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FCO advice change as island policy confirmed

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Written by: Emma Lunn
08/09/2020
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice for Greece and is advising against all but essential travel to seven popular islands.

The rest of Greece remains exempt from the FCO’s advice against all non-essential international travel.

The warning for Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos is the first since the government announced a new targeted approach to quarantine rules.

People arriving in England from these islands from 4am on Wednesday 9 September will need to self-isolate for two weeks.

The government has introduced “travel corridors” separating some islands from mainland countries so that an area that presents a higher or lower public health risk to UK travellers can be assessed separately to the rest of the country.

Previously ministers had adopted a country-based approach to quarantine rules and FCO advice, despite some countries’ islands having much lower coronavirus infection rates than the mainland.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre has now been commissioned to assess the most popular island destinations for British tourists.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Our top priority has always been to keep domestic infection rates down, and today we’re taking the next step in our approach. Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them – distinct from the mainland – as infection rates change.

“This development will help boost the UK’s travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe.”

Announcements on which islands and countries will be added or removed will continue to be made as part of the current weekly process.

But the government said it is not considered safe to implement a fully regional system for international travel corridors as there is too much movement between high risk and lower risk regions within single countries and regional health information is not sufficiently reliable.

However, when a region has natural boundaries – like an island – the risks reduce.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Holidaymakers are acutely aware of the risks involved with foreign travel, but this latest snap change still offers no clarity as to how these decisions are made. This approach continues to cost travellers dearly, either through paying extortionate airfares in the scramble to get home, or because speculation that their destination may be added to the quarantine list causes them to needlessly cancel a holiday.

“It’s clear that the current travel corridor system is not working for passengers, and is further damaging confidence in the sector. A major reassessment of the UK government’s approach is needed to ensure holidaymakers don’t continue to lose money, and tour operators and airlines have a better opportunity to get back on their feet financially.”

Antony Martin, managing director at Insurefor.com, said: “Due to the uncertainty of the coming months regarding further quarantine requirements that may be imposed by the government for UK travellers visiting other destinations, Insurefor.com has updated its policies, making it the first travel insurance brand to provide cover when travelling against FCO advice to European countries (for single trip policies) whilst simultaneously protecting consumers against Covid-related issues both pre-departure and whilst abroad.

“We have updated our policies to help instil consumer confidence around travelling and ensure people continue to go on their holidays as planned when flight and accommodation services are still operating, even if the destination is removed from the UK Government’s travel corridors list.

“The updated policies allow consumers to travel against FCO advice but only when it relates to Covid-19 – exclusion will still apply for all other reasons, such as natural disasters, civil unrest etc.”

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