Coronavirus: Holidays at home or abroad – is anywhere safe as virus surges in UK?

Travel experts at one point were suggesting that coronavirus could provide a boost to the UK’s domestic tourism industry as the virus caused chaos for international travel. However, following a sudden surge in confirmed cases in the UK, as well as the country’s first fatality, could travel round the UK now be impacted?


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The UK’s Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested in a briefing that around one-fifth of the population could end up contracting the illness.

Despite this, at the moment the government is not suggesting travellers make any changes to their usual behaviour, including holidaying abroad.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “At the moment we are certainly not recommending any change to behaviours in relation to that and if it grows in the UK it doesn’t really make sense to say you are more at risk somewhere else than you are here.”

With the number of confirmed cases currently at 116, the virus is set to spread more in the coming months, which means there is a heightened risk for those travelling throughout the UK.

There is currently no evidence to say that it is safer to take a domestic holiday rather than going abroad.

However, the government does suggest that checking the current infection rate and any Foreign and Commonwealth Office warnings.

At present, the FCO has issued advisories warning travellers not to go to severely impacted regions, including mainland China where the epidemic began.

Chief Medical Officer Christopher Whitty added that it is important to take into consideration the health care services of the country you are visiting.

He said: “If you happen to be in a place with a very weak health service at the peak of their epidemic, weaker than the NHS, that might be a bit more problematic. This is particularly an issue for those who are older or who have pre-existing medical conditions.

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“So I think in those situations, you might want to think through the practicalities of being in a place with a health service less strong than the NHS.”

The UK government remains confident that the NHS will be able to treat most cases, and says the first fatality was the result of an “underlying preexisting condition.”

With that in mind, the UK may be a safer destination in terms of healthcare.

Dr Neil Robinson, Travel and Tourism Expert from the University of Salford Business School, says: “We have been here before with Ebola & Sars and it is important to remain positive, in the UK we have lots of resources to fight against this outbreak.”

However, the World Health Organisation has not yet declared a pandemic, and the FCO is not imposing travel restrictions to most countries at the time of writing.

The World Health Organisation has explained there are simple steps you can take to keep the illness at bay.

Good hand hygiene, which includes washing hands for 20 seconds and utilising alcohol-based hand sanitiser should slow the spread of COVID-19.


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As so little is known about how the disease could evolve in the coming months, the best thing travellers can do is ensure they have a good travel insurance policy.

“The worst-case scenario is that flights are cancelled, borders closed, and there is impact on the free movement of workers but the UK is strong, we have fought against bigger adversaries,” says Dr Robinson.

“But there are some key things travellers can do to mitigate any risks of airlines going bust etc

“Book on a credit card, not necessarily a 100 percent cover, but better in case the airlines go bust or cancels your flight, at least you will have some come back.

“Get insurance now, but check the small print, is coronavirus covered, get it now, even if you have booked the flight and holiday.”

Though you may always buy insurance for international travel, a domestic vacation may not seem like coverage is needed.

Rebecca Kingsley, brand manager of consumer awareness initiative, Travel Insurance Explained reveals it’s actually a lot more important than you may realise.

She told “Travel insurance is essential even when holidaying in the UK, as you may still need to cancel or curtail (cut short) your trip.

“All policies would cover cancellation if you were unfortunate enough to contract the virus and therefore be unable to travel.

“Some policies will provide cover for self-quarantine and a few provide cover for an area being closed by the government or local authority. However, customers should read their policy carefully to check that they are covered for cancellation for any cause beyond their control because most policies cover cancellation of specified reasons only.

“In any event, travel insurance would not cover disinclination to travel or fear of epidemic or pandemic.

“If the accommodation provider cancels your booking or an attraction for which you have paid in advance is closed, you should be able to obtain a refund from these providers.”

She also added: “With the cost of some UK breaks costing the same as heading abroad, travel insurance should still be a travel essential.”

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