The British government enacted new pandemic measures that came into force on March 29, including fines of £5000 (approx. $7000 USD) for citizens who travel abroad for holidays. However, citizens may still travel if they can provide certain, limited exemptions.
Traveling to foreign nations for the holidays was already illegal in the UK under its “Stay at Home” orders, which were lifted on March 29 and replaced by lessened restrictions on daily freedoms. Citizens are now allowed to meet outside in groups of six, use outdoor sporting facilities, and enjoy “formally organized” outdoor sports.
Previously, travellers who failed to fill out a travel declaration form that detailed their personal information and the reason for traveling outside the United Kingdom were already fined £200 (approx. $276 USD). The new rules will remain in effect until at least June 30. However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock indicated that it may be possible restrictions will be eased earlier.
A government review of international travel will soon be released, which will play a critical role in authorities’ assessments.
“The questions of whether people will be able to travel abroad this summer are going to be addressed by the Global Travel Taskforce, which is reporting around 12 April,” Hancock told Sky News.
“The roadmap sets out the earliest date by which we will allow for international travel – without one of the clear reasons you need now – is 17 May.”
Exemptions to fines include traveling for study, work, voting, legal obligations, funerals, childcare, medical reasons, visiting a dying relative, and escaping harm, among others. The fines also do not apply to people who are traveling to places like Ireland, Channel Island, or the Isle of Man, provided that these regions are their final destination.
At present, nearly 40 nations have been put on the UK’s Red List. People who conceal that they are coming to the UK after visiting red-listed nations will be fined up to £10000 (approx. $14000 USD) and may also face up to 10 years in prison.
UK and Irish citizens who were in these countries during the past 10 days are subject to hotel quarantine for 10 days at their own expense, which includes transportation from airport to hotel, accommodation, and food and drinks. The British government has reserved 4,600 rooms for this purpose, and is expected to charge £1750 (approx. $2500) per person. Those who attempt to bypass hotel quarantine will face fines of £5000 to £10000.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently stated that he is unsure whether non-essential international travel will be allowed to resume by the expected date of May 17. At a press conference, he admitted that restrictions might be eased if outbreaks in other nations are kept in check.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle expressed his hope that travel would reopen at the scheduled date, and asked London to work with other governments who have also rolled out effective vaccination campaigns.
Karen Dee, CEO of the Airport Operators Association, warned that the prolonged closure of British airports will have massive financial impacts on the sector. Several airline carriers have lobbied the government to set a fixed reopening date so that they can plan travel schedules in advance. “There is a genuine risk that the government is too cautious and we don’t see any material travel until after the summer…That will be too late for many of those U.K. travel companies that rely upon the summer holiday,” John Holland-Kaye, the CEO of Heathrow, told Bloomberg.