Who will fly this wonderful morning?
Such a sky you never did see!
Who will tie it up with an air bridge
And make it safe for you and me?
From this week the UK has introduced a 14 day quarantine for anyone arriving by plane, ferry or train. This includes UK nationals, not just visitors to our shores, and everyone must give an address where they will self-isolate, with the threat of fines for rule-breakers.
Airlines are up in arms, saying it’s unenforceable and will damage their already badly-hit business.
It’s a blow too for the slowly recovering holiday industry. Who will want to come here only to spend two weeks locked down in a hotel or rental home, unable to go out to see the sights?
And, of course, all those countries who are beginning to open up will see very few Brits on their beaches, because of the restrictions that will apply on their return.
There’s still talk of air bridges or international travel corridors – agreements between countries with low infection rates and strong healthcare systems – which would allow their citizens freer access. Portugal has indicated it’s keen to set up an agreement by the end of June but the UK government is still advising against all but essential travel.
The airlines themselves have come up with a list of 45 countries they believe the UK should establish international corridors with, but there’s no word yet on how many the relevant governments think are feasible.
So what does it mean for everyone in the UK right now?
The predictions we laid out earlier in our article The Shape of Things to Come have mostly come true, with all travelling, both at home and abroad, requiring detailed planning.
The new rules state:
Almost all travellers have to fill in a “public health passenger locator” form on arrival. Failure to do so could lead to a penalty of £100, or travellers may be refused entry. If they are unable to provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation at the traveller’s expense. It says there will also be checks to see whether the rules are being followed.
There are some exemptions:
Arrivals from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man don’t have to complete a form or enter quarantine. There are also exemptions for workers in some industries such as road haulage and medical professionals who are providing essential care.
Anyone else arriving in the UK should drive their own car to their destination, where possible, and once there they must not use public transport or taxis.
Arrivals must not go to work, school, or public areas, or have visitors – except for essential support. They are also not allowed to go out to buy food, or other essentials, where they can rely on others.
Those arriving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could face a fine of £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate for the full 14 days, while they face a £480 fine in Scotland. The maximum fine for repeat offenders in Scotland is £5,000.
And anyone who decides to head abroad for a summer holiday this year needs to be sure they can afford to take the extra 14 days off work as it’s likely to be unpaid leave.
The rules will be reviewed in late June to check they remain effective and necessary, so any changes to the restrictions are are unlikely to hapen before July at the earliest.
So are we heading for a great Summer of 2020 stay-cation?
Well yes – ish.
In England open air attractions like parks and gardens, are beginning to allow visitors, although most require pre-booking and are limiting numbers. Social distancing still applies and the recommendation of two metres still stands.
Masks or some sort of face covering are not compulsory in open spaces but are now required for public transport and recommended in enclosed public areas.
Zoos and safari parks have been given the go ahead to reopen from this Monday 15 June, but some say they will need more time to make sure they can meet the strict social distancing and hygiene rules.
And if you need a little in-car entertainment drive-in cinemas will also be allowed to operate from Monday, again in England only.
According to the UK’s recovery strategy Step 2 of the plan – a gradual re-opening of pubs, restaurants, hotels, accommodation and leisure facilities – could start next month.
So from the 4th July we may well be celebrating our own, limited, independence day, although exactly what restrictions will still be in place by then is unclear.
Will we be able to travel long distances or will stopping off en route be restricted?
Many hotel chains are already beginning to take bookings from July 4 and are promising rigorous cleaning regimes to provide reassurance for customers, but the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is likely to be a casualty of this new health awareness.
Small B&Bs up and down the country face even greater challenges with social distancing and many pubs and restaurants with limited space and little or no access to open areas say they’ll be hard pressed to make a profit if the social distancing advice remains at 2 metres.
Self-catering holidays in rural areas are gearing themselves up to take bookings and are most likely to be able to meet the clean and safe guidelines that will give holiday-makers the reassurance they need before committing themselves, but again the exact requirements have yet to be confirmed.
Most holiday-makers will steer clear of public transport and use their own cars or rental vehicles to get away.
Coach tours and scenic railway holidays won’t have the same magic if everyone is masked and seated back to back.
And what will it be like when we do fly again?
As flights, both domestic and international, gradually resume we can expect longer check-ins, face masks, health checks and socially distant ways to board.
easyJet is starting some internal flights from 15 June, re-establishing its routes from 10 airports and Ryanair continues with a limited schedule.
Jet2Holidays have pushed back their start date and won’t now be re-starting their holiday packages until 15 July.
WizzAir has been pretty bullish about its plans to re-start domestic and international flights in July, but the big carriers like BA and Virgin haven’t yet committed themselves to a start date.
And who will fly – even after the UK’s self-solation restrictions are lifted?