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LSE students return to campus from red-listed countries amidst travel restrictions

A large number of students faced complications returning to campus for the new academic year due to the international travel guidance published by the United Kingdom government in June 2021. 

Although the government scrapped the amber and green lists from October 4 in order to simplify international travel measures, international students from red-listed countries faced various financial, mental, and logistical issues in their attempts to travel to LSE in time for the new academic session beginning in September. 

The travel guidance classified overseas countries into three lists in order of decreasing Covid risk: red, amber, and green. People travelling to the UK from countries in the red list were required to undergo a mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days, costing more than £2000. Travellers from amber list countries were required to undergo home isolation for 14 days whereas travellers from the green list countries were exempt from isolation altogether. Although the government allowed fully-vaccinated individuals to forgo the quarantine in certain cases, the vaccination status of many students inoculated in their home countries was not recognised.

Some students opted to undergo the expensive hotel quarantine, whereas others avoided doing so by transiting through an amber or green list country before travelling to the UK. 

For instance, second-year International Relations student Rodrigo Franco was able to circumvent the hotel quarantine by travelling through Spain before entering the UK from his home country, Peru, which was red-listed. He said, “It just made sense [to avoid the hotel quarantine] because of the cost.” Other common transit choices of international students travelling from red list countries included Albania and France.

The travel restrictions caused inconvenience for staff as well as students. Many staff members who had to isolate on arrival in the UK were unable to make it to some of the staff training sessions. James Greenwood, Head of Residential Life said, “This year, it was challenging training the wardens and subwardens since many of them had to isolate. Thus, for the first time, we [instituted] blended training to accommodate for this.”

For students undergoing isolation and travel complications, LSE has various departments for support. Academic departments and the Student Wellbeing Service have programmes to support the mental wellbeing of students. Additionally, the International Student Visa Advice Team (ISVAT) offers immigration guidance for international students. 

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