It’s been storm central this February! Storm Ciara caused significant travel disruptions from Sunday 2nd February and barely had a chance to dissipate when Storm Dennis was announced, just seven days later. A sandstorm swept through the Canary Islands causing several flight delays and cancellations for half-term holiday travellers, while strikes on London’s Bakerloo Line and French Air Traffic Strikes have also caused frustration for commuters.
There are now 15 cases of the coronavirus in the UK. The two latest cases are being treated in Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital in London. Meanwhile, four schools in England and Northern Ireland have been closed.
Passengers who have tested negative for coronavirus (COVID-19) have been permitted to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined for 14 days. The ship was carrying over 3,700 passengers when cases began to arise. Those who have contracted the virus are being told they must remain in Tokyo until they have been cleared of the virus. An evacuation flight from Japan carried 32 British and European nationals back to the UK. On arrival, the passengers were placed in further quarantine. Four Britons on board the ship who tested positive for the virus remain in Tokyo. Two Japanese passengers who contracted the virus on the ship have since died; both passengers were in their 80s and were suffering from existing health conditions.
Airlines are yet to resume flights to China. British Airways has cancelled all flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until 17th April 2020. Virgin Atlantic has also put travel restrictions in place for those who have travelled to China in the past 14 days; those passengers will not be permitted to travel.
Meanwhile, Australia is extending a ban on arrivals from mainland China until 29th February 2020 after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced it is ‘necessary to continue the travel restrictions on foreign nationals entering Australia.’
The Prada Resort Fashion Show, set to take place in Tokyo on the 21st of May, has been postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Click here for more advice on the coronavirus.
Canary Island Sandstorm
Holidaymakers who travelled to the Canary Islands to escape the winter chills were met with major travel disruptions when a sandstorm from the Sahara hit the popular winter sun destination. More than 800 flights were disrupted, leaving thousands of British tourists stranded. On Sunday 23rd February, all flights departing from Spain’s Aena airport were either delayed, diverted, or cancelled. Winds reached up to 75mph, causing the sandstorm to affect visibility. Flights began operating again on Monday 24th February 2020. The sandstorm also hindered efforts to control a wildfire in Tasarte, Gran Canaria, which has burned through at least 150 hectares of land so far.
Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis
Storm Ciara left thousands without electricity across Europe and caused severe travel disruptions for many UK travellers. Followed almost immediately by Storm Dennis, travel conditions worsened. A total of 11 people lost their lives in the storms. Although the initial storms have now passed, wet and windy weather conditions have persisted.
The London Northwestern Railway and West Midlands Railway were amongst those most affected. Flights were grounded at Gatwick and hundreds more cancelled at Heathrow Airport as winds reached 97mph. The Met Office issued 188 flood alerts and several yellow, amber and red weather warnings for various parts of the country. Travellers are advised to keep up to date with local weather warnings to find out if their travel plans have been affected.
More than 400 homes and businesses went underwater and South Wales, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire were most affected. The Environment Agency began urging people to check the latest safety advice as flooding continued.
The Met Office has so far mentioned that Storm Francis is set to follow, however, it has not been suggested the storms will cause further disruptions.
French Air Traffic Control Strikes
French union workers staged a walkout between Wednesday 19th February 2020 and Friday 21st February 2020, due to an ongoing pension reforms dispute. British Airways and easyJet were amongst the affected airlines, as several passengers faced delays and cancellations. Ferry services were also cancelled whilst Eurostar Ski trains were disrupted and eight trains were cancelled between London St Pancras International and Paris.
Bakerloo line strikes
Commuters in London were affected by strike action on the Bakerloo line from Friday 21st February 2020 when action ceased on Tuesday 25th February 2020. The industrial action is a result of an on-going dispute between Transport for London (TfL) workers and their employers regarding ‘unworkable changes to their timetable’ and ‘intolerable levels of personal stress.’ Services on the affected lines have since gone back to normal.