The UK is enduring a tough end to the year, as much of its population was plunged into a new, harsh lockdown following a rise in cases and the discovery of a new, rapid spreading variant of Covid-19. Whilst many countries blocked entry from Britain because of this new strain of the virus, the European Union (EU) has called for such bans to be lifted. With some countries taking heed of the EU’s call already, find out what this might mean for travelers and travel plans heading into 2021.
Why Were Borders Closed To Travelers in the UK?
The Covid-19 situation in the UK is extremely worrying at present, with the last few days each reporting well over 30,000 new cases. Following the new wave of cases, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that most of Southeast England was to be placed under strict Tier 4 lockdown, imposing strong restrictions on a third of the population. On top of high recent figures, it was also announced that the UK had been dealing with a new, more easily-transmissible strain of the virus.
This caused many European nations to worry about the spread of this strain within their countries. The Netherlands was the first country to block flights from the UK, but many others soon followed. The sudden nature of the bans left many travelers stranded in the UK unable to return home and caused mayhem at the British ports, where freight lorries expecting to be able to carry on their routes into mainland Europe were prevented from doing so.
The EU Has Spoken – A Lifeline For Travelers?
Following the wave of travel bans for the UK from several different European countries, the European Union stepped in to try and dissuade them from using this kind of action.
In a press release issued on 22nd December, the European Commission – the executive branch of the EU charged with proposing legislation and upholding its treaties – gave its recommendation to its member states. They said that UK citizens should be able to enjoy EU free movement rights and be exempted from any temporary restrictions, providing that they undergo a test of a period of quarantine. The press released cited the need for citizens to return home, allowing essential travel and avoiding supply train disruptions as further reasons to repeal the bans. The Commission also called for member states to have a coordinated approach to the new virus variant.
However, the EU also made it clear on their website that following the completion of Brexit on January 1st 2021, the UK will cease to be a member states and become a “third country”, and could therefore be subjected to the restriction of non-essential travel to the EU.
Which Countries Have Eased The Travel Ban?
After the EU’s recommendation, France has eased the travel ban imposed on the UK. Rail, air and sea services are to be resumed on the morning of the 23rd December, but not for everyone; travel is only permitted for citizens of France and the European Union and permanent residents of France, as well as those for whom travel is deemed essential, such as diplomats and health workers. In order to be allowed to travel, they must produce a test result for Covid-19 taken 72 hours before they wish to travel.
Whilst France may have eased the ban, flights from the UK are still banned in more than 50 countries. The EU has also said that non-essential travel should be avoided, repeating that same message that has been said by many governments around the world.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories