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Travel

Coronavirus: Gatwick Airport plans to shut down terminal as deadly pandemic takes its toll

London’s second biggest airport has been forced to shut down its north terminal thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has seen many airlines cancel their flights. Gatwick Airport has decided to temporarily shut its north terminal from the end of the month.

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The terminal is usually served by carriers including easyJet.

The decision is expected to be announced later today, according to Sky News.

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The drastic move is just one step away from a full airport closure.

Although, reportedly, the option to close the airport is still on the cards.

Earlier this week, London City Airport announced it would be closing completely for several weeks.

Meanwhile, Heathrow and Stansted have seen a huge plunge in passenger numbers as countries around the world prohibit travel.

Numerous regional airports are thought to be suffering with the same problem.

Currently, airport operators are in talks with the Government about rescue packages.

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak wrote to aviation bosses this week that support packages could be available to some individual companies.

However, this will only be made available once private sources of capital have been exhausted.

Gatwick is mainly owned by VINCI – the largest private airport operator in the world.

The London airport serves a massive 46 million passengers each year and flies to 230 destinations.

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Last week, Gatwick said that its chief executive Stewart Wingate, and his executive team would be taking a salary cut.

The team is expected to cut their pay by 20 percent and waive bonuses.

The airport also said it was cutting 200 staff who are on temporary fixed-term contracts along with contractors.

It is expected that further announcements of cost-cutting measures will be taken in the next few weeks.

Mr Wingate said last week: “Gatwick is a resilient business, but the world has changed dramatically in recent weeks and we have been forced to take rapid, decisive action to ensure that the airport is in a strong position to recover from a significant fall in passenger numbers.”

Gatwick airport has been approached for comment.

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Coronavirus: Australia sets up covid-19 hotels for new arrivals in tougher new measures

Covid-19 has led to some extreme travel measures but now Australia is setting up its new arrivals in hotels. But these aren’t the fancy hotels you would wish to relax and take a holiday in. The hotels are especially for new arrivals in Australia from overseas and will likely include some protective measures.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the measures on today, just a week after a cruise ship called the Ruby Princess saw 2,647 disembark in Sydney without being checked.

Since the cruise liner’s slip up, 162 of the ship’s passengers have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

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A Princess Cruises spokesperson said:”As NSW Health has stated publicly the Ruby Princess cruise that began in Sydney on March 8 was regarded as low risk for COVID-19. Notwithstanding this assessment, our onboard medical team was rigorous in its treatment of some guests who reported flu-like symptoms and these guests were isolated. In line with existing protocols, the ship reported these cases to NSW Health, which in turn requested swabs to be provided following the ship’s arrival in Sydney, some of which subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

“It is practice the world over that tests for COVID-19 are not conducted on board cruise ships. The protocol is for swabs to be tested by the relevant public health authority, and this was done in relation to Ruby Princess. Disembarkation of the ship was in line with the then existing process for health clearance for vessels on arrival in port.

“On disembarkation, guests were aware that anyone arriving in Australia from abroad, irrespective of whether it was by air or sea, would be required by the Australian Government to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This applied to Ruby Princess guests who arrived in Sydney from an overseas port, in this case from New Zealand.

“Princess Cruises has robust public health standards and practices that are based on the best international public health advice. Ships have sophisticated medical centres that are staffed by medical practitioners and other health professionals.

“The advice from NSW Health that COVID-19 had been confirmed among Ruby Princess passengers came as a disappointment. We share the public health authority’s concern and have worked closely with them to make direct contact with all passengers.”

From midnight on Saturday, which is at 12pm GMT today, all arrivals at international airports will be made to stay at hotels for two weeks for mandatory self-isolation.

The isolation will take place under the eyes of border force officials.

Once the two weeks is over, people will be able to return home.

Currently, 228 passengers from the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship are residing inside the Swissotel in Sydney’s CBD after being escorted in through the hotel’s backdoor at 4am.

The passengers were forced to wear masks, gloves and protective suits as they arrived.

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Passengers will also be given an $1,000 (£495) on-the-spot fines if they leave their hotel room.

Mr Morrison said that international arrivals will be put in quarantine in the city they touch down and won’t be allowed to catch a connecting flight to their home state.

He said: “States and territories will be quarantining all arrivals through our airports in hotels and other accommodation facilities for the two weeks of their mandatory self-isolation before they are able to return to their home,” he said.

“If their home is in South Australia or in Perth or in Tasmania and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne.

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“If it’s in Sydney, it will be if Sydney. If it’s Brisbane, and so on.

“The ADF will be supporting those states and territories with compliance checks to ensure that people are at their residences, that they have so worn sworn they would be at, to ensure we get compliance with the self-isolation.”

Australia’s borders closed last week to foreigners, with only returning Aussies allowed to fly back to the country.

However, people on Twitter have mixed feelings about the Australian government’s latest measures.

One user said: “How much is the government going to pay hotels, caravan parks and any other accommodation facilities, for disinfecting their premises totally, after allowing international people into Australia again. No wonder there’s more coronavirus coming into the country!

“If people flying into Australia are put in hotels to isolate – fantastic.”

Another said: “But what about those who arrived here in the last two weeks, who are meant to be in their homes isolating but are not there?”

Another posted: “Enforced quarantine in hotels to all arrivals into Australia for two weeks is a good step by Scott Morrison and team.

“This is a huge element that has made Singapore, Taiwan and Japan so successful.”

But another passenger said they had arrived back in Australia last night and would not be quarantined.

They said: “Arrived in Australia last night after 26 hours. I now hear that if it was tomorrow I would be in a hotel in Melbourne for two weeks. I do feel for those that are yet to make it home.”

Another said jokingly, “In a nutshell, Australia is a holiday hotel masquerading as a nation.”

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Travel

Room Check: New Zealand weekend getaway at the Hilton Lake Taupō

Courtney Whitaker reviews the Hilton Lake Taupō

Location:

The hotel sits beside the popular DeBretts Hot Springs, just a five-minute drive from Taupō’s city centre, on Napier Rd, and 15 minutes from Taupō Airport.

Getting there: We drove from Auckland and it took us just over three hours. The hotel offers free outdoor car parking, which was brimming with rental cars and four-wheel-drives with bike racks attached (we happened to time our stay the same weekend as the Ironman event in Taupō).

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Travel

Covid 19 coronavirus: Qatar Airways adds extra flights to New Zealand

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While most airlines are slashing or suspending operations due to Covid-19, Qatar Airways has extended its service for the Doha to Auckland route, to help get more Kiwis home.

The original date of suspension for the airline was April 15, and the service until then was only running four days a week.

The airline has now decided to operate daily flights to New Zealand until April 17, when it will suspend the service until June.

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Covid 19 Coronavirus: Ryanair hikes reebooking fees while closing help lines

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As Ryanair grounds its European airfleet and mothballs its customer service lines, customers say they are being gouged to rebook cancelled flights.

The airline has been accused of charging passengers more to rebook flights than buy new ones.

In some cases the airline was charging $160 for changing cancelled fares, in spite of a promise of “fee-free” cancellations.

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Coronavirus crisis will see 75 million travel jobs lost worldwide without government intervention

Without government intervention, there’s an “immediate risk” that 75 million people working in the travel industry around the world could lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, according to new research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). 

Each day, one  million jobs in the travel and tourism sector are lost, say the findings.

The figure represents a 50 per cent increase from the predictions made by WTTC less than two weeks ago and has severe implications for the world economy.

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This year alone, travel and tourism GDP loss to the world economy could be as much as US$2.1tn (£1.76tn), the WTTC said.

The Asia Pacific region is expected to be the most heavily affected, with up to 49 million jobs at risk.

In Europe, up to 10 million jobs are at risk, with Germany being hit the hardest, followed by Russia.

The Americas could also see around 10 million jobs lost, with seven million of these spread across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said: “The number of jobs now at risk in the global Travel and Tourism sector is a staggering 75 million, bringing real and profound worry to millions of families around the world.

“This chilling new figure also represents the collective delay by many governments around the world to react quickly enough to come to the aid of a sector which is the backbone of the global economy.”

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

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Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

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Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

Ms Guevara added: “If urgent action is not taken within the next few days, the Travel and Tourism sector faces an economic meltdown from which it will struggle to recover and plunge millions of people dependent upon it for their livelihoods into debt.

“Not only will this have an enormous negative impact on major businesses in the Travel and Tourism sector around the world, the ‘domino effect’ will also result in massive job losses across the entire supply chain, hitting employees and those in self-employment.

“We call on all those in positions of power to help the powerless and enact policies to support and sustain a sector which is a driving force of the global economy and responsible for generating one in five of all new jobs.”

The research comes as similarly catastrophic predictions were made for the air travel industry.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) updated its analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on 24 March, predicting that the air travel industry stands to lose as much as £211bn this year.

This figure is more than double the prediction Iata made earlier this month.

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Travel

Hotels: Swiss hotel offers ‘COVID-19 service’ package including coronavirus test

Hotels across the globe have been left without customers as people have been forced to sit at home in isolation. But what if there was a hotel that offered the perfect self-isolation retreat, including a coveted coronavirus test?

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Hotel chain Le Bijou in Switzerland is offering just that for $77,500 (£65,133) for two weeks.

The Swiss hotel’s slogan before the global pandemic took hold was, “hotel service without the other people” which has now taken on a whole new meaning.

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Le Bijou is a hotel that was exclusively built for people who wish to avoid human contact which is the perfect set-up for a global pandemic.

The service provides customers with a luxury coronavirus-themed package with options for doctor visits and food delivery.

The hotel chain has 42 units at properties in cities all around Switzerland.

Each unit includes certain amenities such as a full-service kitchen, saunas, Jacuzzis, fireplaces and gyms.

The units do not operate with members of staff which includes checking in.

To avoid human interaction at all costs, there is a private app and a remote 24-hour concierge that customers ca use to order what ever they want.

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Meals, personal chefs, groceries, massages, cabs, and more are all available at the touch of a button.

But some of the offers have changed in the light of the pandemic.

Co-founder and chief executive Alexander Hübner told Insider that launching the “covid-19 service” didn’t take much thanks to his concept.

He described the units as their own “luxury Airbnbs”.

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He added: “The whole thing is set up to be fully automated so you don’t need to see any other people.”

Mr Hübner said that creating the package was the perfect next step.

He said that overnight stays of his guests got longer due to the coronavirus and that more inquiries for doctors making room visits also led to him turning all these services into one package.

The service package is customisable and includes add-ons such as doctor visits, a coronavirus test and 24-hour nurse care.

The Swiss hotel chain has partnered with a private clinic to provide top medical services too.

Mr Hübner said that last week bookings went up to five per day since the service launched.

He added: “The inquiries are growing exponentially.”

Guests can stay for a single night but most people are choosing to stay for two weeks and even two months.

To protect against coronavirus, each room is cleaned before and after the stay, deliveries are dropped outside the doors and cleaning staff wear masks and gloves.

A two-week stay can cost anywhere between $6,000 (£5042) and $77,500 (£65,133), depending on whether guests opt for the 24/7 nurse service and a coronavirus test.

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Travel

Flights: The unlikely item you should disinfect when travelling for this disgusting reason

Coronavirus has left everyone nervous about germs and handwashing has never been more discussed. However, it turns out that it’s not just your hands that should be cleaned when travelling. Research shows that your passport could be a veritable smorgasbord of nasties.

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A recent report by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shed some light on this.

Findings showed that the COVID-19 virus could still be detected on plastic surfaces (such as passport covers) up to three days after the initial contamination.

With this in mind, cast your mind to how many people have handled your passport as you’ve handed it over to be checked while travelling…

So should you be disinfecting your passport when you travel to prevent catching anything unpleasant?

One expert advised wiping the travel document down with wipes of over 60 percent alcohol.

Erin Sorrell, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University told Afar magazine: “In general, viruses—and not just the coronavirus—can survive longer on nonporous, water-resistant surfaces like plastic and steel.

“Many passport covers are made from plastic and those surfaces should be cleaned regularly.

“Using a disinfectant wipe that is over 60 percent alcohol is a good method.”

However, travellers should be careful not to damage or smudge any airport stickers they may need while cleaning their passport.

Passport covers to go over the passport could help worried travellers.

A sheath can protect the passport itself from germs and comes with no risks when cleaning.

Furthermore, other materials such as leather and fabric are porous.

This makes them less hospitable for viruses so they won’t survive as long.

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However, these covers should still be cleaned every now and again to still be on the safe side.

Travel health experts at Vaxxy Travel shared their top tips with Express.co.uk for saying safe and clean while travelling.

“Before your travel, organise an inflight bag of essentials to ensure you can remain clean whilst on the flight,” said Parvinder Sagoo, Pharmacist and Clinical Advisor at Vaxxy Travel.

“Things like anti-bac hand wipes, spray, hand sanitiser, facial wipes, anti-bacterial hand cream and face cream and any other items that will keep your immediate area safe.

“Once you get on the plane, wipe down your armrests, tray table and window shutter with one of the wipes to ensure any germs are removed.

Ensure you do not share any food with anyone on your flight, and when it comes to the in-flight meals make sure you wipe down any areas of plastic that you will be touching.

“Ensuring you take regular trips to the bathroom to wash your hands thoroughly in between hand sanitiser is advised to keep hands clean.

“If you do go to the bathroom, it might be an idea to take your anti-bac wipes with you so you can wipe down the areas that you will be in contact before and after for the next person.”

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Coronavirus Strands Spring Break Travelers in St. Barth and Anguilla



a harbor filled with water and a mountain in the background: Travel restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic has left even the one percent scrambling for airline seats out of St. Barth and Anguilla.
a sandy beach next to a body of water: Anguilla, a British overseas territory, closed its port on March 20th.
a large airplane flying high up in the air: Travelers to St. Bart
a close up of a boat next to a body of water: The St. Barth Bucket Regatta, one island’s biggest annual events, was cancelled.
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Some travelers to St. Barth have been able to get connecting flights out of San Juan.

Although the two small islands are separated by only 27 miles of Caribbean sea and both are high-end, beach-ringed sanctuaries for East Coasters, Anguilla and St. Barth could not be more different. Anguilla is where billionaires go to get their beach bum on; St. Barth is where they go in high season to flaunt their mega yachts.

Each has its aficionados, who sometimes deign to take a day trip to their neighbor (about 40 minutes by boat), while remaining set in their affinity. But on the weekend of March 13—start of college and private school spring break and high season par excellence—the most devoted among them, those who had not canceled hotel and villa reservations despite intensifying coronavirus uncertainties, found themselves in the same boat: desperately trying to figure out how to flee paradise and get back home.

“It’s eerie when something is so beautiful you think surely it’s the safest place to be, but then suddenly you’re told it’s not,” said New York-based jewelry designer and philanthropist Brooke Garber Neidich, who has been coming to St. Bart’s for 35 years and arrived on March 14 to check on the progress on a house she and her husband are building on the island’s Baie des Flamands, next to LVMH’s newly expanded Cheval Blanc St. Bart’s hotel. Neidich and her husband were among the fortunate.

“We came by charter,” she added. “We figured, well, [if things go south], we can always turn around and leave — and we did!” she said.

But for others things would get rougher by the day. On March 12, before most spring breakers had arrived, St. Maarten banned flights and passengers from Germany from landing at its Princess Juliana International Airport. SXM, as it’s called for short, is a hub, along with San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU), for visitors to Anguilla and St. Barth. From there, they board connecting flights on smaller aircraft operated by the likes of Seabourne, Tradewinds Aviation, or Winair, or, if headed to Anguilla, they board a ferry from a dock near SXM.

By Saturday, March 14, St. Maarten announced it was banning all flights from the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States, effective Tuesday the 17. A day later, on March 15, France announced a lockdown. What ensued was pure chaos.

Anguilla: “Many of us are stranded”

“St. Maarten said the airport would remain open so people could get off,” said a Westchester-based Anguilla homeowner who’d arrived on the island on Friday the 13th on JetBlue and had a return flight booked with them. “But airlines promptly canceled all flights both ways, including mine. While the hotels are mostly empty, there are people in villas, and quite a few private jets. But many of us are stranded. There was to my knowledge no ‘get yourselves home’ order from the State Department until most countries had closed their borders and all remaining flights were full—or wildly overbooked.”

On Anguilla, the homeowner continued, “tourists and expats with houses have sorted into two groups, those who are getting out via various means—Delta or United via SXM, charter to Puerto Rico’s SJU, etcetera—and those who decided it’s safer here.”

There are no COVID-19 cases diagnosed on Anguilla as yet and everyone with symptoms is being assiduously quarantined. “Everyone assumes it’s here nonetheless,” another frequent visitor said, “but it has been impressive to see how the island has coped. There have been regular, clear announcements from the health department, premier, and governor, all with consistent facts and advice. Locals are concerned but calm—they have been through so much, what with the destruction of Hurricane Irma [which struck in 2017]. They have set up a service to shop for seniors. And some take-out places give you an appointment time for your pick up, so there are never more than two people shopping at once. Restaurants are open but distancing table. Not everyone is observing protocols, but more do so every day.”

However, SXM Airport, my friend from Westchester said, “was bedlam”—she’d made two ferry trips there from Anguilla to catch flights on which she’d re-booked herself but about whose cancellations she had not been notified.

“Delta and Winair reps kept trying to pawn me off on each other. And there were no signs of Seabourne or JetBlue staff in the terminal. I looked because I would have liked to strangle one. I realize this is an unprecedented situation, but none of the airlines has covered itself with glory,” she said.

“I am fit, well-off, have a place to stay back on Anguilla, had just a carry on, and can speak up for myself. If any of those had been different, I would have been far worse off. If the airlines want a $50 billion bailout, they will need to prove themselves competent to spend it. And they must have an obligation of care toward passengers, as in the E.U.”

St. Barth: “The island is almost completely shut down”

On St. Barth, Olivia Junieres was not going anywhere—she lives there and owns a consultancy/concierge company on the island, the O Agency. When I spoke to her last week, she said she had seen from her office window one Tradewinds flight from Puerto Rico landing earlier in the day on St. Barth’s notoriously perilous (and picturesque) tiny airstrip.

But otherwise, “the island is almost completely shut down. Our Bucket Regatta, which marks the high season for us and happens this week, was canceled. It’s the source of much of the annual income for many local businesses. The hotels are now closed through April 1, as are the restaurants and all but essential services. But I’m fairly certain that another 15- to 30-day quarantine will be announced soon.” (St. Bart’s to date has three confirmed coronavirus cases.)

Richard Mishaan, an interior designer based in New York, had rented a villa for his stay and arrived on St. Bart’s via St. Maarten on March 14. “At SXM, we saw an Air France plane that was sealed and grounded; there were five Germans aboard and they were being isolated, I was told. Once on St. Bart’s, we had dinner with friends at Maya’s (the popular see-and-be-seen spot on Gustavia harbor) and woke on Sunday to the news that the St. Maarten airport is closed to all incoming flights. That started to make us very uncomfortable. I was able to get flights to get back home the following day through Puerto Rico, but other friends had to wait until Wednesday, and some until Thursday. In San Juan, national guardsmen were taking people’s temperature at random. And the immigration officer told us that they had locked down the flights after ours.”

The Local Impact

Anguilla closed its port to passengers on midnight Friday, March 20, although cargo will continue coming in, if on a reduced schedule. French citizens on St. Barth and all other French Caribbean territories (there were still a few on Guadeloupe and Saint-Martin, Junieres told me) had to return home by last night, Sunday, March 22.

Neidich, back in New York, is self-quarantining from her two-year-old grandson. “He doesn’t understand social distancing,” she said, laughing. “But I was at dinner with nine people at Tamarind [another popular St. Bart’s spot] on Sunday. We sat at a round table. We didn’t hug or kiss, but we were not 6 feet apart.”

There is wide concern about the local St. Barth economy. “The major hotels make money here through April—that is now largely ruined,” Junieres said. “Normally, they stay open through the summer as well, to accommodate the mainly French clientele that arrives here between July 15 and August 15—whoever is not going to St. Tropez, or Greece, or Ibiza that year. They are able to stay open then because of the money they made in the early spring and the real money they start making again in November. Their not opening in the summer will affect restaurants and other businesses here. 

“And this,” she sighed, “was going to be our first normal winter and spring since 2016. [Irma wreaked devastation in 2017.] But I believe the owner crowd will be back as soon as soon as they can. They are having work done on their houses.”

My friend from Anguilla returned home on the last flight out on Friday night from St. Maarten, on United to Newark, New Jersey. “If one more person on the plane talked about the last choppers getting out of Saigon in 1975, I would have coughed on them,” she said. “Everyone at the ferry or airport had a story about canceled flights, crazy itineraries (one family with a bunch of kids was flying to St. Kitts and just hoping for an onward flight), and lack of communication from airlines and the U.S. government.”

As for the COVID-19 situation on Anguilla, “still no positive diagnoses,” she said. “But there are concerns about Anguillans who came home last week, including 24 students, who were told to self-isolate and are not. But as one local told me, “everyone knows who they are and runs away from them.”

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Qantas flies world’s first direct flight from Darwin to London in a bid to rescue Britons

The airline will be making history today as their flight from Sydney will now go via Darwin and then make its way to London Heathrow. The unprecedented move is a desperate bid to try and rescue Brits stranded in Australia. The airline’s QF1 flight normally flies daily from Heathrow via Singapore.

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However, Singapore is now denying all airlines coming into the country.

So in a history-making move Qantas is instead making its first ever flight from Darwin directly to the UK capital.

The flight refuelled in Darwin for 90 mins after coming from Sydney and then took off at 11.46pm local time.

The Airbus A380 will make the 8,629-mile flight in 16 hours and 40 minutes.

The temporary route will only operate this week before Qantas suspends all international flights until May 31.

It is believed to be the first time a plane has flown direct from Darwin to London.

Onboard the plane are 20 customers with tour operator Titan Travel.

The holidaymakers were halfway through a huge 30-day Grand Tour of Australia which was cut short after the UK Government announced that all British nationals should try and return home immediately.

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It comes as NHS nurses accused the Government of abandoning them after they were left stranded in Australia due to flight cancellations.

Laura Mclaughlin, who has lived in Sydney for three years, organised a group of aged 50+ NHS staff who wanted to return to the UK to rejoin the health service to help combat coronavirus.

Ms McLaughlin worked as an accident and emergency nurse in a hospital in Southport, Merseyside.

She said she had been in contact with former colleagues in the UK about returning to help them out because the NHS was so short-staffed.

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She managed to secure a flight on the Darwin to Heathrow flight but she said there were doctors who are still looking to return to the UK.

She said: “We’ve been to the embassy, trying to get hold of people to help us, but we’re just getting no answers.

“I don’t think it’s good enough.

“We need to be prioritising flights for the NHS key workers to be getting home to be helping the pandemic.

“I have hopefully got this flight confirmed for tomorrow, but it’s still helping all the other people along the way trying to get home.”

She also said that one-way flights to the UK were now costing upwards of £6,600 which most nurses cannot afford.

She added: “We’re really keen to come and help but we’re all feeling a little bit like everyone has turned their back on us at the moment.”

Qantas also made history in March 2018 with its first direct flight from Perth to London.

The mammoth 9,009-mile journey took just over 17 hours.

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