USA lifts COVID travel ban and opens up to foreign visitors

The U.S. lifted travel restrictions on Monday from a long list of countries including Mexico, Canada, and most European nations, allowing tourists to make long-belated travel and family members back in touch with loved ones after being more than a year and a half apart enter Covid19 pandemic.

“I’ll jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” Gaye Camara said of the New York husband she hasn’t seen since COVID-19 brought the world of free flowing commercial aviation to a standstill.

“Talking about it alone makes me emotional,” said Camara, 40, as she rolled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, which could almost be mistaken for his pre-pandemic self, busy with humming crowds, albeit with face masks .

The rules, which went into effect on Monday, allow air travel from a number of countries from which they have been restricted since the early days of the pandemic – as long as the traveler presents proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Anyone crossing a land border from Mexico or Canada must provide proof of vaccination, but do not have to take a coronavirus test.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but travel bans closed tourists, frustrated business travelers, and often separated families.

Airlines are now preparing for an increase in travel. Data from travel and analytics company Cirium showed airlines increased flights between the UK and the US this month by 21% compared to the previous month.

Little did they know when Camara last saw Mamadou, her husband, in January 2020 that they would have to wait 21 months before holding on again. She lives in Alsace, France, where she works as a secretary. He is based in New York.

“In the beginning it was very difficult. I cried almost every night, “she said. “Thanks to him, I made it through. He knows how to talk to me, to calm me down. “

Video calls, text messages, and phone calls kept them in touch – but couldn’t fill the gap between them.

“I can’t wait,” she said, “to be with him, his presence, his face, his smile.”

For Maria Giribet, her grandchildren, Gabriel and David, are the apples of her eyes. The twins are in San Francisco, which during the height of the pandemic could just as easily have been another planet for Giribet, 74, who lives on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Now they are 4 years old and the boys were half the age when she last saw them.

“I’m going to hug her, choke her – that’s what I dream about,” said Giribet after checking in for her flight. As a widow, she lost her husband to a long pre-pandemic illness, and her three adult children all live abroad: a son in Paris, a daughter in Richmond, Virginia, and the father of the twins in San Francisco.

“I was all alone,” said Giribet, who was flying alone for the first time in her life.

The change will have a profound impact on the borders with Mexico and Canada, where traveling back and forth was a way of life until the pandemic broke out and the US halted non-essential travel.

Shopping malls, restaurants and stores in US border towns have been devastated by the lack of visitors from Mexico. On the border with Canada, cross-border hockey rivalries were community traditions until the pandemic turned it on its head. Churches that have had members on both sides of the border are hoping to welcome parishioners they did not see during the coronavirus shutdown.

Loved ones missed holidays, birthdays, and funerals while banned non-essential air travel, and they are now eager to reconnect.

River Robinson’s American partner was unable to be in Canada 17 months ago for the birth of their baby because of the border closings caused by the pandemic. She was thrilled to hear about the US reopening.

“I’m planning on taking my baby for Thanksgiving in America,” said Robinson, who lives in St. Thomas, Ontario. “If everything goes well at the border, I’ll take him off as much as possible.”

The US accepts travelers fully vaccinated with any of the World Health Organization’s emergency-approved vaccines, not just those used in the US. This includes the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is widely used in Canada and Europe.

For air travelers, airlines are required to review vaccination records and match them with ID, and if they fail to do so, they could face fines of up to nearly $ 35,000 per violation. The airlines will also collect information about passengers in order to take contact tracing measures. There will be CDC staff performing random checks on travelers in the US for compliance. At the land borders, customs and border guards will check the vaccination certificate.

The steps come as the U.S. COVID-19 outlook has improved dramatically in the past few weeks since the summer delta surge that marginalized hospitals in many places.

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