ALL NEWS

As U.S. lifts travel restrictions, visitors to US await long-delayed reunions

Nov 8, 2021, 5:39 AM | Updated: 5:47 am
U.S. lifts travel restrictions...
Passengers queue at London Heathrow Airport's T3 as the US reopens its borders to UK visitors in a significant boost to the travel sector, in London, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)
(Steve Parsons/PA via AP)

CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT, France (AP) — The U.S. lifted restrictions Monday on travel from a long list of countries including Mexico, Canada and most of Europe, setting the stage for emotional reunions nearly two years in the making and providing a boost for the airline and tourism industries decimated by the pandemic.

Wives will hug husbands for the first time in months. Grandmas will coo over grandsons who have doubled in age since they last saw them. Aunts and uncles and cousins will snuggle babies they haven’t met yet.

“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” Gaye Camara said of the husband in New York she has not seen since before COVID-19 brought the fly-here-there-and-everywhere world to a halt.

“Just talking about it makes me emotional,” Camara, 40, said as she wheeled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, which could almost be mistaken for its pre-pandemic self, busy with humming crowds, albeit in face masks.

The rules that go into effect Monday allow air travel from a series of countries from which it has been restricted since the early days of the pandemic — as long as the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Those crossing land borders from Mexico or Canada will require proof of vaccination but no test.

American citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but the travel bans grounded tourists, thwarted business travelers and often separated families.

Airlines are now preparing for a surge in travel after the pandemic and resulting restrictions caused international travel to plunge. Data from travel and analytics firm Cirium showed airlines are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and the U.S. by 21% this month over last month.

When Camara last saw Mamadou, her husband, in January 2020, they had no way of knowing that they’d have to wait 21 months before holding each other again. She lives in France’s Alsace region, where she works as a secretary. He is based in New York.

“It was very hard at the beginning. I cried nearly every night,” she said. “I got through it thanks to him. He knows how to talk to me, to calm me.”

Video calls, text messages, phone conversations kept them connected — but couldn’t fill the void of separation.

“I cannot wait,” she said. “Being with him, his presence, his face, his smile.”

Maria Giribet has not seen her twin grandchildren Gabriel and David for about half of their lives. Now 3 1/2, the boys are in San Francisco, which during the height of the pandemic might as well have been another planet for 74-year-old Giribet, who lives on the Mediterranean isle of Majorca.

“I’m going to hug them, suffocate them, that’s what I dream of,” Giribet said after checking in for her flight. A widow, she lost her husband to a lengthy illness before the pandemic and her three grown children all live abroad.

“I found myself all alone,” said Giribet, who was flying for the first time in her life by herself.

For Martine Kerherve, being separated from loved ones in the United States was filled with worries that they might not survive the pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.

“We told ourselves that we could die without seeing each other,” said Kerherve, who was heading for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Paris. “We all went through periods of depression, anxiety.”

Before the pandemic, it was a trip Kerherve and her partner, Francis Pasquier, would make once or twice a year. When they lost that, “we lost our bearings,” Pasquier said.

The change will also have a profound effect on the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, where traveling back and forth was a way of life until the pandemic hit and the U.S. shut down nonessential travel.

Malls, restaurants and Main Street shops in U.S. border towns have been devastated by the lack of visitors from Mexico. On the boundary with Canada, cross-border hockey rivalries that were community traditions were upended. Churches that had members on both sides of the border are hoping to welcome parishioners they haven’t seen in nearly two years.

River Robinson’s American partner wasn’t able to be in Canada for the birth of their baby boy 17 months ago. She was thrilled to hear about the U.S. reopening.

“I’m planning to take my baby down for the American Thanksgiving,” said Robinson, who lives in St. Thomas, Ontario. “If all goes smoothly at the border, I’ll plan on taking him down as much as I can.”

It’s “crazy to think he has a whole other side of the family he hasn’t even met yet,” she added.

The U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S. That’s a relief for many in Canada, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used.

But millions of people around the world who were vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s CanSino or others not OK’d by the WHO won’t be able to travel to the U.S.

The moves come as the U.S. has seen its COVID-19 outlook improve dramatically in recent weeks since the summer delta surge that pushed hospitals to the brink in many locations.

Those in the travel industry hope it will provide a boost after COVID-19 travel bans brought the sector to its knees.

Ben and Becca Akhurst were making the kind of trip Monday that many in the industry hope for: They were leaving London’s Heathrow Airport to visit Disney World.

The husband and wife, both aged 31 and from Ashford, England, had been forced to cancel similar trips five times. They planned to spend time with friends they made during the pandemic through their “shared love of Disney.”

Travel agent Francis Legros, flying from Paris to a travel industry convention in Las Vegas, jetted off determined to breathe life back into his company.

“We are rebuilding,” he said. “It’s a new chapter, a new professional life.”

___

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.


Related:

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Wednesday two new cases of avian influenza....
Mark Jones

Two new cases of avian influenza announced Wednesday

Two new cases of avian influenza have been confirmed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. The new cases are in Iron and Utah counties.
1 day ago
A suspect is in custody Wednesday evening after University of Utah Police say two hidden cameras we...
Mark Jones

Hidden cameras found in restrooms in U of U Student Life Center, suspect in custody

University of Utah Police say a suspect has been arrested after two hidden cameras were found inside two different restrooms inside the Student Life Center.
1 day ago
Salt Lake City Police took a 44-year-old man into custody on Wednesday in connection to the burglar...
Mark Jones

SLC Police arrest man for burglarizing two law offices

Salt Lake City Police say a 44-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in connection to burglarizing two downtown law offices last week.
1 day ago
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson wants his old job back. ...
Mark Jones

Rocky Anderson announces bid to run for SLC mayor in 2023

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson announced Wednesday that he is seeking reelection to get his old job back.
1 day ago
Orem auto-pedestrian collision...
Mark Jones

Two people hurt in auto-pedestrian collision in Orem

Orem police are investigating an auto-pedestrian collision that sent two people to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
1 day ago
Fatal car crash...
Waverly Golden

Salt Lake City Police investigate deadly auto-pedestrian collision

SLC 9-1-1 received information about a deadly auto-pedestrian collision involving a Nissan pick-up Wednesday afternoon, according to Salt Lake City Police Department.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
As U.S. lifts travel restrictions, visitors to US await long-delayed reunions