TRANSPORT Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted foreign holidays will be able to resume "safely and sustainably" under new Government plans.

But travel firms have slammed measures to force holidaymakers returning from low-risk destinations to take an "expensive and unnecessary" type of coronavirus test.

Mr Shapps announced a "framework" for resuming overseas leisure travel which includes requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.

Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost around £120, he revealed.

This is despite pleas from the travel sector to allow travellers returning from countries on the "green" list under the new risk-based traffic light system to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.

Mr Shapps said: "The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine rollout and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again."

How the traffic light system will work:

* Green: Passengers will not need to quarantine on return, but must take a pre-departure test, as well as a PCR test on return to the UK

* Amber: Travellers will need to quarantine for 10 days, as well as taking a pre-departure test and two PCR tests

* Red: Passengers will have to pay for a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, as well as a pre-departure test and two PCR tests

The announcement came three days after Boris Johnson pledged to make testing requirements "as affordable as possible".

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren claimed the plan was "a blow to all travellers" and risked "making flying only for the wealthy".

He added: "As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently."

Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation Abta, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would "make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus".

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Debbie White

    SHOWCASE CINEMAS SET TO REOPEN FROM MAY 17

    Showcase Cinemas have announced the reopening of their cinemas in England and Scotland from Stage 3 of the government's reopening plan, currently scheduled for May 17.

    A press release added: "There’s plenty for film fans to look forward to, with blockbusters such as Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, Fast & Furious 9, A Quiet Place Part 2, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Mission Impossible 7 all set to be released this year.

    "There’s also going to be plenty of new films for families to take advantage of, with Peter Rabbit 2, Croods 2, Hotel Transylvania 4, Jungle Cruise, Cruella and Space Jam: A New Legacy all hitting the big screen before the end of July. Plus September sees the release of the much-anticipated next instalment of the James Bond franchise, No Time To Die."

    General manager Mark Barlow said: "Our staff and customers’ health has been and will continue to be our top priority. "

    Covid safety measures "will again be in place when we reopen to ensure our guests feel as comfortable as possible at all Showcase cinema locations," he added.

  • Debbie White

    COVID PASSPORT AN 'ACCEPTABLE BURDEN' – PREMIER LEAGUE BOSS

    Small football crowds and a ban on away supporters are likely without a temporary Covid certification system, a Premier League chief has warned.

    The English top flight was one of 10 sports bodies who wrote a letter to the PM and other senior politicians on Thursday endorsing the use of certification to help relax social distancing measures at sporting events.

    Premier League executive director Bill Bush told BBC Radio Four Today: "The alternative (to certification) is not freedom.

    "The alternative is social distancing, tiny crowds, major restrictions on people's movement and ability to eat, drink, travel. Away fans banned for example.

    "So to end those restrictions of freedom, we believe that something like this is an acceptable burden to give fans the freedom to attend."

  • Debbie White

    MORE ON JET2 FLIGHT SUSPENSION ANNOUNCEMENT

    Jet2.com has extended the suspension of its flights and holidays up to June 23, following the Government's announcement on how foreign leisure travel will resume.

    Boss Steve Heapy said: "We have taken time to study the Global Travel Taskforce's framework, and we are extremely disappointed at the lack of clarity and detail.

    "After several weeks exploring how to restart international travel, with substantial assistance and input from the industry, the framework lacks any rigorous detail about how to get international travel going again. In fact, the framework is virtually the same as six months ago.

    "Following the publication of the framework today, we still do not know when we can start to fly, where we can fly to and the availability and cost of testing. Rather than answering questions, the framework leaves everyone asking more."

    He added: "Because of the continued uncertainty that the framework provides, it is with a heavy heart that we have taken the decision to extend the suspension of flights and holidays up to and including 23rd June 2021."

    Jet2 is taking precautions because of the lack of clarity from the governmentCredit: Alamy
  • Debbie White

    JET2 SUSPENDS FLIGHTS AND HOLIDAYS TILL JUNE 23 2021

    British travel company Jet2 says it is suspending flights and holidays until June 23, given the ongoing uncertainty around travel from the UK.

    The government has said it will provide more information in early May about whether holidays can restart from mid-May.

    But Jet2 announced today that it was suspending travel until late June because of the lack of clarity from the government.

    "We are trying to run a business so that we can take customers away, but we need the Government to provide us with clarity to achieve this," Jet2 Chief Executive Steve Heapy said in a statement on Friday.

  • Debbie White

    CASHED UP BRITS HAVE SAVED £18BILLION DURING COVID LOCKDOWNS – SURVEY

    Brits have managed to save at LEAST £18billion as a result of Covid lockdown restrictions, according to new research from Auto Trader, by:

    • Not dining out (71%)
    • Not going on an overseas holiday (51%)
    • Not travelling to the office (27%)

    Auto Trader, the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars, found that Brits have been stashing the cash, with 41% saving at least £1,000 over the past twelve months, while over one in 10 (14.7%) have managed to save over £3,000.

    When asked how they were going to spend their newfound savings, two-fifths (41%) of those surveyed confessed they’d like to splash their cash on a new car.

    Auto Trader is hailing Saturday April 17 – the first Saturday car dealerships can reopen – as 'New Car Day', anticipating a huge surge in footfall at forecourts and record-breaking sales for the industry.

    START THINKING ABOUT BOOKING OVERSEAS HOLIDAYS, SAYS SHAPPS

    People can "start to think" about booking overseas summer holidays, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

    The Cabinet minister said it is the first time in "many months" he was not advising against booking foreign trips.

    Today Shapps announced a "framework" for the resumption of overseas leisure travel, which included requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.

    Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, he said.

    AUSTRALIA BUYS EXTRA 20MILLION PFIZER JABS

    Australia has sealed a deal to buy an extra 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – rather than rely mainly on AstraZeneca jabs.

    PM Scott Morrison announced the deal just hours after saying Australia would stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged under 50.

    While there is no ban of the AstraZeneca vaccine – and the risk of side effects are remote – he said the change was made out of an abundance of caution.

    But Australia's tweaked Covid jab rollout is likely to delay plans to have everybody inoculated by October.

    Australia's pivot came after the European Medicines Agency said this week it had found a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, though regulators in the UK and the EU emphasised that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people.

    GOVERNMENT 'RISKS WASTING A HUGE AMOUNT OF MONEY' ON WEEKLY TESTS

    The Government risks "wasting a huge amount of money" on coronavirus testing unless more support is given to people to self-isolate, a scientific adviser has said.

    Professor Stephen Reicher, from the University of St Andrews and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), which advises ministers, said more financial and practical support is needed.

    Prof Reicher said that, for some people, self-isolating is impractical or they lose pay and "the way out of that is just simply to avoid a test".

    The solution is "something that has been suggested for months now, actually probably since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago, which is that we need to give more support to self-isolation," he added.

    "To test people without thinking about what you're going to do with those tests, making those things possible, is wasting a huge amount of money."

    DEREK DRAPER STILL CAN'T MOVE AFTER COVID

    Derek Draper's return to the family home "feels like the start of a huge chapter but a really big and important one," his thrilled wife, Kate Garraway, told Good Morning Britain viewers.

    She added: "He can't really move, we do need a lot of help, it is 24-hour care, it's going to take a lot of adjustment.

    "It does feel like the hospital has come home with me at the moment."

    It is hoped the move will prompt "some recovery because he has definitely plateaued at this level.

    "We're hugely grateful for this level and not losing him. But we really want to see if we can move forward, if we can get him speaking more, if he's able to move more – it's going to be very slow and a bit of a wait-and-see," she said.

    • Debbie White

      KATE GARRAWAY SAYS IT'S 'AMAZING' TO FINALLY HAVE HUSBAND HOME

      Kate Garraway says it is "amazing" to have husband Derek Draper home.

      Draper was admitted to hospital in March last year with coronavirus symptoms.

      Presenter Garraway told Good Morning Britain of the decision to bring him home: "It felt as though everything had stalled medically and, if anything, was going slightly back."

      She said doctors decided "let's give this a go, get him home safely", to see whether being in the family environment helps.

      He "absolutely knew he was home", she said.

      Pictured before he was struck down with Covid: Derek Draper is back home with wife Kate Garraway and children Darcey and Billy
    • Debbie White

      MUM’S BLOOD CLOT FEARS AFTER ASTRAZENECA JAB…CONTINUED

      The mum-of-two, from Burslem, Staffs, said: "I couldn't do much and I was getting out of breath just moving around. It's a really dangerous situation to be in. You can die from these blood clots.

      "I've been referred to the respiratory clinic. I've then got to go back in three months for another CT scan to check the blood clots on my lung. Then we will go from there."

      Beckie says she has now been advised by her doctor not to have the second dose, adding, "the hospital said the blood clots were caused by the vaccine.

      "They explained that you can get blood clots through not moving around or through having an operation, but other than that the only other thing was the vaccine.

      "The doctor has advised me not go for the second vaccine because it could lead to more blood clots. I've never had any issues with clots before."

      A Stoke-on-Trent mum claims to have suffered blood clots in her lung after having the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccineCredit: BPM
    • Debbie White

      MUM'S BLOOD CLOT FEARS AFTER ASTRAZENECA JAB

      An angry mum claims to have suffered blood clots in her lung after having the first dose of the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine.

      Beckie Wilson had the jab on March 11, and says she soon started to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath.

      The 35-year-old went to see her GP and was initially put on a course of antibiotics, but when this didn't work she was referred for blood tests and a CT scan.

      And on Wednesday last week, Beckie says medics at the Royal Stoke University Hospital told her they had discovered blood clots in her lung.

      Now the warehouse worker has been put on blood thinning medication and is off work for three weeks.

    • Debbie White

      HEATHROW AIRPORT BOSS – TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM 'GOOD STEP FORWARD'

      Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has welcomed the Government's traffic light system approach to travel, but says there are "far better ways" than using a costly PCR testing system for returning passengers.

      He told BBC Breakfast: "It's good news that we now have flying opened up again from May 17 at the earliest, and I think the risk-based approach with this traffic light system is a good step forward, and I think Grant Shapps has done a very good job to steer that through Government.

      "All of us will welcome the fact that if you are going to a country that is green, where there's very low risk of variants of concern, very low levels of Covid, that you won't need to quarantine when you're back."

      He added: "If you are a British citizen, you've been fully vaccinated, and are going to somewhere low risk such as Israel or the United States, not only do you have to have a test before you get on the plane coming back to show that you don't have Covid, you then have to take an expensive PCR test after you arrive to demonstrate again.

      "Most people would say: 'That makes no sense, that's a £150 bill I shouldn't have to be paying when I've already demonstrated I don't have Covid'."

    • Debbie White

      HAIRDRESSERS TOLD NOT TO OFFER HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 12

      Hairdressers have been told NOT to offer highlights, braids or other 'long' treatments when they reopen on Monday, April 12.

      Instead, services should be kept "short and basic" to reduce the time customers spend in the chair.

      Government guidance states hair and beauty salons "should consider providing shorter, more basic treatments to keep the time to a minimum".

      So shaggy-haired Brits looking forward to long-awaited treatments may find they cannot book anything considered a 'long' or 'complex' procedure.

      This could include highlights, braids or deep conditioning treatments. It also means lengthy massages could also be off the cards.

      Our shaggy-haired PM is no doubt keen for a professional trim from April 12Credit: AFP
    • Debbie White

      HEATHROW AIRPORT BOSS SLAMS DOUBLE TESTING REGIME

      Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye has slated the Government's double testing requirement as 'overkill' for returning travellers.

      He told BBC Breakfast: "Why, if you're fully vaccinated, and you're coming back from a low-risk country where there are no variants of concern… do you still need to take a £150 PCR test after you have arrived?

      "I think for most people that would make no sense, and this is where we need to make sure that travel is something anyone can do and is not just something for the wealthy."

      When asked how likely it is that the average family of four would be able to go on a foreign holiday this year, he replied: "If you're coming back from a green-list country and you have to spend £600 just on the PCR test just after you come back, I think that's going to make it unaffordable for a lot of normal hard-working people.

      "And it's unnecessary. Why not allow them to have a lateral flow test and only take a PCR test if they test positive? That's what we do in our healthcare system and in our schools, why not do it for people coming back from overseas as well? It will just feel like overkill for most people."

    • Debbie White

      SPORTS DIRECT OWNER WARNS OVER £200 MILLION COVID HIT

      Sports Direct owner Frasers Group has warned it could take a hit in excess of £200million due to Covid-19 restrictions – double its previous estimate in February.

      The retailer said it believes further Covid restrictions are "almost certain" in the UK, believing a writedown against freehold values and other non-cash impairments will be needed.

      In an announcement to the London Stock Exchange, the firm added: "In our ongoing assessment we note the continuing Government and Government adviser pronouncements regarding 'third waves' and normality being 'some way off', meaning further restrictions are in our view almost certain."

      Frasers is planning to reopen vast swathes of its estate from Monday, April 12, as non-essential retailers are allowed to welcome back customers.

      The group, controlled by Mike Ashley, includes House of Fraser, Game Digital, Jack Wills, Evans Cycles (which remained open as an essential retailer) and Sports Direct.

    • Debbie White

      TRANSPORT BOSSES REFUSE TO REVEAL MORE ABOUT OVERSEAS HOLS

      The Department for Transport (DfT) has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from May 17.

      The DfT also insisted it was "too early to predict which countries will be on which list" under the traffic light system, with an "initial assessment" to be produced "by early may".

      People arriving from a "green" country will not be required to self-isolate, but those entering the UK from an "amber" destination must quarantine for 10 days. Existing rules for arrivals from "red" locations will continue, including the requirement to pay to enter a quarantine hotel.

      These restrictions will be "formally reviewed" on June 28 to take account of "the domestic and international health picture and to see whether current measures could be rolled back", the DfT added. Further reviews will take place no later than July 31 and October 1.

    • Debbie White

      FOREIGN HOLS LATEST…CONTINUED

      Mr Shapps said: "The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine rollout and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again."

      The announcement came three days after Boris Johnson pledged to make testing requirements "as affordable as possible".

      EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren claimed the plan was "a blow to all travellers" and risked "making flying only for the wealthy".

      He added: "As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently."

      Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation Abta, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would "make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus".

    • Debbie White

      TRANSPORT PLANS UNDER FIRE AS SHAPPS HOPES FOR 'SAFE' RESUMPTION OF HOLIDAYS

      Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted foreign holidays will be able to resume "safely and sustainably" under new Government plans.

      But travel firms have slammed measures to force holidaymakers returning from low-risk destinations to take an "expensive and unnecessary" type of coronavirus test.

      Mr Shapps announced a "framework" for resuming overseas leisure travel which includes requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.

      Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost around £120, he revealed.

      This is despite pleas from the travel sector to allow travellers returning from countries on the "green" list under the new risk-based traffic light system to take lateral flow tests, which are cheaper and quicker.

    • Debbie White

      BRITS TO RECEIVE 'MORE NOTICE RE GREEN LIGHT COUNTRIES' – MP

      Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that there should be a "bit more notice" on countries moving out of the "green" list.

      "The green watchlist is designed to help people to get some forward guidance," he told Sky News.

      "Now, I can't guarantee that that will always be absolutely 100 per cent available, we may have to make very quick decisions as we had to last year.

      "If you have for example a variation in the coronavirus, you usually have at least a couple of weeks whilst you're sequencing that to see whether it's actually a variation of concern, where the mutation is more significant.

      "And so that will give people a period of time to potentially know, so that's the first thing, we should have a bit more notice this year."

    • Debbie White

      KATE GARRAWAY'S HUSBAND FINALLY HOME AFTER FIGHTING COVID FOR OVER 12 MONTHS IN HOSPITAL

      Kate Garraway’s stricken husband is back home after more than a year in hospital fighting Covid.

      Derek Draper, 53, has been taken off all machines but will continue to receive round-the-clock care at the family’s adapted property in North London.

      A friend said: “Kate’s dreamt of this day for so long, and can’t thank wonderful NHS staff enough.”

      Kate’s two children have cried tears of joy at the return of their dad Derek, a friend revealed.

      The family has been warned that he still faces a “long and gruelling” fight to full health.

      TV viewers were moved to tears by a documentary on Derek’s Covid battle
    • Joseph Gamp

      GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO CONFIRM WHEN FOREIGN HOLIDAYS CAN RESUME

      The Government has refused to confirm whether foreign holidays will be permitted from May 17 or which destinations people can visit without self-isolating on their return.

      Announcing the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps did confirm that a traffic light system will be used to categorise countries based on risk.

      He also said the Government will work with the travel industry and private testing providers to reduce the cost of foreign trips. This could lead to free pre-departure tests and cheaper tests when holidaymakers return.

      The Department for Transport said in a statement: "It is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer, and the Government continues to consider a range of factors to inform the restrictions placed on them.

      "We will set out by early May which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can resume from 17 May."

    • Joseph Gamp

      COVID-19 JABS PREVENT 10,400 DEATHS IN OLDER ADULTS, DATA SHOWS

      The Covid-19 vaccination programme has prevented the deaths of some 10,400 older people in England since it began, new analysis suggests.

      Figures from Public Health England (PHE) reveal the thousands of lives saved among those aged 60 and over in the space of four months.

      From December 8 last year up to the end of March, more than 15 million jabs have been given to adults in this age group, PHE said.

      According to its estimates, 9,100 deaths were prevented in those aged 80 and over, 1,200 were avoided in those aged 70 to 79, and 100 lives were saved in those aged 60 to 69.

      But experts believe the "true value" of the Covid-19 vaccines may also be seen in terms of avoiding future deaths should there be a resurgence of the virus in the UK.

    • Joseph Gamp

      WALES ACCELERATES EASING OF COVID RESTRICTIONS AS NEW INFECTIONS FALL

      Two households will be able to meet indoors a week earlier than previously planned, as the Welsh Government moves to accelerate parts of its programme for the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

      The reopening of gyms and leisure centres, and outdoor organised activities are also set to be brought forward amid a drop in new Covid-19 infections.

      First Minister Mark Drakeford said the "improvements" in the public health situation and the ongoing vaccination programme meant changes could be made to previously announced plans.

      The Welsh Government said on Thursday that coronavirus cases in Wales had dropped from 37 to fewer than 21 per 100,000 this week, while the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital beds was 89 – the lowest figure since September 22.

    • Joseph Gamp

      PM URGED TO CONSIDER 'UNTOLD HUMAN SUFFERING' OF LONG COVID IN EASING LOCKDOWN

      Boris Johnson is facing calls to take into account the "untold human suffering" of long Covid and seek to limit coronavirus's spread as he eases lockdown restrictions.

      A cross-party group of more than 65 MPs and peers criticised the Prime Minister for having "largely overlooked" the long-term effect of the disease during the pandemic.

      And they said it would be "unforgivable to make the same mistake again" as he eases England's third lockdown, allowing for the potential for the prevalence of the virus to rise once again.

      It is estimated that more than a million people in the UK are suffering with the extended effects of a coronavirus infection.

      The Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has noted that while vaccines are expected to keep deaths down, it is unclear whether they will have an impact on long Covid.

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