Plans for international travel to be revealed April 5th
- Travel industry bracing for new international travel rules
- UK government will hand out GBP 5K fines to Britons breaching travel restrictions
- US travel sector urges the White House to remove travel bans
- Summer holiday hopes buoyed by news that Spain will lift travel restrictions against the UK this month
Britons are awaiting new guidance from the UK government on international travel. It comes after ministers were presented with new regulations on Monday suggesting extending the travel ban until June-end.
The UK government announced more stringent travel restrictions on January 5th, coinciding with the re-imposition of Britain’s third national lockdown.
Under the new travel rules, all holidays abroad would be illegal unless travellers had a reasonable excuse for their departure, such as for work or to provide charitable and philanthropic purposes.
During a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ministers would vote on the new rules on Thursday and deliver the outcome to the nation on April 5th.
MPs are also expected to set out the blueprint for a traffic light system for international trips on April 5th, which will assess whether a country is safe to travel to based on it’s Coronavirus infection rate, vaccination success and the presence of mutant strains.
However, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the British government would not permit non-essential trips abroad until May 17th at the earliest.
Although the new international travel rules could delay the restart date for travel until July, the UK’s travel industry is making preparations to return to the skies in May.
That said, if the UK government decides to extend the ban, anyone caught breaking the rules faces up to GBP 5K in fines.
Fines to be handed out to those found breaching travel restrictions
With more COVID restrictions set to be eased on March 29th, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “stay at home” order, ministers are tweaking parts of the coronavirus legislation, which also covers international travel rules.
According to recent reports, if the new laws are imposed, non-essential overseas travel will be banned until June 30th – dampening hopes for those who had planned to travel abroad before the summer holidays.
The new legislation will also provide ministers with the power to postpone the restart date for holidaying beyond June 30th if they see fit, which would deliver yet another significant blow to the struggling travel and aviation industry.
Ministers will cast their vote on the new legislation tomorrow. If approved, any travellers found breaching new travel rules will be faced with fines of up to GBP 5K starting from next week.
The news comes to the dismay of several Tory backbenchers urging the Prime Minister to lift lockdown restrictions ahead of his timetabled roadmap.
Meanwhile, the Global Travel Taskforce is expected to deliver its risk-based report before Parliament on April 12th, including recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to travel in May.
Still, the travel and tourism industry is sorely disappointed by the news, especially as many of their fleets have been grounded for months.
A US lobbying group has also addressed a letter to the Biden administration, calling for international travel restrictions in the US to be scrapped.
US travel industry calls for travel bans to be scrapped
A group of more than two dozen travel and trade union groups have urged the Biden administration to remove international travel restrictions now that the global coronavirus vaccine rollout is accelerating.
According to recent reports, representatives asked the government to work with its members to develop a “risk-based, data-driven roadmap” to ensure a safe return to the skies by May 1st 2021.
The group wrote the letter after US President Joe Biden vowed the US would have a vaccine arsenal capable of inoculating all Americans by May-end.
With an average vaccination rate of 2.5 million doses a day, the US now has one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.
According to Bloomberg, 19.7% of the US population has received their first vaccine dose, while 13.7% of the nation is fully vaccinated. However, Bloomberg’s COVID-19 Tracker data shows that it would take the US approximately five months to achieve mass immunisation if they continue at this pace.
Still, the travel industry has said that with the global vaccine rollout accelerating and new technology being developed to increase safety, the risk of transmission is low.
A Telegraph report has also highlighted inconsistencies with the UK’s international travel restrictions. Oliver Smith said that the exception for workers, wedding and funeral guests, those participating in charitable or philanthropic work and sports professional hardly makes the ban watertight.
Mr Smith also noted that the UK has already found 260 cases of the rapidly spreading mutant strain in the EU within its borders. He suggests that banning holidays abroad will likely have a minimal difference in the infection rate, given that the mutation arrived while strict controls were already in place.
His comments come as Spanish authorities prepare to remove travel restrictions against the UK next week.
Spain set to lift restrictions against the UK by March-end
Moments after the UK government said they could enforce new coronavirus travel regulations, Spain said it would lift restrictions against the UK and welcome British holidaymakers into the country from March 30th.
The ban, which came into effect in December 2020, was imposed amid growing concern over Britain’s spike in COVID cases over the festive season.
However, with the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and fatalities following a downward trajectory and Britain’s vaccine rollout well underway, Spain will allow Britons into the country.
That said, anyone arriving in Spain from the UK will be required to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure.
The news has fuelled hopes of a strong summer, especially as Spain is a popular destination for British tourists.
Several airline chief executives, including Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary have expressed optimism towards the summer holidays. Earlier today, the low-cost Irish airline announced that it had launched 26 new flight routes amid booming demand.
UK travel agents are also reporting strong sales for summer holidays, and with staycations on the rise, domestic cruise bookings appearing to be a popular option for holidaymakers this year.
International cruise liners have been busy with summer holiday preparations, too, with Royal Caribbean Cruises expected to relaunch its services in June, albeit only fully vaccinated passengers will be able to board.
However, some businesses remain plagued by the pandemic’s financial strains, as TUi recently announced that it would close an additional 50 stores across the UK.
They hope to avoid making redundancies by relocating staff to different departments but admitted that they are struggling under “unprecedented pressure” the industry is facing.