Holiday options within the UK nations are rapidly opening up, with Scotland and Wales the latest to ease restrictions on 26 April.
All four countries are moving at different paces and with individual approaches to the components of tourism; this is a complete overview.
Can I travel for non-essential purposes within the UK?
Leisure travel within Great Britain – England, Wales and Scotland – is now permitted, including journeys between them.
At present the guidance for Northern Ireland is “stay in your local area”, but that will change on 30 April. From that date travel within the Common Travel Area, which includes the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands will be permitted, subject to restrictions at the destination.
Meanwhile the government in England says: “You should continue to work from home and ... avoid making unnecessary trips.”
What about staying overnight?
Stays in self-contained accommodation – second homes, self-catering cottages and caravans – are permitted throughout Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and will be legal in Northern Ireland from 30 April.
The general rule is that properties must only be used by members of the same household or support bubble.
In England, camping is permitted if protocols over shared washroom areas are followed.
In Scotland, all tourist accommodation can open.
Hotels, B&Bs and hostels are able to open in England and Wales from 17 May and in Northern Ireland from 24 May.
Can we go out for food and drink?
Yes, if you stay outdoors. This applies across the UK (from 30 April in Northern Ireland), though in Scotland cafes, pubs and restaurants are able to serve food indoors without alcohol to 8pm.
Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, warned: “Don’t cross the border to do things you can’t do in your own country. People from Cumbria shouldn’t come to the indoor hospitality in Dumfries.”
Ironically indoor catering will open up just as the average temperature improves. Planned reopening dates for indoor provision of food and drink (including alcohol) are 17 May for England, Scotland and Wales, and 24 May for Northern Ireland.
Are visitor attractions open?
In Scotland, all visitor attractions can reopen. Elsewhere in the UK, it is currently outdoor only.
In England, generally it is “yes” to outdoor attractions, “no” to indoors. The government says: “Animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, animal attractions at a farm, wildlife centres) may reopen their outdoor attraction subject to social distancing and the rules on outdoor gatherings.
“Indoor displays at these attractions must remain closed. Indoor attractions at venues (such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks) must remain closed, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open.
“Visitor centres at these attractions must also remain closed, but this does not include toilets or shops where they can be accessed separately to the indoor attractions.”
Indoor attractions are likely to open on 17 May both in England and in Wales.
Currently the government in Cardiff Bay says all outdoor visitor attractions can open, including funfairs, amusement parks and theme parks; outdoor areas of museums, heritage sites and historic monuments; zoos; and “outdoor areas of a historic parks or gardens (such as those run by the National Trust)”.
“Any indoor elements of these attractions must remain closed other than for access to the outdoor areas of these attractions or to access toilet facilities.”
In Northern Ireland, outdoor visitor attractions are able to open, with 24 May set as the likely date for indoor museums, galleries and cultural attractions.
What about a cruise around the UK?
A large number of cruise lines are offering UK-only cruises this summer, to avoid getting tangled up in red tape for international voyages.
The following applies to voyages starting from England, but the four nations are expected to be aligned.
Cruise ships can resume operating in UK waters from 17 May, but will be restricted to 1,000 passengers initially – and they must all be residents of the British Isles.
Only passengers who are resident in the Common Travel Area will be allowed to board a cruise from a British port. The other key points of the government’s rules are:
Ships can carry only half the usual number of passengers up to a maximum of 1,000.
While the ship is permitted to sail beyond UK waters, she is not allowed to call at any foreign ports.
In interior areas on board, there is initially to be no mingling beyond the standard land-based rule (for England) of a maximum of six people in two households.
On cruises that call at ports (which is by no means all of them), passengers are expected to be restricted to organised excursions.
By 21 June, though, the government hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact – which will includes lifting capacity limits for domestic cruises.
The guidance is silent on vaccinations, and cruise lines are split on their policies. Many cruise lines, including P&O, Cunard, Saga and Viking, insist that every passenger has completed a course of vaccinations – P&O Cruises says it is “the strong expressed preference on the part of our guests”.
Others, such as MSC and Fred Olsen, say they will allow unvaccinated (or part-vaccinated) passengers to sail. On MSC, people who have not had both jabs will need to provide a PCR test in advance of boarding.
The first cruise is expected to be aboard MSC Virtuosa, which is performing her inaugural season around the British Isles. She will depart from Southampton on 20 May on a four-night voyage which will call halfway through at Portland in Dorset – 50 miles southwest.
Her passenger capacity is around 5,000, indicating occupancy of around 20 per cent.