Coronavirus Travel and Tourism News

Follow the latest news about coronavirus and its impact on hotels, airlines, cruise lines, tourism destinations, and other sectors of the travel industry.

We are over a year into the Covid-19 global pandemic, and the impact on the travel industry has been severe to say the least. Skift has been covering this on a day-to-day basis since January 2020. You can read the latest news, as well as all of our coverage, on the pages below.

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How to use Biden’s free coronavirus tests for international travel

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When the Biden administration began distributing free coronavirus tests, the special deliveries did not help international travelers fulfill requirements to enter the United States because they did not offer the option to test under virtual supervision or receive a report to show border officials. As is the case with many things during the pandemic, that has changed within a couple of months.

Depending on which brand of free test you receive, you may be able to use it on your next international trip, after all.

That’s what I did on my recent return from Costa Rica, and the whole arrangement felt like uncovering a travel hack that saved me time, stress and a little money. Here is how it works.

Should the U.S. lift its entry test rule? 5 health experts weigh in.

Which tests work for U.S. travel restrictions

To meet the CDC’s requirements for entering the country, travelers can book an in-person test at a pharmacy, hire a professional to administer a test at their hotel or bring an approved self-test on their trip to take with a telehealth proctor over a video call.

Self-tests that can be bought over the counter and taken without a proctor are not accepted for travel to the United States, but manufacturers including Floflex, Detect and On/Go now sell a supplemental video telehealth services to make the tests CDC-compliant.

The free tests I got from the government were from iHealth. For $24.99, I could purchase their virtual meeting service with a telehealth proctor to verify my test and issue a digital report with the results. (In the past, I have spent about $70 for a two-pack of the popular BinaxNOW tests that includes video proctoring.)

The government contracted several manufacturers to supply free tests, and you can’t choose the brand of test you will receive. That means you need to wait and see what you get before finding out if yours sells an online proctor service.

Vacations are painfully expensive now, but you can spot ways to save

How to order free coronavirus tests from the government

Americans can order free rapid antigen tests through Each U.S. household — which includes people living abroad in diplomatic and military outposts — is limited to eight tests (up from the original limit of four), regardless of how many people live there. Tests can take a few weeks to arrive, so you will want to order them well before a trip.

Anyone who can’t order online or needs help with the process can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489) from 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern time for help in more than 150 languages.

If you’ve already used up your free test from the government, another way to subsidize your travel testing costs is through insurance. Since Jan. 15, private insurers are required to cover the cost of eight over-the-counter at-home tests per individual per month.

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website, “insurance companies are required to reimburse you at a rate of up to $12 per individual test.” Once you’ve purchased a test, go online and buy the manufacturer’s telehealth supplement to make it approved for international. (Make sure to read the fine print for your insurance company’s reimbursement details before purchasing your test.)

What you need to pack for the test

Every testing company will have their own rules, but for my iHealth test, I wasn’t allowed to use a tablet or smartphone to conduct the video call. So along with the tests, I had to pack my laptop. For some vacationers, that may be an annoying ask, but it’s smart to bring one anyway in case you catch the coronavirus on a trip and need to work remotely.

If you didn’t want to bring a computer, you could see if your hotel or Airbnb has one that meets iHealth’s requirements: access to the Google Chrome browser, a working microphone and a front-facing camera.

For peace of mind, you may want to pack a backup test in case something goes wrong with your first one (i.e., you get a false positive, you lose it or you damage it).

You tested positive in a foreign country. Here’s what you should do.

What it’s like to take it

I booked my iHealth video appointment a couple of days in advance to get one that suited my travel schedule. The process was simple and straightforward, taking just a couple of minutes. The company sent out confirmation emails for the purchase and appointment reminders, including one within an hour of the test with a link to the video call.

My Airbnb had reliable WiFi that worked through the entire testing process: greeting the proctor (who wasn’t visible to me, I could just hear their voice), opening the package, preparing and taking my test, then waiting 15 minutes for the results to be confirmed by another proctor. Within seconds of going over my results, the proctor emailed me a report and a QR code to show the airline (or in my case, upload to the VeriFly app, per American Airlines requirements).

Only one of our travel group of four experienced a small glitch during his testing process. While it took most of us no time to get connected with a proctor to verify our results, he was stuck for about a half-hour on an iHealth page saying they were connecting him to a proctor. We finally refreshed the page, and he was connected with someone immediately.

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CDC lowers coronavirus warnings for cruise travel, popular Caribbean islands

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday moved several popular beach destinations — as well as cruise ship travel — into categories at lower risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The public health agency reassigned travel warnings for nine vacation destinations in the Caribbean and Atlantic from Level 4 — which means a “very high” level of covid-19 — to Level 3, which means the level of the virus is merely “high.” They include Cuba, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos.

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China’s ‘zero-COVID’ strategy failing to hold back coronavirus in Shanghai as U.S. warns against travel

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Shanghai, a city of more than 26 million, reported about 26,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday as China’s draconian “zero-COVID” strategy has failed to hold back the omicron BA.2 subvariant despite a weeks-long lockdown. 

The surge in cases, which is the largest China has reported since the original outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, comes as the U.S. State Department warned Americans against traveling to parts of China due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws and COVID-19-related restrictions,” and even “the risk of parents and children being separated.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the “zero-COVID” strategy on Monday, saying that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will help Shanghai “bring the epidemic under control.”

“China’s anti-epidemic policy is in keeping with its national realities, meets the need for combating COVID-19, works effectively and contributes significantly to the global fight against the pandemic,” Zhao said at a press conference on Monday. 


Shanghai has been in lockdown for about three weeks with residents forbidden from leaving their homes, but will start lifting restrictions for some areas under a tiered system this week. 

China also closed off new arrivals to Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub of about 18 million northwest of Shanghai. 

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, workers labor at the site of a temporary hospital being constructed at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai) in east China's Shanghai, Friday, April 8, 2022. 

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, workers labor at the site of a temporary hospital being constructed at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai) in east China’s Shanghai, Friday, April 8, 2022. 
(Ding Ting/Xinhua via AP)

Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield suggested that what’s happening in China may actually be “highly underreported.”

“I think you’ve seen now that China’s zero tolerance for COVID didn’t seem to work with their huge outbreaks in Hong Kong and now Shanghai,” Dr. Redfield told “America’s Newsroom” on Monday. “I think, and related to deaths and infection, I just think it’s very difficult to know what accurate reporting we’re seeing.”


Residents throughout Shanghai have taken to the social media app Weibo to appeal for food amid a lack of takeout services and a lack of fresh supplies, Radio Free Asia reports. 

Customers look through empty shelves at a supermarket in Shanghai, China, on March 30, 2022. 

Customers look through empty shelves at a supermarket in Shanghai, China, on March 30, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Chen Si, File)

People have also been denied care for non-coronavirus related needs, such as a Shanghai nurse who died from asthma after she was turned away from an emergency room and a 77-year-old man with kidney disease who died after being denied dialysis treatment, according to Human Rights Watch. 

A recent video purporting to show Shanghai residents begging for food from their locked down apartments went viral.


“Denying people’s human rights in the name of addressing the new spike in Covid cases is counterproductive,” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Yaqiu Wang said last week. “The authorities should listen to people’s pleas and provide appropriate health care for all those in need.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Which international countries have ended COVID-19, coronavirus restrictions for travelers and visitors?

UTAH (ABC4) – As states and countries are slowly relaxing COVID-19 health restrictions, many folks are eager to head out and start traveling again. Many international destinations still require some form of COVID-related restriction such as allowing only vaccinated travelers or requiring a quarantine upon arrival.

Wondering which countries you can travel to now with open borders with no restrictions?

Popular travel site Kayak has an interactive map displaying all countries with either fully open borders, open borders with certain restrictions and countries that have fully closed borders.

According to Kayak, 25 countries have fully open borders with no travel restrictions, 164 countries have open borders but require either a quarantine and/or a negative COVID test, and 37 countries are completely restricted to all travelers who are not citizens.

As of March 29, 2022, these are the 25 countries with fully open borders:

  • Aruba
  • Bahrain
  • Costa Rica
  • Curaçao
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gabon
  • Gibraltar
  • Guam
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Jordan
  • Maldives
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Puerto Rico
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • United Kingdom
(Mao showing countries with travel restrictions (Courtesy of

When traveling, experts say it’s important to check each country’s travel entry requirements before booking any tickets or making plans. Countries with restrictions may also accept a variety of COVID-19 tests. All travel information can be found on each country’s official government travel site.

What should I do if I get COVID-19 while in another country?
Experts say if you contract COVID while abroad, it’s critical to adhere to local authority recommendations which may include hospitalization, self-isolating, and testing.

“Be sure to contact your travel insurance company and travel provider as well and inform them of your situation,” says Kayak.

What should I do if the borders of the country I am visiting close?
“Depending on your home country, you may need to change your departure date and return home as soon as possible,” advises Kayak. “If that’s the case, contact your travel provider to find the earliest departure.”

Opening statuses and entry restrictions can change, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on all current requirements.

To check out the full list of countries you can travel to and for the most current travel tips, click here.

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Coronavirus news India live updates: Travel industry welcomes Centre's decision to reopen international flights – Times of India

Coronavirus news India live updates: Travel industry welcomes Centre’s decision to reopen international flights  Times of India

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Coronavirus Omicron variant begins to rattle travel industry

Another Greek letter is in the headlines and the travel industry is bracing for a new COVID-19 jolt.

Several business conferences and international gatherings have been postponed because of the uncertainty generated by the latest coronavirus variant — Omicron — and airlines are preparing for a pause to the rebound of travel that the industry started to see over the last few months.

United Airlines Chief Executive Scott Kirby called the spread of the variant a “short-term setback” and predicted Omicron will have a temporary effect on bookings, similar to the downturn airlines reported after the spread of the Delta variant several weeks ago.

“It’s like we are taking two steps forward and one step back,” he said Tuesday at an airline expo in Long Beach that drew 1,300 in-person attendees.

Jeffrey Goh, chief executive of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance, said it was too early to predict how Omicron will affect air travel and urged industry leaders not to panic.

A day after the conference, which required proof of vaccination for entry, organizers alerted attendees that someone at the event had tested positive for COVID-19. The message didn’t specify whether the case detected was of the variant, and organizers said anyone who had close contact with the individual has been contacted.

California on Wednesday confirmed a case of Omicron — the first confirmed case in the U.S. — in an individual who returned home to San Francisco from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive Monday, according to officials.

In response to the variant, the U.S. on Nov. 26 announced a temporary halt on travel from eight African countries, including South Africa, where positive test results for the new variant recently surged. Britain, the European Union, South Korea, Japan and Israel have also instituted new travel restrictions in response to the spread of the variant.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on a revised testing order that would require international air travelers coming into the U.S. to test for COVID-19 one day before departure. The U.S. currently requires a negative COVID-19 test result within three days of departure.

Several international gatherings have already been postponed.

The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, scheduled for Nov. 30 through Dec. 3, was postponed indefinitely because of travel restrictions imposed in response to the latest variant.

“Given these unfortunate developments and the uncertainty that they cause, we see no alternative but to propose to postpone the Ministerial Conference and reconvene it as soon as possible when conditions allow,” Ambassador Dacio Castillo, chair of the General Council, said during an emergency meeting of the council. “I trust that you will fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation.”

The World Muslim Communities Council also postponed its international conference, scheduled for Dec. 12 to 14, in the United Arab Emirates because of Omicron.

The African Development Bank, a multinational financial institution, postponed its Dec. 1-3 investment forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, because of travel restrictions, the bank’s president said Monday.

“In life, man plans and proposes and God disposes,” bank President Akinwumi Adesina said in a news briefing, noting that the variant has made travel “very, very difficult.”

The new restrictions come less than a month after the U.S. eased limits on travel into the country by foreigners, a move that leaders of the badly pummeled travel industries praised. Long-haul, international travel normally generates the lion’s share of revenue for air carriers.

Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Assn., a trade group for the nation’s travel industries, criticized the Biden administration’s decision to impose new bans on travel from eight African countries so soon after opening the U.S. borders.

“COVID variants are of concern, but closed borders have not prevented their presence in the United States while vaccinations have proven incredibly durable,” she said in a statement issued Sunday.

Fitch Ratings, the credit rating company, on Tuesday revised its global forecast downward, saying the arrival of new COVID-19 variants is likely to make the recovery of global air travel less certain.

“While it is too early to assess the effects of the Omicron [variant], additional waves of infections and policy responses could lead to travel restrictions and stalled or temporary declines in traffic,” Fitch said in a statement.

Still, concern over the variant hasn’t yet affected domestic travel, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which measures booking transactions at six airlines and activity on millions of website visits.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, online bookings for domestic flights increased 1% compared with the seven previous days, with a majority of the flights scheduled for trips in the next two months, according to Adobe.

At the Airline Passenger Experience Assn. expo in Long Beach, several airline executives spoke out against new travel restrictions in response to the variant, saying that restrictions do little to stop the spread of the virus.

“Closing borders doesn’t help,” said Tammy McKnight, chief medical officer for WestJet, the second-largest airline in Canada. She urged governments to instead rely more heavily on testing travelers to keep the variant in check.

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Using Biden’s free coronavirus tests for travel

Self-tests that can be bought over the counter and taken without a proctor are not accepted by most governments that require travelers to present a negative result. But, even if the federally funded antigen tests don’t meet that standard, they can still prove useful before, during or after a trip.

How to order free tests from the government

Americans began ordering free rapid antigen tests through on Jan 19. Each U.S. household — which includes people living abroad in diplomatic and military outposts — is limited to four tests, regardless of how many people live there. The tests are expected to ship within 7 to 12 days of ordering.

Anyone who can’t order online or needs help with the process can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489) from 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern time for help in more than 150 languages.

Why you can’t use most rapid tests to cross borders

Each country (or domestic destinations such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico) sets its own requirements, so whether the free tests pass those restrictions will depend on your destination. In most cases, free tests from the federal government are unlikely to help you cross international lines.

Most border-crossing testing needs to be administered by a professional either in person or over video call with a telehealth service affiliated with the manufacturer of the test. Per the U.S. rule requiring all inbound international travelers show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within a day of their flight to enter the country, a test administrator has to confirm your identity, watch you take the test, confirm your results and issue a report that meets government requirements.

The new free tests do not advertise the option to test under supervision or receive a report of your results to show border officials. As telemedicine-proctored self-tests tend to cost twice as much as basic self-tests, it would cost the government significantly more for the program, plus pose new logistics complications.

As part of an initiative that went into effect Jan. 15, however, private insurers are required to cover the cost of eight free over-the-counter at-home tests per individual per month covered by group health plans. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website, “insurance companies are required to reimburse you at a rate of up to $12 per individual test,” so that won’t cover the entire cost of most telemedicine-proctored self-tests. Make sure to read the fine print for your insurance company’s reimbursement details before purchasing your test.

How free tests can still be useful for travel

Even though the free government tests probably won’t meet most requirements for border crossing, they can still be helpful for travelers.

Travelers can use the free rapid tests ahead of their trip to see if they have the coronavirus before they depart; during their trip if they’re concerned they’re positive on the road; or after travel to avoid spreading to their home community.

Maurice Smith, a luxury travel adviser and CEO of Eugene Toriko travel agency, recommended testing ahead of an international trip even if it’s not required. Finding out you have the coronavirus before you leave can help you avoid spreading the virus and also prevent you from getting stuck away from home in quarantine until you recover.

Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist and an associate professor of public health and medical ethics at University of California at Riverside, said testing can be useful for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers before and after their trip, particularly if they think they have been exposed.

“It’s useful to be aware of those and be sure not to unknowingly bring virus back into your home and those living with you,” he told The Washington Post.

Additionally, the CDC recommends anyone who is not fully vaccinated test one to three days before travel.

Tests you can use for travel restrictions

Popular self-test options that do fulfill many requirements for international travel include Qured’s antigen self-tests, Ellume’s, Detect tests — which use the same technology as a PCR lab test — and the BinaxNOW kit (remember: this doesn’t include the over-the-counter BinaxNOW found at drugstores; you need the COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test kit available online that includes video-call support).

You can also find an in-person testing site that meets your travel requirements.

Before you pick a test, make sure you’re arranging the right one for your trip. Do you need a PCR test specifically? How close to your departure do you need to test? Travelers can check with their airline, visit a country’s tourism website, or use apps such as TripIt and Sherpa for finding the latest restrictions for your trip. is another helpful resource with crowdsourced information on finding coronavirus tests abroad (and researching global travel requirements).

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Coronavirus live updates and omicron variant news

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s government, borrowing from the playbook used in Wuhan, China, at the start of the pandemic, will mandate coronavirus testing for its entire population of 7.5 million, turning schools and other facilities into testing sites.

The program will begin in March, staggering groups to be tested by birth dates, and noncompliance will be punished with a fine, the government announced.

Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, did not fully detail Tuesday how and when the mandatory testing would be carried out, saying only that every resident of Hong Kong will have to be tested three times. Samples would be sent to the mainland, Lam said, if there is no testing capacity locally.

“We are talking about an emergency,” Lam said. “Given the current circumstances, we must do it, even if there are legal constraints. This is the mindset we need to have if we are fighting a battle.”

Lam also announced Tuesday that strict social distancing restrictions in place since the beginning of the year — including closures of gyms and beauty salons — will continue until the end of April. Flights from nine countries including the United States will also continue to be barred from arriving in the city until then.

Hong Kong has kept covid largely at bay until this year, when the more infectious omicron wave spread through the city, hitting the unvaccinated and elderly in particular. New infections have broken records daily, reaching more than 7,000 on Monday, along with deaths, including that of an 11-month-old.

Hong Kong has been under pressure from mainland China to control its outbreak despite the damage that restrictions are doing to businesses and the city’s overall viability as a financial center. Lam said Tuesday that teams have arrived from the mainland to help with testing, construction of isolation facilities and other mitigation measures.

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CDC says avoid travel to Canada due to Level 4 coronavirus risk

New coronavirus cases have risen sharply in Canada in the past few weeks, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, as the omicron variant fuels a new global wave of infections.

“If you must travel to Canada, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the CDC said in its travel alert for Canada, which indicates high prevalence of the virus. “Because of the current situation in Canada, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

Health officials have emphasized that some vaccinated people will contract the virus, particularly as omicron proves more resistant to existing vaccinations. Research shows that omicron tends to cause milder illness than the delta variant, which became dominant last year. Vaccinations appear to protect against the most serious infections, experts say, especially for those who have gotten a booster shot.

For unvaccinated people who travel, the CDC recommends getting tested for the coronavirus one to three days before a trip. The agency says people should not travel if they are sick; are in isolation after testing positive; are awaiting test results; or are quarantining after a close contact with an infected person.

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