Although thousands of British nationals are already booking their summer holidays abroad, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned against non-essential travel due to a spike in Covid-19 cases, adding that he would have more to say on the matter early next month.
“We’ve heard already that there are other European countries where the disease is now rising. So things certainly look difficult for the time being”, said Johnson in his address to the nation on Tuesday following the announcement of new Covid-19 legislation that foresees a 5,000-pound fine for British nationals taking a holiday abroad until at least June 30.
“But we will be able to say more we hope in a few days’ time, I certainly hope to say more by April 5,” Johnson added.
More specifically, British media reported that UK lawmakers will on Thursday vote to ban all travel outside the UK without a “reasonable excuse”. The legislation, which is set to take effect on March 29, aims to discourage non-essential travel and safeguard the country from “imported” strains of the Covid-19. Once passed in parliament, the law would make all non-essential travel from England illegal until July. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may also apply similar rules.
All foreign travel with the exception of work, education or health, is currently banned in the UK. However, the government has said it will review the decision in April and possibly allow travel from May 17.
Despite the news, leisure travel giant TUI UK and Jet2holidays confirmed that they were moving ahead as scheduled for the resumption of holidays on May 17. Both companies said that the law does not supersede the report from the UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce, due on April 12.
“We remain committed to working closely with the government on the Global Travel Taskforce and look forward to understanding more about when international travel can take place when it reports on April 12,” TUI said.
TUI, which brings hundreds of Britons to Greece each year, has said that its vacation bookings were up by 500 percent. TUI said travel to Greece, Spain and Turkey were the most booked overnight, with people opting to visit from July onwards. The UK is a leading source market for Greece.
‘Reasonable excuses to travel’
At the same time, under the law’s “reasonable excuses to travel” abroad is a clause – dubbed the “Stanley Johnson clause” – which allows people to leave UK “in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property”. Those activities include visiting an estate agent, developer sales office or show home, viewing residential properties to rent or buy, and preparing a property for moving in. Hundreds of British nationals, including Johnson’s father, own holiday homes in Greece.
Meanwhile, the news created havoc on the market sending travel stocks – including easyJet, Jet2 and TUI – down by 2-4 percent on Tuesday.
Germany considers temporary travel ban
Contrary to the Brits, Germans’ appetite for travel remains low, Deutsche Welle reports, particularly after the announcement of an extension of lockdown and considerations for a temporary ban on certain trips abroad, a government spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Germany extended its lockdown by three weeks on Tuesday after Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country was in a “very serious” situation and warned against all non-essential travel.
According to research institute YouGov, the majority (79 percent) of Germans would prefer to stay at home, at least during the Easter break, due to rising Covid infection rates. A mere 4 percent said they want to travel domestically and only 2 percent abroad.