The UK government has advised all Britons to avoid non-essential travel overseas for an initial period of one month.
The advice is effective immediately.
British people overseas are not being asked to immediately return to the UK, except for a few countries detailed in the Foreign Office travel advice, but have been urged to “keep in mind that flights may be cancelled at short notice or other travel restrictions may be put in place by foreign governments”.
UK inward and outward travel has already plummeted since the outbreak of coronavirus. Ryanair, Virgin and EasyJet have cut flights by 80% this month and IAG has decreased capacity by 75%.
In the last week, 430 changes have been made to FCO travel advice – more than in all of 2019.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lock downs in various countries. The speed and range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented.
“So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel.”
The government said it down to individuals to make an informed decision on whether travel is essential or not, “based on the risks and FCO advice”.
It urged anyone still planning to travel to check the validity of their travel insurance.
Following the advice, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The UK government has advised against all but essential travel for 30 days. People’s health must be the number one priority but consideration needs to be had for the immense damage being done to UK travel businesses which are facing a crisis of unprecedented scale.
“Travel businesses are working around the clock to manage arrangements for customers, including repatriation, and have been trying to provide alternative arrangements for those with imminent departures but this has now become impossible as the virus has spread. Travel agents and tour operators are also facing a huge drop in future bookings.
“Abta is calling for urgent action by the government to help businesses in the short-term by making funds readily available to travel and tourism companies and to make temporary changes to existing package travel regulation with immediate effect. The existing financial protection structures and regulations were not designed to cope with a large-scale collapse of businesses.
“Without these reasonable steps, we risk healthy travel businesses going bankrupt, tens of thousands of job losses across the country and customers losing millions of pounds.”
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