France will ease its domestic travel restrictions next month as the prime minister declared its “third wave” over, raising hopes the country could reopen to British visitors sooner than expected.
Jean Castex said the third national lockdown would be wound down from May 3, with residents able to travel anywhere within France; outdoor areas of bars and restaurants will also be able to open from mid-May, he said.
“The third wave of the disease is behind us,” Castex told a news conference.
The move opens the door to France’s addition to the UK’s ‘green’ list when international travel resumes for Britons from May 17. The UK Government is expected to reveal the list on May 7.
However, France’s average rate of new infections remains one of the highest in Europe, fifth behind only Cyprus, Sweden, Turkey and Croatia. Its seven-day average cases rate per 100,000 is 341 compared to the UK’s 26.
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said fresh quarantine measures would be imposed on travellers returning to France from a number of countries, including South Africa and India, in an effort to halt the spread of new variants.
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Virgin first UK airline to use Iata’s vaccine passport
Virgin Atlantic has become the first UK airline to trial Iata’s Travel Pass today.
The carrier has used what is essentially a holiday vaccine passport on a service from Heathrow to Barbados.
The Travel Pass is one of the options open to the UK Government, which said this week it was working towards a vaccine passport solution for Britons travelling overseas.
Virgin said the Travel Pass offers a “one stop shop for customers to collect, store and verify documents on a secure smartphone app”
Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating office of the airline, said the UK Government needed to confirm that such apps would be valid for use at border health checks.
“When international restarts at scale; rapid, affordable testing and effective digital proof of Covid-19 credentials based on global common standards will make journeys easier and provide greater confidence to book,” he said.
“We urge the UK Government to confirm that our customers can use digital apps and that these will be accepted at the UK border. The current paper-only-based processes will not be viable as customer numbers increase.”
British Airways has trialled a similar app called veriFLY while its parent company IAG has worked with Iata on the Travel Pass.
Pandemic over in Britain, research shows
Some news on the homefront, now.
Sarah Knapton reports:
Britain is no longer in a pandemic, experts have said, as new data showed the vaccination programme is reducing symptomatic Covid infections by up to 90 per cent.
In the first large real-world study of the impact of vaccination on the general population, researchers found that the rollout is having a major impact on cutting both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.
Sarah Walker, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford and Chief Investigator on the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey, said that Britain had ‘moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation’ where the virus is circulating at a low, largely controllable level in the community.
The new research, based on throat swabs from 373,402 people between December 1 last year and April 3, found three weeks after one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab, symptomatic infections fell by 74 per cent and infections without symptoms by 57 per cent.
Read the full article.
Turkey lifts ban on UK flights
Turkey has lifted its ban on direct flights from the UK.
The country is unlikely to make the UK’s ‘green’ list in May, as it has one of the highest case rates in Europe, but its tourist board has said Britons would not need a vaccine to visit, only a negative PCR test.
Turkey has a rolling case rate over seven days of 505 per 100,000, compared to the UK’s 26, but has said it is focussing its vaccination programme on its hospitality staff to help facilitate the safe return of tourists.
The news will be encouragement to the carriers operating between the UK and holiday hotspots in Turkey, such as easyJet, British Airways and Jet2.
How long should you wait before flying after your Covid jab?
You’ve had your vaccine and you’re raring to jump on an airplane – but with concerns over blood clots, is it safe to fly straight away?
Alice Hall has the answers:
It is well established that flying increases your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates the annual incidence of DVT to be about 1 in 1,000. However, the risk of developing it increases two-to threefold after long haul flights – categorised as those which last longer than four hours.If a clot breaks free, it can get stuck inside a blood vessel in your lungs and become a fatal pulmonary embolism. Pregnancy, being over the age of 50, a family history of blood clots, taking the contraceptive pill and obesity all increase someone’s chances of developing DVT.
Read the full article.
Last minute holidays you can still book for the early May bank holiday
The first May bank holiday is looming, and with the possibility of international holidays still a glimmer in Grant Shapps’ eye, that means those hoping for a getaway will have to look for it close to home.
For those who have booked their domestic bank holiday trips months in advance, there’s no problem (unless you count the threat of apparent holiday ‘gazumping’). But what of those who have put off making plans? Thankfully, there are still options. Previously locked down Britons are flocking to campsites and self-catered accommodation now that domestic holidays have become possible in England, but not everything is booked up just yet.
Read on for your options.
Japan to use lockdown now to save Olympics later
Japan will declare “short and powerful” states of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and two other prefectures on Friday as the country struggles to contain a resurgent pandemic just three months ahead of the Olympics.
Under a new state of emergency for April 25 to May 11, the government will require restaurants, bars, and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close, and big sporting events to be held without spectators, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.
“We absolutely have to limit the movement of people, and we have to do it decisively. We need powerful, short and focused measures,” he said, asking people to remember the lockdowns of last spring and stay at home.
UN launches one-stop shop for overseas Covid travel rules
The UN’s tourism arm and Iata, the International Air Transport Association, have worked together to provide a one-stop shop for all the information travellers will need to enter foreign countries once international travel resumes.
The online Destination Tracker is available for governments around the world to add exactly what rules and regulations need to be followed by international tourists.
The tracker will also show local infection rates and vaccine rollout figures, test and quarantine requirements, and general health and safety rules.
Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organisation, said the Destination Tracker is necessary to provide travellers with accurate information.
“Travellers and companies will be able to check requirements in place for air travel, as well as what measures will be in place at the visited destination,” he said.
“We trust this tool is also critical for governments to track existing travel restrictions and support the safe restart of our sector.
“When governments have the confidence to re-open borders people will be eager to travel. And they will need accurate information to guide them.”
See the tracker here.
Spotlight: Cases in India soar
India now officially on red list
Passengers on flights into the UK from India must now enter hotel quarantine as the country is officially added to the UK’s coronavirus travel red list.
As of 4am on Friday, people returning from India must quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days, while anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
Four airlines asked for a total of eight extra flights to arrive at Heathrow before the 4am cut-off, however it is understood Heathrow declined the airlines’ requests to ensure existing pressures at the border were not exacerbated.
The restrictions come in response to mounting concern about the number of coronavirus cases in India and the emergence there of a variant of the virus.
France imposes fresh quarantine measures to stop variants
Some more from France as the country looks to ease its third lockdown.
The interior minister has said it will impose quarantine measures on arrivals from a number of countries in an effort to limit the spread of new variants.
Gerald Darmanin said a 10-day quarantine will be imposed from Saturday for travellers arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India and South Africa.
He said travellers will have to provide proof of where they will be quarantined and there will be controls.
People in quarantine will be allowed to go outside only between 10 and 12 noon and fines for breach of quarantine will be as high as 1,500 euros.
What Covid vaccine passports mean for your summer holiday – and how to get one
It now looks more likely than ever that British holidaymakers will be required to carry some sort of holiday vaccine passport for international travel after May 17.
The Government this week told the travel industry it was working towards a system that would “give people the ability to prove their vaccine status” to satisfy the entry requirements of a growing list of countries including Greece, Croatia and Spain.
But after months of speculation, Britons are no clearer on how such a scheme might work. Below we run through some of the most common questions.
How do I get a holiday vaccine passport?
It presumably needs to be linked to your NHS profile and number, which knows whether you have received a coronavirus vaccination or not.
Travel medicine specialist Dr Richard Dawood said he had been assisting Iata, among others, with developing their apps. He said: “For the UK vaccination programme, there will need to be a way for travellers to download their vaccine records from the NHS securely.”
One might imagine then that those with proof of vaccine cards might be able to input a number into a vaccine passport app to confirm their status.
Read the full article here.
Wales to reopen hotels on May 17
Indoor hospitality and all tourist accommodation in Wales is expected to reopen on May 17 after the First Minister added further dates to the country’s coronavirus road map.
Mark Drakeford said it would be for the incoming Welsh Government to confirm the reopening, but the main opposition parties have already committed to the same date if they win the May 6 Senedd election.
Other changes expected by May 17 include reopening indoor entertainment venues and attractions, with more changes “subject to the public health situation remaining favourable”.
The dates for indoor hospitality and tourism accommodation brings Wales in line with the reopening dates in England.
Wales has the lowest level of virus infections in the UK and is third in the world in terms of vaccine delivery.
On Thursday, Mr Drakeford said: “At the last three-week review, I set out a forward-look of how the restrictions could continue to be lifted in the weeks ahead, if the public health situation remains stable.”
Spotlight: How France is coping with a ‘thiird wave’
France’s prime minister says the country is past its third wave, but is this supported by the numbers?
The cases rates have fallen and vaccinated numbers are rising, but nothing by the UK’s standards.
Good morning, below are some of the key stories in the world of travel likely to keep us busy today.
Up to 30 countries could be on ‘green’ list for early summer holidays
US added UK to ‘Do Not Travel’ list
EasyJet launches new route between Newquay and Gatwick
Spain ‘desperate to welcome’ UK visitors
Inoculated can avoid tests and quarantine, say European officials
Covid passports proving vaccine status will be available for summer holidays
Government must reveal ‘green list’ by May 1, say MPs