Travellers in England could be hit with a £5,000 fine for trying to travel abroad without good reason.

The new coronavirus laws, set to be introduced next week, suggest anyone who leaves England for a destination outside the UK without a reasonable excuse, such as for work, education or medical treatment, could face a £5,000 fine. Foreign holidays are not allowed under COVID “stay at home” rules which end on Monday. Anyone travelling abroad has to fill in a “Declaration to Travel” form, stating a valid reason for leaving the country.

Under the current roadmap for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England would be able to go abroad for a holiday would be May 17. But a third wave of COVID infections coupled with a slow roll out of vaccines across Europe have cast doubts on plans to open up international travel. From next week, the ban on leaving the UK will become a specific law will be backed up by the threat of the fine.

New variants could put vaccine roll out at risk

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the restrictions on travelling abroad were necessary to guard against the importation of large numbers of cases and new variants which might put the vaccine rollout at risk. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also warned that the UK should be “under no illusion” that it will feel the effects of a rising number of cases on the continent.

The UK currently operates a “red list” of countries, with people from those countries not currently allowed to travel to the UK, with the exception of British nationals and those normally resident in the UK. Those allowed to travel from red list countries are required to undertake mandatory hotel quarantine on their return which they must pay for themselves. The list is regularly reviewed with countries being added or removed depending on their COVID situation.

The government is considering a tiered or traffic light system for international travel when the ban on leaving the country is lifted. It intends to publish further guidance on April 12, with decisions about which countries are in which tier to be taken later.

“Framework for travel must be robust and workable”

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered carriers, called for airlines to be more involved in the Government’s framework for travel. He said: “It is too early to say what the state of COVID will be in Europe and globally in 10 weeks’ time. Our focus between now and then must be working with Ministers on a framework for travel that is robust and workable, and can stand the test of time as we enter the all-important summer period.”

“We have always said any reopening must be risk-based, but also led by the overriding assumption that as the vaccine rollout accelerates both here and abroad, a phased easing of restrictions is achievable. We know that universal, restriction-free travel is unlikely from May 17 but under a tiered system, based on risk, international travel can meaningfully restart and build up, with minimal restrictions in time.”

Testing for travellers aged under-18 is also being considered as coronavirus vaccines are not currently approved for under-18s. The UK’s devolved nations have the power to set their own coronavirus restrictions with Scotland and Wales currently stating that May 17 is the earliest date that people might be able to go abroad.

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