Fresh blow to ski season as France closes nightclubs for a month

·32-min read
Ski holidays this winter are far from straightforward. Pictured: Val d'Isère - Getty 
Ski holidays this winter are far from straightforward. Pictured: Val d'Isère - Getty

Ski holidays have been dealt another blow with the announcement that nightclubs in France will shut for a month from this weekend.

The move will subdue the apres-ski scene and comes amid rising hospitalisations in the country and fears over the emerging omicron variant. Elsewhere, the use of Covid passes (which show proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or recovery from the virus) has been extended to restaurants and cafés at outdoor Christmas markets. The population has also been urged to temper social engagements in the run-up to Christmas.

When announcing the measures, Prime Minister Jean Castex, who himself recently caught the virus, said: “We have all had a tendency to lower our guard in recent weeks.”

However, he assured the population that due to France’s high vaccination rates “it's no longer the time for lockdowns”.

Prospective ski trips across Europe have been rocked by increased Covid restrictions in the past fews weeks. Austria is currently in a full lockdown, which is set to last until December 13. Meanwhile, Switzerland recently imposed a 10-day quarantine on all UK arrivals – though this has since been dropped. Testing rules have also been beefed up, making trips costlier and more stressful.

Follow the latest updates below.

05:30 PM

That's a wrap

We're calling time on today's travel blog. Here's a reminder of the key stories.

  • The closure of nightclubs across France for at least a month dealt ski holidays another blow

  • The World Heath Organisation, the United Nations, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury joined calls for governments to scrap travel restrictions

  • However, EU ministers called for even more curbs on travel, including extra testing and even mandatory quarantines

  • Abta warned that new restrictions could ‘tip travel companies over the edge’

We'll be back tomorrow. Goodnight.

05:14 PM

England's real winter wonderlands – five magical places to visit

Forget Lapland or Alpine villages. Head for one of these magical corners of England for a true winter wonderland, says Brian Jackman. Log fires guaranteed.

Read the full story.

Winter means starling murmurations - Getty
Winter means starling murmurations - Getty

05:07 PM

Storm Barra hits Britain with 70mph winds

The early effects of Storm Barra have been felt across the UK and Ireland, with gusty winds battering communities already enduring days-long power outages.

Read the full report.

The customary photo of a wave hitting the rails at Dawlish - SWNS
The customary photo of a wave hitting the rails at Dawlish - SWNS

04:59 PM

Spain to spend £612m on flagging travel sector

The Spanish government has announced a £612m package to help revamp its tourism industry after the problems of the pandemic.

The funds will go to support a sector that accounts for 12% of GDP, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said at a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Madrid.

Bloomberg reports that the funding "includes cash to finance innovative projects that seek to make tourism more competitive through greater use of digital technologies, energy efficiency and sustainable practices. Separately, regions will get subsidies to maintain historical heritage sites such as the Camino de Santiago long-distance pilgrim’s route in Galicia."

04:52 PM

A sorry sight at Glasgow Airport

A Twitter user has shared a photo of a deserted Glasgow Airport that appears to illustrate just how badly the travel industry has been hit by the return of restrictions.

04:41 PM

The debauched history of 'Chiantishire', a playground for billionaires

The latest season of Succession has arrived in Tuscany – a region that has seen more than its fair share of dynastic power struggles. Let Tim Jepson be your guide to its history and beauty.

A scene from Season Three of HBO's hit show, Succession 
A scene from Season Three of HBO's hit show, Succession

04:29 PM

EU ministers call for more travel restrictions

Reuters reports that EU health ministers discussed measures to try to halt the spread of the omicron variant on Tuesday, with the Netherlands calling for negative tests for incoming travellers from outside the bloc and France urging tests even for those arriving from EU states.

EU members last month agreed to impose travel curbs on seven southern African countries after they reported several cases of the Omicron variant, which is considered highly infectious .

At a regular meeting in Brussels, no minister suggested these restrictions should be lifted and Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge proposed negative PCR tests for all those travelling to the EU from outside the bloc.

"In addition, those not vaccinated or recovered should also be quarantined," he told ministers during a public session of their meeting.

In the fight against Omicron, French Health Minister Olivier Veran went as far as proposing tests for all travellers, including those coming from EU countries.

04:27 PM

20 of the best winter sun holidays

With doubts surrounding holidays in Europe, travellers are reportedly swapping ski breaks for winter sun (see 11:51 update). With that in mind, here are some of the best options for a last-minute escape.

Clockwise from top left: the Nile, Egypt; Sigiriya in Sri Lanka; Chichen Itza in Cancun, Mexico and Naladhu Private Island, Maldives
Clockwise from top left: the Nile, Egypt; Sigiriya in Sri Lanka; Chichen Itza in Cancun, Mexico and Naladhu Private Island, Maldives

04:20 PM

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns red list as 'travel apartheid'

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called on the Government to do away with the travel red list, saying that we cannot have a "travel apartheid".

He described the travel restrictions as "morally wrong" and "self-defeating", and warned it effectively punishes nations for being transparent when they discover new Covid variants.

"With omicron set to become the dominant variant in the UK, I appeal to the British Government to remove Nigeria and South Africa from the red list – together with all other countries currently on it," he said.

Follow the Covid live blog for more.

04:13 PM

The new Covid travel rules – from testing to quarantine requirements

Holidays have sadly become more complicated again. Here we explain everything you need to know about international travel, from testing requirements to paperwork and quarantine. Plus details on which nationals are eligible to enter the UK.

Read the full story.

04:02 PM

Omicron has spread across Denmark, say health officials

Omicron has spread across Denmark, health officials said on Tuesday after recording large outbreaks of the variant in the east and west of the country.

"We now have society-wide infection with the omicron variant," director of the Danish Patient Safety Authority, Anette Lykke Petri, told reporters.

The country has now recorded 398 omicron cases, which is higher than some red list countries but lower than the UK's caseload.

03:43 PM

Sweden reintroduces restrictions as cases rise

Sweden will introduce a number of measures in an attempt to stem rising Covid infections, with the government urging social distancing, home-working and the use of face masks on public transport.

“We see an increased spread of infection, but still from low levels,” the prime minister Magdalena Andersson, told a news conference.

“We need to work together to that the situation doesn’t get worse, so today we are presenting further precautionary measures.”

Covid cases in Sweden are on the rise after a sustained period of low levels

03:32 PM

Nicola Sturgeon 'cannot guarantee' more Covid restrictions won't be introduced

Scotland's First Minister told Holyrood that it was "inescapable" that more "protective measures" would be required to reduce the chances of Covid outbreaks. That includes working from home, wearing face masks in schools and tests.

She added that she "cannot guarantee" more measures won't be needed in the face of the omicron variant.

03:14 PM

The quickest, easiest and cheapest Day 2 PCR tests for travel

Everyone returning to the UK now needs to take a Day 2 PCR test. Here is what to look out for when purchasing a test and the best options to book. Find our full guide, here.

d - Getty
d - Getty

02:58 PM

101 further UK omicron cases confirmed

The UK has recorded 101 more cases of the omicron variant, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced this afternoon. The total number of cases recorded across the country is 437.

It's unclear how many cases are related to international travel.

02:41 PM

The biggest absurdities behind Britain's travel testing regime

No other group – with the exception of schoolchildren – has been the target of testing fever quite as much as travellers, writes Oliver Smith.

“Our key message is: test, test, test.”

When World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this in March 2020, few countries adopted the mantra with quite as much blind faith as Britain. We’ve tested like it’s going out of fashion, making other countries look positively slovenly when it comes to swabbing.

Just take a look at our testing numbers for 2021 compared with other G20 nations (below) – no other major country comes close. In fact, over the duration of the pandemic, only six nations have conducted more tests per capita than the UK (Austria, Cyprus, UAE, Slovakia, Denmark and Luxembourg).

Has all this testing done us any good? There’s little doubt that targeted testing – of hospital patients and care home staff, for example – has plenty of value. However, while it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions with so many factors in play, those countries that have tested the most don’t appear to have been noticeably more effective at blunting the pandemic.

Read on, here.

02:25 PM

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns red list as 'travel apartheid' and calls for it to be scrapped

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on the Government to do away with the travel red list, saying that we cannot have a "travel apartheid".

He described the travel restrictions as "morally wrong" and "self-defeating", and warned it effectively punishes nations for being transparent when they discover new Covid variants.

"With omicron set to become the dominant variant in the UK, I appeal to the British Government to remove Nigeria and South Africa from the red list – together with all other countries currently on it," he said.

"We must find fair and effective approaches for those who are vaccinated and tested to enter the UK. I agree with the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK – we cannot have 'travel apartheid'."

He added that Britain must "end vaccine nationalism and stockpiling", and deliver jabs to the countries that need them the most. "The choice is vaccine nationalism or human solidarity," he said.

02:17 PM

South Africa tourism rep: '36 cruise ships and thousands of holiday bookings cancelled in Cape Town'

Commenting on South Africa's red-listing, Kgomotso Ramothea, acting Hub Head at South African Tourism for the UK and Ireland, tells Telegraph Travel:

The UK Government’s decision to place South Africa back on the red list has been devastating for the tourism industry which was just beginning to get back on its feet. We were starting to make progress in welcoming visitors back to our wonderful country as we headed into the destination’s summer season.

We have already seen an impact on the local tourism industry, with 36 cruise ships that were scheduled to dock in Cape Town over the next six months having been cancelled along with thousands of travel bookings. The Western Cape’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism has commissioned an ongoing survey that looks at how local tour operators based along the Garden Route, in Cape Town and Cape Winelands are affected.

As of the end of November the feedback showed that 77 per cent have had cancellations from clients for December bookings, 59 per cent have had cancellations from clients for January bookings and 90 per cent of respondents anticipated that their revenue between December 2021 and February 2022 would be lower due to international bans.

We would urge the UK Government to reconsider current managed quarantine rules to ones that will cause minimal disruption to travel plans while ensuring that people are equally as protected.

02:04 PM

Wrap up warm and go west

That's the advice of Telegraph Travel's Wales expert Kerry Walker. For our pick of Pembrokeshire's best hotels, follow this link.

02:02 PM

The world's Covid hotspots

Eastern Europe remains the epicentre of this winter's Covid wave, with low vaccine uptake among vulnerable groups to blame for the high number of deaths in countries such as Hungary and Croatia.

01:59 PM

Travel restrictions are 'ineffective and discriminatory'

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has joined the chorus of disapproval at the ongoing restrictions on travel, particularly those rules that target African countries.

In a statement, the UNWTO said:

In light of recent developments, UNWTO has once again reminded countries that the imposition of blanket restrictions on travel is discriminatory, ineffective and contrary to WHO recommendations. Blanket restrictions may also stigmatize countries or whole regions.

During the UNWTO General Assembly, Members States and partners, including voices from international organizations and across the private sector, echoed WHO’s advice that travel restrictions should only be imposed as a very last resort in response to changing circumstances. Furthermore, it was stressed that if restrictions are introduced, they must be proportionate, transparent, and scientifically based. They must also only be introduced with a full appreciation of what halting international travel would mean for the most vulnerable, including those developing countries and individuals who depend on tourism for their economies and livelihoods.

01:53 PM

Hong Kong loses shine amid tough coronavirus restrictions

Once among the world's most visited – and vibrant – cities, Hong Kong is losing its shine among foreign companies and expats with its stringent Covid rules and 21-day quarantine for new arrivals.

The prolonged restrictions are hurting Hong Kong's competitiveness, Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, has told Associated Press. Many chambers of commerce in the city have asked repeatedly for the city to reopen to visitors at the earliest opportunity since the restrictions make it hard for businesses to connect with clients and compete internationally.

"We're not seeing any overt effort to provide plans for how Hong Kong is going to get back on track to open its international borders, and this is very difficult for businesses," Joseph said.

It isn't the only destination to have shunned overseas visitors for the duration of the pandemic, of course. Others include New Zealand, Bhutan, Mongolia and Japan.

01:39 PM

The old Scottish whisky hotel with a tasteful new look

A Highland hotel run by the makers of Glenmorangie promises to raise the spirits of whisky-lovers. Fiona Duncan reports.

What could be nicer in winter than a warm fireplace and a dram?
What could be nicer in winter than a warm fireplace and a dram?

01:31 PM

How testing now adds £400 to the cost of a family holiday

The Department for Health claims the average price of a PCR test from the 400-plus firms listed by the Government is “now under £45 with many available for £20”. You’ll do well to get change from £40, however, while some cost over £200. Lateral flow tests are a little cheaper, at around £20-£30.

Which means, with most trips abroad now requiring three tests (including at least one PCR), a family of four is looking at a bill of £400 on testing alone. Given that Ryanair flights start at £4.99 one-way, it’s no wonder travellers are feeling ripped off.

01:23 PM

How Britain has tested more than any other major country

“Our key message is: test, test, test.”

When World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this in March 2020, few countries adopted the mantra with quite as much faith as Britain. We’ve tested like it’s going out of fashion, making other countries look positively slovenly when it comes to swabbing.

Just take a look at our testing numbers for 2021 compared with other G20 nations (below) – no other major country comes close. In fact, over the duration of the pandemic, only six nations have conducted more tests per capita than the UK (Austria, Cyprus, UAE, Slovakia, Denmark and Luxembourg).

01:21 PM

‘Scrap hotel quarantine – all we need is airport testing’

Weighing in on the UK’s resurrection of the red list, and the slew of new restrictions, expert Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, tells Telegraph Travel:

It’s staggering to see the Government falling back on its old policy of restricting travel. Even the World Health Organisation has stated that travel restrictions don’t work, and we’ve seen that infections still break through borders such as in Australia and New Zealand.

It would be much better to have testing in place on departure and at your arrival airport, and then quarantines and flight bans wouldn’t be needed at all, enabling travel to continue operating as normal.

But travel firms cannot cope with the switching on and off travel at a moment’s notice and on a regular basis every time there is a sniff of a new variant. We don’t treat the flu this way – it’s time for governments to learn to live with Covid and balance health priorities with economic needs.

01:14 PM

The worst holiday of my life, featuring pickpockets and a deadly chicken tamale

Need something to cheer you up on a cold and grey Tuesday? When his Mexican holiday took a turn for the worse, Anthony Peregrine was rescued by a saint named Maria. Read all about it.

Nothing went to plan when Anthony visited the Mexican state of Veracruz - Alamy
Nothing went to plan when Anthony visited the Mexican state of Veracruz - Alamy

01:08 PM

Travel bans are ineffective and will not stop omicron, WHO says

Travel restrictions to limit the spread of Covid are ‘ineffective’ and will not stop the new omicron variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The global health body urged countries to stick to tried-and-tested methods of controlling the virus.

As the new variant spreads globally, with evidence suggesting it transmits faster than the Delta variant, WHO said vaccines and mask-wearing would help control its advance.

Speaking to reporters, Dr Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, said that bans on flights did not work and were too late "because omicron is already everywhere".

Read more on our Covid live blog.

01:01 PM

Comment: The true cost of the travel red list – and why it’s pointless anyway

The reinstating of travel restrictions is having devastating consequences on us, our economy, and those of nations reliant on tourism, writes Annabel Fenwick-Elliott.

Last December, our family broke the law so that my granny could spend her last Christmas on Earth with the ones she loved. My aunt, who under any other circumstances wouldn’t so much as run a stop sign in an emergency, agonised for days about the decision before finally caving to her 87-year-old mother’s pleadings and bundling her into the car from her dark flat in London to my home in the Essex countryside on Christmas Eve, terrified at any moment that they would stopped, arrested and fined.

Thank goodness they made it, because my granny, who died three months later from complications of a stroke, got to spend that unforgettable day with her family, warm, happy and well-fed – exactly where she wanted to be, having carefully weighed up the risks – instead of being all alone in the same four walls that had imprisoned her for the past nine months.

Why am I telling this story now? Because for anyone with relatives, friends or partners abroad, this continues to be the reality to this day. Those draconian and so-called ‘temporary’ restrictions on who we were permitted to see within the UK last Christmas have remained heavy-handed for all those who must travel overseas in order to spend time with their nearest and dearest.

Read the full story.

12:48 PM

'The earliest travellers would consider a safari now would be April'

More African tour operators have been speaking out about the impact of red list restrictions on the safari industry.

Craig Smith, Managing Director of New Frontiers, an operator working across South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and beyond, states:

We’ve seen 70 per cent of our December customers either cancel or postpone further into 2022. Even if restrictions were lifted this week, it is highly unlikely that these bookings would be reinstated. I think the market has taken a huge knock in confidence. The arbitrary nature of restrictions, the immediacy with which these can happen and the stress and financial cost associated with them will have a significant impact on the travel world – not just to Southern Africa.

This has set us back psychologically by about three months; just as we were beginning to see some take up on short-term travel in the first quarter of next year. I think the earliest travellers would consider now given the uncertainty would be April onwards.

Our US market is the most resilient currently given their less draconian restrictions for US citizens, but even this market has been spooked.

12:44 PM

'We must make progress on vaccinations around the world, to all countries’, says travel chief

Speaking about Africa's position on the red list, Sonia Davies, CEO of luxury travel operator Scott Dunn, tells The Telegraph:

Southern African economies rely heavily on tourism with the UK being a major market. In addition to supporting significant numbers of jobs, income from tourism is also key to the preservation of wildlife and the support of anti-poaching units. The move of countries onto the red list therefore has the double whammy impacting communities and wildlife.

South Africa has a comprehensive sequencing programme which ensured that the world was informed about the new variant. But levels of vaccination in local populations remains low, resulting in escalating cases. The only route to reduce this happening again is to continue to make progress on vaccinations around the world, to all countries.

We all need to play our part and support the vaccination efforts – the levels of hospitalisations and deaths are heavily linked to lack of vaccination and it is this which drives the decisions of governments to introduce restrictions. Sadly, for Southern Africa and the travel industry, we are bearing the brunt.

12:33 PM

The sad death of the budget ski holiday

Skiing has become a winter status game full of luxury add-ons for the super rich – whatever happened to cheap chalets and packed lunches, asks Katja Gaskell.

The Oxford Ski Company’s portfolio of properties (pictured here) start at £20,000 for the week off-peak to £500,000 at New Years in Courchevel
The Oxford Ski Company’s portfolio of properties (pictured here) start at £20,000 for the week off-peak to £500,000 at New Years in Courchevel

Although skiing was never an inexpensive sport, the postwar decades had, as Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, transformed skiing from “an esoteric sport for the idle rich, (to) a fantastically popular new winter status-game for anyone who can afford $500 for equipment.”

“Even ten years ago the average cost for a week in a top of the middle range catered chalet with excellent food was only €1,000 (£850) per person,” says Francesca Smith, founder and CEO of ski consultancy Mountain Spy and former owner of ski chalet business Powder N Shine. “In the low season those prices started at €499 (£425).”

Fast forward to today, however, and ski holidays look very different. Michelin-starred restaurants pepper the mountains and the traditional boxy chalets and apartments have largely been replaced by branded hotels and high-end boltholes that come with swimming pools, cinema rooms, libraries and, in some cases, indoor slides. Not to mention the chalet staff that can include private chefs, chauffeurs, and personal concierges.

Read the full story.

12:15 PM

Cape Verde tightens entry rules

Winter sun destination Cape Verde has introduced pre-departure testing for arrivals, regardless of vaccination status.

All travellers over the age of 12 will now need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours before boarding a flight to the archipelago, or an antigen test done in the past 48 hours.

Previously, arrivals could show vaccination records or proof of recovery from the virus to enter.

Cape Verde holidays just became more hassle  - Moment RF
Cape Verde holidays just became more hassle - Moment RF

12:01 PM

Uganda detects first omicron cases in East Africa

Uganda has detected 11 cases of the omicron variant in travellers coming into the country, reports AFP.

The cases were detected in people screened at Entebbe International Airport who flew in from five different countries, Ugandan medical authorities said in a statement.

The travellers had come from Nigeria, South Africa, the UAE, the Netherlands and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Omicron has now been found in more than 40 countries around the world.

11:51 AM

Holidaymakers swapping ski trips for beach breaks this winter

Around 30 per cent of UK travellers are swapping skiing for winter sun holidays amid confusing Covid rules across Europe, according to a new study.

The survey of 2,000 people, commissioned by travel insurance provider Battleface, also suggested that 19 per cent of those who have booked a ski trip this winter are considering cancelling or postponing their holiday.

11:36 AM

South Korea accused of discrimination against foreign residents

South Korea has been accused of discrimination against vaccinated foreign residents as it tightens its vaccine pass regime to tackle the omicron variant.

The British embassy in Seoul is among several embassies who have raised objections to the current system where overseas vaccinations are only recognised for Korean citizens and not foreign residents.

This means that foreigners living and working in South Korea are excluded from the government’s expanding vaccine pass system – which requires proof of vaccination to enter certain public facilities - essentially barring them from multiple locations including cafes, restaurants and gyms.

The authorities have not given a clear reason for the two-tier system.

Read more on our Covid live blog.

11:24 AM

New restrictions could ‘tip travel companies over the edge’, says Abta

Travel trade body Abta has warned that reintroduced restrictions could “tip some companies over the edge”, unless Government help is provided.

Abta chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said ministers “should be looking to soften the blow” of the omicron-related rules by providing financial support to travel firms.

“Ministers have previously explained to us that the Government’s approach is to enable the travel industry to trade their way out of this crisis, instead of providing support. However, it is clear they have now abandoned this approach,” he said.

New data from Abta has underscored the impact of the pandemic on the sector. Among its findings was that employment across the travel industry has halved since March 2020. Meanwhile, the volume of new bookings taken across summer and autumn this year was just 28 per cent of the same period in 2019.

11:09 AM

The 11 hotel quarantine red-list countries

Nigeria was the latest African country to be added to the red list, due to fears over the omicron variant. Here is the full list of countries subject to hotel quarantine and flight bans.

  1. South Africa

  2. Botswana

  3. Namibia

  4. Zimbabwe

  5. Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)

  6. Lesotho

  7. Angola

  8. Mozambique

  9. Malawi

  10. Zambia

  11. Nigeria

Read more about the red list rules, here.

10:55 AM

Misleading travel test prices persist on Government website

Despite the Government striking off a number of travel testing firms for falsely advertising tests for as little as £1, it has emerged that some companies are still showing misleading prices.

A quick scan of the site shows tests for just £15, some of which are not available when it comes to purchasing.

Avi Lasarow, CEO of testing company Prenetics, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning: "Clearly the Government have had difficulty monitoring the website on a daily basis."

He suggested that companies should be ranked by their Trustpilot review rating rather than price.

10:42 AM

Where has omicron been detected?

More than 40 countries have now recorded cases of the omicron variant, calling into question the impact of travel restrictions.

In the UK, the director of the Covid-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute has predicted that omicron will take over from delta in the UK as the dominant variant of coronavirus "within a matter of weeks",

Dr Jeffrey Barrett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we can now say that this variant is spreading faster in the UK than the delta variant at the same time, and that's something that I think was unclear until very recently."

10:28 AM

Austria's general lockdown to end as planned

Austria's full lockdown will lift on Sunday, new Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed today.

However, the rules will still apply to the unvaccinated.

Consultations on how the general lockdown will end will take place tomorrow, Nehammer said in a news conference.

Austria's lockdown for the unvaccinated has been in place since mid-November, amid a surge in coronavirus cases. These measures meant that two million unvaccinated Austrians are able to leave home only for essential purposes, such as food shopping.

10:19 AM

Confusion persists over the deadline for pre-departure testing

The Government is continuing to issue conflicting advice over when Britons need to take their pre-departure test, even after the new rules have come into force. Its website, on some pages, says the tests should be taken "not more than 48 hours before" departure, but on others the deadline is "in the 2 days before your service to England departs".

A Twitter thread from a traveller returning to the UK from Canada, shows the extent of the confusion. Connor McGovern wrote that dozens of passengers were unable to board their flight due to the unclear rules surrounding testing.

10:07 AM

Swap hotels for home quarantine, urges travel chief

The Latin America Travel Association's (Lata) chief executive, Danny Callaghan, has blasted the Government's omicron-related travel restrictions and questioned the different approach to suspected cases of the variant among non-travellers.

Mr Callaghan said:

The emergence of the omicron variant has demonstrated how quickly a situation can develop and how the consequences for consumers can be significant and, ultimately, put people off travelling.

To be able to go on holiday to a country and then, out of the blue, to be faced with a multi-thousand-pound bill for hotel quarantine cannot be the right way to manage these issues.

I would like to understand why, if I were to test positive for the omicron variant today, I am able to quarantine at home, but a person arriving from a red list country is not trusted to do the same.

Image if the Government went around collecting omicron-positive people from their homes, dragging them off to some shabby hotel for 10 days, and then charging over two thousand pounds for the privilege – there’d be uproar. Yet returning Brits are expected to do just that.

09:56 AM

EU travel curbs needed until more known about omicron, says German health minister

Travel curbs that limit EU arrivals are necessary until more is known about the omicron Covid variant, Germany’s outgoing health minister has said.

"Until we know more, we need to be careful and so travel restrictions are important to keep the entry in Europe and Germany as low as possible," Jens Spahn told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of EU health ministers in Brussels.

In November, EU states agreed to impose travel restrictions on seven southern African countries after they reported several cases of the Omicron variant, which is considered highly infectious.

Yesterday EU sources confirmed there was no immediate plan to ease the restrictions, after a media report citing a diplomat said this could be the case.

09:47 AM

Cruise ship hit by Covid outbreak sets sail again

A cruise ship that recorded 17 Covid cases and had to dock in New Orleans over the weekend has set sail again – with new passengers.

Norwegian Cruise Line said all passengers who boarded the Norwegian Breakaway on its latest sailing were offered a chance to cancel free of charge. It's unclear how many passengers opted to travel.

 Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship - Getty
Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship - Getty

“Guests who opt to sail must wear masks while indoors except while actively eating or drinking and will be tested twice during the cruise,” according to a statement issued by the Norwegian.

Among the cases recorded, which were reportedly all asymptomatic, was a probable omicron infection.

09:33 AM

UK hotel demand 'at 95 per cent of 2019 levels’

Hotel demand in the UK and beyond has undergone a "staggering" recovery, according to Robin Rossmann, the managing director of hospitality data analyst STR.

Mr Rossmann told the Deloitte European Hotel Investment Conference yesterday:

We’ve emerged far faster than we thought.

We’re still in mid-pandemic, but hotel occupancy is staggeringly well recovered – the UK at an average 70 per cent occupancy, the Middle East at 90 per cent.

The range in Europe has varied depending on the reliance on international or domestic markets, but the UK is up to 95 per cent recovered [to 2019 levels].

Average room rates also recovered far faster than expected. There are differences by market – Portugal didn’t come back, for example – but others are back at 2019 levels.

09:19 AM

US advises against travel to France

The US has advised its citizens against travelling to France, due to its recent spike in Covid infections and concerns over the omicron variant.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a level four health notice for France stating that “in view of the current situation in France, even fully vaccinated travellers can risk being infected and spreading variants of the Covid”.

Countries rated 'Level Four' have generally reported more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the last 28 days. Official US advice is to avoid visiting countries on this list, though there is not an outright on travel.

France joins the UK and around 80 other countries on the list.

09:06 AM

Spotlight on France as restrictions announced

France has tightened its Covid restrictions in the face of growing cases and the emergence of the omicron variant. Here's a look at the current situation.

France has confirmed only 25 cases of the omicron variant but officials expect this will rise significantly in the coming weeks.

Cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, and more than 11,000 patients are currently in hospital – the highest number since August – with 2,000 in intensive care.

08:54 AM

‘Little point’ in travel restrictions, says Professor Tim Spector

Professor Tim Spector, from the Covid Zoe app, said that in around 10 days' time the UK could have more cases of omicron variant than some countries it had put on the travel red list.

The professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London told BBC Breakfast:

The official estimates are about 350-odd omicron cases, and because the current testing is missing a lot of those, it's probably at least 1,000 to 2,000 I would guess at the moment.

And we are expecting this to be doubling about every two days at the moment, so if you do your maths – say assumed it's 1,000 at the moment, and you think it's going to be doubling every two days, you can see that those numbers are going to be pretty (high) certainly in about 10 days time.

By that time, we'll probably have more cases than they will in some of those African countries.

So I think these travel restrictions do perhaps have their place initially, when cases are really low here and really high in the other country, but when we reach that equilibrium, there's very little point in having them in my opinion.

08:46 AM

The cheapest, quickest and easiest pre-departure Covid tests to take on holiday with you

As pre-departure testing is reintroduced, read our guide to the best tests to book.

While the Government gives you a choice between taking a PCR test or a lateral flow test, the latter is usually cheaper and certainly quicker, with results coming in just 15-20 minutes in some cases. Therefore we’ve chosen to list only lateral flow tests. Find the full list here.

08:40 AM

Pre-departure testing rules come into force

Arrivals in the UK are now required to show proof of a recent negative Covid test. The rules came into force at 4am this morning and apply to anyone over the age 12.

However, there is still confusion regarding the time-frame of when the tests can be taken. Certain Government web pages specify a window of 48 hours, while others say the two days before travel.

08:28 AM

What happened yesterday?

A recap of the top stories.

  • The travel industry was furious about the return of pre-departure testing

  • Travellers were furious about the chaos (and terrible meals) at Britain's quarantine hotels

  • New York announced vaccine passports for children aged 5-11, putting family holidays at risk

  • Nigeria became the 11th African country on the UK red list

  • A Norwegian cruise ship uncovered 17 Covid infections on a fully vaccinated voyage

Now, on with today's travel news.

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