Booking any kind of summer travel escape became an even bigger gamble for millions of British people on Wednesday as the the government warned that even staycations could be under threat until vaccinations are completed.
After officials previously signaled that a foreign trip may not be possible during 2021, UK transport minister, Grant Shapps, says that even a break on home soil may now be out of the question.
The news came after the nation’s health minister, Matt Hancock, announced that arrivals to the UK who lie about visiting a destination on its Covid “red list” may face up to 10 years in prison or a £10,000 ($13,800) fine.
“Until we know the route out of lockdown, which we can’t know until we have more data, more information on vaccines as well, please don’t go ahead and book holidays,” Shapps said during a BBC interview early Wednesday.
He went on say it was too early to paint a clear picture about what restrictions would be in place by summer, advising travelers to sit tight and “do nothing” until things are clearer.
The warning will be as a disappointment to many UK holidaymakers, who had hoped that the nation’s speedy coronavirus vaccine rollout would pave the way for vacations abroad later in the year.
However, Shapps has stressed that the UK, which has administered more than 13 million Covid-19 jabs, will have to wait for other destinations to “catch up.”
The UK, which has one of highest Covid-19 death rates in the world, with nearly four million cases and 114,066 fatalities as of February 9, has been stepping up border restrictions due the emergence of new variants of the virus found in the UK and Brazil.
From February 15, UK and Irish residents arriving from countries on the UK’s “red list,” which includes South Africa, Portugal, the UAE and most of South America, will have to buy a “quarantine package” for £1,750 ($2,400,) that includes accommodation in a government-approved hotel, transport to the accommodation, and Covid-19 testing.
All other travelers who have visited these countries 10 days prior to traveling to the UK, which is currently under a third national lockdown, are banned from entering
Daily reported Covid-19 cases
Those who fail to comply with the quarantine requirements or attempt to conceal the fact they’ve visited a high risk country before arriving could receive a 10-year prison sentence or a fine.
“I make no apologies for the strength of these measures, because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation,” Hancock told MPs at the house of the UK Parliament.
Passengers arriving from destinations that aren’t on the “red list” must present a negative test within 72 hours of their departure.
In addition, they are also required to isolate for 10 days, as well as take a Covid-19 test on the second and eighth day after their arrival.
However, the “test to release scheme,” which allows travelers to leave isolation if they receive a negative test on the five day of quarantine, is still in effect for those arriving from destinations that aren’t on the “red list”.
Anyone planning to arrive in the UK from Monday will need to book the new post-arrival tests through an online portal before they travel.