Travel news latest: Scotland reopens to fellow Britons as restrictions ease

Scotland has reopened its borders to visitors from the rest of UK today as the country further eases restrictions.

Tourist accommodation, along with cafes, restaurants and beer gardens, are now permitted to open; though alcohol may only be served outside and indoor hospitality must close from 8pm. Non-essential shops and indoor attractions such as galleries, museums and libraries can also reopen.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MPs hailed the success of the vaccine programme, and is “very hopeful, of seeing sustained progress” which would allow Scotland to move from level 3 to level 2 by May 17 – the date Boris Johnson says will be the earliest that international travel can resume – and level 1 by June 7. She said life should look “much more like normality” by July.

It comes as the UK Government’s health secretary Matt Hancock praised “the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history“, having delivered 45.5 million doses so far across Britain and stated: “We are on track to offer a jab to all adults by the end of July.”

We have reporters stationed in Scotland today as the country takes its biggest step towards freedom in four months.

Follow all the latest news below.

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Vaccinated Americans will be welcome to visit Europe this summer

American tourists will be permitted to visit the EU provided they have been vaccinated, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has confirmed. She told The Times:

The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines. This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA.

Thus far, the EMA, the EU’s medical regulatory body, has approved the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

What might that mean for Britons? Hugh Morris has the latest lowdown on how vaccine passports could play a role in our holiday plans. And here is more on which other countries will be accepting them this summer.

Gin is the new whisky in Scotland – and you can plan an entire holiday around it

… so says Mark C. O’Flaherty, who found artisanal gin, ace scenery and serious road trip magic on the Isle of Raasay, a small island between Skye and the mainland:

There is a handy interactive Gin Map on Visit Scotland’s website that flags up all the distilleries in the country by region, and notes which have tours. It’s indispensable. While some tours were and are still closed, most of the distilleries have retail, many have tastings, and the journey is really the point. You can, after all, walk the Malvern Hills and conjure up the emotion of Elgar even if you aren’t listening to 
Enigma Variations

Read the piece here.

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The iconic highland cow, promoting Isle of Harris gin

Credit:
Laurence Winram

Watch: The Scottish Isles reopen to the rest of the UK

Our roving reporter Richard Franks is in Oban, the unofficial capital of the Scottish Western Highlands, as the nation reopens its borders to England and Wales… 

Comment: Europe is effectively nationalising its airlines – time for Britain to fight back

The free market should dictate aviation’s winners and losers, but France and Germany‘s airline bailouts are blatantly unfair, writes Matthew Lynn.

Air France-KLM is now effectively owned by the French government, with no plans for ever returning it to the private sector. Lufthansa is partially owned by the German government.Alitalia is about to be relaunched as a state-owned airline, while the Italian prime minister Mario Draghi is planning to 
pump up to €200bn of cheap European Union funding into a whole range of ambitious industrial projects. Right across Europe, the state is taking a more active role in industry than ever, protecting its national champions, and creating new ones with barrow loads of cheap money.And yet the British Government is simply standing back and letting that happen.

Read the rest here.

Which countries could make the UK’s ‘green list’?

That’s the million-dollar question for holidaymakers eager to book their summer holidays.

Greg Dickinson has crunched the numbers and predicted at least eight countries will make the green list, here.

Much will depend on the success of other nations’ vaccination success. Below is a look at the best contenders.

Italy lifts more restrictions but 10pm curfew remains

Bars, restaurants, cinemas and concert halls will partially reopen across Italy today in a boost for coronavirus-hit businesses.

After months of stop-start restrictions imposed to manage its second and third waves of Covid-19, Italy hopes this latest easing will mark the start of something like a normal summer.

Three-quarters of regions will drop into the low-risk “yellow” categories from Monday, with bars and restaurants permitted to restart table service outside – although a 10pm curfew remains in place.

When will Britons be allowed to visit Italy again? At least until April 30, entry to Italy is only permitted if you have official residency or if you have an essential reason. No word yet on when the country will open its borders to international visitors.

Holidays in ‘green list’ countries could still be banned by FCDO 

Concerns are building that countries on the UK Government’s ‘traffic light’ system, due to be announced in May, will be at odds with Foreign Office advice.

This would cause a repeat of the situation last summer, whereby even some destinations that had travel corridors with Britain remained on the FCDO’s ‘advise against non-essential travel’ list, rending most holiday insurance policies invalid.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, told The Times:

Green and amber countries should not be caught up in additional travel advisories as it will cause complexity for customers and impact how many people will be able to travel overseas this summer. We need to see alignment between the Foreign Office advice and the traffic light system to provide clarity and transparency to consumers and operators.

Read more: Up to 30 countries could be on ‘green’ list for early summer holidays

Lockdown in Bangkok as Thailand cases soar

It will be a while yet until Thailand will be safe to visit again, by the looks of things.

Cinemas, parks and gyms were among venues closed today in Bangkok as Thailand sees its worst surge of the coronavirus pandemic.

A shortage of hospital beds, along with a failure to secure adequate coronavirus vaccine supplies, have pushed the government into imposing the new restrictions, though no nationwide lockdowns, curfews, or travel bans. Health care workers say the measures are not enough to relieve overburdened hospitals.

Thai health authorities on Monday announced 2,048 new cases and eight deaths, bringing the totals to 57,508 cases and 148 deaths. The Thai capital has seen a rapid rise in infections since early April.

The latest measure aimed at curbing the spread of the virus is a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($636) for failing to wearing face masks in indoor and outdoor areas in 48 provinces including Bangkok.

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Police in Bangkok today patrolling on horses outside the Grand Palace

Credit:
Reuters

Comment: ‘Why finally crossing the border to Scotland will be such a joy’

Chris Leadbeater is today celebrating Scotland’s reopening, writing:

One of the many things Covid – and the barricading of Britain since the turn of the year – has denied us is the chance to assess the impact of Brexit on our journeys. So we still have these joys of the Sunlit Uplands to come – the two-hour “third country” immigration queue at 
Malaga airport, the row with the 
Cote D’Azur hire-car firm about licence validity.Actually, thinking about it, maybe Scotland will be a better holiday bet this summer after all.

Read his full piece here.

Travel bubble plans for Singapore and Hong Kong

Hong Kong and Singapore today announced they will launch an air travel bubble in May, months after an initial arrangement that would allow tourists to fly between both cities without having to serve quarantine was postponed.

Flights will begin from May 26. The scheme will start with one flight a day into each city, with up to 200 travellers on each flight

Visitors will not have to quarantine as long as they fulfil the conditions of travelling within the bubble. Those wanting to travel from either city must test negative for Covid before departure and on arrival.

Hong Kong and Singapore announced the launch of a bubble in November but shelved the plan days before it was to start after Hong Kong saw a surge in Covid infections.

Scot shoppers urged to ‘spend and keep safe’ as doors reopen

Shoppers in Scotland have been reminded over mask-wearing and distancing as retailers look to claw back £4.1 billion in lost sales since the start of the pandemic.

From Monday, “non-essential” shops are allowed to open their doors to the public after being shuttered since Boxing Day, with millions spent on safety-proofing them against Covid transmission.

The Scottish Retail Consortium urged shoppers to queue considerately and be mindful over distancing and mask-wearing after “four long months of closure” for shops.

It expects an “initial surge” as customers venture out but said the “real test will be how this holds up”.