Warwick ASEAN Conference

Quarantining in the UK

DISCLAIMER:

This is by no means a strict and hard rule that all must follow, this is simply an individual -Robin Lee- who has kindly agreed to share his experience, so you are a bit more aware and informed before you arrive in the UK!

As of September 10th, if you are departing from or transiting through:

  • Singapore
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Laos
  • Indonesia
  • Myanmar
  • Cambodia

You will be required by the UK government to self-isolate for 14 days. It is therefore highly recommended that you read this article, to gain a better understanding of the quarantine and Covid’19 situation in the UK!

If you’re stubborn like me and wish to return to the UK despite the raging pandemic, you’ve come to the right place. Unlike many others, I decided to return to the UK way in advance, and here is (maybe) a little guide for you to follow on what to do, what to bring, and what to expect of your quarantine in the UK.

Getting to the UK

In short, the journey was not as complicated or regulated as I thought it would be. The only requirement enforced by the UK government is for all international travelers to submit an online form 48 hours prior to their arrival into the UK (https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control). The main information that you would require is your passport, flight details, contact information, and your quarantine address. After you have submitted the online form, you should receive an email with a copy of it. Please save the email and the attachment (or print them) as you would have to validate it at the customs once you arrived in the UK. There is no need for a negative COVID swab test or a doctor’s letter before you fly.

You may also want to check if your country is covered by the travel corridor exemption. If your country is on the list when you arrive in the UK, you will not need to serve the 14-days quarantine. (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors#countries-and-territories-with-no-self-isolation-requirement-on-arrival-in-england) This list will be updated at the end of each week, so do check regularly so to avoid begging your UK friends for a place to quarantine or spending top dollar for a hotel stay. Nevertheless, do remember to submit the UK online border form even if you do not have to self-isolate. Lastly, if you have visited, or transited, in any country that is not covered by the travel corridor exemption in the 14 days preceding your arrival, you will need to self-isolate. 

(Note: The preceding statements on UK border policy are as accurate of 30 August – the day of my flight. For updated border guidelines, please refer to the UK and your home government’s official website)

For Singaporeans: You may have noticed recent government policy calling for students studying abroad to prove that their institution does not provide the means for complete online learning. Whilst I was not asked for proof during my departure, here are some documents that you may want to consider having on hand just in case you’re damn “suay” (“unlucky”) or just damn kiasu like me.

  1. Your CAS and temporary visa (For incoming first-years only)
  2. Your enrolment/re-enrolment email
  3. Warwick Autumn Term FAQ (https://warwick.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/teaching/)
  4. Specifically: “Why isn’t the first term going online?” and “Lab-based subjects” (For those with lab-based modules)

However, do note that as of current policy (as of 30 Aug 20), the government will not sponsor your stay-home notice (SHN) should you be mandated to do so when you eventually return.

Lastly, a gentle reminder for the guys in case you have thrown the red letter into the bin before opening it – Please check on the status of your NS Exit Permit (EP). An active EP will expire regardless of its length if you remain in Singapore for more than 5 months. Try not to leave it until the last minute. They do require proof for randomly selected EP applications, which may create inconveniences should you be that unlucky.

Ok, enough with the admin. Kudos if you’ve actually read till this point.

While the Singapore Airport was rather deserted, there are still places for you to grab a quick bite/shop before you head over to your gate in Departure (SafeEntry still applies lol). Apart from the lack of crowds and social distancing measures during security checks, there is not much difference to a regular flight. Do expect the boarding process to take a little longer, as transit passengers are now required to board flights before domestic outbound passengers.

Figure 1: Just Completely Deserted
Figure 2: Small eateries are still open till late for you to grab a quick bite

The flight was normal (I flew Singapore Airlines and experiences will likely differ based on your flight of choice) with the exception of the need to wear a face-covering at all times except during meals. With social distancing measures, most airlines ensure that passengers do not sit on adjacent seats. If you are lucky (I was not), you may even have a whole row to yourself.

Figure 3: SQ’s Care Kit
Figure 4: UK Government Advisory gave during the flight
Arriving in London, Heathrow

There are few similarities upon arriving in Heathrow. Social distancing and temperature checks were not one of them. Queues at the custom were comparatively short, but they were also not as staffed so do be prepared to spend around 30min on average to complete customs (Remember to prepare your completed UK online form and BRP/temporary visa).  I took around 45minutes to complete customs and retrieve my luggage.

Upon leaving Arrivals in Heathrow T2, you have a few options to plan your journey to your accommodation/quarantine stay. For those going to London, there is the London Express, where tickets can be purchased from electronic machines just outside the Arrival Gate. 

Figure 5: Express Trains to London

Otherwise, if you plan on taking the National Express, please do book your ticket in advance. (https://www.nationalexpress.com/en) The National Express stands are found in the Central Bus Station, which is around a 7-minute walk from the Arrival Gate. For National Express bus rides, you will have to pass a temperature check (finally…) and wear a face-covering throughout your journey.

Figure 6: There are two sets of lifts, only the one on the right to Level -1 heads to the Central Bus Station
Figure 7: Check the directory at the lifts to check if you’re at the right one

After heading to Level -1, just follow the path and take a turn to the left to take an elevator up to Central Bus Station. 

Finally, if you are taking the Tube, the London Underground Piccadilly Line can be found in Terminal 2/3, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5. The station at Heathrow Terminal 2 and 3 is between terminals, so do be prepared for a 10-minute walk underground. The journey to Central London should take around an hour. Oyster Cards can be purchased or topped-up at the station itself, or you can use a contactless payment card to enter the Tube.

If you have time to kill at the airport, there are some shops open for you to grab some food or refreshments for your journey. There is a Caffe Nero, a WH Smith, and Boots right outside the Arrival Gates. While there is no Safe-Entry, some outlets do require you to wear a face-covering so do look out for signs).

Figure 8: Go grab your meal deal…
Figure 9: …and a cuppa
Self Isolation

The self-isolation policy requires all travelers arriving into the UK and have not been in a country covered by the travel corridor exemption in the past 14 days to self-isolate for a duration of 2 weeks. Government officials may reach out to check on your compliance via phone calls or SMS. During this process, you may only travel if you are unable to self-isolate in the same accommodation for the full 14 days and must travel to your next stay to complete your self-isolation. If so, you would have had to declare both addresses in the government online form presented to customs on the day of your arrival.  Enforcement seems rather lax compared to most Southeast Asian countries. At the time of writing, I am currently 1 week into quarantine and the UK government has yet to reach out to me.

Unlike in March, most groceries are consistently stocked, and your friends should be able to help you gather essentials to last your self-isolation period.

Hang tight, find things to entertain yourself with, and be responsible.

Post Self-Isolation

You must wear a face-covering should you have to take public transport or visit the main supermarket chains.

Certain shops (e.g. Aldi and Wilco) have an in-store quota to maintain social distancing, and queues may be longer during peak hours so do set aside sufficient time should you decide to get groceries.

As a result of the reduced traffic, certain public transport, particularly cross-country train services may experience a drop in frequency. Do plan and have a contingency in mind if you are in a hurry

A significant number of outlets in the UK participate in the NHS Test & Trace Scheme, which basically serves as the UK government’s main contact tracing initiative. You would be asked to leave your name, contact information, and time of visitation. If a confirmed COVID-19 case has been detected in that same establishment and is deemed infectious during your period of visitation, you will be contacted by government officials to self-isolate through email, text, or phone.

Helpful Resources

If you require mental health assistance due to stress from self-isolation or coronavirus, here are some online resources where you will be able to find qualified assistance:

Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak

University of Warwick Wellbeing Support Services page: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/wss/

University of Warwick Wellbeing Support Services page that is specifically tailored towards any Covid’19 worries: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/wss/coronavirus-update/

The University of Warwick has also created a page specifically dedicated towards exercise whilst you are self-isolating: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/sport/together?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=covid

NHS Volunteer Support: https://nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/services

This provides a lot of useful resources and advice for your mental wellbeing, with some resources specifically tailored towards looking after yourself during the Covid’19 outbreak: https://togetherall.com/en-gb/

For additional advisory on coronavirus symptoms and what to do should you want to take a test:

NHS Self Isolation: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/when-to-self-isolate-and-what-to-do/

NHS Testing: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/get-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/

NHS Coronavirus Test Results: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/what-your-test-result-means/

NHS Test & Trace: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/nhs-test-and-trace-if-youre-contacted-after-testing-positive-for-coronavirus/

If you are traveling or transiting through Singapore, it is a good idea to check here for updates: https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/faqs

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