English Rules on International Travel Have Changed 50 Times Since the First Lockdown, Analysis Shows

Feel confused about the rules on international travel? No wonder: analysis by PA news agency shows that, in England alone, they have been changed 50 times since the first lockdown. And next week, the Government will change them again! Sky News has the story.

The Green, Amber, and Red travel lists have been updated every three weeks since they were introduced in May with the list of quarantine-free travel corridors changing nearly every week during its existence between July 2020 and January 2021.

Many holidaymakers have been forced to cut trips short and rush home before tougher rules for arrivals from their destination were introduced, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who was caught out when Spain was removed from the travel corridors list after being on it for just 16 days.

The travel industry has expressed dismay at the “constant rollercoaster” of alteration and has called for regulations to be made simpler.

Chief Executive of travel trade association ABTA, Mark Tanzer, said fears about the status of a destination being changed are “reducing the public’s confidence about taking an overseas break” and urged the Government to be “much clearer about the data and rationale” behind its decisions. …

Johan Lundgren, the Chief Executive of easyJet, said: “It’s no wonder that consumers in the U.K. are confused.”

“Now is the time for the Government to simplify the rules around travel, make Green truly Green and restriction-free, remove expensive and unnecessary testing requirements for the fully vaccinated travelling from Amber countries, and put an end to this constant rollercoaster of changes,” he added. …

The next update to the traffic light lists is due next week.

Worth reading in full.

Holidays Ruined for Millions of Brits if Spain and Greece are Forced on to “Amber Plus” List

Reports suggest that the Government is considering demoting both Spain and Greece to the “Amber Plus” List alongside France due to fears over Covid variants, a decision that could ruin the holiday plans of millions of Brits – and not for the first time. MailOnline has the story.

The list effectively strips back ‘Freedom Day’ rules, which allow [fully vaccinated] holidaymakers to return from “Amber List” countries without having to face a mandatory period of self-isolation.

But, just days before the new rules were to be announced, the Government threw tens of thousands of holidays into doubt by revealing that double-jabbed Britons returning from France would still have to quarantine.

Now Greece and Spain, both of which are currently on the Amber List, could follow France onto the so-called Amber Plus List.

But, according to figures released by Labour, that could leave an estimated 5,857,558 people facing the prospect of last-minute quarantine requirements – plunging the holidays into “chaos once more”. 

The Government introduced an exemption for the requirement to isolate at home for 10 days for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers returning from countries on the amber list.

But ministers removed the exemption for France amid concerns over the Beta variant, creating what critics call an Amber Plus designation on the traffic light system for foreign travel.

There has been speculation that Greece and Spain could face the same measures as France, though the Government has not confirmed this. …

The opposition estimated the number of people to have booked holidays to those three nations by looking at official data for past travel and adjusting for lower willingness to travel during the pandemic by comparing with surveys.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The travel list allocations have not changed for Spain or Greece.

“We are closely monitoring the data and will take swift action on travel list allocations and international travel requirements should the data show that countries’ risk to England has changed.”

It comes as holidaymakers faced up to three-hour queues through passport control at Heathrow Airport yesterday after e-gates broke down and the ‘pingdemic’ left just one official at the desks, according to frustrated passengers.

Worth reading in full.

Domestic Holiday Industry Hit by Staff Shortages at Start of Crucial Season

After missing out on so many months of business, the domestic holiday industry had pinned its hopes on this crucial summer season to make up for lost time. But while “Freedom Day” has been reached and lockdown has officially ended, hotels, theatres, cafes and other related businesses are still being forced to close because of staff shortages caused by the “pingdemic“.

Holiday officials in Devon say “we’ve got a crisis” – one that has come at a crucial time and, as such, is having a “devastating impact”. Despite this, the Government has ruled out exempting staff in the hospitality and retail sectors from self-isolation rules. Sky News has more.

As the school holidays begin, [Devon] is predicting a record number of visitors – up 20% on a normal year.

But there are concerns about whether the industry can deliver what tourists need – with many bookings and reservations being cancelled.

“We’ve got a crisis. It’s a crisis that’s come at a critical summer for us. It is resulting in an extreme shortage of staff at very short notice. It’s having a devastating impact which is presenting an urgent situation that is forcing many businesses to actually close in high season,” says Carolyn Custerson, the Chief Executive of English Riviera Bid Ltd which represents the tourism industry in Torbay. …

“This was going to be the summer of a golden opportunity, not just for the English Riviera but the whole of the U.K. because people are taking staycations because they can’t holiday abroad.

“If we don’t sort out what is happening by introducing a test and release process which is what I have been lobbying for, then we will see more and more closures that will impact visitor expectation and their desire to return and that is what I’m most concerned about.” …

More than a dozen businesses have had to close in the last week due to staff shortages.

The WeSup bar and café on Torquay harbour has been forced to shut its kitchen.

“Our customers are so confused,” says owner Sean White.

“The Government and media say we’re coming out of lockdown, hurrah! But actually, they come to a premise like ours and it feels worse than ever – we’ve got no opportunity to supply the product we are supposed to sell.” …

At Babbacombe Theatre, the summer show is ready with a cast of dancers, singers and comedians on the payroll.

But they’ve had to cancel all performances this week as the whole cast is having to isolate. …

Other tourist attractions are at risk of closing.

Kents Cavern – a network of prehistoric caves underneath Torquay – has had three staff ‘pinged’ in the last week.

Owner Nick Powe told Sky News any plans for relaxation in the isolation rules in August will be too late. …

While tens of thousands of tourists are arriving and enjoying the riviera, businesses are concerned that a much-needed summer recovery could be hampered yet again by rising cases and the very technology [that is said to be] protecting us.

Worth reading in full.

Holidaymakers Missing Return Flights Because of Delays by Covid Test Provider

British holidaymakers have complained of missing return flights because of long delays by a Government-approved Covid test provider. Various Government departments have attempted to pass the buck for resolving the matter, with the Department of Health concluding that the provider will be removed from the Government’s website if it continues failing to meet certain standards. The Sun has the story.

Qured promises users a “fit-to-fly” certificate within 30 to 40 minutes of receiving a negative test done via a video call.

But customers tell of hours of delays, making them miss return flights.

Others have complained that the firm’s £39 test kits were not delivered to their homes on time before they were due to fly out – meaning they could not leave.

One said of trying to get home: “Almost 24 hours later and no fit-to-fly certificate, despite a negative result in 20 minutes.”

The holidaymaker takes the test while on a video call to Qured and emails a picture of the result.

Confirmation is due back in the form of an official medical certificate, meaning they are fit to fly…

Qured said: “While the timings of delivery and results are generally accurate, they are subject to change due to circumstances out of our control.”

The Foreign Office said it was an issue for the Department for Transport.

The Department for Transport said it was an issue for the Department of Health.

The Department of Health said: “If a provider is failing to meet required standards, they get a five-day warning and are then removed from the list.”

Qured is rated 2.4 out of five on Google Reviews and has received a good deal of criticism in recent days. One user commented on Friday: “I [am] deeply distressed and concerned. I did my online Covid test at 2:15 today (Friday) to enable me to return back to the U.K. on Saturday. I have not had my results back (this was now over 10 hours ago). My account does not show that the test has been undertaken let alone provide me with the ability to download my certificate to fly. Without this, I cannot book into my flight and am at risk of missing my flight altogether.” Another said: “If they can’t handle the volume of tests then they shouldn’t book so many appointments. This is really not acceptable.” Similar reviews can be found on Trustpilot, despite the firm having an average rating of 3.4 out of five.

The Government’s list of Covid test providers – which still features this firm – was last updated on May 28th.

The Sun report is worth reading in full.

Portugal, on Government’s Travel “Green List” From May 17th, May Not Lift Ban on British Tourists Until May 30th

As if the Government’s travel “green list” wasn’t limited enough, there are reports that Portugal may not lift its ban on European tourists until at least May 30th – two weeks after travel restrictions are eased in Britain. This decision would force many to cancel their holiday bookings. The Mail has the story.

Portugal had been expected to lift its ban on European tourists entering its borders – including U.K. holidaymakers – from this Sunday.

But there was confusion amid reports the ban could be extended to May 30th.

It would mean Britons with holidays booked there next week – to coincide with the U.K.’s own travel ban being lifted on Monday – face having them cancelled.

It would also block thousands of football fans who have booked tickets for the Champions League final in Porto on May 29th.

The match had previously been due to be held in Istanbul but was moved following talks between U.K. ministers and UEFA organisers after Turkey was added to England’s travel “red list”…

Officials in Lisbon suggested the Portuguese cabinet talks about Covid concerned extending the country’s official “state of calamity” and would not change the lifting of the travel ban.

They said it related to its ability to introduce emergency Covid legislation and would not include tourism, which they said was still expected to be given the green light from Sunday. 

A formal announcement clarifying the situation is expected on Friday.

It came as the BBC reported that the Portuguese Government will require U.K. football fans to fly in and out of the country on the day of the match. Fans will also have to stay in a “bubble” while in the city.

The country’s Cabinet Affairs Minister, Mariana Vieira da Silva, said: “They will be moved to the stadium and from the stadium to the airport, being in Portugal less than 24 hours.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: MailOnline is reporting that holidays in Portugal are back on: “Portugal confirmed today that British tourists will be allowed to enter the country from next Monday, after it held crunch talks with the EU about non-essential travel.”

Travel to “Green List” Countries May Still Be Barred by Foreign Office

The Foreign Office could refuse to sanction travel to countries on the Government’s “green” and “amber” lists since its travel advice is published independently of the “traffic light” system, throwing doubt on holidays to some destinations this summer. The Times has the story.

It emerged last night that even destinations on the green or amber list could be rendered off-limits because the Foreign Office publishes its own travel advice, independently of the traffic-light system. This is based on factors such as the risk of individuals getting trapped by coronavirus restrictions or the capacity and quality of the country’s health services.

Most tour operators will refuse to run holidays in countries to which the Foreign Office does not advise travel. Disregarding Foreign Office advice also invalidates most travel insurance policies.

The issue risks a repeat of last summer when the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Foreign Office published separate lists for safe overseas travel, with some countries appearing on one but not the other.

Fears that travel advice may diverge from the traffic light system led to industry leaders and MPs calling on the Government last night to ensure that the two were aligned.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines U.K., which represents carriers such as easyJet and British Airways, said that Foreign Office advice on essential travel “should only be in place for destinations where the risk to travellers is unacceptably high”…

In a further complication, the Foreign Office is requiring cruise operators to sign a “memorandum of understanding” that requires them to agree to the cost and liabilities of repatriating any Britons if they become trapped by a Covid outbreak on a ship.

Industry sources said they were concerned that the paperwork could complicate the restart of international cruises for some companies.

Overseas travel is already set to be a far more complicated affair when/if it returns on May 17th than it was pre-lockdown, especially due to hefty testing costs that travellers – even those visiting “green list” countries – will have to meet. It is expected that the Government will not put any European countries on the travel “red list”, but only a handful of countries – including Israel, Gibraltar and Iceland – are likely to feature on the “green list”. If the Foreign Office decides not to sanction travel to these countries because of Covid then their position on the “green list” will become redundant anyway.

The Times report is worth reading in full.

Holidays Abroad “Extremely Unlikely” This Summer Due to Increase in Covid Cases Across Europe

Government sources fear that an increase in Covid cases on the Continent could prevent Brits from holidaying abroad this summer, and could even cause a “new wave” of infections in Britain. The Times has the story.

Scientific advisers and other senior figures are becoming extremely concerned by an increase in infections that is forcing some regions on the Continent back into lockdown. They fear a rise in cases here within weeks.

European holidays in May – and even in the summer – look doubtful. Scientists are wary of outbreaks of the South African variant in some European countries and some are calling for tougher travel restrictions.

Although the British data is heading in the right direction, with a record 660,276 vaccinations yesterday and the seven-day average of deaths falling below 100 for the first time since October, science advisers are urging caution.

A Government scientist warned there was a danger that travellers could bring back new variants of the virus that are less susceptible to vaccines.

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group, told Today on Radio 4: “International travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely. I think we are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas in July and August because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country.”

“What is really dangerous is if we jeopardise our vaccination campaign by having these variants where the vaccines don’t work as effectively spreading more rapidly.”

Officials believe that an increase in Covid cases across Europe could also impact Britain’s vaccine rollout.

Rises in cases in France, Italy, Spain and Germany have prefigured similar trends in Britain several times over the pandemic. A surge in cases on the Continent is also likely to complicate Boris Johnson’s attempt to stop the European Union blocking exports of the Pfizer jab to Britain. He is hoping to recruit allies such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland to oppose Brussels, whose threats are backed by Germany, France and Italy.

This morning EU chief Ursula von der Leyen escalated the row over delayed shipments by threatening to halt exports of AstraZeneca vaccines if the bloc did not receive its deliveries first.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader has pointed out the double standards in the Government’s approach to Covid testing. Why, if it’s so important to produce a negative test or to have had the vaccine before attending anything (schools included), is the Government not requiring people to take a test before getting the jab at vaccine centres (attended, until now, by those most vulnerable to Covid)?

If asymptomatic “cases” are numerous and serious – as NHS advertising still tells us they are – surely we would ALL be told to have a Covid test just before booking a vaccine slot (not just those who, for whatever reason, have recently had a test that has been positive)? Then, if positive, the we could self-isolate and wait for the recommended interval, rather than expose other people to possible infection and compromise their vaccine response.

Holiday Hopes Sink for Unvaccinated, Who Will Be Banned from P&O Cruises This Summer

P&O Cruises will restart holidays around the British coast this year, but only for Brits who have been fully vaccinated against Covid – and many other restrictions will be enforced. The Mail has the story.

Unvaccinated holidaymakers will be banned from P&O Cruises “staycation” sailings this summer.

Brits who wish to sail on a domestic cruise will have to have received both doses of the Covid vaccine at least seven days in advance of their trip, the UK’s largest cruise line has said.

Last week maritime minister Robert Courts told MPs that domestic cruises could be permitted from May 17th.

So far nearly 25 million people have received at least their first dose of a vaccine, while 1.6 million have received both.

Failure to provide proof of the jabs “will result in denial of boarding”, the firm warned.

Other measures introduced due to the pandemic include requiring passengers to wear masks in certain areas of the ship, and making travel insurance mandatory.

There will also be enhanced cleaning regimes, as well as social distancing.

The cruise operator is taking a different approach to a number of countries – including Turkey and Greece – which will welcome unvaccinated holidaymakers, so long as they produce a negative test.

Worth reading in full.