Stranded UK nationals: Key questions answered

Hundreds of thousands of UK citizens are stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the PA news agency’s answers to 10 key questions around efforts to bring them home.

– How many people are stranded?

Precise numbers are unknown, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Tuesday that around 300,000 UK travellers are still abroad.

– Why can they not get home?

Airlines have suspended most of their regular flights due to a collapse in demand and travel restrictions. Internal travel is also difficult in many countries.

– So there are no flights?

Not quite. Airlines are operating rescue flights from certain destinations to bring customers home.

– What is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) doing?

It is telling tourists to return home by commercial routes if possible, but will also spend up to £75 million to charter flights on routes where required.

– Where will these charter flights operate?

A special flight is taking place from Algeria on Thursday, but the FCO has not revealed a full list of routes. It has said it will fly to “priority countries”, which may include locations such as India, South Africa and New Zealand.

– How much will flights cost?

UK nationals brought home on repatriation flights from Peru earlier this week were charged £250, which could be a flat fee for all flights. The additional cost per seat will be met by the Government.

– When will the main repatriation operation begin?

A handful of rescue flights have brought people back from China, Peru and Tunisia since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. The operation is expected to ramp up in the coming days.

Coronavirus
Passengers who travelled on a repatriation flight from Peru arrive at Gatwick Airport (Adam Davy/PA)

– How do people obtain a seat on the special flights?

Flights will be promoted through the FCO’s travel advice. British travellers will need to book and pay directly through a dedicated travel management company.

– What is the health advice for people returning to the UK from abroad?

The UK guidance for returning citizens is the same as for people who have not travelled abroad recently. That includes self-isolating for seven days if you have either a high temperature or a new continuous cough. Other household members must stay at home for 14 days.

– What happens when people land at UK airports?

Passengers who flew into Gatwick on a repatriation flight from Peru on Tuesday said they had not been given any clear instructions or told to take extra precautions.

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