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What does it take to reopen the world to travel?

SYDNEY, Australia – After months of confined borders, countries that have choked the coronavirus are trying to choreograph a risky dance: how to get visitors back without importing a new burst of uncontrolled infection.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania imposed restrictions on each other on May 15, while we kept out of all others. Australia and New Zealand are planning to revive unlimited flights in their own "travel bubble", which Fiji, Israel and Costa Rica want to join.

In China, cities are fast in the path of business maps, although Beijing is still sealed. In Cyprus, tourists can only come in if they have health certificates showing that they tested negative for Covid-1


International travel has always been a mandate for trust among nations and people, but the pandemic has poisoned the air. Now conditions are rebuilding under enormous financial pressure, with a cautious eye for a pathogen that will not disappear soon.

Risk and reward calculations vary. Some countries are eager to find ways to open doors for people from places like the United States that are still struggling with the virus, but are important sources of trade and tourism. Others scan the globe for safer, if less lucrative, partners.

The challenge for each country involves both epidemiology and psychology. Tours for business and pleasure must have enough restrictions to make travelers feel safe, but not as many as no one will care.

"We all want to move again, but in a different way," said Scott Tasker, general manager at Auckland Airport in New Zealand. "This is a global shock to the aviation and travel industry, which we have never seen."

In interviews, airport managers, tourism officials, and travel analysts, along with investors, doctors, and government officials, described a significant effort that is just beginning to gather.

They predicted a mixture of precautions and incentives. Masks, fever controls, app tracking apps, and even coronavirus swabs will make travel more troublesome, even when discounts and smaller crowds soften. A reduction in flights will mean more connections and longer journeys, testing travelers' patience.

The baby is heading towards a reopened world starting with the healthy nations that have low death rates and few active cases.

The Baltic Sea countries have gone first, and Australia and New Zealand are following a similar path. But even for countries with close ties, it's like starting from scratch.

Border agencies, airports, airlines and healthcare professionals in Australia and New Zealand have spent more than a month trying to come up with a proposal that would allow travelers to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine now in place for a smattering of international arrivals. They hope to get the system up and running by September.

Mr. Tasker, the Auckland Airport official, said the biggest obstacle was making sure local transmission of the virus was as nearly eliminated as possible. Beyond that, travelers can expect new protocols and constant reminders of social distance, health and hygiene from booking through return. Australia's coronavirus tracking app, COVIDSafe, can also be used to share location data between both countries.

If it works for the two eye neighbors, the bubble can grow to include other locations.

Many European countries are also starting with a limited guest list. For example, Denmark and Norway open June 15, but exclude Sweden, where a looser lockdown has allowed the virus to spread.

With each phase of reopening, officials said, more movement means more risk and more work, for governments but also travelers.

"It's just not going to be as free flowing and spontaneous as it once was," said Margy Osmond, executive director of Australia's largest tourism association and co-chair of the group working on travel between that country and New Zealand. "I don't know that it will be more expensive – the jury is still out on it – but it will mean the average traveler has to take more responsibility."

So will everyone else involved in travel.

Many of the world's busiest airports, which are just beginning to see an uptick in traffic after a 90 percent decline or more, all employees now wear masks and gloves. In Dubai's giant shopping mall at an airport, all arriving passengers are now scanned for fever with thermal imaging technology, which is also rolled out at the transport hubs in Europe and the United States.

Airlines are setting their own forms of protection. All over the world, they reduce the food and beverage service (further dilutes the charms) and prioritize masks for everyone. Ryanair, the popular European budget carrier, now requires passengers to request permission to use the bathroom so that no lines are formed.

Smaller-scale collaboration is also beginning to figure out what to do with travelers from higher-risk countries. [19659002] In June, 500 volunteers will fly from San Francisco to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, as part of a study by Taiwanese officials and Stanford University. Passengers will be tested for the virus before boarding and then three, five, seven, 10 and 14 days after arrival. Scientists hope to find out on what is the last day a positive test can emerge – with the goal of shortening the current 14-day quarantine.

"The most important thing is for travelers to feel safe flying again, and for countries to receive travelers to feel they have done a good job of protecting their borders," said Dr. Jason Wang, director of Center for Policy, Outuits and Prevention at Stanford Medicine.

No wonder analysts expect international travel to recover at the speed of a random walk.

"We believe international card withdrawal will return in the next two to three years, but the long-haul case will return in five to seven years," said Helane Becker, CEO and senior flight analyst at Cowen, a New York investment bank. [19659002] While that may be optimistic, while places like Sicily and Japan look at flight or lodging subsidies to entice visitors, long flights in a mask have limited appeal, and the white collar crowd – in finance, in counseling – who once traveled without much thought has discovered that it can get the job done without being away from home for 100 or more days a year.

Old business travel habits will eventually come back, said David Barger, the former CEO of JetBlue, but only after new norms and stability emerge.

  • Updated 2 June 2020

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"If you are the person who travels a lot, you will have predictability," he said. "Until there is security, you want people to say, '# I'll do the Zoom call, or instead of six trips a year, maybe I'll do two. & # 39;'

Cruise ships, whose image has been affected by coronavirus outbreaks, are also adapting rapidly, with increased distance among everyone on board.

However, some regular travelers have learned that they can be quite happy not to travel at all.

Paul Davies, a respected physicist who teaches at Arizona State University, spent many years studying for science conferences and lectures. But when the pandemic hit, he was in Sydney, Australia, where he lived – and that's where he was pretty happy to be back.

He noted that during World War II, when travel was greatly narrowed, great discoveries occurred while the world's sharpest minds stayed home and mulled the universe.

"For many years, many of us have said that we have too many selections, too many meetings and not even close enough quiet thinking time," said Professor Davies. [19659008] “Jetting around the world and doing all these meetings – I personally think it's a little uncomfortable to do it now. And I think that if people get into the habit more, this could be a better way of leading our cause. "

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