Mother's Day and Easter were shelved today as travel curbs to fight the coronavirus hammered family get-togethers.
Britons were told not to travel anywhere in the world unless it is essential as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab imposed the tightest possible restrictions on people’s travel plans, telling citizens not to leave the country, as other nations shut their borders.
Staycations were also restricted as travel within the UK was cut back, and holiday firms shut parks and campsites.
Tens of thousands of British citizens could be stranded overseas,with flights across the globe grounded amid serious fears for many airlines’ futures.
The RAF and Royal Navy could be drafted in as a last resort to help repatriate stranded UK nationals, Mr Raab said.
He told the Commons today: “UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lockdowns in various countries. The speed and range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented.
“So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel.”
The travel advice will last at least 30 days, and Britons who are already overseas are being told to plan their return to the UK now.
Britons who decide they still need to travel abroad despite the advice should beware of the increased risk of being stranded overseas, Mr Raab said.
He added: “What we do is provide the clearest guidance and unless there is a very good reason, an essential reason to travel, we’re saying don’t take the risk now because you’re at a heightened risk of being stranded in the future.”
The change in official advice is likely to help Britons claim on their travel insurance.
It is thought to be the first time the Foreign Office has taken the step of advising against all non-essential travel to all parts of the world since the travel advisory system was introduced in 1990.
The Government will help companies to maintain the flow of goods to the UK, while also protecting staff in the sector, he added.
Mr Raab continued: “We do regard this kind of travel as essential and we will work with industry to issue detailed advice which maintains the flow of goods whilst protecting the wellbeing of staff who are working on those routes.”
Meanwhile, Easter has been cancelled for tens of thousands of holidaymakers as emergency measures hit the nation’s staycation hotspots.
With Britons advised to avoid all non-essential travel within the UK, holiday camps, bed and breakfasts, and theme parks are likely to suffer major financial losses over the upcoming long weekend.
Center Parcs was the first of the UK resorts to announce it will be closing its doors over the prime break period, leaving many people’s holiday plans in tatters.
All five of its villages will shut from Friday until April 16, including its Aqua Sana spas at the centres in Sherwood Forest, Notts; Elveden Forest, Suffolk; Longleat Forest, Wilts; Whinfell Forest, Cumbria; and Woburn Forest, Beds.
The firm said: “We will be in contact with guests due to arrive during the closure period to move their break to a different date or arrange a full refund as soon as we can. We recognise that this will be disappointing news for anyone looking forward to their break.
“We would like to thank our guests for their patience and understanding in these exceptional circumstances and look forward to welcoming them back later in the year.”
The National Trust will lock the doors of all its stately homes from Friday, with cafes, restaurants and shops also closing. But it plans to keep open parks and gardens open for families who need to get some air.
Director general Hilary McGrady said: “While we will close our indoor areas to help fight the spread of coronavirus, we recognise that people are likely to need access to open space and to nature, beauty and history.”
David Weston, of the Bed and Breakfast Association, said the £2billion sector is struggling as guests cancel breaks.
He said: “B&Bs rely on Easter as the start of the main season, but bookings have dried up. Cities have been hit hardest, but we are trying to carry on the best we can.”
The British Holiday and Home Parks Association, which represents 3,000 caravan and campsites, as well as self-catering chalets, said it there were “a few reports of parks closing temporarily as a result of the coronavirus outbreak”.
And Mother’s Day is also off as families axe plans for Sunday lunch and afternoon tea, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson ’s advice to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants.
Danni Parker, manager of the William Walker pub in Winchester, Hants, said the business has taken a hit: “Mother’s Day is not looking to be a sell-out like it usually is.”
Ryan Sims-Atkins, manager of the Stanhope Arms, near Ilkeston, Derbs, said there had been a drop in bookings. He said: “It’ll get worse before it gets better. It’s worrying, really.”
Trade body UK Hospitality said the sector has suffered a 50% slump in bookings for events, conferences and hotel rooms for the next two to three weeks.
Boss Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality sector is facing a unique short-term cash flow catastrophe as customers are advised to stay away.”
Last night, staycation giant Butlin’s said it was “watching and following the latest Government advice”.
While its seaside resorts at Minehead, Somerset, Bognor Regis, West Sussex and Skegness remained open, the firm said it is “working hard on what this means for your holiday”.
On the Butlin’s website, it said it would “be posting an update as soon as possible”.
But the firm told the Mirror that it was “unable to comment” at this stage on whether it would close over Easter.
With London said to be the epicentre of the epidemic, several museums have closed with the Tate, V&A, British Museum and Natural History Museum all affected.
And the Campaign for Real Ale, which runs over 180 local beer festivals across the country, has cancelled all events planned between now and the end of June, including the Great Welsh Beer Festival which was to have made its debut on April 22.
Church of England cancels services
Sunday services will be scrapped for the time being after the Church of England banned all communal worship to fight the virus.
Services like Mothering Sunday and Easter – the holiest day for Christians – will be suspended.
Churches can still stay open for private prayer and vicars are being encouraged to livestream services.
Weddings and funerals will still be allowed to go ahead.
Candles at Westminster Cathedral, central London, were removed yesterday at the news.
In a statement, the Church of England said: “Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead.”
Catholic Church chiefs are expected to unveil similar measures today. The Muslim Council of Britain has already advised mosques to halt Friday prayers.
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