Simon Calder’s travel update predictions: What changes are likely to be made today?


Travellers, airlines and holiday companies are waiting anxiously for the latest round of changes to international travel restrictions to be announced.

Thursday 16 September is the day that, according to the now-traditional timetable, the three-weekly “traffic light review” is due – in which countries are shuffled between the green, amber and red lists.

But all the indications are that a more wide-ranging announcement will be made by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, on Friday.

The UK’s current rules are making holidaymakers jumpy about committing to a trip, and are slowly destroying the outbound and inbound travel industry – along with millions of jobs.

With furlough ending on 30 September, ministers now appear to want to limit further damage to the travel industry.

Leaks from government sources suggest that big changes will be announced on Friday, with the testing regime for arrivals to the UK potentially eased for vaccinated travellers, and the number of countries on the high-risk “red list” drastically reduced.

What are the current rules for travellers to the UK?

At present the four nations of the UK have some of the highest infection rates in Europe, yet simultaneously the strictest rules on arrivals from abroad.

The UK has no fewer than 62 nations on the red list: travellers from those countries must spend 11 nights of hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK, at their own expense.

From “amber list” nations, which covers most parts of the world, vaccinated arrivals escape self-isolation, but unjabbed travellers must quarantine at home for 10 days.

Even vaccinated travellers from low-risk “green list” countries must take multiple tests: one before departure and another (which must be a PCR) after arrival.

Such a tough regime is hard to justify: if someone is safe in Italy, with one-sixth of the UK’s Covid cases, why should they pay a small fortune for multiple tests in order to fly home?

No other European nation has anything like those restrictions; Germany, which has low case rates, has a red list but no countries currently appear on it.

Will the ‘traffic lights’ disappear?

Briefings indicate that the current complicated system of five separate traffic light categories (including the green watchlist and “super green” rules for Ireland) is likely to be reduced to just three.

At one end of the spectrum, Ireland is expected to retain its special “super green” status, with no restrictions on travel to the UK. At the other extreme, a red list of high-risk locations will continue.

In between, all the other countries will be treated the same. The new category, for which the name “gramber” has unfortunately been suggested, would cover almost everywhere in Europe, including our most popular destinations: Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

In practice that will make no difference at all for vaccinated travellers – from their perspective, the rules for the current amber list, green list and green watchlists are identical.

So why all the fuss about changes?

Because the dismantling of traffic lights is expected to be accompanied by a significant easing of testing. While unjabbed arrivals are likely to continue to need to take multiple tests, vaccinated travellers can expect an easier ride.

Were the “test to fly” before returning to the UK abolished, as one source suggests, then many holidaymakers would feel more comfortable about travelling.

It would reassure travellers that they are not at risk of being denied boarding the flight home and having to spend a couple of weeks in isolation abroad – though, of course, anyone experiencing Covid symptoms abroad should take a test and, if positive, alert the local health authorities.

Ministers have also been talking up the prospects of replacing the so-called “day two” PCR test. This is an expensive hassle – typically adding £50-£70 to the cost of a trip.

The suggestion is that it could be replaced by a cheap and rapid lateral flow test, which would cut the cost but not the red tape: a test would still need to be booked and paid for in advance.

Some experts say diminishing the standard of post-arrival tests is a mistake; if such a test has medical value, it should be the most effective version.

What could the new “red list” look like?

The red list, requiring hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK, is way too long.

Expert analysts concur that Kenya, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mexico, the Maldives, South Africa and Turkey should be taken off the red list. Of these, the stand-out is the Maldives.

There could also be some additions to the red list, with concerns about dodgy data in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Venezuela – none of them high in the tourism popularity stakes for British travellers.

A trio of lovely tropical island destinations – Grenada, Jamaica and Fiji – could also be added to the red list due to high infection rates.

But as the UK government has shown many times before, it can deliver wildly different conclusions to those indicated by the data.

Any other possible changes?

Some reports suggest that hotel quarantine – currently costing a solo traveller coming from a red list nation £2,285 – could be replaced by self-isolation at home. This would ease the burden on travellers who are visiting red list countries for essential reasons.

In addition, it would reduce the number of people who are – from a rational personal perspective – travelling more widely in order to stay in a third country, where they can ‘launder’ their Covid status.

The final piece of the jigsaw in aligning the UK with the rest of the world would be to recognise vaccinations administered in places other than Europe and the US.

At present, people who have had Covid jabs in nations from Canada to Dubai to Singapore are being treated as unvaccinated in the UK – typifying what is widely seen as a “keep out” attitude that is demolishing inbound tourism and making life unjustifiably complicated for travellers.

All these changes are focused on coming back to the UK – but how do foreign countries feel about us?

Even if dozens of countries are added to a safe or “gramber” list, created from the green and amber lists combined, that does not necessarily mean those nations are open to UK travellers.

Ever since the first green list was published in May, many countries on the UK’s “low-risk” list have made it clear they do not want British visitors due to our high infection rates.

Yet most European locations are remarkably open, at least to vaccinated travellers, considering the Covid case rates in the UK. Earlier this month I went to Germany, for which I only had to fill out a simple online form and show my vaccination status. Returning to the UK was much more onerous.

The Netherlands, which currently has the highest barriers to British visitors, is opening up from next Wednesday for UK travellers who can demonstrate they are fully jabbed.

But on the other side of the world, Australia and New Zealand show little interest in welcoming us, or anyone else, back.



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The California Recall Election Is Today. Here’s What You Need to Know.


Ready or not, here come the election results.

The polls close this evening in the recall vote to decide whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should keep his job.

Already, there are some clues as to how things may play out: Nearly 40 percent of ballots were in as of Monday evening, with votes from registered Democrats outnumbering votes from Republicans by more than two to one. And polling increasingly suggests that Newsom won’t be kicked out of office.

But, as we all know, there are no guarantees.

So as Newsom’s campaign entered its final hours on Monday, he made a last pitch to voters with the help of President Biden.

At a rally in Long Beach last night, Newsom warned that Californians “may have defeated Donald Trump, but we have not defeated Trumpism.”

Biden went one step further and called Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host and the front-runner challenging Newsom, “the clone of Donald Trump.”

“Can you imagine him being governor of this state?” Biden asked a crowd of hundreds gathered in the quad at Long Beach City College. “We can’t let that happen.”

Californians voting in this election are answering just two questions: Should Newsom be recalled from office? And if so, who should replace him?

Newsom needs to secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the first question to retain his job.

If he doesn’t, then the second question — where Elder’s name and 45 others’ appear — comes into play. Whoever gets the most votes there would become the next governor.

When we will know who won

The polls close here at 8 p.m., and it will take a while to count the ballots cast in person. But county workers have been opening and processing early ballots for weeks, and those results could be available almost immediately.

If the race is not super tight, as the polls are currently predicting, the math could be clear a few hours after 8 p.m., my colleague Shawn Hubler reports.

The first numbers released tomorrow will probably show Newsom winning in a landslide, though that gap will most likely narrow — but not fully close — as the night goes on, experts say.

Republicans are more likely to vote in person than Democrats, so the votes that come in later will be skewed against Newsom while the mail-in ballots that are counted first will be disproportionately from Democrats.

If the early results show a close race, then that could mean there is a wave of Democrats who voted against Newsom that polling has missed, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. In that case, the final election results could take longer to determine, with the tallies possibly stretching on for weeks.

Follow our results tracker and Election Day updates at nytimes.com.

For more:

Today’s California travel tip comes from Chris Boerner, a reader who lives in Grand Junction, Colo.

Chris recommends Redwood National and State Parks’ Fern Canyon, which he calls “a magical place.”

Tell us about your favorite spots to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


In “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” the new Marvel movie, our hero throws fists at his attackers on a Muni bus in San Francisco.

Sure, it’s a gripping action sequence, but it’s also educational: The scenes of Muni zipping through Chinatown have resurfaced a key piece of a history within San Francisco’s Chinese community, reports KQED.

As Chinese immigration rose in San Francisco in the 1960s and ’70s, Chinese communities began to expand throughout the city, though Chinatown remained a social and political hub.

So the Chinese American community started pushing for transportation lines that would connect other neighborhoods to Chinatown so they could stay in touch with their heritage.



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Travel news live: Green list update expected today as ‘very few’ traffic light changes predicted


As the government’s latest review of its traffic light system for international travel is due to be announced later today, “very few” changes to its red, amber and green lists are expected, according to one expert.

“Very few traffic light changes due tomorrow afternoon,” Paul Charles, travel consultant and CEO of the PC Agency, tweeted last night.

“Government simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to deal with Afghanistan, Covid and traffic lights.

“Consumers and the travel sector would prefer a simpler, cheaper, less onerous traffic lights and testing system.”

There was some speculation that the next travel update would be released yesterday, but it now looks likely to happen at some point this evening.

Department for Transport sources have confirmed to the The Independent that the announcement will be made at some point “later today”.

Follow below for the latest travel updates:

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When will UK-US travel reopen?

As the end of summer nears, it looks increasingly unlikely that the UK-US travel corridor will open in the short term.

Travel from the UK to the US has been frozen for non-residents since March 2020, thanks to a series of presidential proclamations.

After President Biden arrived in the UK for the G7 meeting in St Ives, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, tweeted: “We’re pleased to announce a joint UK/US Taskforce to help facilitate the reopening of transatlantic travel.”

However, The Independent’s Simon Calder recently wrote: “In the past 48 hours I have asked a number of travel industry chief executives about when the current presidential proclamation banning arrivals from the UK might be lifted. Their answers and predictions range from ‘September’ to ‘no idea’.”

Some airlines have pushed back dates for starting transatlantic flight routes in the face of ongoing uncertainty; Irish carrier Aer Lingus, for example, has rescheduled its new Manchester-New York and Manchester-Orlando services from the end of September to 1 and 11 December respectively.

Helen Coffey26 August 2021 10:40

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Only four in 1,000 vaccinated travellers test positive for Covid on return to UK

Just four in every thousand double-jabbed holidaymakers returning to the UK are testing positive for Covid, according to new research.

The figures from testing and diagnostics company Cignpost show that only 0.4 per cent of fully vaccinated travellers arriving back at UK airports at the end of July were found to have coronavirus.

Single-jabbed passengers were twice as likely to test positive, with 0.8 per cent showing up as infected; while of the unvaccinated people recorded, between 1 and 1.2 per cent tested positive.

Lucy Thackray26 August 2021 10:16

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Government ‘oblivious to stress, pain, expense they are causing’ over travel

The government has been accused of being “oblivious to the stress, pain and expense they are causing” after postponing the latest travel traffic light announcement.

The previous review by the Department for Transport was made three weeks ago on a Wednesday, and many commentators expected the next update to happen yesterday.

But the travel industry was left waiting as the reshuffled red, amber and green lists are now expected to be revealed later today.

“The excuse from Whitehall is government’s a bit busy with Kabul, but come on, no communication? A committee already made recommendations!” tweeted Covid and data expert Tim White.

“The government seems oblivious to stress, pain, expense they are causing. A massive own-goal that could’ve been avoided with a press release.

“Perhaps Grant Shapps and his advisers will spare a thought today for the hundreds, maybe thousands, who are today flying to Jamaica, St Lucia, Morocco not knowing if they will land only to fly straight back. An announcement yesterday would have enabled cancellations.”

Helen Coffey26 August 2021 10:00

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When is the next travel update of the green, amber and red lists?

Previous updates to the government’s traffic light system for international travel took place on 3 and 24 June, 14 July and 4 August.

The green, amber and red lists are updated “every three weeks”.

The exact date and time of this latest update have been somewhat shrouded in mystery; however, a Department for Transport source told The Independent this morning that it is expected “later today”, Thursday 26 August.

In that case, changes would likely coming into effect at 4am the following Monday (30 August).

Helen Coffey26 August 2021 09:25

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Alitalia to cease operations

After decades of heavy losses and billions of euros in taxpayer support, Alitalia’s days are numbered. It will cease operations on 14 October.

But Italy already has a replacement national carrier, which will use the same aircraft, staff and route network as Alitalia, starting on 15 October.

Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) says it is “a company totally owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance for the exercise of business in the air transport sector”.

The “new” airline has today launched its new website, itaspa.com. It claims: “ITA aims at creating an efficient and innovative air carrier that will become a reference point in providing Italy with quality connectivity with both international destinations, thus boosting tourism and foreign trade, and within the country, also taking advantage of the train-air integrated mobility.

“ITA will place the best customer service at the centre of its strategy.”

The new entity is using Alitalia slots at London Heathrow to serve Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino.

The airline schedule analyst, Sean Moulton, told The Independent: “The new ITA could appear to be a rebrand of the existing Italian flag carrier, Alitalia.

“However, the airline has provided some expansion opportunities in the coming years including returning to London City in 2022 and adding Manchester in 2023.

“However, with travel restrictions ongoing and confidence in flying still low, it is unclear if this new venture will be viable or simply rehashing old ideas.”

Simon Calder26 August 2021 09:13

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Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be sharing all the latest updates throughout the day.

Helen Coffey26 August 2021 08:51





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Wellington today, August 19: Mandatory masks required at essential stores, how to get a Covid-19 test


Masks are now mandatory when accessing essential services.

KEVIN STENT/Stuff

Masks are now mandatory when accessing essential services.

Mōrena Wellington, Bill Hickman here with everything you need to know about living in the Wellington region in level 4 lockdown. As of Wednesday evening, there are ten Covid-19 cases in the community, all in Auckland and all confirmed to be the more infectious Delta variant.

Wellington weather

Fine today with morning frosts in sheltered places and people will experience northwesterly winds.

MetService is predicting a high of 13 degrees Celsius and a love of 8deg C.

Masks mandatory at all essential stores

People over the age of 12 must wear face masks when accessing essential services.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said from 11.59pm on Wednesday, staff and customers must wear masks at places like supermarkets, pharmacies, dairies and service stations.

Masks must also now be worn at bus terminals and in taxis.

How to get a Covid-19 test in Wellington

If you are unwell, have any one of the Covid-19 symptoms or believe you may have been in places of interest relating to current cases then call your doctor to arrange a test. You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. Follow the link to find testing stations in the Wellington region.

A lone skateboarder crosses a deserted Willis Street at what would normally be peak hour during alert level 4 lockdown in Wellington.

KEVIN STENT/Stuff

A lone skateboarder crosses a deserted Willis Street at what would normally be peak hour during alert level 4 lockdown in Wellington.

Vaccine bookings

Vaccination centres will open again today from 8am.

They will be operating under Alert Level 4 conditions. Because of the need to physically distance, fewer people will be vaccinated and some appointments may need to be postponed.

But if you don’t get contacted to say your appointment is postponed, you are asked to go to your appointment as scheduled.

Follow the link for further information and updates at Health Point.

Wellington airport open to essential travel

Passengers will be greeted by Aviation Security staff and will be required to provide proof of their reason to travel, for example to return home or for work. Passengers are required to wear masks in the terminal and on all flights. For details about changes to flight schedules, passengers are advised to contact their airline.

A police car patrols Featherston Street during Level 4 lockdown on Wednesday evening.

KEVIN STENT/Stuff

A police car patrols Featherston Street during Level 4 lockdown on Wednesday evening.

Parking for essential workers free in city centre

Metered and coupon parking will be free in the Wellington central business district for essential workers during lockdown. Enforcement of illegal parking will continue.

Metlink services to run Saturday timetables

Bus and train services will move to a Saturday timetable in level 4. Passengers will be required to keep 2 metres of physical distancing on board and cash handling wil be removed. Snapper, 10 trip tickets and monthly passes will be the only form of valid fare. Harbour ferry services will not be operating. Follow the link for Metlink timetable information.

Public transport services are limited but available for people needing to travel for essential reasons during lockdown alert level 4.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Public transport services are limited but available for people needing to travel for essential reasons during lockdown alert level 4.

Wellington rubbish and recycling at level 4

In Wellington, rubbish will still be collected, but there will be changes to the recycling kerbside collections, says Waste Operations Manager Emily Taylor-Hall. For glass recycling on Thursday and Friday, residents are asked to not put their glass recycling out at the kerbside as there will be no collections for glass.

“We ask that residents, if they have space, hold onto their glass crates until the next glass collection in a fortnight’s time – assuming we have returned to a level that allows collection,” Taylor-Hall said.

Co-mingled recycling that is in wheelie bins or recycling bags would continue to be collected but would be landfilled until the Seaview sorting facility could be reopened. “Residents should place their bins and bags at the kerbside for normal collections. We do not recommend stockpiling of co-mingled recycling for health and safety reasons,” Taylor-Hall said.

Recycling bags and bins ready for collection. Wellington City Council will be taking it all to the tip as recycling, except glass, is not possible in lockdown. (File photo)

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Recycling bags and bins ready for collection. Wellington City Council will be taking it all to the tip as recycling, except glass, is not possible in lockdown. (File photo)

Porirua City and the Kāpiti District will operate similar systems with kerbside rubbish and recycling continuing to be collected while collection of glass recycling is suspended during level 4.

Porirua City Council had suspended glass collection for EnviroWaste and Low Cost Bins customers and front and back door rubbish collections would also pause.

Hutt City council asked residents to hold onto their recycling for now.

Landfills across the Wellington region were closed to public access and sorting of recycled goods was also suspended.

Kāpiti Coast District Council encouraged households to purchase less packaging and to reuse containers for other purposes. People were asked to squash recycling and avoid overwhelming collectors with overfilled bins.

For up-to-date news around the country follow the link to Stuff’s Covid-19 live blog for regular updates and insights.

POOL

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says genome sequencing shows the community Covid-19 case is the delta strain and originated in Australia.



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COVID-19: Travel boost as seven more countries join green list from today – and France leaves ‘amber plus’ | Travel News


Hopes for a summer getaway are given a boost from today with a sizeable expansion of the government’s green travel list – and the return of holiday favourite France to the regular amber category.

After a spell on the so-called “amber plus” list, France’s move back to amber means that fully vaccinated travellers returning from there to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland no longer need to quarantine.

India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are moving from red to amber, whilst Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Romania and Norway are going green.

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How does govt make decisions on travel?

People arriving from green list countries do not need to quarantine regardless of vaccination status – but it’s the additional amber list destinations that appear to have attracted the most interest.

Ahead of the changes to the lists coming into effect at 4am today, travel companies reported a surge in interest in journeys to France and the UAE.

Brittany Ferries said bookings between the UK and France had more than doubled after the government’s announcement earlier this week, Eurostar said it was ready to boost capacity on its London-Paris route, while Skyscanner reported a threefold increase in searches for Dubai.

But today also marks the addition of several places to the red list – meaning that arrivals must spend 11 nights at a quarantine hotel.

The new red list countries are Mexico, Georgia, and the French overseas territories La Reunion and Mayotte.

For now, solo travellers staying at quarantine hotels face a rate of £1,750 – but this will rise to £2,285 on Thursday.

Travellers exit from an arrivals gate at St Pancras International station following the arrival of a Eurostar train from Paris
Image:
Eurostar is among the travel companies ready for a surge in interest and bookings

UK holidaymakers in those new red list countries have been racing to get home to avoid having to quarantine, with British Airways (BA) putting on extra flights from Mexico – notably Mexico City and Cancun.

One BA flight from Cancun was due to touch down at Gatwick at 3.05am – less than an hour before the deadline.

Such frantic flight plans have been a fixture of the summer for UK tourists thus far, prompting criticism from the travel industry and politicians across the Commons.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has promised that the latest changes to the travel lists will be in force for at least three weeks, barring any unforeseen developments.

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Shapps: No travel changes for three weeks

Despite the additions to the green list and the allowances for fully vaccinated Britons to go to amber list nations, the prime minister is being warned that more needs to be done to make foreign holidays viable for families.

Boris Johnson has been told by travel industry leaders and backbench Conservative MPs that the cost of tests are a major obstacle, with many holidays requiring as many as three tests to be arranged for each person.

Some countries, including France, have ditched the testing requirement for arrivals if they are fully vaccinated.

But there’s not yet any sign of the UK government following suit – and arrivals from amber list Spain and its islands are being actively advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible “as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country”.

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‘Unforgiveable’ govt ‘chaos’ on travel advice

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Earlier this week, Tory MP and Transport Select Committee chairman Huw Merriman tweeted: “Passengers are being ripped off with expensive PCR tests.

“We are told this is justified to sequence for variants but only 5% of tests are.

“This barrier to affordable travel needs to stop now.”

Mr Merriman has called for cheaper lateral flow tests to be used for travel instead, with only those people who test positive then requiring a PCR test.

The government says a cautious reopening of the travel industry is needed to protect the UK’s vaccine rollout, with almost 47 million adults having now been double jabbed.

Latest figures showed another 35,665 first doses and 162,827 second doses had been carried out, while 28,612 cases and 103 more deaths were also reported.

A young woman receives a vaccine at a clinic in London
Image:
The UK’s vaccination programme is now focused on younger age groups

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has dismissed criticism of Dominic Raab following a newspaper report alleging he’d avoided quarantine rules after a trip to France last month.

The Sunday Mirror said the foreign secretary should have had to go into isolation because at the time all arrivals from France had to quarantine for 10 days regardless of vaccination status.

But ministers are said to be exempt from quarantine rules on account of conducting essential state business and a statement from Mr Raab’s department said: “The foreign secretary travels on diplomatic business within the rules.

“It is his job to pursue the UK’s interests abroad, including on security, trade, and international development.”





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