Holidays abroad to be banned until June under England's new coronavirus law

Britons will need valid reason to leave for countries including UAE and Saudi Arabia

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17:Travelers arrive at Heathrow Airport on January 17, 2021 in London, England. Tomorrow morning the UK will close its so-called "travel corridors" with countries from which arriving travelers were exempt from quarantine requirements. People flying into the UK will now be required to quarantine for 10 days unless they test negative for covid-19 after five days, or unless they qualify for a business-travel exemption. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
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People in England will be unable to take foreign holidays until June under coronavirus regulations expected to come into force next week.

The proposed bill, which sets out the UK's roadmap out of lockdown, imposes a maximum £5,000 ($6,932) fine on anyone leaving the country without a valid excuse.

Students, care givers and those travelling for funeral arrangements are among those exempt from the law, but they must state their reasons for leaving.

UK Health Secretary on Tuesday declined to rule out adding travellers from Europe to the UK's "red list" of travel ban countries with mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival.

The continent is being battered by a third wave of infections, forcing major economies such Germany and France into tougher lockdowns.

Asked whether the red list would be updated to include Europe, Mr Hancock told LBC radio: "We don't have any plans to do that... we don't rule it out but we don't have plans to do that now."

He said he was unsure whether people would be allowed to go overseas after July.

"We don't know... we've got to protect this country and the progress that we've made, but at the same time I totally understand that lots of people want to travel abroad this summer," he said.

Ministers had already said it was too soon to consider booking holidays abroad.

The holiday ban applies to almost every country around the world, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

But the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland are not included.

The bill comes into force on March 29.

It says no one may “leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or travel to or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom” without a reasonable excuse.

There is also a £200 fixed penalty notice for failing to fill in a travel declaration form, giving personal details and reason for travel, for those planning to leave the UK.

Exemptions also include those needing to travel for work, study, for legal obligations or to vote.

People who are moving, selling or renting property, or travelling for medical appointments or to escape harm will also be excused.

Flying out for childcare reasons or to be present at a birth, to visit a dying relative or close friend, to attend a funeral, or to be getting married or attending the wedding of a close relative, is also allowed.

“Previously, the ‘holiday ban’ the government had advertised was assumed rather than explicit," said human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who deciphers the lockdown rules on Twitter for the public.

"Because going on holiday wasn’t a reasonable excuse, it was assumed you couldn’t be outside of your home to do so. But now it is explicit.”

Protests will again be an exception to rules banning group gatherings if they were organised by a business, public or political body or other group.

Organisers must also take the “required precautions”, which is likely to include measures such as ensuring people wear face masks and are socially distanced.

MPs and peers had called on ministers to make it clear that protests were allowed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is welcome that the next stage of lockdown contains the explicit exemption we’ve been calling for," said Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at human rights group Liberty.

"This should have remained in place throughout the current lockdown and it is unacceptable for it to wait until next week.”

The rules also allow students to return home during the Easter holiday.

The regulations, which will be voted on by Parliament on Thursday, essentially replace the previous tier system with a series of “steps”, in line with the proposed dates of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown for England.

The usual exemptions to the rules apply, such as having a reasonable excuse for work, volunteering, child care and other caring responsibilities.

Step 1, from March 29, permits up to six people meeting outdoors but restricts indoor gatherings to two or more people. Some outdoor sports are permitted.

Step 2, which could come into effect from April 12, is when non-essential shops might reopen as well as businesses such as hairdressers and hospitality venues serving customers outside. Weddings and wakes could then have up to 15 people.

Step 3, which the government said could come into force from May 17, allows groups of six to meet inside and up to 30 people outside.

The need for the restrictions must be reviewed by April 12, and at least once every 35 days after, the legal papers say.

The laws expire on June 30, unless they are scrapped or amended in the meantime.