Mirror Online: LONDON, England – A £5,000 penalty fine for anyone that travels abroad without good reason is due to kick in tomorrow as a string of new Coronavirus laws come into force.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “too early” to set out new foreign travel rules for the summer as he warned the fines will be applicable to those in England who try to break the law.
He said further guidance would be shared on April 5, including the latest on plans to reopen the high street next month.
“A lot of people do want to know about what’s going to happen on the holiday front and I know there’s a great deal of curiosity and interest,” the Prime Minister said.
From next week the ban on leaving the UK will become a specific law, backed up by the threat of a fine.
Under the current plan for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England would be able to go abroad for a holiday is May 17.
It comes as another surge in COVID cases in continental Europe, as well as the slow rollout of vaccines across Europe, casts doubt on the resumption of holidays abroad.
We spoke to consumer expert Martyn James at Resolver.co.uk for all the rules – and how it affects you.
What exactly is a valid reason to travel?
Legally-permitted reasons for foreign travel currently include work, volunteering, education, medical needs, and to attend weddings or funerals.
In short, you can’t go abroad for a holiday. Taking pictures of yourself on the beach for social media will not count as ‘work’ no matter how you try to convince sceptical authorities.
You may travel for essential work, but again, bear in mind that the emphasis is on essential here.
There’s a huge list on the Government website on the types of job or reasons that you may be able to travel here.
If you’re a foreign national, you may return home but you will have to follow the rules in your home country on arrival. There are also allowances for volunteering, education and for compassionate reasons.
Will I have to submit proof?
You will be asked to provide identification, proof of your role and why you have to travel and depending on the work, a whole array of documentation is also potentially required.
You’ll also need to follow the health advice for the country you’re entering and also quarantine on arrival back in the UK.
If you’re going to a country on the ‘red list’, you’ve got a stay in an airport hotel for 10 days, too.
How will they catch people breaking the rules?
The fine is a deterrent and if you were planning on sneaking off abroad you’d already have to jump through a number of hopes – and fake documents – to get away in the first place.
The UK is, of course, a collection of islands so getting in and out of the country is by no means simple. They can check your documents and passport and you will get caught – and the fine is for ‘attempting’ to travel too.
What if I’m stuck abroad and want to come back?
If you’re already in another country after the rules changed and you want to come back, you can fill out a passenger locator form and follow the guidance on the Government website.
When can I book a holiday?
This is by far the most common question I’m being asked at the moment and the simple answer is, think long and hard about booking foreign travel.
The Government is sending out lots of messages about giving up on summer holidays abroad this year with August/September looking like the earliest options.
But bear in mind the Government can change the rules and extend the travel ban.
Even if they are lifted, countries may still be closed to tourists, including many popular destinations in Europe where the vaccination rollout has been much slower and infections are increasing.
The Government’s global travel task force is due to report on April 5, 2021 with more information so watch this space.
I’ve seen a good holiday deal – can I book it?
If you spot a holiday you like the look of for later in the year, you need to check with the business before you book.
Firstly, make sure you can actually contact them if something goes wrong.
Look for a phone number or email address – and if they only have an online form, send them a message and see how quickly they respond.
Send the business a message and ask them what will happen if you can’t travel because of:
- Government advice
- Travel advice in the country you’re going to
- Lockdown restrictions
Ask if you’ll get a refund, if you can move the holiday forward and if you get vouchers, how long they will be valid for.
A good holiday firm or airline should have clear and fair solutions and answers.
Will I need travel insurance when holidays do resume?
The news that the old EHIC card is being replaced by a new GHIC card is good – but you can’t risk travel without insurance.
The good news is that there are a range of policies you can now take out that cover COVID, but only if you are diagnosed (not just isolating because of symptoms).
The most important thing with travel insurance is to make sure it covers you from the point you take out the policy – not the point you travel.
Most claims are likely to come from things that happen before you travel, so make sure you’re fully covered from the day you book.
Are staycations allowed yet?
It’s looking more likely that you’ll be able to take a holiday at home if you stick to the latest Government rules.
However, bear in mind the current guidance relates to holiday homes with family in your bubble.
If you’re looking at staying at a holiday or caravan park, then watch the news for updates.
If you book, check to find out what your rights are if key things at the venue are cancelled, like swimming pools or roller coasters. You may be entitled to a refund if this is the key reason for travel.