The Government is under growing pressure to add travel corridors to more long-haul destinations, now people in England can travel once again.
Yesterday, the Government lifted its blanket ban advising against all non-essential travel. There is still advice to only travel when necessary, but this is not legally binding.
However, much of the world still remains off-limits to British travellers. Almost all of Europe’s top destinations are red-listed, and – notably considering its low case numbers – the vast majority of Africa.
Speaking in support of Telegraph Travel’s Unlock Long Haul campaign, Chris McIntyre, MD of tour operator Expert Africa, said: “It’s complete nonsense to advise people against going to, say, Zambia, because of Covid, when their chances of catching it in the UK are hundreds of times higher than their chances in Zambia.
“Many countries in Africa rely very heavily on tourism, so this advice is doing immense damage, particularly to some of the poorer, more rural communities around the national parks.”
As it stands, there are 33 African countries that British holidaymakers can enter right now. However, there are only two countries (Namibia and Rwanda) with travel corridors, meaning travellers do not need to go into quarantine on their return.
Grant Shapps is due to update the nation on the Government’s travel corridors list at 5pm.
Follow all today’s travel updates below.
Indonesia sees new daily record 8,369 coronavirus cases
Indonesia has recorded its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections with 8,369 new cases, according to its Covid-19 task force, which attributed the jump to a lag in some areas reporting cases.
The sharp spike – more than 2,000 cases higher than the previous record on Sunday – brings Indonesia’s infections total to 557,877, among the highest in Asia. It has so far recorded 17,355 deaths related to Covid-19.
Experts say the Southeast Asian nation’s low testing has masked a higher number of infections.
Cases have steadily risen since March but the volume of new daily infections has increased in recent weeks, with record daily infections in four of the past nine days.
Task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said Thursday’s spike was due to data reporting and verification delays in several regions. That included Papua, he said, where all 1,755 of the cases it has recorded since November 19 were reflected in Thursday’s national figures.
“This very high number is caused by a system that’s not optimal at accommodating real-time recording and data validation,” Wiku said. Central Java and West Java also had lags, he said.
The recent jump in daily cases, however, was a worrying indicator.
“This shows that the rate of transmission is still increasing,” he said. “It happens because people increasingly flout health protocols and this negligence could be fatal.”
Africa foresees 60 per cent of people vaccinated against Covid in 2 to 3 years
Africans might need to wait two to three years for a vaccination, according to the African Union’s disease control group.
The continent of 1.3 billion people has recorded more than 2.2 million confirmed Covid-19 infections, according to a Reuters tally.
Some European countries, including the UK, are planning to roll out vaccination campaigns in the next few weeks, but the African Union’s disease control group says vaccinations are unlikely to begin until midway next year. Even after two to three years, it is only estimated that 60 per cent of people will have been vaccinated.
Manchester Airport prepares for testing
David Spicer, of travel services firm Collinson, prepares to conduct a novel Covid-19 test on the first day of operation of their testing site adjacent to Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport.
Collinson are offering paid-for Covid tests at their airport locations in Manchester, East Midlands and London for passengers whose destination country requires them.
Covid-positive cases drop 28 per cent in a week
A total of 110,620 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to November 25, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.
This is down 28 per cent on the previous week and is the lowest total since the week ending October 14.
Unanswered questions on Christmas travel plans
Labour has called for greater clarity over the plan for Christmas travel, saying there are still “many unanswered questions” including whether works on the East Coast Mainline will go ahead as scheduled on 27 December.
Grant Shapps this morning said “clearing 778 miles of roadworks and postponing rail upgrade works will ease congestion”.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “It’s welcome that Ministers have finally announced a plan for Christmas travel but there are still many unanswered questions.
“The Government must ensure engineering works do not clash with the limited window in which people can travel and that all peak fares are suspended during the travelling period, not just leave it up to operators.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that Covid has not gone away. Ministers must take charge of the situation to ensure passengers do not face Christmas travel chaos and risks to their health on overcrowded services.”
Ruby Wax: ‘I reinvented myself after a vision quest in a California redwood forest’
“It was not so much a holiday as a work trip, but it turned out to have a profound effect on the direction my life took,” writes Ruby Wax.
“In 1991, I made a BBC documentary called Ruby Takes a Trip. It was about a spiritual journey in America that I was meant to take the mickey out of. It started off being ridiculous, with me getting covered in crystals and meeting unusual people such as a guy who channelled my late father and claimed he was now a cat. All kinds of crazy stuff.
“I had researched all the contributors for the show myself, and somehow, gradually, the journey became more and more profound, without me realising it. I believe that work holiday set me off on my eventual career in psychology and mindfulness. “
Win a £200 holiday voucher
To celebrate the festive season, we’re offering the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas in our Travel Advent Calendar competition.
Austria to open ski resorts on Christmas Eve, but for locals only
Ski resorts in Austria will be allowed to reopen on Christmas Eve as lockdown restrictions in the country are eased, but only to locals.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz confirmed the shutters will be lifted on ski lifts just in time for Christmas, after they were forced to shut down in early-November.
Resorts such as Obergurgl and Sölden, which were hoping to reopen on December 11, and Ischgl, Lech and St Anton, who were all preparing to welcome skiers from December 17, will now have to postpone their plans.
When they do reopen the maximum capacity in gondolas will be reduced to 50 per cent and an extensive list of safety measures will be in place, including compulsory face coverings and social distancing.
When the tourists left Myanmar, the snakes returned
When the coronavirus pandemic ground tourism to a halt, a perceived silver lining was the effect this would have on the planet as nature reclaimed destinations that had before been the preserve for travellers and tour buses.
Turtles began peacefully laying eggs on Koh Samui in Thailand, shoals of fish were seen swimming in the clear water of Venice canals, and at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco a nonchalant coyote was spotted strolling through a parking lot.
In Bagan, the ancient site of over a thousand temples in the centre of Myanmar, the snakes returned.
Since the last international tourists hastily departed in March, pythons and banded kraits, slowly and quietly, made their way into the dark recesses of Bagan’s pagodas, curling up behind sitting Buddhas and the murals of King Kyansitha. A Burmese python can live for up to 20 years. Some of the oldest may well remember a time when Bagan was always this quiet.
Read the full feature: ‘Without tourists, Myanmar has travelled back in time – and its people face devastation‘
Travel “not back to normal until 2022”
“Things are definitely looking up since the announcement of the vaccine and we are confident that most travel will resume within Europe from Easter,” says Stephen Ellison, Head of Marketing at Vintage Travel.
“We expect some restrictions – not least, proof of vaccination to travel and cross borders and the continued use of masks in public places until infection rates are seen to be under control. However, we don’t see a full return to ‘normality’ until 2022 when confidence may return and we will look to trade in a more traditional way”.
Which countries could be added to the travel corridor list at 5pm?
There are plenty of contenders with a lower Covid rate than the UK (153.8 per 100,000), although it seems the Government is punishing other countries for not carrying out as much testing as Britain.
Here are some of the hopefuls, all of which are open to tourists:
- Costa Rica (seven-day case rate: 139.7)
- Brazil (118.5)
- Cape Verde (66.4)
- Mexico (50.9)
- Ecuador (42.4)
- South Africa (34.7)
- Botswana (33.3)
- Jamaica (13.2)
- Kenya (11)
- Egypt (2.6)
Norwegian Air seeks more cash to keep flying
Budget carrier Norwegian Air has proposed a new restructuring and share sale as the embattled airline fights to weather the pandemic.
The Oslo-based company proposed a package of debt conversion, aircraft divestment and sale of new equity in a bid to survive the crisis. It hopes to raise up to 4bn Norwegian crowns (£340m) from the share sale, it said.
Norwegian added: “The company asks for the continued support of its shareholders to prepare for future capital increases in parallel with the restructuring of its balance sheet.”
It comes after the long-haul carrier filed for bankruptcy protection in an Irish court last month as it scrambled to secure a rescue deal. It elected to file court proceedings in Ireland as its aircraft are held in the country.
Norwegian has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as its business model focuses on offering cheap transatlantic travel, which has been suspended since the outset of the crisis. Only six of the carrier’s 140 planes are currently in use.
Will Greece keep hold of its remaining island travel corridors?
Only five Greek islands now have corridors, of which Corfu has the highest seven-day case rate: 44.1 per 100,000. All look safe for the time being. See here for the latest stats:
- Crete: 37.2 per 100,000
- Rhodes: 34.6
- Corfu: 44.1
- Zakynthos: 2.5
- Kos: 9
American ski resort sees a record number of visitors
It’s no secret that skiers and snowboarders are desperate to get back to the slopes – one ski resort in American is putting this to good use, writes Lucy Aspden.
Telluride in Colorado saw 1,500 skiers on its slopes on the first day of the season last week, a new record, raising $38,425 for charity in the process.
“We had received a foot of new snow the weekend prior, so we knew there was a lot of pent up demand,” said Jeff Proteau, Vice President of Mountain Operations. “Our opening day is Donation Day with a $25 lift ticket and all proceeds are donated to the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club (TSSC).” As part of the resort’s new Covid safety measures, all lift passes were purchased in advance online, so the resort can monitor capacity.
TSSC mentors and teaches youngsters and athletes of the future in the resort _ two-time Olympian Gus Kenworthy is one of its most notable alumni.
“Like all non-profits, TSSC was struggling, so we knew this year, more than any other year before, it was very important to get open and provide them with a solid donation,” said Proteau.
How will Brexit change travel?
Our Deputy Head of Travel, Ben Ross, goes through everything you need to know.
When will travel get back to ‘normal’?
John Grant of OAG, a global travel data provider, says it might be some time, yet:
All of the recent great news needs to be put in context. It will take a long time for sufficient vaccine coverage around the world to be in place for us to be able to travel without rules and requirements that we previously did not have. However, those rules will not be particularly onerous, travellers who have been vaccinated and have a health certificate will be able to travel freely to most countries. This process could take us well into the second half of the year though so it would be unwise to expect a sudden global rush but the UK market looks like being ahead of the game at this stage which is a positive development for an industry decimated by a lack of support this year.
The one sector that looks extremely vulnerable at the moment is corporate demand which is not picking up and where research has suggested that anything up to one-third of previous demand will not return instead replaced by digital technology; for those airlines with a large global network and proportion of business class capacity that may represent a problem that extends well beyond the end of 2021. And of course airlines are already planning for that new normal with the retirement of the A380 and B747’s from many established operators.
Australia to keep borders shut
Australia’s borders will likely stay closed for “some time”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, despite progress in rolling out Covid-19 vaccines.
The UK on Wednesday approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine, stoking hopes of rapid inoculations across the world.
But Mr Morrison said Australia would keep its borders closed to non-Australian citizens and non-permanent residents.
“On international borders we’re still some time away from that,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Reports warn about digital health passports
Digital health passports should not be introduced on a mass basis until Covid-19 tests and vaccines are readily available, a report has warned.
Researchers said the failure to address issues with the availability and affordability of tests and vaccines risks excluding already vulnerable people from protection against Covid-19.
Digital health passports, also known as immunity passports, are digital credentials which when combined with identity verification allow people to prove their health status.
Report author Dr Ana Beduschi, from the University of Exeter, said policymakers needed to strike a balance between protecting the rights and freedoms of all individuals and safeguarding public interests while managing the effects of the pandemic.
She warned digital health passports may interfere with several fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, the freedoms of movement and peaceful assembly.
It also warns that the use of digital health passports may have an impact on equality and non-discrimination.
If some people cannot access or afford Covid-19 tests and vaccines they will not be able to prove their health status, thus having their freedoms de facto restricted.
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, writes Oliver Smith.
However, the UK’s own rate has now flown past that threshold (as of December 2, it stands at 156.9), so it is exercising much more leniency; 100 per 100,000 is thought to be the new benchmark.
Few countries are at risk this week, with no travel corridor options currently breaching the threshold. The rate in the UAE (where Dubai is open to tourists) has creeped up in recent weeks, however. It currently stands at 91.2. Britons will also want to keep an eye on the surviving Greek islands, in case they follow the mainland onto the red list.
Infection rate is not the only factor. A country’s population size, the number of Britons who visit, and other measures introduced to stop the spread of the virus, also play a part.
The UK Government reviews its policy every Thursday, announcing changes on Twitter at 5pm, with destinations usually removed from 4am on the following Saturday morning.
What we learnt yesterday
A re-cap of yesterday’s main stories:
- Vaccine is ‘biggest news to impact the travel industry since the start of this pandemic’
- Virgin Atlantic passenger planes will be used to transport Covid vaccine
- Spike in UK holiday bookings
- ‘Border controls’ planned for French people going to ski abroad
- Demand for second passports soars
Now, on with today’s stories
Source: The Telegraph Travels