President-elect Joe Biden will block Donald Trump’s plan to lift the Covid-19 travel restrictions for non-American citizens arriving from the EU, the UK and Brazil, as soon as he takes office. This means the current curbs on international travel into the United States will remain.
Mr Trump signed an order Monday to lift the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic from January 26. The news follows last week’s decision by the Administration to require international travellers to provide either a recent negative coronavirus test or evidence that they have already recovered from the disease.
Soon after Mr Trump’s order was made public, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted “on the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on Jan 26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
She added: “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”
Thus, any hope for the airline industry and European countries who have been lobbying the White House to end the blanket bans, which have been in place for nearly a year, has been dashed. Both have been arguing testing standards and increased vaccination rates should allow for the blanket ban to be lifted.
Alan French, the CEO of Thomas Cook said: ““As we’ve seen with the ban on travel to the US and its high case rate, simply blocking inbound tourism doesn’t necessarily mean countries can eliminate the virus. We can see customers are looking to book their holidays to Florida and other American cities later in the year but demand is currently quite low on our site – it seems customers are waiting for more certainty before booking the big family US breaks.”
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Scotland’s lockdown extended by a fortnight
Scotland is to remain in lockdown until at least the middle of February, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The delay in lifting restrictions will also see schools – which were meant to reopen on February 1 – remain closed until mid-February.
EasyJet sees 250 per cent rise in summer bookings
EasyJet Holiday’s summer bookings have defied foreign secretary Dominic Raab‘s recent statement that it was “too early” to book summer breaks overseas.
Instead, the airline’s holiday division has reported that its bookings are up 250% on last year, despite tougher lockdown rules and travel restrictions.
“We know that people want to go on holiday as soon as they can,” easyJet CEO, Johan Lundgren told the BBC, adding that May is proving to be the most popular month. He went on to say that the news is a good sign for the post-Covid travel market.
Health secretary Matt Hancock also echoed Raab’s reservations over summer holidays abroad. “I’m going to Cornwall. And I have said before I think we’re going to have a great British summer. But we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then,” Hancock said during a Downing Street press conference on Monday.
Travel companies were quick to refute these statements, and reports of sky-high booking numbers appear to show Britons are still optimistic about an international summer holiday.
Have Covid and Zoom killed business travel?
Business travel has been dealt another blow as tough new border restrictions come into force. Elsewhere, vital business link Eurostar is on the brink and airlines continue to slash premium cabin seats. But what do these ongoing troubles mean for the future of the industry?
Over the weekend, executives and entrepreneurs were quietly struck off the UK quarantine exemptions list, meaning they will now have to isolate for up to 10 days upon arrival, essentially ending the limited business travel that had been occurring.
The sharp policy change comes only a month after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched a special fast-track route for business executives, saying it could generate millions of pounds of new investment and jobs for the UK.
‘UK and US must work together to reestablish transatlantic travel’
After Joe Biden overruled Donald Trump‘s plans to lift restrictions on travel between the US and Europe, travel businesses have called for action from governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
Craig Ashford, Director of Communications for online agent TravelUp, said: “Transatlantic travel represents one of the most important routes for both business and leisure travel and we would urge the UK and US Government to work together to ramp up international travel between the two countries as soon as it is safe to do so.
“The travel sector as we know it will only survive if there is joined-up thinking between international partners utilising effective testing and vaccination programmes. As the Seychelles moves to implement vaccination passports for international visitors we would expect and encourage other countries to follow suit in the coming weeks and days.”
More tour operators give backing to vaccine passports
It seems the majority of tour operators believe some sort of vaccine passport or certificate is the surest way to get travel back to normal.
Chris Rowles, Chairman of AITO, which represents hundreds of companies, said: “It is extremely encouraging for all of us in the travel industry that destinations such as Cyprus and the Seychelles are keen to accept travellers who have been vaccinated.
“Vaccination gives us the much-needed ability to open up seamless travel again, and AITO supports whole-heartedly the concept of a vaccination passport.”
He added: “We should not overlook those for whom vaccination is a clinical impossibility. While they are in the minority, we do not wish to deny anyone the right to travel, and the Government will need to find a viable alternative for them.”
Erin Johnson, marketing director for Sovereign Luxury Travel, said: “The concept of vaccine passports is really encouraging, enabling us to return to the travelling we all love – and miss. I would like to see them used in conjunction with a reliable testing scheme so that travel becomes open to everyone again, not just those who are awaiting their vaccinations.”
Karl Thompson, managing director of Unique Caribbean Holidays, the UK tour operator for Sandals Resorts, said:
“Although none of the countries where Sandals operates have said whether they would accept vaccine ‘passports’, this would be a welcome move. However, a certificate or passport should be one of the options available for international travellers during the pandemic, not the only option.”
Should I book a summer holiday now?
The global vaccine rollout brings hope that summer holidays can go ahead. Greg Dickinson and Oliver Smith have the details.
After lockdown, if the current travel rules remain in place, a holiday will involve between five and 10 days of self-isolation when you get home, and as many as three Covid tests (one before you depart, one during your trip, and another – if you want to reduce your quarantine period – when you return).
After months stuck at home, the prospect of a holiday is keeping many people sane, but unless the restrictions are relaxed, millions of Britons – those unable to work from home, for example, or without the resources to pay in the region of £150 per test – will simply be unable to travel.
The only cause for optimism is the vaccine.
Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s consumer expert, says: “If everything goes well with the vaccination programme, then it seems quite possible that the virus will be reasonably under control in this country by Easter – or at least that deaths and hospitalisations will have dramatically reduced. So – fingers crossed – there is a good chance that we will be free to travel by then.
Sweden sees drop in Covid-19 cases
Sweden, whose unorthodox pandemic strategy has placed it in the global spotlight, registered 9,779 new coronavirus cases since Friday, according to the latest health agency statistics.
The figure compares to 17,395 cases in the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 268 new deaths, taking the total to 10,591. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours’ but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.
Emirates to trial new ‘Covid passports’
Emirateshas announced it is testing a new ‘Covid passport’, hoping to help simplify the different rules when travelling for passengers, writes Emma Cooke.
The airline has partnered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to trial the IATA Travel Pass: an app allowing you to store key information such as vaccines and negative Covid test results. The app is due to be trialled in April, on flights from Dubai.
In theory, travellers can take a Covid-19 test at a certified lab, which will then send results to the mobile app to share with both a country’s border force and the airline. This feature will also be available for those who have received a Covid-19 vaccine.
These test results and vaccine certificates will then be shared directly with the airline and auto-populated into its system prior to passengers reaching the airport, allowing a smoother check-in process.
Extra features, such as entry requirements for the user’s chosen destination and a registry of testing centres (and, eventually, vaccination centres) are also included.
Five things that always happen when you go on holiday with your grandparents
Join Rob Crossan on a classic coach tour of Britain with granny and grandad
Last week National Express claimed bookings from those aged 65 and over had increased by 101 per cent thanks to the vaccine. Jit Desai, head of holidays and travel at the venerable coach company, stated that last Monday it took the same number of reservations in a day as it would normally take in a week.
It looks increasingly likely, when it comes to UK holidays at least, that the older generation is going to be doing plenty of travelling this summer. So perhaps 2021 could be a year for inter-generational breaks?
For me, it all brings back recollections of taking all-inclusive coach trips around the UK in the 1980s with my grandparents (supplemented with more recent memories of group coach trips taken by myself, in the name of travel journalism, where I was the only person on board not old enough to remember the moon landings).
I recall rather enjoying travelling with my grandparents, based in no small part on my granny’s insistence on always having a small confectioner’s amount of boiled sweets about her person and my grandad’s laxity when it came to compelling me to ever eat anything green or healthy.
So if you do end up swapping Benidorm for a coach holiday to Broadstairs this summer, here’s five things you should prepare yourself for.
Singapore Airlines aiming for full crew vaccination
Singapore’s national airline hopes to be the first in the world to get all of its crew members vaccinated against Covid-19, reports Ben Farmer.
Singapore Airlines has offered all public facing staff, including pilots, gate agents and flight attendants, free shots from the government, CNN reported.
“We are grateful to the Singapore government for making the aviation sector a priority in the country’s vaccination exercise,” the airline’s chief executive said to employees. “This reflects the sector’s importance, and the crucial role we play in both Singapore’s economic recovery and the fight against the pandemic.”
Some 5,200 employees have already signed up for jabs, which will ease the burden of coronavirus restrictions and tests.
Lockdown to continue in Malaysia
Officials in Malaysia have said the country will extend lockdown restrictions across most of the country as it grappled with a rise in coronavirus infections.
Last week, capital Kuala Lumpur and six states went into a two-week lockdown. Essential sectors including manufacturing, plantations and construction were allowed to stay open, but a nationwide travel ban was implemented.
Security minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today the lockdown will also be imposed on six other states from Friday for two weeks. Only the eastern state of Sarawak will not see a full lockdown, though some restrictions are in place.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said the lockdown measures were necessary as the healthcare system was at a breaking point.
The total number of coronavirus infections in Malaysia stood at 165,371, including 619 deaths.
‘Vaccine passports offer the best way out of this mess’
The founder of tour operator Wild Frontiers believes we need to banish our concerns and embrace the concept. Oliver Smith reports.
After a truly disastrous year for the travel industry, the outlook for 2021 appears just as bleak. Not only are Britons back under house arrest, with all holidays banned until at least the spring, but harsh new restrictions await post-lockdown travellers. From this week, all arrivals to the UK must present evidence of a negative Covid test – and quarantine for up to 10 days. Unless the restrictions are relaxed, millions of Britons – such as those unable to work from home – will simply be unable to leave the country.
Furthermore, we don’t even know which nations will be welcoming us. As things stand, only a clutch of Caribbean islands, and a few other long-haul countries, are open to British travellers. Nowhere in Europe is a feasible holiday option.
Yet Jonny Bealby, founder of adventure travel specialist Wild Frontiers, is feeling cautiously optimistic – and believes there’s a clear path back to normal.
“Vaccine passports offer the best way out of this mess,” he says. “As the first country to roll out the vaccine, the UK Government should also be spearheading an international campaign to establish a worldwide vaccine passport.”
Italy-based cruise line to make January comeback
MSC Cruises has announced today one of its ships will return to the sea later this month.
Following the latest ministerial updates from the Italian government and health authorities, MSC Grandiosa will resume her weekly cruises, departing every Sunday from Genoa and calling the Italian ports of Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo, as well as Valletta in Malta.
Cruises from Italy have been suspended since December due to rising coronavirus cases.
Prior to that a number of operators, including MSC and Costa Cruises, had resumed voyages in a major way – with the latter welcoming more than 30,000 passengers since the summer.
Lockdown about to get tougher in Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of the country’s 16 states are today expected to extend and tighten a partial lockdown beyond the end of January.
The crisis talks between Merkel and state premiers were brought forward by a week because of new virus variants. Germany shuttered restaurants, leisure and sporting facilities in November, then expanded the shutdown in mid-December to include schools and most shops to halt runaway growth in new coronavirus infections.
The measures ordered until the end of January have brought about a “flattening of the infection’s curve”, said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, noting also that the number of patients in intensive care had also fallen slightly.
“This trend is cautiously positive and a success of the restrictions of the last weeks,” he said.
“But it only brings us to the point where we still have a long way to go before we can say we have the infections under control,” he added.
World’s longest treetop walkway to open in LAAX, Switzerland in Summer 2021
The world’s longest treetop walkway will open this summer in the Swiss resort of Laax, enabling visitors to enjoy unparalleled views of the Alps from a whole new perspective.
The 1.5km walkway is suspended 28 metres above the ground in the tree canopy and connects Laax Murschetg and Laax Dorf.
In a fun twist, visitors return to ground level via a 73-metre spiral slide. The walkway will also be open in winter thanks to the help of electric snow blowers, which will clear the path.
The record-breaking attraction, which will open at the end of June and is part of a CHF7 million (£5.8 million) investment in the area, has been built from regionally sourced wood, to help it blend in with the surrounding forest and boost the resort’s eco credentials.
“The treetop walk is designed to bring people together, slow us down, and make us stop, breathe, and appreciate the fresh air,” said Martina Calonder from the resort.
Business Travel Association reacts to Biden’s block of international travel
Of the news that the US will not be opening its borders to UK travellers as Trump had suggested, Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association says:
Opening international borders as soon as it is safe to do so is crucial for business travel as a vital enabler of the world’s economies. We urge the UK Government to cooperate closely with its counterparts across the globe to develop consistent criteria for border openings, and a seamless testing regime that enables business travel without the shackles of quarantine.
‘I feel suicidal at times’: British tour guides reflect on the devastating impact of lockdowns
There are thousands of tour guides affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Kaye Holland hears their stories.
“I feel quite suicidal at times,” a weary Stephen Liddell told The Telegraph in a call from his freezing home in Bushey that he can only afford to heat for a few hours each day. The 47-year old guide and owner of Ye Olde England Tours has seen his bookings “drop by over 99 per cent” since last March.
He said: “Normally, I’d get about six bookings a day for the year ahead. As of now, I’ve got one – that’s for July. I’ve watched everything disappear and it hasn’t been my fault. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Liddell estimates that he has earned £500 since the outbreak of coronavirus – “I’ve worked it out and that’s on a par with the lowest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa” – and is one of the three million self-employed who have fallen through the cracks of Rishi Sunak’s Covid bail-out schemes.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at email@example.com or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch
Britons will ski this winter, if they can
Almost half of British skiers still intend to go skiing this winter, if it’s possible.
A recent survey by The Ski Club of Great Britain has found that 49 per cent of keen snow-sport fans still hope to hit the slopes, if they can, this season – but over 60 per cent of them have not yet booked a holiday and the majority will leave it until the very last minute to do so.
While 32 per cent said they definitely wouldn’t consider a ski holiday this winter 19 per cent said they ‘weren’t sure.’ Of this undecided minority ‘being vaccinated’ is the most important factor influencing their decision to book, followed by low infection rates in their destination.
The report surveyed over 5,000 keen skiers in December and January to learn more about intentions for the remainder of this season and next.
80 per cent of respondents said they are likely to go on a ski holiday next winter – further strengthening reports from operators that bookings for 2021/22 are booming.
Business executives and entrepreneurs lose quarantine exemption
Business executives and millionaire entrepreneurs are to be forced to quarantine after losing their exemption from doing so even if they have a multi-million pound investment to make in the UK.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, launched the special fast-track route for business executives only a month ago, saying it could generate millions of pounds of new investment and jobs for the UK.
‘I’m convinced we need a global health passport’
With the Seychelles announcing plans to open its borders to all vaccinated travellers, Derek Jones, CEO of luxury holiday company Kuoni, believes an international health passport is needed.
I’m convinced that we will need some sort of globally recognised Health Passport which verifies the health status of travellers. It will show if you are vaccinated, if you’ve had Covid-19 and have antibodies or, at the very least, if you have had a recent negative test.
Initially I expect Health Passports will be used in conjunction with quarantine measures but in time they should remove the need to quarantine completely.
It will be up to individual countries to determine the criteria for entry. Only allowing entry to vaccinated travellers is one option but, bearing in mind the length of time it will take for the global vaccination programme to reach all adults, I expect non-vaccinated travellers with a recent negative test will be allowed entry too.
French ski resorts await their fate
As the peak of the ski season approaches ski resorts in France are still waiting to hear if they’ll be allowed to open their lifts, reports Lucy Aspden.
The French government has said an announcement will be made tomorrow, but in a television interview yesterday Prime Minister Jean Castex cast doubt over the upcoming decision.
“When the President announced the closure of winter sports stations, he had conditioned their reopening on a decrease in the spread of the virus, with less than 5,000 infections per day. However, we are not there at all,” said Castex.
France reported 16,642 new cases on January 17, however yesterday on January 18 just 3,736 were confirmed. There was a similar trend last week, when a sub-5,000 case figure on Monday January 11 followed a much higher statistic on the previous day, but by Tuesday January 12 cases were back into five figures.
The decision to further postpone the opening of ski lifts in France will be yet another devastating blow to resorts, who have already suffered significant losses over the Christmas period, with February being the most lucrative month of the ski season.
“We know how important February is, but we also have to deal with these variants that were not expected in December and appeared in late December, early January. It is naturally the health situation that will have to guide decisions,” said the Secretary of State for Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.
Italy announced last week that resorts there won’t be opening until February 15, at the earliest.
The Chinese New Year travel rush begins early
The Chinese New Year travel rush, also known as the ‘spring movement’, officially begins on January 28 this year, but many people have already begun to head to their hometowns due to the new 21 days quarantine requirement.
Seychelles to open to all vaccinated travellers
The Seychelles has re-opened to visitors from anywhere in the world who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The country, which relies on tourism for around 65 per cent of its GDP, is one of the first to confirm immunisation as a route to entry; Cyprus announced its own plans in early December. Visitors must provide an authentic certificate from their national health authority as evidence of vaccination.
“We hope that this will open up the tourism industry for the locals primarily for the small hotels who are struggling on La Digue, Praslin and also on Mahe. And also provide the kick that our economy desperately needs,” Sylvestre Radegonde, the country’s minister for tourism, told a press conference last week.
The new measures were announced following the start of the Seychelles’ national vaccine roll-out, as the country aims to become the first in the world to immunise more than 70 per cent of its population aged over 18.
This move by the Seychelles indicates that vaccine passports could become a standard method for opening up countries’ tourism industries – last week, Aito, which represents hundreds of tour operators, gave its backing to the introduction of vaccine passports “for the reassurance of host destinations”.
As it stands, all non-vaccinated visitors who are permitted entry to the Seychelles must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours before travel. Note also that international and domestic travel is not permitted during the UK’s lockdown.
Which incredible journey are you dreaming of taking, when this is all over?
Have your say and see the result in this Saturday’s paper.
Getting vaccine could prompt public to abandon rules, say scientists
Ministers have been warned that millions of people are likely to begin ignoring Covid restrictions once they have been vaccinated, reports our Health Editor Laura Donnelly.
Government scientists are concerned that those who receive jabs are likely to relax their attitude towards social distancing and lockdown rules, according to papers seen by The Telegraph.
Minutes of meetings held by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) cite a survey which says that 29 per cent of people will adhere to restrictions less strictly once they have had a vaccine, while 11 per cent will “probably no longer follow the rules”.
Papers released by Sage reveal concerns that changes in the behaviour of those who get the jab could more than “offset” the benefits of the vaccination programme over the next few months.
Snow in Kashmir attracts thousands of tourists
Pictured above, a Kashmiri sledge puller walks on a snow covered slope at Gulmarg, northwest of Srinagar in Indian controlled Kashmir. Snow this winter has brought along with it thousands of locals and tourists to Indian-controlled Kashmir’s high plateau, pastoral Gulmarg, which translates as ‘meadow of flowers’.
Sri Lanka set to welcome back tourists
After 10 months of closed borders, Sri Lanka is due to welcome back foreign tourists on Thursday. Officials announced the news on January 18, adding that there will be strict Covid-19 protocols in place.
Measures include 55 designated hotels for foreign tourists, the requirement of a negative PCR test taken up to four days before arrival and additional testing once in the country. Travellers must also purchase a specific insurance policy (costing US$12) that will cover up to US$50,000 in Covid-19 related medical costs.
In a statement, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said: “Every precautionary measure has been set in place to make the island getaway as safe, secure and serene as possible for visitors.”
Last month, 1,700 Ukrainian tourists arrived on charter planes to test the systems in place.
‘Draconian travel restrictions at this stage aren’t just pointless, they’re ruinous’
Annabel Fenwick Elliot sounds off about the latest travel restrictions:
Despite the fact that much of the world is under national lockdown and international travel has dwindled to a trickle, the crusade on a largely innocent industry continues. Regardless of the fact that between March and October of 2020, the International Air Travel Association traced just 44 cases of potential coronavirus infections back to flying, out of the 1.2 billion people who boarded planes in the same time period, our assault on free movement only intensifies.
This week, Germany is plotting to repurpose refugee camps to detain quarantine flouters. In Bali, foreigners found to be strolling the beaches without wearing masks are being punished with push-ups. And here in Britain, there is talk of forcing new arrivals into expensive hotel sentences, and checking up on people using GPS data and facial-recognition software.
I wish all this was, as it sounds, the compelling but implausible plot of a big-budget sci-fi movie. I take comfort only in the fact that given our government has just today, after much delay, finally managed to get its act together on testing overseas visitors upon entry, it will likely be years before our geo-surveillance tactics enter the realm of China’s; by which time, hopefully, Covid-19 will be a distant memory, right?
Biden to block Trump’s plan to lift Covid-19 UK travel restrictions
Joe Biden is to block Donald Trump‘s plan to lift the Covid-19 travel restrictions between the US and the UK as soon as he takes office, reports Gareth Davies.
Mr Trump signed an order Monday lifting the restrictions he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic after winning support from coronavirus task force members and public health officials.
Soon after Mr Trump’s order was made public, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki tweeted “on the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on Jan 26.”
She added: “With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”
Yesterday’s biggest headlines
- Germany to move repeat Covid-offenders to detention camps
- UK’s tough new border rules come into force
- Travellers continue to arrive at Edinburgh airport, in spite of new border rules
- Emirates rolls out Covid vaccine to UAE staff
- Man spent three months squatting in Chicago airport
- Bailout plea as Eurostar faces collapse
Follow along today as we update you with all the latest news.