From Kenya, Sri Lanka to Turkey, Indians Can Travel to These Countries on Tourist Visa

International Travel News: As many countries have now opened their borders for travellers from India, owing to the improving Covid-19 situation in the country, people have already started to make their travel plans.Also Read – International Flights: Tourism Secretary Makes Big Announcement, Says Scheduled Flight Services From India May Start Soon

Post the deadly second wave of coronavirus, as things are now slowly going back to normalcy, people are now taking to revenge tourism. What is revenge tourism? Well, it is a phenomenon of revenge travel, which refers to the desire of going on a vacation after an extended period of lockdown, as people were cooped up inside their houses. This new trend has, in fact, led to most popular tourist hubs being crammed with visitors. However, many of them are taking to offbeat destinations to beat the pandemic blues. Also Read – Planning to Fly to Canada From India? Here’s All You Need to Know

Here, we have compiled a list of countries allowing flyers from India holding tourist visa. Check them out :- Also Read – International Flights: Air India Resumes Flight Services to Canada, Vancouver | Check Full Schedule Here

If You Have Indian Passport, You Can Travel to These Countries on Tourist Visa


Recently, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) had announced to reopen its borders for travellers from India on tourist visa. Earlier in May this year, Kenya closed its borders owing to the deadly second wave of Covid-19. However, now the temporary ban of passenger flights from India has been revoked after a brief period of suspension, KTB said in a statement. Good news is that the Indian travellers are exempted from quarantine provided they produce a negative PCR-based Covid-19 test results conducted 96 hours before travel, the statement added.


Second on the list is UAE (United Arab Emirates) as it recently announced that it is lifting Covid-induced travel restrictions on entry for residents who have been fully vaccinated flyers from September 12, provided that the Covid vaccine is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). It had also allowed residents from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Namibia, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Africa, Nigeria and Afghanistan as well to fly into the UAE from September 12 onwards.

Meanwhile from October 1st onwards, Dubai will open the Expo 2020 World Fair after a year-long delay due to the Covid-19 global health scare. The event, which will span for months, is expected to gain huge traction.

Sri Lanka

In a piece of good news, Sri Lanka has allowed entry of travellers from across the places. Fully vaccinated international travellers from India can move freely around the island nation, after an on-arrival test as the country reopens borders to India after a long anticipated wait. Only fully vaccinated travellers who have completed the recommended vaccine doses will be considered (after 2 weeks from their final vaccination), with no minimum stay period requirements.


For the uninitiated, Mauritius opened its borders for international travellers from July 15 onwards in phases. In the first phase, i.e., from July 15 to September 30, it will enable vaccinated travellers to enjoy a resort holiday on the island. Holidaymakers will be able to enjoy facilities within their chosen resort premises, including the swimming pool and beach.

Notably, if guests stay over two weeks and have negative PCR test report during their stay in the resort, they will also be able to explore the island’s other attractions. Note that travellers to Mauritius aged 18 years or above must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. They must undergo a PCR test between 5 and 7 days before departure and a negative result is required to travel to the island. Travellers will also have a PCR test on arrival at the airport in Mauritius and on day 7 and 14 of their resort holiday, as applicable.

For Phase 2, i.e., from October 1st, vaccinated travellers will be allowed entry without restrictions upon presentation of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure. For those who are not vaccinated, they will be subject to 14 days in-room quarantine for both Phases 1 and 2 until further notice. Keep this in mind before making your travel plan.


A popular travel destination among tourists from India, Turkey is now allowing entry to international travellers. However, you have to undergo mandatory 14-day institutional quarantine. A test will be performed on the 14th day of arrival, and only if you are tested negative, you will be allowed to leave the quarantine facility. The ticket prices are at least two times more the regular airfare and flights are being operated by carriers such as Air India, Emirates and KLM Royal Dutch.


As per the reports, to enter Egypt, travellers, arriving from the countries where Delta COVID-19 variants have appeared, including India, will have to take a rapid test upon arrival. The passengers will have to take the 15-minute DNA test, called ID NOW to enter the country, if arriving from any COVID-19 strain country.

Earlier Egypt had announced that visitors will no longer have to produce any negative COVID-19 test report to enter the country. The announcement was made over the fears that tourists would cancel their plans. However recently, the cases of COVID-19 in Egypt have been rising and the government has decided to get stringent and test people coming from COVID-19 variant countries at the time of arrival.


Even though you can now travel to Russia from India, travellers will have to go through a cumbersome process. To enter Russia, as per the reports, you have to have an invitation from a government mandated tourist agency and remember, merely providing hotel reservations won’t suffice. Also, you can apply for a tourist visa that is valid for up to 30 days for single entry or double entry.

Notably, travellers need to produce RT-PCR test done within 72 hours prior to arrival and will also undergo an on-the-spot test at the arrival. Only if you are found negative you will be permitted to enter the country and a person who tests positive will be transferred to a COVID treatment facility. Currently there are only few flights from India to Russia so the ticket prices are at least two and a half times more the regular airfare.


Good news is that Serbia, like Russia, is also open to travellers from India; however, with certain restrictions. You need to provide a negative RT-PCR test taken 48 hours before the time of departure and there are only limited flights being operated by Lufthansa and KLM Royal Dutch from Mumbai to Belgrade. The prices are not exponentially high as compared to the Russia. Check them out before making your travel plan!


Iceland has also opened its borders for travellers from India. However, travellers need to be fully-vaccinated with the approved vaccinations by EU including Covishield by AstraZeneca. You will also have to present a valid vaccination certificate and a negative PCR test upon arrival. Notably, Icelandic authorities will also make you undergo one screening test for COVID-19 at the border and you will be exempted from quarantine if the test is negative. Go, pack your bags!

United Kingdom

You can visit UK from India however, quarantine is mandatory. UK earlier wasn’t allowing Indian travellers to enter its borders stating Covishield is not a valid vaccine under the government’s travel policy. However, Covishield is essentially Astra Zeneca being developed by Oxford and is produced in India by SII. Following India’s strong criticism over the UK’s refusal to recognise Covishield, London has included the vaccine in its updated international travel advisory. As the country has a problem with COWIN certification, travellers from India will have to undergo mandatory 10 days quarantine.


Any Indian citizen holding a valid visa for CIS countries (excluding Russia) is eligible to travel to Uzbekistan. Period. Note that, Uzbekistan is providing e-visa facility to travellers from India at a minimal fees and they must present a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in the country. In much relief to the travellers, there’s no quarantine and hence, one can explore the central Asian country to their heart’s content.


Interestingly, Italy too has recognized the Serum Institute of India’s COVID-19 vaccine Covishield. Now, fully vaccinated Indian tourists can travel to the European nation and are also eligible for a green pass, said the Embassy of India in Italy.

Do not forget to check latest Covid-related guidelines on government websites before making your travel plans as they are subject to change as per the prevailing Covid situation.

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Health News Roundup: U.S. CDC warns against travel to Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and Brunei; Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus and more

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Theranos founder’s defense may turn on state of mind, experts say

As Elizabeth Holmes’ fraud trial gets underway this week, lawyers for the former Silicon Valley entrepreneur may try to show she was a true believer in the blood-testing technology at her startup Theranos Inc, and never intended to defraud investors and patients, legal experts said. On Wednesday, federal jurors in San Jose, California will hear opening arguments in the case against the Stanford University dropout who once dazzled Silicon Valley and is now charged with misleading investors and patients by falsely claiming that the company’s printer-sized devices could run a range of tests and produce accurate results using a single drop of blood.

75% of U.S. adults have taken at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine – CDC

75% of adults in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The agency said 193,798,688 of adults have had at least one shot, while 165,947,460 people, or 64.3% of the adult population, are fully vaccinated.

U.S. CDC warns against travel to Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and Brunei

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday warned against travel to Sri Lanka, Jamaica and Brunei because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The CDC raised its travel advisory to “Level 4: Very High” for those countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there.

Factbox – Latest on the worldwide spread of the coronavirus

President Joe Biden on Thursday will present a six-pronged strategy intended to fight the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant and increase U.S. COVID-19 vaccinations, the White House said on Tuesday. DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

Spain authorises booster COVID-19 shots for severely immunocompromised people

Spain’s healthcare regulator approved on Tuesday a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines for people with severely compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the conventional two-dose inoculation schemes. The so-called booster shot should be administered 28 days after the previous one in some cases, and preferably the same type of vaccine is to be used, the Public Health Commission said in a statement. It would not say how many people could get such shots.

Mexican Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion in historic shift

Mexico’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, a major victory for advocates of women’s health and human rights, just as parts of the United States enact tougher laws against the practice. The court ruling in the majority Roman Catholic nation follows moves to decriminalize abortion at state level, although most of the country still has tough laws in place against women terminating their pregnancy early.

AstraZeneca boss Soriot says do not rush needlessly into COVID booster vaccines – The Telegraph

AstraZeneca Plc Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said booster COVID vaccine doses may not be needed for everyone in Britain and rushing into a nationwide rollout of third doses risks piling extra pressure on the National Health Service (NHS), the Telegraph reported on Tuesday. “We need the weight of the clinical evidence gathered from real world use before we can make an informed decision on a third dose,” Soriot wrote in the newspaper.

Biden to outline plan to curb coronavirus Delta variant as cases grow

President Joe Biden on Thursday will present a six-pronged strategy intended to fight the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant and increase U.S. COVID-19 vaccinations, the White House said on Tuesday. The United States, which leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths, is struggling to stem a wave of infections driven by the variant even as officials try to persuade Americans who have resisted vaccination to get the shots. Rising case loads have raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors and upending company return-to-office plans.

Venezuela receives first batch of vaccines through COVAX mechanism

Venezuela has received its first batch of coronavirus vaccines through the COVAX mechanism intended for poor countries, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Tuesday, after months of delays the government attributed to U.S. sanctions. The South American country has received 693,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech, the first of a total of 11 million it will receive through COVAX, overseen by the GAVI alliance and the World Health Organization.

Bristol-Myers to require U.S., Puerto Rico staff to be vaccinated

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co will require all its employees working in the United States and Puerto Rico to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus effective Nov. 1, the drugmaker said on Tuesday. In the face of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, spurred by the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant, many U.S. companies have come out with mask mandates and changed their vaccination policies.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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Sri Lanka travel: When will Sri Lanka exit red list? | Travel News | Travel

The country has led a blistering charge against Covid since 2020, with under 1000 cases per day at the height of its first wave.

Sri Lanka’s latest spike, which started in early July, has seen its highest totals yet, with 3,951 infections reported on August 8.

Although record-breaking for the country, total infections still fall far below those in India and the UK.

Indian authorities continue to report nearly 40,000 daily infections, while British cases number roughly 27,000.

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Henry Golding’s travel tips: Eat street food, make new friends and go to Sri Lanka

(CNN) — Henry Golding could rival James Bond for being a smooth talking, crisply dressed world traveler.

But before he was the star of blockbuster movies like “Crazy Rich Asians,” British-Malaysian Golding hosted the BBC’s aptly named “The Travel Show.”
When it comes to personal travel, though, Golding does have a few rules — invest in a quality camera, never wear Birkenstocks with socks and always eat street food.

The frequent jetsetter tells CNN Travel he has a “go bag” handy so he can always be ready to leave in a hurry. Besides his go-to Chuck Taylors, the bag is full of “fast-drying trousers, quick-drying shirts, cool jackets. Even cotton shirts in really humid places just don’t work. You get completely saturated with sweat.”

Next step: devices. Golding always travels with a tablet in addition to his phone.

“Your phone is probably one of the greatest companions,” he says. “It’s your lifeline sometimes. Gives you your directions, gives you the reviews of the restaurants, the insider tips as to where to go.”

Devices aren’t just about pure utility, though. On top of that, he advises toting a portable speaker.

“Sometimes just sitting and with a bit of music playing, having a picnic out overlooking a lake or a river of some sort, just chilling out in the park and taking a moment to relax. That’s one of the joys of traveling,” says Golding.

Getting to travel for work can be an incredible perk, but it doesn’t always mean a free vacation. If Golding has a day off from shooting, he uses it to embrace his two favorite parts of travel — food and photography.

“You have to eat on the street!” he says emphatically. “You have to eat where the locals eat. The streets of Saigon or Hanoi have some of the best food.”

But if you’re going to eat at a sit-down restaurant, Golding says it’s hard to go wrong in Japan.

“Japan has such attention to detail. One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life is in Tokyo, a place called Savoy in Moto Azabu (district). I go there religiously when I’m back there. It’s just because they understand the intricacies of ensuring it’s authentic — not only technique, but ingredients.”

Golding believes that some of the beauty of travel is in its ephemeral nature. His two favorite things to bring back are pictures and memories. And while he often chats up locals while abroad, those new connections don’t always translate into lifelong friendships — and it’s okay.

“I don’t think you should shy away from being a part of somebody’s life in such an impactful way that you never forget them, but understand that sometimes goodbye is forever. You don’t feel sad about it. You just feel as though you’ve left or you and them have left a lasting impression. And I think that’s good enough.”

When it comes to his own travel memories, a few countries stand out, such as Croatia, where he and wife Liv Lo spent their honeymoon. Golding also shouts out Sri Lanka as an underrated Asia destination.

“It has everything from surfable waves, to beautiful forts to walk around, to safaris that you can do. We saw leopards and elephants there. It’s just one of those hidden gems.”

So …. he has great taste in food, makes friends everywhere he goes and gets paid to visit some of the coolest places in the world? That doesn’t mean Golding has never made a travel error when on the road.

Yes, even a movie star can still fall prey to a scam.

One day in New Delhi, a man tapped Golding on the shoulder and told him to look down at his shoe, which suddenly had a huge green blob on it.

Before he knew it, Golding was being whisked off to the man’s friend, who had a “special way” of removing the stain, which he then charged him for. While the first man had claimed a bird was responsible for the damage, Golding figured out that it was a pretty common travel scam.

Luckily, it only ended up costing him about $5 — and some embarrassment.

Most recently, Golding has partnered with the app Affirm, which helps users get a handle on their finances and save up for big purchases like vacations. Considering how many people are planning big bucket list trips now that international borders are beginning to reopen, the timing couldn’t be better.

“This year and a half has been hard mentally for a lot of people — not being able to see friends, not being able to see family, not being able to experience new things, new cultures,” says Golding.

“Travel is definitely medicine for the soul.”

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UPDATE 1-UK adds seven countries to travel “red list”, including Egypt, Sri Lanka

(Adds full list)

LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) – Britain added seven countries, including Egypt and Sri Lanka, to its “red list” of destinations that require hotel quarantine on return to England on Thursday, in a review that also saw Portugal move from “green” to “amber”.

No countries were added to the quarantine-free green list.

The full list of countries added to the “red list” is: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad & Tobago.

All changes to the lists will come into effect at 0400 (0300 GMT) on June 8, the government said.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by William James)

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The Latest: Sri Lanka Banned Travel Throughout Country | World News

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s government has banned travel throughout the country for three days in an effort to contain rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases.

The ban is effective from Thursday night until Monday morning. It does not apply to people engaged in essential services such as health, food supply and power. Those going to the airport for air travel or seeking medical treatment will also be allowed on the roads.

“All others are banned from leaving their houses and traveling on the roads,” said Gen. Shavendra Silva, the army commander and head of the National Operation Center for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak.

Health officials are grappling with a surge in cases since last month. The country has already banned public gatherings and parties, and has closed schools and restricted public transport.

Officials warn that cases could rise further in the next two weeks because of celebrations and shopping by people last month to mark the traditional new year.

The health ministry has confirmed 131,098 cases, including 850 fatalities.

— US coronavirus deaths hit lowest level in 10 months

— CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta worries about muddled pandemic message

— Britain PM Boris Johnson: Inquiry into UK’s handling of virus to start next year

— An 88-year-old American artist finishes year of pandemic ‘daily doodles’

— Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at and


FÁTIMA, Portugal – The Catholic shrine at Fátima in Portugal has allowed 7,500 worshippers to attend two annual Masses marking the day when three illiterate shepherd children first reported seeing visions of the Madonna.

Traditionally, around 100,000 people come for the two Masses at the small rural town’s huge shrine on the night of May 12 and morning of May 13, though last year it remained closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The capacity was quickly reached on both Wednesday and Thursday, leaving hundreds outside the shrine’s gates, which were guarded by police.

Like the shrine at Lourdes, France, Fatima draws millions of pilgrims from around the world every year to give thanks to Our Lady of Fatima, or to pray for help.

Portuguese Cardinal José Tolentino Mendonça presided over the ceremonies and told the faithful he hoped that the suffering over the past year of the pandemic “can help to make us better: more spiritual, more human and more fraternal.”

MULTAN, Pakistan —Pakistan’s foreign minister is warning that the next two months are very crucial for the country’s coronavirus outbreak and that people must continue observing social distancing.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the comments Thursday after Eid al-Fitr prayers in the city of Multan.

He noted that the COVID-19 situation is very bad in neighboring India, where record numbers of infections were reported in recent weeks.

He said Pakistan has had a decline in cases since last month, when troops were deployed to force people to adhere to social distancing rules.

Qureshi praised troops and police for playing a key role along with health workers in combatting the coronavirus.

Earlier, Muslims thronged mosques for Eid al-Fir prayers across the country.

Although some worshippers were carefully spaced one meter (three feet) apart, most violated social distancing rules.

Authorities reported 126 new deaths and 3,235 new infections on Thursday.

Pakistan has reported 19,336 deaths and 870,703 coronavirus cases since last year.

NEW ORLEANS — Children as young as 12 can expect to start getting Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday in Louisiana.

The state health officer made the announcement Wednesday after federal advisers endorsed the vaccine for children aged 12 to 15. Dr. Joseph Kanter said that “we are very excited about the opportunity to protect additional age groups and their families with this highly safe and effective vaccine.”

Kanter says the health department expects to release its formal notice Thursday morning and any clinic or other outlet that has Pfizer vaccine can start giving it to kids 12 and up immediately after that.

More than 1,500 clinics, hospitals and pharmacies in Louisiana have the Pfizer vaccine. It is the only coronavirus vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for people this young.

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has reached a supply agreement for 25 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

Moderna said Thursday that the deal includes 10 million doses of vaccine against the initial coronavirus strain to be delivered in 2021 and 15 million doses of an updated variant booster to be delivered in 2022.

The vaccines have yet to be approved by the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Pfizer and AstraZeneca are the only coronavirus vaccines approved for use in Australia so far.

All three vaccines require two doses.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he expects the first Moderna vaccines to arrive in Australia in the last three months of 2021.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is allowing all Indoor and outdoor venues to resume normal operations this weekend.

Gov. Larry Hogan Hogan says the remaining capacity and distancing restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted on indoor and outdoor dining Saturday.

Hogan says the restrictions also will end for all other indoor entertainment venues and conventions and for outdoor entertainment, art and sports venues, though the mandate for mask use remains in place.

The governor said Wednesday that the state’s indoor mask mandate will be lifted when 70% of Maryland adults receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. As of Tuesday, the state had 65.4% vaccinated.

The governor says that “our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day.”

NEW YORK—U.S. health advisers have endorsed use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12.

The Food and Drug Administration earlier in the week cleared the expanded use of Pfizer’s shots, citing evidence the shots worked as well in those 12 to 15 years old as those 16 and older.

Kids in some places are already rolling up their sleeves.

But much of the nation was waiting for Wednesday’s recommendations from advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many states will be shipping doses to pediatricians and even to schools.

Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects, data the FDA will need to scrutinize.

TOPEKA, Kan.—Gov. Laura Kelly says Kansas state government offices will return to normal operations in mid-June after more than a year of having many employees work remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kelly said Wednesday that state employees and visitors to their offices still will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. She says agency directors can allow people to work from home, particularly when social distancing is not possible.

The changes take effect the week of June 13, which means Monday, June 14 for most workers.

The largest union for state employees expressed support for Kelly’s move, saying her policy would be flexible and contained safety measures. Kansas House Speaker and Olathe Republican Ron Ryckman Jr. responded to the Democratic governor’s move by saying, “It’s about time.”

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will terminate its participation in the federal government’s pandemic-related unemployment assistance program.

Utah is the latest of several states ending the $300 weekly federal benefit paid on top of state benefits.

Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday that those extra federal benefits will end in Utah on June 26.

About 28,000 Utah residents are receiving the $300 benefit, and $12.4 million is being paid out by the federal government each week.

Utah has one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates of 2.9%. The Department of Workforce Services says there are at least 50,000 job openings in the state.

HONOLULU—A former CEO of a Hawaii company accused of defrauding banks of money meant to assist businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic is pleading not guilty.

Martin Kao, ex-CEO of Martin Defense Group LLC, formerly known as Navatek LLC, is charged with bank fraud and money laundering.

A spokeswoman says he stepped down in November.

Authorities say he defrauded banks of more than $12.8 million through the Paycheck Protection Program. According to an indictment, Kao transferred more than $2 million into his own personal accounts.

Congress authorized the program to provide emergency financial assistance through forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses.

Defense attorney Michael Green entered the not guilty plea during a brief arraignment via telephone Wednesday.

Trial is scheduled for July. Green says he anticipates the trial will be postponed because the case involves thousands of pages of discovery.

LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas area has been added to places in Nevada where authorities have detected cases of a potentially worrisome strain of the coronavirus found in India.

The Southern Nevada Health District reported Tuesday that a woman in her 20s who had not traveled recently and was not vaccinated against COVID-19 tested positive for the variant subtype. She didn’t require hospitalization.

A district spokeswoman said Wednesday there were no additional cases to report.

Eight other cases of the Indian variant were previously identified in northern Nevada, including four confirmed last week in the Reno area.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will not require people to wear masks in almost all circumstances after June 15.

Newsom’s comments came in an interview with Fox 11′s Elex Michaelson.

Newsom announced last month the state would lift nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions on June 15 if the state’s case numbers continued to improve. But at the time, Newsom said the mask mandate would stay.

On Tuesday, Newsom said there would be “no mandates” for wearing masks, except for large indoor gatherings where people “from around the world” are mingling. California has required people to wear masks in public places since June 18, 2020.

ATLANTA — Dozens of school districts around the country have eliminated requirements for students to wear masks, and many more are likely to ditch them before the next academic year.

Where many see a continued need to protect children and teachers who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19, opponents argue that masks make students uncomfortable and mandates impinge on freedom.

At some school board meetings, there’s been emotional and highly divisive debates. Most public health experts say it’s too early to relax mask rules since few children are vaccinated and they spend hours indoors at school.

Even as some U.S. schools remain closed to minimize infections, districts in states from Alabama to Wyoming decided to ditch student mask mandates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance says schools “should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing.”

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo expects youth ages 12 to 15 in New York could get vaccinated this week.

Cuomo says the state’s vaccine advisory task force and state health commissioner will have to review safety data and decide whether to recommend the vaccine. It’s unclear when exactly New York’s task force will make its decision.

But Cuomo says, “we could have full authorization for vaccinations to begin for 12 to 15 year olds here in New York as early as Thursday.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also says health officials plan to start vaccinating children age 12 to 15 on Thursday.

In California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup is reviewing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for children ages 12 to 15. It’s expected to make its decision Wednesday.

NEW YORK — Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. have tumbled to an average of about 600 per day, the lowest level in 10 months.

In more than half the states, the number of lives lost per day has dropped to single digits on average and hit zero on some days. Kansas reported no new deaths Friday through Monday. Massachusetts recently had a day of no reported deaths.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University, says vaccinations have been crucial even as the nation struggles to reach herd immunity.

Confirmed infections have fallen to about 38,000 daily on average, the lowest mark since mid-September. They have plummeted 85% from a peak of more than a quarter-million cases per day in early January.

The last time deaths were this low was early July. The coronavirus deaths in the U.S. topped out in mid-January at an average of more than 3,400 a day, just a month into the biggest vaccination drive in the nation’s history.

The U.S. has reported 32.7 million cases and more than 582,000 confirmed deaths, the most in the world.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Kuwait suspends travel from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka

The Kuwait Towers
Image Credit: Yasmena Al Mulla

Dubai: Kuwait on Monday announced the suspension of commercial flights from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka until further notice, in its efforts to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, state media said.

The decision, which was issued by the Kuwaiti government, also bans entry of travellers from the four countries. It excludes cargo flights.

People who are allowed to enter Kuwait from the four countries, must have been in another country for at least 14 days before coming to Kuwait, according to a statement carried out by state news agency (KUNA) said.

Last week, Kuwait barred citizens who have not been vaccinated from travelling aboard from May 22.

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Kuwait suspends travel from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka – KUNA

Repatriated Kuwaitis from Amman, wearing protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), are seen after arriving at Kuwait Airport, Kuwait April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

Kuwait has suspended flights, and barred entry to travellers, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka until further notice, state news agency KUNA said on Monday, to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision by the Gulf state’s cabinet did not include cargo flights.

To enter Kuwait from the four countries, people must have been in another country for at least 14 days beforehand, the statement said.

Kuwait last week it would ban citizens who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 from travelling aboard from May 22. read more

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Travel to Sri Lanka: What it’s like to visit now

I live in Hong Kong, which has done a good job containing the pandemic. But the tradeoff is that it has been extremely difficult to travel anywhere.

Due to Hong Kong’s tough quarantine mandates, most residents have been limited to our city and can’t even cross the border into mainland China.

Normally I’m a hyperplanner, but nearly two years of not going more than 30 kilometers from my apartment had gone to my head. The idea of a country in Asia being open to tourists was so thrilling to me that I didn’t even do much research, figuring I could sort it out later and make sure regulations didn’t change before my trip.

Here’s how it went.

One week beforehand

In order to get into Sri Lanka, I needed more than a spontaneously purchased airplane ticket. Most visitors to the island nation must spend up to 14 days at a “level one” hotel or resort, which means it has received an official government designation as a safe, approved place to quarantine.

I’m glad that quarantine went smoothly, because a few days into my stay Sri Lanka loosened its rules, permitting vaccinated travelers to spend only one single night in quarantine provided they test negative on arrival. I’m immune compromised and have been bummed out about not getting vaccinated yet — at least this removed one layer of FOMO.

And this was no ordinary quarantine. While some places — like Australia and China — require all quarantiners to stay inside their hotel rooms except for when they are given PCR tests, Sri Lanka has come up with an innovative third path.

Guests are allowed to go anywhere on hotel or resort premises and can visit certain pre-approved “bubble attractions” provided they follow strict criteria. They are also allowed to stay at more than one property during those two weeks as long as all the hotels are level one-listed.

The Anantara Peace Triangle Tangalle is a level one listed resort, meaning they can host quarantiners.

The Anantara Peace Triangle Tangalle is a level one listed resort, meaning they can host quarantiners.

Courtesy of Anantara

Based on that, I went with a two-in-one deal from the Anantara hotel group — I would spend one week at its resort in Tangalle, at Sri Lanka’s southernmost tip, and then one week at a sister property in Kalutara, on the western coast.

In addition to the rooms, I was able to pay for my three mandated PCR tests up front and buy the mandatory health insurance (just $12 to cover up to $50,000 in hospital costs) through the hotel’s booking service, thus fulfilling all my travel requirements in one go.

Once I had everything confirmed in writing, I submitted the forms to Sri Lanka’s tourism board website and, after a few tense days of constant refreshing, got my tourist visa.

I scheduled a PCR test for 48 hours before my flight and pre-booked a hotel to quarantine in upon my return to Hong Kong (a must for being allowed out of the city in the first place). With everything in hand — literally, as I printed it all out in case of phone malfunctions — I was ready to go.

Bandaranaike International Airport reopened to international travelers in January 2021.

Bandaranaike International Airport reopened to international travelers in January 2021.

Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

The day of travel

The Hong Kong airport was deserted, but I still arrived two and a half hours before my flight just in case there were any last-minute snafus. I’m glad I did — it seemed like every single member of the gate staff at HKG had to read all my paperwork in triplicate. But I was eventually awarded a boarding pass and sailed through security in about 10 minutes.

I’d brought some snacks and an empty water bottle with me, assuming that everything in the airport would be closed. Happily, there were a few businesses operating — I was able to use the ATM, buy a sandwich and exchange my Hong Kong dollars for Sri Lankan rupees.

My flight was pretty empty — I’d already guessed as much based on how wide open the seat selection options were when I checked in online the day before. Despite that, cabin crew still insisted that the dozen or so passengers board by sections just to keep everyone socially distanced.

I had an entire row to myself and absolutely zero stress about whether there would be space to stow my luggage in the overhead bin.

Instead of printed out menus, there were lists of available items on the seat-back screens, plus handy wipes for everyone to sanitize the TVs with before touching them.

Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, we deplaned as normal. Security lines were short, but everyone — local and foreign alike — waited in two short lines. I had the full sheaf of paperwork in my hand along with my passport, but the agent only asked to see my PCR test. He gave me a nod, stamped my passport and sent me on my way.

In the arrivals hall, a representative from my hotel was waiting. One condition of quarantine is not taking any public transit, so the Anantara had contacted me ahead of time to confirm my flight details and ensure a private car would be waiting to pick me up. The driver wore a mask and full PPE.

Once I arrived at the resort, a staff member took my luggage to be sanitized before it was dropped off in my room. Before I could check in, I went to a kiosk near the parking lot that had been set up to conduct PCR tests. My nose and mouth were swabbed and then I was sent off to my room without interacting with any other guests.

To minimize contact with others while waiting for the test results to come back, I was asked to stay in my room and have breakfast delivered to me. Free breakfast in bed, in case I’d contracted coronavirus in the past 72-ish hours, seemed like a pretty decent offer.

No one was allowed to clean my room until the test came back negative — and, once it did, I had full run of the resort, which included a pool, spa, gym, three restaurants and access to the beach.

Week one

During the seven days I spent at my first quarantine hotel, I was tested for Covid twice — on arrival, and then again on day five. Day four was a Saturday, and the hotel concierge had organized an outing for me. That’s right — an outing.

I was taken to Udawalawe National Park, about 90 minutes away from the resort. A safari-style experience where everyone stays in their own Jeep, keeping interaction limited, it was the closest of Sri Lanka’s 18 “bubble attractions” open to quarantiners.

Eddie, the hotel’s nature guide, accompanied me in the Jeep, both to give more information about the animals and to make sure everything was kosher with regulations.

A glass partition separated us from the driver, so we knocked on the glass if we wanted him to stop. There were bathroom facilities at the park entrance, with separate, clearly labeled sections for foreigners and locals.

Upon checking in at the visitor’s center, Eddie and I had to show my negative Covid test and an endorsed letter from the hotel confirming I had permission to visit the site. (A rep had called the day before to double-confirm that it was still fine for quarantiners to visit.)

It was fairly painless, and the trade-off — real, live elephants, some just a few yards away from me — was more than worth it.

On day seven, I checked out of the Anantara Tangalle and headed by private car to the Anantara Kalutara. Because I booked the package deal, the hotels organized everything.

From secluded beaches, amazing wildlife and beautiful architecture, the southern shores of Sri Lanka are among the island’s top attractions.

Week two

Switching hotels gave me the opportunity to see another region of the country. This time, the closest “bubble” activities were the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Open Zoo in Pinnawala, just outside of Kandy.

I took my third and final PCR test on day 13. Once the test came back negative the following day, the Anantara Kalutara sent all of my information to the national tourism board, which issued an official letter confirming that I had completed all the quarantine requirements and was now able to travel freely around the country.

It was time for phase two — the vacation vacation — to begin.

sigiriya sri lanka

Normally, Sigiriya is packed with tourists.

CNN/Lilit Marcus

Weeks three and four

Free to explore the country, I was on what actually felt like a pretty normal holiday. I visited three major cities — Kandy, the cultural capital in the island’s very center; Galle, a southern coastal gem best known for its Dutch-era colonial fort; and Colombo, the most populous city.

As per the rules, I kept paper copies of my most recent PCR test and the government letter with me. That said, I was only asked to show my papers twice during the rest of the trip — once when I checked into my first level two hotel and again when I was the lone straggler walking through the “foreigners” gate at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Kandy.

The Tooth Relic Temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic city of Kandy.

The Tooth Relic Temple is part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic city of Kandy.

Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Multiple employees came over to read and re-read my paperwork — I suspected it was a mix of excitement at finally having something to do, nerves about messing up the process since there had been so few travelers to test it on, and heightened awareness as we were closing in on Sinhala New Year, a massively important holiday celebrated by many of the country’s Buddhists, which meant that the temple complex was packed.

Being one of the only foreigners visiting Sri Lanka was a double-edged sword.

On the plus side, I often had places to myself. Being able to visit Sigiriya, Sri Lanka’s most iconic attraction, with no one else around was a breathtaking experience — there were no people setting up elaborate Instagram photo shoots or fit hikers whizzing past me on the trails.

But the isolation was also challenging. It was sad to see all the roadside booths deserted and many small businesses boarded up.

After eight months of being closed off from the rest of the world, people in the hospitality industry were understandably concerned about their livelihoods, and when I was the only traveler I got the brunt of it. While it’s common for a tuk tuk driver to offer you a ride or a vendor to ask if you want to buy a carving, there was an air of insistence and nearly every ask came with a sob story.

No matter how many bottles of water I bought or cab rides I took, it never felt like enough to really help.

Being the lone unfamiliar face in a crowd came with other perks and risks.

A man on the street in Kandy shouted “Coronavirus! Coronavirus! Go back to the hotel!” at me.

At one hotel, it felt like the other guests — all locals, as it was a level two property — unconsciously edged their seats away from me at breakfast.

At the same place, a staff member told me that he wasn’t allowed to clean my room during my stay because of Covid regulations, even though he had just cleaned every other occupied room on my floor.

Many Sri Lankans believe that whoever controls the Tooth Relic Temple controls the country.

Many Sri Lankans believe that whoever controls the Tooth Relic Temple controls the country.

Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Yet there were also moments of beauty. A woman walked up to me at a cafe to say how happy she was that tourists were coming back to her country, and some friendly locals wanted to hear about the coronavirus situation in Hong Kong and asked how people were coping.

Colombo and Galle both have expat populations, so I stood out way less once I moved to those cities.

The long way home

Three days before I was due to leave the country, my phone pinged. Hong Kong had updated some of its quarantine regulations, stating that travelers from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore could shave one week off of their quarantine times.

The downside? Hong Kongers couldn’t transit in one of those countries lest they be confused for someone who now fell under the new regulations.

That meant that my return flight home — via Singapore again — was canceled.

I managed to find another way home, but it required me to transit via Doha, which is in completely the opposite direction, and involved a 13-hour layover.

This also meant I had to update my Hong Kong hotel information and that I’d be getting sprung on a Monday instead of a Saturday, thus wrecking yet another weekend.

You know the opening scene in “Reality Bites,” in which Winona Ryder’s character opens her graduation speech by reciting her social security number, saying it was the thing she needed to know the most? Well, I now can recite my passport number and expiration date with my eyes closed.

The Anantara Kalutara Resort is on a quiet peninsula just south of Colombo city.

The Anantara Kalutara Resort is on a quiet peninsula just south of Colombo city.

Courtesy of Anantara

In order to leave Sri Lanka, I needed one more PCR test. This was easy to book online and was a drive-through process, so I got a cab and had the driver take me through. My results were emailed to me in about 23 hours.

Paperwork completed, printed out in the Hilton Colombo business center and in my hands, I was ready to head home. But I wasn’t ready to leave.

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