No new corridors, but business travellers exempt from quarantine

Greg Dickinson
·33-min read
The Transport Secretary confirmed that people travelling for business will be able to skip quarantine  - Getty
The Transport Secretary confirmed that people travelling for business will be able to skip quarantine - Getty

No destinations have been added or removed from the UK’s travel corridors list, Grant Shapps has announced. However, business travellers arriving from high-risk countries will be exempt from quarantine from December 5.

The Transport Secretary confirmed that ‘high-value’ business travellers, along with performing artists certified by the Arts Council, TV production staff, journalists, and elite sportsmen or women, will be able to enter the UK without needing to go into self-isolation. 

The move was recommended by the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which warned that business travel would be particularly slow to recover. 

The current quarantine period for ordinary travellers is 14 days, but as of December 15 this will be reduced to as few as five if arrivals obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR test result.

The failure to add more countries to the travel corridors list is the latest blows for holidaymakers and the UK’s beleaguered tourism industry. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) this week lifted its blanket advice against non-essential travel, but there are still only 23 countries that English holidaymakers can visit without major restrictions.

This week The Telegraph revealed that international travel could be opened up in the new year through passport ‘vaccine stamps’. The stamps are being considered by ministers at the Department for Transport as a way to boost the struggling aviation sector.

However, industry bosses remain sceptical that travel will get back to normal before 2022. Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni, said: “We do not believe that normal travel will resume in the coming months. Whilst the news of vaccines is very welcome and provides a pathway to a full recovery we anticipate that testing will be an important facilitator of travel for some time to come.”

Scroll down for more updates.

05:58 PM

That's it from us

We'll be back tomorrow to unpick this evening's announcement and work out whether playing football on the beach makes one an "elite sportsperson". 

Here's a reminder of today's key stories:

  • Business travellers, along with a clutch of other professions, will be exempt from quarantine after December 5

  • No new travel corridors, however

  • Travel to Wales from Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas of England and Scotland is permitted again

  • Despite a vaccine, industry insiders fear travel will not return to normal until 2022

Have a good evening. 

05:51 PM

World Travel & Tourism Council backs ‘reopening’ of business travel

Gloria Guevara, World Travel & Tourism Council President & CEO, said: “The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) supports the Government’s initiative to kickstart business travel following today’s announcement by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, believes this move will bolster business travel and provide a significant boost to the fragile UK economy.

“Last year international business travel contributed £7.5 billion to the UK economy which demonstrates how vital it will be to reviving the country’s battered economic fortunes.

Last year international business travel contributed £7.5 billion to the UK economy - Getty
Last year international business travel contributed £7.5 billion to the UK economy - Getty

“Only yesterday, WTTC welcomed the latest guidelines from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (EASA/ECDC), which proposed exempting journeys of up to 72 hours free from quarantines to restart international business travel.

“WTTC also backs the further study of this initiative, which is currently being actively reviewed by the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce, of which WTTC is a key contributor, as part of a drive to resuscitate travel by the Department for Transport.”

05:45 PM

Travel allowed between Wales and parts of the UK

People will be allowed to travel between England and Wales for ‘non-essential’ reasons, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Welsh citizens will be able to enter Tier 1 and 2 areas in England and Scotland from 6pm Friday (December 4), and people in Tiers 1 and 2 in England and Scotland will once again be able to travel to Wales for leisure.

This means that people in Wales will be able to travel to London and Liverpool, for example, although Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham (all in Tier 3) remain off-limits.

However, the Welsh Government still “strongly advises” people in Wales to avoid travel to parts of the UK, even if they have lower levels of Covid-19.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “There will be no restrictions on travel within Wales but we need to have some restrictions on travel across the border to those parts of the UK where infection rates are high to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We are also advising people in Wales not to travel into those parts of England and Scotland where the infection rate is lower, to help prevent them taking coronavirus with them.

“Coronavirus doesn’t respect borders – we all have a part to play in keeping Wales and the UK safe. Please think carefully about where you are going and what you are doing. This virus thrives wherever we come together with others.”

05:31 PM

Mixed reviews of business travel exemption

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has welcomed the news:

Others are less impressed:

05:27 PM

What's a 'high-value' business traveller?

Charles Hymas has more details:

The Transport Secretary granted the exemption from 4am on Saturday to British and foreign business executives who could deliver “significant” benefit to the UK economy.

The transport department has devised three categories to define “significant benefit,” starting with senior executives of multinational firms visiting their UK subsidiaries with more than 50,000 employees in Britain whose jobs could be safeguarded by their trip.

Second are returning UK based executives whose exemption would be granted for “specific activity” which would “create and/or preserve” 50,000 UK jobs.

Third are foreign-based executives or their representatives seeking to make a £100,000-plus investment in the UK, place a contract with a UK business with a value of £100,000 or more, or entrepreneurs setting up a new business within the UK that would create 50,000-plus jobs.

Read the full story

05:22 PM

'Quarantine exemption for business travellers is an insult to ordinary Brits'

Rob Crossan is seething: 

Never mind the mockery of apparently becoming immune to Covid if you eat a ‘substantial meal’ in a pub. It now appears that if you have a ‘substantial job’ which requires travel then you can ignore all the other lockdown rules too.

Such is the increasingly surreal worldview of this Government whose pompously titled Global Travel Taskforce (chaired by Matt Hancock and Grant Shapps) today announced that, from early next year, business travellers (along with performing artists, TV production staff, journalists and elite sportsmen or women) visiting England for up to three days from countries deemed high-risk won’t need to bother quarantining themselves on arrival.

The need to prise our economy out of lingering torpor is entirely understandable. But the idea of suited potentates and executives from Stockholm to Seville being granted freedoms that Brits who happen to have occupations that don’t require all expenses paid overseas travel (like front line NHS workers and care home staff, for example) is as nauseating as it is baffling.

Read the full story

05:09 PM

Exemptions also announced for TV production staff

As well as performing arts professionals, journalists and "elite sportspersons". More important than ordinary travellers, it seems. 

05:05 PM

Business travellers to be exempt from quarantine

More details to follow. 

05:00 PM

No changes to the travel corridor list

Disappointing news for travellers. Last week (during a national lockdown) we were given 10 (albeit useless) corridors. This week (when holidays are possible) we get nothing. 

04:58 PM

Come back later

The U.S. Capitol remains closed to tours as the pandemic continues - Getty
The U.S. Capitol remains closed to tours as the pandemic continues - Getty

 If one photo could sum up 2020 for travellers, this might be it. 

04:56 PM

Lack of testing could hurt chances of new African travel corridors

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, notes that most African countries are not doing mass testing – something that does not work in their favour when it comes to the Government's travel corridor policy. 

04:51 PM

Ryanair orders more 737 Max planes in boost for Boeing

Ryanair has given Boeing its first firm order for the 737 Max after the plane was grounded in the wake of two crashes that killed almost 350 people.

The budget airline has agreed to buy 75 more aircraft just weeks after US aviation regulators cleared them to fly again.

The new agreement means Ryanair will take delivery of 210 737 Max-8200 jets starting early next year.

The Max was grounded in March 2019 following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Boeing has worked intensely with the Federal Aviation Authority to rectify problems with the control system linked to the crash, which pushed the aircraft into a dive that pilots could not recover from.

Ryanair has 470 earlier models of the 737 and said the new aircraft, which are more fuel efficient, will replace some of its existing aircraft that have been grounded by lack of demand for flights due to coronavirus.

Read more: Ryanair boss says nervous 737 Max fliers will be allowed to disembark and change planes

04:46 PM

15 minutes until this week's travel corridor announcement

Every Thursday at 5pm Grant Shapps announces details of the Government's weekly review of its travel corridor policy. Here's what we're looking out for today:

  • New corridors? The Government is under pressure to add more long-haul options, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Costa Rica, Egypt, Brazil and Jamaica are also open to Brits, have a lower case rate than the UK, but still have not corridor

  • It seems unlikely that any corridors will be ditched, with the UAE (including Dubai) the only destinations possibly at risk

04:41 PM

The strange tale of Flight 19, the mystery that sparked the Bermuda Triangle myth

December 5 1945 has clung to the popular imagination as something significantly sinister, writes Chris Leadbeater. 

Read the full story

The legendary "Lost Squadron" of Flight 19 - Getty
The legendary "Lost Squadron" of Flight 19 - Getty

 

04:40 PM

The 20 best holidays for spring 2021

Recent weeks have brought increasingly good news about the hunt for a Covid vaccine – from Germany, from the USA, from Oxford, writes Chris Leadbeater.

In the UK, vaccinations for certain groups will start next week  – with immunisation of the wider populace continuing in the new year. 

And this brings with it the alluring image of travel picking up again fully just as winter packs its bags – of an April and May when borders and beaches are open, and all those holidays that were dreamed of amid the gloom off 2020 are suddenly possible again.

beach in thailand - Getty
beach in thailand - Getty

Chris has picked out 20 trips for those two months, from Easter breaks on Spanish shores to the longer-haul journeys that have been so impractical of late. 

Take a look at his suggestions.

04:24 PM

Czechs toast Christmas return to pubs and shops

Czechs raised glasses in pubs, grabbed lunch again at restaurants and hit the shops for the first time since October today, as coronavirus measures were eased before the Christmas season.

prague cafe - Shutterstock
prague cafe - Shutterstock

After curbing one of Europe's fastest spreads of the coronavirus and despite fears the re-opening could lead to a surge of infections, Czechs cooped up for weeks headed eagerly out to shops, hairdressers, restaurants and pubs allowed to open with capacity requirements.

"It is certainly a huge benefit and I think it adds to the Christmas atmosphere that people can enjoy the shops again," said Marcela Judlova after shopping on Prague's central Wenceslas Square.

Czech media reported scattered lines of customers outside shops and hairdressers around the country. One pub manager told Reuters a line of people was outside before doors opened.

04:16 PM

'African communities are on their knees because this government doesn't care about travel'

Every British tour operator has suffered this year, with global travel restrictions putting much of the world out of reach, writes Oliver Smith.

Even now, nine months on from the start of the Covid pandemic, a quarter of countries – 59 in total – still haven’t reopened their borders.

Safari holidays support countless livelihoods - Getty
Safari holidays support countless livelihoods - Getty

But for long-haul specialists like Expert Africa, founded by Chris McIntyre 26 years ago, the situation has been particularly dire. 

The Government’s travel corridor list dictates where Britons can go without needing to quarantine on their return home, and, until the addition of Namibia and Rwanda last month, the whole of Africa has been snubbed. Furthermore, thanks to the Foreign Office’s blanket non-essential travel advisory, tour operators are hindered from even offering trips to non-corridor countries. 

“It’s been a challenging year to say the least,” McIntyre tells Telegraph Travel. “Annually, we usually take around 1,200 guests on high-end safaris, with around half of our clients coming from the UK, a quarter from the US, and the rest from a range of other countries. Since March that figure has fallen by around 80%.”

Read the full story.

03:59 PM

Father Christmas will be allowed a travel corridor to deliver presents, minister confirms

Away from increasingly frosty vaccine debates, a fun festive exchange has taken place in Parliament as a minister has confirmed that Father Christmas can deliver presents to houses across the UK without having to be vaccinated or to self-isolate on his return home to the North Pole.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told concerned MPs that Santa Claus will be allowed a travel corridor to deliver presents to families across the country in a few weeks time and "won't have to be vaccinated".

Asked for further reassurances that the elves will be able to resume their usual positions helping in Santa's workshop this year amid Covid restrictions, Mr Rees-Mogg clarified that they count as "key workers".

He added he was "not entirely sure" if the elves would have to wear face coverings while carrying out their duties.

But there remains slight confusion around Santa's vaccination status, as earlier today, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he would be "at the top of the list".

Prof Van-Tam told the BBC: "Oh, absolutely. The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) made a very special case for Father Christmas and he is going to be absolutely at the top of our list."

03:37 PM

Christmas travel banned in Italy as ski resorts remain closed

A new law has been passed in Italy that prohibits travel between towns and regions this Christmas – a final blow for ski resorts that will likely not be able to reopen this year.

The new rules will apply across the country and ban anybody from travelling between provinces over festive period until January. Restrictions will be tightened even further on particular days when people will not be able to leave their local towns.

Lucy Aspden has the full story.

03:28 PM

Catalonia to keep restrictions in place as Covid rates worsen

The Spanish region of Catalonia will not relax coronavirus restrictions on Monday as originally planned because of worsening infection rates, officials said, prompting some ski slopes to postpone their planned opening next week.

The winter skiing season has become a source of tension among European countries, with some allowing resorts to open and others, like Spain's neighbour France, banning it and planning border checks to stop people from crossing the border to ski.

In Catalonia, a northeastern region that borders France, public ski resorts had planned to open after a December 8 bank holiday. But these ski slopes will not open until Catalonia relaxes restrictions, among other conditions, said a spokeswoman from the public company that operates the resorts.

"We were reducing (contagion rates) very quickly ... Now the reduction is almost undetectable," Catalan health secretary Josep Maria Argimon told a news conference, explaining why the region was not easing Covid-19 restrictions as planned.

Catalonia will not be easing restrictions, as planned - Getty
Catalonia will not be easing restrictions, as planned - Getty

The situation worsened after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen on November 23, Argimon said, adding that the current restrictions would remain in place for at least another 15 days from December 7.

Moving to the next phase would have allowed bars and restaurants to admit more customers to their indoor spaces, shopping malls could have opened and a ban on travelling outside one's municipality at weekends would have been scrapped.

03:07 PM

Government under pressure to add more travel corridors at 5pm

The Government is under growing pressure to add travel corridors to more long-haul destinations, now people in England can travel once again. 

Yesterday, the Government lifted its blanket ban advising against all non-essential travel. There is still advice to only travel when necessary, but this is not legally binding.

However, much of the world still remains off-limits to British travellers. Almost all of Europe’s top destinations are red-listed, and – notably considering its low case numbers – the vast majority of Africa.

Speaking in support of Telegraph Travel’s Unlock Long Haul campaign, Chris McIntyre, MD of tour operator Expert Africa, said: “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.”

As it stands, there are 33 African countries that British holidaymakers can enter right now. However, there are only two countries (Namibia and Rwanda) with travel corridors, meaning travellers do not need to go into quarantine on their return.

Grant Shapps is due to update the nation on Government’s travel corridors list at 5pm. 

02:25 PM

21 amazing cruises for 2021, from up-close wildlife to tranquil paradise islands

In this annus horribilis for travel you could be forgiven for thinking that cruise holidays are off the agenda, writes Teresa Machan. That those who dream-up itineraries, plan excursions and build ships have collectively shut the door and hung up the closed sign.

"On the contrary. When they can, ships will sail – and not just the classic routes but on new itineraries, too.

After a year with little travel, 2021 could be the chance for the most memorable holiday yet – like an Antarctica - Andrew Peacock
After a year with little travel, 2021 could be the chance for the most memorable holiday yet – like an Antarctica - Andrew Peacock

"Whether it's a pampered pootle along Italy's Po river, an expedition cruise to the Aleutian Islands or a jaunt around our beauteous British Isles, there are plenty of new itineraries. There are ship launches in the pipeline too, among them Celebrity Apex, which sailed into Southampton last week on her way to the US, Silversea's Silver Dawn, and the first of two new expedition ships from British cruise line Swan Hellenic, returning to service after a four-year hiatus."

Read the full story. 

02:16 PM

Meet the conservation hero saving Zimbabwe's animals, both big and small

Amos Gwema, the winner of this year's Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award, uses limited resources to make a remarkable difference, writes Sarah Marshall

"Cradling a pangolin bigger than a basketball, as it unfurls its scaly rudder of a tail, Amos Gwema is enjoying a special moment. Historically revered in Zimbabwe, the prehistoric mammal is too superior to be considered a totem animal, and finding one is a sign of prosperity. But today any good fortunes are in the pangolin’s favour as it prepares to embark on a second lease of life.

"A month ago, Amos seized the shy, endangered creature from poachers, who were planning to profit from its highly prized scales or sell it for ‘blasting’ – a senseless ritual, where the animal is jetted with water in the belief its plates of armour will transform into dollar notes."

Read the full story.

01:58 PM

In Buenos Aires, an eight-month lockdown forced more into poverty

Buenos Aires residents, or Porteños, endured one of the world's longest stay-at-home orders  – rule-breaking crept in as unemployment soared, writes Christine Gilbert.

"On a quiet quarantine night at the end of March, my roommate sat at our kitchen table, looked at me and said in Castellano: “This is not our first crisis.” The usually busy cobblestone street below was bare except for a lone police officer.  

"President Alberto Fernandez had recently announced the first two-week extension of a strict two-week quarantine for the Buenos Aires capital area, including the city. Many more would follow. “We will get through this. Argentines are experts at crises,” said my roommate. 

"Fast forward eight months to this past Sunday. From our kitchen window, in the neighborhood of San Telmo, we could see masked shoppers below walking through the recently reopened street fair. People browsed stalls filled with vintage clothing, plants, antiques, and football memorabilia."

Read the full story.

01:40 PM

Castle tours to cookalongs: How cruise lines have kept their fans 'travelling' this year

It’s been more than eight months – eight long months – since the first cruise companies suspended sailings in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, writes Sara Macefield.

Others followed like dominoes and, aside from a handful of exceptions, have remained in limbo while clinging on to hopes of a slow return to service next year. Yet while cruise devotees have been deprived of their regular dose of vitamin sea, they haven’t been completely marooned. Behind the scenes, cruise life has continued apace as leading lines have channelled their energies into building and nurturing online communities brought together by interests as diverse as live musical recitals, Zumba classes and even a sprinkling of Disney magic.

Read the full story.

01:21 PM

Indonesia sees new daily record 8,369 coronavirus cases

Indonesia has recorded its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections with 8,369 new cases, according to its Covid-19 task force, which attributed the jump to a lag in some areas reporting cases.

The sharp spike – more than 2,000 cases higher than the previous record on Sunday – brings Indonesia's infections total to 557,877, among the highest in Asia. It has so far recorded 17,355 deaths related to Covid-19.

Experts say the Southeast Asian nation's low testing has masked a higher number of infections.

Cases have steadily risen since March but the volume of new daily infections has increased in recent weeks, with record daily infections in four of the past nine days.

Task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said Thursday's spike was due to data reporting and verification delays in several regions. That included Papua, he said, where all 1,755 of the cases it has recorded since November 19 were reflected in Thursday's national figures.

"This very high number is caused by a system that's not optimal at accommodating real-time recording and data validation," Wiku said. Central Java and West Java also had lags, he said.

The recent jump in daily cases, however, was a worrying indicator.

"This shows that the rate of transmission is still increasing," he said. "It happens because people increasingly flout health protocols and this negligence could be fatal."

Coronavirus Indonesia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Indonesia Spotlight Chart - Cases default

01:11 PM

Africa foresees 60 per cent of people vaccinated against Covid in two to three years

Africans might need to wait two to three years for a vaccination, according to the African Union's disease control group.

The continent of 1.3 billion people has recorded more than 2.2 million confirmed Covid-19 infections, according to a Reuters tally.

Some European countries, including the UK, are planning to roll out vaccination campaigns in the next few weeks, but the African Union's disease control group says vaccinations are unlikely to begin until midway next year. Even after two to three years, it is only estimated that 60 per cent of people will have been vaccinated.

12:57 PM

Manchester Airport prepares for testing

David Spicer, of travel services firm Collinson, prepares to conduct a novel Covid-19 test on the first day of operation of their testing site adjacent to Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport. 

David Spicer, of travel services firm Collinson - AFP
David Spicer, of travel services firm Collinson - AFP
The new testing centre at Manchester Airport - AFP
The new testing centre at Manchester Airport - AFP
David Spicer conducts a Covid-19 test at the new centre - AFP
David Spicer conducts a Covid-19 test at the new centre - AFP
The new centre at Manchester Airport - AFP
The new centre at Manchester Airport - AFP

Collinson are offering paid-for Covid tests at their airport locations in Manchester, East Midlands and London for passengers whose destination country requires them. 

12:23 PM

Covid-positive cases drop 28 per cent in a week

A total of 110,620 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to November 25, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

This is down 28 per cent on the previous week and is the lowest total since the week ending October 14.

12:22 PM

Unanswered questions on Christmas travel plans

Labour has called for greater clarity over the plan for Christmas travel, saying there are still "many unanswered questions" including whether works on the East Coast Mainline will go ahead as scheduled on 27 December. 

Grant Shapps this morning said "clearing 778 miles of roadworks and postponing rail upgrade works will ease congestion".

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “It’s welcome that Ministers have finally announced a plan for Christmas travel but there are still many unanswered questions.

“The Government must ensure engineering works do not clash with the limited window in which people can travel and that all peak fares are suspended during the travelling period, not just leave it up to operators.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that Covid has not gone away. Ministers must take charge of the situation to ensure passengers do not face Christmas travel chaos and risks to their health on overcrowded services."

12:08 PM

Ruby Wax: 'I reinvented myself after a vision quest in a California redwood forest'

"It was not so much a holiday as a work trip, but it turned out to have a profound effect on the direction my life took," writes Ruby Wax. 

"My television career came to an end when the phone stopped ringing and I decided to reinvent myself. Maybe it was meant to be"
"My television career came to an end when the phone stopped ringing and I decided to reinvent myself. Maybe it was meant to be"

"In 1991, I made a BBC documentary called Ruby Takes a Trip. It was about a spiritual journey in America that I was meant to take the mickey out of. It started off being ridiculous, with me getting covered in crystals and meeting unusual people such as a guy who channelled my late father and claimed he was now a cat. All kinds of crazy stuff. 

"I had researched all the contributors for the show myself, and somehow, gradually, the journey became more and more profound, without me realising it. I believe that work holiday set me off on my eventual career in psychology and mindfulness. "

Read her full article, here.

11:47 AM

Win a £200 holiday voucher

To celebrate the festive season, we're offering the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas in our Travel Advent Calendar competition.

Answer three questions about Argentina for your chance to win - Getty
Answer three questions about Argentina for your chance to win - Getty

Answer three questions about Argentina for your chance to win.

11:39 AM

Austria to open ski resorts on Christmas Eve, but for locals only

Ski resorts in Austria will be allowed to reopen on Christmas Eve as lockdown restrictions in the country are eased, but only to locals.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz confirmed the shutters will be lifted on ski lifts just in time for Christmas, after they were forced to shut down in early-November.

Resorts such as Obergurgl and Sölden, which were hoping to reopen on December 11, and Ischgl, Lech and St Anton, who were all preparing to welcome skiers from December 17, will now have to postpone their plans. 

When they do reopen the maximum capacity in gondolas will be reduced to 50 per cent and an extensive list of safety measures will be in place, including compulsory face coverings and social distancing.

Lucy Aspden has this story.

11:24 AM

'When the tourists left Myanmar, the snakes returned'

When the coronavirus pandemic ground tourism to a halt, a perceived silver lining was the effect this would have on the planet as nature reclaimed destinations that had before been the preserve for travellers and tour buses.  

Turtles began peacefully laying eggs on Koh Samui in Thailand, shoals of fish were seen swimming in the clear water of Venice canals, and at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco a nonchalant coyote was spotted strolling through a parking lot. 

In Bagan, the ancient site of over a thousand temples in the centre of Myanmar, the snakes returned. 

Bagan, described by Somerset Maugham as “huge, remote and mysterious, like the vague recollections of a fantastic dream”, is Myanmar’s flagship destination - Getty
Bagan, described by Somerset Maugham as “huge, remote and mysterious, like the vague recollections of a fantastic dream”, is Myanmar’s flagship destination - Getty

Since the last international tourists hastily departed in March, pythons and banded kraits, slowly and quietly, made their way into the dark recesses of Bagan’s pagodas, curling up behind sitting Buddhas and the murals of King Kyansitha. A Burmese python can live for up to 20 years. Some of the oldest may well remember a time when Bagan was always this quiet. 

Read the full feature: 'Without tourists, Myanmar has travelled back in time – and its people face devastation'

11:04 AM

Travel 'not back to normal until 2022'

“Things are definitely looking up since the announcement of the vaccine and we are confident that most travel will resume within Europe from Easter," says Stephen Ellison, Head of Marketing at Vintage Travel.

Could the vaccine unlock travel? - Getty
Could the vaccine unlock travel? - Getty

"We expect some restrictions – not least, proof of vaccination to travel and cross borders and the continued use of masks in public places until infection rates are seen to be under control.  However, we don’t see a full return to  ‘normality’ until 2022 when confidence may return and we will look to trade in a more traditional way”.

10:56 AM

Which countries could be added to the travel corridor list at 5pm?

There are plenty of contenders with a lower Covid rate than the UK (153.8 per 100,000), although it seems the Government is punishing other countries for not carrying out as much testing as Britain. 

Here are some of the hopefuls, all of which are open to tourists:

  • Costa Rica (seven-day case rate: 139.7)

  • Brazil (118.5)

  • Cape Verde (66.4)

  • Mexico (50.9)

  • Ecuador (42.4)

  • South Africa (34.7)

  • Botswana (33.3)

  • Jamaica (13.2)

  • Kenya (11)

  • Egypt (2.6)

10:35 AM

Norwegian Air seeks more cash to keep flying

Budget carrier Norwegian Air has proposed a new restructuring and share sale as the embattled airline fights to weather the pandemic. 

The Oslo-based company proposed a package of debt conversion, aircraft divestment and sale of new equity in a bid to survive the crisis. It hopes to raise up to 4bn Norwegian crowns (£340m) from the share sale, it said. 

Norwegian added: “The company asks for the continued support of its shareholders to prepare for future capital increases in parallel with the restructuring of its balance sheet.”

It comes after the long-haul carrier filed for bankruptcy protection in an Irish court last month as it scrambled to secure a rescue deal.  It elected to file court proceedings in Ireland as its aircraft are held in the country.

Norwegian has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as its business model focuses on offering cheap transatlantic travel, which has been suspended since the outset of the crisis. Only six of the carrier’s 140 planes are currently in use. 

10:18 AM

Will Greece keep hold of its remaining island travel corridors?

Only five Greek islands now have corridors, of which Corfu has the highest seven-day case rate: 44.1 per 100,000. All look safe for the time being. See here for the latest stats:

  • Crete: 37.2 per 100,000

  • Rhodes: 34.6

  • Corfu: 44.1

  • Zakynthos: 2.5

  • Kos: 9

Coronavirus Greece Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Greece Spotlight Chart - cases default

10:07 AM

American ski resort sees a record number of visitors

It’s no secret that skiers and snowboarders are desperate to get back to the slopes – one ski resort in American is putting this to good use, writes Lucy Aspden.

Telluride in Colorado saw 1,500 skiers on its slopes on the first day of the season last week, a new record, raising $38,425 for charity in the process.

Telluride saw 1500 skiers on its first day after reopening - Getty
Telluride saw 1500 skiers on its first day after reopening - Getty

“We had received a foot of new snow the weekend prior, so we knew there was a lot of pent up demand,” said Jeff Proteau, Vice President of Mountain Operations. “Our opening day is Donation Day with a $25 lift ticket and all proceeds are donated to the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club (TSSC).” As part of the resort’s new Covid safety measures, all lift passes were purchased in advance online, so the resort can monitor capacity.

TSSC mentors and teaches youngsters and athletes of the future in the resort _  two-time Olympian Gus Kenworthy is one of its most notable alumni.

“Like all non-profits, TSSC was struggling, so we knew this year, more than any other year before, it was very important to get open and provide them with a solid donation,” said Proteau.

09:59 AM

How will Brexit change travel?

Our Deputy Head of Travel, Ben Ross, goes through everything you need to know. 

09:50 AM

When will travel get back to 'normal'?

John Grant of OAG, a global travel data provider, says it might be some time:

All of the recent great news needs to be put in context. It will take a long time for sufficient vaccine coverage around the world to be in place for us to be able to travel without rules and requirements that we previously did not have. However, those rules will not be particularly onerous, travellers who have been vaccinated and have a health certificate will be able to travel freely to most countries. This process could take us well into the second half of the year though so it would be unwise to expect a sudden global rush but the UK market looks like being ahead of the game at this stage which is a positive development for an industry decimated by a lack of support this year.


The one sector that looks extremely vulnerable at the moment is corporate demand which is not picking up and where research has suggested that anything up to one-third of previous demand will not return instead replaced by digital technology; for those airlines with a large global network and proportion of business class capacity that may represent a problem that extends well beyond the end of 2021. And of course airlines are already planning for that new normal with the retirement of the A380 and B747’s from many established operators.

09:30 AM

Australia to keep borders shut

Australia's borders will likely stay closed for "some time", Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, despite progress in rolling out Covid-19 vaccines.

The UK on Wednesday approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine, stoking hopes of rapid inoculations across the world.

But Mr Morrison said Australia would keep its borders closed to non-Australian citizens and non-permanent residents.

"On international borders we're still some time away from that," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra. 

Foreigners are not allowed to enter Australia for the foreseeable future, Scott Morrison said - Getty
Foreigners are not allowed to enter Australia for the foreseeable future, Scott Morrison said - Getty

09:21 AM

Reports warn about digital health passports

Digital health passports should not be introduced on a mass basis until Covid-19 tests and vaccines are readily available, a report has warned.

Researchers said the failure to address issues with the availability and affordability of tests and vaccines risks excluding already vulnerable people from protection against Covid-19.

Digital health passports, also known as immunity passports, are digital credentials which when combined with identity verification allow people to prove their health status.

Report author Dr Ana Beduschi, from the University of Exeter, said policymakers needed to strike a balance between protecting the rights and freedoms of all individuals and safeguarding public interests while managing the effects of the pandemic.

She warned digital health passports may interfere with several fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, the freedoms of movement and peaceful assembly.

It also warns that the use of digital health passports may have an impact on equality and non-discrimination.

If some people cannot access or afford Covid-19 tests and vaccines they will not be able to prove their health status, thus having their freedoms de facto restricted.

09:12 AM

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.

Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker Extended
Coronavirus Quarantine Tracker Extended

08:49 AM

What we learnt yesterday

A re-cap of yesterday's main 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

Now, on with today's stories