This week, the government announced the introduction of airbridges for Some European countries. However the Foreign Office (FCO) still continue to advise against all but essential travel. So, what do airbridges mean for UK tourists?
What is an airbridge?
An airbridge is a reciprocal agreement between two countries. It allows their respective citizens to travel between the countries without risk of quarantine. Initial agreements have been agreed with Italy, France and Spain and the full list of airbridge countries will be announced later this week.
What is the criteria for a country to be approved for an airbridge?
According to Inews, five factors are important for approval. These are:
- Demand for travel to those destinations
- The economic value of the potential airbridge country to the Uk
- The health screening arrangements in departure airports
- The COVID controls of the relevant county
- The R rate
Allegedly, agreements will only come into force between countries where the virus is under control and that have low R numbers. It is ironic therefore that the first three airbridge countries are ones with higher death rates per million of population.
|Country||Number of cases||Number of deaths||Deaths per million|
Source: Euronews as at 26th June 2020
For instance, reports suggest that Portugal will not be able to secure an agreement with the UK due to a spike in rates. The table above clearly shows that some of the countries touted as airbridge destinations have much higher rates of infections!!
What if I travel to a country where an airbridge IS in force?
In theory, this means that you will not need to quarantine upon your return to the UK. However the Guardian reports that ‘the list of permitted destinations will remain fluid…any sudden outbreak of coronavirus…could require travellers unexpectedly to isolate for two weeks when they return to the UK.’ As we already know, this virus multiplies rapidly. Quarantine still remains a possibility, even if an air bridge exists.
Classification of countries
The Joint Biosecurity Centre will categorise nations as green, amber and red based on the ‘prevalence of coronavirus, the trajectory of disease and the centre’s assessment of the data’s reliability’. Quarantine will not apply to amber and green countries but will be required for red countries. It is unclear how often this will be reviewed but presumably it will be daily in line with updated Covid reporting.
Note, even if you travel to a country with an airbridge, you may not be able to secure travel insurance for COVID related claims. Thus, if the situation changes rapidly, and you incur additional costs as a result, this could cost you dearly. The removal of FCO advice against travelling to your chosen destination is also likely to be a pre-condition for validity of your travel insurance.
Some insurers now offer policies that cover coronavirus related claims but you should read the policy wording before purchasing cover. You can compare deals easily on Holiday Extras.
What if I travel to a country where an air bridge is not in force?
If you travel to a country where an airbridge is not in place and the FCO still advise against all but essential travel, the likelihood is that you will not have insurance coverage.
It seems many foolhardy travellers are willing to take the risk. Tui reports a 50% increase in bookings and other companies have experienced a surge in interest (Source: The Telegraph). Why would you even contemplate booking a holiday when final details of the airbridges have yet to be confirmed and the situation can change rapidly?
If you happen to contract the virus while travelling you should not board a flight. You may need to isolate overseas and your costs could go through the roof. This will be especially true if your insurance does not cover you for anything Covid related. This pandemic is far from contained. Most countries still report new daily infections and deaths, so is this a risk you really want to take?
As I said in last weeks blog, if you have sufficient funds to fund these costs without insurance, go ahead and take the risk. However, research from The Independent shows that a quarter of all Brits have no savings. For those who do, the average is just £4,212.40. This won’t go far if you need hospital treatment and your insurance policy does not cover you.
If you choose to travel knowingly infected to avoid these costs, frankly you deserve to go to jail. Your selfish behaviour could lead to the death of someone else that comes into contact with you.
But what if you are hell bent on travelling despite these risks? Here are three tips to try and help you avoid these issues.
3 Tips for travelling if you really cannot resist the urge
- Book your trip last minute. That way, you know what the situation is in the relevant country and can plan accordingly. However, note my point above about rapid changes. Remember how quickly things changed in March when countries closed their borders on a daily basis! Do you really want a repeat of the endless hours you spent trying to get a refund for your travel plans?
- Check your existing insurance policy for coverage. If you don’t yet have cover, make sure you can get insurance before booking. Specifically ask what the policy is in relation to anything COVID and get this in writing from the provider.
- Ensure that the company you book with has a specific Covid policy. This should offer flexibility should you be unable to travel.
I really do understand the desperate urge to jet off overseas. As someone who travels frequently, it is painful to consider a summer in the UK (especially with our unpredictable weather!)
However this pandemic is far from over. So many things could ruin your trip. Your bargain holiday won’t be such a bargain if you spend thousands isolating because the traffic light system changes or because you become ill during your trip.
Have your say
Let me know what you think in the comments below.