Travel news latest: New border restrictions spark winter holiday fears

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Increased restrictions on UK travellers are raising concerns for festive holidays around the world as countries move to curb the spread of the omicron variant.

Over the weekend, Germany followed in the footsteps of France by announcing a ban on most UK travellers. Since Sunday night, only German citizens or residents have been able to enter the country from the UK and are required to quarantine for two weeks, regardless of vaccination status.

European countries are also increasing their domestic restrictions. The Netherlands has been plunged into a full lockdown with non-essential shops, bars and restaurants all closing from today.

Meanwhile, Ursula Von der Leyen, the European Commission President, has said the European Union must consider imposing PCR tests on all travellers entering from outside the bloc. She called on EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday to introduce pre-departure tests and a second after arrival as part of a bloc-wide strategy to contain the highly contagious coronavirus variant.

Further afield, Thailand is considering ending quarantine-free holidays. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told a local news programme about potential plans to return to hotel quarantine and the “sandbox” scheme, which allows trips to certain locations. 

Scroll down for more updates.

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Israel to ban travel to US and Canada 

Israeli ministers have agreed to ban travel to the United States, Canada and eight other countries amid the rapid, global spread of the omicron variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office announced the decision following a Cabinet vote.

The rare move to red-list the US comes amid rising coronavirus infections in Israel and marks a change to pandemic practices between the two nations with close diplomatic relations.

The US will join a growing list of European countries, including the UK, and other destinations to which Israelis are barred from travelling, and from which returning travellers must remain in quarantine.

A parliamentary committee is expected to give the measure final approval. Once authorised, the travel ban will take effect at midnight Wednesday morning.

EasyJet adds 16 new routes for next summer

Easyjet has announced 16 new UK routes for summer 2022.

Among the new flights on offer are to Italy, Spain, the Greek islands, Turkey and Morocco.

The budget airline is also ramping up its presence at Southend airport with six flights a week to Malaga from May.

Ali Gayward, easyjet’s UK country manager, said: “We are delighted to announce more new routes from the UK for next summer and provide our customers with an even wider range of fantastic beach and city destinations to enjoy.

“We remain committed to strengthening our unrivalled short-haul network and providing more affordable and easy connections to our customers across the UK, by offering low fares and more choice when they travel.”

Ireland not expecting to impose further Covid restrictions

The Irish government does not expect to have to impose stricter Covid-19 restrictions in the coming weeks, deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has said, days after the Government ordered bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m.

“If we have to, we will do whatever is necessary… but we don’t anticipate that will be necessary,” Varadkar told Irish broadcaster RTE.

He said he was “hoping and expecting” that expected high infection rates from the omicron variant would not translate into hospitalisations to the same extent as previous waves. 

Switzerland eases testing requirements 

Switzerland has loosened its testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. 

From today (December 20), rapid antigen tests will be accepted on arrival as proof travellers are virus-free, as well as more costly PCR tests. 

Authorities have specified that while PCR tests can be taken up to  72 hours before entry, rapid antigen tests must be taken within the previous 24 hours.

The requirement to take a second test four to seven days after entering Switzerland will be lifted for those who are vaccinated, or can show proof of recovery from the virus.

The countries that have put Britain on their red list 

With Germany banning most UK travellers over the weekend, find out the other countries who have put restrictions on holidaymakers. 

Despite the World Health Organisation slamming travel bans as ‘ineffective’, as we have seen many times during the last two years, once one country tightens its border rules, others usually follow. 

Here we run through the countries that are closing the door to UK tourists.

Eurostar boss attacks Emmanuel Macron’s decision to close France’s borders

Eurostar’s boss said Emmanuel Macron’s decision to close the French borders was “very hard to endorse” after ruining Christmas for tens of thousands of Britons.

Jacques Damas said the French president could only justify blocking British tourists if he dramatically increased the country’s vaccination rollout.

The Eurostar chief executive told The Telegraph:

We cannot say that it is helpful from the Eurostar perspective. It is very hard to endorse as far as the business situation is concerned. We have thousands of passengers [that] have been let down with very short notice.

The price is being paid by our customers. They are cancelling all their Christmas plans.

Read the full story.

Travel bans cause ‘social and economic devastation’, says industry chief

The travel industry is reacting to the increased restrictions on UK travellers imposed in the past few days. 

Julia Lo-Bue Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, told Telegraph Travel:

Our members are working around the clock to ensure all their clients due to depart have all the information required and in some cases have been able to rebook their clients to destinations without travel bans. 

Time and time again we have seen travel bans causing significant social and economic devastation and no demonstrable public health benefit. The World Health Organisation has been very clear that countries should consider alternatives to travel bans as they create more devastation to people and local economies.

What happened over the weekend?

A recap of the top stories

  • Flights sold out as Britons rushed to visit France before a ban on tourists comes into force on Saturday
  • Germany banned most UK travellers
  • The Netherlands announced a full lockdown
  • Skiers have told of their heartbreak at losing their Christmas holidays in the Alps
  • New Covid guidance for Scottish businesses has come into effect, with hospitality encouraged to return to table service only

Now, on with today’s travel news.

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