“These data suggest that even at this higher level of active community infection, a single molecular test performed within 72 hours of departure can decrease the rate of active infection on board a commercial aircraft to a level that is several orders of magnitude below active community infection rates,” the study says. “The addition of other interventions, including universal masking at the airport and onboard aircraft, increase in frequency of air exchanges and enhanced clearing, physical distancing during deplaning activities, increasing vaccination rates among travelers and exclusion of symptomatic individuals, further enhances safety.”
“The requirements for cruise ships to enter ports outside the U.S. continue to evolve, and Carnival Cruise Line must operate in full compliance with these regulations,” Carnival brand ambassador John Heald wrote on Facebook. He added, “We believe these will be will temporary measures and apologise for any disruption caused to our guests.”
Canadian travellers have been able to fly freely to the United States since the start of the pandemic, but new U.S. travel rules announced Monday have some Canadians with two different COVID-19 vaccine doses worried they may soon be barred from entry.
Starting in early November, the U.S. will require foreign air passengers entering the country to be fully vaccinated. The problem is, the U.S. has yet to approve mixing COVID-19 vaccines.
“I’m really worried about this U.S. policy,” said Cathy Hiuser of Ancaster, Ont., who has one dose of COVIDSHIELD (a brand of AstraZeneca) and one dose of Pfizer. She has booked a trip to Maui, departing Nov. 7.
“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go across the border,” she said. “It’s a problem.”
At the same time as the U.S. introduces its vaccine requirement, the country will lift its travel ban on air passengers entering from a list of dozens of red-flagged countries.
“We’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.
CBC News asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) if the millions of Canadians with mixed vaccines will still be allowed to fly to the country when the vaccine requirement kicks in. The CDC said it’s in the “regulatory process” phase in determining which vaccines will be accepted.
The agency also laid out its current policy: it considers people fully vaccinated when they have all recommended doses of the same COVID-19 vaccine, such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.
“At present CDC does not recognize mixed vaccines,” said spokesperson Kristen Nordlund.
But there are exceptions to the rule. The CDC says on its website that mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are acceptable in “exceptional situations,” such as when the vaccine used for the first dose was no longer available.
However, a combination of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine won’t meet the bar, a position adopted by cruise ships departing from U.S. ports.
“Guests whose two-shot regimen consists of 1 mRNA dose (Pfizer or Moderna) with 1 AstraZeneca dose will not be considered vaccinated,” states Royal Caribbean cruise line on its website. “We continue to encourage the CDC and other U.S. government officials to re-evaluate this policy.”
‘I started to cry’
Canada is one of several countries — including Germany, Italy, France and Thailand — that has doled out mixed vaccines to a number of its citizens. But there is no international consensus on the practice.
The CDC said the U.S. is conducting trials on the safety and effectiveness of mixed vaccines, and that the agency may update its vaccine recommendations once it has new data.
But that’s of little comfort to Canadians with mixed doses who’ve already made travel plans to the U.S., such as snowbirds and those who’ve booked winter vacations.
In May, Norma Chrobak of Orillia, Ont., booked a special family trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands to celebrate her partner’s 75th birthday. The trip consists of a week-long chartered boat cruise in February — at a cost of $26,000.
The problem is, five out of the 10 family members set to go on the trip — including Chrobak and her partner — have a mix of AstraZeneca and Moderna.
“My heart just almost exploded in my chest,” said Chrobak when she learned about the coming U.S. vaccine requirement for travellers. “I started to cry.”
She has already paid a $12,500 deposit and, even though she purchased travel insurance, Chrobak is unsure at this point if she can get a full refund if she must cancel the trip.
The cruise was supposed to be a surprise birthday gift for Chrobak’s partner. But she’s speaking publicly about it in the hopes the Canadian government will pressure the U.S. to accept mixed vaccines.
“Somebody’s got to take this bull by the horns,” she said. “There’s got to be something that can be done.”
WATCH | Travellers with mixed vaccines say they can’t board some cruises:
Many Canadians who have received mixed doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are facing travel issues in countries that don’t recognize them as being fully vaccinated. Travel bloggers Karen and Brian Hosier share how the ‘frustrating’ rules are affecting their travel plans and business. 6:34
Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.
On Thursday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is in talks with the U.S. about its coming vaccine requirement for foreign air passengers.
“We have had quite a series of discussions with U.S. counterparts,” she said during a news conference. “We’ve basically been providing some technical support to help them make a decision on the mixed dose, particularly AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine.”
The waiting game
Lawyer Henry Chang, who specializes in Canadian and U.S. immigration law, said he’s optimistic the U.S. will soon change its position on mixed vaccines.
“My gut feeling is that they’re going to have to resolve it. If not right when the vaccine requirements come in, soon after, because there are going to be too many people complaining about this,” said Chang, who is with the law firm Dentons in Toronto.
If the U.S. doesn’t budge on mixed vaccines come November, some Canadians will still have options. Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are each offering third vaccine doses to people in their province who require it for travel.
But that doesn’t help potential travellers such as Chrobak in Ontario, who must wait to find out the fate of her trip.
“Pretty much just feeling devastated, feeling like I have no control,” she said.
He added: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.”
Speaking in New York, Boris Johnson was questioned by Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby over his previous comments that we shouldn’t ‘hold our breath’ on the lifting of US travel ban – suggesting he wasn’t expecting the announcement.
When asked whether he had been caught out by the US president acting unilaterally, Mr Johnson insisted “we’ve done it faster than we expected”.
Addressing the House of Commons, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “In 2020 the only weapon we had to fight the spread of COVID was simply to keep people apart.”
But as one “of the world’s most vaccinated countries”, with more than eight out of 10 people now jabbed, he says that “we must use that to our advantage to restore freedoms that were by necessity lost over the past 18 months”.
He continued: “Vaccinated Britons will be able to travel into the US from early November, reciprocating the policy that we introduced this summer and this is a testament to the hard work and progress of the expert working group set up at the G7 to restart transatlantic travel.”
Vaccines, he said, “mean the emphasis can now shift to an individual’s status instead”.
Excellent news for travellers from the UK to the US. Important for our economic recovery, families and trade 🇬🇧🇺🇸
Newly-appointed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted: “Excellent news for travellers from the UK to the US. Important for our economic recovery, families and trade.”
British ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce, said: “We are grateful the US has recognised the progress the UK has made against COVID-19, including high vaccination rates and declining cases.
“This decision means that more Brits can reunite with loved ones in the United States, more British holidaymakers can spend their hard-earned pounds in the American tourism sector, and more business activity can boost both of our economies.”
However, President Biden will tighten rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who now need to be tested within a day of their departure from the US as well as on their return.
Those fully vaccinated will not need to quarantine.
Airlines will be required to collect contacting tracing information – including phone numbers and email addresses – from international travellers.
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George Eustice has warned that lifting travels restrictions too quickly could end up with England back in full lockdown
Following the announcements, companies reliant on international travel saw their shares rise. Aeroplane engine maker Rolls-Royce saw shares climb by 5%, while SSP, whose brands such as Upper Crust and Ritazza operate at transport hubs, rose 6%.
In Europe, Air-France KLM and Lufthansa also enjoyed a share price bounce.
And easyJet, despite not being a transatlantic aviation player, nonetheless saw sharp gains, jumping by 9%.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said it was a “historic moment”.
“Our customers should now feel that the world is reopening to them and they can book their trips with confidence,” he added.
… This decision means that more Brits can reunite with loved ones in the United States, more British holidaymakers can spend their hard-earned pounds in the American tourism sector, and more business activity can boost both of our economies. 2/2
Only American Airlines, which had its plan approved and started using updated averages on June 8, would talk numbers. The carrier said its estimates now say the average body weight for passengers is 182 pounds in summer and 187 pounds in winter, which is eight pounds heavier than previous estimates. Carry-on bags will count as five pounds heavier, and checked bags will gain four pounds in the estimates, spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said in an email.
Many tourists are increasingly concerned with sustainability and expect airlines to minimise the environmental impact of flying.
Swiss Air said: “Swiss International Air Lines has long put a firm emphasis on environmental issues within its corporate culture, and takes sustainable actions at various levels to ensure the optimum use of resources in its business and operations.
“To the same ends, the company is seeking to reduce the volumes of fresh food items which remain unsold on its flights and must therefore be thrown away.”
The new approach has so far been introduced on a trial basis across the last flights of the day from Geneva in August and September.
All six passengers were quarantined right away, and their travel companions and close contacts tested negative. The passengers left the ship Friday with their travel groups in Freeport, Bahamas, and they were sent home on private flights, with transportation provided directly to their homes, according to the cruise line. USA Today’s Morgan Hines, who was on the ship, was the first to report the news.