When will we be able to travel again?
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
We’re now in the process of lifting out of lockdown. So far, the roadmap out of lockdown has stuck to its dates of reopening England. But even with the lifting of lockdown restrictions, we’re still a way off from the return of pre-pandemic life. I shouldn’t be the first to tell you that this has been a long, gruelling and draining pandemic.
We’re desperate to return to normality. And for many, that means being able to go on holiday again.
But when will that be?
Until the lockdown restrictions are lifted, all non-essential international travel remains off the table. While some domestic holidays in self-contained accommodations were allowed to resume as of 12 April, all eyes are now turned to 17 May for the potential return to international travel.
In his roadmap out of lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that international travel could return as of 17 May. The Global Travel Taskforce has released its findings for a return to travel, which will see it take the form of a traffic light system.
The traffic light system will categorise countries based on their risk — red (high risk), amber (medium risk) or green (low risk). Travellers arriving in England from green countries will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of their arrival back in the U.K. The list of green countries will be revealed in early May.
Arrivals from amber countries will be required to quarantine for a period of 10 days. Additionally, they will need to take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on days two and eight of their quarantine. The traveller will need to book their quarantine testing package ahead of travel.
Finally, arrivals in the U.K. from any of the red list countries will be subject to the same rules already in effect. Non-nationals and non-residents will not be permitted to travel to the U.K. Those who are allowed to travel to the U.K. (nationals and residents) will be required to take a pre-departure test and then undergo a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel — costing at least £1,750. They will also have to take COVID-19 tests on days two and eight of their quarantine. Red arrivals will have to book their hotel quarantine package in advance of their travel.
As of 23 April, more than 44 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed in the U.K. — about 33% of the population. The government is planning to vaccinate all groups by 31 July. But, even with vaccination rolling out to more eligible groups, there’s still uncertainty about what that means for travel, given growing concern about variants and a new wave of infections around Europe.
However, a number of European destinations have made clear that their borders will be open to Brits this summer. Among them, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Turkey have said that Britons will be welcomed in some capacity. The exact details — as in, if travellers will need to be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test — have largely yet to be determined or are subject to change, though Greece has already reopened to Brits who are fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result.
So, should travellers look at planning a holiday here, close to home, or can we look further afield? According to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, it’s OK to start looking international for summer holidays.
“International travel is vital – it boosts businesses and underpins the U.K. economy – but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows us to explore new horizons,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said of his traffic light announcement earlier this month. “The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out, and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again.”
This year, the government has also said that it will introduce a “watchlist” for travellers to know if a country is nearing a move from one level to another. For example, a “red watchlist” will show if a country is at risk of moving from amber to red.
Ultimately, it’s still too early to say when international holidays will be permitted to return. However, at this point, all signs still point to 17 May. If the travel bug has bitten you during this third — and hopefully final — lockdown, TPG recommends still only booking plans with flexible policies.
Ensure that you can either change the dates of your travel or get a refund or travel credits if ongoing restrictions forbid you from travelling. Also, make sure that you have adequate insurance, only book with ATOL- or ABTA-protected companies where relevant and make bookings on a credit card to ensure you a fully protected in case the company you have booked with goes bust.
Featured photo by Marcutti/Getty Images.
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