- Will holidays return on May 17?
- Which countries could be on the ’green’ list?
- Airlines axe summer holiday flights
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Holidays will be banned until July, with anyone attempting to leave the country facing fines of up to £5,000 under new tightened border restrictions.
Under draft laws published yesterday, which will face a vote on Thursday, leaving the UK without a “reasonable excuse” (such as work, or education) will be illegal until June 30. Anyone who travels to a port or airport with the aim of leaving the country could face fines of up to £5,000.
Government ministers have grown increasingly pessimistic about whether international travel will resume on May 17, as cases rise across Europe. Speaking on BBC Breakfast yesterday, Helen Whately told people to “hold fire” on booking, as Boris Johnson said it was inevitable the third wave would “wash up on our shores”.
Officials have said the travel ban extension is for legislative convenience, and does not have any bearing on whether international travel will resume on May 17.
However, Matt Hancock told Sky News this morning that the third wave could derail our international travel hopes.
“We are seeing this third wave rise in some parts of Europe, and new variants, and it is very important we protect the progress we have made.
“It shows what an international challenge this is, and what we have to do is all work as much as we can together, but it also shows why we are being cautious on international travel.”
Scroll down for more updates.
How to explore the wonders of Europe without leaving British soil
We retain hope at Telegraph Travel that travel to Europe will be possible this summer – after all, millions of us went there last summer, when the vaccine was just a glint in Matt Hancock’s eye, writes Oliver Smith.
However, there are dark forces at play that would use the hypothetical threat of vaccine-busting variants to keep you from that hard-earned and thoroughly deserved week in the Med. Therefore, a British back-up plan might be wise.
Fortunately, our islands offer a few fine alternatives to Europe’s holiday wonders, such as:
Swap Venice for… Bourton-on-the-Water
Swap the Amalfi Coast for… Portmeirion
Swap Iceland for… Skye
Comment: If the vaccine isn’t enough to let us leave the country, what is?
So which one is it? Are we a country which is moving towards mass immunisation – and is highly proud of this – or one that needs to hide behind or under the sofa for another year?
Should you book your holiday now? Or wait?
Our consumer travel expert, Nick Trend, says we shouldn’t automatically assume foreign holidays are dead in the water this year.
From the consumer’s point of view the latest developments may not feel very optimistic, but they don’t represent the whole picture and we shouldn’t automatically assume that foreign holidays are definitely dead in the water this year. There is no doubt that concern about variants are an important part of the Taskforce’s remit, but the situation remains extremely fluid. There are still three weeks to go before the report is due and eight weeks before May 17. A huge amount can change in that time.
The news in this country, for all the ups and downs of vaccine supply, remains on a positive curve. And there are good reasons to be optimistic that Europe will get its latest wave under control as its inoculation programme develops. We also don’t yet have clarity on how effective current vaccines are against known variants – perhaps there will be good news on that front.
So overall, although the situation feels less hopeful than last week, it still seems feasible that travel to some overseas destinations will be possible at some point in the late spring or summer. But it is probably wise to follow government advice and remain patient for just a little longer. By all means dream, research, and even plan your summer break, but don’t actually book it until we know the results of the Taskforce report on or soon after April 12.
Indonesia further opens up to Singapore travellers
Indonesia has added Batam and Bantam to its ‘travel corridor’ arrangement with Singapore, meaning foreign visitors will be able to visit the resort islands for the first time during the pandemic, according to Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno.
Tourism sites in Nongsa in Batam and Lagoi in Bintan will reopen on April 21, with strict restrictions in place, Uno said.
Arrivals will need to prove evidence of a negative PCR test, and undergo another test on arrival.
Overseas visitors to the islands of Batam and Bintan fell by 86% last year, which cut income for the food and accommodation sectors in the area by 41%.
No plans to add Europe to travel red list
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were currently no plans to put all of Europe on the travel “red list” amid a third wave of cases seen in countries such as France and Italy.
As a month-long lockdown returned to several French regions including Paris, health minister Lord Bethell raised the prospect of having to “red-list all of our European neighbours”.
Mr Hancock told LBC: “We don’t have any plans to do that.
“We do have this red list and the amber list, and at the moment that is working well, so we don’t have plans to do that.”
The holiday ‘traffic light system’ explained
At this very moment, the rules are straightforward: you are not allowed to travel overseas for non-essential reasons.
But this could soon change. As part of the road map issued last month the Prime Minister said that May 17 is the earliest date that we will get away. On April 12, a newly reformed Global Travel Taskforce will report on whether it is safe to do so by May 17. This, Government ministers have confirmed, could override the extension of the travel ban until June 30, which is for “legislative convenience”.
We now know that the taskforce is considering a ‘traffic light system’, labelling countries as green (no restrictions), amber (open, but with quarantine and test requirements) and red (banned entirely, or hotel quarantine on return).
What do the new travel regulations say?
The new border restrictions state that no one may “leave England to travel to a destination outside the United Kingdom, or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom” without a reasonable excuse.
As well as the £5,000 fine, there is also a £200 fixed penalty notice for failing to fill in a travel declaration form – giving your details and reason for travel – for those planning to leave the UK. Police can check the permits, issue fines for breaches and demand evidence such as an employer’s letter.
Germany in ‘serious situation’ as it extends lockdown
Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18 and calling on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays to try to break a third wave of the pandemic, Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.
In talks that ran deep into the night, the German Chancellor pushed the leaders of the 16 states to take a tougher stance to fight the pandemic, reversing plans for a gradual re-opening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp rise in the infection rate.
“We are now in a very serious situation,” she told a news conference, adding that Germany was in a race against time to vaccinate its population against the coronavirus.
Germany started cautiously easing restrictions earlier this month. But the spread of more infectious variants of the virus has pushed up cases, prompting concerns that hospitals could soon be overstretched without further curbs. More than 3,000 people with Covid-19 were in intensive care beds as of Sunday.
Third wave could come to UK in summer, says Sage member
There is a “likelihood” of a third wave of coronavirus in the summer, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.
Professor Calum Semple told Sky News: “The concern at present is that in countries where there’s less vaccination and a very strong third wave, that’s the perfect breeding ground for further variants of concern.
“So, at this point, Britain has got its act together, the concern is as this third wave is going on elsewhere, that will generate new variations.
“Even within Britain there is a likelihood of a third wave in potentially July and August time when we do unlock society.
“That third wave we would expect to occur in people that are less susceptible to very severe disease.
“It’s inevitable as we unlock there will be an rise in cases, the key here is have we won the race to vaccinate the most vulnerable members of society so we can keep society open this time.”
BA and easyJet axe flights amid ‘third wave’ fears
British Airways and other airlines are axing summer holiday flights as a health minister raised the prospect that European countries could face a “red list” travel ban.
On Monday, BA confirmed that, in the past week, it has cancelled summer flights across Europe and on UK domestic routes, including in July and August, amid fears there may be only be a handful of countries on the “green list” when foreign travel is due to resume from May 17.
Lord Bethell, a health minister, told the Lords that surging Covid rates in European states, with up to 10 per cent linked to new variants, could require drastic measures.
“We are all aware that the possibility lies that we will have to ‘red list’ all of our European neighbours,” he said.
“But that would be done with huge regret, because we are a trading nation, we do work in partnership with other countries. We depend on other countries for essential supplies, not only medicines, but food and others.”
What happened yesterday?
A look back over yesterday’s top stories:
- Traffic light system would deliver ‘clarity’ to holidaymakers
- Ban on travelling overseas without a ‘reasonable excuse’ comes into force on March 29
- Cruise agent sees bookings surge with launch of P&O’s UK cruises
- Germany set to carry virus curbs into April as cases surge
Now, on with today’s news.