Thank you for contacting me about the Foreign Office’s response to the coronavirus.
Foreign Office are taking significant steps to protect UK citizens both here and abroad. The Foreign Secretary announced on 17th March 2020 that the Foreign Office is advising against all non-essential international travel, initially for a period of 30 days. He further announced on 23rd March 2020 that all British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad should return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available. This is because of the pace at which other countries are either closing their borders or implementing restrictive measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In light of the speed at which changes are being made, the UK is keen to reduce the risk of leaving vulnerable British tourists and visitors stranded overseas.
Meanwhile, I am informed that FCO consular teams are working around the clock to provide the most accurate and up to date information to UK nationals abroad. FCO travel advice is constantly updated and I know ministers continue to keep advice under close and constant review. UK consular teams are also working with those who are affected by difficult quarantine conditions and I have been assured that the UK will do everything in its power to get those British nationals affected the care, support and advice they need.
Helping British travellers who need and want to return to the UK is the Foreign Office’s overriding priority. This is an unprecedented global challenge and the entire FCO network has been mobilised to support this effort. FCO teams are working urgently to ensure that international governments have sensible plans to enable the return of British travellers and crucially to keep borders open for a sufficient period to enable returns to take place on commercial flights.
I welcome the new arrangement between the Government and airlines, including Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan, to support those in areas where commercial options are not viable. This will be supported by £75 million to finance special charter flights to return travellers from priority countries. I know that discussions with overseas governments and airline operators are still ongoing, and I will follow developments closely in order to support the vital task of getting British nationals home.
Of course, this is a fast-moving situation and I will be following updates incredibly closely. You can keep up to date with travel advice on the FCO website here.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
EDWARD LEIGH MP