coronavirus update

YOUR CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL WEEKLY UPDATE

This is current as of 28th June, 2020.

Researched and compiled by Rebecca Miles, Girl About’s travel editor and freelance travel journalist, and Lyndsey Thomas, Girl About founder and tourism marketing expert. Between us, we have 40 years of travel under our belts, both as professionals and customers and as mums, friends, wives, girlfriends and partners.
Weekly Corona Update 1

Summary:

Updates on 28th June to Version #6 Q&A, published 21st June 

Q1 As of 4th July, overnight stays in holiday accommodation will be allowed in England, and the hospitality industry is due to reopen. 

Q2 Hurdles still in place for international travel, but staycations are go.

Q3 New measures in place in hospitality industry; Visit England launch standards mark

Q6 Borders reopening and airbridge agreements with key European destinations on the cards 

Updates on 21st June to Version #5 Q&A, published 14th June

Q2 Provisional dates for UK tourism to reopen

Q4 Quarantine likely to be eased from 29th June; government aiming to have air bridges in place with Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Greece by 29th June 

Q6 France has reopened its borders; Spain is reopening its borders from 21st June

Nutshell: A fresh optimism around hospitality and travel reopening soon

Updates on 14th June to Version #4 Q&A, published 7th June

– Q2 TUI and Jet2 Holidays push restart dates back to 11th and 15th July respectively 

– Q3 Zoos and safari parks to reopen from 15th June; further clarity is needed from the government for hospitality businesses to reopen from 4th July

– Q4 Airbridges potentially in place by 29th June 

– Q10 Legoland and Alton Towers (plus others) due to reopen 4th July

Updates on 7th June to Version #3 Q&A, published 31st May

– Q1, Further clarification on easing of lockdown restrictions, some countries reopening their borders

– Q2 Hurdles still in place for foreign holidays for Brits  

– Q3 National Trust grounds and parklands started to open from 3rd June 

– Q4 Possibility of airbridge with Portugal

– Q6 Update on arriving in Greece, Portugal to reopen, Italy open from 3rd June 

Updates on 31st May to Version #2 Q&A, published 24th May

– Q1, further easing of lockdown restrictions

– Q3, Some National Trust grounds to reopen from 3rd June

– Q6, Greece to reopen from 15th June but Brits not on the list of nationalities; France to reopen from 15th June but with quarantine restrictions in place for Brits

Updates on 24th May to Version#1 Q&A, published 17th May

– Q1 Tourist boards are starting to figure out how they’ll juggle welcoming visitors, keeping residents safe and supporting businesses

– Q2 Easyjet is relaunching some flights from 15th June; we’ve booked a staycation – yay! Camping in Sussex in August

– Q3 Visit Britain hoping to have sign-off on a kite mark for safe standards early next week from government; potential for an October bank holiday

– Q4 Quarantine rules introduced. Nuff said!

– Q6 Flights to Greece from 1st July; Portugal forging ahead to open by early June; Italy on 3rd June. FCO still rules against all international travel, however

Q1 What is the current situation in the UK with regards to travel and Covid-19? [ps2id id=’q1′ target=”/]

 

 

Lockdown restrictions have been easing and from 4th July, in England, people will be able to stay overnight in hotels, B&Bs, holiday lets, campsites, caravan parks and second homes. In Wales, it’s been announced that restrictions on movement could start to lift from 9th July, in Scotland from 15th July and in Northern Ireland it’s from 3rd July. 

It’s of course still a case of maintaining a social distance, wearing masks on public transport and observing the ‘bubble’ rules regarding meeting people from outside your household. 

While it’s great news for staycations this summer, there are still hurdles in place for international travel. Firstly, the FCO is still advising British nationals against all but essential international travel, which voids all travel insurance, secondly, quarantine measures are in place for all arrivals into the UK, and thirdly, airlines have cancelled/are cancelling many routes. But, the government is due to announce plans this week to overcome those hurdles in early July. 

 

 

Q2 Is it wise to make any holiday plans for this year yet? [ps2id id=’q2′ target=”/]

 

For international travel, as keen as we are to get away again as soon as we can, there are still some major hurdles firmly in our way. Firstly, the FCO advice remains against all but essential overseas travel, and there is no end date on that restriction. So while this advice stands any travel insurance would be void, not just for C-19 claims but for any claims, as pretty much every insurance policy includes a clause about only being valid in line with FCO guidance. 

Then of course there’s the quarantine issue, which we cover in question four, and there’s the practicalities – is the flight actually running? Will the hotel be open? 

We are going to sit tight until 29th June, when it’s expected there will be an announcement on the introduction of airbridges with France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany. These airbridge agreements will do away with the need to self isolate, either on arrival or return in the UK, making holidays much more appealing. 

With regards to making plans for UK holidays, the answer is a clear yes – restrictions are lifting soon and staycations are going to be very popular this year. Some self-catering companies are already reporting low availability.

As lockdown restrictions are lifted over the coming weeks, the hospitality industry will start to reopen, so restaurants, cafes, attractions and theme parks can reopen. It’s going to be different, and there are still a lot of unknowns, but there are going to be plenty of opportunities for adventures closer to home this summer. 

Q3 What can we expect from a holiday in the UK this year? [ps2id id=’q3′ target=”/]

 

In a nutshell, social distancing, extra cleaning measures and reduced capacities. As pubs, hotels and restaurants start to reopen next week, we’ll know a lot more about how the practicalities will work. But to begin with, we expect many places will be quieter as the public gets to grips with what they feel comfortable with. 

From 4th July in England, it’s perhaps easier to say what won’t be reopening rather than what will. Nightclubs and casinos will remain closed, along with bowling alleys, spas, swimming pools, indoor gyms and soft play centres. And theatres and concert halls can’t yet host live performances. 

For the attractions that are already open or reopening soon, we’re seeing new measures in place, such as pre-booking entry rather than just turning up, staff in full PPE, and one-way systems in place. 

Visit England, in partnership with the national tourist organisations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, has launched a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for tourism as the sector works towards reopening.

The ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standards and associated mark mean businesses can clearly demonstrate they’re following the latest public health guidance, have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment, and have checked they have the required processes in place. So keep an eye out for it. 

Q4 How will quarantine affect potential travel? Does it just apply to air travel, or ferries and trains too? [ps2id id=’q4′ target=”/]

 

From 8th June, passengers arriving in the UK are required to self-isolate for 14 days, and will be subjected to spot checks to ensure they are where they’ve said they’ll be. Breach this and you face a £1,000 fixed penalty notice. 

It applies to all passengers, whether arriving by air, ferry or train, bar a few exemptions (namely freight workers and medical professionals), and it won’t apply to arrivals from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Ireland; it will be reviewed every three weeks so the next update will be 29th June. 

However, there’s been much talk in the past couple of days about a) quarantine being eased from 29th June, and b) airbridges being introduced, and the two ideas being combined in a traffic light system, where countries are graded green, yellow or red. We await further details on this. 

An airbridge, also known as a travel corridor, is an agreement between two countries who both have low transmission rates to recognise each other’s departure screening measures for passengers and remove the need for quarantine measures for incoming passengers. The government has confirmed it is looking into these and is in discussions with Spain, Greece, Italy and France, and is aiming to have plans in place by 29th June. If this agreements do come into place, it is assumed the FCO’s blanket advice against all non-essential travel would have to change then too. 

It is expected quarantine measures for arrivals from other countries would stay in place for longer over the summer, but it’s very much a moveable feast right now. 

Q5 We’re booked to go abroad in August, should I cancel now and potentially lose my deposit, or pay the outstanding balance and wait and see? [ps2id id=’q5′ target=”/]

 

The short answer is no, don’t cancel. In the eyes of your travel insurance company, the cancellation decision needs to come from your tour operator. If you cancel rather than them, you won’t be due compensation (it’d be viewed as a ‘disinclination to travel’). So as annoying as it is, sit tight for the moment and wait and see. 

The slightly longer answer is we just don’t know what the situation will be when your scheduled departure date comes round. We’re confident the FCO’s ban against non-essential international travel will be lifted soon, but it’s not certain. 

If you’ve booked a package holiday through an ATOL-bonded travel agent your money is protected, so if the holiday is cancelled, you will get your money back. 

With regards as to whether to pay the outstanding balance or not, ultimately, it’s your call and depends on your circumstances – if the deposit was small, you may want to just cut your losses; if it was large it’s probably better to pay the remainder if you can. 

Q6 What’s the situation in our favourite European destinations? And will we be allowed to travel to them? [ps2id id=’q6′ target=”/]

 

Borders across Europe have been reopening in the past few weeks, but in the UK we still have the FCO ban on all non-essential travel and quarantine measures when returning to the UK, so until that changes, it’s unlikely we’re going anywhere. 

The main European holiday destinations of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are all theoretically open to Brits and all bar Portugal are likely to be included in airbridge agreements due to be announced shortly. Initially a frontrunner for an airbridge, Portugal has had a spike in cases which seems to have put the agreement plans on hold. 

Spain and Italy have no quarantine measures in place for Brits. Arrivals into France are asked to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days but no longer have to carry proof of essential travel, and arrivals into Greece are being tested, either all passengers on the flight or random tests, depending on your departure airport. 

Second and third waves of airbridge agreements are being discussed, and it could be by the end of the summer that up to 40 countries are accessible without going into quarantine either on arrival or return. 

So it’s looking likely we’ll be able to visit some of our favourite places later this summer, but will wait for confirmation on 29th June.  

 

Q7 Now lockdown restrictions are easing slightly, I’d love a change of scene but I’m so confused by what’s now allowed and not allowed. Please help! [ps2id id=’q7′ target=”/]

 

By easing the lockdown and allowing unlimited outdoor exercise, but at the same time still advising everyone to stay at home, not stay anywhere other than their own homes, and avoid unnecessary travel, the government has completely bewildered us. However, the evidence suggests that activity outside carries a much lower risk of transmission than inside and as the dust has settled on this new phase of lockdown, we’re tentatively beginning to figure out what we feel comfortable with, namely heading a little further afield from home to explore our local open spaces.  

So as we said earlier, sit tight and wait until 4th July in England, slightly later in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, when we’ll be able to stay in holiday accommodation again. We’ll be venturing out to explore our wonderful country and support all the many and varied local businesses and attractions we have. 

 

 

Q8 What are my rights with regards to getting a refund for my cancelled flights and/or holiday? [ps2id id=’q8′ target=”/]

 

If you’ve had a package holiday cancelled, you’re entitled to a refund, full stop. Some travel agents are offering vouchers or credit notes instead – if the terms are favourable and flexible enough for you then, by all means, take them instead, but we don’t recommend accepting vouchers from airlines as you’re not then protected if the airline fails. 

 

Some companies have behaved admirably during this crisis and will be remembered and rewarded for it with future loyalty, others have behaved terribly. The Competition and Markets Authority has announced this week it will investigate companies who have potentially broken the law on holiday refunds.

 

For more details on refunds, have a read of our Travel Truths feature on bonding [link: https://girlabout.co.uk/travel-truths/]. 

 

 

Q9 When the travel ban is lifted, how can we travel as safely as possible?[ps2id id=’q9′ target=”/] 

 

From perspex screens erected between sun loungers on beaches to disinfectant tunnels in airports, the suggestions for keeping travellers safe are nothing if not inventive. As to what will actually be implemented, it’s too early to say. 

 

More needs to be known about Covid-19 before we can say with any confidence what will and won’t work. For example, the UK government still says face masks aren’t compulsory but advises wearing them in enclosed public spaces if social distancing is tricky. It also continues to advise two metres as a safe distance, yet the WHO recommends a distance of one metre. Time for the shrugging lady emoji we think.

 

Desperately searching for some good news among this doom and gloom, we’ve been encouraged to hear about the UN World Tourism Organisation’s search for innovative start-ups with ready-to-implement ideas designed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the travel industry. Finalists have been selected in three categories – Healing for people, Healing for prosperity and Healing for destinations, and the innovations include a smart occupancy checker for hotels, restaurants and shops, and a hand scanner to monitor hygiene. There were over 1,000 entries from more than 100 countries and the winners will be scaled up for real-world use. It’s great to know that people are thinking outside the box on this and hopefully we won’t have to be separated by perspex for long. 

 

 

 

Q10 We’ve had to cancel planned trips to both Legoland and Disney. When can we expect potentially crowded theme parks to reopen, and how?[ps2id id=’q10′ target=”/]  

 

Legoland, Alton Towers and all the Merlin Entertainments parks in the UK are preparing to reopen on 4th July. Visitors will need to book tickets in advance, and capacity will be limited in line with social distancing measures. If you have an annual pass, these are being extended automatically by the parks. Alton Towers and Warwick Castle, both part of the same group, opened their grounds and gardens on 6th June. 

Disneyland Shanghai was the first Disney park to close due to the coronavirus on 25th January, and as of 11th May it’s been the first to reopen. Both cast members and guests are required to wear masks, and initial capacity is being kept well below the 30% maximum allowed by the government. So instead of the normal capacity of 80,000 guests, there’ll be far fewer than 24,000 guests. It is expected that when other parks reopen they’ll follow suit.

A SUMMARY OF DEVELOPMENTS FROM LAST WEEK’S SITUATION:[ps2id id=’summary’ target=”/]

 

Q1 As of 4th July, overnight stays in holiday accommodation will be allowed in England, and the hospitality industry is due to reopen. 

Q2 Hurdles still in place for international travel, but staycations are go.

Q3 New measures in place in hospitality industry; Visit England launch standards mark

Q6 Borders reopening and airbridge agreements with key European destinations looking increasingly likely 

In a nutshell, what’s the situation? [ps2id id=’q11′ target=”/]

It has been a long few months since the blanket travel bans came into place in March but finally, it feels like there are glimmers of hope and opportunity around the corner. 

There is much momentum building among the hospitality industry to reopen on 4th July, it’s looking very likely that quarantine measures will be eased on 29th June, and most importantly, in the UK the Covid-19 alert level has decreased from four to three.  

We believe it’s realistic that we’ll be having a holiday somewhere in the UK later this year, hopefully catching the middle to end of summer, and international travel doesn’t look as unlikely as it did. Hang in there folks, summer can still be salvaged. 

YOU MIGHT ALSO WANT TO READ OUR TRAVEL TRUTHS ARTICLES

travel truths 1

All you need to know about travel during the coronavirus crisis

 

We admit it, we’re really, really keen to travel again. Just as soon as it’s declared safe and travel restrictions are lifted, we’re off, we’re outta here. But while we may be desperate to get away, visit family and friends, and have new experiences, we also fully understand the importance of patiently staying at home and social distancing. We all have to do whatever we can to halt the spread of Covid-19. And patience isn’t something that comes naturally to us!

 

It may seem frivolous to be missing travel during this unsettling time, be it long-planned holidays, visits to far-flung family or impromptu getaways, but we believe travel is one of the best things in life, something that feeds the soul and adds sparkle to our lives.

 

And it’s about more than just us escaping and lying on a beach somewhere hot. Pre-corona, the travel industry accounted for 7.2%, or £145.9bn of UK GDP, according to the Office for National Statistics latest survey in 2018. Over 3.3m people were employed in travel-related jobs, which is more than the manufacturing or construction industries. Covid-19’s impact on the global tourism industry is bleak – forecasters predict that, globally, up to 120m jobs are at risk and expect a loss of up to £970bn in export revenues from tourism. 

 

Yet the desire to travel, experience new or return to familiar destinations, and make amazing memories is as strong as ever for many, and it’s what we at Girl About live for. Our followers on social media have been telling us of their post-lockdown plans, but also of their confusion and uncertainty about how we’ll travel when we eventually can, and what we can expect. 

 

So to cut through this information overload and to try and provide some clarity on the situation, we’ve answered these key questions as frankly and honestly as anyone can right now. We’ve worked in the travel industry for 20 years; we know where to turn and who to ask for the most credible and reliable insights, and we’re sharing them with you. 

 

As things inevitably evolve we’ll be updating this document with the latest developments.

 

Soon, really soon, we’ll be off exploring again, but until then please stay safe and follow the latest government guidelines.

 

Lyndsey & Bec xx