Enough Is Enough. Maintaining A UK Travel Ban Into The Summer Is Unacceptable

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I’ve spent the past year supporting every measure that scientists have said are needed to help us beat back the coronavirus, and I’ve adhered to all the conditions imposed during three full lockdowns here in the UK, but some of the new messaging that came out of the UK over the weekend goes too far. Worse still, it’s messaging that could cause a good-deal of harm.

Over the weekend, one of the scientists that sits on the government’s advisory board suggested that despite the UK’s impressive progress to get the population vaccinated, international travel this summer is “extremely unlikely” (i.e. the government is unlikely to permit it).

The reason he cites for his opinion (which will be one that he has shared with the government) is that there’s a potential for travelers to return to the UK with new variants of COVID-19. Dr. Tildesley suggested that allowing people to travel would jeapordize the UK’s vaccination campaign because the vaccines don’t work as effectively against some of the variants that have been found.

I have number of issues with this position.

Firstly, the UK government and the government’s scientists have spent he past few months telling everyone that there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccines are significantly less effective against the newer coronavirus variants, so why are we now hearing that this isn’t the case?

Secondly, viruses mutate – that’s basically what viruses do – so assuming that the government and its scientists have been lying about the effectiveness of the current vaccines against the newer variants, at what point are we going to be able to say that the vaccines we have are fully effective? By the time we have vaccines that are effective against the current variants, there will be a whole new range of variants to worry about – do we keep travel restrictions in place until we defeat those variants too? This is a never ending cycle.

Thirdly, we’ve suffered three full lockdowns in the UK and each has been observed by fewer people than the last (the attitude shown by a lot of people to the current lockdown is laughable). If we’re now told that despite all the promises of everyone getting their lives back when the vaccines are rolled out that’s actually not going to happen, nobody will pay the slightest bit of attention to anything the government says going forward. People will give up on any pretence of following the rules and that could be incredibly dangerous.

Keep in mind that the government is still saying that all adults in the UK will have received at least one dose of vaccine by July and keep in mind that scientists are still saying that it’s the first jab that gives us most of our protection against the virus and which does most of the work to limit the spread of the virus, so either the government and the scientists have to admit that they’ve been lying all along (about how good the vaccines are), or they need to agree to let us have a lot of our freedoms back once we’ve been vaccinated.

I would have no problem with the UK government continuing to require travelers returning to the UK to show evidence of a negative PCR test before they’re allowed back into the country (Antigen tests are too unreliable and should not be allowed), I would have no problem with the government continuing to ban travel from countries where the virus is rampaging, and I wouldn’t even have a problem with the government insisting on a short period of isolation upon arrival into the UK for all travelers arriving from abroad (test to release could continue).

What I have a huge problem with is the government and its scientists moving the goalposts as and when it suits them.

Way back last year, the UK government effectively entered into an understanding with the population which said that if we do as asked until the vaccines are rolled out (stay at home, avoid our families, avoid our friends, wear masks and give up normal life), we would get our lives back once vaccinated. There’s no going back on that. Those of us who kept our end of the deal now expect the government to keep to its part of the bargain.

For a lot of us, the vaccines have been the light at the end of the tunnel, and the promise of what they offer is what has helped us keep our sanity during month after month of lockdown. No reasonable person will mind if we have to continue living life with a few restrictions or if we have to continue being tested multiple times if we’d like to travel, but even the most reasonable and compliant among us will not take kindly to being told that even the vaccinated and the fully tested still cannot travel.

If the UK government wants to extend the bad on foreign travel past 17 May (the date the ban is currently set to expire) so that it can get more people vaccinated that’s fair enough, but once the adult population is covered, the travel ban has to be lifted.


  1. Well said.

    There must be a number of people who didn’t want the vaccination , and only got it because of the liklehood it would probably be necessary for travel to other countries. If the travel ban is extended throughout 2021, some of those people are less likely to take up any new vaccine developed to cope with the variants.

    Also continuing this travel ban will do further tremendous damage to the travel industry and could result in further bailouts or companies entering administration. Why would anyone book an overseas holiday if they can’t rely on the Government guidance? I can see travel shops on the high street particularly struggling to cope with an extension of the overseas travel ban.

  2. Agreed. Otherwise not only is there no end in sight, there’s no end. The UK government needs to set goals and adhere to them.

  3. Ziggy: Are you angry because a) the government/scientists got it wrong? or b) because the virus may necessitate further travel restrictions?
    Just curious.

    • I’m annoyed for three reasons:

      1) We’ve gone from consistent messaging about the vaccines to messaging that’s all over the place. Not even all the government’s scientists are saying the same things. Never-ending uncertainty is not a good thing to have to deal with.

      2) We’ve gone from having a light at the end of the tunnel (the vaccines) to no light at all. No one has stepped up to explain why we have to worry about the current variants but why we won’t have to worry about future variants. No one is explaining why the current variants are a reason to shut down all hopes of travel for the vaccinated but why future variants won’t do the same.

      3) No one is explaining why a combination of vaccines, tight controls and testing aren’t acceptable. There doesn’t seem to be any will by some of the people who are making these comments to give the population anything to hang on to. It’s all about shutting things down and keeping things as they are. When it gets to a point where even a strong supporter of the restrictions and lockdowns (me) is at the end of their tether, you know that something has gone badly wrong with how things are being presented.

  4. Sounds like your anger is directed at the Government/Scientists who seem to have bungled their response to the virus. It also sound like you are advocating, in effect, for relaxing all travel restrictions given that those in charge have gotten it wrong. Are you? What then if this leads to a resurgence of the pandemic with an even longer world-wide shut down?
    I too want to travel (from the US & back). I already have had one European river trip cancelled by the operator because of COVID. I am acutely aware of the harm done to businesses & all employees everywhere. However, I am not willing to enjoy today if it will result in greater suffering tomorrow.

    • No, I’m definitely not advocating relaxing all travel restrictions. As I say in the post, I’m more than happy to see mandatory pre-travel testing continue, to see travel to/from countries where the virus is still out of control banned, and I’m happy to see a short self-isolation period maintained as well as a test a few days after arrival.

  5. You are saying one shot guarantees immunity. The US scientists aren’t saying that. A good friend of mine got COVID one week before he was supposed to get his second Pfizer shot. Now he is being advised to wait six months and start all over again with vaccination. His entire family got it. Here in the US, our experts are saying that the vaccines used here (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson) provide some immunity against the variants, but not total and not guaranteed. Also, the new variants are much more contagious-some of them more than double!. Even here in the US, where we have vaccinated lots of people, we are still having COVID rises-even in my home state of Massachusetts-where we have vaccinated one million people. Are you a scientist? Do you have a scientific background? Theories change rapidly when dealing with an unknown virus. And you are upset because you want to travel. The virus is out of control throughout Europe and still in parts of the US, let alone other parts of the world. And what about the other countries that can’t afford to buy vaccines? And a short self isolation doesn’t work if the incubation period is 14 days-that is simple math!

    • Where did I say that 1 shot “guarantees immunity”? I’m more than happy to debate this with you (debate is healthy), but please don’t start out a comment by claiming that I’ve written something that I haven’t. I’m very aware that nothing is guaranteed.

      Also, no, I’m not upset that I can’t travel. As it happens I’m pretty much free to travel whenever I want to (although not to everywhere I want to). What’s annoying me is the mixed messaging, the lack of clear pathway out of this mess and a lot of broken promises.

      PS. Yes, I have a scientific background.

      PPS. Out of interest, have you been following everything that’s been happening in the U.K. over the past year and the U.K. government updates or are you commenting based purely on this post and your opinion of it? (I’m asking so I understand where you’re coming from)

  6. let me chime in. I am just judging by the post and didn’t follow what happened in UK. all I understand from your post is that you didn’t like the inconsistency in what the govt is saying about whether the vaccine is effective enough to help travel resume. I am not sure what they said but if you are not happy with the uncertainty you are facing (which you mentioned multiple times in the response), I have to say that is the part of this pandemic. I don’t think any government can give you a certainty now. And it is hard to live under uncertainty but it is not goverment’s fault per se. Again, this is the impression I get from your post and responses. I do feel like you are blaming the government a bit too much simply because you don’t like the uncertainty and the government changed its position multiple times because of the changing nature of the virus.

    • The issue goes deeper than the authorities changing their position. It’s about a continued lack of consistency in the messaging from people in the same government (it’s like they don’t talk to each other), it’s the drip, drip, drip of information (none of which is complete) leaving the population to make what it will of the snippets that it’s receiving, and it’s the fact that the authorities are suddenly happy to close the door on the one chink of light most of us have been holding on to for months without explaining what the route out of this situation is.

      The question I’ve been asking (and which no one appears in authority is happy to address) is a simple one: We were told that the vaccines were the key to normality but now apparently they’re not. So, if the new varients are the issue, what happens when the next new wave of variants comes along? And then the next new wave?…and the new wave after that?

  7. I believe this virus is going to mutate continually, as there will be variants of variants and regular annual vaccinations are likely to be needed, just like the flu jab.

    As such the situation is unlikely to be much better next year, or even the year after, with new vaccination programs being required. At some stage the Government will need to allow travel again, so surely it makes sense to limit the financial impact and allow travel as planned from next month, or even when 70% of the population is fully vaccinated. Once overseas travel is allowed, introduce a very strict testing and quarantine system for those who have been abroad. Also make sure tract and trace is effective.

  8. You said the first jab provided the majority of immunity. So you are correct, I overstated what you said. That IS NOT, however, what we were told here in the States. We were told the first vaccine starts the antibodies and the second really kicks it into overdrive. That’s why people feel much worse after the second one. It’s a scientific miracle we have one vaccine, let alone multiple ones! The reason what you get told changes is because this is a New disease the scientists are learning about-its a year old!! They don’t have cures for cancer yet.

    • I said that the U.K.’s scientists and the government have been saying that the the first jab provides most of the protection (I make no claims about knowing how the various vaccines work) and that’s why the population are being given their two jabs 12 (or more) weeks apart.

      More importantly, what people have been told in the US had nothing to do with this – the whole basis for the post is built around what the UK’s authorities and scientists have been saying.

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