Three countries removed from travel corridor list in final review of the year

Namibia has been ditched after less than a month - Getty
Namibia has been ditched after less than a month – Getty

Three countries have been removed from the UK’s list of quarantine-free travel corridors, and the Government has suspended all further changes until at least January 7. 

Namibia, Uruguay and the US Virgin Islands – all of which were added less than a month ago, on November 19 – were ditched following this week’s review of the green list. Few British travellers will be affected, with Uruguay and the US Virgin Islands closed to tourists, and Namibia only accessible via South Africa, a non-corridor country. 

The news that no new corridors will be announced for at least three weeks will come as a blow to tour operators, who have been lobbying the Government in recent weeks to add destinations such as Kenya and Egypt.

However, those travellers due to visit the likes of Dubai and the Maldives, two winter sun options that have been luring Britons in recent weeks, can at least do so in the knowledge that – emergency changes notwithstanding – they will not face an unexpected quarantine on their return. 

Earlier today it was reported that Tenerife will remain open to British tourists despite strict new coronavirus restrictions. There were fears that holidaymakers could be forced to cancel their trips, but both Jet2 and Ryanair – as well as the Tenerife tourist board – said tourists would not be affected. 

“International travellers can come to Tenerife as long they’re tested before arrival,” a spokesperson for the tourist board told Telegraph Travel.

See below for more updates:

05:24 PM

Goodnight from us

A bit of a damp squib to end the day. Quite apt really. Here’s a recap:

  • No new travel corridors, but Uruguay, Namibia and the US Virgin Islands have been removed from the green list

  • Holidays to Tenerife can continue, despite reports of a flight ban

  • BA has dropped 15 long-haul routes for 2021

  • The EHIC scheme will be extended for people with certain pre-existing conditions is no wider deal on heathcare is reached

  • The world’s biggest cruise company is considering whether to ban unvaccinated passengers

Have a tolerable evening all. 

05:15 PM

Loss of Namibia will leave tour operators perplexed

Namibia, which is open to UK tourists, was only added on November 19, and its seven-day case rate stands at 73.7 per 100,000 (Britain’s is 220.3). Furthermore, it has only seen 164 Covid deaths all year.  Safari operators will rightly wonder why it is being removed. 

Earlier today, Chris McIntyre, founder of Expert Africa, told us: “[In Africa], economies are suffering, and in these countries that doesn’t just mean a difference in disposable income; it means really tough choices about the basics of life: food, shelter and health. On the ground, we’ve colleagues and contacts in all of these countries who are really pleased to have the advice lifted. I know of top-notch wildlife guides in Namibia who are looking for work on building sites, and finding little success, and companies there who are just folding.”

05:08 PM

No more reviews until January 7

05:04 PM

Three countries lose their travel corridor

05:00 PM

A few of our favourite articles from 2020

Telegraph Travel’s Greg Dickinson has picked out a few of his favourites (and most aren’t about Covid). Take a peek:

04:57 PM

WHO releases specific advice for skiers

Does skiing spread coronavirus? No, but resorts do, according to the World Health Organisation, which has released advice aimed specifically at ski resorts to prevent the further spread of coronavirus this winter.

“There are over 1,000 ski resorts across the European region. Eleven months into the pandemic, we know that ski resorts played a significant role in seeding the pandemic across Europe and that social gatherings were key in its resurgence during and after the summer,” read a statement from the WHO, referencing the outbreak of Covid-19 in resorts such as Ischgl in Austria.

“Skiing does not spread Covid-19, but busy mountain resorts do. During the upcoming holidays, WHO recommends that countries carefully consider adapting the setup of seasonal activities to remove the possibility of crowding, especially in confined or closed settings, including during travel,” continues the statement. Its advice includes “postponing, limiting or cancelling mass gatherings” and to implement measures to “decongest public transport,” which includes ski lifts.

Ski resorts across Europe have taken varying approaches in recent weeks, with the likes of Italy and Germany issuing blanket bans on skiing, France opening resorts but keeping lifts shut and Austria only allowing locals to ski. Switzerland is the last Alpine nation standing, where resorts are now fully open – but a review of whether this will continue over Christmas is expected in the coming days. Elsewhere resorts in Scandinavia, Bulgaria and northern Spain are also open – but for locals only.

04:55 PM

BA cuts 15 long-haul routes

As mentioned earlier, British Airways has cut more than 15 long-haul routes that had been due to operate next year.

Destinations dropped by the airline include Sydney, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Calgary, Abu Dhabi and the Seychelles.

The carrier has been badly hit by the collapse in demand caused by global travel restrictions, with long-haul routes the worst affected.

Its owner IAG swung to a pre-tax loss of 6.2 billion euros (£5.6 billion) for the nine months to the end of September.

Plane passenger numbers are not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023.

British Airways said in a statement: “We are sorry that, like other airlines, due to the current coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule.

“We will be in touch with any customers whose flights are affected and advise customers to check ba.com for the latest flight information.”

Customers with affected bookings can apply for a full refund or will be offered an alternative itinerary where possible.

04:52 PM

Passport problems

Perhaps there’s a rush to renew ahead of the Brexit deadline. Remember you’ll need at least six months of validity on your passport if you want to visit the EU after December 31. 

04:45 PM

Take a trip to Planet Normal

Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan discuss Brexit trade deals in the latest Planet Normal episode:

Planet Normal Podcast - Mark Higgie
Planet Normal Podcast – Mark Higgie

04:42 PM

Winter scenes

A New Yorker catches snow on her tongue as as Storm Gail hit the US East Coast yesterday - Getty
A New Yorker catches snow on her tongue as as Storm Gail hit the US East Coast yesterday – Getty
Clearing the pavements in Boston today - Getty
Clearing the pavements in Boston today – Getty
It's snowing in China too. This is a walkway at Shenxianju Scenic Area in Xianju County - Getty
It’s snowing in China too. This is a walkway at Shenxianju Scenic Area in Xianju County – Getty

04:32 PM

My touching correspondence with John le Carré

Gavin Bell stayed in the author’s favourite refuge on the island of Elba, but the story didn’t end there. 

Read his feature in full

Le Carre's dream hideaway
Le Carre’s dream hideaway

04:30 PM

EHIC scheme extended for people with certain pre-existing conditions

The Government has announced that it will offer a time-limited healthcare scheme that supports UK residents with ongoing, routine treatment needs who are visiting the European Economic Area or Switzerland from 1 January 2021. 

In a statement, Edward Argar, a health minister, said: 

Negotiations on future arrangements with the EU are ongoing and include necessary healthcare provisions. If agreed, such provisions would provide effectively the same healthcare cover as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The Government continues to work hard to secure these arrangements.

 In the event we have not reached an EU-wide agreement on reciprocal healthcare, the Government will implement a time-limited healthcare scheme that supports UK residents with ongoing, routine treatment needs, who are visiting the European Economic Area or Switzerland from 1 January 2021. This type of treatment was previously covered under the EHIC scheme.

 This Government will introduce the scheme with the intention that it is used by individuals who are certain to require treatment while abroad, such as regular dialysis, oxygen therapy or certain types of chemotherapy. The Government recognises that these ongoing, routine treatment costs can be expensive, and makes travelling abroad extremely challenging for many people.

 The scheme will be temporary and will cover travel that takes place between 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021. 

The news was welcomed by the charity Kidney Care UK:

04:20 PM

Pub closures ‘will hit people’s mental wellbeing’

Responding to the announcement that most of England will remain in Tiers 2 and 3 over the Christmas period, CAMRA’s Chief Executive Tom Stainer said: 

“Pubs and breweries across England had been hoping for some good news which would allow them to get some much-needed money through the tills at what would be their busiest time of year. 

“However, the announcement that the vast majority of the country will stay in Tier 2 or 3, with large parts of the East and South East joining London going into Tier 3, is another devastating blow for the beer and pubs industry when they had hoped there was light at the end of the tunnel. 

“Ministers must recognise that local pubs are a force for good, bringing communities together and playing a key role in tackling loneliness and social isolation. Allowing a limited number of people to socialise safely in Covid-secure pubs in all tiers is vital not just for businesses – but also for our communities and to people’s mental wellbeing.” 

04:17 PM

The incredible tale of Flight 870, Italian aviation’s darkest secret

Here’s a rollicking read to fill the time between now and 5pm. Chris Leadbeater‘s meticulous account of the Flight 870 mystery. Never heard of it? You’ll wonder why.

Read the full story

Flight 870 went down 40 years ago - Getty
Flight 870 went down 40 years ago – Getty

04:14 PM

‘Zambia and Kenya deserve travel corridors’

Chris McIntyre, founder of safari operator Expert Africa, believes more African countries deserve to make the UK travel green list. 

He says: 

Tourism is so important to Africa. In Rwanda [recently added to the green list], tourism to see the mountain gorillas has helped both the Rwanda economy and made the protection of the last remaining gorillas a critical national priority. 

 In Namibia and Botswana [two more recent additions], tourism is just as important – but there its huge positive effects are spread across many communities in the land. Now that this has been withheld the economic impacts are becoming more and more obvious. Their economies are suffering, and in these countries that doesn’t just mean a difference in disposable income; it means really tough choices about the basics of life: food, shelter and health.

 On the ground, we’ve colleagues and contacts in all of these countries who are really pleased to have the advice lifted. I know of top-notch wildlife guides in Namibia who are looking for work on building sites, and finding little success, and companies there who are just folding.

 Other colleagues, in places like Zambia, South Africa and Kenya, are looking on and asking why their countries were not included – as their infection rates are far below those in the Tier 1 areas of the UK.

 By way of example, the Government should seriously look at Zambia. Its total death toll, since May this year, is 369 people. Zambia is currently reporting about 56 new infections per day. That is equivalent to about 2 infections per 100,000 people reported in the last 7 days – less than the rate in the Isle of Wight.

 The UK Government is moving too slowly to help sub-Saharan Africa, which desperately needs the help for its economy. And why is it doing this? Where is the evidence that opening up travel to Africa would impact on the UK’s infection rate? I don’t think there is any.

04:06 PM

EasyJet launches three new routes from Gatwick

EasyJet has put seats on sale for three new routes from Gatwick.

The new destinations are Aberdeen, Bilbao (Spain) and the Sardinian capital of Cagliari.

  • Gatwick to Aberdeen flights will run daily from May 2 with one-way fares from £36.99.

  • Gatwick to Bilbao will run four times a week from May 2 with fares from £34.99

  • Gatwick to Cagliari will operate twice a week from May 4 with fares from £36.99.

04:04 PM

One hour until Grant Shapps sends his tweet

The Thursday travel corridor announcement will come at 5pm, as ever. Hopes are high that the likes of Kenya, Oman and Mexico could be added  but we’re not holding our breath. 

03:50 PM

E-scooters take off in London despite legal obstacles

Thousands of London commuters have ditched the tube or bus for an e-scooter during the pandemic.

man on e-scooter - Getty
man on e-scooter – Getty

Costing from £300 and with a typical top speed of around 15 mph, e-scooters have become a familiar sight on the city’s streets and cycle lanes. However, unless the e-scooter is rented and is involved in a trial, it is illegal to ride on a public road.

Erica Klose, a worker in the City of London, told Reuters that coronavirus concerns and a desire to become greener had made her an e-scooter convert.

“It does get pretty crowded in the Tube (London underground) when you head to work in the morning and I would like to steer clear of that for a while until I feel more comfortable,” she said.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps in May brought forward trials of rental e-scooters. They are set to start in London next spring, Transport for London has said. Around 30 trials are currently under way in other regions, and the results will helping inform a decision on whether and how e-scooters might be legalised.

03:40 PM

Tier system ‘fails to take into account common sense’

Hotels and other holiday accommodation providers are forced to shut under Tier 3 restrictions, and many are seeing busy Christmas seasons wiped out.

Among them are the owners of Winchcombe Farm, a glamping venue on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border. The countryside business is just 200 yards away from a Tier 2 area, which has caused its owners particular consternation. They say they now face refunding more than £17,000 worth of Christmas bookings to guests.

Jo Carroll, co-owner of Winchcombe Farm, said: 

The shambolic way the tier is managed fails to take into account any element of common sense.

There is absolutely no compelling evidence that staying in a holiday lodge in remote rural location, is less safe that visiting a nail bar, hairdressers, tattoo parlour or book makers. You can even visit Santa in his Grotto or stand in a queue for hours to shop in Primark in Tier 3, but you can’t stay here.

03:28 PM

Butlin’s to shut two resorts

Butlin’s announced on Wednesday that it would close two of its holiday resorts as more areas are forced into the toughest Tier 3 restrictions.  

The holiday company’s resorts in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, and Minehead in Somerset, will close from December 18 in an effort to “limit contact” and avoiding “unnecessary journeys”. 

03:18 PM

Travel Advent Calendar, day 17: win a £200 holiday voucher

To celebrate the festive season our 2020 Travel Advent Calendar is offering readers the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas. 

You are free to enter every daily competition, giving you 24 chances to win
You are free to enter every daily competition, giving you 24 chances to win

To enter the prize draw for today’s £200 voucher, all you need to do is answer three questions about America. 

Find out more.

03:11 PM

Royal Caribbean sells its two oldest ships

Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas have been sold and will leave the fleet before the end of the year, according to the cruise line. 

The were bought by an undisclosed Asia-Pacific based buyer.

“Empress and Majesty made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size. They continued to make history throughout their more than three decades of service,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.

“Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary.”

02:59 PM

Hong Kong visitor numbers down more than 90 per cent

Tourist arrivals to Hong Kong are down by more than 90 per cent for the tenth month in a row, according to data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Over the past 11 months, it has welcomed just 3.5 million visitors, an overall drop of 93.2 per cent.

The pandemic forced the tourism board to cancel the annual New Year fireworks display and the Chinese Lunar New Year parade.

Hong Kong was the world’s most visited tourist city last year, according to Euromonitor.

02:50 PM

Poland imposes three-week partial lockdown from Dec 28

Poland will go into a three week partial lockdown from December 28, with shopping centres and ski hills closed as well as a travel restriction on New Year’s Eve, the health minister said on Thursday.

“We’re introducing a national lockdown from December 28 to January 17,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told reporters, saying the restrictions were intended “to protect us from the third wave of the epidemic in the near future.”

02:47 PM

British Airways launches January sale

BA is offering deals on flights and holidays to over 100 destinations, with travel dates available throughout 2021.

maldives - Getty
maldives – Getty

Flight deals include: 

Return flights to New York from £269
Return flights to the Maldives from ​£539

BA Holidays deals include: 

Seven-nights in Barbados from £529pp
Seven-nights in Orlando from £389p

Customers are able to exchange their booking for a voucher, or move their dates without incurring a change fee. 

Further information can be found at ba.com/sale

02:32 PM

‘We are devastated’: Hospitality businesses react to Tier 3 announcements

Hospitality businesses across the east and southeast of England have found out today that they will be going into Tier 3 restrictions over the busy Christmas period.

Among them is the hotel and pub, The Bell in Ticehurst (in East Sussex, close to the Kent border), which found this morning that it would face the toughest rules. A spokesperson for the business said: 

We are nothing short of devastated not to be sharing Christmas with our locals and guests who beat a pathway to our door. The Bell really comes into its own at Christmas […]. With each lockdown we have remained optimistic and kept investing. […] Just in time for the first lockdown we had completed a major refurbishment and extension of our famous function rooms ready for all the couples who had booked 2020 weddings.

Like so many other hospitality businesses Christmas is what helps see us through the quieter winter months. Our rooms were pretty much fully booked for the next fortnight and we had a waiting list for tables. As an independently owned pub/hotel we will pick ourselves off and dust ourselves off but it’s getting harder and harder.

02:24 PM

UK travel restrictions ‘disastrous’ for millions in developing countries

John Stanley, Founder of The Latin America Travel Company, has urged the Government to offer more travel corridors at 5pm today.

three-toed sloth in costa rica - Getty
three-toed sloth in costa rica – Getty

He said:

The travel restrictions imposed by the UK government are having a disastrous effect on the livelihoods of millions of people around the world who depend on tourism and especially in Latin America. Most of our guides work freelance and have had little or no work since March. Many other businesses that rely on tourist trade are also suffering.

Over the last six weeks or more we have seen the infection rate in most destinations in Latin America decline. In the latest data we have, most countries in Latin America have significantly less cases per 100,000 than we do here in the UK, and they are continuing to fall.

Our customers who have visited Ecuador, the Galapagos and Costa Rica in the last couple of months have been extremely impressed with how these destinations are handling the pandemic. Although there are strict protocols in place to ensure everybody is safe, such as the wearing of masks and social distancing, all beaches, restaurants and tourist attractions are open and operating.

All our customers that have travelled since October have remarked on the incredibly warm welcome they have received when travelling to these destinations and how happy everyone working in tourism is to see them. There is a palpable sense of hope to begin to see tourists coming back.

Although travelling now presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience these wonderful destinations without the usual crowds, the local economies and everyone working in tourism desperately need tourists to return and we would urge the Government to review their travel guidance and open more travel corridors to the region.

02:13 PM

Northern Ireland health officials to suggest six week lockdown

Health officials have proposed a six-week lockdown across NI in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, reports the BBC.

It is thought ministers could approve the restrictions to take effect from 28 December, but the details will be worked out on Thursday afternoon.

The lockdown would have the support of Hospitality Ulster. Chief executive Colin Neill said partial restrictions had failed.

Earlier, Mr Neill agreed a lockdown would have a big impact on the hospitality sector but added “what is worse is opening and closing all the time”.

02:00 PM

Which countries could be added to the travel corridor list?

In three hours, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will deliver his latest update to the list of countries to which Britons can travel without having to quarantine on their return. Which destinations could be granted a travel corridor?

There are plenty of contenders with a lower Covid rate than the UK (there are 109 in total), although it seems the Government is punishing other countries for not carrying out as much mass testing as Britain. 

Here are some of the hopefuls, all of which are open to tourists:

  • Costa Rica (seven-day case rate: 133.3 per 100,000)

  • South Africa (95.3)

  • Cape Verde (62.5)

  • Dominican Republic (60.4)

  • Mexico (58.6)

  • Peru (29.7)

  • Oman (27.8)

  • Ecuador (24.8)

  • Guatemala (21.5)

  • Jamaica (18.3)

  • Kenya (6.2)

  • Zimbabwe (3.6)

  • Egypt (3.5)

south african coast - Getty
south african coast – Getty

01:48 PM

More than 105 train services cancelled after Covid outbreaks

Train operator GWR, which runs services between London and the South West, said it will cancel at least 105 services between Thursday and Christmas Eve following Covid outbreaks at its depots.

“Due to a shortage of train crew between London Paddington and Plymouth fewer trains are able to run on all lines,” GWR said in a service update. There will also be an amended timetable for services between December 21-27.

01:40 PM

Tier 3: Over 90 per cent of hospitality sector will be closed

“Over 90 per cent of the sector [is] now closed as a result of the move up into tier 3 – restaurants, pubs and hotels forced to close from Saturday 19th – and the lack of viable trading under tier 2,” tweeted Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, following the latest tier restrictions update. “Tier 3 travel restriction will wipe out almost all hotel business,”. She adds:

We have half of hospitality businesses saying they have insufficient cash to make it through and survive to March and a third have less than 2 months cash. Without Government support, real lives and livelihoods are being sacrificed without any effect being seen on infections

01:33 PM

The safest options for a last-minute holiday

The following countries have a seven-day case rate below 20 per 100,000, are not on the quarantine list, and are feasible holiday options for UK travellers (a test before departure is usually required).

havana, cuba - Getty
havana, cuba – Getty

01:25 PM

Tourism back to 1990 levels, says World Tourism Organisation

International arrivals fell by 72 per cent over the first ten months of 2020, with restrictions on travel, low consumer confidence and a global struggle to contain the Covid-19 virus, all contributing to the worst year on record in the history of tourism.

According to the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October when compared with the same period of 2019. This translates into a loss of US$ 935 billion in export revenues from international tourism, more than 10 times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said:

Since the start of this crisis, UNWTO has provided governments and businesses with trusted data showing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global tourism. Even as the news of a vaccine boosts traveller confidence, there is still a long road to recovery.

We thus need to step up our efforts to safely open borders while supporting tourism jobs and businesses. It is ever clearer that tourism is one of the most affected sectors by this unprecedented crisis.

01:19 PM

Switzerland: your last chance for a festive ski holiday

With the majority of ski resorts across the Alps currently closed, and most of England now told to avoid going on holiday under Tier 3 restrictions, you’d be forgiven for assuming the chances of skiing this Christmas and New Year are slim, writes Lucy Aspden.

andermatt skier off piste - andermatt-sedrun-disentis
andermatt skier off piste – andermatt-sedrun-disentis

But as the saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way, and with the quarantine for travellers returning to England from high-risk countries (currently all Alpine nations) now reduced to 10 days (or as little as five if you take a test), there’s still some hope that it might not be impossible to celebrate the festive season in the mountains.

That hope lies in Switzerland. It is the last remaining country where Britons can (feasible) travel to for a ski trip in the Alps. 

Here’s how to plan a ski trip to Switzerland.

01:14 PM

The situation in the UAE

Added to the travel corridor list on November 12, the UAE is open to tourists, with arrivals required to show evidence of a negative Covid test. And, as one of the few quarantine-free options from Brits, bookings have reportedly soared. The country’s infection rate has risen in recent weeks, but now seems to have stabilised (and remains much lower than the UK), so it still looks a relatively safe bet for last-minute winter sunshine.

Coronavirus UAE Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus UAE Spotlight Chart – Cases default

01:09 PM

Uruguay to close its borders

Uruguay will close its borders temporarily next week, and has asked citizens to limit Christmas gatherings due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Borders will be closed from December 21 to January 10, except for cargo transportation, the government said on Wednesday.

Uruguay’s lockdown measures largely held the virus at bay during the first months of the pandemic. “The second wave to hit the world is our first wave,” the president Luis Lacalle Pou said in an evening televised event.

“We cannot compromise what has been achieved so far,” said Rafael Radi, coordinator of the government’s Covid-19 advisory group. He said the hardest hit areas are the capital Montevideo and surrounding areas.

Uruguay is on the UK’s list of travel corridors, although prohibitive restrictions on entry were already in place.

01:00 PM

Will any countries lose their travel corridor this week?

Previously, the Government started getting twitchy when a country’s seven-day infection rate exceeded 20 per 100,000. However, the UK’s own rate has now flown past that threshold (as of December 17, it stands at 220.3), so it is exercising much more leniency; 100 per 100,000 is thought to be the new benchmark. 

Few destinations are at risk this week, with only one travel corridor country currently breaching the threshold (and that is Israel – 166.3 per 100,000 – which, in any event, is closed to Britons).

The rate in the UAE (where Dubai is open to tourists) has creeped up; it currently stands at 87.2. Britons will also want to keep an eye on the surviving Greek islands, in case they follow the mainland onto the red list (they currently look secure). However, Greece recently announced a nationwide lockdown to cover the Christmas period. 

Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker Extended
Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker Extended

12:51 PM

Tier 3 should mean more support for the hospitality sector, says Greg Clark

Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells, says that infections in his constituency are rising and says he “understands” why it has not been moved out of Tier 3.

“Will he have a word with the Chancellor to see what extra support can be given in the hospitality sector who have just lost what would be the most important part of the year?”

Matt Hancock says he will “talk to the Chancellor” while insisting “we already have a significant amount of support”.

He says people in Kent should behave “as if they have the virus” and that Kent has the biggest pressures on the NHS nationwide.

12:49 PM

Comment: Covid has killed the most precious human quality

Greg Dickinson laments the death of hitchhiking, and other examples of trust in strangers, after Covid.

Stranger Danger is back - Getty
Stranger Danger is back – Getty

He writes: 

We have lost so much. Lives – more than a million of them, to this wretched disease. In the process of squashing the spread we have also lost our basic freedoms: to see loved ones, to have a pint without a scotch egg. At times, we have lost the liberty to simply leave our homes. No doubt the economic devastation will dominate for years to come.

But we have lost something else, which was already on the wane prior to the pandemic: our trust in strangers.

It hit home over a conversation in a (freezing) pub garden on Tuesday night – our last night of ‘freedom’ before entering Tier 3, here in London. My friend has recently returned from living in Perth, Australia, where things have resembled normality since the state all-but eradicated the virus back in the spring, following a strict lockdown. The thing that shocked him most about returning to the UK? The shift in behaviour that we have become used to. People giving each other excessively wide berths on pavements, the shifty ‘look’ you get from squinting eyes above a face mask if you so much as cough or sneeze in public. We have become socially awkward, and socially afraid.

Read the full story.

12:37 PM

Tier 3 rules will apply to 4.26 million more Britons from Saturday

Here’s an overview of the situation:

12:26 PM

‘Why I’m putting my money on Oman for this week’s obscure travel corridor’

Given the recent additions (often obscure places and/or places with closed borders), one could be forgiven for thinking there is neither rhyme nor reason to the Government’s travel corridor list, writes Oliver Smith. 

oman - Getty
oman – Getty

But there is, according to the Government, method to its madness. Taking into account the factors specified the decision makers, members of the Telegraph Travel team have started a travel corridor sweepstake. 

Here’s why, based on this reasoning, Oliver believes Oman could be handed a travel corridor today.

12:16 PM

Tier 3: Matt Hancock quizzed on ‘lives and livelihoods’

Karl Turner, Labour MP for Hull East, notes that Christmas is the busiest time of year for hospitality businesses.

He says that some businesses will lose a quarter of their profits, and asks what the Health Secretary will do to “protect lives and livelihoods”.

Matt Hancock says he “feels gratitude to everyone in Hull” to get case rates down, but adds: “We’re not quite there yet. We are putting the support in that comes with being part of Tier 3, we’ve put record sums in to support hospitality. But I appreciate this is tough, especially in the run-up to Christmas. I can commit to keep working with the honourable gentleman to do everything we can to get the hospitality open again.”

12:11 PM

Tourism to and from Tenerife can continue ‘in the same manner’

The island’s tourism board has further clarified the situation for holidaymakers travelling to the Canary Island.

A spokesperson said:

Tourist movement to and from the island of Tenerife continues to function in exactly the same manner it has been until now as the tourists have advantage of the exceptions listed among the current regulations in force, with relation to the right of admission in tourist accommodation establishments.

A negative Covid-19 test must be presented upon arrival. 

The current rules for excursions on the island are:

Tour guide activity

Activities in “stable coexistence” groups (groups of people who interact regularly) of 4 people, up to a maximum of 20 people.

Active tourism activities:

Up to a maximum of 20 people in groups (group of people who interact with each other regularly) of 4 people in each group. Social distancing must be maintained between the four person groups.

11:58 AM

Breaking: England’s Tier system updates

Matt Hancock confirms that Tier 3 measures will be applied from midnight on Saturday to the following areas:

Bedfordshire; Buckinghamshire; Berkshire; Peterborough; Hertfordshire; Surrey – except for Waverley; Hastings and Rother; Portsmouth; Gosport; and Havant.

Find your local restrictions with our Postcode checker tool.

He also said that for the vast majority of Tier 3 areas, there will be no change. However, he confirmed that Bristol and North Somerset will move down to Tier 2 on Saturday.

Herefordshire will also move out of Tier 2 into Tier 1, in light of its case rate of 45 per 100,000.

For more on this, follow our Global Health live blog.

11:49 AM

Can you travel between tiers at Christmas?

Festive celebrations can go ahead, albeit in a reduced form, over the five days of the Christmas relaxation period. The four UK nations have agreed that up to three households can meet in a private setting between December 23 and December 27 (and between December 22-28 in Northern Ireland).

But there are other restrictions in place – not to mention the ever-more complicated tier rules. How can you reach your destination? Where can you stay overnight with your ‘Christmas bubble’? And are you allowed to go overseas?

Emma Featherstone has waded through the red tape – so you don’t have to.

11:34 AM

Cruise giant considering ban on unvaccinated passengers

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, one of the world’s largest cruise lines, is considering whether to make vaccination against Covid-19 a requirement for boarding. 

Frank Del Rio, chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said: “It will certainly be a requirement for the crew. But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard – lawyers are looking at it as we speak.

“But there is talk beginning to emerge from different corners of the travel industry, the airlines as well, of requiring some kind of immunity passport demonstrating that you’ve had the virus or been vaccinated, so that you are good to go.”

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which counts Regent Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises and the eponymous line among its brands, is second only to Carnival in terms of passengers numbers. It recently announced that it is extending its suspension of sailing through February 2021.

Kaye Holland has the latest.

11:16 AM

WTTC: Test to Release scheme is ‘hindering rather than helping’ travel

The World Travel and Tourism Council has slammed the Test to Release scheme, saying that it “hindering rather than helping” confidence in the travel industry.

The scheme, which launched on Tuesday, allows travellers to cut their post-travel quarantine from ten days to as little as five – if they take a test on the fifth day of self-isolation. However, the launch was immediately overshadowed by problems, with testing providers unable to keep up with ‘overwhelming’ demand.

Gloria Guevara, President and Chief Executive of the WTTC, said:

Protecting public health is paramount and, while WTTC welcomed the test to release scheme, it has created confusion and appears to be hindering rather than helping travellers.

Holidaymakers must have easy access to the list of private testing firms and be certain that they will actually get their results in time.

Travellers need clear and concise information so they fully understand the process they need to follow in order to take themselves out of quarantine.

Tests need to be quick, affordable and accessible, and should also be available through the NHS, not just through expensive third-party suppliers.

Testing travellers is the solution to restarting international travel while avoiding exporting the virus. It ensures only infected people are isolated and will enable mobility in a responsible way.

11:05 AM

Travel corridors: Update expected at 5pm

It’s Thursday, which means that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will update the UK’s travel corridor list this afternoon. The announcement usually happens at 5pm. 

We will bring you any updates as soon as they are confirmed. 

10:44 AM

Which areas could get a lower lockdown Tier before Christmas?

The number of people in the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions looks set to grow when the Government reviews England’s measures today.

Great swathes of southern England in areas such as East Sussex and Surrey are on course to enter Tier 3 on Saturday, with limited loosening on restrictions in the North.

Ministers met on Dec 16 to review England’s tier system and decide whether any parts of the country will face tighter or looser restrictions in the run up to Christmas.

Read our full analysis and predictions here.

10:35 AM

Relief for holidaymakers as Tenerife news confirmed

10:09 AM

Jet2: Tenerife ‘remains open’, says tour operator

There is confusion whether Tenerife’s borders will, in fact, be closed from tomorrow. A spokesperson from Jet2 tells Telegraph Travel:

We are aware of news reports regarding Tenerife closing its borders to holidaymakers. We can assure customers that we have received confirmation from the Canaries Government that this is not the case.  Holidaymakers can still travel to Tenerife to enjoy Christmas and their well-deserved holidays in the sunshine.

Given this welcome update from the Canaries Government, alongside the current FCDO travel advice, we are operating our flights and holidays programmes to Tenerife as normal.

We are still awaiting official clarification on this story.

10:03 AM

Visit Cornwall boss: ‘Growing stress, anxiety and friction’ in travel industry

Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, has spoken of the “stress and confusion” created by the Government’s unclear guidance over festive travel.

“It is not clear what is the law and what is just guidance, and there are big rows going on over that,” Bell told the BBC.

Travel to the Tier 1 area is currently ‘advised against’, but not illegal – though some hotels are choosing to turn holidaymakers away. 

“We are having more cancellations, but also more confusion. It is very difficult for businesses to stay on top of it, and do their part by contacting people coming from different areas.

“There is growing stress, anxiety and friction between customers and businesses who are having to make very difficult phone calls.”

09:44 AM

TUI: ‘Working through’ what Tenerife closure means for travellers

TUI will contact customers whose travel plans may be affected by the Tenerife border closure, a spokesperson told Telegraph Travel this morning. They said:

We’re aware of the news reports regarding the recent announcement that Tenerife will close its borders from Friday 18th December.

We are currently working through what this means for our holiday programme and will update customers as soon as we have more information.

09:30 AM

Beyond Brexit: How travel will be different after December 31

Currently, under the transition arrangements, British travellers are exempt from Covid-19 restrictions which ban non-essential visits to the EU from most countries in the world. But this exemption will automatically cease from January 1 – so that, theoretically, all current travel corridors from the UK to Europe, Madeira and the Canary Islands would be closed.

It might be months before the infection rate falls sufficiently for normal arrangements to resume.

This would almost certainly put paid to the ski season in the Alps – Switzerland might be the only feasible destination to visit – and jeopardise Easter holidays in the Med.

Ben Ross, our Deputy Head of Travel, has the details:

09:13 AM

Travel insurers failing to cover 2021 holidays against threat of Covid

The rollout of a working Covid-19 vaccine has sparked hopes that holidays abroad will be able to resume in 2021, but travellers could soon find themselves out of pocket thanks to a lack of comprehensive travel cover.

Insurers are refusing to protect customers against changes in travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), or from lockdowns in other countries – according to research by Which?, obtained from analysis of 73 companies.

This means those forced to abandon holiday plans due to renewed travel restrictions – enforced either by the UK or foreign governments – will likely be unable to recuperate their travel and accommodation fees.

The consumer group also found that levels of cover afforded by travel insurance policies have declined since March 2020, with many firms now offering inferior products in comparison to a year ago.

Tom Mulvihill has the story.

09:09 AM

Home Secretary suggests people should not cross tiers this Christmas

Priti Patel has insisted that the Government is allowing people to decide how to spend their Christmas, but urged citizens not to travel between tiers. 

“I think the British public are smart enough to make judgement,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme. “They don’t want to put themselves at risk, they don’t want to put their loved ones at risk… the British public have followed rules, they have followed guidance… they are wearing masks, they are doing things very differently. That is not going to change because it is Christmas.”

She also suggested people would not travel from a lower tier into a higher tier, saying: “I would urge people to change their plans. I won’t be seeing my parents, they live in a different part of the country, I won’t be travelling to see them. 

“I want to protect them. I don’t want to be spreading the virus. I would take that responsibility. Why would you travel from a low tier to a higher tier?”

08:53 AM

Sydney, Bangkok and Seychelles removed from British Airways schedule

British Airways has revised its summer 2021 schedules, with the removal of Sydney, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi and Seychelles from long-haul routes. 

A BA spokesperson told us this morning: 

We are sorry that, like other airlines, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule.

We will be in touch with any customers whose flights are affected and advise customers to check  ba.com for the latest flight information.

It’s a “sign of the times” says Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency:

08:38 AM

Yesterday’s headlines

A quick recap of Wednesday’s headlines:

  • Supreme Court rules Heathrow Airport third runway can go ahead

  • Australia expects international travel to resume on an “industrial scale” in second half of 2021

  • Ski resorts reopen in Sweden and Norway – just in time for Christmas

  • ‘Travel corridor’ trial launches between Atlanta and Amsterdam

  • Scottish airports risk being ‘left behind’ without testing scheme

  • 109 countries on the quarantine list have lower Covid rates than the UK

​Now, on with today’s travel news.