Government giving false hope for summer holidays, warns MP

Pictured last year, Brazilian military personnel disinfect the area around Rio de Janeiro’s Christ The

Pictured last year, Brazilian military personnel disinfect the area around Rio de Janeiro's Christ The Redeemer statue - Getty

Pictured last year, Brazilian military personnel disinfect the area around Rio de Janeiro’s Christ The Redeemer statue – Getty

Yvette Cooper has called on the UK Government to expand the hotel quarantine system, and warned that it is “raising expectations” about the prospect of summer holidays that it “may not be able to meet.”

On BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, the former Shadow Foreign Secretary appealed for tighter border measures, saying: “we should also be looking at testing at the airport, in the way that South Korea does… as well as Australia and New Zealand, which have more expanded hotel quarantine systems.”

Cooper blamed people travelling from South America on indirect flights for the introduction of the ‘Brazil variant’: “They will have travelled [to the UK] by indirect flights. But it was over a month until the hotel quarantine system was introduced. Bear in mind, only 1 per cent of international travellers are covered by the hotel quarantine system.”

She also derided ministers for apparently “encouraging” the public to book holidays – despite leisure travel currently being illegal.

“At the moment, the Government is encouraging people to think that summer holidays are possible, and international travel is going to return,” she said. “The Home Secretary, when we pressed her on this, said it’s ‘too soon’ for people to be booking holidays.”

Scroll down for more of today’s travel news.

11:22 AM

Meerkats deprived of zoo visitors behaved more badly towards each other, study finds

Zookeepers have been pointing out the effect of lockdown on their animals, with some species finding it hard to adjust to the lack of human visitors.

Meerkats in zoos which were deprived of human contact behaved more badly towards each other, one study has found. Meerkats that may be used to interacting with zoo visitors also reacted positively but cautiously to the sudden return of people after lockdown.

Researchers studied the behaviour of the animals at three British zoos both during the first lockdown when there were suddenly no visitors, and then for a month after zoos reopened to the public.

Zoos have complained their animals are 'lonely' during lockdown - Getty

Zoos have complained their animals are ‘lonely’ during lockdown – Getty

The study, by Nottingham Trent University, Harper Adams University and Twycross Zoo found that the animals showed increased positive social interactions with one another, such as play and social grooming, once visitors returned.

Meerkats also showed an increase in alert behaviours such as increased vigilance, according to the study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Researchers say this could be indicative of natural curiosity in meerkats, particularly after a long time of not seeing visitors.

11:00 AM

Windsurfers fined for skimming into strict lockdown region

Two Italian windsurfers have run afoul of the country’s strict lockdown measures after inadvertently skimming across the waves from one region to another, reports Nick Squires in Rome.

The surfers were fined by police after leaving a beach in the region of Lazio and landing on another a few hundred yards north in neighbouring Tuscany.

They were taken to a police station in the Tuscan town of Orbetello and issued with fines of several hundred euros, then told to return to Lazio.

As of today, Sardinia has been designated a white zone, spurring hopes for a bumper tourism season - Getty

As of today, Sardinia has been designated a white zone, spurring hopes for a bumper tourism season – Getty

Under Italy’s lockdown, it is illegal to move between the country’s 20 regions unless for reasons of work, health or other pressing needs.

Italian regions are a patchwork of red, orange and yellow with the colour codes denoting different levels of anti-virus measures.

As of today, Sardinia has been designated a white zone – the first in Italy after a year of the pandemic – signifying the most relaxed set of restrictions and spurring hopes for a bumper tourist season.

10:41 AM

The science behind why border restrictions will not stop Covid variants

David Livermore, a Professor of Medical Microbiology at UEA and a member of HART – the Health Advisory & Recovery Team – explains why tougher border restrictions won’t stop new variants in the UK:

Fear of importing new variants lies behind the Government’s imposition of quarantine for travellers entering the UK from southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, Panama and the UAE. Will such regulations, and threatened 10-year prison sentences for those who flout them, protect us?

The answer to that is ‘no’. Firstly because the South African variant is already circulating in the UK and is doubtless under-detected. Secondly, because they will continue to be imported from elsewhere in the world and, as a trading nation, we cannot isolate ourselves.

And, above all, because E484K mutations have emerged independently here, notably around Bristol, and will continue to do so. Currently the Zoe app suggests 147,000 people are infected with Covid-19 in the UK. Each of these will be carrying and producing billions of virus particles. With these numbers, domestic generation of mutants will outweigh import.

Read the full piece.

10:27 AM

Yvette Cooper calls for testing arrivals coming into the UK

Yvette Cooper has been speaking on BBC News, and has called on the Government to start testing people when they arrive in the UK.

“At the moment, we only have a test in place up to three days before people travel. We know from evidence seen by SAGE that a significant number of cases are not picked up by those tests. My personal view is that we should have testing at the airport when you arrive, as well, so you put in an additional level of checks. I do not understand why the Government is resisting doing that – a lot of people have been calling for that for a long time.

“Then we should be looking at whether it is expanding the hotel quarantine system, or having safe ways to travel home and a stronger home-quarantine system. Those are the kinds of things other countries are doing which do seem to be effective.”

10:10 AM

The seven destinations most likely to make the travel ‘green list’ this summer

Iceland is high on our ‘green watchlist’ given its Covid track record, vaccination drive, and approach to vaccinated arrivals - Getty

Iceland is high on our ‘green watchlist’ given its Covid track record, vaccination drive, and approach to vaccinated arrivals – Getty

We have crunched the data to identify the countries looking promising for a summer getaway.

Spoiler alert: it’s looking good for Greece, Iceland and the Seychelles…

See the full list.

09:55 AM

‘There is no logic behind keeping campsites closed until May 17’

Campsites with shared toilet facilities must remain closed until at least May 17, the Government has decreed – but why, asks Phoebe Smith?

During the entire series of lockdowns, shared facilities in supermarkets have remained open with no report linking that with a rise in Covid cases. Indeed, when schools go back on March 8 children will be sharing facilities again, and when beer gardens and outdoor dining re-opens on April 12 people will be mixing from different households there too.

Yet after the gloom of winter, being penned up indoors every single night, a camping holiday would – quite literally – be just what the doctor ordered. They are cheap, easy to organise and thanks to the abundance of ventilation in a tent, are actually good for our health and one of the safest activities we can do.

But it is not allowed. Yet we will be able to go drinking in a pub following months of sedentary lifestyles for most of us. Weren’t these rules supposed to be about not putting strain on the overburdened NHS?

Read the full comment – and tell us, do you agree?

09:40 AM

Covid rules on groups gathering outdoors ‘not policeable’ ahead of lockdown easing

Police no longer wish to enforce Covid rules to break up groups gathering outdoors in the month before the restrictions are eased, rank and file officers said on Sunday night.

Huge crowds took advantage of unseasonably warm weather to meet in large numbers in parks and on beaches this weekend, but anecdotal evidence suggested only some police forces were still trying to enforce the existing rules.

The relaxation of Covid regulations only begins next Monday when, for the first time since the lockdown began, two people can meet in an “outdoor public space” for recreational purposes that include a coffee, drink or picnic.

Only by March 29 will six people – or two households – be allowed to meet outdoors, including in back gardens.

On Sunday night Ken Marsh, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in the UK’s biggest force, said his members had no desire to carry out the law to the letter.

“Police don’t want to police this,” he said. “We have had enough of this. It is not policeable. It is not manageable.”

Robert Mendick has the full story.

09:23 AM

Auckland enters fourth lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that the country's latest Covid-19 case had made "multiple mistakes" - Getty

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that the country’s latest Covid-19 case had made “multiple mistakes” – Getty

The mayor of New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, said on Monday that its residents should be prioritised for vaccines after it was thrown into its fourth lockdown over the weekend, costing millions of dollars a day.

The seven-day lockdown of the population of nearly two million was prompted by the case of a person who had been infectious for a week but not in isolation.

Mayor Phil Goff said: “We need the vaccine roll-out to be prioritised in Auckland to help avoid future lockdowns, protect jobs and incomes, and ensure Auckland can play its role in supporting the national economic recovery.”

09:10 AM

Has Covid killed off the global citizen?

'International families have paid a high price for Covid' - Getty

‘International families have paid a high price for Covid’ – Getty

Having family all over the world was once a marker of success. But, as Helen Kirwan-Taylor discovers, it can now have devastating consequences:

I’ve been browsing the British Airways website for flights to New York City since early this morning. Once the height of excitement, it is now something I do with a heavy heart. My 89 year-old father, who miraculously survived pneumonia two years ago, is back in hospital, this time with Covid.

I am 5,000 miles away, feeling utterly helpless. As of yesterday his prognosis changed from stable to uncertain and to make things even worse, New York has a three-day quarantine rule (strictly enforced, I might add). Dr Charles Carpati, the head of intensive care who saved his life the first time around and is now overseeing his case, says attempting to see him before he dies is a “roll of the dice”.

My sister, who lives in New York, and my brother, who lives in Washington will manage. I may never again. This is the price you pay for globalism in Covid times.

Read more.

08:59 AM

Rail fares rise across UK

Train passengers in England and Wales have been hit by above-inflation fare rises, despite the collapse in demand.

Ticket prices have increased by around 2.6%, rising above inflation for the first time in seven years.

Union leaders have accused train operators of “profiteering” despite a huge reduction in the number of travellers because of the pandemic.

Increases had been based on the Retail Price Index since January 2014, but this policy has been axed because of the “unprecedented taxpayer support” given to the rail industry during Covid-19.

The cost of an annual season ticket from Brighton to London will rise £129 to £5,109 – while a yearly pass from Liverpool to Manchester will now cost an additional £70, hitting £2,762.

The Scottish government is introducing smaller rises – with an increase of 1.6 per cent for peak travel, and 0.6 per cent for off-peak journeys.

Max Stephens has the full story.

08:41 AM

What you need to know about the Brazilian variant

Health officials are hunting for a mystery Covid patient thought to be one of the first in the UK to have a Brazilian variant that may spread more rapidly and respond less well to vaccines.

Six individuals infected with the “variant of concern” have been detected in the UK, officials said on Sunday night.

Ministers were so concerned that they banned travel from Portugal and South American countries in January.

However, officials said last night that six individuals infected with the “variant of concern” had been detected in the UK: three in England and three in Scotland.

Read more: Brazilian variant: what is the new Covid strain and should I be worried?

08:33 AM

A quick catch up on the headlines

To bring you up to speed on the travel news:

  • EU edges closer to vaccine passport, but says travel curbs will stay for months

  • Leading Swiss ski resort shuts slopes

  • PocDoc launching trial with Edinburgh Airport to provide ‘fit to fly’ certificates

  • 79% of Brits yet to book a summer holiday, despite Government roadmap

  • First of the UK quarantine hotel guests check out following 10 days in isolation