“It was quite a surprise for us”: UK government removes Czech Republic from safe travel list

Starting Saturday, people arriving in England from the Czech Republic will have to self-isolate for two weeks. The British government says it made the decision after data showed a significant increase of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the Central European state. I asked the director of CzechTourism in the UK and Ireland, Katarina Hobbs, whether she was surprised by the decision.

Photo: Oleg Gamulinsky, Pixabay / CC0

“Well, we were very surprised, especially when we look at the comparison between the low numbers of cases and deaths in Czechia compared to England, with Wales and Scotland doing a lot better. So yes, it was quite a surprise for us. But this is a British government decision that we deeply regret and are hoping the British government will reconsider their decision very soon.”

What does this mean for you working at CzechTourism now? Are you, for example, dealing with Brits desperate to return before the quarantine rule kicks in?

“Not really. I am sure there are loads of individuals on their holidays in the Czech Republic who are basically deciding what to do. They are probably struggling now to book their flights back, or just decided to stay longer despite the quarantine.

“At the moment, the Czech Republic obviously remains a safe country for travel, despite being placed on the quarantine list. It will continue to monitor and manage the situation whilst welcoming visitors to the country. Obviously we continue to provide important information to tourists who are visiting which includes avoiding crowded areas and following strict rules that have been implemented by the Czech government.

Photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Miroslav Lelas

“The Czech Republic can assure all visitors that strict rules and measures are in place for travellers and citizens wherever they are located within the country.

“Regarding your question whether we are trying to get some Brits quickly out, I mentioned that there are tourists who are dealing with the situation on their own, via other travel agents, or through their UK tour operator.

“However, in another case, as CzechTourism we actually have a few journalists out there who travel to the Czech Republic to write about the country, its beauties, hidden gems and the places away from crowds. They did decide to travel ASAP back to the UK, so we quickly had to organise the flight changes and so on. We also have several press trips going this week and the week after, so that has to be postponed, based on their decision that they cannot travel until the restrictions are lifted.”

Is the Czech Republic still a popular destination for Brits, despite the pandemic?

“Of course the Czech Republic is a very popular destination. We welcome roughly about 300,000 UK visitors per year. It has obviously been tough this year.

Photo: Ixtlilto, CC BY-SA 3.0

“According to a recent statistic from the second quarter of this year the total number of guests in collective accommodation establishments decreased by 82.9 percent — that number is for the amount of incoming tourism overall. When we look at the numbers of tourists coming from the Czech Republic they are really low I am afraid.

“However, it is still a popular destination. It is an all-year-round destination, very easy to reach with several direct flights from the UK as well as plenty of UK regional airports. So yeah, fingers crossed that this restriction will not last for very long.”