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France, Malta and the Netherlands kicked off safe travel list

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14/08/2020
People arriving in England from these destinations this weekend will need to self-isolate for a fortnight after the government said there’s an increased coronavirus risk.

France, Malta, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Aruba have been removed from the quarantine exempt list for arrivals from 4am Saturday 15 August.

This means anyone arriving in England from these destinations, whether by train, ferry, coach, air, or any other route, even a transit stop, will need to quarantine for 14 days.

The government said the destinations have been removed from the list of safe travel corridors for England following data showing a significant increase in the Covid-19 risk.

Data from France shows that between 7 and 13 August, there has been a 66% increase in newly reported cases and a 52% increase in weekly incidence rate per 100,000 population, indicating a sharp rise in coronavirus. There are an estimated 160,000 British holidaymakers currently in France trying to make their way back before the deadline, according to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. However, as estimated 500,000 Brits are currently in France.

In the Netherlands, there has been a 52% increase in newly reported cases between 7 and 13 August. Over the past week, there has been a 273% increase in newly reported cases in the Turks and Caicos Islands and 1,106% increase in newly reported cases in Aruba. Malta has had a 105% increase in newly reported cases over the past seven days.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has also updated its travel advice to these destinations – advising against all but essential travel.

The government is urging employers to be “understanding” of those returning from these destinations who now will need to self-isolate. It added that passengers should “carefully consider” their ability to self-isolate on return before deciding to travel overseas in the event that advice changes at short notice.

Passengers will need to complete a passenger locator form upon arrival into the UK or they face a £100 fine.

Insurance and pay implications

FCO warnings are important as they are usually the trigger for travel insurance cover. When one is in place, it usually means you can claim for cancellation on your travel insurance if you can’t travel.

If you decide to travel despite an FCO warning, your insurance will normally become invalid.

However, Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said unlike tour operators, airlines now routinely ignore FCO travel warnings and refuse refunds because, they argue, the flight is still operating. Some major airlines, like Ryanair, won’t even allow customers to rebook without charging a hefty fee, he added.

easyJet has already confirmed its flights will continue. British Airways, Ryanair and all other major airlines are likely to follow suit, Which? said. The downside is that if the airline doesn’t cancel, travellers can’t claim a refund.

Which? said most travellers to France book accommodation and transport separately which offers less protection.

Package holiday providers, such as Jet2 Holidays and BA Holidays, are likely to cancel forthcoming holidays to France. That will allow customers to claim a full refund under the Package Travel Regulations.

The consumer champion added that hotels and campsites in France remain open as there is no lockdown in place so holidaymakers will be reliant on the policies and goodwill of the website or provider as to whether you can rebook.

Patrick Ikhena, head of travel at comparethemarket.com said those who still plan to travel despite the requirements to quarantine upon return should contact their insurer to explore their options and ascertain their level of cover.

He said: “If your holiday plans have been impacted by the government’s decision, it may be worth contacting your airline or other transportation providers who may be able to offer you a change of destination. Those who still choose to travel to France, Malta or the Netherlands must follow FCO guidance first and foremost and check for any local restrictions and requirements ahead of departure.”

Ikhena added: “Many providers have begun to offer ‘enhanced COVID-cover’ to give passengers additional cover and peace of mind before travelling abroad. Whilst these policies are unlikely to cover you or your travel companions if you travel to a region against FCO advice, this type of cover is likely to pay out for any costs or lost funds should you contract Covid-19 before travelling. Such enhanced coverage is also likely to protect you in the event that FCO advice prevents you from going away, as well as any emergency medical care and repatriation costs.”

When it comes to being paid while isolating, this is a grey area. While the government said employers should be understanding, the official advice is that you’re not entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if you’re self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK. But it added it has invested over £9bn “to strengthen the welfare safety net, helping to ensure access for those in need”.

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