Travel latest news: New testing options to unlock post-lockdown holidays

British holidaymakers will be offered new Covid-19 testing options by airlines and tour operators in a bid to boost demand post-lockdown.  Easyjet and Easyjet holidays have partnered with two private testing firms to offer discounted tests to travellers. Starting this week, its customers will be able to book home tests through Easyjet for £75 with Confirm Testing (the usual price is £120) and £100 (reduced from £150) with City Doc. City Doc tests taken at a clinic will also be available to Easyjet passengers for £150, down from £200. Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said offering convenient test options, alongside the news that UK quarantine can be reduced with a negative test from December 15, is a key step towards travel getting back to normal. "We continue to push for testing the efficacy of rapid testing technologies like antigen and Lamp testing which could be undertaken on departure at the airport and for further reducing quarantine, making it easier and less onerous for people to travel," he added. Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will also trial free pre-departure Covid tests to passengers on selected flights from Heathrow to Barbados, Antigua and Grenada, starting December 9. All three destinations require visitors to present evidence of a negative test results; a number of Easyjet’s European destinations also require testing. Scroll down for the latest updates.​ Auto update On Off 10:55AM Comment: I'm shocked at the state of Britain's high streets – but a solution can be found in Europe The demise of Arcadia is another timely reminder that our dying high streets need a drastic redesign, writes Simon Parker. On a recent cycle the length of Britain, I was continually shocked by the dilapidated and unappealing state of our town centres. I passed hundreds of boarded up pubs, restaurants and cafes – and not just closed temporarily, but clearly deceased. Britain’s town councils must pedestrianize rapidly, and embark upon a frantic redesign. A remarkable 994 pubs closed nationwide in 2019, and the struggling performing arts industry has been brought further to its knees by the pandemic. The Government, too, should help promote diverse and independent businesses by slashing – or at least freezing – business rates. Without life support, our cultural centres will die – and while a few Burton Menswear or Dorothy Perkins stores are – probably – dispensable in the grand scheme of things, our creative heritage certainly is not. Without buzzing cafes, a community of innovative metropolitan chefs, and throbbing nightclubs, tourists will give up visiting, and more importantly, we probably will, too.  Read the full story. 10:51AM Ireland opens up after partial lockdown  Ireland ended a second partial coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday, with non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms unlocking their doors after six weeks of tough restrictions. Museums, galleries, libraries, cinemas and places of worship also reopened as the nation lifted virus curbs in place since October 22. On Friday, pubs and restaurants serving food will follow suit, although drinking-only establishments will remain shuttered. Ahead of Christmas, the government is also urging people to wear masks outdoors on "busy streets", starting on Tuesday. Dublin: the country is reopening Credit: Reuters 10:43AM Philippines considers subsidising Covid tests to boost tourism The Philippines may subsidise coronavirus tests for tourists to boost its pandemic-battered tourism industry as it gradually reopens to domestic travellers. The government is considering paying as much as half the cost of Covid-19 swab tests for tourists, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday. Travel vouchers for the subsidised tests from state-run Philippine General Hospital in Manila will be given to tourists, she said, without elaborating who can qualify. "We want people to be able to travel, especially this Christmas season," she said. "The cost is prohibitive, but we cannot remove the requirement for testing before travel." The tourism department is also moving to set uniform requirements for entry to tourist destinations, Romulo-Puyat said, as different travel protocols set by local governments are "confusing." The tourism sector accounted for 12.7 per cent of the country's economic output in 2019. 10:30AM Switzerland halves new infections without national lockdown Switzerland is emerging as a model for how the coronavirus can be contained without a national lockdown, after daily new infections halved since the start of November despite pubs, restaurants, gyms and sports remaining open in much of the country, reports Justin Huggler. The figures were hailed as a triumph for the “Swiss special way” by Swiss government doctors last week, and will be seen as evidence that regional tiers can work in the UK. Rather than ordering a general lockdown, Swit

Travel latest news: New testing options to unlock post-lockdown holidays

British holidaymakers will be offered new Covid-19 testing options by airlines and tour operators in a bid to boost demand post-lockdown. 

Easyjet and Easyjet holidays have partnered with two private testing firms to offer discounted tests to travellers.

Starting this week, its customers will be able to book home tests through Easyjet for £75 with Confirm Testing (the usual price is £120) and £100 (reduced from £150) with City Doc. City Doc tests taken at a clinic will also be available to Easyjet passengers for £150, down from £200.

Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said offering convenient test options, alongside the news that UK quarantine can be reduced with a negative test from December 15, is a key step towards travel getting back to normal.

"We continue to push for testing the efficacy of rapid testing technologies like antigen and Lamp testing which could be undertaken on departure at the airport and for further reducing quarantine, making it easier and less onerous for people to travel," he added.

Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will also trial free pre-departure Covid tests to passengers on selected flights from Heathrow to Barbados, Antigua and Grenada, starting December 9. All three destinations require visitors to present evidence of a negative test results; a number of Easyjet’s European destinations also require testing.

Scroll down for the latest updates.​

Auto update

Comment: I'm shocked at the state of Britain's high streets – but a solution can be found in Europe

The demise of Arcadia is another timely reminder that our dying high streets need a drastic redesign, writes Simon Parker.

On a recent cycle the length of Britain, I was continually shocked by the dilapidated and unappealing state of our town centres. I passed hundreds of boarded up pubs, restaurants and cafes – and not just closed temporarily, but clearly deceased. 

Britain’s town councils must pedestrianize rapidly, and embark upon a frantic redesign. A remarkable 994 pubs closed nationwide in 2019, and the struggling performing arts industry has been brought further to its knees by the pandemic. The Government, too, should help promote diverse and independent businesses by slashing – or at least freezing – business rates. Without life support, our cultural centres will die – and while a few Burton Menswear or Dorothy Perkins stores are – probably – dispensable in the grand scheme of things, our creative heritage certainly is not. Without buzzing cafes, a community of innovative metropolitan chefs, and throbbing nightclubs, tourists will give up visiting, and more importantly, we probably will, too. 

Read the full story.

Ireland opens up after partial lockdown 

Ireland ended a second partial coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday, with non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms unlocking their doors after six weeks of tough restrictions.

Museums, galleries, libraries, cinemas and places of worship also reopened as the nation lifted virus curbs in place since October 22.

On Friday, pubs and restaurants serving food will follow suit, although drinking-only establishments will remain shuttered. Ahead of Christmas, the government is also urging people to wear masks outdoors on "busy streets", starting on Tuesday.

Dublin: the country is reopening Credit: Reuters

Philippines considers subsidising Covid tests to boost tourism

The Philippines may subsidise coronavirus tests for tourists to boost its pandemic-battered tourism industry as it gradually reopens to domestic travellers.

The government is considering paying as much as half the cost of Covid-19 swab tests for tourists, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday.

Travel vouchers for the subsidised tests from state-run Philippine General Hospital in Manila will be given to tourists, she said, without elaborating who can qualify.

"We want people to be able to travel, especially this Christmas season," she said. "The cost is prohibitive, but we cannot remove the requirement for testing before travel."

The tourism department is also moving to set uniform requirements for entry to tourist destinations, Romulo-Puyat said, as different travel protocols set by local governments are "confusing." The tourism sector accounted for 12.7 per cent of the country's economic output in 2019.

Switzerland halves new infections without national lockdown

Switzerland is emerging as a model for how the coronavirus can be contained without a national lockdown, after daily new infections halved since the start of November despite pubs, restaurants, gyms and sports remaining open in much of the country, reports Justin Huggler.

The figures were hailed as a triumph for the “Swiss special way” by Swiss government doctors last week, and will be seen as evidence that regional tiers can work in the UK.

Rather than ordering a general lockdown, Switzerland allowed regions to decide their own measures and only the worst-hit imposed tough restrictions. But critics have charged that the success came at too high a price, after the country experienced some of the highest death rates in Europe.

Switzerland has been described as the “new Sweden” after it refused to follow the UK and other countries into a second lockdown this month. The Swiss government imposed only minimal restrictions at a national level, including a limit of ten on private gatherings, an 11pm curfew for restaurants and the compulsory use of facemasks in crowded areas.

Read the full story.

Ryanair ramps up Christmas flights

The low-cost carrier is increasing its number of flights over the Christmas period, starting December 16.

There will be 11 extra weekly flights between Stansted and Dublin and between Gatwick and Dublin from December 16 –January 3. 

The ramped up schedule totals 24 additional flights, including Stansted to Bari and Porto. This follows recent additions from Paris Beauvais, Manchester, Malaga and Budapest, among others. 

Prices start from £19.99 one-way for bookings made by midnight on December 3, for travel between December 16, 2020 – January 3, 2021

What the revised tier rules mean for hotel stays in Britain

England's tightened Tier system, set to come into force from tomorrow, includes specific rules for hotels. Here's a snapshot of what it means for holidaymakers, and businesses, in each tier.

Tier 1

Hotels will be able to reopen for leisure purposes. The 'rule of six' applies, so you can stay overnight with a group of up to six people. 

Tier 2

Hotels can reopen for leisure purposes, but you can only stay with members of your own household.

Tier 3

Hotels will remain shut unless stays are for ‘essential’ purposes, such as business. Travel in and out of a tier-three area should be avoided.

Find out more about hotel stays post-lockdown.

Travel Advent Calendar: Answer three questions for the chance to win a holiday voucher

To celebrate the start of the festive season we're launching our 2020 Travel Advent Calendar, offering readers the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas. 

Enter the prize draw for today's £200 voucher by answering three questions about Sweden.

You are free to enter every daily competition, giving you 25 chances to win

US air travel rises to post-pandemic high

The number of people travelling by air in the US rose to a eight-month high as people ignored the advice of public health officials to avoid trips around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Passengers at domestic airport checkpoints reached 1,176,091 on Sunday, the US Transportation Security Administration said Monday. This was the highest number since March.

Public health officials and state leaders had urged people to stay home and limit holiday gatherings to prevent a further surge in Covid-19 cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said ahead of the national holiday that people should "think twice" about traveling.

However, the total number of passengers on Sunday total was only 41 per cent of last year’s level. Ahead of the Thanksgiving week, travellers in November had been at about 35 per cent of 2019 levels.

Cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium in LA for Covid-19 testing on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend Credit: Getty

Lastminute.com commits to refund over £7 million for cancelled holidays

Lastminute.com has agreed to pay out £7 million in overdue refunds for cancelled package holidays amid an investigation by Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which had received hundreds of complaints.

More than 9,000 customers whose holidays were cancelled by lastminute.com are currently awaiting refunds, the CMA said in a statement.

Following CMA intervention, lastminute.com has now signed formal commitments to pay these refunds as soon as possible and by January 31 at the latest.

The commitments secured by the CMA will also mean that anyone entitled to a refund for a holiday cancelled by lastminute.com on or after December 3, 2020 will be paid within 14 days.

To ensure that lastminute.com adheres to its commitments, the company must provide the CMA with regular reports on the progress of its refunds.

No vaccine passport needed for the pub, says Michael Gove

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said there were no plans for vaccine passports to allow people in to pubs and restaurants. "I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don't know anyone else in government (who is)," he told Sky News on Tuesday.

His comments come after the Government's vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested hospitality and other businesses could bar those who have not had a Covid-19 vaccine.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove added: "Let's not get ahead of ourselves, that's not the plan.

"What we want to do is to make sure that we can get vaccines effectively rolled out."

Read more on the coronavirus live blog.

Canary Islands expect tourism recovery in 2021

Spain's Canary Islands expect a partial recovery of the archipelago's tourism industry in 2021 as vaccines and testing allow for travel restrictions to be lifted, but the business will still be far below pre-pandemic levels.

The islands' regional government expects the number of incoming tourists to plummet to 5 million this year, down from 15 million in 2019, before rebounding to 8 million in 2021, regional tourism chief Yaiza Castilla told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference of G-20 tourism ministers held in La Palma.

"We hope in the future we will be able to raise the forecast month after month," she said.

Ravaged by travel restrictions, the heavily tourism-dependent archipelago has set up rules both to prevent outsiders from bringing contagion and to convince visitors that travel is safe.

Las Vistas beach on Tenerife last month Credit: Getty

WHO urges countries to consider 'very' carefully whether ski resorts can open at Christmas 

The World Health Organisation has told countries to consider “very, very carefully” whether ski resorts should be allowed to open over Christmas, amid fears that large gatherings would lead to a surge in coronavirus infections, reports Nick Squires.

“We would ask that all countries look at the ski season and other reasons for mass gatherings and look very, very carefully at the associated risks,” said Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergency expert.

The problem was not so much having skiers on the slopes, where they are out in the fresh air, but the airports, trains and buses which transport them to the mountains, as well as queues at ski lifts and apres ski gatherings in bars and restaurants, he said.

The governments of Italy, France and Germany have said allowing skiing this winter would stoke the spread of Covid-19, but that has put them at odds with Switzerland and Austria, which have indicated that they want their resorts to open up.

Read the full story.

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble hit by further delays

A hotly-anticipated air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been delayed until next year, the cities' authorities said on Tuesday, due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.

The first flights between the two Asian financial hubs were called off a day before they were due to depart on Nov. 22. If they had gone ahead it would have been the first quarantine-free travel bubble in Asia.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement there would be a review in late December over when to proceed.

Visitors at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Credit: Reuters

The travel rules for Tier 3 residents

About 23.3 million people will be put under Tier 3 rules. Here are the restrictions on travel for people living in the toughest tier:

  •  Avoid travelling outside the area, except where necessary (ie for work, education, caring duties)
  • Advice is against all non-essential international travel
  • Hotels will remain shut unless stays are for ‘essential’ purposes

The travel rules for Tier 2 residents

Around 32 million people are set to be placed under Tier 2 restrictions after lockdown ends tomorrow. Here are the new travel rules for people living in those areas: 

  • The ban on non-essential travel will be lifted
  • Avoid travel to Tier 3
  • International travel is allowed, but the advice is still to only travel when necessary
  • Hotel/self-catering allowed with people from same household 
  • Hotels and self-catering accommodation can open for leisure purposes
  • Rule of six applies outdoors; you can only meet people from own household indoors

Tier 1: what it means for travel

England will end its national lockdown tomorrow and is due return to a stricter three-tier system (MPs are voting on the new Tiered structure today). The country will be split into Tier 1, 2 and 3 areas, with differing rules for each risk category.

People in Tiers 1 and 2 will have more freedom to travel in the UK (and overseas) than they had during lockdown, but each Tier will come with different restrictions on people's movements.

Here are the travel rules for Tier 1 residents: 

  • The ban on non-essential travel will be lifted
  • If you travel to a higher tier, you should follow the rules of that area while there
  • Avoid travel to Tier 3 areas
  • International travel is allowed, but the advice is still to only travel when necessary
  • Hotels and self-catering accommodation can open for leisure
  • You must follow the rule of six

​Read more on what the new tier system means for holidays.

What happened yesterday?

Here were the main headlines 

  • Concern grows over plans for vaccine passports
  • We are getting far more cancellations than new bookings, says Cornish tourism chief
  • Wales to ban sale of alcohol in new wave of restrictions
  • Coronavirus makes turn German Christmas market into a drive-thru
  • No 'vaccine passport' for required for Ryanair

​Now onto today's news.