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The announcement by the UK Government on Thursday 20 August 2020 in relation to the travel corridor between Austria and the UK has been widely reported. Some British community groups have seen a lot of posts about what the effects are, as well as some of the issues that arise as a result for British citizens living in Austria, as well as Britons currently or intending to visit Austria.
There have been a number of questions arising from concerned Britons in Austria, either in relation to their own intended travel plans, or those of friends and relations in the very near future. The following questions have been compiled with the kind assistance of the British Embassy, who responded to the author’s tweets about the issue promptly during the day on Friday 21 August, and which were initially published in a thread on the British in Vienna Facebook Group.
If people do fly to UK from AT after 22nd Aug, with intention of staying for less than 14 days, are they now required to stay for the full 14 day quarantine period before returning to AT?
Response from the Embassy: Taken from gov.uk and in particular about self-isolating: “If you’re travelling to the UK for less than 14 days, you will be expected to self-isolate for the length of your stay.”
What is the source of the data for the decision?
Response from the Embassy through twitter: The decision was taken by the UK government on the basis of the latest epidemiological assessments and data by the Joint Biosecurity Centre. The threshold is defined as 20 cases per 100,000 (seven day rate).
Addendum 23.08.2020: (h/t Graham Crewe, Salzburg) As guidance for seeing the situation in different countries for seven days, based on cases per 100,000 population, there is a table at statista which ties in closely with the figures used by the UK Government.
What is to stop someone staying in Munich / Bratislava / Prague / Budapest etc. and flying out from there to the UK to get round the quarantine issue?
Understandably the British Embassy is not able to promote or condone this kind of behaviour – the present situation is of course different to the repatriation flights in March/April 2020 during the lockdown that took place in Austria. However, it does advise about another page on gov.uk that contains greater details, in particular relating to the issue of travelling through other corridor countries and making transit stops in countries or territories not on the travel corridor list.
Response from the Embassy through Twitter: Travellers will need to self-isolate if they visited or made a transit stop in a country or territory that is not on the travel corridor list in the 14 days before arrival in England. See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors
When is any revision of the situation likely?
Response from the Embassy through Twitter: The situation is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure we are able to respond quickly to any changes. In order to reduce a country’s risk rating, we require key data to show a positive trend for a sustained period of time and may take into account additional factors.
This ties in with a series of tweets from Grant Shapps (summarised into a single text by the author of this article) A range of factors taken into account when JBC & Ministers assess Travel Corridors – including but not limited to: estimated prevalence of COVID-19 in a country; the level and rate of change in the incidence of confirmed positive cases; the extent of testing in a country. The testing regime and test positivity; the extent to which cases can be accounted for by a contained outbreak as opposed to more general transmission in the community; government actions; and other relevant epidemiological information. (h/t to a group user for alerting the author to the information)
Response from the Embassy through twitter: the full assessment is based on a range of quantitative and qualitative data.
Update: 10.09.2020 – Austria remains on the list of countries NOT in the travel corridor, with neighbouring country Hungary (which closed its border to Austria on 01.09.2020 also being dropped from the travel corridor.
Is Austria likely to impose similar restrictions for people entering Austria from the United Kingdom?
Advice from the Embassy (twitter) is that any decision will be made public through the Austrian Government’s website at: https://www.oesterreich.gv.at/themen/freizeit_und_strassenverkehr/reisen_und_ferien/Reisebeschr%C3%A4nkungen-durch-das-Coronavirus.html
Can a PCR test be used instead of the need to quarantine / self-isolate?
Advice from the Embassy (twitter) Please be aware that the option to take a PCR covid test in lieu of self isolation upon arrival in the UK from Austria is not available.
Is there a ban on flying to/from UK?
There is no ban on flying to/from the UK and flight services will continue to operate between Austria and the UK. Travellers to the UK are advised again that they require a UK Passenger Locator Form.
Updates to this article:
23.08.2020 – Statista link added to contain the current rates of infections/ 100,000 population. Extra question – is there a ban on flying.
10.09.2020 – Information about changes to the travel corridor