With the coronavirus pandemic receding in the UK, many people would like to be able to book a Summer holiday here or abroad. But some other parts of the world are still in the grip of the pandemic, and there’s an understandable reluctance to book any travel when a change of circumstances may force a cancellation.
Of course the travel industry would love everyone to book now, but is it safe? – both in terms of the risk of coronavirus infection, and the financial risk of booking a trip which may have to be cancelled.
Live to 100 celebrity guest editor Dr Hilary Jones, speaking on Good Morning Britain, warned of ‘risky’ long airport waits as he offered advice for anyone planning holidays abroad.
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Within a few weeks its expected that people from the UK will be able to travel abroad to many popular holiday destinations without having to quarantine, with a so-called ‘green list’ ifinalised after the European Commission’s proposed a new set of rules which “take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide”.
But Dr Hilary Jones firmly advised viewers not to holiday in France, remarking: “24,000 cases [in France], the R Rate is about 1, so that would be another 24,000 people contracting the virus from them. So clearly it is a risk travelling to France. At the moment we’ve got these restrictions in place – ” referring to the many hours travellers might have to spend queuing to get through passport control. Presenter Susanna Reid likened airports to a ‘Petri dish’ of infection, suggesting “It seems to me like the place you would be most at risk.” Agreeing, Dr Hilary said: “Well, absolutely. With hundreds of thousands of of people from separate parts of the globe. And only a tiny fraction of the population of the world has been vaccinated.”
“So there are new variants of the vaccine are circulating. We know that something like one in 10 in London due to the Indian variant now and we don’t know enough about that – whether it’s less or more transmissible than the existing variants.”
The UK’s ‘green list’ has not yet been confirmed, but it could consist of around 12 destinations, potentially including Malta, Jamaica, Portugal, Barbados, Israel, Morocco, Gibraltar and Grenada.
Consumer advice organisation Which? gave the following tips:
“There is still a risk of your plans being disrupted by Covid-19 and hit with unexpected costs. Holidaymakers are still fighting to get refunds from tour operators and airlines for trips cancelled last summer. Many more are finding their airline won’t refund them for flights to Spain, France and elsewhere, even though the government says they shouldn’t currently travel. Whilst the traffic light system is a way to kickstart travel again, it’s not fool-proof for holidaymakers. Countries with a green status could be changed to amber or red by the UK government at short notice. Your quarantine-free bargain holiday could quickly turn into an unaffordable expense if you have to pay for extra tests or hotel quarantine on your return. And if your destination turns red while you’re abroad, it could be an unwelcome shock if you’re forced to return home early.”
Wait until the government announces the green list. If you travel to a green list country, you won’t be required to quarantine on return to the UK. Be aware you will still need a pre-departure test when returning home though, as well as a test when you’re back in the UK. This could cost £250 or more.
Book a package holiday, rather than flights and hotels separately. This will protect your money if the company fails – and this has become essential. It’s crucial that the package holiday is Atol-protected.
Pick a provider who will refund you. More holidays later in 2021 are likely to be cancelled. If yours is, you want to make sure you’ll get your money back without a fight.
Use a local travel agent to book. During the current crisis many customers have struggled to contact travel companies who have failed to keep them informed of changes to their bookings, about cancellations or the progress of their refunds – some companies have even turned off their phones. You won’t get that if you book with a good local travel agent.
Look for flexible holiday booking policies for 2021. Whether rising cases in the destination puts you off travel, NHS Test and Trace tells you to isolate or a change to the travel corridor rules means the holiday is off, booking with firms that offer flexibility to change your plans is essential.
Book a hotel with free cancellation. If you’re booking a hotel separately, look for one that offers free last-minute cancellation. Some individual hotels, especially in the UK, are offering this and booking direct is the best way to get the cheapest price.
Buy travel insurance as soon as you book. Travel insurance that covers you for coronavirus related illness and disruption is available again, although there are no completely comprehensive policies.
Pay with a credit card. You’ll get more financial protection if you pay for your holiday, flight or hotel with a credit card as Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act makes card issuers equally responsible for the delivery of a service.
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Pay a deposit … if you can avoid it. You might be nervous about travelling if Covid-19 cases rise in the summer or you might no longer be able to afford the holiday if you’ve lost your job or had a pay cut.
Book with online travel agents. Many online travel agents, known as OTAs, have proven during the pandemic that they aren’t able to offer good customer service or the same level of protection as traditional tour operators.
Book a holiday to a country on the red, amber or ‘Green Watchlist’ – unless you’re willing to quarantine. If you choose to fly to a country on the red list, you will need to pay for a 10-day stay at government managed quarantine hotel on return to the UK – that currently costs £1750.
This week, the Government announced that 50million doses of the coronavirus vaccine has been administered with over 34m people receiving at least one jab, and 15m having both doses. It has been suggested that over-50s could receive a third coronavirus vaccination this Autumn, with hopes of eradicating the disease in the UK before Christmas.
Also on Good Morning Britain, asked whether it would be safe to get a third coronavirus vaccination at the same time as an annual ‘flu jab, Dr Hilary Jones commented: “When you think that we do an annual flu jab every year for all the vulnerable people, there’s no reason we can’t give the third vaccine in a different arm at the same time as giving a flu jab. That could be done at the same time and I think that would be the plan for the future.”
“It’s no different really than a child having a triple vaccine or the MMR or the quadrivalent vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus and polio. So the human body comes across antigens in their hundreds everyday and this idea that having more than one is harmful or will give you more side effects actually [isn’t accurate].”
“Hospitalisations and deaths are still falling. There might be a slight rise in cases as we approach the summer and autumn because we’re coming out of lockdown but even then, hospital cases and deaths are still coming down so it’s all looking good.”
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