Holidays to some of the UK’s most popular destinations, including Spain, Greece and Turkey, will require pre-travel testing and at least three days of quarantine, according to new data.
The plans of tens of thousands of British travellers could be disrupted by the news as the prospect of unfettered overseas travel by the summer recedes, with only a dozen countries set to be added to the “green” list in May.
Spain, which alone welcomes 18 million Britons in a normal year, is to be added to a putative “amber” list when the Government introduces its new four-tier traffic light system for the resumption of holidays abroad. Cyprus could join it on the “amber” list, according to analysis by The PC Agency.
Meanwhile the US could be set for one of its busiest summers as it looks likely to make the “green” list, along with Canada, Barbados and the United Arab Emirates.
A Government source downplayed the Prime Minister’s announcement next week on the return of overseas travel, adding: “It is still too early to say where and when people will be able to go on holidays, but there will be detail about what that will look like.”
Scroll down for more updates
That’s all for today
Before we go, here’s a reminder of today’s main headlines:
The countries most likely to make the ‘green’ list
France to enter third lockdown with fresh restrictions
Thailand begins to ease quarantine rules
Croatia reopens to tourists
Watch out for ‘Arctic trough’ this weekend, Met Office warns
We’ll be back tomorrow for more live travel coverage.
A frequent flier tax would win votes, but is entirely illogical
A “Frequent Flyer Levy” has been suggested by an environmental campaign group that wants to see a zero-carbon society. Chris Leadbeater is less than impressed.
At the risk of annoying Benjamin Franklin’s ghost by wheeling out, for the billionth time, his tirelessly repeated quote about life’s twin inevitabilities, it is time to talk about death and taxes. Well, the second one, anyway. The planet has had quite enough of the former of late, but thanks to the wider financial damage wrought by Covid in its Grim Reaper cloak, the coming months are sure to feature myriad discussions about more of the latter.
Not that a “frequent flyer tax” would be a targeted element of the fightback against the harm the pandemic has inflicted on national economies. It would be more to do with our old friend global warming – which has been merrily going about its business, even as Covid has been hogging our attention with its tricks. Nonetheless, the concept has been mooted in the last couple of days – and its viability (or lack of it) merits closer inspection.
9 great ideas for Easter in London this year
Woodland walks, takeaway treats and a secret folly: there’s still plenty you can do in the capital this bank holiday.
Pick up takeaway treats from Borough Market
Blessed are the cheesemakers and sourdough bakers, for they shall remain open through every stage of lockdown. Head to Bermondsey, the capital’s artisan heart of al fresco eating and drinking, where innovative chefs and producers are creating some of London’s most delicious food. Borough Market (boroughmarket.org.uk) traders are selling their wares as usual on weekdays and Saturdays, with many of the shops and restaurants around the market hall serving takeaways. Cooking keeping you going during lockdown? Stock up on store cupboard delights such as pretty tinned sardines and decadent balsamic vinegars from Spanish deli Brindisa.
Step out in the West End with Ian McKellen
Group tours are out, of course, but some may anyway prefer going under their own steam. On the self-guided Theatreland tour, you’re steered around the West End by the resonant baritone of the lord of the boards, Sir Ian McKellen, whose insider knowledge of London’s theatres and stage doors shines a whole new light on a part of the city most natives think they know inside out. Download Theatreland self-guided tour at voicemap.me – it’s free to download, but consider making a donation to London’s struggling theatres.
Sussex’s answer to the Sistine Chapel ceiling (painted by a parishioner called Gary)
Rome is off the cards for now, so plan a summer trip to Goring-by-Sea, where you’ll find a replica of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, writes Tracey Davies.
The Sistine Chapel has the most recognisable ceiling in the world, so it’s quite the surprise to find an exact replica of Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the church of a sleepy English seaside village. Painted on the vaulted ceiling of the English Martyrs Catholic Church in Goring-by-Sea by parishioner Gary Bevans, the Sistine Chapel of Sussex, as it’s predictably known, is a true magnum opus of art reproduction.
Inspired by his pilgrimage to Rome in 1987, Bevans worked out that the dimensions of the Sistine Chapel ceiling were exactly the same as his church in Goring, just two-thirds the size (5,000 square feet vs 3,500 square feet) and thirty feet lower.
Australian government releases half-price flights to help domestic tourism industry
The Australian federal government recently released half-price domestic flights, prompting Virgin Australia to be on track to record its highest number of bookings in one day since before the pandemic began. Qantas and Jetstar also recorded 130,000 bookings in under 12 hours, following the move.
More than 50,000 Qantas fares and 45,000 Jetstar fares were sold in the first 11 hours of the half-off flight program, which launched on Thursday, with Maroochydore, the Gold Coast, Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart among the most popular destinations. By 3pm they had sold a combined 130,000 flights.
Virgin Australia said it was set to record its biggest day of bookings since the pandemic began, recording a 600 per cent increase in flight bookings, a 600 per cent increase in flight searches, and a tripling of website traffic compared to last week.
The avalanche of sales was helped along by the Queensland government announcing an early end to the Brisbane lockdown, with residents able to travel for the Easter weekend – nine of the top 10 routes booked since the offer opened involved a Queensland port.
It was hoped the flights would help boost the struggling aviation industry, however tourism bosses have said more support is still needed. The Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive, Daniel Gschwind, said the early end to the greater Brisbane lockdown, coupled with the release of half-price flights, was a “huge relief”, but “it does not alleviate all the stress on providers who are still hurting from the international border closures and domestic border closures.”
Pfizer vaccine effective against variants, study shows
A new study suggests the Pfizer vaccine is likely to protect against Wuham, Kent, Brazil and South Africa variants of coronavirus.
The vaccine produces an “off the scale” immune response that is likely to work against the Brazilian variant of Covid-19, researchers say.
The biggest study on antibody and cellular immune factors to date suggests people are likely to be protected against the different types of coronavirus following two doses of the vaccine.
The research, led by the University of Birmingham and including Public Health England’s Porton Down laboratory, found 98 per cent of people aged 80 or over who had two doses of the Pfizer jab had a strong antibody immune response.
Professor Paul Moss, from the University of Birmingham and leader of the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, told a briefing: “We’ve certainly seen in this paper that the antibody levels are so good, really after the first two weeks, that we are pretty confident that this should be very helpful against the Brazilian variant.”
Asked if he is surprised how well the vaccines have worked in older people, he said: “We were. When we sent these samples to Porton Down they said ‘we can’t give you results right now because we’ve got to dilute them because they’re so high, they’re off the scale’.”
Airbnb bans 1,000 ‘party house’ listings ahead of UK reopening
Airbnb has suspended 200 listings in the UK following a crackdown on l“party houses”. The accommodation platform said enforcements were primarily on listings with descriptions “that appeared to allow parties”, which is against its policy.
This brings the number of removals or suspensions to more than 1,000 in the last six months.
Airbnb said the move was ahead of the reopening of UK accommodation on April 12 and following concerns raised about houses or flats used solely for large gatherings.
“We want to be clear beyond doubt that we have zero tolerance for antisocial behaviour on Airbnb,” said Patrick Robinson, director of public policy at Airbnb. “The vast majority of hosts and guests are good neighbours, and bad actors have no place in our community. Our measures are working and as the UK looks forward to the reopening of tourism, we are committed to being good partners to communities and helping people stay safe.”
50 wonderful reasons to rediscover America – one for every state
With the US looking likely to be one of the few places we can visit this summer, without the need to quarantine, our resident fan, the red, white and blue Chris Leadbeater writes on the 50 reasons to cross the Pond, in alphabetical order, too.
Watch out for ‘Arctic trough’ this weekend, Met Office warns
People are being warned to watch out over the Easter weekend due to a “big swing” in weather conditions that could bring gale force winds and even snow to parts of the UK.
The Met Office said that despite the almost record-setting March conditions earlier this week, temperatures would decline steadily and by Monday would struggle to reach double digits.
Parts of the UK saw temperatures reach nearly 24C (75.2F) on Wednesday, with Weybourne, north Norfolk, leading the way at a peak of 23.9C (75F).
But the figure fell just shy of the nation’s hottest ever March temperature of 25.6C (78F), which was recorded in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire.
The Met Office said the “marked change” in temperature was due to the country entering an “Arctic trough” and colder conditions were expected to last through next week.
Nicola Maxey, spokeswoman for the Met Office, said: “There are some blustery winds around, particularly along the east coast, as we go through the weekend.
“It’s a marked change from what we saw on Wednesday and by the end of Friday we’re really all in this cold air – we’re in an Arctic trough.”
Vilifying sunseekers in parks says more about you than it does them
Leave the revellers alone – the truly selfish people are those intent on prolonging this misery, writes Simon Parker.
It was all so highly predictable. Britain’s great unlock was always going to coincide with a mini heatwave. Starved of vitamin D, we wandered out into the world, desperate for fresh air and frivolity.
By lunchtime on Monday, you could hear a 21-cork salute ringing out across every park and beach in the land. There were picnics in the daffodils and Proseccos by the ponds. And who could blame us? We’d been incarcerated for the best part of a year, stuck at home, doing our bit for the greater good. For a few balmy hours, life felt joyously normal.
But then came the inevitable backlash from the Fun Police. And for every splash of Factor 10, there was a Covid Jobsworth looking to bring the mood down. Curiously, tourist boards began warning people to stay away, despite them not having any authority to do so. The sun was out but the mood felt oddly familiar.
‘I sent my mother to Tuscany after her cancer treatment to help her restore a sense of independence’
Emma Cooke has long dreamed of a Tuscan holiday – so it was with some surprise she found herself sending someone else on a trip there.
I have imagined more holidays in Tuscany than I can count. Cycling through sunflower fields, laughing gaily as handsome Italian men look on in – humour me – admiration, and retreating to a sun-dappled villa to cook fresh pasta in a floaty white dress, which miraculously remains sauce-free throughout. Surely the real Tuscany can’t be quite so idyllic – but I’ve always been determined to find out. So it was with some surprise I found myself choosing to send someone else to play out my Tuscan fantasy two years ago, rather than my own fair, sundress-bedecked self.
Secret Croatia: 10 beautiful destinations you probably haven’t heard of
To celebrate Croatia’s reopening to British tourists, here’s ten of the most beautiful spots you can visit in the country…
Cutting a 900m gash into the rugged terrain of the Northern Velebit National Park is the heavenly little inlet of Zavratnica Bay. The contrast in colours is striking between the blue-green of the clear Adriatic waters and the foot of the hulking, scrub-covered limestone of Velebit. You can follow the dusty footpath from the pretty village of Jablanac for about 20 minutes before cooling off in the impossibly clear waters. There’s a viewpoint to the south of the inlet, which is worth the circuitous route to the top of the mountain to get a panoramic view of Zavratnica and the island of Rab across the channel.
Biokovo Nature Park
While Dalmatia’s Makarska Riviera hums with activity, it’s a quieter world up in the mountains of Biokovo Nature Park (pp-biokovo.hr) which looms over the Adriatic from a height of more than 1,500m. Lower trails meander through olive groves and pine forests before becoming more challenging as paths turn into rocky limestone. Fans of dizzying hairpin roads can drive the 28km to the peak of Sveti Jure to try and spot the mountains of Italy and Bosnia on a clear day. There’s a thrill of a similar kind at the Biokovo Skywalk, with its D-shaped glass walkway hovering at 1,228m – not one for the faint-hearted.
Croatia reopens to tourists
Some good news from Croatia – the country has today outlined their official rules regarding conditions of entry. From today visitors may enter the Republic of Croatia if they hold:
A negative PCR or rapid antigen Covid test result no older than 48 hours (counting from the time of taking the swab to arriving at the border crossing point). In the case of a rapid antigen test and a stay longer than 10 days in Croatia, the test must be repeated within ten days from the date of issuing that test.
A vaccination certificate stating they have received a second dose of a Covid vaccine over 14 days ago. Or, a certificate of receipt of a single dose vaccine if the dose was received over 14 days before crossing the state border.
A certificate confirming they have recovered from Covid after having previously tested positive for the virus. This must be valid at the earliest on the eleventh day from the date of arrival of the positive test and no later than the 180th day from the day of the first positive test.
Alternatively, visitors may undergo PCR testing or rapid antigen immediately upon arrival in Croatia at their own expense, and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. If testing cannot be performed, they will need to quarantine for 10 days.
Thailand begins to ease quarantine rules
Thailand has began halving the quarantine time for vaccinated visitors as a first step to allowing inoculated people into the country without the need to isolate, AFP reports
The pandemic has devastated the country’s tourism industry, a key income earner, but strict border measures have left the country relatively unscathed in terms of coronavirus infections.
Tanee Sangrat, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that travellers, Thai and non-Thai, are no longer required to have fit-to-fly documents issued by Thai consulates from Thursday. Foreigners, however, still have to show a negative Covid-19 test result.
He said that people who are certified to have been vaccinated will be allowed to spend seven days in special quarantine hotels, compared to the previous 14 days. Unvaccinated people have to spend 10 days in quarantine unless they arrive from one of 11 countries (all in sub-Saharan Africa) in which case they have to do the full two weeks.
He said that those vaccinated must have certificates approved by Thai FDA and/or the World Health Organization. Thailand has approved seven vaccines including Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna.
Thailand hopes to first fully reopen the island of Phuket, its most popular destination, by July 1 for vaccinated visitors without quarantine. But they will be required to spend a certain time, possibly up to a week, on Phuket before they are allowed to travel elsewhere in Thailand.
Scientists keeping close eye on Mount Etna
In other news, volcanologists have been peering into the crater of Mount Etna, Catania, Sicily, in an attempt to understand its recent unusual behaviour. In recent weeks it has spewed both magma and ash to the bemusement of local experts.
Europe’s largest and most active volcano has been erupting regularly since September, 2019.
Tui adds 100,000 holidays to 2022 sale
Tui, Europe’s largest tour operator, has placed on sale more than 100,000 additional holidays for next summer.
The UK arm of the group said the move, which included 1,500 new hotels in 62 destinations, was a response to “increased demand” for 2022. It said bookings for next summer were up 120 per cent compared to this summer, which remains in doubt thanks to coronavirus restrictions.
It said next May is so far the most popular month for bookings.
Tui said: “Based on current bookings, Tui UK’s most popular hotspots for next summer are Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, and Florida. Long haul has [also] increased in popularity with all customer groups, and families in particular want to plan far ahead for their dream holiday.”
Summer cruises sale sparks booking rush – Cunard
British cruise line Cunard has seen its busiest day of bookings for a decade after its UK summer cruises went on sail.
Voyages onboard Queen Elizabeth between July and October will follow the British coast, and include some without set destinations – instead following the sun to the brightest spots. Each cruise is round-trip from Southampton.
Cunard president Simon Palethorpe said that passengers are “showing that their desire to travel” is stronger than ever.
“This record-breaking day follows a phenomenal response to our Centenary World Voyages, on board Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria in 2023, which went on sale a few weeks ago. In perhaps an indication that guests are upgrading having not travelled for a while, suites on board these voyages pretty well sold-out at the end of the first day of sales, with only one top suite remaining,” he added.
In pictures: Austrians enjoy late season snow
The remnants of winter are good news for some on the Continent.
In Austria, skiers have found a way to enjoy the last of the season, even with a pandemic going on.
‘Litter picking more important than smiling’
The owner of a camping website has lent his support to a refreshed Countryside Code published this week, intended to heal divides between town visitors and country dwellers, but says there are more important lessons that to smile at passers-by.
Pitchup.com said it shared the new code with its database of one million-plus members.
Founder Dan Yates said: “While it’s good to see that Natural England are also encouraging visitors to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’, the clearest instruction really is to ‘leave as you find’.
“We recognise that for many of those heading off on a camping or glamping holiday this summer, it’s a new experience so it’s important for them to understand how to behave in the countryside. Protecting the natural landscape by taking all litter home with you, including dog poo, and sticking to designated footpaths is key.”
Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said “healing” the divide between town and country was key to the success of gaining public support for conservation efforts.
“That idea of smiling and being friendly is quite an important thing for us to have in mind as we’re using these outdoor spaces, especially considering that some people may not be that confident in using them.
“If someone smiles and says ‘hello’ it actually might make quite a big difference,” he told The Telegraph.
How did these British cruise ships end up on the scrap heap in India?
The fate of a number of British cruise ships is becoming clearer as one nears a scrapyard…
Drakeford: ‘May 17 international travel goal over-optimistic’
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said he hopes Boris Johnson will push back the potential May 17 date for the UK resuming international travel by the time he addresses the nation next week.
He told Good Morning Britain: “I’ve long argued that it is over-optimistic, that it doesn’t reflect the risk of reimporting coronavirus from other parts of the world where there are new variants in circulation.”
Mr Drakeford said that the newest lockdown in France in response to rising cases of Covid-19 there was evidence of “how close to this country some of those risks are currently being experienced”.
“When the Prime Minister speaks next week I hope that he will say that date is having to be pushed back further into the future in order to go on protecting the United Kingdom against the developments we see elsewhere in the world”, he said.
In charts: Spain and Greece’s coronavirus cases
As it looks likely Spain, Greece and Turkey could join an ‘amber’ list, this is how their infection rates are faring:
Does the coronavirus variant put you off visiting South Africa?
British holidaymakers are not put off travelling to South Africa, despite its own, more virulent coronavirus variant, a new survey shows.
Commissioned by the South African tourist board, YouGov found that of those not considering travel to the country, only 14 per cent were put off by the “South African Variant”, otherwise known as 501.V2 or B.1.351. Scientists have been concerned that it spreads more easily than other strains.
However, this does not deter potential visitors, according to the poll of more than 2,000 Britons. It found that more than half (53 per cent) would consider visiting, a figure rising to 72 per cent in 18-34 year olds.
Kgomotso Ramothea, acting hub head at South African Tourism for the UK and Ireland, welcomed the research, saying: “We are delighted to see from our YouGov research that there continues to be a strong consumer appetite for travel to South Africa in the not too distant future. South Africa has implemented robust social distancing and hygiene protocols to ensure we are ready to welcome tourists later this year.
“The destination had already instigated stringent testing requirements where visitors had to present to border officials a paper copy of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 72 hours before departure. This will continue to be a requirement when travel re-opens.”
Palau forms first Covid travel bubble
The idea of European travel bubbles has fallen by the wayside somewhat since their first incarnation last year – remember Estonia-Lithuania-Latvia? But that has not stopped countries elsewhere. Enter Palau.
Taiwan has opened its first travel bubble during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the small, tourism-dependent Pacific state of Palau, offering a lifeline to a country in a region where China and the United States are battling for influence.
Palau, less than four hours by plane from Taiwan, is one of only 15 countries to maintain formal diplomatic ties with the Chinese-claimed island, and the closing of its borders last year to keep the virus out has severely hurt its economy.
With Palau recording no cases and the outbreak under control in Taiwan, Taipei agreed to the “sterile corridor” last month, though there are still controls, including tourists having to travel in a group and limited contact with local people.
Speaking at Taiwan’s main international airport at Taoyuan, outside of Taipei, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. said he was pleased the bubble was starting.
“Many times we need to take bold steps, and I think this is a bold step. But it’s a very careful step and that’s why we say we’re opening Palau with care,” he said, before boarding a China Airlines 737 jet back home, accompanying the first group in the bubble.
Chart: France’s ‘third wave’
France to enter third lockdown with fresh restrictions
It was not so long ago France seemed like a certain for summer holidays this year. Now, it could not feel less likely.
The country registered more than 40,000 new cases yesterday as it wrestled with a third wave of infections.
On Thursday Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that alcoholic drinks will be prohibited in French parks and other outdoor public spaces.
Addressing the National Assembly, Castex also said authorities would be quick to disperse groups of more than six people on riverbanks or squares . Castex said he “unreservedly” condemned people who had not been respecting the rules, after images of beer-swigging crowds on riverbanks under spring sunshine in cities including Paris and Lyon.
Meanwhile, prosecutors should “systematically” probe organisers of clandestine parties for putting the lives of others in danger, he added.
Tour operators bank on ‘Indian summer’
The likes of Tui, EasyJet and Jet2 are laying the groundwork for a late summer splurge to make up for lost time should travel restrictions remain beyond spring.
Some of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations are doing the same, with one, Antigua, declaring that 2021 is about “debunking seasonality”.
Increased capacity, extended flight programmes, promotional pushes and reduced prices are just some of the tools being put to use by Britain’s biggest travel companies.
Jet2 said it has moved the end dates of its season in Greece, adding capacity for October and November. Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2 and Jet2holidays, said: “There continues to be enormous pent-up demand from British holidaymakers, who want nothing more than to get away to the sunshine and enjoy their well-deserved holidays.
“Extending the summer season to Greece means we are… giving customers more opportunity to get away and enjoy a much-needed holiday.”
‘This is the year to have your holiday in Wales’
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has been speaking this morning about the next stage of easing lockdown for the coutnry.
Asked what he would say to people wanting a foreign break, he told Good Morning Britain: “I’d say that this is the year to have your holiday in Wales. There are so many fantastic opportunities here.
“If ever there was a year to enjoy what we have domestically, and to find those spots in Wales that you haven’t visited before, this is the year to do it.”
Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government would not seek to prevent people from travelling internationally if rules allow later in the year.
“It’s not realistic to try to prevent people and we won’t make that attempt. What my advice to people in Wales would be this year, stay at home, enjoy what we have here. Don’t put yourselves and other people at risk.”
The countries most likely to make the ‘green’ list
Here is the data in full from the PC Agency, indicating which countries might end on which list…
Good morning – what you need to know this morning
Good morning and welcome to the travel live blog. Here are some of the stories to watch today…
Wales plans to ease its lockdown further
New data begins to show which countries might end up on which ‘traffic light list’
France is heading for another nationwide lockdown, raising fresh doubts about summer holidays
Spain has tried to reassure holidaymakers that common sense will be used to enforce the after a new law made masks mandatory on beaches
Only one in eight Britons will go abroad if they have to pay for Covid tests, new research has shown
Malta is to welcome vaccinated British travellers from June 1
Royal Caribbean has announced a series of summer cruises in UK waters