Half term holidays hang in the balance as stricter lockdown looms

Staycations could be rendered impossible by a second nationwide lockdown
Even staycations could be rendered impossible by a second nationwide lockdown Credit: Getty

The prospect of a half term getaway is looking increasingly unlikely for families across Britain, as a nationwide lockdown looms – and overseas countries tighten their own restrictions on UK holidaymakers. 

Yesterday, Downing Street admitted that a short-term “circuit break” lockdown, thought to be earmarked for October half term, is under consideration, while the Prime Minister warned of an ‘inevitable’ second wave across Britain

The 'rule of six', which now outlaws gatherings of more than six people, has rendered many UK staycations illegal already – but a new nationwide lockdown would, in theory, make any form of getaway or day out impossible. 

And, as at least 13.5 million people face local lockdown from Tuesday, the Mayor of London has warned of new restrictions across London, too.

For those hoping to escape Briton's winter woes in sunnier climes, the outlook is also chilly: analysis by Telegraph Travel has revealed that Britons can now visit just 12 destinations without any travel restrictions. And, as our own infection rate soars, that list looks set to shrink even further. 

Scroll down for more of today's travel news.

That's all for today

Here are some of the day's main headlines:

  • US travel experts warn of ‘tsunami’ of hotel closures
  • Covid cloud hangs over Oktoberfest parties as cases grow in Germany
  • Coronavirus restrictions tightened in Dublin
  • Concerns for mainland Greece holidays as infections surge
  • The rule of six has a silver lining: last-minute staycations at a (relative) steal

Scroll down for more of Saturday's key travel stories, and join us tomorrow for more live coverage.

'British tourism can bounce back'

Today, as the Government debates 'tougher restrictions' on daily life, travel businesses across Britain have warned of the turmoil that a second lockdown could impose on the already ailing industry.

Susan Briggs, owner of the Tourism Network, works directly with over 2,000 such companies across the country. Here, she reveals her concerns about lockdown's 'grave impact' – but says that the industry is more resilient than many may think:

"Since local lockdowns were announced there have been spikes in visits in non-lockdown areas, seemingly visitors enjoying a last chance for 'freedom' before stricter controls.
"A second lockdown will have a grave impact on tourism businesses as they were hoping to extend the season to counteract earlier losses. Many are calling for extended furloughs – but even though this would be good for some, many businesses are owner-operated and not eligible.
"However, independent tourism and hospitality businesses have already shown their willingness and ability to adapt and bounce back – and the public have shown they really enjoy and value UK destinations, perhaps more than for many years. Those businesses that can withstand the likely initial losses from another lockdown will eventually benefit from latent demand."

Impending quarantine for Greece holidays?

Though mainland Greece is currently exempt from the UK's quarantine restrictions, cases in the country are rising. Over the past seven days, it has recorded 18.7 cases per 100,000 population – just shy of the UK's quarantine threshold of 20 per 100,000. Overall, cases are rising sharply in the country.

However, holidaymakers will be hoping that the UK will treat Greece with the same flexibility it applied to Denmark last week, which currently has 45.3 cases per 100,000 – but remains on the Government's 'travel corridor' list. 

How a high-tech 'health passport' could get the world moving again

In a post-Covid aviation first, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific has announced a partnership with a biotech firm to introduce a 'digital health passport' system – which could ease the way towards a safer form of air travel. 

The high-tech set-up would allow passengers to use a mobile app to present a negative Covid-19 result at check-in, and again on arrival at their destination. Prenetics told the South China Morning Post that the pilot project will be trialled on the London to Hong Kong route in October, potentially paving the way for quarantine-free travel between the two financial hubs – and at best providing a model which could be implemented globally.     

Lee Cobaj has the full story.

'A half-term lockdown would be devastating for our tourism business'

A second nationwide lockdown – or a 'circuit break' over half term – may well help to 'control' the virus for now, but it could spell long-term disaster for Britain's tourism businesses. Here, one business owner shares their perspective:

"We opened our new treetop glamping site on July 31 – having already delayed our opening due to Covid-19. We have been fully booked from day one. In Wales, we have been given the benefit of an extra week of half term to compensate for the lockdown earlier in the year and those dates were immediately snapped up by families desperate to get away for a staycation.
"Almost everyone that visits us comments on how they 'just needed to escape'.
"If the Government decides to go ahead with a lockdown during half-term it would be financially devastating for our fledgling tourism business, as well as the local rural economy which relies on the tourist industry."

Edith Farnworth, owner of By the Wye.

(Almost) all the fun of the fair

In Hong Kong, the Ocean Park theme park has reopened to visitors, after closing in a bid to contain the pandemic:

Face coverings are mandatory – even for park performers Credit: Getty
Rides are disinfected between passengers Credit: Getty

US travel experts warn of ‘tsunami’ of hotel closures

Hotel owners across the US are facing financial ruin, industry leaders have warned the LA Times, as the pandemic continues to devastate the country's tourism sector. 

“We anticipate many hotels won’t survive,” Heather Rozman, executive director of the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, told the newspaper. “Industry data shows 1 in 4 properties already are struggling to pay mortgages, risking foreclosure.”

Ace Hotel London Shoreditch

Many US hotel brands are closing their outposts in London, too, writes Telegraph Travel's Jade Conroy. So far, Ace Hotel London Shoreditch and The Curtain Hotel & Member’s Club have been forced to close their doors due to Covid-19. Many hotels in the capital are reporting an occupancy rate of just ten per cent. 

Covid cloud hangs over Oktoberfest parties as cases grow in Germany

Fears are growing in Germany that Oktoberfest parties could lead to a surge in coronavirus infections, pushing the country into a second wave of the pandemic.

The famous festival which normally takes place in Munich every year in September and October was historically cancelled this year for the first time since the Second World War. 

Germany's infection rate is now the highest it has been since April Credit: Getty

Nevertheless, people will be celebrating this weekend. Alternative festivities – named “WirtshausWiesn” (‘pub Oktoberfest’) – will kick off amid clear skies and sunshine today, when traditional Oktoberfest would normally begin. 

But the festival takes place amid rapidly rising infections in Germany and across Europe. New coronavirus infections in Germany have now reached the highest they have been since the end of April.

Abby Young-Powell, in Berlin, has the full story.

British holidaymakers must 'not use the NHS testing service', says UK Government

Britons must take a private Covid-19 test if they are going on holiday, and not use the NHS testing service, the UK Government has warned. 

The NHS website now urges: "Only get a test if you have coronavirus symptoms or have been asked to get tested. Do not use this service to get a test in order to travel to another country.

"You can pay for a private test. This will help make sure people who need a test can get one."

The Government's travel advice guidance online has also been updated to state: "You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test."

If you are heading off on holiday (lucky you!) and need a test, Emma Beaumont explains where to get a private test – and how much it should cost. 

London lockdown: When could restrictions come in and what has Sadiq Khan said?

It is "increasingly likely" that lockdown restrictions will soon be needed to slow the spread of Covid-19 in London, the capital's mayor has warned.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, on September 18, he was "extremely concerned" by the latest evidence he has seen and was of the "firm view" that action should be taken before the virus spirals out of control.

It comes as Boris Johnson has said that the UK is now "seeing a second wave coming in," and that it was inevitable that the virus would hit the country again.

Pedestrians walk past a sign for a Covid-19 test centre this afternoon in Leyton, east London Credit: Getty

It is expected that a two-week "circuit break" shutdown in England could be announced via a televised press conference as early as Tuesday, and could include measures such as closing pubs and restaurants or imposing 10pm curfews and a nationwide ban on friends and separate households socialising. 

The number of cases per 100,000 people over seven days is reported to have increased in London from 18.8 to around 25.

Read more here

'The booking service that took all the stress out of my first post-lockdown holiday'

Trips to Europe now come with added uncertainty – and so a new online platform, Nemo Hotels, is Generation Y’s answer to the high street travel agent, complete with a virtual concierge, an app and a nod to more ­responsible consumerism (one per cent of revenue goes to charity partners; Nemo plants a tree for each hotel booked).

It is also Atol-protected, so if the company were to fail you would be entitled to a full refund (vital under current circumstances).

Emma Featherstone tries it out in Lisbon.

The unexpected perks of holidaying with your parents as an adult

In her latest Slow Motion column, Anna Hart finds that going away with her parents as an adult has more perks than she had anticipated.

She writes:

Viewing my holiday as a chance to see family is yet another way the pandemic has ripped up my travel rule book in 2020. Multi-generational family holidays were already a growing trend, but it’s been years since I’ve holidayed with my parents – not counting gatherings at my brother’s in Leeds or visiting my sister in California. And, for my fellow millennials, it turns out that holidaying with your parents is a brilliant idea, for the following reasons:

Your parents don’t mind picking you up from the station even if it is out of their way. My parents have been picking me up from inconvenient places for more than three decades! They do it briskly and without complaint.

You can go to bed at 9pm without worrying about appearing boring. What a true holiday it is to be with travellers who want to be asleep by 10pm.

You can pack light and essentially show up with your laptop and some spare knickers, because parents will bring everything else: biscuits, a first aid kit, an array of condiments, an archive of body lotion sachets foraged from airports and glossy magazines since 2014, at least five raincoats and last weekend’s newspapers.

Are there any perks for the parents though? Find out here.

How to transform an Italian 'ghost village' into a rural utopia

Escaping the city is squarely on trend. As renters grew tired of living and working from cramped homes, applications for urban properties dropped 23 per cent in August. While, between April and June, 41 per cent buyers from cities bought a home in a town, suburb or countryside location. Some went a step further, opting to become digital nomads.

But, for those who wish to try out a completely different existence, Robert Zupan, founder of the Back to the Village project, could have the answer.

Mr Zupan, who's based in Trieste, Italy, is on the hunt for a European “ghost village” – there are at least 2,300 in Italy and more than 3,500 in Spain – to be the backdrop for a social experiment.

Italy has more than 2.300 abandoned towns and villages Credit: GETTY

He explained: “We will restore like it used to be a century ago. In each house [I want] to place one person from each state in Europe, typical British, typical Spanish, typical Italian, German and so on. They’ll restore this village and make it self-sufficient.”

So far, he has a growing team behind the project, including German structural engineer Dr Christine Lemaitre as head of sustainable building and Alessio Princic, an architect, acting as an advisor.

Want to know more? Emma Featherstone has the full story.

Cumbria Tourism survey reveals devastating losses for Lake District tourism

Research by Cumbria Tourism has revealed plummeting confidence levels among local tourism business as the prospect of a second national lockdown looms.

In the survey, which was completed by more than 150 tourism-related businesses across the county, almost half of respondents said they don’t feel confident that their business can survive the next six months. Nearly two-thirds said that they don’t feel confident about longer-term survival.

The Lake District, Cumbria, is one of Britain's best-loved holiday destinations Credit: Getty

The survey also revealed that 10% of tourism businesses are still unable to reopen in a viable way; average spend is significantly down, and 23% of businesses plan to make redundancies.

The survey was carried out before the Government’s latest 'rule of six' announcement, which has had a further impact on bookings. 

As a result of the research, Cumbria Tourism has teamed up with Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron to renew its plea for urgent Government intervention – to support jobs, businesses and customers through winter.

The collective ask from the Government includes, but is not limited to:

  • Support to help fund hospitality tourism jobs, November 2020 – March 2021
  • VAT rate extension – the UK has some of the highest visitor taxes in the world
  • Business rates holiday extension
  • Business mortgage holiday extension
  • Reintroduce ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ type initiatives during the winter months.

British Airways launches £35 flight sale to Athens, Copenhagen, Milan – and more

British Airways has today released one million seats for under £35 each-way. The discount is available across BA's European routes – including Athens, Bologna, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Milan, Venice and Naples.

Customers must book by September 22 to benefit from these fares, with travel dates until the end of March 2021.

Crowd-free Venice: it could be yours for less than £35 Credit: Getty

British Airways Holidays is also offering price reductions on Caribbean breaks, with £100 off packages when booking between 18-22 September and travelling before 31 March 2021.

The airline has introduced various new health and safety measure on flights – including PPE for all customer-facing flight crew, a reduced meal service, and a 'personal protection pack' for passengers – which includes a sealable disposal bag, hand sanitising gel and an antibacterial wipe.

Cornwall urges tourists to keep their distance

Cornwall Council is reminding beachgoers to maintain social distancing this weekend:

Many residents pleaded with tourists to 'stay away' earlier this year. However, a second lockdown would almost certainly spell disaster for local tourism and hospitality businesses. 

If you're heading to the seaside this weekend, escape the crowds at one of England's secret beaches – they're sun-kissed (for now), sandy, and gloriously off-grid...

Guatemala reopens borders and resumes international flights

Guatemala reopened its borders yesterday, and resumed international flights after a six-month shutdown. However, cases of Covid-19 are still rife in the Central American country: just as the country began welcoming visitors once again, President Alejandro Giammattei tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Passengers at La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City Credit: Getty
Arrivals are screened for Covid-19 symptoms, and must take a test when entering the country Credit: Getty
A passenger has his temperature measured upon landing at La Aurora airport Credit: Getty

The FCDO currently advises against non-essential travel to Guatemala. 

Qantas 'flight to nowhere' sells out in just ten minutes

When Qantas, Australia's national carrier, announced it would operate a 'flight to nowhere' – an airborne sightseeing trip in a B787 Dreamliner – tickets sold out in just ten minutes. 

The seven-hour scenic flight will include "low level flybys of unique Australian destinations across Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales – including the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Byron Bay and iconic Sydney Harbour," the airline promises. 

It's not the only carrier to be touting 'flights to nowhere': similar ventures have already been launched by the likes of Royal Brunei, EVA Air, and Japan’s All Nippon Airways. Airlines say that the flights allow pilots to keep their licences current while fleets are grounded, and tourists get to sate their appetite for international travel – of sorts. 

The future of travel? Let's hope not, says Simon Parker.

Czech Republic reports 2,111 new cases

The Czech Republic has reported 2,111 new cases of Covid-19 for Friday, a slow down after four days of growth, Reuters reports.

The Czechs have seen the illness spreading at a record pace. Adjusted for population, only Spain and France within the European Union have seen a bigger jump in the last two weeks, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The overall number of confirmed cases reached 46,262 in the country of 10.7 million, the ministry said today.

‘The travel industry will not survive without radical U-turn’ 

The UK Government “must urgently consider the beneficial practicalities of testing” at ports and airports, the CEO of TravelUp has told Telegraph Travel. 

Ali Shah, head of the Britain-based travel agent, said: “The travel industry will not survive without a radical U-turn. [Testing] can bring some life back into the industry and restore some consumer confidence before the sector reaches the point of no return. Yet to be effective we need governments across the globe to work together to create comprehensive testing programmes that transcend borders. 

“Only by doing so will we see a revival of travel and tourism internationally. If our leaders don’t act soon, many more companies will be doomed to fail, and we will likely see tens of thousands more jobs lost in the UK alone.”

The Telegraph is calling on the Government to green-light airport testing, as a safe and robust alternative to quarantine measures. Find out how to join our Test4Travel campaign.

The rule of six has a silver lining: last-minute staycations at a (relative) steal

After the 'rule of six' was introduced this week, many large groups have had to cancel or postpone their holidays into 2021. However, travel companies have swiftly released discounts on their larger properties in an attempt to ensure that they don’t remain empty – meaning you can snap up a bargain or two...

Choristers’ House in Yorkshire – a National Trust property – currently has 20 per cent off bookings: 

Choristers’ House Credit: National Trust

Tregulland Cottage, on the edge of Dartmoor is available for around 50 per cent of the normal price:

Tregulland Cottage Credit: tregullandandco.co.uk

Tourist who broke rules partly responsible for Bolton surge, says council leader

A holidaymaker who did not self-isolate after returning to Bolton was partly responsible for the area's "extreme spike" in coronavirus cases, the council leader has said.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Bolton Council leader David Greenhalgh said the area's high rate had been linked back to pubs in the town and a "cohort of people" who refused to follow guidance.

The Conservative councillor said: "We had somebody who did not adhere to quarantine, did not stay the 14 days, literally went on a pub crawl with a number of mates.

"From that incident which took place over a weekend – (they) visited a number of premises – led to a large number of individual transmissions from that one person which you can imagine then is like holding back the tide because he then became symptomatic two days after they had all gone on this pub crawl.

"He was positive-tested the following day.

"That is four or five days where all the people he was in contact with have been going about their normal day-to-day business."

Coronavirus restrictions tightened in Dublin

Further lockdown restrictions have been introduced in Dublin, in a bid to control the local infection rate.

The measures, which were introduced overnight, have outlawed any organised indoor gatherings. Dining indoors in restaurants and pubs is now forbidden, with service restricted to outdoors only. 

Residents are discouraged from leaving the city, which reported 116 new cases yesterday. Visitors, meanwhile, are advised not to travel into the county except for work, education and other essential purposes.

In pubs and restaurants, diners must now sit outdoors Credit: Getty

Irish premier Micheal Martin warned that without further "urgent and decisive action", Dublin risked a return to the height of its pandemic case rate. "But this is not inevitable. I understand how frustrated people are, how much we all want to put this pandemic behind us.

"But we have to remember, it is still deadly and we have to take action," he added.

Daily cases at three-month low in Australia's hot spot

Victoria, the Australian state at the centre of the country's outbreak, today reported its lowest daily increase of infections in three months – putting it on course to relax a hard lockdown in the capital city by the end of the month.

The state recorded 21 new cases in the prior 24 hours, less than half the previous day's number and its lowest since June 24.

No other Australian states and territories have reported new case numbers, but each one – except Victoria – has seen just single-digit or no case increases for weeks.

Victoria also reported seven new deaths related to the virus, taking the national total to 844, according to government figures. 

Emma Beaumont met some of the holidaymakers trapped in Australia's travel ban – many of whom have been unable to travel abroad for months. 

What did we learn yesterday?

Here are some of yesterday's main headlines:

  • UK tourists warned of post-Brexit rule changes
  • UK hospitality sector 'still on a knife-edge' as second lockdown looms
  • Scotland facing some “hard but necessary” decisions, says Sturgeon
  • Further Ryanair capacity cuts due to 'defective' EU quarantines