Stricter border controls and travel restrictions are being introduced across the globe in response to the latest variant of concern.
The UK has reintroduced day two PCR tests for all inbound travellers, including those who are fully vaccinated, along with a mandatory quarantine while arrivals await their results.
In addition to the six southern African countries unexpectedly added to the UK’s red list last week – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – a further four nations have been given red status.
As of 4am on Sunday, UK and Irish residents returning to England from Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola must also pay to isolate in an approved quarantine hotel for 10 days.
Follow all the latest travel news below:
Fire shoots from Ryanair plane as it hits flock of herons
Flames shot from a Ryanair plane last week as it collided with a flock of herons on descent into Bologna, Italy, damaging one of its engines.
Flight FR1194 was arriving into the Italian city at around 11.30pm when the dramatic bird strike occurred, with some of the herons being sucked into the aircraft’s right engine, and others hitting the cockpit windscreen.
The pilots’ view on landing was obscured by the splattered debris caused by the collision, but they managed to land the aircraft safely, with no injuries onboard.
Lucy Thackray29 November 2021 16:20
Omicron variant could be in Northern Ireland
The new Omicron variant of Covid-19 may already be in Northern Ireland, the Stormont health minister has said.
Cases of the new strain have been confirmed in England and Scotland, while Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said it is “likely” that it is already in Ireland.
Robin Swann told the Northern Ireland Assembly that, while there are currently no confirmed cases of Omicron in the region, that is “highly likely” to change in the coming days.
“The Public Health Agency (PHA) is undertaking detailed risk assessments of some returning travellers from red-listed countries and is advising on any immediate public health actions which are required to slow the introduction of this variant and to limit its spread in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“In light of the cases identified in England and Scotland, it is to be expected that there may already be cases of the variant in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Swann said all new international arrivals into Northern Ireland will have to undergo a PCR test.
“All arrivals into Northern Ireland from non-red list countries, including those who are fully vaccinated, will now be required to self-isolate for 10 days unless they receive a negative test result, with a PCR test to be undertaken on or before day two,” he said.
“We will keep all these arrangements under review and will consider what additional measures may be necessary in coming days.”
Helen Coffey29 November 2021 15:48
No 10 rejects Scotland and Wales’ call for tougher rules in face of omicron
Downing Street has rejected the calls from Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford for the self-isolation period for travellers to be extended until the result of a test on day eight after arriving in the UK.
Extending the requirements would have a “detrimental effect” on the travel industry, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said.
“We believe that the approach we’ve taken is the proportionate one to the evidence that we currently have available about this variant,” he said.
“Introducing further isolation requirements and testing requirements would have a detrimental effect on the travel individually industry and indeed those who are planning to go travelling.”
Andy Gregory29 November 2021 15:20
Travel expert Simon Calder to answer your questions in live event
Wondering what the future of travel holds in a world blighted by a whole new variant, alongside the stumbling blocks of booster jabs, Covid tests and post-Brexit passport red tape?
Join The Independent for a free live event with esteemed travel correspondent Simon Calder, as he takes a deep dive into what 2022 could look like for holidays.
In this virtual live event, Simon will be on-hand to look at the most pressing travel issues for Brits and answer your burning holiday questions. Taking place over Zoom on Wednesday 1 December from 6.30-7.30pm, it’s completely free to attend – just click to sign up below in advance:
Helen Coffey29 November 2021 15:09
Australia delays border reopening in response to omicron threat
Australia has announced it will delay the planned reopening of its borders to international travellers, set for 1 December, by at least two weeks.
The decision was taken by the government after the country identified its first cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus, which is causing nations around the world to tighten entry restrictions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously announced that the country would open up to foreign visitors with eligible visas – including refugees, students and those on the popular working holidaymakers visa – from 1 December.
However, after an emergency meeting between Mr Morrison and his national security committee, the decision was taken to postpone the lifting of the travel ban, based on advice from the chief health officer.
Helen Coffey29 November 2021 14:57
Can Brits still go skiing in France if flying into Switzerland?
From 27 November 2021, Switzerland changed its travel entry rules for visitors from the UK.
While Britons had previously been allowed into the country with proof of full vaccination, from 27 November all UK visitors will have to show both a negative PCR test result, taken within the 72 hours prior to arrival, and self-isolate for 10 days.
This is because the UK is on the country’s list of nations with a “variant of concern”, following the detection of multiple cases of the omicron variant of Covid-19, and it means that winter holidays to ski resorts in the Swiss Alps will be wiped out by the mandatory quarantine.
But the rules are even trickier for those who may be flying into Switzerland but travelling on to other countries – for example, by arriving in Geneva to catch a transfer to ski resorts in the French Alps.
Read our full explainer for all the latest rules for transiting travellers:
Lucy Thackray29 November 2021 14:16
Omicron variant ‘blow to tourism industry’
The travel bans sparked by the new omicron virus variant could have a “substantial” economic impact, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Ana Nicholls, industry operations director at EIU, said of the variant: “Scientists still need to work out how transmissible it is, how bad the symptoms are, and whether vaccines are still effective. If the news proves to be bad, then the economic impact could be substantial.
“In terms of the travel industry, the EIU had been expecting that global international arrivals would get back to 2019 levels by late 2023 or early 2024. We do not expect the Omicron variant to materially delay this forecast, but it will delay the pace of recovery over the next few months. The travel bans are not the only problem; even where travel is still permitted, there will still be stricter rules on testing, vaccine passports and quarantines, with even more confusion over how and when these are brought into effect in different countries.
“Given how many travellers were already being deterred by the sheer paperwork involved in travelling, changing those rules again will put more people off. Further restrictions would have an even bigger impact.”
She added that, for South Africa in particular, this is “a blow to its tourism industry just as it was starting to recover”.
Helen Coffey29 November 2021 13:51
Industry must ‘stay positive and not overreact’, says Kuoni boss
The travel industry should stay positive in the face of the omicron variant of Covid-19, the CEO of Der Touristik, parent company of Kuoni, has said.
Derek Jones tweeted: “I think it’s important that the travel sector stays positive and doesn’t overreact to the Omicron variant.
“We were all aware there was a high chance of new variants creating bumps on the road to recovery. Travel in a world with Covid is going to be trickier than it used to be.”
Jones’s comments come as the travel industry scrambles to refund or reorganise holidays to a number of destinations which have tightened their entry rules for UK visitors this week.
Switzerland has reimposed a 10-day quarantine on any Britons entering the country going forward, while Spain has banned unvaccinated UK travellers from 1 December.
Lucy Thackray29 November 2021 13:20
Morocco suspends all inbound international flights
Morocco has declared it will suspend all international inbound flights from today (29 November).
The strict measure will initially be in place for two weeks and was introduced in response to fears over the newly identified omicron coronavirus variant.
Countries worldwide are tightening border controls over concerns that the variant could potentially be more transmissible than those that have gone before and, more worryingly, could reduce the efficacy of current vaccines.
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry tweeted that the decision to halt incoming flights was to “preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens.”
Helen Coffey29 November 2021 12:38
What are the new rules for travelling to Spain?
Having widely opened to British travellers over summer 2021, Spain is once again tightening its travel restrictions in the face of the new omicron variant of Covid-19.
Spain and its islands have long been a favourite destination for Britons, with more than 18 million holidaymakers visiting this Mediterranean hotspot in a normal year. However, the coronavirus pandemic has decimated the travel industry.
So can you book a Spanish getaway this winter – and what are the current rules on travel?
Read our full explainer for everything you need to know:
Lucy Thackray29 November 2021 11:51