Although the introduction of a three-tiered system in England – which categorises regions into “medium”, “high” and “very high” risk and dishes out rules accordingly – was supposed to make pandemic restrictions less confusing, many travellers are more stumped than ever.
Are overseas holidays off the table? Are rules legal and binding, or just advisory? And will travel insurance cover you in the event of a local lockdown? Here’s everything you need to know.
Can tier 3 residents go on holiday abroad?
There is nothing in the government rules to prohibit those in “very high” alert regions from travelling abroad on holiday. Although residents are advised “to aim to reduce the number of journeys you make” and “not to travel into or out of an area if it has been categorised as a very high alert level area”, there is no legal ban from leaving the area or travelling in general.
The government advice even states: “You can continue to travel into or out of very high alert level areas if you need to for work, education, to access youth services or because of caring responsibilities. You may also do so where necessary as part of a longer journey – such as… when going to an airport, port or international rail terminal to travel abroad.”
Tier 3 residents are told to only travel or stay overnight with members of their household or support bubble.
The only specific advice relating to tier 3 inhabitants going abroad reads: “When considering travelling internationally, you should look at the rules in place at your destination, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice and the current travel corridor list.”
Can tier 3 residents go on holiday in the UK?
It goes against government guidelines, which advise against nearly all travel for those in tier 3 areas.
“You should try to avoid travelling outside the very high alert level area you are in,” and “should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if you are resident in a very high alert level area,” reads the advice.
This includes leaving the tier 3 area in order to stay at a second home for those who have one.
However, it is not actually illegal to stray out of bounds within England, and there are exceptions – those who are leaving the area for activities including work, education or youth services and caring responsibilities are permitted to do so.
Residents of tier 3 can also travel to hotels and guest accommodation within their area, “but you should only do this with people in your household or support bubble.”
Scotland is asking those living in areas of England currently under tighter restrictions “to only travel to Scotland for essential trips to help keep the virus under control”.
Wales is legally off limits to all travellers during its two-week “firebreak” lockdown; meanwhile, Northern Ireland may be open to arrivals, but its own four-week lockdown means hotels and B&Bs are shut, as are all indoor attractions, plus bars and restaurants other than for takeaways.
Will travel insurance cover me if I have to cancel due to local lockdown?
Almost certainly not. Even policies designed to cover coronavirus will most likely only protect you in the event that you have to cancel because you or a member of your household tests positive for Covid-19 before departure, or because you’ve been officially told by the NHS to self-isolate. Many policies specifically state that local travel restrictions are not covered.
However, if you’re booked on a holiday with Tui, you’re allowed to amend your holiday for free if your local area goes into a regional lockdown over the original departure dates. Other package holiday firms may also permit you to change your dates, depending on their individual policies.