Travel news latest: Skiers must wear masks outdoors as Austria tightens Covid restrictions

Austria has tightened its Covid-19 measures, including the requirement to wear a face mask outdoors, as omicron continues to spread across Europe.  

From Saturday, an FFP2 mask must be worn outdoors where a distance of 2m cannot be guaranteed. This will affect Austrian ski resorts, where social distancing of this sort is difficult.  

Proof of vaccination will be also required in all shops in Austria from next week, and the validity of vaccine certificates has been cut to six months.  

Austria reported 8,269 Covid-19 cases on Thursday – triple the daily average last week.   

A wave of infection continues to spread across the Continent. On Wednesday, France reported more than 330,000 daily cases and Italy yesterday reported a record 219,000 daily cases.  

Scroll down for more updates.

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France’s wave of Covid cases could peak in around 10 days time, says national vaccine chief   

The wave of omicron infections engulfing France could reach its peak in around 10 days time, said Professor Alain Fischer, an official responsible for France’s vaccine strategy.

“I think we are coming to the peak of this new wave,” Fischer told LCI TV, adding that this peak could come “primarily towards the beginning of the second fortnight of January, so if we work it out this would be in around 10 days time.”

France reported 261,481 new coronavirus infections yesterday, less than the record of more than 332,000 set on Wednesday, but the seven-day moving average of new cases rose above 200,000 for the first time since the start of the health crisis.

The French health ministry also reported 204 new deaths, taking the total Covid death tally to over 125,000.

Airlines refuse to fly ‘idiot’ influencers 

Canadian airlines are refusing to let a group of influencers fly home, after they posted a series of videos partying without masks on a chartered Sunwing flight.

The airline cancelled the group’s return flight, and no other airlines are willing to fly them home.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the issue on Wednesday, labelling the influencers as “idiots” and describing their videos a “slap in the face” at a time when hospitals are overrun with Covid-19 patients. 

In the video, the passengers are seen partying, dancing, vaping, and drinking vodka on the way to Cancun. The group is now stuck in the Mexico holiday resort town, seeking a way to get home.

Has the Novak Djokovic debacle put you off visiting Australia?

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Survey: Spain and USA top holiday wish list

ABTA has revealed the top ten destinations that people hope to visit in 2022.

Top of the list is Spain, with 29.3% of respondents saying they plan to visit this year. In second place is the USA, where almost one in five (18%) say they plan to visit in 2022. 

France (17.8%), Italy (16.4%) and Greece (10.1%) round off the top five, while Australia (5.1%) and Canada (4.5%) have seen an increase in popularity – both up two places in eighth and ninth respectively.

Graeme Buck, Director of Communications at ABTA – The Travel Association said:

January is typically when people start to plan their holidays for the year ahead, so we’d encourage anyone who is thinking of booking a holiday to speak with an ABTA Member.

Whether they’re looking to visit one of these popular destinations or somewhere else entirely, our Members are experts at finding the best holiday for their customers – and at a competitive price.  

They’ll also be there to look after their customers every step of the way, from doing all the research to keeping them up-to-date with any restrictions or changes they need to be aware of, so they can book and travel with confidence.”

13 passengers on Italy–India flight flee quarantine

More than a dozen passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 on arriving in the Indian City of Amritsar have escaped institutional quarantine.

Some 125 out of 160 passengers were found to be positive on the chartered flight from Milan, which landed in India on Wednesday afternoon.

While nine escaped from the airport, four others reportedly ran away from a local hospital.

Police are working to cancel their passports.

“If they don’t return by morning, we will publish their photos in the newspaper and register cases against them,” Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar Gurpreet Singh Khehra told NDTV.

American airlines cut January services

Alaska Airlines will cut its schedule by 10% for the rest of January, as it faces an “unprecedented” number of employees calling in sick due to the surge of the omicron variant.

This follows a similar decision made by Jet Blue Airways, which last week cut 1,300 flights.

Passengers wait to board a flight at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on January 6

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According to FlightAware, more than 2,100 US flights were cancelled yesterday on America’s east coast, equalling around 8% of the day’s total flights. It was the eleventh consecutive day that more than 1,000 flights have been cancelled in the USA.

Southwest is the hardest hit American airline – yesterday, it cancelled 650 flights, which amounts for 21% of its schedule.

Thailand imposes alcohol ban and extends travel restrictions

Thailand will extend its travel restrictions after a surge in omicron cases, the Government’s Covid-19 taskforce confirmed on Friday.

New applications for Thailand’s ‘Test and Go’ quarantine waiver system will not be processed until further notice, said Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesperson for the taskforce.

People queue to be tested in Bangkok on January 6

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Existing applicants can still enter without quarantine until January 15. The Thailand Government paused its ‘sandbox’ tourism schemes on December 22, with the exception of Phuket, where tourists can visit a specific resort for seven days without quarantine.

To slow the spread of omicron, alcohol consumption in restaurants will be halted at 9pm in eight provinces including Bangkok.

“Social drinking is the cause of the virus spread. Measures to restrict this will help curb the spread,” Mr Visanuyothin said.

Travel testing rules ease as of today

As of 4am today, arrivals in the UK do not need to present a pre-departure test to enter the UK.

From 4am Sunday, arrivals will be able to take a cheaper lateral flow test rather than a PCR for their Day 2 test, and if fully vaccinated will not need to self isolate while awaiting the result.

Following the travel testing rule change, holiday companies have reported a spike in bookings – Jet2 reported a 150% increase 24 hours after the announcement.

Yesterday’s headlines

A re-cap of yesterday’s top stories:

  • Israel scraps travel ban on UK arrivals
  • Holiday bookings boom as testing requirements are dropped
  • More than 100 test positive for Covid on Italy-India flight
  • Air New Zealand unveiled as world’s safest airline
  • Gatwick divert flights after IT problem at air traffic control tower 
  • PCR testing for travel remains on standby, says Grant Shapps

Now, on with today’s stories