The winter holiday season has been thrown into disarray with the emergency of the omicron variant.
France and Germany have imposed travel bans on UK citizens or residents entering for non-essential reasons, meaning thousands of British families have had to rethink skiing plans over the Christmas period.
In better news, for anyone hoping to travel into the UK from sub Saharan Africa this Christmas, all 11 countries have now been dropped from the red list, ending the need for travellers to enter hotel quarantine on their arrival in the UK.
Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe were removed from the red list at 4am on Wednesday. Although the 11 African countries have been removed from hotel quarantine, ministers will not abandon the concept of a red list because of concerns it could be needed in the face of any future variants.
Heightened travel testing rules will remain: anyone travelling to the UK must now take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival, and self-isolate until they have received a negative result – regardless of the country they are travelling from, or their vaccination status. Additionally, all people aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or lateral flow test before they travel to England from abroad.
Portugal, Switzerland and Spain have also tightened their entry restrictions. Since December 1, all arrivals in Portugal must show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of their vaccination status. Switzerland has added new testing requirements. Spain is no longer accepting unvaccinated British tourists.
Here is everything you need to know about how the latest travel restrictions could affect your next holiday.
What are the latest red list travel rules?
South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola and Nigeria have been removed from the red list.
This means that anyone arriving from these countries will no longer be subject to hotel quarantine restrictions.
What are the new rules for testing?
All people aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or lateral flow test before they travel to England from abroad.
Travellers arriving in the UK are required to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival, and self-isolate until they have a negative result. Previously, fully vaccinated travellers were only required to take a rapid lateral flow test.
Have any other countries imposed new rules?
Yes – including many European nations. On December 15, France imposed a ban on all British arrivals visiting the country for non-essential reasons. Germany also introduced a ban on UK arrivals on December 19.
As of December 1, Portugal requires all travellers to show a negative test certificate on arrival, with a fine of €300-800 threatened against those who do not comply. Meanwhile, since December 2, Spain now refuses access to partially or non-vaccinated British travellers.
Are countries reintroducing lockdowns?
Yes. A fourth wave of Covid-19 has prompted further clampdowns across the Continent. Austria had been put in temporary national lockdown amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, but this has since been lifted. The Netherlands has imposed an 8pm curfew on restaurants and bars, while Slovakia, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic are among the countries to clamp down on freedoms for unvaccinated visitors and residents.
I am nervous about my Christmas holiday, what can I do?
If you have booked a Christmas, or winter, holiday, you may be feeling nervous about tightened testing rules and the new omicron variant could mean for your getaway.
If you do decide to change holiday plans, you should contact your holiday company, accommodation or airline provider direct to see if you can rebook. There will be no obligation for any company to issue a refund due to holiday nerves, but you can contact them to ask if this is an option. Do not cancel unilaterally, or you will not receive a refund.
Can I go skiing?
France has announced a travel ban for all non-essential travel from the UK, following the omicron wave. As only French citizens will be allowed from Britain, many holidaymakers are having to postpone or cancel their winter ski trips.
As of midnight Saturday 18 December (France time) or 11pm on Friday 17 December, people cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons.
Furthermore, all French citizens now have to take a Covid test, prior to their arrival from the UK, within 24 hours – as well as having to isolate for seven days. The period of quarantine can then be reduced to 48 hours, following proof of a negative test taken upon arrival.
Where can I now ski?
There are some ski resorts which remain open to British travellers – so if you’re looking to book your trip to the slopes, look at travel to one of the following countries below.
Austria: Ski resorts are once again open, following the country’s end of lockdown on December 13. Travellers must show proof of a second vaccine dose or a booster jab, between 21 and 360 days from the date of travel.
Switzerland: Travellers hoping to visit Switzerland must show proof of a full vaccination certificate, as well as a negative test result taken no more than 72 hours before travel. A second PCR or antigen test will also need to be taken between day four and seven of arrival.
Italy: With borders once again open to Britons, hopeful skiers will not need to isolate upon arrival – provided they are fully vaccinated – but they will need to present a negative test taken within 48 hours of arriving in Italy. If you aren’t double jabbed, you will need to quarantine for five days and then take a test.
Canada: As long as you can present proof of full inoculation, as well as a negative test taken within 72 hours of your flight, skiers are welcome to travel to Canada for their winter holiday. However, testing upon arrival is also required and there is a mandatory quarantine until the result is received.
The US: Fully vaccinated Britons are welcome to travel to the US (under 18s are exempt from needing to be double jabbed) but they must present proof of a negative test.
This article is being kept updated with the latest news and Government guidance.