By Kim Lyons for The Verge
Google has unveiled new tools to help people planning their first post-vaccination vacations, as COVID-19 restrictions and requirements still vary widely among domestic and international travel destinations.
A Google search for flights, hotels, or things to do will now also bring up results for any COVID-19-related travel advisories or restrictions at the searcher’s destination. Google has added additional travel restriction details, including whether quarantine is required or if you have to show proof of immunisation or a negative COVID-19 test. Users can choose to receive updates about when restrictions are lifted or added for a given destination. The updates are country-specific and state-specific within the US.
Under the “explore” tab on Google’s travel page, people can browse not just for flights but filter destinations by interests, like beaches or skiing. When you choose a destination, you’ll get the updated information on any travel advisories or restrictions as well.
After pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions kept many people at home much of last year, Google isn’t the only company preparing for the return of travel. Expedia Group — which includes online travel agent (OTA) websites Expedia, Vrbo, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and others — created its Travel Advisor tool to help customers plan trips and follow any COVID-19 restrictions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends Americans delay travel until they’ve been fully vaccinated, after which they can travel safely within the US. The agency has a map showing where travel may be especially risky due to the coronavirus.
And while Americans are still barred from travelling to many international destinations, a European Union official told The New York Times over the weekend that Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus should be able to visit the EU this summer.
South Africa has 121 “major restrictions” and 97 “moderate restrictions’”from other countries in place because of the 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant which is widespread in the country.
This was revealed by travel website Skyscanner which has developed a mapping tool that shows COVID-19 travel restrictions around the world.
The Skyscanner map uses data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is regularly updated with the latest restrictions.
According to the Skyscanner map from Friday 26 March 2021, the following restrictions were in place:
- 121 major restrictions – Travel here may be suspended, the country may be closed, or entry only possible if you are a citizen and/or meet strict requirements.
- 97 moderate restrictions – Travel here is possible if you meet certain entry regulations which can include taking a COVID-19 test. You
- may also be required to quarantine upon arrival and/or return.
7 low restrictions – You can travel here and likely won’t need to quarantine when you arrive or return.
The map below shows major restrictions (red), moderate restrictions (orange), and low restrictions (green). Countries where the restrictions are unknown are presented in grey.
SA Flyer Magazine editor Guy Leitch said because the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant is commonly referred to as the “South African variant”, it attached a stigma to the country.
South Africa’s slow vaccine rollout is another aggravating factor. To date the country has only vaccinated 231,605 people, well below its own targets.
“It is no surprise at all that IATA describes us as one of the worst red-flagged countries in terms of international travel,” he said.
Although moderate restrictions allow for some travel, it has been shown that quarantine requirement stops travel in its tracks.
“We have seen draconian quarantine requirements put in place by many European countries. Most of them require at least a week in isolation,” he said.
Apart from the limits on South Africans travelling to other countries, international travellers to South Africa have also plummeted. This hit the local economy hard.
Travel and tourism contributed 7% to South Africa’s economy in pre-pandemic times and accounted for 1.5 million jobs.
This industry is under severe pressure and many hotels and other businesses have already closed down.
The local airline industry is also suffering because of limited local travel and far lower volumes of international travel.
“It is a great tragedy and it the damage caused to the local travel and tourism industry cannot be overestimated,” he said.
With the pandemic putting a halt on travel and making travellers uneasy to explore the world once more, experts believe that a new health passport app may be the solution to win them over.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, global tourism shrank by 97 percent in April. This could be due to closed borders or travellers being uneasy to travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new CovidPass app, dubbed as a health passport, hopes to restore travellers confidence to want to travel in a Covid-19 world and hopefully eliminate the need for quarantine at destinations for healthy travellers.
According to the World Economic Forum, CovidPass is the brainchild of one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Mustapha Mokass. It also involves other YGLs across 5 continents, including Muna AbuSulayman and Peggy Liu.
So, how does that app work?
Well, CovidPass uses blockchain technology to store encrypted data from travellers’ blood tests, which they can use to show whether they are Covid-19 positive or negative.
The app is set to launch in September.
Mokass wants the app to become a standardised solution for airlines, airports and border agencies. Should CovidPass be successful, it could eliminate the need to quarantine healthy travellers. Many destinations have imposed mandatory quarantine for travellers in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
CovidPass also commits to mandatory carbon offsetting for each flight passenger in hopes of preserving the environmental benefits of reduced air travel during the crisis. CovidPass could also assist hotels, cinemas, theatres, conference and exhibition industry and sporting and concert venues to reopen safely.
By Nic Andersen for The South African
Sick of all the paperwork every time you travel to South Africa? Well, e-visas could soon make things a whole lot easier.
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that phase one of a rollout of electronic visas (e-visas) will begin on 31 March 2019.
While some of the final details are still up in the air, a parliamentary reply from Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba has revealed more about what travellers can expect.
What exactly is an e-visa?
While we’re sure some foreign nationals had hope regarding being free of paperwork, Gigaba says some will still be involved.
“E-visa introduces online capture of visa and permit applications and capturing of applicant’s biometrics in South Africa and abroad. An application will be captured and submitted online together with the required supporting documents that will be scanned and attached to the application. The applicant will then present himself/herself before a DHA Official for biometric enrollment and verification of the supporting documents.”
Following the verification of those documents, all the relevant forms are electronically routed to the Home Affairs head office in Pretoria for adjudication. For an approved visa/permit, a secure QR-Code is generated for print on the notification notice/letter sent to the applicant. This QR-Code contains the approved visa/permit detail and is maintained and managed by DHA at a “secure web-storage facility”.
That very same QR-Code will then be scanned upon arrival here in SA.
The e-visa rollout plan
Beginning with what the department is calling “Phase one, release one”, applications for temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas and applications for waivers will be done through the new system.
The rollout of phase one of the e-visa system will be at a foreign mission, embassy or local Home Affairs office yet to be determined.
“This is to ensure system stability. Once table, more offices locally and abroad can then be gradually brought online,” Gigaba said
According to DA Shadow Minister of Tourism James Vos, these modern-day visas will have big positives for the tourism industry.
“Electronic visas will boost the tourism industry by cutting turnaround times for the issuing of travel documentation while ensuring the information of applicants is secure.”
“Most importantly, improved tourist arrivals will facilitate more job growth in the industry while guaranteeing job security for 1,4 million South Africans already working in the tourism industry.”
The new system could see tourists flocking to SA in larger numbers than before.
An American artist, Missy H. Dunaway, used her Moleskine notebook to paint a “diary”, documenting her travels through New York, Istanbul, central Turkey, the Moroccan Sahara and Paris.
A diary in paint
“I am an American artist who left the United States in 2013 to study art in Turkey. I used to keep a written diary, but began recording my days by painting in a Moleskine sketchbook with acrylic ink. My medium is portable, so I was able to pack up my art supplies and continue travelling.
“The book slowly grew into a collection of one hundred landscapes that depict my journey through New York, Istanbul, central Turkey, the Moroccan Sahara and Paris.”
Source and images: www.boredpanda.com/100-landscape-paintings-sketchbook-missy-dunaway