FAQs for ICS volunteers returning to the UK

Last updated: 19/03/2020

I’m returning home early due to the coronavirus outbreak. What can I expect on the journey and when I get back to the UK?

What is it going to be like on the plane?

You are unlikely to see anything different on your flight home. You may hear extra messages about hand hygiene. Keep washing your hands regularly on the flight, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze and avoid touching your face.

What is going to happen when I arrive at the airport in the UK?

If you are well then you will be able to arrive in the UK as normal. You will go through immigration and baggage claims, and then continue your journey to your home address. There are currently no restrictions for travelers arriving from any ICS placement countries.

What is going to happen if I feel unwell on the flight home? Am I going to be quarantined on arrival?

Passengers arriving from anywhere in the world and who are unwell with mild symptoms of cough or fever are being asked to self-isolate at their UK home address. This means that you should go home via your normal route and self-isolate for at least 7 days or until you feel well. In the unlikely event that you are very unwell on the flight the airline will inform the airport before landing, who will arrange for you to be transferred safely off the flight and assessed by a doctor or ambulance paramedic. This is the normal process for anyone unwell on a flight.

What about my onward travel from the airport to my home address?

VSO: The Country Office will be asking everyone about their onward travel requirements. If you need to book onward travel and you haven’t been asked about it yet, please fill out the travel home from placement form and our team will make the necessary arrangements for you.

Other agencies - Raleigh International and Restless Deveopment: Arrangements are organised by your ICS sending agency and you should have been informed of these. If you have any questions do not hesitate to speak to a member of their staff for clarification.

Do I need to self-isolate when I need to come back to the UK, even if don’t feel unwell?

No. Only people who have a cough or fever need to self-isolate, regardless of which country you have travelled from.

What if my family are unwell and I can’t go home?

There are different options for different scenarios:

  • If all of the household are well and are practising normal social distancing (as we all need to do now), the volunteer can return home as normal.
  • If there is a member of the family already unwell with possible Covid-19 symptoms (cough or fever) the volunteer should not return to that household and stay with other friends or family members for 14 days.
  • If the volunteer cannot stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period (14 days), then they should stay away from the unwell person much as possible within the household, and the volunteer will also have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Government advice on social distancing 

Government advice on households with unwell people 

What is life like in the UK right now?

You may be surprised to see what is happening in the UK when you get home. The situation is changing every day, but you will find life different to when you left. Sporting events and other large gatherings have been cancelled, and people are being advised to avoid social activities and work from home where possible.

Anyone who is unwell with a cough or fever is being asked to self-isolate for at least 7 days, or until you feel well. Everyone else in your household also needs to isolate at home for 14 days. Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your symptoms get worse or you do not feel better after 7 days. People are being asked to only call NHS 111 if they cannot get help online, and remember to only call 999 for life-threatening emergencies.

I’m feeling really upset about what’s just happened. What should I do?

It is understandable if you are feeling upset about coming home early. These are exceptional circumstances; the safety of our ICS volunteers is our first priority and the decision to bring you home early was made with your safety in mind.

How will VSO keep in touch with me after my return?

Within the first few days of getting back to the UK your candidate manager will be giving you a call. We know you will probably have lots of questions and we will be talking them all through with you. Please be patient with us and be assured that you will receive a call and have plenty of time to talk this through.

We are currently considering how we can go about our resettlement process which will need to be different to normal based on the current UK Government guidance to avoid all social contact. Our top priority now though is to get volunteers home safely and as soon as we can we will update you on how we plan to support you with your resettlement.

I’m anxious about the future, is there anywhere I can get support for my anxiety?

This is going to be a challenging and potentially lonely time for us all. Don’t forget to reach out to support your family and friends, and ICS teammates. And don't forget to ask for support if you need it, you may find this information from YoungMinds helpful.

If you have lots of questions, NHS information is here and World Health Organisation has published lots of advice for the public, including how to cope with stress during the outbreak.

For more information relating to coronavirus and ICS

For more information relating to coronavirus and ICS, call +44 20 3443 9670


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