Quarantine, testing and temperature checks are pointless when coronavirus infection rates in destination country are high, says ECDC
Ramsgate was a small fishing town until its harbour was built and bestowed with Royal Status by King George VI, when it became the place for sea-bathing and promenading. But these days this faded Georgian seaside resort is quiet. All too quiet.
Not many people are as synonymous with a place as Rick Stein is with Padstow. Dotted around the harbour of this quaint fishing town, the celebrity chef boasts four restaurants, a cookery school, a deli, a gift shop, a fishmongers and a patisserie – alongside an abundance of luxury rooms across eight different properties. Rick’s son Jack, who is chef director at his dad’s restaurants, took some time out of his busy morning of prep at the flagship Seafood Restaurant to tell me how optimistic they are – especially after today’s vaccine approval news. “Although it’s a strange situation to be in, we’re hopeful about the coming weeks,” said Stein. “We’re really fortunate that Cornwall has managed to keep its cases low. We’re also fortunate that we’re now in Tier 1, but I’m well aware of the horrifying hospitality situation in bigger cities right now.” “We have to try and take the positives and make the most of the situation,” Stein continued. We’ve been working on Rick Stein at Home boxes which have had an incredible take-up, and we will 100 per cent continue with those even once we get back to normal. Cornwall has become the number one staycation destination for a lot of people, which is great news for us going forward.” Padstow is clearly making the most of the Tier 1 placement. Since news broke of the town becoming just one of three lowest tier English destinations, table bookings have been flooding in, while their rooms are also ready for visitors looking for a festive getaway. I’m staying in a cosy room above the restaurant where extra precautions are in place to make guests feel comfortable, including health checks, additional sanitation procedures and socially distanced breakfasts. This week, those aforementioned guests would normally be flooding in for the annual Christmas Festival, which takes over Padstow’s pretty harbour. As I write this, the jolly sounds and festive smells of a Christmas market should be illuminating the atmospheric streets, but it’s quieter than I anticipated – even with the festival cancellation.
Ahead of me, a pair of black-and-white spaniels sniffed their way around luggage trolleys and legs in the queue for Air France’s bag drop. Behind me, a cluster of families were unpacking and repacking their suitcases – victims of the baggage allowance rules for their respective airlines. It felt almost like a normal morning in Heathrow’s Queen’s Terminal, aside from all the masks and Covid-era signage. It wasn’t normal, of course, as today marked the return of international leisure travel for people in England, who have been under the Government’s non-essential travel ban since November 5. With flights leaving for Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and plenty more destinations, the world opened up again to travellers – even those without a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving the country. But, despite this good news for eager holidaymakers and suffering travel businesses, there was little jubilation at Terminal 2 this morning, and certainly no sign of the mass exodus I saw on the last day before lockdown on November 4.
Sadie Whitelocks gets the inside track from Luca Roncoroni, the creative director of Sweden’s famed Icehotel
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. “Although Cornwall has been placed in tier 1, we are not yet out of the woods. In Wales, where their lockdown ended only 17 days ago, we’re seeing a renewed spike,” he said. The best hotels in Cornwall Dr O’Sullivan also pointed to the fact that even tier 1 measures greatly impact hospitality businesses’ ability to function as they would like to. He stated: “We do not feel that, under the current circumstances, we can't offer the level of service that we want to provide or that our guests have a right to expect. Entertainment and delicacies are normally prevalent here throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Yet with all the restrictions in place, we would not be able to operate in a manner that our guests have all become so accustomed to.” Under tier 1 ‘medium alert’ restrictions, the ‘rule of six’ applies indoors and outdoors, while pubs and restaurants must shut at 11pm. Somewhat confusingly, visitors from tier 2 locations must follow the rules from the area they came from, meaning that overnight stays with anyone outside of your household or support bubble are not allowed.
“Prosecco?” asked my friend Erin, as we waited in Heathrow for a flight to Dubai last week. I’m not usually the sort to celebrate a flight with bubbles, but in this instance, it seemed fitting. A toast to my first long-haul flight since the start of this year’s pandemic.
Sufficient testing capacity and hospital beds must be available for resorts to open under new rules
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.” Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, which is a restricted substance on board aircraft. It's a logistical complication for airlines, but not an insurmountable one. “The maximum quantity of dry ice our aircraft can currently carry is 1,000kg,” explains Kennedy. “So while everybody would love to fill every inch of a cargo hold with vaccine, unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. “But we have streamlined the process, and have also introduced a new ‘Pharma Secure’ service for transportation – with a 24/7 support team, automatic live status updates and periodical integrity checks [on the drug].” Until this year, cargo accounted for just 10 per cent of Virgin Atlantic’s turnover, but while passengers have stayed grounded it has fulfilled a vital role in the transportation of goods. “For the first time in the airline’s history, we are operating cargo-only flights,” says Kennedy. “It is a testament to the hard work of our teams that we have completely re-engineered our cargo business into a successful freight-only operation, enabling businesses to transport critical supplies around the world.” “We used to be limited by passenger traffic: we could only send cargo on routes that were being served by passenger flights. But now, cargo business is leading the way – and we are flying to destinations that we’ve never flown to or from before.”
Portugal relies on British holidaymakers. We are the country’s biggest single visitor group: 2.5 million of us travelled to Portugal in 2019 and 35,000 UK nationals live there. In 2020, arrivals from the UK have plummeted by up to 70 per cent. Since the UK advisory against non-essential travel first came into force in March, Britons have had just three weeks in which they could visit Portugal without having to quarantine on their return. The country needs unimpeded movement between the two nations more than ever. “[Our visitor numbers] went back 25 years, to the numbers of 1995, which is terrible, especially because we have 10 times the number of companies [in the tourism industry] that we had then,” explained Luis Araujo, president of the National Tourism Board of Portugal, told Telegraph Travel. Given that Portugal’s Covid-19 infection rate is now sitting at 308.7 per 100,000 residents, it will have to rely, for the time-being, on the successful implementation of the UK Government’s ‘test to release’ scheme. This will see quarantine times for arrivals from countries without a travel corridor, such as Portugal, slashed from 14 days to five, with a negative test result. By next year’s peak summer tourist season there is a hope that the vaccine will have helped travel to return to somewhat normal. However, for Britons, a new barrier will apply: the end to the transition period.
While bookings for week-long ski holidays continue to struggle, operators are seeing an increase in demand for long-term rentals
It’s been a turbulent year for holidaymakers, but thankfully literature can transport you anywhere. Michael Kerr rounds up his top travel books for Christmas. 1. Greenery: Journeys in Springtime by Tim Dee The travel book I enjoyed most this year was one the publisher classified as “Nature Writing”. It is, partly. But leaving it there is like saying that Wordsworth was a gardener and Springsteen is a harmonica player. Tim Dee can write brilliantly, beautifully, about anything, and Greenery – which is travel and memoir and poetry and music and human as well as natural history – is perhaps his best book yet. Having noted that spring moves north at about the speed of swallow flight, he tracks the season and its migratory birds all the way from South Africa to Scandinavia. His book is about how spring works on people as well as birds, animals and plants; about the possibility of life growing from death. In the midst of a pandemic, it couldn’t be more timely. (Jonathan Cape, £18.99) 2. To The Lake by Kapka Kassabova Born in Bulgaria, raised in New Zealand and now living in Scotland, Kapka Kassabova is a citizen of the world, but she can never escape the pull of the southern Balkans. With Border (2017), which won the Stanford Dolman prize, she focused on the land where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey run into one another. This time, with To the Lake she turns her attention to the two oldest lakes in Europe, Ohrid and Prespa, which nature united but nation states have divided. A fine book in its own right, it also serves as an excellent follow-up or companion volume to Border; part of a sustained examination of the effects of fences on the ground and in the head and their enduring legacies. (Granta, £14.99) 3. Fifty Miles Wide by Julian Sayarer Julian Sayarer has been around the world by bike and across America as a hitchhiker; his account of the latter journey, Interstate, won him the Stanford Dolman prize in 2017. In Fifty Miles Wide, he’s back on two wheels in Israel and Palestine, weaving from the ancient hills of Galilee, along the walled-in Gaza Strip and down to the Bedouin villages of the Naqab Desert. He talks to Palestinian cyclists and hip-hop artists; to Israeli soldiers training for war and a lawyer who had a leading role in peace talks. Sayarer is committed to the Palestinians’ cause, but his book conveys powerfully what life is like for people on both sides of “the world’s most entrenched impasse”. At the same time, it’s full of free spirits, and the joys of freewheeling. (Arcadia Books, £9.99) 4. The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by A Kendra Greene “If you plant a tree,” they say in Iceland, “you’ll get more trees in the same place.” This country of 330,000 people has more than 265 museums and public collections, almost all established in the past 20 years. There’s one of stones, collected by a woman on her daily walks, one of mammal penises and one of sea monsters (or, at least, of the stories told by people who claim to have seen those monsters). Greene, an American writer and artist who has herself worked in museums, looks into what the collections tell us not just about the curators but about their country. Her wonderfully quirky book is a reminder of “all the things we might hear, if only we would ask”. (Granta, £14.99)
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. The accreditation recognises enhanced safety procedures put in place to reduce the risk of infection, transmission and a subsequent coronavirus outbreak on board two Saga ships: Spirit of Discovery and the line’s brand new ship Spirit of Adventure, which is due to set sail for the first time in May 2021. Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Nick Stace, Saga’s chief executive of travel, said: “We want to create the safest place in the world to see the world, and that’s what I think we can do with this [the Shield+ accreditation].” “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.” Mr Stace is confident that, come Easter, land-locked Britons will be able to take to the water once again. He told Telegraph Travel: “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.”
There’s no denying that this year has been incredibly tough on the hospitality industry. 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. 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. She and Ivan soon made a name for themselves on the food market circuit with their wood pigeon kebab, before the opportunity to open a site in London’s Neal’s Yard presented itself. With a tiny budget and a government grant, the pair opened Native to great success, capturing a zeitgeist for beautiful-looking farm-to-fork dishes celebrating local producers and seasonality. Native later moved to Southwark Street near Borough Market and remained there until Covid came along and made the concept untenable. “We were planning to reopen Native, and had plans for a second London site, but then lockdown happened and we couldn’t do either,” says Imogen. With no outside space and only a small number of tables inside the restaurant it wasn’t really set up for social distancing, and so the pair made the difficult decision to close. “We were kitchen-less for the first time in four years and it made us take stock and reassess what we wanted to do. Then out of the blue in August, we were offered an opportunity to run a restaurant on Osea, an island off the coast of Essex. We jumped at it. I’d never even been to Essex before!”