The government’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on travellers arriving in the UK from Spain has caused a great deal of “uncertainty and confusion”, as one holiday firm has put it.
Here are some of the issues it raises and what you can do about them.
Why is the Foreign Office advice different from that of the Department for Transport?
There have been two main changes over the weekend. The first, announced by the Department for Transport (DfT), is that anyone arriving in the UK from any part of Spain now has to quarantine for 14 days.
In addition, the Foreign Office (FCO) is advising against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain – but not the Balearic and Canary Islands.
As to what counts as essential travel, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has previously said this is “is a personal decision and circumstances differ from person to person”.
But why does the advice differ? It’s essentially because they serve different purposes. The FCO advice applies to the whole of the UK and tells people which countries “no longer pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers”.
In other words, the FCO is assessing whether coronavirus poses a threat to UK travellers’ well-being, as part of its wider remit to warn people of dangerous areas and trouble-spots around the world.
The DfT advice, however, applies only to England. It is designed to offer a list of countries from which travellers may be able to return without self-isolation.
The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own views and are entitled to offer different guidance. But in this case, they have also decided to take Spain off the list of countries exempt from quarantine.
Is my insurance valid if I’m already there?
The Association of British Insurers has advised holidaymakers that if they were already in Spain when the government’s advice changed, their insurance was likely to cover them until they returned home.
But it added: “Travelling to countries against FCO advice is likely to invalidate your travel insurance and this would apply to those yet to travel to mainland Spain.
“Customers looking to change or cancel their travel plans should speak with the airline provider, tour operator or travel agent in the first instance.
“If you booked your trip or took out your travel insurance after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, you may not be covered for travel disruption or cancellation. In either circumstance, we’d advise checking with your insurer.”
What about if I’m not there but plan to go? Can I get a refund?
Again, the best thing to do is consult your airline, tour operator or travel agent. The issue is complicated because it depends on when and where you are booked to go. Besides, the government’s advice could change again with very little notice.
Tui, for one, has said that customers due to travel to all areas of Spain between 27 July and 9 August will be able to cancel or amend holidays and will be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday with a booking incentive.
However, it adds that people with holidays from 10 August will be updated on 31 July.
Jet2 says it is advising customers to arrive for their flights as normal as it is continuing to operate its scheduled programme to and from mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
“Because the FCO travel advice to these destinations [the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands] remains unchanged, our usual terms and conditions apply. As always, we advise customers to purchase appropriate travel insurance before travelling,” Jet2 says.
“This is a fast-moving situation, which we will continue to monitor very closely.”
British Airways and easyJet have also said they are maintaining their flight schedules. But airlines have expressed frustration with the government’s approach, complaining of the “uncertainty and confusion” that has resulted.
People whose trips are cancelled should get a refund within two weeks, but with the travel industry under so much pressure, that deadline may well be missed.
What are the quarantine rules for when I return?
When you arrive back in the UK, you must go straight home or to other suitable accommodation. You are allowed to travel by public transport.
Your 14-day period of self-isolation starts from the day after you arrive.
You cannot leave home except for medical assistance, to attend court or go to a funeral – or to go shopping for essentials, if no-one else can do this for you.
Leaving home for work, exercise or socialising is not allowed.
How long will the new rules last?
It is difficult to say how restrictions on travel may change in the coming weeks. The UK government is reviewing nations on its “safe level” for travel every week.
Which? magazine travel editor Rory Boland told BBC News that in this instance an update may come sooner as an exception, given that travel “is so important to UK travellers and to the economy of Spain”.
What are my rights with my employer if I have to self-isolate?
Employees or workers are not automatically entitled to statutory sick pay if they are self-isolating after returning from holiday or business travel and they cannot work from home.
That only applies if they have the virus or symptoms of it, or if there are other medical reasons.
But to a certain extent, it is at your employer’s discretion.
The industrial relations body Acas advises employees to check their workplace’s policy to see whether their employer pays statutory sick pay or a higher rate of sick pay if anyone needs to self-isolate after returning to the UK.