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Your summer refund rights if you have to self isolate

Are you worried that a ping by the NHS Covid app will ruin your summer plans?

You’re not the only one.

Where once we counted down the days until we set off on our holiday, many of us are now simply hoping to make it to our departure date without a positive case forcing us into self-isolation.

Some are even practicing preventative isolation, staying home to ping-proof their families ahead of their long-awaited getaway.

Adding to our anxiety is widespread confusion about the implications of a COVID-19 notification actually means.

Those contacted by NHS Test and Trace, or those who test positive, are legally required to self-isolate for 10 full days and cannot go on holiday.

However, being “pinged” by the NHS app does not carry a legal obligation and is technically only advisory, though both the government and NHS say people should self-isolate if they are notified in order to stop the spread of the virus.

What’s more, if you or a family member is self-isolating and can’t go to an event or attraction, it’s not always clear if you can get your money back.

We explain the current rules.

Due to the different legal requirements to self-isolate, getting a refund isn’t as straight forward as you’d think

What it means for the Great British staycation

With foreign travel off the cards for most of us, we’ve been booking staycations, planning days out and buying tickets galore.

But as one ping from the Covid app could mean your plans go to pot, who could blame us for wanting peace of mind that we can get our money back if we need to self-isolate?

It turns out, that due to the different legal requirements to self-isolate, getting a refund isn’t as straight forward as you’d think.

And even if we’re able to simply postpone your plans for later this summer, we may struggle to find availability and be hit with price hikes.

You can ask Test and Trace for written evidence as proof you’ve been asked to self-isolate as this may help speed up your refund.

Test & trace

If you’re contacted directly by NHS Test and Trace by phone or email, then you’re legally required to self-isolate unless you are a fully vaccinated worker in one of the 16 critical sectors including energy, food production, emergency services and transport.

Further changes to the self-isolation rules will come in on August 16, when people who are fully vaccinated and come into contact with a positive case won't have to self-isolate unless they test positive themselves.

If you have been contacted by Test and Trace, the first thing you must do is check the booking conditions and contact the provider to ask about rebooking or a refund.

According to research by Which?, the consumer group, no airlines are offering refunds if you’re unable to travel because NHS Test and Trace tells you to self-isolate.

However, all airlines have flexible booking policies which will allow you to rebook without paying the standard admin fee, or in some instances take the value of your flight as a voucher.

However, some policies come with restrictions on how far in advance you need to rebook, and you’ll always have to pay more if the new dates you rebook for are more expensive.

You can ask Test and Trace for written evidence as proof you’ve been asked to self-isolate as this may help speed up your refund.


The NHS CoVID-19 App

While there is a legal duty in England for people to self-isolate if they test positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, this does not extend to if you are “pinged” by the NHS COVID-19 app.

Currently, if you get notified, you are expected to self-isolate for at least 10 days and avoid contact with others, but this is advisory, rather than a legal requirement.

So, while people who do not isolate after testing positive or being contacted by NHS Test and Trace can face fines of up to £10,000, this does not apply to people being pinged.

If you or a family member is self-isolating and can’t go to an event or attraction, it’s not always clear if you can get your money back.

As notifications to self-isolate from the NHS app are advisory, the original terms and conditions for cancellation and refunds set by the ticket seller are likely to still apply.

But it’s still worth contacting the provider to request a refund.


Can I get my money back if I change my mind?

If you're still allowed to travel or attend an event but decide not to go, you've no automatic right to a refund

If you’re still permitted to go on your holiday under official restrictions and guidance, it's important to understand you don't have any automatic right to a refund if you choose not to go.

If your holiday's still on or the hotel's still open, your refund rights will simply depend on the terms and conditions you agreed to when you booked.

Of course, these may still let you cancel for free or move your trip and some firms are also offering extra flexibility to all their customers at the moment due to coronavirus, but it is not a guarantee.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.

3 things to do
right now

1

Ticket insurance can sometimes cover you if you can no longer attend an event. But check the policy before buying as not all cover Covid-related cancellations.

2

You might be able to get a payment of £500 if you’re on a low income and you’re employed or self-employed, you, or your child have been told to self-isolate due to coronavirus and you cannot work from home and will lose income by self-isolating or staying at home to care for the child. Search for your local council to apply on their website. You need to claim within 42 days so it’s best to get cracking.

3

Consider travel insurance that offers enhanced COVID-19 cover. Such policies offer cancellation if you or anyone covered by the policy gets a positive coronavirus test in the two weeks before you travel, medical costs if you get coronavirus while you are away and additional transport and/or accommodation expenses if you fall ill with coronavirus while you’re away.

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