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Coronavirus: Foreign Office indefinite travel warning branded 'absurd'

Coronavirus: Foreign Office indefinite travel warning branded 'absurd'

Leading travel figures have condemned the government’s advice against all non-essential travel abroad indefinitely, saying the unspecific warning is jeopardising future bookings.

Paul Goldstein, owner of the Kicheche safari camps in Kenya, said: “We have people very keen to book for high season in late July, August and September. Sadly, the absurd Foreign Office advice limiting all travel with no end date is deterring them from committing.”

When the coronavirus crisis took hold, the foreign secretary initially warned on 17 March against going overseas for the next 30 days.

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The Foreign Office warning is advice, not an instruction. But it has the effect of stopping UK holiday companies sending travellers abroad, and invalidating travel insurers.

The travel industry assumed that Dominic Raab would extend the warning to another specific date – perhaps to the end of May.

There was widespread consternation when, on 4 April, the advice was extended indefinitely. The FCO says simply: “Any country or area may restrict travel without notice. If you live in the UK and are currently travelling abroad, you are strongly advised to return now.”

Consular staff believe this is a reasonable reflection of an unpredictable situation worldwide, with a constantly changing list of airport closures and local lockdowns.

“Rolling” deadlines could give false hope to prospective travellers.

But the indefinite warning has led some holidaymakers with bookings for the summer to assume they can cancel without penalty.

Ash Sofat, chief executive of the long-haul specialist Somak Holidays, said: “A lot of customers are rebooking for next year. The problem is that we are not getting enough bookings for next year.

“We need government to remove this travel advisory against travelling ‘indefinitely’.

“They need to help our industry. People do want to book to travel but the government is thinking too short term.”

Mr Goldstein said: “The Foreign Office has to alter this draconian Orwellian nonsense, and it must become country-specific.

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Silence for key workers who lost lives to coronavirus

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Staff react outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester during a minute's silence to pay tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak

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Staff inside Camberwell bus depot in London, during a minute's silence

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3/30

NHS staff at the Mater hospital in Belfast, during a minute's silence to pay tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak.

PA

4/30

Shoppers observe a minute's silence in Tescos in Shoreham

Getty

5/30

Firefighters outside Godstone fire station

PA

6/30 Salford Royal Hospital

Getty

7/30 Salford Royal Hospital

PA

8/30

Hospital workers take part in a protest calling on the British government to provide PPE across Britain for all workers in care, the NHS and other vital public services after a nationwide minute's silence at University College Hospital in London

AP

9/30

A school children's poster hanging outside Glenfield Hospital during a minute's silence

Getty

10/30

A man holds a placard that reads "People's health before profit" outside St Thomas hospital

Getty

11/30

Staff members applaud outside the Royal Derby Hospital, following a minute's silence

PA

12/30

Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, Prime minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, stand inside 10 Downing Street, London, to observe a minutes silence in tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak

PA

13/30 University College Hospital, London

Hospital workers hold placards with the names of their colleagues who have died from coronavirus as they take part in a protest calling on the British government to provide PPE

AP

14/30

Staff at Waterloo Station in London, stand to observe a minute's silence, to pay tribute to NHS and key workers who have died with coronavirus

AP

15/30

Medical staff at the Louisa Jordan hospital stand during a UK wide minutes silence to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus in Glasgow

Getty

16/30 London

An NHS worker observes a minute's silence at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

Reuters

17/30 Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London

AFP via Getty

18/30 Belfast, Northern Ireland

NHS staff observe a minutes silence at Mater Infirmorum Hospital

Reuters

19/30 Plymouth

NHS workers hold a minute's silence outside the main entrance of Derriford Hospital

Getty

20/30

NHS Frimley Park Hospital staff at the A&E department observe a minute's silence

Getty

21/30 Mater Infirmorum Hospital

People applaud after a minutes silence in honour of key workers

Reuters

22/30 Waterloo Station, London

AP

23/30

Wreaths laid outside Sheffield town hall

PA

24/30

A group of trade unionists and supporters standing outside Sheffield town hall

PA

25/30

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stands outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh to observe a minute's silence in tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak

PA

26/30

Staff stand outside the Royal Derby Hospital, during a minutes silence

PA

27/30 London

Police officers observe a minutes silence at Guy's Hospital

Reuters

28/30

A woman standing outside Sheffield town hall

PA

29/30 Royal Derby Hospital

PA

30/30 Leicester,

NHS workers during a minute's silence outside Glenfield Hospital

Getty

1/30

Staff react outside Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester during a minute's silence to pay tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak

PA

2/30

Staff inside Camberwell bus depot in London, during a minute's silence

PA

3/30

NHS staff at the Mater hospital in Belfast, during a minute's silence to pay tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak.

PA

4/30

Shoppers observe a minute's silence in Tescos in Shoreham

Getty

5/30

Firefighters outside Godstone fire station

PA

6/30 Salford Royal Hospital

Getty

7/30 Salford Royal Hospital

PA

8/30

Hospital workers take part in a protest calling on the British government to provide PPE across Britain for all workers in care, the NHS and other vital public services after a nationwide minute's silence at University College Hospital in London

AP

9/30

A school children's poster hanging outside Glenfield Hospital during a minute's silence

Getty

10/30

A man holds a placard that reads "People's health before profit" outside St Thomas hospital

Getty

11/30

Staff members applaud outside the Royal Derby Hospital, following a minute's silence

PA

12/30

Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, Prime minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, stand inside 10 Downing Street, London, to observe a minutes silence in tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak

PA

13/30 University College Hospital, London

Hospital workers hold placards with the names of their colleagues who have died from coronavirus as they take part in a protest calling on the British government to provide PPE

AP

14/30

Staff at Waterloo Station in London, stand to observe a minute's silence, to pay tribute to NHS and key workers who have died with coronavirus

AP

15/30

Medical staff at the Louisa Jordan hospital stand during a UK wide minutes silence to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus in Glasgow

Getty

16/30 London

An NHS worker observes a minute's silence at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

Reuters

17/30 Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London

AFP via Getty

18/30 Belfast, Northern Ireland

NHS staff observe a minutes silence at Mater Infirmorum Hospital

Reuters

19/30 Plymouth

NHS workers hold a minute's silence outside the main entrance of Derriford Hospital

Getty

20/30

NHS Frimley Park Hospital staff at the A&E department observe a minute's silence

Getty

21/30 Mater Infirmorum Hospital

People applaud after a minutes silence in honour of key workers

Reuters

22/30 Waterloo Station, London

AP

23/30

Wreaths laid outside Sheffield town hall

PA

24/30

A group of trade unionists and supporters standing outside Sheffield town hall

PA

25/30

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stands outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh to observe a minute's silence in tribute to the NHS staff and key workers who have died during the coronavirus outbreak

PA

26/30

Staff stand outside the Royal Derby Hospital, during a minutes silence

PA

27/30 London

Police officers observe a minutes silence at Guy's Hospital

Reuters

28/30

A woman standing outside Sheffield town hall

PA

29/30 Royal Derby Hospital

PA

30/30 Leicester,

NHS workers during a minute's silence outside Glenfield Hospital

Getty

“Workers in Kenya and other developing countries are mystified why they are being made destitute by a disease less threatening than the many they currently live alongside, including typhoid, HIV and malaria.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said “Our travel advice is clear. We advise against all but essential international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

In a Twitter poll conducted for The Independent, 2,356 respondents were asked if naming an end date would make a difference to their propensity to book a holiday. Of those who said it would, three out of five said they would be more likely to book.

But nearly half the respondents said they were not planning a holiday in the near future.

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