Australians trying to return home escape new British travel bans

Australians trying to return home escape new British travel bans

November 3, 2020

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London: Australians stranded in Britain are free to return home despite Boris Johnson's new ban on travelling abroad.

From Thursday, the British government is telling Britons they must not travel abroad for holidays but business travel is allowed for four weeks.

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport.Credit:PA

The rule is part of a new lockdown being imposed on England but unlike Australia's strict ban is subject only to advice from the foreign office and won't require exemptions from the government to leave the country.

The new rule has led to uncertainty for Australians who have been trying to get home for months. However, a spokesman for the Australian High Commission in London said Australians are free to travel from Britain, even after the new lockdown rules come into effect.

"Australians with travel plans to return home during the period of national restrictions can, and should, continue to do so," the spokesman said.

"Special flights home on 7 November, 2020, and 11 November, 2020, continue to operate unaffected."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the month-long lockdown.Credit:AP

Johnson's second lockdown faces hostility from many Tory MPs who oppose new restrictions but the measures are supported by Labour, who will ensure it will pass the Commons.

A far more upbeat-sounding Prime Minister promised MPs that they would have a say on whether the new measures, set to expire on December 2, would be renewed.

"I do think there is the prospect of a much brighter future ahead if we can make a success of these national measures, open up again in December, give people the chance of some shopping and some economic activity in the weeks leading up to Christmas and beyond," he told Conservative MP Andy Carter.

Australians are welcome to fly back into the the UK despite the fresh lockdown.Credit:Getty Images

The Prime Minister said that although the winter would be difficult he was confident of "defeating" the virus by the British spring because of the "real prospect" of a vaccine and new fast, rapid infectious tests.

He said unlike the last lockdown imposed in March and April, when schools were closed and all workers told to stay at home, Britain had "the immediate prospect of many millions of cheap, reliable and rapid turnaround tests with results in minutes" this time.

Johnson has been criticised for his "boosterism" approach to the virus, whereby he over-promises methods to combat the virus, including a track and trace system which he said would be "world beating" but is failing. Mass antibody tests touted by the PM have also proved defective.

He appeared to acknowledge this when telling MPs that things would soon get better.

"Even the medical and scientific advisers, who are not normally full of cheer on this matter, are optimistic when they consider the therapies, the prospect of a vaccine and the prospect of mass testing."

Heathrow Airport.Credit:Bloomberg

England's second shut down will allow essential retail to stay open but require personal care, leisure and entertainment, as well as gyms and swimming pools to close.

The new lockdown follows stricter measures already introduced by the governments in Wales and Scotland which have jurisdiction over health.

Johnson wants the reinfection rate to drop below 1 before lifting restrictions. England's reinfection rate is currently between 1.1 and 1.3 with a growth rate of between two to four per cent.

A further 18,950 infections were confirmed on Monday and the daily death toll rose by 136.

However, the government is worried by the number of people in hospital putting pressure on the health system. The UK has 10,918 patients in hospital – 1505 were admitted on Monday alone.

Johnson said if England did not go into lockdown this week for four weeks it could see patients turned away from hospitals.

Labour leader Keir Starmer who called for a two-week lockdown in mid-October criticised Johnson's "inaction."

"At every stage the Prime Minister has been too slow, behind the curve … and put what he hoped would happen ahead of what is happening."

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