It’s hard to believe the Flybe collapse was just at the start of the month but, it’s true, on Thursday 5th March British airline Flybe went into administration, and more than 2,000 people lost their jobs.
Our attention to the collapse of Flybe was short-lived, as shortly afterwards COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) soon advised against all non-essential travel, and movement in the UK is set to become extremely limited. Holidaymakers are being asked not to travel to international countries, and remain in isolation if they, or someone they are living with, displays symptoms of COVID-19. This could mean some drastic changes to everyday life, and many people will have questions on exactly how we will be affected. Read below to find out the latest information regarding the coronavirus and what changes have been made.
What is the UK’s stance on coronavirus?
At time of writing, over 5,683 people have tested positive for coronavirus and the death toll has risen to 281 in the UK as Prime Minister Boris Johnson urges citizens to avoid “non-essential” travel. As of 16th March 2020, social distancing measures were put in place, with the aim of reducing social interaction. The initiative intends to stem the spread of COVID-19. The PM has advised that people should “avoid gatherings and crowded places such as pubs, clubs and theatres”, and work from home where possible. Although the advice is nationwide, those over the age of 70 and those with underlying conditions, in particular, are advised to exercise caution – pregnant women are also being encouraged to consider the advice.
As of Friday 20th March 2020, schools across the UK will be closed until further notice, only providing daily lessons and care for the children of key workers and vulnerable students. Theatres and music venues across the UK will close until further notice; the National Theatre, London Palladium and Royal Opera House are amongst those venues that are affected. Major cinema chains including Odeon, Cineworld and Picturehouse have been closed in the meantime.
Those who are considered “high-risk” have been asked to remain indoors for 12-weeks whilst new measures encourage anyone with a persistent cough or fever to isolate for 14 days along with any other household members.
How will transport be affected?
Transport for London (TfL) has revealed the 24-hour night services will be ‘suspended until further notice.’ TfL is advising only ‘critical workers’ to make ‘essential journeys’ to use the service and as of Friday 20th March 2020, operations will cease on the Waterloo and City line. Although TfL has put an ‘enhanced cleaning regime’ in place across tubes and bus networks in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading, services will be limited. Commuters are being encouraged to work from home so public transport is not used for anything but essential travel.
How is the rest of the world responding to coronavirus?
There have been more than 39,000 cases of coronavirus in the US as the death toll currently stands at 467. In the US, schools have been closed in several states whilst President Donald Trump has stated venues could potentially be shut until August. The President has also signed a ‘coronavirus relief package’ that will enable free testing of coronavirus as well as paid sick, family, and medical leave for workers at companies that employ less than 500 workers. The new measures will also expand funding for food. The US previously placed a travel ban on Schengen Zone countries which has now extended to the UK and Ireland, whilst the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to the country.
Europe has become the new epicentre for coronavirus as the death toll reaches 7,425 (at time of writing). All non-essential travel has been banned throughout Europe’s Schengen free-travel zone whilst various countries including France will be closing schools, coffee shops and non-essential public establishments.
Various countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand are now facing second wave coronavirus cases. Thailand has closed schools, cinemas and various other public establishments in order to stem cases. The Philippines have quarantined 107 million people, constituting to half of its population. Taiwan will begin banning foreign travellers from entering the country as of 19th March 2020, with exclusions applying to a very limited few.
Which airlines are cancelling flights due to coronavirus?
As international borders close and governments begin imposing worldwide isolation, the impact of COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on airlines. Citizens are being advised against all but essential travel, which means hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers are facing cancellations for pre-paid holidays. Travel restrictions are having a damaging impact on the aviation industry as several airlines see a decrease in sales and increase in grounded flights. The UK’s flagship airline, British Airways, has been forced to cut capacity by 75% as people can no longer travel. Ryanair, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and JetBlue are also among those suspending flights.
Which countries has The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against travel to?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now advised British travellers against all non-essential travel. As such the US and EU have each imposed travel bans on citizens coming in and out of the countries. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also applied a travel restriction on international travel. The FCO is advising against travel to countries in Europe, USA and Asia, you can find a full list of counties on the FCO’S website.
What should I do if my flight is cancelled?
You should contact your airline directly if your flights have been cancelled. They should either offer you a full refund on all unused parts of your ticket or, in some cases, offer to re-book you at a later date. Failing this, you should contact your tour operator, who should offer to refund the cost of your trip. If you are still unable to recover costs, you can contact your travel insurance provider to see what cover may be available. Some insurers may offer compensation if the cancellation happened before the incident became a ‘known event’. It’s worth noting that not all insurers will have the same stance on this, which is why you should speak to your travel insurance provider directly, to see what they might offer in this instance.