The EU is prepared to welcome visitors from the US and anywhere else in the world, so long as they’ve had an ‘approved’ vaccine.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told The New York Times on Sunday.
“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, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs. Good news for all those who have or will be offered one of these vaccinations, but not for people who have not.
Experts have warned that this kind of policy risks splitting the world of travel and international business into ‘vaccine blocs’, possibly undermining the development of internationally recognised vaccine passports.
Follow all the latest news below.
Club Med: October half-term bookings are up 80% compared with 2019
All-inclusive operator Club Med is another travel company to have reported a surge in interest for autumn bookings this year, compared to 2019 before the pandemic struck.
Top destinations for October include:
Bali, Indonesia: up 230% vs. 2019
La Pointe Aux Cannoniers, Mauritius: up 33%
Cefalu, Sicily: up 50%
Palmyie, Turkey up 30%
UK’s largest COVID test provider expands to service more travellers
The UK’s leading COVID-19 testing firm has today announced a major expansion in testing facilities with 10 new sites set to open across Britain before the end of May.
Cignpost ExpressTest will thus put more than 80 per cent of the population within an hour’s drive of a testing site, with prices starting at £60. New outposts include London Paddington, London Brent Cross, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Reading and Croydon.
The company will also be expanding existing airport sites, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Edinburgh, to cope with the expected upsurge in demand once the Government relaxes the regulations on traveling abroad.
Autumn escapes for ‘a fraction of the average cost’, predicts Skyscanner
Laura Lindsay, Global Travel Expert at Skyscanner comments:
While many still hope beach getaways and international escapes will be sooner rather than later, autumn is proving a popular option for those wanting to start to build plans to look forward to.
Autumn time escapes are typically popular with travellers looking to avoid the summer crowds and those keen on prolonging the summer months. Whilst this past year has been anything but normal, what some savvy travellers are noticing is that autumn might just be the time to get in that all-important break abroad away in for a fraction of the average cost.
With many of these destinations relying on the return of travellers this year, we expect to see enticing offers and deals from travel and holiday providers as they focus on boosting local tourist economies.
Scotland continues to wake from its six-month lockdown slumber
Our roving reporter Richard Franks is exploring Oban today, and has spoken to the owner of a seafood joint that has been closed for six months; ‘the longest since we opened 30 years ago’…
Kuoni: ‘Lots of customers have written off any hope of getting away in the summer’
Forget the minefield of a summer holiday abroad this year; it’s all about the October half term for many bookers.
A spokesperson for Kuoni told us:
The majority of our 2021 bookings we’re seeing are now from October onwards. We’ve chatted to lots of customers who have written off any hope of getting away in the summer but are holding out for October half term.
The volume is going into 2022 now though for winter sun in place of what would have been a summer holiday – that’s been the biggest shift over the past few weeks.
Destinations in demand for October include the Maldives, the Caribbean including Antigua, Barbados and Saint Lucia. Lots of evidence as well that people are “saving and upgrading” with our average spend up as people push the boat out for a long-haul trip for Autumn or winter sun.
Comment: How I survived hotel quarantine with toddlers
After escaping red-listed Brazil with her two children, Catherine Balston was required to enter 10 days of incarceration at Heathrow’s Holiday Inn. She writes:
My survival strategy at the start was military-style planning and so I drew up an hour-by-hour timetable for each day, including singing, cosmic kids’ yoga and just one hour of television. By Day Three the timetable and my proactive resolve had been abandoned. Their allotted screen time was creeping up with each day but no-one in the room was complaining.
By Day Four, the penny dropped that the fun “hotel holiday” they’d been promised was actually not that fun and they wanted to go home.
Secret Highlands: The hidden spots you’ve never heard of, as Scotland reopens
As Scotland reopens to English and Welsh holidaymakers, Robin McKelvie has the inside loop on how to avoid the crowds:
Scotland’s 800 or so isles are often the go-to for an escape from civilisation; understandable given what they offer. Head off the beaten track in the Highlands, though, and you can savour a world-class break away from the hordes this year without even stepping on a ferry. Even as a travel writer born and based here, it has taken me years to fully appreciate what the Highlands offer beyond those isles – here are my tips for getting off the beaten track in Europe’s last great wilderness.
Italy faces criticism for easing lockdown
Italy relaxed its coronavirus restrictions today, despite experts warning that with the country still registering thousands of new cases and around 300 deaths each day, it was too early to permit a reopening, writes Nick Squires in Rome.
Italians flocked to bars and restaurants, which for the first time in weeks were allowed to offer table service, although only in outdoor areas. Eateries with no outdoor space were still confined to offering takeaway and delivery services.
Fifteen out of Italy’s 20 regions were declared lower-risk yellow zones, a handful remained medium-risk orange and only one, Sardinia, was designated high-risk red.
But Andrea Crisanti, a professor of microbiology at the University of Padua, said the reopening was rash.
“We still have a high number of cases every day. There are not the conditions for a safe opening, as there are in Britain. We’re not London. The priority is still to vaccinate old people and the most vulnerable.”
Italy is way behind Britain on the pace of its vaccination programmes, with many people in their seventies and even eighties not yet having had even one jab, let alone two.
Surge in demand for British coastal breaks this autumn
Michael Warren, Managing Director for Harbour Hotels, which has properties across the UK, told us:
We have seen a surge in demand for Autumn breaks. Some of our coastal properties are particularly busy and already have limited availability in September and October. We have seen a trend for longer stays as well with customers wishing to stay more than 7 days at our beachside hotels.
We believe British travellers will remain cautious about travelling abroad this year especially with closures of travel corridors and PCR testing still in place, and expect them to splurge on luxury hotel stays in the UK instead.
Vaccine passports: where does the world currently stand?
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.
Scotland reopens to fellow Britons as restrictions ease
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.
The forgotten ‘green list’ islands where you could avoid the crowds this summer
British holidaymakers are eyeing up the potential travel ‘green list’ – the destinations to which Britons will be permitted to travel this summer without facing quarantine on their return, which could, initially, reach 30, writes Emma Featherstone.
Malta, Israel and Gibraltar have all been placed under the spotlight in recent weeks due to their swift vaccine roll outs: immunisation rates are among the key criteria in the Government’s ‘traffic light’ system for the resumption of travel. Despite not typically featuring among our most-favourite holiday spots, they could be overrun with UK travellers this summer season.
With this in mind, here are some island alternatives for your first post-lockdown break
In pictures: Scotland’s reopening
Could the world be split into vaccine blocs? Global divisions loom, experts warn
Countries risk splitting the world of travel and international business into vaccine blocs by accepting travellers with some jabs, but not others, experts have warned.
Plans to free up travel with the use of vaccine passports could be undermined if some shots are not accepted in some countries and which jab people receive dictates where they are welcome.
A European Union decision to allow vaccinated American tourists to enter this summer because the US is distributing shots already approved by EU regulators has highlighted that those who have shots by Chinese manufacturers are likely to be barred for the foreseeable future, Bloomberg reported.
Likewise, China so far only recognises Chinese shots.
Ben Farmer has the full story here.
In search of the Indigenous history Australian schools didn’t teach
On a trek through the wilds of Tasmania with an Aboriginal guide, Fiona McIntosh discovered a side to Australian history that is all too often ignored. She writes:
“Down here in Tassie we have tiger, white-lipped and copperhead,” explains Hank as nonchalantly as if he were listing ice-cream flavours rather than varieties of venomous snake. “They won’t come after you, but if you step on one, you’ll soon know about it.” For the next four days and three nights our little group will be (gingerly) trekking through the wild and verdant north-east corner of Tasmania – the island state at the bottom of Australia.
Led by our Aboriginal guides, we’ll cross scrubby, coastal heathland full of banksia, eucalypt and flowering tea tree. We’ll spot wallabies and forester kangaroos, sunbathing lizards and a wombat so docile he sits like a dustbin by our doorway.
But what we won’t see are any roads (you can only get here on foot) or any other people. Not a single soul. Zero. Nada. It’s as if we’ve been dropped into the bush after the apocalypse. For me, this is a particularly reflective journey because over the next four days I learn more about indigenous Australia than I did during 12 years of school education. This is not something I’m proud of, it is just that’s the way it was for schoolchildren in the 1970s when we were spoon-fed a Government-approved version of Australian history. Or should I say, white Australian history.
EU has had ‘no contacts’ with UK over Covid vaccine passports
The European Commission has said there have been “no contacts” with the UK over mutual recognition of coronavirus passports but that Brussels “would be open towards the UK” on this issue.
Ursula von der Leyen gave an interview to NYTimes suggesting Europe would be open for US tourist business and there have been talks between the US and EU.
Southern European countries such as Greece and Spain have been pushing for a digital vaccine passport in the hope of bolstering their tourism-dependent economies. However others – including France – have argued that it is premature, and have expressed concerns regarding discrimination.
Last month the bloc revealed plans to introduce a Digital Green Certificate to allow 450 million Europeans to travel freely by summer.
‘I went freediving in a kelp forest with the narrator from My Octopus Teacher – here’s what I learned’
Pippa de Bruyn shares her profound experience on a seaforest tour with the man behind the ‘best documentary feature’ in this year’s Oscars:
We met on a perfect Cape spring morning, the sun sparkling off an uncharacteristically calm Atlantic. Craig Foster, tall and lithe, limbering up on one of the granite boulders that bookend the Cape Peninsula beaches. Me, unfit and flabby, attempting to touch my toes. Wondering what the hell I was doing, wasting the time of the kelp forest guru.
A few months back I had encountered Foster’s book Sea Change at Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, in South Africa’s De Hoop Nature Reserve, where owner Colin Bell had exhorted the pioneering work of its author. I paged through it, entranced, as much by images of the creatures – bizarre as aliens in an ethereal undersea forest – as by the man who chose to document this little-known world unencumbered by a scuba tank or wetsuit.
I have always hated the constraints of wetsuits, but Cape Town waters – dropping as low as 9C, an icy manacle on each ankle – meant immersion without one was by necessity brief. Besides, the oft-roiling Atlantic – pounding what the 15th-century explorer Bartolomeu Dias called the “Cape of Storms” – offered little temptation; just a graveyard for ships, I thought, when anyone suggested diving here.
Jersey opens to UK tourists
The island of Jersey has today relaxed travel restrictions for UK visitors, introducing a traffic light system to boost tourism from the mainland.
The majority of the country has been categorised as ‘green’, meaning residents in those areas can travel to Jersey provided they take a PCR test on arrival, and await the result at their accommodation. They must also complete a ‘Safer Travel registration form’ within 48 hours before arrival, supplying contact information and recent travel history.
Those in ‘amber’ areas, including parts of London and the East Midlands, must quarantine for five days on arrival. They will be allowed to live provided they test negative on the fifth day.
Anyone travelling from a ‘red’ area, including Leicester, Nottingham and southern Lincolnshire, must quarantine for 10 days.
Comment: ‘I’m 29, I hitchhike and love street food – but my next holiday will be a cruise’
Harriet Marsden has surprised herself in yearning for a cruise holiday this year. She writes:
I’m hardly your stereotypical cruiser. I’m not a retired couple on the hunt for fly-and-flop around the Caribbean. I’m only 29, I don’t enjoy black tie and I have limited tolerance for Americans. If I were feeling pretentious I might describe my travelling style as ‘wannabe local’ – translation, I hitchhike and eat questionable street food.
So it might surprise you to read that when the Government finally blows the starting whistle on foreign holidays, I would like my first trip to be aboard a small-ship cruise. To me, it feels like the safest option in a post-pandemic world.
I’m not an expert or epidemiologist, but compared with air or rail journeys, hostel-hopping or road trips, the idea of a ship makes me most comfortable. As part of a small, non-changing group of passengers, I imagine I’ll be better able to keep track of contact should an outbreak of coronavirus occur.
‘A lot of people will continue to hold out until the autumn for a holiday’ – expert comment
Plenty of Britons will be priced out of a summer holiday this year given the steep testing rules. But there’s hope that by autumn, vaccine certificates could render them a thing of the past:
Jenny Southan, CEO of Globetrender, tells us:
Until there is clarity from the UK government on vaccine passports and affordable Covid testing for travellers, a lot of people will continue to hold out until the autumn for a holiday abroad – especially for families with children over 11 for whom the cost and complexity of multiple PCR tests will make trips abroad impossible (children under 11 aren’t normally required to have them).
Although quarantining at home after returning from an ‘amber’ country will be possible for many remote workers, there will also be many potential holidaymakers for whom only ‘green list’ countries will be viable to visit. As the months go by and vaccination rates continue to increase around the world, the easier it will be to cross borders.
Nevertheless, we can still expect a rush to go abroad from mid-May, especially among wealthier people and ‘Vaccine VIPs’ who have received a double dose and will be first in line to capitalise on digital health passes.
Poll: How will you spend your first bank holiday weekend of freedom?
We’re asking readers today to weigh in. Vote below to share your plans:
‘Fully-vaccinated Britons to travel with fewer restrictions by end of June’ – expert prediction
In light of the news that vaccinated Americans will be permitted to visit Europe this summer, industry expert Paul Charles, head of The PC Agency, reckons it bodes well for Britons too…
Menorca keen and ready to welcome back British tourists
We still don’t know whether Spain and/or the Balearics will make the UK’s ‘green list’, but Menorca is certainly hoping so.
Susana Mora, President & Minister of Tourism in Menorca, states:
During the pandemic, transparency is vital and we feel it is important to showcase the nuanced situation in the Balearic Islands. Thankfully, Menorca has had a relatively low number of cases but we continue to put safety at the centre of our reopening strategy.
The UK is usually the number one source market for travel to Menorca and we are very eager to welcome British visitors back to the island as soon as possible. We feel our COVID numbers, together with the processes that have been in place, and the island’s sophisticated tourism and health infrastructure mean we are well placed to welcome back visitors.
Tempted? Here is a round-up of its best secret corners, away from the crowds.
Rise of the ‘delaycation’ as holidaymakers book autumn getaways over summer
Many Britons are refusing to hedge their bets on a summer holiday this year, given the ongoing uncertainty, and are instead opting for late-season getaways.
A rep for Tui told us:
We’re seeing late summer bookings in September and October become increasingly popular with customers. Our most popular destinations are Greece, Turkey and the Spanish Islands.
What are the new regulations in Scotland?
As of today, the following changes come into force as part of Nicola Sturgeon’s roadmap out of Scotland’s lockdown:
Up to four people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place, such as a cafe or restaurant
Hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants can open until 8pm indoors (but without alcohol) and 10pm outdoors where alcohol is allowed to be consumed
All shops, stores and close contact services can open
Tourist accommodation can open with restrictions in place
Indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries can open
Travel will also be allowed to other parts of Britain, with reviews planned on journeys to Northern Ireland and the Republic
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.