I need to travel to India to attend a medical emergency. My mother needs a major surgery and she wants to see her grand kids before this surgery. She is over 85.

National lock-down and International Travel Ban state on gov.co.uk site doesn't state what to do if there's an emergency. The reasons are not very clearly listed as do and don't... At least I cannot interpret them.

What should I do, If I need to travel? We have delayed the operation as much as possible. What should I do before my family travels?

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    The UK is not a single jurisdiction and different rules apply to the different countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland). Which woudl you be travelling from?
    – JBentley
    Feb 27, 2021 at 9:30
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    @JBentley in my experience, people who say "the UK" when they mean "England", or don't bother to specify which country in the UK is involved, do not live in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland :-) Feb 27, 2021 at 16:56

3 Answers 3


Your need to see a person before a surgery, or to bring some people to see that person, is not a medical emergency. Her need for the surgery, may be, but it is not her who wants to travel. I doubt you will get an exception.

Where you might have a chance is, it says on your link that you can travel for the same reasons you can leave home, and you can leave home

to visit someone who is dying or to visit someone receiving treatment in a hospital, hospice or care home, or to accompany a family member or friend to a medical appointment

Now, it also says you can leave home to exercise, and I'm sure you couldn't get permission to fly to another country to exercise, so this isn't a guarantee of success, especially since this "major surgery" is one that can be postponed a few times already.

I can't see a way for you to apply for permission to travel; it looks like you just do it and perhaps argue with someone at the airport about it? This looks too risky to me.

My personal definition of emergency travel (under which I did travel internationally in November) is: does any cost, quarantine or other issue mean I won't go, or will I go no matter what? I will go no matter what, then I go. In my case this involved two separate two week quarantines, one of which cost me over $5000, and Covid testing. Didn't matter, I had to go. If your need is not that urgent, then you know you should not go.

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    I’d also note that the UK is expected to allow international travel sometime this spring.
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 25, 2021 at 17:00
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    Regarding exercising: The rules are clear that everything should happen as locally as possible. Since OP can exercise close to their home, but they cannot visit their mother anywhere closer than India, this explains why these reasons are treated diffrently.
    – Arno
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:27
  • The law doesn't say that everything always has be as local as possible, but whenever you're outside your home it's supposed to be 'reasonably necassary' for your purpose. Driving to a good place to walk might be necassary for exercise, but flying to India obviously isn't. But it is necassary for the purpose of visiting someone who lives there.
    – bdsl
    Feb 26, 2021 at 11:47
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    There are plenty of news stories of people dying alone in hospital in the UK with members of their family living with them in the same house not allowed to visit them. What the OP wants and what they (or other family members) need are too different things.
    – alephzero
    Feb 26, 2021 at 15:43
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    @alephzero But it's important to note that that is the hospital's policy forbidding the visit, not the coronavirus laws. In fact the law specifically allows visiting a dying relative as one of the exceptions (see sub-paragraph 9).
    – JBentley
    Feb 27, 2021 at 15:58

Is visiting your grandmother right now even a good idea?

The UK is currently a major Covid hotspot, with a virulent new strain emerging there. Visiting a critically ill, elderly person right before a major surgery seems like a very bad idea to me. She's already a member of the most at-risk group in society of dying or suffering serious complications from Covid due to her age; her illness and surgery just makes it even more risky for her.

I think that visiting her in person is a very bad idea, as a result. What if you were infected by the UK strain of Covid shortly before leaving the country, and then you gave it to her, and then she got sick and died? You'd have to live with the guilt of that for the rest of your life.

Would it be possible for you to see her over a session of Zoom or something instead? It's not as good as meeting her in person, but it's better than risking her health in such a critical moment for her.

  • 85 year olds aren't good with Zoom. I would say it's not the best option, but better than traveling in such times.
    – 10 Rep
    Feb 26, 2021 at 20:31
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    @nick012000 "with a virulent new strain emerging there" Ermmm I think you'll find my country is waaaaaay past the 'emerging' stage of that... Feb 27, 2021 at 0:50
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    I would perhaps humbly suggest that, a discussion about the ethics and judgement of the topic involved, is really not called for here. Everyone would have vastly different opinions on whether or not (setting aside the national rules) it's a good idea to see grandma before she passes. Let's stick to simply factually answering the question.
    – Fattie
    Feb 27, 2021 at 15:22
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    @Fattie Frame challenges are valid answers.
    – nick012000
    Feb 28, 2021 at 2:07
  • And if she begged you to come visit, and you didn't, and she died from surgical complications, you'd have to live with the guilt of that for the rest of your life too. This isn't a simple decision, no matter how much you might want it to be.
    – barbecue
    Feb 28, 2021 at 23:56

This question would probably be a better fit for law.stackexchange.com. With that said, I'll try to answer it from the legal perspective.

Firstly, guidance is not law. Guidance is instead usually (a) a summary of what the author of the guidance considered to be the law at the time of writing, and/or (b) a collection of recommendations which are not legally binding (usually phrased in terms such as you "should" do something, as opposed to you "must" do something). So, while the guidance is a useful starting point particularly for people without legal experience, it can (and does) contain things which are not completely accurate from a legal perspective. With that said, guidance can sometimes be useful in a court setting and I will explain below how this could be relevant for the coronavirus rules.

The legal position differs depending on whether you are in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. As you didn't specify which I will answer on the basis of England, but you can find answers for the other regions by looking at the equivalent regulations.

The rules for England are governed by the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (as amended). The relevant part for our purposes is Schedule 3A (Tier 4 restrictions.

The starting point is paragraph 1(1):

No person who lives in the Tier 4 area may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

This is expanded upon in paragraph 1(2):

For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1) - the circumstances in which a person has a reasonable excuse include where one of the exceptions set out in paragraph 2 applies;

Here we have a very common source of misunderstanding. While paragraph 2 contains a list of exceptions, this is not an exhaustive list. This is clear from the wording of paragraph 1(2) above - circumstances of reasonable excuse include the exceptions but that does not mean there cannot be other reasonable excuses. The purpose of paragraph 2 is to provide a list of scenarios in which you definitely have a reasonable excuse (i.e. you cannot be prosecuted if your facts fall within one of those scenarios).

That leaves open the possibility of other reasonable excuses. Here, you take more of a risk since you do not have the protection of being covered by any of the exceptions. Instead, you would be reliant on how a court would judge the reasonableness of your actions. The word "reasonable" in a court usually refers to what is know as the objective test. This means that it isn't based on whether you thought your actions were reasonable, but rather whether a so-called "reasonable person" would have thought so. This is where the guidance can be legally persuasive. If the guidance suggests that you should or should not do something then, even though it isn't legally binding, it might persuade a court that it was reasonable or not reasonable to do that thing since a "reasonable person" would probably think it was reasonable to follow the guidance.

An approach which may increase the chance that a court would side with you is if your scenario is similar in spirit to the scenarios listed in the exceptions. Your scenario seems serious enough that it potentially could be a reasonable excuse. But as said above, you will always take some risk when doing something which is not explicitly listed as an exception.

Turning back to the exceptions, the exception in Schedule 3A, paragraph 2(7)(e) is probably closest to your case:

[Exception 4 is that it is reasonably necessary for P to leave or be outside P’s home] to visit a person (“V”) receiving treatment in a hospital or staying in a hospice or care home, or to accompany V to a medical appointment and P is a member of V’s household, a close family member of V, or a friend of V.

Note the words "reasonably necessary". If there is an alternative to you leaving your home, then it is arguably not reasonably necessary for you to do so.

The exception in Schedule 3A, paragraph 2(9) could also be a close match, depending on your mother's prognosis:

Exception 6 is that it is reasonably necessary for P to leave or be outside P’s home to visit a person (“D”) whom P reasonably believes is dying, and P is a member of D’s household, a close family member of D, or a friend of D.

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