September 27, 2021

cruciforme

travel, Always a step ahead

Heathrow to test staff as part of new trial

Heathrow will trial testing for 2000 employees - HENRY NICHOLLS
Heathrow will trial testing for 2000 employees – HENRY NICHOLLS

Heathrow is embarking on a month-long trial of rapid Covid testing for airport staff, in partnership with NHS Test & Trace.

The airport will regularly test around 2000 employees in a bid to uncover asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

The Government-led trial will use rapid lateral flow tests, which can deliver results within 30 minutes. Anyone who tests positive will then take a lab-analysed PCR test to ensure an accurate result, before isolating if the case is confirmed.

It is hoped that the pilot will provide insights into how large-scale testing can be rolled out and help get society back closer to normal.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We’re pleased to be working with the Government on this pilot testing scheme, which goes even further to protect our colleagues and the other key workers who are keeping the country moving through this crisis.

“This pilot will support us as we work to keep the UK’s biggest port running smoothly, helping to facilitate essential journeys and the movement of cargo.”

Baroness Dido Harding, interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: “This pilot is one of many which will inform our understanding of how rapid asymptomatic testing can be operationalised in the real world; to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help us go back to as normal a way of life as possible.”

Scroll down for more updates.

02:38 PM

Nicola Sturgeon: Managed quarantine for all arrivals into Scotland

Speaking at Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirms that there will be a “managed quarantine requirement” for all arrivals into Scotland.

She urges the UK Government to expand its supervised quarantine programme, but acknowledges the plans can’t come into effect immediately.

02:27 PM

Matt Hancock: Ministers acted swiftly on travel restrictions

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is speaking to MPs in the House of Commons.

Earlier, he fielded questions from members on border restrictions, after Labour called for all arrivals to undergo supervised hotel quarantine.

Labour’s Angela Eagle asked if the Government “acted too little and too late” on the quarantine policy, to which Mr Hancock countered that Ministers acted “swiftly” on scientific advice by removing travel corridors.

02:15 PM

‘There were four of us on our honeymoon’

Olympic skier and presenter Graham Bell spoke to Telegraph Travel about his many adventures, from hiking up a volcano in Chile to crowd surfing in Calgary:

There were four of us on our honeymoon in St Lucia

I was there with my wife, Sarah, when a couple of our friends turned up. We had no idea they were coming – and they had no idea we’d be there – but it was really nice because it gave Sarah someone to lounge with. She’s happy in a hammock reading a book, whereas I don’t do relaxation that well, so she sunbathed with her friend Gitte, while I went off windsurfing and water-skiing with Gitte’s husband Neil. We had dinner together most nights and we were all on the cocktails!

The best view I’ve ever had was from the Villarrica volcano, near Pucòn in the south of Chile

If you look out to the coast, you can see the Pacific Ocean, and if you look the other way, you can see the Andes – then in between the two, there’s a line of volcanoes. I was on a ski tour and we’d hiked to the top of the volcano with skis on. It’s an active volcano, so it sometimes erupts, and we could see lava bubbling in the crater. It wasn’t spitting anything up that day, but it did smell of rotten eggs.

Read more about Graham’s travels here

Graham Bell
Graham Bell

02:09 PM

Rome airport seeks to expand trial of Covid-tested flights

The operator of Rome’s main airport has appealed to the Italian government to expand trials of Covid-tested flights to new destinations.

Aeroporti di Roma (AdR), the company which runs Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, has been exploring the possibility of reopening air travel links through Covid-19 testing, running trials on flight routes connecting the Italian capital with the US cities of New York and Atlanta.

The trial period is set to end on February 15, but AdR has now asked the Italian government to authorise an extension while expanding the scheme to airports in North America and Japan.

CEO Marco Troncone also confirmed that the company is in conversation with German carrier Lufthansa over the possibility of opening a travel corridor between Italy and Germany.

01:54 PM

Comment: I long for the day when our new breed of British jobsworth will be left with nothing to do

This will all be over soon, writes Simon Parker. By the end of this week 10 million Britons will be silently creating coronavirus antibodies. By the end of this month, we’ll have daffodils blooming on the corners of our locked-down streets. And who knows, by the middle of March we could be sitting outside in T-shirts and shorts under that warm and yellowy thing that occasionally appears in the sky. After ten grim months, the outlook is finally looking brighter.

When we do return to some normality, however, I worry that a small – but not insignificant – minority of the country will be left yearning for these halcyon days. They’re Britain’s new breed of Covid jobsworths (The Covsworths) and are distant cousins of the Covidiots. They’re the window-twitchers, the supermarket-tutters, and the huffers and puffers, who have secretly loved every single minute of this ordeal.

This time last year “social distancing” had barely entered our vocabulary, but it has now become the go-to repartee of every self-centred doom-monger in the land. This single phrase can now be used as a verbal snowplough, to carve a route through life. It’s enough to justify hogging an entire park bench, or to commandeer the long row of seats at the back of a bus.

Read the full article here

“Social distancing” has become the go-to repartee of every self-centred doom-monger in the land - Getty
“Social distancing” has become the go-to repartee of every self-centred doom-monger in the land – Getty

01:42 PM

‘Just not practical’ to completely close borders, says Sage scientist

A scientist working for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has argued that a “significant reduction” in international travel is still needed to combat the spread of coronavirus, but closing the border is “just not practical.

Professor Calum Semple, Professor of Child Health and Outbreak Medicine at the University of Liverpool, told told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme

“It’s much easier if you’re a small island such as the Isle of Man to close the borders.

“Britain is a complex transit country and it’s a much harder decision to make there. But, in general, I do support restricting movement, particularly of people in this time.

“You can’t do it altogether when you get a country that’s dependent on imports for food and other essential processes, it’s just not practical, but yes a significant reduction in the movement of people is incredibly important at present.”

01:30 PM

Secret Dubai: A nightclub dancer reveals what the pandemic party city is really like

After several months of ‘life-as-normal’, Dubai’s hedonistic nightlife venues have been ordered to close again as Covid cases in the Emirate continue to climb.

Emma Cooke spoke to a dancer in one of the city’s most renowned clubs to get an inside look at life in pandemic-stricken Dubai, from mesh face masks to what the residents really think of influencers.

Read the full article

Dubai is famed for its nightlife – and is one of the few places that allowed it to return last year - Getty
Dubai is famed for its nightlife – and is one of the few places that allowed it to return last year – Getty

01:12 PM

Comment: Stop telling me to appreciate the small things in a shrinking world

Spare me the gratitude journals – I’m miserable about my world becoming so small, writes Suzanne Moore.

Obviously I am grateful not to be ill and grateful to the doctors and scientists who may keep me and others safe. I am lucky to live in a rich country, but I can’t help feeling resentful at how small my world has become. I cannot help feeling sad that I can’t travel any more. I find it immensely irritating to be told that my horizons must shrink, that I must live in the moment and that I cannot return to New Orleans, a city I once lived in, for a while. Please don’t lecture me on the joys of the English seaside, I know them too well. But I find myself agreeing with AA Gill – essentially all beaches are the same beach. I also want to travel inland to see cities I haven’t seen – Moscow, Seoul, Hanoi and Detroit.

I want again to be on buses in the desert when suddenly we stop and people get off and walk into the distance and you cannot know where they are going. I want to be in the presence of unknowable lives or to sit in a pub in Co Mayo where someone gets out a fiddle and a bodhran.

Before anyone starts with their eco-scolding, I am also happy to do as much of this as possible on trains. But I will not let my dreams dwindle just yet.

Find the full article here.

01:06 PM

Serbia or Barbados? The curious array of countries shunning travel bans and welcoming Brits

Holidays are banned, and even essential travel comes with a whole heap of severe restrictions, including a requirement to take a Covid test before you return to the UK, along with a mandatory 10-day quarantine. It’s as if we’re suddenly living in the Soviet Union.

Barbados is still welcoming visitors - Getty
Barbados is still welcoming visitors – Getty

But it’s not just Britain that’s clamping down on foreign trips. Canada, in a fit of puritanism, has banned flights to “sun destinations” in Mexico and the Caribbean (never mind that vitamin D boosts your immune system and that, once Covid is widespread – as it is in Canada – travel is no more risky than staying home and visiting the supermarket). Portugal has outlawed almost all outbound and inbound international travel (which, given that it has the highest Covid case rate in the world right now, is of limited logic). And much of the world is blocking UK arrivals over the new Kent variant (as well as South Africans over the South African variant, and Brazilians over the Brazilian variant), which is believed to be more infectious but won’t dodge the vaccines.

So even if the latest lockdown was lifted tomorrow, not many countries would welcome you. But there are some.

Find out where you could go.

01:00 PM

Forced hotel quarantine for all UK arrivals labelled ‘unfeasible’

Last night in the House of Commons, Labour called for the 10-day Government-mandated quarantine to be immediately extended to all arrivals, due to fears over potential new virus variants. Conservative MPs abstained from the vote.

Currently, only arrivals who have travelled from a list of 33 ‘red list’ countries, including swathes of South America, South Africa and Portugal, will be subject to the new rules.

Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “Covid is not going away. We need this strategy, and we need it now.”

He added: “I recognise, of course, the huge challenges to the aviation sector and its supply chains, the impact on the tourism and hospitality industry, and the number of jobs that it supports.”

However, he gave few specifics on timelines, practicalities or how the industry could be helped, other than extended Government support.

This morning, the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan pushed back on the motion, telling the BBC that it was “unfeasible” to house all arrivals in hotel quarantine, adding “we have to be realistic about what we adopt and what we do.”

12:30 PM

Italians return to restaurants and coffee shops as lockdown eases

Restaurants and cafés have reopened for table service across much of Italy, after an easing of lockdown restrictions.

Around two-thirds of the country is now designated as a ‘yellow zone’, which means table service in restaurants can resume until 6pm. Later on, it’s takeaway only with a curfew still in place from 10pm until 5am.

While enjoying a drink in a café in Rome, local resident Tiziana Baldo told Reuters: “It is beautiful to come here and talk to the people behind the bar; they make us feel alive every morning before going to work.”

Some tourist attractions, including the Colosseum and the Vatican museums, have also reopened.

12:15 PM

‘Endless summer’ predicted as autumn holiday bookings surge

Thomas Cook is seeing a boom in bookings for October and beyond – hinting an extended summer season in 2021, reports Greg Dickinson.

British holidaymakers are banking on a holiday from October onwards - Getty 
British holidaymakers are banking on a holiday from October onwards – Getty

The tour operator, which ceased operations in 2019 but has now relaunched as an online bookings site, says it has seen a dramatic shift in booking patterns, with customers moving from booking holidays in May to banking on breaks from October onwards.

More than 40 per cent of bookings in the last week were for holidays during or after October 2021.

The top destinations are the Canary Islands, Turkey, Greece and Egypt, with rising interest in city breaks to places like Las Vegas and New York City.

Phil Gardner, commercial director at Thomas Cook, said: “The recent messages from Government seem to be prompting people to book later in the year, we think Brits are increasingly focusing on ‘Flocktober’ as they look ahead to a much-needed holiday.

“We all need a holiday right now, after nearly a year of lockdowns and several more weeks of home-schooling, families are desperate to get away. Based on our current booking numbers, Brits are clearly keen to get away this year even if it means waiting until the autumn or later. “

Read the full story.

11:57 AM

Reader question: ‘Why is it taking so long for Opodo to refund my cancelled flights?’

Gill Charlton assists one of many readers facing problems getting their money back from the flight booking giant.

Read her advice here.

11:50 AM

Southampton airport to shut at weekends for a month

Southampton airport has announced it will suspend weekend operations until at least March 7, citing “extremely difficult conditions” and issues that predated the pandemic.

Operations director Steve Szalay said: “This is a decision that has not been taken lightly and demonstrates the extremely difficult conditions we are currently operating in.

“Prior to the onset of the pandemic, passenger numbers at the airport fell by 90 per cent due to the collapse of Flybe.

“Covid-19 has exacerbated this situation further with the suspension of a number of routes and reduced passenger demand due to the travel restriction currently in place.

“This is an extremely challenging period for the entire aviation industry, however, Southampton airport will continue to support critical lifeline services Monday to Friday including those to the Channel Islands.”

11:45 AM

Comment: Travel has become an illogical scapegoat for the UK’s appalling track record on Covid

Less than 0.1 per cent of Covid cases have come from abroad in the last few months, so blaming travellers is disgraceful, writes Sarah Marshall.

Sarah has visited several African countries in the last few months - Getty
Sarah has visited several African countries in the last few months – Getty

As of last week, crossing borders became almost akin to committing a criminal offence. Unnerved by several virus variants, the Government panicked by issuing a red list of 33 countries requiring mandatory, self-funded hotel quarantine. Travel was singled out as a scapegoat for the UK’s appalling track record of Covid fatalities, providing a convenient distraction from the Government’s gross mishandling of the whole affair.

Of all those ‘danger zones’, I’ve visited seven in the past few months for work purposes, mainly in Africa. All, bar Tanzania, have needed a negative PCR test for entry since borders re-opened last year. The shrewd approach has helped keep cases low in comparison to Europe, but despite pressure and advice from several bodies, including The Telegraph, Boris and his team only chose to introduce a similar scheme two weeks ago.

During my travels, I’ve taken 15 PCR tests, all negative. Meanwhile, many of my friends in the UK have not even had one. In Rwanda alone, I took four tests in nine days to cross carefully monitored county borders and visit protected national parks; with dozens of mobile clinics and hospitals to choose from and no appointments required, it was an exercise as simple as drawing money from an ATM. Everyone from lodge managers to agricultural workers wore face masks, curfews were strictly observed, and on arrival at the airport a team of hazmat-suited testers whisked me to 24-hour hotel isolation until my results were cleared.

Even in South Africa, ground zero for one of the contagious new variants, I managed to zip safely between bubbles in the bush, where no-one could count a Covid sufferer amongst friends or distant acquaintances. (Bafflement, by the way, is common across the continent, where few people have encountered the virus.)

Read the full piece here.

11:32 AM

Scottish Government to update lockdown rules today

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to update the Scottish Parliament at around 2pm this afternoon.

She is expected to announce a loosening of some restrictions, including potentially reopening schools, but tighter rules surrounding supervised hotel quarantine.

11:12 AM

Tucan Travel ceases trading

Adventure travel specialist Tucan Travel has announced it has ceased trading. In a statement, a spokesperson explained that the decision had been made “with a heavy heart”, on the prediction that “normal” international travel is unlikely to resume until 2022:

No one could have predicted that in January 2021, most countries in the world would be in further tough lockdowns with many people losing their lives and loved ones.

There is unlikely to be any normal international leisure travel until 2022 and so with a heavy heart, the decision was taken in the best interests of everyone concerned to place the company into administration.

I would like to thank all clients, suppliers and staff for their support over the years and hope you get to enjoy travelling again in the future. Best wishes, Tucan Travel.

All customers with existing bookings will be contacted by February 5, and the company is expected to be placed formally in administration on February 16.

The company suspended its tour operations in March 2020, and had since been unable to resume.

It specialised in tailor-made and small group trips, with itineraries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It regularly featured on the pages of Telegraph Travel, and was a true expert in adventure travel – offering overland trips to destinations that few other companies offered, including central Mexico and Patagonia.

11:10 AM

Ryanair boss praises UK vaccine roll-out

Ryanair - Paul Faith
Ryanair – Paul Faith

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary yesterday declared the UK Covid vaccination programme “a stunning success.”

In typical blunt manner, he added that Europe and Ireland “need to get their finger out.”

Despite reporting a catastrophic third quarter loss of €306 million (£269 million), Mr O’Leary said the airline was “taking great comfort” from the speed of the roll-out.

He predicted significant pressure for travel to restart once those on the Government’s priority list have received the jab.

“It will be very difficult politically for the UK to lock down the population from the end of March if they have vaccinated half the population.

“You may still have Covid in the community, but there will be huge political pressure to open up as we move into the summer.”

10:58 AM

Heathrow trials Covid testing for staff

Heathrow is embarking on a month-long trial of Covid testing for 2,000 airport workers.

The airport will regularly test employees in a bid to uncover asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

The Government-led trial will use rapid lateral flow tests, which can deliver results within 30 minutes. Anyone who tests positive will then take a lab-analysed PCR test to ensure an accurate result.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We’re pleased to be working with the Government on this pilot testing scheme, which goes even further to protect our colleagues and the other key workers who are keeping the country moving through this crisis.

“This pilot will support us as we work to keep the UK’s biggest port running smoothly, helping to facilitate essential journeys and the movement of cargo.”

10:43 AM

Border Force checking ‘up to 25 per cent’ of passengers for essential travel

The UK’s Border Force is checking “up to 25 per cent” of passengers to make sure they have essential reasons for travel, the Universities Minister has said.

Asked why the UK had not announced mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals, Michelle Donelan emphasised the Government’s other efforts at the border.

She said: “This isn’t our only policy. We have countries we have banned travel from. Our message to people who want to go abroad is that there is a very small list of exemptions and that we are checking that.

“In fact, Border Force have checked up 25 per cent of passengers coming in, everyone has to have a PCR test as well.”

10:32 AM

First Person: My adventure holiday turned into nine months of hell as a FARC hostage

The rainforest of Panama - Getty
The rainforest of Panama – Getty

A lawless wilderness straddling the border between Colombia and Panama, the Darien Gap is the only break in the 19,000-mile Pan-American Highway which connects Alaska with Argentina. In 2000, horticulturalist Tom Hart Dyke, heir to Kent’s Lullingstone Castle estate, spent nine months there, after being taken hostage by a group presumed to be FARC, the Marxist rebels which disbanded before returning as a political party. Last week the party announced that it’s changing its named to Comunes. Twenty years after his release, Tom explains how his captivity inspired Lullingstone Castle’s spectacular World Garden.

Read the full story.

10:23 AM

Russia extends UK flight ban

Russia has announced it will extend its suspension of flights to the UK until at least February 16.

The country initially halted air traffic with Britain on December 22, due to the discovery of a new virus variant in the UK.

10:13 AM

Spanish airports to offer pre-departure Covid testing

Fifteen of Spain’s busiest airports will soon open pre-departure Covid testing facilities.

The departure lounge facilities will offer both PCR and Antigen tests and there will be isolation areas for travellers awaiting results.

As well as the major hubs of Madrid and Barcelona, the service will be available at airports serving Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, including Malaga, Seville, Mallorca and Ibiza, plus four airports in the Canary Islands.

The facilities will initially be set up for a six-month period, but could be extended until the end of the year.

The move comes as an increasing number of countries require travellers to present proof of a recent negative Covid test.

09:57 AM

Dubai shuts bars for a month

Dubai may be a little more sedate this month - Getty
Dubai may be a little more sedate this month – Getty

Dubai will close all bars and pubs for the duration of February, after a spike in Covid cases.

The sharp rise in cases has largely been attributed to the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, which drew travellers from around the world, including many from the UK.

The emirate has also mandated that restaurants and cafés must close by 1am and introduced crowd limits on cinemas, hotels and shopping centres.

The UAE has recorded more than 304,000 Covid cases and 850 deaths. The country has been successful in rolling out its vaccine programme, with only Israel administering more jabs per capita.

09:51 AM

Do we have a date for hotel quarantine?

Travel insider Paul Charles has suggested that Monday February 15 could be the date when mandatory hotel quarantine is introduced for arrivals from high-risk countries. The policy was announced last week, but so far few details have been revealed.

09:42 AM

US tightens face mask rules for travellers

Passengers at US airports must wear face masks while going through security checkpoints, or face being denied boarding.

The new measure will be in place until at least May 11, with fines for those who flout the rule.

The move is part of a general tightening of face mask rules in the country. Following an executive order by President Joe Biden, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that from today all passengers on aircraft, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses and ride-shares must wear face coverings.

Cruise ships are currently banned from operating in US waters and it is unclear whether the rule will continue once sailings resume.

09:27 AM

Emirates resumes outbound flights from UK

Starting today, the carrier will operate a daily flightfrom Heathrow to Dubai and four services per week from Manchester.

In a statement, the airline said: “Emirates is reinstating outbound flights from the UK to Dubai primarily to help return passengers, particularly UAE residents, to get home. Passenger services inbound to the UK remain suspended as per Government directives.”

Last week, the UAE was added to the Government’s travel ban list, leading to the cancellation of 78 services a week.

09:16 AM

UK holiday rental company announces best-ever sales day

Cottages.com property
Cottages.com property

Holiday rental giant cottages.com is predicting a summer staycation sell-out, after recording its best-ever sales day on Sunday.

Bookings were up nearly 20 per cent on the previous record set last June when Boris Johnson lifted UK travel restrictions at the end of the first national lockdown. At that time, the agent’s parent company Awaze sold a break every 11 seconds.

The company took more than 8,000 bookings over the weekend, enjoying consecutive record booking days on Saturday and Sunday.

Nearly half of all holidays sold were for July and August, while nearly a quarter were for getaways in Cornwall and Devon.

Coastal breaks proved popular, with 50 per cent of all weekend bookings featuring a property close to the sea.

Simon Altham, group chief operating officer at Awaze, said: “These are astonishing figures. We saw a rapid increase in bookings last week off the back of the tightening of European travel restrictions, and that momentum only gathered pace over the weekend.

“People clearly want something to look forward to and a future holiday, when it is safe to travel again, is perfect for helping to get through the cold winter months during lockdown.”

09:06 AM

South Africa eases lockdown restrictions

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will loosen its strict lockdown restrictions, due to a reduction in hospitalisations.

In an address on Monday he said: “Public places such as beaches, dams, rivers, parks and public swimming pools will be reopened subject to health protocols.”

He added: “It remains compulsory for all South Africans to wear a mask in a public space.”

Restrictions will also be eased on the sale of alcohol, which was previously banned.

The news follows a flurry of protests in Cape Town at the weekend over the continued closures of beaches, despite a recent drop in cases.

09:03 AM

What happened yesterday?

A recap of the Monday’s main stories.

  • Ryanair Reports Q3 Loss of €306m as Traffic Falls 78%

  • Israel extends nationwide coronavirus lockdown

  • ‘Covid mindset’ blamed as gun seizures at US airports double

  • Rusty pilots admit they are making mistakes because of a lack of flying time

  • Tourist spending in London down by £10 billion in 2020

  • Isle of Man ends lockdown

  • Boris Johnson ‘optimistic’ about summer holiday prospects

  • British tourists fined in Austrian ski resort raids

Now, on with today’s news.

Originally published

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