I'm from Singapore, and have been fully vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech in Singapore, and am likely to get a booster shot in Singapore in early January 2022 before I travel. I'm intending to travel to the UK as a tourist.

The UK accepts Singaporean vaccination certificates for entry into the UK, and hence I will not be required to quarantine at all, and will just need to take a Day 2 test (which apparently can be done at Heathrow Airport immediately after arrival).

The NHS has a contact tracing system, and they will notify you if you are a close contact of an infected individual. However, the NHS disregards vaccines administered outside the UK, and hence will treat me as an unvaccinated individual. This means that I will be required to isolate for ten days. This interpretation is supported by this article (in Norwegian), and TripAdvisor forum posts such as this one.

I know that they perform contact tracing with information from at least two sources:

  • Seat assignment on the inbound flight into the UK
  • The NHS track and trace app

I can minimise being a close contact on the flight by selecting a seat as far as possible from other passengers (flights from Singapore to the UK seem mostly empty in economy these days). It also seems that the NHS app is not mandatory, and apparently it is not required for entry into restaurants, museums, transport, and other indoor spaces either, so it doesn't seem like I will need to download it anyway. (Is this correct?)

So by question is: What other sources of information does the NHS contact tracing system use, and how might I minimise the probability of being quarantined while in the UK?

(Alternatively, if there is any information on how to get the NHS to treat me as a vaccinated individual, that would be a great answer too.)

  • 1
    When you say ‘the UK’ I assume you are referring to England? The rules are not 100% the same across all of the UK, for example vaccine passports are currently needed in Scotland in order to enter nightclubs and large events such as football matches and concerts. There are similar rules in place in Wales bbc.com/news/uk-wales-politics-58600373
    – Traveller
    Nov 16, 2021 at 18:45
  • Hmm, I didn't realise that. I was also intending to visit Scotland for a bit, but for the purposes of this question let's keep it to England only.
    – Bernard
    Nov 17, 2021 at 4:50
  • I'm struggling to find a recent & reliable enough source I'm comfortable to make this an answer, but at one time where you sat on the plane didn't mater. 1/2 cases the whole class (economy/business ect.) has to self isolate, more then that and the whole plane had to. How close you where to others didn't come into it. To be clear this may he completely out of date.
    – skifans
    Nov 17, 2021 at 9:01
  • @skifans That makes the probability that I would have to self-isolate pretty high, especially since pre-departure tests are not required for vaccinated individuals...
    – Bernard
    Nov 17, 2021 at 9:29
  • 1
    @Bernard - sorry I could have been more detailed. But since September they haven't been needed to vaccinated people - ft.com/content/495b9e50-bf08-49d7-8bbf-2a5ba8cdba5d - you still need them if un-vaxed. Before that it was based exclusively on what countries you had been in, your vacation status didn't come into it.
    – skifans
    Nov 17, 2021 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


The UK rules changed in December to remove the oddity that people vaccinated abroad might be legally required to self-isolate in circumstances where people vaccinated in the UK wouldn't be required to:


(Announced on 19 November, so after your question was posted but coming into effect well before your planned trip.)

So the answer to the alternative part of your question, about how to get the UK contact tracing system to treat you as a fully vaccinated, is simply to wait until December.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is great news! There's still quite some time before I need to commit to by travel plans, and I'll definitely pay attention to how it will be implemented (e.g. if is it like Switzerland, where I will need to submit my Singaporean vaccination certificate online, and they will somehow put it into the app for me).
    – Bernard
    Nov 20, 2021 at 13:43
  • Is there any official source for this? the news article linked seems to rely on a politicians tweet. Nov 21, 2021 at 18:28
  • No idea. Possibly not yet - it was only announced on Friday evening, and it won't come into effect for a few weeks. I'm sure it will have been published more officially before the OP visits next year.
    – djr
    Nov 21, 2021 at 19:49
  • 3
    @Bernard the rules have now changed as planned - I've updated my answer to show a link to the new government guidance page which shows that vaccines received outside of the UK are fine too.
    – djr
    Jan 3, 2022 at 22:46
  • 1
    Looks like I don't need to get my vaccination certificate into the NHS system at all - it seems like I should just carry on going wherever I have planned to go to, and show my certificate to anybody who asks me why I'm not isolating.
    – Bernard
    Jan 4, 2022 at 3:12

Anyone who qualifies as fully vaccinated does not have to self-isolate unless:

  • they arrived via a red list country (currently none on the list)

  • their Day 2 test result is positive

  • they are not exempt from self-isolation as a contact because their vaccine was not administered in the UK, and are notified by NHS Test and Trace that they have been identified as a close contact and/or have tested positive for COVID-19. This is a legal requirement.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19 and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works

You may need to demonstrate your Covid status while in the UK. The NHS app (or devolved administration equivalent) is the means of doing so https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/covid-19-response/how-to-use-the-nhs-app-to-demonstrate-your-nhs-covid-pass-in-england/ Restaurants, bars etc may require you to ‘check in’ using their QR code https://faq.covid19.nhs.uk/article/KA-01183/en-us. Other sources of contact-tracing information for Test and Trace include, for example:

  • friends you spend time with/people you’re staying with who test positive and are contacted by Test and Trace
  • if/when you make any bookings eg entry to tourist attractions, you will typically be asked for contact details.
  • if you need to visit a hospital for medical treatment

You can check the local infection level for the postcode(s) areas where you’ll be staying while in the UK via the tool at the bottom of the UK’s official Covid data website https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

  • From what I’ve read the QR code / vaccine passport stuff is not widespread in England. It’s only something people have to deal with in Scotland and Wales. There’s also no masking requirements in England outside of public transport.
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 16, 2021 at 21:03
  • 3
    I think the problem being raised here is that (apparently, and bizarrely) England has two different sets of rules defining "fully vaccinated", and the OP counts as fully vaccinated under one set of rules (as in your first web link, meaning that they don't have to quarantine on arrival in England) but not under the other (as in your second web link - this is the one meaning you don't have to self-isolate if identified as a contact).
    – djr
    Nov 16, 2021 at 21:19
  • @djr There’s no confusion. Being fully vaccinated exempts you from having to self-isolate on arrival and if identified as a close contact unless you have symptoms / test positive.
    – Traveller
    Nov 16, 2021 at 21:45
  • @Traveller I'm not sure that's the case, see for example inews.co.uk/news/…
    – djr
    Nov 16, 2021 at 21:52
  • 1
    @djr Ok, thanks. Heaven only knows how much more complicated travel will get once a booster dose is needed too :-(
    – Traveller
    Nov 16, 2021 at 22:09

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