Outbreaks in France and Spain threaten holiday plans

Greg Dickinson
·20-min read
Beaches in Barcelona reached capacity over the weekend, despite new 'stay at home' advice in the city - Getty
Beaches in Barcelona reached capacity over the weekend, despite new 'stay at home' advice in the city - Getty

Outbreaks of Covid-19 in France and Spain have caused fears of a second wave, and potential disruption for holidaymakers this summer.

Spain has identified 5,695 cases of Covid-19 in the last week, up from 2,944 the week before. As a result of outbreaks in Catalonia, up to 96,000 residents of three Catalan towns have been advised to stay at home.

This comes after residents in Barcelona were on Friday advised to leave their home only for essential trips. Local authorities in Spain have been given the power to take emergency measures, such as closing beaches and imposing curfews, if necessary. 

In France the health minister Olivier Veran has revealed there are 400 to 500 “active clusters” of Covid-19; in the region including Marseille and Nice, the R rate has increased to 1.55.

However, Veran has insisted France is far from a second wave.

“At this point we are very far from a second wave,” he told Franceinfo radio, as face masks were today made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces across France.

"The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard,” he said.

The UK government is constantly reviewing its Foreign Office advice on where you can travel to (currently, France and Spain are both ‘green'), and which countries will require quarantine on return (currently, there are no restrictions on France and Spain for travellers from most of the UK, although Scots will have to go into quarantine on return from Spain).

Follow all the latest travel news below. 

04:05 PM

What have we learnt today?

A re-cap of today's main stories:

  • Fire on Bournemouth beach

  • Mexico receives stamp of approval to resume tourism, despite high death toll 

  • Greece tightens rules for foreign seasonal workers 

  • Beaches in Barcelona reach capacity, despite 'stay home' calls

  • First international flights land in Madeira 

  • Coach for Crisis protest reaches Westminster

  • Cinemas reopen in China

Scroll down for more, and join us tomorrow for another live travel blog.

03:55 PM

Coach operators hold mass protest as industry is 'on its knees'

Today around 500 coaches descended on London to demand government support for the coach travel and tourism industry.

The 'Honk for Hope' demonstration today - Getty
The 'Honk for Hope' demonstration today - Getty

The industry, which employs 42,000 people, has been hit hard by Covid-19, reporting a 97 per cent drop in business during the pandemic, and has been campaigning for financial support from the government. 

Read the full article here.

03:43 PM

Fire on Bournemouth beach

A fire has broken out on a hill leading up from Bournemouth beach. It was believed to have started from a beach hut at the base of the hill.

Life guards cleared beachgoers away from the fire before fire fighters arrived at the scene.

 

03:32 PM

'It was always going to backfire': a postcard from Barcelona's second lockdown

After three months enduring one of the world’s tightest lockdowns and with a total death toll of more than 28,000, Spain not only flattened its curve, but managed to bring the number of cases down to a couple of hundred a day by the beginning of June.

Barcelona's beaches were busy over the weekend - Getty
Barcelona's beaches were busy over the weekend - Getty

Since then, however, the ‘new normality’ has seen the country let its guard down, with many of the initial hygiene measures all but abandoned.

Our Barcelona correspondent Sally Davies wrote this postcard of how things look on the ground.

03:13 PM

The summer holiday home-schooling dilemma

Parents across the UK are divided about whether to give their locked-down children six weeks of holiday or to carry on teaching in the hope of making up ground lost when schools closed. Here, two mothers make their case for how the summer should be spent.

Read their arguments, here.

02:40 PM

Looking for a post-lockdown escape?

Look no further than Denmark, the country that turned happiness into an art.

The Tivoli amusement park reopened in June - Getty
The Tivoli amusement park reopened in June - Getty

Suzanne King explains why this should be your next holiday destination.

02:20 PM

Mexico receives stamp of approval to resume tourism, despite high death toll

With more than 35,000 Covid-19 deaths, Mexico has the fourth highest pandemic death toll in the world. The country also has the seventh-highest number of recorded cases, a whopping 324,000 at the time of writing, mainly attributed to the laissez-faire attitude of Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. 

Yet despite the statistics, Mexico is open for business. British passengers arriving via air will have their temperatures checked at all international airports before being allowed entry for tourism purposes to many of the most popular beach destinations such as Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya.

But does this mean it’s safe to go?

Kenny Peters, a long-time Canadian expat and bar owner in San Miguel de Allende is very nervous.

“The early signs are telling me most tourists will not return back this year. The overall mood here is desperation and the uncertain future has everyone stressed.”

Mexico is gradually returning to a "new normal" - Getty
Mexico is gradually returning to a "new normal" - Getty

Read the full report here.

01:54 PM

Greece tightens rules for foreign seasonal workers

Greece has today introduced stricter rules for foreign seasonal workers, after a recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the Balkans.

Last year, more than 10,000 seasonal workers were employed in Greece's agricultural sector, mainly from Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

"Land workers that exit the country before August 4 will not be able to return until further notice," Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, told a news briefing today.  Seasonal workers were permitted into the country in early May under a three-month special licence.

Petsas added that land entry to Greece will be allowed only via six northern border crossings to better control imported Covid-19 cases.

Greece started easing lockdown measures in early May, but social-distancing rules still apply. It toughened rules for visitors at the border with Bulgaria earlier this month and stepped up spot checks inside the country.

The Mediterranean nation has so far managed to contain the spread of the virus to just over 4,000 cases, faring better than other European Union countries mainly due to an early nationwide lockdown.

01:44 PM

Los Angeles mayor says the city 'on the brink' of a second lockdown

The mayor of Los Angeles warned on Sunday that the city is "on the brink" of a return to lockdown, as coronavirus cases in the United States continue to surge and the White House blocks chunks of a $75 billion pandemic plan.

Eric Garcetti, mayor of the second-largest city in the United States, said a stay-at-home order would likely come at the state or county level. 

Read the full report here.

01:21 PM

"The UK cruise ship ban is madness – and the consequences will be dire"

Our cruise expert, Jane Archer, speaks out against the ongoing UK cruise ship ban.

"Let me get this straight. The science now says I can fly to Europe, pick up a river cruise and sail in the company of others but that it’s dangerous for me to do the exact same thing in UK waters? When I don’t even need to go through airports or on a flight. Does the government know what it is talking about? Who makes up this stuff?"

Read her full article here.

01:02 PM

As various as Rome, as glamorous as Milan – this city under the volcano sums up why I travel

"This city under the volcano sums up why, despite the fact that I am entirely happy in my garden, I must start poking about in other corners of the world – just to see and feel what is beyond my gate. Naples is inexhaustibly fascinating," writes Griff Rhys Jones.

Naples
Naples

Read his ode to Naples, here.

12:45 PM

First international flights land in Madeira

Flights have resumed to the Portuguese island of Madeira, after it announced that it had opened up to international travel on July 1.

The UK, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland are among the first countries to resume flights. Airlines including easyJet and British Airways have scheduled flights there.

British holidaymakers who travel to Madeira will still have to go into self-isolation on their return. Visitors will also need to take a Covid-19 test before travel or on arrival.

12:32 PM

Coach for Crisis protest reaches Westminster

Around 500 coaches are currently protesting in central London to seek urgent financial support to fend off the effects of lockdown. Some of them are currently in Westminster - here's the view (and sound). 

12:17 PM

Advice: What to do if you need to renew your passport amid current delays

So badly have Covid-19 measures hit the Passport Office, that some families have been forced to cancel their holidays this summer.

The average time taken to process applications is currently around double the pre-coronavirus timescale, but some have been delayed up to four months - forcing cancellations and also making it hard for anyone whose passport is nearing its ten-year expiry date to plan their trips.

Currently waiting times are reported to be averaging 45 days for a first adult passport, 33 days for a first child's passport, 28 days for a child's renewal and 23 days for an adult's. But remember, these are averages and you can’t rely on them. 

So how to you make sure that you aren’t caught up in the delays? Here is our checklist.

11:59 AM

Summer reading: 75 best books to pack in your suitcase, from page-turners to politics

From Hilary Mantel to Jan Morris, love in the Blitz to pianos in Siberia – our critics pick 75 books for your perfect break.

11:55 AM

London's Beefeaters face layoffs for the first time in 500 years

The historic Beefeater guards are facing layoffs for what is believed to be the first time in their 500-year history as part of "heartbreaking" measures to cut costs at the Tower of London following the coronavirus crisis, reports our Global Health Security team.

The pandemic has seen the temporary closure of six sites run by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), which all rely heavily on visitor income.

A spokesperson for HRP confirmed that a voluntary redundancy scheme had been introduced last month and that staff had been warned that a compulsory redundancy scheme was likely to follow.

HRP believes it is the first time that the guards, recognisable for their decorative red and black uniforms, have faced redundancy in their long history - having been formed by Henry VII in 1485.

At least two of the 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels, have reportedly taken voluntary redundancy already.

HRP chief executive John Barnes said the organisation had "simply had no choice" but to make the cuts.

beefeater - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
beefeater - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

11:47 AM

Your lunchtime read: Is Pamplona's running of the bulls really so bad?

Not according to Alexender Fiske-Harris, who would much rather be a Spanish fighting bull than a farm cow:

"Some people think running with bulls, a pastime for which Pamplona is most famous, is dangerous and anachronistic, and the end place of that run, the bull-ring, is a place of torture and death. And indeed, all Spain's bull rings are registered abattoirs - they have to be, because the carcass of every bull ends up in the food chain. The only difference, in terms of the bull's welfare, is the manner and duration of their life and the manner and duration of their death, but perhaps not in the way readers think. 

A fighting bull presented for a corrida de toros, which the English horribly mistranslate as a 'bullfight' - erroneously co-opting our own old word for bull-baiting with dogs - must be between four and six years of age as opposed to the average age for a meat animal's execution which is 18 months. 

The quality of that more than triple lifespan is also wildly different, quite literally: in order to build the instinct and muscle which is required in the ring, they are reared wild, in the meadows and forests of over 1,300 fighting bull ranches, which comprise one fifth of Spain's natural landscape."

Read his full comment piece here.

pamplona - getty
pamplona - getty

11:24 AM

Beaches overrun in Catalonia, despite 'stay home' calls

Beaches in Barcelona reached capacity over the weekend, despite pleas from local authorities for people to stay at home as Covid-19 cases rose in the region.

Earlier on Sunday, authorities urged 96,000 residents of three Catalan towns to stay at home, as part of a tightening of Covid-19 restrictions. This came after residents in Barcelona were on Friday advised to leave their home only for essential trips.

Barceloneta beach reached capacity over the weekend - Getty
Barceloneta beach reached capacity over the weekend - Getty

However, thousands ignored the stay-at-home calls. Barceloneta beach, a favourite among tourists, reached capacity on Sunday and had to be closed as bathers queued up to access the beach.

Spain emerged from a nationwide lockdown on June 21, and UK tourists can now visit without needing to go into quarantine.

The latest figures from Catalonia’s regional health ministry show a daily increase of 944 cases, although the stay-at-home instructions stop short of a mandatory lockdown.

11:10 AM

Cinemas reopen in China

 Cinemas have reopened in China, nearly half a year after closing their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cinemas reopened in China - Getty
Cinemas reopened in China - Getty
Getty
Getty
Getty
Getty

 

10:37 AM

Flights to Innsbruck to recommence on August 1

Britons looking to escape to the mountains of Europe this summer will be able to fly into the Austrian airport of Innsbruck from August 1, Lucy Aspden reports.

EasyJet is recommencing two weekly flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck from the start of next month, increasing this to three times a week from September. Flights from Manchester and Bristol look set to recommence in December.

Despite being one of the most notoriously difficult landings in Europe, Innsbruck is a popular hub for visitors heading to resorts in the Austrian Alps and beyond, with quick rail connections and short transfer times to some of the area’s leading resorts in both summer and winter.

Under new travel advice from the government, holidaymakers are permitted to travel to Austria without the need to quarantine on their return to the UK; however, on arrival in Austria they must present a recent medical certificate with negative coronavirus test results – failure to do so will put them into self isolation for 14 days, or until a negative test result arrives. Coronavirus tests are currently available at Vienna airport for a fee of €190 – it is yet to be confirmed if this service will be rolled out to Innsbruck.

10:15 AM

Coronavirus causes poaching spike in Virunga National Park

The economic effects of Coronavirus has caused a spike of poaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo, endangering the wellbeing of gorillas, according to a report by Reuters.

Rangers have been forced to reduce their presence in Virunga National Park, and it was closed to tourists in March to help stop the spread of Covid-19 to the resident community of gorillas.

Virunga's gorillas are under threat - Getty
Virunga's gorillas are under threat - Getty

However, due to reduced job prospects, a collapse of tourism revenue and higher food prices, local people in the area have turned to the forest to survive – hunting for bush meat, and laying traps to do so. 

“There has been an increase in the number of people going into the forest to lay those snares,” Emmanuel De Merode, director of Virunga National Park, said. Some gorillas have been trapped in the snares, as a result. 

Virunga National Park is home to more than half of the world's surviving gorillas.

10:03 AM

Alps villages struggle to cope with influx of visitors

Picturesque villages in the Alps are struggling to cope with the influx of visitors as coronavirus restrictions are lifted and holidaymakers look to the mountains and outdoor spaces for their summer break.

In particular, small communities in the Bavarian Alps in Germany are straining under the pressures of reopening in the post-pandemic world. The Local reports cars parked illegally in protected areas of nature, irresponsible camp fires, mountains of rubbish, human waste and queues of traffic – much to annoyance and concern of local residents.

Walchensee - Getty
Walchensee - Getty

According to reports, in Walchensee, home to the largest Alpine lake in Germany, up to 4,000 cars are arriving each day and in the neighbouring village of Jachenau hotel beds are fully booked until September. The demand to stay in the mountains is so high some visitors are forsaking safe camping spots on campsites, which are now full, for a night under canvas in the wild – despite it not being permitted by local authorities.

"A day-tripper should, before he or she goes to a beautiful mountain idyll, first obtain digital information about what it is currently like there,” said Hubert Aiwanger, minister of economics in Bavaria.

09:40 AM

Thailand in favour of closing borders to tourists

Perhaps hold off booking that trip to Thailand, if these numbers are anything to go by. More than 90 per cent of Thais would be in favour of barring foreigners from entering the country to prevent a second Covid-19 wave, according to a new poll.

The opinion survey in mid-July by the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University in Bangkok found that 94 per cent of respondents would rather keep the borders closed for health reasons, despite the damage to the economy, Nicola Smith reports.

It was conducted in the wake of public frustration over recently imported cases – one an Egyptian soldier, and the other involving a Sudanese diplomatic family. Some 52 per cent of respondents said they were very worried about the two cases.

The poll also showed that 86 per cent suggested stringent screening processes at the border and that 76 per cent want free access to Covid-19 tests.

Thailand reopened its beaches on June 1 - Getty
Thailand reopened its beaches on June 1 - Getty

Despite Thailand’s relative success in containing the spread of the virus – with just 3,249 cases and 58 deaths – more than 95 per cent of respondents said they were worried about a second round of infections.

09:33 AM

Forestry Commission Holidays are back...

... but they look a bit different.

Chris Leadbeater escaped to the woods, to see what a Forestry Commission holiday is like in the post-lockdown era.

Blackwood Forest in Hampshire spans 667 acres that can be explored 
Blackwood Forest in Hampshire spans 667 acres that can be explored

Read his report here.

09:07 AM

Face masks mandatory in France

As of today, France has made face masks mandatory in supermarkets, shopping malls, banks, stores and indoor markets to curb worrisome signs that the coronavirus is making inroads again.

A sign instructs people to wear face masks in Bordeaux - Getty
A sign instructs people to wear face masks in Bordeaux - Getty

08:56 AM

Only 350 overseas travellers to be allowed into Sydney each day as Covid restrictions tighten

Sydney has tightened its travel restrictions in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus cases, allowing only 350 international arrivals every 24 hours.

The measures are designed to lessen both the logistical and financial burden of handling large numbers of quarantine cases.

A passenger wearing a protective suit and mask at Sydney Airport - JAMES GOURLEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A passenger wearing a protective suit and mask at Sydney Airport - JAMES GOURLEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

From July 5, federal authorities capped arrivals at Sydney airport from aboard at 450 people per day, with a maximum of 50 passengers on each incoming flight.

The restrictions as of midnight Sunday will be tightened, with 350 people per day and only 30 per flight.

Read the full article here.

08:42 AM

Can you visit Spain now?

Spain is on the list of countries announced by the UK Government for which quarantine measures do not apply, and the FCO no longer advises against travel to Spain.

However, lockdown has had to be reinstated in several regions over the past week after fresh outbreaks of coronavirus, sparking concerns that other parts of Spain may have to close for business during the summer.

In Barcelona, one of Europe's most visited cities, Catalonian authorities have urged people to stay home and not gather in groups of more than 10. The region's health chief Alba Verges stopped short of mandatory restrictions on July 17, but instead warned that residents should not "move around if it's not absolutely necessary".

Almost four million people are affected by the move, where restaurants will have to limit capacity to 50 per cent of the usual amount. Residents are urged to shop online and cultural and sports events will also be limited; but museums will remain open for now. Residents have also been asked not to flee to second homes for a period expected to last about two weeks.

Catalonia recorded more than 1,200 cases in the 24 hours to Saturday, according to figures released by the region’s department of health – 894 of them in the Barcelona metropolitan area. There were 944 reported cases on Sunday.

As yet there are no plans to impose similar restrictions on the rest of the country – news that is likely to please up to 400,000 Britons with second homes in Spain or those desperate to visit some of the 240,000 British expats in the country.

Read our full Spain travel advice, here.

08:31 AM

Virgin Atlantic 'still receiving 1,000 refund requests a day'

Virgin Atlantic is receiving 1,000 refund requests a day despite easing travel restrictions around the world.

In an interview with Telegraph Travel, the airline’s chief operating officer Corneel Koster said the carrier was excited to resume flights today but that cancellations were ongoing, in part due to travel restrictions in the US.

He said 10,000 customers were contacting the carrier daily about refunds and rebooking.

“We continue to be inundated with customer enquiries. We apologise for the delays in refunding our customers. We fell short of the standard of service that we hold ourselves to, and we desperately owe our customers a heartfelt apology.”

Read the interview here.

08:27 AM

Florence's Uffizi Gallery compares influencer to Botticelli

Florence's Uffizi Gallery has been accused of dumbing itself down after comparing a social media influencer to Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

Chiara Ferragni at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Chiara Ferragni at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence

Chiara Ferragni, who has millions of followers on social media, posed in front of some of the most highly regarded Renaissance masterpieces, including Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus, sparking criticism that great art was being used as a mere backdrop for Instagram pictures.

Read the full report here.

08:15 AM

The view from Barceloneta

People are turned away from the beach yesterday - Getty
People are turned away from the beach yesterday - Getty
Barceloneta - Getty
Barceloneta - Getty
People ignored 'stay home' calls on Sunday - Getty
People ignored 'stay home' calls on Sunday - Getty

07:58 AM

What happened yesterday?

Here's a recap of yesterday's main stories, in the world of travel.

  • Passport Office chaos forces families to cancel holidays

  • European holiday hotspots now cheaper than a train ride to Cornwall

  • Australian state makes face masks mandatory after surge in cases

  • Amsterdam urges people not to visit red light district

  • Catalonia asks thousands to stay at home as cases surge

  • Hong Kong sees record daily high of new cases

Catch-up with the rest below.