Greece, Malta and Norway reopen to UK holidaymakers

Greece has reopened, but tourists remain few and far between - Getty
Greece has reopened, but tourists remain few and far between – Getty

Greece, Malta and Norway have reopened to UK holidaymakers, taking the number of countries Britons can visit without significant restrictions to 26. 

While Greece rebooted its vital tourism industry on July 1, a ban on direct flights from Britain was extended due to the UK’s relatively high infection rate. Flights can resume from today. 

Among the first airlines to return will be BA, which has availability on its 1150 departure to Athens tomorrow, and Wizz, which is offering flights to Athens and Crete from Thursday. Tui, Europe’s biggest tour operator, also plans to restart Greek holidays in the coming days. 

Arrivals in Greece must complete an online form. They may also be asked to undergo testing for coronavirus, but this is unlikely.

Malta reopened to tourists on July 1, but only those from selected countries including Germany and Ireland. Britons can head there from today, however. Arrivals do not need to self-isolate, but there are temperature checks at the airport.

Travel restrictions have also been eased in Norway, with arrivals from the EU (which, until the end of the Brexit transition period, includes Britain) no longer required to self-isolate. 

Follow the latest travel updates below.

01:00 PM

10 under-the-radar destinations you can visit right now

Foreign travel is back. With quarantine rules waived for a tranche of destinations, summer holidays are here again. Many of the perennial favourites – France, Spain, Italy and Croatia – made the Foreign Office’s restriction-free ‘safe list’; while others – mainland Portugal, for one – remain on the naughty step. 

But examine that safe list more closely and you’ll notice some exotic names plus several destinations that, while familiar, appear offbeat as holiday choices. You’ve almost certainly heard of places like the Faroe Islands or Liechtenstein. You may have hazy impressions of both. But have you actually visited? 

Now is the time to go, which is why we’ve compiled this guide to ten unusual destinations you ought to consider this summer. 

San Marino is among them - Getty
San Marino is among them – Getty

12:58 PM

Adventure seekers head for Scotland’s mountains

Lucy Aspden reports that tourism businesses in Scotland have reopened for the first time since March, with typically wet weather greeting visitors alongside strict new Covid safety measures.

At the Nevis Range, one of the country’s leading outdoor and mountain biking destinations, thermal temperature-checking cameras are in operation in the gondola stations and face coverings are compulsory for all visitors. Those riding on the gondola, which provides access to the summit of Aonach Mor for walkers and bikers, passengers must also wear disposable gloves and only travel with members of their own household. 

 “Considering it’s a wet day we’re really happy with the number of people who have turned up for the reopening,” said Chris O’Brien, CEO of the Nevis Range. “It’s been a big effort to get everything ready.”

12:51 PM

India reimposes lockdowns as virus cases near one million

Lockdowns are being reimposed in parts of India as local governments try to shield its health system from being overwhelmed.

A two-week lockdown that starts on Thursday has been imposed in Bihar, an eastern state with a population of 128 million and a fragile health system. In Bangalore, a key technology hub where offices for major tech companies like Amazon and Apple are located, the government ordered a week-long lockdown that began on Tuesday evening.

12:41 PM

A postcard from Florida: ‘It feels like we’re in free fall’

If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases behind the United States, Brazil and India. Shayne Benowitz reports from the shell-shocked state:

As I sit to write this postcard on Tuesday July 14, a record-breaking daily death toll of 132 was just reported. It follows an astonishing surge in new cases over the last few weeks. 

Many friends in my community are filled with frustration and despair as we watch the pandemic spiral out of control, filling hospitals and shuttering businesses with no end in sight.

Read the full story.

11:55 AM

Lunchtime read: Greece’s forgotten corner

While I grab some sustenance, why not read about the forgotten corner of Greece, with sandy beaches and soaring mountains – but no tourists?

There are no crowds in the Pelion - Getty
There are no crowds in the Pelion – Getty

Or else listen to the final episode of our Postcards podcast, featuring  Miriam Margolyes:

Postcards podcast - Miriam Margolyes 14/07/20
Postcards podcast – Miriam Margolyes 14/07/20

11:50 AM

PMQs: Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clash over aviation coronavirus support

Sir Keir Starmer told the House of Commons that Labour has supported many economic decisions made during the pandemic, but challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the choice to not provide more support for the aviation sector.

Boris Johnson says “no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge” posed by the pandemic and that there are a range of support packages.

Mr Johnson tells Sir Keir to decide whether he will support or oppose the programme, to which Sir Keir replies that the Prime Minister should focus on those who have lost their jobs, rather than “rhetorical nonsense”.

11:49 AM

Poland enjoys easing of restrictions

Warsaw was crowded with happy citizens this week as Poland eased coronavirus restrictions. Masks are no longer compulsory in open public spaces if you are able to maintain a two-metre distance from others, but they are required on public transport and in shops. 

Warsaw's Old Town - Getty
Warsaw’s Old Town – Getty

11:43 AM

Grub’s up in Scotland

People will be able to enjoy a drink in a pub and enjoy a meal inside a restaurant for the first time in months as restrictions ease in Scotland.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, hairdressers and barbers are all able to reopen from today, in addition to museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments and libraries in a wide-ranging extension of freedoms.

It comes ahead of a move in Scottish schools to ‘blended learning’ from next Wednesday, which will mix time spent in the classroom with home learning for pupils. The beauty industry and tailors in Scotland are also slated to reopen this time next week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed that Scotland had gone a sixth day without any coronavirus deaths, but warned that the reopening of services brings the “highest risk changes” to date as Scotland exits its Covid-19 lockdown.

11:35 AM

Virgin Atlantic told to cough up refunds

Now that the airline has been saved by a £1.2bn rescue package, the consumer watchdog Which? has urged Virgin Atlantic to pay back holidaymakers still waiting for refunds. 

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

Virgin Atlantic has been propping itself up, partly by withholding potentially millions of pounds from customers due refunds for coronavirus cancellations. Which? has been inundated with complaints from passengers who have struggled to get their money back, some of them in financial difficulty themselves.    

Now that the airline has secured this rescue package, it must make refunding passengers who have been left out of pocket its top priority. If Virgin continues to flout the law, the Government and aviation regulator should be ready to intervene and take strong action against the carrier.

11:29 AM

Meanwhile, over in Crete…

It’s all very quiet, reports Heidi Fuller-Love.

11:25 AM

Let’s check in with our reporter riding the rails…

Lucky Daniel Puddicombe is being well fed and watered on a heritage train service today. Follow him on Twitter. 

11:22 AM

Airbnb ridiculed for asking guests to donate money to hosts

Airbnb has faced a backlash on social media after urging the public to donate cash to support hosts that are listed on their site. 

Hannah Boland reports that the holiday rental site sent an email to members of the public who have used Airbnb in the past asking them to send donations to their former hosts.

“Like all of us, hosts on Airbnb are impacted by Covid-19 and many of them are unable to welcome guests,” Airbnb wrote. “Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and support one another – even in small ways.”

Airbnb said it was rolling out a “personalised kindness cards” feature by which people could send messages of appreciation to hosts and attach donations. 

The move, however, prompted criticism among social media users who argued that those renting out their homes for short-term stays had damaged property markets.

11:17 AM

First post-lockdown tourists arrive in the Maldives

The Maldives reopened to tourists on Wednesday, welcoming its first scheduled international flight for more than three months: a Qatar Airways service from Doha carrying 104 passengers.

“The stronger our safety measures, the better chance we have of being hailed as a (coronavirus) safe destination,” Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail said as he welcomed the arrivals. “I don’t believe that we would need to reimpose a border lockdown.”

Visitors are not required to be tested or carry virus-free certificates to enter the archipelago. Free tests will be offered to travellers who show symptoms of fever or coughing, the tourism ministry said. They will also be offered a free test when they leave the Maldives.

Thirty-three out of 159 resorts in the archipelago said they would open from Wednesday, but some of them have yet to take bookings. So far, Qatar Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines, Emirates and Etihad have scheduled flights to the Maldives in July, the airport’s operator said in a statement.

Britons who choose to take advantage will be required to self-isolate on their return to Britain unless the Maldives is added to the FCO exemption list.

Passengers disembark from a Qatar Airways plane in Male - Getty
Passengers disembark from a Qatar Airways plane in Male – Getty

11:08 AM

Ryanair cuts 1,000 UK-Ireland flights 

Low-cost behemoth Ryanair has criticised ongoing quarantine restrictions in Ireland and says it plans to cut up to 1,000 flights between Ireland and the UK during August and September. 

Despite the UK and Northern Ireland announcing travel corridors to most EU countries, and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remaining open, Ireland is still forcing arrivals to self-isolate for two weeks. 

A spokesperson said: “It makes no sense, when governments all over Europe have opened up EU flights since June 1 and removed travel restrictions on intra-EU travel, that the Irish Government continues to treat countries like Germany, Denmark and Greece as if they were suffering similar levels of Covid as the USA, Brazil and India.

“We call on the Irish Government to remove all travel restrictions between Ireland and the EU … as a matter of urgency, so that Ireland’s hotels, guest houses, restaurants and other tourism providers can recover their business and minimise job losses before we reach the downturn winter period.”

10:59 AM

Spain rules

In addition to enforcing face masks on the beach, Spain has some other curious Covid rules. 

Its regulations for hotels include:

  • Disinfectant mats at entrances to clean the shoes of guests

  • Guests can only share lifts with members of their own family

  • Used towels must be left in a sealed plastic bag for maids to collect

  • Mini-bars are banned unless the hotel can prove they are fully disinfected after every guests departs

  • You cannot take your key out with you. It must be handed to staff to be disinfected

  • No salt and pepper shakers

  • Golfers must disinfect their own balls

That is all.

10:52 AM

In-flight hazmat start-up sells 50,000 units

There’s just one problem: airlines are saying they may not be allowed on board. Greg Dickinson has the full story. 

This is one small step for man...
This is one small step for man…
Strap in and climb on board
Strap in and climb on board
Your next travel essential?
Your next travel essential?

10:43 AM

Can’t face it?

Visitors to Greece, open to UK travellers from today, must wear face masks in shops and on public transport. But there is a handful of European countries that haven’t embraced them.

A shop in Corfu - Getty
A shop in Corfu – Getty

10:39 AM

Nearly all UK arrivals obeying quarantine, says Priti Patel

Home Secretary Priti Patel has told MPs that compliance with the UK coronavirus quarantine measures has been “incredibly high”.

She told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that 383,000 spot checks were carried out between June 6 and July 12 and that the compliance rate was 99.9%.

However, the majority of the checks were carried out at the border. Shona Dunn, second permanent secretary to the Home Office, said, as of last week, that around 20% of the total number were follow-up checks on people who have come into the country. They were carried out by Public Health England.

10:27 AM

1.5m UK tourism and hospitality jobs at risk, study finds

New research from Aston University makes for grim reading. It shows that nearly one million jobs may already have been lost in the UK’s tourism and hospitality sector during the coronavirus pandemic. It is thought this sharp rise in job losses will appear in future official unemployment statistics, which typically show a three-month time delay. Furthermore, another 518,000 workers are believed to be at risk as government support for firms is phased out. 

Economics experts Professor Jun Du, Dr Chris Cao and Dr Michail Karoglou analysed Companies House data for the January-June period for sectors including accommodation and food services, travel agents, arts, entertainment and transport. They found that in the first half of this year 81,338 firms, accounting for more than 15% of all companies in the affected sectors, had either dissolved, gone into liquidation or administration or were classed as ‘dormant’. 

Jun Du, Professor of Economics at Aston Business School, said:

It will come as no surprise that tourism and hospitality businesses have already suffered a huge blow from Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions. What our research shows is that the scale of job losses in these sectors, so far hidden by the time lag in official statistics, may already be enormous.

The big worry is that the phasing out of the furlough scheme could lead to a further rush of firm closures as reality bites. As such, it can be seen as a ticking time-bomb underneath many thousands of jobs.   

While the further measures announced by the Chancellor last week may provide some help to firms, the real issue here is demand. With continued public health fears making many people wary of normal leisure activities, the government must do everything possible to give consumers confidence. This might mean more targeted support for firms, as well as strengthening healthcare infrastructure in tourism-dependent areas.

10:12 AM

Holidaymakers ordered to wear face masks on Costa del Sol beaches

Tom Mulvihill reports that tourists on the Costa del Sol, from today, must wear face masks while on the beach and at swimming pools, with heavy fines for anyone who fails to comply.

The strict new rules came into effect at midnight last night, and were part of a wider tightening of restrictions across several regions in Spain in response to isolated spikes of coronavirus infections.

Andalucia, home to the popular resorts of the Costa del Sol, has enacted some of the strictest laws in the country, requiring everyone, including beachgoers, to cover their mouths and noses at all times while in public, and with harsh €100 (£91) penalties for anyone caught flouting the rules.

However, sunbathers and swimmers will be allowed to remove their masks, provided they stay within their own household or ‘bubble’ or maintain a 1.5 metre social distancing gap with other members of the public.

Read the full report.

10:02 AM

Letting off steam with a scream in Iceland

People feeling stressed by lockdown are being invited to let off steam by having their screams played over a loudspeaker in a remote part of Iceland.

The offer comes from the Scandinavian nation’s tourist board, which has set up a website allowing people to record themselves venting their frustration.

The results will then be played from one of seven speakers set up around the sparsely populated country.

Visit Iceland’s campaign is inspired by scream therapy, or primal therapy, which was popular in the 1970s in an attempt to tap into repressed issues and relieve stress and anxiety.

Better yet, you could go there and do it for real. This Covid-free land of adventure is open to tourists. 

Aaaaargh! - Getty
Aaaaargh! – Getty

09:54 AM

Gleneagles reopens

One of Scotland’s finest hotels is once again welcoming guests. 

Gleneagles, occupying 850 acres of rolling Perthshire countryside, offers an array of rural pursuits including hiking and fishing, and can boast three championship golf courses.

“For the duration of its closure, the hotel has been working around the clock to provide even greater peace of mind,” it said in a statement. “In addition, understanding that the situation is ever-evolving, the hotel has introduced a flexible booking policy, which will allow guests to rearrange their stay at short notice should the need arise.”

Rates for a double room start at £395. 

Golf and whisky. What more do you need?
Golf and whisky. What more do you need?

09:39 AM

Norway lifts restrictions on overseas arrivals

In addition to Greece and Malta, Norway is now open for business. 

The FCO website states: “From 15 July, Norway is allowing entry for those resident in most Schengen or EU/EEA countries (which until the end of the year includes the UK). As a country with a low risk of infection, residents of the UK may travel and do not need to self-quarantine on arrival in Norway.

“UK nationals resident in a Schengen or EU/EEA country with a high risk of infection may enter but are required to self-quarantine for 10 days. For countries outside the Nordics, Schengen or EU/EEA, restrictions continue to apply.”

09:29 AM

Le Disney

Meanwhile, across the Channel, Nicola Williams is reporting on the reopening of Disneyland Paris, where face masks are de rigueur. 

09:25 AM

All aboard!

Closer to home, our man Daniel Puddicombe is on board the first heritage train service to leave the station post-lockdown. He will be posting updates throughout the day. 

09:23 AM

Good morning from Crete

Our reporter Heidi Fuller-Love is in Crete to report on the return of British holidaymakers. Follow her updates on Twitter.

09:19 AM

Health expert claims cruises ‘could be safer than a holiday in London’

Kaye Holland reports that the head of a health and safety body set up by two rival cruise lines believes ships are just as safe as hotels and resorts on land.

Dr Scott Gottlieb, co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel, said that as long as the proper precautions and measures are in place ships can act like a “protective bubble”.

We’re trying to come up with a set of measures that can be adaptable in a high prevalence environment as well as the future lower prevalence environment where [the virus] will continue to be a threat but, hopefully, a much lower threat.

In some ways, you have exquisite control over the environment… who gets into the protective bubble, and what you are doing in the bubble.

09:09 AM

Killer robots are coming to Heathrow

Bloomberg reports that Heathrow Airport is introducing cleaning robots and other measures to try to reduce the risk of virus transmission. 

The robots use ultraviolet rays to kill viruses and bacteria at night, according to a statement from the airport. It is also installing UV technology to disinfect escalator handrails, and self-cleaning anti-viral wraps are being fitted to often-touched surfaces such as security trays and elevator buttons. Meanwhile, 100 workers are being retrained as “hygiene technicians” to monitor the effectiveness of the new technologies and answer passenger queries.

Other measures at the airport include “Fly Safe Pit Stops,” where passengers can pick up free face masks, hand sanitizers and wipes. 

09:06 AM

Britain’s answers to the watery wonders of the world

Who needs the coral reefs of the Maldives, when you’ve got the shores of Blighty? Right?!

OK, so the North Sea doesn’t quite compare to the Indian Ocean, but there are some surprisingly glorious diving holidays to be had in UK waters. Swimming with seals off the Farne Islands is just one. Find out about others here. 

Isn't he cute? - Getty
Isn’t he cute? – Getty

08:53 AM

Greece is the word

The country is back on the menu. Go now before it gets too crowded.

A relatively empty Acropolis this week - Getty
A relatively empty Acropolis this week – Getty

08:50 AM

EasyJet adds routes to Croatia

One country you can visit right now, with minimal fuss, is Croatia. The gorgeous coastal city of Split is among the nation’s highlights and EasyJet has just announced the return of flights from three UK airports: Gatwick (from July 18), Bristol (from July 21) and Manchester (from July 25).

You will, of course, be required to wear a mask on board. Once inside Croatia, masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport.

08:41 AM

Hungary (slightly) relaxes travel restrictions for Britons

UK citizens can now visit Hungary, sort of.

Previously, only those with “exceptional” reasons to visit were allowed in, and even then they were required to complete a 14-day quarantine. Now, however, the Hungarian Government has introduced a colour-coded system, with countries classified as green, amber or red according to their infection rate. 

The UK has been classified as amber, which means that UK nationals and all other arrivals from the UK will have to undergo a medical examination for Covid-19. They will then need to self-isolate for 14 days unless they can provide upon arrival two negative Covid-19 tests, taken 48 hours apart and within five days of their entry date.

All of which makes a city break in Budapest something of a faff. 

08:32 AM

Your holiday map

Greece, Malta and Norway have now joined the party, and the map showing where Britons can go this summer has a bit of a Cold War feel to it…

08:29 AM

Germans told off for having fun

It wasn’t just boozy Brits letting their hair down in Mallorca last week. The Germans were at it too. 

AFP reports that newspapers on the Spanish island voiced outrage after video footage emerged showing mainly German holidaymakers drinking, singing and dancing outside bars and terraces on Friday evening.

At a press conference in Berlin, Health Minister Jens Spahn said: “The images we’ve seen from Mallorca this weekend worry me. I’m not here to ruin the fun… but now is not the time for this.”

08:24 AM

All smiles Down Under

Melbourne is facing a six-week lockdown, but in those parts of Australia behind the Pandemic Wall, life is blissfully normal. 

Diners in Queensland's Gold Coast - Getty
Diners in Queensland’s Gold Coast – Getty

08:21 AM

Coronavirus around the world

Put any plans to visit the US or Brazil firmly on ice. Here’s the latest news on the spread of coronavirus around the globe. 

  • Brazil recorded 41,857 new cases in 24 hours and 1,300 additional deaths, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday. The nation has now registered 1,926,824 confirmed cases and 74,133 deaths.

  • Mexico proposed to the United States an extension to a ban on non-essential travel by land over their shared border for another 30 days.

  • The US reported another 63,000 infections in US in one day.

  • Renewed restrictions took effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with restaurants limited to takeaway after 6pm, as the Asian financial centre battles a resurgence of coronavirus.

  • Spain‘s populous Catalonia region made a fresh attempt to put an area of 160,000 people under lockdown to stem the latest local coronavirus surge.

  • Australian states tightened restrictions on movement as authorities struggle to contain a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 in the country’s south east.

Head to the coronavirus live blog for more updates.

08:12 AM

So where can I go right now?

Good question. The addition of Greece and Malta has taken the list of countries Britons can visit without major restrictions to 26. Here they are:

  1. Andorra

  2. Belgium

  3. Croatia

  4. Czech Republic

  5. Denmark 

  6. Faroe Islands (Visitors required to take Covid-19 test at airport on arrival)

  7. France 

  8. Germany

  9. Gibraltar

  10. Greece

  11. Iceland (Open to tourists, but all arrivals must choose to pay to be tested for coronavirus or self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Children born in 2005 or later are exempt)

  12. Italy

  13. Liechtenstein

  14. Lithuania (Recommends 14-day self-isolation, but this is not mandatory)

  15. Luxembourg

  16. Malta

  17. Monaco (Arrivals from the UK asked to self-isolate for 14 days, but not mandatory)

  18. Netherlands (Strongly advised 14-day self-isolation, but not mandatory)

  19. Norway

  20. Poland

  21. San Marino

  22. Spain 

  23. Switzerland

  24. Trinidad and Tobago (Government is asking all visitors to self-isolate for 14 days, but this is not compulsory)

  25. Turkey

  26. Vatican City

08:09 AM

Return to Malta

Trips to Malta are possible again. So what can tourists expect? An empty island of baroque treasures, according to Eoghan Corry, who visited last week. He wrote: 

An overhead camera read the temperatures of arriving passengers. Three medics in hospital scrubs called passengers out, either because they had a high temperature, at random, or, in one case, because their woolly hat had obscured the reading. 

The arrivals hall was closed completely. What meet-and-greet there was took place was in the open air, still searing from a day of 38C heat.

In the Phoenicia hotel I was welcomed by name. There were only four guests. 

Read the full report.

08:06 AM

What happened yesterday?

It was all about face masks in the UK, but what happened around the world?

  • Qantas grounded all international flights until March 2021, putting Australian holidays firmly off the cards

  • South Africa has reimposed its blanket ban on alcohol sales

  • Caribbean islands expressed frustration over Britain’s air bridge snub

  • The majority of Britons said they would feel unsafe on a plane

  • Nine out of 10 UK tourism business are braced for redundancies

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