UK 'will not hesitate' to tighten borders, Priti Patel warns

Emma Beaumont
·34-min read
The Government is expected to announce strict new border measures, including quarantine hotels - Getty
The Government is expected to announce strict new border measures, including quarantine hotels - Getty

The Government "will not hesitate" to take further action and strengthen border restrictions to protect the UK from new Covid-19 variants, the Home Secretary has told MPs, ahead of an expected announcement on quarantine hotels.

Speaking in the Commons, Priti Patel insisted that the UK has had a "comprehensive strategy for public health measures at the border" since January 2020.

"To date, Border Force has checked an estimated 3.7 million passenger locater forms, issued over 2,300 fixed penalty notices and referred over 22,000 cases to the police," Ms Patel said.

She added that the UK has a "world-leading vaccination programme" and the Government will do "everything it can to protect the rollout from new strains of the virus".

It has emerged that later today quarantine hotels are likely to be announced for travellers arriving from high-risk countries, including in South America, Portugal and South Africa.

Earlier today Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine minister, added that it is "too early" to know if summer holidays will go ahead.

But Ms Patel told Labour it would be wrong to speculate on what measures may be introduced.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman added that the UK "will continue to keep our measures at the border under review to ensure that we don't reimport cases."

Scroll down for the latest updates.

05:46 PM

What did we learn today

A recap of today's main stories.

  • Poll suggests Britons ‘support tough travel restrictions’ to tackle Covid

  • Florida bans ‘vaccine tourists’

  • ATOL protection for refund credit notes extended to March 31

  • Biden tightens travel ban

  • Quarantine hotels could contravene our human rights, says lawyer

  • New Zealand: Borders to remain closed for much of this year

Join us tomorrow for more live travel updates.

05:32 PM

Whitty: Variant changed the equation 'substantially'

Boris Johnson is then once again pushed on whether he regrets some of the decisions made by the Government during the pandemic. He repeats that the Government has "done everything we can to minimise lives lost" and is deeply sorry about every single death.

Prof Chris Whitty adds that the unexpected element in the equation has been the new variant - this was not expected last September and changed the situation "substantially".

He says that two weeks ago there were concerns that current restrictions would not stop the spread - though more recent data looks like they are now stemming transmission.

Sir Simon Stevens adds that on Christmas day there were 18,000 positive patients in the health service - there are now 33,000. But he says the increase in cases has moved from the south to the midlands and the north, which is consistent with the spread of the new variant.

05:31 PM

Whitty: Vaccination strategy is a 'balance of risk' to reduce mortality

Prof Chris Whitty is asked about vaccines. and the UK two shot strategy. He says the approach means twice as many people will have an element of protection.

He lists a number of concerns that have been raised, including that the strategy may give rise to new variants of Covid-19. But there are signs that a longer gap between jabs, especially for the AstraZeneca vaccine, could lead to greater protection - which will reduce this risk of new variants, he said.

"The balance of risk in terms of reducing the number of deaths in the community is to maximise the number of people who get that first dose, where the great majority of protection comes from," Prof Whitty added.

05:15 PM

Is the Government working to reopen travel?

Q: Is the Government working proactively to ensure safe travel mechanisms, including shared databases, so we can get business going as soon as possible?

PM: "What we want to do is look at where we’ve got to by 15th February [...] and see where we are in terms of reducing the spread of infection and what we’ve done to protect the most vulnerable.

"I think it’s fair to say [...] the rate of infection is still forbiddingly high, but at a certain stage we will want to be getting things open. But that will depend on us continuing in succeeding to drive the rate of infection down.

"What I will be doing in the coming weeks is setting out in more detail when, and how, we can get things open again. But that will depend on us continuing to beat the disease."

05:12 PM

'Hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim stat', says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson kicks off today's Downing Street press conference by offering his thoughts to those who have lost loved ones, following the announcement that 100,000 people have died to date from Covid-19 in the UK.

"It's hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic, the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended and for many relatives not even the chance to say goodbye."

The Prime Minister added that he promises that we will gather together to commemorate the lives lost and the "immense national effort" to tackle the pandemic - from health workers to scientist developing vaccines and key workers.

"We will make sure we learn the lessons and reflect, and prepare," he added.

"Until that time, the best and most important thing we can all do to honour the memory of those who have died is to work together with greater resolve to defeat the disease."

04:59 PM

Watch the Downing Street press briefing

Watch live as Boris Johnson holds today's 5pm press briefing.

04:57 PM

Downing Street press conference is at 5pm

Boris Johnson will speak to the nation in just under five minutes, as the UK death toll exceeds 100,000.

04:49 PM

Best Western ready to mobilise as quarantine hotels 'within 48 hours'

Chief executive Rob Paterson said: “We could turn this around within 24 to 48 hours for an open hotel, and a bit longer for an unopened hotel.”

Mr Paterson told BBC Breakfast: “Through our project with the NHS supporting discharge patients, we’ve got the protocols and the whole infection control management side of things taken care of."

He added that it would be an “entirely contactless and quite a sterile experience” for guests.

04:37 PM

Which of our favourite holiday destinations will persist with face masks post-pandemic?

In Asia, face masks have long been a part of everyday life – could Westerners follow? Annabel Fenwick-Elliott expores.

No one loves wearing a mask, and plenty of us hate them, so how much longer might we expect to be lumbered with them? Professor Chris Whitty has suggested we'll still be wearing them next winter, even with the majority of the population vaccinated. Other scientists have made the case for encouraging their use during every flu season.

Indeed, face coverings are commonplace in parts of Asia, having persisted even after epidemics like SARS, and not just for hygiene reasons. For some, in Japan, they are fashion statements or even social firewalls; akin to the wearing headphones on the Tube, or sunglasses inside – the ultimate ‘don’t start a conversation with me’ ploy. But some cultures lend themselves better to the customary shielding of people's faces.

We asked our experts stationed across Europe and beyond to report on the general public mood surrounding masks in various countries, and how likely they might be to keep their place in society even post-pandemic. In France, no way, we're told – but in New York, just maybe...

Find the full story here.

04:29 PM

Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park bins its reservation system

Rocky Mountain National Park - Getty
Rocky Mountain National Park - Getty

The US national park famed for its extensive wildlife and 300 miles of trails brought in a timed-entry system when it reopened in May 2020 in order to aid social distancing and to limit congestion, and thus prevent the spread of Covid-19. At the very beginning of the pandemic, the park has been completely closed off for several months (from March 21 to May 26).

The timed-entry system, which placed a cap of 60 per cent on vehicle entries, resulted in a 31 per cent reduction in visitor numbers in 2020 compared with the previous year.

From now, visitors will no longer have to register online in advance to secure a parking permit for an allocated time. Rangers will however be able to implement restrictions if congestion occurs.

Each national park in the United States has different rules and regulations in place, which can all be found here: nps.gov

04:19 PM

'Beyond a joke' – Reaction to reports the Government’s Global Taskforce is no longer active

TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs' Association) General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has labelled the apparent decision of the Government to end of the work of the Global Travel Taskforce as “beyond a joke”.

The taskforce was established in October last year with the aim of working with the travel sector on testing to reduce self-isolation for arrivals to this country, increasing consumer confidence and reducing barriers to the safe and sustainable recovery of the international travel trade.

However, TTG (Travel Trade Gazette), has reported that the Taskforce is ‘no longer active’.

Commenting, Manuel Cortes said: “I’d like to laugh at this appalling decision from the Government on the future of the Global Travel Taskforce, but frankly they are beyond a joke.

“With our travel industry on its knees due to the impact of the virus it seems Ministers have chosen to take this step, without consultation with our industry, business or trade unions, while we are still in this pandemic. Our travel industry has once again been thrown to the wolves.

“Now, just when we need absolute clarity over quarantine and testing plans the Government has pulled the plug on the very body which should have been holding the road map. That is just plain daft – and we must have answers as to why this step has been taken.”

04:02 PM

The Hoxton, Rome will open in the Italian capital this spring

Now for a little afternoon optimism. Despite the ongoing travel chaos, the hip Hoxton group has confirmed it will open its 10th property this May in the Italian capital.

The Hoxton, Rome
The Hoxton, Rome

The hotel, which sits close to Villa Borghese, features a large open lobby laden with statement vintage seating set around a central fireplace, a sleek all-day diner, sweeping coffee bar and shaded outdoor terrace.

The hotel’s bedrooms reference the nostalgic interiors of classic Italian cinema, while the brightly coloured bathrooms nod to mid-century design.

Each room has timber wall-panelling, a bespoke statement headboard and an eclectic mix of furniture. Some of the best feature striking Murano glass chandeliers reclaimed from the original building.

The Hoxton, Rome
The Hoxton, Rome

03:43 PM

Norwegian Cruise Line looks to make Covid vaccine compulsory for crew

Norwegian Cruise Line 
Norwegian Cruise Line

One of the world’s largest cruise lines has outlined plans to make Covid jabs mandatory for its staff.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Norwegian said: "We are exploring all options regarding vaccinations for guests and crew and it is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties, subject to availability of the vaccine."

"We will continue to partner with global and domestic authorities and the Healthy Sail Panel, our team of leading expert advisors, to explore all options necessary to protect guests, crew and the communities visited."

Norwegian has not confirmed whether it is considering making vaccinations mandatory for guests.

03:29 PM

Iceland’s vaccine certificate programme won’t initially include British travellers

Iceland has announced that tourists from the EU who have been fully vaccinated against Covid won't need to quarantine on arrival in the country.

As such, British travellers have not made the initial list, though there is hope this could change by the time non-essential travel is allowed.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland told the Mirror: "Certificates from the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted once WHO has authorised their use for Covid-19 vaccinations and set the required criteria for which vaccines can be listed in their certificate.

"Currently, only certificates from the EEA/EFTA-area which fulfil the Chief Epidemiologist’s requirements are accepted at the Icelandic border. This does not include the UK at this time, but as soon as the UK vaccine certificates are validated by the WHO, we will be looking at whether we can accept them at our borders."

03:07 PM

Ryanair extends free flight changes until March 31

The budget airline announced it is extending its 'zero flight change fee' for customers who book before the end of March . It is also allowing up to two booking date moves until October 31.

A Ryanair spokesperson said: “If your plans change, so can your booking. To provide as much flexibility and confidence as possible for Ryanair customers, we have extended our zero flight change fee for all bookings made in January, February and March.

"Mindful that Covid restrictions change regularly, Ryanair is now allowing up to two free flight date changes on all such bookings up until October 31."

They added: "Customers can now book flights to see family & friends this Easter or book a well-deserved Summer 2021 break with confidence knowing that if they need to postpone or change their travel dates, they can do so with a zero change fee until the end of October 2021”.

Ryanair has extended free flight changes in the face of increased restrictions
Ryanair has extended free flight changes in the face of increased restrictions

02:54 PM

Are people cancelling holidays amid the prospect of hotel quarantine?

So far tour operators are not reporting mass cancellations in the face of increased border restrictions. Here's the view from two big players.

A spokesperson for Kuoni said:

"In short no people aren’t cancelling en masse. We’re talking to everyone who has a holiday booked and many people due to depart over the next few weeks. We are giving them the option to move their holiday dates as we have been doing for the past year. Our policy is to contact everyone due to travel over the next three weeks and talk through their options. Many want to hang onto their holiday and have something to look forward to. There is definitely a hesitancy about new bookings though for summer – people want certainty and to “wait and see” so they are holding off. Most new enquiries and bookings are now for 2022 travel but our phone lines are busy – people are desperate to get away and are still making plans, but much further out.”

David Child, Head of PR and brand for Thomas Cook, said:

“We are not seeing any cancellations at all – and in fact yesterday had one of our best Mondays in weeks. It feels like people want to book a summer holiday or get something in for later in the year or 2022 and have something to look forward to. Customers who do want to move we are offering to change for later for free.”

02:38 PM

Hotel quarantine 'could wipe out more than £548million from UK economy every day'

Gloria Guevara, World Travel & Tourism Council CEO, has called on the Government to “urgently extend the furlough scheme” for those employed in the travel industry.

She said: “Without it and a comprehensive support package for businesses up and down the country which have been devastated by the pandemic, the UK’s travel and tourism sector could be decimated.

“International travel will be all but wiped out and according to WTTC analysis the UK economy could lose a staggering £380,000 every minute – or almost £548 million every day.

“The Government has a duty to share its economic impact assessment so we fully understand the effect these measures will have on the sector and the wider economy,

“If the UK is to have any hope of reviving the economy after the pandemic, we have to protect a sector which will be instrumental in kick starting it.”

The Government is expected to announce new border restrictions later today.

02:33 PM

Vaccine tourism: Casino boss caught jumping jab queue in Canada

In another case of so-called ‘vaccine tourism’, a casino company CEO has been accused of flying to a remote region of Canada to access a Covid jab.

Rod Baker, 55, and his wife Ekaterina, 32, travelled from Vancouver to the northern Yukon territory and are said to have posed as motel workers to secure the shots. Data shows that the remote region has a faster vaccination rate than in the rest of the country, but is still currently prioritising ‘high-risk’ groups.

The pair were rumbled when they asked to be taken to the airport straight after their jabs. Mr Baker has since resigned from his job.

Yukon - Getty
Yukon - Getty

02:20 PM

Travel poll: Would you still go on a summer holiday if you had to pay to quarantine in a hotel when you came home?

02:14 PM

Saga suffers social media backlash over vaccine requirement

The over-50s travel specialist has come under fire on Twitter for announcing that it will require all customers to have had Covid vaccinations.

Tour operator Tradewinds Travel branded the company “disgusting” and said “you will never get treatment like this from us.”

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Some social media users agreed, with one writing: “Saga has shot itself in the foot.” Others supported the cruise and travel operator, calling the policy: “'a smart move' and 'brave and bold.'

Last week, Saga outlined its plans to resume holidays – informing customers that only those who are “fully vaccinated” may travel. Holidaymakers must have completed their vaccination course at least two weeks before departure, said the firm.

The new vaccination policy will be “in addition to the detailed arrangements we have already put in place for when cruises and other holidays restart,” explained a spokesperson.

01:59 PM

Stop blaming skiers, we're neither narcissists nor super-spreaders

Skiers shouldn't be slammed for their eagerness to get back on the slopes, writes Abigail Butcher:

January 2021 began with a conversation on Twitter I could have done without. A follower, commenting on my coverage of the ‘Verbier Midnight Express’ kept insisting skiers were narcissists for wanting to go to Switzerland for a holiday.

The travel corridors policy that allowed skiers to enter Switzerland perfectly legally at that time also allowed sun-seekers to hit the Maldives and Dubai – yet those holidaymakers were not subject to the same nasty names. Why?

It’s because skiing has always, and will always, be viewed as a pastime for the rich and famous, and surely any Hooray Henry stupid enough to strap planks to his feet and pop on a woolly pully is fair game, right? And of course this 'entitled' section of society believe they are above the law, right? No. Wrong. All wrong.

Find the full story here.

The Lauberhorn race was cancelled in Wengen, but British skiers weren't to blame - JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT/SHUTTERSTOCK 
The Lauberhorn race was cancelled in Wengen, but British skiers weren't to blame - JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT/SHUTTERSTOCK

01:45 PM

With overseas summer holidays in doubt, it’s time to buy a campervan

Take control of your holidays and invest in a campervan – you'll never look back, writes Ellen Manning:

The coronavirus pandemic may have limited our travel, but it hasn’t stopped us dreaming about how we might holiday in 2021.

One answer is the staycation, with camping seeing a resurgence last summer and looking set to be just as popular this year. Sales of motorhomes, caravans and campervans shot up last year and show little sign of letting up in 2021 and even if people don’t want to buy their own, there are plenty of opportunities to rent, with Cool Camping joining the ranks by launching their own range of campervans to hire.

Long before coronavirus, my husband and I decided to invest in a VW campervan. With two dogs to take with us, the flexibility of his shifts as a firefighter and my ability to work anywhere with a mobile signal, it seemed the perfect way for us to holiday.

Read the full story.

01:27 PM

British Tourism Board 'ready to go' once UK restrictions eased

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates comments:

As the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic continues the public’s health and safety remains the UK Government’s priority. VisitBritain had already forecast that we would not see international visitors in any great numbers until spring this year at the earliest, when we could begin to see some signs of a slow recovery, if national restrictions eased. We had also forecast an 80 per cent decline in inbound tourism spending in 2020 alone, with a £24.7 billion loss to the economy.Once restrictions have eased we will be ready to launch campaigns in our major inbound markets, promoting all the wonderful experiences to be had in Britain and competing for international visitors who are worth billions to our economy. Our We’re Good To Go industry standard is already well established across the UK with businesses ready to safely welcome international visitors back when restrictions can be lifted.

01:14 PM

These countries are reopening to vaccinated travellers – which might follow?

Three destinations have announced they will reopen to visitors who have received two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine, writes Emma Featherstone:

The Seychelles and Romania have reopened to visitors from anywhere in the world who have received two doses of an authorised vaccine for Covid-19.

Iceland also plans to waive quarantine rules for visitors with a international vaccine certificate (it already does so for travellers who can prove they previously had the virus). The country is due to finalise a system for Icelanders who have been fully vaccinated to obtain a Covid-19 vaccination certificate. However, no such document has been announced for people who are inoculated in the UK, although The Telegraph reports that the Government is funding eight vaccine passport schemes.

The announcement from the Seychelles followed the start of its vaccination roll-out: it plans to become the first country to immunise more than 70 per cent of its population under 18. "From there we will be able to declare Seychelles as being COVID safe," said President of the Republic of Seychelles, H E Wavel Ramkalawan.

Read the full story.

The Seychelles  - Getty
The Seychelles - Getty

01:04 PM

New Zealand: Borders to remain closed for much of this year

New Zealand's borders are likely to remain closed for much of 2021 while health officials monitor vaccine rollouts, Ben Farmer reports.

The country's prime minister said her government would not re-open its borders, which have been effectively closed to all but returning citizens since March 2020 while the pandemic was still raging worldwide.

"Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of a vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year," Jacinda Ardern told reporters.

The country would instead aim for travel bubbles with Australia and Pacific islands which have been successful at controlling the virus.

12:58 PM

Quarantine hotels could contravene our human rights, says lawyer

An international law firm has suggested that quarantine hotels could contravene our basic human rights, under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) states that everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person, except in very specific circumstances.

Such circumstances include “the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases.”

But law firm PGMBM argues that the suggested quarantine – which would be enforced regardless of whether the person is known to have Covid-19 or not, and therefore whether they are infectious – could potentially breach Article 5 of the ECHR.

Tom Goodhead, Barrister and Managing Partner of PGMBM, said: “These proposals of a blanket imposition of hotel quarantine, at travellers’ own expense, raise fundamental questions about the denial of liberty of those subjected to it.

“Article 5 of the ECHR specifically states that no one shall be unduly deprived of their liberty. Whilst there is a provision that may allow the denial of that liberty to prevent the spread of infectious disease, under these proposals inbound travellers would be detained even if they did not test positive for Covid-19.

Read the full story.

12:44 PM

Priti Patel is currently answering questions about Covid border measures in the House of Commons

The Home Secretary is defending the Government's "comprehensive approach" to border controls.

She cites passenger locator forms, flight bans, quarantine measures and the test-and-release system to back-up her point.

She won't comment on speculation surrounding the introduction of quarantine hotels, but says: "the UK has a world-leading vaccination programme which is something we should all be proud of.

"It is therefore right that the Government does everything and continues to do everything it can to protect the roll out of the vaccine from new strains of the virus and we keep all measures under review and will not hesitate to take further action to protect the public."

12:27 PM

Lunchtime read: 10 things you don't know till you're asked to quarantine on arrival

Quarantine-on-arrival sounds simple enough, but what are the things they don’t tell you? Emma Cooke explains what to expect, from cleaning to food delivery.

Read the full story.

What to expect in hotel quarantine - Getty
What to expect in hotel quarantine - Getty

12:15 PM

Biden tightens travel ban

President Joe Biden has re-imposed a travel ban that Donald Trump lifted shortly before his term ended on visitors from Brazil and much of Europe, including the UK. He also enacted a new ban on South Africa over its new Covid variant.

The news comes as the US recorded its first case of the Brazil variant from a resident who had recently travelled from the country.

Confirmed Covid cases in the US have now surpassed 25 million, though rates have dropped in recent days. California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has just lifted a stay-at-home order in the hard-hit state.

11:59 AM

These vaccine passport schemes could be our ticket to freedom

vaccine
vaccine

Despite restrictions increasing, there is cause for optimism, writes Hannah Boland.

Vaccine passports, hailed as a ticket to freedom, could eventually open up travel once again for the masses - and they are gaining global acceptance.

Right now, "every airline is looking at this," says Alan Murray Hayden, from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). "The thing is, they know that they can't [check every passenger] manually. We have to have a way of actually automating the checking of both the vaccine and the test results, or our industry won't start flying again."

Already, carriers such as Qantas, Emirates, Etihad and American Airlines have unveiled their own plans. United Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Swiss International Air Lines and JetBlue have said they will be adopting “CommonPass” digital health-passports for testing information, which are expected to eventually include vaccination status.

The aim is to ultimately “give all governments the confidence to re-open borders to travellers based on verified vaccine and testing data,” says IATA.

Read the full story.

11:50 AM

ATOL protection for refund credit notes extended to March 31

The Air Travel Trust has announced that it will extend ATOL protection for new refund credit notes issued up until the end March.

This means that customers whose package holiday bookings are cancelled will be able to safely accept a refund credit note. Consumers continue to remain entitled to a cash refund should they not wish to accept a refund credit note.

Paul Smith, consumer director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “We recognise that changes to government restrictions on travel have an unprecedented effect on ATOL holders and on consumers with ATOL protected bookings. In light of these circumstances, we have extended ATOL protection for refund credit notes.

“This will allow for travel companies to offer their customers refund credit notes in good faith and mean that consumers will not be at financial risk if they choose to accept a refund credit note rather than a cash refund.”

11:37 AM

Announcement on hotel quarantine ‘today’, Vaccine Minister says

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi has warned that the UK needs to be "very careful" as new Covid strains emerge, and confirmed an announcement on hotel quarantine plans would be made today.

In an interview with Sky News he said: “There will be an announcement on this issue later on today, so I can only say to you that it is the right thing to do, because I am the Vaccines Minister, that as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”

When asked if people should hold off on booking a summer holiday, Mr Zahawi replied: "Absolutely” and added "I think it's far too early.”

11:22 AM

Florida bans ‘vaccine tourists’

Florida has moved to ban non-residents from receiving a Covid jab, after reports of visitors crossing state lines in hopes of securing a shot.

The state now requires those getting the vaccine to show proof of residency at their appointments.

Covid vaccinations are controlled on a state level in the US, with Florida currently offering shots to any adult over the age of 65, plus healthcare workers. Many other states are only offering vaccines to those over 70 along with frontline workers.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told CNN: “You’ve got to live here either full-time or at least part-time. Now we do have part-time residents who are here all winter, they go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine.”

“What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

Florida is looking to crack down of vaccine tourists
Florida is looking to crack down of vaccine tourists

11:10 AM

Ireland extends lockdown and announces quarantine hotels for travellers from South Africa and Brazil

Ireland will remain under a strict lockdown until at least March 5, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has announced.

Further to this, in an effort to stop the spread of new Covid variants, arrivals from South Africa and Brazil must quarantine in Government-regulated hotels. All but essential travel is currently banned in Ireland.

However, Mr Varadkar indicated that the Irish Government has ruled out a ‘zero Covid’ approach, as adopted in New Zealand, saying it "wouldn't work in an Irish context"due to too high-levels of transmission.

10:55 AM

Quarantine hotels 'a final nail in the coffin for the ski industry this winter'

Quarantine hotels would be “a final nail in the coffin for the ski industry this winter and an absolute catastrophe for the travel sector as a whole,” said Rupert Longsdon, founder of The Oxford Ski Company, who warns: “The damage this could cause is immeasurable.”

With continued uncertainty for international travel in the short term, the focus for skiers is now on 2021/22. “Clients are very much focussed on next winter. 80 per cent of new enquiries over the weekend and this week are for next winter,” said Longsdon. But with snow conditions in Europe currently exceptional, some would still jump at the chance to ski this season, if it was possible.

“Half of those enquiring about next season have said they would still travel this winter too if permitted. The willingness to get away is still there and they are really hoping they can,” said Longsdon.

10:46 AM

'This waiting game is soul-destroying' – pub owners at breaking point over lockdown uncertainty

Members of the pub and bar industry have weighed in on the latest news that any return to normality may be delayed by at least a further three months for the hospitality industry.

According to a source familiar with the discussions, a 12 to 14 week ‘halfway house’ lockdown is potentially in the works for after Easter, delaying a full reopening of hospitality venues until all over-50s have had their second dose of the vaccine.

Proposals currently being considered by government ministers would see pubs and bars allowed to open in April under similar restrictions to those in place last summer – including a return of the ‘rule of six’ and social distancing measures.

Responses from those in the industry have been mixed, ranging from rampant upset to enthusiasm for anything that provides some kind of plan for reopening. A uniting thread, however, has been a call for more clarity.

Emma Cooke has the full story.

10:37 AM

Inside the Mayfair hotel offering a five-star quarantine experience

As the travel industry braces for the prospect of Government-regulated quarantine system, we explore a hotel already operating as luxury isolation property, albeit on a smaller, more informal scale.

Rather than shutting down in the face of increased restrictions, Flemings Mayfair has been welcoming a steady stream of isolating business and essential travellers over the past few months.

Needless to say, the experience is a step-up on most isolation facilities.

Read the full story.

Flemings
Flemings

10:25 AM

News of 'quarantine hotels' sparks debate on Twitter

Among those discussing the effectiveness of a hotel quarantine system last night were former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and presenter Kirstie Allsopp:

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10:16 AM

UK quarantine hotels: How would they work and what do new rules mean for holidays?

Cabinet ministers are today expected to finalise plans to introduce quarantine hotels in the UK.

Travellers arriving into the country from selected destinations would be required to complete their quarantine under strict supervision, paying up to £1,500 for their 10-day isolation period.

Quarantine hotels, or 'directed isolation' facilities, are already in use across Asia, New Zealand and Australia. But how might the idea work in the UK, and which arrivals would have to comply?

Hazel Plush breaks down what the new system could look like.

Police stand guard at a hotel in Melbourne - Getty
Police stand guard at a hotel in Melbourne - Getty

10:07 AM

Tour operators react to prospect of increased travel restrictions

As the travel industry grapples with the prospect of yet more restrictions, two tour operators detail how they are dealing with the news.

Tom Harding, founder of Nemo Travel

"Once again both travellers and agents are in limbo. Staycation enquiries are up 180 per cent in the past seven days, which is a sign of things to come. We’re working on a number of European trips from June onwards, offering 100 per cent cancellation policies to give travellers some confidence in planning. We’ve also had a number of enquiries for 2022 for long-haul and more adventurous destinations, such as Botswana or Sri Lanka, a sign that travellers are playing it safe due to the uncertainty on time-frames. Having a diverse range of product has never been so important."

Alice Gully, co-owner of Aardvark Safaris:

"At this point with so much uncertainty about when travel bans can be lifted and the quarantining in hotels looming, the only thing that is crystal clear is that we need financial support for the outbound travel industry – for the airlines and for the tour operators. For many specialist operators, we are looking at over a year of severely stunted operations and devastating travel restrictions. While we respect the Government's priorities to keep residents of our island nation protected, the outbound travel industry desperately needs a roadmap out and more support while the government continues its vaccine rollout."

09:58 AM

Watch: Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Ski lifts in France might be still closed but that didn’t stop a French skydiver from making the most of a bluebird day and the empty mountains in Val d’Isere.

Fred Fugen, a member of the Red Bull-sponsored Soul Flyers team, has performed a daredevil flight down the resort’s famous Face de Bellevarde slope.

It’s the second time Fugen has flown above the World Cup ski run. In July he did a practice flight with teammate Vince Reffet – sadly, Reffet died in a training accident in Dubai four months later. Fugen has dedicated his latest descent to his friend, saying “It was a flight of hope for winter sports in Val d’Isère and across the world.”

Watch his flight and ogle at the beautiful French Alps and empty slopes here:

09:46 AM

Couple fined for driving 130 miles in search of Sunday roast takeaway

North Yorkshire Police have issued a fine to a couple who drove from Derbyshire to York in search of a takeaway roast dinner.

The pair were fined £200, with police officers writing on Facebook: "Driving 130 miles in search of Sunday lunch is not an essential journey."

They added: "We know nobody does Yorkshire puddings better than us here in Yorkshire... but they're really not worth getting into trouble for.”

A number of motorists have been hit with travel fines in recent weeks, including two friends who drove five miles for a walk in Derbyshire, though the penalty was later rescinded.

09:40 AM

Poll suggests Britons ‘support tough travel restrictions’ to tackle Covid

New data from YouGov indicates that Britons are in favour of tougher temporary travel restrictions.

An overwhelming 92 per cent of those surveyed supported the current rules that require all arrivals in the UK to present evidence of a recent negative Covid test.

Notably, 87 per cent agreed with requiring incoming travellers to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. Severe measures such as using GPS trackers to ensure arriving passengers isolate and banning all international flights also garnered surprisingly high levels of support: 70 per cent and 64 per cent respectively.

At yesterday’s Downing Street press briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was "incredibly important" that "we are cautious at the border."

09:28 AM

Watch: Holiday overseas under threat? Here's how to enjoy a Great British Summer instead

For many, the start of a year brought with it dreams of summer holidays abroad to help forget a dreadful 2020 dominated the pandemic.

But as ministers have repeatedly warned, Covid-19 is not going away for good any time soon.

The speed at which the virus is able to spread means that booking holidays abroad is an uncertain business.

But whatever restrictions mean for overseas travel, summer in the UK has lots to recommend it, according to The Telegraph's Deputy Head of Travel Ben Ross.

From the honeypot destinations of Cornwall, to Yorkshire cycling and Scottish road trips, Ben reveals the best places in Great Britain to enjoy your summer.

09:21 AM

Major hotel group to offer guests in Mexico and the Dominican Republic free Covid tests

Melia Hotels has announced it will offer free rapid Antigen testing for all guests staying at its 10 hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Melia
Melia

The move follows increased border restrictions in countries such as the UK, which now requires all arrivals to present evidence of a recent negative Covid test.

Participating hotels include: Paradisus Playa Del Carmen, Paradisus Cancun, Paradisus Los Cabos, ME Cabo, Meliá Cozumel, Meliá Puerto Vallarta The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real, Paradisus Palma Real, Meliá Caribe Beach Resort and Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort.

Last week, RCD Hotels announced that it will offer guests free Antigen tests at its Mexico and Caribbean hotels, which include Nobu Los Cabos and a number of Hard Rock properties.

09:09 AM

Travel industry reacts to hotel quarantine plans

There’s more reaction this morning to the Government’s plans to introduce a hotel quarantine system.

Gloria Guevara, the chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, says:

“The UK travel and tourism sector is in a fight for survival – it’s that simple. With the sector in such a fragile state, the introduction of hotel quarantines by the UK government could force the complete collapse.”

“Travellers and holidaymakers would simply not book business or leisure trips knowing they would have to pay to isolate in a hotel, causing a drastic drop in revenues throughout the sector.

“WTTC believes the measures introduced by the government just last week – proof of a pre-departure COVID-19 test, followed by short quarantine and another test if necessary, could stop the virus in its tracks, and still allow the freedom to travel safely.”

08:54 AM

What happened yesterday?

A re-cap of yesterday's main stories.

  • Airline shares tumble as tighter restrictions loom

  • Travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand suspended for 72 hours

  • Ryanair forced to pull controversial 'Jab and Go' advert

  • Taiwan quarantines more than 5,000 people

  • Ireland eyeing up Q3 for 'meaningful' reopening of tourism

  • Iceland to launch vaccine certificates

  • UK faces £80m bill for Eurostar collapse

  • Hays Travel to close 89 stores

Now, on with today's stories.