Coronavirus: UK government advises against all global travel with ‘immediate effect’

Britons are being advised against any international travel “with immediate effect”, the foreign secretary has announced.

Dominic Raab said the guidance – introduced for 30 days initially – was needed to ensure no travellers were stranded abroad, as widespread restrictions are imposed. Arrangements would be made to ensure people could return to the UK on commercial flights “wherever that is possible”.

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Anyone still considering venturing abroad should be “fully aware of the increased risks of doing so – and that includes the risk that they will not be able to get home”, he told MPs. The draconian ban goes even further than the EU’s move to outlaw international arrivals, which involves travel within the EU – and the UK – continuing.

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Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Reuters

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Reuters

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Reuters

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Reuters

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Reuters

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Reuters

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Reuters

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Reuters

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Reuters

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Reuters

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Reuters

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Reuters

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Reuters

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Reuters

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Reuters

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Reuters

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Reuters

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

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Under questioning, Mr Raab said whether travel was still considered “essential” would remain “an individual decision” – and could be “personal or commercial”.

“UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lockdowns in various countries,” he said, in a statement.

“The FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] will always consider the safety and the security of British nationals.

“So, with immediate effect, I’ve taken the decision to advise British nationals against non-essential travel globally for an initial period of 30 days and of course subject to ongoing review.”

Mr Raab was told “the state” must step in to bring home stranded Britons, but insisted it “would be unrealistic” to repatriate everyone, so efforts would focus on the “most vulnerable”.

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But Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, highlighted the case of her constituent Tom, one of 65 nationals stuck in Peru which has closed its borders and whose flight home had been cancelled.

“Across the world, there are tens of thousands of British nationals in the same position as Thomas and all with the same message for the British government – help bring us home, as far as we’re concerned, our travel is essential,” she said.

“The government cannot keep passing the buck to others, especially when it comes to repatriation.

Yes it’s difficult, yes it’s expensive, but that is the nature of the crisis that we face.”

Explaining the new advice, the foreign secretary said it was in line with the drastic restrictions announced by Boris Johnson a day earlier, to achieve “social distancing” and cut infections.

On the international situation, he said: “The speed and the range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented, some of those decisions are being made without notice.

“In some countries, even in countries or particular areas where there haven’t yet been any reported cases of Covid-19, local authorities are nonetheless imposing restrictions on movement and again doing so with little or sometimes no notice.”

Mr Raab said detailed advice would be issued on maintaining the flow of goods to the UK, while protecting staff working on shipping routes.

“The government, of course, is keenly aware that international freight services such as shipping and haulage are vital for ensuring the continuity of the supply of essential foods, goods and material to the UK,” he acknowledged.

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