Latest quarantine: what has changed, what does it mean and where can you travel?

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In the latest quarantine reshuffle, Portugal’s “lawless” status was lifted after more than five months. But British travelers to Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago will have to self-isolate at home for two weeks if they arrive after 4 a.m. on Saturday August 22.

Here are the main questions and answers.

What changed?

From June 8 to July 9, the British government imposed a general quarantine for travelers arriving from any country in the world except Ireland. Self-isolation at home is a tough business, and most of us will come to house arrest.

As of June 10, dozens of countries and territories have been granted “air corridor” status and have been placed on the exemption list – meaning travelers do not need to isolate themselves in the air. arrival.

But in response to rising infection rates in some of those countries, the government has reimposed quarantine. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry has warned against non-essential travel.

The key countries where British travelers have suddenly found themselves under quarantine are Spain, France, Malta and the Netherlands.

They are joined from 4 a.m. on Saturday August 22 by Austria and Croatia – as well as Trinidad and Tobago, although this is largely irrelevant as there is currently virtually no travel between these. Caribbean Islands and the United Kingdom.

In addition, Scotland has imposed self-isolation on arrivals from Switzerland from the same deadline.

Why has the advice changed?

In recent days, Croatia has seen a record number of new coronavirus cases. The latest statistics reported by the Croatian Institute of Public Health show a surge largely in the regions of Zagreb and Split.

Since the UK government does not distinguish between different parts of a country, the rise in infections has led the Foreign Office to warn against travel and the Department for Transport to re-impose auto isolation for British travelers returning from Croatia.

Tourism officials are furious at ignoring regional differences, and efforts to protect vacationers.

Kristjan Stanicic, director general of the Croatian National Tourism Board, said that the 5 million foreign tourists who have visited the country so far this year “confirm the fact that Croatia is perceived as a safe tourist destination”.

Austria and Switzerland have also seen spikes in infections – although localized, they give the figures a poor picture for countries.

How does the government make its decisions?

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted “A series of factors taken into account when JBC [the Joint Biosecurity Centre] and ministers assess travel corridors. ”

They understand, he said: “Estimated prevalence of Covid-19 in a country; the level and rate of change in the incidence of confirmed positive cases; the extent of testing in a country; the test regimen and the positivity of the test; the extent to which cases can be explained by a contained outbreak as opposed to more general transmission in the community; government actions; and other relevant epidemiological information. “

What does this mean for travelers trying to return home?

Even though the Foreign Ministry considers Austria and Croatia to present an “unacceptable risk”, it adds: “The FCO does not advise those already traveling to Croatia to leave at this time.” Everyone can continue their vacation as planned, and no airlift has been organized.

The roughly 20,000 British holidaymakers in Croatia, and several thousand more in Austria, face an uncomfortable choice between running home, at a high cost financially and in terms of stress, or staying and ending the vacation – but with the prospect of two weeks. in quarantine on their return.

It is not simply a question of leaving Austria for Germany, or crossing from Croatia to the northern border of Slovenia; they are due to reach the UK at 4 am on Saturday.

Travelers from Austria can either return directly or travel to Munich, from where there are many options – by train or by plane – to reach the UK.

Flight options from Croatia seem difficult. On Fridays there are no direct flights from Split, Pula, Zadar or Dubrovnik to the UK – although there are plenty on Saturdays and Sundays.

The only flight from Croatia to the UK all day Friday appears to be from Zagreb to Heathrow for £ 400 one way.

Some British travelers to the north of the country, particularly the Istrian peninsula, may aim for Trieste or Venice in Italy.

What are the rights of travelers who have booked vacations in Austria or Croatia?

The standard advice for anyone booked on a suitable package has always been this: As soon as the Foreign Office warns against travel to a particular country, all holiday companies cancel future departures and offer a choice between a full refund or alternative vacation. This principle has been ignored by some online travel agents who say they think it’s safe to go and refuse refunds. It will take a trial to decide who is right.

If you’ve booked a DIY vacation, if the airline cancels your flight, you can request a full refund. If the departure takes place, the best you can hope for is a good one – and some airlines don’t offer it. Ryanair and Wizz Air insist, “use it or lose it, or pay to change it”.

Hosting providers may offer deferrals or even refunds. But if a booked hotel or villa is still able to provide accommodation, the decision not to do so is not its problem.

Travel insurance purchased before the coronavirus crisis can help, but it will depend on the specific coverage. In general, the more expensive the policy, the more likely you are to be covered.

Where else could be placed on the “forbidden” list?

The transport secretary warned: “As with all ‘airlift’ countries, know that things can change quickly. Travel only if you are satisfied with an unexpected 14-day quarantine if necessary. ”

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland (already on the Scottish mandatory quarantine list) have relatively high and rising coronavirus infection rates – although they currently have far fewer British tourists than the UK. Croatia.

Many readers have contacted The independent ask about Greece and Turkey. Right now, their infection rates seem unlikely to trigger the reimposition of quarantine.

Meanwhile, Portugal is good where to go?

Yes. The Foreign Ministry has lifted its travel warning and from 4 a.m. on Saturday, arrivals from Portugal will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days.

But those who have already landed are expected to complete 14 days in self-isolation.

The country has lobbied intensively for non-quarantine status. Luis Araujo, President of Turismo de Portugal, said: “It was a time that no one will ever forget, a time that left behind a trail of destruction, heartache and pain.”

The UK’s change of mind means travel agencies can once again sell holidays to the Algarve, Lisbon, Madeira and the Azores.

Jet2 will restart holidays in the Algarve on Monday August 24. Managing Director Steve Heapy said: “Despite advice from the current government, demand for flights and vacations to Portugal has remained strong, so we look forward to resuming our operations in Faro in addition to Madeira.”

A spokesperson for Abta, the travel association, said: “Portugal is a popular destination among British holidaymakers and a place where the weather is generally pleasant late in winter.

“The news that vacationers can still enjoy a well-deserved break in this country will be welcomed by travelers and the travel industry. ”

Within minutes of the Transport Secretary’s announcement, air fares to the Algarve started to skyrocket.

Fares from Manchester to Faro followed by The independent showed that the price of the easyJet flight on Saturday morning had nearly doubled in half an hour from £ 50 to £ 98 as holidaymakers sought short-notice escapes.

What is preventing people from flying to Spain but returning home via Portugal?

Nothing, but they will still be expected to self-isolate due to their visit to Spain – which remains on the mandatory quarantine list.

Do some countries have similar restrictions on UK travelers?

From Saturday August 22, travelers from the UK to Norway will need to be quarantined for two weeks due to what Norwegian authorities are calling “high transmission” of the coronavirus.

Finland, which has the lowest rates of any major European country, already bans everything except its own citizens and residents.

But the French threat of reciprocal quarantine has not yet materialized in any meaningful way. The same thing happened in June, when the UK first imposed quarantine on France. The self-isolation of travelers arriving in France was strictly voluntary.

What does all of this shifting and shifting do for travelers’ confidence?

It is extremely costly emotionally for the traveler and financially for the travel industry.

Just when airlines, vacation companies, and travel agents think things can’t get worse – they do.

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