What The Lockdown Roadmap Means For Travel
Finally – there’s light at the end of the long lockdown tunnel! After a bleak winter, the four-stage roadmap out of lockdown has given those living in England something to look forward to. No doubt the first thing we’ll do when we can travel outside our local area is pay our friends and family a visit (but sticking to the guidelines on the numbers allowed and only outdoors of course)…but the second thing we’ll do? Surely, it’s to treat ourselves to a well-deserved getaway when we’re allowed.
But with an ever-changing set of rules, variables, and safety concerns, it’s not easy to work out exactly how travel will work – and most importantly, when it comes into effect. To help, we’ve looked to answer the burning questions you might have about holidays for this summer and beyond.
When will I be allowed to travel?
The national lockdown in England means we currently have to stay local unless there’s a good reason, but that is set to be lifted on 29 March, all going well. At that point, we can at least enjoy a daytrip outside of our local surroundings. We can then look forward to ‘Step Two’ with self-contained holiday accommodation and outdoor service at pubs/restaurants set to open up on 12 April at the earliest. And on 17 May, hotels will be able to open, and pubs and restaurants can serve a limited amount of people indoors. As long as the virus stays under control, all restrictions on the numbers allowed to meet will be lifted on 21 June.
When it comes to international travel, a government taskforce will produce a report by 12 April, which will set out the approach and the all-important start date. All we know for now is that leisure travel won’t be allowed until at least 17 May.
Will I need to quarantine?
At the moment, when you return from international travel for essential reasons (like a bereavement or medical reason) you need to self-isolate for ten days, and take a COVID test twice, costing £210. But those who have returned from a ‘red list’ country (e.g. South Africa, Portugal, Seychelles and Brazil) need to go into a mandatory ten day quarantine, costing £1,750 for each traveller. The taskforce will set out by 12 April which aspects of these will stay the same or change. However it’s implemented, there’s likely to be a strict quarantine for those coming from areas where there’s a new variant or high infection rates, so it’s worth factoring that into any holiday plans.
Will other countries let UK travellers in?
Other countries are currently creating their plans to accept tourism while still keeping the virus under control. The Seychelles, Hungary, Romania and Cyprus are already accepting vaccine passports, and Israel and Greece are using a two-way corridor for those vaccinated. So a vaccine passport seems to be the solution for many, but it remains to be seen if the UK will introduce these – and what it means for those who are unable, or refuse, to get vaccinated.
What are travel providers doing to support holidays?
It goes without saying that the travel industry is keen to get people travelling again, and is doing this with a two-pronged approach: firstly by making sure holidays are as safe as possible when they resume, and secondly by providing flexible bookings in case circumstances change. For example, Thomas Cook are offering free amendments and a 14 day money back guarantee if there’s a travel ban, while Tui have already said that customers who’ve booked a holiday in May and June are free to change to a later date. And British Airways is letting passengers due to fly by the end of August change their date and destination (although they’ll need to pay the difference in price).
It’s still worth booking with an ATOL-protected tour operator or agent to make sure that your money is safe, as well as checking out your travel insurance details to see what COVID-19 related issues are covered. For example, Switched On travel policies cover you if you, your family, household or travel companion gets diagnosed with COVID-19 (as certified by a medical practitioner) just before your travels and will cover medical expenses should you fall ill with COVID-19 while abroad. Full details of the enhanced cover can be found here.
And it appears that we’re certainly keen to head away with travel operators and airlines reporting a huge surge in enquires and bookings in the days following the announcement!
Will Brexit have any effect?
The end of freedom of movement with Brexit has largely been masked by the ban on international leisure travel. But once we take to the skies again, we’ll start to experience its effect. You won’t need a visa for short holidays, but your passport will need to have at least six months left, and have been issued in the last 10 years. You might also be asked to show a return ticket. If you’re driving, you’ll need a ‘green card’ to prove you have motor insurance, and a ‘GB’ sticker for your car. You might also need an International Driving Permit depending on the country you’re travelling in.
Note that you can still use your European Health Insurance Card until it expires except in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Once it’s expired, you can apply for a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card), which will get you emergency state medical care at the same rate as the locals. And last, but not least, don’t forget that we can no longer use the EU lanes at passport control!
Details given in this article were correct at the time of writing but to keep up to date with the latest news on England’s lockdown roadmap please visit gov.uk. For those living in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland please refer to the devolved government websites for specific plans and details.