The Foreign Office planned to drop its blanket travel warning and move to country-specific advice this summer, but the “trajectory” of Covid-19 prevented this.
However, Jennifer Anderson – director for consular affairs at the Foreign Office (FCDO) – assured Abta’s Travel Convention audience: “The advice isn’t static and it will change.”
She said “we know our travel advice is a key concern” and insisted: “We are listening to and acting on your concerns.”
Anderson told the Convention: “We issued our global Covid advisory as of March 17, followed six days later by a recommendation that all travellers overseas return to the UK.
“These announcements reflected our assessment that Covid not only posed real risks to people but that travellers also faced unique risks of being stranded or subject to travel restrictions.”
She said: “Our global travel advice has been in place for seven months.
“In the early summer, we started to issue exceptions to that. Our assumption was the pandemic was in retreat and we would revert to issuing Covid-19 advisories for just a small number of countries and territories.
“Sadly, that has not been the trajectory of the disease.”
Anderson told the Convention: “In the past month, we’ve seen record daily infection rates in many countries. As a result, as of today we’re advising against travel to all but 59 of the 226 countries and territories for which we offer advice.”
She acknowledged “how difficult this is for the travel and tourism industry” and said: “We don’t want to make the situation any worse than is already the case.
“Like you, we worry about levels of fear and uncertainty. We know our judgements have an impact on your forward bookings and the plans of consumers.”
However, Anderson insisted: “Our understanding of the risks has evolved since March, as has the basis on which we consider Covid-19 related travel advice.
“We’ve worked with Public Health England, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the National Travel Health Network and Centre [NaTHNac] and the chief medical officers to build a picture of the risks to travellers in each country and a whole range of indicators to assess the risk.
“We aim for the advice to be as up to date as possible. So far this year we’ve made almost 700 updates and our advice has been viewed more than 90 million times.
“We continue to work to refine our advice. Both our conclusions and the underlying methodologies are evolving and under constant review.
“As infection and mortality rates evolve and treatments improve, the risks to travellers will improve. We’re committed to ensuring this is reflected as quickly as possible.”
Anderson added: “We look forward to when our advice can reflect a more normal time. In the meantime, we’re committed to working as closely as possible with Abta, other industry partners and the Department for Transport.”
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