More countries have announced bans on UK arrivals as panic over the new Covid-19 strain discovered in south-east England sweeps the globe.
Japan was among the latest to have closed its doors to Britons on Wednesday “for the time being”, while South Korea and the Philippines have both issued a ban on flights from the UK until at least December 31. Singapore and Hong Kong have also introduced restrictions in recent days on British travellers transiting their airports.
This brings the total number of countries banning UK entrants to 57, including the vast majority of the 27 EU member states.
Gloria Guevara, head of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has condemned the flurry of restrictions, stating: “While protecting public health is paramount, blanket travel bans cannot be the answer. They have not worked in the past and they will not work now.”
Instead, Guevara has called for a “comprehensive and quick turnaround testing regime” to curtail the spread of the virus, and limit the devastating economic damage.
Scroll down for more of the latest.
Is travel for Tier 4 residents really against the law this Christmas?
On the face of it, the rules regarding travel are clear. According to the Government’s guidance: “If you live in a Tier 4 area, you must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (e.g. for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall.”
It adds that you must not leave your Tier 4 area, or travel into a Tier 4 area from another part of the UK, “other than for legally permitted reasons.”
However, the legislation contains no specific ban on travel, just on leaving your home without good cause.
So what counts as a “reasonable excuse”?
The list is extensive. It includes work and shopping (in shops permitted to remain open), taking exercise with your household, linked household, or another person not from your household, as well as open-air recreation, a pretty broad term open to interpretation, in a “public outdoor place” (again, with your household, a linked household, or one other person not from your household).
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who dissected the document on Twitter over the weekend, highlights other “reasonable excuses” including seeking medical assistance and avoiding injury or illness. “[This] includes mental and physical illness,” reasoned Wagner. “In my view, if you need to do something for your mental health, do it.”
‘I escape Tier 4 for a holiday in Gran Canaria’
An anonymous reader has been in touch to describe how they left behind lockdown for the warmth of the Canary Islands. Can’t say we blame them.
My friend and I had always planned to go away this Christmas (we have no kids and are both single). After booking and cancelling trips to three destinations, we chose Gran Canaria. Then Boris’s announcement on Saturday thrust us into Tier 4. Could we still go? Was it legal? Is it morally right? Will we arrested and banged up by the British transport police?
Our flight was still going from Gatwick, and our hotel was only going to refund 50% of our £3,000 booking. That certainly helped make up your minds!
We arrived at the airport (negative Covid test and Spanish QR code at the ready), and sailed through a very quiet and subdued Gatwick. No one asked us why we were travelling or whether we were from a Tier 4 area (we both are). We still thought we will be stopped or the flight will be cancelled as we are taxiing on the runway, but no.
Do we feel guilty that we are here? We don’t. This is the second year for me without my parents and last Christmas was truly awful. And we are helping the very hard hit travel industry.
We are slightly concerned that we might not get back, put have already made plans to work remotely if necessary. Until then…
South Korea halts flights from UK
South Korea is halting air travel from Britain at least through December 31 over concerns of the new variant of the virus that has been identified in southeast England.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said during a virus briefing that South Korean diplomatic offices in Britain will also stop issuing quarantine waivers so that all passengers coming from the country are placed under isolation for at least two weeks until a negative test.
Thirty-two of the new cases reported by the country were linked to international arrivals, including four passengers arriving from Britain. South Korean authorities have not yet reported a local case of the new variant of the virus.
Tier 4 restrictions expected to be widened on Boxing Day
A swathe of areas hit by surging coronavirus rates are likely to be placed into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, ministers will announce on Wednesday.
Ministers are expected to sign off plans for tougher measures for many areas at a meeting of the Covid-O operations committee as concern grows about the virus mutation spreading from the South-East.
Government sources have warned that there is a “high chance” of a full national lockdown in the New Year.
More than 150 flights cancelled from UK airports on Tuesday
Almost half of Heathrow’s scheduled departures were cancelled yesterday as the impact of UK travel bans was felt at Britain’s largest airport. According to FlightAware, 55 services were scrapped, representing 44% of all departures. Luton Airport saw 37 cancellations, representing 82% of outbound flights, while 37 services were also grounded at Stansted (77%).
Heathrow: 55 (44%)
Luton: 37 (82%)
Stansted: 37 (77%)
Gatwick: 13 (28%)
Edinburgh: 10 (37%)
Doncaster Sheffield: 9 (100%)
Manchester : 7 (30%)
Liverpool: 5 (83%)
Aberdeen: 4 (50%)
London City: 3 (75%)
What happened yesterday?
Lots. Here’s a quick recap of the key stories:
- EU Commission calls for end to UK travel bans
- Britons may need to take Covid test before travelling anywhere in the EU
- Hungary becomes 55th country to ban UK visitors
- Germany extends travel ban until January 6
- Sweden stands by virus strategy
- Scotland considering even tighter restrictions
- First coronavirus cases reported in Antarctica