Grant Shapps will make an update on international travel rules today. The traffic light system is set for an overhaul amid reports of a new two-tier system, ditching expensive PCR tests for double-jabbed holidaymakers and a significant reduction to the red list.

Image: France is one of the countries currently on the amber list despite being a popular holiday destination for Britons

  • Grant Shapps to make an international travel update later – with measures to ‘reduce costs’
  • Traffic light system expected to be replaced by simple go or don’t go lists – with the latter being significantly reduced
  • The need for expensive post-holiday PCR tests could also be ditched for the double jabbed
  • Expert says airlines will keep prices low despite increased demand (13.53 post)
  • TUI boss claims going to Tesco is more dangerous than international travel (09.09 post)
  • Number of red list countries could be slashed by more than half – reports
  • Read more: Which destinations are on which list – and will they let UK travellers in?  | Travel tracker: How cases compare in holiday hotspots
  • Live updates by Emily Mee


Analysis: Why these travel changes matter to more than just holidaymakers 

By Paul Kelso, business correspondent

They’ll be pleased to hear that some changes are on the way but they won’t be getting out the bunting until they hear exactly what they are.

The travel industry has been devastated by COVID-19.

It’s repeatedly asked the government to make it a special case to go above and beyond the large amounts of support that have been extended to every industry through COVID. The government has consistently refused and there have been casualties.

The industry fears there could be up to 100,000 job losses by the time this has all played out.

Bookings are down 80% this summer on pre-pandemic levels, so it’s too late to save the summer season.

Some companies might hope they can tee up some more business in the upcoming half term and perhaps even the Christmas holidays.

But the real question for the travel industry now is whether these changes when they’re set out will help save jobs.

More than 50% of people who work in air passenger services are still on the furlough scheme, as well as almost 50% working in travel agencies.

It’s worth bearing in mind that furlough scheme finishes two weeks today.

People’s livelihoods will depend on whether those changes set out by the transport secretary later can persuade agencies and airlines that there’s a viable business to keep people in work.


Expert says he’d like day two PCR tests to remain to track variants

COVID data expert Tim White said the changes to the travel system will make it a “lot easier” for holidaymakers and for people separated from their families.

The green and amber travel lists have effectively been merged anyway because of the vaccination policy, he added.

He told Sky News he still expects Turkey to come off the red list, along with Pakistan.

But the “big question is what will happen about South America”, due to the number of variants there, he said.

Referring to speculation the day two PCR tests will be replaced by lateral flow tests, he said: “I’m not so sure that’s the right idea.”

He said he would like to see the day two test remain a PCR as it’s the only way we can do genomic sequencing – but it looks like “the government is going to try a cheaper route”.


Travellers entering Switzerland face new testing requirements if they’re not vaccinated

Switzerland is imposing new testing requirements for some travellers in a bid to curb a further spike in coronavirus cases.

From Monday, people entering the country who have not been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will need to provide a negative test result.

In a statement, the government said: “The Federal Council wants to prevent an increase in the number of infections caused by travellers returning home from autumn vacation.”

This refers to a two-week school break in October.

All travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, will have to fill out a form.

Those who need to provide evidence they are free of the virus should get a second test four to seven days after entry.


Airlines will keep prices low, expert says

Stephanie Boyle, the head of industry relations at Skyscanner, says a simplification of the travel system would be “welcome news” ahead of the October half term break.

She told Sky News more than a third of people surveyed were put off from travelling over the summer because of the “confusing” traffic light system and the testing requirements.

But weekly bookings have increased by 178% over the last month following reports of upcoming changes.

She said: “That shows that growing confidence to turn that appetite for travel into a real trip.”

Bookings for October half term have already shot up by 22% over the last five days, she added.

Pressed on if airlines will whack up prices due to increased demand, she replied: “I really doubt that that’s going to happen. There are a lot of airlines out there with planes on the ground.

“They are definitely going to keep those prices low to encourage travellers to get back into planes. There are a lot of deals to be had.”


A third of Britons say they would support the traffic light system being simplified

We’re due to hear an update on international travel from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps later today, amid reports green and amber lists could become one ‘low risk’ category.

A YouGov poll found 34% of Britons would support this, while 33% want it to remain as it already is.

And 11% want the whole system ditched altogether.


Grant Shapps says he will set out measures later today ‘to reduce costs’

The transport secretary tweeted: “I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe.”


What’s happening with COVID cases in countries around the world?

As we wait for the transport secretary to deliver an update on international travel, you can use the map below to look at the two-week infection rate in each country.

It shows the number of confirmed cases in the last two weeks, with the infection rate per 100,000 people.


Former cabinet minister calls for travel tests to be scrapped

Tory MP Liam Fox, who has served as international trade secretary and defence secretary, called for the “expensive and unnecessary” tests to be ditched for vaccinated passengers.


Downing Street also confirms Grant Shapps will ‘make an international travel update later’ on Friday

The prime minister’s official spokesman hinted that the approach will see the transport secretary announce an easing of restrictions following “steady progress” in the struggle against COVID-19.

Quizzed over whether the changes were likely to be permanent, the No 10 spokesman said: “I think with all the rules and guidance and systems we have with regard to coronavirus, we are aware that the pandemic is still ongoing and there is always the chance of unexpected challenges, such as an even more transmissible or more deadly variant emerging.

“That said, because of the success of our vaccine programme, it is enabling us to move steadily and remove restrictions, as you saw when we came out of step four.

“While we have seen slow easing of the restrictions on travel, I’m not going to speculate on what the transport secretary will say later today.

“I think it would be wrong to rule out anything in the future but it is important to note that we continue to make steady progress to ease restrictions, and that is very much the intention of the approach we will be taking.”


Tourists may be allowed to enter Indonesia from next month

Indonesia says foreign tourists from certain countries may be able to enter the resort island of Bali and other parts of the country next month.

Senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan said a decision will be made “cautiously”.

Countries such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, where the COVID situation is less severe, will be considered first.

This depends on their ability to contain outbreaks in the coming weeks, he added.


What is the COVID situation like in holiday hotspots?

If you’re planning a trip abroad, one of the things to consider now is what the coronavirus situation is like in your chosen holiday destination.

First up, we’ll take a look at the coronavirus positivity rate – which is the proportion of tests coming back positive, and a good indicator of how prevalent the virus is.

A positivity rate of below 5% suggests the epidemic is under control.

As we can see from the chart below, a number of holiday hotspots are seeing high positivity rates, including Switzerland, Jamaica, Spain, Serbia and Croatia.

But countries such as Cyprus, Italy and France are seeing lower levels of positivity.

It’s also worth looking at vaccination rates.

Some countries still have less than half their population vaccinated – including Jamaica, Croatia, Serbia and Turkey. The vaccination rate is particularly low in Jamaica.

However, the majority have hit 50% and vaccination levels are particularly high in Portugal.


Travel stocks up ahead of announcement

Ahead of the expected announcement later today, stocks in airlines, hotel groups and companies reliant on international travel have gone up.

British Airways owner IAG is up 4%, Intercontinental Hotels Group is up 1.5%, while the travel firm TUI is up 3.7%.

The Restaurant Group, the owner of the chains Frankie and Benny’s and Wagamama which both have outlets in airports, is also up 4%.

Rolls Royce, which would be affected by a change to the rules due to its core business of making and servicing engines for long-haul aircraft, saw its shares rise by 2.3%.

Luxury fashion giant Burberry, which could see sales rise from international tourists visiting its high end boutiques in cities around the world, is up 1.5%.

And SSP, which owns Upper Crust and operates in a lot of train stations, is also up 3.45%.

Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Companies highly reliant on international tourists saw a jump start to their share price today with a big shake up in travel rules due.

“This is the jolt of energy the travel industry desperately needed after months of uncertainty.”


Grant Shapps confirms travel announcement is due ‘later’

Asked by Sky News if a big travel announcement was coming today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Later.”


What can we expect in the government’s travel overhaul?

The UK’s measures for international travel are set to be overhauled following months of chaos and complaints about the categorisation of countries and cost of testing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new system would be announced before 1 October, but there’s some indications it could happen today. So what are the changes likely to be?

Red list to be reduced

Speculation has included whether the red list will be reduced significantly.

When we spoke to data expert Tim White, he said the new system will likely focus on the risk of variants of concerns.

Therefore, he believes we could see Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Turkey coming off the red list.

Changes to testing

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid all-but-confirmed PCR tests for double-jabbed travellers are set to be scrapped in favour of cheaper lateral flow tests.

At the moment, fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list destinations have to buy post-arrival PCR tests which typically cost around £65.

Two-tier system

The government could also get rid of the traffic light system, which has seen countries moved to amber or red at short notice and created disruption for travellers.

Instead, a new two-tier system could tell people which countries they can and can’t go to.


Watch: George Eustice issues warning over travel restrictions

The environment secretary told Sky News “we do also need to be mindful and vigilant about new variants coming in”, ahead of an expected announcement on changes to the travel rules (07.10 post).


New rules could still see £30 costs for supervised lateral flow tests – reports

Holidaymakers still face £30 costs for supervised lateral flow tests under new rules which are expected to be introduced, according to the Daily Telegraph.

They will reportedly not be able to use the free lateral flow tests provided by the government, which means there will still be extra costs for travelling.

Meanwhile, unvaccinated travellers are also expected to face additional costs.

They will be required to take a test before flying home, as well as a PCR test on day two and at least a lateral flow test on day eight, the newspaper reported.


TUI boss claims going to Tesco is more dangerous than international travel

Andrew Flintham, TUI’s UK and Ireland boss, has warned the costs of tests for travel are “absolutely immense” for travellers and the industry.

He told Sky News there needs to be a “simplified system” and a greatly reduced red list, which is what most of Europe is doing.

Mr Flintham said there have been zero variants of concerns coming from red list countries since July.

He added the travel industry “firmly” believes there shouldn’t be any testing restrictions, adding the UK has a 1.4% infection rate – compared to 0.7% in green list countries.

“You’re probably more at risk going to the Tesco supermarket than you are going international travelling,” he said.

“If you are vaccinated you should not be restricted because that’s the same thing that happens in your everyday life domestically.”

He said European travel operations are back to 70-80% of normal levels, compared to 30-40% in the UK, adding: “The sector is in a parlous state.”

Ministers have to decide whether to open up international travel “like everyone else”, as otherwise it will have to “support another industry that really cannot go through another winter”.


Which countries have the toughest restrictions?

Britons are waiting to hear what will change in the government’s travel overhaul – but the UK’s restrictions on holidays are not the only thing you may want to consider.

We have taken a look at how strict the restrictions are in every European country to provide an idea of what faces you when you get there.

The darker the colour on the map, the tighter the rules – with Italy having the most severe restrictions in place.

France, Germany and Greece are other holiday hotspots at the stricter end of the scale.


Travel should open ‘as quickly as possible’ – Labour

Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones says Labour wants travel “to open up as safely and as quickly as possible”.

She told Sky News: “We have been calling for ages for the amber list to be scrapped. It always adds to confusion, no one quite understood what the system was.”

The MP said “we saw with the delta variant what went absolutely wrong”, adding: “We need to make sure the government has learnt the lessons.”

Although some PCR costs have been “extortionate”, she said any changes need to be introduced “safely”.

And although she said she wants a return to normality, she added there are still 8,000 COVID patients in hospital.

But pressed on if Labour want PCR tests replaced by lateral flow tests or scrapped altogether, she replied: “We need to make it simpler, we need to make it clearer.

“People have been confused by what the rules are.”


Are any of the main holiday destinations under threat in the travel review due today?

We asked data expert Tim White to look at key European destinations to examine whether any are under threat of turning red in this week’s traffic light review.

Thankfully, his prediction is that they’re not – so we won’t see any repeat of Britons having to rush back to the UK as we did last year – at least not en masse from one of the main holiday hotspots.

He said: “None of the big European destinations are in any danger in the upcoming review.

“In the last three weeks infection rates have been coming down in almost all the major holiday hotspots like France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal.

“The only country popular with UK tourists to see a rise has been Croatia as the coronavirus hotspot has headed north and east across the continent.

“But if you’re planning to head to Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar or any of the other Croatian delights, don’t fear.

“The seven-day infection rate is nowhere near worrying levels, indeed currently being a little lower than Austria which was added to the green list only last month.”

Follow Tim on Twitter at @TWMCLtd 


Eurostar trains will not stop in Kent until at least 2023 due to pandemic – reports

The cross-Channel train operator Eurostar has postponed the reopening of its Kent services until at least 2023, according to The Independent.

Its services, which go from London St Pancras to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, have not been stopping at Ashford or Ebbsfleet since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm had said services would be restored next year – but it now the Kent stations will stay shut throughout 2022.

The company, which is running a reduced service after travel restrictions on both sides of the Channel affected its business, said it will review the decision towards the end of next year.

A spokesman said: “As the business starts its recovery, we need to focus on core destinations where demand is highest.”


Environment secretary says ‘no decisions have been taken yet’ about PCR tests for travel

George Eustice tells Sky News a COVID sub-committee will probably be considering it later today.

The minister says there’s a “discussion to be had” about PCR tests – and “if we can do further refinements on testing we’ll look at that to reduce those burdens”.

“But we do also need to be mindful and vigilant about new variants coming in,” he warns.

Mr Eustice admits it’s been a “very, very difficult time for the travel industry”, but says the “biggest threat” to it is that another variant emerges that “manages to get around the vaccine”.

“And then we’re into another full lockdown. And that’s not what we want,” he adds.

“That’s why we’ve taken this cautiously step by step. We want each step we take to be irreversible.”

He says there is still a “rationale” for the amber list.


Travel updates make the front pages

A number of today’s national newspapers lead with the expected travel announcements.

The Daily Express reports that ministers are expected to scrap green and amber lists for British travellers in favour of one “no-go” category for the world’s worst-hit COVID hotspots.

British travellers who are fully vaccinated will be able to take cheaper lateral flow tests instead of PCR tests when they return from abroad, with pre-departure tests also likely to be scrapped, according to the Daily Mail.

The Times features a story on its front page about how dozens of countries, including Turkey, will be removed from the red list in time for the half-term break next month.

Meanwhile, expensive PCR tests for returning travellers are set to be ditched for the fully vaccinated, the Daily Telegraph reports.


Number of red list countries could be slashed by more than half – reports

There are currently 62 countries on the red travel of countries, which are considered a high risk from new coronavirus variants.

According to the Daily Mail, the number on the list will be reduced by more than half.

But travellers returning from red list destinations will still have to enter hotel quarantine, which costs £2,285.

The newspaper also reports that unvaccinated travellers will face tougher rules under the new system.

At the moment, those returning from green list destinations such as Croatia and Germany have to take a PCR test on day two of their arrival home.

But under the new rules, they will have to isolate at home for 10 days and take PCR tests on both day two and day eight, as they currently have to do from amber list countries.


Major changes to international travel rules could be announced today – reports

The green and amber lists will reportedly be merged into one category of low-risk nations and the number of places on the red list will be reduced.

And according to The Times, Turkey could be taken off the red list in time for the October half-term.

Data expert Tim White has told Sky News that as many as 12 countries could lose their red designation: Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

There are currently 62 countries on the red list.

But the rules around red list travel – spending 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers – are expected to remain the same.

There have also been suggestions that those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to take a lateral flow test before their departure and a PCR test after their arrival.

For more information, click here.


Good morning

Welcome to today’s live travel coverage.

We’ll be bringing you the latest updates throughout the day, amid reports a number of travel restrictions could be ditched.


Key points:

  • Grant Shapps to make an international travel update later – with measures to ‘reduce costs’
  • Traffic light system expected to be replaced by simple go or don’t go lists – with the latter being significantly reduced
  • The need for expensive post-holiday PCR tests could also be ditched for the double jabbed
  • Expert says airlines will keep prices low despite increased demand (13.53 post)
  • TUI boss claims going to Tesco is more dangerous than international travel (09.09 post)
  • Number of red list countries could be slashed by more than half – reports
  • Read more: Which destinations are on which list – and will they let UK travellers in?  | Travel tracker: How cases compare in holiday hotspots
  • Live updates by Emily Mee


Never-before-seen Van Gogh drawing to be displayed in Amsterdam museum 

A drawing newly attributed to Vincent van Gogh that has never been displayed publicly before is going on show at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

Art lovers will have the chance to see the “new” piece, called Study For ‘Worn Out’, from Friday until 2 January.

It shows a balding and elderly man sitting hunched forwards on a chair with his head in his hands.

The piece is currently part of a Dutch private collection and was only known to a handful of people.

The owner, who remains anonymous, had asked the museum if the unsigned drawing was by Van Gogh – and it determined it had been.

“It’s quite rare for a new work to be attributed to Van Gogh,” the museum’s director Emilie Gordenker said in a statement.

“We’re proud to be able to share this early drawing and its story with our visitors.”

If you’re hoping to get to Amsterdam to see the artwork, you’re in luck. The Netherlands is on the UK’s amber list and has announced today that fully vaccinated travellers from the UK will soon no longer have to quarantine.


UAE has 38 sniffer dogs at its airports to detect COVID-19 

One year ago, a study was completed suggesting dogs can identify people infected with COVID at a 98.2% success rate.

Dubai Police trained a cohort of trusty German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies to recognise the scent of COVID-19 using the sweat of coronavirus patients.

Now, 38 dogs are being employed at the UAE’s airports.

The dogs currently carry out around 30 to 40 tests a day at the airports. Bolt, a black and tan Belgian Malinois, has done more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests alone.

Dubai has now received requests from around the world to share knowledge about how to train dogs in this way.


Turkey to be removed from England’s red list – report 

We’ve been reporting this could potentially happen during an expected travel update from the government tomorrow.

Now, The Times is saying Turkey will be taken off the red list – meaning fully vaccinated travellers will not have to quarantine on return and people will not have to stay in mandatory quarantine hotels.

The newspaper also says the amber classification will be scrapped to simplify the traffic light system for travel.

Instead, countries will be divided into either red or green list.


Travel company threatened with court action over delays in refunding customers 

The competition watchdog has said it will take Teletext Holidays to court if it does not do more to return money to customers whose trips were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The package holidays firm and sister company Alpharooms agreed to address failures to issue timely refunds in May.

Bosses agreed to process all refunds by the end of August and to ensure all future refunds for cancelled holidays are made within 14 days.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said £7.2m of refunds have been issued so far but payouts worth a total of £600,000 are still outstanding.

Teletext Holidays said the delay was due to not being able to issue refunds through customers’ existing payment method and not having their current bank details.

But the CMA said not enough had been done to return the money.

A spokeswoman for Teletext Holidays said the firm is “working as hard as it can to process the remaining refunds”.


No update on UK’s traffic light review today, says expert 

As we’ve been suggesting today, travel expert Tim White says there’s been confirmation there will be no update on travel today.

Instead, he says, we’ll hear tomorrow – and we’ll also get an announcement on the overhaul of the UK’s travel system.


What’s happening with infection rates around the world? 

As we’ve been reporting, an overhaul of the travel system could come as soon as tomorrow, with speculation the red list could be reduced.

To get an idea of where cases are increasing around the world, you can use the chart below to look at the change in the two-week infection rate in each country.


If new system comes in which ‘significantly’ reduces the red list, which countries could come off?

There is speculation Boris Johnson’s promised overhaul of the travel system could “significantly” reduce the red list.

We asked data expert Tim White to look at which red list countries could come off the red list if the criteria changes.

White believes the new system could predominantly focus on variants of concern – and that 12 “high-profile” countries could therefore be removed from the red list.

It is important to note that none of this has been confirmed – and even if and when it is, White doesn’t expect these changes to take effect until October.

He told Sky News: “The countries are Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

“If cautious, Mexico may need to stay a while longer, and Dominican Republic needs help to conduct genomic sequencing.”

Follow Tim on Twitter at @TWMCLtd 


Sky News understands we may have to wait longer for a travel update

The three-weekly update usual comes from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on a Thursday evening.

However, earlier this week the PM suggested there could be a wider look at the travel system.

He said: “We will be saying a lot more shortly about traffic lights system, about simplifying it, and about what we can do about the burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country.”

It is thought an update could come as early as tomorrow.


Gatwick cutting costs of PCR and ‘fit to fly’ lateral flow tests

PCR tests at London’s Gatwick Airport are being cut by £10 to £59, according to Travel Weekly.

The airport will subsidise on-site COVID-19 screening centres, which are operated by ExpressTest.

And the cost of “fit to fly” lateral flow tests will be reduced by £2 to £33.

It comes amid criticism of the costs of PCR tests for travel, which industry figures say act as a barrier for many families when it comes to booking holidays.

Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate said: “Gatwick airport recognises that the cost of PCR tests is prohibitive and acts as barrier preventing larger numbers from booking international travel.

“We are therefore pleased to be able to offer passengers a more cost-effective solution, conveniently located at the airport, to help people get away on a much-needed holiday, to visit loved ones abroad or travel for business.”


Thomas Cook boss says bookings for October half-term up more than 200%

As we await any changes to the government’s traffic light system, Thomas Cook boss Alan French said confidence is already growing as travel restrictions stabilise.

He said: “The simplification of the ‘traffic light’ system would be welcome news for our industry and will enhance consumer confidence when it comes to booking overseas travel.

“We’ve already started to see that confidence growing as travel restrictions stabilise and the vaccine programme roll-out continues – for example, bookings made this month for the October half-term week are up more than 200% compared to last month.

“Recently, we’ve seen an increase in bookings for immediate or near-term travel, with a quarter of customers booking last-minute trips departing within just two weeks.

“An announcement should give consumers that extra confidence to start making holiday bookings later in the year and into 2022.”

He added that Greece continues to be “our most sought-after destination”, followed by the Canary Islands and the Balearics – particularly Majorca.


What is positivity rate in key holiday destinations ahead of travel announcement?

We have picked out some key holiday destinations, and some countries to potentially watch when the travel list is updated later today (or potentially tomorrow).

The positivity rate shown in the graphs below measures the percentage of tests coming back positive – with the WHO suggesting 5% is the figure for keeping the pandemic under control.

Most European destinations are within that figure – but Croatia, Spain and Switzerland are higher. However, these countries are highly unlikely to be downgraded based on the full range of data.

As we have already reported below, Serbia and Jamaica are significantly over the 5% mark and could be countries to watch in the travel update.


Malaysian islands of Langkawi reopen to domestic tourists

People have been pictured walking past a thermal scanner at a jetty as the Malaysian islands of Langkawi reopen to domestic tourists.

The first plane carrying tourists in more than four months touched down on Thursday, as a programme was launched to revive the travel sector.

Langkawi, a group of 99 islands, is the test case in a drive to allow vaccinated domestic travellers to take part in holiday activities under agreed health protocols.

The project is similar to Thailand, which has opened Phuket and Samui islands to vaccinated foreign tourists.


Airline Emirates to hire 3,500 staff

Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul airline, is recruiting 3,000 cabin crew and 500 airport staff as travel demand recovers.

The company, which is looking to hire them over the next six months, said the roles will be based in Dubai.

It said: “Emirates has gradually restored its network operations in line with the easing of travel restrictions around the world, and over the past months, it has been recalling pilots, cabin crew and other operational employees who were stood down when the pandemic forced a drastic reduction in flights last year.”


Telegraph travel editor expects overhaul this week

Claire Irvin has told Sky News there could be great news for UK holidaymakers this week regarding an overhaul of the travel system.

She said: “There’s allegedly going to be two big headlines later today or tomorrow morning – we’re going to be looking at testing and hoping pre-departure tests will be ditched, meaning expensive PCR testing on return to the UK will also go.

“The other thing is the ditching of the controversial traffic light system which has dominated the travel headlines this summer and decimated so many holiday hopes for so many people.”


Will the traffic light system be ditched this week – or will we just get the regular three-weekly update from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps?

At this stage, we don’t know, but earlier this week Boris Johnson suggested change is afoot.

He said: “I appreciate that people are very frustrated about the travel rules but it’s vital that we do whatever we can to stop the virus being reimported and particularly to control new variants when they’re at risk of coming in. That’s why we have the rules.

“I know travellers have been frustrated this summer… but it’s reasonable to ask people to do that to help protect the population.

“We will be saying a lot more shortly about the traffic light system, about simplifying it, and about what we can do about [making] the burdens of testing less onerous for those who are coming back into the country. That will be coming shortly.”

He said the new system would be announced before 1 October.


A look at some key countries that could go on red list this week – and one hoping to come off it

We have taken a look at three key countries to watch when the lists are updated – something that’s expected in one form or another today.

Serbia is currently amber but the data suggests it may be looked at for the red list – while Jamaica caused a shock last time when it wasn’t put on the red list. Even the Foreign Office seemed surprised, immediately issuing an advisory not to go – invalidating most insurance policies.

Both Serbia and Jamaica have a positivity rate well over the 5% figure cited by the WHO for keeping the pandemic under control – though Jamaica’s rate is falling. This doesn’t bode well.

The third country we have looked at is Turkey, which has told Sky News once again that it “expects” to be removed from the red list this week – but as we have said below, the case isn’t clear-cut.

Turkey has a positivity rate of 7.4%.

Of course, there may be positive news for all three of these countries if the UK’s travel system is simplified this week – at which point the red list is expected to be reduced significantly.


But hasn’t it been reported that the red list will be ‘significantly’ reduced?

Yes – but we don’t know when.

It is thought a fair number of the 62 countries on the red list will be reclassified when a new system for travel is introduced – and Boris Johnson has said the system will be announced no later than 1 October.

At that point, it is reported that the main criteria for whatever the red list is called will be variants of concern.

There is speculation it could happen as soon as today or tomorrow – so we may not get the regular Grant Shapps update.


Maldives has strong case for coming off the red list – but Turkey and Pakistan still in balance

Data from the Maldives presents a strong case for it being removed from the red list in the travel list update expected today, a data expert has told Sky News.

The archipelagic state in the Indian Ocean has finally released genomic sequencing data – a key criteria for countries being assigned to a list.

These figures look promising for Maldives.

Asked which countries have a case for going onto the amber or green list this week, expert Tim White said: “Top of the list has to be the Maldives.

“I am sorry, but it is madness that the popular archipelago was not removed from red three weeks ago. Case numbers are low, and almost all cases are on the main island, the capital Malé. Almost all tourists head to the separate resort islands/atolls (and even the airport itself is on a separate island).

“What’s more, there surely cannot be a safer destination in the world. All bars and restaurants in the Maldives resorts are outside, open air. This is where the committee and Grant Shapps need to show common sense.

“The ‘excuse’ was that Maldives did not submit genomic sequencing data. Well it has now, among the top 32 reporting countries. There are no more excuses: sense must prevail.”

White says the data also looks good for Dominican Republic – but it “may be a victim of not being able to carry out genomic sequencing”.

Turkey has once again told Sky News that it “expects” to come off the red list – but the case for safe travel there and to Pakistan is still not clear-cut.

“Their futures remain in the balance,” said White.

“Neither has conclusive data for me to say they should be removed, but it’s a case of hoping they are upgraded for the sake of all the split families if nothing else.

“Pakistan had bad test and trace numbers with 3.2% of all arriving passengers testing positive for COVID (remember that’s 3.2% of people who’ve already tested negative before the flight), and even though cases are going down, the positive test rate in Pakistan is still a little above 5%, which I see as a benchmark.

“One other poor sign is that Pakistan is not doing enough sequencing. In the last 30 days they are not ranked in the top 50 submitting nations.

“Turkey’s cases have not been coming down, but they are now one of the leading nations for submitting results of genomic sequencing samples. But more people arrived infected into the UK from Turkey than in the previous report. So yet again it’s a nail biting wait for those wanting to travel to/from Turkey.”

Follow Tim on Twitter at @TWMCLtd 


Cuba to seek approval of three locally produced COVID-19 vaccines

Cuba will seek World Health Organisation approval of three COVID-19 vaccines, according to the state-run corporation that produces them.

Rolando Perez Rodriguez, director of research and development at BioCubaFarma, said on Wednesday: “There have already been some exchanges in Havana and at the office in Geneva.

“Now begins a procedure and exchange to evaluate the documentation delivered.”

The communist-run island is vaccinating its population at one of the fastest rates in the world with local drugs Abdala, Soberana-2 and Soberana Plus.

More than 65% of Cubans have received at least one shot and 37% have been fully vaccinated with three shots, according to the health ministry.

The country says its vaccines have an efficacy above 90% and initial results are similar to those of other top vaccines, although critics say those results have not been peer reviewed.

Cuba aims to immunise more than 90% of the population by November.


Chile announces plans to reopen borders

Chile has announced plans to reopen its borders to visitors ahead of the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Travellers will be required to show a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before entering Chile, make a legal declaration of their destination and origin, have medical travel insurance and show proof of vaccination, public health chief Paula Daza said.

All arrivals – residents and tourists – must undergo five days of quarantine at a hotel or private home, where they will be checked on, asked to complete another PCR and complete a daily health report.

Ms Daza warned visitors not to book a trip until their vaccination certificate is validated by the Chilean health ministry, which could take a month.

Unvaccinated visitors without vaccines, including children, will only be allowed to enter under strict criteria, such as humanitarian reasons.


Vietnam announces plans to welcome tourists back in October

Vietnam has announced plans to welcome double-vaccinated tourists back to the country from next month.

The country will operate a phased reopening, starting with the holiday island of Phu Quoc.

Only tourists who have booked a package holiday from an approved travel agency will be allowed to visit from next month.

Tourists will also be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of arrival and proof of both health and travel insurance.


‘State-of-the-art’ testing lab opens up at John Lennon Airport in Liverpool with ‘fit to fly’ service

A COVID testing laboratory has opened at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport.

The onsite lab passengers a “fit to fly” testing service with a three-hour turnaround as well as standard 24-hour testing.

It has been designed to perform 500 tests per day, but capacity can be increased to handle 1,000 tests or more.

In a statement, airport commercial director Lucy O’Shaughnessy said: “Liverpool John Lennon airport can now provide our airline passengers with a state-of-the-art COVID testing facility on site as we start to resume our flight schedules and have more passengers flying again.

“Working in partnership with Test Assurance Group/Salutaris People and Source BioScience enables us to offer a convenient and efficient PCR testing service operated by trusted healthcare providers.”


White House plans ‘new system’ for international travel

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients has said the United States is a developing a “new system for international travel” that will include new strong mitigation procedures like contact tracing.

Mr Zients told the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board on Wednesday the administration does not plan to immediately relax any travel restrictions because of COVID-19 Delta variant cases.

“We are exploring considering vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States,” Mr Zients said.

Powered by Livefyre

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here