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Foreign Office advises against all non-essential overseas travel – full statement

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The Foreign Office has just issued a statement advising against all non-essential foreign travel for at least the next 30 days.

The full statement is below.

On the upside, it is possible that such Foreign Office guidance will allow the Government to offer financial support to UK airlines on the basis that it has caused them to ground their few remaining international flights.

You can see the original press release here.


Today the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all non-essential international travel, initially for a period of 30 days. This advice takes effect immediately.

This change in travel advice reflects the pace at which other countries are either closing their borders or implementing restrictive measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Often there is little or no notice when countries take these steps and restrictions are also being imposed in areas where no cases of coronavirus have yet been reported. They are therefore very difficult to predict.

British people who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place. Anyone still considering travel to be realistic about the level of disruption they are willing and able to endure, and to make decisions in light of the unprecedented conditions we face.

We are not currently advising British people to immediately return to the UK if they are overseas, except for a few countries detailed in our travel advice. However, British people should keep in mind that flights may be cancelled at short notice or other travel restrictions may be put in place by foreign governments.

If people do want to return to the UK soon, then they need to take account of the fast moving situation and plan accordingly, while flights remain available in many places.

Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said:

“UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lock downs in various countries. The speed and range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented.

So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel.”

Whether travel is essential or not is a personal decision and circumstances differ from person to person. It is for individuals themselves to make an informed decision based on the risks and FCO advice. Anyone still planning to travel should check the validity of their travel insurance.

UK inward and outward travel has already fallen by a significant amount since the outbreak of coronavirus. Ryanair, Virgin and EasyJet have cut flights by 80% this month and IAG has decreased capacity by 75%.

The UK’s extensive diplomatic network is continuing to work around the world to support British people at the greatest risk of exposure to the virus. In the last week 430 changes have been made to FCO Travel Advice – more than in the entirety of 2019.

We will continue to do everything in our power to get those British nationals affected the care, support and advice they need. We are also working urgently to ensure international governments have sensible plans to enable the return of British and other travellers and, crucially, that they keep borders open for enough time to allow people to return home on commercial flights.

British nationals who become ill overseas should, in the first instance, seek care and support from the country they are in.

This guidance follows the domestic measures announced by the Prime Minister on Monday and forms part of the national effort to meet the international challenge presented by coronavirus.

Comments (165)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Cwyfan says:

    Does this level of FCO advice trigger travel insurance cover?

    • stevenhp1987 says:

      Depends on your policy.

      Mine for example excludes pandemics meaning no cover.

      Check your policy.

      • J says:

        I think my policy through my bank underwritten by Axa is OK, makes no reference to pandemics. Would be pretty terrible under these circumstances for policies to leave people stranded :/

  • Mikeact says:

    @Alice Smith. What is the point of making a one off statement like that… need to back up or elaborate what you actually mean. Ridiculous.

  • pin perl says:

    Hi Rob,
    Just a question,
    My wife’s’ in Tlv and had a avios redemption booking back to LON for the 31st of Mar,
    I moved it to the 19th of Mar but was charged the usual £35.
    Is that right or can I receive a refund for that?

  • pin perl says:

    I need for BA – Avios.

  • Rav says:

    When will BA start giving refund for flights after April?

  • Sarah says:

    So as anticipated BA have cancelled my flight on Monday 23rd, and rebooked me on an alternative flight. Online there is an option to cancel, but it takes me to the voucher page – however I booked on Avios. Anyone know does this mean I need to try and call to sort the avios refund? And will I be refunded the £35 as they cancelled the flight, or not because they offered an alternative?

  • Dave T says:

    I am meant to be flying to Bali via Singapore with BA on the 15th of April
    depending on what Bali decide on the 30th of March with regards to closing the airport or deciding everything is fun – I plan to still go maybe even bring departure flight earlier to the 4th April

    we are 3 low risk people out there for 30 days, is this mad? how likely is it we will still get to go?

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Yes, it’s mad. I would plan on not being able to go. Don’t waste any money changing flights etc

      • Dave T says:

        Not going to spend any money its an avios booking so i can change it for free, I’m no worse off by waiting or changing, its whether or not DPS will close or SIN will let me transit is the concern
        My friend out in bali at the moment says its quiet but most things are open, even when the announce an area as closed its is still open to those who have bookings

    • J says:

      If the Fco are now advising against non essential travel, going on holiday would seem inadvisable as not sure where you would stand in terms of your travel insurance policy – check that?

      • Dave T says:

        travel insurance covers me for both going or not going at this current time – I loose the time off work if I do not go away so I would like to go unless its really stupid to go

        • J says:

          Not a fan of the Telegraph but below might be helpful…

          What is essential travel?
          There is no official Government explanation to differentiate between essential and non-essential travel. Travel that is urgent and critical is likely to fall under “essential,” according to Telegraph Travel’s chief consumer editor, Nick Trend.

          However, holidays are unlikely to be considered essential by travel insurers and therefore travelling against Government advice is likely to invalidate your insurance, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

          • Dave T says:

            Looks like Bali are stopping entry to anyone who has been to the UK in 14 days anyway so thats the end of that one

  • Toppcat says:

    Are airlines likely to be liable to pay EU261 compensation for cancelling flights currently? I have just had return flights from London to Berlin for this weekend cancelled by Easyjet. Are these just being cancelled out of economic imperative, or is there a genuine reason that they can’t go ahead? Thanks.

    • stevenhp1987 says:

      The current FCO advice is that all non essential travel be avoided to every country in the world.

      Germany have also restricted entry at their borders.

      Therefore exceptional circumstances. No compensation.

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