Britain has introduced a travel ban as part of a four-week lockdown prompted by an alarming jump in the COVID-19 infection rate to one in 100 people. In what has been described as a “Nightmare before Christmas,” UK residents will need to stay at home from November 5 and avoid “all non-essential travel by private and public transport.”
Travel, including abroad, will be allowed for specific purposes only, including healthcare, work, educations, to shop for essentials and to care for vulnerable people.
The travel ban is part of a wider lockdown that involves shutting pubs, restaurants, non-essential shops as well as entertainment and leisure venues. It comes as UK hospitals are said to be just weeks away from being overwhelmed.
“There is no exemption for staying away from home on holiday,” the UK government said in a statement. “This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions. Overnight stays away from primary residences will not be allowed, except for specific exceptions including for work.
“Inbound international travel will continue to be governed by the travel corridor approach, and those currently on a domestic holiday will be allowed to finish their holidays, but are still subject to the requirements in England not to go out without a reasonable excuse.”
Airlines are already reviewing announced flight schedules as a result of the sudden announcement. EasyJet said it would operate its planned schedule until Thursday but indicated many of its flights to, from and within the Uk were likely to be canceled during the COVID lockdown.
British Airways said it was assessing the announcement and would keep customers updated on changes to travel plans.
UK media outlets noted European air passenger rights rules mean travelers already overseas were entitled to an alternative flight home if their flight is canceled. But they warned they may see some delays due to extreme circumstances.
Ironically, the new travel ban came shortly after British Airways announced plans to expand the number of long-haul routes it operates to 52 in November, adding Santiago, Newark and Riyadh in Saudia Arabaia. However, the airline warned the flights would be subject to changes, international restrictions and government approval.
BA had based the planned schedule on the fact customers were telling it they were reassured by safety measures such as personal protection packs, screens, sanitizer stations, adapted meal services and masks.