Can a tenant refuse us entry during COVID?

My tenant has vacated the property a month early. He has not paid the final months rent which he says he will and he will not surrender the keys. We have asked for permission to enter the property to inspect and see what needs doing before we relet but he has refused to give permission or let the agent carry out any viewings. He says that during COVID he is within his rights to refuse us permission to enter, even though he has moved out. Is this correct?

You must not enter if someone is self isolating or diagnosed with COVID
Otherwise use PPE as in the article
If he has refused entry he is entitled to do so under quiet enjoyment so don’t enter
It’s nothing to do with COVID
Until he surrenders his keys, rent paid or not, you can’t go in as he is under his AST
You could ask for a digital inspection or digital viewings

When you say the final months rent, is that because one of you served notice on the other?

Tenant was on a 12 month contract but left after 5 months so I expect the 6th month rent to be paid as he had a 6 month break clause. He gave notice.He says he will surrender the keys at the end of the 6 months. His deposit covers month 5 and 1 week of month 6. We are resigned to the fact we won’t get the rent but would like to access to the property to check it over and prepare for a new tenant. The letting agent said we can’t enter without his permission due to COVID restrictions.I have checked the government website and my interpretation is we can for routine inspection or maintenance but would welcome some advice. Thank you for replying to me.

You can go in under new guidance but if he has refused you are stuck.
Never enter a property if a tenant refuses unless it’s an emergency or you have an injunction.
He is under AST. He has not returned keys and has not abandoned the property.
I would advise you to wait until the end of the sixth month.
You could sign a deed that he returns the deposit to you and you let him out a month earlier so he does not pay rent for month six.

My guesstimate is that is what he is vying for.
If you want it back earlier, and you suspect he’s not going to pay and there is no guarantor, you may have to make it favourable to him.
But do it formally so you protect yourself.

As above, you cant really have it both ways. If you want possession so that you can work on the property, you would have to end his tenancy earlier