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Holiday

Spain holiday hotspot keeps hated tourist tax DESPITE being desperate for Brits to return

Before the coronavirus outbreak, tourism chiefs had announced an extensive clampdown on drinking in the most popular resorts of the island, specifically Magaluf and Playa de Palma, as well as San Antonio in Ibiza. They intended to target all-inclusive hotels, limiting drinks to six a day in a bid to eradicate drunken tourism.

Yesterday, the Balearic government announced a raft of measures to try and revitalise the economy which is being hit by the lack of tourism.

Most of the £3billion proposals centre around promoting key sectors such as construction, renewables, housing and innovation and to get away from the dependency on tourism.

But eyebrows have been raised by two potentially very unpopular measures which will affect Brits who do decide to return.

They are:

1 The banning of self-dispensing alcohol containers in all-inclusive hotels “with the aim of raising the quality of establishments and limit accommodation models linked to excesses”.

2 The continuation of the tourist tax which costs holidaymakers between £1.50 and £3.50 a night on arrival, despite calls for it to be scrapped by hotel associations.

The Balearic government has decided to postpone the planned introduction of single-use plastics in hotels, such as plates, cups, trays, straws and cutlery, until the coronavirus crisis is over.

The law was to have been introduced from January 1, 2021 but island leaders say the coronavirus restrictions on movements and companies means a delay in the manufacturing of new “easily re-cyceable” items.

The measure will still eventually happen.

Balearic president  Francina Armengol said hotels in Calvia, which includes Magaluf and Playa de Palma, could be turned into social housing if owners were struggling and all red tape in the usual planning process would be cut out. 

Instead, the owner would only have to make a “responsible statement” and the work could go ahead this summer with acoustic laws lifted because “there will be no tourists to disturb.”

The granting of licenses for the vacation rental of single-family homes in Palma has also been prohibited until December 31, 2021. 

This, says the government, will mean less tourist places but will foster diversification into other markers instead of total reliance on the holiday industry.

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Travel

UK decision to use contact tracing app could bar Britons from travel to Europe

The UK launched its app to trace coronavirus on Monday, which has been developed by NHSX , the digital arm of the NHS. Ministers plan to start testing the device on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, as they step up their preparations to ease the curfew. The NHSX smart app works on a different system to the Apple and Google one being used by many European countries such as Germany and Austria.

The two devices are not compatible, which has led to fears that if contact tracing becomes mandatory for international travel, then UK citizens will be required to go into a 14 days quarantine on arrival.

The NHSX app operates through a centralised database system, whereas the Apple and Google app uses a decentralised platform.

When a person in the UK is suspected of having the coronavirus, their phone sends the information to a centralised database, which then passes on alerts to those they have been in contact with.

The Apple and Google app directly notifies the contacts of any COVID-19 infected person, avoiding the need to share that information with a third party.

The technology giants’ smart app is already in use in several European countries, that include Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Estonia and the Republic of Ireland.

Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX, claimed that the centralised model has major benefits over its rival, as it will allow health authorities to identify “hotspots” in certain parts of the country and track symptoms more closely.

He insisted that the UK was “not going off in one direction and the rest of the world going off in another,” and said that health chiefs “won’t hesitate to change” tack if the app didn’t work.

Sir Jonathan Montgomery, a professor of healthcare law at UCL, said there were ways round the “technical problem”, and floated the idea of using health certificates to avoid the need for quarantine.

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The professor, who is chairing the ethics advisory board overseeing the Government’s implementation of contact tracing, told the Daily Telegraph: “If you are moving between [different countries’] apps you might find that it requires quarantine or something of that sort, but I don’t see why the information from the app cannot be translated into some form of certificate.

“This requires some work around, but it is quite hard to see how it would be a deal-breaker.”

However, campaigners warned that the situation could create a two-tiered system, imposing restrictions on where people could travel, depending on which contact tracing app they were connected up to.

Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: “The world will fall into two categories where data cannot be easily shared between countries.

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“It will mean, essentially, that if you want to benefit from contact tracing you can go to France but not to Southern Ireland or you can’t go to Germany but you can go to Australia.”

The NHSX app uses Bluetooth to detect nearby phones, showing who the owner of the phone has been near.

Anyone downloading the app will be asked to turn on Bluetooth, allow notifications and to enter the first half of their postcode.

People will then be asked the simple question: “How are you feeling, today?”

Those who think they may be infected with the virus will be guided through a series of further questions, designed to gather more detailed information.

If the symptoms confirm possible infection, people will be issued with a reference number and told to call in for a test.

They will also be invited to upload a list of their phone book to the NHS system, which will use a risk-scoring algorithm to decide which contacts are potentially dangerous.

This takes into account the duration of the contact and the strength of the signal during the contact in order to assess the risk posed.

Addressing concerns about privacy, Mr Gould emphasised that the app was voluntary to download, and promised that NHSX would publish both the source code and the data protection arrangements underlying the app.

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Categories
Travel

Flights: Why can I fly to the USA from the UK?

Flights have been seriously disrupted and most countries have issued travel advisories and outright bans to restrict the spread of coronavirus. Due to the measures implemented around the world, the airline industry has lost roughly £755bn ($880bn). So why can you still fly to the USA from the UK?

Donald Trump banned all travel from the UK to the US earlier this month.

Previously the US President had issued a travel ban from the Schengen area of the European Union, but later extended it to include the UK.

This move prompted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to advise against all but essential travel to the US.

The travel restrictions came into effect at 3.59pm GMT on March 17.

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Currently, the USA has the third-highest number of cases around the globe, with 26,892 confirmed cases.

Of these cases, 348 people have died, while 178 people have recovered, leaving 26,366 active cases, 1,612 of which are in a serious or critical condition.

The UK meanwhile has the 10th highest number of cases.

In total, there are 5,018 reported cases in the UK, of which 233 have died and 93 have recovered.

This means there are 4,692 active cases of which 20 are in a serious or critical condition.

The travel ban saw thousands of flights across the Atlantic cancelled, with several airlines affected.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice reads: “The US authorities announced on 14 March that travel restrictions imposed previously on Schengen zone countries would now be extended to the UK (and Ireland).

“From 23:59 Eastern Daylight Time on 16 March (03:59 GMT 17 March) it will not be possible for many British nationals to enter the USA.

“We therefore advise against all but essential travel to the US, due to the travel restrictions.”

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However, some travellers are still permitted access to the USA from the UK.

President Trump has suspended most flights from Europe to the USA for the next 30 days.

No one who has been in the UK in the last 14 days will be permitted into the USA.

But this ban does not apply to US citizens.

US citizens who have been in the UK in the last two weeks will still be allowed to travel to the USA.

However, they must use one of 13 airports, including:

  • Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  • Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
  • Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia.

What will happen once you arrive?

When travellers arrive they will proceed to standard customs processing.

They will then continue to enhanced entry screening where the passenger will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities.

Passengers will then be given written guidance about COVID-19 and directed to proceed to their final destination, and immediately home-quarantine in accordance with CDC best practices.

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Categories
Travel

Coronavirus travel: How at risk are YOU when using public transport and flights?

As coronavirus spreads from country to country, transport operators have come to be at the frontline of an international public health crisis. Efforts to combat the spread are ongoing and the UK is still in the containment phase despite confirmed cases growing by roughly 50 per day.

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Coronavirus is spread through droplet transmission. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they expel tiny droplets containing the virus into the air, ranging to approximately 6ft around them.

The droplets are dense enough that they can’t stay in the air for longer than a couple of minutes, so they will naturally fall to the floor or on surfaces.

There, the virus can live for up to 12 hours – so if you touch a hand rail or press the button infected with the bacteria and then touch your face, you could be at risk.

This risk is exacerbated on tightly packed commuter lines.

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Buses and Trains

Research published by the Institute of Global Health showed that individuals who used more than one tube line frequently were more likely to suffer from flu-like symptoms.

This was echoed by Environmental Health journal. The underground serves roughly 1.2 billion passengers annually, and is a particular hotspot for infectious diseases.

Those most at risk were found to be commuters who take long journeys or use busy stations, as they come into contact with more shared surfaces and people.

Travelling at off peak times may be a way to mitigate having to use busy public transport, however this is not an option for a lot of people.

It is best to wash your hands before and after using the bus or the train to stop the spread of all infections, not just COVID-19.

Flights

Flights across the world are being cancelled in the wake of COVID-19.

Virgin Atlantic reported yesterday that it has been running near empty flights, and British Airways flights between Italy and the UK have been cancelled until April.

The confined space of a flight cabin seems a natural place for germs to be transmitted from one person to another.

Studies suggest it is not the recirculated cabin air that creates risk as the air is frequently filtered. The spread of infection is largely caused by movement within the cabin.

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Moving around is more common on a long haul flight as people get up to stretch their legs and use the toilet, so you’re more likely to be infected on a long haul flight than a short one.

During the 2003 Sars epidemic, 25 passengers were infected by a single ‘superspreader’.

Some were seated as far as seven rows in front of and five rows behind the infected passenger.

How can we protect ourselves?

Official government advice is to wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds, or the length it takes to sing happy birthday twice.

Always cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow in public places.

The use of face masks has been widely discussed since the outbreak.

Wearing one on public transport is certainly not a guarantee you won’t be infected, however they are effective at catching droplets, which is how coronavirus is transmitted.

If you can walk or cycle to your destination, do so. Not only will it reduce your time spent in cramped spaces with potentially infected people, but keeping fit will improve your body’s immune system and improve your chances of fighting off an infection.

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