The prospect of summer holidays this year is becoming more "positive", according to government sources, as experts say it would be "feasible" to set up a vaccine passport system for international travel.
"It’s looking increasingly positive on summer holidays. Once the vaccination passport system is set up it should be straightforward. That won’t be easy, but we can see the way ahead," a Whitehall source told The Times.
A number of countries are working on vaccine certificates and the Greek tourism minister has said his Government is in "preliminary discussions" with UK ministers over a potential travel agreement for vaccinated Britons.
However, scientists said today that a lack of set international standards for vaccine passports mean that they cannot be introduced yet.
"An effective vaccine passport system that would allow the return to pre-Covid-19 activities, including travel, without compromising personal or public health, must meet a set of demanding criteria – but it is feasible," said Professor Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford and one of the lead authors of a report published on Friday by the Royal Society.
Scientists also said that more information is required on how effective vaccines are in preventing transmission, and the duration of protective immunity they provide, in order to establish how long a passport might be valid.
Scroll down for the latest travel updates.
What happened today?
The main headlines:
Government 'increasingly positive' about foreign holidays this summer
Hopes raised for Easter self-catering holidays
Airlines refuse 2.3 million people refunds
Germany extends ban on UK arrivals
Britons warned holiday cottages are booking up for 2021
Wales will block travellers from 'high incidence' areas over Easter
Dozens more businesses call for overseas travel to restart by May 1
Crystal Cruises will require passengers to be vaccinated
Catch-up with the rest below. Thanks for following today, and join us again on Monday.
United Airlines to launch route between Heathrow and Boston
United Airlines will launch daily flights between Heathrow and Boston later in 2021.
The airline has yet to confirm a start date, sating it will monitor the recovery in travel demand before settling on a time frame. It will be the carrier's 19th daily flight between Heathrow and the US.
Tickets will go on sale "in the coming weeks".
Australia could open to visitors (with vaccine passports) by 2022
Australia could open up to tourists again next year, but may require visitors to present vaccine passports.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters: “I think it is a reasonable expectation that as time goes on, as the vaccination rolls out across the world and here in Australia, you should rightly expect that things will change and how we manage the virus.”
Mr Morrison suggested that airlines will be closely involved with vaccine passport plans. The Australian state of New South Wales will begin to vaccinate residents on Monday.
Australia has had tough borders restrictions in place over the last year in its pursuit for "zero-Covid".
Major US airlines will voluntarily collect contract tracing info
Major U.S. airlines on Friday said they would adopt a voluntary international contact tracing program, months after the White House under then-President Donald Trump blocked a mandatory effort.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and other major airlines said they had committed to collecting contact tracing data from passengers travelling into the United States.
That data would then be relayed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if travellers provide information.
In August, Trump officials rejected an effort to require airlines to collect contact tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers after some senior administration officials cited privacy concerns, Reuters reported.
England on course for a warmer weekend
Parts of the South East and East of England are expected to enjoy (relative to recent weeks) balmy temperatures of up to 59F (15C) on Saturday and as high as 61F (16C) on Sunday.
Pleasant, but not quite sunbathing weather.
However, is the Canary Islands, beach time is back on the menu. Gran Canaria saw temperatures rise to 86F (30C) today.
Dozens more businesses call for overseas travel to restart by May 1
More than 730 travel businesses have now pledged their support to the Save Our Summer campaign, urging the Government restart overseas travel by May, when at least 32 million Britons will have had one vaccination jab, and more than 20 million will have had two.
In a second letter to the Prime Minister, sent today, the group said: "We represent over £24bn in sales and we are united behind one single message: that a targeted route out of lockdown needs to be announced in your speech on Monday specifically for the travel industry.
"Surveying the many companies backing our campaign this week brought to reality the severity of the impact that no roadmap could have on our industry. The majority of operators expect to lay off at least 20% of their workforce, which equates to 500,000 jobs being made redundant, in a sector which employs 1 in 10 people in the UK economy.
"However, should you provide our sector with the clarity it so desperately needs right now, 74% of companies said they would hire more employees and/or rehire those on furlough.
"We appreciate that there may be further bumps in the road, and as an industry we are well prepared – offering exceptional booking flexibility for consumers, to protect their interests and enable them to plan future trips, as soon as clarity is given and confidence reignites."
Italian invents wheelchair that fits cabin luggage size restrictions
An Italian inventor has designed the world's first active wheelchair that fits the standard universal cabin luggage size restriction revolutionising travel for its users.
Revolve Air by Andrea Mocellin saves 60 per cent of its space when both 24-inch wheels and frame are folded, meaning wheelchair users would no longer have to check-in their own wheelchair and rely on airport assistance along their journey, giving back the freedom that many of us take for granted.
It aims to offer independence to all active wheelchair users, who commute and travel everyday, says Andrea Mocellin, founder and inventor of Revolve Air.
Five Victorian seaside icons you can still visit
Travel back in time this summer by visiting a 19th-century creation, writes Chris Leadbeater.
Among his suggestions are Bournemouth beach huts.
Though their precise moment and point of origin is unclear – the Melbourne suburb of Brighton is known to have had them as early as 1862 – beach huts became a regular sight at the British seaside in the later 19th century. They were, in essence, a distillation of Victorian morality – largely windowless boxes which allowed sunbathers to change into swimwear in absolute privacy. That they have become chic accoutrements to a day (or a whole summer) by the waves would perhaps amuse the men and women who once wriggled out of damp costumes inside them – but beach huts are are now enormously desired. Bournemouth has some fabulous specimens along its seven miles of sand – over 250 of which are available to be rented (bournemouth.co.uk/things-to-do/beach-hut-hire).
Hawaii could join destinations welcoming vaccinated tourists
Hawaii could begin lifting quarantine rules for visitors who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in an effort to revive its tourism industry.
Its current rules require anyone arriving to the Hawaiian islands to spend 10 days in mandatory self-isolation, unless they can provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arrival.
However, Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor Joshua Green has said that authorities are looking at how a vaccine passport could work for travellers, potentially waiving quarantine for those who've been inoculated.
He told Hawaii News Now that this could involve vaccinated travellers receiving an electronic code which would also allow them to travel between islands, and that there were hopes the programme could start as early as March.
‘An abundance of caution is never a good thing’
Jonny Bealby, founder of tour operator Wild Frontiers, has urged the Government to abandon its ultra-cautious approach when it comes to travel.
On Monday, Boris must give us some hope. Having ministers stating it is illegal to book summer holidays (which is plainly wrong) and others saying it’s too early, is driving an unreasonably negative message which might be hard to rebound from.
This week saw the launch of a campaign called Save our Summer, in which more than 600 UK travel companies vowed to allow free transfers or give prompt refunds for anyone booking a holiday that then can’t be taken due to the Covid pandemic. There is therefore almost no risk whatever to the customer and yet this not only gives us in the industry hope, hope we can pass on to our friends and partners around the world, it also gives our customers something to look forward to: a positive impact on our mental health that should not be overlooked.
The UK travel industry generates billions in revenue and employs more than 2 million people. Many of us have seen little or no income for the past 12 months and have no hope of seeing any for a while yet. Many have ceased trading, many jobs have been lost.
By May, 99% of those at risk from serious illness and death in the UK will be vaccinated and safe. We will never be in a Covid-free world, some risk will always be there. Caution we accept, but an abundance of caution is never a good thing. To quote Seth Godin: “Seeking reassurance and peace of mind by trying to drive risk to zero doesn’t get you either one of them.” We are not New Zealand and a closed border lockdown will never be viable in the country as connected as the UK. And with the startling success of the vaccine programme, neither should it be necessary.
So yes, be cautious – but not too cautious that you kill our industry.
Israeli bar offers Covid vaccines with a free chaser
Young Israelis who dropped into a bar in Tel Aviv for a few shots had a pleasant surprise on Thursday - one of them was a dose of the Covid vaccine.
The bar, Jenia, was offering jabs to cust omers and a free beverage, in an attempt to encourage more young people to be inoculated.
Though Israel has already vaccinated the vast majority of over-60s and more than 40 per cent of the general population, officials are struggling to get young people to report for their jabs.
The free drinks on offer at the bar were non-alcoholic, but this did not deter young Israelis from dropping in.
Which is the perfect Greek island? Here are 15 of our favourites
A Greek island holiday sounds like just the tonic after the bleakest of winters, writes Oliver Smith.
You might not want to book just yet, but hopes are high that Greece could be one of our overseas holiday options this summer. Why? Because it has been vocal in its support for restarting tourism, a vital component of its economy, by letting vaccinated arrivals skip quarantine, and other sunseekers visit if they have tested negative.
Craving otherworldly landscapes? Oliver suggests Tinos:
Having visited a clutch of Greek islands over the years, Tinos was my favourite – I long to return. A 15-minute ferry ride from Mykonos, it is very different from its overcrowded and glamorous neighbour. Hiking, rather than partying, is the big draw, and the island’s mountainous interior conceals forgotten hamlets, lofty chapels and hundreds of beautiful dovecotes (pigeon houses), all linked by a network of walking trails. Most spectacular of all is its northeast corner, beyond the villages of Falatados and Volax. Thousands of granite boulders scatter the landscape, lending it an appearance more like Arizona than the Aegean. Xinara House, designed and owned by a British couple, offers modern digs in the heart of traditional Tinos.
Germany extends ban on UK arrivals
Germany has extended its temporary ban on travellers from the UK for another 14 days, until at least March 3.
The same restrictions will apply to other nations with 'virus variants of concern – namely Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, Portugal, the Czech Republic and the Austrian region of Tyrol.
Travellers from these areas will not be permitted to enter Germany, except under certain, limited exceptions; and companies that provide travel from these places 'by rail, bus, ship or aircraft are not allowed to transport persons to Germany', the Government advice states.
The ban was introduced on January 31 in response to the growing number of Covid-19 variants located in the UK and beyond, and was due to expire on February 17, but German Health Minister Jens Spahn cited a "recognisable rapid increase in the number of cases" in justifying the extension.
While much of the world has closed its doors on UK arrivals, there do remain an array of countries that are shunning the ban and welcoming Britons; Barbados and Serbia among them.
‘Hotels are one of the best managed and safest spaces to be’
Ahead of the announcement on Monday of a roadmap out of lockdown, James and Tamara Lohan, Co-Founders of Mr & Mrs Smith, have said they believe hotels are being unfairly penalised by the Government.
It’s been an enormously stressful time for Mr & Mrs Smith, as it has been for everyone in our industry. Furlough has helped, but we’re unable to maximise its purpose because of the service we must provide to confused customers who in their thousands are booking, cancelling and amending trips in response to the latest headline or throwaway comment by a minister.
The irony is that, despite being last on the list for re-opening, hotels are not linked to high numbers of cases and are not a leading environment for transmission – certainly compared to other areas such as retail. Hotels are one of the best managed and safest spaces to be: separate rooms, highly trained staff, socially-distanced restaurants, cleaning teams and meticulously managed Covid-19 protocols (in place since the first lockdown). This has been corroborated by a recent research study conducted by UKHospitality and CGA.
We must have clarity if we’re to survive – not just as a business, but as an industry that’s the third largest employer in the UK, responsible for three million jobs directly and a further 1.8 million indirectly. Sadly, representation for hospitality is split between two crowded government departments: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. This is surely why the message isn’t getting through and why we’re supporting both the Seat at the Table and Save our Summer campaigns.
'I never thought I'd say this, but lockdown has me itching for a rave in Ibiza'
The dream of a summer flirtation with the most mythologized Balearic is getting Emma Featherstone through the dregs of winter.
'Hancock effect' leads Britons to UK camping holidays
Pitchup.com reports an increase in consumer confidence following Matt Hancock's remarks to MPs about his own UK holiday booked for this summer. The site has had an annual growth of more than 100% this week so far; and hundreds of new listings, increasing customer choice and capacity, continue to be added with new sign-ups already 25% up on this point last year. Despite an increase in booking and use, a quick search shows that there are still 791 locations available in England for the week of 31st July to 7 August.
The platform's bookings for 2021 show that the south west remains popular as ever with Devon accounting for 8.6% of current UK bookings in 2021, Cornwall at 9.3% and strong bookings for Cumbria (4.6%) and the Cotswolds (2.2%).
Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, said:
This year mass confusion followed changing statements issued by the government, as the Covid situation has required a number of pivots - so holiday businesses will be hoping Monday’s statement gives some long-term clarity to British holidaymakers.
As a travel business owner it was interesting to see whether Hancock’s or Shapps’ views would resonate more with the British public - and it appears Brits are voting with their feet - we’re certainly seeing the “Hancock Effect” has prevailed. It’s likely that planning for holidays is giving many much-needed hope during this lockdown, which seems much harder than the first through these stark winter months. The stats show that Brits remain stoic and continue to book UK holidays as vaccination rates build confidence.
'Many of us will never see our loved ones again'
Like many others, British historian Guy de la Bédoyère has both ailing family and relations spread across the globe, meaning these travel bans are delivering a cruel blow. He writes:
My centenarian mother-in-law, half-blind and deaf, no longer able to walk, is sentenced to virtual solitary confinement in her care home. She’s been vaccinated but she might as well not have been. We still have to shout at her through the window every 10 days or so.
She has no dementia so having buried two husbands and two of her three children she’s acutely aware she may never see her grandsons and great-grandchildren again, especially the ones who live in Vietnam and Mexico, and even the one who lives in Belfast. The end of her life has turned into a nightmare.
My sister lives in California. Thanks to the testing-fest every arrival in this country is obliged to undergo at their own expense she can’t come back any time soon. If the US is put on our red-list, as it has been speculated, all hope is lost. Will she ever see our ailing father again? Even I haven’t seen him since last summer.
Will all cruise holidays require proof of vaccination?
Next month will mark a year since the global cruise industry shuddered to a halt as coronavirus spread. Despite some hope that holidays at sea would return in a meaningful way, ships remain largely free from passengers, with only river cruising in Europe mounting a significant comeback in 2020.
But could the roll-out of vaccines be a gamechanger for cruising? One line popular with UK holidaymakers has already stated passengers must have had the jabs before boarding its ships.
Might this be the standard requirement in the future? Find out here.
'My most profound travel experience was on a stag do in France'
I’m probably not supposed to admit that my most treasured travel memory was on a stag do, writes Greg Dickinson.
The setting was France’s west coast, in between Bordeaux and Biarritz. As best man, it was my duty to organise a send off for James, and I found somewhere with bell tents, a swimming pool, a table tennis table, and a local brewery willing to ply us with as much beer as we needed. Ocean Shelter, our new home was called.
Soon, getting lost in a forest and discovering bioluminescence made a change from the usual rowdy fare, he explains.
Aircraft manufacturer reports losses of £1.1bn for 2020
Airbus expects to deliver the same number of commercial aircraft in 2021 as it did in 2020, after revealing another year steep losses.
The aircraft maker has reported a full-year loss of €1.13 billion for 2020, following the €1.36 billion suffered in 2019 when it was hit with £3 billion of bribery fines.
Its revenues fell by 27 per cent to €49.9 billion as the effects of the pandemic took their toll.
Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury said: "Many uncertainties remain for our industry in 2021 as the pandemic continues to impact lives, economies and societies. We have issued guidance to provide some visibility in a volatile environment."
Wales will block travellers from 'high incidence' areas over Easter
Mark Drakeford has said he will look to impose restrictions on people travelling into Wales from areas with a high incidence of coronavirus, but suggested he would not ban people coming from England.
The First Minister, who has announced his ambitions for "self-contained" holidays to take place over Easter, told a Cardiff press conference the Welsh Government had learned how to "reduce the flow of traffic" between areas with different rates.
"The border is not the issue, the issue is trying to make sure coronavirus doesn't get seeded again into low incidence areas," he added. "That will be one of the principles we will use to make those decisions.
"If we have wide disparities we will act again to make sure low incidence areas do not face influxes of people travelling to Wales bringing the virus with them."
Vaccine passports are 'mobile apps not a physical passport'
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and one of the people behind the campaign to restart foreign travel by May, gives his take on how Covid-19 vaccine passports should look.
Important to stress that “vaccine passports” are NOT another physical passport. They are mobile health apps which can easily integrate with your chosen airline app. @IATA has one of the best in trial. It will be ready in March. In time for a May getaway. 😉 @ThePCAgency
— Paul Charles (@PPaulCharles) February 19, 2021
10 amazing holidays in Wales to book now (before they sell out)
The daffodils are coming into bloom as Wales prepares to celebrate St David’s Day on March 1. But that’s not the only reason to celebrate: the Welsh Government has hinted at an Easter staycation boom with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, suggesting that self-catering breaks will be possible from April. Book now before prices soar.
How about a house in the hills?
Located near Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons, this tucked-away country pile is a new addition to the Welsh Rarebits group of independently owned country house hotels across Wales. Gliffaes offers plenty of room for post-lockdown roaming with 33 acres of grounds and your own stretch of the River Usk for trout and salmon fishing. The late 19th-century property combines modern art with period furnishings — think cosy, country chic.
Bookings from April 1; doubles from £145 B&B; www.rarebits.co.uk/hotels/gliffaes-country-house-hotel.
Villa operator offering 100pc refunds and no-fee changes
Abercrombie & Kent Villas is offering its customers 100 per cent refunds and postponement without a charge if they cannot travel due to UK government guidance or quarantine rules.
The travel company's Extra Flex policy applies to more than 70 villas, in Italy, France, Greece, Spain and Croatia.
Deposits have also been cut from 30 per cent to 20 per cent.
"Given the everchanging situation, booking flexibility and reassurance around refunds remain the key consideration for clients," it said.
Mark Drakeford: 'Marginal' changes to restrictions
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the following in Wales' roadmap out of lockdown:
From Saturday 20th February, four people from two different households will be able to meet outdoors for socially distanced local exercise. This doesn’t apply to private gardens.
From March 1, the law will be changed to allow licensed wedding venues, such as visitor attractions and hotels, to re-open but only to perform wedding and civil partnership ceremonies.
Sport Wales will make arrangements for more of our talented athletes to resume training and playing.
With more people living and working in older people’s care homes being vaccinated, we will look again at our guidance for care home visiting.
Skiers take to the slopes in Turkey
Tourists and skiers are pictured enjoy snow in Uludag, one of the most important centers of winter tourism, in Bursa, Turkey.
Dutch government fights to retain Covid curfews
The Dutch government was fighting on two fronts on Friday to maintain a night-time curfew it says is vital to slow a third wave of coronavirus cases less than a month before a national election.
The Senate was debating a bill rushed through parliament by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government that would explicitly give the cabinet the power to keep the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew in place after a court found it lacked legal justification.
Meanwhile, an appeals court was hearing more arguments about whether it had ever been legal to introduce the curfew, which triggered street protests when it was brought in last month.
Hopes raised for Easter self-catering holidays
Self-catering holidays could return in time for Easter, Welsh first Minister Mark Drakeford said today – raising hopes that such accommodation may open up across Britain by the beginning of April.
"I met our tourism taskforce yesterday, [and] we'll be having some detailed discussions with them now over the next couple of weeks to see if there's anything that we might be able to do around the Easter period," Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"The most that would be would be the reopening of self-contained accommodation where there aren't shared facilities and there isn't social mixing.
"But if we could do that [...] I know that that would be a boost to the industry and a big boost to hundreds of thousands of families in Wales for whom going down the caravan for a few days or a break would be a very welcome prospect."
Mr Drakeford’s comments are a positive signal for the resumption of domestic breaks elsewhere in Britain, with Wales typically taking a tougher stance than England on Covid travel rules.
They come ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Monday in which he is set to reveal the UK Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The most amazing new galleries and museums worth travelling for in 2021
As the cultural world reemerges, a constellation of starchitect-designed projects are set to finally open in Europe, the US and beyond, writes Laura Fowler.
Among them is:
On Oslo’s regenerated waterfront, Munch is a new 13-storey museum dedicated to the Norwegian artist. When it opens this summer, it will contain 11 galleries’ worth of more than 26,000 works by Edvard Munch, including two versions of The Scream, as well as his poems about it, alongside thousands more writings, personal belongings and photographs. The futuristic, energy-saving museum, clad in recycled aluminium, will contain additional galleries showing other artists, plus public workshops, restaurants and a rooftop bar.
‘Powder to the people’
Ski resorts in Italy still remain shut to the general public, but over the past two weeks the Alpine World Ski Championships have been taking place in the resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, reports Lucy Aspden.
To mark the occasion and Cortina’s long-standing relationship with international sporting events (it is set to host the Winter Olympics for the second time in 2026), British street artist Endless has unveiled a mural in the resort. Titled 'Powder to the People' the mural resembles an iconic magazine cover from 1951 and was created using spray paint and hand-cut stencils.
"It was a privilege to be asked to create a mural to honor the ski championships," said Endless, from London whose work includes collaborations with the likes of Liberty London and Karl Lagerfeld.
"Even under pandemic restrictions, the excitement and buzz in the town right now conveys the significance of this event. It is something the people are really looking forward to. This artwork is meant to articulate this feeling of excitement in a bright, fun and visual way whilst also drawing back to Cortina’s heritage as a ski destination."
Russian aviation agency cannot confirm Egypt flights to resume
Russian civil aviation agency Rosaviatsia said on Friday it could not confirm that flights to Egypt's resort towns were set to resume in March, following comments made by its Egyptian counterpart.
On Thursday the head of Egypt's civil aviation authority told Reuters that direct flights from Russia to the Red Sea resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada would resume next month after a hiatus of more than five years.
Ashraf Noweir, Egypt's civil aviation chief, said Russia's Nordwind Airlines has submitted a request to start flights to both resort towns starting on March 28.
Flights from Russia to the two popular tourist destinations were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in October 2015, killing 224 people.
How the Victorians invented the seaside holiday
Those Britons planning to make for the UK seaside this year will only be following a route taken by our 19th-century ancestors, writes Chris Leadbeater.
There can be a tendency to regard the 1950s and 1960s – when holiday camps were in their knobbly-knee-inspecting heyday, and Billy Butlin was building his brand – as the halcyon era of British domestic tourism. But while this time before cheap flights and last-minute Costa packages was indeed a golden age for getaways on home soil, it was only the second of its kind. The original example had been a century earlier, when the country first discovered two novel, exciting concepts – the brief escape from the workplace, and the seaside locations in which these flights of fancy could be enjoyed.
If there end up being echoes of this in the Covid-constrained summer of 2021 – a January survey of its members by short-breaks specialist Travelzoo revealed that 42 per cent of Britons plan to travel in home pastures at some point this year, as we wait for international restrictions to be lifted – then we will only be following a route taken by our mid-19th century ancestors.
Euros and Wimbledon to give 'hope' in post-lockdown summer
Euro 2020 and Wimbledon could be the "catalysts to give people hope" during an "exciting" post-lockdown summer, according to Sadiq Khan.
The mayor of London believes major sporting and cultural events in the capital could be a "springboard to a recovery" but insisted they must be done safely, with UK-based fans rather than those from overseas expected to attend.
Football's European Championship was delayed by a year due to the pandemic, with Uefa still hopeful of staging the tournament in 12 cities, including London and Glasgow.
Wimbledon was not held in 2020 and scenarios are being drawn up for the tennis tournament to take place at full capacity, reduced numbers or behind closed doors.
UK tourism body admits to 'big mistakes' in way it spent public money
New documents have revealed that Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY) spent over £430,000 removing and investigating its former chief executive, reports the BBC.
Sir Gary Verity was appointed to the role in 2008 and was responsible for bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014. He left in March 2019, following concerns over his expenses claims and the way in which staff were treated.
Welcome to Yorkshire, which is funded by tourism businesses and councils across Yorkshire, later commissioned two independent investigations.
James Mason, who took over the role early in 2020, told BBC Look North that "big mistakes" regarding finances had been made in the past, but said "some great things" had also been achieved.
UK could be back to normal by May, says Prof Neil Ferguson
The UK could be back to normal by May with new data on the effectiveness of vaccines "looking promising", a senior scientific adviser has said.
Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, was asked by the BBC whether we could return to normal by May. "It still may well be that...we're in a very different country than we are today."
He added that rules would still be in place "but I think society will be a lot more normal".
However, he warned that lifting restrictions depended on things panning out as hoped, but said that the current data suggests they will.
‘People who have been vaccinated should be allowed to travel’
Chris McIntyre, founder of tour operator Expert Africa, has voiced his support for vaccine passports for overseas travel, and urged the Government to provide a roadmap for the holiday industry.
Yesterday I spoke to the owner of a small operator in Zambia. She and her family had built up a few great, small safari camps over the last 20 years. They’d trained their staff from scratch, funded local schools and clinics, helped found an orphanage and, like many such camps, had a massive impact on poverty over the years. Now, as she said, she’s “looking down the barrel of another crippling year”.
She’s not the only one: 7% of Zambia’s economy depends on tourism. Like much of sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of her visitors come from the UK – so the news of mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from 33 ‘red list’ countries, including Zambia, was devastating. Staff there are more like family. She’s managed to keep some income for almost all of her team so far, but she just can’t see how that will continue this year. On average, each wage-earner in Zambia supports 10 people – so this will hit poor communities there very hard indeed. Over the whole pandemic, Covid is responsible for fewer than 1,000 deaths in Zambia; rising poverty will be a much bigger killer there.
Meanwhile, this hotel quarantine will be the death-knell for many UK travel businesses also. Nobody wants to take a foreign holiday if they then have to tag on 10 days in a cramped Heathrow hotel – so it’s effectively a travel ban.
Despite all of this, I’d accept the new hotel quarantine rules as a sacrifice for the good of the country’s health, if they made sense. But they don’t. The Government’s own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) comment that this kind of measure “cannot be relied upon to stop importation of new variants.” The only way to do that is New Zealand-style isolation – which won’t work for ‘global Britain’.
Clearly now there is a better way: UK numbers of Covid-cases are heading downhill fast – squeezed by months of lockdown and the shrinking of the pool of the number of potential hosts who are not yet vaccinated. We can now start easing lockdown: slowly and cautiously. People who have been vaccinated should be allowed to travel – with vaccine passports. Others should quarantine at home on their return, regardless of where they have come from, and effective monitoring should be put in place for this. The policy of hotel quarantines should be scrapped before it does real damage, to the UK and those who rely on us across the world.
The science behind why border restrictions will not stop Covid variants
Professor David Livermore explains why the latest restrictions will not be effective at halting the spread of newer variants in the UK:
Fear of importing these variants lies behind the Government’s imposition of quarantine for travellers entering the UK from southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, Panama and the UAE. Will such regulations, and threatened 10-year prison sentences for those who flout them, protect us?
The answer to that is ‘no’. Firstly because the South African variant is already circulating in the UK and is doubtless under-detected. Secondly, because they will continue to be imported from elsewhere in the world and, as a trading nation, we cannot isolate ourselves. And, above all, because E484K mutations have emerged independently here, notably around Bristol, and will continue to do so. Currently the Zoe app suggests 230,000 people are infected with Covid-19 in the UK. Each of these will be carrying and producing billions of virus particles. With these numbers, domestic generation of mutants will outweigh import.
US Senator faces criticism for flying to Mexico during Texas crisis
US Senator Ted Cruz flew into a storm of criticism on Thursday after leaving his home state of Texas in the grip of a deadly deep freeze, for a family holida to the Mexican resort of Cancun he said he took to please his young daughters.
"It was obviously a mistake. In hindsight, I wouldn't have done it," the 50-year-old Republican told reporters as he returned to Houston.
Mr Cruz said he had planned to stay through the weekend, but had second thoughts "almost the moment I sat down on the plane".
With millions of Texans grappling with the fallout from a ferocious winter storm, Cruz, viewed as a presidential hopeful in 2024, faced condemnation after photos on social media showed him in an airport line, in a passenger lounge, aboard an airliner and leaving Cancun International Airport in Mexico.
The National Trust's most beautiful remote holiday homes
There is hope that self-catering stays will reopen by April, with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford saying such holidays may be possible over the Easter period. Given that he has been among the most cautious of the UK leaders when it comes to Covid restrictions, his comments bode well for the rest of the country.
You might like to start planning your post-lockdown escape. Tamara Hinson has some winning suggestions, including:
Woodlands Cottage, Handcross, West Sussex
This dolls’ house-like holiday home was built in 1868 as a game keepers’ dwelling, and you’ll find it in deep in the woods of the Nymans Estate, known for its towering redwoods and black poplars. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot, whether it’s the bats which flit between the trees which the encircle the cottage, or the estate’s deer, stoats, foxes and badgers. Woodlands has two bedrooms (one double and one twin) and direct access to the maze of walking trails which fan out across the estate, looping around eerie sandstone outcroppings and around the nearby lake. Follow the footpath to the main house to wander through its sprawling gardens, designed with autumn in mind – bursts of colour are provided by heathers, camellias and red oaks, planted by the estate’s owners in the 1890s.
Industry body working with destinations on vaccine certificates
Travel association Abta is in talks with overseas governments over how vaccine certificates could open up international travel as the vaccines minister said the UK should "facilitate" such a scheme.
Abta has been "engaging with destinations to understand their approach to reopening travel" and how vaccine rollouts could affect UK holidaymakers, said Susan Deer, the organisation's director of industry relations.
She added that "some overseas governments are certainly looking at how vaccination certificates could fit with testing and quarantine".
The European Council is considering a standardised proof of vaccination form at EU level, which Abta "will continue to monitor," said Ms Deer.
'Wrong' to speculate on summer holidays, says minister
Speculating on whether summer holidays will be possible this year would be "wrong", according to Foreign Office minister James Cleverly.
He told BBC Breakfast on Friday that the prime minister "will be setting out exactly what restrictions we are able to ease and when in as much detail as he is able" but that he "cannot give guarantees because that is not how viruses work".
He added: "I get how frustrating this is, it's completely natural. We all want to get a break from this, I get that. But it would wrong for me to start speculating now."
Five amazing UK holidays with history for 2021
Now could be the moment to dip your toe in the water with a British history jaunt, before overseas tourists return, writes Sophie Campbell.
Among her picks? A seven-day stomp along Hadrian's Wall, from May.
Lace up your sandals for this rugged self-guided walk along Britain's most famous wall in the care of the Carter Company, from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend, staying in cosy boutique hotels all the way. You might need them: the daily quota of eight to 15 miles is rarely flat (what a chance to shift all that lockdown weight) but the rewards are glorious views and an incredible range of Roman forts and milecastles, some part of the landscape, others museums – that should, with luck, be open again – to which private transfers are included. You can book a guide by the day (£300 extra) or go history-lite and guide yourselves with the pack provided. From £1,995 per person.
The Carter Company (the-carter-company.com/walking-holidays/the-uk/lake-district/hadrians-wall-walk).
Jet2 delays Bristol airport launch until July
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays have pushed back the launch of flights and holidays from Bristol as ongoing restrictions put travel on hold.
The operator announced Bristol as its tenth airport base in November, with plans for flights to 33 destinations. These new services were due to begin on April 1 with the first flight to Lanzarote, but the start date has now been delayed until July 1.
A spokesman for Jet2 said the airline had been "hugely encouraged by the response" to its tenth base.
They added: “Moving the launch date to July 1 allows us to ready our brand-new operation at Bristol Airport, including the delivery of our VIP customer service which we know will be hugely popular with customers and independent travel agents in the region.”
Customers affected by these changes will see their bookings automatically cancelled, and a refund issued.
Britons warned UK cottages are booking up for summer
Hopeful staycationers are being urged to book ahead for self-catering cottages this summer with up to 70 per cent of properties already snapped up in popular areas. according to one accommodation listings site.
Some 70 per cent of properties in Pembrokeshire and 60 per cent of properties in Cornwall are already reserved for key summer weeks, said UK cottage listings site Independent Cottages.
The company reported triple the number of enquiries during this lockdown compared to the first lockdown in March 2020. In addition to new enquiries and bookings, many properties were already booked owing to holidays being rescheduled from last year.
Steve Jarvis, co-founder of Independent Cottages said:
Pembrokeshire in Wales is proving to be the most sought-after area so far with nearly 70 per cent of properties already booked for key weeks this summer. Ever-popular family destinations such as Cornwall also have very few prime weeks available – with around 60 per cent of properties already booked up for popular summer weeks.
Interestingly, over a third of all booking enquiries over the past month are for the Lake District, Peak District or Yorkshire Dales.
Disneyland reopens in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on Friday with a number of precautions in place, including mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing and sanitation measures.
Visitor capacity is in accordance with government guidance and the park will operate just five days a week, closing on Tuesday and Thursdays. All customers will be required to provide their contact details for use in the event of an outbreak that requires contract tracing.
The park's first shut due to the pandemic on Jan. 26, 2020. It then reopened June 18, before shuttering again on July 15, and reopening again on Sept. 25.
UK Govt. considers globally recognised vaccine passports
There is increasing hope among ministers and officials that foreign holidays may be possible this summer, it is understood.
The Government is reportedly considering the creation of globally recognised vaccine passports, which could allow people to travel.
It comes as the Greek tourism minister revealed on Thursday that his government is in "preliminary discussions" with UK ministers over a potential travel agreement for vaccinated Britons.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Haris Theoharis suggested that restriction-free holidays could be on the cards for those who have been vaccinated.
He said he was hoping for a "semi-normal summer" this year, and said that a 'vaccine passport' scheme would facilitate travel between Britain and Greece.
Crystal Cruises latest line to require passengers to be vaccinated
All guests travelling with Crystal Cruises will have to have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days before their sailing in order to join a cruise.
Passengers will need to provide proof of vaccination before joining the ship and must have received both doses of the vaccine if recommended by the manufacturer.
It is the latest cruise line to announce that vaccines will be mandatory for passengers, following Saga Cruises, Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines.
Jack Anderson, Crystal’s interim president and chief executive, said "We know that peace of mind is the greatest luxury; and the vaccine requirement is simply the best way to ensure the safest possible Crystal experience for all on board.
"This sentiment is underscored by conversations with our guests and travel partners and a recent Cruise Critic survey of cruisers that revealed that more than 80% of respondents would cruise if a vaccine were required."
Airlines refuse 2.3 million people refunds
British Airways and Ryanair are among airlines that have refused to pay back about 2.3 million people for flights they were unable to take because of lockdowns or Covid restrictions, a study has found.
The research by the consumer group Which found the families had been left out of pocket because of lockdowns or restrictions that meant they reasonably – or in some cases legally – could not travel to their destination.
They included lockdowns in November and this month when holiday travel was illegal but airlines still went ahead with the flights. Other reasons included restrictions preventing entry at their destination and the Foreign Office advising against non-essential travel.
So unless the prospective travellers managed to negotiate a change of date for their flight – or could afford to pay to do so – many had to pull out without a refund.
What happened yesterday?
The main headlines
Greek holidays could be possible for vaccinated Britons, reveals tourism minister
Hotel quarantine guest goes on hunger strike and makes dash for freedom
Summer bookings booming for Greece and Canaries, says Tui
More than £2 million in public money may end up being spent on empty quarantine hotels
Telegraph Travel followers vote in favour of scrapping the hotel quarantine regime
UK airlines: Vaccinations won't be mandatory for flight crew
Now onto today's news,