With England’s lockdown ending, it will be reverting back to its tier system, but with much stricter restrictions in place than before, and with the vast majority of the UK in the higher tiers.
While overseas travel for the purposes of a holiday was not permitted under the lockdown rules, the situation is different under the new tier system – and is causing confusion amongst both the industry and consumers.
For international travel from tiers 1 and 2, travellers are simply referred to the Foreign Office (FCDO) travel advice and the travel corridors list – from which it can be implied that those in tiers 1 and 2 can go on holiday, provided they comply with any quarantine requirements (and, of course, only travel with people from their household or social bubble).
However, for tier 3, the government guidance states: “In a tier 3, you should avoid travelling outside of your area. If you do need to travel abroad see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Travel Advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.”
Compare this to the guidance given by the government for travel during lockdown 2.0, which stated: “If you live in England, you must stay at home and avoid travel in the UK or overseas, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons.” During lockdown 2.0, it was illegal to travel overseas for a holiday – and this was clear in the regulations implemented for lockdown 2.0 and the accompanying government guidance.
However, for tier 3 restrictions, the wording is not “you must [stay at home and] avoid travel in the UK or overseas”, but instead “you should avoid travelling outside of your area” (emphasis added). The language used is not as strong and doesn’t suggest a strict prohibition against travel outside of tier 3 areas but instead it could be argued that it’s more of an advisory against travel generally.
This is supported by recent news reports that Grant Shapps said that tier 3 residents can go on holiday provided they go straight to the airport and back. However, there hasn’t been anything formal from the government to support Shapps’ statement, and as such, I’m reluctant to attach too much weight to it.
It’s also worth noting that there is nothing in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”), which were released on Monday, which places any prohibition on overseas travel (or in fact even addresses any restrictions on international travel).
Therefore, it could be argued that the government guidance on overseas travel is not reflective or supported by the actual regulations (and therefore not legally enforceable).
Taking all this into account, it’s fair to say that the position on whether residents from tier 3 can travel overseas to go on holiday remains uncertain and a grey area – and further clarification from the government is required urgently.
For the time being, my opinion is that the government guidance against travel for tier 3 is just that – guidance and advisory only.
It does not appear to be supported by the regulations, and therefore is not legally enforceable.
However, this is very fluid situation which could change at short notice, so it’s worth keeping up to date on government guidance and any further legislation which might be issued to support the new tier system.