Travel news latest: All unvaccinated arrivals to face quarantine under new rules

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Major changes to our travel rules are to be announced today, with restrictions eased for double-jabbed Britons but tightened for the unvaccinated.

All arrivals who have not had two doses of the vaccine at least two weeks prior to entering the UK will have to quarantine for up to 10 days, The Telegraph understands, regardless of where they have been; including countries currently rated as green.  As it stands, unvaccinated travellers don’t have to self-isolate upon return from the 43 nations on the green list.

As part of the new shake-up, they will also have to take a Covid test before boarding a flight home, a PCR test on day two after returning and at least a lateral flow test on day eight.

The exact details of the new travel system remain fluid, with government sources stressing that the package will be finalised only after crunch meetings on Friday morning.

However, it is expected that the green and amber categories will be dropped, the red list will be significantly reduced, and vaccinated arrivals will no longer have to take a pre-departure test before returning to the UK.

Scroll down for the latest news as it happens.

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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.

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:

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’…

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.

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.

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.

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

Environment Secretary George Eustice arriving in Downing Street today

Credit:
PA

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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

Amsterdam: Almost all social distancing measures are being dropped.

Credit:
AFP

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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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