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However, with the UK government deciding to relax lockdown measures in recent weeks, dreams of basking in the sunshine on a beach in the Côte d'Azur and eating tapas in a Barcelona taverna are increasingly becoming a reality (kind of).
After weeks of speculation regarding what the easing of lockdown restrictions will entail, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he planned to reduce the social distancing measure between people by half, to one metre, and reopen pubs, restaurants, hotels and museums in England on Saturday July 4.
‘Our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end,’ he recently told the British public.
Despite concerns regarding the changing of social distancing rules among scientists, many of us have already begun to question whether non essential travel abroad might soon be permitted.
On Wednesday June 24, transport secretary Grant Shapps said that agreeing ‘travel corridors’ with other European countries was a ‘massive priority’.
As a result, we've rounded up the latest information on travel outside of the UK, including rules on essential travel, quarantine, insurance and flights.
When will people be able to go on holiday?
On June 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally outlined what Britons can expect from their summer holidays during lockdown.
From July 4 – alternatively known as ‘Super Saturday’ – much of the nation’s hospitality sector reopened. 'A new but cautious optimism is palpable,' he said prior to its reopening.
Under the new guidelines – which currently only apply in England – people can now stay overnight in self-contained accommodation which includes B&Bs, hotels, self-catering properties and campsites. However, shared facilities must be kept clean.
EasyJet announced it would restart package holidays from August 1.
What are the current coronavirus travel restrictions?
From June 8, the majority of travellers arriving at UK airports, ferry ports and international rail terminals have been required to enter a 14-day isolation period once arriving in the UK.
Those who fail to comply with the rules may face a £1,000 in England and ‘reasonable force’ from police to ensure guidelines are followed.
According to government advice, passengers should drive their own car to their destination, where possible. If travellers are unable to provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation at the traveller's expense.
Once arriving at their destination, passengers must not use public transport or taxis, nor go to work, school or public areas. They are also instructed not to go out to buy food, or other essentials, if they are able to rely on others for essential support.
Those exempt from quarantine include those arriving from the Common Travel Area (CTA) - the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man – as long as they have been in that area for at least 14 days prior to entering the UK.
Road haulage and freight workers and medical professionals are also among those exempt from the 14-day quarantine rule.
What is an ‘air bridge’ and how does it work?
An air bridge – otherwise known as a ‘travel corridor’ – is a way of allowing travellers from two countries to travel between the destinations without having to quarantine 14 days on arrival in either direction.
Shapps has explained that the bridges would ‘enable people from other areas who have themselves achieved lower levels of growth virus infection to come into the country’.
However, some scientists have warned that a second wave of coronavirus is still a real threat and advise travellers to heed the government’s advice when it comes to booking trips abroad.
David Hunter, a professor of epidemiology at Oxford University, has told the Metro: 'If you went on vacation to a country thought to be low risk, but while you’re there, there’s a massive outbreak, would you now be handled differently? You probably should be.
‘If the countries agree and the rules are clear and the contingencies are clear, then at least people know what they could be in for, whereas if it’s all vague then it’s a bigger risk.’
There are currently no air bridges in place between the UK and foreign destinations.
Do you have to self-isolate on return to the UK?
On Friday July 3, the Department released a full list of except counties posing ‘a reduced risk’ from Covid-19. However, due to changing confirmed Covid-19 cases in recent weeks in certain countries, some destinations have been removed from the list.
According to Gov.uk, quarantine involves a period of 14 days, during which you can have food and other necessities delivered, and should stay away from others unless you travelled to the UK with them. You must self-isolate at the address you provided on your public health passenger locator form on arriving back into the UK. More information on this can be found here.
Countries previously on the list that now require quarantine on arrival in the UK include:
- The Netherlands
The full list of countries and territories that don't require a 14-day quarantine on return include:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- the Channel Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- French Polynesia
- Hong Kong
- the Isle of Man
- Macao (Macau)
- New Caledonia
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
- San Marino
- South Korea
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- St Barthélemy
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Vatican City State
‘The exempted countries and territories will be kept under constant review, so that if the health risks increase self-isolation measures can be re-introduced to help stop the spread of the disease into England,’ it previously explained on its website.
The list remains 'under constant review', according to the Department for Transport.
When planning holidays or overseas travel, the government advises individuals to check the latest FCO travel advice on GOV.UK, ‘including whether there are any self-isolation measures in place for their outbound or return journey’.
Where can you currently travel to from the UK?
On Tuesday June 23, it was widely reported that ministers had been in talks to create ‘air bridges’ with several ‘core’ European countries including Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Turkey and Croatia.
Additionally, Shapps outlined that there were plans to open up the bridges without the need of holidaymakers having to quarantine following their arrival abroad and when they return to the UK.
He indicated that bridges would only be agreed with places which have implemented a Coronavirus test and trace system at the same standard as that used in Britain.
A spokesperson from the Department of Tourism previously said that international travel corridors remain an ‘option under consideration’ and ‘not established policy.
‘Conversations take place regularly with governments around the world on a whole range of issues and we will not be providing any further details at this stage,' they added.
Here are the current travel restrictions in place in some European countries:
France was removed from the list of exempt countries on August 15, following an increase in cases. The FCO now advises against all but essential travel to France (this includes Corsica) and has added it to the quarantine list.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.
From June 15, travellers arriving in France from the UK and wider European Area are no longer required to demonstrate their travel is essential or hold an international travel certificate. Those arriving from the aforementioned areas are asked to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in mainland France and French overseas territories.
Find out more information about the quarantine procedure in France here.
The UK backtracked on its advice regarding travel to Spain on July 27 and is now urging against all non-essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, following a rise in coronavirus cases.
At present, anyone returning to the UK from Spain must now self-isolate for 14 days.
An FO spokesman said: ‘We have considered the overall situation for British nationals travelling to and from the Balearic and Canary Islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK, and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain.’
Spain’s State of Emergency (‘Estado de Alarma’) ended on June 21 meaning that the country’s borders to the European Union and Schengen-area countries (with the exception of Portugal) and travellers from the UK were declared open.
Arrivals from the United Kingdom were not previously required to self-isolate on arrival but faced a series of three health checks.
In Spain, Face masks are compulsory on public transport and in public spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres.
The Netherlands was taken off the list of travel corridors on August 15, meaning those returning to the UK from there will need to quarantine.
Croatia was added to the quarantine list on August 22, which means all those returning from the country will need to enter a 14-day quarantine.
The UK's travel restrictions for Austria changed on August 22, following an increase in Covid-19 cases. While UK visitors aren't required to return immediately, they will now have to go into a quarantine period on arrival in the UK.
At present, mandatory testing and self-isolation are in place for anyone arriving into Greece from an airport listed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), regardless of nationality.
Every visitor to the country must also apply for a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before departure. Travellers will receive the PLF with their unique Quick Response (QR) code on the day of their scheduled arrival in Greece.
The government in Athens asks: 'Detailed information on their point of departure, the duration of previous stays in other countries, and the address of their stay while in Greece. In case of multiple stays, they are required to provide the address for the first 24 hours at least.'
If you are travelling via ferry, you will need to complete a health questionnaire and hand it to the ferry operator before boarding. Face masks will also be compulsory, in addition to wearing them on internal (domestic) flights.
Specific measures relating to check-in, baggage allowances and other details are in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus so it is advisable to check with operators directly for more information.
How safe is flying during the coronavirus pandemic?
While there is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted into the spread of the virus on aeroplanes, there have been reported cases involving passengers transmitting the virus to others, in the media.
In addition, previous research has shown that viruses including SARS, influenza and smallpox have spread on aircrafts.
According to the NHS, the virus can be spread when respiratory droplets carrying infectious pathogens ‘travel directly from the respiratory tract of an infectious individual to susceptible mucosal surfaces of a recipient, generally over short distances.
'This can be in the form of sneezing, coughing or speaking.'
In recent weeks, several airlines have implemented new measures to try to mitigate risks of infection during travel which have included leaving space between passengers empty. Meanwhile, London’s Heathrow airport has made is compulsory for all passengers and staff to wear face masks. Hand sanitiser is also available at over 600 kiosks throughout the airport and temperature screening is being tested.
But if you’re planning on hopping on a flight to a European country, you might want to keep hold of your purse for a while longer, the BBC suggests.
On June 25, Jet2 and Eurostar announced that they plan to cancel some summer flights and trains in 2020 and 2021 due to the health crisis, meaning that many locations might still be out of bounds.
Meanwhile, EasyJet has announced its plans to resume more domestic and international flights from July 1.
By next month, it hopes to fly 50 per cent of its 1,022 routes, and 75 per cent by August, the Telegraph reports. Some of its first international routes include Paris, Milan and Barcelona.
Boarding protocols, restrictions on on-board toilets and rules regarding face masks vary between airlines so it is important to consult rules prior to travel.
You can find a very useful list of travel bans, restrictions and flight plans on Skyscanner here.
What precautions should I take while travelling during Covid-19?
According to the World Health Organisation, there are several ways individuals can try to reduce the spread of the virus.
Its recommendations include:
- Perform hand hygiene frequently, either with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing immediately of the tissue and performing hand hygiene
- Refrain from touching mouth and nose
- A medical mask is not required if exhibiting no symptoms, as there is no evidence that wearing a mask – of any type – protects non-sick persons. However, if masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene after removal. You can find out more information from WHO on this issue here.
In April, the WHO stated: 'Although the medical profession and the travel industry can provide extensive help and sound advice, it remains the traveller’s responsibility to seek information, to understand the risks involved and to take the necessary precautions to protect their health while travelling.
Will I be covered on insurance if I travel during Covid-19?
As many of us are still waiting for refunds on cancelled flights and accommodation bookings for holidays this summer, many people will be cautious about hastily booking another holiday any time soon.
When it comes to insurance for holidays, it’s imperative that you find out whether you will be covered for travel.
Financial expert Martin Lewis explains on his website, Money Saving Expert, that if you already have travel insurance and plan to go on holiday, you may be covered for Covid-19 cancellations.
However, this entirely depends on when you booked your holiday and bought your travel insurance.
Policies for holidays booked in mid-March, when the FCO warned against all non-essential travel, should cover you for cancellation whilst the Office’s restrictions remain in place,' he notes.
Travellers should also be covered if restrictions are relaxed and then reimposed, as long as they booked before the FCO advice changed. However, if you booked a holiday after the advice changed, you are not covered for cancelation.
‘No mainstream policies will cover travel while the FCO continues to warn against it, nor if that's lifted and your holiday's cancelled due to future UK or other countries' coronavirus travel restrictions,’ he explains.
‘However, some (not all) new policies will cover medical costs relating to coronavirus if you catch it overseas or if you or a family member get coronavirus before travelling and then can't travel.’
As a result, it's advised that you check with your current insurance policies prior to booking any future holidays.
What kind of accommodation will you be able to stay in from July 4?
From July 4, holiday makers will be able to stay in accommodation like cottages and campsites. However, as a result of the PM's new ‘one-metre plus’ policy, hotel spas and swimming pools will remain closed.
In light of the government's announcement, holiday cottages in England experienced their busiest day ever for bookings on June 23, resulting in a frenzy of holiday makers increasing demand and some bookings being made within an 11-second window.
The Guardian reports that Glamping company Canopy and Stars saw a 230 per cent increase in traffic to the site in the hour after Johnson’s speech which Log House Holidays, a collection of cabins in the Cotswolds, were taking bookings while Johnson was making his announcement.
An Airbnb spokesperson tells ELLE UK that in light of the PM's announcement, daily domestic bookings on Airbnb in the UK doubled just from Monday June 22 to Tuesday June 23 alone.
In order to prioritise safety, they add: 'We have developed a new Cleaning Protocol for hosts globally, in partnership with leading experts in hospitality and medical hygiene. In the UK specifically we have also supported Government and industry efforts to develop local guidelines.'
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