What does the roadmap out of lockdown mean for travel?

Feb 23, 2021

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On Monday, the U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled details of the country’s long-awaited roadmap out of lockdown.

After what has been almost a full calendar year of on and off lockdowns, social distancing and mask-wearing, Monday’s announcement is finally giving Brits some clarity as to just how far away the light of the end of the tunnel really is.

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The date everyone is focussing on is 21 June, which Johnson said is the earliest date at which all restrictions can be lifted. However, there are four months between now and then, and the dates set out for the roadmap are the earliest, meaning they could be pushed back.

Here are the other earliest dates at which the following restrictions could be lifted (check here for the full list, noting that this applies to England):

  • 8 March — all students will return to school; care home residents can one have one regular visitor who is tested and wears PPE; people can leave home for recreation outdoors such as a coffee or picnic with their household or one person outside of their household;
  • 12 April — non-essential retail including hairdressers and nail salons will reopen; most outdoor attractions will reopen, including zooms and theme parks, drive-in cinemas and performances; indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools but only for use by people on their own or with their household; hospitality venues can serve outdoors only; self-contained accommodation, such as holiday lets, can reopen;
  • 17 May — most social contact rules will be lifted for outdoors; indoor meetups can resume with the rule of six in place; indoor hospitality and entertainment venues, such as cinemas and adult group sport, can reopen; larger performances and sporting events can be allowed indoor or outdoor (with different capacity restrictions); hotels and hostels will be allowed to reopen; and
  • 21 June — all legal limits on social contact can be removed; nightclubs can reopen.

But what do all of these dates mean for travel? Let’s take a look.

When can I go on a staycation?

The second part of the first stage of unlocking will be on 29 March at the earliest. This is when the strict stay-at-home order in England will be lifted, albeit with the caveat that people should stay as local as possible.

It’s not until two weeks later on 12 April at the earliest that stage two of the unlocking will take place. Notably, after the Easter bank holiday weekend, U.K. domestic holidays will be possible again with the official reopening of self-contained accommodation like Airbnbs and campsites. Only those from the same households will be able to go together.

Related: Your guide to the UK’s many staycation-worthy islands

Then, five weeks later, we’ll hit stage three as of 17 May at the earliest. This is when multi-roomed accommodation like hostels, hotels and B&Bs will reopen. At this point, up to six people or two households are allowed to meet indoors, meaning travelling or overnight stays with friends and family will become possible once again.

Finally, as of 21 June at the earliest, we will get the fourth and final stage of unlocking. This is the earliest date at which life will return to as close to pre-pandemic levels as possible.

It’s been a long slog through winter, but as we move into spring, the hope of getting away on a staycation blossoms with it. Based on the government’s restrictions, you could look to take a domestic holiday as early as 12 April in a self-contained holiday home or let. If a hotel is more your style, the earliest possible date for that will be 17 May.

Related: Leave your passport at home: 7 UK destinations with an international feel

View of Railway viaduct over the River Nidd, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England. U.K.. (Photo by Kapook2981/Getty Images)

When can I go on holiday abroad?

Unfortunately, the details of when exactly we’ll be able to jet off for leisure purposes remain scarce. As it stands, a preliminary date of 17 May has been set as a possibility for when leisure travel may be allowed again.

A successor to the Global Travel Taskforce is said to announce its findings on a path to a return to international travel by 12 April. The group will likely meet with key airline and travel stakeholders in order to work toward a lifting of restrictions — as early as 17 May.

So, with a bit of luck, we’ll hopefully be able to go on a very well-deserved summer holiday abroad this year. Until we get more clarity on this, it may be worth holding off on booking international trips just yet unless it’s fully flexible.

Ammoudi Bay, Santorini, Greece (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

Related: What is the best credit card to use while travelling abroad?

But where would we be able to go? The answer to this question is likely to depend on two factors. The first being which countries are allowing visitors at all. Some countries are already welcoming vaccinated tourists across their borders, while others like Australia and New Zealand are taking a more strict approach with their borders likely to remain closed until 2022.

The second factor will likely depend on the rollout and uptake of vaccinations and so-called vaccination passports that many countries are speaking of implementing. If the U.K. implements vaccination passports, it could give Britons a more accessible route to resume international travel to destinations where vaccine immunisation is required.

Related: What are vaccine passports and how do you get one?

What needs to happen for travel to come back?

For the government to allow us to move into each of the four stages out of lockdown, four conditions will be assessed:

  1. Vaccine rollout needs to be going to plan;
  2. The number of deaths and hospitalisations needs to be reduced sufficiently by the vaccine;
  3. The rate of infection is not likely to cause a surge in hospitalisations and put pressure on the NHS; and
  4. New variants of COVID-19 do not pose a significant threat to the plan.

If each of these conditions are met, then we will move through the stages of unlocking at the dates set out in Monday’s announcement.

If all goes well and international travel does come back as planned, there has been no indication as to whether current restrictions will remain in place. In an ideal world and in order for international travel to fully resume, the government must consider doing away with hotel quarantine, getting rid of the minimum three COVID-19 tests travellers are required to take and the mandatory 10-day quarantine for all arrivals.

Related: Hotel quarantine, 3 COVID-19 tests and more: Everything you need to know about travelling to the UK

As an alternative, we may see the return of travel corridors, a measure brought in last summer that allowed Brits to visit certain low-risk destinations without having to quarantine on return.

Bottom line

What is absolutely certain is that the U.K. government wants to get us on the move and travelling again at least domestically, if not internationally, this year.

What is not absolutely sure is an exact timeline. All being well, we’ll be able to move swiftly and on schedule through the stages of unlocking, which will mean that staycations and summer holidays abroad will be on the cards for this year.

Any hiccups along the way could lead to delays in unlocking, and the warmth of white sandy beaches lapping at our feet could remain a dream. Whatever happens, Monday’s news has given us all something to look forward to.

Featured image by Jetlinerimages/Getty Images

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