Tag: Answered

How do travel bubbles work? 4 questions answered as Hong Kong and Singapore team up.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, even as nations shut their borders and airlines struggled with record-low passenger levels, there was a lot of optimism about “travel bubbles” — a controlled return of quarantine-free air travel between designated cities or countries. Since then, with few countries’ outbreaks truly under control, there has been far more chatter about potential travel bubbles than there have been actual bubbles implemented.

But this weekend, Asia’s first bubble, between Hong Kong and Singapore, will finally make its debut.

The two cities’ “Air Travel Bubble,” set to start Sunday, will test whether regions can safely partner in a return to quarantine-free travel in the pandemic era. The practice could soon emerge in other places, including North America, as scientists learn more about the coronavirus and as nations inch closer to offering vaccines.

So: How do bubbles work? Here’s what you need to know.

What is a travel bubble?

Sometimes called a travel corridor, a travel bubble is a partnership between two or more places with similar rates of covid-19 that allows for quarantine-free leisure travel in both directions.

The first large international travel bubble to make headlines was a potential agreement between Australia and New Zealand, both of which had very low coronavirus caseloads early in the pandemic. The two nations hoped to implement a bubble in September, but those talks sputtered when Australia saw a rise in cases in August. While travel from New Zealand to Australia may not require quarantining, New Zealand still has strict quarantine requirements in place for all arrivals.

Where do travel bubbles exist?

The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania created Europe’s first quarantine-free bubble in May. By July, however, the European Union’s “Re-open EU” initiative had rendered it redundant.

You could, in theory, call Re-open EU — which allowed for controlled travel within the border-free Schengen Area and Britain — a travel bubble, although the E.U. and Britain did not. In that agreement, nations were allowed to set their own restrictions and pace beginning in July, but rising coronavirus cases curbed free travel again not much later: England, for instance, recalled quarantine-free travel conditions with Spain two weeks after allowing travel there. Many E.U. nations implemented new restrictions as coronavirus flare-ups emerged, and since October, many nations have again implemented shutdowns or travel limitations, with quarantines and testing required. (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have since reestablished their own bubble.)

Hong Kong and Singapore, by contrast, have significantly slowed their outbreaks: Hong Kong has had fewer than 5,500 coronavirus cases, while Singapore has seen about 58,000, with the lowest death rate in the world. When the cities’ bilateral air travel bubble opens Sunday, residents will be able to take advantage of daily flights on Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

How does a bubble work?

The creation of a travel bubble does not mean that you’ll be able to visit as freely as you would have pre-pandemic. Instead, travel

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Travel and Coronavirus Testing: Your Questions Answered

Many places are offering coronavirus tests, including some hospitals, urgent care clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. Some churches and fire stations are offering testing, too. Airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue and American Airlines are offering testing at the airport or at nearby drive-through sites for passengers heading to certain destinations. Some airports have clinics in terminals. Companies, including CareCube and Pixel by LabCorp, will mail a test to you and you send back a sample; they promise to send you your results within 12 to 34 hours and 36 hours, respectively. JetBlue has a partnership with Vault Health for mail-in tests.

It’s a good idea to start by reaching out to your doctor’s office to see what all the available options for testing are and how long it will take to get results. If you don’t have a primary care provider, a good place to start is on city and state health department websites, which outline the various testing options and locations.

You should get a coronavirus test before you travel. Figuring out the exact time can be tricky, but you can’t wait too long to take the test because you might not get the results back in time to go on your trip.

For those reasons, many destinations, including France, Aruba, Bonaire, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, require that the test be taken within 72 hours of departure. Abu Dhabi and Croatia require test results are within 48 hours of departure. Some airlines, like Egypt Air, allow travelers to use results from a test taken up to 96 hours before traveling, depending on where they are traveling from and to.

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