travel

Unjabbed Brits May be Banned from Travelling to EU Next Summer

Britons could be banned from travelling to the EU unless they are fully vaccinated against Covid under new rules being hammered out in Brussels today. MailOnline has more.

Under the plans, which would affect any tourist from outside the bloc, the ‘white list’ of approved countries would be scrapped in favour of making travel dependent on the vaccination status of the traveller.

Those fully jabbed with an EU-approved vaccine – which includes AstraZeneca and Pfizer – would be allowed to travel freely, provided their last dose was within the last nine months. Those with ‘expired’ jabs would need a booster shot.

Children, those who have recovered from the virus, people travelling for essential reasons and those jabbed with a WHO-approved vaccine would also be allowed but may require a pre-departure PCR test, Bloomberg reports.

The rules are likely to be phased in, and take full effect by March. The same rules would then be rolled out to EU citizens travelling within the bloc from next summer.

Detailed plans are set to be published later today, and it will then be up to each member state whether to implement them.

It comes as the continent tries to control a rising wave of Covid infections, with leaders targeting the unvaccinated for the harshest measures.

Worth reading in full.

Travel Red List Scrapped

Fully vaccinated travellers entering the U.K. from the remaining seven countries on the ‘Red List’ will not have to self-isolate from 4am on Monday but will need to take lateral flow tests. Unfortunately, the Government has left the door open to bring back the policy. The Telegraph has more.

The Red List was effectively scrapped on Thursday but hotel quarantine will remain as a threat until at least the New Year.

All seven countries left on the Red List will be removed from Monday at 4am, which means passengers will no longer be required to quarantine in a U.K. hotel at a cost of £2,285 per person.

Fully jabbed travellers from the seven – Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic – will only have to take a lateral flow test on their arrival in the U.K. without having to self-isolate.

Ministers have, however, agreed to retain “several hundred” rooms in “quarantine” hotels in case restrictions have to be reimposed if a new variant emerges or there is a resurgence of Covid.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said: “We will keep the Red List category in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health and are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK’s first line of defence.”

Britain is one of the last countries in the world to have hotel quarantine with even Australia, pioneers of the policy, having dropped it.

Ministers are now expected to review it in the New Year and are likely to replace it with home quarantine for travellers from “high risk” countries.

Fewer than one in 120 travellers returning from Red List countries are testing positive for Covid with none having anything other than the dominant Delta variant, which has squeezed out other strains. Since the policy was launched in February, more than 200,000 passengers have been quarantined in a hotel.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Vienna

We’re publishing a new addition to our long-running series ‘Around the World in 80 Lockdowns’. This time it’s a “Postcard From Vienna” from our regular travel correspondent Russell David. Here is an extract:

It’s no surprise most people aren’t booking holidays at the moment. In the 10 days leading up to the flight I received five emails from Ryanair, four of which were identical, headed ESSENTIAL REMINDER FOR YOUR TRIP in bold, capital letters, red and underlined. A couple of lines down it said: “Failure to comply with local travel requirements may result in you being fined or denied boarding or entry into your destination.” That too was in bold and underlined. There was then reams of copy about the E.U. Digital Covid Travel Certificate, passenger locator forms, masks and tests, until it returned to its theme: “Failure to produce required forms/negative Covid test results may result in boarding/entry to your destination being denied and may also result in very expensive, on the spot fines.” By this point you’re thinking: “Christ, should I really have booked this holiday? Is it worth the pain and stress?”

It didn’t start too well. At the Ryanair departure gate at Stansted, already a whirlpool of anxiety and hassle thanks to the staff’s incessant cries of “are you double vaccinated?” and “your bag’s too big, you have to pay extra”, I was called forward, unmasked as ever, clutching my exemption letter from my GP, and came face-to-mask with, well, let’s call her Eva. She peered at my letter for a long time before drawing herself up.

“I’ve let you on this time,” she said with the imperiousness of the Empress of India, “but this is out of date”, and she pointed to “July 30th, 2021” on my letter.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From Slovenia

We’re publishing a new postcard today, this one by Russell David about a recent trip to Ljubljana in Slovenia. Bit of a mixed bag – mask mandates are pretty ubiquitous – but probably better than a week in Skegness. Here is an extract:

Getting a flight can often be stressful; in Covid times multiply that by 10. I awoke (after bad dreams) two hours before my alarm on the day of my flight and was unable to get back to sleep, a million things going through my mind, a million things that could go wrong on the trip. It starts long before the actual day of the flight, as you take your test and send it off and hope it gets there in time… and that it’s negative… and that the result reaches you in time. I scored the hat-trick, so there was just the long drive to Gatwick on my mind, and then the hope that I’d remembered all my documents – the proof of double-jabbing, the To Whom It May Concern letter from my doctor saying I was medically exempt from wearing a mask (subsequently checked twice on the way out, not at all on the return), the Randox details I’d need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form (subsequently never checked), plus all the usual stuff.

Shortly before my easyJet flight to Ljubljana was airborne there was an announcement to the effect that there would be no peanut products served because one passenger had a nut allergy – which seemed like a neat summation of the rampant culture of safetyism we now live under, the culture that gave us the lockdowns. And in-flight announcements now have the Covid versions of airlines’ extreme paranoia (“In the event of landing on water…” etc), so you get warnings about not moving around the cabin unnecessarily and stressing the importance of us all always wearing our mask, though you can remove it for a “short period” while eating or drinking.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Scraps Plans For Vaccine Passports

According to today’s Sunday Times, the Prime Minister will announce this week that he’s scrapping plans to bring in vaccine passports for nightclubs, cinemas and sports grounds at the end of this month.

On Tuesday, the prime minister will announce plans to try to keep Covid under control over the winter. He will say that he has abandoned the proposed compulsory certification scheme, which would have forced venues to check people’s vaccine status.

Johnson tore up the proposals after scientists said vaccinations would be an effective first line of defence against a winter wave of the pandemic. But the move also represents a significant concession to Tory backbench rebels who had complained that enforcing vaccine passports would create a group of second-class citizens.

Companies that already demand proof of vaccination will be able to continue but the new “toolbox” of measures will introduce masks and home-working only if rates soar.

The announcement will also mark the start of the government’s booster programme, with millions set to get a third jab this autumn.

The full details will be decided when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reports to ministers tomorrow, but the timetable is expected to mirror that for first injections, with the elderly and vulnerable jabbed first.

The four chief medical officers will also unveil plans to start vaccinations for 12 to 15 year-olds, with parental consent, beginning on September 22nd.

Worth reading in full.

This story should be treated with some caution, given how prone to changing his mind Boris is. But it’s of a piece with a story in the Sun on Sunday, clearly briefed out by Number 10, which says the Prime Minister will announce the end of numerous Covid regulations later this week.

Boris Johnson will this week light the touch paper to start a bonfire of Covid regulations.

Powers held to shut down swathes of the economy and impose limits on gatherings and events will be repealed.

The red tape roll-back is part of a masterplan from the PM, who is desperate to avoid any further lockdowns.

The temporary closing or limiting access to schools and powers to detain infectious people under the Coronavirus Act — called draconian by some Tory MPs — are no longer seen as necessary.

Downing Street views vaccines as the country’s “first line of defence” as we enter autumn and look to winter.

But there are still fears across Whitehall of Covid circulating alongside flu – while the threat of a new variant concerns ministers.

The PM, to unveil the strategy this week, last night said: “Thanks to the efforts of the public, the NHS and our phenomenal vaccination programme, we reached Step 4 in our roadmap and life has a sense of normality.

“These extraordinary times required necessary but intrusive measures.

“But I’m determined to get rid of any powers we no longer need.”

In addition, MailOnline is reporting that the requirement that returning travellers have to get two PCR tests – one just before they board an incoming flight, the second two days after arrival – is due to be scrapped in England in time for the half term holidays if you’ve been double jabbed.

Stop Press: Appearing on Trevor Philips’ Live on Sky News, Sajid Javid more or less confirmed the stories. He said he did not “like the idea” of vaccine passports and hoped to “avoid” introducing them, but didn’t rule it out.

He also said he did not want PCR tests for returning travellers to remain mandatory “for a second longer than is absolutely necessary”.

Stop Press 2: The Health Secretary went further in a subsequent interview with Andrew Marr on the BBC, confirming that vaccine passports will be scrapped. “I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead,” he said.

Stop Press 3: Nicola Sturgeon is coming under pressure to scrap her own plans for Vaccine passports following the decision of the British Government, according to the Telegraph.

‘Traffic Light’ Travel System Could Be Scrapped Next Month – Only to Be Replaced by New System Based on Covid Vaccination

There’s good news and bad news on the travel front today. The good news is that the ‘traffic light’ travel system could be (partially) scrapped next month under plans being drawn up by ministers. The bad news is that officials have been told not to allow a return to normal but to create a new system based on Covid vaccination instead. The Telegraph has the story.

Officials have been told to develop a new system based on the vaccination status of travellers rather than the Covid rating of the country they are visiting.

It is likely to mean ‘Amber’ and ‘Green’ will disappear as separate categories, although ‘Red’ will continue with travellers still required to quarantine in hotels on returning from high-risk destinations.

Double jabbed holidaymakers can already travel to Amber countries without having to quarantine on their return after the Government ditched the requirement to self-isolate.

It means that for fully vaccinated travellers, visiting Amber or Green countries is exactly the same, requiring only pre-departure tests and then a PCR test within two days of returning to the U.K.

The proposed new two-tier system is only likely to have an impact on those who are not vaccinated. It is unclear, however, whether they would be required to continue to quarantine or face a more intensive testing regime on returning to the U.K.

The rethink of the traffic light system has been triggered by the Government’s promise to review it by October 1st when it was originally unveiled earlier this year.

It also coincides with the completion of the vaccination roll-out with all adults aged 18 and over offered both their jabs by the end of September.

Worth reading in full.

Travellers to Mexico Discover it’s been ‘Red Listed’ in Mid-Air

MailOnline has a harrowing story about a woman who discovered Mexico has been placed on the red list in mid-air as she was flying to Mexico City yesterday. The only way for her to avoid quarantining for 10 days on her return – and the £1,750 cost of doing so – would be to catch the next flight home. Unfortunately, the cheapest one before Sunday, when Mexico goes on the red list, is £6,878.

Furious British holidaymakers flying to Mexico have revealed how they found out that the country was being moved onto the red list mid-air.

From 4am on Sunday, people returning to the UK from Mexico will have to stay in isolation in a hotel for 10 days.

However, the Government has been slammed for giving only three days’ notice of the change, with the only direct flight from Mexico City to London before Sunday on sale for a staggering £6,878.

Travel agency CEO Paul Charles tweeted after the announcement: “Pity poor #UK travellers in #Mexico – some 5/6,000 who have to somehow get back before hotel quarantine kicks in on Sunday. Certainly not enough seat capacity.”

And holidaymakers have revealed how they found out about Mexico going red at the very last minute.

Claire, 30, from south London, said: “I had access to the Wifi so I found out in mid air.

“I just wanted to grab the tannoy and tell everyone because I could see all these families looking forward to their holiday and it was obvious they didn’t know.

“It’s crazy the lack of notice. I had no inkling Mexico was about to go on the red list.”

Another tweeted: “Landing in Mexico to find out it’s been added to the red list whilst I was up in the air, has got to be one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.”

Father-of-two David Hing, 40, arrived in Mexico with his wife and children aged four and seven on July 31. They were supposed to stay until August 21 – five days before the travel list is looked at again.

Mr Hing told MailOnline: “We knew the risks and while at the moment it seems like a bad dream and is very stressful and I’ve been up all night looking at alternative options, we are just going to try to enjoy the holiday.

“It broke my heart when my two little ones said they wanted to stay on holiday and would lend us money if we needed it.

“The notice period doesn’t really give long enough to make changes especially when it’s hard to get through and talk to anyone at the airlines.

“The images of the food and hotels do not seem like they are worth the cost so that’s why we are going to try and fly back somewhere else first. I feel sorry for the people who were already on the flight from the U.K. and hope they can make alternative arrangements.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: No holiday is safe, according to MailOnline. Tens of thousands of people started making arrangements to go to France today, after its removal from the ‘amber-plus’ list, but Grant Shapps has warned it could go back on the red list in just three weeks.

France No Longer ‘Amber-Plus’ and Seven Countries Added to Green List

Good news for holidaymakers. France has been removed from the ‘amber-plus’ list and seven countries have been added to the green list, bringing the total up to 36. BBC News has more.

France will not be on England’s amber-plus list from 04:00 BST on Sunday, meaning fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer have to quarantine.

The country was put on the list last month, amid concerns about the Beta variant, which scientists believe may be more resistant to vaccines.

At the same time, seven countries have been added to the green list for travel including Germany, Austria and Norway.

The transport secretary said the country “must continue to be cautious”.

Despite prior speculation, Spain will remain on the amber list, enabling travellers who are fully vaccinated to continue to enjoy a quarantine-free return.

However, travellers arriving in the UK from Spain are now advised to take a PCR test – rather than the cheaper lateral flow tests – for the mandatory pre-departure test as a “precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country”.

There were already 29 countries or territories on the green list, bringing the total to 36.

Will this be enough to save the summer? Travel industry bosses don’t think so.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines U.K., said the announcement was “another missed opportunity” with U.K. travel opening up “far slower” than the rest of Europe.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of EasyJet, said he was disappointed but the news provided “some reassurance” to customers – after days of uncertainty around which list countries would be on which list.

The Government must also fix the expensive testing regime, he added.

The U.K. was still a long way from a meaningful restart of international travel, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee said.

And Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA – the association of travel agents and tour operators – said the “snail’s pace” movement failed to capitalise on the success of the vaccination programme.

Worth reading in full.

A handy guide from MailOnline.

Queues at Heathrow Are a Quarter Mile Long Thanks to ‘Pingdemic’

Departure queues at Heathrow Airport are up to a quarter of a mile long, thanks to the fact that 25% of staff have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid App. The Mirror has more.

Huge queues have built up at Heathrow Airport amid a suspected Covid outbreak among staff, it has been reported.

Frustrated passengers have been stuck waiting for hours at the London airport today.

Some reported tension within the queues, with people jostling and pushing just to get into the terminal.

The lack of social distancing has led to concerns among some that the virus could spread as crowded people wait to get on their flights.

Problems with the e-gates and sickness among Border Force staff are behind the delays, the Times reports.

You can read the Times report about the queues here.

“You’d Have to be Crackers to Book a Holiday”

A raging battle has erupted in the Cabinet over plans for a danger list of countries that could see destinations like Spain and Italy suddenly move to red. MailOnline has more.

The plans for a new ‘amber watch list’ sparked outrage in Whitehall as some ministers believe it could ruin the holiday hopes of millions of Britons.

The idea, which was agreed in principle this week, would see holidaymakers warned that while they are abroad certain amber countries could go straight on to the red list.

This would leave them facing compulsory hotel quarantine on their return, at a cost of £1,750 a head.

Spain and Italy both featured in talks about countries that could be put into the new category – as soon as next week – amid fears about the Beta variant, which first emerged in South Africa.

Senior ministers, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are said to have reservations about imposing further disruption on the beleaguered travel sector.

Mr Shapps urged people to “ignore speculation” ahead of decisions next week. But behind the scenes a battle is raging.

One Whitehall source said: “You would have to be crackers to book a holiday to a place knowing that it could go on to the red list at any moment.

“If you have already booked to go there you are going to spend your whole holiday worrying whether you are going to have to make a dash to the airport to get home.

“The decision next week will basically be in place for August. It is peak holiday season – are we really going to cause that much disruption to this many people?”

Worth reading in full.