The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has defended the UK Government’s decision to maintain England’s travel corridors with Portugal and Greece, despite Scotland and Wales reintroducing travel restrictions.
This week the English, Welsh and Scottish quarantine policies have split. Scotland has imposed a quarantine on Greece, while Wales has placed a number of Greek islands on its ‘red list’. England, however, retains its travel corridor with the country.
The situation intensified yesterday, when Scotland and Wales moved to impose a quarantine on mainland Portugal, shortly after Grant Shapps announced Portugal would keep its travel corridor with England.
Mr Shapps admitted that the difference in quarantine policies is “confusing”, as Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye spoke out to denounce the Government U-turns and disparate policies as a “quarantine roulette”.
Acknowledging that disparities in the UK’s quarantine policies are baffling holidaymakers, Mr Shapps also stressed there was little he could do for desperate Welsh and Scottish travellers, who have been left with the challenge of getting home before the quarantine rules come into force.
“You are quite accustomed to seeing, for example, Scotland do one thing and say you can meet with so many people and Wales do another and so on and so forth,” he told Sky News.
“The travel corridors are similar to that and I do realise that it creates confusion for people not to have a single rule but we do have this devolved approach throughout the UK.
“I can only be responsible for the English part of that.”
Critics have spoken out against the quarantine policy debacle. Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy PC Agency, said: “The quarantine policy is in tatters and dividing the United Kingdom.
“Consumers are totally confused by the different approaches and it’s impossible to understand the Government’s own criteria any more, on when to add or remove a country.”
Scroll down for the latest updates
Open up Caribbean travel with airport testing, says travel trade organisation
More and more travel firms and trade bodies are joining The Telegraph in its call for airport testing to replace quarantine. The Caribbean Tourism Organization UK Chapter is among the latest to voice its support for the Test4Travel campaign.
A company statement reads:
“The CTO Chapter UK & Europe supports the Test4Travel campaign. The Caribbean is incredibly popular with the British market and our members are keen to welcome visitors and holidaymakers once more. Whilst many are operating as normal some destinations are still unable to open due to travel restrictions. A more comprehensive testing programme would provide a way forward based on science and fact and would take a more accurate approach than the current system in place.”
Argentina eyeing October restart for international flights
Since April, Argentinians have been labouring under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, with a blanket ban on all international commercial flights for the past four months.
But air travel in and out of the country could soon resume after a Ministry of Travel source revealed that plans are under way to finally lift the ban.
The Ministry of Health has now approved safety protocols for airlines to follow (a stipulation made by the government in order for lockdown to be lifted), with final approval pending from President Alberto Fernandez.
“In the next few days, we will be able to announce the return of international flights,” said Transport Minister Mario Meoni. “All this takes time because scheduling flights is not easy.”
Famous ski festival to return next year… but without the wild antics
Tickets for Europe’s longest-running ski festival, Snowbombing, have gone on sale today, but keen festival-goers used to the event’s notoriously wild apres antics can expect a change of pace, reports Lucy Aspden.
Festival bosses have revealed it will offer a more ‘refined’ experience in April 2021 when it returns to the Austrian resort of Mayrhofen, with reduced capacity and an emphasis on daytime cultural activities and events, rather than 24-hour parties. The event, along with a number of other winter festivals, was forced to cancel its 2020 edition as the pandemic spread across the ski resorts of Europe.
“With a shifting focus towards daytime activities and outdoor partying, Snowbombers are encouraged to make the most of the stunning mountain vistas that Mayrhofen has to offer and fully embrace local culture, cuisine, and a whole host of on and off piste activities on offer for 2021,” organisers announced in statement.
The change of focus hasn’t deterred Snowbombing fans though – the festival has reported a record-number of early-bird tickets and accommodation packages sold. General sale tickets for Snowbombing 2021 have gone on sale today.
Eurostar cuts out Kent stations until 2022
The Eurostar will not call at Ashford International or Ebbsfleet stations until at least 2022 following an “unprecedented” fall in bookings.
The company has already had to scale back its timetable in an effort to keep costs down, but the decision to keep the Kent stations closed for another year has raised fears of imminent job losses.
A Eurostar spokesperson said: “Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the travel industry and on our business and we continue to operate in very challenging conditions. We have experienced an unprecedented fall in demand, with bookings down by 90% compared to last year.
“Given the uncertain outlook, it is crucial that we adapt and take action to reduce our costs so that we protect our business for the future.”
‘Scotland jumped the gun on Greece quarantine’, says Shapps
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has taken aim at Scotland’s decision to place Greece back on the quarantine list, claiming that Holyrood has “jumped the gun.”
Effective from today, travellers arriving in Scotland from anywhere in Greece must enter self-isolation for 14 days after several new cases were traced back to Greek holiday resorts.
“On Wednesday the Scots – without using the joint bio-security centre data for this particular decision – decided that people from Greece would be excluded, and jumped the gun on that.
“It is their right to do it but it doesn’t make the overall message any clearer.”
The Scottish government has asserted that its decision was based on the available scientific evidence.
Dozens descend on plane food pop-up
After months craving in-flight meals, more than a hundred diners have flocked to a new pop-up restaurant in Bangkok that specialises in ‘plane food’.
Created by Thai Airways (whose fleet of aircraft is still largely grounded), and located in the company HQ’s cafeteria, the restaurant has been mocked up to resemble a plane cabin, with cabin crew on hand to greet visitors.
The Thai flag carrier is currently locked in a fight against bankruptcy after months of grounded services, and it is hoped that the restaurant, which serves around 2,000 meals a day, will help alleviate some of the financial burden.
85% of UK travellers more likely to fly abroad if airport testing is introduced
The overwhelming majority of Britons would feel more confident in travelling overseas if airport testing was in place at UK airports, Skyscanner has revealed.
The online travel agency surveyed 1,175 of its UK users, with 85% responding in favour of a Covid-19 testing programme to replace quarantine.
Pledging its support to The Telegraph’s Test4Travel campaign, the company released a statement saying:
“Skyscanner welcomes suggestions of a proposal to introduce airport testing measures, which would be a great step towards restoring confidence for UK travellers considering booking a trip abroad. Our data shows changing rules around travel have made travellers more reluctant to plan a holiday abroad to destinations which might have quarantine restrictions imposed on them.
“Traveller health and safety is of course paramount, and we hope to see more initiatives like this to reassure travellers and restore some much-needed stability to the travel industry.”
No Australia cruises until end of the year
Cruising isn’t on the cards for those Down Under after the Australian government extended its ban on cruise ships in its water until December 17, reports Benjamin Parker.
The move effectively cancels the country’s cruise season. Australia, which has seen 26,049 cases of Covid-19 and 678 deaths, introduced a ban on cruise ship operations on March 27, meaning ships with 100 or more passengers were forbidden from docking at the nation’s ports. The 28 international vessels that were in its water at the time were escorted away by the Australian Border Force.
The country’s Department for Health said: “At this time, there has been no date set for the resumption of either larger domestic or international cruises.”
‘Quarantine is worse than lockdown’
Lebby Eyres had to go into quarantine after a holiday in France, and says it’s even worse than lockdown.
“In reality, the effect of being imprisoned in the house has come as a shock, both physically and mentally. Not being allowed out at all feels very different. During lockdown, I made the most of my allotted exercise time, walking miles across London. But now, my physical activity has come to a grinding halt.”
Read her full opinion piece, here.
Recovery plan to stop London from becoming ‘tumbleweed city’
Centre for London has just published a report setting out how to bring London back to life, Juliet Rix reports.
Its Recovery Plan for the West End suggests landowners, local and central government work together to create ‘London Fringe’ events on the streets of the West End, artist and brand residencies and distanced performances in larger empty premises, more space for outdoor eating, tax breaks for new businesses, extensions of the cycle hire schemes, and a culture voucher akin to Eat Out to Help Out to bring audiences back once indoor performances resume.
This could also put performances in reach of lower income Londoners, including the half whose disposable income has fallen in the pandemic and 28 per cent who say they are now struggling to make ends meet.
Read the full report, here.
‘The Government’s Portugal travel corridor debacle is the final straw’
Our reporter in the Algarve, Mary Lussiana, writes:
“There are some who say the Government wants to give Portugal an extra week to get their numbers down. Others who think that with the Government having given Portugal the green light just two weeks earlier, resulting in a rush of bookings in the Algarve – 190 per cent up and for the first time this summer 100 per cent occupancy for many – they would face an outcry if they did yet another U-turn and said it was now no longer safe.
“As a resident of the Algarve, I would go further and say maybe those who decided looked closely enough at where the hot spots (and we are talking viral heat rather than meteorological) are and saw that they are in areas far, far north of the Algarve, which are not frequented by British tourists, and therefore leaving people to their holidays was safe.
“But what this whole situation has exposed is yet again how the Government’s quarantine policy undermines any efforts by the travel industry to soldier on. People who were poised to get some later summer sun in Portugal this coming week will be nervous about going ahead with their trip, concerned that if quarantine hasn’t been imposed this week, it will be next. Confidence has been destroyed.”
Read her full report, here.
A look at the ‘traffic light’ quarantine table
A look at today’s numbers (the UK is now, by our own criteria, ‘amber’)
How are cases looking in Greece and Portugal
There has been a lot of talk about cases rising in Greece and Portugal. So how are things looking?
In Greece, there are now 13.7 cases per 100,000.
In Portugal, there are now 23.1 cases per 100,000.
Testing at UK airports ‘essential’
Headwater Walking & Cycling Holidays has joined the Test4Travel campaign, pointing to the devastation caused to thousands of holidaymakers in Spain and France by sudden quarantine announcements, and urging the Government to replace the policy with a thorough airport testing programme.
The company said in a statement:
“Headwater fully supports the Telegraph’s Test for Travel campaign. The introduction of a mandatory quarantine with little warning, as was the case for those arriving from Spain and France, is devastating for our customers. It is essential to initiate testing at all UK airports and ports so that the nation can feel confident in travelling again safely.”
‘Millennials have determinedly forgotten the flight-free movement like a bad Tinder date’
My carbon footprint has never been this abstemious, but here’s the thing: “responsible travel” felt a whole lot more gratifying when it was a choice, says Anna Hart. In 2019, going flight-free was a millennial badge of honour. Now it’s just boring. In 2019, shunning package trips abroad in favour of staycations seemed quirky and woke. Now it’s bog-standard. I’m happy for the planet and everything, but damn, I miss feeling special!
So even as a traveller determined to embrace a life of low-impact, responsible tourism, I can understand my fellow millennials who have determinedly forgotten the flight-free movement like a bad Tinder date, and lost their head for numbers when it comes to counting carbon. Sorry, Greta Thunwho?
Read the full article
Greek tourism minister lashes out at Scotland & Wales quarantine decisions
The Greek Minister for Tourism, Harry Theoharis, has criticised the UK’s ‘mixed bag’ of quarantine rules after his country was removed from the Scottish and Welsh ‘safe lists’ earlier this week.
Scotland is now enforcing quarantine on all travellers arriving from Greece after several new cases were traced back to Greek holiday resorts, while Wales has imposed restrictions on seven Greek islands.
England and Northern Ireland are maintaining their travel corridors with Greece for the time being.
Mr Theoharis told BBC Breakfast:
“The latest news is a mixed bag in the sense that England did not change the rules. Every country has a right to protect their citizens the best way they see fit. There’s no doubt about that.
“What we’re saying and what we’re maintaining is that according to the rules that the UK has said, the 20 cases in the last week per 100,000 population, we’re well below that. If anything we’re moving in the right direction and lowering the figure.”
‘Bring in Covid testing for Eurostar passengers’
Peter Liney, CEO Great Rail Journeys, has called for the UK Government to introduce Covid-19 testing across all forms of transport – including the Eurostar – as he pledges his support for the Test4Travel campaign.
“The Government policy on quarantine has been inconsistent and confusing from the onset, with us now facing weekly ‘in and out’ announcements causing both chaos and great cost across the travel industry. Thousands of jobs are being lost as the debacle of quarantine systematically undermines any hope of our sector’s recovery. This blunt instrument of blanket quarantines must stop.
“We’re very much in support of The Telegraph’s Test4Travel initiative and we concur that people will be willing to pay a small fee if it will open up their ability to travel more freely, while of course still acting responsibly. We must stress that this should be applied across all modes of travel and not just at airports. We would like to see this same policy applied when returning into St Pancras following travel on the Eurostar for example.”
‘It is a bit confusing’, says Shapps
Grant Shapps has admitted the baffling situation that UK travellers now face as Scotland and Wales close their travel corridors with Portugal, while England and Northern Ireland leave theirs open.
“I do realise it creates confusion for people not to have a single rule but we do have this devolved approach throughout the United Kingdom and I can only be responsible for the English part of that,” he said.
What Britain can learn from Iceland’s airport testing strategy
The Covid test I was given at Iceland’s Keflavik airport was impressively quick and relatively painless. A dozen or so tiny labs were set up at the exit portals after passport control, at which a pair of efficient and friendly medical staff inserted swabs into each nose and throat, says Paul Sullivan.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t smart a little, but five hours later I received a text giving me the all-clear and was then free to roam the country freely – and without a mask.
That was back in June, shortly after the country opened up to tourism again after closing its borders on March 20. Back then, there was also a 14-day quarantine option, though who wants to go on holiday only to potentially be trapped in their hotel room for two weeks?
Read the full story
Air Canada launches Covid-19 testing in desperate bid to restart travel
Passengers arriving at Toronto Airport are being asked to volunteer for a coronavirus testing programme, launched by Air Canada as it campaigns for the Canadian government to reopen borders.
Participants will take a PCR test on arrival, with two follow-up tests to determine the number of infected travellers coming into the country.
Canada is currently closed to all non-citizens (except essential workers) and all who travel into the country must quarantine for 14 days.
Test4Travel campaign gains pace as industry voices support
Adventure holiday specialist Exodus Travels has joined the growing list of travel firms endorsing the Telegraph’s Test4Travel campaign, arguing that the UK should ditch quarantine in favour of airport testing.
The company released an official statement saying:
“Exodus supports the Test4Travel campaign. It’s vital that we find a way of navigating the current situation to ensure that we are still able to travel. The quickest and safest way to ensure this is by increasing testing.”
Read more about the campaign here
Where can we cruise as travel restrictions are lifted? The best holidays to book now
The travel corridors are opening (and sometimes closing again), and for many the bags will already be packed. But where can Britons go on a cruise?
Dave Monk has the answers
‘Travellers will lose trust in FCO advice’
The aforementioned Derek Jones has also issued a warning that the use of FCO advice to control Covid-19 risks causing irreparable harm to a service used by travellers for decades.
With England, Scotland and Wales taking contradictory stances on travel rules for Portugal and Greece, do the UK-wide advisories cease to be relevant?
Using FCO advice to control Covid is undermining a system that’s been trusted by travellers for decades.
Now we have UK wide FCO advice combined with different quarantine advice from Wales and Scotland.
It’s simply untenable to continue like this.
— Derek Jones (@Degsy_DJ) September 4, 2020
Top travel chief declares support for Test4Travel campaign
Derek Jones, the CEO of Kuoni parent company DER Touristik UK, has joined the Telegraph’s campaign for airport testing to replace the UK’s harmful quarantine rules.
“This campaign has my full backing. Whilst no doubt well-intentioned, the increasingly haphazard application of quarantine has left the travel industry on its knees.
“We have to find a better way to facilitate overseas travel when the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people are at stake. Testing has to be part of the solution. We need to set ourselves an ambitious target to have a robust system in place before the end of the year.”
‘Put down the sledgehammer, pick up the scalpel and let’s have a route by route approach to this’
The Welsh Government’s decision to only quarantine people coming back from certain Greek islands and not all of Greece shows that a more forensic approach to travel policy is possible, says Southend Airport CEO, Glyn Jones.
The islands of Crete, Zakynthos, Mykonos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos have been placed on the Welsh quarantine list, but arrivals from other parts of Greece do not currently need to self-isolate.
‘Blanket quarantine’ has been strongly criticised by large parts of the travel industry, with many claiming that regions with low infection rates (such as the Canary Islands or the Algarve) are being unfairly punished due to much higher rates in urban areas.
“Put down the sledgehammer, pick up the scalpel & let’s have a route by route approach to this.”
Southend Airport CEO Glyn Jones says Wales’ decision to only quarantine people coming back from certain Greek Islands and not all of Greece shows it can be done. JM#KayBurley pic.twitter.com/jEIE4QyxZL
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) September 4, 2020
Return of sea-going cruises to Scotland praised as “absolutely seamless”
The Majestic Line became the first sea-going cruise company since the start of the pandemic to start sailing in British waters on Saturday when two of its boats departed for the Hebridean Isles, reports Sara Macefield.
Until then, only yachting companies had restarted operations, including Scotland-based Red Moon Cruises, with its four-berth yacht, and the classic yachts and historical tall ships of West Country-based company VentureSail.
Ken Grant, Majestic’s managing director and also an experienced epidemiologist, described Saturday’s departures as “absolutely seamless” when guests arrived in Oban to board its vessels Glen Shiel and Glen Etive for six-night cruises to the isles of Skye and Mull.
Read the full story
Spain and Croatia holidays cancelled for rest of summer
Jet2holidays has suspended all holidays to mainland Spain and Croatia until November.
The announcement comes two weeks after quarantine restrictions were reimposed on both countries following a series of spikes in coronavirus infections.
The travel agent has confirmed that all customers with existing bookings will be refunded in full.
UK quarantine policy ‘in tatters’
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has criticised the confusion surrounding restrictions for Portugal following the decision by Wales and Scotland to remove the country from their respective ‘green lists’.
“The quarantine policy is in tatters and dividing the United Kingdom.
“Consumers are totally confused by the different approaches and it’s impossible to understand the Government’s own criteria any more on when to add or remove a country.”
Virgin Atlantic throws support behind Telegraph’s Test4Travel campaign
Global airline Virgin Atlantic has announced its support for the Telegraph’s Test4Travel campaign, calling for Covid-19 testing on all arrivals at UK airports to replace the 14-day quarantine period.
Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss, said:
“Britain’s economic recovery depends on the rapid revival of international air travel. That requires the introduction of a robust passenger testing regime as an alternative to quarantine, to protect public health, enable safe travel and open up the skies. One in 10 jobs globally rely on it. There are practical challenges but with government and industry working together they can be overcome.
Many countries have already pressed ahead and introduced a form of passenger testing, including 19 countries in Europe. If we don’t act now, Britain will be left behind and 500,000 UK jobs, reliant on travel and tourism, will be at further risk.”
A recap on yesterday’s main headlines
Here’s what happened:
“No updates” to England’s travel corridors list, says Grant Shapps
Spain sees highest cases since March 20
Holidaymakers in Portugal could be left with 12 hours to get home if Government announces quarantine
Half of holidaymakers would pay for airport tests to sidestep quarantine
Greek government accused of fudging coronavirus numbers for island tourist destinations
The Government is ‘overseeing the demise of UK aviation’