Relief for skiers as Switzerland scraps quarantine for Britons

·30-min read
A Swiss ski resort - Getty
A Swiss ski resort - Getty

Switzerland has scrapped its requirement for arrivals from high-risk countries – including the UK – to complete a 10-day quarantine, making ski holidays once again feasible.

The country announced a raft of new measures to tackle its rising infection rate, including the extension of its Covid passport scheme and stricter testing requirements for travellers. However, it said that all countries will be removed from its quarantine list.

The news will come as a relief to British skiers hoping to visit Swiss ski resorts in the coming weeks and months.

A statement from the Swiss government said: "From Monday, 6 December, Covid certificates will be required and face masks will have to be worn in a wider range of situations, people will be urged to work from home, and the validity of rapid antigen tests will be reduced. Furthermore, at events and venues subject to a certificate requirement, it will be permitted to restrict access to people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid; guests and customers would then not have to wear masks.

"The new measures will remain in place until 24 January 2022. In addition, stricter rules on testing [a PCR test prior to entry and between the fourth and seventh day after arrival] will come into force for persons entering the country. In return, all countries will be removed from the current quarantine list."

Follow the latest updates below.

04:48 PM

What happened today?

That's all from us today. Here's a recap of the top stories.

  • New testing rules for US arrivals confirmed

  • Botswana calls for reversal of 'irresponsible' travel bans after reporting omicron cases from Europe

  • Randox improves terms and conditions for customers after watchdog concerns

  • Visitors to Britain won’t have to take pre-departure Covid tests, says Grant Shapps

  • Willie Walsh: 'Ill-advised travel bans as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted'

Join us again on Monday for more of the latest travel news.

04:41 PM

South Korea: All arrivals must enter a 10-day quarantine

South Korea has tightened its entry requirements following the confirmation of its first omicron case.

All travellers arriving in South Korea from today must quarantine for 10 days and take two PCR tests during this time. The measure will last for at least two weeks.

The country had previously announced plans to 'live with Covid'.

04:26 PM

Feature: The Britons booking stays at the former homes of their ancestors

When it comes to a feel-good British stay, there’s no place like an ancestor’s former home, reports Sally Howard.

For Faith Moulin, 72, it was 'really quite moving' to stay in a small holiday rental attached to 14th-century Godinton House in Kent, a property her Great Aunt Min had worked in as a lady’s companion in the 1930s. "It was amazing to walk the halls she’d walked," says Moulin, who was born a few years after her great aunt’s death and never got to meet her, though Moulin’s childhood home was filled with ‘exotic things’ that once belonged to the well-travelled aunt. “I could just picture her inspecting the lovely herbaceous borders in the garden of the stately home.”

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For Janet Brown, it was ‘uncanny, but magical’ to discover, when researching her husband’s family tree in Dorset that the pub B&B they were bedded down in had been home to her husband’s great, great grandfather in the 1850s.

And for Heather Pocock, 52, it 'felt like a lottery win' to stay in a cottage on a farm in Norfolk her family owned three generations ago and stand at the altar where her great greats married in 1850. “I still get the shivers when I think about it,” she says.

Read on, here.

04:10 PM

Belgium tightens Covid rules again

Belgium will tighten its coronavirus restrictions for the third week in a row, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has announced.

Kindergartens and primary schools will now close for the holiday season a week early, on December 20, and children must wear masks from the age of six. The government capped attendance at indoor events at 200 people.

"There are too many people who are not getting the treatment they need in hospital, so it is important to act quickly," De Croo told reporters, noting that 40 per cent of Belgium's intensive care beds are currently filled by Covid-19 patients. "It's a situation that cannot be tolerated."

03:51 PM

Venice: St Mark’s Basilica in peril as builders down tools in pay row

Switching gears from Covid-related travel news, in Venice a row over payment has left one of Italy's finest architectural treasures at risk from high tides and flooding.

St Mark's Square and Basilica  - E+/JaCZhou
St Mark's Square and Basilica - E+/JaCZhou

Nick Squires reports that building companies that were contracted to protect Venice's iconic St Mark's Basilica have downed tools because of lack of payment.

A “scandalous” mix of red tape and lack of funds is putting the 11th-century cathedral at risk from the high tides and flooding that are increasingly affecting the World Heritage city as global warming leads to higher seas and more intense storms.

The Byzantine cathedral sits at the lowest point of Venice and has always been vulnerable to the incursion of sea water, which eats away at its mosaics and marble pillars.

But the dangers were dramatically underlined in November 2019 when the lagoon city was hit by the worst flooding for more than 50 years.

Read the full story.

03:41 PM

Singapore tightens traveller testing rules

Singapore will introduce additional testing for travellers due to concerns over the omicron variant.

All passengers on using its Vaccinated Travel Lanes scheme, which includes Britain, will be required to be tested every day for seven days using self-administered rapid test kits, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.

The measure, which will come into force from December 7, is in addition to the (PCR) test on arrival plus two rapid tests in the first week of a stay.

03:18 PM

Air passengers from South Africa have Covid despite vaccination, Dutch say

Dutch health authorities have said that a significant number of passengers on flights from South Africa over the past week have tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival despite having been vaccinated and testing negative before departure.

"It shows that the virus is spreading easily and that is worrying," said Bert van de Velden, director of the regional health authority for Kennemerland, which includes Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

03:05 PM

The 10 best ski resorts in Switzerland

Celebrate the news that Switzerland has scrapped its quarantine for UK arrivals with a last-minute ski holiday. Our experts have chosen their 10 favourite resorts, from luxury boltholes to family-friendly options.

Get tested and hit the slopes - Getty
Get tested and hit the slopes - Getty

02:53 PM

The new testing rules for Switzerland explained

The Swiss government has replaced a mandatory quarantine with stricter testing rules. The full details are as follows:

With effect from Saturday, 4 December, there will be no countries on the quarantine list. In order to continue to prevent the new omicron variant from entering the country as far as possible, a stricter testing regime will now apply for all arrivals into Switzerland. This testing requirement also applies to those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the disease.

In addition to taking a PCR test before travelling, a second test (PCR test or rapid antigen test) must be carried out between the fourth and seventh day after arrival. This test ensures that infected persons who have contracted the virus shortly before or during travel are detected. Test costs must be borne by the traveller.

Non-vaccinated tourists will be banned, however, even if they have evidence of a negative test:

Non-vaccinated third-country nationals wishing to enter the Schengen area from countries or regions at risk will be refused entry to Switzerland for short-term stays without gainful employment of up to 90 days within a period of 180 days – apart from certain exceptions (hardship cases). This primarily affects tourism and social visits. The list of high-risk countries and regions is set out in Annex 1 of COVID-19 Ordinance 3. It is updated on an ongoing basis, taking into account the recommendations for the Schengen states issued by the European Commission.

For more details follow this link.

02:48 PM

Swiss embassy in London confirms that holidays are back on

And thousands of skiers breathe a sigh of relief.

02:40 PM

New testing rules for US arrivals confirmed

The White House last night confirmed new testing rules for British visitors to the United States will come into force on Monday December 6.

Among the new measures, all international air travellers must provide proof of a negative test taken within 24 hours of their flight – squeezing the time frame down from the current rule of 72 hours.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the agency “must take quick and targeted action to help curtail the introduction and spread of the omicron variant into the United States.” The news comes as more cases of omicron are detected in the US, including in Hawaii and New York.

Airlines are expected to be given a three-day grace period in order to permit travellers to return to the country with tests taken outside the new one-day window.

The US has also extended its federal mandate on masks until mid March – under these rules all passengers on planes and trains aged two years and older, as well as employees, must wear a face mask on board.

Travellers crossing the US land borders with Canada and Mexico will be exempt from the testing requirement and the Government is reportedly considering granting temporary exemptions to countries where access to same-day testing is limited.

02:31 PM

WHO chief scientist urges calms over omicron

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief scientist has urged calm over the omicron variant and said it was too early to say if vaccines would have to be tweaked to combat the new strain.

Speaking at the Reuters Next conference today, Soumya Swaminathan added it was impossible to predict if omicron would become the dominant strain.

“How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” she said.

“Delta accounts for 99 per cent of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”

On hopes the new variant might cause milder illness, Swaminathan said: “We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder... but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole.”

02:16 PM

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

Due to discovery of the omicron variant, everyone returning to the UK now needs to take a Day 2 PCR test. Here are the best options

PCR testing for returning travellers is back - Getty
PCR testing for returning travellers is back - Getty

02:01 PM

Belgium extends school holiday as Covid wave grows

Belgium has ordered primary schools to extend the Christmas holiday in its third attempt to break a Covid-19 wave that’s among the worst in Europe.

Virtual schooling will be required at least half of the time for children 12 years and older starting on Monday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a briefing in Brussels. Other new measures include a ban on indoor events with more than 200 participants, and a mandate to wear masks from the age of six.

01:34 PM

'Irrational and indiscriminate' to include Malawi on UK's red list

It is "irrational and indiscriminate" to include Malawi on the UK's red list, scientists have told the Telegraph, as the country is reporting fewer than five cases of Covid-19 a day.

Stephen Gordon and Henry Mwandumba, directors of the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Programme of Clinical Tropical Research at a hospital in Blantyre, said data shows there is "no detectable omicron variant in Malawi".

"Unlike the UK (>40,000 cases per day), Malawi is currently minimally affected by COVID (<5 cases per day) with the wards empty," they told the Telegraph.

"It is therefore disappointing that British clinical personnel, recently returned from helping to set up Malawi’s first stroke unit, are incarcerated in UK quarantine hotels. Doctors and nurses needed in both the UK and Malawi should not be penalised by irrational and indiscriminate quarantine guidelines.

"Further, Malawians seeking higher education in the UK should not be banned from entry by policies lacking credible data support."

They added that the presence of Malawi on the UK's red list, a decision taken last weekend amid concerns that omicron has spread from South Africa to the small country, is undermining trust between the two nations.

Read more on our Covid live blog.

01:23 PM

Day-by-day checklist of every hoop you need to jump through for your ski holiday

Ski - Getty&#xa0;
Ski - Getty

After widespread closures last winter, ski resorts are waiting with open arms to welcome guests, who are more eager than ever to take the plunge this season.

But skiers beware: it’s been nearly two years since most have been on a ski holiday and with a raft of Covid measures, border restrictions and last-minute announcements to contend with, it takes a little extra time than before to wrap your head around the logistics of planning a trip to the slopes.

By getting organised before you go, and making a checklist of things you need to do, you can minimise the confusion and worry – here we walk you through the process, day by day.

01:04 PM

'The return of testing is ruining holidays – and spells trouble for the travel industry'

Costly testing policies reintroduced because of omicron don't inspire confidence to travel – let's make testing proportionate to the risks, writes Nick Trend.

One of the most concerning aspects of the response to the omicron variant from a travel perspective is the sudden introduction of so many new and varied testing and quarantine requirements in different destinations all over the world. And they are still coming thick and fast. Overnight, Joe Biden tightened the rules so that all arrivals – whether vaccinated or not – must take a test within one day of their departure for the US. That reduces the time allowed for pre-departure testing from the current 72 hours for jabbed passengers.

Meanwhile, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Canada have all introduced new testing, vaccination or quarantine requirements in the last few days. And in the UK, we have re-introduced the red list and tightened the rules so that all travellers returning from overseas must take a PCR test before the end of day two, then self-isolate until there is confirmation that the result is negative.

All these reactions are – to most of us – an understandable response to the uncertainty over the new variant and how lethal, transmissible and vaccine-resistant it is. But there is no doubt that they are a major blow to travellers’ confidence and thus a huge setback to the travel industry, which was just beginning to see a resurgence in bookings. Tens of thousands of holidays have already been cancelled and, surely, many more will follow.

Read the full story, here.

12:52 PM

Willie Walsh: 'Ill-advised travel bans as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted'

Willie Walsh, director general of Iata (International Air Transport Association), has labelled the travel bans enacted in response to the omicron variant as "ill-advised" and questioned their effectiveness at halting the spread of the virus.

Mr Walsh said:

October’s traffic performance reinforces that people will travel when they are permitted to. Unfortunately, government responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant are putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild.

The lifting of the US restrictions on travel from some 33 countries last month raised hopes that a surge in pent-up travel demand would buoy traffic over the coming Northern Hemisphere winter.

But the emergence of the Omicron variant panicked many governments into once again restricting or entirely removing the freedom to travel – even though WHO clearly advised that ‘blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

The logic of the WHO advice was evident within days of Omicron’s identification in South Africa, with its presence already confirmed in all continents. The ill-advised travel bans are as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

12:37 PM

Travel testing giant improves terms for customers after watchdog concerns

One of the largest Covid testing companies has amended its terms following concerns from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

Randox has agreed to make changes to provide clearer information to customers, most notably on when it will provide PCR tests and results, the CMA said.

The company has also removed terms which could suggest people are not entitled to compensation if things go wrong.

An overflowing Randox drop-off box in August 2021 - SWNS/Tristan Potter
An overflowing Randox drop-off box in August 2021 - SWNS/Tristan Potter

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “With recent changes to the rules for travel, the spotlight is once again on PCR testing providers and their practices.

“I am pleased that Randox has agreed to change its terms, which means consumers benefit from their legal rights to cancel and get a refund, and are not stopped from pursuing compensation if there is a problem.

“However, it’s essential that all companies play by the rules and treat people fairly. We are clear that, if they fail to do so, they risk facing enforcement action from the CMA or Trading Standards."

12:24 PM

Botswana calls for reversal of 'irresponsible' travel bans after reporting omicron cases from Europe

Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi said some of the four diplomats who first tested positive for the omicron variant in the country had come from Europe, calling for a reversal of widespread travel bans imposed against southern African countries.

Omicron has prompted many governments to impose curbs on travel from southern Africa, and to take other measures to contain it.

While it is still not established where Omicron first emerged, on November 25 South Africa, followed by Botswana a day later, announced they had detected a new variant whose mutations were different from the dominant delta strain.

South Africa has also complained it is being punished for having identified the new variant early.

"It is unnecessary and if you ask me, for lack of a better expression, irresponsible," Masisi said of the travel curbs, speaking in an interview with CNN on Thursday evening. "The diplomats came from a number of countries ... and they passed through a number of countries to get to Botswana."

He declined to disclose their nationalities, only saying "some had been to Europe and some had been elsewhere". Asked if some had come from Europe into Botswana, he replied "indeed".

12:12 PM

Virgin Atlantic boss confident of 2022 travel recovery

Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer, Juha Jarvinen, has said that he is confident that travel will recover next year.

Speaking to Travel Weekly, Mr Jarvien admitted there has been “a slowdown in demand for December and January” but said that “sales for spring and summer are continuing to trade well."

He added: “By autumn 2022, capacity will be back to 2019 [levels] from Heathrow and Manchester.”

Despite the travel uncertainty unleashed by the omicron variant, the airline is preparing to unveil a new US route in the coming weeks.

11:57 AM

Finland beefs up travel rules

Finland will require a Covid certificate from all travellers arriving in the country from Saturday, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

By imposing “more efficient” measures, its government aims to protect the population against the threat posed by the omicron variant, the ministry said. Travellers who do not have a valid certificate will need to be tested.

11:48 AM

Vietnam's daily Covid case rate hits record high

Vietnam's daily count of new Covid-19 cases hit a record high this week, although it has not yet detected any sign of the omicron variant, Nicola Smith reports.

A new daily record of 14,508 infections was reported on Wednesday and a seven-day rolling average of 13,830 new cases, higher than the peak of the last wave of infections in September.

The Southeast Asian nation is considering whether to suspend all flights from Africa and no longer issue visas for some African nations, with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh ordering the authorities to bolster border defences and closely check arrivals from countries with omicron cases. Vietnam also plans to speed up vaccinations and start giving booster shots this month.

Here's a graphical look at the current situation:

For more on the Covid situation around the world, follow our live blog.

11:30 AM

Red list reminder

The red list was empty for less than a month, until omicron reared its head – now there are 10 countries occupying it. There is significant anger about the restrictions within Africa given that the variant has already spread far and wide. Indeed, there are more confirmed cases of omicron in Norway than in nine of the nations on the list.

  1. Angola

  2. Botswana

  3. Eswatini

  4. Lesotho

  5. Malawi

  6. Mozambique

  7. Namibia

  8. South Africa

  9. Zambia

  10. Zimbabwe

11:23 AM

Why Edinburgh is perfect for a festive break

With Christmas markets being cancelled across Europe, the Scottish capital provides an enticing alternative, with just as much magic. Read Sally Coffey's tips on what to see and do.

The Christmas market in Princes Street - Getty
The Christmas market in Princes Street - Getty

11:12 AM

When is the next UK travel update?

On Monday November 29, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced new testing rules for arrivals to the UK and said the measures would be reviewed in three weeks.

However, before the arrival of omicron the Government had already committed to reviewing its travel rules every three weeks. An update was made on October 28, when the last seven countries were removed from the red list, while no changes were announced on November 18.

This means a regular travel update could take place on December 9. Or else we will have to wait until December 20 for the review of the new testing rules.

11:01 AM

'This year's most coveted Christmas present is a negative PCR test result'

Telegraph Travel reporter Emma Beaumont has just returned from Seville, and is experiencing the hassle of getting a Day 2 test first hand.

Snaking queues in a shopping centre in December are usually reserved for a new games console release. But this morning it was clear that this year’s most coveted Christmas present – for travellers at least – is a negative PCR test result.

Despite being told that I must not arrive at the Canary Wharf clinic early, when I turned up I was met by a line of at least 20 people, meaning I would certainly miss my 9.20am slot. Thankfully, two benevolent business travellers let me squeeze in behind them – apparently everyone else ignored the memo and had later appointments.

We were a mix of Day 2 returnees, desperate for an early release and those who had been caught out by certain countries’ new pre-departure testing rules. A clutch of travellers were hoping to snag a walk-in swab. No such luck – one young woman was on the verge of tears after being turned away.

It felt slightly farcical having a load of travellers mixing inside a windowless shopping mall – but we know by now that Covid travel rules defy logic. And with each of us in that sorry queue worth £100 (or more), it’s the testing companies who will be feeling festive.

10:53 AM

Should Britain tighten its travel restrictions?

Have your say in our Twitter poll.

10:48 AM

British Airways plots greener flight path

BA has announced plans to fly planes using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from early next year.

The SAF will be produced at Phillips 66's Humber Refinery in Lincolnshire using renewable foodstocks such as waste fats, oils and greases.

British Airways has agreed to purchase enough of the fuel to reduce its lifecycle CO2 emissions by nearly 100,000 tonnes, which could power the equivalent of 700 net-zero flights between London and New York.

SAF production reduces carbon emissions by around 80% compared with traditional jet fuel, but it is currently more expensive.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the agreement with Phillips 66 is an "important step on our journey" to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and powering 10% of flights with SAF by 2030.

10:38 AM

Postcards from Germany

Germany has controversially announced a de facto lockdown for all unvaccinated citizens, who are now barred from visiting shops, pubs and restaurants, while signalling its intention to make Covid jabs mandatory.

A venue operating under the 2G+ rule, which means all customers must be vaccinated and tested - Getty
A venue operating under the 2G+ rule, which means all customers must be vaccinated and tested - Getty
A face mask sign at a Christmas market in Cologne - Getty
A face mask sign at a Christmas market in Cologne - Getty
A testing centre at a Berlin Christmas market - Getty
A testing centre at a Berlin Christmas market - Getty

10:21 AM

Omicron was unwanted guest at Norwegian Christmas party

At least 17 people of the 64 people who came down with Covid-19 after a Christmas party in Oslo last week are suspected of having the omicron variant, city officials said on Friday. The number is likely to grow as sequencing is carried out on other positive tests from party-goers.

Between 100 and 120 people – all of whom were vaccinated, including one who had recently travelled to southern Africa – had gathered last Friday for a Christmas party organised by their employer.

"All of them had been vaccinated, none of them had symptoms and they had all done self-tests" before attending the dinner, city health official Tine Ravlo told AFP.

In response to the emergence of the variant, Norway now requires all overseas visitors, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to take a test within 24 hours of arrival.

Furthermore, in areas with high infection rates, such as the capital Oslo, the use of face masks in crowded places will become mandatory, as will working from home, at least for part of the week, for those who are able to.

10:14 AM

The world's Covid hotspots

Despite the emergence of omicron in southern Africa, it is Eastern Europe that remains the hardest hit region in the world. Hungary, for example, has a seven-day Covid death rate of 18.19 per million, Croatia's is 16.59, and Georgia's is 16.33. The European average is 5.17 and Britain's is 1.78.

10:09 AM

How catching Covid could come back to ruin your holiday months later

So you’ve recovered from Covid – and hopefully you’ve escaped largely unscathed. Maybe you’ve still got a lingering cough, or persistent fatigue, but the worst is over, and a little winter sun will surely vanquish those niggling maladies.

But before you book a much-needed holiday, be warned: despite having shaken the virus, up to 30 per cent of people still test positive on a PCR test 30 days after their initial infection, and some continue to do so even three months afterwards, Hazel Plush reports.

It’s worrying news for travellers, then, that amid the rise of omicron, more countries are now calling for pre-travel PCR tests – including the likes of Switzerland, Dubai and the Maldives. And of course, everybody must now take a Day 2 PCR on arrival in the UK. But if you’ve recently recovered from Covid, the risk of a ‘false positive’ PCR test means your holiday could be over before it has even begun.

Read the full story.

10:02 AM

Panama blocks travellers from eight African countries

Countries continue to impose travel bans despite pleas from the World Health Organisation (WHO) not to do so.

Panama has said it will temporarily ban the entry of travellers from eight African countries due to concerns over the spread of the omicron variant.

The restriction applies to those who have been to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe or Malawi within a two-week period.

However, Takeshi Kasai, the WHO's western Pacific director, warned that border controls only "buy time" and should not be relied upon.

He added: "People should not only rely on border measures. What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach."

09:55 AM

The Britons booking stays at the former homes of their ancestors

When it comes to a feel-good British stay, there’s no place like an ancestor’s former home.

For Faith Moulin, 72, it was 'really quite moving' to stay in a small holiday rental attached to 14th-century Godinton House in Kent, a property her Great Aunt Min had worked in as a lady’s companion in the 1930s.

For Janet Brown, it was ‘uncanny, but magical’ to discover, when researching her husband’s family tree in Dorset that the pub B&B they were bedded down in had been home to her husband’s great, great grandfather in the 1850s.

Say hello to the vogue for genealogical getaways here.

warwick castle
warwick castle

09:43 AM

New Zealand eases restrictions

Bars, restaurants and gyms reopened in Auckland on Friday as the final lockdown restrictions in New Zealand were eased, after more than 100 days.

New Zealand has begun a new phase in its response to the pandemic in which there won’t be lockdowns but people will be required to be fully vaccinated — and prove it with vaccine passes — in order to access many services.

No cases of the new omicron variant have been found in New Zealand and officials remain confident cases will be caught at the border thanks to its ongoing quarantine system.

Auckland’s border to the rest of the country does not reopen until mid-December.

09:32 AM

Omicron detected in Hawaii

hawaii
hawaii

State health officials in Hawaii have confirmed its first case of the omicron variant in an unvaccinated resident, with no recent travel history.

The news comes as the US reports further cases in the likes of Minnesota and California and the White House clamps down on rules.

The adult in Hawaii isn’t currently in hospital and had "mild-to-moderate" symptoms, Hawaii Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said.

Throughout the pandemic Hawaii has had tough restrictions in place, at one time Governor David Ige’s called for tourists to 'stay away' from the Aloha State.

09:16 AM

'Europe’s omicron panic has left the Continent in a very dark place'

It may be tempting fate to say it, but Britain is perhaps the best place in Europe to spend this Christmas, writes Fraser Nelson.

Bavaria’s winter markets have closed, France’s bistros won’t let anyone in without a pass sanitaire, Belgium has banned private parties and Ireland’s pubs are all under curfew. But in Britain, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated can walk, work, eat and drink where they like. Unless the omicron variant changes everything, we may well see in the New Year having overcome the virus and upheld the basic values of liberty.

Read why Britain has become the new Sweden as other governments race to implement tough policies here.

09:06 AM

Spotlight: Coronavirus in the US

Let’s take a look at the key statistics from the United States, as the White House clamps down on restrictions.

08:59 AM

WHO says border controls only 'buy time'

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Asia-Pacific countries to brace for the spread of the omicron variant by boosting healthcare capacity and vaccinating residents.

Despite shutting its borders to travel from high-risk southern African countries, Australia has announced its first case of the new variant. Cases have also been reported in India, Japan and Malaysia.

Many governments have tightened travel rules to keep the new variant out, but the WHO has stressed that border controls could only buy them time.

"People should not only rely on border measures," said Takeshi Kasai, regional director for the WHO western Pacific.

"What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach."

08:48 AM

Explained: Can I visit the US?

The US is tightening testing rules for international arrivals on Monday. Among the new measures all international air travellers must provide proof of a negative test result (via a viral test) within 24 hours of their flight.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the US.

new york
new york

08:36 AM

Nepal to ban arrivals from eight African countries, Hong Kong over omicron fears

Nepal is set to ban entry to all travellers who have been in eight African countries, or Hong Kong, to prevent the spread of the new omicron variant.

The ban will come into force at midnight on Friday and includes arrivals or people who have transited through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and Hong Kong.

All other international visitors already in transit must spend seven days at their own cost in hotel quarantine, the government said in a statement.

"Nepali nationals are advised against non-essential foreign travel for fear of the new variant," Home Ministry spokesman Phanindra Pokharel told Reuters.

08:29 AM

Visitors to Britain won’t have to take pre-departure Covid tests, says Grant Shapps

Tourists will not be asked to take Covid tests before they arrive in the UK because the Government does not want to "kill off the travel sector without knowing that you need to," Grant Shapps has said.

The Transport Secretary also urged families to book holidays overseas as long as they have insurance and that so-called vaccine passports become the "norm for travel."

Listen to the interview with the ​Transport Secretary on Chopper's Politics podcast here.

shapps and hopper - JULIAN SIMMONDS
shapps and hopper - JULIAN SIMMONDS

08:25 AM

What happened yesterday?

Before we begin, here's a reminder of Thursday's top stories:

  • Spain has banned all non-vaccinated Britons from entering the country

  • France, Portugal, Norway and the US are reintroducing testing requirements for arrivals, regardless of vaccination status

  • Leading operator Inghams has suspended all December ski holidays to Switzerland

  • Air investigators have issued a warning over pilots' lack of flying time after a 'serious incident' with a Tui jet

Now, on with today's news.

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