TUI UK Boeing 787. Photo: TUI

LONDON – As the main July-August holiday season approaches, the UK Government has changed tack on easing its “no-holiday” policy.

As Downing Street announced a new traffic-light system that will allow travelers to return to popular destinations such as France and Spain, it was signaled that relaxation of the UK’s quarantine rules and travel advice will not come until the week after next.

Photo: Thomas Saunders.

Current Advice

The current measures by the UK Government are preventing all but a handful of holidaymakers from flying abroad; for the past 100 days, the Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel.

This means that travel companies cannot send package holidaymakers overseas and that any traveler who ignores the warning is likely to find their insurance void.

The quarantine policy that was introduced on June 8 states that anyone returning to the UK after their holiday would face a mandatory 14-day self isolation period. This is the same measure faced by incoming tourists and business travelers.

These measures have already caused a stir in the airline world as it led to the cancelation of flights and package holidays and led to an even further decrease in new bookings.

UK left behind

Millions of holidaymakers are uncertain whether their summer holiday plans can go ahead whilst many people in the travel industry face an uncertain future.

A spokesperson for British Airways’ (BA) parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG) told The Independent that “the impact on the aviation industry and jobs is devastating.”

It was also added that “Europe is opening up and the UK will be left behind.” BA staff is now facing an uncertain future as the company plans to cut 12,000 jobs.

A Change of Plan

The UK Government has now moved away from talks of air bridge deals with individual countries and now, the Join Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – will be categorizing countries with a “traffic light” system.

Each country will be rated green, amber, or red. This will depend on the prevalence of coronavirus, the trajectory of the disease, and the center’s assessment of the data’s reliability. The quarantine will only apply to those countries rated red.

It is expected that dozens of countries in Europe will be rated green or amber. The quarantine will be reserved for locations with records similar to or worse than the UK.

Inbound Passenger Locator Forms

The government has already signaled that travelers from France, Spain, and Greece will be exempt. A senior source told The Independent the change “will allow those who need to travel for work to do so without the need to self-isolate on their return”.

To allow people to travel for business indicates that a wide range of business destinations such as Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are likely to be quarantine free.

All inbound travelers will still be required to complete a passenger locator form in order to enter the UK.

The Risk of Imported Cases

A government spokesperson said, “Our public health measures at the border were put in place to manage the risk of imported cases, help prevent a second wave of the virus, and continue to support our fight against coronavirus.”

It was added that the new system will allow the government to open a number of safe travel routes around the world to give people the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad.

However, the government has clarified that they will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge. The system will allow the government to take swift action to re-introduce the self-isolation measures if new overseas outbreaks occur.

A Foreign Officer source confirmed to The Independent that the blanket no-go ban will be eased “in countries and territories where the public health risks are no longer unacceptably high.”

It is expected that the implementation of the new regulations will be set out next week and then put in place the following week. It is also expected that the no-go restrictions will be eased on the same day.

Not like turning on a tap

The quarantine policy is due for review on June 29. On June 24, Grant Shapps, the UK’s Transport Secretary, indicated to MPs that a list of countries where travelers may avoid quarantine would be published on that date.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said, “The travel sector remains in a perilous state with redundancies announced each week.”

ABTA has called for a more comprehensive roadmap that includes time frames to allow for businesses to plan ahead. “The process of sending people on holiday is not like turning on a tap,” as the restart of the travel industry needs as much advance notice from the government as possible.

Most European Union countries will lift restrictions on incoming tourists from elsewhere in Europe on July 1.