Coronavirus latest news: Go further and scrap all tests for vaccinated travellers, say airlines

·40-min read
Vaccinated UK holidaymakers will get a host of new freedoms - but the rules are tightening for unvaccinated people - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Vaccinated UK holidaymakers will get a host of new freedoms - but the rules are tightening for unvaccinated people - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Ministers must go further and ditch "unnecessary" tests for fully vaccinated holidaymakers or the UK will fall further behind Europe in its Covid recovery, travel chiefs have warned.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, on Friday announced he was ripping up England's traffic light system, merging the green and amber lists and dropping eight countries from the red list.

Pre-travel tests for fully vaccinated travellers will also be scrapped and post-arrival day two tests will become cheaper lateral flows, under the changes next month.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle welcomed the changes and urged ministers to scrap "all testing for fully vaccinated passengers as soon as possible".

Johan Lundgren, the easyJet chief executive, added that the "unnecessary test after arriving in the UK [for double-jabbed travellers], making travel less affordable for all" would see the UK "continue to fall further behind the rest of Europe".

The Gatwick Airport boss also called for the passenger locator form to be axed, while the World Travel & Tourism Council said it was "illogical" to judge travel risk by countries, rather than individual risk.

Mr Shapps said the four major travel changes, to be introduced in staggers between September 22 and the end of October, would "mean a simpler, more straightforward system" that costs less.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

06:06 PM

Travel firms see bookings surge following Shapps changes

Holidaymakers have flocked to booking sites since the Government announced sweeping relaxations of international travel rules in England this afternoon.

The Thomas Cook chief executive, Alan French, said October half-term bookings were up 200 per cent compared to August and he expects this figure to rise as a result of the simpler system.

"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," he said.

Meamwhile, the managing director of TUI UK, Andrew Flintham, said he had already seen "an uptick in bookings for Turkey in October" ahead of it being removed from the red list, and he expected a further boost in customer confidence.

05:48 PM

Sweep away all testing requirements for fully jabbed travellers, says BA

Back to reaction on the England travel list overhaul now, and the British Airways chief executive and chairman has urged the Government to go further and sweep away all testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers.

Sean Doyle 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."

05:45 PM

Scotland worries England's new travel rules will harm public health

Scotland will not follow England in removing the requirement for people who are fully vaccinated to take a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations.

In a statement, the Scottish Government said: "A UK Government decision to implement proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test in England and to use lateral flow tests on day two have not been adopted at this stage in Scotland due to significant concerns at the impact on public health."

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the Scottish Government "has concerns that the UK Government's proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test for some travellers will weaken our ability to protect the public health of Scotland's communities".

He added: "While we want to maintain a four-nations approach to these matters, we need to consider urgently their implications."

05:44 PM

US ready to roll out boosters

The United States is ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccine booster shots once the Federal Drugs Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve the plan, Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, said on Friday.

"As soon as the FDA and CDC complete their evaluations, we will be ready to move forward accordingly," Murthy told reporters at a White House briefing.

The CDC will invest $2.1 billion (£1.5bn) to protect patients and healthcare workers from Covid-19 and future infectious diseases, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at the briefing.

This is despite repeated calls from the World Health Organisation for major economies to delay offering booster jabs so that vaccinated rates can be boosted in poorer countries.

05:41 PM

Moderna Covid vaccine edges Pfizer in new US research

A new study released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday is the latest to suggest the Moderna Covid vaccine confers better long-term protection against hospitalisation than Pfizer.

CDC researchers conducted an analysis of nearly 3,689 adults who were hospitalised with severe Covid from March 11 to August 15, 2021 - a period that precedes and includes the dominance of the Delta variant.

Overall, 12.9 percent were fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, 20 percent were vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech, and 3.1 percent were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson.

Over the entire period, the Moderna vaccine was 93 percent effective against hospitalisation, Pfizer was 88 percent effective, and J&J was 68 percent effective.

The loss of efficacy against hospitalisation for Pfizer was particularly pronounced: it fell from 91 percent in 14-120 days after vaccination to 77 percent more than 120 days after vaccination. By contrast, Moderna fell from 93 percent to 92 percent when comparing the same two periods.

05:23 PM

Lions and tigers at Washington zoo catch Covid

Six lions and three tigers at the National Zoo in Washington have tested positive for Covid-19 and are undergoing treatment after falling unwell, the zoo said on Friday.

"Last weekend, animal keepers observed decreased appetites, coughing, sneezing and lethargy" in six African lions, a Sumatran tiger and two tigers from Siberia, who all tested positive for Covid in preliminary tests, the zoo said in a statement.

Results of tests to confirm the diagnosis are expected in a few days and no other animals there have fallen ill.

The sick cats are being treated with anti-inflammatories and anti-nausea medication, as well as antibiotics to ward off pneumonia.

05:20 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."

05:19 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: "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."

05:15 PM

Everything you need to know about the travel system changes

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.

04:52 PM

What do England's new Covid travel rules mean for you?

04:43 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."

04:24 PM

New approach to travel lists is still 'illogical', say sector leaders

British ministers should go further with the easing of travel rules by adopting a system based on the risk of individuals, rather than the risk of countries, the World Travel & Tourism Council says.

"The travel and tourism sector has been rocked by the pandemic losing 62 million jobs globally," said Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC. "We are pleased to see the back of an illogical traffic light system that caused confusion and distress for travellers."

She added: "While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for the UK to be real leaders, the government should adopt a system based on the risk of individuals, not countries.

"Placing whole countries on red lists is illogical if you can keep the UK safe by checking an individual's status and allowing fully jabbed people to travel almost anywhere in the world safely."

04:12 PM

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

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has long called for a simplified system of international travel rules.

Hailing the relaxed rules coming into effect in England next month, he 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."

04:08 PM

Shapps heralds 'simpler, more straightforward' Covid travel rules

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said the new travel system was "proportionate" and "reflects the new landscape" of the numbers of those who are fully vaccinated.

"Today's changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry," he said.

He added that the changes "strike the right balance to manage the public health risk as number one priority".

04:02 PM

Go further with travel easing, Gatwick boss urges ministers

Responding to the changes to travel measures, the chief executive of Gatwick Airport said they were a "significant and welcome step towards recovery" and a boost for travellers seeking to get away this winter.

But the Government was urged to go further and scrap the passenger locator form too.

Stewart Wingate said: "We know there is significant pent-up demand for travel, and our staff, restaurants, cafes and bars are ready to welcome back passengers over the coming months.

"We also welcome the news that day 2 PCR tests will be replaced with the quicker and more affordable lateral flow tests, which will allow us to start catching up with our competitors in Europe and the US - where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels.

"However, we also hope that the remaining constraints, including the passenger locator form, can be removed soon and we continue to call for the slot rules to be reinstated to incentivise airlines, increase competition and provide passengers with greater choice and flexibility."

03:56 PM

Still lingering problems with the UK's 'complex and costly' travel rules, say airlines

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

Dale Keller, the body's chief executive, said it would "help restore traveller confidence and set the aviation, travel and tourism sectors on what is still a long road to recovery".

But he added: "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."

03:45 PM

Breaking: Major UK travel list update announced

The hated traffic light system for travel is to be scrapped next month but expensive PCR tests for double-jabbed holidaymakers will remain until the end of October, it was announced on Friday.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, unveiled a major reopening of foreign travel starting next week with the removal of eight countries from the 62 strong red list which requires arrivals to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of £2,285 per person.

They are Turkey, Pakistan, Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya with their move to the amber list taking effect from 4am on Wednesday, September 22.

This will be followed on Monday October 4 by the axing of the traffic light system with amber and green lists merged into a single “rest of the world” list.

03:20 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".

A major UK travel update is expected on Friday afternoon - John Keeble/Getty Images
A major UK travel update is expected on Friday afternoon - John Keeble/Getty Images

03:10 PM

More than 32,000 new Covid cases in UK

Britain recorded 32,651 new infections on Friday and a further 178 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, the latest government data shows.

Of the UK population aged 16 and over, 89.3 per cent have had a first vaccine dose against Covid and 81.5 per cent have had a second jab.

02:44 PM

UK's highest level of Covid cases found in Scotland - ONS

Scotland continues to have the highest level of coronavirus cases in the UK, figures suggest.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that around one in 45 people had Covid-19 in the week to September 11 - compared to one in 80 in England - the second week in a row it has been at the highest level since estimates began for Scotland in last October.

This is the equivalent of around 120,800 people, the ONS said.

While the percentage of people testing positive had increased slightly (from 2.23 per cent to 2.29 per cent) in the week ending September 11, the rate of increase had slowed, the ONS said.

All figures are for people living in private households and exclude hospitals and care homes.

02:29 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: "Business 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," he added, calling on ministers to provide a dedicated grant.

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

02:12 PM

Return to the office threatened by new flexible working rules

All employees will be able to request flexible working patterns when they start a new job, potentially derailing plans to bring workers back to offices in city centres.

Millions of workers will be able to make such requests immediately rather than having to wait 26 weeks under proposals set to be announced by the Department for Business.

Plans could reportedly be announced as soon as next week.

The move is understood to have been planned since 2019 but has become more urgent following the huge shift in working patterns during the pandemic.

The proposed changes mean that staff will be able to request flexibility over the time, location and hours of their work.

01:49 PM

Face-to-face GP appointments can’t return to normal without more money - BMA

Face-to-face GP appointments can't return to pre-pandemic levels without more funding to help expand surgeries, a British Medical Association chairman has claimed.

Dr Richard Vautrey, the chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners committee, said patients are wrong to think they received “worse care” as a result of not seeing a doctor in person during the pandemic.

The BMA recognises there aren’t enough GPs and nurses, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

But to fix this they are calling on the Government to do what they “promised to do which is to recruit 6,000 more GPs, to invest in our premises, to invest in our staff and our service and by doing that we will get a better service for our patients”.

01:23 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.

12:59 PM

Covid R number unchanged at 0.9-1.1

England's Covid-19 weekly reproduction "R" number was unchanged between 0.9 and 1.1, government estimates showed on Friday.

An R number between 0.9 and 1.1 means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 9 and 11 other people.

The estimated daily growth of infections also remained between -1pc and +1pc, the same as the previous week's figures.

12:37 PM

Grant Shapps to 'reduce costs' and 'simply' international travel

Stay here for the latest updates in the Transport Secretary's announcement this afternoon.

12:34 PM

Indonesia might reopen to tourists from some countries in October

Indonesia may allow foreign tourists to start returning to the popular resort island of Bali and other parts of the country by October after a sharp slide in Covid-19 cases, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on Friday.

The south east Asian nation intends to move cautiously to reopen its borders following a deadly second virus wave, driven by the Delta variant.

Luhut, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs, said the addition of confirmed cases of Covid-19 had dropped by 94.5 per cent since a peak in mid-July.

"We are happy today that the reproduction rate is below 1... It is the lowest during the pandemic and is indicating the pandemic is under control," Luhut told a news conference.

12:11 PM

One in 80 people have Covid in England in latest figures - ONS

Around one in 80 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to September 11, down from one in 70 the previous week, according to the latest Office for National Statistics estimates.

One in 80 is the equivalent of about 697,100 people.

At the peak of the second wave in early January, around one in 50 people in England were estimated to have coronavirus, with figures markedly declining since then.

When modelling the level of Covid-19 infections among different age ranges in England, the ONS said rates have increased for those in school years 7 to 11 - at one in 35 people - and in those aged over 50 years.

But the over 70s continue to have the lowest rates at one in 150.

The trend for all other age groups is uncertain.

11:53 AM

EU unsure if women face higher risk of clots from AZ shot

The European Union's drugs regulator could not confirm from available data if women and young adults were at a higher risk of rare blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with AstraZeneca's Covid-19 shot.

Limitations in the way the data was collected meant that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) could not identify any specific risk factor that made the condition, thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, more likely, it said.

The European Commission had requested scientific opinion from the EMA after reports of the condition associated with the vaccine, Vaxzevria, earlier this year. This led to many EU states suspending use of the shot once considered key to the region's inoculation plans.

It also said that no definitive recommendations could be currently given on the use of a different vaccine for a second dose following a first with AstraZeneca's shot.

11:38 AM

MPs call on Boris Johnson to send more vaccines abroad

Boris Johnson should prioritise donating vaccines to the Covax global vaccine-sharing scheme ahead of offering boosters jabs to healthy over-50s in the UK, MPs have said.

In June, the Prime Minister called on G7 nations to join the UK, in committing to vaccinating the world by the end of 2022, “to end this terrible pandemic”.

But recent data compiled by Our World in Data, showed the world's major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered.

Only around 2 per cent of the population in low income countries are estimated to have received a Covid jab.

In a new report, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus warns that low global vaccination rates mean Covid-19 “will continue to pose a serious threat to the UK’s public health, economy and security” and unequal access to jabs poses a “serious risk of repeating the medical divide witnessed during the HIV/AIDS crisis”.

The MPs are urging the UK Government to adopt a formal process that would see the UK donating one dose of Covid-19 vaccine for every dose imported and administered in the UK to Covax and boost domestic production capacity to become a net vaccine exporter.

11:12 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 combating 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".

11:07 AM

Wales to bring in vaccine passports from next month

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.

"The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again," her said. "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.

10:48 AM

Three quarters of under-50s delta hospitalisations among unvaccinated

Delta variant hospitalisations have been roughly even split between under-50s and over-50s, new Public Health England figures show, but the majority of younger admissions had not been vaccinated.

Some 12,407 people were admitted to hospital in England up to September 12 who were either confirmed or likely to have the delta variant of Covid-19, Public Health England said.

Of this number, 6,230 were under the age of 50 and 6,167 were aged 50 or over.

Among the under-50s:

  • 4,517 (73 per cent) were unvaccinated

  • 848 (14 per cent) had received one dose

  • 721 (12 per cent) had received both doses

Among the over-50s:

  • 1,786 (29 per cent) were unvaccinated

  • 435 (7 per cent) had received one dose

  • 3,913 (63 per cent) had received both doses

A small number of virus samples from people admitted to hospital could not be matched with vaccination records.

10:30 AM

Two thirds of over-50s delta deaths among fully vaccinated

Two thirds of deaths among over-50s linked to the delta variant of coronavirus were among fully vaccinated people, new figures from Public Health England show.

A total of 2,542 people died in England up to September 12 within 28 days of a positive test and who were either confirmed, or likely, to have the delta variant.

Of these, 204 were under the age of 50, while 2,336 were aged 50 or over.

Among the under-50s deaths, 132 (65 per cent) were unvaccinated, 17 (8 per cent) had received one dose of vaccine and 48 (24 per cent) had got both doses.

Of the over-50s deaths, 590 (25 per cent) were unvaccinated, 149 (6 per cent) had received one dose of vaccine and 1,565 (67 per cent) had received both doses.

A small number of virus samples could not be matched with vaccination records.

10:14 AM

PPE worth £2.8bn not fit for purpose

Personal protective equipment (PPE) worth £2.8 billion is not fit for purpose and cannot be used by the NHS, a health minister has revealed.

Lord Bethell said 1.9 billion items of stock are currently in the "do not supply" to the NHS category.

He was answering a Parliamentary question from crossbencher Lord Alton of Liverpool around "faulty PPE" that has not met the required level of protection.

"As of June 10, 1.9 billion items of stock were in the 'do not supply' category," Lord Bethell said.

"This is equivalent to 6.2 per cent of purchased volume with an estimated value of £2.8 billion.

"We are considering options to repurpose and recycle items in this category which ensures safety and value for money. Discussions with suppliers are ongoing."

10:02 AM

Dropping PCR tests will put Britain 'at risk of new Covid variants', warns immunologist

In response to the Government's plans to drop PCR testing in favour of lateral flow tests, the immunologist and founding scientist at Cignpost ExpressTest, warned that the move puts Britain "at risk of new Covid variants".

Denis Kinane said that he "welcomes" plans to simplify the travel restrictions, particularly the Government's system of traffic light destinations.

However, he warned that the decision to drop "gold-standard PCR tests" in favour of lateral flow tests "will be a calculated risk that could put Britain at risk of new Covid variants entering the country."

He added: "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."

A member of the medical team holds up a used swab from a PCR test at Gatwick Airport - Leon Neal/Getty Images
A member of the medical team holds up a used swab from a PCR test at Gatwick Airport - Leon Neal/Getty Images

09:40 AM

Ministers consider changing rules to make foreign travel cheaper and simpler

Cabinet ministers will be reviewing the current travel traffic light system and whether to scrap the requirement for foreign travellers to take PCR tests, the Environment Secretary said.

George Eustice said that while no decisions have yet been taken on a potential shake-up of Covid travel rules that reportedly could make going abroad cheaper and simpler, the Covid Cabinet sub-committee is expected to meet on Friday to look at the current restrictions.

The group is set to consider whether to merge the green and amber lists to form one category of low-risk countries while reducing the number of destinations on the red list.

There is also speculation that minsters will agree 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.

The Environment Secretary 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."

Mr Eustice said the travel industry's concerns that current testing protocols are "unnecessary" and "onerous" have been heard.

08:52 AM

Pictured: Coronavirus around the world

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The grandson of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen receives a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on September 17 - TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP
The grandson of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen receives a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on September 17 - TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP

Washington, DC

A woman walks through a field of white flags on the Mall near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on September 16
A woman walks through a field of white flags on the Mall near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on September 16

Sydney, New South Wales

A resident holds up a sign posted in the foyer of a housing block in Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 17 September - DEAN LEWINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A resident holds up a sign posted in the foyer of a housing block in Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 17 September - DEAN LEWINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:27 AM

Long Covid symptoms in children rarely persist beyond 12 weeks, study suggests

Long Covid symptoms rarely persist beyond 12 weeks in children and adolescents unlike adults, new research suggests.

The review found existing studies on the condition in children and adolescents have major limitations.

Some do not show a difference in symptoms between those who have been infected with the virus and those who have not.

It comes as research from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia found that after 10 months in circulation, the delta variant had not caused more serious disease in children than previous variants and most cases remained asymptomatic or mild.

It also found children and adolescents with pre-existing health conditions including obesity, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and immune disorders have a 25-fold greater risk of severe Covid-19.

Pupils and parents have their temperature checked as they arrive at School No 58 for a festive ceremony marking the beginning of a new school year on September 1 - Vitaly Nevar/TASS
Pupils and parents have their temperature checked as they arrive at School No 58 for a festive ceremony marking the beginning of a new school year on September 1 - Vitaly Nevar/TASS

08:01 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."

07:41 AM

'Difficulty' with lateral flow tests is inability to 'pick up variants', says Cabinet minister

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.

07:24 AM

Cabinet sub-committee to sign off on travel rule changes today

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

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.

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."

06:47 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 be required to take two tests when arriving from a low-risk location under the new system.

Passengers stand in a queue to the British Airways check-in desks at Heathrow Airport - JOHN SIBLEY/REUTERS
Passengers stand in a queue to the British Airways check-in desks at Heathrow Airport - JOHN SIBLEY/REUTERS

06:35 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 country's second largest state 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.

"You will see vaccinated people being able to move and do more things," Morrison told radio station 3AW.

"They're less likely to get the virus, transmit the virus, get a serious illness and end up in hospital," he said. "And so, that won't put the pressure on the public hospital system."

06:10 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph for Friday, September 17.

daily tel
daily tel

06:04 AM

Florida death toll rises to more than 50,000

Florida surpassed 50,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began, health officials reported on Thursday, with more than one fourth of those succumbing this summer.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 50,811 deaths, after adding more than 1500 more provided on Thursday by the state's health department. Those reported deaths occurred over various dates in recent weeks.

Florida has the 11th worst per-capita death rate among the 50 states, the CDC says. New Jersey, Mississippi and New York have had the worst, but Florida has risen from 17th spot in the past two weeks.

Overall, about one in every 400 Florida residents who were alive in March 2020 has since died of Covid-19. Only cancer and heart disease have killed more Floridians during that period, according to state health department statistics.

Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on July 30, 2020. - Florida has emerged as a major new epicenter of the US battle against the disease, with confirmed cases recently surpassing New York and now second only to California. The state toll has leapt over the past week and more than 6,500 people have died from the disease there, according to health officials. More than 460,000 people have been infected with the virus in Florida,  - AFP
Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on July 30, 2020. - Florida has emerged as a major new epicenter of the US battle against the disease, with confirmed cases recently surpassing New York and now second only to California. The state toll has leapt over the past week and more than 6,500 people have died from the disease there, according to health officials. More than 460,000 people have been infected with the virus in Florida, - AFP

05:47 AM

Sydney to trial home quarantine system

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 other Australian city, will trial the seven-day home quarantine program later this month.

05:37 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.

isitors view works of art at Rijksmuseum on September 30, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Visitors to the museum are now required to wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  - Getty Images
isitors view works of art at Rijksmuseum on September 30, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Visitors to the museum are now required to wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). - Getty Images

04:59 AM

Study to examine if children need second jab

Scientists are looking at whether children need a second dose of coronavirus vaccine and if so which type would be best.

It comes after health leaders approved first doses of the Pfizer vaccine for over-12s on Monday.

Researchers are launching a study of Covid-19 vaccination schedules in young people aged 12 to 16. The Com-Cov 3 trial will seek to recruit 360 volunteers who will be enrolled in one of four arms of the study.

Professor Matthew Snape, associate professor in paediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Oxford, and chief investigator on the trial, said: "This study will provide vital information on the range of options for immunising teenagers against Covid-19 in the UK."

A photo dated 14/08/21 of a child receiving a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Scientists are looking at whether children need a second dose of coronavirus vaccine and if so which type would be best. It comes after health leaders approved first doses of the Pfizer vaccine for over-12s on Monday. Issue date: Friday September 17, 2021.  - PA
A photo dated 14/08/21 of a child receiving a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Scientists are looking at whether children need a second dose of coronavirus vaccine and if so which type would be best. It comes after health leaders approved first doses of the Pfizer vaccine for over-12s on Monday. Issue date: Friday September 17, 2021. - PA

04:46 AM

Australian PM promises freedoms for vaccinated

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

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

"You will see vaccinated people being able to move and do more things," he said.

"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."

A woman crosses the street as a delivery rider drives past in the Sydney CBD, Australia on September 16, 2021. ( - Anadolu
A woman crosses the street as a delivery rider drives past in the Sydney CBD, Australia on September 16, 2021. ( - Anadolu

04:41 AM

Brazilian leader to go to UN despite being unvaccinated

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday he will attend next week's United Nations meeting in New York despite requirements that all attendants be vaccinated.

"Next week I will be at the UN General Assembly, where I will give an opening speech," the president said during a social media broadcast on Tuesday.

The New York mayor's office has stated that delegates must show proof of vaccination to enter the debate hall - a move that raised questions about Mr Bolsonaro's ability to participate in-person.

04:15 AM

Today's top stories

  • 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.

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

  • More than half of people suffering from long Covid may not have the condition and may just be suffering from normal bouts of ill health, research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests.

  • An IT consultant was detained in a prison cell for two hours after she was arrested for failing to wear a face mask in Waitrose.

  • ​Winter sun holidays to Jamaica and Grenada could be off the cards if the two islands are placed on the red list in this week's review.

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