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New Vaccines Will Not Solve Travel Restrictions In 2021

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For the past year, the pandemic has literally changed almost every facet of travel. Now many countries and travelers are claiming that the new COVID-19 vaccines are going to be the magical cure for international travel restrictions in 2021. 

While its still unknown how the tourism industry will evolve in 2021, countries that rush to enact mandatory vaccine entry requirements could in fact see their tourism numbers be slower to recover to pre-pandemic levels. 

The COVID-19 vaccines will not bring an end to travel restrictions in 2021 and could cause further economic and social turmoil in the already shattered tourism industry.

The Problems With Vaccine Entry Requirements 

Countries that enact a COVID-19 vaccine entry requirement too early and make it the only way to enter the country could face multiple hurdles in 2021. 

United States

The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be granted emergency use in countries such as the U.S. by the middle of December. The first people to get the vaccine are expected to be front line workers but even the U.S. government is realistic that it will take until at least May for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated

There is one big problem with this theory. In a recent poll by Gallup, only 58% of Americans are willing to get the vaccine

For countries that depend on U.S. tourists, are they willing to turn away over 40% of U.S. travelers by enacting a ‘vaccine only’ entry requirement? 

Canada

The wealthy and developed nation of Canada only expects half of its population to be vaccinated by September of 2021. 

“Canadians can expect that if all goes well, to have more than half of us vaccinated by next September,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Different Vaccines

Having a mandatory vaccine entry requirement to protect a country from virus transmission may be great in theory but it’s not that easy.

There are going to be multiple versions of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by different pharmaceutical companies, in different countries, with varying safety standards and effectiveness rates. Who decides which vaccines are good enough and how will nations protect against what could be a new ‘black market’ of vaccine certificates?

One solution proposed by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) was a COVID-19 ‘Travel Pass’, a tool which fundamentally serves as a COVID passport in the future of travel regulations and protocols.

This system all depends on widespread adoption by international countries, and looking at the difference in how each country has handled the pandemic thus far, this ‘travel pass’ is still highly unlikely to be adopted worldwide. 

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Travel & Escape

Christmas travel rules explained: From advance train tickets to travelling abroad from Tier 3 airports

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Q: Normally trains would be packed over the busy Christmas period. Do you have to get advance train tickets to ensure you have a seat? And what happens if a train is cancelled?

A: Sir Peter Hendy has been tasked with overseeing travel during the Christmas period by the Department for Transport. By analysing bookings and searches, the Chairman of Network Rail is looking at whether the current, reduced, infrastructure is prepared for a surge in passenger numbers with reduced capacity to ensure social distancing. The DfT is advising passengers to buy advance tickets to ensure they have a seat, and some operators such as LNER, are making them mandatory. 

On GWR services between London and the West, not all standard services will be reservable, but for those that are, GWR says “we’ll automatically allocate you a space if one is available or ask you to try another service if not. We always leave space on board for those with walk-up tickets, such as season tickets, or those who may have been disrupted.” 

Avanti West Coast is advising passengers to make advance reservations and has also relaxed its Christmas peak so that demand is spread over the period. It will be operating trains at 40-45 per cent capacity. 

Disruption is guaranteed on some parts of the network, with no trains operating from London Kings Cross between 25-30 December. LNER says: “Please do not travel to London on these dates. Trains either side of these dates will likely be busy.” It also advises against travelling on Christmas Eve and between 31 December and 3 January. 

GWR’s Night Riviera service between London Paddington and Penzance will pause between 24 December and 2 January. Engineering work is scheduled to take place on Northern routes either side of Christmas, too. 

If unforeseen cancellations arise, the Rail Delivery Group is offering reassurance that space is left on each service to allow for emergencies and cancellations. Agreements can be put in place with other operators, depending on the disruption, such as cross-acceptance of tickets. A spokesperson told i:  “contingency plans are in place and they will be very strong.” For example, if the last train of the day is cancelled, onward transport by other means could be arranged.

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Travel & Escape

Delta launching contact tracing program for international travel

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Delta announced Tuesday it will debut a new contact tracing program for international travelers returning to the United States.

The company said the program is in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program, slated to start December 15, will ask customers traveling to the U.S. from an “international location to voluntarily provide five pieces of data to aid contact tracing and public health follow-up efforts,” including:

  • Full Name
  • Email address
  • Address in the U.S.
  • Primary phone
  • Secondary phone

Delta said that under the new process, they will work with the CDC to streamline contact-tracing efforts by “directly and securely transmitting the five requested customer data points to the CDC via U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” Delta said this move will give the CDC access to the data fast, decreasing the time it takes to notify impacted customers. According to Delta, “by connecting with customers more quickly and providing public health follow-up, health authorities can help reduce instances of potential exposure and slow the spread of the virus.”

“Independent studies have shown that the many layers of protection Delta has already put in place are effectively minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and contact tracing adds one more important layer to our efforts to ensure safety throughout travel,” Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer said in a statement. “We want customers to feel safe when they return to travel, and this voluntary program is another way we can provide additional reassurance to customers and employees alike.”

Delta recently announced a COVID-19 testing program that allows a quarantine-free entry into Italy for the first time. The airline also remains the only airline blocking middle seats during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Travel & Escape

Delta unveils ‘quarantine-free, COVID-free’ plan to resume international travel

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International flights are currently limited at Orlando International Airport because of travel restrictions, but there is some hope on the horizon.

This week, Delta announced what it’s calling a “quarantine-free, COVID-free” plan to get people from Atlanta to Rome.

U.S. citizens who are permitted to travel to Italy for essential reasons like work, health and education can take part in the innovative and experimental flight program.

Delta stated passengers will need to have a negative test result 72 hours before departure, then they will need to test negative with a rapid test at the Atlanta International Airport before takeoff, upon arriving in Rome and before returning to the U.S.

“Carefully designed COVID-19 testing protocols are the best path for resuming international travel safely and without quarantine until vaccinations are widely in place,” Delta said in a prepared statement.

The program begins Dec. 19.

Industry experts said they’re really hoping Delta’s new plan becomes some sort of a role model, saying it could be the key to safely restarting international travel.

“As the tourism sector tries to recover, to have that additional influx of tourists from outside United States would be a welcome occurrence,” said Dr. Sean Snaith with the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting.

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