FCO advises against overseas trips
With the number of mainstream diving destinations with borders still open to tourists dwindling rapidly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of where to go has now largely been taken out of UK divers’ hands with the latest advice from the UK government.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has told UK citizens to avoid all “non-essential” international travel, initially for a period of 30 days. It says that the 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,” says the FCO statement. “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,” says the FCO. “That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place.” Anyone still considering travel should “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”.
The FCO says it is not currently advising the hundreds of thousands of British people already abroad to return to the UK immediately, except for certain countries detailed in its travel advice, “but they should keep in mind that flights might be cancelled at short notice or other travel restrictions might 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,” says the FCO.
17 March 2020
Egypt, the prime destination for UK scuba divers, had already suspended all international flights in and out until the end of the month, in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The Philippines had imposed a travel ban on UK visitors, Malta and Indonesia had introduced mandatory 14-day isolation periods for all arrivals, no tourists were being allowed into Cyprus and Spain was on lockdown.
The FCO was already advising against travel to Caribbean destinations such as the Bahamas, Belize, St Lucia and Tobago, and among mainstream destinations only the Maldives, Mexico and some islands such as Grenada had until now remained a practical option, with fears remaining about possible effects of new restrictions on return flights.
In the light of the new FCO statement, any diver still wishing to undertake a non-essential overseas trip is advised to be aware of the terms of their travel insurance.