Travel abroad and coronavirus (COVID-19) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
From the 17th May there has been changes to the UK government rules on international travel. If you live in England these include:
- Travellers no longer need to complete a declaration form to travel abroad.
- Before returning to England travellers need to check and follow the Red, amber and green list rules
Any travel needs to be in accordance with FCDO travel advice for the country to be visited and its entry requirements, which may be subject to change at short notice. However, if you have had a full vaccine course (2 doses), you will be able to demonstrate your COVID-19 vaccination status to enter some countries and territories.
*Please refer directly to the relevant Government websites as these rules are subject to change*
In accordance with University policies on fieldwork and overseas travel a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is required for all international travel on University business. This must include consideration of the COVID-19 risk. There is a template available to assist departments in assessing the unique risks posed by the virus: OVERSEAS fieldwork COVID risk assessment template Oct 20.doc (ox.ac.uk). The primary consideration when planning for any travel during the COVID-19 pandemic is whether plans can be adapted to incorporate remote and online methods, which therefore replace or reduce need for fieldwork or travel.
Other important factors to consider when preparing for travel are the entry requirements into the country and re-entry requirements back into the UK. Travellers must refer to Travel abroad and coronavirus (COVID-19) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Travellers may incur additional costs such as quarantine, PCR tests. They will need to identify how these costs will be met. Information on this can be found at FAQs for staff: here and for students, here.
The COVID-19 risk assessment is to be completed alongside, and in addition to existing departmental travel/fieldwork risk assessment forms which cover other risks. Existing forms should be available from your department, if not please use the following: travel and fieldwork risk assessment template.
It is important to note that the UK government Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel to a large number of countries on the basis of the COVID-19 risk. There are strict University requirements for review and approval of any travel to countries and regions where the FCDO advises against travel (either all travel or all but essential travel). There must be compelling academic justification for this travel and clear evidence of how the FCDO warnings can be mitigated.
The University has decided that, under the current restrictions, taught students (UG & PGT) will not be permitted to travel to ‘red-list’ * countries set out in Red, amber and green list rules. PGR student travel is considered to align more closely to the arrangements for staff travel; travel for PGR students and staff will be permitted where University procedures for review and approval are followed.
[*we are awaiting further guidance on amber list countries]
Procedures where the FCDO advises against travel
Risk assessments for travel to countries or regions where the FCDO advises against all but essential travel or all travel, must be reviewed by the Safety Office and approved by the Head of Department / Faculty Board Chair (HoD/FBC).
The Safety Office will comment on whether the risk assessment is suitable and sufficient. This includes whether the risks outlined by the FCDO, and other significant risks associated with the travel, have been identified with appropriate mitigating measures in place to control those risks.
When making their decision on whether or not to approve the travel, the HoD/FBC must take account of the Safety Office comments on the risk assessment and consider whether the academic merits of the research/activity (in terms of achieving planned research and teaching aims) justify the residual risks once all the mitigating measures have been implemented. Information to assist HoD/FBCs in making their decision can be found in the HoD/FBC approval framework.
To ensure the review and approval process will be expedited departments should check risk assessments are suitable and sufficient, containing all relevant information, before submission to the Safety Office. Please see an example COVID-19 travel risk assessment which provides a good level of detail and evidences thorough, informed planning and arrangements. Please allow at least 2 weeks from submission for Safety Office review.
If these procedures are not followed University travel insurance will be invalidated. Travellers are strongly advised to check the terms and conditions outlined Insurance website.
Given the rapidly changing global context, it is particularly important to keep risk assessments up to date; changes in a country’s status (which the UK government advises may happen at short notice) must be addressed and any action taken in line with official advice. Departments are also reminded to consider their contingency plans and protocols for dealing with repatriation or emergencies in country.
Divisions are expected to have arrangements for the oversight of international travel during this time. This may include enhanced levels of approval for travel to ‘red list’ countries where deemed appropriate. HoD/FBC approval should be in accordance with these divisional arrangements.
Where staff/ students are already in country the restrictions on travel out of the UK do not apply; any proposed work should still be subject to a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, taking into account the FCDO advice on that country, reviewed by the Safety Office and approved by the HoD/FBC during current restrictions.
Staff and students are strongly advised to take out university travel insurance. If there is a valid reason to take out their own personal insurance, then it is extremely important they still register their trip on TIRS (on line Travel Insurance and Registration System) to ensure the University can track and trace them in the event of major incident.
Careful consideration must be given by departments to the arrangements for monitoring the health, safety and welfare of a member of staff/ student/ group of students whilst abroad (including consideration of how an instance or outbreak of COVID-19 is to be managed). This should include key points of contact and sources of support, and clarity about the roles of the department and/or the college, as appropriate.
Where research involves in-person interactions with research participants CUREC guidelines should be followed COVID-19: CUREC guidance on research involving human participants | Research Support (ox.ac.uk) .
Staff planning to change their normal place of work to overseas should refer to Overseas working | HR Support (ox.ac.uk) and Overseas Working | Finance Division (ox.ac.uk)