Coronavirus: Foreign Office links up with airlines to fly stranded Britons home

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Media captionDominic Raab: charter flights will be arranged for countries where commercial flights have stopped.

Tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic will be flown home under a new arrangement between the government and airlines.

British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2 and Titan are among airlines that have agreed to fly Britons back to the UK.

The government has also pledged £75m to charter special flights to bring home UK nationals from countries where commercial flights are unavailable.

The number of people who have died with the virus in the UK has reached 1,408.

Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said an “unprecedented” number of UK travellers were trying to get home.

“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people travelling around the world,” he said.

Mr Raab added: “Hundreds of thousands have already done so, but many travellers haven’t yet managed to get back home – from young backpackers to retired couples on cruises.”

Under the new arrangement, airlines would be responsible for getting stranded passengers home where commercial routes remain an option.

“That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled, and it means allowing passengers to change tickets – including between carriers,” he said.

“So for those still in those countries where commercial options are still available: don’t wait. Don’t run the risk of getting stranded. The airlines are standing by to help you – please book your tickets as soon as possible.”

Later in the news briefing, the UK’s chief scientific adviser said there were early signs that social distancing measures in the UK were “making a difference”.

Sir Patrick Vallance said people are heeding the advice to stay at home to keep the pressure off the NHS.


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