Travel news latest: French ban on UK tourists scuppers ski holidays

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In a ‘devastating’ blow to British ski holidays, France is to tighten up restrictions on travel to and from Britain to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

“We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM-TV on Thursday evening, as both the UK and France report record numbers of cases.

Charles Owen, director of SBIT, a group of over 200 British companies operating in the mountains, has called the news “devastating for the UK ski industry.”

“After 21 months of being closed due to the pandemic, this is yet another hammer blow to the industry. The UK government urgently needs to engage with industry leaders and introduce support measures immediately.”

From midnight Saturday, or 11pm on Friday in the UK, the validity of Covid tests for arrivals in France will be reduced to 24 hours from 48 hours, Attal said –  there will also be a “requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated… People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons,” the government said in a statement. Arrivals will also have to isolate for seven days – reduced to 48 hours with proof of a negative test taken on arrival, at a cost to the traveller. 

The news comes as the ski season begins with thousands of Britons eager to return to the Alps for the first time in nearly two years. “I’m at a loss for words,” said Iain Martin, host of the Ski Podcast who is currently out in the French 3 Vallées ski area. 

“I feel for all those who have been counting down the days until their first ski holiday for almost two years, now forced to cancel at the last minute. For tour operators, it will be even worse. With record bookings leading into the season, but now empty properties, it’s the nightmare scenario.”

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French rules a ‘hammer blow’ to ski holidays

Omicron test shortage threatens holiday chaos

Scientists are warning that testing supply for travellers will fail to ‘keep up with omicron.’

Jeffrey Barrett, a Chief Scientific Officer at Nightingale Health in Finland, has warned: “Testing capacity will almost certainly fail to keep up with omicron.” He suggests the trend will happen across the globe, at the same time, causing testing suppliers to ‘struggle.’

A spokesman for travel testing giant Randox, who sends around 80 per cent of its tests to the NHS, said it’s certainly “conceivable” that demand could outstrip supply and hinder travel plans. However, he added that the company has raised its capacity to 180,000 tests a day, as many as it has managed at any point in the pandemic.

With recently enhanced testing requirements in the UK, arrivals in Britain could face delays to their mandatory Day 2 tests – several top Covid test providers have already said they can’t guarantee to deliver results on time over Christmas, due to high demand. The news comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps blamed ‘distribution issues’ for millions of Britons being unable to order testing kits.

If supply problems persist there runs the risk of test shortages becoming an issue in all countries where tests are required to access the services like bars, restaurants and even the ski slopes. In Austria, British teenagers aged 12 to 15 need to carry out two antigen tests plus one PCR test during a week’s ski holiday in order to access the slopes this winter – putting huge pressure on resorts. 

Qantas sees slump in bookings amid omicron concerns

Qantas has reported “a significant drop in booking momentum” for international flights due to fears over the omicron variant and increased travel restrictions. However, the Australian flag carrier said that it hasn’t seen huge numbers of cancellations. 

Alan Joyce, Qantas Group chief executive, said:

The news of the Omicron variant had a clear impact on people’s confidence to book international trips in particular, but we haven’t seen large numbers of cancellations.

Many customers have strong intentions to travel if the border and quarantine settings are right.

Canada tells citizens to avoid international travel

Canada has advised it citizens to stay in the country amid concerns over the omicron variant. 

“I say very clearly: Now is not the time to travel,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a press conference, adding it is clear there is community transmission of omicron in Canada.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians shouldn’t travel right now and that travellers entering the country will be subject to increased barriers such as testing.

“It’s the last thing families want to be dealing with right now, but Covid in the presence of Omicron is back with a vengeance,” Mr Trudeau said.

What happens if you test positive for Covid abroad

With Covid cases on the rise and pre-departure tests once again mandatory for travellers returning to the UK, we run through what you need to know if you test positive abroad. 

What sort of quarantine do I face if I test positive?

Isolation programmes vary greatly around the world. Some countries require you to stay in your current accommodation at your own expense, while others ask that you move to a government facility, paid for by the state. Meanwhile, newly reopened Thailand transfers all positive cases to hospital, regardless of symptoms. Check the Foreign Office [gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice] page of the relevant country before travelling for more information. 

Read the full story.

Health minister cancels skiing plans amid omicron fears

A minister has said she has been forced to cancel a skiing trip over Christmas due to the rising threat of omicron.

Gillian Keegan, the health minister, told LBC she had altered her plans for the festive period “several times”.

She added: “I was, at one point, intending to go away skiing, but that’s changed.

“So now I will be with a small group, I think there six of us – actually there was going to be seven for Christmas Day but one person has tested positive so will be isolating over Christmas Day – so I think there’s going to be six of us.”

France to restrict travel from UK due to omicron surge

France is to tighten up restrictions on travel to and from Britain to slow the spread of the omicron variant, which is causing record numbers of cases on the other side of the Channel, the government said on Thursday evening.

“We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM-TV.

Yesterday’s top headlines

Before we begin, here’s a reminder of Wednesday’s news:

  • Hotel quarantine guests released
  • All 11 countries removed from red list
  • Pressure on Government to drop Day 2 tests
  • Portugal tightens testing requirements for British arrivals
  • Australia reopens borders, despite omicron fears
  • FCDO lifts advice against travel advice to scrapped red list ​

Now, on with today.

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