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Coronavirus: What does the tier system mean for UK holidays?

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Publishedduration1 hour agoimage copyrightGetty ImagesDuring October half-term many people would normally be thinking of taking a short holiday in the UK.But with new local restrictions in place in England – set by the government’s new “tier system” – travel plans could be a complicated business.What are the rules for England?If you live in an area…


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During October half-term many people would normally be thinking of taking a short holiday in the UK.

But with new local restrictions in place in England – set by the government’s new “tier system” – travel plans could be a complicated business.

What are the rules for England?

  • If you live in an area with the lowest rates of infection – Tier One – the rules are similar to those that have already been in force across England
  • You can holiday anywhere in England that’s also in Tier One
  • You can holiday with people from other households in private accommodation (as long as you socially distance), but only in groups of six and under (unless your own household or support bubble is bigger)
  • You can stay in a hotel or B&B with another household, but you should avoid sharing rooms with people you don’t live with, and avoid socialising with them indoors – for example in restaurants or bars
  • You should try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or support bubble

The government has published Covid guidance for safer travelling.

  • People who live in Tier Two areas should aim to “reduce the number of journeys they make where possible” – according to the government
  • You can go on holiday outside your local area as long as you don’t share accommodation with people you don’t live or bubble with, or socialise with them in any indoor setting
  • People visiting a Tier Two area should follow the local Covid rules for that area
  • If you live in a Tier Three area – which at the moment is only the Liverpool City Region (Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens, Halton council areas) – you’re being told to avoid travelling outside of your local area – unless it’s for work, education or caring responsibilities
  • Government advice says you should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK – but can still go on holiday outside of you local area
  • If you do go on holiday, you should only do this with people you live or bubble with
  • People from Tier One and Tier Two areas are urged to avoid staying overnight in a Tier Three area

Use our postcode checker to see the rules where you live.

The government has also published guidance:

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionBamburgh Castle in Northumberland is in an area under local restrictions

Where can you travel in Scotland?

You can travel anywhere within Scotland, unless there are local restrictions in place advising you not to do so.

The government has advised people living in the central belt region – which stretches from Glasgow to Edinburgh – not to travel outside their area from 10-25 October inclusive, if they don’t need to. Likewise, people elsewhere in Scotland have been asked not to visit the central belt unless it is necessary.

However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said, “We are not insisting that people cancel any half-term breaks they have planned.”

You cannot visit another household, or stay with them.

You can stay in private accommodation, such as a flat, caravan or holiday cottage, but only with members of your own household.

You can stay in a hotel or B&B, but you cannot share rooms with someone from outside your household.

People in Scotland are advised not to travel to areas of England where local restrictions are in place, unless the journey is absolutely necessary.

Where can you visit in Wales?

Travel in and out of any area under local restrictions is limited to essential journeys only.

You cannot travel into any of these areas to take a holiday, and likewise, if you live in a restricted area, you cannot leave to go on holiday elsewhere in the UK.

Police can issue fixed penalty notices for breaking this rule, or you could be prosecuted and fined by the courts.

People living in an area of Wales with no local restrictions are free to travel anywhere with no local restrictions – whether inside or outside the country.

Visitors from elsewhere in the UK can also take holidays in those areas of Wales without additional restrictions.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionLlandudno – currently closed to tourists from outside the area

What are Northern Ireland’s travel rules?

If you live in an area which is not under local restrictions, you are allowed to travel elsewhere in the UK, while following local regulations.

Mixing indoors with other households is not permitted in Northern Ireland, and neither is staying with another household outside your support bubble.

Only one local authority area – Derry City and Strabane – currently faces local restrictions.

People living in this area have been advised to avoid all unnecessary travel. Likewise, people are recommended only to travel to the area if it is absolutely necessary.

What if my holiday accommodation is closed because of local restrictions?

If you’re not able to take a planned holiday because of local restrictions, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it would generally expect you to be offered a full refund.

If your holiday is partially affected by lockdown laws, then, “depending on the circumstances and the scale of the impact”, you may be entitled to a refund or a price reduction.

Many companies are trying to be flexible. For example, Haven Caravans and Center Parcs are among those offering cancellation, refund or free rebooking if a break is cancelled because of Covid-19.

image copyrightGetty Images

How can I protect myself financially if my holiday is cancelled?

Make sure you carefully read any terms and conditions before you make a booking,

You will be better protected if you pay for your holiday using a credit or debit card than by bank transfer to a private property owner.

What happens if I have to cancel because I’m self-isolating?

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) says that if this happens, strictly speaking, it’s your fault you can’t go on holiday rather than the fault of the travel company.

It says that holiday companies want to be flexible because they want to encourage people to travel, but ultimately it’s “entirely up to them”. There are no rules or laws to compel them to look kindly on you.

Should I get travel insurance for UK holidays?

Insurance is all about covering losses from unforeseen circumstances – and, unfortunately, coronavirus and the consequences of it no longer count as unforeseen, the Association of British Insurers says.

Insurers are offering increasingly flexible policies, though. Trailfinders, for example, offers Covid-19 cover which includes trips being cancelled, shortened due to illness or lengthened due to having to self-isolate after falling ill while on holiday.

What should I do if I get coronavirus while I’m on holiday?

The current guidance from the UK government is that anyone who develops coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate for at least 10 days. So things get a little tricky if you become unwell with a couple of days of your holiday left.

Abta says it’s possible the booking providers might let you stay in their accommodation for the duration of your illness, if you become ill while away – but it’s unlikely they’d cover the cost of this.

But there is no legislation to cover any specific rights that holidaymakers may have if they get coronavirus symptoms and need to extend their holiday.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don’t show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the “curve” is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren’t working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS’s 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced “R-naught”, is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body’s immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body’s normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.