The UK has introduced new border restrictions on South Africa, effective immediately, amid concerns that a new Covid-19 variant has been imported from the country.
All those who have travelled from South Africa in the last fortnight have been instructed to quarantine, as well as anyone they have come into close contact with.
In a briefing this afternoon, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also announced “immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa”, indicating that flight routes will be closed.
"We'll be changing the law to get this legal effect imminently," he said, adding that these "measures are temporary while we investigate further this new strain which is shortly to be analysed at Porton Down."
The UK joins a growing list of countries – including Switzerland, Turkey, Israel and Mauritius – that have introduced restrictions on travel from South Africa, including compulsory quarantine and flight bans.
We will bring you more on this story as it develops.
Scroll down for more of the latest.
Qantas and Japan Airlines consider joining forces
The two national carriers may be teaming up with a view to resume flights between Japan and Australia from July 2021.
Qantas has applied to local regulatory authorities to form a joint venture with oneworld partner Japan Airlines, asking to enhance the existing relationship and even suggesting a new route might be in the offing.
The return of flights could be designed to coincide with the delayed Tokyo Olympics, which are due to start in late July.
Qantas has been one of the most cautious airlines when it comes to restarting flights, previously signalling it might require proof of Covid vaccination to allow passengers to fly from certain destinations.
CAMRA reacts to ‘unfair and unevidenced restrictions’
Responding to the latest tier restrictions, CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) National Chairman Nik Antona, said:
Pubs, clubs and breweries have already been struggling to survive, having been singled out for additional restrictions under the tier system – without specific support to help them out.
With even more areas of the country moving into tiers where the ability of hospitality businesses to make a living is severely curtailed – or closed down completely - it is even more important that a new, specific support package for pubs and brewers is launched.
The news that these restrictions will last until Spring, and normality may not return until 2022, means that it is essential for the Government to now step in to protect perfectly viable hospitality businesses that are struggling under unfair and unevidenced restrictions. This is the only way they can return to making a huge contribution to the economy and our communities as soon as possible.
Reaction from travel companies as more areas plunged into tier 4 from Boxing Day
Dan Yates, founder of global outdoor accommodation booking platform Pitchup.com, says:
As we now see a further 18 million people enter tier 4, we expect to see a huge rise in confusion about where customers stand with future and existing bookings. Not least because the rate of change is rapid. A key source of confusion is that they need to check the local regulations for both their point of origin and their destination - which may or may not be in the same tier or even country.
Confused messages undermine consumer confidence in booking ahead, which is incredibly damaging to the overall leisure economy. What we need now is for the government to take notice of this and take action, to facilitate positive steps that keep people safe whilst supporting the sector’s ultimate recovery.
Police in Wales and England 'working closely' to manage travel restrictions along border
Officers are expected to issue fines to drivers who break the strict travel rules over the festive period. The warning comes after restrictions were imposed in Wales, and England enacted a ban on travelling from Wales (a tier four area) to lower-tier areas along the border.
Travel in Wales is limited to essential purposes only, meaning that people cannot cross into the country from England unless they have an exemption for work or other reasons.
Superintendent Craig Templeton of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “Throughout lockdown, officers will conduct high visibility patrols across the counties.
“These will include road checks in key areas, which allow officers to engage with motorists and ensure that Welsh Government regulations regarding essential travel are understood and being followed.”
Confusion as Eurostar backtracks on PCR test requirement
Earlier today Eurostar caused confusion by incorrectly demanding passengers must present a negative PCR Covid-19 test certificate, when other test options were in fact accepted by the French Government.
Late last night, the French embassy in London announced that EU citizens and essential workers would be allowed to travel to France, after a two-day travel ban, providing they could present either a negative PCR or lateral flow test result.
However, Eurostar initially demanded that passengers must specifically provide a PCR test result, with no mention of the quicker antigen / lateral flow tests, despite the fact that France allows these quicker and cheaper testing options for arrivals from the UK. Indeed many of the lorry drivers stranded in Dover will be taking the quicker tests in the coming days.
Eurostar said: “From reports you will have heard in the news, a negative PCR Covid test will be required to travel to or via France.”
However, in a turnaround, Eurostar has since gone back on this and says it will allow rapid antigen tests. Travellers can find the full list of acceptable testing facilities on the French embassy website, here.
Franky McCamley has Tweeted to show scenes of queues going through the station.
Many travellers like Lottie Atkin are struggling to get through to Eurostar
Some, like DavidY, have pointed out that this sets a precedent for antigen testing as a route to opening up travel in the future.
Others, like Ophélie Bedier, are now frantically following up delayed test results in order to board a train.
Switzerland temporarily relaxes travel ban rules to let Britons travel home in time for Christmas
Flights between the UK and Switzerland have been suspended since midnight on Sunday, after fears grew across Europe about the new coronavirus variant. Britons who arrived in Switzerland after December 14 have been forced into a retrospective quarantine since Monday.
A statement from the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation confirms that those who wish to travel home to the UK will be able to do so from tomorrow (Christmas Eve). Once they leave their quarantine accommodation, they will be kept apart from others during their journey to the airport, thanks to special transfer services organised by the government, after which they will be subject to the usual Covid security measure in force on planes.
The rules also apply to South Africa, where Matt Hancock has just confirmed another new variant of Covid-19 has been traced back to.
The short-term easing of the rules will also allow Swiss residents, either currently in the UK or South Africa, to return home – but they must quarantine for 10 days once they land. Passengers must contact their airline directly to find out whether or not their flight is due to operate.
Number of areas under tightest restrictions expanded, while Cornwall bumped up to tier 2
More of the East and South East of England will enter the toughest tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridge, the whole of Essex, Waverley in Surrey, and Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton, but, with the exception of the New Forest will all be escalated to tier four, he said.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, including the North Somerset council-area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to tier three.
Cornwall and Herefordshire will be bumped up to tier two, which may have the largest impact on travel plans across the festive period, with some New Year's Eve bookings now likely to be cancelled. Under tier 2 restrictions, social mixing outside of households or support bubbles is not allowed indoors.
Singapore's Changi Airport launches new 'glamping' experience
Airlines and airports have come up with weird and wonderful ways to keep passengers engaged during the pandemic, writes Emma Cooke.
The latest of these new ways of letting customers soak up the aviation experience comes from Singapore’s Changi airport, which has been named best in the world for eight consecutive years.
The airport is allowing visitors to ‘glamp’ within its retail wing. Before you imagine a tent set up next to a few duty free outlets, remember that Changi airport is unlike most other airports: along with the usual shops and restaurants, there’s the longest indoor waterfall in the world and a forest surrounded by 900 trees and 60,000 shrubs. Tents are similarly plush, measuring four metres across and coming with queen-sized beds. The airport offers giant slides to take visitors to their gate, a butterfly garden, movie theatre and swimming pool.
The 'anthropause' has given a new lease of life to planet Earth's wildlife
It's not all bad news. With the world grounded, safari rangers are reporting healthier wildlife populations, writes Mark Everleigh.
"There’s no doubt that, while most of the human population has been locked down, animals have been enjoying a holiday of their own,” said Bread Shambamaropa, as we stood in the deserted bar at Mana Pools and gazed out over a waterhole packed with antelope and elephant. “It’s been terrible for business and for park revenues, but the animals are far less stressed. Leopards come closer to camp than they ever did.”
Since arriving in Zimbabwe, I had heard much about how even urban areas had seen some “rewilding” during the pandemic: elephants had been spotted sauntering through Victoria Falls shopping precincts; zebras had grazed on verges in Kariba town; dozing lions had managed to bring traffic to a halt on the A1 highway. And I had witnessed for myself how the leopards at Mana Pools were embracing the new normal: only the previous evening, Bread and I had both stood transfixed on the bar’s veranda as the biggest leopard that I had ever seen stared back at us out of the darkness from a distance of only about six feet.
Cruise company to restart operations in New Zealand
A luxury cruise operator has announced it will resume operations after the New Zealand Ministry of Health approved its proposals.
Ponant’s small expedition vessel, Le Laperouse, will sail exclusively in New Zealand waters, with New Zealand residents on board, from February 2021.
The company’s Asia Pacific chairman, Sarina Bratton, said: "Our excitement is two-fold. First, to have the opportunity and privilege to offer 'Bubble Expeditions' for Kiwis, enabling exploration of some of the most remote and inaccessible parts of that country, so rich in natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife. And secondly, to support our partners and deliver economic benefit to New Zealand."
New quarantine rules for UK travellers to India
Authorities in Mumbai have introduced a mandatory quarantine period for all passengers arriving directly or indirectly from the UK.
All travellers will have to quarantine at a hotel, at their own expense, for at least five to seven days, before taking a Covid test. If the test is negative they will be allowed to complete their remaining seven-day isolation period at their own ‘residence’. Those who test positive must stay at the hotel for another 14 days.
Passports will be deposited upon arrival at the hotel and only returned when the quarantine has been completed.
Flights are currently suspended between the UK and India and it is unclear how long these new measures will last.
Why Christmas Island isn't as idyllic as it sounds
This far-flung Australian island may sound festive, but the reality is rather different, writes Ronan O'Connell.
It is one of Australia’s most beautiful locations, a remote, jungle-draped island ringed by empty beaches and virgin reefs, and home to a crab phenomena that astonished Sir David Attenborough. Yet very few tourists visit Christmas Island, a mysterious place with a dark history which is home to just 1,800 people and is so isolated it costs £600 to fly to from the Australian mainland.
Instead of being famous for its red crab migration, when millions of crustaceans blanket it while breeding, Christmas Island is infamous for its refugee detention centre, which was recently suggested as a potential coronavirus quarantine site.
Australia closed its national borders on March 20, its state borders soon after, and since March 28 all residents returning to Australia have had to spend two weeks quarantined in a hotel room in one of its cities. Back in September, however, West Australian Premier Mark McGowan suggested quarantining overseas arrivals in the refugee centre on Christmas Island, the State’s most far-flung territory, closer to Bali than Perth.
‘Tier tourists’ criticised for travelling to areas under fewer restrictions
Police in York handed out a “shocking” number of fines at the weekend to revellers from tier 3 areas coming to socialise in the city’s pubs, which remain open under tier 2 restrictions.
North Yorkshire Police say officers encountered large numbers of visitors from surrounding tier 3 areas, who had chosen to “flout the regulations”. They report that “many were found to be from multiple households who were mixing indoors”.
Although some groups dispersed, police issued 160 tickets to rule-breakers.
Councillor Denise Craghill, executive member for safer communities at City of York Council, said: “We want people to enjoy York safely and in line with Government rules. You should not travel across tier boundaries and in York, tier 2 restrictions must be followed: meet only your household or your bubble, or up to six people outside. Please remember to continue to wash your hands, wear a face covering and give each other two metres space.
Egypt bans New Year celebrations to curb rising virus cases
Egypt has called off all New Year's celebrations in order to stem rising coronavirus cases in the country, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said Wednesday.
"There will be no New Year's celebrations or gatherings as part of the precautionary measures taken to confront the coronavirus," the premier said in a statement released after a cabinet meeting.
Egypt's daily novel coronavirus caseload has been increasing steadily in recent weeks, and the Arab world's most populous country has officially recorded more than 127,000 cases, including over 7,100 deaths.
The UK is unlikely to have a particularly raucous NYE celebration this yeat, either.
'The travel ban has left me quarantined in a Swiss ski resort'
Our anonymous writer made it out of London just before the Tier4 lockdown to spend Christmas with family in Switzerland. Then this happened...
Having smugly cleared one hurdle and arrived safely in the Swiss Alps, I came to a grinding halt on Monday when the Swiss introduced a retrospective quarantining, suspended all flights between the UK and efficiently shut the borders to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variant. The Government ruled that anyone who entered the country from the UK after December 14 should quarantine for 10 days.
There is now a huge cloud of confusion over this latest ruling, which is causing dismay and irritation amongst British tourists who arrived prior to this restriction being imposed. Those who arrived on or after December 14 were free to gallivant around the slopes ( resorts here are still open), albeit for mask-wearing, socially distanced skiing, hand washing and elbow “hello-ing”, until suddenly they were told they had to quarantine for 10 days – it’s hard to see the logic through my now-back-in-their-case ski goggles.
The once-sleepy Somerset village that's now in hot demand
The picturesque town of Bruton, at the western end of the Cotswolds has become the most searched-for destination for prospective property buyers, reports Patrick Sawer. Searches for property in the area leapt by 72 per cent this year, according to new data from Rightmove, the UK's biggest property website.
Our columnist Mariella Frostrup happens to reside there already. Last summer, she wrote for Telegraph Travel:
I live near a beautiful small town in Somerset described 15 years ago by a local friend as having tumbleweed blowing down the high street. I’m sure she was exaggerating, but either way there’s little space for them to squeeze through these days with the number of visitors pouring in.
Bruton, the sleepy farming community that Grapes of Wrath author John Steinbeck spent the happiest year of his life in, has been reinvented. No longer a drive-through on your way to Glastonbury or Frome, it is now a magnet for lovers of art, food and fashion.
It’s a situation that would have been barely credible two decades ago let alone when Steinbeck stayed in the Fifties to research his book on Arthurian legend. The photographer Don McCullin, who moved to the area 30 years ago to escape the hurly-burly of London life, still shakes his head at how the place he was drawn to for peaceful solitude has become a magnet to those seeking the opposite.
Border reopened and lorries have priority
The French border has reopened and lorries have priority in crossing the Channel, Priti Patel has tweeted.
'How the Tier 4 restrictions have forced my Tier 2 hotel to close its doors just before Christmas'
Luke Garnsworthy, the owner of Crockers Henley, which is in Tier 2 but surrounded by Tier 4 areas, explains why his business has had to close its doors again:
So here we are. We’ve lost one of the most crucial months in our business, November, to a national lockdown. That would hurt enough, but after barely two weeks of December, the government changed direction again. Henley is still in Tier 2, but it’s a tiny Tier 2 island in an ocean of Tier 3 and now 4. When the vast majority of the South East was put into Tier 3 our reservations started to tumble, as we have barely anyone around able to come to eat with us.
We have now taken such a hit to our bookings in the most lucrative month of the year that it is no longer viable to stay open. I have taken another horrendous decision to close for the year and furlough staff. I won’t get any government grants unless we are put into Tier 4, which I now hope will happen soon. I can’t see us reopening until spring. I can’t cope with the constant opening and closing any more.
Travel Advent Calendar, day 23: Answer questions about Iceland to 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. And the countdown is nearly over!
One winner, chosen at random from all correct entries, will receive a £200 AITO holiday voucher to spend with the tour operator of their choice.
Pilots are obsessed with sleep – it can mean the difference between life and death
In his latest installment, our flying columnist reveals his cure for jetlag, and explains where pilots go for a mid-flight nap. Here's an excerpt:
The life of an airline pilot, particularly those of us who fly long-haul, revolves around sleep. Structuring our sleep patterns is key to ensuring that we are alert for the most demanding parts of the flight, namely take-off and landing. We need to manage our sleep in a way that makes us awake and alert when required but then tired when we need to sleep.
Preparation for a flight quite often begins the day before. With a late evening departure to a destination like Hong Kong, we need to arrive at the airport alert and ready to perform; this is best achieved with an afternoon nap.
However, your circadian rhythm is rarely in a position to make you tired at 3pm. As a result, I will go to bed late the night before and wake up early. This way, come mid-afternoon, I’m tired and am ready for a sleep.
France decision is good news for lorry drivers – but not for holidaymakers
Travel between the UK and France resumed this morning, after the French government agreed to lift its total travel ban.
Rail, air and sea services have all restarted, after being halted on Sunday due to fears of the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, which has spread rapidly across south-east England.
However, while the easing of restrictions is good news for hauliers and supermarkets, for holidaymakers and British citizens hoping to visit family in France this Christmas, any hopes that they might be able to travel have been dashed. Only French citizens, European Area nationals, plus British or third country citizens living in France will be permitted entry. These measures are expected to last until at least January 6.
Travellers from the UK must now provide evidence of a negative Covid test (taken no more than 72 hours previously). Notably, results from rapid “lateral flow” tests can be shown in addition to the most-accurate, but slower to turnaround lab-analysed PCR tests, which many countries exclusively accept. Mobile units, overseen by Army logistics experts, will now administer the tests to at least 6,000 freight drivers stranded in the UK.
Passengers return to the Eurostar terminal today at St Pancras
Eurostar restarts travel from the UK to mainland Europe
As of today, Eurostar is resuming some services from the UK to France, Belgium and the Netherlands. With the following caveats, according to the operator:
Travelling to Paris and Lille: A negative PCR or antigen COVID test from one of these suppliers is required to travel to or via France. We would like to advise you that you will not be allowed to travel if you do not have a negative antigen COVID test result or PCR COVID test result taken less than 72 hours before travel. If you have taken the antigen test, the test result must specify the type of test that you have taken.
Travelling to Belgium: New rules for travel from the UK to Belgium between 23 and 31 December have been announced. These restrict travel to Belgian citizens and residents, with few limited exceptions. Please see the latest information available on the Belgian Embassy’s website. Please note that it is not permitted to travel to Brussels in order to make a connection to travel onwards to the Netherlands, Germany or any other destination outside Belgium.
Travelling to the Netherlands: Only essential travel is allowed to the Netherlands. All customers need to have proof of a negative PCR test result taken less than 72 hours before travel.
Comment: Priti Patel's latest gaffe reveals the Government's true contempt for holidaymakers
The Home Secretary's slip-up occurred yesterday, while she was discussing new measures coming in to kickstart the traffic flow from the UK to France.
Addressing testing, Priti Patel uttered: "It's quite clear – I mean we ask passengers to take tests before they get on aeroplanes."
Greg Dickinson argues:
Wait. No, no you don’t. The UK Government most certainly does not ask passengers to take a test before they get on planes leaving the country, and we do not ask international arrivals to supply a negative PCR certificate before they travel into the UK, either. This is not a casual briefing error. This is evidence that our Home Secretary does not have the foggiest about the challenges the travel industry has faced in the last year, and what her colleague Grant Shapps has been up to over the past few months.The travel industry has long pressured the Government to take leadership, when it comes to testing. Back in September, as part of our Test4Travel campaign, Telegraph Travel lobbied the Government to introduce testing on UK arrivals to reduce quarantine – something which Grant Shapps eventually introduced, months after other countries did so. Under ‘ Test to Release’, passengers can now exit quarantine if they can provide a negative Covid-19 test result after day five of arriving back in the country.
Baltic states team up to repatriate citizens from the UK
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will run a joint repatriation service for their citizens to leave Britain on December 28, the Lithuanian foreign affairs minister said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
The three Baltic states were among dozens of countries to suspend flights from Britain or shut their borders due to concern over the more transmissible variant that has sent cases soaring in the United Kingdom.
The three countries will divide the 150 places on the flight equally between their citizens, giving priority to those with health emergencies or urgent family reasons such as funerals, the minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, told reporters in Vilnius.
“It’s a humanitarian mission,” the minister said.
The passengers will be required to purchase tickets and provide negative coronavirus tests from the previous 48 hours, or face a 10 days self-isolation after returning, he said.
Comment: What fresh hell will greet us in 2021? Invasion by an alien species of vampiric sheep?
Chris Leadbeater writes:
In Ordinary Days – which, reputedly, did exist in some vague era prior to the tsunami of grim headlines and chaos – an article such as this would have had a cheery tone. We are approaching the final weekend of the year, when travel columns usually look forward to the coming 12 months with a smile and a song, imagining huge adventures and new horizons.
However, this being a time that Nostradamus took one look at and wrote simply “whoa, good luck mate”, we can't do that.
Will 2021 be a year for glimpsing unheralded corners of India, or lounging on tiny desert islands? I hope so. But if you are asking me questions like “when” and “how” then your guesses are as good as mine. I'm not even prepared to say what may be happening come Boxing Day.
Who knows what insanity will unfurl itself between now and then? Simultaneous eruptions of each of the world's volcanoes? Three asteroids on a collision course with Darlington? Invasion by an alien species of vampiric sheep? All of this?
More info: Japan and South Korea's new restrictions for UK travellers
Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo:
South Korean health authorities announced Wednesday that all flights from the UK have been halted until December 31, while the embassy in London has paused the issuance of quarantine waivers.
Britons arriving in Korea from elsewhere will be required to undergo additional quarantine measures at airports, with the heightened measures going into effect immediately.
Japan announced that new border controls are being imposed on passengers arriving from Britain on Thursday, with all arrivals required to take a virus test 72 hours before departing from the UK and presenting the paperwork to show that they are not infected upon arrival in Japan.
“We have decided to swiftly take action to thoroughly prevent the spread of the virus within Japan and make people feel safe,” Katsunobu Kato, the chief cabinet secretary, said at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Japan has shut its borders to virtually all arrivals, with only Japanese nationals returning home, foreign nationals with permanent resident status and a limited number of business travellers permitted to enter the country. No tourists are being permitted to enter the country.
Health authorities have stated that no cases of the new variant of the virus have been detected in either Japan or South Korea.
'The Government’s mishandling of Covid has come close to decimating the travel industry'
Craig Ashford, Director of Marketing at travel agency Travelup said:
As the travel industry cries out for reassurance, certainty and support, it is facing ever-changing regulations and setbacks this year. From last minute lockdowns, to blank travel bans and unworkable quarantine policies, it is no exaggeration to say the government’s egregious mishandling of coronavirus has come close to decimating the travel industry this year.
Certainly, the challenge of balancing public health and economic recovery is tremendous, and unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, but as we attempt to move towards a period of coalescence, the travel industry needs to be given some breathing space and clarity on regulations in order to recover.
Yet so far, the government has failed to deliver this on almost every level. The latest decision to place London and the South East into essentially another lockdown has once again shattered the industry’s plans. At this stage, it is difficult to make an argument that any of the industry’s 220,000 jobs are safe. While we all understand and support the importance of putting measures in place to protect people from the virus, the reality is that the government has found little balance with the measures it has put in place to effectively protect businesses in this sector.
It's lonely at Gatwick today
Unsurprisingly. Jonny Bealby, founder of travel specialist Wild Frontiers, is off to Antigua today on Christmas Eve-Eve from London's Gatwick Airport, which would, in a normal year, be bedlam. Not today...
Your rights to flight and holiday refunds due to Tier 4 and bans on UK arrivals
Countries around the world are closing their borders to Britons, and the new Tier restrictions are clamping down on non-essential movement too. For those who have holidays booked, the outlook is bleak indeed.
Concerningly, writes Hazel Plush, not all airlines are issuing refunds, even if your holiday is technically against the law.
Flights restart from Brussels to the UK
Is travel for Tier 4 residents really against the law this Christmas?
On the face of it, the rules regarding travel are clear. According to the Government’s guidance: “If you live in a Tier 4 area, you must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (e.g. for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall.”
It adds that you must not leave your Tier 4 area, or travel into a Tier 4 area from another part of the UK, “other than for legally permitted reasons.”
However, the legislation contains no specific ban on travel, just on leaving your home without good cause.
So what counts as a “reasonable excuse”?
The list is extensive. It includes work and shopping (in shops permitted to remain open), taking exercise with your household, linked household, or another person not from your household, as well as open-air recreation, a pretty broad term open to interpretation, in a “public outdoor place” (again, with your household, a linked household, or one other person not from your household).
Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who dissected the document on Twitter over the weekend, highlights other “reasonable excuses” including seeking medical assistance and avoiding injury or illness. “[This] includes mental and physical illness,” reasoned Wagner. “In my view, if you need to do something for your mental health, do it.”
'I escaped Tier 4 for a holiday in Gran Canaria'
An anonymous reader has been in touch to describe how they left behind lockdown for the warmth of the Canary Islands. Can't say we blame them.
My friend and I had always planned to go away this Christmas (we have no kids and are both single). After booking and cancelling trips to three destinations, we chose Gran Canaria. Then Boris’s announcement on Saturday thrust us into Tier 4. Could we still go? Was it legal? Is it morally right? Will we arrested and banged up by the British transport police?
Our flight was still going from Gatwick, and our hotel was only going to refund 50% of our £3,000 booking. That certainly helped make up your minds!
We arrived at the airport (negative Covid test and Spanish QR code at the ready), and sailed through a very quiet and subdued Gatwick. No one asked us why we were travelling or whether we were from a Tier 4 area (we both are). We still thought we will be stopped or the flight will be cancelled as we are taxiing on the runway, but no.
Do we feel guilty that we are here? We don’t. This is the second year for me without my parents and last Christmas was truly awful. And we are helping the very hard hit travel industry.
We are slightly concerned that we might not get back, put have already made plans to work remotely if necessary. Until then...
South Korea halts flights from UK
South Korea is halting air travel from Britain at least through December 31 over concerns of the new variant of the virus that has been identified in southeast England.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said during a virus briefing that South Korean diplomatic offices in Britain will also stop issuing quarantine waivers so that all passengers coming from the country are placed under isolation for at least two weeks until a negative test.
Thirty-two of the new cases reported by the country were linked to international arrivals, including four passengers arriving from Britain. South Korean authorities have not yet reported a local case of the new variant of the virus.
Tier 4 restrictions expected to be widened on Boxing Day
A swathe of areas hit by surging coronavirus rates are likely to be placed into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, ministers will announce on Wednesday.
Ministers are expected to sign off plans for tougher measures for many areas at a meeting of the Covid-O operations committee as concern grows about the virus mutation spreading from the South-East.
Government sources have warned that there is a "high chance" of a full national lockdown in the New Year.
Read the full story by Laura Donnelly and Lucy Fisher here.
More than 150 flights cancelled from UK airports on Tuesday
Almost half of Heathrow's scheduled departures were cancelled yesterday as the impact of UK travel bans was felt at Britain's largest airport. According to FlightAware, 55 services were scrapped, representing 44% of all departures. Luton Airport saw 37 cancellations, representing 82% of outbound flights, while 37 services were also grounded at Stansted (77%).
Heathrow: 55 (44%)
Luton: 37 (82%)
Stansted: 37 (77%)
Gatwick: 13 (28%)
Edinburgh: 10 (37%)
Doncaster Sheffield: 9 (100%)
Manchester : 7 (30%)
Liverpool: 5 (83%)
Aberdeen: 4 (50%)
London City: 3 (75%)
What happened yesterday?
Lots. Here's a quick recap of the key stories:
EU Commission calls for end to UK travel bans
Britons may need to take Covid test before travelling anywhere in the EU
Hungary becomes 55th country to ban UK visitors
Germany extends travel ban until January 6
Sweden stands by virus strategy
Scotland considering even tighter restrictions
First coronavirus cases reported in Antarctica