Covid travel news live: Latest updates as Japan shuts borders


Japan has closed its borders to all international travellers amid fears that the newly identified omicron variant of Covid-19 could be more transmissible and reduce the efficacy of vaccines.

Stricter border controls and travel restrictions are being introduced across the globe in response to the latest variant of concern.

The UK has reintroduced day two PCR tests for all inbound travellers, including those who are fully vaccinated, along with a mandatory quarantine while arrivals await their results.

In addition to the six southern African countries unexpectedly added to the UK’s red list last week – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – a further four nations have been given red status.

As of 4am on Sunday, UK and Irish residents returning to England from Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola must also pay to isolate in an approved quarantine hotel for 10 days.

Follow all the latest travel news below:

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British Airways suspends flights to Hong Kong

British Airways has suspended flights to Hong Kong after a crew member tested positive for Covid-19.

The move followed reports that members of the crew were forced to isolate for three weeks at a quarantine facility built from shipping containers.

The city has one of the strictest quarantine policies in the world, with those arriving from abroad having to spend up to 21 days in government-mandated hotels.

The airline said a member of staff tested positive on arrival in the special administrative region after first testing negative before departure.

Helen Coffey29 November 2021 08:18

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What are the new rules for UK arrivals?

PCR tests and self-isolation are back for travellers arriving in the UK. Weeks after international travel rules were eased to allow cheaper and faster lateral flow (antigen) tests, the government is tightening restrictions once again in response to the spread of the omicron variant of coronavirus.

At the same time, the previously dormant red list has been expanded and now applies to arrivals from 10 southern African nations.

Here are the key questions and answers to what the new rules mean for UK travellers:

Simon Calder29 November 2021 08:01

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Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be posting all the latest travel updates throughout the day.

Helen Coffey29 November 2021 07:56



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Israel seals borders and Morocco bans flights as Omicron Covid fears rise | Coronavirus


Israel is barring entry to all foreign nationals and Morocco is suspending all incoming flights for two weeks, in the two most drastic of travel restrictions imposed by countries around the world in an attempt to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Israel’s coronavirus cabinet has authorised a series of measures including banning entry by foreigners, red-listing travel to 50 African countries, and making quarantine mandatory for all Israelis arriving from abroad. The entry ban is expected to come into effect at midnight local time (10pm GMT) on Sunday.

Morocco’s foreign ministry tweeted on Sunday that all incoming air travel to the north African country would be suspended to “preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens”. Morocco has been at the forefront of vaccinations in Africa, and kept its borders closed for months in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Israel cases

Many countries, including Brazil, Canada, European Union states, Iran and the US, have placed restrictions on travel from various southern African countries over the past couple of days since the variant was identified by researchers in South Africa.

Early evidence suggests the heavily mutated variant poses a higher risk of reinfection than earlier variants and that it could also be more transmissible.

The Dutch public health authority confirmed on Sunday that 13 people who had arrived on flights from South Africa on Friday had so far tested positive for Omicron. The Dutch health minister, Hugo de Jonge, said it was “not unlikely” that more Omicron cases would appear in the Netherlands. “This could possibly be the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Austria also announced that it had detected its first suspected case of Omicron, while the French health minister, Olivier Véran, said it was probably only a matter of hours before the variant was picked up in France. Cases have already been detected elsewhere in Europe.

Following the discovery of cases in the UK, the government reimposed some restrictions including compulsory mask wearing on public transport and shops in England.

Meanwhile, Swiss voters backed the government in a referendum on whether people going to bars and restaurants should show a Covid certificate to demonstrate their vaccination or recovery status. Early results shows that more than 60% chose to support the law on a 64% turnout. Opponents of the Covid pass had claimed the move would create an “apartheid system”. On Sunday police cordoned off government buildings and the Swiss parliament in the city of Berne in anticipation of protests.

Over the weekend, New Zealand announced it was restricting travel from nine southern African countries, and Japan widened its border controls to include more countries from the region.

Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening its tight border restrictions to leisure travellers from certain countries, announced a ban on visitors from eight African countries. Similar restrictions took effect in the business hub of Singapore, which is barring entry and transit to anyone with a recent history of travel to seven southern African countries. Sri Lanka banned disembarkation of passengers arriving from six African countries, as did the Maldives.

The act first, ask questions later approach reflected growing alarm about the emergence of a potentially more contagious variant nearly two years into a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, upended lives and disrupted economies across the globe. But many experts cautioned that so much was still unknown about the new variant, and the World Health Organization called for borders to remain open, noting that closing them often has a limited effect.

In the latest indication that the new variant may be hard to constrain, health officials in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said two passengers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday evening had tested positive. Both people were asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and in quarantine, NSW Health said. Another 12 passengers from southern Africa were also in 14 days of hotel quarantine, while about 260 other passengers and aircrew have been directed to isolate.

Israel also approved use of the Shin Bet internal security agency’s controversial phone monitoring technology to trace contacts of people in Israel confirmed with the new variant. Israeli rights groups had decried the use of the technology as a violation of privacy rights, and the supreme court ruled earlier this year that its use be limited.

Dr Ran Balicer, head of the government’s advisory panel on Covid, told Israel’s Kan public radio that the new measures were necessary for the “fog of war” surrounding the new variant, saying it was “better to act early and strictly” to prevent its spread.

On Saturday, Israel said it had detected the new strain in a traveller who had returned from Malawi, and it was investigating seven other suspected cases. The seven people included three who were vaccinated, and all were placed in isolation.

Associated Press contributed to this report



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Netherlands, Australia, Denmark confirm omicron cases as Israel shuts borders.


The omicron coronavirus variant keeps spreading around the world with more countries reporting cases on Sunday, leading some experts to warn that the travel bans governments have rushed to implement may be too late. Health authorities in the Netherlands said 13 cases of the new COVID-19 variant were detected among passengers on two flights that arrived from South Africa to Amsterdam on Friday. Officials had already said there were 61 COVID-19 cases among the more than 600 passengers on the flights. “It is not unlikely more cases will appear in the Netherlands,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told a news conference. “This could possibly be the tip of the iceberg.”

Thousands of miles away, Australian officials confirmed that two travelers arriving in Sydney from southern Africa became the first in the country to test positive for the omicron variant. The two passengers were asymptomatic and fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The 12 other people who had traveled with them were placed in quarantine. “This clearly demonstrates the pandemic is not over,” Dominic Perrottet, the premier of New South Wales state, which is where Sydney Is located, told reporters on Sunday. “There are limits to what the state and federal government can do: These variants will get into the country. It is inevitable.”

Denmark also said on Sunday it had detected the variant in two travelers from South Africa. Earlier, the variant that was first discovered in South Africa had been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Australia, and Hong Kong. The list of countries is only likely to keep growing as Austria said it was investigating a suspected case and France’s health minister warned the variant was likely already circulating.

As governments around the world implemented travel bans from countries in southern Africa, Israel decided to take a more extreme route. Israel said late Saturday that all foreigners would be banned from entering the country for 14 days to give experts time to analyze how effective the current crop of vaccines are against the new variant. Fully vaccinated Israelis will have to undergo a three-day quarantine while those who have not been fully vaccinated will have to quarantine for seven days. “The key here is caution and minimal risks until we know more,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennet said at a news conference. Morocco went even further, saying that it would halt all incoming foreign air travel for two weeks starting on Monday.

Many other countries, including the United States, are taking less extreme measures and have decided to ban travel from South Africa and other neighboring countries. These types of bans could help countries buy a few days but are unlikely to really stop the new variant. “By the time we have enough information to institute a travel ban, the cat’s already out of the bag, so to speak,” Nicole A. Errett, a professor at the University of Washington, tells the Washington Post. “Omicron has already been detected in other continents. A travel ban could in theory buy some time by reducing the spread of new seed cases, but we are talking on the order of days to weeks.”





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UK, Germany and Italy detect Omicron variant cases, Israel closes borders


  • Britain, Germany, Italy say Omicron cases detected
  • UK PM Johnson unveils new measures to try to stop spread
  • Many states announce travel curbs, bans on southern Africa
  • Dutch authorities test air passengers for Omicron variant

LONDON/BERLIN/AMSTERDAM, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Britain, Germany and Italy detected cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new steps to contain the virus, while more nations imposed restrictions on travel from southern Africa.

The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.

Israel said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant. read more

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The two linked cases of Omicron detected in Britain were connected to travel to southern Africa, British health minister Sajid Javid said.

Johnson laid out measures that included stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country but that stopped short of curbs on social activity other than requiring mask wearing in some settings. read more

“We will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result,” Johnson told a news conference.

People who had come into contact with people testing positive for a suspected case of Omicron would have to self-isolate for 10 days and the government would tighten the rules on wearing face coverings, Johnson said, adding the steps would be reviewed in three weeks.

The health ministry in the German state of Bavaria also announced two confirmed cases of the variant. The two people entered Germany at Munich airport on Nov. 24, before Germany designated South Africa as a virus-variant area, and were now isolating, said the ministry, indicating without stating explicitly that the people had travelled from South Africa. read more

In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.

Czech health authorities also said they were examining a suspected case of the variant in a person who spent time in Namibia.

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, said at the same news conference as Johnson that there was still much uncertainty around Omicron, but “there is a reasonable chance that at least there will be some degree of vaccine escape with this variant”.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

FLIGHTS TO AMSTERDAM

Dutch authorities said 61 of around 600 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday had tested positive for the coronavirus. Health authorities were carrying out further tests to see if those cases involved the new variant. read more

One passenger who arrived from South Africa on Friday, Dutch photographer Paula Zimmerman, said she tested negative but was anxious for the days to come.

Digital display boards show cancelled flights to London – Heathrow at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/ Sumaya Hisham/File Photo

“I’ve been told that they expect that a lot more people will test positive after five days. It’s a little scary the idea that you’ve been in a plane with a lot of people who tested positive,” she said.

Financial markets plunged on Friday, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector. Oil prices tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

It could take weeks for scientists to understand fully the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.

TRAVEL CURBS

Although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally, many countries around the world – including the United States, Brazil, Canada and European Union nations – announced travel bans or restrictions on southern Africa on Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department added on Saturday to Washington’s previously announced travel restrictions, advising against travel to eight southern African countries.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Saturday that the administration will take it “one step at a time,” when asked about additional travel restrictions. “For now we’ve done what we think is necessary,” Harris said.

Also on Saturday, Australia said it would ban non-citizens who have been in nine southern African countries from entering and will require supervised 14-day quarantines for Australian citizens returning from there. read more

Japan and Britain said they were extending travel curbs to more African countries, while South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Oman, Kuwait and Hungary announced new travel restrictions.

South Africa is worried that the curbs will hurt tourism and other sectors of its economy, the foreign ministry said on Saturday, adding the government is engaging with countries that have imposed travel bans to persuade them to reconsider. read more

Omicron has emerged as many countries in Europe are already battling a surge in COVID-19 infections, and some have re-introduced restrictions on social activity to try to stop the spread. Austria and Slovakia have entered lockdowns.

VACCINATIONS

The new variant has also thrown a spotlight on disparities in how far the world’s population is vaccinated. Even as many developed countries are giving third-dose boosters, less than 7% of people in low-income countries have received their first COVID-19 shot, according to medical and human rights groups.

Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance that with the WHO co-leads the COVAX initiative to push for equitable distribution of vaccines, said this was essential to ward off the emergence of more coronavirus variants.

“While we still need to know more about Omicron, we do know that as long as large portions of the world’s population are unvaccinated, variants will continue to appear, and the pandemic will continue to be prolonged,” he said in a statement to Reuters.

“We will only prevent variants from emerging if we are able to protect all of the world’s population, not just the wealthy parts.”

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Reporting by Toby Sterling, Bart H. Meijer, Costas Pitas, Promit Mukerjee, Stephanie Nebehay, Madeline Chambers, Robert Muller and Reuters bureaus; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Alexander Smith, Nick Macfie and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Asia holds tight on borders, casting cloud over COVID-hit travel | International Trade News


Hwaseong, South Korea – Asia-Pacific countries are sticking to tight border controls even as vaccination rates top out, dampening prospects for a revival of the region’s pandemic-battered travel industry.

While mainland China and Hong Kong sink deeper into isolation under a strict “zero COVID” policy that mandates weeks of hotel quarantine, countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia are following a middle path under which non-essential travel remains tightly restricted.

The region’s cautious stance is increasingly at odds with Europe and North America, where vaccinated travellers, including tourists, can travel freely with few restrictions apart from a negative COVID test result.

“Asia still has a long way to go to catch up with the reopening taking place in Europe and North America,” Jayant Menon, a visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, told Al Jazeera.

“Some of this is explained by the need to also catch up with their vaccination rates, but not all. Even countries with high vaccination rates … are not opening their international borders as quickly as they are easing domestic mobility restrictions. And when they do, they impose a lot more requirements and protocols than those applied to domestic movement.”

Concern In Japan As Mystery Virus SpreadsWhile China grows increasingly isolated, many Asia-Pacific countries are taking a middle path on the resumption of travel [File: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images]

Japan and South Korea, where vaccination rates are approaching 80 percent, have yet to announce a date for the resumption of tourism despite easing restrictions for certain arrivals such as business travellers and students.

Australia, where about 70 percent of the population is double-vaccinated, has indicated that international tourists won’t return until sometime next year.

Malaysia, where 77 percent of residents are double-jabbed, remains largely closed to international arrivals, with plans to begin accepting international tourists by January.

Singapore, where more than 80 percent of the population has had two doses of vaccine, has resumed quarantine-free travel in phases through a vaccinated travel lane scheme, which from next month will include 21 countries.

Arrivals to most of Asia were down 99 percent on pre-pandemic levels as of September, compared with declines of just 20 percent in Mexico and about 65 percent for Southern Europe, according to figures compiled by Capital Economics.

Before the pandemic, the Asia-Pacific welcomed about 291 million tourists annually, adding $875bn to the economy, according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019.

‘Three-speed recovery’

Joshua Ng, director of Alton Aviation Consultancy in Singapore, told Al Jazeera he did not expect international travel to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or 2025 as the region experienced a “three-speed recovery” among Western countries, the Asia-Pacific and China.

“Asian countries have demonstrated a cautious approach and this has been a result of several other virus outbreaks – such as SARS, H1N1, MERs – that have hit Asian countries hard in the 21st century,” Ng said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic response reflects the learnings from earlier outbreaks. At the initial outbreaks of the pandemic, Asian countries were amongst the first countries to close their borders and initiate city lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19.”

While Asia-Pacific governments have shied away from a swift resumption of travel, hopes of a quick rebound have been quashed further by expectations China could remain closed off from the world until the latter part of 2022 or even beyond.

Before the pandemic, the world’s second-largest economy, which has doubled down on efforts to eliminate COVID-19 with strict lockdowns, quarantines and mass-testing, is estimated to have accounted for roughly one-third of all tourists in the region.

“While there is probably plenty of pent up demand, as long as China, which accounted for around 30 percent of regional tourists before the crisis, keeps its border shut, the recovery is likely to struggle,” Gareth Leather, senior economist for Asia at Capital Economics, told Al Jazeera.

It goes way beyond tourism, it goes way beyond business travel. There are so many reasons people travel. They travel for education, they travel to visit family and friends, they travel for economic migration

Gary Bowerman, director of Check-in Asia

Some countries in the region, including those with patchy vaccine coverage, have taken a bolder approach. India, where less than one-third of the population is doubled-vaccinated, reopened its borders on Monday to tourists from more than 90 countries.

Thailand, which relied on tourism for one-fifth of gross domestic product (GDP) before the pandemic, reopened to tourists from more than 60 countries on November 1, following a lacklustre response to a quarantine-free “sandbox” in the popular resort of Phuket.

Gary Bowerman, director of Kuala Lumpur-based travel and tourism research firm Check-in Asia, said there was a growing realisation of the costs of the collapse in international travel.

“It goes way beyond tourism, it goes way beyond business travel. There are so many reasons people travel,” Bowerman said. “They travel for education, they travel to visit family and friends, they travel for economic migration … I don’t think a lot of governments fully understand that, but I think that is starting to hit home.”

Bowerman predicted a difficult period ahead as the industry navigated a new baseline after accounting for pent-up demand among people returning home and visiting friends and family.

“Once that surge dies down then the tourism companies and the airlines have to work out what happens next,” Bowerman said. “Is business travel coming back to the degree as it was before? You hear some people saying ‘yes,’ you hear some people saying ‘no.’ Right now we simply don’t know.”

“People are trying to guess and predict what the travel demand will be next year, but we simply haven’t a clue,” he added. “Nobody had any idea that it would basically be two years where people weren’t travelling.”





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Pandemic travel news: US borders open as more of Europe is rated ‘very high’ risk


Francesca Street, CNN

After nearly 20 months of closed borders, the US finally opened to vaccinated international visitors on Monday, November 8.

But transatlantic travel remains an ever changing landscape, with this week also seeing more European destinations added to the CDC’s highest risk travel category.

And as European Covid cases continue to climb, one central European country is considering a lockdown for its unvaccinated population.

Here’s what you need to know about pandemic travel this week:

1. The US opened to vaccinated international travelers

It’s been a long time coming. Almost 20 months since the US banned many international visitors back in March 2020, fully vaccinated travelers from all over the world are finally able to return to the US.

That includes travelers coming from previously banned countries including the UK, as well as EU destinations.

To mark the occasion, Monday morning saw British Airways and Virgin Atlantic join forces to coordinate a historic dual airplane take-off.

The rival transatlantic airlines scheduled two A350 aircraft to depart London Heathrow at the same time, with BA christening its flight BA001, a number usually reserved for the historic Concorde.

Check out our guide to the new US travel rules here.

2. Thanksgiving travel is expected to rebound

For many, the return of international travel to the US means long-awaited family reunions, and some travelers will be timing their trip with Thanksgiving on November 25.

While Thanksgiving 2020 involved hunkering down at home, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts 2021 travel will rebound close to pre-pandemic levels. Some 53.4 million Americans are expected to travel for the holiday — a 13% increase from last year.

Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot and spokesperson for airplane tracker company Flight Aware, shared her tips for ensuring holiday travel goes smoothly, including booking flights that depart early in the day to avoid a cascading effect of delays and cancellations, and even booking a back-up flight for extra peace of mind.

See more tips here from Bangs and other experts about smooth and safe pandemic holiday travel.

3. The Netherlands has moved to the CDC’s highest-risk category

While transatlantic travel might be back on the table, it’s not without its complications.

This week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added two northwestern European countries to its list of “very high” risk travel destinations.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg were joined by two archipelagos in this week’s update to the CDC’s “Covid-19 Very High” Level 4 category. On Friday the Dutch government announced a three-week partial lockdown from Saturday, limiting access to shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

Countries are designated Level 4 if they have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The CDC recommends people avoid traveling to Level 4 countries, and advises that anyone who must travel should be fully vaccinated first.

There’s been a surge of cases across Europe recently, which a WHO official said is “of grave concern.”

4. Austria considers implementing a lockdown for unvaccinated people

Austria, another European country on the CDC’s Level 4 list of “very high” risk travel destinations, is considering a lockdown for its unvaccinated population.

Unvaccinated people in Austria are already banned from certain public places, including entertainment venues, restaurants and hairdressers.

According to Johns Hopkins data, 64.3% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated. On Thursday November 11, the Austrian chancellor Alexander Schallenberg called the vaccination rate “shamefully low.”

“A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one’s home unless one is going to work, shopping for essentials, stretching one’s legs — namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020,” he said.

Schallenberg is pushing for this measure to be put in place ASAP.

5. Haunting image of coastal erosion wins Environmental Photographer of the Year 2021

This week, the winners of this year’s Environmental Photographer of the Year awards were announced at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.

Taking the top spot was a haunting image by Spanish photographer Antonio Aragón Renuncio of a child sleeping in the ruins of a home eroded by rising sea levels on a beach in Togo, in West Africa.

“I’m very happy. It’s a huge honor to win such an important prize,” Aragón told CNN. “Especially one that’s related to the environment, which is a topic I’ve been working on for several years and which I’m very worried about.”

6. Myanmar plans to reopen to tourists, raising one big question

The Southeast Asian country of Myanmar plans to welcome back international tourists from early 2022, amid a complex domestic situation.

In addition to navigating the pandemic, Myanmar is also dealing with the aftereffects of a February 2021 coup in which a military junta overthrew the country’s democratically elected government.

“We are planning to reopen tourism for vaccinated tourists if plans are well-prepared for safe and convenient travel,” Zeyar Htun, deputy director of the Public Relations and Information Department at the military-run Ministry of Hotels & Tourism, confirmed to CNN Travel.

The US State Department currently has two Level Four “do not visit” alerts for Burma, as it refers to Myanmar: one for its high number of Covid cases, and one for the ongoing political situation.

All this raises one big question for Myanmar tourism.

7. Some travelers are turning their back on airplanes

And as discussions about tackling the climate crisis wrap up at COP26, some eco-conscious travelers are turning their backs on air travel.

Anna Hughes is the director of Flight Free UK, a campaign group that promotes alternative forms of travel beyond aviation.

As the group starts to encourage people to sign a pledge to remain flight free for 2022, there are “two distinct camps” of travelers, according to Hughes.

Find out which camp you fall in.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Marnie Hunter, Joseph Ataman, Chris Liakos, Anna Cooban, Chris Isidore, Geneva Sands, Julia Buckley, Forrest Brown, Rob Picheta, Sharon Braithwaite, Tara John, Nadine Schmidt, Lilit Marcus and Jeevan Ravindran contributed reporting



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Pandemic travel news: US borders open as more of Europe is rated ‘very high’ risk


(CNN) — After nearly 20 months of closed borders, the US finally opened to vaccinated international visitors on Monday, November 8.

But transatlantic travel remains an ever changing landscape, with this week also seeing more European destinations added to the CDC’s highest risk travel category.

And as European Covid cases continue to climb, one central European country is considering a lockdown for its unvaccinated population.

Here’s what you need to know about pandemic travel this week:

1. The US opened to vaccinated international travelers

The United States opened its borders to vaccinated international travelers after nearly 20 months. CNN spent the day in three US airports talking to travelers and their families about what it’s like to be able to see one another again.

It’s been a long time coming. Almost 20 months since the US banned many international visitors back in March 2020, fully vaccinated travelers from all over the world are finally able to return to the US.

That includes travelers coming from previously banned countries including the UK, as well as EU destinations.

To mark the occasion, Monday morning saw British Airways and Virgin Atlantic join forces to coordinate a historic dual airplane take-off.

The rival transatlantic airlines scheduled two A350 aircraft to depart London Heathrow at the same time, with BA christening its flight BA001, a number usually reserved for the historic Concorde.

Check out our guide to the new US travel rules here.

2. Thanksgiving travel is expected to rebound

Many families are coming together this holiday season for the first time in a long time. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares these tips on how to protect your loved ones from getting Covid-19.

For many, the return of international travel to the US means long-awaited family reunions, and some travelers will be timing their trip with Thanksgiving on November 25.

While Thanksgiving 2020 involved hunkering down at home, the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts 2021 travel will rebound close to pre-pandemic levels. Some 53.4 million Americans are expected to travel for the holiday — a 13% increase from last year.

Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot and spokesperson for airplane tracker company Flight Aware, shared her tips for ensuring holiday travel goes smoothly, including booking flights that depart early in the day to avoid a cascading effect of delays and cancellations, and even booking a back-up flight for extra peace of mind.

3. The Netherlands has moved to the CDC’s highest-risk category

The Netherlands landed in the CDC's highest risk category for travel this week.

The Netherlands landed in the CDC’s highest risk category for travel this week.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

While transatlantic travel might be back on the table, it’s not without its complications.

This week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added two northwestern European countries to its list of “very high” risk travel destinations.

Countries are designated Level 4 if they have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The CDC recommends people avoid traveling to Level 4 countries, and advises that anyone who must travel should be fully vaccinated first.

There’s been a surge of cases across Europe recently, which a WHO official said is “of grave concern.”

4. Austria considers implementing a lockdown for unvaccinated people

Austria is days away from ordering millions of unvaccinated people to stay at home, its chancellor has said, in a rare move that underscores the increasing exasperation of European leaders towards those who have not yet been inoculated against Covid-19. CNN’s Scott McLean reports.

Unvaccinated people in Austria are already banned from certain public places, including entertainment venues, restaurants and hairdressers.

According to Johns Hopkins data, 64.3% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated. On Thursday November 11, the Austrian chancellor Alexander Schallenberg called the vaccination rate “shamefully low.”

People walk among Christmas lights on November 12, 2021, near Stephanplatz in Vienna, Austria.

People walk among Christmas lights on November 12, 2021, near Stephanplatz in Vienna, Austria.

Georg Hochmuth/AFP via Getty Images

“A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one’s home unless one is going to work, shopping for essentials, stretching one’s legs — namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020,” he said.

Schallenberg is pushing for this measure to be put in place ASAP.

5. Haunting image of coastal erosion wins Environmental Photographer of the Year 2021

This week, the winners of this year’s Environmental Photographer of the Year awards were announced at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.

“I’m very happy. It’s a huge honor to win such an important prize,” Aragón told CNN. “Especially one that’s related to the environment, which is a topic I’ve been working on for several years and which I’m very worried about.”

6. Myanmar plans to reopen to tourists, raising one big question

Myanmar is dealing with the pandemic and the aftereffects of a coup.

Myanmar is dealing with the pandemic and the aftereffects of a coup.

Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

The Southeast Asian country of Myanmar plans to welcome back international tourists from early 2022, amid a complex domestic situation.

In addition to navigating the pandemic, Myanmar is also dealing with the aftereffects of a February 2021 coup in which a military junta overthrew the country’s democratically elected government.

“We are planning to reopen tourism for vaccinated tourists if plans are well-prepared for safe and convenient travel,” Zeyar Htun, deputy director of the Public Relations and Information Department at the military-run Ministry of Hotels & Tourism, confirmed to CNN Travel.

The US State Department currently has two Level Four “do not visit” alerts for Burma, as it refers to Myanmar: one for its high number of Covid cases, and one for the ongoing political situation.

7. Some travelers are turning their back on airplanes

Anna Hughes is the director of Flight Free UK, a campaign group that promotes alternative forms of travel beyond aviation.

As the group starts to encourage people to sign a pledge to remain flight free for 2022, there are “two distinct camps” of travelers, according to Hughes.

CNN’s Marnie Hunter, Joseph Ataman, Chris Liakos, Anna Cooban, Chris Isidore, Geneva Sands, Julia Buckley, Forrest Brown, Rob Picheta, Sharon Braithwaite, Tara John, Nadine Schmidt, Lilit Marcus and Jeevan Ravindran contributed reporting



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The airports that cross international borders


(CNN) — Those braving international travel in the Covid era are faced with navigating an ever-shifting maze of rules and restrictions.

If you want to avoid getting stranded for two weeks, you’d better check your documents are in order before crossing any international border. Even more so if your destination is one of a handful of airports in which you risk straying into the wrong country if you aren’t careful when getting off the plane.

The following airports, or at least parts of them, are managed by more than one country, giving a whole new layer to the phrase “international” airport.

Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL)

Located right next to the spot where the borders of France, Switzerland and Germany meet, as its name indicates, Euroairport serves three different cities: Basel (Switzerland), Mulhouse (France) and Freiburg (Germany). Of these, Basel is the largest of the three and also the closest to the airport, something that is reflected in its IATA code, BSL.

Although the airport lies entirely on French territory, Switzerland enjoys some extraterritorial rights thanks to a special bilateral treaty which makes Euroairport, to many effects and purposes, a Swiss airport as well as a French one. Since the 1980s, German authorities have also been represented at some of the airport’s governance organs.

In practical terms this means there is a French and a Swiss sector, with the divide cutting right through the middle of the terminal. Each sector has its own border and customs checkpoints, staffed by officers from the respective countries.

The airport, though, remains in French sovereign territory and French police forces are in charge of overall security.

The entry of Switzerland into the European Union’s Schengen visa area softened this divide and, since 2008, it’s been possible to walk unimpeded between the two sectors land-side.

Most services in the terminal are available in either their French or Swiss versions depending on which part of the facility you find yourself in.

Shops and cafés in the French sector trade in euros, while their counterparts across the hall take Swiss francs (prices and brands available also match those of their respective countries). And although rarely in use nowadays, phone booths and postboxes reflected, for many years, this national divide as well.

Switzerland-bound travelers can reach Basel through a special road which runs through French territory but is free of border checkpoints because it’d covered by the provisions of a bilateral treaty that allows Swiss urban buses to reach the terminal.

These arrangements were recently put to the test when France and Switzerland implemented different Covid-related entry requirements. At some points during the pandemic, travelers coming into France, for example, were expected to undergo a test, whereas Switzerland did not require tests but mandated quarantines. The matter was solved by physically segregating Swiss-bound travelers for the duration of these measures.

“We are a laboratory of cross-border cooperation,” Claire Freudenberger, external communications manager at Euroairport, tells CNN Travel.

Geneva (GVA)

Geneva Aiport is on Swiss soil but also has a French sector.

Geneva Aiport is on Swiss soil but also has a French sector.

Genève Aéroport

Geneva Airport, also known informally by its old name Cointrin, is entirely on Swiss soil, but only just. The edge of its runway skims the French border. The sharp right-angle turns that the border takes along the airport’s perimeter are, in fact, not random.

When in the 1950s Swiss authorities wanted to extend the airport’s runway the only feasible option was to do so over French territory.

The matter was sorted by the signing of an international treaty by which France and Switzerland exchanged plots of territory of equivalent size. The Swiss could extend the runway and, in exchange, granted France the use of a section of the airport.

The so-called “French sector,” which is linked to the French “mainland” through a dedicated road, allows French travelers to board flights to Paris and a handful of other French destinations without having to go through Swiss customs.

Although the entirety of the facility remains Swiss sovereign territory, businesses in the French sector trade in euros and apply French sales tax.

Since Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, but not of the EU customs union, French customs operate at the terminal as well.

A joint committee with high-level representatives from both sides of the border meets at least once per year to deal with any matters pertaining to these international arrangements.

“The French sector at the moment is limited to four boarding gates, which can be a bit of a constraint sometimes.

“Switzerland’s entry into Schengen has opened up new possibilities; for example, we are studying the possibility of moving from a physical conception of the French sector to one based on the operational needs of the airport at each given time,” Gael Poget, director of international and governmental affairs at Geneva Airport, tells CNN Travel.

Cross Border Xpress (CBX)

The Cross Border Xpress allows people to cross the US-Mexico border through a pedestrian overpass.

The Cross Border Xpress allows people to cross the US-Mexico border through a pedestrian overpass.

Cortesü/Notimex/Newscom/Zuma

The wall running along large sections of the US-Mexico border has received media coverage aplenty. What is less known, though, is that at one particular point you can walk over it — provided you have a boarding pass.

Since 2016, the $120 million Cross Border Xpress (CBX) terminal has linked the Otay Mesa district of San Diego, California, to the main terminal at Tijuana International Airport through an elevated pedestrian overpass.

The CBX makes it possible for travelers to check in for their flights on US soil, then walk over the border to the boarding gate in Mexico. Ticket prices start at $16 one-way to cross the bridge, which in 2019 registered nearly 3 million transits.

Gibraltar International Airport (GIB)

Gibraltar Airport sits on disputed territory.

Gibraltar Airport sits on disputed territory.

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

While the previous airports in this list are examples of international cooperation, Gibraltar remains a far more contentious case, given the ongoing sovereignty dispute between the UK and Spain over this British Overseas Territory.

Gibraltar’s airport was built right before World War II at the edge of Gibraltar’s isthmus, just meters away from the Spanish border and on land that Spain claims was not included in the Treaty of Utrecht, by which the Rock was ceded to Britain.
In 2006, during a temporary thaw in relations centered around the Cordoba Agreement, the UK and Spain agreed that Gibraltar’s new airport terminal would be accessible through the Spanish side and there was even some talk about the possibility of a joint venture company to operate some services at the terminal.

None of these initiatives came to fruition though. Only the British part of the terminal was completed (it became operational in 2012), so travelers coming from Spain have to go over the main border crossing adjacent to the terminal to access the airport.

The dispute also affects Gibraltar’s airspace, whose inclusion in the proposed European Single Sky initiative remains blocked by Spain. Direct flights between Gibraltar and Spanish airports are possible, though, subject to agreement between the UK and Spain. Spain’s flag carrier, Iberia, operated a route from Gibraltar to Madrid for a couple of years, but it was discontinued in 2008.

“The current situation vis-à-vis Brexit and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union now may effectively make the Cordoba Agreement null and void as other options are being explored between Gibraltar, the UK, Spain and the EU, but these negotiations are currently at a very early stage,” a source at the airport tells CNN Travel.

US airports on the Canadian border

The northern border of the United States is also straddled by several airport facilities.

When, in 1846, the US and Britain finally settled on the 49th parallel for the border between the US and Canada, they could not possibly anticipate the future needs of the yet-to-be-born aviation industry.

The world’s longest stretch of border running uninterrupted in a straight line cuts through the grounds of six different airfields as it makes its way from the Great Lakes to the Pacific.

To be fair, the “airport” label is a bit of a reach here, since most of those airfields are little more than an unpaved runway in the middle of the prairies. Yet, they are still ports of entry that are subject to the formalities of cross-border travel.

Let’s see where they are, from west to east.

Avey Field, Washington

Having only four permanent residents (according to 2020 US Census data) has not prevented the small outpost of Laurier, Washington, from boasting its very own “international” airport.

The fact that the tip of its gravel runway extends 500 feet into Canadian territory pretty much ensures that a good portion of the 800 movements registered at Avey Field is an international flight.

Both US and Canada customs facilities are located adjacent to the runway.

Del Bonita/Whetstone International Airport, Montana

This is one of a string of airports whose unpaved runways sit, literally, on the border line.

There is a customs point at the western edge of the airfield.

Coronach/Scobey Border Station Airport, Montana

Here’s another runway running exactly along the border line. The Coronach/Scobey Border Station airfield must not be mistaken with the nearby Scobey 9S2 airport, which is a few miles further south and boasts a paved runway.

This airport is classified as an official port of entry by Canada, although the grand total of 10 operations it handled in the whole of 2019 surely doesn’t give much work to the staff at the adjacent border post.

Coutts/Ross International Airport, Montana

Aircraft can access the non-paved runway at the Coutts/Ross airfield from both the US and Canada sides, since the border bisects it right through the middle.

Traffic here is also minimal, with less than a dozen movements per year (as per 2019 data).

International Peace Garden Airport, North Dakota

The International Peace Garden sits on the US-Canadian border.

The International Peace Garden sits on the US-Canadian border.

Jim West/Alamy

Aptly named after a nearby park which was established in 1932 to celebrate the friendship between Canada and the US, most of International Peace Garden Airport, including the runway and main facilities, is on US soil.

However, part of the apron stretches onto the Canadian side of the border, making it possible for aircraft to also operate to and from Canada.

Piney-Pinecreek Border Airport, Minnesota

A satellite image of Piney-Pinecreek Border Airport.

A satellite image of Piney-Pinecreek Border Airport.

Maxar Technologies/Getty Images

Piney-Pinecreek‘s double-barrelled name alludes to the airport’s joint use by the towns of Pinecreek, Minnesota, and Piney, Manitoba.

Unlike its neighboring airports, this one has a paved runway which used to stop just short of the border. It was the need in the 1970s to extend the runway to accommodate larger craft that led the airport to creep northwards (the southern perimeter was already delimited by an existing road), becoming, in the process, a binational airport.



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U.S. borders reopen to many vaccinated international travelers 


Loved ones kept apart for more than a year and a half were reunited Monday with tears, kisses and “welcome back” signs at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after the United States lifted travel restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” one woman shouted after getting off her British Airways flight from London’s Heathrow Airport and hugging her sister who was clutching white flowers and balloons.

British Airways employees lined up to clap as travelers from the United Kingdom exited customs and made their way out of the terminal. Some of those waiting said excitedly, “They’re here, they’re here.” Others held handwritten signs — “We missed you, two years” — including a young boy whose poster read: “Do I look bigger? 730 days. Missed you.”

U.S. citizens and permanent residents have always been allowed to enter. However, the travel restrictions meant that tourists, business travelers and family members were prevented from entering.

Performers entertain travelers at London’s Heathrow Airport as the United States reopens its borders to visitors from the United Kingdom. Steve Parsons – PA Images / PA Images via Getty Images

The travel restrictions had barred non-U.S. citizens traveling from 33 countries — including China, India and much of Europe — and had also restricted overland entry from Mexico and Canada.

To enter the U.S., foreign nationals must be fully vaccinated against Covid, though exceptions will be made for children under 18 and people who are medically unable to be vaccinated. Travelers over the age of 2 must also show a negative Covid test taken within the past three days.

Those crossing a land border from Mexico or Canada will require proof of vaccination but no test. Early Monday, traffic at many land border crossings in Canada and Mexico was already backed up.

Connor Giesbrecht drove from Winnipeg, Canada, to Fargo, North Dakota, on Monday. He planned to catch a flight later in the morning to Orlando via Chicago to visit his brother at college.

“With the border opening, it makes it much easier to see him,” said Giesbrecht, 21, who often drove to the U.S. to shop before the pandemic. “It saves a lot of money to drive into the U.S. versus flying internationally from Canada. The reopening makes travel so much easier.” 

Following the announcement that the U.S. would reopen the borders, Virgin Atlantic saw a 600 percent increase in bookings to the U.S., the airline said in a press release. Bookings went up again by nearly 50 percent compared to the week before after the confirmation of the reopening date Oct. 15.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare that we could never have imagined.”

To mark the occasion, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic had two flights take off simultaneously for the first time from Heathrow to Kennedy Airport on Monday morning. There was a festive atmosphere at the airport with performers in red, white and blue costumes entertaining travelers.

“Today is a day of celebration,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said at the airport.

British Airways chief Sean Doyle agreed, and said the airline has seen enthusiasm by business travelers to get back on the road again.

“Apart from the human aspect, it’s very important for business and trade that we get this corridor up and running again,” he said. “The links are very strong, and travel is a key part of enabling that economic activity.”

The two airlines marked the reopening on their social media accounts too, with Virgin posting a photo of a new “U.S. themed cocktail.”

At Heathrow Airport, Gail and Paul Chamberlain said they looked forward to meeting their daughter’s fiancé in person as they prepared to catch a flight to Los Angeles.

“I’m so joyful I could cry,” Gail Chamberlain, 67, said. “I’m [going] wedding dress shopping. That I never thought I would be able to do with her.”

Delta Air Lines said that in the six weeks since the U.S reopening was announced, it had seen a 450 percent increase in international bookings versus the six weeks prior to the announcement.

Sarah Solomon, who is British, headed to Sanger, near Dallas, on Monday to visit her daughter who moved to the Texas city three years ago.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare that we could never have imagined,” Solomon, 55, said. “We didn’t know we’d be two years apart.”

Cars line up to cross the border at the San Ysidro crossing on the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana state, Mexico, on Nov. 7, 2021. Guillermo Arias / AFP – Getty Images

Airlines have warned of long lines and will check vaccination documentation for international travelers as they already do for Covid test results.

“It’s a real sign that people are getting back to in-person events and actually being to see each other and conduct their business in person, which is such a breath of fresh air,” said Edward Langley, 34, who works for a company that runs trade shows and is making his first trip to the U.S.

Then-President Donald Trump first barred travel Jan. 31, 2020, to non-U.S. citizens who had been to China in the previous two weeks. As the pandemic spread, further restrictions on noncitizens followed in March 2020, with an initial ban on European travelers for 30 days.





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