Travel news live: France expected to lift UK travel ban imminently

Expectations are building that France may imminently announce it is lifting the blanket ban on British travellers.

Speculation, already rife, was further fuelled last night when French politician Alexandre Holroyd tweeted: “Following numerous discussions with the Government, considerable reductions in health measures at the borders will be announced very soon.

“More details here in the coming days.”

The cryptic tweet followed several holiday companies telling customers they believed the French ban on all Brits, barring those with a handful of “compelling” reasons for travel, was about to be scrapped.

London firm Skiline.co.uk has sent out a marketing email saying: “We are expecting the French government to make an announcement this Wednesday to confirm that British vaccinated skiers can enter France from this Saturday 15 January.”

However, it now appears unlikely that an update will happen today, with French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal only confirming that an announcement will be made “by the end of the week”.

Follow the latest updates below:

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French government confirms travel announcement to be made by ‘end of week’

A French government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, has confirmed that the current travel ban on arrivals from the UK is soon to be lifted – but has given no clue as to when it will be announced nor what the requirements will be.

After the latest meeting of the Conseil de Défense et Securité in Paris, M Attal said only that an announcement on easing restrictions will be made by the “end of the week”.

The news will disappoint many prospective travellers who were hoping an announcement would be made today, clearing the way for holidays and family trips to resume by the weekend. This now appears unlikely.

Simon Calder12 January 2022 14:48

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British Airways launches new routes from London City

Barcelona, Luxembourg and Thessaloniki will get flights from London City airport this summer, on the British Airways CityFlyer subsidiary.

The links will be operated by Embraer E190 aircraft regional jets – which are popular among travellers because they have 2 x 2 seating.

The Luxembourg link begins on 27 March, with several services each day. The Barcelona route commences on 19 June with flights daily except Saturday.

Thessaloniki is an odd one out because the weekly flight will go out on Saturday afternoons from 18 June and come back early on Sunday morning. The crew and aircraft will stay overnight in the northern Greek city. The current curfew at London City forbids take-offs and landings between 1pm on Saturday and 12.30pm on Sunday, to give local residents respite.

In addition, flights are starting to Milan’s Malpensa airport (replacing Linate, which is closer to the centre). Routes to Jersey and Guernsey are also returning, on Mondays and Fridays from 20 June to 2 September.

Tom Stoddart, managing director of BA CityFlyer, which will operate the new services, said: “As customers start to plan their next summer getaway, we wanted to offer new routes to some of the most popular European destinations.”

(Simon Calder)

Simon Calder12 January 2022 14:22

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French announcement expected by ‘end of the week’

Although speculation was rife that the French government would make an announcement regarding the lifting of the UK travel ban today, the latest reports suggest it might not happen until later in the week.

Times travel correspondent Ben Clatworthy tweeted: “Now hearing no decision on France border measures today but by end of the week…”.

Anxious travellers are awaiting the news to see whether planned trips can go ahead.

“Oh no. Booked for Sunday,” commented Twitter user Jeff Whitton.

Helen Coffey12 January 2022 13:59

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Cairo is ‘world’s most stressed-out city’, says study

The team rated cities around the world on factors such as cleanliness, financial stress, LGBTQ+ safety and suicide rates to discover the most and least stressful places to live.

Cairo topped the list with a “stress score” of 7.67, followed by Delhi (6.96) and Karachi (6.47) in India.

Mumbai and Baghdad rounded out the top five.

At the other end of the scale, Finland was calculated to be the least stressful city, thanks to a poverty rate of 0%, the lowest pollution index at just 13.65, and a noise and light pollution level of just 25.21.

Second and third least-stressful were Vienna and Munich; while Toronto received the highest score for LGBTQ+-friendliness.

(William Russell)

Lucy Thackray12 January 2022 13:25

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Half of Europe could get Omicron within next two months, warns WHO

More than half of the population of Europe could be infected by Omicron within the next two months, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) warned on Tuesday.

WHO’s European director Dr Hans Kluge said “represents a new west to east tidal wave” across the continent.

“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” Kluge told reporters.

He confirmed that 50 of the 53 countries and territories included in WHO’s European region had already seen cases of Omicron.

Lucy Thackray12 January 2022 13:07

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France to introduce stricter booster jab rules

If and when France does lift its blanket travel ban on Brits, they will face stricter rules regarding Covid vaccination in order to access facilities when in the country.

Visitors will need to provide proof of a booster jab to access most venues in France.

The regulation currently applies only to people aged 65 and over, but from 15 January the requirement will be extended to everyone aged 18 or over.

Helen Coffey12 January 2022 12:20

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Japan extends travel ban until end of February

Japan will keep its blanket travel ban on foreign nationals until the end of February, the Japanese prime minister said on Tuesday.

“The infection situations regarding Omicron are clearly different at home from abroad, so the framework (of the current border controls) will be maintained until the end of February,” Fumio Kishida told reporters.

“Because of the strictest border restrictions among the Group of Seven nations, we have been able to minimize the influx of the Omicron variant and buy time to prepare for a surge in domestic cases.”

Lucy Thackray12 January 2022 11:38

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World’s most powerful passports revealed

The world’s most powerful passports have been revealed in a new ranking.

Japan and Singapore jointly claim the top spot in the latest iteration of the Henley Passport Index, released by London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.

The report scores 199 countries’ passports on how many destinations holders can visit without needing to secure a visa in advance.

Japanese and Singaporean passport holders can, in theory, access 192 nations apiece visa-free, or by getting a visa on arrival.

Helen Coffey12 January 2022 11:06

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Transport for London warns Tube will be “very busy” due to Northern Line closure

Three days ahead of a four-month closure of a key stretch of the Northern Line, Transport for London (TfL) is warning: “Many stations in central London will be very busy.

“Travel to the City of London and Canary Wharf is likely to be affected.”

The closure from 15 January to mid-May is “to address long-standing capacity issues at the station and make journeys through Bank easier, quicker and more comfortable”.

No trains will run between Moorgate – serving the north of the City of London – and Kennington in south London, where it rejoins the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line.

The key National Rail termini of King’s Cross, St Pancras and London Bridge will lose their connections with the City, as well as Angel station serving Islington.

The closure will not directly affect other routes through Bank Station – the Central Line, Waterloo and City Line and the Docklands Light Railway – though passengers will not be able to connect.

“If possible, travel at quieter times,” TfL says.

Simon Calder12 January 2022 10:44

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Ryanair claims to be a ‘Ghostbuster’ and demands seats on empty flights are sold at low fares

After the Lufthansa Group revealed that it would operate 18,000 empty flights this winter purely to hang on to airport slots, arch-rival Ryanair has demanded that seats on these so-called “ghost flights” are sold at low fares.

Under “use it or lose it” rules, airlines must give up rights to take off and land if they are not sufficiently utilised.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “The solution to Lufthansa’s ‘ghost flights’ problem is a simple one – just sell these seats to consumers.

“If Lufthansa really needs to operate these flights, solely to prevent the release of these slots to competitor airlines, then they should be required to sell these seats to the public at low fares.

“Slots are the way it blocks competition and limits choice at big hub airports like Frankfurt, Brussels Zaventem, Vienna, among others.

“Ryanair again calls on the European Commission to force Lufthansa and other state-subsidised airlines to release slots that they do not wish to use, so that low-fare ‘Ghostbusters’ like Ryanair, among others, can offer choice, competition, and lower fares at these hub airports.”

Simon Calder12 January 2022 10:31