The Labour Party is pushing for strict hotel quarantine measures to apply to all UK arrivals.
Last night in the House of Commons, Labour called for the 10-day Government-mandated quarantine to be immediately extended, due to fears over potential new virus variants. Conservative MPs abstained from the vote.
Currently, only arrivals who have travelled from a list of 33 ‘red list’ countries, including swathes of South America, South Africa and Portugal, will be subject to the new rules.
Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “Covid is not going away. We need this strategy, and we need it now.”
He added: “I recognise, of course, the huge challenges to the aviation sector and its supply chains, the impact on the tourism and hospitality industry, and the number of jobs that it supports.”
However, he gave few specifics on timelines, practicalities or how the industry could be helped, other than extended Government support.
This morning, the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan pushed back on the motion, telling the BBC that it was “unfeasible” to house all arrivals in hotel quarantine, adding “we have to be realistic about what we adopt and what we do.”
The Cabinet is understood to be split on whether to tighten the rules. Home Secretary Priti Patel is said to be among those wanting stricter controls, while Transport Secretary Grant Shapps favours a more targeted approach.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce more extensive hotel quarantine measures today.
Scroll down for more updates.
Heathrow trials Covid testing for staff
Heathrow is embarking on a month-long trial of Covid testing for 2,000 airport workers.
The airport will regularly test employees in a bid to uncover asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
The Government-led trial will use rapid lateral flow tests, which can deliver results within 30 minutes. Anyone who tests positive will then take a lab-analysed PCR test to ensure an accurate result.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “We’re pleased to be working with the Government on this pilot testing scheme, which goes even further to protect our colleagues and the other key workers who are keeping the country moving through this crisis.
“This pilot will support us as we work to keep the UK’s biggest port running smoothly, helping to facilitate essential journeys and the movement of cargo.”
Border Force checking ‘up to 25 per cent’ of passengers for essential travel
The UK’s Border Force is checking “up to 25 per cent” of passengers to make sure they have essential reasons for travel, the Universities Minister has said.
Asked why the UK had not announced mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals, Michelle Donelan emphasised the Government’s other efforts at the border.
She said: “This isn’t our only policy. We have countries we have banned travel from. Our message to people who want to go abroad is that there is a very small list of exemptions and that we are checking that.
“In fact, Border Force have checked up 25 per cent of passengers coming in, everyone has to have a PCR test as well.”
First Person: My adventure holiday turned into nine months of hell as a FARC hostage
A lawless wilderness straddling the border between Colombia and Panama, the Darien Gap is the only break in the 19,000-mile Pan-American Highway which connects Alaska with Argentina. In 2000, horticulturalist Tom Hart Dyke, heir to Kent’s Lullingstone Castle estate, spent nine months there, after being taken hostage by a group presumed to be FARC, the Marxist rebels which disbanded before returning as a political party. Last week the party announced that it’s changing its named to Comunes. Twenty years after his release, Tom explains how his captivity inspired Lullingstone Castle’s spectacular World Garden.
Russia extends UK flight ban
Russia has announced it will extend its suspension of flights to the UK until at least February 16.
The country initially halted air traffic with Britain on December 22, due to the discovery of a new virus variant in the UK.
Spanish airports to offer pre-departure Covid testing
Fifteen of Spain’s busiest airports will soon open pre-departure Covid testing facilities.
The departure lounge facilities will offer both PCR and Antigen tests and there will be isolation areas for travellers awaiting results.
As well as the major hubs of Madrid and Barcelona, the service will be available at airports serving Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, including Malaga, Seville, Mallorca and Ibiza, plus four airports in the Canary Islands.
The facilities will initially be set up for a six-month period, but could be extended until the end of the year.
The move comes as an increasing number of countries require travellers to present proof of a recent negative Covid test.
Dubai shuts bars for a month
Dubai will close all bars and pubs for the duration of February, after a spike in Covid cases.
The sharp rise in cases has largely been attributed to the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, which drew travellers from around the world, including many from the UK.
The emirate has also mandated that restaurants and cafés must close by 1am and introduced crowd limits on cinemas, hotels and shopping centres.
The UAE has recorded more than 304,000 Covid cases and 850 deaths. The country has been successful in rolling out its vaccine programme, with only Israel administering more jabs per capita.
Do we have a date for hotel quarantine?
Travel insider Paul Charles has suggested that Monday February 15 could be the date when mandatory hotel quarantine is introduced for arrivals from high-risk countries. The policy was announced last week, but so far few details have been revealed.
US tightens face mask rules for travellers
Passengers at US airports must wear face masks while going through security checkpoints, or face being denied boarding.
The new measure will be in place until at least May 11, with fines for those who flout the rule.
The move is part of a general tightening of face mask rules in the country. Following an executive order by President Joe Biden, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that from today all passengers on aircraft, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses and ride-shares must wear face coverings.
Cruise ships are currently banned from operating in US waters and it is unclear whether the rule will continue once sailings resume.
Emirates resumes outbound flights from UK
Starting today, the carrier will operate a daily flightfrom Heathrow to Dubai and four services per week from Manchester.
In a statement, the airline said: “Emirates is reinstating outbound flights from the UK to Dubai primarily to help return passengers, particularly UAE residents, to get home. Passenger services inbound to the UK remain suspended as per Government directives.”
Last week, the UAE was added to the Government’s travel ban list, leading to the cancellation of 78 services a week.
UK holiday rental company announces best-ever sales day
Holiday rental giant cottages.com is predicting a summer staycation sell-out, after recording its best-ever sales day on Sunday.
Bookings were up nearly 20 per cent on the previous record set last June when Boris Johnson lifted UK travel restrictions at the end of the first national lockdown. At that time, the agent’s parent company Awaze sold a break every 11 seconds.
The company took more than 8,000 bookings over the weekend, enjoying consecutive record booking days on Saturday and Sunday.
Nearly half of all holidays sold were for July and August, while nearly a quarter were for getaways in Cornwall and Devon.
Coastal breaks proved popular, with 50 per cent of all weekend bookings featuring a property close to the sea.
Simon Altham, group chief operating officer at Awaze, said: “These are astonishing figures. We saw a rapid increase in bookings last week off the back of the tightening of European travel restrictions, and that momentum only gathered pace over the weekend.
“People clearly want something to look forward to and a future holiday, when it is safe to travel again, is perfect for helping to get through the cold winter months during lockdown.”
South Africa eases lockdown restrictions
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will loosen its strict lockdown restrictions, due to a reduction in hospitalisations.
In an address on Monday he said: “Public places such as beaches, dams, rivers, parks and public swimming pools will be reopened subject to health protocols.”
He added: “It remains compulsory for all South Africans to wear a mask in a public space.”
Restrictions will also be eased on the sale of alcohol, which was previously banned.
The news follows a flurry of protests in Cape Town at the weekend over the continued closures of beaches, despite a recent drop in cases.
What happened yesterday?
A recap of the Monday’s main stories.
- Ryanair Reports Q3 Loss of €306m as Traffic Falls 78%
- Israel extends nationwide coronavirus lockdown
- ‘Covid mindset’ blamed as gun seizures at US airports double
- Rusty pilots admit they are making mistakes because of a lack of flying time
- Tourist spending in London down by £10 billion in 2020
- Isle of Man ends lockdown
- Boris Johnson ‘optimistic’ about summer holiday prospects
- British tourists fined in Austrian ski resort raids
Now, on with today’s news.