The Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh have been added to England’s ‘red list’ in a move the government argues will protect the country against new variants of Covid-19.
Officials said the decision came at a critical time for the vaccine programme.
With over 30 million vaccinations delivered in the UK so far, the additional restrictions will help to reduce the risk of new variants – such as those first identified in South Africa and Brazil – entering England, the government hopes.
So far, surveillance has found that few cases of the South Africa variant have been identified as being imported from Europe, with most coming from other parts of the world.
From 04:00 on April 9th, international visitors who have departed from or transited through Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh in the previous ten days will be refused entry into England.
Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights in the UK (including long-term visa holders), will be allowed to enter and they must stay in a government-approved quarantine facility for ten days.
They will also be required to arrive into a designated port.
No direct flight bans from these countries will be put in place, but passengers are advised to check their travel plans before departing for England.
During their stay, passengers will be required to take a coronavirus test on or before day two and on or after day eight, and they will not be allowed to shorten their quarantine period on receipt of a negative test result.
They will also not be able to end their managed quarantine early through the Test to Release scheme.
British nationals currently in the countries on the red list should make use of the commercial options available if they wish to return to England.
Commercial routes that will enable British and Irish nationals and residents to return to England continue to operate.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has found that passenger traffic fell in February, both compared to pre-Covid-19 levels in February 2019, and to the immediate month prior, January this year.
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of Covid-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to February 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 75 per cent compared to February 2019.
That was worse than the 72 per cent decline recorded in January this year versus two years ago.
International passenger demand in February was 89 per cent below February 2019, a further drop from the 86 per cent year-to-year decline recorded in January and the worst growth outcome since July 2020.
Performance in all regions worsened compared to January 2021.
Total domestic demand was down 51 per cent versus pre-crisis (February 2019) levels.
In January it was down 48 per cent on the 2019 period.
This largely was owing to weakness in China travel, driven by government requests that citizens stay at home during the Lunar New Year travel period.
“February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel.
“In fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants.
“An important exception was the Australian domestic market.
“A relaxation of restrictions on domestic flying resulted in significantly more travel.
“This tells us that people have not lost their desire travel.
“They will fly, provided they can do so without facing quarantine measures,” said Willie Walsh, IATA director general.
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced plans to return to service, with new itineraries sailing Europe and the Caribbean, from July 25th.
The line will restart operations at a reduced capacity with Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem as the first of its 17-ship fleet to welcome guests back on board.
Travellers can take a seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on Norwegian Jade from Athens (Piraeus) beginning on July 25th.
There will also be trips around the Caribbean on Norwegian Joy from Montego Bay in Jamaica from August 7th, and from Punta Cana (La Romana), Dominican Republic, on Norwegian Gem from August 15th.
Ships will initially sail at 60 per cent capacity.
“Over a year after we initially suspended sailings, the time has finally come when we can provide our loyal guests with the news of our great cruise comeback,” said Norwegian Cruise Line chief executive, Harry Sommer.
“We have been working diligently towards our resumption of operations, focusing on the guest experience with health and safety at the forefront.
“The growing availability of the Covid-19 vaccine has been a game changer.
“The vaccine, combined with our science-backed health and safety protocols, will help us provide our guests with what we believe will be the healthiest and safest vacation at sea.”
Sommer said all guests sailing aboard cruises with embarkation dates before the end of October will be required to be fully vaccinated and tested prior to boarding a ship.
In conjunction with the return to service announcement, Norwegian extended the suspension of trips onboard Norwegian Breakaway, Dawn, Escape, Getaway, Sky, Spirit, Star and Sun until at least the end of August.
In addition, Norwegian Epic will not sail before September 1st, while trips on Norwegian Pearl have been cancelled until at least November 7th.
Carnival Corporation has reported a net loss of US$2 billion for the first quarter of 2021.
The company was forced to halt all sailings in March last year as the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world and has yet to return in many markets.
However, Carnival said the cash burn rate in the first quarter was better than expected as the company identified and implemented opportunities to optimise its monthly spend.
The group currently expects six of its nine brands to resume limited guest cruise operations by this summer.
Aida resumed operations in March sailing in the Canary Islands, while Costa began sailing to Italian ports in May.
P&O Cruises, Cunard and Princess Cruises will each offer a series of UK cruises this summer, while Seabourn expects to offer trips sailing from Greece.
Carnival Corporation chief executive, Arnold Donald, noted: “We are focused on resuming operations as quickly as practical, while at the same time demonstrating prudent stewardship of capital and doing so in a way that serves the best interests of public health.
“Our highest responsibility and therefore our top priority is always compliance, environmental protection and the health, safety and well-being of everyone.”
Donald added: “Our portfolio of brands have clearly been an asset as we resume operations this summer with nine ships across six of our brands.”
Carnival said booking volumes for all future cruises during the first quarter of 2021 were approximately 90 per cent higher than volumes during the fourth quarter of last year.
Donald added: “Throughout the pause we have been positioning Carnival Corporation to return to serving guests an operationally stronger company than we were before.
“With an exciting roster of six new, more efficient ships by December and with lower capacity from the exit of 19 less efficient ships, we expect to capitalize on pent-up demand and achieve significant cost improvement from the greater efficiency of our fleet, along with ongoing streamlining of shoreside operations.”