Americans have been advised to not travel to two more countries in the Schengen Area – Switzerland and Estonia – after a spike up in the number of Coronavirus cases detected in both.

Updating the Travel Advisory, which is reviewed every week, the US Department of State has changed the level of advice against travel Switzerland and Estonia from “Reconsider Travel” to “Do Not Travel”, which is the highest advisory level due to the greater likelihood of life-threatening risks, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Estonia due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country,” reads the advisory updated on August 30.

The same also notes for US citizens wishing to travel to these countries in spite of the advisory that being vaccinated with a vaccine authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration lowers the risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms. So far, the FDA has approved only Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines against COVID-19.

The Department of State has issued the same Travel Advisory for Switzerland as well.

Data by the World Health Organization show that since the beginning of the pandemic, Switzerland -which is home to a population of 8.545 million – has recorded a total of 773,583 COVID-19 cases, only six of which in the last 24 hours.

Estonia, which counts 1.325 million residents, has registered 357 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the number of COVID-19 infections detected since the beginning of the pandemic to 141,956.

Only within the month of August, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that the US first advised its citizens to not travel to Greece, Ireland and Malta on August 2, and then on August 9, it advised against travel to France and Iceland. The advice on travel to these countries has, however, changed since then.

The list of EU and Schengen Area countries, for which there is currently a Do Not Travel advisory goes as follows:

  • Cyprus, since July 26
  • Estonia, since August 30
  • France, since August 9
  • Greece, since August 2
  • Iceland, since August 23
  • Ireland, since August 2
  • Malta, since August 2
  • The Netherlands, since June 17
  • Portugal, since July 26
  • Spain, since July 26
  • Switzerland, since August 30

On Monday, August 30, the EU Council recommended to the Member States to reimpose an entry ban on non-essential restriction-free travel from the United States, after the same move was warned for more than a week, due to the increase in the number of COVID cases in the US.

A tangled web of Covid-19 border restrictions has limited who can travel to the US. One of the rules bars migrants from seeking asylum. Others have effectively halted tourism from abroad. And restrictions on cross-border travel have been renewed monthly, with the next deadline fast approaching on Saturday.

“I would say the pleasantries for taking the time to meet with us have gone out the window and we go right to the meat of the question. After one and a half years, we get right to it. We want an explanation why,” said Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of global supplier relations at Internova Travel Group.

Administration officials are still weighing next steps and whether nonessential restrictions, as well as other limits on travel, can be eased at all amid concerns about the Delta variant, though the White House has indicated it’s not likely anytime soon.

White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said agency working groups are looking at how to reopen the borders. “The interagency working groups are currently developing a policy process, and we will be ready when it is the right time to consider reopening travel. And that’ll be guided, as always, by the science and the public health,” Zients said earlier this month. American officials have also partnered with representatives from the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico to discuss reopening.
CNN previously reported that the administration was developing a plan to mandate vaccinations for almost all foreign visitors to the US, though a final plan had not been determined.

Canada, meanwhile, did just that. Fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the US are allowed into Canada as of last week, but vaccinated Canadians can’t cross the land border with the US if not for an essential purpose.

Marco Mendicino, Canada’s minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, told CNN the country is respecting the US decision-making process and timing of its decisions. “In the meantime, what we’ll do is keep the line of communication open,” he said.

But Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents New York communities along the northern border like Niagara and Buffalo, argued that the public health guidance and limits on the US land borders are inconsistent.

Canada announces vaccine mandate for air travel

“There’s not only inconsistencies but there’s direct conflict with what we’re told to do by government and public health officials and the policy on the Canadian border,” Higgins, said.

Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States have been growing, though vaccination rates in the US have increased over recent weeks, a trend that experts say needs to continue to curb the current surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has called it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Still, more of Europe opened up this summer to US leisure travelers, especially the fully vaccinated, adding to the frustration of those in the travel industry, who argue the US needs to reciprocate or at least adjust to the current landscape.

“We’ve been frozen in

TOPEKA, Kan. — Families and advocates for the elderly in Kansas argue that with most nursing home residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, some facilities need to relax visiting rules.

A state official who investigates complaints against nursing homes as well as the elder-care focused Kansas Advocates for Better Care called on the state Tuesday to intervene when nursing homes aren’t open enough.

Some industry officials still see a need for caution because of the growing presence in Kansas of the faster-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus.

Operators feel they are still facing tough choices after nursing homes were COVID-19 hot spots earlier in the pandemic, but advocates for residents worry the delta variant could cause homes to lock down again.

___

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Dr. Fauci, Sen. Paul trade chargesof lying about virus

— CDC: Delta variant accounts for 83% of U.S. cases

— Britain hits most daily virus deaths in 4 months

— Research: Millions may have died in India during pandemic

___

Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemicand https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi state health officer is imploring people to get vaccinated as a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus is spreading in the state, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Tuesday: “Y’all, we’re going to have a rough few weeks.”

He says intensive care units are full in 13 Mississippi hospitals because of the recent increase in cases, and many other hospitals have under 10% of ICU beds available.

Dobbs says unvaccinated people should take “common sense steps” to reduce transmission, including having social activities outdoors rather than indoors. He adds that people can choose to wear masks to mitigate the spread of the virus, but he is not asking Gov. Tate Reeves to reinstate widespread mask mandates.

___

With COVID-19 cases soaring nationwide, school districts across the U.S. are again confronting the realities of a polarized country and the lingering pandemic as they navigate mask requirements, vaccine rules and social distancing requirements for the fast-approaching new school year.

Students in Wichita, Kansas, public schools can ditch masks when classes begin. Detroit public schools will probably require them only for the unvaccinated. In Pittsburgh, masks will likely be required regardless of vaccination status. And in some states, schools cannot mandate face coverings under any circumstances.

The spread of the delta variant and the deep political divisions over the outbreak have complicated decisions in districts from coast to coast.

School officials say decisions about whether to require masks have been complicated not only by community pressure and the delta variant but also conflicting advice from public health officials.

___

BOSTON — Boston health officials are urging recent visitors to Provincetown to self-isolate and get tested after a cluster of coronavirus cases was linked to the popular Cape Cod tourist town.

The Boston Public Health Commission said Tuesday that at least 35 coronavirus cases in Boston have been traced to Provincetown,

TOPEKA, Kan. — Families and advocates for the elderly in Kansas argue that with most nursing home residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, some facilities need to relax visiting rules.

A state official who investigates complaints against nursing homes as well as the elder-care focused Kansas Advocates for Better Care called on the state Tuesday to intervene when nursing homes aren’t open enough.

Some industry officials still see a need for caution because of the growing presence in Kansas of the faster-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus.

Operators feel they are still facing tough choices after nursing homes were COVID-19 hot spots earlier in the pandemic, but advocates for residents worry the delta variant could cause homes to lock down again.

___

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Dr. Fauci, Sen. Paul trade charges of lying about virus

— CDC: Delta variant accounts for 83% of U.S. cases

— Britain hits most daily virus deaths in 4 months

— Research: Millions may have died in India during pandemic

___

Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi state health officer is imploring people to get vaccinated as a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus is spreading in the state, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Tuesday: “Y’all, we’re going to have a rough few weeks.”

He says intensive care units are full in 13 Mississippi hospitals because of the recent increase in cases, and many other hospitals have under 10% of ICU beds available.

Dobbs says unvaccinated people should take “common sense steps” to reduce transmission, including having social activities outdoors rather than indoors. He adds that people can choose to wear masks to mitigate the spread of the virus, but he is not asking Gov. Tate Reeves to reinstate widespread mask mandates.

___

With COVID-19 cases soaring nationwide, school districts across the U.S. are again confronting the realities of a polarized country and the lingering pandemic as they navigate mask requirements, vaccine rules and social distancing requirements for the fast-approaching new school year.

Students in Wichita, Kansas, public schools can ditch masks when classes begin. Detroit public schools will probably require them only for the unvaccinated. In Pittsburgh, masks will likely be required regardless of vaccination status. And in some states, schools cannot mandate face coverings under any circumstances.

The spread of the delta variant and the deep political divisions over the outbreak have complicated decisions in districts from coast to coast.

School officials say decisions about whether to require masks have been complicated not only by community pressure and the delta variant but also conflicting advice from public health officials.

___

BOSTON — Boston health officials are urging recent visitors to Provincetown to self-isolate and get tested after a cluster of coronavirus cases was linked to the popular Cape Cod tourist town.

The Boston Public Health Commission said Tuesday that at least 35 coronavirus cases in Boston have been traced

After waiting almost three weeks longer than other European countries to issue the EU Digital COVID-19 Vaccination Passport, Irishmen are warned to carefully check their country of destination travelling restrictions, as they are constantly changing, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Unlike Germany, Czechia, Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Denmark, which have started issuing the EU COVID-19 vaccination passport first, on June 1, Ireland waited until July 19 to connect to the EUDCC gateway. This delay is believed to have happened due to cyber attacks that happened in May, which were aimed at the country’s health service provider.

However, the document intends to facilitate the travel process across Europe for all European citizens of Member States fully vaccinated with the authorised vaccines from the European Medicines Agency such as Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Janssen. In addition, people who are immune to the virus due to previous infection or those who recently tested negative are also eligible to obtain such a document.

As Irishmen are getting ready to spend their holidays abroad, many territories are implementing their own travel restrictions and requirements, taking into account the Coronavirus situation in the traveller’s country of origin, especially those countries that are experiencing surges of infection rates in the Delta variant of Coronavirus.

“The most important thing is people know the restrictions of the country they’re going to, as they are changing all the time,” Sarah Slattery, TheTravelExpert.ie owner, said.

She also noted that even in Ireland, rules are constantly changing as children over seven were required to provide PCR tests, and now children under 12 won’t have to do so anymore.

France, one of the EU’s most stringent COVID rules imposer has recently announced it will alter the travel advice against unvaccinated travellers from the UK, Spain and Portugal.

Although those rules do not apply to fully vaccinated Irish citizens, it’s important to note the particular rules France has in place concerning vaccines.

On the other hand, Spanish authorities allow tourists from Ireland a free of quarantine entrance if they provide proof of vaccination, recovery certificate, or negative PCR tests.

Irish travellers will face three health checks and might be required to attend a medical appointment if they fail the health checks.

Travellers are obliged first to fill in a form that indicates where they will stay during their trip and whether they were previously infected with the virus. Then they will have their temperature taken at the airport and have a visual inspection done to them.

According to the World Health Organisation, Ireland has reported 12 deaths related to Coronavirus in the recent 24 hours, whereas 783 positive cases have been registered. As of July 13 2021, a total of 4,861,257 vaccine doses have been administered in the country.

HONG KONG – Hong Kong lawmakers on Friday (July 9) urged the government to give up plans for a travel bubble with Singapore, given the Republic’s strategy shift towards learning to live with Covid-19, local media reported.

At a Legislative Council meeting, lawmakers said Hong Kong must hold onto its goal of maintaining zero local Covid-19 infections, so that travel between the territory and the mainland can resume as soon as possible, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien said Hong Kong should not offer quarantine-free travel to people from places that do not have the same “Covid zero” target.

“The mainland will not tolerate any loopholes at our airport. If Singapore really changes its anti-pandemic target, the government can stop talking to the country about setting up a travel bubble,” he said.

As Singapore’s vaccination campaign gathers pace, the government’s stance has shifted towards learning to live with the virus rather than pursuing a so-called Covid-Zero approach of eliminating it altogether.

Alice Mak of the Federation of Trade Unions said a travel bubble would be beneficial to the tourism industry, but she said “the cost would be too high” if it jeopardises Hong Kong’s pandemic situation.

“For places that don’t aim to achieve zero infections but hope to live with the virus, we should not have a travel bubble with them,” she said.

In response, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the Hong Kong authorities will continue to communicate with their counterparts in Singapore.

The calls came as Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the two sides are still trying to revive an agreement to allow quarantine-free travel between the two cities.

The arrangement could be used as a model to open to more parts of the world, Mr Ong said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday.

With very low Covid-19 case counts, or none at all on many days, the cities are well positioned to open their borders again, Mr Ong said.

“That gives us common ground to talk again about restarting the air travel bubble,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

“I try to not call it bubble as it connotes something very fragile and can easily burst – I try to describe it as air travel corridor now, but the idea is the same.”

The plan to launch a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was first delayed in November last year when the territory battled a wave of new infections, and was postponed again in May when cases surged in Singapore.


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Law360, London (May 17, 2021, 1:54 PM BST) —
Regulators and the government should set out guidelines clarifying which travel insurance policies provide cover for coronavirus-related issues and to what extent, a consumer group said on Monday.

People are being left with a false impression about how much protection they could get if their holiday plans are hit by the pandemic because terms on insurers’ websites often confusing, consumer group Which? said. It pointed to such terms as “COVID cover” and “enhanced COVID cover.”

Some insurers provide upfront details about how extensively their cover will protect against disruption linked to the coronavirus outbreak, the campaign group said. But others just state the main benefits of their enhanced COVID-19 cover and are less clear about what is excluded.

“Without closer scrutiny from government and regulators of how clearly insurers present their policies, there is a very real chance that many travelers will be left out of pocket yet again this summer,” Jenny Ross, editor of Which? Money magazine, said.

Which? believes the problem is also due to poor communication by some travel insurance providers. The group surveyed more than 2,800 buyers of travel insurance between February and March about possible travel and insurance scenarios.

Half the respondents, 50%, thought they would be covered if the government’s travel advice changed after they arranged their trip, Which? said. The group also said that 47% believed they would be covered by their insurance if government lockdowns prevented them from traveling.

Just under half, 46%, thought that — although they would not be offered a cash refund — they would still be covered if the airline or holiday businesses postponed their travel.

But Which? said that its analysis from October to November 2020 of 73 travel insurance providers found that cover for those three eventualities — particularly for when government travel advice changes — was “very rare, with large discrepancies between what policies included.”

Which? added that it has continued to monitor the coronavirus cover and thinks little has improved in recent months.

The consumer campaigner wants the Financial Conduct Authority to monitor the terminology set out in the COVID-19 policies and marketing material of travel insurers, to ensure that there is sufficient clarity. It also wants the City watchdog to issue guidance on the use of blanket terms such as “COVID cover'” and “enhanced COVID cover.”

Which? has also urged the Department for Transport to work jointly with the sector, HM Treasury and regulators such as the FCA, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority to ensure that all travelers properly understand their insurance cover.

KYIV

Ukrainians urged to vacation in Turkey after Russia’s travel ban

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged his fellow citizens to vacation in Turkey in support of Ankara after Russia suspended flights to Turkey.

Speaking after the National Defense and Security Council meeting on April 15, Zelenskiy assessed his trip to Turkey, which took place on April 10, where he met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“I am grateful to Turkey and particularly to Erdoğan. He is really supportive of Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said, adding that it is important for Ukraine that the Turkish leader supports Kyiv’s stance and that he rejects the annexation of Crimea.

He recalled that Russia recently suspended flights to Turkey. “It was their [Russians] decision. But I believe, on the contrary, we must increase tourism activity with Turkey.”

“We must show we support Turkey,” he said, calling on Ukrainians to travel to Turkey for vacation.

Russia announced on April 12 that it decided to suspend regular and charter flights with Turkey from April 15 to June, citing concerns over the COVID-19 situation in Turkey.

Zelenskiy and his family came to Turkey for a two-day weekend holiday back in 2019, shortly after his election victory.

Nearly 1 million Ukrainians visited Turkey last year, accounting for nearly 8 percent of all foreign tourists the country welcomed.

Turkey hosted 1.4 million and 1.6 million Ukrainians in 2018, and 2019, respectively.

In the first two months of 2021, tourist arrivals from Ukraine declined nearly 27 percent on an annual basis to 58,000.

In 2020, over 2 million Russians visited Turkey, down from the previous year’s 7 million visits.

Donbass, Putin,