YET again, the travel plans of millions of people have been thrown into chaos.
New laws will be put to Parliament next week that could extend the ban on foreign holidays until the end of June, despite the Government saying that international travel could restart after May 17.
Scientific advisers and ministers are warning that summer trips abroad are not guaranteed and there is a fine of £5,000 for those who travel without valid reason.
It is understandable that many are baffled by the latest moves.
We have tried to unpick the many rules, regulations and bureaucratic form-filling to give you answers to the questions YOU are asking following a chaotic few days of news and announcements.
Is it illegal for me to to travel abroad right now?
A: Yes, it is an offence. The Government is drafting a new law, due to be put before Parliament next week, that will see anyone who does attempt to leave the country without reason given a fixed penalty of £5,000.
There are a limited number of exempted reasons where travel is allowed.
Anyone wanting to leave the country must complete a Declaration of Travel before arriving at the airport, port or Eurostar terminal.
There is a fine of £200 if you fail to fill in the form.
The Government allows limited international travel for:
- Work that cannot be undertaken in the UK
- Medical or compassionate grounds
- Attending a wedding, civil partnership or funeral of someone who does not live in Britain
- Fulfilling legal obligations or to participate in legal proceedings
- Carrying out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property abroad
- Exercising custody rights recognised by a court decision, i.e. when one parent lives abroad
Where can I legally travel?
A: From March 29, the Government says people from the UK can travel to Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man — but these places may not yet have opened their borders to travellers from England.
Yesterday, Guernsey said it hoped to open its borders to unrestricted travel by early July, with lighter restrictions for people arriving from places with low Covid rates from the end of April.
Ireland requires all visitors to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
How long will it be illegal to travel abroad for holidays?
A: The Government’s travel task force reports back on restarting international travel on April 12.
The earliest we will be allowed to leave the country is May 17.
But at a press conference last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped to be able to say more about foreign travel by April 5, seven days before the task force is due to report back.
Full list of red list travel ban countries
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
So why does the Government’s latest law extend the ban on international travel to the end of June?
A: On Monday, March 29, the Stay at Home lockdown order ends but holidays in the UK won’t be allowed until April 12.
The new law will allow the Government to ban international travel right up until the end of June but is intended to continue to make it illegal to leave the country for a holiday after the Stay at Home order lifts.
Ministers will review the date after the April 12 taskforce reports back and will review it every 35 days after that.
It is still possible that travel after May 17 will be allowed.
What will the travel task force report say?
A: Until it is released on April 12 we have no clear idea how the Government will relax border restrictions, but ministers are understood to be considering some form of travel corridors or “traffic light” system.
At the moment, there are 35 countries on the red list where you will need to quarantine for 11 nights in a hotel on your return to England at a cost to you of £1,750.
Portugal and Mauritius were recently removed from the list but Dubai and the rest of the UAE are still on it, as well as the Seychelles.
A new system for allowing travel to countries will no doubt look at the number of cases as well as any Covid variants.
It will mean countries likely being added and removed from safe lists at short notice.
I’ve already booked a holiday for the end of May. Should I cancel?
AIf you have already booked a holiday it would not be wise to cancel it unless you have the ability to get your money back or rearrange it for a different date.
Right now, holidays ARE still possible after May 17 so it could be that your travel company will refuse to refund you.
If you have booked an ATOL-protected package holiday, cancelling it would leave you without any rights to a refund and you could lose any money you have paid out.
It is best to wait to see what the Government says on April 12.
Should I book a summer holiday?
A: Things will hopefully be much clearer after April 12 — that’s just three weeks away. If you want to book a trip, protect yourself by booking an ATOL-protected package holiday with an established tour operator.
Check for flexible Covid policies and low deposits and always pay by credit card.
Take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy as soon as you book and again, check the small print for flexible Covid cover.
What about influencers?
A: There was an outcry over the Christmas holidays as a host of social media influencers were seen relaxing by hotel pools in Dubai.
Although the Government exempts those who need to travel for work from the international travel ban it will be difficult for the Love Island stars and their pals to justify the need to travel to another country to do their job.
Many will say they can just as easily influence from the beaches of Brighton and Blackpool.
Filling in the Declaration of Travel form will require solid proof they cannot do their job here in the UK.
Can I visit my holiday home abroad?
A: Right now, travel is banned and even after Monday, when the Stay at Home order ends, the new law the Government is looking to pass will mean holidays are not allowed until May 17 at the earliest.
But if you can prove there is an urgent, pressing need to visit your holiday home and you have evidence to support your claim you could potentially have a valid reason to travel.
It is worth bearing in mind you will still have to show a negative coronavirus test when you come back into the UK, then fill in a passenger locator form and isolate.
Travelling back from a country on the red list will require you to spend 11 nights in hotel quarantine at a cost of £1,750.
From other countries, you must to self-isolate at home for ten days as well as take tests on day two and eight, again at your own expense.
By Jacob Lewis
THE travel industry has reacted with despair as foreign holiday bookings “fell to almost zero” following comments by politicians and scientists at the weekend.
Reservations for overseas breaks ground to a halt after a one-two punch from Whitehall and the scientific community that hit an industry already on its knees.
On Saturday Dr Mike Tildesley, whose research feeds into Sage, said that overseas holidays this summer were “extremely” unlikely, swiftly followed on Sunday by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s advice that booking a holiday was “premature” and “potentially risky”.
In a letter to Dr Tildesley, The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) said that “reservations fell to almost zero as a direct result of your comments”.
The industry body has slammed politicians and pundits for “all jumping the gun” in dishing out advice before April 12, when the Government’s Global Task Force will assess the situation fully.
AITO chairman Chris Rowles said: “All we ask is for some common sense to be used”.
He added: “We’ve fought now for 13 months, without respite, to keep our heads above water, refunding our clients often from our own pockets, without any sector-specific support, despite the Government’s Office of National Statistics declaring travel to be the worst-affected sector of all.”
Bookings have also been hit by confusion over the meaning of a law announced on Monday which will ban overseas travel until the end of June.
Industry bodies have been left to explain this does not mean a definite travel ban before that date but that it is a legal convenience and can be removed at any time.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive officer of The Advantage Travel Partnership, said news of an extension of the international travel ban has led to “scaremongering and confusion for consumers”.
She added: “This has created further anxiety for the travel industry.”
Seeking to reassure holidaymakers who have booked a getaway from May 17, Airlines UK said: “Nothing has changed with this legislation.”
Tour operator TUI has extended its free changes policy to the end of June to offer extra “reassurance”. This means customers can change their booking to a later date fee-free.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said he welcomed government efforts in “continuing to show a clear ambition to reopen international travel”.
And Skyscanner said: “Hopes are not dashed just yet for international travel this summer.”
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