Will I be able to travel domestically or internationally after lockdown is over?
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
Since 5 November, we’ve been in a lockdown. The second one this year. Hopefully, this isn’t news to you.
As such, travel has largely remained off the table. Until the lockdown comes to an end as of 2 December, the government has banned all non-essential travel — that includes both domestic and international travel. In other words, unless you’re already abroad, you’re not allowed to head off on holiday until after lockdown ends.
That is, unless you’re travelling for a number of reasons that the government deems essential — including work, school, to take on caring responsibilities and more.
For those who are already abroad or who are returning to England, there are still the travel corridor restrictions in place. In other words, if you’re entering England from a destination that’s not currently on the travel corridor list, you’re required to quarantine for 14 days.
But while travel is largely off the table for now, where does that leave us for when we’re out of lockdown. As of 2 December, will we be able to head to Heathrow, hop on a plane and jet off to sun and sand? Let’s take a look at what needs to happen for holidays to resume.
This week, the government unveiled its plans for a post-lockdown England. Under the new plans, regions across England will fall into one of three tiers, depending on the risk level:
- Tier 1 — Medium alert
- Tier 2 — High alert
- Tier 3 — Very High alert
The good news across all tiers is that the government says that, “The stay at home requirement will end, with domestic and international travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.”
Unlike the tiers that were in place before lockdown, these new tiers feature tougher measures. The new tier restrictions will come into place on a regional basis once lockdown ends on the beginning of 2 December.
However, across all three tiers, the government is maintaining the same advice that people should avoid travelling where possible. The extent to which you’ll be allowed to travel domestically, however, will depend on which tier you live in.
The government expects to announce which regions will fall into specific tiers as of Thursday, 26 November.
With regard to international travel, the English government is maintaining the same advice throughout, which is to follow the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination.
In other words, international travel will be permitted so long as your destination is on the FCDO’s list of countries that it deems low-risk for travel. Like before lockdown, you can elect to travel internationally against the FCDO’s advice, however, your travel insurance will be invalidated if you do so.
Keep in mind, too, that for international travel, you’ll also be potentially subject to quarantine restrictions on return to England. If you travel to a non-travel corridor destination, you will have to quarantine for 14 days on return to England.
Alternatively, just this week, the Global Travel Taskforce announced a new Test to Release strategy, which will allow travellers to opt to take a test on their fifth day of quarantine. If the test produces a negative result, they will be allowed to forgo the rest of their quarantine period.
Meanwhile, for travel within England, let’s break down the travel restrictions by tier.
If you live in a tier 1 region and travel to an area that’s in a higher tier, you must follow the tiers of the destination area while you’re there. The government also says that you should avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas when not necessary.
For terms of necessary travel, the government maintains that work, education, youth services, receiving medical treatment and caring responsibilities are all considered essential reason to travel.
Residents of tier 1 regions are permitted to travel on holiday to tier 1 or tier 2 destinations. Hotels and other accommodation providers can stay open in tier 1 regions.
Additionally, you are permitted to travel through a tier 3 area as part of a longer journey. In other words, if you’re on a road trip to another tier 1 area, but the journey takes you through a tier 3 area, that is permitted.
If you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. In other words, you must still abide by your home tier rules if you travel to a lower tier.
Additionally, the government advises against travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than when necessary. Similar to tier 1, you can travel through a tier 3 area if it’s part of a longer journey.
Residents of tier 2 regions are permitted to travel on holiday to tier 1 or tier 2 destinations. Hotels and other accommodation providers can stay open in tier 2 regions.
While the government advises that you should aim to reduce the number of journeys you have to take, you can still travel to venues or amenities that are allowed to remain open in the tier. For example, public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume under tier 2, although attendance is capped.
In the highest tier 3 level, the government advises you to avoid travelling to other parts of the U.K., including for overnight stays or for travel other than that which is deemed necessary.
Additionally, you can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, but you should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make. Under the strictest tier 3, most indoor entertainment venues must close. Additionally, accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites and guest houses must close.
Overnight stays in tier 3 locations are only permitted for essential reasons.
While those in tier 3 are not advised to travel outside of their tier for non-essential reasons, the government has confirmed that this is only guidance — there is no legal requirement, according to The Independent.
Overall, you can find a breakdown of each tier and what is permitted to open on gov.uk. Additionally, there, you can find a list of exemptions from gathering limits across all three tiers.
If you’re a resident of a tier 1 or tier 2 location, you can go on holiday within England as of 2 December. So long as the travel is to another tier 1 or tier 2 destination. Additionally, if you’re in tier 1, your holiday can include up to a group of six who do not need to be in your household or bubble, whereas in tier 2, the travel needs to be completed with those in your household or bubble.
The tourism industry around the world — including right here, in the U.K. — is struggling. The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended the industry, bringing it to its knees.
The industry has long called on the government to provide it with a lifeline in the form of a testing alternative to quarantine. And this week, the government provided that by introducing its Test to Release strategy.
As of 15 December, travellers entering England from non-travel corridor countries will have the option to test out of the full 14-day quarantine. Under the new system, travellers can elect to take a COVID-19 test from a government-approved private provider at their own cost. If the test comes back negative, the traveller can leave their quarantine after five days.
Keep in mind that this new tier approach only applies to regions in England. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all have their own and often different restrictions.
However, the governments across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have agreed to a relaxing of restrictions for a period of travel around the Christmas holiday.
Featured photo by Martin Harvey/Getty Images.
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