Airlines, British Holidaymakers Brace for Limited Travel Restart | World News


LONDON (Reuters) – Airlines, holiday companies, tourists and vast swathes of southern Europe are looking forward to hearing the UK’s plan to relaunch travel but only a limited number of countries are set to be declared safe to visit.

Britain’s biggest destination countries including mainland Spain and Greece, as well as France, all risk being excluded from the initial “green list” for quarantine-free travel expected on Friday.

After a year of restrictions, that would be a major blow for tourist hotspots and the airline and holiday companies which are all desperate for big-spending Britons to travel.

British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, TUI and others will likely have to wait until at least late June for a larger scale re-opening of UK travel needed to repair their COVID-19 battered finances.

Most travel from the UK has been banned since the beginning of the year due to pandemic restrictions.

The British government has said people from England can go abroad again from May 17 at the earliest, and more clarity is expected on Friday on the traffic light system which will grade countries green, amber or red based on their COVID-19 risk.

The green list is likely to comprise smaller destinations such as Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel and Malta, while bigger markets like Portugal and the United States also have a chance. Some analysts suggest that certain Greek islands like Crete and Rhodes, and Spain’s Canary Islands could feature.

EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren told an online conference on Thursday that Britain risked being left behind by the rest of Europe if the green list was small.

While Britain’s vaccination programme has outpaced the rest of Europe so far, the EU has already outlined its travel plans, recommending the arrival of foreign travellers from more countries from June.

However limited Britain’s green list, the travel industry will hope that clarity on destinations will boost bookings, and that some customers will travel to amber countries, despite the requirement for 10 days of self-isolation on return.

Green list travel will involve people taking two COVID-19 tests, one before arrival back into the UK and one within two days of returning.

Airlines and travel companies have complained that the high cost of tests – at around 100 pounds ($140) each — will dampen demand, but testing prices are falling as competition picks up.

TUI on Thursday announced testing packages starting at 20 pounds for its UK customers travelling back from green countries.

Britain has promised to reassess its travel plans before June 28 and said that the allocation of countries will be kept under review. The industry is hoping for a review of a country’s category every three weeks.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Keith Weir)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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$2.3 million on travel in 8 months: Trump Navy secretary flew around the world, despite COVID-19 – USA TODAY



$2.3 million on travel in 8 months: Trump Navy secretary flew around the world, despite COVID-19  USA TODAY



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New Zealand Pauses Quarantine-Free Travel to Australian State | World News


WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand has halted quarantine-free travel to Australia’s state of New South Wales while it investigates the source of infection of two cases announced in Sydney, Chris Hipkins, the minister for COVID-19 response, said on Thursday.

Hipkins said the government would continue monitoring the situation in Australia and act accordingly. The cases in the southeastern state were announced in the last two days.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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Thai Travel Agencies Offer COVID-19 ‘Vaccine Tours’ to U.S | World News


By Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus “vaccine tours” to the United States, as some wealthy Thais grow impatient awaiting mass inoculations that are still a month away amid the country’s biggest outbreak so far.

The tours reflect global differences in vaccinations, with the United States and Britain making swift immunisation gains, but many lower income nations – and increasingly their well-off citizens – are still working to secure doses.

Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht to 200,000 baht ($2,400 to $6,400) for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.

“Johnson & Johnson is one jab, but 90% of inquires want Pfizer,” which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, the agency’s owner, Rachphol Yamsaeng, told Reuters.

He said a group was tentatively scheduled to leave next week.

My Journey Travel is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot and said it has received hundreds of calls in three days.

The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand’s tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the pandemic.

“All tour agencies are suffering now,” said Rachapol, whose agency is also offering similar trips to Serbia. “Whatever we can do, we have to try to do it.”

A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the U.S. State Department’s website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit.

The United States is not the only destination offered to Thais. Another agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day “VACCation in Russia” to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht ($6,700).

Thailand’s main vaccination drive is set to begin in June with locally-produced AstraZeneca shots.

Its latest outbreak has accounted for more than half of its total 74,900 infections and 318 fatalities.

Thailand’s tourism ministry warned on Wednesday that customers should carefully examine vaccination packages after the foreign ministry said U.S. regulations may vary by state.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Martin Petty)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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Portugal Extends COVID-19 Air Travel Curbs Until Mid May | World News


LISBON (Reuters) -Portugal is extending until May 16 flight restrictions that stop non-essential travel from countries including Brazil with high coronavirus incidence rates, and added India to the list due to the rapid rise in infections there.

Travellers from countries where 500 or more cases per 100,000 people have been reported over a 14-day period – which also include South Africa, France and the Netherlands – can only enter Portugal if they have a valid reason, such as for work or healthcare, the government said on Saturday.

Arrivals must then quarantine for 14 days.

The decision on India means Portugal is joining a growing number of countries imposing such restrictions. Neighbouring Spain also on Saturday said passengers arriving there from India must go into quarantine for 10 days to avoid spreading COVID-19, a government bulletin said.

Portugal said people from countries where the incidence rate is 150 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, such as Spain and Germany, can also travel by plane to the country only for essential reasons.

They will have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure for Portugal. Those without a test will have to take one on arrival and wait for the result at the airport.

The extension of air travel restrictions came on the same day most of Portugal moved to the final phase of a gradual easing of rules imposed in January to tackle what was then the world’s worst COVID-19 surge.

As infections dropped sharply, lockdown restrictions started to be eased in mid March. Schools, restaurants and cafes, shopping malls, museums and other non-essential services have since reopened, but under strict rules to reduce contagion risk.

Portugal’s 1,200 km land border with Spain also reopened on Saturday after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.

(Reporting by Catarina DemonyAdditional reporting Graham KeeleyEditing by Catherine Evans and David Holmes)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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COVID news live – latest updates: Australia criminalises travel from India – as uncertainty over holidays remains | World News


South Asian communities hardest hit by pandemic

A new study of more than 17 million adults in England has found that those in South Asian communities suffered the worst outcome of COVID during the pandemic’s second wave.

According to the paper, which was published in The Lancet, the communities experienced greater levels of infection, severe disease and death during the second spike when compared to other minority ethnic groups.

Most groups saw disparities in hospital admissions and deaths improve between the first and second wave, but it widened for those with a South Asian background.

Dr Rohini Mathur, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Despite the improvements seen in most minority ethnic groups in the second wave compared to the first, it’s concerning to see that the disparity widened among South Asian groups.

“This highlights an urgent need to find effective prevention measures that fit with the needs of the UK’s ethnically diverse population.”

Health factors including body weight, blood pressure and underlying conditions – as well as other factors like household size – could be key reasons for the disparity, the scientists said.

Researchers analysed data from 17,288,532 people in the partially anonymised OpenSAFELY database.

Ethnicity was self reported into five main categories: white, South Asian, black, other, and mixed.

Scientists are calling for more to be done about reports of increased vaccine hesitancy in minority ethnic groups.



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World Famous in New Zealand: Wairarapa’s Featherston Booktown Festival


If you were thinking Featherston was just another little country town in the Wairarapa, think again: it’s officially a Booktown.

This is an international organisation of 22 small towns with multiple second-hand and antiquarian bookshops, and Featherston has been a member since 2018, with its seven varied bookshops.

It’s a distinction that the town is celebrating from May 6 to 9 this year with a Karukatea Festival, offering 55 events. The 99 presenters include not only authors, but musicians, poets, podcasters, printers and paper-makers, being serious or silly, sometimes both, and always entertaining. There are workshops too – and all ages are catered for.

As well as an annual book festival, Featherston is also home to seven varied bookshops.

SUPPLIED/PETE MONK

As well as an annual book festival, Featherston is also home to seven varied bookshops.

READ MORE:
* Six of the best small towns to visit before summer ends
* Literary rock stars on their way to Featherston
* Mike O’Donnell: 100 more Booktowns please

The road over the Reumtakas to Featherston offers up some spectacular views.

Pamela Wade

The road over the Reumtakas to Featherston offers up some spectacular views.

WHY GO?

Because, fabulous time-suckers though they are, it’s not all about the festival, or even the bookshops.

Located at the base of the Remutaka hills, Featherston is the gateway to the Wairarapa, with a long and notable military history – there was a huge army training camp here in World War I, which in World War 2 was used as a prisoner of war camp for captured Japanese, 122 of whom were shot in an “incident” in 1943. You can find out more about this, and the camps, at the Heritage Museum, and should take a look too at the Anzac memorial in the main street, with its distinctive cupola.

The nearby infamous Remutaka Incline on the rail link to Wellington is nearly 5km of track with a 1-in-15 gradient, so steep that a Fell engine was used to tackle it for 77 years. You can see it, the only one left in the world and meticulously restored, in the town’s Fell Locomotive Museum.

The heritage Royal Hotel has been extensively, and imaginatively, renovated and is worth a look and, ideally, an overnight stay in one of its steampunk-decorated rooms. The cleverly-named C’est Cheese shop and deli across the road has a wide range of hand-made Remutaka Creamery cheeses, as well many other tempting goodies. Be sure to go next door to Mr Feather’s Den, where you’ll be astonished by the range of “oddities and delights” they offer there, from jewellery to taxidermied chicks.

Up in the hills, beside the road to Wellington, is a striking statue commemorating the long march of soldiers from Featherston into the city and away to war.

Pamela Wade

Up in the hills, beside the road to Wellington, is a striking statue commemorating the long march of soldiers from Featherston into the city and away to war.

INSIDER TIP

Joy Cowley lives in Featherston, so say hello if you see her.

ON THE WAY/NEARBY

Up in the hills, beside the road to Wellington, is a striking statue commemorating the long march of soldiers from Featherston into the city and away to war – and the women who fortified them with cups of tea.

Lakes Wairarapa and Onoke make up Wairarapa Moana, 9000 hectares of wetland where many species of birds can be spotted and there’s a variety of accessible walks. The Remutaka Rail Trail, with its bridges and tunnels, is just one appealing cycling or walking option in the area.

Stonehenge Aotearoa is not simply a concrete incarnation of the Salisbury original, but an observatory too, with day-time tours and night-time star-gazing.

The heritage Royal Hotel has been extensively, and imaginatively, renovated and is worth a look and, ideally, an overnight stay in one of its steampunk-decorated rooms.

Supplied

The heritage Royal Hotel has been extensively, and imaginatively, renovated and is worth a look and, ideally, an overnight stay in one of its steampunk-decorated rooms.

HOW MUCH?

The Festival event entry fees vary, and some are free. Booking is already open.

BEST TIME TO GO

The festival would be fun, but the books and cheese are always there. booktown.org.nz



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Europe’s signal of open borders buoys world leaders at WTTC: Travel Weekly


CANCUN — The opening session of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) first post-pandemic global summit featured a video of children from around the world talking about how much they missed sharing their cultures with visitors. It ended with a young boy saying, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Indeed, that seemed to be the overwhelming consensus among the more than 600 people who gathered here for the three-day conference this week, the first major in-person gathering of travel and tourism leaders since Covid-19 shuttered travel to much of the world.

“While not through it, we are on the brink of recovery,” Hilton CEO and WTTC chairman Chris Nassetta told the crowd during what he said was his first speech to a live audience in more than a year. “It is important that we work together to reunite.”

That underlying optimism — highlighted by the conference theme of “Uniting the World for Recovery” — was bolstered on opening day with news that the European Union would reopen to vaccinated travelers this summer.

While the WTTC and groups like the U.S. Travel Association have repeatedly said they oppose vaccine mandates for travel, the news was nonetheless applauded by members and delegates eager to avoid losing another summer of tourism.

Spain’s tourism secretary, Fernando Valdes Verelst, called the news “excellent.” But he emphasized in an interview with Travel Weekly that it is now crucial that the 27-country bloc makes its plan to develop a digital certification program for verifying vaccinated travelers work.

“We cannot fail in this process; we cannot go three steps backward if it were to turn out people aren’t certified by reliable authorities,” he said. “You have to have the vaccination proven from a public authority.”

The EU said it hopes to have its certification program ready by June, although no official date has been set for opening borders. Individual countries can still set their own policies, but officials here seemed confident that the bloc had finally reached an agreement for common policies and protocols. Some countries like Greece, Iceland and Croatia are already open or preparing to open.

WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara.

WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara. Photo Credit: Couretsy of WTTC

In a virtual address to the summit, French president Emmanuel Macron said his government, too, is working hard to reopen its country and territories.

“I would love to host you in Paris before the end of the year to discuss how to work together for recovery,” Macron said.

Valdes said tourism-reliant countries began pushing for the regional reopening after seeing the U.S., U.K. and Israel moving quickly with vaccines. “We saw a need to put this in place,” he said.

A stumbling block was that European Commission members that aren’t dependent on tourism weren’t willing to make visitation a priority, Valdes said. But a breakthrough came in a late February meeting, when countries including Spain, Portugal and Greece convinced the others that 2021 could not be a repeat of 2020 with uncoordinated regulation, he said. Successful vaccine rollouts opened the door for a safe reopening.

Valdes said he hopes more such announcements will follow.

Asked whether the move would result in a push for the U.S. to also open its borders, Harry Theocharis, tourism minister for Greece, said, “We feel you cannot wait for reciprocity. We’ve said this is our system, and the pressure will be on other governments.”

While the Europe reopening news was hailed as an important step toward recovery, tourism representatives from both the public and private sectors agreed that the booming rebound most are hoping for can’t happen until fear and uncertainty are removed from the travel equation.

“We need a statement from the World Health Organization that traveling is not a greater risk if you play by the rules,” Portugal’s tourism secretary, Rita Marques, told the summit.

Marques said that throughout the pandemic, there have been “noisy reactions that jeopardized the industry and increased the perception [of] the risk” of travel.

To move forward, she said, the public and private sectors need to communicate more clearly and assertively that travel can be done safely.

But the public and private sectors also need to come together to push for more uniform global rules governing testing, vaccines, quarantines and digital health records so that travelers can book travel without worry, participants said during panel discussions.

Daniel Richards, founder and CEO of Global Rescue, said successful vaccination campaigns are removing the fear of getting sick for many. And companies like his can provide insurance and a means to fly people home if they do get Covid-19.

But the private sector alone, he said, “can’t remove the uncertainty of the travel experience. That goes to governments. [We need] some level of coordination among governments so that when travelers start to book that trip, start talking about it, [they] have a guarantee that they are not going to get stuck in quarantine.”

The WTTC closed its summit with a commitment to boosting female representation in industry leadership.

The WTTC closed its summit with a commitment to boosting female representation in industry leadership.

The WTTC closed its summit with a commitment to work toward women’s equality and boost female representation in leadership roles in the industry.

“As the first female president and CEO of WTTC, it is an honor to champion this important initiative,” WTTC head Gloria Guevara said.

While women make up 54% of the industry’s workforce, “globally, women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which has exacerbated the pay gap, the opportunity gap and the shocking lack of senior positions and leadership roles across the travel and tourism sector,” Guevara said. “This needs to be changed.”

Tennis great Martina Navratilova joined the closing session to launch the women empowerment initiative.

“Women have always had to outperform men, and whilst things are changing for the better, it is still a fight and a constant battle,” Navratilova said.

Guevara also announced that the WTTC plans to hold next year’s global summit in the Philippines. 



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UK Plans to Use Health Service App as Vaccine Proof for Travel | World News


LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is working on using the existing National Health Service (NHS) coronavirus app to show that people have received their COVID-19 vaccine for international travel, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday

“It will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS … to be able to show that you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing, and I’m working internationally with partners across the world, to make sure that that system can be internationally recognised,” he said.

He told Sky News he would be chairing a meeting of G7 transport ministers from the G7 next week to discuss the plan further.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; writing by Michael Holden)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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