6 March 2020 | Comment | Article by Rebecca Gilmore

Coronavirus and travel

Coronavirus is here in the UK and many people are starting to worry about the extent to which it may spread.  Measures are being taken across businesses, travel and leisure sectors to help contain and delay the spread of the virus, whose effects we are told are going to be felt most acutely by the elderly and those with an underlying health condition.

People are cancelling holidays and are thinking twice before booking new trips in the coming weeks and months. Some major public and sporting events have been cancelled or postponed due to the outbreak, including the London Book Fair and the Rome and Paris marathons, causing disappointment for runners who have trained for many months for the events. Many are seriously concerned as to whether the London marathon scheduled for 26 April will go ahead or not.

Looking at this concern from a legal angle, if you have booked an event such as a marathon or triathlon and it is part of a package with overnight accommodation either abroad or in the UK then you will be covered by the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018. The sporting event is likely to be considered a “tourist service” forming part of the package if it is advertised as an essential feature of the trip or it makes up a significant part of the package.  If the event is cancelled, the organiser of the holiday must give you the option to cancel the whole trip and provide a full refund.  If for example you wish to go ahead with the trip, you should be permitted to do so but given a price reduction to compensate for the cancellation of the sporting event which formed part of the original package.

Another angle for consideration is travellers who have booked a trip abroad who are now concerned about the outbreak of Coronavirus in that region. The 2018 Regulations permit travellers to terminate package holidays without paying any fees if “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances” occur at the place of destination.  While it remains to be tested through the courts, it is thought likely that the outbreak of a serious disease or virus such as Coronavirus which is a significant risk to human health for many would come within the remit of “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances”.

The cruise industry has long suffered with outbreaks of other viruses, typically Norovirus, which can spread like wildfire in environments where hundreds of people are eating, drinking and sharing bathroom facilities in close quarters.  We have already had the Diamond Princess held in quarantine off Japan due to a Coronavirus outbreak and now a sister ship, the Grand Princess, is being held off the coast of San Francisco.  When you consider the demographic of many of the holidaymakers on these vessels, it is a worrying time for those currently on board other vessels around the world and for upcoming cruises.

The best advice for those concerned is to check with your trip organiser as soon as possible and seek legal advice if you are not happy with what is offered.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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