Portugal is set to be removed from the UK travel corridors list, as Covid-19 cases in the country exceed 20 per 100,000.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Matt Hancock said: “The simple answer is that we follow the data and we make these announcements in an organised way on a Friday lunchtime.
“We are going to publish a further decision tomorrow having looked at the data and I’m not going to pre-judge that.”
The UK’s quarantine on arrivals into the UK is coming under increasing scrutiny, after health officials failed to contact 200 passengers after eight people on board a Wizz Air flight tested positive for coronavirus.
The teenagers, from Hampshire, were diagnosed with Covid-19 after travelling from Crete to London Luton on August 25.
Their positive results should have prompted an urgent response to track the 204 others on board, but Wizz Air said it had not been contacted until the Guardian made it aware of the positive cases.
On Tuesday, Scotland placed Greece on its quarantine list after cases in the country continued to rise. The Welsh Government now advises anyone arriving home from the popular party island of Zante must go into isolation.
The number of cases in Greece is now 14.3 cases per 100,000 over the last seven days – below the threshold of 20 cases, after which a quarantine is considered by the UK Government. Portugal is currently recording 22.7 cases per 100,000.
Scroll below for more updates.
Will Sweden finally get a travel corridor?
Sweden has an average of 9.3 cases per 100,000 (over the last 7 days). The daily cases have been declining in recent weeks, yet the country still has no travel corridor. It has been below the Government’s threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 for weeks now.
The UK’s travel quarantine, explained
How does it work, and who calls the shots?
On March 17, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) advised against all non-essential international travel due to the pandemic and border restrictions put in place by other countries. This was lifted on June 8 but all travellers to the UK were required to self-isolate for 14 days and fill out a passenger locator form.
Border Force carried out, and continue to carry out, spot checks at the border and can refuse entry to non-resident travellers who don’t comply, plus impose a £100 fixed penalty notice on nationals. The data collected from the passenger locator forms is then given to Public Health England to spot check recent passengers, with fines of up to £1,000 if the rules are being flouted.
Charlotte Johnstone explains it all.
Philippines records a new five-week low
The Philippines’ has reported 1,987 new cases of Covid-19 – a five week low – and 65 new deaths.
In a bulletin, the Philippines Health Ministry said the total number of confirmed cases has now increased to 228,403, while confirmed deaths have reached 3,688 – more than 43% of which were reported in the past 30 days.
Families left in the dark over holiday cancellations
One family due to fly to Portugal this weekend now faces the prospect of a second holiday cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions.
Gary Hiles, 34, from Sunderland and his family originally booked to go to Alcudia in Majorca but were forced to cancel after Spain was removed from the list of exempt travel destinations.
They then rebooked to Portugal because the country had recently been added back to the air bridge list.
He said: “We booked in July 2019, it was supposed to be our first family holiday abroad for our children.
“We have an autistic son, who we’ve been trying to prepare him for the holiday, but now we don’t know if we are going or staying. He keeps getting excited about going on a plane. He doesn’t understand why our holiday may be cancelled.”
Mr Hiles said he had been tracking the data on Portugal and didn’t understand why Matt Hancock said a decision on the country would be delayed until Friday.
He added: “There’s nothing stopping people from getting a test when we get back and if it shows negative, then where do we stand? It’s all just one big mess. There’s a lot the Government have got right throughout this, however the aviation side is a massive failure.”
Europe infections back to March levels
Covid-19 cases across Europe are now back to levels seen in March, when the virus first gripped the continent, according to the head of the EU’s public health agency.
“The virus has not been sleeping over the summer. It did not take vacation,” Andrea Ammon said.
There are now 46 cases per 100,000 people in Europe. In March, there were 40 cases per 100,000, peaking at 70 per 100,000 by the end of April.
New cases now mostly involve young people, Ammon said, but she stressed that the re-opening of schools does not necessarily pose a risk.
Malaysia expands banned traveller list to include Britain, US and France
Malaysia has added at least nine more countries, including Britain, the United States and France, to its list of long-term immigration pass holders to be barred from the country, national news wire Bernama reports.
Malaysia’s government on Tuesday said it would from September 7 bar entry of pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines in a bid to curtail imported coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy.
The ban will now include all countries that have reported more than 150,000 coronavirus cases, the report said, citing senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Malaysia, which has reported just 9,374 Covid-19 cases and 128 deaths as of Thursday, has banned tourists and business travelers from entering the country since March, when it imposed strict curbs on movement and commerce to contain the spread.
The move to further tighten entry restrictions follows the discovery of new clusters sparked by infections among returnees and undocumented migrants.
The expanded list also includes Brazil, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Bangladesh.
“We will add more (countries) that are considered high risk,” Ismail Sabri was quoted as saying by Bernama.
Ismail Sabri had earlier said that the ban would include permanent residents, expatriates, students and those on spouse visas and participants of Malaysia’s My Second Home programme.
When can we expect a Government announcement?
In the last three weeks, Grant Shapps has issued a Tweet on a Thursday evening announcing which countries have been removed from or added to the UK’s travel corridors list.
Holidaymakers have then been given approximately 36 hours to return home before 4am on Saturday. It was expected that the Government would follow the same formula this week, following a briefing with the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
However, Matt Hancock said on Sky News today that the announcement would not be made until Friday lunchtime. “We are going to publish a further decision tomorrow having looked at the data and I’m not going to pre-judge that,” he said.
Turkey records three-month high
Yesterday Turkey reported 1,596 cases of Covid-19, the highest count since May 16 (1,610).
However, the country is unlikely to lose its travel corridor in the Government’s weekly review. In the last week, Turkey has recorded 12.5 cases per 100,000. The threshold is 20 cases per 100,000.
‘We are closer to the other side of this crisis every day’ – Cruise boss confident of a return to sea
The head of Royal Caribbean Group has revealed that cruisers won’t have to wait too much longer before setting sail once again with his company.
Speaking to travel agents on a webcast on online trade hub RCL Cares, Richard Fain said he had been heartened by the recent resumption of cruising in Europe: “We’re not through this yet, but there are more bright spots and bits of good news than there have been for quite a while. We are closer to the other side of this crisis every day.”
The chairman and chief executive said that Royal Caribbean is committed to learning from “early efforts” and will “start slowly and methodically” when the brand returns to the high seas.
Read the full report here.
‘Our quarantine laws are an utter mess’
Karol Sikora writes:
“The policy is a total mess. I’ve tried to be fair with my analysis of the Government’s performance, but on quarantine it’s a failure. If people understand why the rules are there and believe they are fair, they’ll follow them.
“But please don’t impose house arrest on hundreds of thousands of people with flimsy explanations and show no apparent desire to find solutions. If our Government showed sense, then we all will too.”
Read his comment piece, here.
Half of holidaymakers would pay for airport tests to sidestep quarantine
More than half of holidaymakers are willing to pay for airport tests to avoid a 14-day quarantine, research for the Telegraph’s Test4Travel campaign has found.
Sixty two per cent support tests on arrival in the UK instead of a 14-day quarantine, and more than half (55 per cent) would pay to have them, according to data compiled for The Telegraph by travel consultancy The PC Agency and market researchers AudienceNet, based on 2,139 respondents.
Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) would prefer a two-part test (with 5 days of self-quarantine in between) above a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Read the full report, here.
How much difference is there, between the travel quarantine policies of England, Scotland and Wales?
Not much. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have almost identical travel corridors lists. You can see the main UK Government official page here, the Welsh one here, the Scottish one here, and the Northern Ireland list here.
The only exception, right now, is that Scotland has imposed a quarantine on all arrivals from Greece, and Wales has imposed a quarantine on all arrivals from the island of Zante.
Earlier in the pandemic, Scotland imposed an ongoing travel quarantine on arrivals from Spain, while the rest of the UK did not. This was due to concerns about the rate of infection in Spain. All home nations now impose a quarantine on arrivals from Spain.
Read more about the complexities around Scottish, English and Welsh travel bans, here.
Will Portugal be removed from the UK’s ‘travel corridors’ list today?
Will UK travellers now have to quarantine when they return from Portugal? Not at the moment – but that may well change this week, Hazel Plush explains.
The UK Government removes a country’s ‘travel corridor’ status – and enforces quarantine measures for returning travellers – if its cases exceed 20 per 100,000 people. Portugal currently has an average of 22.5 cases per 100,000 people.
Of course, Portugal has only just been added to the travel corridor list. It became a ‘safe’ destination on August 20, following a drop in cases to 14.9 per 100,000 – lower than the threshold set by the Government.
However, following the return of visitors to its holiday hotspots, cases in Portugal have risen. There were 22.5 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to September 1, up from 14.6 in the seven days to August 25.
If Portugal’s ‘green’ status is revoked, it will likely be announced on Thursday evening or Friday morning by Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary. In previous weeks, holidaymakers have been given a return deadline of 4am on the following Saturday; if they return after this time, they are required to quarantine on arrival for 14 days.
Greek government accused of fudging coronavirus numbers for island tourist destinations
The Greek government has been accused of covering up the number of coronavirus cases on holiday islands in the Aegean, allegedly buckling under pressure from the tourism industry.
Doctors and opposition MPs say the government has been fudging the numbers by counting people who return from the islands and test positive for Covid-19 tests in Athens, Thessaloniki or other cities as mainland, rather than island, infections.
That has had the effect of bringing down the true number of cases on islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Paros, critics claim.
The government also decided to count infections by region, rather than by individual islands, making it hard to assess the level of infections in some of Greece’s most popular holiday destinations.
Medical centres on islands were told to no longer report their virus statistics locally but to pass them only to regional health authorities.
Read the full report, here.
Greece insists it is safe, as quarantine decision looms
Greece insists it is working hard to keep UK holidaymakers safe as England faces pressure to reimpose quarantine rules on the country.
Tourism minister Harry Theoharis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re doing everything in our power to ensure that every person that comes from the UK is kept safe in Greece. We’re taking specific targeted measures where we see specific concentrations of cases. Measures that have been successful and have been working in the past few days.”
In numbers – how worrying is Greece’s surge in Covid-19 cases?
Beijing allows return of limited international flights
Beijing’s main international airport on Thursday began again receiving international flights from a limited number of countries considered at low risk of coronavirus infection.
Passengers flying in from Cambodia, Greece, Denmark, Thailand, Pakistan, Austria, Canada and Sweden, must have first shown a negative nucleic acid test for coronavirus before boarding, city government spokesperson Xu Hejian told reporters.
Passenger arrivals will be limited to roughly 500 per day during an initial trial period and all will need to undergo additional testing for the virus on arrival, followed by two weeks of quarantine. The first flight under the new arrangement, Air China CA746, arrived from Pnom Penh, Cambodia just before 7am.
China has gone weeks without new cases of local infection and on Thursday recorded 11 cases brought from outside the country. China has recorded a total of 4,634 deaths among 85,077 cases since the virus was first detected.
Read more: Half of holidaymakers would pay for airport tests to sidestep quarantine
Last-minute bookings are on the rise
SkyScanner has released some data on travel booking behaviours in the pandemic era. Here are their findings:
Last-minute trips are trending: 37% of bookings made in the last month for travel from the UK was for trips departing in less than 14 days from the time of booking.
In the last month, 39% of bookings made for travel from the UK was for trips lasting longer than 21 days indicating the emergence of the digital nomad
37% of UK travellers feel that the global travel situation is improving.
Discussing the trends, Senior Legal Director at Skyscanner, Martin Nolan commented:
“Traveller reaction to changing rules and regulations are defining new trends in travel. The traditional two-week break booked six months in advance simply isn’t an option for many people right now, so keen travellers are carving out new ways to keep exploring. Some key trends highlighted in today’s expert discussion were the new ‘short’ breaks; quick getaways which are booked very close to departure to ensure compliance with the latest guidance. This is in line with our data which shows over a third of trips booked in the last month were for departure within two weeks.”
“Another trend which was highlighted was the emergence of the digital nomad. Those with few ties to their home base who decide to ‘work from home’ from a new ‘home’. These lucky travellers are taking longer trips to work and live in a “holiday” destination, maybe a mountain retreat or idyllic hotel by a sandy beach. This is also reflected in our data, with more than a third of bookings made in the last month for trips lasting longer than 21 days.”
How are cases looking in Greece?
A look at the situation in Greece, where cases per 100,000 are currently at 14.3.
The Government is ‘overseeing the demise of UK aviation’
The head of Southampton, Aberdeen and Glasgow airports has accused ministers of “overseeing the demise of UK aviation”.
Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, which runs Southampton, Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, said the sector was seeing more job losses than the demise of the coal industry in the 1980s.
“That’s surely not an accolade any government would like to have,” he said.
John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, said the government needs to change its approach. “I think the government has been very cautious, really focusing on the health crisis and yet we have an unemployment crisis looming.
“The UK government needs to get behind testing as an alternative to quarantine to save millions of jobs in this country,” he said.
Yesterday, Telegraph Travel launched our Test4Travel campaign, pushing for testing on all arrivals in the UK so we can drop the 14-day quarantine.
How are cases looking in Portugal?
Let’s take a look at the rise of Covid-19 cases in Portugal, where cases are currently at 22.7 per 100,000.
What we learnt yesterday
A recap of yesterday’s top stories:
Greece’s infection rate is falling, tourism minister insists
Maldives tightens tourist entry requirements after surge in cases
Scotland imposes virus restrictions on Glasgow
German minister rules out new nationwide coronavirus lockdown
Ireland’s travel ‘green list’ under review, minister says
Australia extends state of emergency
Now, on with today’s stories.