Airport testing is vital to save an industry ‘on the brink’

Emma Featherstone
·20-min read
heathrow - Getty
heathrow - Getty

​Holiday quarantine rules have eroded consumer confidence and airport Covid-19 testing is the only way to open up international travel and restore demand, say industry bosses.

The travel sector faces weekly chaos under the Government’s current approach whereby the list of countries that are quarantine-exempt is updated every Thursday.

“We desperately need to open up international travel again and testing – alongside a more targeted regional quarantine policy – is the only way to do that,” said a spokesperson for industry body Airlines UK, which represents UK-registered airlines. 

Travel leaders responded to news that the Government is due to make an announcement on airport testing “in the coming days,” which followed Heathrow’s signal that its testing trial could start later this month. 

"We can see Brits really want a holiday but their confidence to book one continues to erode as the rules around travel and lockdowns change [...] a robust testing regime in place at airports will help boost confidence," said Alan French, chief executive of Thomas Cook.

Thousands more package holidays were cancelled following the latest quarantine-list update from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, which saw Turkey, Poland and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba – a trio of Caribbean islands – lose their travel corridors with the UK.

Scroll down for the latest travel updates.

04:09 PM

What happened today?

Here are today's main travel headlines:

  • Italy and mainland Greece remain at risk of quarantine, while Germany edges closer to threshold 

  • Britons await airport testing plan

  • Heavy rains bring UK travel disruption and more than 40 flood warnings

  • School travel company announces job losses across UK

  • Italian government set to impose new Covid-19 restrictions

Catch-up with the rest below.

03:54 PM

In pictures: views from elsewhere

From sporting events to religious ceremonies, here's a snapshot of how other countries around the world are dealing with the crisis, and preventative restrictions that are in place:

nfl fan - Getty
nfl fan - Getty
vatican - Getty
vatican - Getty
Thousands of Spanish flags, representing the Spanish victims of COVID-19, are pictured on Patacona beach in Valencia - Getty
Thousands of Spanish flags, representing the Spanish victims of COVID-19, are pictured on Patacona beach in Valencia - Getty
Spectators gather for the the second stage of Giro d'Italia 2020 in Agrigento, Italy - Getty
Spectators gather for the the second stage of Giro d'Italia 2020 in Agrigento, Italy - Getty

03:27 PM

Italian government set to impose new Covid-19 restrictions

The Italian government is likely impose new restrictions on the country in the coming week to stem its rising infection rates, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Sunday.

The cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday to decide how to respond to an increase in infections, with southern Italian regions for the first time looking vulnerable to the disease.

“The battle isn’t over. We don’t have the numbers seen in other European countries ... but we are in a phase of significant growth and I hope the country finds a spirit of unity,” Speranza told state broadcaster RAI.

The measures under review include making the wearing of masks obligatory outdoors across the whole country and re-introducing curbs on social gatherings.

03:08 PM

What's the situation in Germany?

Germany has seen its seven-day infection rates rise, moving it closer to the 20 per 100,000 people threshold at which the UK Government considers triggering quarantine restrictions. 

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default

Meanwhile, travellers arriving in Germany from large parts of the UK are now subject to quarantine. The rules apply to those arriving from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and, in England, north-east, the north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber.

However, those arriving in the country who can provide evidence of a negative Covid test taken within the previous 48 hours may be spared quarantine.

02:48 PM

Paris braces for maximum coronavirus alert level

Paris was preparing on Sunday to be placed under maximum coronavirus alert as alarming Covid-19 infection numbers appeared to leave the French government little choice but to tighten restrictions in and around the capital.

Paris's trademark bars and cafes are threatened with complete closure as early as Monday after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that only improved Covid-19 infection rates could prevent such a step.

If recent trends were confirmed "we'll have no choice", he warned on Thursday, saying new restrictions would mean "no more family gatherings, no more evenings out, and a total closure of bars".

But a reprieve looks unlikely after France reported a 16,972 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default

02:29 PM

Qatar Airways offers teachers 21,000 complimentary tickets

To mark World Teacher’s Day on October 5, Qatar Airways is giving away 21,000 complimentary tickets to teachers. 

The big giveaway is to thank teaching professionals, which includes assistants, substitutes, pre-school practitioners and more, for their continued work during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic: a challenging time for the education sector.

The lucky recipients will be able to use their complimentary economy class return tickets to travel to any destination operated by Qatar Airways, which covers more than 90 destinations worldwide.

Additionally, they will receive a voucher for 50 per cent off one future return ticket that they can use for themselves, a family member or a friend. Both tickets are valid for travel up to 30 September 2021, and will benefit from the airline’s leading flexible booking policies.

Each country will receive a daily allocation of tickets, staggered over the three-day campaign period, which starts at 4am on October 5 and closes just before 2am on October 8.

Teaching professionals can register for this exclusive offer at qatarairways.com/ ThankYouTeachers

02:09 PM

Simon Reeve: 'We underestimate how brilliantly eccentric this country is'

Britain is a wonderful place to go on a journey, says the presenter and author, who's spent 2020 filming in Cornwall.

My favourite place that we “discovered” was Porthtowan – on the north coast, near Truro. People have said to me, “it's the new Polzeath”. Perhaps it is. There was an evening when we were filming on the cliffs as the sun was setting. There was a stiff breeze, the waves were crashing in, and there were maybe 40 surfers in the sea. I remember watching it all – and thinking that it was the perfect Cornish moment.

We’ve taken our cameras beyond Cornwall as well. Not far beyond, admittedly. But in filming for a separate series, we headed out to Lundy – which is officially part of Devon, but is also very much its own thing, as this little island at the end of the Bristol Channel. It was my first time there – and, well, what a special place it is; an absolute delight to visit.

Read the full story.

01:51 PM

Where can I go skiing this winter?

With winter approaching, thoughts have turned to whether ski holidays will be back in business this season, writes my colleague Lucy Aspden. She's put together a guide on where to go, the risk of quarantine and the latest rules in each destination.

For families, she suggests: 

Åre, Sweden

Quarantine status: Green

The risk: On September 12 Sweden was granted a travel corridor by the UK government. Its current case rate of just over 29 per 100,000 people meaning it now surpasses the Government's threshold, whether it can hold onto its travel corridor remains to be seen but it has survived this week's cull. As it stands though a ski holiday to the Scandivian slopes could be on the cards this winter. There is no need to quarantine at either end of the journey.

The rules: Last winter Åre was one of the final resorts in the world to close because of the pandemic. Before this new measures were brought in, including curtailed après-ski, no self-service buffets and new takeaway and delivery services – insight into what the upcoming season could hold. Unlike the UK and other European nations masks are not mandatory in Sweden. Official rules are yet to be announced.

The reward: Åre is Sweden’s biggest ski resort, with three separate ski areas strung out beside a frozen lake, and a winter season that goes on well into April thanks to the long hours of sunlight and warmer temperatures later in the season. It’s popular with families who love the off‑slope activities including dog-sled or reindeer-sled rides, tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating, curling and ice fishing.

Read the full guide.

01:40 PM

Here's something you don't see everyday...

Coronavirus-wary animal owners in the Philippines had their pets blessed via a drive-through ceremony on Sunday to mark World Animal Day and the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

From a safe distance, pets were sprinkled with holy water by a Catholic priest in Manila.

dog being blessed - Getty
dog being blessed - Getty
dogs await blessing - Getty
dogs await blessing - Getty

01:20 PM

October half-term holiday tracker: The best options for a family escape in 2020

Missed out on a family holiday this year? You couldn’t make the most of the lockdown sunshine; your summer trip to the Med was cancelled; your staycation break was blown away by the August gales. Now schools are back, so you have one last chance for a rewarding trip for all – the autumn half term. 

The options include: 

Cyprus

The risk: Cyprus is currently enjoying a fall in its infection rate – it is currently at 8 cases per 100,000 on a seven-day accumulative count. The risk is whether the island will continue to welcome us if our own rate increases. The UK is in Cyprus’s “Category B” for these purposes: this means that tourists are permitted to enter, but must provide a negative Covid-19 test on arrival. This must have been obtained less than 72 hours before travel. Children under 12 years old do not require a test.

The reward: Nowhere in the Med does the summer warmth cling on more reliably than in Cyprus, which still gets nine hours of sunshine a day and temperatures peaking at 77F (25C) in October. Paphos is the most attractive of the south coast resorts.

Getting there: Flights are looking quite expensive (£400-£500). Tui (tui.co.uk) has plenty of package deals.

Half-term deals:Thomas Cook offers a stay at the four-star Mayfair Paphos Hotel in Cyprus for a family of four, bed and breakfast, flying from London on October 25 for a week from £2,068 (£517pp). Or spend seven nights at waterfront hotel Almyra, departing Saturday October 25 with Fish&Pips, from €2,772 (£2,540). Price is based on two adults and two children.

See the other possible destinations.

01:05 PM

New Caledonia rejects full independence from France again

The South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia voted against independence from France on Sunday, according to a provisional final poll, reports Reuters.

A surprise "yes" vote would have deprived Paris of a foothold in a region where China is expanding its influence, and dented the pride of a colonial power whose reach once spanned large parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The "no" vote won 53.26 per cent of votes cast votes, a narrower margin of victory than in the 2018 poll.

The result will bring relief to President Emmanuel Macron's government, whose attention had been focused on the coronavirus pandemic in the run-up to the referendum.

12:46 PM

Heavy rains bring UK travel disruption and more than 40 flood warnings

The UK is also experiencing its fair share of rain this weekend, bringing flooding and travel disruption to some area.

Parts of Somerset and Hampshire saw a month's worth of rainfall in 42 hours, according to the Met Office. Meanwhile, homes were flooded in Hemel Hempstead, Hertforshire.

There are now more than 40 flood warnings in place in England, Scotland and Wales.

greenwich park - Getty
greenwich park - Getty

12:21 PM

A view from Venice

Telegraph Travel writer Julia Buckley has shared some sunny views from Venice. The city deployed its flood defences for the first time on Saturday. Trips to Italy are currently quarantine-free.

12:18 PM

Bryony Gordon: The Italian resort that soothed my pandemic paranoia

Covid-19 tests passed, Bryony Gordon and her family enjoyed a much-needed break in Sardinia:

At long last, the day of our flight arrived, and as I packed 3.4oz hand sanitising gels into everyone’s hand luggage – not to mention snacks and sandwiches, to prevent us from the threat of catching anything at the airport – my husband noted that we might need a holiday just to get over the stress of trying to book this one.

Italy seemed like a safe bet, but some worrying news reports had started coming out about youngsters causing a surge in cases after partying in  Sardinia, and for at least two days I catastrophised about the island being struck from the exemption list as soon as we arrived there. Indeed, arriving at Heathrow, I was aware of every possible flight back, should we need to return to beat quarantine. I felt mad. I felt paranoid. I felt in need of a holiday. 

On the transfer from Cagliari airport to Forte Village, I was a ball of nerves. Neither the vibrant sight of the flamingoes that are native to this island, nor the stunning mountains that dot its horizon, could persuade me to relax. Arriving at Forte Village, I held my breath. The reception had been turned into a “triage” area where incoming guests could be tested, our luggage whisked off for immediate decontamination.

Read the full story.

11:51 AM

Runners take part in first 'virtual' London Marathon

A veteran runner who has participated in every London Marathon described the weather conditions ahead of Sunday's race as the worst he has seen, as thousands set off in pouring rain across the country.

Some 45,000 people are running or walking the 40th London Marathon along their own 26.2-mile route around the UK, after the event originally planned for April 26 was postponed due to coronavirus.

The Duke of Sussex, Patron of The London Marathon Charitable Trust, poses with runners in Los Angeles before they take on the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon - PA
The Duke of Sussex, Patron of The London Marathon Charitable Trust, poses with runners in Los Angeles before they take on the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon - PA

 

11:21 AM

Thousands protest anti-coronavirus restrictions in Germany over weekend

Thousands of demonstrators in southern Germany protested against coronavirus restrictions over the weekend, although organisers failed to mobilise enough people for a planned human chain around Lake Constance, reports Reuters.

Thousands of counter-demonstrators in Constance also turned out to show support for the Government's measures to contain the coronavirus while also protesting against right-wing supporters in the other group, police said.

Overall, police counted between 10,500 and 11,000 people taking part in the different demonstrations on Saturday and the two-day protests continued on Sunday with sunny weather likely to draw in further participants, a police spokesman said.

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default

11:13 AM

Italy and mainland Greece remain at risk of quarantine, while Germany edges closer to threshold

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, offers a view on the countries that could be next for the quarantine chop.

11:06 AM

Your UK holiday calendar: Glorious breaks to get you through the next six months

As ever-changing travel restrictions complicate overseas breaks, we could try exploring this country in its low season, writes Sarah Baxter. 

She offers a selection of glorious breaks, from Herefordshire rambling to sunbathing on the Isles of Scilly.

10:46 AM

Mariella Frostrup: My Caribbean escape was a reminder – we must never give up our desire to roam

A post-lockdown trip to St Vincent and the Grenadines reminded our columnist that, as an island nation, we should not – and cannot – shut ourselves off from the world.

We were airlifted off our populous island nation and bound for an infinitely smaller one, where Covid had barely made a dent and life as we had previously known it was still in full swing. Over 15 sun-soaked days, we enjoyed a bubble of pre-pandemic-style life, with a few concessions to troubled times. Hand sanitisers were placed outside the few eating establishments we visited, but made with St Vincent’s finest liquor… Sunset Rum (84.5 per cent alcohol!), mixed with fresh aloe.

Who were we to sniff at the slightly viscous, jellylike feel of it on our hands when we were drinking the same thing in the evenings diluted with orange and lime juice, angostura and nutmeg as Rum Punch? Life on this beautifully underexploited chain of islands was very much business as usual, and the local residents appeared happy to welcome back the visitors that their precarious economy largely relies on. 

Read the story in full.

10:31 AM

Should I risk booking a winter holiday? Latest advice as travel map shrinks

As the evenings draw in, the traveller’s map is shrinking fast. And, lurking in the shadows, are two worrying developments which threaten our general prospects of a winter escape and, most immediately, our last chance for a family break this year – the October half term week

Nick Trend offers his thoughts on booking a holiday this winter.

10:06 AM

Passenger locator forms: a reminder to check restrictions before you travel

Any trip overseas now comes with extra layers of planning, including checking which Covid-19-related forms you must fill out at either end of your journey.

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle offers a reminder of the rules when travelling back from quarantine-listed France. 

09:52 AM

Which countries can you visit right now?

An announcement on airport testing could open up Britons' travel horizons. However, as it stands, there are 16 places we can visit – six with no major restrictions, and 10 with testing and/or a short quarantine in the destination.

They are:

1. Germany

2. Gibraltar

3. Greece (Partially open)

4. Italy (including Vatican City)

5. San Marino

6. Sweden

7. Cyprus: Test before departure

8. Faroe Islands: Test on arrival

9. Jersey: Test on arrival

10. Madeira

11. Anguilla: Test before departure

12. Antigua and Barbuda: Test before departure

13. Barbados: Test before departure 

14. Bermuda: Test before departure

15. St Lucia: Test before departure

16. St Vincent and the Grenadines: Test before departure

09:41 AM

'I understand people's frustration' with local lockdowns, says Johnson

Commenting on the fact there are different lockdown measures in different areas of the UK, Boris Johnson said on the Andrew Marr Show: "I totally understand people's frustration."

But he went on to suggest what may happen if the Government "let it rip", responding to anyone who may say the local lockdowns are inappropriate or that restrictive measures are wrong.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "I just can't accept that. And as Prime Minister I couldn't take a course that could expose us to tens of thousands more deaths in very short order."

While local lockdowns tend to restrict travel within a certain area, rules differ on what it means for residents who are due to travel overseas. Telegraph Travel's consumer expert Nick Trend explains whether you can leave a local lockdown to go on holiday.

09:34 AM

Revealed: London's best new restaurants and bars

Speaking of the 10pm curfew, Telegraph Travel has checked out the best bar and restaurant openings in London over the past month. 

From a new French brasserie to great Japanese food, here are some exciting new venues to support as they cope with Covid-19 restrictions.

Louie, one of the best new openings - JAMES MCDONALD
Louie, one of the best new openings - JAMES MCDONALD

09:17 AM

Boris Johnson defends 10pm curfew

Boris Johnson defended the controversial 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, which has caused much consternation in the hospitality industry.

He blamed people who chose to "hobnob" outside pubs after hours for the sometimes chaotic scenes in city centres at closing time.

The Prime Minister told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "People just need to follow the guidance.

"Obviously it makes no sense if, having followed the guidance for all the time in the pub they then pour out into the street and hobnob in such a way as to spread the virus."

Asked what scientific evidence there was for a 10pm cut-off he said: "One of the things that has been put to us is that by curtailing the hours you can reduce the transmission."

09:01 AM

School travel company announces job losses across UK

Specialist school travel company PGL has announced it is cutting 670 jobs, reducing the workforce by a quarter.

PGL hosts children at residential activity centres across the country, but has had to cancel visits during the pandemic.

The jobs will be shed from several of its sites, including at offices in Blackpool and Hertfordshire. 

In a statement, the company said:

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our business and has resulted in 34 colleagues at our Ross-on-Wye head office being made redundant, representing 16% of our Ross-based workforce.

As we conclude a further consultation process, a further 636 colleagues have been made redundant across the PGL Group, representing a 25% reduction in our total workforce; this includes colleagues based in our Blackpool and Hertfordshire offices and in our centre operations across the UK.

08:51 AM

Which country is next for quarantine?

While we await details of an airport testing plan, Britons must look to infection rates for an indication of which countries might be struck from the travel 'green list' next.

When a country's seven-day infection rate tops 20 cases per 100,000 people, it can trigger a Government review of its place on the quarantine-exempt list.

As it stands, Italy, mainland Greece and Sweden (which were LL spared in the last review) all look at risk. Here's an overview of how their infection rates have risen.

Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Greece Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Greece Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default

08:44 AM

Mecca reopens for limited 'umrah' pilgrimage

Mask-clad worshippers circled Islam's holiest site along socially distanced paths today, as Saudi authorities partially resumed the year-round umrah pilgrimage amid extensive health precautions after seven-month coronavirus hiatus.

Thousands entered the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in batches to perform the ritual of circling the sacred Kaaba, a cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

The umrah, the pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time, usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year but it was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudis and foreign residents circumambulating the Kaaba (Tawaf) in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca - Getty
Saudis and foreign residents circumambulating the Kaaba (Tawaf) in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca - Getty

08:40 AM

What happened yesterday?

Here are the main headlines from Saturday:

  • Germany imposes quarantine on more UK arrivals (quarantine can be avoided with negative Covid test)

  • Quarantine rules come into force for arrivals from Turkey and Poland

  • Morocco relaxes entry rules for UK travellers

  • St Kitts and Nevis to reopen borders on October 31

  • Madeira is the cheapest (quarantine-free) holiday destination

Now onto today's news.