• Coronavirus: Omicron variant fears prompt Australia, Japan, Philippines, Thailand to impose new travel curbs | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Omicron variant fears prompt Australia, Japan, Philippines, Thailand to impose new travel curbs. The restrictions are similar to those brought in by Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere after the discovery of the new variant triggered global alarm on Friday
    Australia imposed new restrictions on Saturday on people who have been to nine southern African countries, a day after the Philippines made a similar move, as the new Omicron variant raises concerns about another wave of the coronavirus pandemic.Effective immediately, the Australian government will ban non-citizens who have been in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, eSwatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique from entering and will require supervised 14-day quarantines for Australian citizens and their dependents returning from the countries, said Health Minister Greg Hunt. These restrictions also apply to people such as international students and skilled migrants arriving from countries with which Australia has travel bubbles, who have been in any of the nine countries within the past 14 days.Anyone who has already arrived in Australia and who has been in any of those countries within the past 14 days must immediately isolate and be tested.The Australian government will also suspend all flights from the nine southern African countries for two weeks.
    Meanwhile, Japan said it would tighten border controls for the southern African nations of Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, requiring a 10-day quarantine for any entrants, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
    The new rules, taking effect from midnight, come a day after Japan tightened border controls for those arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Lesotho.
    The Philippines has also suspended flights from South Africa and six other countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, eSwatini, and Mozambique – until December 15, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a statement on Friday night. Passengers who have visited any of these countries in the 14 days before their arrival will also be temporarily barred from entry, he said. Earlier in the day, the Philippines had announced the reopening of borders to tourists from what it considers low-risk areas, as part of an easing of restrictions after weeks of declining coronavirus infections.Thailand said on Saturday it would also ban the entry of people travelling from eight countries – Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – from December.
    “We have notified airlines and these countries,” senior health official Opas Karnkawinpong told a news conference. “Those that have already been approved to enter the country from these eight countries will be ordered to undergo an additional 14-day mandatory quarantine, starting now,” Opas said.People from other African countries who have already secured approval to visit Thailand will be subject to 14 days in hotel quarantine. No African countries are on a list of 63 nations eligible for quarantine-free travel to Thailand which started this month, Opas said.


  • Coronavirus: Thailand among 6 countries added to Singapore’s quarantine-free travel lane | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Thailand among 6 countries added to Singapore’s quarantine-free travel lane. The city state also restricted travel from seven African countries after a ‘potentially more contagious’ Covid-19 variant was found in South Africa Scientists are concerned the new strain could evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible
    Singapore on Friday extended its quarantine-free travel lane scheme for visitors vaccinated against Covid-19 to six more countries in a bid to regain its international aviation hub status.The inclusion of Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey to the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) programme brought the number of nations the city state has such arrangements with to 27.The move came even as Singapore tightened border restrictions with seven African countries after the “potentially more contagious” B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant was detected in South Africa.
    The island nation currently has no cases linked to the strain.Singapore’s civil aviation authority said the 27 countries under the VTL scheme contributed to about 60 per cent of its total arrivals before the pandemic.
    It added that Cambodia, Thailand, Maldives and Sri Lanka were popular tourist destinations among Singaporeans.Singapore still hoping for Hong Kong travel bubble, health minister says
    24 Nov 2021Travellers from Thailand would be able to enter Singapore under the arrangement from December 14. Those from Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey can visit two days later.With these new lanes, the daily quota under the VTL would be increased from 10,000 to 15,000.Transport Minister S. Iswaran told reporters that Singapore has to be “very mindful” of the evolving virus situation and that it was closely monitoring the emergence of new variants of concerns even as it looks to reopen its borders.“We must expect that in a dynamic situation like this, and with the pandemic evolving, that settings may change.”Singapore is seeing about 2,000 Covid-19 infections a day but authorities have pledged to treat the virus as endemic and would progressively open up given its high vaccination rates.


  • Coronavirus: Singapore official hopes for quicker Hong Kong, mainland China reopening; | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Singapore official hopes for quicker Hong Kong, mainland China reopening;
    Monetary Authority of Singapore chief Ravi Menon said strict border restrictions may impact business ties between the Asian financial hubs
    Elsewhere, a government council said Malaysia will reopen its borders to international visitors by January 1 at the latest
    Singapore’s central bank chief would like Hong Kong and mainland China to open up quicker and more decisively over the next year as their strict border restrictions may impact business ties between the key Asian financial hubs.“I would hope that China and Hong Kong will be able to open up faster over the next year,” Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon said in a recent interview, responding to a question on whether the city state can gain from the different border situations.
    As Singapore has strong ties with both, “not being able to travel to these places without considerable frictions, does stand in the way of strengthening our business links.”The divergence between Singapore’s strategy of living with the virus and the zero-Covid policy still pursued by mainland China and Hong Kong has become more stark in recent months.
    Singapore and Malaysia agree to quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane
    8 Nov 2021 While Singapore has been establishing several vaccinated travel lanes, including with the US and parts of Europe, mainland China and Hong Kong have stuck to strict border measures, notably lengthy quarantines on arrival.Earlier plans for a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore had been shelved repeatedly as the cities saw a rise in infections. Eventually, Hong Kong said it will not pursue such a travel lane due to the two cities’ differing Covid-19 strategies.Hong Kong is instead prioritising opening its borders with mainland China first. Menon said that when Singapore opens up, it wants to strengthen links to all geographies, and both mainland China and Hong Kong are important parts of these ties.
    China was the island nation’s largest merchandise trading partner last year, while Hong Kong and Singapore compete as key financial hubs in the region.“I’d very much hope that they would be able to open up more decisively over the course of next year,” said Menon. “That’d be good for Asia. That’d be good for Singapore.”


  • Coronavirus : Australia plans Christmas border reopening | South China Morning Post

    Coronavirus: Australia plans Christmas border reopening;
    plans to open its international border by Christmas at the latest, unwinding one of the world’s strictest controls on overseas travel since the pandemic began.Australians will be able to travel abroad, with no restrictions on the destination, once the vaccination rate in their respective home state hits 80 per cent, Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said at a National Press Club of Australia event on Wednesday. “People will be able to freely travel outside Australia with no restrictions” under the national plan governing the country’s emergence from Covid-19, Tehan said. Australians would still be subject to rules governing the countries they visit. The government is exploring opening travel bubbles with several countries to reduce quarantine time, and hopes home quarantine will be operational before Christmas, Tehan said. Meanwhile, hundreds took to the steps of a Melbourne war memorial on Wednesday in a third day of protest
    against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for the construction sector.


  • Bye ‘jinxed’ travel bubble, hello ‘air travel corridor’ as Singapore, Hong Kong well placed to reconsider plan: minister | South China Morning Post

    Bye ‘jinxed’ travel bubble, hello ‘air travel corridor’ as Singapore, Hong Kong well placed to reconsider plan: Health minister Ong Ye Kung says the twice-postponed initiative will now go by a new name, with both economies ‘in a good position’ to look at it again. He adds that vaccinated Singaporeans may be able to undertake quarantine-free leisure travel to Europe and the US by the end of the year
    Vaccinated Singaporeansmay be able to undertake quarantine-free leisure travel to Europe and the United States by the end of the year, according to the island nation’s health minister Ong Ye Kung, who says Hong Kong and Singapore are now “in a good position” to reconsider their twice-postponed travel bubble.In a Thursday interview with The Straits Times, Ong said he shared the aspirations of residents who hoped to go on holiday by year-end to places where the Covid-19 pandemic
    was on a downtrend, though he added a caveat by saying “one thing I learned is that the situation changes every month”.The minister’s remarks follow comments last week from the government’s Covid-19 task force – which Ong co-chairs – that outlined a blueprint for the country to live with the coronavirus becoming endemic.
    Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble: early July review set for quarantine-free scheme amid coronavirus pandemic
    11 Jun 2021 Restrictions put in place in May to deal with a surge in cases are currently being scaled back, with the cap on dining in at restaurants expected to be increased from two to five people on July 12. Ong did not specify when the travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore would begin, but noted that “both of us are more or less in a good position now and both of us are vaccinating”. “I think this puts us in a good position to relook at some of what we had looked at before,” Ong said. The bubble was initially slated to launch last November before it was postponed due to a spike in cases in Hong Kong.Then, a May 26 start date was indefinitely pushed back when cases surged in Singapore, leading some frustrated citizens to quip that the plan was jinxed.The authorities appear to have taken notice of that sentiment. Ong said in the interview that the arrangement would be called an “‘air travel corridor’ from now as the word ‘bubble’ is a bit of a jinx, I think”.Asked by the bemused interviewer if that would expedite the arrangement’s start date, Ong replied: “We try, whatever works.”
    On countries to which vaccinated residents of Singapore could travel without restrictions, Ong said: “I think once [the] trajectory [of a place] is downwards, vaccinations going up, and you go below, say, [an infection rate of] three per 100,000, we should start looking at those countries seriously.”
    He named “most of” the European Union and the US as among the places that fit this criteria, though he noted that the number of Delta-variant cases in Britain were rising.The minister also touched on a commentary he and two other cabinet ministers – also co-chairs of the government’s Covid-19 task force – penned last week. The officials wrote that the authorities were drawing up a blueprint for Covid-19 becoming endemic in a plan that might include “multi-year” vaccine booster shots such as those given for the flu virus, a shift away from monitoring daily cases, and a return of mass gatherings such as the country’s annual National Day Parade.


  • Covid-19 dans le monde : la Nouvelle-Zélande suspend sa « bulle de voyage » avec l’Australie

    Covid-19 dans le monde : la Nouvelle-Zélande suspend sa « bulle de voyage » avec l’Australie. La décision de Wellington a été prise après l’annonce par des autorités d’Australie occidentale d’imposer trois jours de restrictions sanitaires dans les régions de Perth et de Peel.
    La Nouvelle-Zélande a suspendu vendredi la « bulle de voyage » qu’elle venait d’ouvrir avec l’Australie, a fait savoir Wellington. Une décision motivée par la résurgence de l’épidémie chez son voisin : la mesure sera en vigueur « dans l’attente d’un nouvel avis du gouvernement ».La décision a été prise après l’annonce par les autorités d’Australie occidentale qu’elles imposaient trois jours de restrictions sanitaires dans les régions de Perth et de Peel dès vendredi, à minuit.Ces nouvelles restrictions ont été décidées « à la suite d’un cas positif chez une personne en quarantaine à l’hôtel et active dans la communauté », ont détaillé les autorités d’Australie occidentale sur leur site Web.L’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande, dont les frontières internationales sont fermées depuis mars 2020, avaient inauguré, lundi, cette « bulle de voyage » censée permettre à leurs habitants de se déplacer de part et d’autre de la mer de Tasman sans motifs impérieux ni quarantaine hôtelière.


  • Covid-19 : l’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande ouvrent une « bulle de voyage »

    Lundi, les deux voisins des antipodes, qui ont fermé leurs frontières internationales en mars 2020 pour lutter contre la pandémie de Covid-19, ont inauguré un nouvel espace de liberté. Il permet à leurs habitants de se déplacer d’un pays à l’autre sans aucune contrainte.
    Devant les bornes d’enregistrement de l’aéroport international de Sydney, lundi 19 avril, Sue Grocott oscille entre rires et larmes. Dans quelques heures, elle atterrira à Auckland et rencontrera, pour la première fois, son petit-fils d’un an. L’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande, dont les frontières internationales sont fermées depuis mars 2020, ont inauguré, le matin même, une « bulle de voyage » qui permet aux habitants des deux pays de se déplacer de part et d’autre de la mer de Tasman sans motifs impérieux ni quarantaine hôtelière. « Le début d’un nouveau chapitre dans notre réponse au Covid-19 et pour notre rétablissement », s’était félicitée, le 6 avril, la première ministre néo-zélandaise, Jacinda Ardern.
    Les deux voisins des antipodes, qui ont adopté une stratégie de tolérance zéro vis-à-vis du SARS-CoV-2, ont réussi à éradiquer la circulation du virus sur leur territoire et à retrouver une vie normale – sans masques et avec très peu de mesures de distanciations physiques –, mais au prix d’un isolement inédit. Depuis plus d’un an, leurs frontières sont fermées aux étrangers non-résidents et toute personne arrivant sur leur sol est soumise à une quarantaine, obligatoire et payante, dans un hôtel.En Australie, les ressortissants ne peuvent, en outre, quitter leur pays qu’en cas de raisons essentielles, après avoir obtenu une dérogation des autorités. Depuis octobre 2020, Canberra avait ouvert son territoire aux Néo-Zélandais, mais la réciproque n’était pas vraie et Wellington avait maintenu les mesures de quatorzaine pour les « Kiwis » de retour dans l’archipel suite à un séjour sur l’île-continent.
    Après avoir maintes fois repoussé la perspective d’instaurer un corridor sanitaire, le gouvernement néo-zélandais a finalement jugé, début avril, que « le risque [était] aussi faible que possible ». Désormais les citoyens des deux pays peuvent se déplacer librement et sans tests préalables. Mais cette « bulle » pourra être immédiatement suspendue si des cas d’origine inconnue sont découverts d’un côté ou de l’autre de la mer de Tasman.
    (...)En Nouvelle-Zélande où, en 2019, les Australiens représentaient près de 40 % des visiteurs étrangers, les autorités misent sur cette liberté retrouvée pour relancer le secteur touristique, durement affecté par la fermeture des frontières internationales. Selon leur calcul, le pays pourrait engranger jusqu’à 600 millions d’euros grâce au retour des voyageurs australiens à deux mois de l’ouverture de la saison de ski.Pour Canberra, il s’agit surtout d’une « première étape ». Le gouvernement conservateur rêve d’instaurer d’autres « bulles de voyage » avec d’autres Etats de la région ayant réussi à contrôler l’épidémie de coronavirus, comme Singapour, la Corée du Sud ou encore certaines îles du Pacifique mais, pour l’instant, il estime que les conditions ne sont pas réunies. Le 1er avril, le petit archipel des Palaos et Taïwan avaient été les premiers à inaugurer ce concept. Hong Kong et Singapour ont également entrepris des discussions en octobre 2020.


  • Experts in Singapore wary of rise in mutant coronavirus strains amid plans to relaunch Hong Kong travel bubble | South China Morning Post

    Experts in Singapore wary of rise in mutant coronavirus strains amid plans to relaunch Hong Kong travel bubble. Health care experts say the trend should be closely watched as the island nation continues to open its borders. They also say the detection of two new local infection clusters in the past week is a sign residents should not let their guard down
    Singaporeis facing an uptick in Covid-19 cases amid reports of a rising number of mutant strains circulating overseas, with health care experts saying this trend should be closely watched as the city state seeks to launch a quarantine-free travel bubble with Hong Kong.
    Health authorities on Monday afternoon reported 20 new infections, 19 of which were imported. Of the island nation’s 170 imported cases
    in the past week, 63 came from India, which is battling a deadly new wave of cases stemming from a new and possibly more virulent variant of the disease.While Singapore has largely brought the virus under control, in recent months it has reported between 10 and 40 imported cases a day as foreigners with work passes and student passes return to the country, along with those on dependent passes.


  • Joy, actually: happy reunions fill Auckland airport as trans-Tasman bubble begins | New Zealand | The Guardian

    Joy, actually: happy reunions fill Auckland airport as trans-Tasman bubble begins. Emotional scenes in arrivals hall as hundreds of travellers touch down on first day of quarantine-free travel from Australia
    Lisa Tetai warned her son not to take a sick day when he picked her up from Auckland airport. “I thought there might be media there,” she explains.She wasn’t wrong.As she stepped into the arrivals hall on Monday afternoon, Tetai, like hundreds of others who travelled to New Zealand on the first day of what has been dubbed the trans-Tasman travel “bubble” with Australia, was swamped; a flash of cameras, journalists buzzing with anticipation, then, pushing through the crowd, the people she had actually come to see. Cue tears.
    “I was supposed to be here for a funeral,” she said. “My uncle was admitted to hospital and I booked the earliest ticket I could get. He didn’t make it. They had the funeral last week, but I wanted to see my son and my grandson.
    “I’ve got family all over the North Island and before the pandemic I came back four or five times a year. It has been really, really hard.”
    It happened over and over again. Steph Wood was already crying when she walked into the cacophony. So too was her mother, Narelle. Wood had hoped to be back for Christmas last year, but a Covid outbreak in her home city of Sydney delayed the beginning of the long-mooted quarantine exemption for Australian arrivals.

    When it was finally announced two weeks ago, she didn’t waste time.

    “It was just like, I need to be here as soon as I possibly can,” she said. “I haven’t been back since 2019, I have been counting down the days.”

    Narelle was mostly speechless: “It’s just too good to have her back.”

    So it went all afternoon. A never-ending stream of emotional airport scenes, as though someone had organised a mass re-enactment of Love Actually’s opening montage. It was hard not to be moved. Not only by the reunions but also by the deep link these two island nations share
    Both Auckland airport and the airlines supplying the flights had put a lot of work into manufacturing this media moment – an acoustic band played the same Dave Dobbyn song on repeat all afternoon (Welcome home / I bid you welcome / I bid you welcome) and Jetstar served champagne in the departures lounge – possibly a budget airline world-first – before the first flight to leave Sydney.And for good reason. Monday might have been a day for reunions but there is a lot riding on the bubble. The pandemic has decimated both airlines and the tourism industry. According to Tourism Australia, 8,000 international visitors came in January – a 99% decrease from the year before.For both countries, pulling visitors from across the ditch is a crucial lifeline, particularly as lagging vaccine rollouts have forced politicians to warn other international travel may be some time off.
    While the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said on Monday that her government was exploring options for travel bubbles with other Covid-free nations in the Pacific, it would not look further afield. Similarly, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison said on Sunday that Australia was “in no hurry to open those borders” to other countries.
    The questions is whether, after the initial flurry of reunions, the bubble between these two countries will offer a genuine economic boon for devastated tourism industries.Pre-Covid, Australians made up about 40% of the international visitors to New Zealand and spent $2.7bn in 2019. New Zealanders spent almost the same amount – $2.6bn in 2019, although Australia’s larger tourism market meant they only made up about 15% of visitors there. Perhaps aware of the political risks to welcoming Australians if there were to be an outbreak – a new poll by Research New Zealand for RNZ found 22% of New Zealanders were on the fence about the bubble and 28% were against an opening – Ardern has warned the high probability of fresh Covid-19 outbreaks meant the travel bubble could be burst at any moment.
    Indeed, new arrivals on Monday were warned they could be forced into quarantine in the event of an outbreak. But despite the tough stance, Ardern also seemed to get swept up in the enthusiasm on Monday, saying she was personally experiencing some of the excitement that had greeted the travel bubble. “I, like many New Zealanders, have friends and family in Australia,” she said, including some who were “desperate to return to New Zealand”.
    “I know how enthusiastically this has been greeted and I’m really pleased about that,” she said. “It is truly exciting to be able to welcome our Tasman cousins quarantine-free to Aotearoa.”Still, that level of uncertainty could mean that many holiday-makers will delay trips while they wait to see how it unfolds. Tourism NZ acknowledges this, saying its scenario modelling showed it could take until January 2022 for Australia to reach 80% recovery to pre-Covid 19 levels.


  • Hong Kong coronavirus: unvaccinated, locally based cargo flight crews can skip quarantine if flying from ‘low-risk’ countries | South China Morning Post

    exclusive | Hong Kong coronavirus: unvaccinated, locally based cargo flight crews can skip quarantine if flying from ‘low-risk’ countries
    New rules demand though that they remain segregated from local community while overseas; fully vaccinated aircrews, meanwhile, will be allowed to bypass isolation without that conditionCrews from destinations deemed ‘very high risk’, including Britain and the Philippines, will not be exempted even if they have had two jabs
    Why is Hong Kong’s coronavirus ‘vaccine bubble’ plan already drawing flak?
    Hong Kong’s latest efforts to incentivise coronavirus vaccinations have proved unpopular with some.
    Covid-19 contagion among vaccinated individuals is still being studied but the likelihood of post-vaccination spreading is likely to be reduced.
    Hong Kong will allow locally based, unvaccinated cargo flight crews to skip quarantine if they have stayed in six Asia-Pacific countries deemed lower risk, while fully vaccinatedaircrews will also be allowed to bypass isolation, the Post has learned.The new policy, seen in a document obtained by the Post, was revealed hours after the government on Wednesday night tightened criteria for banning flights as well as entry rules for passengers from high-risk countries where new coronavirus
    variants have been identified.


  • Paradise cost: high prices and strict rules deflate Palau-Taiwan travel bubble | Taiwan | The Guardian

    Palau-Taiwan Quarantine Free Travel Starts - 01 Apr 2021Mandatory Credit: Photo by Daniel Tsang/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock (11840467d) A woman waits to collect specimen samples for the first flight connecting Taiwan to Palau as Taiwan and Palau start a travel bubble scheme exempting visitors to undergo quarantine. The scheme allows Taiwanese people and Palauans to travel to each country without having to quarantine but gatherings and visits to crowded areas are prohibited whilst self management is compulsory for 9 days upon arrival to their home countries. But a COVID test before boarding the aircraft is required. Palau-Taiwan Quarantine Free Travel Starts - 01 Apr 2021It launched with a presidential escort and the promise of rare international travel to a postcard-perfect tropical island, but the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble has deflated after just a couple weeks, with Taiwanese bookings dwindling to single figures.
    Travel agents, consumers and health authorities have blamed the high cost of the tours and the Taiwanese government’s strict rules for returning travellers.The “sterile corridor” of bilateral tourism guaranteed travel between the two archipelagos, which are both otherwise closed to all tourists, on strictly managed, twice-weekly package tours.
    The inaugural flight, packed with nearly 100 passengers including Palauan president Surangel Whipps Jr, boded well, but this week China Airlines announced it had cancelled an upcoming flight from Taipei after just two people booked tickets. The airline told the Guardian it was constantly assessing the situation but it couldn’t guarantee further cancellations.
    Trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia to start on 19 AprilTo go on the Palau holiday from Taiwan, tourists must make several health declarations, pay for Covid tests, and not have left Taiwan in the last six months. Upon return they had to complete 14 days of “self-health management”, including five “enhanced” management days banned from public transport and spaces. On Wednesday health authorities announced it was dropping the enhanced requirement, and agencies are hoping it’s enough to restore interest.
    One of the six agencies contracted to run the tours, Phoenix travel, told the Guardian they’d had “sporadic” individual bookings and inquiries about future tours, “but the momentum is not as good as expected”.“The fare is higher than normal, plus the cost of two PCR tests, and the inconvenience of health management after returning home are the reasons why most travellers maintain a wait-and-see attitude,” the spokesperson said.Gibsen Lin, marketing manager of Lifetour travel, said they had received many more inquiries for the upcoming summer holiday period from May to July, and that uncertainty about the process had also discouraged early take-up.
    “Many details were not determined at the beginning. They changed the rules of the game … and then gave consumers less time to react in the market,” Lin said.Taiwanese passengers pay between $2,100 and $2,800 plus associated costs for the group tour which runs for fewer than eight days, keeps the tourists away from crowded locations and local people, and doesn’t allow for autonomous activity.
    On Wednesday evening Whipps welcomed the easing and said returnees who didn’t show signs of fever and hadn’t been in the presence of anyone who did, could “go about their daily lives as usual”.Whipps also said costs had also been decreased, but did not detail by how much. He claimed the presence of Tropical Storm Surigae had also affected bookings, but that the two governments were working closely together to improve the bubble.
    He said his office had been “assured” that the next scheduled flight on 21 April would have more passengers. The Guardian has contacted the Taiwan government for confirmation of the changes and comment.Palau has recorded zero cases of Covid, and is on track to have 80% of its population vaccinated by the summer, while about 90% of Taiwan’s 1,062 cases were recently arrived people in quarantine, and there is no community transmission.The travel bubble was hailed as a lifeline for Palau’s tourism industry, which contributes almost half of its GDP, but had been completely stalled by the pandemic. Taiwanese made up the third-largest proportion of tourists in pre-Covid times, behind people from China and Japan.
    “We seek everyone’s support and patience as we continue to address challenges and improve the sterile corridor. Challenges help us improve customer experience and increase demand,” said Whipps.


  • New Zealand suspends travel from India after jump in Covid-19 cases | New Zealand | The Guardian

    New Zealand suspends travel from India after jump in Covid-19 cases
    PM Jacinda Ardern said the government would look at risk management measures during suspension.NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Announces Plans For COVID Travel Bubble With AustraliaWELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 06: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on April 06, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will start on Monday 19 April. The travel bubble will aid economic recovery by safely opening up international travel between the two countries while continuing to pursue a COVID-19 elimination strategy. New Zealand has temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks following a high number of positive coronavirus cases arriving from the South Asian country.The move comes after New Zealand recorded 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border on Thursday, of which 17 were from India.“We are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India,” the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said in a news conference in Auckland.India is battling a deadly second wave of Covid-19 with daily infections this week passing the peak of the first wave seen last September.
    The suspension will start on 11 April and will be in place until 28 April. During this time the government will look at risk management measures to resume travel.“I want to emphasise that while arrivals of Covid from India has prompted this measure, we are looking at how we manage high risk points of departure generally. This is not a country specific risk assessment,” Ardern said.
    New Zealand has virtually eliminated the virus within its borders, and has not reported any community transmission locally for about 40 days.
    But it’s been reviewing its border settings as more people with infections arrive in New Zealand, the majority from India.Ardern said the rolling average of positive cases has been steadily rising and hit 7 cases on Wednesday, the highest since last October.New Zealand on Thursday also reported one new locally infected case in a worker who was employed at a coronavirus managed isolation facility. The 24-year-old was yet to be vaccinated.The travel suspension came just two days after New Zealand announced it would be launching a trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia on 19 April.


  • Covid-19: Australia and New Zealand will open a travel bubble starting April 19. - The New York Times

    Australia and New Zealand will open a travel bubble starting April 19.
    The Australia-New Zealand travel bubble is expected to deliver a boost to tourism and to families that have been separated by strict border closures.
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced on Tuesday that her nation would establish a travel bubble with Australia, allowing travelers to move between the countries without needing to quarantine for the first time since the pandemic began.The bubble, which will open just before midnight on April 19, is expected to deliver a boost to tourism and to families that have been separated since both countries enacted strict border closures and lockdown measures that have all but eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus.The announcement came after months of negotiations and setbacks, as Australia battled small outbreaks and officials in both countries weighed testing requirements and other safety protocols.
    “The director general of health considers the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence,” Ms. Ardern said at a news conference.
    Since last year, Australia has permitted travelers from New Zealand to bypass its hotel quarantine requirements. New Zealand’s decision to reciprocate makes the two countries among the first places in the world to set up such a bubble, following a similar announcement last week by Taiwan and the Pacific island nation of Palau.Australians flying to New Zealand will be required to have spent the previous 14 days in Australia, to wear a mask on the plane and, if possible, to use New Zealand’s Covid-19 contact tracing app. In the event of an outbreak in Australia, New Zealand could impose additional restrictions, including shutting down travel to a particular Australian state or imposing quarantine requirements, Ms. Ardern said.
    She warned that the new requirements would not necessarily free up many spaces in New Zealand’s overwhelmed hotel quarantine system, which has a weekslong backlog for New Zealanders wishing to book a space to return home. Of the roughly 1,000 slots that would now become available every two weeks, around half would be set aside as a contingency measure, while most of the others would not be appropriate for travelers from higher-risk countries, Ms. Ardern said.Before New Zealand closed its borders to international visitors in March 2020, its tourism industry employed nearly 230,000 people and contributed 41.9 billion New Zealand dollars ($30.2 billion) to economic output, according to the country’s tourism board. Most of the roughly 3.8 million foreign tourists who visited New Zealand over a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019 came from Australia.Ms. Ardern encouraged Australians to visit New Zealand’s ski areas, and said she would be conducting interviews with Australian media outlets this week to promote New Zealand as a tourism destination.The bubble would also make it easier for the more than 500,000 New Zealanders who live in Australia to visit their families. “It is ultimately a change of scene that so many have been looking for,” Ms. Ardern said, addressing Australians. “You may not have been in long periods of lockdown, but you haven’t had the option. Now you have the option, come and see us.”


  • Palau to welcome first tourists in a year with presidential escort | Taiwan | The Guardian

    Palau to welcome first tourists in a year with presidential escort
    Two-dogs beach in Palau’s Rock Islands, is a popular spot for tourists to have lunch. Palau is opening up to visitors from Taiwan under strict Covid-safe measures, but locals still have doubts. On Thursday, 110 people from Taiwan will be able to enjoy the thing so many around the world have been dreaming of since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic: an international holiday to a tropical island paradise. The tiny Pacific country of Palau, in the north-west corner of the Pacific with a population of around 20,000 people, will this week begin welcoming tourists from Taiwan as part of a travel bubble.Palau’s first visitors for more than a year will get the royal treatment, with Palau’s president travelling to Taiwan to personally escort them to the islands.For a chance to travel to Palau, one of Taiwan’s few diplomatic allies, Taiwanese must fork out between $2,100 and $2,800 to join a group tour booked via a travel agency. They must also tick a series of health regulation boxes, including an assurance that they have not left Taiwan within the past six months, and undergo a Covid-19 test at the airport.The trip itself is limited to fewer than eight days and will largely avoid crowded locations in Palau. But even with the rules in place, travel agents in Taipei say they have been getting enquiries since the bubble was announced on 17 March. KKDay, a popular travel startup offering discounts on bookings, has already sold out two Palau tours according to its website as well as more than 1,000 lottery tickets for a chance to win a spot on a multi-day tour.
    Ngirai Tmetuchl, chairman of the board of Palau Visitors Authority, said the bubble would benefit both nations. Taiwanese tourists would get to “go to another country and enjoy the pristine waters of Palau” while his countryfolk could benefit from the boost to the archipelago’s economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism and which has been hit hard by the Covid-related border closures.Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for nearly 50% of Palau’s GDP, with Taiwan making up the third-largest group of tourists to the country, after China and Japan. Though the initial numbers arriving will be small, “Two hundred [tourists coming in the first two weeks] is more than zero, our options are zero or 200. We’ve been running on empty for a year, “ Tmetuchl said.On the itinerary for the tourists will be trips out to Palau’s famous Rock Islands and the idyllic turquoise Jellyfish Lake, where swimmers can float amongst million of gently-pulsating golden jellyfish, which have no stingers.Eledui Omelau, president of Palau’s Boat Owners Association said it had been a difficult year for Palauan boat owners, with most of them taking out loans to survive and that the prospect of Taiwanese tourists was welcome.“We have been hit hard, this travel bubble it’s a good opportunity for us, but at the same time we want to make sure we are ready,” Omelau said.


  • Le confinement prolongé jusqu’à la fin de mars en Nouvelle-Calédonie

    Confinée depuis le 9 mars après avoir recensé, au début du mois, ses tous premiers cas de Covid-19, la Nouvelle-Calédonie a décidé de prolonger ces restrictions strictes d’une semaine. « Cette troisième semaine de confinement sera décisive », a déclaré, jeudi 18 mars, Thierry Santa, président du gouvernement collégial, appelant « chaque Calédonienne et chaque Calédonien à jouer son rôle pour éviter une épidémie de Covid-19 en Nouvelle-Calédonie, voire même permettre un retour à une situation “Covid free” ». L’archipel du Pacifique sud a recensé ses neuf premiers cas de la maladie le 7 mars, hors quatorzaine obligatoire pour tout passager arrivant, après une introduction du virus via la bulle sanitaire en place avec l’archipel voisin de Wallis-et-Futuna. Depuis, vingt-huit autres cas de la maladie ont été décelés, mais le dernier patient diagnostiqué positif « qui n’était pas isolé au moment de sa détection ou dans les jours qui précédaient remonte au 10 mars », a précisé M. Santa.
    Les autorités sanitaires mènent d’intenses investigations pour contacter, tester et isoler tous les passagers arrivés de Wallis-et-Futuna depuis le 25 janvier et identifier les personnes avec lesquelles ils ont été en contact. Les vols internationaux dans le sens des arrivées, déjà drastiquement réduits, sont suspendus depuis le 7 mars tandis que tous les établissements scolaires et universitaires sont fermés.Afin qu’ils ne rouvrent pas à l’issue du confinement, le gouvernement a avancé d’une semaine les vacances de Pâques, qui débuteront le 29 mars et non le 6 avril, comme le prévoyait le calendrier scolaire.Les autorités ont parallèlement accéléré la campagne de vaccination, avec l’objectif d’atteindre 2 000 injections quotidiennes. A ce jour, près de 20 000 personnes sur 270 000 habitants ont reçu une ou les deux doses du vaccin. Le haut-commissaire Laurent Prévost a annoncé l’envoi « dans les deux prochaines semaines de 15 000 nouvelles doses » du vaccin Pfizer-BioNtech.Distant de 1 800 kilomètres, l’archipel de Wallis-et-Futuna connaît une situation beaucoup plus dégradée avec 261 cas de Covid-19 décelés depuis le 6 mars pour une population d’environ 11 500 habitants. Mercredi, soixante-douze soignants de la réserve sanitaire et plusieurs tonnes de matériel médical, dont 18 000 doses de vaccin, dépêchés par l’Etat, sont arrivés sur place. La Nouvelle-Calédonie a également envoyé des bénévoles de la Croix-Rouge et six tonnes d’équipement médical.


  • PM says New Zealand’s borders shut for much of 2021 – Asia Times

    New Zealand’s borders are likely to remain closed for much of the year as health officials assess global vaccine rollouts, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned Tuesday.Ardern said the emergence over the weekend of New Zealand’s first case of community transmission in more than two months showed the danger Covid-19 still posed to a nation hailed for its response to the coronavirus.She said her government would not re-open its borders – which have been effectively closed to all but returning citizens since last March – while the pandemic was still raging worldwide.“Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of a vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year,” she told reporters.Still, Ardern said New Zealand would continue to pursue “travel bubbles” with Australia and Pacific island nations, which have also been largely successful at keeping out or containing the virus.
    Plans to open a travel bubble by the end of March were thrown into question when Australia suspended quarantine-free travel for Kiwis in response to the latest case of community transmission.
    Ardern said the case – a 56-year-old New Zealander who recently returned from Europe – was “well under control” and criticized Australia for re-imposing quarantine for New Zealanders.The center-left leader said she made her feelings known in a call on Monday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.“If we’re to enter a trans-Tasman travel bubble, we need to give people confidence they won’t see border closures at very short notice over incidents that we believe can be well managed domestically,” she said.
    Officials in Canberra on Monday said the restrictions on New Zealanders were being imposed “out of an abundance of caution.”New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins said 15 close contacts of the infected woman had tested negative for the virus, which has been identified as the more contagious South African variant