If commercial flights are available and pre-entry Covid-19 testing accepted, the Azores, Bahamas, Barbados, Croatia, Gibraltar, Madeira, Spain and Turkey appear to be the most immediately viable overseas destinations for English scuba divers, as the UK government relaxes coronavirus travel restrictions.
Divers eager to locate some overseas underwater action have a measure more clarity with the removal today (4 July) of the ban on non-essential travel to a list of countries, and the upcoming removal of quarantine restrictions when re-entering the UK.
The moves follow twists and turns in what has been labelled a “shambolic” attempt by the Department for Transport, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Joint Biosecurity Centre, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer to work out a workable overseas travel plan together with the UK’s devolved administrations.
From 10 July, travellers from England will in theory be permitted to travel to a list of countries including most of Europe and others in the Caribbean, Far East and British Overseas Territories without having to self-isolate on their return to the UK. They will be required only to provide contact information at that point.
The FCO also now permits travel to a list of 73 destinations for non-essential purposes such as scuba diving. Few “front-line” diving destinations such as Egypt, the Maldives, Indonesia or the Philippines are included on the initial list, although that could change over time.
The majority of the listed diving destinations are – before divers get too excited – either not currently open to visitors, stipulate a fortnight’s self-isolation or could prove difficult to reach by air under present arrangements.
These include Australia, Bonaire/St Eustatius/Saba, Canada, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Greece (set for review on 15 July), Grenada, Ireland, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Seychelles, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Thailand, Tobago and Turks & Caicos.
There may also be difficulties in obtaining travel insurance for some destinations, and travellers should be aware that the UK could reapply restrictions to countries should coronavirus spikes occur there – and that currently accessible countries could also reimpose their own restrictions.
Details of individual entry requirements to the various listed countries can be found on the FCO website.
Individual arrangements are still being discussed by the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.