Iceland surpasses Britain's quarantine threshold as case rate doubles overnight

Iceland was one of the first countries to open up to holidaymakers post-lockdown
Iceland was one of the first countries to open up to holidaymakers post-lockdown Credit: Getty

Iceland's rising infection rate now exceeds the UK's quarantine threshold figure, with a seven-day case rate of 40.3 per 100,000 population. The number has more than doubled overnight, from 19.3.

The country now far surpasses the UK's threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 – beyond which, quarantine restrictions are usually triggered.

Meanwhile, infection numbers in other 'travel corridor' destinations continue to climb. Greece, whose mainland is currently on the 'safe list' for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has reported 18.1 cases per 100,000 population over the last seven days.

According to data gathered by the PC Agency, Italy and Sweden – which also have travel corridor status – recorded rates of 17 and 16.4 respectively last week. Cases in Denmark, which remains on the safe list despite breaking the threshold a fortnight ago, have reached 45.3.  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to update the UK's travel corridor list this Thursday. 

Amid growing concerns for Britain's own infection rate, staycations are also under threat. A three-week 'circuit break' lockdown, thought to be earmarked for October half term, is under consideration, while the 'rule of six' has rendered many UK holidays illegal already.

Scroll down for more of today's breaking travel news.

That's a wrap

Thankyou for following today's live travel news. Here's a quick recap before we sign off for the evening:

  • Iceland's infection rate is now double the UK's quarantine threshold
  •  5,000 travel companies have appealed for airport testing
  • Thomas Cook fails to commit to 14-day refund policy
  • 1,000 jobs at risk across Butlins holiday camps
  • Blackpool beach slammed for no social distancing

Scroll down for more on these stories, plus many others. We'll see you back on the live blog tomorrow. 

The best places to holiday in quarantine-free Sweden

It really is a strange and unsettling year when Sweden is not regarded as a paragon of fresh air, clean living and gentle beauty, writes Chris Leadbeater. But 2020 has been no one’s idea of normal, and even this idyllic piece of Scandinavia has not been immune to Covid’s death grip. Anything but.

In fact, Sweden has spent much of the summer as a case study in high infection, cast out on its own as a viral hotspot. But as August progressed, so did the country’s health; to the extent that while much of Europe has been moving in the opposite direction, last week saw it removed from the UK’s tally of destinations where quarantine is required on return.

In Sweden, self isolation comes naturally Credit: Getty

An example of perfect timing? Absolutely. Far from being the end of the holiday season, September is an ideal month to look north. There is still enough light in the sky for a road-trip or cycling tour – but if you would prefer an autumn city break, or a winter trip in search of icy scenery and the northern lights, these too can be on the agenda. 

Head this way for lakes, forests, and eternal pine fragrance...

Safari hotspot opens borders at last –but not for tourists

Zambia has reopened its borders and recommenced international flights after months of lockdown.

However, no tourism visas will be issued, the US Embassy in capital Lusaka has warned. Popular for its safari holidays and spectacular Victoria Falls, Zambia is open only to returning residents. 

Zambia is a popular safari destination Credit: Getty
Victoria Falls – one of the world's largest waterfalls – is located at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe Credit: Getty

Across the continent, more African nations are gradually opening up to tourism. South Africa has announced it will welcome tourists from October 1 – but has not yet said which nations will be on its 'green list'.

Namibia, too, has recommenced international flights, but travellers must quarantine on arrival for seven days. 

Sun, sand and (no) social distancing

Beaches across Britain have been busy with day trippers and tourists this weekend, as the summer weather takes one final bow.

However, crowds in Blackpool have been slammed on social media for not adhering to social distancing guidelines. The seaside town is exempt from the new lockdown restrictions which apply to most of north-west England:

One daytripper told the BBC she had "never seen [the town] that busy before".

"It was heaving, hardly anyone was wearing masks or social distancing. It was shocking," she said. 

Other coastal areas have been busy too – particularly beaches in Brighton and Dorset:

Beachgoers in Brighton this afternoon Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
The busy beachfront at Boscombe, Dorset Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Madrid braces for partial lockdown amid protests

From tomorrow, nearly one million Madrid residents will face a second lockdown as Spanish authorities seek to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the city.

The restrictions on socialising and entertainment venues – which include a 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses – will affect 850,000 people living mainly in the densely-populated, low-income neighbourhoods in the south of the capital.

When the partial lockdown commences, the local population will only be allowed to leave the zone to go to work, seek medical care or take their children to school Credit: Getty
Hundreds of protesters have demonstrated against the lockdown in Madrid today Credit: Getty

Like many countries in Europe, Spain is battling a coronavirus surge – and, once again, Madrid is the worst-hit region. 

This weekend, protesters have taken to the streets of Madrid, calling for better health services in the city's deprived areas. According to Reuters, around 600 people demonstrated in the southern district of Vallecas, which has one of the highest infection rates in the Spanish capital.

1,000 jobs at risk across Butlins holiday camps

Butlins has warned that 1,000 jobs are at risk as the Government’s furlough scheme comes to an end. 

In a memo sent to staff, company bosses suggested that employees should take any remaining annual leave – or take unpaid leave if their allowance has already been used, the BBC reports. 

A company spokesperson said that no decision has yet been made regarding potential cuts: "Since we reopened Butlin's we've worked hard to bring back as many of our team as possible whilst ensuring we're safe and secure.

"There has been no decision made regarding our team who are still furloughed."

Butlins is currently operating at 50 per cent capacity, one of the thousands of British tourism businesses facing a very bleak winter indeed.

'A second national lockdown would be a real challenge for us'

Cat Jones, founder of flight-free travel platform Byway, has just started picking up traction with her business which launched in April. 

Asked what the impact of a second national lockdown could be, she replied, "A second national lockdown restricting non-essential travel would be a real short-term challenge for us [...] since obviously we'd be looking at moving/cancelling a slew of future bookings as well as seeing a period of minimal revenue. Also for our partners - independent accommodation hosts/bnbs across the country who've already been hit hard by the first. Much of the travel we put together away from the beaten track, and our vision is that Byway will open up a vibrant ecosystem flourishing away from the current tourist hubs. Obviously a second lockdown would shake that nascent ecosystem terribly, where green shoots are just emerging due to changed consumer behaviour and attitudes following the first. "

However, she is hopeful that her unique position will allow them to ride it out whatever happens: "Unlike many pre-existing companies faced with Covid, I knew about the Covid-related revenue risks when I founded Byway and secured our initial funding, so I could design the team and cost base with that in mind. "

Number of coronavirus cases in Greece, Italy and Turkey remains relatively stable 

Raymond Blanc has reopened Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire

Mark C. O'Flaherty checks in and finds that Le Manoir is a survivor on numerous scores: It received two Michelin stars when it opened in 1984, and has kept them ever since. The 15th-century manor is a landmark of modern gastronomy, from the orchards and greenhouses to the cookery school.

Raymond Blanc's 15th-century, honey-coloured Oxfordshire manor house is a temple to fine dining

As you walk through the gardens full of towering purple artichoke thistles, past throngs of bees feasting on lavishly arranged graphic beds of lavender, there’s a feeling of perpetual summer. A Frenchman has created one of the most beautiful country gardens in England. Sitting on the terrace, drinking a Lost Orchard cocktail with amaretto and calvados, garnished with meticulously sliced apple, is transporting. 

Read his full report here.

The 24 countries you can (feasibly) visit right now

Many of the countries on the green list (including Thailand and Singapore) are not yet welcoming UK tourists. So where can you go?

In all, there are now 12 places on the travel corridor list that have no restrictions on UK arrivals, and a further 12 with limited restrictions that make holiday feasible. 

Find them all here.

The view around the world today

Israeli police and soldiers question drivers entering Tel Aviv, after the country tightened its lockdown again yesterday Credit: Getty
Queuing for Covis-19 tests in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India Credit: Getty
Shopping for groceries at New York's Union Square Greenmarket Credit: Getty

Restriction-free travel between New Zealand and Australia unlikely 'before March 2021'

The Chief Executive of Air New Zealand has warned that a 'trans-Tasman' travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia will not be possible until March 2021 – at the earliest.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Foran said: "I certainly do not believe we will see any [restriction-free travel] this calendar year. It's hard to believe it would be before March next year and could well be longer.

"If it comes back quicker, we're going to pop some champagne."

New Zealand's borders are currently closed to almost all international travellers  Credit: Getty

The idea of a travel bubble – where two or more countries agree to restriction-free travel for residents – was hailed as the 'saviour of tourism' at the start of the pandemic. But, as The Telegraph's Tom Mulvihill found, the implementation has proved far from straight-forward. 

Russia's new Covid-19 cases above 6,000 for second day in a row 

Russia has reported 6,148 new coronavirus cases, the second straight day when the daily number of cases exceeded 6,000 – taking the national tally of infections to 1,103,399.

Cases continue to surge in the Czech Republic, too: yesterday, its number of confirmed infections rose to 48,306 in the country of 10.7 million people. The country has been reporting new cases of the infection at one of Europe's fastest paces in recent weeks, and authorities have returned to some of the measures used in spring when the pandemic first reached the country.

Why quarantine restrictions aren't everything they seem

Britain's list of travel corridor destinations has dominated the news ever since we reopened our borders for tourism – and the outlook changes every day. Today, Iceland's rising caseload has pushed it over the UK's quarantine threshold; Greece and Italy, too, appear to be on shaky ground. 

However, focusing on the quarantine requirement for returning holidaymakers only covers one side of the story. If the FDCO removes a destination from its travel corridor, it also officially advises against all non-essential travel there. A holiday is not considered essential.

So, if you decide to travel regardless of the FCDO's advice, your travel insurance will likely be rendered invalid. You will need to quarantine for 14 days when you return to the UK, yes – but your problems may start while you're away: if you become ill or experience disruption on your trip, you may need to foot the bill yourself.

But there is (a glimmer of) hope. Emma Beaumont explains how to get insurance cover for a destination or holiday style if the FCDO currently advises against it. 

Oktoberfest celebrations start in Germany

This weekend should have seen thousands of holidaymakers flocking to Oktoberfest, in Munich – the annual celebration of all-things beer and bratwurst.

While the official events have long been cancelled, some private pubs are holding their own festivities – known as WirtshausWiesn, or ‘pub Oktoberfest’.

Police kept a close eye on revellers in Munich yesterday Credit: Getty
Any celebrations have been strictly outdoors Credit: Getty

Thomas Cook fails to commit to 14-day refund policy

Thomas Cook, which relaunched as an online travel agent on Wednesday, has failed to commit to refunding customers for cancelled holidays within the 14 days required by British law.

Following an investigation by Which?, the travel agent told the consumer watchdog that while it was aiming for 14-day refunds – as required by the The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 – it "cannot guarantee it in cases of large cancellations."

Which? reported that Thomas Cook said it would "try to stick to 14 days, but that refunds could take longer".

'It’s time to shut out anxiety and say ‘yes’ to opportunities while we can'

"The moment we got on the train, we knew that we had made the right choice. We were only going a few miles down the tracks, but lockdown has made us all a bit reticent, so even small journeys can now feel like an adventure..."

As 2020 continues to make a mockery of any long-term plans, Telegraph Travel columnist Ashwin Bhardwaj finds the joy in the tiniest bit of adventure – and even a little room for spontaneity, too.

Greece Covid-19 figures on the rise, as country reels from 'medicane' deaths

Hurricane-like storms have lashed central Greece over the weekend, resulting in two deaths and mass evacuations in regions north of Athens. 

Hundreds of people were rescued from flooded buildings as heavy rain and high winds wrecked homes, shops and warehouses. Two people were found dead and another person was missing on Saturday – while emergency teams searched for a boat carrying 55 migrants after receiving a distress signal.

The storm – known as a 'medicane' for its hurricane-like ferocity – has now travelled southwards towards Crete.

Meanwhile, the country's rising cases of Covid-19 are also causing concerns. Yesterday, authorities reported 18.6 cases per 100,000 population, and an overall rise on weekly figures (see graph below).

The UK has placed restrictions on travel to some Greek islands, but the mainland is currently restriction-free for holidaymakers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Italy, Spain & Portugal: latest figures

As of yesterday, Italy is reporting a seven-day case rate of 16.7 infections per 100,000 population:

In Spain, that figure is 157.7 per 100,000:

Portugal, meanwhile, is experiencing 42.4 cases per 100,000: 

Daily infections surpass 13,000 in France

Coronavirus infections continue to surge in France, with nearly 13,500 new cases recorded over the past 24 hours. 

It was the second day in a row that new cases in France were above 13,000. Its seven-day infection rate is currently 97.5 infections per 100,000 population – more than double that of the UK.

In Paris, the Prefecture de Police warned in a tweet yesterday that there will be no more tolerance for bars and restaurants where rules to counter the virus are not respected, like standing at counters or failing to respect social distancing. 

Parisians and tourists watch members watch the reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday Credit: Getty

 

Iceland cases on the rise

Throughout the pandemic, Iceland has been hailed as a country that's got its act together. In June, it reopened to tourism, and has applied a strict nationwide approach to testing – with all travellers required to isolate for 14 days on arrival, or take two Covid-19 tests on days one and five/six of their visits. 

The Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions, has remained quiet throughout the pandemic Credit: Getty
Reykjavik, the capital, is also devoid of crowds Credit: Getty

The strategy has seemed to work, with tourists trickling into the country slowly but surely. Departures of foreign passengers from Iceland via Keflavik airport numbered around 45,000 in July, according to figures from the Icelandic Tourist Board – although that number pales in comparison to the quarter of a million who passed through in July 2019.

Now, however, Iceland's infection rate is creeping up: today, the country reported a staggering 40.6 infections per 100,000 population. The figure could well see Iceland being added to the FCO's 'no-go' list this Thursday.

Quarantine figures: latest update

Yesterday, countries around the world released their infection rates from the previous week – with Iceland and Greece reporting figures close to the UK's quarantine threshold.

This morning, we'll be looking into the status of key holiday destinations across the world, but first let's take a quick look at the headline statistics, courtesy of Paul Charles of the PC Agency:

Airlines slash fares to tempt winter holiday seekers

Eager travellers will be rewarded with record low airfares this winter with prices to sunny destinations falling by 92 per cent in some cases compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Those who missed their summer break can look forward to the colder months for a holiday, with prices starting at £14 for destinations in Europe.

Yesterday, British Airways launched a four-day sale, offering flights to Italy for just £35 Credit: Getty

A return flight from London to Morocco this December currently costs just £15, a 92 per cent discount from the average £192 it cost in the same month over the past two years, according to Skyscanner, a flight-comparison website.

Read the full story.

Calls for airport testing to replace quarantine

An alliance of more than 5,000 travel and tourism companies across Europe have issued an unprecedented appeal for the introduction of airport testing to replace quarantine.  

An open letter sent to the European Commission calls for a testing regime to help save the jobs of 27 million people who work in the industry. 

The Telegraph, too, has launched the Test4Travel campaign, urging the UK Government to green-light testing at airports and ports to allow quarantine-free travel in time for Christmas. 

The appeal comes as figures reveal that passenger traffic across Europe during September dipped to a new low, raising questions about the industry's long-term recovery. Airline chiefs forecast that flying will not return to pre-Covid levels for up to five years.  

Charles Hymas has the latest.

What did we learn yesterday? 

Here are some of Saturday'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

Stay tuned for more of today's key travel stories.