US Travel from India Restricted due to COVID-19 Outbreak The National Law Review
As the weather continues to warm up, state health officials urge North Carolinians to “Fight the Bite” by taking measures to reduce their risk of tick- and mosquito-borne infections. Preliminary data generated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health indicate that in 2020, there were 957 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of tick-borne diseases in North Carolina and 46 cases of domestically acquired and travel-associated mosquito-borne diseases.
“Ticks and mosquitoes are common in our state and can carry bacteria and viruses that can cause serious infections,” said Alexis M. Barbarin, Ph.D., state public health entomologist. “While COVID-19 is still at the forefront of our minds, residents of North Carolina who experience a fever-like illness this summer should also consider recent tick exposure and the possibility of tick- or mosquito-borne illnesses. The best way to prevent illnesses associated with ticks and mosquitoes is to take protective measures, like using DEET and other insect repellents and avoiding wooded, grassy or brushy areas.”
Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (SFR), Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis — bacterial illnesses that can cause fever, headache and other flu-like symptoms — are all conditions that can be acquired by tick bites in North Carolina, with most cases reported in June through September.
More than 60 percent of mosquito-borne infections reported in the state in 2020 were acquired during travel outside the continental United States. The most commonly reported mosquito-borne illnesses that can be acquired in North Carolina are La Crosse, West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis.
To reduce exposure to tick bites:
• Avoid tick habitats, such as wooded, grassy or brushy areas.
• Use tick repellent that contains DEET (or other EPA approved repellents) on exposed skin and wear permethrin-treated clothing. Use caution when applying to children.
• Reduce tick habitats with selective landscaping techniques.
• A tick can be removed by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers as close as possible to the skin and applying a steady, gentle pull until it releases.
To reduce exposure to mosquito bites:
• Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET (or equivalent) when outside. Use caution when applying to children.
• Install or repair screens on windows and doors and use air conditioning when possible.
• “Tip and Toss” to reduce mosquito breeding by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and birdbaths at least once a week.
• Travelers should take special care to prevent mosquito bites when traveling. Information on the prevention of malaria while traveling can be found at www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/index.html.
When my family and I traveled in the Before Times, our dog—a shih tzu named Agnes—usually didn’t come with us when we left our home in Brooklyn: Instead of flying to India or the Azores, Agnes would vacation at my in-laws in New Jersey (a yard!), take the subway to my friend’s in Manhattan (Madison Square Park!), or stay home with my cousin who lived with roommates and would gladly post up at our apartment and give Agnes more attention than she’d gotten from us since our son was born.
Last summer, when I was tentatively ready to leave the pandemic cocoon of my Brooklyn apartment, my husband and I decided to take our son to a vacation home rental on Shelter Island and then a few weeks later, to an Airbnb in the upper Hudson Valley. We had taken Agnes with us to Airbnbs a handful of times, but suddenly, it felt more urgent: My cousin moved back to Portland, my friend was camped out at her dad’s in Maryland, and New Jersey felt very far away. Plus, we’d gotten closer than ever to Agnes, and she was used to us being around all the time while we quarantined together. So we narrowed our search to “Pets allowed,” and selected our vacation homes with Agnes in mind.
We weren’t the only ones: An Airbnb report from February 2021 found that searches made with the “allows pets” filter have increased 65 percent since the beginning of January 2021 compared to the same time period last year.
Over the last year, in my quest for finding pet-friendly properties, I have learned a few things. Read on for advice on locating and staying at pet-friendly Airbnbs or vacation rentals.
1. Factor in the fees
Most pet-friendly vacation home rentals include pet fees in addition to their regular cleaning fees, so be sure to factor that into your budget. They typically range from around $25 to $150 per stay. Some rentals may also require a damage deposit that you will get back if no damage occurs.
2. Be transparent
It may be tempting to not disclose you’re bringing Fido along, since you may not see your host during your stay. But it’s not a good idea to omit this information in order to sneak your dog into a rental that doesn’t allow pets or to skip paying the additional pet fee at a rental that does allow them. You may need to contact the owner if something at the house isn’t working properly, or if you leave your pet alone in the house they may bark and alert the owner to their presence if the host lives nearby. Plus, if they know a pet is coming, some hosts will leave special treats or toys, just like hotels.
3. If your search isn’t turning up results, widen it and start messaging owners
It’s a good place to start your search, but selecting the “Pets allowed” filter on Airbnb or other vacation rental sites can instantly make your prospects dwindle. When you can’t find anything that explicitly says it allows pets, consider removing the filter, picking out your dream rental, and contacting the owner to ask if dogs are allowed.
Unless there’s a note in the rules or description emphatically saying that no pets are allowed, I’ve found many owners are agreeable to making an exception, especially if your pet is small and well trained. I like to play up how Agnes doesn’t shed, has never chewed on furniture, and basically sleeps a majority of the day (all true). If you have good reviews from previous stays with your pets, this will also help. Offer to pay a pet cleaning fee and a damage deposit, like pet-friendly rentals typically require, and you’ll have a decent shot.
4. Look for fenced yards, dog-friendly beaches, or wide-open spaces
When you search for your vacation rental, keep your pet’s comfort in mind. If your dog is prone to running away, consider a place with a fenced yard—we learned that the hard way when Agnes escaped from the backyard of our Shelter Island rental and I got a call from the island police station that someone had turned her in. (Another tip: make sure your pet has a collar and is chipped with your up-to-date information.) Shelter Island also has certain beaches that allow dogs during specific hours, which we all enjoyed.
If your rental does have a body of water nearby or a pool, watch your pet near it, just as you would a child. “All dogs should be supervised when swimming, and some of our less talented athletes may require a canine life jacket to help them enjoy the water safely,” says Dr. Kate Bruce, a Brisbane, Australia-based veterinarian.
Buy Now: Outward Hound Granby RipStop dog life jacket, from $16, chewy.com
5. Ask about other animals
If your pet doesn’t get along with other animals, be sure to ask your host if there are any living on neighboring properties. Sometimes the owner lives in an adjacent home on the same land with pets, and if it’s a farm stay, there may be a whole range of other animals nearby.
6. Pack all the gear
Once everything is booked, you’ll also want to be sure the trip goes smoothly for your pet after you check in. While it’s tempting to share whatever you’re eating with your dog, Dr. Bruce cautions to “be careful offering unfamiliar foods to your pets. It’s best to pack some of their tasty treats from home, and stick to their regular diet to avoid nasty stomach upsets on holiday.”
We love bringing our collapsible dog bowls, which are especially good for long car rides or hikes and then also usable once you arrive. If your dog is particular about their bed, be sure to bring it along, says Dr. Bruce, “and remember to give them something familiar and comforting that smells like home.” Bringing a dog bed also helps keep your pet off the furniture, which some houses may stipulate in their rules. We also like bringing a long, retractable leash when we travel to give Agnes room to roam.
Buy Now: Ruffwear Quencher packable dog bowl, $15, rei.com
Buy Now: Chuckit! travel pillow dog bed, $29, chewy.com
7. Try not to leave your pet alone
When planning your trip, check the surrounding area for places where you can bring your dog—look for outdoor activities and restaurants and shops that allow dogs: While your dog may be fine for hours on end alone at your home, they may be anxious in a new place. (Even the most well-behaved pets can howl or be destructive if left alone in unfamiliar surroundings.) It’s probably not a great idea to take your dog on a museum-focused trip, for example, where they won’t be allowed to come with you.
8. Clean up
You’ll always want to clean up after yourself at a vacation rental whether you have a pet with you or not, but be especially cognizant when your dog has stayed with you. Leave the house as close to how it was when you arrived and be sure to properly dispose of any of your dog’s waste left in the yard or surrounding area. It also doesn’t hurt to bring a lint roller along to brush off any fur left on furniture.
9. If all else fails, consider a hotel
Even though you may have had your heart set on a pet-friendly Airbnb, keep in mind that many hotels welcome animals. I’ve found that more hotels than not allow pets these days, with many rolling out the red carpet for our furry friends.
Last December, we took a road trip from New York to South Carolina and stayed in four hotels plus a vacation rental, and Agnes was allowed at all of them. (Bonus: Sometimes the hotel pet fee was less than it would be at a vacation home rental, and sometimes there wasn’t one at all.)
At Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, she frolicked across the vast green spaces and got a treat from every staff member we encountered, and when we arrived late at night at 21c Durham, two plates of cookies awaited—one for us humans and one for Agnes. On a recent trip to the Point in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Agnes was almost treated better than I was: a large basket full of toys, treats, and other goodies awaited her, plus they gave us an adorable little tepee for her to sleep in (which she largely ignored).
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.
Masks will be required on airplanes, buses, trains and other modes of transportation through the summer as the Biden administration extends its federal mask mandate, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday.
U.S. travelers and commuters have been required to wear masks covering their mouths and noses on nearly all forms of public transportation and inside transportation hubs since February, under an order from the Centers for Control and Prevention. The mandate, which had been set to expire May 11, will be extended to Sept. 13.
The extension comes as more people have started heading back to airports and resuming trips as vaccination rates have picked up. Airlines have said they are expecting a busy summer for vacation travel—at least within the U.S.—as passengers become more comfortable resuming many aspects of their daily lives. While air passenger volumes remain down about 40% from pre-pandemic levels, airports have been busier lately than they have been since the start of the pandemic.
The CDC said earlier this month that travel is low-risk for those who have been fully vaccinated, provided that masks are worn.
“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot, and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic,” said Darby LaJoye, the senior official performing the duties of the TSA administrator.
Enforcing the mask requirements has proved challenging at times. The TSA said it aims for voluntary compliance but can impose civil penalties of up to $1,500 for repeat offenders. There have been reports of some 2,000 passengers across transportation systems who have refused to comply, the TSA said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has extended its own zero-tolerance policy toward unruly passengers, which it put in place earlier this year following what it described as a “disturbing increase” in passengers who became threatening or violent over mask rules.
Under the CDC policy, face masks must be worn over the mouth and nose by all travelers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride shares and inside airports, bus or ferry terminals, train or subway stations and seaports.
Airlines have been requiring passengers to wear masks during flights, except when eating or drinking, since last year. Several airlines have started bringing back more-normal food and beverage offerings.
In his new campaign for the Accor hotel group, Neil Patrick Harris learns how to socialize again so he’s ready to travel in a post-pandemic world. The ads have him suited back up, not unlike his How I Met Your Mother character Barney, doing handshake drills in the lobby of New York City’s famed Plaza Hotel. Off screen, Harris is similarly desperate to travel for fun again—so much so that he’s actually yearning for the experience of an airplane terminal. “When you get the opportunity to sit on a plane or sit at a terminal or sit on a bus, you might as well look for the happiness in it, as opposed to the annoyance of it,” he says.
Harris, who despite the pandemic has two movies and a TV show slated for release this year, chatted with Conde Nast Traveler about teaching his kids travel etiquette, his strategy for vacations, and the little medical tip he got from both his voice coach and otolaryngologist.
The travel experiences he’s longing for:
I miss tropical locations and I miss bucket list checkoffs. I also miss the group energy, like the restaurant energy, or being on a bus, or going on an adventure with people that you don’t know and not having to be super concerned about their history. Do you know what I mean?
Where he’d like to go as soon as the pandemic is over:
Japan. We’ve never traveled to Asia! It’s always been high up on our list, then we had kids and they were so little that we just wanted to wait until they were able to appreciate it on more than one level. Be assets and not troublemakers. Now that the kids are 10 and in the fourth grade, I’m looking forward to being able to travel internationally a lot more with them.
His advice for traveling with kids:
We’ve traveled with Harper and Gideon ever since they were infants, so they’re very familiar with planes. I think teaching kids some travel etiquette is a pretty good idea—to know to be respectful to the flight attendants, to stick together in the airports, to not have meltdowns. It’s easy to say “not have meltdowns,” but I think being generous with screen time is always a plus, and to have multiple “outs” for potential issues: a book to read, a thing to play with, something to damage, so depending on their mood you can adjust. We’ve always had a rule since they were little that anytime they’re on an airplane, they’re able to use their iPad at their leisure. So we would load them up with content that they were excited to watch or play and then they’re super content in a seat watching hours of Clone Wars.
His strategy for family vacations:
When we travel, we look to hit as many different levels as we can, someplace that the kids can have some sort of entertainment that’s thoroughly intertwined with history and education. Then we want to challenge ourselves physically in some way, but also be able to relax if we want to. We tend to front-load our travel with adventure because we’re excited to go to this place. Say we’re going to Ireland: we’ll front-load with fun road trips and adventures, and then we’ll spend the second half somewhere tranquil and chill where we can read a book or relax. Then when you get home, you feel very chill and not like you need another vacation from your vacation.
What he packs in his carry-on:
The Biden administration said on Friday that it would begin restricting travel to the United States from India, where a devastating coronavirus outbreak is claiming over 3,000 lives each day.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that the move was done on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that it would go into effect on Tuesday.
“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India,” she said.
Months ago, India appeared to be weathering the pandemic. After a harsh initial lockdown, the country did not see an explosion in new cases and deaths comparable to those in other countries. But after the early restrictions were lifted, many Indians stopped taking precautions. Large gatherings, including political rallies and religious festivals, resumed and drew millions of people.
Doctors and news reports have cited anecdotal — but inconclusive — evidence to suggest that a homegrown variant called B.1.617 is driving the country’s outbreak and that people who have been fully vaccinated are getting sick. But researchers say that data so far suggests that another variant that has spread widely in Britain and the U.S., the highly contagious B.1.1.7, may also be a significant factor.
One in five coronavirus tests are coming back positive in India, but experts fear the true toll is much higher.
As the U.S. Air Force delivered the first shipments of oxygen cylinders, test kits, masks and other emergency supplies promised to India by the Biden administration, several Indian states said they could not fulfill the government’s directive to expand vaccinations to all adults beginning on Saturday because they lacked doses. Only a small fraction of the country has been vaccinated so far.
After President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, the Biden administration announced Monday that it intended to make up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine available to other countries, so long as federal regulators deem the doses safe. It was a significant, albeit limited, shift for the White House, which had been reluctant to export excess vaccines in large amounts.
As hospitals face shortages of intensive-care beds, relatives of the sick are broadcasting desperate pleas on social media for oxygen, medicine and other scarce supplies. Many Indians say they do not know if they are infected with the coronavirus because overwhelmed labs have stopped processing tests.
As plumes of smoke rose from cremation grounds, where bodies were arriving faster than they could be burned, teams of professional cricket players squared off under the lights of a cavernous stadium named for India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.
The jarring scenes unfolded on Thursday in Ahmedabad, the capital of Mr. Modi’s home state of Gujarat and a hot spot in India’s spiraling coronavirus outbreak, which is claiming an average of nearly 3,000 lives a day nationwide.
For decades, cricket and its charismatic stars have commanded exalted status in India, where the once-genteel colonial game attracts its biggest and most passionate fan base. Now, public anger is growing at the sport’s marquee international product, the Indian Premier League, which is playing matches in a “bio-bubble” without spectators that has drawn criticism for diverting resources from the country’s wider coronavirus fight.
“There is a lack of empathy for dead bodies lying in crematoriums surrounding your stadium,” said Rahul Verma, a lawyer and die-hard cricket fan who said he had been a devoted follower of the cricket league since it started in 2008. “This game, a gentleman’s game, never was so grotesque.”
India set another global record on Friday with nearly 383,000 new infections, the health ministry reported, pushing the global coronavirus case count to more than 150 million.
In India, with one in five tests coming back positive, experts fear the true toll is much higher. As the U.S. Air Force delivered the first shipments of oxygen cylinders, test kits, masks and other emergency supplies promised to India by the Biden administration, several Indian states said they could not fulfill the government’s directive to expand vaccinations to all adults beginning on Saturday because they lacked vaccine doses.
As hospitals face shortages of intensive-care beds, relatives of the sick broadcast desperate pleas on social media for oxygen, medicine and other scarce supplies. Many Indians say they do not know if they are infected with the coronavirus because overwhelmed labs have stopped processing tests.
But one group that seems unaffected is the wealthy and powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India, the regulatory body that oversees the Indian Premier League, which was modeled on soccer’s Premier League in England and features players from around the world.
The board has kept ambulances fitted with mobile intensive-care beds on standby outside stadiums where matches are being played in case a player falls sick. It is testing players every two days and has created a travel bubble between stadiums in the six states hosting matches, including dedicated airport check-in counters for cricketers.
Meanwhile, some Indians say they cannot cross state lines to find hospital beds for Covid-19 patients.
Hemang Amin, the board’s chief operating officer, said in a letter released this week that the health and safety of players and staff members were “of paramount importance,” and added that the matches, which conclude on May 30, were a needed distraction in a difficult time.
“When you all walk out onto the field, you are bringing hope to millions of people who have tuned in,” he wrote.
But the league’s safety protocols have only highlighted the gap between its star players — who have said little publicly in the face of criticism — and the rest of the country.
“That ambulance outside that stadium could have saved at least ten lives a day,” said Ishan Singh, a cricket fan in Delhi. “These players are thieves. Given a chance, they will rob wood from the cremations and sell it in the market.”
The New Indian Express, a daily newspaper, said in an editorial this week that it would suspend coverage of the cricket league until “a semblance of normalcy is restored” in the country.
“This is commercialism gone crass,” the newspaper wrote. “The problem is not with the game but its timing.”
Restaurants in New York City can broaden indoor dining to 75 percent capacity beginning on May 7, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday, an expansion already available to restaurants in the rest of the state.
The governor also said the city’s gyms and fitness centers would expand to 50 percent capacity beginning May 15. Hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services can move to to 75 percent capacity on May 7, he said.
The announcement came a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that New York City would fully reopen on July 1, after more than a year of virus-related restrictions imposed by the governor.
After months of persistently high case numbers during a second virus wave, the city has started to turn a corner, particularly as the weather has warmed and drawn residents outside. Public health officials and epidemiologists expect vaccinations to continue to drive down new cases over the next two months.
Still, they have acknowledged that the virus will likely remain a threat, at least to some extent.
At a White House news conference on Friday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the mayor’s July 1 date “a reasonable target” if the current pace of vaccinations and declines in case numbers continued. She declined to predict updates to the C.D.C.’s guidance that those dining indoors should wear masks except when actively eating or drinking, noting that “this virus has tricked us before.”
At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo scoffed at Mr. de Blasio’s comment about the city reopening by July 1, emphasizing that the state was in charge. He said that he was “reluctant to make projections” on a reopening date, saying that doing so would be “irresponsible.”
Even so, the governor, who has moved recently to roll back restrictions, said that he too was hopeful that a wider reopening was within sight, possibly sooner than Mr. de Blasio’s goal.
“I think that if we do what we have to do, we can be reopened earlier,” Mr. Cuomo said.
Earlier this week, the governor said that the longstanding curfew requiring establishments to stop serving customers at midnight will end statewide on May 17 for outdoor dining areas and May 31 for indoor dining.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement on Friday that easing restrictions on restaurants and bars “provides a shot of optimism to small business owners and workers who have been financially devastated over the past year.”
“We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo’s administration to safely reopen New York City, so we can get the restaurant capital of the world cooking again,” he said.
Michael Gold contributed reporting.
Coronavirus cases in Colorado are rapidly increasing among middle and high school students, state public health officials said this week, four months after schools began to reopen.
“Their rate is much higher on average for what we’re seeing for adults in the state, and that increase we’re seeing is pretty steep at this point,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday.
There is also an increase in younger children, between 3 and 10 years old, though it is “not as dramatic,” she said.
All told, there have been more than 2,300 reported cases among children in Colorado, up from 861 in December, according to the Denver Post. State data show that people under the age of 19 made up 26 percent of all cases in Colorado last week. People between 20 and 29 accounted for 40 percent.
Other states are also seeing sharp increases in infections among young people. For instance, in West Virginia, the proportion of cases among people under 20 has gone from 16 to 26 percent. Over all, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, cases among those under 20 have averaged 13.7 percent over the pandemic, but 20.9 percent for the week ending April 22.
The rise among that group reflects the current age restriction for vaccinations: 18 for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and 16 for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. And even when schools themselves keep mask-wearing, distancing and other precautions in place, there are extracurricular activities when the measures are abandoned.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, variants that are more transmissible among all age groups are spreading in Colorado, as they are in many states, including B.1.1.7, the more lethal variant first found in Britain.
Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, a Democrat, has said that “schools are a relatively safe place,” and partly attributed the outbreaks to vaccinated parents and grandparents taking children with them to restaurants and social gatherings.
“While their elders may be protected, the young people don’t have that level of protection,” he said on Tuesday, adding that he hoped vaccines would be approved for 12- to 15-year-olds in the coming months. He urged everyone 16 and older to get vaccinated.
C.D.C. numbers show that 46 percent of the state’s population has had at least one shot of a Covid vaccine, with 31 percent fully vaccinated.
Dr. Herlihy said the state’s overall case numbers began ticking up this week. The average for the past week is 1,772 new cases per day, up about 7 percent from the average two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. In mid-March, the state was averaging 888 cases a day. Hospitalizations are also up 33 percent over the last two weeks, largely attributed to an increase in cases among young adults.
Despite what Colorado officials are calling a fourth wave, superintendents are hoping to make an already disruptive school year less so. Twelve district leaders asked the state health department to ease quarantine requirements for students who have potentially been exposed to the virus.
At a news conference on Thursday, Dr. Herlihy said the state was exploring options to try to “decrease the burden of quarantine” while balancing public safety measures.
ISTANBUL — Turkey granted emergency use approval on Friday to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as the country entered an 18-day lockdown to contain the country’s worst surge of the pandemic.
Sputnik V will be the third Covid vaccine to be used in Turkey. The country has already given emergency approval to a vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinovac and another created by a collaboration of the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer with the German company BioNtech.
Brazil rejected Sputnik V this week over questions about its production and safety, but the vaccine has been approved for use in dozens of countries. Albania also approved it for use on Friday, and said it had already received a shipment, according to Reuters.
Turkey’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said an arrangement with Russia would bring 50 million doses of Sputnik V into Turkey within six months. The first shipment is expected in May. Turkey also wants to secure the technology to produce the vaccine domestically.
Turkey has been reporting more than 40,000 confirmed daily cases, down from a record of more than 60,000 mid-April but still far above its previous high of about 30,000 in December, according to data from John Hopkins University.
The country’s lateset lockdown requires people to stay home except to run essential errands or to go to certain jobs. Schools, kindergartens and day care centers will be closed. Grocery stores will be open, but only for customers who live within walking distance. Even solitary outdoor exercise will be banned.
Critics accuse the government of easing restrictions too early, in March, and say the government failed to secure enough vaccine for the population of 83 million.
So far, government data shows that only 9.1 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Mr. Koca on Thursday admitted that there would be vaccine procurement difficulties for the next two months, but on Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied any shortages.
“I do not accept we will have any difficulty,” Mr. Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday Prayer. “We have already had enough vaccines.’’
He said that “if necessary,” he would speak to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.
The two leaders have a close but sometimes tense relationship. Russia recently sold an air defense system to Turkey, causing the ire among the country’s fellow NATO members in Europe, and the United States.
The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford brought in $275 million in sales from about 68 million doses delivered in the first three months of this year, AstraZeneca reported on Friday.
AstraZeneca disclosed the figure, most of which came from sales in Europe, as it reported its first-quarter financial results. It offers the clearest view to date of how much money is being brought in by one of the leading Covid vaccines.
AstraZeneca, which has pledged not to profit on its vaccine during the pandemic, has been selling the shot to governments for several dollars per dose, less expensive than the other leading vaccines. The vaccine has won authorization in at least 78 countries since December but is not approved for use in the United States.
The vaccine represented just under 4 percent of AstraZeneca’s revenue for the quarter; it was nowhere near the company’s biggest revenue generator. By comparison, the company’s best-selling product, the cancer drug Tagrisso, brought in more than $1.1 billion in sales in the quarter.
AstraZeneca has said it is planning to seek emergency authorization for its vaccine to be used in the United States, even as it has become clear that the doses are not needed. The Biden administration said this week that it would make available to the rest of the world up to 60 million doses of its supply of AstraZeneca shots, pending a review of their quality.
If the company does win authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it could help shore up confidence in a vaccine whose reputation been hit by concerns about a rare but serious side effect involving blood clotting. The F.D.A.’s evaluation process is considered the gold standard globally.
Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was authorized for emergency use at the end of February, reported last week that its vaccine generated $100 million in sales in the United States in the first three months of the year. The federal government is paying the company $10 a dose. Like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson has pledged to sell its vaccine “at cost” — meaning it won’t profit on the sales — during the pandemic.
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna cost more, and neither company has said that it will forego profits. Pfizer has said that it expects its vaccine to bring in about $15 billion in revenue this year; Moderna said it anticipates $18.4 billion in sales.
Both companies are scheduled to report their first-quarter results next week.
Executives of Emergent BioSolutions, the vaccine manufacturer that was forced to discard up to 15 million doses because of possible contamination, reported a shake-up in leadership on Thursday and offered the most fulsome defense yet of the company’s performance.
While announcing the high-level personnel changes and taking responsibility for the ruined doses, executives nonetheless forecast record revenues this year of nearly $2 billion.
Robert Kramer, the chief executive, speaking on a call with investors, said that one senior vice president overseeing manufacturing would depart the company while another executive would go on leave. A third official, Mary Oates, who recently joined Emergent after a long tenure at Pfizer, is now leading the company’s response to a recent federal inspection that found serious flaws at the Baltimore facility that produced the vaccines.
The call on Thursday came at a tumultuous time for Emergent, a once-obscure federal contractor that has built a lucrative business selling biodefense products to the government. Production at the company’s Baltimore plant was suspended this month after the discovery that workers had potentially contaminated millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Addressing these setbacks, Mr. Kramer offered a vigorous defense of the company on Thursday.
He took “full responsibility” for the manufacturing problems, acknowledging that the “loss of a batch for a viral contamination is extremely serious, and we treated it as such,” but he also said that Emergent had taken on a “herculean task” in a crisis.
GREENVILLE, TENN. — This community and its surroundings in northern Tennessee are rural, overwhelmingly Republican, deeply Christian and 95 percent white. Polls show that resistance to the vaccine is most entrenched in such areas.
While campaigns aimed at convincing Black and Latino urban communities to set aside their vaccine mistrust have made striking gains, towns like Greenville will also have to be convinced, if the country is to achieve widespread immunity.
But a week here in Greene County reveals a more nuanced, layered hesitancy than surveys suggest. People say that politics isn’t the leading driver of their vaccine attitudes. The most common reason for their apprehension is fear — that the vaccine was developed in haste, that long-term side effects are unknown. Their decisions are also entangled in a web of views about bodily autonomy, science and authority, plus a powerful regional, somewhat romanticized self-image: We don’t like outsiders messing in our business.
Still, conversations here show that for many people, resistance is not firm. Roiled by internet fallacies, many hunger for straightforward information from people they trust. Others have practical needs, like paid time off to recover from side effects, which the Biden administration has urged employers to offer, or the opportunity to get the shot from their own doctor.
Thousands of people letting loose on a nightclub dance floor. Hundreds of suited-up people gathering for a business conference. And none of them wearing masks.
As Britain slowly emerges from a lengthy lockdown, a flashback to life before the pandemic is taking place in Liverpool as part of a series of government-led experiments.
Liverpool on Wednesday hosted Britain’s first business conference since March 2020 and the northwestern English city will on Friday kick off a two-day nightclub event, the first in Britain in more than a year, and an outdoor music festival will take place on Sunday.
The events are part of a British government research project to see how mass gatherings can happen safely. Participants are asked to take a coronavirus test before events and are required to produce a negative result. Once they are inside the venues, social distancing and face coverings are not required.
The pilot events are taking place across England this month and next month, closely monitored by the health authorities. Some sports competitions with audiences have already been part of the program and thousands of people will gather in London next month for the Brit Awards music show, and soccer’s F.A. Cup final.
Every attendee will be asked to undergo a virus test after the event and the research gathered will shape the government’s policy on bringing back large events.
England has set a provisional date of June 21 for all of its virus restrictions to be dropped, including those on mass gatherings, and scientists are hoping that the events that they are monitoring will provide insights into how to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
In other updates from around the world:
Authorities at tollbooths and ports in Greece on Friday have turned back hundreds of people attempting to defy virus restrictions on travel between regions ahead of Orthodox Easter, the most important date in the religious calendar. Although cases have stabilized in recent weeks, deaths and hospitalizations remain high. Greece has gradually lifted restrictions in recent weeks, including ending quarantine requirements for visitors from dozens of countries, as it prepares to fully reopen its tourism sector next month.
While Spain is expected to lift its nationwide state of emergency on May 9, allowing for the return of tourists in June, some regional administrations are preparing to extend their own lockdown measures for longer. Cases are down, and more people are getting vaccinated. Reopening tourism is key to the economy, which contracted in the first quarter, the government said on Friday. Tourism arrivals dropped to 19 million last year, after seven years of growth, from 84 million in 2019.
In Portugal, Prime Minister António Costa announced late Thursday that the country’s only land border — with Spain — would reopen on Saturday, having remained shut since January. Portugal is also fast-tracking the removal of lockdown restrictions after reducing significantly its coronavirus infection rate.
Raphael Minder and Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting.
Before the pandemic, Google’s sprawling campus of airy, open offices and whimsical common spaces set a standard for what an innovative workplace was supposed to look like.
Now, the company is creating a workplace for the Covid era, with a concept perhaps best described as Ikea meets Lego.
Instead of rows of desks next to cookie-cutter meeting rooms, Google is designing “Team Pods.” Chairs, desks, whiteboards and storage units on casters can be wheeled into various arrangements, and in some cases rearranged in a matter of hours. It is building outdoor work areas to respond to concerns about the coronavirus.
At its Silicon Valley headquarters, it has converted a parking lot and lawn area into a “camp,” with clusters of tables and chairs under open-air tents. The area is a fenced-in mix of grass and wooden deck flooring about the size of four tennis courts with Wi-Fi throughout.
David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president for real estate and workplace services, said that while moving more than 100,000 employees to virtual work last year was daunting, “now it seems even more daunting to figure out how to bring them back safely.”
With vaccinations mounting in some of the world’s wealthiest countries and people envisioning life after the pandemic, the crisis in Latin America is taking an alarming turn for the worse, potentially threatening the progress made well beyond its borders.
Last week, Latin America accounted for 35 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the world, despite having just 8 percent of the global population, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
The length of the region’s epidemic makes it even harder to fight. It has already endured some of the strictest lockdowns, longest schools closures and largest economic contractions in the world.
And if Latin America fails to contain the virus — or if the world fails to step in to help it — new, more dangerous variants may emerge, said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa of the Pan-American Health Organization.
“This could cost us all that the world is doing” to fight the pandemic, he said.
After being closed for more than a year, Disneyland reopens on Friday to California residents only. Travel advisers around the country said tickets sold out quickly, and people have been waiting online for hours to get a reservation to the Anaheim, Calif., theme park.
As more people across the United States are vaccinated and as summer approaches, theme park bookings are picking up, even though children are still not eligible for coronavirus vaccines. Greg Antonelle, the chief executive of MickeyTravels, a travel agency that helps plan Disney trips, said that if bookings keep up at the current pace, this will be the company’s strongest year.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., opened in July and is operating at 35 percent capacity. At Disneyland, capacity is now capped at 25 percent, and officials have not said when restrictions would be eased or bookings would be opened to out-of-state visitors.
Getting in requires both a ticket and a reservation to the park. Park rules state that masks must be worn at all times, except when swimming or eating, even by those who have been vaccinated. The parades, fireworks, and nighttime spectaculars that are typical of the Disney park experience are still suspended, and character interactions are socially distanced.
But for Bethany Millar, an administrator at a medical school in St. Louis who visited Walt Disney World in April, it was worth it: “Disney’s staff did everything in their power to make you feel like you were having a safe Covid experience,” she said.
A daughter holding her mother’s hand. A son overcome that his 95-year-old mother had survived the pandemic. A stoic family patriarch, suddenly in tears.
After a year of excruciating lockdowns, these were the scenes at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as they began to open up this spring. Before the arrival of vaccines, one in three coronavirus deaths in the United States had ties to nursing homes or similar facilities.
The New York Times sent photographers across the country to document reunions. For many family members, it was the first time they were able to be together, hold hands and hug in more than a year.
In interviews, which have been edited and condensed for clarity, families recalled a deep fear that they would never see their loved ones again. When the time finally came, they were flooded with a year’s worth of emotion in a single instant: joy, relief, love — and grief for all the time that had been lost.
San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living
Con Yan Muy, 93, has been a resident at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living nursing home since 2019. Anita Li, 24, grew up with her grandmother and previously visited daily. For a year during the pandemic, she saw her grandmother only a handful of times through a window or at a distance. Even now, her visits remain limited, as is the case at many facilities.
ANITA LI: I was hiding in the bathroom when she came in. It was a surprise. She didn’t recognize me initially because I had my mask on. I am going to be honest, I was kind of sad. I am one of the most involved persons in her life, and she couldn’t recognize me. I immediately just started patting her legs and her arms for better blood circulation. I had brought some dumplings and also brought her some sesame balls that she really enjoys. We made a video for the rest of the family for her to say hi.
It’s like a sigh of relief that we could finally be together, but also knowing that this was a one-time thing, and not really sure what the future holds. Am I going to see her every week face to face? Can I eventually take her out on walks where she can get some sun? What is the new normal, and how much can we be involved in her life postquarantine?
The Jersey Shore is a rite of passage for most New Yorkers. You may scoff at it or try to avoid it altogether, but you will eventually find your perfect little slice of local beach paradise, and continually be drawn back to it each season. As this summertime season approaches—and as we continue to stay safe, smart, and socially-distanced in this transitional, limbo-like period of a possibly post-pandemic world—consider bookmarking our pick of the best beaches in New Jersey for your next seaside dip and splash.
One thing to remember: For the most part, beaches in New Jersey charge for individual admission or charge admission by vehicle. Similar to last season, due to COVID-19 capacity rules, many Garden State beach towns will be selling badges only in advance, so check each beach town’s website for more info. (You can also download the Viply app, which a good majority of beaches are using for mobile admission.)
Lastly, beaches marked with an asterisk (*) are accessible via New Jersey Transit train stops on the North Jersey Coast Line, oftentimes within walking distances to the sand or short Uber/Lyft rides.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL COLARUSSO:MONMOUTH COUNTY
1. SEA BRIGHT, NJ
Those looking for a quick escape from the city should pack their beach towel and put a pin on the map for Sea Bright, one of NJ’s most pleasant beaches in northern Monmouth County. “It’s also famous as the town where Tony Soprano temporarily purchased a beach house for Carmela in The Sopranos,” R.C. Staab, author of 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore Before You Die, reminds us. Similar to Sandy Hook, another beach on this list, vehicle-less folks can easily take a Seastreak ferry to Highlands, then transfer to a quick Uber ride—a nice way to also save time when traffic is rough in high season. Beaches are sandy, and have playgrounds for the littles, plus a bunch of outdoor showers to clean off afterwards. There’s no busy commercial boardwalk in Sea Bright, but travelers to town certainly won’t feel isolated either, with plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and convenience stores on the main drag of Ocean Ave (Route 36), located just steps from the beach.
Pro Tip: Especially during busy high season holiday weekends, Sea Bright’s coveted parking can fill up quickly, so get there early to snag your place in one of the cheaper spots, which can be secured via the mPay2Park app. Otherwise, you might risk paying upwards of $30 or more for parking in a private lot.
Where to stay:
Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
2. CAPE MAY, NJ
A too-adorable-for-words town filled with charming architecture is part of the allure of many visitors here, and Cape May’s beaches can’t be beat, either. Hugging the entire length of the town, you’ll never be bored of all the walkable options, but that shouldn’t stop you from setting out and exploring points further, either. In fact, two of Cape May’s most interesting beaches, Sunset Beach and Higbee Beach, are a short car or bike ride from town. Jazz festivals, the Lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park and humpback whale watching cruises are reasons to book a longer stay and make this a week-long summer vacay, as many families from the Tri-State area do.
Where to stay:
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL COLARUSSO:MONMOUTH COUNTY
3. AVON-BY-THE-SEA, NJ*
Slightly more under-the-radar, Avon-by-the-Sea is a small Monmouth County town home to eclectic shops and chef-driven restaurants, as well as a pavilion with dining and beach amenities. Visitors here step off the blocks filled with well-kept beaches to grab shade under a very Instagrammable pergola, which has benches positioned to face the sea. Other charms include spotting the Little Free Library boxes filled with books, and all the cute beach bungalows and larger Victorian-influenced homes.
New for this season, Avon-by-the-Sea is welcoming its first apothecary, Seed Apothecary, a sister business to the town’s first and only vegan restaurant, Seed to Sprout. Seed Apothecary will offer shoppers everything from organic teas, honeys, tinctures, immune boosters, herbs, skin care products, hair tonics, shaving products and more. Yup, we’ll be there.
Where to stay:
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL COLARUSSO:MONMOUTH COUNTY
5. ASBURY PARK, NJ*
A draw for many LGBTQIA+ folks, Asbury Park’s beaches are nice enough, but you really come here for the scene of it all, which can be quite different in vibe depending on where you decide to plop down. Expect either lively and packed with people and music (read: near the Convention Hall) or more chill and relaxed (read: North Beach, north of the Convention Hall). The Ocean Avenue boardwalk bustles from end to end, with quality restaurants, a hip live music and entertainment scene—some outdoor and indoor happenings are already a go depending on your current comfort level—plus events at the historic Convention Hall & Paramount Theater, and much, much more. For accommodations, the trendy Asbury Ocean Club Hotel is just steps from everything, and has posh, contemporary rooms and a prime roof deck pool which overlooks the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
Where to stay:
Courtesy of Pua Hana Tiki Boat Tours
6. OCEAN CITY, NJ
Eight miles of coastline, superior sand and lots of room to spread out, the beaches of Ocean City, NJ paired with the town’s quaint charms and family-forward atmosphere make it a popular place to land a summer rental. Zander Buteux, Growth Lead at VacationRenter, a platform designed to help travelers find the perfect rental faster and easier, tells us there are 83 rentals in this small city, many at affordable prices and just steps from the sand.
Starting in May, rides on Pau Hana Tiki Boat Tours will commence in the resort town, and if you just clicked that link, you know you should probably book before it fills up. Offering guests a two-hour, Caribbean-inspired experience on a floating tiki-style boat—complete with barstool seating, a thatched straw roof, and open-air and therefore COVID-safer layout—our crystal ball tells us Pau Hana rides will be all over your IG feed this season.
Where to stay:
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL COLARUSSO:MONMOUTH COUNTY
7. LONG BRANCH, NJ*
At roughly an hour from New York—sans traffic—Long Branch wins points for being one of the closest beaches in New Jersey. Expect clean, soft sand beaches that are family-friendly, and even some Euro flair. The beautiful French restaurant Avenue and its beach club and bar give a certain stretch of the sand here a French Riviera feel, and after a day curled up with the breeze and a good book, you can explore Pier Village, which is filled with shops, eateries, a specialty food market and more. Just steps away, the oceanfront pool and rooms at the nearby Wave Resort are arguably one of the Shore’s most sophisticated places to hang your (beach) hat.
Where to stay:
VIEW press /Getty Images
9. SANDY HOOK (HIGHLANDS, NJ)
The funky, eclectic town of Highlands, NJ greets visitors before passing over the Route 36 bridge and into Sandy Hook, a beach area so major that it is protected by the National Park Service. You’ll quickly see why—a pure little slice of seashore heaven, this strip of land and its beaches curve like a spine toward New York’s lower bay. In fact, from certain vantage points and on a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline, a surprising backdrop as you dig your toes into the sand.
Another clear advantage of choosing Sandy Hook, beyond its natural beauty, for a beach day: You don’t need a car to get there. City dwellers can take a Seastreak ferry from E. 35th St. and get dropped off and walk or bike to the beach (As of press time, a round trip is $50 and there is no charge for bikes, either).
Pro tip: “Sandy Hook has a maximum number of parking spaces, when all are filled, the park closes to new traffic until there are enough spaces to reopen,” their website warns late risers.
Where to stay:
© 2011 Dorann Weber/Getty Images
10. PT. PLEASANT BEACH, NJ*
Sometimes, it’s all in a name, and that is especially accurate of the beaches in this northern Ocean County town, roughly an 80-minute ride from Times Square when traffic isn’t, well, too bad. What we love most about Point Pleasant are the clean, wide, sandy beaches and Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. It’s arguably one of the Garden State’s best-known and has just as much fun for families as it does adults without kids—imagine a place where mini golf, carnival rides and games, an aquarium, restaurants, and lots of live entertainment and places to party all meet.
Where to stay:
Brent Guiliano/EyeEm/Getty Images
12. BELMAR, NJ*
Belmar has always been a popular beach with both New Yorkers and Northern NJ residents (sometimes playfully—or maybe not—referred to as “Bennies”). The wide, sandy beaches here really do appeal to everyone, whether you’re in the mood to play music and indulge in some party vibes (while social distancing, of course), or are watching over your young ones as they build sandcastles. A dedicated fishing pier on the bridge between Belmar and neighboring Avon is another draw, as is the diverse, downtown district hosting breweries, cafes and restaurants, clothing stores, record shops and more.
Where to stay:
13. THE WILDWOODS, NJ
You’ve most certainly heard of The Wildwoods, popular vacation rental towns in New Jersey, which also happen to be the site of one of the largest kite festivals in North America. Comprising the City of Wildwood, The Borough of Wildwood Crest and the City of North Wildwood, the towns are colloquially known by Jersey folk simply as Wildwood. But regardless of what you call it, the gorgeous, super wide beaches (basically made for social distancing) are popular because they’re free—yes, you read that right—a fact that keeps families coming back season after season.
And since no family is truly complete without their pet(s), and many are increasingly traveling with a furry friend these days, it’s worth noting how pet-friendly Wildwood is for visitors. “Wildwood has designated a section of their beach as dog friendly, and dogs on leash are welcome all day, every day. There’s even an off-leash area to burn off a little energy and socialize with other canines,” says Amy Burket, who runs GoPetFriendly.com, a website dedicated to pet friendly travel. “This dog beach is also impossible to miss, because it’s marked with one of the largest fire hydrants you’ll ever see,” she adds.
Where to stay:
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL COLARUSSO:MONMOUTH COUNTY
14. SPRING LAKE, NJ*
Boasting some of the cleanest, most manicured beaches in all of New Jersey, Spring Lake is known for its quiet, relaxed expanses of sand generally frequented by families and couples seeking R&R. The adorable town at its backdrop looks straight out of a movie set, with a charming park, a downtown filled with shops, and picture-perfect, historic homes—not to mention straight-up mansions. This one could give the Hampton’s a run for its money any day and is a great Jersey alternative if you’re seeking a posh-er beach and beach town experience.
Where to stay:
Robert D. Barnes/Getty Images
15. STONE HARBOR, NJ
Some of New Jersey’s clearest water and cleanest, soft sand beaches are found in this Cape May County favorite. Gentle rolling sand dunes and white-and-red painted, old-timey lifeboats add to allure of Stone Harbor’s beaches, which are as popular with Philadelphians as they are Tri-State families. In our experience, most discover this town once, then continually return—due in part to its chillaxed, small town charm and just-the-right-amount of off-beach activities. Check out the well-rated Wetlands Institute, a nature center, or simply enjoy a pleasant stretch of Stone Harbor’s shopping and noshes at the many walkable eateries and restaurants situated at the center of the town’s two main in/out arteries, 96th St. and 3rd Ave.
Where to stay:
Want to discover more cool places to visit near NYC? Sign up to our newsletter here.
U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to impose new travel restrictions on India starting Tuesday in light of the COVID-19 epidemic, barring most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States, a White House official told Reuters.
The new restrictions are on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are imposed “in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 case loads and multiple variants circulating in India,” the official said. A formal announcement is expected on Friday and the policy will take effect on Tuesday, May 4 at 12:01 am ET (0401 GMT).
Reuters first reported the expected travel restrictions.
Biden in January issued a similar ban on most non-U.S. citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa. He also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-U.S. travelers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.
The policy means most non-U.S. citizens who have been in one of those countries – and now India – within the last 14 days are not eligible to travel to the United States. China and Iran are also both covered by the policy.
The Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.
Second only to the United States in total infections, India has reported more than 300,000 new cases daily for nine days in a row, hitting another global record of 386,452 on Friday.
Total deaths have surpassed 200,000 and cases are nearing 19 million – nearly 8 million since February alone – as virulent new strains have combined with “super-spreader” events such as political rallies and religious festivals.
Medical experts say real numbers may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.
Other countries have imposed similar travel restrictions on India, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Singapore, while Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand have suspended all commercial travel with India.
On Wednesday, the White House said the United States is sending supplies worth more than $100 million to India to help it fight the COVID-19 surge.
The supplies include 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests. The United States also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca (AZN.L) manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the White House.
Permanent U.S. residents and family members and some other non-U.S. citizens are permitted to return to the United States under the order.
Nearly all travelers to the United States by air must show proof of a negative coronavirus test or recovery from COVID-19.
In recent weeks, the White House and U.S. agencies have begun holding conversations about how to eventually unwind the policy that bars travel to the United States from many parts of the world.
U.S. international air travel remains down 60% from pre-COVID-19 levels, while U.S. domestic air travel is down 40%, according to industry trade group Airlines for America.
U.S. airlines and travel groups have urged the White House to set benchmarks for the eventual loosening of restrictions.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
If you were thinking Featherston was just another little country town in the Wairarapa, think again: it’s officially a Booktown.
This is an international organisation of 22 small towns with multiple second-hand and antiquarian bookshops, and Featherston has been a member since 2018, with its seven varied bookshops.
It’s a distinction that the town is celebrating from May 6 to 9 this year with a Karukatea Festival, offering 55 events. The 99 presenters include not only authors, but musicians, poets, podcasters, printers and paper-makers, being serious or silly, sometimes both, and always entertaining. There are workshops too – and all ages are catered for.
Because, fabulous time-suckers though they are, it’s not all about the festival, or even the bookshops.
Located at the base of the Remutaka hills, Featherston is the gateway to the Wairarapa, with a long and notable military history – there was a huge army training camp here in World War I, which in World War 2 was used as a prisoner of war camp for captured Japanese, 122 of whom were shot in an “incident” in 1943. You can find out more about this, and the camps, at the Heritage Museum, and should take a look too at the Anzac memorial in the main street, with its distinctive cupola.
The nearby infamous Remutaka Incline on the rail link to Wellington is nearly 5km of track with a 1-in-15 gradient, so steep that a Fell engine was used to tackle it for 77 years. You can see it, the only one left in the world and meticulously restored, in the town’s Fell Locomotive Museum.
The heritage Royal Hotel has been extensively, and imaginatively, renovated and is worth a look and, ideally, an overnight stay in one of its steampunk-decorated rooms. The cleverly-named C’est Cheese shop and deli across the road has a wide range of hand-made Remutaka Creamery cheeses, as well many other tempting goodies. Be sure to go next door to Mr Feather’s Den, where you’ll be astonished by the range of “oddities and delights” they offer there, from jewellery to taxidermied chicks.
Joy Cowley lives in Featherston, so say hello if you see her.
ON THE WAY/NEARBY
Up in the hills, beside the road to Wellington, is a striking statue commemorating the long march of soldiers from Featherston into the city and away to war – and the women who fortified them with cups of tea.
Lakes Wairarapa and Onoke make up Wairarapa Moana, 9000 hectares of wetland where many species of birds can be spotted and there’s a variety of accessible walks. The Remutaka Rail Trail, with its bridges and tunnels, is just one appealing cycling or walking option in the area.
Stonehenge Aotearoa is not simply a concrete incarnation of the Salisbury original, but an observatory too, with day-time tours and night-time star-gazing.
The Festival event entry fees vary, and some are free. Booking is already open.
BEST TIME TO GO
The festival would be fun, but the books and cheese are always there. booktown.org.nz