What the new national lockdown means for your holiday plans

Jan 5, 2021

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On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in a bid to control the mutant strain of COVID-19 that has swept the nation. The new strain is said to be up to 70% more infectious, and NHS hospitals all over the country — especially in London and the south-east — are under enormous strain.

Consequently, everybody in England has been ordered to “stay at home” until the vaccine starts to roll out successfully nationwide. The lockdown will last at least through mid-February, the prime minister said.

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A deserted Gatwick. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

So what does that mean if you have travel booked? Or if you’re still abroad? There are some very limited exceptions to the stay-at-home rule.

You must have a “reasonable excuse” in order to travel, and these are as follows.

Travelling domestically

  • Work, only if you cannot work from home;
  • Volunteering;
  • Essential activities such as shipping for food for yourself or a vulnerable person;
  • Education and childcare;
  • Meeting others and care — you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble;
  • Exercise — you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble once per day;
  • Medical reasons, including to get a COVID-19 test;
  • Harm and compassionate visits — you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape the risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home;
  • Animal welfare reasons — you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment; and
  • Communal worship and life events — you can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden.

Travelling to stay in a second home — domestic or abroad — is not permitted and it is also advised you do not travel long distances to exercise. However, “You can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary, for example, to access an open space,” the government says.

Read more: Predictions for the state of travel in 2021 from our editor

A man walks past a coronavirus sign which is displayed outside Birmingham Train Station during the nationwide lockdown on 5 January. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Travelling internationally

The government says that you can only travel internationally when you have a “legally permitted reason to leave home.” These permitted reasons include:

  • Work, though even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice;
  • Medical treatment;
  • Legal purposes; and
  • Urgent compassionate reasons as outlined above.

What if I’m already abroad?

U.K. residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator regarding arrangements for returning. If you finish your holiday but your return flight is cancelled, you may be stuck and your travel insurance may not cover you.

If you’re returning from a non-travel corridor country, you will have to quarantine for 10 days.

What if I have a holiday booked in the next few months?

Airlines have implemented flexible booking policies or refund options for those who can no longer travel under the new lockdown rules. Check with your airline to see if you’re eligible to change the date of your travel or apply for a refund or voucher.

Normally, if a flight still goes ahead, customers are only entitled to a voucher if they no longer want to travel. It’s only if a flight is cancelled or undergoes a significant schedule change that customers can ask for a full refund.

Related: Tips for obtaining a refund when an airline cancels your flight

A passenger walks at the Terminal 1 of El Prat airport in Barcelona. (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’re booked on a package holiday through companies such as Tui, Jet2 or EasyJet Holidays through mid-February, the trip will likely be cancelled. If so, then you are entitled to a full refund within two weeks.

If a refund is still refused, you may still be able to claim money back through your credit or debit card provider or through your travel insurance. However, if you do decide to travel against government advice, your insurance may be void.

Featured photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images

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