The Speaker
Sunday, 21 July 2024 – 09:21

Why international travel might not be so appealing this summer

The UK Government is expected to set out details this week about a possible return to international travel from 17 May – however, that return seems unlikely to the most appealing.

For most Britons, it is now well over a year since they set off on a holiday overseas. After all the lockdown measures that the coronavirus pandemic has seen us live under, the desire to get away from it all and head for a foreign beach break is perhaps more popular than ever. Soon, travel overseas for holidays will be legal once again, but the unwanted compulsory add-ons will be sure to put some people off.

Coronavirus case rates in the UK are currently at their lowest levels since late last summer. Case rates have been continuing to fall, the numbers of COVID patients in hospital falling and the number of people dying with the virus also falling. Vaccination rates are continuing to increase at a strong rate and within weeks, more lockdown measures look set to be lifted. All of the UK’s major indicators in tackling the coronavirus appear to be heading in the right direction. The problem is, many countries around the world currently have a very different public health situation.

India currently has scarily high rates of COVID-19 infections, thought to be driven by a new variant of the virus. A number of countries in Europe, including Germany and France, have recently been experiencing spikes in cases of the virus. In Brazil, Argentina and a number of other countries, cases of the virus are also at uncomfortably high levels.

We know from last year that international travel poses the risk of transmission of the virus and also the spread of new variants. Even with an increasing number of people vaccinated, there are concerns that some present and/or future variants may make vaccines less effective. Governments are wanting to exert some caution, and this means that when international travel does resume, it isn’t going to be straightforward.

Some details about how travel to and from the UK will work this summer have already been announced and more details are expected in the coming days. It is understood that restrictions on travel will be based around a traffic light system. Arrivals to the UK from countries on the red list will have to stay in a government-approved hotel to quarantine, while arrivals from amber list countries will instead have to self-isolate at home. In both cases, this is an extended period from their original holiday duration which many people will not have the time, money or inclination to be able to consider.

Arrivals to the UK from countries on the green list won’t have to isolate – though given the current coronavirus situation around the world, it would perhaps be unwise to think that a long list of countries will form that green list. It’s likely that when announced later this week, there will be just a handful of countries on the green list to start with.

So, let’s say you want to travel to a country on the green list and return a week or so later. In theory, you won’t have to isolate – but there are more restrictions to consider. Under current plans, it is expected that you will have to get tested before travelling and upon your arrival back in the UK. If you don’t get tested, you could be fined £500 or refused boarding for your flight. If you test positive for the virus, you’ll have to self-isolate.

Additionally, there have been reports of people queuing for many hours at London Heathrow and other airports due to the current added restrictions. This may improve in the coming weeks and months, but it would seem some delays may be expected.

Finally, there is another problem with going on holiday to green list destinations. As was seen in 2020, countries can very quickly move between different travel lists at short notice. While it may be unfortunate, it’s certainly not impossible that you might travel to a green list destination, which then gets added to the amber or red list before your return – in which case, you will have to spend time and quite possibly lose money to quarantining at the end of your holiday. On the flip side, countries may move from the amber to green list – a changing situation throughout the summer certainly seems a strong possibility.

While all these restrictions and potential hiccups will no doubt put some off the idea of travelling abroad this summer, many will still be determined to get out there and enjoy some summer sunshine. For tourism, some return to normality can also not come soon enough, with venues across the world having their finances hit badly by the pandemic. 

Many will be watching closely for government announcements on international travel this week and hoping for good news – though it seems it may yet be a while longer before the freedom to travel can really be felt again.

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