The UK Government caused some confusion at the end of this week about foreign travel for UK citizens. Then today I saw an article on the BBC News website about flight destinations from Scotland which is so irresponsible as to be verging on criminal.
Those – plus another wet weekend day – prompted me to fire off some questions and thoughts for anyone in Scotland now thinking of booking a foreign trip.
What do I know? Well, in my day job I spend 90% of my time on Covid 19 problems – trying to help people with the economic, social and health issues it is causing and what the Scottish Government’s laws, regulations and guidance are. They are changing every day. The next big set of changes are likely to come on 9 July.
Right, travel issues. First, and this relates to the BBC misinformation, just because an airline is offering flights now from (say) Edinburgh to (say) Malaga does not mean you can roll up, pay your money and go. All the UK Government has done is remove the Foreign Office’s “don’t go there” advice. That is important, but only one bit of the jigsaw.
Next, insurance. Can you get travel insurance which will cover you if you catch Covid 19 while you are away? You might need hospital treatment, or medical evacuation. Will your insurance cover you if you are trapped there by a local lockdown? Many countries closed their borders in March/April, and could do it again.
You will not get insurance cover for this, but if you do get caught in a local lockdown while you are away, will your employer sack you for not returning after your agreed holiday break?
If you decide to travel to somewhere on the UK Foreign Office’s “don’t go” list, your insurance will be invalid. This is always the case. If you buy insurance to cover a holiday in Russia, you are not covered to visit Chechnya (for example) because it is on that Foreign Office list.
The cover under travel insurance being sold now probably excludes the consequences of anything Covid 19 related, but ask questions and read the small print. If it is excluded, think about the risk you are taking on by traveling without that insurance cover.
Next, think about what happens when you reach your destination. The UK Government has not – so far as I am aware – agreed with these foreign governments that UK citizens can enter freely. Will you be tested on arrival? What happens if you test positive? Will you be quarantined on arrival – test or no test?
At the risk of stating the obvious, consider what the situation is in the country you are thinking of traveling to. Are cafes and restaurants open? Are beaches and swimming pools open? What about museums, galleries, cinemas and any other kind of place you might want to visit? Can you travel on public transport and/or taxis?
What will happen when you return to Scotland? As of today, you will have to self quarantine for 14 days. This applies whatever your destination was. Your boss might not like that much either.
Last, the situation is changing all the time. The restrictions are being relaxed in Scotland at the moment, except for a small area in the southwest which has had a spike in Covid 19 cases. The relaxations could be reversed if the infection situation gets worse, as is quite likely given the much higher infection rate in England and with English residents being quite free to travel into and around Scotland.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2020