Covid-19 live updates: America isn't headed toward lockdowns, say White House officials – The Washington Post



Covid-19 live updates: America isn’t headed toward lockdowns, say White House officials  The Washington Post



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As New Zealand lifts Covid lockdowns, some small towns ask tourists to stay away | New Zealand


Every summer, with Christmas and New Year stacked in the middle of the hot season, city-dwelling New Zealanders pack their car boots and make for the beaches, festivals and campgrounds dotting the country’s coastlines and remote forests.

As the country prepares to lift its last lockdowns, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has promised that the “classic kiwi summer” will roll on. But this year, there are fears that packed among their chilly bins and camping chairs, holidaymakers will bring other baggage – infectious particles of Covid-19, carried to communities ill-prepared to greet it. In the face of that prospect, leaders of some of New Zealand’s small towns and settlements have returned to prospective holidaymakers with a blunt message: please stay away.

“At Christmas I will sit out here on my veranda, and I will watch literally hundreds and hundreds vehicles, just heading north,” says Hone Harawira, former parliamentary representative for Te Tai Tokerau, a region at the far northern tip of New Zealand. “If the doors are open, quite literally tens of thousands of Aucklanders will be coming – there’s nothing to stop anyone.”

‘You may as well send up body bags’

Auckland, the centre of New Zealand’s thousands-strong Covid outbreak, has been in a strict lockdown for nearly 100 days. As the region approaches 90% of eligible adults vaccinated, Ardern announced those restrictions would soon be lifted – and alongside them, the strict border that has prevented all non-essential travel in or out of the city. While that reprieve was greeted with relief and celebration by many Aucklanders, experts and community leaders say it could also send a huge influx of Covid-carrying Aucklanders around the country, seeding the virus in communities with far lower vaccination rates and fewer health resources.

“You may as well send up body bags,” northern iwi [tribal] leaders said when the news was first announced. The area’s isolation and dramatic terrain – some of the very attributes that make it so attractive to holidaymakers – also make its population vulnerable to Covid outbreaks. The region is served by just a handful of ICU hospital beds, and many towns are an hours-long drive from the nearest health facilities. On top of that, vaccination rates – particularly among Māori – are lagging up to 30 percentage points behind Auckland.

Northland from the top of the Brynderwyn Hills
Northland from the top of the Brynderwyn Hills Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

“You’ve got to remember we don’t have the services or infrastructure to cope with a large outbreak,” says Antony Thompson, spokesperson for Te Kahu o Taonui, a collective of 12 iwi in the north.

“Right now we’re just not ready, that’s all it is,” Harewira says. “Māori in Te Tai Tokerau [Northland] are currently 60% vaccinated. That’s a long, long way from the 90% that is the standard for Auckland.”

Harawira has spent months during the latest outbreak running checkpoints, or pou korero [talking posts] to ensure people entering the region aren’t in breach of Covid rules. Soon, however, most of those restrictions will be formally lifted. Without any backing from central government, he’s concerned that visitors will simply breeze on through. “As far as they’re concerned, to hell with the local yokels,” he says. “[People will say] we’ve got the keys to the north, we’ve been given the go-ahead by the prime minister herself, so get out of the way.”

“Unfortunately, I think the message being provided by government is go, go, go.”

While the government has indicated people need to be fully vaccinated or produce a negative test to leave the city, there isn’t any comprehensive system in place, beyond possible spot checks, to ensure that carloads of tourists are compliant.

“You’re going to see the virus seeded everywhere,” epidemiologist and public health prof Michael Baker said last week. Baker said the South Island may be better protected, given the requirements for vaccine passports on flights and ferries, but summer travel around the North Island was likely to lead to widespread transmission.

Thompson says spot checks will not be sufficient. “Thirty thousand cars leave Auckland on a daily basis during summer. Can you really honestly hand on heart say that you can pick up which cars … don’t have vaccinated people in them?”

Inland, in Te Urewera, the North Island ex-national park now governed by Tūhoe, the tribe has said it will be closed to visitors until the end of January. “Te Urewera is unique,” said board chair Tāmati Kruger. “Unlike New Zealand’s national parks, it is the home of Tūhoe communities, including some of the country’s most remote and vulnerable populations during the current pandemic.”

But elsewhere, communities don’t have the option of simply closing private campgrounds or public roads. Instead, they’re relying on the goodwill of potential visitors: at the very least, be double vaccinated – and at best, consider delaying your summer road trip one more year. “I’d ask that [the rest of the country] join with me in a campaign to have Christmas moved to 25 January,” Harawira says. “If we hit 90% by then, we’ll open our arms to the nation. We’d welcome people here.”

“I live in Auckland, I’ve been going to the exact same thing every other Auckland has been going through,” Thompson says. “I’d love to go north, I’m from the north as well. But my family, we’ve made the conscious decision to stay home.”



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Lockdowns are lifting, but where can I travel? Here’s the latest on every state’s border restrictions


As Australia’s vaccination rate soars, local restrictions for COVID-affected areas are easing and so, too, are some state border restrictions.

From earlier this week, travel became possible from all areas of New South Wales to Victoria, with vaccinated people not even needing to get a test before entering the community.

However, if you’re confused by the mishmash of border rules around the states and territories, we’ve compiled a guide of who can enter each state and territory.

Keep in mind that this article sets out who can get in, so if you’re planning a return trip be sure to check your home state or territory as well as your destination, to make sure you don’t have to quarantine in either direction.

These rules are only a guide and might not fit your circumstances if, for instance, you’re a close contact of a potentially infectious person.

Pick your destination:

Who can travel to NSW?

Most of the country is now able to travel to New South Wales without restriction, however all jurisdictions have rules in place for people who’ve been in the state. 

A COVID-19 sign with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background during lockdown.
Most of the country has placed restrictions on people coming from New South Wales.(ABC News: Gavin Coote)

The only state that NSW restricts entry from is Victoria, which has been listed as an affected area.

Anyone entering NSW from Victoria has to fill out a declaration form and follow stay-at-home rules for 14 days since they left Victoria. 

They are still allowed to leave home for some restricted reasons, such as obtaining food and services, travelling for work or education if you can’t do it from home, medical care, getting vaccinated and exercising.

Exemptions apply for residents of some border communities.

Who can travel to Victoria?

People currently in Queensland, SA, WA, Tasmania and the NT are all permitted to travel to Victoria, however those states also have rules in place for people coming back from the garden state.

Victoria has designated the ACT and the Greater Sydney area of NSW as Orange Zones. 

That means fully vaccinated people who have been in those areas in the past 14 days are are allowed to enter with a permit from Service Victoria and go about their business (following all local restrictions, of course).

A tram travelling through the Melbourne CBD
People from NSW are allowed to visit Melbourne if they follow local restrictions.(ABC News: Crystalyn Brown)

People who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to get a test and isolate until a negative result is returned.

People from parts of NSW outside Greater Sydney are able to enter Victoria without restriction if they have a border pass.

Who can travel to the ACT?

The ACT has closed its border to all of Victoria and much of NSW, outside of surrounding postcode areas in the south-eastern corner of the state.

People who’ve been in Victoria or non-exempted parts of NSW in the 14 days prior to entering must complete an exemption form and quarantine upon their arrival in the ACT.

When is international travel to and from Australia allowed?

Non-residents need an exemption before arriving.

The ACT has designated “approved border postcodes” in southern NSW, which allows travel into and out of those areas without quarantine.

From November 1, ACT residents will be able to visit Sydney and the rest of NSW without having to quarantine on their return.

Who can travel to Queensland?

Queensland lists NSW, Victoria and the ACT as COVID-19 hotspots, obstructing travel from the southeastern corner of mainland Australia.

There are different circumstances in place for border communities in northern NSW.

People coming from a hotspot area are not allowed to enter Queensland unless they’re a resident, relocating or have an exemption.

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Recycling the waste COVID-19 has created(Emilia Terzon)

Anyone allowed in must quarantine for 14 days.

People from the rest of Australia are able to enter Queensland freely, provided they complete a Queensland entry pass.

The Queensland government plans to allow all fully vaccinated domestic travellers to enter the state without quarantine by December 17.

Who can travel to WA?

Right now, people in Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory can travel to WA with a G2G pass and not have to quarantine.

From Friday, Queensland was set to join those states classified “very low risk”,  the only classification that allows interstate travellers to enter WA without quarantine.

But that plan has been dumped following a single case of COVID-19 on the Gold Coast, meaning Queensland will remain classified as “low risk” and quarantine is still required.

Perth city skyline at night, with bright coloured lights over the foreshore
Western Australia has some of the country’s toughest border measures.(Unsplash: George Bakos)

The ACT is classified as medium risk, meaning people can only enter with approval, and must quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

Victoria and NSW are classified as “extreme risk”, meaning “exemptions are restricted to Commonwealth, State and specialist functions only”, and anyone allowed in must enter hotel quarantine.

Who can travel to SA?

People from the NT, Queensland, Tasmania and WA can enter SA without quarantine.

Travel to SA from Victoria, NSW or the ACT is not allowed, except for some exemptions, including essential travellers, SA residents returning home and people escaping domestic violence. 

Exempted travellers must quarantine as directed (at home for essential travellers or as directed for other categories) and submit to a COVID-19 test on days 1, 5 and 13 of their time in quarantine.

Who can travel to Tasmania?

Tasmania is open to people from Queensland, WA, South Australia and the NT.

NSW, the ACT and Victoria have all been declared high-risk areas by Tasmania and are subject to travel restrictions.

Travel is not allowed for people who’ve been in those areas in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Tasmania, unless they area approved as an essential traveller.

People approved must undergo hotel quarantine, unless they are otherwise eligible for Tasmania’s home quarantine program.

Who can travel to the NT?

People in Queensland, Tasmania, SA and WA are all permitted to enter the NT. 

NSW, Victoria and the ACT have all been declared hotspots, meaning only returning residents will be allowed in.

Travellers into the NT from those areas will be required to enter supervised quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

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Airbnb lost $1.2 billion in 1st quarter, blames European lockdowns



Associated Press

Published 7:40 a.m. ET May 14, 2021

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Thirteen years after its founders first rented air mattresses in their San Francisco apartment, Airbnb is making its long-awaited stock market debut. Airbnb raised $3.7 billion in the initial public offering.  (Dec. 5)

AP Domestic

Airbnb reported Thursday that its first-quarter loss more than tripled, to $1.2 billion, as travel remained depressed by the pandemic and the company was weighed down by costs from past borrowing.

However, revenue topped the same period in 2019, and Airbnb recorded billions in new bookings as the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 raised hopes for a travel boom.

The home-sharing business said in a letter to shareholders that travel is starting to return, “and we expect a travel rebound unlike anything we have seen before.”

Still, Airbnb expressed concern about travel restrictions and lockdowns in Europe, a key market for summer rentals. The San Francisco-based company said it is too early to predict whether the pace of the travel recovery will continue in the second half of the year.

Pandemic-related restrictions are cutting into Airbnb revenue, particularly in Europe. The company has seen growing demand for travel in the U.S., however, with particular interest in rentals in beach and mountain locations. Bookings in cities, which were a strength before the pandemic, have not recovered.

Cancellations have eased from 2020 but remain higher than before the pandemic, although company officials gave no figures.

CEO Brian Chesky predicted that even after the pandemic more people will work outside central offices, providing a ready supply of future guests. He said 24% of Airbnb customers now book stays of at least 28 days, compared with 14% before the pandemic, which he suggested would give home-sharing an advantage over hotels.

“The longer you stay somewhere, the more you are inclined to stay in a home,” he said on a call with analysts.

Airbnb’s first-quarter results were hurt by losses related to debt repayment and an adjustment in the value of stock warrants issued in connection with money it borrowed last year during the depths of the pandemic downturn in travel.

The loss equaled $1.95 per share. Wall Street expected a loss of $717 million, or $1.07 per share, according to a FactSet survey of 27 analysts.

Airbnb’s revenue rose 5% from a year ago and 6% over the same quarter in 2019, to $887 million. That topped the analysts’ forecast of $721 million.

The value of new bookings recorded in the quarter jumped to $10.3 billion, up from $6.8 billion a year earlier and more than $4 billion higher than in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Airbnb released the results after a day in which the shares fell 3.2% in regular trading. They fell less than 1% in extended trading.

The shares have fallen 37% since their Feb. 11 peak, dropping below where they closed after their stock market debut on Dec. 10.

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G Adventures Finds Lockdowns Lead to Wanderlust


There is finally a slew of positive news within the travel industry. Effective vaccines and falling case numbers and deaths have given the industry hope for a rebound.

That is definitely the case for G Adventures, whose founder, Bruce Poon-Tip, spoke virtually with the media this week, addressing how the tour operator is returning to travel.

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During the call, Poon-Tip noted that he “misses the innocence of travel” and “traveling without worry.”

It was an appropriate time to discuss a comeback, one year after the pandemic officially shut down the industry.

“There has been more change this March than any other month,” he said. “Now we can see the light. Countries are really trying to open their borders. Everyone is hopeful for summer.”

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Poon-Tip sees Europe’s announcement for a Digital Green Pass as one of the most exciting announcements of the past week. The certificate would show proof of vaccination or information on a negative COVID-19 test.

G Adventures is working to get trips rolling in a meaningful way this summer, in particular, by July 1, 2021. However, Poon-Tip noted that things may not truly be operating until September 1.

However, G Adventures has not stood idle. The company has been operating tours since September 2020 and, according to Poon-Tip, customers have been “loving the trips and experiences.”

What will truly open up travel on a larger scale, he says, is government roadmaps for reopening.

He also pointed out that vaccine passports need to be standardized.

“It is not as unusual as people think,” he said but pointed out the need for a singular system. “Everyone doing their own version will overload countries trying to process them. [The process] needs to be standardized.”

G Adventures’ recent research shows that lockdowns have given people wanderlust and has changed the way individuals want to travel, what they want to see and where they want to go.

Fifty-nine percent of travelers said that lockdowns have made them want to travel more. However, 77 percent have yet to book and are waiting for borders to open.

Thirty-one percent of travelers will travel within three months of being vaccinated, and 46 percent within six months of being vaccinated.

“This shows a quick rebound for travel,” said Poon-Tip.

Booking patterns have also changed with many consumers willing to commit to longer booking windows as far as eight months out.


Explore Jordan
Explore Jordan (photo via G Adventures)

Poon-Tip noted that consumer bookings before the pandemic were much closer to departures. Now, it’s a long lead of six to eight months in advance.

Consumers are also interested in different things. Seventy-five percent want dollars to go to local communities. G Adventures is also seeing a surge of interest in working holidays and has found 41 percent of people want experiences outdoors for the first time.

More consumers are looking for active experiences, bucket list trips and milestone-type travel.

“There is a positive feeling right now, and people are talking about traveling again which is really what we need,” said Poon-Tip.

In addition to being hopeful for the future of travel, there is also hope that the travel industry can rebuild better. Poon-Tip compared the rebirth of the travel industry to the “World’s largest start-up when travel returns.”

He noted that companies can reimagine their businesses.

“Now that we have scaled-down, we have the chance to scale up with again with 30 years of experience.”

Going forward, Poon-Tip stressed the need for the industry to work together to get people comfortable traveling again.

“The best thing we can do in the industry is to choose where we want to compete,” he said. “We shouldn’t compete on safety. We are all going to follow global standards and ultimately have a unified goal to get people to travel again. Let’s not compete on this to win customers.”





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Thinking about traveling in 2021? Come up with a Plan B for lockdowns


Christopher Elliott, Special to USA TODAY
Published 7:01 a.m. ET Nov. 6, 2020 | Updated 8:38 a.m. ET Nov. 12, 2020

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Holidays are usually for gatherings but many get-togethers are complicated or canceled because of COVID-19.

USA TODAY

If you’re planning to travel somewhere soon, here’s a little advice: Don’t listen to the advice.

It’s dated and maybe dangerous. The rules for travel in 2021 have changed. Ignore the talking heads. You don’t need travel tips for next year – you need a survival guide.

“Anything can happen when you’re traveling,” says Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz Travel

But anything doesn’t have to happen to you. If you take a few precautions and plan ahead, you can avoid most problems. You’ll need the right insurance and a backup plan – and you have to book with the right companies.

So how do you travel in 2021?

Here’s a travel survival guide for next year:

Be careful. That’s the advice of Melissa DaSilva, president of Trafalgar. “Do thorough research to make educated decisions,” she says. “The world is not off-limits, and local economies need your support more than ever. But it’s crucial to be responsible and educate yourself on all guidelines, restrictions and health procedures required along the way.” In other words, 2021 won’t be the year for a spur-of-the-moment trip. Not with the pandemic still with us.

Plan ahead. “This is key,” says Linda Bendt, owner of Pique Travel, a travel agency in Minneapolis. “We’re jamming two years’ worth of travel into six to nine months – assuming things start picking up in the second quarter of next year.” She says during peak times flights will be full, hotels fully booked, and car rental companies sold out of vehicles. If you don’t plan, you’ll be stuck with another staycation.

Know how COVID-19 affected your destination. If you think coronavirus did a number on you, then you should check your destination. “The thing most people are probably not thinking about is how badly the shutdowns have hurt the economies in places that depend on tourism,” says Mike Hallman, CEO of the medical transport and travel security company Medjet. “It’s had an impact on crime in a lot of destinations.” If you’re not sure about the place you’re visiting, Hallmann recommends the latest travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State, which contain detailed information about potential dangers in other countries. Official tourism sites are also good resources since they usually list current travel restrictions for those destinations.

Read the fine print on your travel insurance. Most American travelers don’t know that their medical insurance won’t work overseas unless they make special arrangements, says Christine Buggy, vice president of marketing at Travelex Insurance. “Most U.S. health insurance companies will not provide coverage outside of the country, which can leave a traveler with a hefty bill in the event of a medical emergency,” she says. She recommends looking for coverage that treats COVID-19 like any other sickness and does not exclude the pandemic.

Expect more lockdowns. Do you have a plan in case you get stuck somewhere? Your travel survival guide for 2021 should include one. “Travelers should consider trips that can be planned around staying with friends and family with the option to then lock down in hotels later,” advises Christina Tunnah, general manager for the Americas at World Nomads. Her tip: Sign up for hotel and airline newsletters so you can find the best rate for lodging and transportation if there’s another pandemic lockdown.

Know when to go and when to stay. If there’s a vaccine next year, it will not be an instant cure. Some parts of the world will recover faster than others. “When planning to travel, it’s best to visit areas with low COVID-19 activity,” says Zulfah Albertyn-Blanchard, a health intelligence analyst at WorldAware, a security company. “This will make it less likely you’ll infect someone else – or become infected yourself – during your travels.” So how do you find out if a place is safe? Start with its State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel advisories. And if there’s a travel ban, that’s a good sign that you should wait.

Have a backup plan. Before the pandemic, a lot of travelers took a vacation without a Plan B. Don’t do that in 2021, advises Sherry Sutton, vice president of marketing and communications at Travel Insured International. “Have a backup plan,” she advises. That includes a checklist of what to do if you run into trouble, from emergency contacts to direct numbers for your travel insurance company. And if your destination shuts down, know what you’ll do to salvage the vacation.

Surviving 2021 will require not just new skills, but the right frame of mind as well. Hit the road with a 2019 attitude and you might regret it, say travel experts.

“Traveling in the near future will require flexibility as we continue to navigate this pandemic,” says Jessica O’Riley, a spokeswoman for Travel Iowa. “Pack your patience.”

The best of travel in 2021

The best airlines and hotels: the ones with flexible policies.  “Make sure you have an easy out with anything you book,” says Kirsten Peterson, owner and senior travel consultant at Chicago-based Peterson Travel Group. “Situations and conditions are changing rapidly.” For example, carriers like Southwest Airlines have a well-deserved reputation for being transparent and free of onerous fees. 

The best travel insurance: “Cancel for any reason.”  That’s the assessment of Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners, a travel insurance company. You can cancel your trip for any reason. “You’ll be reimbursed for up to 75% of nonrefundable trip costs if cancellation must occur,” he says. Cancel-for-any-reason insurance is a little pricier, about twice as expensive as regular insurance. But if you have to cancel because of another outbreak, it’s worth it.

The best plan: One made by a professional. Experts say your travel survival guide for 2021 should include a professional travel adviser. An agent can help you navigate the uncertainty of travel next year. Whether you’re traveling out of state or out of the country, a pro can make sure all of your paperwork is in order. “You may need to have negative test results in hand to enter certain states or countries,” says Andrew Williams, managing director of Travel At Will, a Houston travel agency. “Other destinations may have mandatory self-quarantine periods upon arrival.”

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Pope condemns people travelling to escape lockdowns


 

Pope Francis has spoken out to condemn those who have travelled on holiday to escape Covid-19 lockdowns.

Speaking after the weekly noon blessing, the Pontiff said people needed to show greater awareness of the suffering of others, after reading newspaper reports of people fleeing government measures to find fun elsewhere.

“They didn’t think about those who were staying at home, of the economic problems of many people who have been hit hard by the lockdown, of the sick people – only about going on holiday and having fun,” he said.

“This really saddened me,” he added in the video address from the library of the Vatican’s Apostlic Palace.

“We don’t know what 2021 will reserve for us, but what all of us can do together is make a bit more of an effort to take care of each other. There is the temptation to take care only of our own interests,” he added.

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Pope condemns travelling abroad to escape coronavirus lockdowns | Vatican


Pope Francis has condemned people who had gone abroad on holiday to escape coronavirus lockdowns, saying they needed to show greater awareness of the suffering of others.

Speaking after his weekly noon blessing, Francis said he had read newspaper reports of people catching flights to flee government curbs and seek fun elsewhere.

“They didn’t think about those who were staying at home, of the economic problems of many people who have been hit hard by the lockdown, of the sick people – only about going on holiday and having fun,” he said.

“This really saddened me,” the pope said in a video address from the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

The traditional Angelus blessing is normally given from a window overlooking St Peter’s Square, but it was moved indoors to prevent any crowds gathering and limit the spread of Covid-19.

“We don’t know what 2021 will reserve for us, but what all of us can do together is make a bit more of an effort to take care of each other. There is the temptation to take care only of our own interests,” he added.

Many countries have imposed strict restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 84 million people worldwide.



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