The Health Secretary on Sunday reinforced the government’s rule that international travel should not be happening unless it was ‘absolutely necessary’.
Many UK celebrities and social media stars have descended on Dubai and the Caribbean over recent months, escaping stringent lockdown measures at home, with many maintaining their trips were for business purposes.
It come as ministers are expected on Monday to discuss the possibility of forcing travellers arriving in the UK to spend their 10 days of quarantine in a hotel.
A furious Matt Hancock has taken aim at holidaymakers as he slammed ‘parties in Paris’ and ‘weekends in Dubai’ amid the UK’s Covid-19 international travel ban
Speaking on the BBC this morning, Mr Hancock reiterated: ‘International travel, right now, should not be happening unless it’s absolutely necessary.
‘No parties in Paris or weekends in Dubai. That is not on and in most cases it’s against the law.’
Mr Hancock gave a ‘medical emergency’ as one example where travelling abroad would be deemed acceptable.
He quickly added: ‘Although frankly, with the NHS, you’ve got the best medical services you can possibly have in the world, right here in Britain.’
Under lockdown rules, people are not allowed to travel abroad aside for a few ‘legally permitted’ reasons including healthcare and work.
The government guidelines for international travel currently state: ‘Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not leave home or travel, including internationally, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.’
A number of countries have banned travel to and from the UK completely as they try to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant.
Living it up: Kate Moss jetted into curfew-hit Paris for her 47th birthday weekend where she stayed at the Ritz with her boyfriend Nikolai von Bismarck and daughter Lila Grace (pictured)
Hot spot: Dubai has been the primary hot spot for reality star ‘business trips’ throughout the pandemic, and stars continue to flock to the United Arab Emirates despite soaring infection rates
Exciting: Amber and boyfriend Dan Edgar shared multiple updates from their trip as they flew out of London’s Heathrow Airport for an ‘exciting business venture’
On December 20, London and surrounding areas were plunged into Tier 4, which saw travel abroad for leisure ‘not permitted’, with exceptions only allowed for reasons such as work, education and childcare.
On January 4, Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown following a rapid rise in infections, hospital admissions and case rates across the country.
While many Brits remained at home during this period with social media accounts as a key form of entertainment, Instagram feeds became littered with a legion of snaps of the great and good of the reality TV world – including stars of TOWIE, Love Island and Geordie Shore – soaking up the sun around the globe.
Supermodel Kate Moss took trip to Paris in time for her 47th birthday weekend on January 14.
Sources said Kate had to travel to Paris for work and had been forced to break off a Caribbean holiday to do so, but she made the most of a city that is under a 6pm to 6am curfew.
Social media stars including Sophia Peschisolido (left) and Chloe Ferry (right) have showed off their travels to Dubai after the city opened its doors as a pandemic-era party haven
A host of stars, including TOWIE’s Amber Turner, Dan Edgar, Yazmin Oukhellou and James Lock, have maintained their trips have been for business purposes with many confirming their work plans on social media or to publications through their representatives.
UK reality stars including Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry and Love Island’s Laura Anderson are thought to earn thousands of pounds for sponsored Instagram posts in Dubai.
Meanwhile, Celtic FC faced scrutiny from the Scottish government for travelling to the UAE for a warm-weather training camp which ended in two players testing positive.
Away from Dubai, the usual celebrity-magnet shores of the Caribbean have been lit up with celebrities despite the pandemic, with Vogue Williams pictured in St. Barts and Love Island star Montana Brown in Barbados.
Love Island stars Francesca Allen (left) and Laura Anderson (right) were also among those to head to Dubai, where a travel corridor to the UK was still open until last week
After throwing open its doors as a pandemic-era party haven for a host of glamorous influencers and reality stars, Dubai is refusing to stop the revelry even as it faces its worst-ever surge in coronavirus cases.
As Britain endures a grinding winter lockdown, life in the tourism-reliant emirate looks much like normal, with its restaurants, hotels and cavernous shopping malls all open for business and raucous yacht parties in full swing.
While many countries banned UK tourists because of the alarming new strain of the virus, the UAE kept its doors open with Emirates flying five times a day between Heathrow and Dubai over the holidays.
But reality is catching up to the big-dreaming city, with virus infections nearly trebling in the last month to reach unprecedented heights – forcing Britain to slam shut its travel corridor.
Ministers are expected on Monday to discuss the possibility of requiring travellers arriving in the UK to spend their 10 days of quarantine in a hotel.
Those arriving into the UK are already required to self-isolate but the rules could be tightened amid concerns about the percentage of people following quarantine regulations.
The draconian ‘quarantine hotel’ scheme would ban travellers from using their own accommodation to isolate for 10 days – and could see GPS tags introduced to ensure compliance.
The system is similar to that used in Australia and New Zealand.
Non-essential travel is banned under England’s current nation-wide lockdown, but those travelling for unavoidable reasons – such as for work – must have proof of a negative PCR test and a completed locator form with an address where they would self-isolate for the required 10 days.
Britain faces becoming a global pariah: Countries around the world consider tougher restrictions on UK after Boris Johnson announced British strain of coronavirus could be more deadly
Britain faces becoming a global pariah as countries around the world consider tougher travel restrictions in a bid to keep out Britain’s ‘more deadly’ Covid strain.
EU leaders are said to be drawing up a blue-print which could see travel banned from the UK to all of the union’s member states.
It come as the Netherlands is set to ban all passenger flights and ferry travel from the UK tonight.
Portugal last night banned travel both to and from Britain due to fears over the new variant.
And more countries could now follow suit after Boris Johnson and top scientific advisers warned the UK’s mutant strain could be 30 per cent more deadly than older versions of the virus.
Meanwhile, cases of the UK variant have today been confirmed in both America and Canada.
Officials in the Philippines, which had banned incoming UK flights over Christmas, said 16 cases of Britain’s mutant strain had also been discovered.
EU leaders are said to be drawing up a blue-print which could see travel banned from the UK to all of the union’s member states. Pictured: The UK Border at Heathrow was busy today despite various travel restrictions
It come as the Netherlands is set to introduce new restrictions from tonight on UK travel into the country, while Portugal last night banned travel both to and from Britain due to fears over the new variant. Pictured: Travellers at the departure area at Heathrow today
One case of the UK strain had previously been detected on the South East Asian islands, the country’s Department of Health said.
Which European countries are currently imposing travel restrictions on the UK
The EU is considering proposals which could see travel from the UK banned due to its Covid strain.
Here’s a list of the European countries which are already imposing restrictions:
Austria: All flights from the UK are banned until January 24.
Albania: All flights from the UK are banned until at least February 1
Belgium: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for ‘essential reasons’
Bulgaria: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for ‘essential reasons’
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Travellers from the UK must provide a negative Covid test 48 hours before travel
Belarus: UK arrivals must quarantine for 10 days
Croatia: Travel from the UK is banned
Czech Republic: Travel from the UK is banned to all but to Czech nationals and those with residency status
Denmark: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for a small number of essential reasons
Estonia: Travellers from the UK must provide a negative Covid test 72 hours before departure
Finland: Travel from the UK is banned
France: Only essential travel. Those travelling from the UK must provide a negative test taken up to three days before departure
Georgia: UK citizens are not permitted to enter
Germany: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for ‘essential reasons’
Greece: Travel for UK citizens is banned. Nationals can return, but must take a Covid test 72 hours before travel
Hungary: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for ‘essential reasons’ – including for business or sporting events.
Iceland: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for ‘essential reasons’
Italy: Travellers from the UK are only allowed for ‘essential reasons’ or if they are residents
Kosovo: Restrictions were announced at the end of 2020 but details are not listed on the Foreign Office website
Liechtenstein: Only residents are allowed to return from the UK
Luxembourg: Travel from the UK is banned
Malta: Travel from the UK is banned, apart from for Maltese citizens
Moldova: Flights are allowed but a 14 day period of isolation is required
Netherlands: All flights and ferry services from the UK are banned
Norway: UK nationals are banned apart from for exceptional reasons
Portugal: All flights to and from Portugal are banned
Romania: Travel is only allowed for essential reasons – this can be overturned if a person has had a vaccine more than 10 days before
Russia: Flights from the UK to Russia are banned
Switzerland: Travel is only allowed for Swiss residents
Slovakia: Travel is only allowed for essential reasons
Spain: Travel is allowed, but you must have a negative PCR test up to 72 hours before flying
Sweden: Travel from the UK is banned apart from exceptions
Ukraine: Those travelling from the UK must provide a negative test taken up to 48 hours before departure
But officials say a further 12 cases have now been found in the Bontoc Mountain region, one case in the La Trinidad area and one case in Calamba City.
Another two cases are said to have been brought in from Lebanon, health officials say.
In Canada’s Nova Scotia region health chiefs have today reported one confirmed case of the UK variant and another of the South African variant.
In New Jersey, US, officials today reported their first two cases of the UK Covid strain.
Meanwhile EU leaders have reportedly drawn-up a travel blueprint that could lead to a ban on passengers from the UK.
EU officials held discussions this week over border controls, including between member states, with new measures set to be announced on Monday.
These could include bans on travel from countries outside the bloc, such as the UK.
The European commission president Ursula von der Leyen said member states were ‘free to impose further-reaching temporary bans on entry and on transporting passengers entering from third countries with virus variant areas’.
The Netherlands are one country to impose tighter restrictions – banning passenger flights and ferries from the UK and Northern Ireland from tonight.
A statement on the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said today: ‘This is one of the measures taken by the cabinet to prevent the spread of new variants of the corona virus from abroad.
‘This means that after that time you can no longer fly directly to the Netherlands.
‘From that date, passengers can no longer travel by ferry from England to the Netherlands.
‘This ban on flying and mooring will probably be lifted when quarantine becomes mandatory by Dutch law.’
Dutch airline subsequently axed flights between the UK and the Netherlands.
A statement from KLM posted on Twitter said: ‘Following the announcement from the Dutch Government of further travel restrictions for passengers arriving into the Netherlands from the UK, KLM has had to make the difficult decision to adapt our flight schedule to ensure all requirements are adhered to.’
The airline said all flights from today to January 27 inclusive had been scrapped.
On Thursday, Portugal suspended all flights to and from the UK.
It comes as the Prime Minister and his science chiefs tonight made the shocking claim that the Kent variant of the coronavirus could be 30 per cent more deadly than older versions of the virus.
The trio presented a mixed bag at the Downing Street press conference tonight as they sounded optimism about a recent decline in infections but warned the new variant could lead to higher death rates in the coming weeks and months.
Explaining the risk change out loud without presenting data to prove the terrifying development after it was leaked to ITV political editor Robert Peston before the briefing, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that hospital data had suggested the variant could increase the risk of death for a man his 60s from 1 per cent to 1.3 per cent, but he admitted ‘the evidence is not yet strong’.
A 30 per cent increase in the risk of death does not mean 30 per cent of people will die, but is a relative increase, Sir Patrick explained.
The doom-mongering came despite an array of statistics that showed the second wave appears to have peaked already and be coming under control, although SAGE warned there are still ‘dangerously high’ levels of infection.
SAGE today said Britain’s R rate has fallen below the crucial level of one as separate experts estimated daily cases have halved in a fortnight and the Department of Health’s own statistics show daily infections have fallen every day for almost two weeks.
Another 40,261 positive tests were recorded today, down almost 30 per cent in a week. Officials also recorded 1,401 fatalities, up just 9.5 per cent on last Friday.
Defying mounting pressure to commit to easing the current measures, Mr Johnson warned today that the NHS is still under huge pressure and the curbs will only be lifted when it is ‘safe’.
Downing Street was warned it faces the ‘mother of all battles’ next month when it has to discuss relaxing the restrictions.
The change of tone in Government messaging comes as, Prime Minister Mr Johnson, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government Sir Patrick Vallance presented a mixed bag of news at the Downing Street press conference tonight
The 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs is urging the government to start lifting the lockdown no later than March 8 – when vaccines given to the most vulnerable groups should have taken effect.
But No10’s refusal to give an exact day for when lockdown will end may have been fuelled by worrying findings from scientists feeding into SAGE who sounded the alarm about the possible increased death risk of the variant.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist whose grim modelling warned hundreds of thousands of Britons could die without action back in March, told ITV it is a ‘realistic possibility’ the new variant increases the risk of death.
The variant has already been spotted in 60 countries, including the US, Australia, India, China and Saudi Arabia. But the Government’s top scientific advisers believe the current crop of vaccines will work against the variant – but may be less effective against other South African and Brazilian mutations.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has sensationally claimed to travel agents in a private zoom call that vaccines may be 50 per cent less effective on the South African variant, claiming that the information was in the public domain but admitted ‘I wouldn’t say this in public’ as he failed to provide evidence, MailOnline revealed today.
And grim figures laying bare the other economically-crippling side of lockdown reveal business activity has fallen even more than expected this month, leaving the UK looking down the barrel of a double dip recession.
Number 10 borrowed more than £34billion in December – the third highest monthly total ever – as it scrambles to keep millions of jobs and stricken firms afloat while tax revenues dwindle.
Instead Cabinet ministers are embroiled in an unseemly squabble over whether to pump up financial support further and toughen rules at UK borders.
A leaked plan from Matt Hancock’s Department of Health would see everyone who tests positive for coronavirus given £500 in cash to self-isolate.
The idea, which could cost half a billion pounds a week, is meant to bolster low levels of compliance – but officials at Rishi Sunak’s Treasury branded it ‘bonkers’, while No10 effectively disowned the proposal, saying the PM had not seen it.
Meanwhile, the powerful Covid O Cabinet committee is due to made a decision on introducing ‘quarantine hotels’ next week – with all arrivals potentially forced to isolate for 10 days at airports in a bid to prevent more Covid ‘super-strains’ being imported.