Category Archives: travel

Japan considers sanitary regime

Brussels 06.02.2022 Japan plans to decide whether to extend a COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo and 12 prefectures in the first half of this week, government sources said Sunday, February 6.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida affirmed the plan during talks with health minister Shigeyuki Goto and related ministers, the sources said, as the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 17,526 daily coronavirus cases in the capital, the highest tally for a Sunday.

Kishida instructed Noriko Horiuchi, minister in charge of promoting vaccine rollouts, to speed up administering third shots to cope with the new wave of infections spurred by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The government is considering extending the quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo and 12 prefectures by two weeks or to the end of the month from the original end date of February 13.

The 12 prefectures are Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa, which border the capital, as well as Gunma, Niigata, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Kagawa, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Miyazaki.

If any of the 13 local authorities do not wish to extend the emergency, the government will respect such intent.

Quasi-emergency measures involve restricting business hours of restaurants and bars, as well as a request to refrain from nonessential travel between prefectures in an effort to reduce strain on the medical system.

Global: 4,5K flights cancelled

Brussels 25.12.2021 Global Christmas travel suffered with over 2,100 flights canceled amid surging COVID-19 cases. United Airlines canceled 177 flights and Delta canceled 150 flights on Christmas Eve due to shortage of staff.

Dozens of flights across Australia have been cancelled, with thousands of airline staff being forced into isolation.

Over 4,500 flights have been cancelled around the world in the past two days and thousands more were delayed as the highly infectious #Omicron variant disrupted holiday travel, according to tracking website #FlightAware:

Additional holiday travel restrictions

Brussels 25.12.2021 Anna van Densky The Omicron variant is “in the process of becoming or has already become dominant in several countries, including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom” according to the World Health Organisation, which is supposed to lead to an increase in the number of patients in need of hospiatlisation.

Sweden announced a restriction of the conditions of entry into its territory for travellers from other countries of the European Union, who will have from December 28 to present a negative Covid-19 test, even if they are vaccinated. However, children under 12 and travellers of Swedish nationality or residing in Sweden are not obliged to comply with this rule.

Seven other EU member states – Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia, Italy, Greece and Austria – already require a negative test, even for those vaccinated from the EU, and Finland announced on Tuesday evening that she was going to do the same.

Thousands of travellers have cancelled their Christmas travel plans due to the spread of the Omicron virus worldwide, and in particular, forced by the travel restrictions imposed by the governments in a bid to halt the spread of the new COVID-19 virus variant.

Just in days before Christmas, Europe has been stepping up restrictions to cope with in upcoming surge of the Omicron variant. A variant “in the process of becoming or already become dominant in several countries, including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom”, according to the WHO, and whose very high contagiousness could have serious consequences on the collective level – the outbreak of contaminations automatically leading to an increase in the number of hospitalised patients.

Travel within the European Union: the validity of the vaccination certificate limited to nine months. The validity of a European Covid digital certificate, when it concerns the vaccination of its holder for intra-EU travel, has been limited to nine months (270 days), the European Commission confirmed on Tuesday December 21, while vaccination campaigns are continuing in the EU for the booster dose.

This provision aims to harmonise the various rules in force in the Member States. The validity period adopted takes into account the guidelines of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), according to which booster doses are recommended no later than six months after the end of the first cycle of vaccination. The certificate will remain valid for a grace period of three additional months, in order to allow the adaptation of national vaccination campaigns and citizens’ access to booster doses.

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders defended this harmonisation, while several countries already require a PCR test when entering their territory, even for an intra-EU traveller who has already been vaccinated.

“Unilateral action in member states would bring us back to the fragmentation and uncertainties we experienced last spring. The nine-month acceptance period for vaccination certificates will give citizens and businesses the certainty they need to plan their trips with confidence. It is now up to the member states to ensure that the reminders are deployed quickly to protect our health and ensure the safety of travel “, commented the Belgian commissioner, quoted in a statement.

Champagne sales record year

Brussels 11.12.2021 The outlook for the key Christmas and New Year festive season, however, is clouded by uncertainty over the recently detected Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but Champagne sales are expected to mark a record year as shops and restaurants replenish stocks after months of virus-related restrictions and as retail demand surges, an industry body said Friday, December 10.

Jean-Marie Barillere, co-president of the CIVC Champagne industry association and president of the Champagne brand group UMP, told AFP that the sector was headed for sales of 315 million bottles this year, representing turnover of 5.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion).

If confirmed, that would beat the current annual sales record of 5 billion euros, reached in 2019, before Covid struck.

The sales increase comes after severe spring frosts followed by summer rains wreaked havoc on French vineyards, some of which are forecast to report harvest losses of as much as a third for the year.

But Champagne must be aged more than a year and producers traditionally keep millions of bottles stored in their cellars to ensure steady supplies from one year to the next.

Strong exports, especially to English-speaking countries, were a big factor for the bumper year, Barillere said.

“The pandemic has created new consumer habits,” he said. “Everything related to entertaining at home is in high demand, including champagne.”

However the prospects for traditional events and restaurant dining over Christmas and New Year’s depends on Covid developments, and whether the Omicron strand prompts new travel restrictions, curfews or lockdowns.

Venice Floating Nativity

Brussels 06.12.2021 Venice has been attracting people for hundreds of years, and with a natural setting as its lagoon, where even a floating nativity scene has become an open-air artwork.

The floating nativity scene brings the magic of Christmas in the lagoon of Venice with baby Jesus emerging from the waters, surrounded by a floating Joseph and Mary under the sunset near the island of Burano.

Due to the changes of sunlight throughout the day and with the water enhancing the colours of the silhouettes, the scene offers an atmosphere of serenity throughout the day.

The artwork, created by Francesco Orazio, a greengrocer with an artistic talents, was completed on Saturday, December 4, in an open stretch of water, out of the way of vessels.

The painted plywood Nativity figures were fixed by wooden stakes and then anchored on the bottom of the lagoon. And, for a couple of hours a day, the feet of the statues are exactly level with the water.

Omicron: France restricts travel

Brussels 02.12.2021 France has announced new rules for all travellers – vaccinated or not – arriving in France from non-EU countries in the face of the new variant of Covid-19 named Omicron.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking after the weekly meeting of the government’s Defence Council on Wednesday, on December 1, announced the implementation of new rules aimed at controlling the spread of the newly-detected Omicron variant.

A government Decree published on Thursday, December 2, provides more detail.

The new rules come into force at 00.01 AM on Saturday, December 4th, and the testing requirements apply to everyone aged 12 or older – including those who have French citizenship or permanent residency in France.

All travellers – vaccinated or not – will require a negative Covid test in order to enter France from any country outside the EU or Schengen zone. This would include travellers from the UK, the USA and Canada.

The test must have been taken within 48 hours of departure. The decree states that only tests “that are able to detect protein N of Sars-Cov2” can be used – this covers all PCR tests but not all antigen tests. Home tests have never been accepted for travel purposes.

Spain welcomes vaccinated tourists

Brussels 07.06.2021 The Spanish government has published the new requisites for travellers arriving in the country from outside the European Union and countries associated with the Schengen free-travel area. (Image: Valencia, Spain).

As was expected, the text released in the Official State Gazette (BOE) on Saturday states that from today, passengers from risk zones will be permitted to enter Spain if they have been administered the full doses of a Covid-19 vaccine approved by either the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), more than 14 days prior to arrival.

No proof of vaccination, recovery or diagnostic test will be required from tourists from low-risk zones, said the government in a release, although everyone will still have to fill out the travel form available on Spain Travel Health (SpTH).

Once the European Union’s Digital Covid-19 pass goes into effect on July 1, this will also enable travellers to prove their immunity to the coronavirus if they are required to.

“At ports and airports there will be two control points. Whoever comes from countries or zones not included on the list of risk zones will have access to a quick control with the QR code obtained from SpTH. And once the EU Digital Covid-19 certificate goes into effect, whoever has this document will also have access to this quick control,” says the government statement.

Portugal: tourists leave for UK

Many upset British travellers were heading home on Sunday, June 6, from a shorter-than-expected holiday in the Algarve, Portugal, before a 10-day quarantine comes into force early next week due to rising coronavirus infections.

Britain said last week it was removing Portugal from its “green list” of countries that do not require quarantine on return because of rising COVID-19 case numbers and the risk posed by coronavirus variants detected in Portugal.

Portugal had been placed on the green list just weeks earlier, but from 0400 GMT on Tuesday 8 Juin it will shift to the “amber list”, meaning returning Britons will need to quarantine for 10 days and take two COVID-19 tests.

In the Algarve, the favourite Portuguese destination of British holidaymakers, Faro airport had long queues on Sunday afternoon as more travellers decided to shorten their holiday to avoid quarantine.

Faro airport had 55 flights scheduled to the UK on Sunday, with a capacity to transport more than 10,000 people, compared to fewer than 20 flights from Lisbon airport, according to information on the website of Portugal’s airports operator ANA.

The president of Portugal’s hotel association AHP, Rui Martins, said the UK’s decision “will seriously compromise the entire summer”.

“Hotels, particularly in the Algarve and Madeira Island, have started to see massive cancellations,” he said.

EU travel list updates

Brussels 06.05.2021 Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted to add Israel. As stipulated in the Council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed every two weeks and, as the case may be, updated.

Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from 6 May 2021 member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries:

Australia
Israel
New Zealand
Rwanda
Singapore
South Korea
Thailand
China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity
Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China: Hong Kong and Macao, subject to confirmation of reciprocity.

Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.

The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted were updated on 2 February 2021. They cover the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources. Reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case by case basis.

Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.

EU railroad travellers rights

Brussels 03.05.2021 Under the new rules adopted by MEPs on Thursday, train passengers will be better protected when there are delays and cancellations or when they face discrimination. EU railroad travellers rights

“We have very good news for those travelling by train, as we managed to secure the same minimum passenger rights all over the EU when it comes to re-routing, spaces for bikes, through-tickets and the rights of passengers with reduced mobility. These are important advances in making rail travel more convenient and passenger-friendly”, said EP rapporteur Bogusław Liberadzki.

On Thursday, April 29, Parliament approved the agreement with member states on the revised rules on rail passengers’ rights. The rules will guarantee that passengers can be re-routed and receive help when there are delays and cancellations. Access and assistance will improve for people with reduced mobility, and there will be more dedicated spaces for bicycles.

Helping stranded travellers
If there is a delay of over 60 minutes, passengers can choose either to be fully reimbursed for the cost of the ticket, continue on their journey or be re-routed under comparable conditions, but without facing additional costs. They must be able to travel in the same class as their original ticket. Train travellers will be able to organise travel on a different route themselves and get reimbursement for a new ticket if the rail operator does not communicate re-routing options within 100 minutes from scheduled departure.
The re-routing obligations will apply even in the event of force majeure and if necessary, meals and refreshments will need to be provided, and accommodation costs will be reimbursed. [
The new rules will also give more clarity on what can be considered a force majeure, which would exempt rail companies from paying compensation for delays or cancellations. In addition to extreme weather conditions and major natural disasters, the new rules now include major public health crises or terrorist attacks. Rail staff strikes will not be covered by this exemption.

Assisting people with reduced mobility
Travellers with reduced mobility will have more flexibility when making travel arrangements, as they will be obliged to notify the operator of their travel plans only 24 hours in advance (under current rules, they have to notify the operator 48 hours in advance). Where an accompanying person is required, they shall travel free of charge. Travellers with reduced mobility using an assistance dog shall be given a guarantee that the animal can travel with them.

Refurbishing trains for more bicycles
In an effort to provide more sustainable mobility and comfortable alternatives, all trains must be equipped with dedicated spaces and racks for bicycles, with at least four bicycle spaces on each train.

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