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Pandemic travel news: Australia, Thailand and Madagascar are all opening up

By Lilit Marcus, CNN

Updated: Sat, 23 Oct 2021 00:20:24 GMT

Source: CNN

The people of Melbourne have spent 260 days under lockdown, but that ended this week. Locals celebrated the lifting of restrictions on October 21 by going to bars, hugging their friends and dancing in the streets.

Let that be the same energy you take into this weekend, whether your plans involve taking in fall weather, scrambling to figure out a Halloween costume that doesn't involve "Squid Game," or just enjoying doing absolutely nothing.

Here's all the pandemic-related travel news that you may have missed this week.

1. Madagascar is the latest destination to reopen to tourism

The African island nation has announced that it will slowly begin welcoming back flights from nearby Mauritius and Réunion beginning October 23 and then from Europe November 6. Cruise ships can also return.

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding their flight and then take another test upon arrival. While waiting for the results of the second test, they are required to stay in an approved hotel and take a dedicated shuttle to get to their accommodation.

Upon testing negative, guests can travel freely about the country, but anyone who tests positive will have to spend up to 14 days self-isolating at their own expense.

Madagascar has the largest population of lemurs in the world, so head to some of the country's beautiful national parks to catch glimpses of these cute primates.

2. Australia's Victoria state is gearing up for a tourism return

Victoria, home to the city of Melbourne, is ending local lockdowns now that officials have hit their goal of fully vaccinating at least 70% of the state's adults against the coronavirus. Next up: reopening the state's borders and preparing to resume international tourism.

"There will no longer be a cap on fully vaccinated returning Australians wishing to enter Victoria, and the opening of our borders to Victorians coming home will reunite families and friends and boost our vaccinated economy," State Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement.

First priority will be Australian citizens and residents and their immediate family members as of November 1. Fully vaccinated foreign nationals will be next, although there's no specific date yet.

Those looking to drive the Great Ocean Road and visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building can start dreaming about 2022.

3. A town's tourism plea to a superhero has paid off

Elsewhere in Australia, the small town of Cowra in New South Wales came up with an unconventional tourism campaign -- they asked actor Chris Hemsworth to come visit.

Hemsworth, who is the celebrity ambassador for Australia's national tourism department, shared the viral #GetChristoCowra ad on his Instagram and said he plans to stop by after he finishes filming a movie overseas.

"Big love to all the folks in Cowra for this amazing campaign, warmed my heart and made me smile!" he wrote.

4. There's a new name on planes in Italy

After Italy's national airline Alitalia went bankrupt, a new logo is visible in the country's skies -- meet ITA Airways.

The new carrier and its sleek blue planes debuted at a press event in Rome.

"We have been born as a new Italian brand, and we have chosen to work only with Italian companies," ITA's president said at the unveiling.

However, not everything is hewing to tradition. The airline is trying out an interesting new pay structure where all employees will have a part of their salary linked not only to company profits, but also to customer satisfaction.

5. The CDC has advised against visiting Singapore

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added Singapore to its list of level four countries as its coronavirus cases have increased. Level 4 countries are deemed high-risk and Americans who go there are advised to be fully vaccinated.

Singapore doesn't seem to have the same sentiment about the US, though -- it is one of the countries whose residents can now enter the Asian city-state without quarantining, provided they can show proof of being vaccinated.

While the level 4 listing could sound ominous, it is only a suggestion and not a ban. Other popular travel destinations currently at the same level include Greece, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK.

Singapore's Ministry of Health has extended local restrictions until November 21 -- that means that employees are encouraged to work from home as much as possible and public gatherings are limited to just two people.

6. A big plane takes on a small project

Speaking of Singapore, the country's national carrier has announced that it will fly some of the superjumbo A380 planes on short-haul flights between Singapore and Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The flight, which takes about an hour, may now be the shortest A380 route in the world.

The planes, which usually fly much longer routes like London to Singapore, are popular with aviation fans due to their roominess and relative quiet on board.

Singapore Airlines' global public affairs head, Siva Govindasamy, told CNN that some people specifically decide where to travel based on whether they can fly on one of these Airbus planes.

6. Thailand prepares to open its borders

Many pairs of eyes are watching Thailand as the country heads toward its November 1 reopening goal.

The Southeast Asian country has announced that fully vaccinated travelers coming from one of 46 countries and territories -- including Australia, Canada, China, France, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US -- will be eligible to visit without quarantining.

These tourists must provide proof of an insurance policy that covers treatment for Covid-19 up to the cost of $50,000 and a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Upon arrival, they will need to undergo a second PCR test and check into a Thailand Safety and Health Administration accredited (SHA+) hotel for one night to await the results of their test.

Two programs, the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus, started over the summer as test cases for how travel reopening could work in Thailand.

7. Saudi Arabia unveils a new kind of theme park

Move over, Disneyland and Peppa Pig World: Saudi Arabia is building an "extreme park" on an oil rig in the Arabian Gulf. It will be called The Rig.

Dubbed the "world's first tourism destination inspired by offshore oil platforms," the attraction will feature roller coasters, bungee jumping and skydiving. There will also be three hotels and eleven restaurants spread across 150,000 square meters.

There isn't an opening date for the project, so don't start packing your suitcases just yet.

"The Rig" is a pretty good name for an action movie, though. Just think of the cross-promotion potential.

8. China and Laos have just leveled up their relationship

A new railway connecting China and Laos is nearly complete. The route connects Vientiane, Laos' capital, with the Chinese city of Kunming in Yunnan province.

The Vientiane station was unveiled this week, and the rest of the line is set to be completed by the end of the year.

This new railway project, which was financed and built by the Chinese government, is intended to take the Southeast Asian nation from "a land-locked country to a land-linked country."

The trains will be able to bring passengers between the two countries more easily, which in turn will likely improve tourism on both sides.

9. Canada will make it easier to show proof of vaccination

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that the country is preparing a national standardized vaccine certificate.

Though each province has been issuing their own credentials, Trudeau wants to make sure that every vaccinated Canadian will have something that is easily recognized by the WHO, other countries, airlines and more.

The announcement comes ahead of some of the world's tightest requirements for domestic travelers.

As of October 30, everyone over the age of 12 boarding a train or plane in Canada will be required to show proof of full vaccination in order to travel.

Since it may take a while for the process to be streamlined, for the month of November only, people will be permitted to show a negative Covid-19 molecular test within 72 hours of travel as an alternative.

10. What happens when you test positive for Covid on vacation?

Many destinations require proof of a negative Covid test in order to enter -- but what happens when you test positive after arriving?

The answer will depend on the country you're in.

CNN's Tamara Hardingham-Gill spoke to several Americans who found themselves in just those situations.

Even though many of these tourists had travel insurance, an entry-level plan often wasn't good enough to cover huge expenses like medical evacuation.

The bottom line: do your research, plan for the worst and consider taking an at-home test yourself just in case.


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