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Quarantine for returning journos again

EARLIER this year, through determined lobbying of the Department for Media, Culture and Sport by its General Secretary and others, the NUJ succeeded in securing an exemption for journalists returning from working abroad from having to quarantine.

Yellow flag of quarantine

The Yellow Jack, aka Quebec, the international maritime flag for ships in quarantine

Alas, with the new national coronavirus lockdown announced on 18 January, we have lost this exemption. Journalists returning from assignments outside the UK will now have to quarantine for 10 days like everybody else. We’ve heard that only a very few BBC news people will be spared the requirement to quarantine. The NUJ has expressed its disappointment.

As we write, the UK Government is considering a "red list" of countries from which all arrivals to the UK must quarantine in a hotel, not of their choice, at their own expense. There are also plans to require travellers leaving the UK to have a written explanation for why they need to travel. Under these plans, if travellers cannot provide an explanation satisfactory to the police or Border Force at the airport, they’ll be fined or "sent home".

There are also requirements for "pre-departure tests" - for travellers to take a covid test before starting their journey to the UK. Many of the counties that are still letting in travellers from the UK also require evidence of a covid test: not just any test, either – they will specify which (private, paid-for) test they want.

Many countries have banned all arrivals from the UK anyway for the moment, or will expect passengers arriving in the UK to undergo strict quarantine.

Watch this space for any changes in the quarantine regime for journalists. Journalists at work within the UK are still "covered as key workers" according to the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). Members should carry a Press Card when out and about for work, and a printed-out copy of the "Working with journalists during Covid-19 outbreak" letter too, should there be a need to remind police officers of this. (It's linked from here). Members should be aware that different lockdown restrictions may apply in the constituent parts of the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The NUJ is in talks with the Security Industry Authority on issues around security guards’ interaction with journalists – photographers in particular – during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Current travel restrictions including quarantine for journalists are to be reviewed by the UK Government on 15 February.