: Getty Images)

Quarantine restrictions for travellers returning to the UK from Spain were reimposed by the UK government on 26 July, following a sudden spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

The change means that anyone who has travelled to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, now has to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival back in the UK. Though previously exempt, the rules have since been extended to NHS workers.

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Do healthcare workers have to self-isolate?

NHS and healthcare workers were previously excused from quarantine restrictions on returning to the UK from high-risk countries. However, the UK government announced on 30 July that this exemption will no longer apply.

Under new rules that came into effect on 31 July, all NHS and healthcare staff will now have to self-isolate for 14 days if they come back from a country that is not on the government’s approved list, such as Spain.

Currently, UK travellers can travel to 74 countries without facing quarantine restrictions on their return, as these regions are considered to have a low-risk of coronavirus transmission.

Government guidance said, "The move brings them [healthcare workers] in line with the general public and further protects the NHS and social care system from the spread of coronavirus from overseas, as signs of second waves begin to show in other countries.

"Following review of whether the measure is still necessary, an exemption has been removed to minimise the risk of onward chains of transmission that might infect the wider workforce."

Why have the rules changed?

The decision to remove NHS workers from the quarantine exemption list comes amid fears of a so-called ‘second wave’ of coronavirus in Europe.

Ministers are concerned that the recent surge in cases in Spain could spark a similar spike here in the UK, prompting the government to tighten restrictions as a result.

While no other countries have yet been removed from the quarantine exemption list, tougher measures have been imposed around the UK in an effort to help contain further spread in the worst affected areas.

A local lockdown was put in place in Leicester in June and this was recently followed by Oldham, which has seen tough restrictions reintroduced after a spike in cases.

Additionally, on the night of Thursday 30 July, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced new restrictions for millions of people in parts of northern England.

The newly instated rules have banned separate households in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire from meeting each other at home due to a rise in infections.

The areas affected by the restrictions include the following:

Greater Manchester:

  • City of Manchester
  • Trafford
  • Stockport
  • Oldham
  • Bury
  • Wigan
  • Bolton
  • Tameside
  • Rochdale
  • Salford


  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Burnley
  • Hyndburn
  • Pendle
  • Rossendale

West Yorkshire:

  • Bradford
  • Calderdale
  • Kirklees