Turkey and Pakistan among eight countries removed from red list

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arrivals - PA
arrivals - PA

Turkey, Egypt and the Maldives are among the eight countries that will be removed from the red list.

This means that as of next Wednesday (September 22), Britons can visit them without facing hotel quarantine upon their return.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also be taken off the red list next week, in a boon for long-haul and winter sun destinations; but the ten-day hotel quarantine at a cost of £2,285 per person remains mandatory for countries still on the red list.

As part of a major travel overhaul announced today by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, the 'traffic light' system will be scrapped, replaced with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world.

Additionally under the new regime, effective from October 4, double-jabbed travellers from 'safe' countries will no longer have to take any sort of test before they get on a flight home from overseas; and, from later in October, only a lateral flow on their second day back in the UK, rather than a costly PCR test.

Scroll down for the latest news as it happens.

05:55 PM

Today's key headlines

Here's a recap of the travel rule changes announced today:

  • Eight countries will move off the red list on September 22

  • Pre-departure tests for return to England will be scrapped for fully vaccinated (from Oct 4)

  • Day 2 tests will be replaced with lateral flow tests for double jabbed (later in Oct)

  • Traffic light system will be replaced with single red list from Oct 4

  • Rules for the 'rest of the world' will be determined by a traveller's vaccination status

Catch up with the rest below, and join us again on Monday for more travel news.

05:44 PM

Health Secretary welcomes 'easier' travel rules

Reacting to the latest England travel changes, Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said: "Today we have simplified the travel rules to make them easier to understand and follow, opening up tourism and reducing the costs to go abroad.

"As global vaccination efforts continue to accelerate and more people gain protection from this dreadful disease, it is right that our rules and regulations keep pace."

05:38 PM

Further clarity is urgently needed on travel rules, says trade body

The UK will still remain at a "competitive disadvantage" with Europe when all the changes announced today come into effect, according to a travel industry body.

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound, the trade association representing the UK's inbound tourism sector, said:

The UK’s onerous testing system for international arrivals into England is one of the biggest barriers to recovery of the UK’s fifth largest export industry, inbound tourism, and today’s announcement must therefore be very welcome news.

However, the devil is in the detail. Which lateral flow providers will international arrivals have to use, will tests purchased outside of the UK, but taken on arrival, be accepted, and what about children under 18? Further clarity is urgently needed.

The UK also continues to be at a competitive disadvantage, with Europe having no testing requirements for vaccinated arrivals. This will directly impact the UK’s economic recovery.

05:25 PM

Maldives resort 'thrilled' to welcome back UK guests

The Maldives is a welcome winter sun destination among the eight countries moving off the hotel quarantine list.

Neeraj Seth, marketing director of the Kandima Maldives resort, said

We’ve been anxiously waiting in anticipation of this announcement for weeks, and are thrilled we are now able to welcome guests back to Kandima Maldives following today’s announcement. There has been a surge of guests, specially our large base of repeater guests from the UK looking for trips to the islands ahead of the news, and with Kandima's K' OnGuard health & safety program, we are fully prepared to offer a safe yet extraordinary holiday to everyone be it a solo traveller, couples or a family.

Crucially though, we do hope these announcements stay in place throughout the months ahead and we are able to cater to the long pending travel demands of our guests from the UK as it not only has a huge impact on the individual properties but to the industry as a whole. We are so excited at the prospective of welcoming back UK travellers to our island again.

05:16 PM

There's no reason to delay scrapping PCR tests for the double jabbed, says travel boss

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said:

Across the entire pandemic, the UK’s travel rules have been two steps behind the rest of Europe. This has devastated the UK’s travel industry with countless job losses.

While the measures announced today are a move in the right direction, there is no reason to delay scrapping the wasteful and ludicrously expensive PCR testing regime for fully vaccinated travellers. If it’s the right thing to do, let’s get on with it.

05:10 PM

Turkey is finally off the red list – here are the best holidays on offer

It’s the country that has something for everyone – and we can finally visit, writes Terry Richardson.

composite - Getty
composite - Getty

How about a ...

Beach bonanza

Turkey has every kind of beach you could wish for. In the country’s spectacularly mountainous southwest, diminutive crescents of unsullied white sand nuzzle gin-clear, turquoise tinged waters in remote coves backed by resin-scented pine forest. Further east, fronting the fertile Pamphylian Plain between Antalya and Alanya, mile after mile of gently-shelving beach is lined with rows of luxurious beachside hotels and pristine golf courses.

Plan your next visit to Turkey.

05:03 PM

Ditch test for double-jabbed travellers after arrival, says easyJet chief

The UK will continue to fall behind the rest of Europe if the "unnecessary" requirement for vaccinated travellers take a test after arrival is not ditched, the easyJet boss has said.

Responding to the changes to England's international travel framework, Johan Lundgren, chief executive of the budget airline, said: "Removing the pre-departure test coupled with the disbanding of the traffic light system will inject some much needed confidence into travel once again.

"However, vaccinated travellers and those from low-risk countries will still have to do an unnecessary test after arriving in the UK, making travel less affordable for all. Since July 1 there has been no testing at all for vaccinated travellers within the rest of Europe, and this is why the UK will continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe if this remains.

"We will continue to support travel restrictions that protect the vaccine programme and the NHS, and argue for the removal of measures that are not necessary for this."

05:01 PM

Which countries are on the new 'green list'

The amber and green lists will merge on October 4 and eight new countries will join this new 'rest of the world' category.

Grand mosque muscat - iStock
Grand mosque muscat - iStock

Here's everything you need to know.

04:57 PM

Travel rule changes not enough 'to undo two years of damage' to the industry

The simplified system for international travel will see test requirements much reduced for fully vaccinated Britons. However, Abta, the travel association, says that financial support is vital for the industry to recover.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, said:

ABTA welcomes today’s announcement that fully-vaccinated travellers will no longer have to take PCR tests when returning from low-risk destinations. We await confirmation of the date this will be implemented and we urge the Government to do all it can to have this in place before October half-term [...]

Today’s announcement is a good step in the right direction, but it will not in itself be enough to undo two years of damage to the overseas travel industry, caused as a direct result of government policies. Targeted financial support for travel agents and tour operators is the only way to make good this damage and stem further job losses following on from the nearly 100,000 jobs which have already been lost in the outbound travel sector.

As these new measures apply to England, we urge the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to update their international travel policies as soon as possible.

04:49 PM

Watch: What the new rules mean for your autumn holiday options

04:38 PM

Comment: Travel should not be used to coerce people into getting vaccinated

Forcing quarantine on all un-jabbed arrivals has nothing to do with protecting us from variants and it won't help travel to recover, writes Annabel Fenwick Elliott.

If you are vaccinated, this latest shift in Grant Shapps’ border policy will be a welcome one – travel just got easier. If you are not, presumably because you chose not to be, you might be pretty irate – and I don’t blame you. Not least because there is no rhyme nor reason to punishing the un-jabbed minority for wanting to leave the country, rather than restricting their everyday freedoms on home ground (neither of which I support, for the record).

All over the world, democratic leaders have been treading a thin line between strongly urging and all-but mandating vaccinations. Under Boris Johnson, a somewhat measly version of the libertarian he once was, our country has actually erred on the softer side. Thus far, he’s managed to resist the sanctioning of Covid passports for large gatherings; while across the Channel in France, you can’t so much as saunter into a cafe without having your vaccine records summoned. Alas, it looks like we’re now on course to follow our neighbours.

Read Annabel's comment piece in full.

04:33 PM

Kenya's 'doors are open', says tourism board

Britons will now be able to travel to Kenya without facing an expensive stay in a quarantine hotel on their return.

Betty Radier, chief executive of the Kenya Tourism Board, said:

We are delighted that Kenya has moved to the ‘rest of the world’ category. We look forward to warmly welcoming back so many people who are eager to rediscover Kenya’s magic and reconnect with family and friends. Our doors are open.

04:29 PM

What are the rules for visiting Pakistan?

Pakistan will be removed from England's red list on September 22.

hunza valley - Shehzaad Maroof/Moment RF
hunza valley - Shehzaad Maroof/Moment RF

We explain the rules for visiting the country.

04:24 PM

Ministers should eliminate all testing for fully vaccinated travellers, says BA

British Airways has welcomed the simplified rules. However, it is urging the Government to go further to open up international travel.

Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, said:

We welcome the simplification of the traffic light system, and the changes to the testing requirements allowing UK travellers to benefit from our world-leading vaccination programme and finally giving customers and business the confidence to book the journeys they’ve been waiting for.

Based on the scientific evidence, with fewer than 1 per cent of people returning from low-risk countries testing positive for Covid (lower than the UK’s rate), we urge ministers to keep this policy under review, eliminating all testing for fully vaccinated travellers as soon as possible in the future, in line with most other European countries.

04:16 PM

The latest travel announcement is a huge reform of the complicated rules on overseas holidays

There's a new two-tier system and we can look forward easier half-term holidays – our consumer editor Nick Trend explains everything you need to know.

maldives - E+
maldives - E+

Some good and some disappointing news for travellers from England today. The latest announcement is certainly a fundamental reform of the hugely complicated, unpredictable and frustrating rules on overseas holidays which have made life so difficult over the summer and means that travel for the fully vaccinated has suddenly got cheaper and easier. But our choice of destinations has not increased anything like as much as was hoped for and we are still prey to expensive – and often dysfunctional – private testing companies and we will have to pay around £30 for a lateral flow test when we get home.

Read his analysis in full.

04:13 PM

This will be the 'biggest weekend of the year' for travel bookings, says tour operator

Alan French, chief executive of online holiday company, Thomas Cook, predicts a rush to book last-minute and October half-term deals making it the busiest booking weekend of the year so far. He said:

The news today is a shot in the arm for both the travel industry and families up and down the country who are crying out for some much-needed late summer sun. Based on our bookings already today, I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel.

Bookings for October half-term are up more than 200% compared to August as people lock in great prices for beach breaks in their favourite Mediterranean sunspots. We’d also expect a flood of interest in city breaks of two and three nights as people look forward to revisiting old favourites or exploring somewhere new.

Our customers have been desperate to get back to Turkey this summer so they will be thrilled to finally make it out there and enjoy the warm late summer temperatures. We would now welcome the government working with other countries and international bodies to align vaccination certification and travel rules so that our customers can start looking ahead to holidays around the world – especially the US.

04:09 PM

The new green list countries which are actually open to Britons

Eight countries have been plucked from the red list, opening up Turkey, the Maldives, Pakistan and more, but entry rules differ for each.

safari -  Joseph Sohm/The Image Bank Unreleased
safari - Joseph Sohm/The Image Bank Unreleased

We take a closer look.

04:07 PM

Fully vaccinated status should be recognised for all travellers to UK, says industry group

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) has welcomed the Government's changes to rules for international travellers.

Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK said:

Greater freedom of movement for many vaccinated passengers, without the anxiety of pre-departure tests and the high cost of PCR testing on arrival, will help restore traveller confidence and set the aviation, travel and tourism sectors on what is still a long road to recovery.

Moving from the established three traffic light system to a red list, and a two-tier entry regime for vaccinated or non-vaccinated passengers, brings greater clarity to entry requirements and recognises the vaccination status of an additional 17 countries. This is to be applauded, however the revised system can only work effectively - and without discrimination, when fully vaccinated status is recognised for all travellers to the UK. Testing requirements for many remains costly and excessive, and a significant number of inbound markets for the UK will still remain unfairly treated.

The UK's complex and costly travel restrictions decimated passenger volumes over the summer while much of Europe capitalised on vaccination roll-out by rebuilding their connectivity. Today's announcement is a step towards properly re-balancing international travel risk with the Government's domestic Covid response, and will enable the UK to begin to claw back lost ground as airlines attempt to rebuild their operations. Over the coming weeks airlines will continue their engagement with the UK Government on rapidly expanding international vaccination recognition so to develop strategies with the ambition of normalising travel as soon as feasible.

03:58 PM

South Africa remains on the red list

South Africa was among a list of some 28 countries that had been tipped to move off the red list in this week's review.

However, it remains in the red meaning that Britons returning from the country are still subject to a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel.

David Frost, chief executive of SATSA, which represents over 1350 South African tourism businesses, said:

This is a kick in the teeth for 1.5 million South African tourism workers who were relying on UK visitors this spring. There isn’t a shred of scientific evidence to support keeping South Africa on the red list and the only conclusion left is that the UK government has an irrational fear of South Africa which is prejudicing decision-making. Turkey’s case rate is triple South Africa’s and rising fast, while Pakistan’s testing and sequencing rates are a fraction of ours, there is no consistency. The UK government needs to urgently reconsider this classification to avoid irreparable harm to a relationship with a key ally and trading partner.

Busi Mavuso, Chief Executive of Business Leadership South Africa, said:

This is a baffling decision by the UK which appears to fly in the face of the scientific evidence they profess to follow. If the UK wants to project its values and free-market principles abroad, this is an odd way to go about it. We now need a clear and swift commitment from the British government that it will review South Africa’s travel status in the coming days.

03:53 PM

'Triple whammy of changes' will get travel moving again, says industry expert

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and an advocate of a simplified system, said:

The government have delivered a triple whammy of changes needed to get travel moving again. It is the vital boost needed to get consumers booking with confidence. At last, travel firms can look to the future with more positivity and protect thousands of jobs.

03:47 PM

Shapps confirms travel rule changes

The Transport Secretary has issued a series of tweets confirming the latest changes to the system for international travel.

03:41 PM

Which countries are on the red list?

Since May 17, a traffic light system has governed the rules for overseas travel.

Britons returning to England from red-listed destinations face a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel at an increased cost of up to £2,285 (previously £1,750), including Covid tests on day two and eight of their quarantine.

Here's the red list as it stands.

03:36 PM

Canary Island on yellow alert for volcanic eruption

Half the population of the Spanish island of La Palma is on yellow alert for an eruption.

This is despite authorities saying a surge in seismic activity has slowed in the last day.

More than 4,000 tremors were recorded in the Cumbre Vieja national park. which led to the initial yellow alert on Tuesday.

Some 35,000 people in the affected areas have been told to prepare an emergency backpack with vital supplies and a mobile phone in case an evacuation is ordered.

03:21 PM

What are we expecting from the travel announcement?

A major update on international travel rules is imminent from Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary.

Stay here on our Covid live blog for the news as it breaks.

While we wait, here is what to expect:

  • The traffic light system is set to be overhauled, with the amber and green lists potentially merged and possible reductions to the red list expected

  • Double-vaccinated travellers are set to get a host of new freedoms around testing, with PCR tests expected to be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests

  • The requirement for double-jabbed travellers to take a pre-departure test may also be axed

  • Boris Johnson's cabinet met earlier to discuss changes to the rules and they will be confirmed by the Transport Secretary in a statement this afternoon

  • In a hint of what we can expect, Mr Shapps tweeted: "I'll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe".

03:00 PM

'Travel bookings industry could change forever without more support'

Independent travel businesses have called for urgent government support to keep afloat, even if international travel rules are relaxed this afternoon.

While any easing of measures announced by the Transport Secretary later "will be welcome news", they "will come too late for many businesses who have been severely impacted by a second summer season decimated by Government restrictions and uncertainty over travel", the Travel Network Group says.

Gary Lewis, CEO of the UK's largest membership body for independent travel firms, said:

Businesses have faced extreme cash-flow problems and with the furlough scheme coming to an end, travel business owners are now in an even more difficult position than last September.

Our members are reporting huge inconsistencies between local authorities offering discretionary grants to businesses affected by the pandemic.

Without renewed and consistent support for all affected travel businesses, the outbound travel industry as we know it will be changed irreversibly.

02:44 PM

Transport companies in developing countries are taking their business online

Hopeful that tourists will soon return, train, bus and ferry operators in developing countries have started promoting their businesses online.

Noam Toister, CEO and founder of global platform Bookaway, tells us:

News that the UK government could operate a “go / no go” system for holidays is very welcome, especially for bus, train and ferry operators in developing countries who rely on tourism to survive. Despite the uncertainty in the international travel landscape, in the last year alone we have seen more than 780 ground transportation businesses globally bring their operations online – in order to reach more customers as travel reopens.

We have seen a particular increase in the number of operators in countries such as Vietnam (152), Malaysia (118), Thailand (88), and Italy (47), highlighting how small business owners in these countries are doing all they can to prepare for travel and recover from the pandemic. In the last year we have also added more than 4,000 transport routes available across Italy, Croatia, Mexico, Indonesia and Costa Rica, in line with consumer demand for travel to these destinations.

thailand - iStock 
thailand - iStock

02:33 PM

The countries currently on the red list

The red list of destinations has the toughest travel restrictions of all; involving a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 per person. Many countries on the 62-strong list will be hoping they're removed from it later today.

Here's a reminder of the countries that are on the red list.

02:18 PM

When will Grant Shapps make the announcement?

Good question. We only know that it will be 'later today'. The wait goes on...

02:01 PM

Travel agents expecting a 'bumper winter travel' season

Online agency Not Just Travel's co-founder Steve Witt is feeling optimistic in the lead-up to Grant Shapps' announcement this afternoon. He states:

This is an exciting time as the scrappage of the traffic light system would be a huge boost to the travel industry in the UK and overseas. Ideally, this new system also means a reduction in both paperwork and queue times, which again simply boosts consumer confidence and sees more people opting to travel.

There will almost certainly be a wave of initial interest as pent-up demand is released. Longer-term we can expect a bumper winter travel period as holidaymakers look to escape for some winter sun, or head back to the ski slopes which were sadly missed by many last season.

Not Just Travel has just seen its busiest ever August, with sales up 13% on 2019. Top destinations included Spain, Greece, USA and UAE.

01:48 PM

Grant Shapps hints at easing of travel rules ahead of today's announcement

Downing Street has confirmed that Grant Shapps will give an update on England's travel controls and hinted that an easing of restrictions could follow after "steady progress" in the struggle against Covid-19.

Cabinet ministers met this morning to review the travel traffic light system and whether to scrap the requirement for foreign travellers to take PCR tests, with the Transport Secretary's statement to follow later.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman could not confirm that the changes would be permanent, but said ministers “continue to make steady progress to ease restrictions, and that is very much the intention of the approach we will be taking”.

The Government was said to be considering merging the green and amber travel lists and slash the number of red list countries for England, following heavy criticism from the travel industry.

There is also speculation that minsters will scrap the need for a pre-departure lateral flow test and a post-arrival PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers.

But for unvaccinated travellers, there are reports that measures could become stricter - with even those from low-risk countries required to quarantine at home and take two tests on their return.

Holidaymakers will still face paying £30 each for supervised lateral flow tests because it is thought they will not be able to use free lateral flows provided by the NHS.

Head to our coronavirus live blog for more.

01:35 PM

Swiss impose new Covid-19 testing requirements for some travellers

Travellers entering Switzerland who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the virus will need to provide a negative test result from Monday, the government said on Friday, as it seeks to stem a further spike in infections.

"The Federal Council wants to prevent an increase in the number of infections caused by travellers returning home from autumn vacation," the government said in a statement, referring to a two-week school break in October.

All travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, would also be required to fill out a form, while those needing to provide evidence that they are free of the disease should get a second test 4-7 days after entry.

01:21 PM

'We look forward to greater clarity' – Opodo boss

Speaking ahead of the travel announcement, Pablo Caspers, chief travel officer at online travel agent Opodo tells us:

The government’s plan to drastically simplify the restrictions on travel in and out of the UK is welcome news to the travel industry. The removal of the amber list and a move towards a simplified green and red list system will provide greater clarity for UK travellers who have seen travel restrictions change at short notice over the summer months.

The news that the number of countries on the red list is to be halved could also provide a boost to the industry, as it will make a wider selection of countries open to double vaccinated travellers in search of winter sun. Long haul travel has dropped as a result of the pandemic, and this move by the government may put more adventurous travel back on the agenda.

In the past we have seen how reactive travellers are to travel policy changes. This announcement is a significant step forward, and we expect there to be increased interest in October half-term holidays given the simplified rules, reduced risk of quarantine and reduced testing costs.

12:59 PM

A third of Britons support simplified travel rules, says YouGov poll

The appetite for scrapping travel rules altogether is still low among the British public, according to research by YouGov.

12:46 PM

Green-listed Slovakia sees highest case rates since mid-April

Slovakia has recorded its highest infection since mid-April, with 902 new cases reported on Thursday.

The positivity rate of 9,000 PCR tests was 10 per cent.

Slovakia is open to fully vaccinated travellers from the UK.

12:41 PM

Travel firm predicts a 'surge in popularity' for overseas trips

We are still waiting for the Government to announce changes to its current system for international travel. It has said the update will come "later today". However, a number of possible updates have been trailed over the last few days.

Travel company Flight Centre has offered comment on these potential changes.

Steve Norris, managing director of EMEA for Flight Centre, said:

At last, it seems the world could finally begin to open up more affordably for Brits! This long overdue update should make travelling abroad simpler and more financially accessible for the public after months of wrestling unnecessarily complex rules, tests and costly restrictions. Flight Centre has already seen impressive enquiries throughout the summer, and we predict a surge in popularity in overseas trips to meet months of pent-up demand.

Looking ahead to the winter months, Flight Centre can only plead that the government doesn’t make any further complex changes and, most importantly, that they will give due warning if a country moves to the predicted ‘no-go’ list.

12:26 PM

Tory MP joins calls to scrap tests for vaccinated travellers

All eyes are on the Transport Secretary's Twitter page. However, others are still calling for simplified rules.

12:17 PM

Indonesia could open to tourists next month

Indonesia has said foreign visitors from certain countries may be able to enter the resort island of Bali and other parts of the country next month.

Senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said a decision will be made "cautiously".

Countries such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, where the situation is less severe, will be considered first.

He said this depends on their ability to contain outbreaks in the coming weeks.

12:11 PM

Shapps to 'reduce costs' and 'simplify' foreign travel

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has tweeted about the imminent announcement for the first time today.

11:55 AM

Reader problem: ‘My Greek odyssey took me to Luton and Romania because British Airways rejected my Covid test’

Has a company treated you unfairly? Our consumer champion, Sally Hamilton, is here to help. Here is this week's problem:

Dear Sally,

I have had a terrible experience with British Airways after it stopped me from boarding a flight earlier in the summer to Kefalonia with three friends. BA staff told me at check-in that they would not accept my antigen (rapid lateral flow) test as a Covid pre-travel test, even though the BA website clearly stated that it was an accepted testing method.

This meant I had to take a series of flights with different airlines the next day at huge extra cost in order to get to Kefalonia as quickly as possible; my journey ended up taking nearly 15 hours. I had to ring a friend and ask to stay with them overnight in London.

By the time I finally got to Kefalonia, my holiday had been cut short by two days. BA would not listen to my pleas about how unfair this situation was. I am a student with not much money and I had saved up for this trip for months. I am infuriated and disappointed at the way I have been treated, especially as BA refused to provide me with any compensation or accept any blame at all.

– BD, Birmingham

See Sally's answer here.

11:40 AM

Lobby latest: No 10 trails Grant Shapps travel announcement later

England's transport secretary will "make an international travel update later" on Friday amid speculation the Government is set to overhaul its travel traffic light system and testing rules for travellers.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman hinted that the approach will see Grant Shapps announce an easing of restrictions after "steady progress" in combatting coronavirus.

Asked about whether the changes were likely to be permanent, the Downing Street spokesman told reporters "there is always the chance of unexpected challenges, such as an even more transmissible or more deadly variant emerging".

"That said, because of the success of our vaccine programme, it is enabling us to move steadily and remove restrictions, as you saw when we came out of Step 4," he added, and "it would be wrong to rule out anything in the future".

11:25 AM

The hidden corners of Greece the locals don't want you to know about

Greeks, who are well aware of their country’s charms, firmly believe that there’s no better place in the world for a holiday, writes Heidi Fuller-Love:

Although younger Greeks are generally found striking Instagrammable poses round pools and clubs in Mykonos and Santorini, in summer – as the August full moon rises like a ripe watermelon over the Acropolis – most will return sto chorio, ‘their’ village, the place where their family originates from, which is usually some wild mountain hideaway where goats cheese comes direct from the udder; granddad made the (ropey) wine and grandma does the cooking (and no-one, not even that top celebrity chef, cooks quite like grandma).

Extravagant and exuberant, Greek holidays are all about enjoying the simple pleasures: good food and good company in one of the world’s most glorious countries.

Here’s how to do the same.

Greece
Greece

11:18 AM

Wales brings in vaccine passports

Vaccine passports will be needed to enter nightclubs and attend large events in Wales from next month, the country's first minister has announced.

Mark Drakeford said people will have to show an NHS Covid Pass from next month for clubs, indoor standing events for more than 500 people, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 in attendance.

Rates of Covid-19 are currently very high in the country, but the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks, Mr Drakeford confirmed. He stated:

The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That's why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.

He also encouraged everyone to work from home whenever possible.

The measures broadly mirror those taken in Scotland, but ministers in England have ditched vaccine passports for now amid fury from MPs about their discriminatory potential.

11:03 AM

Retired plane in Bali to become tourist attraction

bali - MADE NAGI/EPA-EFE
bali - MADE NAGI/EPA-EFE
bali - MADE NAGI/EPA-EFE
bali - MADE NAGI/EPA-EFE
plane - MADE NAGI/EPA-EFE
plane - MADE NAGI/EPA-EFE

10:49 AM

Expedia reports surge in demand for red-listed holiday destinations

A rep for Expedia, the travel comparison site, told us:

If we compare visitor interest from September 2020 to now in 2021, we can see that there has been an increase in interest for red list countries such as Maldives, Mexico, and Sri Lanka as travellers are anticipating the announcement of these destinations being downgraded to green or amber lists due to their promising Covid figures.

Overall, Mexico has proven the most popular destination with the greatest interest of approximately 70% this month when compared to this time last year. We also saw an interest increase of 30% for the Maldives and 20% for Sri Lanka. No doubt these surges are a result of the upcoming update that the need for expensive PCR tests for the double vaccinated will be scrapped - saving travellers money and putting their minds at ease when booking their next holiday.

This surge in interest also shows that the public is confident to travel abroad when these guidelines lift and are eager to explore these once-in-a-lifetime destinations.

For autumn travel, Expedia's main advice we would give is to book with flexibility. Accommodation can easily be filtered to show free cancellation, and many airlines are now offering tickets with built-in flexibility, so customers can change their travel dates or destinations if necessary.

Mexico - Nina Marsiglio / EyeEm
Mexico - Nina Marsiglio / EyeEm

10:33 AM

'Hopefully today’s announcements will see the shackles finally removed,' says travel boss

John Bevan – divisional senior VP of the dnata Travel Group (Owner of Travel Republic, Travelbag, Netflights and Sunmaster) – is champing at the bit for the travel announcement later.

He states:

The Government’s own data does not support prolonging the measures further and since targeted support seems permanently off the table and livelihoods are threatened, we now need the freedom to do what we do best – sell holidays.

We’ve seen evidence of confidence returning in recent weeks and are in a good position to reverse those setbacks and recover strongly in the months ahead – if we’re allowed to.

Hopefully today’s announcements will see the shackles finally – but safely – removed, and the UK travel industry begin a return to its world-beating status.

10:21 AM

Feature: The spa hotel to which my daughter and I owe our sanity

Champneys has become the special place for Judith Woods and her daughter, who visited for one last time before she flies the nest. Judith writes:

For my girl and me our special place is an oasis of tranquillity that has proved to be a lifesaver – certainly a sanity saver – through troubled times: Champneys, at Tring in Hertfordshire.

I realise it’s not the most chi-chi destination that springs to mind for a teenager in need of TLC. One of my more sophisticated friends witheringly describes it as “a bit suburban”. I think of it more as old school, traditional – a blessed sanctuary rather than a sybaritic pleasure palace.

Read the rest here.

Judith Woods and her daughter Lily at Champneys in Tring  -  John Lawrence
Judith Woods and her daughter Lily at Champneys in Tring - John Lawrence

10:04 AM

Inspiration: It's a golden autumn for city breaks

Now that autumn is here and travel is running relatively smoothly once more, we can look to the wealth and variety of European cities, writes our chief consumer and culture editor, Nick Trend:

The news this week that Holland is reopening to tourists from the UK next week (September 23) means that the last pieces in the city break jigsaw have fallen into place.

Whether we like art, food, fashion or simply enjoy Continental cafe life, we are spoilt for choice across the Channel.

Quite why Holland held out so long against us isn’t really clear, but the re-opening is especially welcome news. As local resident Rodney Bolt points out, Amsterdam – which has in recent years been nearly choked with tourists in the autumn season – is now largely free of crowds. Its great museums – including the ever-popular Van Gogh Museum – are queue-free and its canalside pavements clear.

Read on here.

09:51 AM

Grant Shapps condemns climate protesters on M25

The Transport Secretary has spoken:

09:40 AM

European airport trade body: 'We are anxiously waiting for the UK to reconsider its restrictions'

ACI EUROPE, Europe's airport trade body, today released its air traffic report for July 2021.

The data shows that passenger traffic in the European airport network decreased by 49.3% in July compared to the same period pre-pandemic (2019) – a significant improvement compared to previous months (-74% in Q2 2021). Total passenger volumes more than doubled during the month compared to July 2020 – at 133.4 million up from 57.4 million.

However, Olivier Jankovec, director general of the group commented:

Make no mistake, this cannot be called a recovery. We are still 66% below pre-pandemic volumes so far this year. As we have exited the peak summer holiday period, passenger traffic is no longer improving in many markets. In fact, it is plateauing and even decreasing again, with business travellers not there to take over from holidaymakers. Of course, this is due to travel regimes that still remain unaligned with restrictions and conditions difficult to navigate.

He added:

We are anxiously waiting for the UK to reconsider its current restrictions and further ease cross-border travel. This should finally allow UK airports to close the gap with the rest of the industry but would also benefit airports in many other European markets. And crucially, we need to do away with restrictions to international travel for fully vaccinated travellers both within and beyond Europe. The transatlantic market and EU neighbouring countries are absolute priorities in this regard.

09:28 AM

The countries that could come off the red list

It is expected at today's eagerly-awaited travel announcement, that the green and amber list will merge into one 'low risk' category for vaccinated Britons, and that a whole host of countries currently on the red list will be moved to it as well.

But which ones? Turkey? Pakistan? South Africa? The Maldives?

We've crunched the numbers, based on the latest data, here.

09:14 AM

Watch: 'Now is the time for the travel industry to recover' – Paul Charles

Travel analyst Paul Charles, of the PC Agency, has been speaking ahead of today's anticipated travel announcement:

09:02 AM

The exorbitant price of PCR testing – and how few are sequenced

Here's a look at the numbers which support Huw Merriman's comments (previous post) on testing being 'an expensive sham'...

08:45 AM

Transport Select Committee: 'PCR tests unnecessary for vaccinated travellers'

Weighing in today ahead of today's travel announcement, Huw Merriman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said:

With furlough coming to an end later this month, and over 80 per cent of the country fully vaccinated, the time is right to replace expensive PCR testing with Lateral Flow testing.

We hear the arguments that only a PCR test can sequence for variants of concern but let’s be driven by the NHS Test and Trace data. This showed that, in a three week period in July, over 500,000 people came through arrivals and just under 7,000 of these tested positive; yet just five per cent of those positive cases got sequenced.

This makes the exercise an expensive sham. If we don’t start lifting travel demand to the levels enjoyed by mainland Europe, thousand more people will lose their jobs and even more will be unable to afford to visit countries with lower Covid rates than our own. We need a firm date and not just a commitment to further kick the can down the runway.

08:35 AM

Labour has been 'calling for ages' for ministers to scrap amber list

A shadow minister said Labour has been "calling for ages" for ministers to scrap the amber travel list because it is poorly understood by the public.

Sarah Jones told Sky News:

We want travel to open up as safely and as quickly as possible. We've been calling for ages for the amber list to be scrapped, which has been touted in the papers today, because it always added to confusion - people never quite understood what the system was.

And we've been calling for a proper process to work out an international vaccine passport so we can get people safely moving around.

Asked whether she supports removing the requirement for the double vaccinated to take a pre-departure PCR test for those arriving in the UK, Ms Jones said:

I think we need to make it simpler, we need to make it clearer.

People have been confused about what the rules are, they have been paying extortionate prices - we need to see what the Government is going to suggest and hopefully it will be based on evidence and, if it is, then we will support them.

08:26 AM

Ditching PCR tests for travellers is 'dangerous', says immunologist

Denis Kinane, Founding Scientist at Cignpost ExpressTest said:

I welcome plans to simplify the travel restrictions, particularly around the traffic light system. But the move to drop gold-standard PCR tests in favour of lateral flow is a calculated risk that could put Britain at risk of new Covid variants entering the country.

Currently, Cignpost's own data shows 4 in every 1,000 people are testing positive after they arrive in the UK, and every one of them had already supposedly recorded a negative lateral flow test while abroad.

That is the equivalent of 400 people entering the UK with Covid every single day. Without PCR testing, we are in danger of reducing our ability to sequence positive tests for variants of concern, making us blind to new threats or changes in the virus.

08:15 AM

George Eustice cautions lateral flow tests' inability to 'pick up variants'

Asked whether PCR tests could be scrapped in favour of lateral flow tests for foreign travellers, Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

I haven't heard that because I'm not on that particular sub-committee that deals with this. They will want to consider all the evidence before taking a final decision. The rationale for the PCR test is that you can do genome sequencing of variants and you can, therefore, detect possible variants of concern.

The difficulty with the lateral flow test, although it is cheaper and simpler to do, it is not able to pick up those variants. So, that's the rationale and that's been the rationale so far for making sure we keep some of that PCR testing in place.

Mr Eustice said that Health Secretary Sajid Javid, while he did not want "unnecessary" testing taking place, "recognises the value of those PCR tests and that there "is a discussion to be had about this" in Government.

Environment Secretary George Eustice arriving in Downing Street - PA
Environment Secretary George Eustice arriving in Downing Street - PA

08:10 AM

Holidaymakers still face paying £30 each for supervised lateral flow tests

Holidaymakers will still face paying £30 each for supervised lateral flow tests as travel rules are watered down by ministers on Friday, India McTaggart reports.

Under the new rules it is expected that people will not be able to use the free lateral flow tests provided by the Government, so extra costs for travelling will remain.

The travel requirements for the unvaccinated are set to be more expensive, with holidaymakers required to take a Covid test before their flight home, a PCR test on day two after returning and at least a lateral flow test on day eight.

There is speculation that fully-vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test.

This comes amid a warning from a genomics expert that relaxing the travel rules "doesn’t sit with the rest of how we implement Covid control measures in the country".

07:59 AM

When will the travel announcement happen?

'Later today' according to George Eustice.

The Environment Secretary has said a Cabinet sub-committee meeting due to take place today could sign off on travel rule changes.

George Eustice told Sky News:

My understanding is that no decisions have actually been taken yet, although I understand there may be a meeting today to review this. We regularly review those travel restrictions.

Obviously we took an important step earlier this summer when we removed the need to quarantine for those countries coming from amber list countries - that was a really big step forward - but we have retained the need for testing, and that's really so we can pick up any variants of concern through that PCR test.

But, look, I know this has been raised by the travel industry, that they think some of that testing may be unnecessary, may be onerous - the Government will be listening to that and the Covid sub-committee of Cabinet that decide these things will be considering that probably later today.

07:55 AM

Australia to trial home quarantine system for vaccinated arrivals

Australian officials will trial a home quarantine system for fully vaccinated international travellers arriving in Sydney, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, as the country moves to reopen its borders despite persistent Covid-19 cases.

Australia closed its international border in March 2020 in response to the pandemic, allowing entry almost exclusively to citizens and permanent residents who are required to undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine at their own expense.

"This is the next step in our plan to safely reopen, and to stay safely open," Mr Morrison said, adding the trial could set the standard for the way "we live with Covid-19."

Sydney, which has received more returning residents from abroad than any other Australian city, will trial the seven-day home quarantine program later this month.

07:50 AM

African hotel group: 'We are cautiously hopeful that South Africa will come off the red list'

Paul Gardiner, CEO of Mantis, a conservation-focused hotel group with hotels, eco-lodges and waterways experiences located all over the world, says:

We are waiting with bated breath for the UK Government’s announcement, and cautiously hopeful that South Africa will come off the red list because this is one of the biggest markets for us.

We have a lot of remote properties, and the local communities that sustain their livelihoods from ecotourism have been left out of pocket as ecotourism across conservation-based areas is largely sustained by international tourists. The reserves cannot be sustained by domestic tourism alone.

While the rest of the first world believes that wildlife and nature has bounced back during lockdown, you only need to scratch under the surface of many African countries to figure out that in fact there’s more pressure on the wilderness now than ever before.

On a positive note, although the pandemic has hit us pretty hard, we do have some exciting new properties in the pipeline – we are launching a luxury houseboat, Kivu Queen uBauranga in Lake Kivu in Rwanda, we have a boutique hotel, Mantis Mansa Marina opening this December on one of the Cape Verde islands and we have used the time to do a beautiful refurbishment of Nungwi Dreams by Mantis hotel in Zanzibar including building a rooftop bar with 360 degrees views of the ocean.

We’ve had to ride out the storm but we are starting to see little green shoots come through now as the Germans, Austrians, Swiss and French have started to travel. Let’s just hope we get some good news today and we can start to welcome back our UK guests.

07:40 AM

Dutch to forge ahead with corona pass

The Netherlands will require proof of a Covid-19 vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test for entry to bars, restaurants, museums, theatres and other cultural events from September 25, as almost all social distancing measures are dropped.

A narrow majority of Dutch parliament late on Thursday rejected a motion calling on the government to change its mind about the corona pass, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was needed to prevent a new wave of infections.

"We are still in a dangerous situation. Not doing this would bring great risks," Mr Rutte said during a heated debate in parliament.

Opponents from across the political spectrum questioned the need for the corona pass, which many said was a ploy to stimulate vaccinations, despite repeated promises by the government that injections would never be mandatory.

Amsterdam - AFP
Amsterdam - AFP

07:30 AM

Vaccinated Australians promised more freedom even as Covid-19 cases mount

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday pledged more freedom for vaccinated citizens, even as the state of Queensland reported its second highest daily rise in new Covid-19 infections this year.

Morrison said federal and state leaders would discuss vaccine passports and expanding home quarantine when they meet for a national cabinet later on Friday.

Morrison told radio station 3AW:

You will see vaccinated people being able to move and do more things. They're less likely to get the virus, transmit the virus, get a serious illness and end up in hospital. And so, that won't put the pressure on the public hospital system.

07:20 AM

Shake-up of Covid travel rules set to benefit double-jabbed holidaymakers

Travelling is set to be made cheaper and more straightforward for doubled-jabbed holidaymakers under a shake-up of coronavirus rules.

The green and amber lists are expected to be merged to form one category of low-risk countries while the number of destinations on the red list will be reduced.

There is also speculation that fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test.

This would save travellers around £100 per trip.

But while rules may be eased for fully vaccinated travellers, those who have not been jabbed could face tougher restrictions.

Currently, travellers who have not had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine must take one PCR test and are not required to self-isolate after arriving from a green list destination.

According to reports, they could be required to quarantine at home and take two tests when arriving from a low-risk location under the new system.

Follow our coronavirus live blog for more.

07:10 AM

Rip-off tests for double-jabbed travellers returning to Britain set to be scrapped

Rip-off Covid tests for returning travellers are set to be scrapped for the double-jabbed in a boost to holiday plans for the autumn half term.

On Friday, Boris Johnson is also expected to replace the traffic light system for travel and reduce the number of countries on the red list.

However, the rules could get a little tighter for the unvaccinated, who may have to quarantine for 10 days whichever country they return from, increasing the incentives to get jabbed.

The overhaul follows six months of fierce criticism over the cost of PCR tests and the complexity of the travel system, which has seen different rules for different groups of nations.

It will complete a week of changes to the Government’s Covid approach for the autumn and winter, with a new vaccination drive and approach to Covid restrictions announced.

Charles Hymas has more.

07:03 AM

Tube accidents soar as passengers too afraid to hold escalator handrails

Escalator falls have soared in Tube stations because passengers are too afraid to hold handrails over fears they could catch Covid.

A London Underground chief has warned falls caused by people not holding handrails “due to a perception they are not clean” is currently one of the biggest safety risks facing the network.

There were 12 serious injuries on the Tube network between April and June and 23 on buses, which Transport for London (TfL) said was “a total greater than any quarter throughout 2020/21”.

It is believed that the number of accidents on escalators is also being worsened by the end of lockdown, which has seen the return of large numbers of drunken revellers travelling on nights out.

Jack Hardy has the story.

06:56 AM

As it stands: The UK’s ‘traffic light’ system for foreign travel

Here is the current status of countries on the green, amber and red lists. But expect some major changes today...

06:29 AM

What happened yesterday?

A recap of the top stories.

  • Travel chiefs: Scrap pre-departure Covid tests now, before health doom-mongers object

  • Teletext Holidays could face legal action over holiday refunds

  • Travel rules could get stricter for unvaccinated

  • Virgin Australia will require all staff to be vaccinated

Now, on with today's news. And there should be plenty of it...

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