The first signs that the travel industry is gearing up to restart are starting to appear.
EasyJet operated its first flight for 11 weeks on 15 June; Spain has announced that its borders will reopen to tourists from 21 June; and many attractions in France, Italy and Spain are now welcoming visitors, including the palace at Versailles, the Doge’s Palace in Venice and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
However, there are still several big hurdles that could put the kibosh on your summer holiday plans for 2020.
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One is the Foreign Office travel advice, and the other is the dreaded Q-word: quarantine.
Here’s everything you need to know about the latter.
Will I have to quarantine when I go on holiday?
This is largely dependent on the country in question. Some places are still all but closed to foreign visitors – for example, New Zealand – while others are tentatively reopening their borders.
In Europe, Germany, Belgium, Italy and France are already permitting entry to British visitors, as well as tourists from the 27 EU member states. Spain is reopening for European tourists from 21 June.
But the Foreign Office advice is still that those in the UK should refrain from “all but essential” international travel.
Even if that ban were lifted tomorrow, various countries have made it very clear that they expect reciprocity when it comes to quarantine measures.
While the UK imposes a blanket 14-day self-isolation period for all people entering the country, both Spain and France have said they will do likewise for British travellers crossing their borders.
Other visitors to the above will be allowed in with no need to quarantine – only Britons will be stuck indoors for two weeks, effectively defeating the object of a holiday abroad.
Will I have to quarantine when I get back to the UK?
If you do somehow manage to slip away to foreign climes, when you touch down back on UK soil you’ll currently have two weeks of mandatory quarantine to look forward to.
The policy was implemented on 8 June and is in place indefinitely, but subject to regular review.
What are the rules on quarantining in the UK?
The presumption will be that you are carrying Covid-19. You should ideally occupy a room separate from any other members of the household where you’re staying.
“Avoid contact with the people you’re staying with and minimise the time you spend in shared areas,” says the Home Office.
You must not go to work, school or to any public areas, or use public transport or taxis (although it is permissible to use the latter when travelling from the airport).
You should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential support.
Do not go out to buy food or other essentials “where you can rely on others,” officials say.
Will the quarantine be enforced?
Public Health England have set up an assurance service to contact people at random to ensure they understand the requirements and are self-isolating.
Officials can telephone or call at the nominated address at any time during the 14 days. If the traveller is not at home or out with a valid excuse, a £1,000 fixed penalty notice will be issued in England and Wales.
Scotland and Northern Ireland will decide their own levels of fines.
Will the quarantine be effective?
The home secretary Priti Patel said: “These measures are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe.”
However, senior public health experts, MPs and travel industry representatives have all questioned the efficacy of the policy, which was devised by Dominic Cummings.
The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “Measures like this are most effective when the number of cases is very low, and they’re most effective when they’re applied to countries from higher rates.”
Speaking to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee about the quarantine, Sir David Skegg, a New Zealand professor of preventive and social medicine, said: “It’s not clear to me what the UK strategy is for dealing with this disease… From the UK’s point of view, it doesn’t look very logical to me to have 14 days quarantine for people coming from countries with a much lower incidence and prevalence of Covid-19.
“These border measures would be most effective if they were conducted very early.”
When will the quarantine be lifted?
The policy is first being reviewed on 29 June. Although the quarantine might stay in place, it has been suggested that “air bridges” – bilateral agreements between countries guaranteeing that people can travel between the two without quarantining – could be introduced at this point.
This would effectively get rid of the need to self-isolate when travelling to and returning from certain countries, making holidays feasible again.
Travel industry insiders are confident that some arrangements will be put in place by the beginning of July to enable international travel.
Top contenders for air bridges include France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece; the industry is lobbying government to make agreements with 45 countries in total.
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