COVID-19 recommended actions

From 15 February, all individuals arriving in England from or having had travelled through a country on the banned travel list, must quarantine in designated hotel accommodation (managed quarantine service, MQS) and undergo additional mandatory testing.

From 23 April, NHS nurses traveling from or through red-list countries will be exempt from using the MQS if compliant NHS trust-provided travel and accommodation can be provided. 

From 18 January, all individuals entering England must be able to present a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to departure. Following the suspension of travel corridors, all international arrivals to England will have to isolate for ten days regardless of the result. More information can be found on the Gov.uk website or see our latest news story for the updated NHS Staff Council quarantine guidance. 

Detailed quarantine guidance is available from the Department of Health and Social Care which has shortened the COVID-19 self-isolation period from 14 to 10 days.

The 10-day period is counted from the day after an individual leaves a non-exempt country, territory or island. A non-exempt country, territory or island is any country, territory or island that is not on the travel corridors list. Separate advice and guidance applies to the devolved administrations.

International arrivals from countries that have been banned entry to the UK (red-list countries) will only be permitted entry if they are British and Irish citizens, and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK. Those with residence rights includes: 

  • holders of indefinite leave to remain
  • holders of existing leave to enter or remain (that is, those with biometric residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave for example students, workers, etc but excluding visit visas.
  • holders of EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) leave
  • those who have rights of entry under the withdrawal agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA regulations and EEA frontier workers)
  • family members of EEA nationals with rights under the withdrawal agreement.

For the NHS, this means that international recruits can still enter the UK from restricted countries on the travel ban list with their entry clearance / workers visa or their pre or settled status. However they will need to complete a mandatory 10-day self-isolate period in a government-approved facility, and they cannot use the test to release scheme. NHS nurses will be exempt from mandated hotel quarantine if suitable NHS trust provided travel and accommodation can be arranged. 

Find the quarantine guidance on the Gov.uk website. Stay at home guidance can be found on the Gov.uk website for households with a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19 infection. It is important staff follow this guidance to further reduce the spread of infection.

NHS nurse exemption from the managed quarantine service (MQS)

Trusts can provide hospital-managed quarantine accommodations to nurses who have travelled through red-list countries . This has been provided as an alternative to hotel managed quarantine as part of the managed quarantine service (MQS). In addition to following specific guidance, NHS nurses will also need to follow all other COVID-19 guidance

Trusts may choose not to use the exemption and to fund MQS as an alternative. Trusts are encouraged to work on a regional basis to provide compliant trust-arranged travel and accommodation. 


The exemption only applies to NHS nurses coming from or travelling through red-list countries to take up immediate NHS employment in England. This does not apply to family members,  or dependents, or other occupation codes, who will have to use the MQS. The exemption does not cover nurses already employed by the NHS or nurses retuning from abroad for other reasons (for example, holiday or visiting family). 

Travel groups 

Regardless of cohort sizes for flights, on arrival in the UK, nurses traveling together from red-list countries can quarantine and share facilities in NHS trust provided accommodation in groups of no more than six. 

Before arrival 

Before departure trusts will need to provide the nurse with a letter setting out their eligibility for the exemption, for the benefit of Border Force officials on arrival. A template letter will be sent to trusts by NHS England and Improvement. It is vital that all details are accurate to ensure the nurse has no problems entering the country. Please ensure up-to-date contact details are provided, including out of hours contact details if possible.

Transport and accommodation requirements 

Nurses must be able to travel from the airport to hospital managed quarantine accommodation in COVID-19 secure private (including trust-owned) transport, preferably coaches or minibuses to ensure social distancing. Trusts are encouraged to work together on a regional basis to arrange travel and accommodation. All control measures (social distancing, wearing face coverings, and handwashing) are required during travel and in communal accommodation areas. 

Further details on travel and accommodation requirements are available in the GOV.UK guidance

Quarantine requirements 

Nurses quarantining in hospital-managed accommodation must follow all other quarantine guidance such as; travel directly to their place of quarantine and not leave for ten days, isolate or stay with their self-contained travel group, and comply with day-2 and day-8 testing. The use of Test to Release is not allowed. 

Trusts will want to make sure nurses are aware of their personal responsibility to quarantine effectively and to follow control measures following pre-flight testing.

For further details on the exemption and information on welcome, wellbeing support and vaccination, please see the GOV.UK guidance.

Reimbursement of government managed quarantine system (MQS) 

NHSEI will reimburse £1,000 per nurse for Trusts that have to use the Government red-list managed quarantine service. This will apply to those Trusts who are unable to use their own (or neighbouring Trusts’) managed quarantine accommodation for red-list arrivals. 

This will be backdated to 1 April 2021, and currently applies until 30 September 2021.

Test to Release scheme

In addition to the shortened self-isolation period, the test to release scheme enables individuals entering England from a country not on the travel corridor list to potentially end their self-isolation slightly quicker, following a privately acquired negative COVID-19 test result.

This means that registered health and care professionals will need to pay for a private COVID-19 test to make use of the test to release scheme, as the scheme does not currently apply to COVID-19 tests made available through the NHS.

The test can only be taken five full days after they were in the last location that is not on the travel corridor list. For many, this will be on completion of five full days of self-isolation. Tests provided by NHS test and trace will not allow staff to shorten their isolation period. Fines may apply to any staff using an NHS test result to end their self-isolation period early. This is a voluntary scheme, so staff who do not opt into the scheme will be required to complete the full 10-day quarantine period.

A list of private test providers can be accessed on the Gov.uk website and we understand this guidance is subject to review and we will keep you updated.

Key points

  • Private testing can only be used for test to release.
  • Tests must only be taken five full days after the individual was in the non-travel corridor country.
  • If the test is negative, the individual can stop isolating.
  • If the test is positive, isolation must continue for 10 days.
  • If individuals do not want to opt into the test to release scheme, they will need to self-isolate for 10 full days following return from any country not on the travel corridors list.

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