Overseas holidays are banned under UK law from today as new legislation comes into force – the tightened rules begin as the Government is expected to review the list of “red list” countries, from which direct flights are banned.
It is now illegal to leave the UK without a “reasonable excuse” and anyone who travels to a port or airport with the aim of travelling abroad could face fines of up to £5,000. The ban will remain in place until June 30, although it could be changed in order to permit foreign travel after May 17.
It comes into effect following the news that a four-tier traffic light system could save summer holidays, with the Government considering a plan submitted by Heathrow Airport. Airlines, including BA, Virgin, EasyJet and Ryanair, said that under this plan “green tier” countries should have no restrictions.
Red list countries would remain under the proposed system and ministers are to discuss on Tuesday if France should be added after Oliver Dowden hinted that the “very worrying” third Covid wave in Europe could prevent holidays abroad this summer.
Mr Dowden said there were “challenges” with resuming international travel. “You only have to look across the continent and see the rising case rates in many of our nearest neighbours,” he told Time Radio on Sunday.
Scroll down for the latest travel updates.
Snap lockdown ordered in Australia’s Brisbane after virus outbreak
More than two million people in Brisbane were ordered into a three-day lockdown Monday after a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected in Australia’s third-biggest city.
It is the second snap lockdown of the greater Brisbane area this year, and comes after seven people tested positive for Covid-19 – the first significant community outbreak in Australia in weeks.
“This is the UK strain. It is highly infectious. We need to do this now to avoid a longer lockdown,” Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“We’ve seen what’s happened in other countries. I don’t want to see that happen to Queensland, I don’t want to see that happen to Australia.”
Palaszczuk said lockdowns would “be part of the Australian way of life until everyone is vaccinated”.
Refund credit notes extended until April 30
ATOLhas extended the validity period for issuing refund credit notes by one month, to 30 April.
The Air Travel Trust has made the decision to provide a short-term extension to issuing ATOL protected refund credit notes (RCNs), up to 30 April 2021. The current expiry date for ATOL protection of RCNs is still 30 September 2021.
This means that consumers whose package holiday bookings are cancelled continue to be able to safely accept a refund credit note where it is suitable for them. However, passengers are entitled to a cash refund for a cancelled package holiday if they do not want to accept a refund credit note.
Matt Hancock: Travelling to see friends and family ‘absolutely fine’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV’s This Morning people should aim to minimise travel but could travel in England to see family and friends.
“We’re saying that you should minimise travel but if you want to travel to see friends and family then that is absolutely fine.
“For instance, I haven’t been home to Suffolk since November.
“I’m planning to go this weekend, but only go for the day because there’s no overnight stays, but I’m going to go for the day on Easter Sunday.
“I’m going to see friends in Suffolk outdoors, and then come back again.”
Have your say: Where will you be going on holiday this summer?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said “the door is not shut” on foreign holidays this summer, but encouraged people to plan for breaks in the UK. Vote in our poll to let us know where you’ll be taking a much-needed holiday.
France on the red list? Visit the ‘Provence of England’ instead
Lavender fields, vineyards and hill climbs to rival the Tour de France – Surrey offers a slice of Provence on home soil, writes Christopher Winn.
As the Government contemplates adding France to its ‘red list’, British holidaymakers are being urged to turn their attention to holidays on home soil this summer. For anyone looking for a slice of Provence, look no further than Surrey.
For starters, Surrey is wine country:
Boasting England’s largest vineyard, Denbies, just outside Dorking and England’s smallest vineyard, the Albury Vineyard, whose Silent Pool rose was served aboard the Royal Barge during the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant.
Indeed, the natural diversity and abundance of the Surrey countryside, much of it designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), persuaded the Royal Horticultural Society to create their flagship garden at Wisley in 1903, while the pioneering garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, from whom family friend Robert Louis Stevenson took the name for Dr Jekyll of Jekyll and Hyde, lived and worked predominantly in Surrey.
Two more cruise lines launch UK cruises
The fleet of cruise ships sailing around Britain just keeps getting bigger, with two more lines offering domestic voyages this summer, reports Benjamin Parker.
Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Silhouette will begin Southampton departures from July 3, with a series of trips lasting between six and eight nights, stopping at ports on England’s south and west coasts as well as Northern Ireland and Scotland. The itineraries are only open for those fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the president and chief executive of Celebrity Cruises, said the new sailings were not only “extremely significant” to the operator “but also to the local tourism industry.”
And over-50s specialists Saga are also joining the action with four all-inclusive itineraries on Spirit of Discovery as well as the inaugural voyage of Spirit of Adventure, which will depart Tilbury on July 26. As with Celebrity, Saga will only sail with vaccinated passengers; it was the first cruise line to impose a vaccination requirement.
39pc of UK hotel bookings being cancelled
Cancellations for UK hotel bookings were up 19.3 per cent between January and March year-on-year, with 39.3 per cent of all hotel bookings now being cancelled, according to research by hotel room offer platform Hoo.
The lockdown has led to cancelled bookings for stays in the first few months of 2021, but hotels in the UK and Europe could see cancellations increase this summer amid Covid uncertainty and guests hedging their bets by double booking.
Adrian Murdock, co-founder of Hoo, said:
We’ve all been keeping our fingers firmly crossed that a holiday of some shape or form will be on the cards this year. Unfortunately, we still find ourselves unable to travel for even a weekend away, and so many are finding that their plans are once again having to be cancelled.
This has caused a sharp uplift in the percentage of hotel booking cancellations so far this year and we expect this to climb further still over the course of the summer.
However, it’s not just Covid that will drive this figure skywards. Hoteliers have already spoken about what they see as a growing trend whereby holidaymakers are booking multiple venues, both here and abroad, with the intention of cancelling the least desirable at the last minute.
Britons should have ‘great holidays here’, says Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock has Britons should be looking forward to having “great holidays here”
The Health Secretary told ITV’s This Morning that the advice was “you should minimise travel, but if you want to travel to see friends and family then that is absolutely fine”.
Mr Hancock reiterated his plans to go on holiday in the UK, saying: “I can’t wait. I love this country, I’ve had my holiday booked since last year..
“I’m very confident that we’re going to have a great British summer, we’re going to have great holidays here, cases are coming right down.”
Matt Hancock: ‘Door is not shut’ on foreign holidays this summer
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said “the door is not shut” on international travel this summer, and more evidence on how vaccines work against variants will be known in the next few weeks.
He told ITV’s This Morning the “biggest problem” was from variants, adding: “We’re also working on a new vaccine that we might have to roll out in the autumn to give people a third dose that will deal with this problem. So we’re working on that now.”
Asked if current vaccines might work against the South African and Brazilian variants, he said: “We’re not yet sure, but we’re doing the science in Porton Down, and watching very closely, and if that all goes well, then we haven’t got a problem and then we’ll be much more relaxed about international travel. We will know more over the next few weeks.”
Mr Hancock said he had a “lot of sympathy” for the travel industry, adding: “We all want to get that going as soon as possible but the most important thing is to protect the recovery here at home, so people can see their loved ones and don’t have to go into lockdown again.”
Hong Kong to reduce quarantine for some overseas arrivals
The quarantine period for arrivals to Hong Kong from countries considered low to medium risk, including Singapore, Australia, will be reduced to 14 days, down from 21, according to food and health secretary Sophia Chan.
Arrivals from destinations that are considered high risk, which includes the UK, will still be subject to a 21-day isolation period. Ms Chan said the government was also aiming to bring back Hong Kong residents who have been stranded in Britain from late April after the government banned flights from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong in December.
The administration is also to relax some local rules following a drop infections: beaches and swimming pools will reopen from April 1, religious gatherings will be able to resume with maximum capacity of 30 per cent and cinemas and theme parks would be able to increase capacity to 75 per cent from 50 per cent.
Thailand to partially open to vaccinated tourists on July 1
The Thai island of Phuket is set to be the first part of the country to welcome back vaccinated visitors.
A pilot programme will start in Phuket on July 1, allowing tourists who have received two jabs (if they also test negative on arrival) to visit the island without undergoing quarantine.
They will be taken from the airport to their hotel for their test. If they test negative, they will be allowed to move freely around the island. After seven days, they will be permitted to travel elsewhere in Thailand.
Thailand is prioritising residents of Phuket in its vaccine programme. It wants 70 per cent of the island’s population to be immunised before tourism resumes. Quarantine rules will still apply for those arriving to other parts of the country, although the quarantine period is set to be reduced to 10 days from April 1. Other parts of the country are set to welcome vaccinated visitors, without a quarantine requirement, from October.
Chiravadee Khunsub, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in London, said:
Our core market is 50-plus years old and this age group, according to UK government goals, is set to be fully vaccinated by the summer.We look forward to welcoming them in the first wave of arrivals. Phuket has been Covid-19 free for 90 days so it is a safe choice for UK travellers looking to get away this summer. People under 50 who have received both doses of a vaccine, such as health and care workers, will also be able to travel.
Cheaper tests must be ‘at the top of Gov’s travel agenda’
Rory Boland, travel editor at consumer group Which?, says reducing the prohibitive testing costs in place for a trip overseas and launching vaccine passports must be among the priorities of the Global Travel Taskforce. The taskforce is working on the resumption of international travel.
When the GTT reports in early April, it needs to address issues like the cost of testing. It currently costs £370 to take the five tests required to go to Greece and back. At those prices it doesn’t matter if Greece is on the Green, Gold or Platinum list, few people can afford to go. Private testing is too expensive in the UK, and that cost is a barrier to travel. A PCR test here costs £120 on average. It’s cheaper almost everywhere else in Europe thanks to industry and government partnerships and price capping. In Italy the average cost is €86 (£74), while the region of Lazio (Rome) has capped it at €60 (£52).
Portugal extends suspension of UK flights until mid-April
Portugal has extended a suspension of flights to and from the UK and Brazil until April 15, with only humanitarian and repatriation flights allowed, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The country suspended flights to and from Brazil and the UK in January to prevent the spread of Covid-19 variants.
The new variant initially discovered in Britain was partly responsible for a devastating surge in cases at the start of 2021, putting hospitals under crippling strain. The situation has drastically improved since then.
Passengers allowed to return to Portugal from Britain or from Brazil, as well as from South Africa, must present a negative test taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure and quarantine for 14 days.
The ministry added passengers from other countries where the infection rate was equal or higher than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants would have to isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
‘I’m for staycations this summer,’ says professor of epidemiology
Professor Walport was joined by Dame Anne Johnson, professor of epidemiology at University College London, on the Today Programme, and both agreed they are in favour of staycations this summer.
“One of the biggest risks is of seeing the appearance of new variants and them coming back into the UK; equally we know that we had new variants here which we exported out of the UK,” Dame Anne Johnson said.
“So this is a risk where you’ve got high rates of infection. I’m for staycations.”
Travel restrictions ‘should be driven by data’
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said that while most of the vulnerable population are now protected, there are still 37 million people who have not been immunised.
He added: “We are a bit concerned about the variants that may be less susceptible to the effects of the vaccine, and certainly in parts of Europe the South African variant has the prevalence of around somewhere around 5% in some parts. Vaccines are very good news. And we know that most of the vulnerable population is protected. And we also know that increasingly the vaccines reduce the transmission, and even milder disease.
Asked whether the Government should stop people travelling abroad, or make it difficult by enforcing quarantine after travel, he said: “I think this has to be driven by the data.
“Certainly at the moment many countries in Europe have got case numbers that are going up – there is 36,000 cases a day in France, 16,000 in Germany, 22,000 in Italy. The numbers speak for themselves.”
Foreign holidays ‘unlikely until August,’ suggests Gov. source
Overseas holiday may not get started until August, according senior figures in Government, The Sunday Times reported.
Under the Government’s roadmap for England, May 17 is the earliest date at which international holidays could resume. The Global Travel Taskforce is set to report back next month.
The new legal ban on travel overseas from England, which came into force today. is due to expire on June 30.
However, an “informed source” told The Sunday Times that even that date was now looking “very optimistic” and said: “August is looking like the most likely moment.”
British expats leave Spain to avoid risk of deportation
Britons who do not want to apply for Spanish resident status, or those whose application is rejected, must leave Spain before March 31 to avoid being classed as an illegal immigrant and facing the potential risk of deportation.
Spanish police are expected to start deportation action after the deadline, affecting up to 500 British citizens within the first week.
EU freedom of movement laws no longer apply to Britons and, in most countries in the bloc, UK visitors can now only stay without a permit for up to 90 days out of every 180.
English Heritage sites reopen with pre-booking system
Over 60 English Heritage sites reopen today across the country, many with gardens ideal for a spring picnic – temperatures are expected to exceed 20°C in some areas this week.
The organisation is launching a pre-booking system. Kate Logan, historic properties director at English Heritage, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The weather does look good today and in the next few days so we are expecting people to be visiting the English Heritage website and start booking their tickets, so they can get out to their local site.”
Here’s a sample of some of the places opening up for outdoors visits.
Vaccine passport ‘not inevitable’
Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said that vaccine passports were “not inevitable”.
“It will be much easier to weigh up the pros and cons when we know much more accurately what the effects of the vaccine are,” he told Times Radio.
“We don’t know how long vaccination lasts but it’s likely to be a decent period of time.
“So I think these are questions that the policymakers are struggling with – they are difficult questions actually.
“And we should be getting the report from the group looking at this in the next week or two.”
‘Caution is the name of the game’ for travel restart, says minister
Optimism towards the resumption of international travel has been dampened again today with comments from Nigel Huddleston, minister for sport and tourism.
He told Sky News on Monday that for summer holidays abroad: “caution is the name of the game”. He said:
Remember you can have a holiday in the UK as well and I encourage people to do that and plan for that as well. Indeed overseas travel, the global travel taskforce is reporting very soon actually and that will help determine the perimeters for international travel.
We want people to come into the UK as well, inbound tourism is hugely important to our economy, so on a global basis we’re working with other countries to make sure that we can open up international travel, but will do so cautiously.
We do want to open up as soon as we can, that goes for domestic and indeed international, but we’ll do so cautiously based on the evidence and we’ll keep a very close eye on what’s happening in both the EU and elsewhere around the world.
Airline plans suggest US could reopen borders before July 4
Hopes are rising that Covid-related border restrictions in the US could be eased this summer, potentially allowing Britons to take holidays in the States.
American Airlines has said it plans to be flying all of its aircraft, including its fleet of long-haul 777 and 787 aircraft, by the end of May.
This follows the confirmation from Aer Lingus, the Irish flag carrier, that it will restart transatlantic flights leaving Manchester Airport from July 29, flying to both New York City and Orlando, Florida.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, suggested the information from American Airlines is “further evidence the USA will be opening its borders again before July Independence Day”.
‘Airlines back simple red, amber and green’ system for travel restart
Heathrow’s proposed plan for resuming international travel includes four categories: green (no restrictions), yellow (Covid testing), amber (testing and short quarantine), red (direct travel ban and hotel quarantine).
However, Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, said airlines are back a simpler system. A spokesperson said:
Airlines are backing a simple red, amber and green system for restarting international air travel from 17 May. If a country has low rates of Covid or high vaccination levels like the UK, restriction free travel would begin. Amber countries would require rapid tests to guard against any risk of imported infection for those not vaccinated, and only red countries would be subject to the strictest measures, where there are genuine risks around variants of concern.
As the vaccination rollout continues around the world, more countries would move to green status. We know universal pre-Covid travel won’t happen from day one, but with May still two months away, we have a workable framework that will enable aviation to help kickstart our post-covid recovery, whilst keeping the public safe.
Freedom day: ‘stay-at-home’ rule lifts today in England
As of today the “stay at home” rule has lifted, meaning people are no longer legally required to remain in their houses or flats unless taking part in a valid exception.
Similarly the Government has dropped its “stay local” messaging, meaning households are no longer explicitly told to remain in their geographical area.
Instead there is new guidance that encourages people to “minimise” travel, reflecting the fact that the Government does not want people continually moving across the country.
Minister to discuss France as possible addition to ‘red list’
The tightening of travel restrictions for European arrivals is expected to be on the agenda at a Tuesday meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee.
France will be among the countries discussed as possible additions to the “red list”. These are the 35 countries currently on the list of places from which direct flights are banned. Britons arriving in England who have been in one of these countries in the previous 10 days are subject to 11 days in a quarantine hotel at a cost of up to £1,750 per person.
- South Africa
- DR Congo
- United Arab Emirates (including Dubai)
- Cape Verde
- French Guiana
The four-tier traffic light system that could save summer holidays
Government considering proposal put forward by Heathrow Airport that includes an ‘amber’ three-day quarantine option, the Telegraph reported this weekend.
Heathrow Airport has submitted plans to Boris Johnson’s global travel taskforce proposing a four-tier traffic light scheme with an “amber” option of a customised three-day quarantine and testing regime specifically designed to combat the threat from new Covid variants.
The risk of importing variants – such as the South African and Brazilian versions now spreading in mainland Europe – is regarded by government scientists and Mr Johnson as the biggest hurdle to restarting international travel on May 17 and saving summer holidays.
The airport, whose boss John Holland-Kaye is influential in government circles, proposes that the amber alert would be triggered where a “variant of concern” was identified in a country and there was uncertainty among scientists about the risk it posed to the efficacy of the UK’s vaccine programme.