It's official: lockdown 2.0 is over, and Britons are once again allowed to go on holiday.
The Government's contentious new Tier system comes into motion today, and while that means the vast majority of regions in England are now subject to Tier 2 or Tier 3 regulations, many of us can travel again; both domestically and abroad.
Hotels and self-catering accommodation in England can reopen for leisure purposes in tiers 1 and 2, so long as you follow your regional rules, opening the door to staycations again. You may also now leave the country, and there are several destinations that have travel corridors, meaning you won't have to quarantine upon your return.
In other news today, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has now been approved for use in the UK, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed, paving the way for mass vaccination to start as early as next week.
Scroll down for the latest news.
What we learnt today
A rundown of the top stories:
Vaccine is 'biggest news to impact the travel industry since the start of this pandemic'
Virgin Atlantic passenger planes will be used to transport Covid vaccine
Spike in UK holiday bookings
'Border controls' planned for French people going to ski abroad
Demand for second passports soars
Thank you for joining us today, we'll see you again tomorrow.
Closing time: London's restaurateurs are leaving the city in the wake of Covid for pastures new
There’s no denying that this year has been incredibly tough on the hospitality industry, writes Emilee Tombs. Between two national lockdowns, furlough schemes to navigate, and unprecedented loss of earnings, it’s a wonder so many restaurants have survived the pandemic, and indeed there are many that haven’t.
And yet a small collection have managed to turn a terrible situation into an opportunity. Lockdowns have forced some to leave behind the bright lights of London and set up in the countryside or by the coast.
Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis have done just this. The pair opened Native in 2016, after spending their post-university years selling jams and chutneys at London food markets. Having grown up in rural Northamptonshire with parents who owned a falconry and championed nose-to-tail eating before it was fashionable, Imogen had always been comfortable working with game and wild food.
Virgin Atlantic passenger planes will be used to transport Covid vaccine
The aviation industry is expected to play a crucial role in the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, using cargo capabilities on board passenger flights – and it's already preparing for the task, says the boss of Virgin Atlantic Cargo.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been working hard to transport essential items all over the world,” Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director, tells Telegraph Travel. “At the start of the year, we used our passenger planes to import essential PPE to Britain from Asia, and then the focus shifted to transporting testing kits. Now, we will be using our aircraft to carry vaccine drugs – the next chapter of this unprecedented year.”
The Pfizer vaccine, which has now been approved for use in Britain, is of course no ordinary cargo item: it must be kept at -80 degrees. “The temperature control is a challenge not just for us, but for every airline,” says Kennedy. “It’s not the act of keeping it cold that’s the challenge, but the sheer quantity of dry ice that’s required: by weight, you need five times as much dry ice than vaccine – so for every 200kg of vaccine, that’s 1,000kg of dry ice.”
The first day of Tier 1 – a postcard from staycation hotspot Cornwall
Usually at this time of year, tourists would be flooding to Cornwall for the annual Christmas Festival, which takes over Padstow’s pretty harbour, writes our man-on-the-ground Richard Franks:
It’s quieter than I anticipated – even with the festival cancellation. While some business owners opt to remain closed for the time being, others are joyful that customers are returning. “Can we sit in today?,” asks one confused caffeine seeker at popular cafe Cherry Trees. “Yes! Come in!” exclaims the barista. The sense of relief is evident here.
Padstow’s sprightly spirit offers a glimmer of hope for the English towns and cities who themselves could too fall under Tier 1 when the situation is reviewed on December 16 (and every 14 days thereafter). For now, those looking for a calming coastal escape this side of Christmas could perhaps consider Padstow for world-class cuisine, fresh sea air and, of course, a pint in a pub... without a scotch egg in sight.
Heathrow reopens, but there's little sign of celebration inside its eerily quiet terminals
Our reporter Lottie Gross has been at Heathrow Airport today to investigate the scene on the first day out of lockdown. Here's what she has to say:
A little over a month ago I came here to find people fizzing with excitement at escaping England’s impending lockdown. They were off to the Maldives, Spain and other exciting, sunnier climes, looking forward to freedoms abroad.
Today, it was all a bit more subdued. The majority of passengers I spoke to were, rather than jetting off to exciting new places, simply going home. One couple were grateful to be returning to the Czech Republic in time for Christmas. Students were travelling back to China for their holidays.
There were more police officers on view (I didn’t see a single one on my pre-lockdown visits) and even a new one-way system in and out of Terminal 2, with signs demanding: “Passengers only beyond this point”. The airport was clearly anticipating a rise in activity.
Shorter passport queues and longer stays: How Portugal will attract Britons post-Brexit
In order to woo Britons back even after we leave the EU and travel becomes more complicated, Portugal is brainstorming a number of enticements: visa-free visits of up to 180 days, UK-only passport queues and health coverage among them.
“We’ll do whatever we can to continue to make Portugal attractive to British citizens for tourism or permanent residence,” Manuel Lobo Antunes, the Portuguese ambassador to the UK, told Telegraph Travel.
“We have always said that we would like to have a situation that is as close as possible to the situation we had before Brexit.”
Top Cornwall hotel to shut until March, despite ‘relaxed’ tier 1 restrictions
A leading hotel in Cornwall has announced that it will remain closed until March next year, despite the county being the only place in mainland England subject to the most relaxed tier 1 coronavirus restrictions.
Talland Bay Hotel, a 20-bedroom luxury property near Polperro in south Cornwall, will be shut throughout the winter, citing civic responsibility as the reason.
Explaining his decision, owner Dr Kevin O’Sullivan, a retired doctor and former medical director of a vaccine-producing pharmaceutical company, said:
I believe the most responsible thing to do is to remain closed until the situation becomes clearer and safer. The uncertainty and unpredictability that has been cast upon this trying year has certainly contributed to our decision.
But since the announcement of the new tier system there has been much soul-searching and scenario-building to try to understand the consequences of every course of action we might take.
Sturgeon urges Scots to 'think very carefully' about Christmas
Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, asked Scots to "think very carefully" about their plans over the Christmas period in light of the approval of a coronavirus vaccine.
"Now that we've got that vaccine firmly in view, I would encourage everybody just to think very carefully about whether you want to take any unnecessary risks with family members at Christmas," she said.
"Or if you want to get through this Christmas with the prospect of being able to see family members much more normally in the spring of next year."
While urging continued compliance, Ms Sturgeon said she was doing it with "a lighter feeling in my heart and a bigger smile on my face today than I've been able to muster for the last nine months."
First person: 'Travel can leave me paralysed with anxiety – but it's still worth it'
'What kind of dreadful, entitled person worries about being too anxious to enjoy a holiday? This one,' concedes Sarah Rodrigues, writing about the time she forgot to pack her anti-anxiety medication for a trip to Sri Lanka.
It's a mental health condition that often rears its head when Rodrigues travels, but despite the many 'wobbles', the voyages are always worth it. She writes:
For every existential crisis I’ve had when travelling, I’ve had so many more transportive moments. For every occasion that I’ve felt alone in a roomful of people I know, I’ve had at least five experiences that have connected me to complete strangers in unexplored destinations.
For every time a commuter’s eyes have gazed vacantly at the point just above my forehead, the eyes of a local have connected with mine and reminded me that I exist. For every instance in which I’ve doubted my ability, travel has reminded me that I can “do it”, whatever the “it” happens to be.
The safest options for a last-minute holiday
The following countries have a seven-day case rate below 60 per 100,000, are not on the quarantine list, and are feasible holiday options for UK travellers (a test before departure is usually required):
Canary Islands (39.1)
St Lucia (18.1)
Antigua and Barbuda (2.1)
St Vincent and the Grenadines (0.9)
'It appears the UK government doesn't care about African communities'
Chris McIntyre, MD of tour operator Expert Africa, has given his backing to Telegraph Travel's Unlock Long Haul campaign, which is calling for the Government to offer travel corridors to all countries with a lower Covid rate than the UK.
I note that the prevalence of Covid-19 (according to the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 of population, as recorded by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) was, today, as follows:
Zambia: 2.6; Rwanda: 3 5; Kenya: 24.4; Namibia: 33.1; Botswana: 38.6; South Africa: 64.4; Ireland: 85.4; Canada: 203; Greece: 269.2; Belgium: 330.9; France: 345.1; United Kingdom: 358.6; Netherlands: 409.0; Italy: 655.5; Switzerland: 664; United States of America: 709.8
It’s complete nonsense to advise people against going to, say, Zambia, because of Covid, when their chances of catching it in the UK are hundreds of times higher than their chances in Zambia. Many countries in Africa rely very heavily on tourism, so this advice is doing immense damage, particularly to some of the poorer, more rural communities around the national parks. Together with the proposed cut in the UK’s foreign aid budget, it shows how little the current government appears to care for these communities who need our help now more than ever.
Will any countries lose their travel corridor this week?
Previously, the Government started getting twitchy when a country's seven-day infection rate exceeded 20 per 100,000, writes Oliver Smith.
However, the UK's own rate has now flown past that threshold (as of December 2, it stands at 156.9), so it is exercising much more leniency; 100 per 100,000 is thought to be the new benchmark.
Few countries are at risk this week, with no travel corridor options currently breaching the threshold. The rate in the UAE (where Dubai is open to tourists) has creeped up in recent weeks, however. It currently stands at 91.2. Britons will also want to keep an eye on the surviving Greek islands, in case they follow the mainland onto the red list.
Infection rate is not the only factor. A country's population size, the number of Britons who visit, and other measures introduced to stop the spread of the virus, also play a part.
The UK Government reviews its policy every Thursday, announcing changes on Twitter at 5pm, with destinations usually removed from 4am on the following Saturday morning.
Majority of London skiers have considered relocating to the Alps this winter
As the capital enters Tier 2 restrictions, new research has found that Londoners with an adventurous streak would prefer to trade their home comforts for a winter in the mountains.
A survey carried out by retailer Snow+Rock found that 60 per cent of skiers and snowboarders who live in London have considered moving to the mountain permanently this winter, having researched long-term lets in the Alps.
Comment: 'It breaks my heart, but I can't justify going home this Christmas'
Naomi Southwell has taken the difficult decision to avoid meeting her vulnerable parents this December and celebrate in her flatshare instead. She writes:
For the first time ever I’m not going to be at home in Manchester this Christmas.
Due to his age, my dad is considered vulnerable. I haven’t been home since the pandemic began. The only time I’ve seen my parents is when they drove over 200 miles to come and sit in my garden, two metres apart from me, for an afternoon in the summer.
Despite the tempting prospect of a Christmas bubble, I can’t justify potentially bringing the virus with me to the one place where I feel truly content at this time of year. Especially given the dire consequences it could have for my dad who, along with my mum, has thankfully avoided contracting Covid thus far.
The ultimate blow the budget holidays to book for spring 2021 and beyond
If today’s vaccine announcement hasn’t inspired you to start planning an adventure for next Easter or beyond, nothing will, writes Francesca Syz.
With money left over from this year's lack of holidays, why not get off the beaten track and explore somewhere truly exceptional - somewhere you've never been before?
Exclusive: Ministers could ease rail fare hikes to help Christmas passengers as prices double
Train fares have doubled for passengers looking to get home over the Christmas "bubble" period as ministers consider measures that could ease festive price rises.
The rises have prompted mounting calls for rail operators to suspend more expensive peak fares for the Christmas period to ease the hit on festive travellers.
However, The Telegraph understands that a package of measures on Christmas travel due to be announced by the Government includes plans to increase services and carriages on busy routes, in turn releasing more cheaper tickets.
Wales to decide whether to allow cross-border travel with England
The Welsh Government's cabinet is meeting today to decide on the country’s new border rules, as England emerges from lockdown.
The Welsh Government originally said it would update its travel policy in light of the changes in England. However, no announcement was made on this matter on Monday, as initially expected, and Welsh tourism businesses have spoken out against the lack of clear instructions on whether they should cancel or confirm bookings from English customers.
Scenes today at French ski protest
A major demonstration is taking place at France's Bourg Saint Maurice train station today in response to news that President Macron will impose restrictions to stop people travelling abroad to ski this festive season.
It was organised by Yannick Amet, president of the Community of Communes, and his fellow mayors in the Haute Tarentaise region, which includes resorts such as Courchevel, Tignes and La Plagne.
Here's what it looks like:
“Our hope has been stopped dead! This sudden and brutal government stance puts the whole community in disarray. The Savoyard mountain people are not in denial or in revolt, but they simply want the government to hear their difficulties,” read a statement from the protest organisers, who are calling on the government for a clear and final reopening date for ski resorts and confirmation of the support that will be offered to fragile mountain economics.
“We will all be present and united, to reaffirm our support for the Community of the inhabitants of our valley. Do not forget us!” continued the statement.
A final decision on when resorts might reopen fully, likely mid-January, is expected by December 11.
Saga Cruises boss: 'Sailings by Easter - I bet my mortgage on it'
British cruise line Saga Cruises has become the first cruise operator to be awarded Shield+ accreditation from Lloyd’s Register for coronavirus risk management – the highest category of health assurance granted by the maritime safety experts, Kaye Holland reports.
The accreditation recognises enhanced safety procedures on board two Saga ships: Spirit of Discovery and the line’s brand new ship Spirit of Adventure, due to set sail for the first time in May 2021.
Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Nick Stace, Saga’s chief executive of travel says he is confident that, come Easter, land-locked Britons will be able to take to the water once again. He tells us:
I bet my mortgage on it. Really I feel very confident and the reason why I feel so confident, is that we have done everything and more that the government asked of us. I can’t see how you could be safer, than to be on one of our ships.
We test five days in advance of coming on board, we then ask for five days of isolation and our customers, I know, will support us on that. We then have a sealed car, with a driver who has been tested, come and pick you up and take you to the port where you’re tested again.
On board, you’ll find social distancing measures and an isolation wing, should any problems occur. I can’t think you would find anywhere, other than the Sahara desert, that is safer.
Amazing winter destinations that will be unlocked by the end of a 14-day quarantine
As of December 15, travellers returning to the UK from 'high risk' countries have the option to cut quarantine from 14 days to five with proof of a negative Covid test.
This opens up a host of desirable winter sun destinations for those who are willing to do so. Oliver Smith has rounded up eight particularly promising options; including South Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.
Industry reaction: 'Vaccine is biggest news to impact the travel industry since the start of this pandemic'
Today, the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine, which will be made available from next week.
Shon Alam, Founder of currency exchange platform, Bidwegde, comments on the impact this announcement will have on the travel industry:
This morning's announcement is undoubtedly the biggest news to impact the travel industry since the start of this pandemic. Over the past few weeks, the news of successful vaccine trials were already boosting confidence that the travel sector is recovering, shown by the rise in stock prices of EasyJet, and owner of British Airways, IAG.
Now, the announcement that the British public can begin receiving immunisations within a matter of days, will absolutely provide a huge surge of confidence that the travel industry is definitely on its way to recovery.
For travellers too, many of whom have been eagerly awaiting the moment that it is safe for them to travel again, this will provide the assurance they need to begin planning their trips abroad. Hopefully, this news signals that we are returning to some semblance of normality, and that we can confine 2020 to the history books.
Meanwhile...it's quiet at Heathrow Airport
Our reporter Lottie Gross is at Heathrow today, chatting to travellers who are leaving the country post-lockdown. And there aren't as many of them as you might expect...
'Wild Wednesday' as shops, pubs and gyms reopen under tier system
Pubs, shops and gyms have reopened as England's new tier system came into effect, with retailers preparing for what has been called 'Wild Wednesday'.
As the national lockdown came to an end, shoppers were seen queuing outside stores in Oxford Street and Birmingham from as early as 5am in a bid to do some Christmas shopping.
Fitness fans also headed for the gym at midnight while others had haircuts at 1am as England got its first taste of freedom since early November. Head over to our coronavirus live blog for more.
How Asia is opening up to tourism, and where you can go
Much of the Asian continent remains closed to British holidaymakers, but there is a small list of countries allowing us in, writes Greg Dickinson. There are also a number of countries that British nationals can return from, without needing to go into quarantine on return to the UK.
You can see where they are using the interactive map below, and read the full guide to Asia's reopening here.
Demand for second passports soars
National lockdowns, closed borders and travel restrictions have helped drive up enquiries for second passports by more than 50 per cent this year, reveals deVere Group, a global financial advisory firm.
CEO Nigel Green states:
Previously, a second passport, citizenship or residency were regarded by many as the ultimate luxury item; a status symbol like yachts, supercars and original artwork.
While this still remains the case, there’s also been a shift due to the pandemic. Now, second citizenship or overseas residency are increasingly becoming not just a ‘nice to have accessory’ but a ‘must have.’
Whether it be for personal reasons, such as to remain with loved ones overseas or be able to visit them, or for business reasons, a growing number of people are seeking ways to secure their freedom of movement as they have faced travel restrictions which are, typically, based on citizenship.
Travel Advent Calendar: Answer three questions for the chance to win a holiday voucher
To celebrate the start of the festive season we're launching our 2020 Travel Advent Calendar, offering readers the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas.
Enter the prize draw for today's £200 voucher by answering three questions about Kenya.
Excitement builds in Cornwall as lockdown ends
Our writer Richard Franks is in Padstow today as Cornwall emerges from lockdown and enters the lowest Tier 1 category for restrictions.
Explained: the new quarantine rules
Soon, it will be easier to take a holiday abroad.
Under the Government’s new 'Test to Release' plan, anyone arriving in the UK from a high-risk destination after December 15 will be able to reduce their 14-day quarantine period to five days, if they pay for a Covid test after the fifth day.
This opens up a numbers of questions for people hoping to get away this winter. How does the testing process work? What does this mean for family members flying into the UK for Christmas? How do the timings work if you travel before the cut-off date, but arrive after? Can you go on an overseas holiday if you live in 'Tier Three'?
Foreign Office issues 'festive tips' for those travelling overseas this Christmas
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has released a statement for English citizens who are planning to travel abroad this Christmas, along with 'five festive travel tips'. Here they are:
Read the FCDO’s foreign travel checklist, which includes information on preparing for an overseas trip.
Check the travel advice for the destination you are planning to go to. These pages include information on entry, screening and quarantine requirements that could affect your journey.
Sign up for travel advice email alerts, so you automatically receive the latest travel advice updates for the destinations you want to know about.
Get a travel insurance policy and make sure you are happy with the level of cover it provides.
Confused? Telegraph Travel's consumer expert Nick Trend has written this helpful checklist to peruse before you book your holiday.
The Welsh island being 'unfairly victimized' as it faces more restrictions
Despite the Welsh island of Anglesey currently having one of the lowest Covid rates in Wales (14.3 per 100,000 population), First Minister Mark Drakeford’s broad-brush, one-size-fits-all restrictions will come into force on Friday, December 4.
Telegraph Travel's Kerry Walker, who has written us a postcard from the wild and beautiful isle, explains:
These restrictions will ban the sale of alcohol and impose a 6pm curfew in pubs and restaurants that have only just reopened their doors, invested heavily in safety measures and put up Christmas decorations. The consensus is that the island is being unfairly victimized, and that the impact on trade during one of the busiest times of the year will be devastating.
Scenes at Heathrow Airport today
Will there be a surge of British travellers making a beeline for the airport today, post lockdown? Our reporter Lottie Gross is at London's Heathrow to find out...
Spike in UK holiday bookings
Ho ho ho. Things are looking up as Britons rush to book holidays on home ground for Christmas.
Sykes Holiday Cottages has reported a 106 per cent uplift in bookings for the festive period last week compared to the week prior; and a 59 per cent uplift in all future bookings generally.
Sykes’ CEO Graham Donoghue said:
As the government’s ‘Winter Plan’ unfolded last week, we saw a definite uplift in bookings. Confidence in UK travel is returning and the option of getting away for Christmas - and seeing family - has clearly come as good news to many.
The easing of some travel restrictions has also been welcomed by the UK’s holiday let owners, many of whom will be able to squeeze in some final bookings before 2020 draws to a close.
Looking beyond that, news of vaccination progress in recent weeks has also been a boost for bookings in 2021, with the Great British staycation already a popular choice for holidays next year.
Holidays to the Maldives are back on from today – and they're more exclusive than ever
The Maldives is a destination that specialises in relaxation and escapism, attributes that have never been more attractive or necessary, writes John O'Ceallaigh., and happily, the country has a travel corridor with the UK.
Fancy a holiday there? Every tourist must take a PCR test within 96 hours of their flight’s departure, and they’re required to fill out a further travel declaration within 24 hours of their arrival. Otherwise, you are free to go and enjoy yourself. It sounds like our writer did:
The Maldives’ private-island resorts have always traded on their exclusivity, but during my stay at Constance Moofushi this week it felt at times like the resort really was mine alone.
Occupancy languished around or below 20 per cent throughout my four-night visit, meaning I attended morning yoga classes on my lonesome; strolled its coral sandbank solo and snorkelled its spectacular house reef without another soul in sight (the harmless sharks and iridescent shoals of fish that encircled me were far more impressive company anyway).
“Border controls” for French people going to ski abroad
French prime minister Jean Castex has announced “random border controls” will be in place to deter skiers from travelling for their fix on the slopes this Christmas.
During an interview on French radio this morning the prime minister also discussed the potential of testing and quarantine for those that look to foreign slopes to bypass the closure of ski lifts in France.
Yesterday president Emmanuel Macron suggested that the government was considering “restrictive and dissuasive measures” to prevent French skiers from crossing borders this Christmas, especially to Switzerland where resorts are open.
The news comes as protests continue in French ski resorts over the Christmas closure of lifts, a major demonstration is due at Bourg Saint Maurice train station this morning. A final decision on when resorts might reopen fully, likely mid-January, is expected by December 11.
Read more: Which European ski resort will reopen first?
What happened yesterday
A quick recap of the top stories:
Canada extends travel ban until January
Cornwall will welcome visitors from Tier 2, says head of local tourism
EasyJet joins Ryanair in 'race to the bottom' by charging passengers extra for cabin bags
Travellers who have had Covid will be exempt from Iceland quarantine
Now, on with today's news.