The Government has advised with immediate effect against all non-essential international travel for at least a month.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the change in travel advice reflects the pace at which other countries are either closing their borders or implementing restrictive measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Officials said that these restrictions are very difficult to predict as they are often imposed with little or no notice and sometimes in areas where no cases of coronavirus have yet been reported.
They added that in the last week alone 430 changes have been made to FCO Travel Advice.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) said: ‘UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lock downs in various countries. The speed and range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented.
‘So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel.’
He did not say UK citizens abroad had to return immediately but suggested there was a window that could allow people to return.
The foreign secretary stressed that repatriation flights are costly, complicated and getting harder to achieve.
If there is a chance to move home citizens abroad are advised to move now, but there will still be instances of British nationals trapped abroad in very difficult circumstances.
The FCO said the decision on whether travel is essential or not is a personal one and circumstances differ from person to person.
‘It is for individuals themselves to make an informed decision based on the risks and FCO advice. Anyone still planning to travel should check the validity of their travel insurance.’
It added that British people who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so.
That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place.
Anyone still considering travel should ‘be realistic about the level of disruption they are willing and able to endure, and to make decisions in light of the unprecedented conditions we face’.
The FCO is not currently advising British people to immediately return to the UK if they are overseas, except for a few countries detailed in its travel advice.
‘However, British people should keep in mind that flights may be cancelled at short notice or other travel restrictions may be put in place by foreign governments. If people do want to return to the UK soon, then they need to take account of the fast moving situation and plan accordingly, while flights remain available in many places,’ the FCO said.
Officials said the UK’s extensive diplomatic network is continuing to work around the world to support British people at the greatest risk of exposure to the virus but that British nationals who become ill overseas should, in the first instance, seek care and support from the country they are in.
The FCO added that UK inward and outward travel has already fallen by a significant amount since the outbreak of coronavirus. Ryanair, Virgin and EasyJet have cut flights by 80% this month and IAG has decreased capacity by 75%.