After weeks of speculation and excited whispers about air bridges, the Government finally eased travel restrictions on Friday – but the move left holidaymakers with as many questions as answers.
The Department for Transport actually published two separate lists of countries where restrictions have been lifted – and they don’t completely match-up.
The first details 59 destinations are where ‘travel corridors’ have been established, meaning that from July 10 arrivals from those places (including returning holidaymakers) are no longer required to self-isolate for 14 days. Countries on the list include France, Spain and Italy, as well as a few far-flung nations like Vietnam.
The second list sets out the 67 countries and territories where the FCO blanket advice against non-essential travel no longer applies. This also includes most of our European summer holiday favourites, but also the likes of Thailand, which is not on the first list. The Government now says you can visit Thailand, but would still like you to self-isolate for two weeks on your return. This seems slightly puzzling given that Thailand has a far better record with the virus, with only 3,195 known cases and 58 deaths.
To make things even more confusing, not every destination on the ‘travel corridor’ list has had its FCO travel warning lifted. To give an example, travellers to Mauritius now no longer need to self-isolate on their return to England, yet the FCO continues to advise against non-essential trips to the island. Still with us?
The discrepancies between the two lists have caused great confusion in the travel industry, which largely assumed that anywhere in the travel corridor group would be included on the second list and have its warning removed. In fact, only 48 destinations span both lists.
Aside from the lack of flights, still-shuttered hotels and potentially frosty welcome from locals, the two main barriers to travel this summer are the 14-day quarantine on return and the FCO travel warning, which renders any travel insurance invalid. Realistically, both need to be removed before Britons can pack their bags.
The destinations which feature on the travel corridor list but still have an FCO warning against them:
- New Caledonia
- St Barthélemy
The places that no longer have a travel warning but whose visitors must still quarantine for 14 days:
- The Azores
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Wallis and Futuna
Of course, many countries still have strict restrictions on travellers – making their presence on either list somewhat misleading. Holidaymakers may be pleased to see Australia is part of the travel corridor list and has had its warning lifted. However, entry to the country is currently limited to Australian citizens and permanent residents only, meaning that days lazing on Bondi beach remain a distant dream.
In an attempt to explain the differing lists, the Department for Transport released a statement, which read: “The FCO’s Travel Advice is based on an assessment of a range of factors that could present risks to British nationals when abroad, using different criteria to the list of countries exempted from self-isolation measures.
“It is based on a range of factors including epidemiological risks, capacity of local healthcare systems, transport options and law and order.”
This could explain why some small islands with limited healthcare resources missed out on inclusion in the travel corridor list. However, it doesn’t clear up why there are still 14-day quarantine measures for countries where the FCO travel advice has been lifted and which have much lower rates of the virus than the UK.