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UK’s overseas travel ban expected to be extended into the summer

Latest: Coronavirus in Spain figures (31 Mar)

The UK’s plans to allow international travel to recommence from 17 May are expected to be delayed, possibly until the end of June – which could be a further blow to Spain’s tourist industry.

British MPs are voting on the revised rules this Thursday, with laws expected to come into force on 29 March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown release timetable had originally cited 17 May as the earliest date when international travel from the UK could resume.

Whilst the UK’s pandemic position has improved in recent weeks, due to a combination of national lockdown measures and the roll out of vaccines, some European countries are experiencing the start of a third Covid wave that is expected to head towards the UK and impact on the timetable for a return to international travel.

On Monday Johnson warned that a third wave of Coronavirus in Europe would ‘wash up on our shores’, hinting at the prospect of banning travel from all EU countries.

Although Spain’s Covid situation has remained fairly stable in recent days, both France and Germany have been experiencing a surge in numbers of cases, with increased restrictions put in place to try to curb the wave.

Draft laws published yesterday in the UK, to implement the road map out of lockdown, include restrictions on leaving the UK without a ‘reasonable excuse’ of either work or education until July.

This effectively would rule out international travel and holidays until 30 June at the earliest, with heavy fines of £5,000 for those found breaking the law.

However, the legislation’s guidance on travelling with a ‘reasonable excuse’ is expected to include allowing people to leave the UK to prepare a second home for sale or rent.

Coronavirus sign for passengers arriving at Heathrow, London. (Heathrow Airport)

On 12 April, the UK government intends to publish its framework for a return to international travel, with a global travel taskforce considering a tiered or traffic light system for when the ban is lifted.

There is speculation in Britain that quarantine-free holidays may not be possible to most destinations until August or September.

This will potentially be another blow to the Spanish tourism industry, that suffered significantly in the summer of 2020 with an 80% reduction of international visitors. It is feared that continuing travel restrictions could again impact hugely on Spain’s international tourist numbers in 2021, with the sector already struggling and banking on a bounce back this summer.

The lifting of restrictions for international travel will be influenced by the pace and impact of the third wave across Europe, along with the roll out of the vaccine programme.

Spain plans to have 70% of its adult population vaccinated by the summer, although some have questioned whether this is a realistic target, given the speed of the vaccination programme to date and expected shortages of vaccine supply throughout Europe in the near term.

With all European countries keen to press ahead with a return to normality and for international travel to resume, the balance between lifting restrictions and reducing the spread of the virus will continue to be a significant challenge.

As the UK closely watches the situation in Spain and other countries in the weeks ahead, the timetable for resuming international travel may again have to be adapted, with the potential to delay a return to international tourism in Spain.

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Click here for all reports on Coronavirus in Spain and for specific reports related to Covid-19 Vaccinations.

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