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Foreign Secretary gives update on travel advice during COVID-19

17 March 2020

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The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has made a statement to the House on the new travel advice for British citizens to avoid all non-essential travel during COVID-19.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced tougher measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic affecting much of the world. These focused on limiting social contact and stopping non-essential travel.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has now made a statement outlining these measures.

Dominic Raab: "increased risks"

Referencing the "fast changing international circumstances" such as lockdowns and border restrictions, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that British nationals are now officially advised against non-essential travel globally for an initial period of 30 days and "subject to ongoing review". The Minister warned that British citizens who continue to travel could find themselves stranded if travel restrictions change.

He said that freight shipping and haulage were classed as "essential" due their role in providing citizens with food and goods. Mr Raab said that detailed advice for these businesses would be released. 

The Minister told MPs that the Government was working to bring home British citizens stranded on cruise ships. He also detailed plans for aiding tourists affected by "difficult quarantine conditions".  

Mr Raab stated:

"British nationals who decide that they still need to travel abroad should do fully aware of the increased risks [...] And that obviously includes the risk that they may not be able to get home if travel restrictions are subsequently put in place they hadn't anticipated."

Emily Thornberry: "no clear protocols"

Responding on behalf of the Opposition, Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary, said that it was "not the case" that consular teams were aiding British nationals stranded abroad. She highlighted the case of a citizen unable to get back from Lima, where the British embassy has closed for 15 days.

Ms Thornberry asked the Minister why there were "no clear protocols already in place" for repatriation and evacuation in the event of a global outbreak of disease and, if they were in place, why they were not followed.

She also asked why "official travel advice from the FCO has been so slow to match what is happening on the ground", giving the example of tour operators telling British families to leave ski resorts immediately while the Foreign Office said that there were no travel restrictions.

The Shadow Minister also questioned why "levels of consular support have been so out of step with the levels of global demand."

The Member told MPs:

"The challenges proposed by coronavirus are fearful enough for the world without our leaders compounding them through their incompetence or their inaction. We have seen exactly that when it comes to this Government's approach to repatriation."

    Image: Pixabay

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