New Travel Bubbles Emerging

New Coronavirus Travel Bubbles Emerging

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While Many U.S. States are Reopening, it's likely to be some time until some parts of the world, particularly Australia, New Zealand, and many parts of Asia, reopen to U.S. visitors. That's because countries that acted more quickly to reduce COVID-19 infection are leery of losing hard-won progress and risking re-infection from imported cases. At the same time, economies, especially ones where tourism is a significant part of GDP, such as New Zealand, are reeling from the closed borders.

The solution? Travel bubbles with nearby countries that are in a similar place, epidemiologically. Here are some of the existing and prospective travel bubbles:

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1. Baltic Travel Bubble: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania allowed their citizens to cross each other's borders without quarantines from May 15, 2020. All other foreign visitors arriving from elsewhere in the EU must self-isolate for 14 days. Depending on whether their coronavirus numbers remain low, Finland and Poland may be able to join the Baltic travel bubble next.

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2. Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble: Australia and New Zealand

A Trans-Tasman bubble including Australia, New Zealand is likely, and could open by September 2020. A Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, comprising representatives of 11 government agencies, 6 airports, Qantas, and Air New Zealand, is working on a detailed proposal for the two countries. If all goes well, potentially Pacific island countries such as Fiji and Vanuatu and other destinations with low coronavirus case numbers such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea could be added.

Australians are about 40% of international visitors to New Zealand, while Australia is the most popular destination for New Zealanders to visit: 1.4 million Kiwis visited Australia in 2019.

New Zealand

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3. Denmark and Norway

Denmark and Norway have agreed to end travel restrictions between their countries on June 15. Denmark will also welcome visitors from Germany and Iceland. Tellingly, Sweden, which never locked down and has had over 5 times as many coronavirus deaths as Denmark and Norway combined, is not part of the bubble.

In all cases, foreign visitors to Denmark will need to book at least 6 nights' accommodation before arriving and they will not be able to stay in Copenhagen, where most of the coronavirus infections are. That means it will be some time before visitors can experience Nimb Hotel and Tivoli Gardens again.

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4. Singapore's “Essential Travel” Bubble

Singapore is working on establishing “essential travel” bubbles or green lanes for essential work travel between Singapore and countries such as mainland China. The first such bubble will be with six Chinese provinces, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. In all cases, countries must, similar to Singapore, implement strong testing and tracing regimes.

Singapore

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5. The Hodge-Podge Travel Bubble: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Australia and New Zealand

Austria has initiated talks of a potential bubble among small to mid-size countries where tourism is important to the economy, hoping to strengthen trade and tourism ties among like-minded countries. The first step is to harmonize measures to ensure the coronavirus is kept at at a low R (<R1) via mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, mass testing, and keeping borders closed to countries (such as the U.S.) where the virus is still spreading rapidly.

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6. Hawaii and Japan Travel Bubble

This may be a one way travel bubble, given Japan's current travel ban on most visitors from overseas, including the U.S. Hawaii, which has a strict 14-day quarantine requirement for all arrivals, including returning residents, is exploring welcoming Japanese visitors who have met certain health requirements to Hawaii without a quarantine. It could occur as early as July 1.

Separately, Hawaii Governor David Ige said he would extend the 14 day quarantine for all arrivals past June 30, presumably through at least July 30.

Hawaii

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