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Foreign holidays as normal this summer “was never going to be the case”, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said as he defended the government’s COVID travel policy.
Mr Buckland said “significant trade-offs” have had to be made to ensure COVID cases are kept down, with international travel restricted to “prevent inadvertent spread of new variants of concern”.
It follows criticism by pilots of the “ludicrously cautious” travel restrictions which they say has caused the UK’s aviation industry to be “the hardest hit in Europe”.
Speaking to Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Mr Buckland said ministers will continue to be “guided by the evidence” when it comes to travelling abroad.
“Inevitably, in a situation as unprecedented and demanding as this, there are going to have to be significant trade-offs and it’s clear that holidays as normal – or travel as normal – was never going to be the case, bearing in mind the rise of particular variants, most notably the Delta variant,” the justice secretary said.
“Throughout this crisis we’ve tried to strike the right balance between the natural need in some cases for international travel but also the imperative of making sure that we do everything we can at home to contain and prevent inadvertent spread of new variants of concern.
“This is a hugely difficult situation – I think of omelettes and eggs, I’m afraid – but we are doing our very best to maintain that balance with regular reviews of the regulations to allow the maximum flexibility.”
He added: “We’re not standing still on these matters and that will continue guided by the evidence we have.”
It comes as the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) accused ministers of appearing to “deliberately attack” the sector with the measures they have imposed during the pandemic.
The union is calling on the government to “get its act together” and open “the US routes and European holiday travel destinations” it has blocked with “no published evidence”.
BALPA members will join colleagues from across the aviation and travel industry as part of a nationwide Travel Day of Action on Wednesday, which is designed to put pressure on the UK government to support a “safe return to international travel in time for the peak summer period”.
The union’s analysis of official European air traffic data for June showed that the number of flights into and out of the UK has fallen by three-quarters compared with 2019.
The union said its study showed that Gatwick and Manchester airports were the worst affected in Europe, with Heathrow and Stansted close behind.
BALPA claims figures from the International Air Transport Association world trade body show 860,000 jobs have been lost, or are on furlough and are at risk of being lost, in UK aviation travel and tourism.
Brian Strutton, the union’s general secretary, said: “It’s official. The UK aviation industry is the hardest hit in Europe, caused by the UK government’s ludicrously cautious restrictions on international travel.
“Hapless ministers give all the appearance of deliberately attacking aviation and tormenting the public with their mixed messages over summer holidays.
“BALPA is demanding that the UK government gets its act together and opens the US routes and European holiday travel destinations that it has blocked with no published evidence at all.
“If the country is going to build back better from the pandemic and build new international links with partners for trade and travel, we are going to need a thriving aviation industry. There is no time to hide behind taskforces and reviews.”
Wednesday’s “day of action” is designed to put pressure on the UK government to support a “safe return to international travel in time for the peak summer period”.
The aviation and travel industries want the government to increase the number of countries on the green list while keeping a “strong red list to guard against variants”.
They also want the government to bring forward a package of tailored financial support, including an extension of furlough support, for those working in the sector who may need it.
Those taking part in the day of action are urged to take the message to their MP.
Pilots will also join action at Heathrow, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester airports.
A government spokesman said: “We recognise the challenging times facing all sectors of transport as a result of COVID-19, which is why we have put in place an economy-wide support package, including around £7bn of support expected to benefit the air transport sector by September 2021.
“We continue to work with the aviation sector to help them navigate this period, and encourage them to draw on the unprecedented package of support measures available.”
Some of New York state’s mass vaccination sites will begin downscaling and will shift their resources to localized vaccination efforts, according to a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
The decision to downscale the mass vaccination sites was made given overall statewide progress on vaccinations, the governor’s office said.
On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that 70% of New Yorkers had received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and that most state-mandated restrictions would be lifted immediately.
The state now plans to shift resources to communities where the vaccination rate is below the state average.
On Thursday, Cuomo announced that 12 new pop-up vaccination sites would be opening in such areas, including in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
The state sites designated for downscaling are chosen based on demand, proximity to other vaccination sites, and other local vaccination efforts, Cuomo’s office said.
The downscaling will begin on Monday, with the closing of mass vaccination sites in Corning, Oneonta, Potsdam and York College, the release stated.
Nashville, TN – Traveler enthusiasm continues to grow as destinations reopen around the world. On Wednesday, the European Union voted to add the United States to its safe travel list.
While this would make it easier for Americans to vacation in Europe without quarantining, each of the 27 member states may have different testing and vaccination requirements for inbound travelers.
“This is an exciting and confusing time for Americans who are eager to plan a vacation,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “It’s clear that vaccinated travelers have fewer constraints, but vaccine and testing requirements vary by destination and type of trip.”
“This can be especially challenging for travelers to navigate on their own, so AAA encourages Americans to work with a trusted travel adviser. AAA’s travel advisors have new tools to help you plan the trip that best fits your desires, while saving you time, and providing peace of mind,” Haas stated.
AAA Travel Advisors’ New Tool
AAA travel advisors have begun using a new virtual tool, which enables them to check the travel status of any destination in the world, with just the click of a button.
That includes timely information regarding a destination’s:
- Travel restrictions
- Vaccine or COVID-19 test requirements
- Quarantine policies
- Mask mandates
- Any health documents you may need before or during your trip
Hawaii still Requires Negative COVID-19 Tests for Incoming Travelers
There’s no greater example of the disparity in travel requirements than our nation’s 50th state. Hawaii remains one of the top travel destinations for Americans. However, many are unaware of the strict protocols for incoming travelers, even those who were vaccinated in the continental United States.
Requirements for Hawaii Tourists
- All inbound travelers to Hawaii are required to pass a COVID-19 test, or be subject to a 10 day quarantine.
- The test must be taken 72 hours before arrival.
- The negative COVID-19 test result must then be uploaded to the Safe Travels platform or printed out and in hand prior to departure to Hawaii.
- The state of Hawaii will ONLY accept FDA-approved NAAT test results, processed by a CLIA-certified laboratory from the following approved list of providers.
- Travelers will not be able to obtain a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) upon arrival at any Hawaii airport.
- This includes Americans who were vaccinated outside of Hawaii.
- People vaccinated in Hawaii are not required to submit a COVID-19 test.
- When the state reaches a vaccination rate of 60%, the vaccination exception will reportedly extend to travelers vaccinated in the United States, traveling domestically.
“Hawaii is a great option to get away right now, but understanding the COVID requirements is a key part of planning an enjoyable vacation.” Haas continued.
Travelers planning a trip to Hawaii or any future flight should prepare for crowded airplanes and longer lines at terminals.
Air travel continues to recover from the pandemic. The TSA screened 2.09 million passengers last Sunday. That’s the highest level since March 7th, 2020, yet 20 percent less than the same day in 2019.
The TSA warns of longer than normal wait times at checkpoints around the country, due to increased passenger totals and a shortage of TSA agents following the pandemic.
AAA encourages air travelers to check-in at least three hours before their flight to ensure they have enough time to get through security.
Long lines have also become more common at state and national parks. In some cases, visitors have reported multi hour-long waits to get in, as the parks (and even nearby hotels and restaurants) reach capacity.
“Open air destinations like national parks are increasingly popular this year, because of the pandemic,” Haas said. “If you plan on visiting popular sites like Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore this summer, make sure you plan ahead. Just because you drive over, it doesn’t mean you can get in.
“AAA has relationships with tour operators, giving our Travel Advisors access to rooms that aren’t available to the general public, ” Haas continued. “By booking a guided tour, travelers can relax knowing that our trusted partners will navigate the evolving environment for them.”
Should I get Vaccinated?
The decision to get vaccinated is a personal choice. However, vaccinated travelers currently have more options and fewer required protocols when traveling. Although some countries require incoming travelers to be vaccinated, non-vaccinated travelers can often gain admittance by passing a COVID-19 test. Be sure to work with a travel advisor to understand the travel requirements before booking a trip.
Check your Passport
Travelers are urged to check the expiration date on their passports. Many countries may not allow you to enter if your passport expires within 6 months from the return date.
Plan ahead. Because of delays, caused by the pandemic, passport renewals may take up to 8-12 weeks. The process could be reduced to 2-3 weeks for an expedited service, but at a cost of $60.00-$100.00.
Importance of Travel Insurance
Whatever your plans, AAA encourages you to consider travel insurance. There are various coverage options to protect your health and financial investments from unexpected circumstances before and during your trip. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s that you have to be prepared for the unexpected. Travel Advisors can help you choose the policy that best fits your needs.
About AAA – The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more.
ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety.
Like many couples last year, Ben and Malory Landheer were forced to cancel their planned wedding and opt for a smaller, coronavirus-friendly ceremony instead.
Though the pandemic ruined their plans, it also spurred the Charlotte, North Carolina couple to make some huge life changes, namely leaving their jobs, their apartment and their city to travel across the country in a van.
“We both got COVID, our wedding got cancelled, our jobs intensified and we knew we didn’t want to live in Charlotte forever,” Malory, 25, told SWNS. “It was a lot of things happening all at once, and we wanted to get back to basics.”
“Last August, we were just kind of playing around with the idea,” Malory added. “Ben had sold his house, so we started off our marriage with a chunk of change. It started as a joke and it ended up being serious.”
The Landheers married in April 2020. At the time, they both worked in ministry and lived in a 1,000-square-foot apartment for $1,500 a month, according to SWNS.
When they decided they were serious about changing their lifestyle, the couple bought a $25,500 Ford Transit T-350 van and spent five months and $13,000 renovating it, SWNS reported.
The 70-square-foot van now has a queen-size mattress that turns into a futon during the day, as well as running water, a toilet and a stove.
“Space was a big priority so we made a bed that is very adjustable with a trifold mattress,” Ben, 29, told SWNS.
“We have running gas for a propane stove, fresh running water, a composting toilet in the front of the van and we have two fans on the top,” Ben said. “We have 300 watts of solar panels on the top of the van that charge all the components in the van.”
The one thing the van doesn’t have is a shower — but the couple gets around that problem by showering at the closest Planet Fitness, where Malory has a membership.
“We would rather have more space in our van than a shower,” Ben said.
The Landheers set out to travel the country in their new home in March 2021, according to SWNS.
So far, the Landheers have traveled to the Florida Keys, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
“This lifestyle has been 10 out of 10 so far. We are living our best lives,” Ben told SWNS. “But it’s definitely not for everyone. Some people need certain comforts in life.”
But they don’t anticipate being on the road forever.
“We’ll definitely make it a year. We are looking for where we want to settle down next and potentially have kids,” Malory told SWNS. “We figured let’s get this out of our system while we are young and newly married. Later down the road, when we have kids, we’ll upgrade to an RV with bunkbeds.”
Don’t give up on a Pure Michigan tourism comeback after COVID-19 Detroit Free Press
The Covid-19 Delta variant, which is also known as B1.617.2 and was first identified in India, accounts for 99% of new coronavirus cases in the UK, according to the latest data from Public Health England (PHE).
At least 33,630 cases of the Delta variant were identified in the week to 14 June, bringing the UK’s total number of cases of the variant to 75,953, PHE said on Friday.
As of Monday, a total of 806 people have been hospitalized with the Delta variant, an increase of 423 since last week, the report said.
The new data suggests that both the Oxford Astra/Zeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccines are about 75 percent effective in preventing hospitalization from the Delta variant after a single dose and 94% effective after two doses.
Dr. Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, warned on Friday that cases of the Delta variant were “rising rapidly” in the UK and that the variant is now “dominant.”
“The increase is primarily in younger age groups, a large proportion of which were unvaccinated but are now being invited to receive the vaccine,” she added.
Authorities in Portugal are worried about the growing numbers of the more infectious coronavirus delta variant. In an effort to slow the spread, traveling in and out of the capital Lisbon has been banned for three days.
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