AUGUST 19, 2020

At Ovation, we remain committed to providing excellent service to our valued clients throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Click the link below to view our travel resources guide which includes traveler health & safety information, interactive risk maps, client communications, travel management best practices, webinar recordings and more regarding COVID-19.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed an executive order requiring hotels and short-term rentals to require travelers from high-risk states to complete quarantine forms before they get access to rooms, reports NBC New York. Fines will be issued starting this week for failure to comply. The mayor's hotel order applies to travelers from the rolling list of quarantine-restricted states, which currently stands at 33 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. States land on the list if they have COVID test positivity rates that hit or exceed 10 percent over a seven-day rolling period; Alaska and Delaware were re-added to the restricted list Tuesday. No areas were removed.

The US-Canada border will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least September 21st, reports USA Today. The statement was made by Canada's Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, just a day after Mexico announced a similar measure for its border with the United States. The land border restrictions aimed at controlling COVID-19 were first announced in March and have been renewed monthly. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf tweeted: "We continue to work with our Canadian and Mexican partners to slow the spread of #COVID19. Accordingly, we have agreed to extend the limitation of non-essential travel at our shared land ports of entry through September 21." According to the Canadian Border Services Agency, anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of that country must prove they are traveling for an essential purpose, are only transiting or are an immediate family member of a citizen or permanent resident. They must also have a plan to quarantine for 14 days unless they are exempted. Essential cross-border workers such as health care professionals, airline crews and truck drivers are still permitted to cross.

Several major world airports are offering or requiring COVID-19 testing onsite for arriving international travelers, reports Travel Weekly. Perhaps the most widespread airport COVID-19 testing is taking place in Germany, where travelers coming from high-risk areas, including the US, are required to be tested within 72 hours of arrival. Testing is currently available free of charge at airports, among them Berlin Tegel, Berlin Schonefeld, Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. In Frankfurt, for example, two testing stations have been established, each of which is open 18 hours per day. And under a program announced by Lufthansa for arriving international travelers to Munich and Frankfurt, test results are provided within four to five hours. Those who get negative results are immediately free of two-week quarantine requirements. Even more rapid turnaround is offered at Tokyo's Haneda and Narita airports. Local media reported in late July that the airports had begun offering COVID-19 antigen tests with a one-hour turnaround time. Efforts like these, if coordinated across borders, could be the key for opening up international travel while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) unveiled a new COVID-19 testing facility that it says could halve the length of time travelers have to stay at home after arriving from countries on the British government’s quarantine list, reports USA Today. The government said it wasn’t ready to give its backing to the facility but stated that it was working with airports on how a new testing regime can reduce the 14-day quarantine period that travelers face when arriving from more than 100 countries, including France, Spain and the United States. “Testing will not only avoid the ‘quarantine roulette’ that so many passengers faced in Spain and France, it will also open up flights to key trading partners such as the US, Canada and Singapore,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said. The new facility has been set up by aviation services company Collinson and logistics firm Swissport at Heathrow’s Terminal 2. They say more than 13,000 swab tests will be available to travelers each day, with results “within hours.” It is proposed that arrivals will then take a second test at home and will be able to leave their 14-day quarantine early if they pass both. Similar double-testing regimes are used elsewhere in Europe, including Germany.

Accor now requires all guests and visitors to its properties in North and Central America to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, reports Business Travel News. The mandate is effective immediately, and masks will be provided by the hotels for guests who do not have one. "Wearing face coverings, along with enhanced cleaning protocols and practicing physical distancing, will help ensure that every guest has a safe experience in our hotels, and that we can protect each other as we begin traveling again," said Accor CEO of North & Central America Heather McCrory. The face-mask requirement is aligned with the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Guest Checklist released last month that is part of its Safe Stay health and safety initiative. Accor joins Hyatt, IHG, Loews and Marriott in requiring guests to wear face coverings on their North American properties.

Amtrak has announced a new standard of travel with enhanced safety and cleaning measures. In an effort to simplify and safeguard the travel experience, several cleaning, contact-free and convenience measures have been implemented into every part of the traveler's journey. With a full-time medical director and public health and safety team, Amtrak has studied, analyzed and made improvements to their travel experience for the safety and health of their employees and travelers. Amtrak continues to evaluate current practices and launch new initiatives to support personal safety. New enhancements and initiatives include: required face coverings in stations and on trains, contactless travel via the Amtrak app, enhanced cleaning and onboard filtration systems, seat blocking to allow for physical distancing and enhanced safety protocols in cafe cars with protective barriers and flexible dining services.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released a new health checklist to help airlines self-assess their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Travel Pulse. The IATA Health Safety Checklist for Airline Operators outlines the latest standards and recommended practices in addition to guidance material and other helpful information to support the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) published guide, Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis. Sections include pre-arrival notification; check-in; embarkation and disembarkation; aircraft cleaning; onboard air quality; in-flight operations; flight and cabin crew; crew layover and airport facilities. "Safety is always the number one priority for air transport. And the challenges of COVID-19 have added a new dimension to our efforts," said IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac in a statement. "Developed with input from industry, public health authorities and governments, ICAO's Take-off guidance is the global standard for safe operations. IATA’s self-assessment checklist is a practical implementation guide to help airlines comply."

Airports Council International (ACI) World has urged governments to replace quarantine measures with a new and consistent protocol for testing, reports Airport Technology. ACI is set to urge the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop recommendations. They say that the measures must be risk-based and informed by scientific and health experts. They should also only be applied to travelers between countries where there is significant risk. ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “Harmonized measures and a risk-based approach that relies on scientific evidence will help to restore the traveler confidence and support the economy recovery of the aviation ecosystem.” According to ACI, with the new protocol in place, international air transport can be restarted in a safe and efficient manner, and people and goods can travel freely without increasing the risk of infection.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will reopen a concourse in the International Terminal, which was shut down since April 1st due to COVID-19, reports Airport Technology. The concourse was closed due to decreased traveler and flight operations. Boarding Area A with Gates A1 to A15 is slated to reopen on September 1st to accommodate the return of international flights. The reopening also includes the Security checkpoint and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities for arriving flights for Gates A1 to A15.