A growing number of countries have imposed bans on travellers arriving from the UK, in response to the more infectious strain of Covid-19 spreading across the UK.
In the last 24 hours, more than 30 countries have announced travel bans. Among those are Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands, plus countries farther afield including Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Thailand.
Other countries have introduced tighter quarantine rules for arrivals from the UK. Anyone arriving into Greece must self-isolate for 7 days, regardless of whether they have a negative Covid-19 result.
The travel bans will affect thousands of British holidaymakers, planning to get away between now and January 1. At a conservative estimate, approximately 250,000 people will be affected, with losses amounting to more than £400 million for the travel industry, according to Paul Charles of travel consultancy The PC Agency.
Aside from the ban on passenger flights, freight transport into and out of the UK has been affected. The Road Haulage Association warned of “enormous disruption” after France closed its borders to lorries arriving from the UK.
Follow all the day’s updates, below.
Where are the UK’s coronavirus hotspots?
A look at where Covid-19 is on the rise, across the UK.
The view from the Middle East: Israel turns away UK arrivals
Israel has turned away foreigners attempting to enter the country from Britain, while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran have also cancelled flights, as Middle Eastern states tighten their restrictions in response to the new strain of coronavirus, James Rothwell reports.
According to the Times of Israel, non-Israeli passport holders were turned away from the UK-Israel flights on Sunday, while Israelis were warned they will need to quarantine at a state-run hotel upon arrival.
“At Luton [airport], check-in was normal, but then they called boarding 1.5 hours early. At the gate, they turned everyone away who had a British passport with permission to enter,” British-Israeli citizen Ellen Steel told the newspaper.
“They then took Israelis aside and explained that the chances were that by the time we were back we’d have to go to a corona hotel but it wasn’t 100 per cent yet. When we landed, someone from the Health Ministry announced we’d all have to go to hotels.”
After arriving in Israel, the passengers were put into quarantine, except a handful who refused and were sent back to the UK.
Israel is entering its third wave of coronavirus and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has reportedly warned his cabinet that a third lockdown may need to be imposed this week.
It came as Saudi Arabia halted all international flights and sealed its borders in response to the mutant strain of the virus discovered in Britain, while Kuwait imposed a similar ban.
Iran has also suspended flights to and from Britain for the next two weeks.
Watch: European countries issue travel bans on the UK
France aims to restart traffic to UK ‘in coming hours’
The French Government has said that that it aims to establish Europe-wide sanitary protocol measures “in the coming hours” to allow the resumption of traffic flows with the United Kingdom
The country’s Transport Minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, said on Twitter:
“In the next few hours, at European level, we’re going to establish a solid health protocol to ensure that movement from the UK can resume. Our priority: to protect our nationals and our fellow citizens.”
EasyJet focused on “getting customers home”
“As a result of several European countries applying travel restrictions to flights leaving the UK some customers may now be unable to travel or may need to change their flights.
“Where flights from the UK are not permitted, easyJet is focused on operating its current schedule into the UK over the coming days to help customers get home.
“Impacted customers have the option of transferring to an alternative flight free of charge, receiving a voucher or receiving a refund. This policy applies as long as the travel ban restrictions are in place. Customers will be notified if their flight is cancelled.
“Due to latest restrictions, we are aiming to make managing flights as easy as possible for customers and so have removed the change fee for flight transfers online via Manage my bookings. We strongly recommend for customers to check the status of their flight and self-serve online, due to the volume of calls currently.
“All other customers can make changes to their booking without incurring a change fee up to 14 days before departure online via Manage Bookings at easyJet.com.”
Travel industry “urgently” needs financial support
An ABTA spokesperson has called for more support for the beleagured travel and tourism sector:
“ABTA has always maintained that public health must, of course, come first. Those due to travel imminently should speak to their travel provider to discuss their options.
“It is clear that travel businesses will need additional support to get through the next few weeks. More than nine months into this crisis, official statistics from the ONS already show that travel is the hardest hit service sector in the UK economy, worse than hospitality and other areas.
“Tailored financial support for the travel industry is long overdue, and must be urgently addressed by the Chancellor in the wake of this announcement. The Scottish Government has recognised this already, and promised funding from January. Other parts of the UK must follow suit without delay.”
What are your rights if your holiday is affected?
If you are due to travel and your trip has been affected by a travel ban you must be refunded by your airline or tour operator.
British Airways said: “Due to the current coronavirus pandemic and changing global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule.
“If your flight is cancelled, we will contact you but please check the status of your flight before travelling to the airport.”
Ryanair added: “For any flights to/from the UK in the coming days which are banned by EU governments’ regulation, all affected customers will receive an email notification and they will be offered practical alternatives including free moves (no change fee applies) or refunds if they so wish.”
Refund reassurance from Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps has Tweeted to reassure anyone with train or coach transport booked between December 23 and 27 that they will get a full refund.
“No-one should be left out of pocket for doing the right thing,” he said.
If you booked a train 🚂 or coach 🚍 journey for the 23rd – 27th travel window (after it was announced), I’ve made sure you’re entitled to a full refund. No-one should be left out of pocket for doing the right thing. Please speak to your operators to find out how to claim.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 21, 2020
What does Tier 4 mean for hotel stays?
Hotels will remain shut unless stays are for ‘essential’ purposes, such as business. Travel in and out of tiers 3 and 4 should be avoided, and pubs and bars must close completely there.
Restaurants are allowed to remain open for takeaway only, so if you were staying at a hotel for an ‘essential’ reason, the restaurant would likely only be doing room service.
Chaotic scenes at Heathrow Airport as travellers rush to beat EU travel ban
Huge queues formed at Heathrow Airport as travellers rushed to avoid travel bans on arrivals from the UK.
India becomes latest country to ban UK arrivals
India has banned UK arrivals, due to the spread of the new strain of Covid-19.
The travel ban will be effective between now and December 31.
Considering the prevailing situation in UK. Govt. of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December 2020 (23.59 hours).
— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) December 21, 2020
Eden Project closes after flooding and landslides
The Eden Project has been forced to close for safety reasons after torrential rain caused a series of landslides at the site.
Nearly half a month’s worth of rain fell in a single day in and around the botanical attraction in Cornwall on Sunday.
Despite the “significant damage” caused by the three landslips none of the biomes housing the rare plants had been affected, according to site officials.
Read the full report here.
Today is the Winter Solstice
To take a momentary break from Brexit and Covid misery, today is the winter solstice and people braved the cold to capture the sunrise in full glory this morning. Here’s a look at some of the most beautiful shots on Twitter, in the UK and beyond.
The pound plunges
The FTSE and pound have plunged following Brexit no-deal fears and the UK travel ban.
Follow all the latest on our Business Live Blog, here.
“The English Virus”
One of Italy’s leading daily newspapers is describing the new strain of Covid-19, which has now been detected in Italy, as “The English Virus”.
Canada bans UK flights for 72 hours
In North America, the Canadian Prime Minister said late last night that the country will ban all UK flights for 72 hours due to the new Sars-Cov-2 variant thought to be spreading widely in south-east England.
This afternoon, I convened a meeting with the Incident Response Group. We focused on the new variant of COVID-19 identified in the UK, and we have decided to implement new border restrictions in order to keep you – and people right across the country – safe.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 21, 2020
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet that those who had already arrived from Britain on Sunday would be subject to secondary screenings and other “advanced measures”.
Tier 4 rules having far-reaching consequences for UK hospitality
Robin Hutson, CEO of The Pig Hotel and Limewood Hotel, has tallied the impact that the Tier 4 restrictions has taken on his businesses.
I’ll be spending Christmas Day alone’
“Well, it’s settled. I shall spend this Christmas Day alone (but for my dog) Bridget Jones-style, wearing pajamas and a sad paper hat, quite possibly drunk, calling the people I love as the sprouts and potatoes rot in the larder,” writes Annabel Fenwick-Elliott.
“Like millions of others, I was abruptly shunted into Tier 4 at midnight last night. My mother and grandmother seriously considered packing their bags and high-tailing it from their homes in London across the motorway to Essex, where they’d planned to spend Christmas with me, before the clock struck 12.
“I live alone, in an isolated countryside abode, which is undoubtedly a far safer place to be over the next week for my 86-year-old grandmother, who otherwise resides in a busy retirement block in the capital.
“Ultimately, my mother decided against it, on the basis of Professor Chris Whitty’s suggestion last night that all those with similar mad-dash endeavours should ‘unpack their bags’.”
Read Annabel’s situation, here.
Norway bans flights from the UK
Flights from Britain to Norway will be suspended with immediate effect for a minimum of 48 hours due to concerns over a new strain of coronavirus, the Norwegian health minister has said.
In the last 24 hours, more than 30 countries have announced travel bans. Among those are Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands, plus countries farther afield including Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Spain mulls UK travel ban and insists vaccine remains effective
Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, has spoken about the new Sars-Cov-2 variant in a radio interview, James Badcock reports.
He said it had not yet been detected in Spain and assured the public that “the vaccine is also effective against the new strain detected in the UK”.
In terms of banning travel from the UK, he said Spain was still considering how to react, adding that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez remains determined to promote a pan-EU response.
How the new strain is spreading across the UK
Entire EU could ban UK arrivals
Italy has detected a patient infected with the new strain of coronavirus that was found in Britain, the health ministry said on Sunday night.
The patient and his partner returned to Italy from the UK in the last few days on a flight that landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and were now in isolation, the ministry said.
It came as the European Union was scrambling to unify its response to the strain that has seen countries close borders ahead of the Christmas holidays.
The 27-member bloc will hold a crisis meeting on Monday in an effort to coordinate the travel restrictions and avoid the spread of the new strain, which may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than its predecessor and may already be present in several countries.
Read the full report here.
How do our Christmas restrictions compare with other countries?
A look at how other countries around the world are handling Covid rules over Christmas.
Which countries have banned UK arrivals?
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) Twitter feed has announced that the following countries have banned UK arrivals, due to the new strain of Covid-19.
Other countries to have made announcements on banning UK arrivals include:
We will keep you updated as and when more countries make announcement throughout the day.
The new rules, crunched
Here, a quick look at what the major holiday destinations banning UK travel are saying:
France said on Sunday it would halt all travel from Britain for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday including journeys “related to goods transport by road, air, sea or rail”. The ban on all but unaccompanied freight comes as companies scramble to shift merchandise across the Channel with days to go until Britain finally quits EU trade structures. Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said the 48-hour period would offer time to coordinate a joint EU response that would ultimately allow travel from the UK to resume “with compulsory testing on departure”.
Germany will halt all air links with the UK from midnight on Sunday, with the ban initially slated to last until December 31, Health Minister Jens Spahn told ARD public television. Cargo flights will be exempt. A government source said Berlin is already “working on measures” to extend the suspension into January, when the end of Britain’s post-Brexit transition period means it will no longer be covered by EU rules that enable the flight ban.
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he had signed a decree “which blocks flights from Great Britain and prohibits entry into Italy of people who have stayed there during the last 14 days”. Anyone already in Italy who recently travelled from Britain must be tested for coronavirus, the statement added. The new virus strain has been found in one person in Italy who recently returned from Britain, the health ministry said.
Dublin said in a statement that all flights arriving from Britain from midnight on Sunday would be banned for at least 48 hours.
Port of Dover terminal closed
The Port of Dover terminal is closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice.
The Port of Dover ferry terminal is now closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice. Operation Stack phase 2 has now been implemented.
— Port of Dover Travel (@PoD_travelnews) December 20, 2020
“Come home as early as you can,” says Travel expert
Rory Boland of Which? Travel has advised UK people abroad to come home early.
He Tweeted: “For UK folks abroad it’s worth coming home early if you can. Many airlines have flex policies, allowing date changes, although this may be expensive.
“Crucial, that if your flight is cancelled you don’t accept a refund. This ends the airlines responsibility for getting you back.”
Here’s Rory giving the lowdown on BBC Breakfast this morning.
Tier 4 till Easter?
Tier 4 restrictions could be toughened further and remain in place until close to Easter, Government sources have admitted.
Ministers believe at least 20 million people will need to have been vaccinated against coronavirus before any significant relaxing of the measures can be considered, it is understood.
Matt Hancock said on Sunday that Britain faces a “very difficult” few months, warning that the spread of the virus across swathes of England is now “out of control”.
He also refused to rule out closing schools for the first time since the original spring lockdown.
Police chiefs warned that the ban on people getting together for Christmas in Tier 4 is “unenforceable” despite stepping up patrols at rail stations and on borders to stop the spread of the new strain of the virus.
Read the full report here.
What do the new Tier 4 rules mean for overseas travel?
Those in Tier 4 areas will not be permitted to travel abroad apart from limited exceptions, such as for work purposes. The Government has not specified fines for travelling against the rules of your Tier. However, the Home Office told Telegraph Travel that fines are already in place for those who break the rules.
The updated Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) advice states:
“Following identification of a new variant of the virus, international travel from your area may be increasingly restricted because of domestic regulations. Different rules apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“For example, those in Tier 4 areas in England will not be permitted to travel abroad apart from limited exceptions, such as work purposes.”
Here’s everything you need to know about what Tier 4 means for travel.
Eurostar halts services
Eurostar has Tweeted to say it will not be operating between London and Paris, as France shuts its border to UK arrivals.
Following the announcement by the French government that the border with the UK will close at midnight tonight, we will only be able to run trains from Paris to London for the 21st-22nd December: https://t.co/j83tSSSVIC
— Eurostar (@Eurostar) December 20, 2020
What happened over the weekend?
A quick re-cap of the weekend’s top stories.
Tier 4 restrictions come into force for over 16 million people
Wales enters lockdown
Travel banned between Scotland and the rest of the UK
US could lift UK travel ban as early as next week
Virgin Atlantic and BA refuse won’t refund Tier 4 customers
Now, on with today’s news.