Pandemic travel news: Russia and China fight Covid outbreaks

CNN  — 

Russia and China are fighting record Covid outbreaks, US domestic air travel is set to go from bad to worse, but there’s good news out of Asia-Pacific.

Here are some things we learned in pandemic travel this week.

1. Russia has moved to the CDC’s highest-risk category

Medics wearing a special suit to protect against coronavirus treat a patient with coronavirus at an ICU at the Moscow City Clinical Hospital 52, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. Russia hit another daily record of coronavirus deaths Tuesday as rapidly surging infection rates raised pressure on the country's health care system and prompted the government to suggest declaring a nonworking week.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Here's what caused the surge of Covid cases in Russia
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Covid cases in the world’s largest country by area have hit a record high, with close to 274,000 new cases reported in Russia in the past week and only 34% of the population fully vaccinated.

The rise means that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week added Russia to its list of “very high” risk travel destinations, the criteria for which is having had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

There are now nearly 80 countries on the CDC’s “no-go” Level 4 list, including the UK, Greece, Switzerland and Thailand.

2. China is doubling down on its zero-Covid strategy

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Thousands stuck at Shanghai Disneyland after one Covid case nearby was reported. See what it looked like
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All across Asia Pacific, from Australia to South Korea, countries are easing restrictions and reopening borders as they move away from zero-Covid strategies – but China is holding out.

The country is working to contain its most widespread Covid outbreak since Wuhan, although recent case numbers are still only in the hundreds. A single Covid case at Shanghai Disneyland at Halloween sent the whole park and adjacent Disneytown shopping district into lockdown.

Despite fully vaccinating more than 75% of its population, China is sticking to its policy of closed borders, lengthy quarantines for international arrivals and localized lockdowns.

3. Flying has gotten really bad. Here’s why

People wait in line at an American Airlines counter at an airport in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. The airline has canceled more than 800 flights on Sunday, or nearly 30% of its schedule for the day.
American Airlines cancels more flights
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Thousands of canceled flights across the United States. Violent outbursts from passengers and even between crew. Operational meltdowns were behind the recent mass cancellations at American Airlines and Southwest which left tens of thousands of passengers stranded, but problems in US domestic travel run deeper than that – and may well get worse.

Staffing shortages mean flight crews are overworked and vaccine mandates could lead to even more shortages. Lower availability of flights, meanwhile, means higher ticket prices for those flights. Planes are packed, there’s division over mask rules, and tensions are rising.

Meanwhile, the US will reopen to fully vaccinated foreign visitors on November 8. “It’s going to be a bit sloppy at first, I can assure you,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said at a late October travel industry conference. “There will be lines, unfortunately.”

4. The ultra long-haul dream hasn’t gone away

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On board the world's longest flight (2019)
03:11 - Source: CNN

Ultra long-haul flights are classed as any that are scheduled to last more than 16 hours – and they’ve actually been around since the 1930s.

While the aviation industry is focused on recovery rather than bum-numbing record-breaking, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has told CNN’s Richard Quest that in 2022 his airline hopes to revisit development of Project Sunrise – a plan to operate the world’s longest nonstop flights, which would allow travelers to fly between London or New York to the eastern Australia cities of Sydney and Melbourne. The aim is to then launch in the following two to three years.

The world’s longest scheduled passenger flight currently in service is Singapore Airlines’ Singapore-JFK flight, which covers 9,536.5 miles and takes 18 hours and 40 minutes on the Singapore-bound route.

5. Try warm-weather destinations, say travel experts

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Turks & Caicos
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While the 2020 holiday season was a stay-at-home affair, this year moving around the world is safer and more accessible. However, we still need weigh up risks versus benefits during every step of vacation-planning.

CNN Travel asked industry experts and CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen about what you need to consider when making those destination decisions.

Your vaccination status is the most important factor when it comes to ease of travel, with many countries not letting the unjabbed enter. If you want to reduce your Covid risk but are still keen for a vacation abroad, consider warm-weather destinations where most of the activity is outdoors.

7. The ‘world’s best’ cheese for 2021 was revealed

The World Cheese Awards 2021 were held in northern Spain.

Even if you’re not making plans to jet off anywhere for a while, you can still travel the world with your palate.

A soft goat’s cheese from Spain won first place at the World Cheese Awards on November 3, having been chosen out of more than 4,000 entries from more than 40 countries.

The winning cheese, called Olavidia, is from an artisan cheesemaker using the commercial name Quesos y Besos (Cheeses and Kisses). The crown returned to Europe this year after the previous winner was – for the first time ever – an American cheese, Oregon’s Rogue River Blue.

8. There were joyful reunions at Australian airports

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Tearful reunions as parts of Australia reopen border after 18 months
02:24 - Source: CNN

Tens of thousands of loved ones and family members have been kept apart for more than 20 months due to Australia’s strict border policy in response to Covid-19.

When the country’s international borders finally reopened on November 1, there were hugs, tears and emotional reunions at Sydney and Melbourne airports.

So far, only the highly vaccinated states of New South Wales and Victoria have relaxed restrictions on international arrivals, but the Australian government says further border limits will be removed as other parts of the country meet their 80% vaccination targets.

CNN’s Forrest Brown, Karla Cripps, Nectar Gan, Steve George, Al Goodman, Marnie Hunter, Chris Isidore, Angus Watson, Ben Westcott and Jessie Yeung contributed reporting.