Don't go there: new FCO advice ahead of US travel ban


The Government has published new travel advice in response to the coronavirus pandemic advising against all but essential travel to some destinations abroad.

It comes as many airlines are drastically cutting back their services in advance of a ban by the US Government on people from the UK and Ireland travelling to the US. The US ban begins at midnight, Monday 16 March - standard eastern time.

The advice, published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Sunday (15 March), notes that FCO travel advice is constantly under review and requires people intending to travel to check the specific webpage for the country they intend to visit.

Many countries have their own travel or quarantine restrictions.

Deserted streets in Milan, Italy

At the time of publication, the FCO was warning against travel to (the whole of) Italy, and Spain, but not France or Germany, although it noted that these countries have their own restrictions.

The FCO was also warning against all but essential travel to China but advising against all travel to Hubei Province.

However, FCO advice in relation to South Korea, which has also seen a significant outbreak, was to seek its advice before travelling, except the cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan, where it is advising against all travel.

Germany closed its borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Denmark on Monday morning. Only deliveries of goods and commuters are allowed to cross these borders.

By contrast with the US, at the time of publication Canada had not banned travel from the UK. Australia and New Zealand both require people entering the country to ‘self-quarantine’ for 14 days.

In general, the FCO pointed out that older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), are more likely to become severely ill if they catch the virus. People in these categories were advised to ‘consider whether travel at this time is the right choice for you’ and to check the NHS guidance before travelling.

Last week the FCO advised British nationals aged 70 and over, and those with underlying health conditions like chronic diseases and diabetes, not to travel on cruise ships.

An FCO spokesperson said: ‘The nature and design of cruise ships – where passengers are contained and the virus can spread faster - makes them a particularly risky environment for vulnerable people.

‘We’ve already seen the impact a coronavirus outbreak can have on board a cruise ship and we have changed this advice with the safety of British nationals in mind.’

The FCO also advised:

  • Make sure you can access money to cover emergencies and unexpected delays. Take more than one means of payment with you
  • Be prepared to follow the advice of local authorities abroad. Be ready to comply with local isolation or quarantine requirements, and to rely on the local health system
  • Read the details of your travel insurance carefully, and check that you are covered. Contact your insurer if you are uncertain
  • Contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers to check for any coronavirus-related changes
  • Make sure you have enough medication with you in case you are abroad longer than planned
  • Decide if you, and those you may be travelling with, can manage logistical and financial disruption to your travel
  • Arrange extra support for family members, dependants or pets who may need care if you are abroad longer than planned

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