Most of us are in dire straits in lockdown, confined with cabin fever and wanderlust.
We’ve followed the rules to the letter, only leaving home where necessary and avoiding beloved friends and family.
Yet while many of us haven’t ventured past the garden gate since March, a curious phenomenon taunts us: the planes in the sky.
In scenes that have exasperated Britons locked down in their homes for nearly eight weeks – in the country with the world’s second-highest death toll – jets continue to streak overhead.
Today the Mail can reveal how hundreds of flights a week are bringing in tens of thousands of international passengers with no checks whatsoever.
While emergency coronavirus legislation dictates that it’s against the law to stay overnight away from home, travellers are able to hop on and off flights with no questions asked.
The packed flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam that Sian Boyle took during the coronavirus lockdown
In other developments as Britain moved into day 54 of lockdown:
- Liverpool became the first English city to refuse to return children to school next month as the Government faced a growing row over its plan to restart lessons;
- Steve Chalke, founder of one of England’s biggest academy trusts, said opposition to reopening schools was ‘middle class’ and harms disadvantaged children who miss school;
- The British Medical Association has said teachers’ unions are ‘absolutely right’ to say it is unsafe for schools to open on June 1;
- London and Yorkshire were named the worst regions in the UK for covidiots as police issue 14,000 fines for lockdown breaches;
- No 10 revealed lockdowns could be eased regionally as new data suggested just 24 people a day in London are catching coronavirus;
- Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed at a primary school attended by vulnerable pupils as the site is closed for a deep clean;
- Analysis by Public Health England and Cambridge University calculated the crucial reproduction rate, known as the R, was already falling before lockdown was introduced on March 23
The International Air Transport Association warned this week that revenue for 2020 will be cut in half and could take years to recover. The airline industry is, justifiably, devastated at the effect coronavirus is having on business.
Eurocontrol, which co-ordinates air traffic across the continent, published data this month showing UK air traffic was down by 91 per cent.
But what of the other 9 per cent? Are Britons still travelling internationally? And what checks are imposed on those who try to enter the country during lockdown? I booked a holiday to find out.
Advice from the Foreign Office cautions British nationals against all but essential international travel.
In spite of this, British Airways alone offers holiday deals across the US and Europe, as well as Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong. Many flights are sold out – including business class.
This week there were, on average, 170 flights per day arriving at Heathrow, including ten in one hour from New York – one of the areas worst-affected by coronavirus. Other flights came directly from Rome, Madrid, Tehran, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
After my 24 hours in Amsterdam, the return flight to Heathrow is almost at capacity. Embarrassingly for Britain, its borders offer no health screening – unlike the supposedly ‘relaxed’ Dutch. Upon arrival there are no checks or interceptions of travellers heading off to their final destinations. Pictured: Heathrow arrivals
I browse package deals on BA’s Holiday Finder website and book next-day return tickets to Amsterdam, the city of canals and culture.
Heading to the airport (armed with a face mask and gloves), I wonder if I’ll be stopped – or even arrested. Yet I arrive at Heathrow’s Terminal Five without incident, and even have to drive around to find a space in the short-term car park.
At the BA check-in desk, my boarding pass is printed without an eyelid batted. I’m not asked where I’m going, or why.
Prior to boarding, my 30-odd fellow passengers and I are asked to fill out a health questionnaire issued by the Dutch government, covering any potential symptoms.
On the plane, I hear an in-flight announcement unlike any other: ‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. Where possible on this flight we will maintain social distancing rules.
I browse package deals on BA’s Holiday Finder website and book next-day return tickets to Amsterdam, the city of canals and culture
‘If you’re feeling unwell, press the call button and raise your hand, and tell the person next to you to do the same.
‘We have consulted with health experts to offer a temporary in-flight service of a bottle of water and a packet of crisps.
‘We’ve all been through a lot in these past few weeks so sit back, relax and be comforted that you are now on your way to Amsterdam.’
Upon landing, we are greeted at Schiphol Airport by staff in PPE who personally screen us further for symptoms.
KLM, the Dutch flag-carrier, refuses boarding permission to anyone without a face mask. BA has no such rules.
Advice from the Foreign Office cautions British nationals against all but essential international travel. Pictured: Sian went online to book the holiday
After my 24 hours in Amsterdam, the return flight to Heathrow is almost at capacity. Embarrassingly for Britain, its borders offer no health screening – unlike the supposedly ‘relaxed’ Dutch.
Upon arrival there are no checks or interceptions of travellers heading off to their final destinations.
In Heathrow’s Terminal Two, the only indications of a global pandemic are two small posters in the passport hall which state: ‘Just arrived in the UK? Stay alert to stay safe.’
More than 5,600 have died from coronavirus in the Netherlands (population: 17million).The toll in the UK (population: 67million) is almost 34,000.
These were the scenes of empty streets that Sian found when she arrived in Amsterdam for her holiday
Spain and Italy – the worst-affected areas in the EU before Britain’s corona crisis deepened – have closed their airspace to anyone without certain documentation.
British passengers trying to get to Spain cannot leave terra firma without a resident’s card. Italy demands a ‘self-declaration form for travel’, and passengers must report to local health authorities upon arrival.
‘The UK is one of the very few countries in the world to actually have no checks at borders for anyone coming in,’ Scottish government health adviser Professor Devi Sridhar warned last week. ‘It is an outlier.’
BA bosses reveal future plan for business which will see jobs axed and salaries slashed
Bosses at British Airways have today written to staff to set out their future plan for how they will deal with the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on the business.
Due to the unprecedented ban on travel BA paid £460million to 921,000 passengers who requested cash refunds on 2.1million flights.
The new strategy for the company, owned by IAG, will see the most senior members of British Airways cabin crew hit with a 55 per cent pay cut.
The bosses will sack 12,000 employees and the salaries of those who remain will be cut down to £24,000.
Chief executive Willie Walsh will slash supervisor roles from 1,860 to 971 and the 12,402 crew members will be cut to 8,591.
As an incentive, cabin crew will now receive commission from any sales they make onboard.
Payment of commission will also take into account their performance.
One BA employee told The Sun: ‘We are appalled.’
Last month Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that 15,000 air passengers were arriving in the UK every day. This equates to around 800,000 since our lockdown began in March.
Screening at airports fell by the wayside when the Government abandoned its first attempts at tracking and tracing patients early on in the crisis.
However, Professor John Aston, Sage attendee and chief scientific adviser at the Home Office, told MPs this week: ‘We believe that less than 0.5 per cent of those people arriving potentially had Covid-19.’
According to US think-tank the Pew Research Center, at least 90 per cent of the global population are in countries with restrictions on non-citizens arriving, while 39 per cent live behind borders entirely closed to foreigners. Yet while 130 countries have travel restrictions in place, Britain currently has an open border policy.
Boris Johnson announced plans to relax our lockdown on Sunday, with travellers to be quarantined from next month. The Government clarified, however, that staying overnight at a location other than where you live ‘for a holiday or other purpose’ is ‘not allowed’.
The days since the Prime Minister’s announcement have seen chaos and confusion for Britons unsure whether to book a holiday this year.
On Tuesday, Mr Hancock said: ‘I think it’s unlikely that big lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer.’ The next day saw Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggest people could book at their own risk as they ‘will just have to take a view on where we will be at some point in the future’.
Many anxious holidaymakers have reported being ‘bullied’ into paying for holidays they believe will be cancelled. If customers cancel the holiday themselves, they stand to lose their deposit – and airlines only have to issue refunds if they axe flights themselves.
A spokesman for British Airways said its website’s Holiday Finder section did not promote holidays and was simply a ‘tool’ for pairing flights and hotels. ‘We follow all the guidance from the UK Government and global health authorities, including Public Health England,’ they said.
‘Like other forms of transport we are keeping vital links open – repatriating customers and ensuring key supplies like medicines and food are flown in.’
‘We’re not out of the woods yet’: NHS chief reveals hospital admissions in England have halved since the pandemic’s peak
Writing exclusively for the Daily Mail Simon Stevens said there had been a fall in demand since the coronavirus pandemic reached its peak.
He said staff are now treating just over 9,000 patients a day, compared to 19,000 just a few weeks ago.
The NHS boss also revealed that admissions were falling by around 2,000 a week.
But Sir Simon says we are ‘not yet out of the woods’ but that hard work, careful preparation and the public’s own actions have ensured the NHS has not been overwhelmed by the biggest challenge in its 71-year history.
He encouraged people suffering with non-Covid conditions to seek help and ‘don’t delay’ as he hopes to see the NHS ‘returning to business as usual’.
But he also noted a plunge in admissions to A&E for alcohol intoxication and said no one wants to see those return.
‘We owe it to all those who have given so much in the fight against Covid-19 to ensure that we build an even better, stronger and agile NHS for the future,’ he said.
Before driving home from Heathrow I ask taxi drivers at the terminal – from a safe distance – about their clientele during lockdown.
‘I’ve had loads of different nationalities,’ one tells me. ‘A lot from the US, but also Pakistan, Dubai, Sweden, Switzerland and Italy. I’ve been surprised, it’s everyone from every walk of life.
‘In the US, you can’t even board a plane without getting your temperature checked. Every country closed its borders but it seems everyone can come here.
‘It’s a bit late to be shutting the border now.’
Throughout the experience I’ve felt like I’m in a parallel universe. While most people are climbing the walls at home, here I am having jetted off to another country.
A spokesman for the Home Office reiterated Mr Johnson’s announcement that the UK ‘will soon be introducing measures that mean those arriving in the UK from overseas will be required to self-isolate to help to keep transmission levels low and prevent re-infection from abroad’.
They added that ‘we have been clear that people should not travel abroad except for essential journeys, and the vast majority of people have complied with our approach which is, and has always been, driven by the latest scientific and medical advice’.
But if I’ve had a surreptitious trip during lockdown, who else has?
On your parks, get set, go! Millions set to try and enjoy green spaces as first weekend since lockdown eased promises to be a scorcher – and rural areas plead ‘stay away’
By Jack Elsom and Mark Duell for Mail Online
Millions of Britons are set to try and enjoy green spaces as the first weekend since the easing of lockdown promises to be a scorcher, with rural communities begging tourists to ‘stay away’ for fear of being swamped by crowds.
Tomorrow marks the first day much of the nation will have time to enjoy the slackened travel restrictions brought in by Boris Johnson on Wednesday.
Many have already seized upon these freedoms and were today pictured sunbathing and exercising in parks and on beaches. And climbing temperatures pushing 70F (21C) are likely to tempt millions more outdoors this weekend after seven weeks of being cooped-up at home.
But isolated towns and villages dotted around beauty spots, which have largely managed to insulate themselves from coronavirus, are anxious about being breached if people suddenly journey to rural areas.
A row has already exploded inside one of Devon’s coastal towns after second-home owners flocked to the seaside to use their yachts.
Range Rovers and other luxury cars appeared in Salcombe – dubbed Chelsea-on-Sea – overnight with their vessels in tow, leaving the full-time population of largely elderly residents ‘frightened’ about becoming infected.
Britons took full advantage of the loosened lockdown today by heading to parks and beaches to soak up the sunshine (Weymouth pictured)
Two women on the beach at the seaside resort of Weymouth in Dorset on a day of warm sunshine after the coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased
People on the beach in Brighton and Hove today. Tomorrow marks the first day much of the nation will have time to enjoy the slackened travel restrictions
People head to the coastal town of Weymouth after Boris Johnson allowed sunbathing and people to travel to beauty spots
Sun-lovers enjoy their extended freedom to sunbathe in London’s Hyde Park today in the warm weather
Those in South East England will enjoy temperatures as warm as Spain’s Costa Blanca on Sunday – and forecasters said the sunny conditions are set to continue in many areas over the next fortnight and may last into June (Bournemouth pictured)
Since Wednesday, Britons have been allowed to sunbathe, leading to people heading to the beach today
A woman goes for a walk alongside Bournemouth beach in Dorset today as temperatures rise and visitors head to the seaside
Boris Johnson has allowed people to exercise as often as they like, prompting fitness enthusiasts to head to Hyde Park to work up a sweat
A runner jogs alongside the Thames to the backdrop of the iconic Tower Bridge today
A row has already exploded inside one of Devon’s coastal towns after second-home owners flocked to the seaside to use their yachts
A group of people go paddle boarding along the River Hamble in Hampshire on a sunny day this morning
The year-round residents of Salcolmbe have expressed anger at their town being used as a seaside bolthole for the wealthy during the pandemic.
Salcombe town councillor Tony Lang, 69, a window cleaner by trade, said: ‘The rules are quite clear, they’re not supposed to be here.
‘There have been quite a few of them coming down. It’s a bit annoying because we’ve been relatively clear of it down here and the attitude seems to be, ‘what’s the problem, I don’t have it’.
‘But the trouble is no one knows if they have had it. I’m worried that people here may get the virus, there is an increased risk.. If we get people travelling from all over the country it’s a greater risk.’
Several locals described the actions of second home owners as ‘selfish.’ Elsie Hardy said: ‘I can’t believe how selfish some folk are and I also think the police should be given more power to stop all this movement – but their hands are tied by Government rules.’
Hundreds of miles north, the Lake District is also urging would-be tourists to stay away and respect the communities who live there. Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park, this morning relayed the anxiousness simmering in these communities.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘Our message would therefore be don’t rush back to the Lake District. Normally at this time of year in May we could expect around two million people coming to the National Park and obviously if people come in those kind of numbers that’s going to cause real concern in the communities that live and work in Cumbria about an increase in transmission of the disease.
‘Cumbria already has a fairly high incidence of Covid so there’s already real concern on the ground about the amount of people coming back to take their unlimited outdoor exercise, which in itself is a very good thing but if everyone tries to do it in one space, that could lead to problems in the Lake District.’
His fears were echoed by National Trust director Hilary McGrady, who urged people to travel to less well-known areas where crowds would be less dense.
Ms McGrady said: ‘This really isn’t the time for people to jump and go somewhere they’re not familiar with. There are a lot of beautiful green spaces close to people within a half hour drive time
People head to the seafront in Bournemouth, Dorset, as temperatures climb this weekend
People enjoy the sunny weather at Potters Field near Tower Bridge in London today. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the public should be encouraged to head back to work if they can’t work from the home, as the lockdown is gradually eased
A women takes a selfie while enjoying the sunshine at Hyde Park in London today next to the Serpentine
Two people go for a walk along the promenade at Lyme Regis in Dorset this morning on a sunny day for much of the country
A jogger out for a run this morning, ahead of what could be a warm weekend, as the sun shines at Nene Park, Peterborough
The wind direction is set to pivot which, instead of cold Arctic air, will blow warm tropical breezes towards the UK’s shores (Friday, left and Sunday, right)
Boris Johnson’s road map back to normality on Wednesday gave the green light for unlimited exercise and permitted people to drive to beauty spots – making tomorrow the first opportunity for many workers to enjoy these new freedoms (Wimbledon Common this morning)
Cyclists use rental Santander bikes on a cycle path in Hyde Park, London, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease
A cyclist passes the London Eye, as lockdown measures are gradually eased across the country. Forecasters said the sunny conditions are set to continue in many areas over the next fortnight
Cars queuing at KFC Belfast Yorkgate after the fast-food chain reopened over 100 stores yesterday for delivery and drive-thru orders. Other chains, such as Starbucks, have also opened many sites across the nation
‘But I would absolutely concur this is about respect about people taking care of themselves but care of each other and we’re all trying to do this as safely as possible that of course is our priority for our customers and our staff.
‘Local communities are genuinely and rightly nervous about having large numbers of people arrive.’
While the National Trust’s ticketed estates remain closed, they have opened 350 car parks and are planning more openings as furloughed staff are brought back to work.
Mr Leafe said that National Park staff would be patrolling Lake District car parks this weekend to ensure they were not overflowing.
Communities dotted around these beauty spots are braced for an influx of people as temperatures start to climb heading into next week.
The wind direction is set to pivot which, instead of cold Arctic air, will blow warm tropical breezes towards the UK’s shores.
Those in South East England will enjoy temperatures as warm as Spain’s Costa Blanca on Sunday – and forecasters said the sunny conditions are set to continue in many areas over the next fortnight and may last into June.
People sunbathe in the sunny weather at Potters Field, near Tower Bridge. Those in South East England will enjoy temperatures as warm as Spain’s Costa Blanca on Sunday
Members of the public take a trip to the beach in Brighton and Hove as the lockdown is relaxed across the UK. Climbing temperatures pushing 70F (21C) are likely to tempt millions more outdoors this weekend
Staff wear protective face shields after a B&Q store in Chiswick adopted safety measures to protect customers and staff at the home improvement shop, as lockdown restrictions start to ease after seven weeks
People going for walks in the sunny weather at Potters Fields near Tower Bridge today. People are now allowed to exercise as much as they like, and also sunbathe in public areas
Cyclists ride through Battersea Park in London after the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown
People enjoy the sunny weather while sat at Potters Fields near Tower Bridge today. Those in South East England will enjoy temperatures as warm as Spain’s Costa Blanca on Sunday
Cyclists use a cycle path in Hyde Park, London, today. People are now allowed to spend as much time outdoors as they want, but must stay at least 2m (6’6″) away from anyone they don’t live with
The mercury is set to rise next week towards 77F (25C) in London by next Wednesday – closing in on the hottest day of the year so far which was set on Good Friday when Treknow in Cornwall hit 79F (26C).
Matthew Box, from the Met Office, said: ‘Temperatures will have recovered to be mostly near normal. Parts of the south could see temperatures hit 20C (68F) or 21C (70F) in the South-East on Saturday and, more likely, Sunday.’
The forecast for Alicante, on the Costa Blanca, is for showers and temperatures reaching a maximum of 21C on Saturday. Barcelona is only expected to reach 20C (68F). Temperatures will get up to 64F (18C) in London today.
Today will be dry with sunny spells in central and southern England and Wales but cool breezes are set to keep temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius. It is due to be cloudier further north with more limited sunny interludes.
In its longer-range forecast for the next fortnight, the Met Office predicts most parts of the UK will see ‘largely fine and dry conditions, with variable cloud and bright or sunny spells’.
Forecasters say: ‘Temperatures look to take an upward trend over the next two weeks with most areas becoming warm, especially in the south and east.
‘There looks to be a continuation of the settled weather as high pressure stays in control. Most places should remain largely dry with plenty of brightness or sunshine as well as light winds.’
From this morning, people began to head to the seaside resort of Weymouth in Dorset as the weather hotted up
A cyclist wearing a protective face mask passes the London Eye on an almost empty Westminster Bridge today. At the peak of the capital’s coronavirus crisis, 213,000 people are thought to have caught the infection
The year-round residents of Salcombe have expressed their anger at their town being used as a seaside bolthole for the wealthy during the pandemic
A man exercises at Hyde Park in London this morning as the UK’s coronavirus lockdown continues across the country
A cyclist is seen on Tower Bridge, London, today. An analysis by Cambridge University and Public Health England (PHE) suggested the disease could be eradicated in the capital within weeks at the current rate of transmission
Light traffic on the M25 during the easing of the coronavirus lockdown. The mercury is set to rise next week towards 77F (25C) in London by next Wednesday – closing in on the hottest day of the year so far
Urging the ‘utmost caution’, Sarah Lee of the Countryside Alliance told MailOnline: ‘There is no doubt we need to work together to restart the rural economy when the time is right and it is safe to do.
‘The countryside thrives when it is open for business. That being said, there are clearly very deep anxieties among many rural communities and as it stands, many feel we are not quite at the stage where we can cope with huge numbers of people travelling from afar, visiting isolated spots.’
But although some guidance has changed, the Met Police have reminded the public that larger groups playing team sports in parks are still not allowed, alongside parties and outdoor concerts.
Chief Superintendent Karen Findlay, Silver Commander for the Met’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, said: ‘It is important to remind everyone that larger groups participating in, for example, games of football or other group sport in the park, outdoor concerts or parties, protest, marches or assemblies are still not permitted.
‘The public can expect officers to be out patrolling this weekend; they will be supported by the Mounted Branch and our Special Constables as they continue to engage with the public, explaining the restrictions and encouraging people to comply with the rules.
‘In the event of spontaneous or planned mass gatherings taking place in a public space this weekend, officers will engage and encourage people to comply with the conditions in order to reduce the risk to public health.
‘The majority of Londoners are listening and adhering to the guidance set out, but where necessary, we will be turning to enforcement as a last resort. Our focus is on keeping people safe.’
Some would-be tourists said they would be steering clear of beauty spots after a flurry of social media posts hinted that they would be targeted by angry locals. One popular Lake District community group ‘descended into hate’ as people debated if tourists should be allowed or not.
A man commented on the Facebook page: ‘There is going to be a lot of vehicle vandalism. One person wrote: ‘I’m gagging to get up to the Lakes but I won’t be going simply because I’m worried about my car being vandalised by angry locals while I’m up a hill.’
Another posted: ‘This group has got really nasty… what has this virus turned us into? We were planning a trip up when everything has settled down but judging by the comments I do not think we’d be welcome.’