In an effort to stop as-yet-unidentified new strains of the virus from entering the country, the UK government has scrapped all travel corridors to the UK until at least February 15.
All incoming travellers arriving by boat, train, or plane must now have a negative test result from within 72 hours of their journey to the UK – and quarantine for 10 days (or five if they take another test at their own expense and it comes back negative).
While all but essential travel abroad is currently banned under national lockdown rules, the move will affect those already overseas, business travellers, as well as those living abroad and planning to return to the UK.
The latest travel news means that hopes of a post-lockdown holiday in spring or summer could also be dashed. Here’s how your plans might be impacted.
What does this mean for holidays in 2021?
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has warned it is “too early” for Brits to book summer holidays abroad this year.
“I think right now people should be staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary, so, no, they shouldn’t be going on holiday – I don’t think that is appropriate,” he told Sky about the announcement that all remaining quarantine-free travel corridors had been closed. “Any travel, domestic or otherwise, ought to be for the limited exceptions that have been spelt out.”
Currently, you can only travel internationally or within the UK where you have a legally permitted reason – such as work – to leave home, the guidelines state.
While Raab stressed that the removal of travel corridors was a “temporary, precautionary measure”, he added that “until we know we’re through the winter months where we protect the NHS, until we’re confident that we can reinsert those travel corridors, lift those quarantine measures safely and responsibly, I’m afraid they will stay in place.”
How will existing flights and trips be impacted?
With the travel industry effectively shuttered, travel firms and airlines are feeling the blow.
“It’s understandable that the government wants to severely restrict travel for a period, and this is far more sensible than the stop-start approach of travel corridors.” Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, explains.
“Airlines are now likely to start cutting the number of flights to a bare minimum or stopping routes altogether, so it’s crucial that airlines make it clear to customers if they need to return early to avoid being stranded like many were last year. Passengers also need to be given clear information on the new requirements for testing before departure.”
Rules can change overnight, meaning your travel plans could be disrupted by responses to local and national coronavirus cases, with little way of predicting what restrictions will be in place at time of travel. This applies to staycations in the UK as well as overseas holidays.
Even if tough local restrictions prevent you from travelling to (or leaving) an area, some flights may still go ahead, meaning you might not be entitled to a refund.
If you do book a trip abroad, it’s best to choose a package holiday with a company that allows for free cancellations and flexible booking and to check your travel insurance covers you for Covid related changes and cancellations.
What about new quarantine measures?
There has been talk of creating quarantine hotels at UK airports and tracking all arrivals using GPS technology to ensure they remain in isolation, measures that are already in place in countries including Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea – but it’s still too early to tell whether this will go ahead or not.
The government says it will “consider all new possibilities”, but stressed any plans introduced would be to help protect UK from coronavirus variants.