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Coronavirus and Travel: The Latest News, Updated Daily | Frommer's Maridav / Shutterstock

Coronavirus and Travel: The Latest News, Updated Daily

Advice and resources relating to how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting travelers. Updated frequently. 

Need to cancel or change travel plans? CLICK HERE for a list of links to the official coronavirus policy web pages for dozens of airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and other travel companies.

APRIL 4, 2020:

South Carolina Bans Hotel Guests from NY, CT, and NJ

Read full coverage of this surprising new edict here.

APRIL 3, 2020:

U.S. Passports Will Now Only Be Issued In Emergency Cases

The issuance of new passports is not an "essential service" it seems.

Today, the U.S. State Department officially announced a policy that's been quietly going on since March 20th, suspending passport services except in cases of emergency.

Those passport applications received before March 19th will still be processed, according to the agency. New applications can be submitted but expedited service won't be available and the State Department is warning Americans that there will be delays.

Emergency applicants are being defined as those responding to "serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g., parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 days)." To prove that such a situation exists, applicants will need to show a doctor's note, certificate of death, a note from a mortuary or hospital. All must be translated into English. And in a real "Catch 22" they'll have to show some sort of proof that they will be traveling, which is a head scratcher because on many airline websites, one must input a passport number to get an international ticket. 

There is some walk-in service available at post offices (though no longer at libraries or courthouses), but applicants are being asked to make an online appointment before heading in. Many post offices are no longer offering this service.

APRIL 2, 2020:

Edinburgh Summer Festivals Not Happening This Year

For the first time since the debut of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, Scotland's hilly capital will not be overrun with artsy goings-on during the late weeks of summer.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, organizers and government officials have decided to cancel all five of Edinburgh's August festivals this year.

In a typical August, thousands of artists and more than 4 million visitors from around the world converge on the city for hundreds of theater, opera, dance, and music events affiliated with the Edinburgh International Festival and its quirky, larger (and arguably more popular) offshoot, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (a showcase for military bands from all over) as well as festivals for books and visual art further contribute to an atmosphere of invigorating creative chaos.

Only not in 2020, because none of that will be taking place. 

Festival officials, however, have already vowed to return next year. 

In a statement about the cancellation, Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan points out that the event was established in response to "an urgent need to both reconnect and rebuild" in the wake of World War II. "This current crisis presents us with a similar sense of urgency," he writes. "Work begins straight away on a 2021 Festival that will boost both our spirits and our economy." 

APRIL 1, 2020:

Wimbledon Championships Canceled for 2020

No strawberries and cream this year: London's All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club—the official name for Wimbledon—has canceled its annual tournament, which had been scheduled to take place from June 29 to July 12.

Instead, the 134th Championships will be held from June 28 to July 11, 2021.

Since its start in 1877, the tournament has been canceled only two other times—for four years during World War I and for six years during World War II.

MARCH 31, 2020:

Legoland New York Will No Longer Open This Year

One of the biggest theme park openings in years, a new Legoland 60 miles from New York City, will no longer open on July 4 as planned.

“We look forward to building unforgettable memories with our guests and their families when we open in 2021," the company said in a statement. An exact opening date has not been set.

People who were hired by the park as well as customers who bought early passes have been told their jobs and tickets will be honored in 2021.

Expo 2020 Dubai Eyes a Year-Long Postponement

Like the Olympics, Expo 2020 Dubai was being billed as one of the most important international events of the year. Now, like the Olympics, the expo will likely be postponed.

It would have been the first world's fair to have been held in the Middle East. In advance of a planned October opening, a 1,000-acre campus filled with futuristic buildings was being constructed near Dubai's international airport, which had also undergone a major facelift. Some 190 countries were expected to host pavilions during the six-month event.

It was such a big deal that Arthur Frommer previewed the event in December and we named Dubai as one of the best places to go in 2020.

But today, the expo's steering committee sent an email announcing the event would likely be rescheduled. A final decision on that matter will be made at the next meeting of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

MARCH 29, 2020:

The CDC Issues Its First Domestic Travel Advisory

In what could be called a lockdown within the lockdown, the CDC issued an advisory warning against travel by the residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to any other areas of the United States.

Omitted are travel plans that are considered essential. "This Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply," said the CDC statement.

Since there are already "shelter in place" orders in all three states—meaning most citizens of those states aren't traveling anyway—this advisory is essentially political window dressing that alters no laws in place.

MARCH 27, 2020:

Disney Parks, Universal, and SeaWorld to Remain Closed Indefinitely

They had hoped to be open by the start of April, but that's not happening now. Deeming it unsafe to reopen, the major theme parks (Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Universal on both coasts) have announced that they will remain closed.

Universal floated a new potential reopening date of April 19, but for Disney no reopening dates have been announced. Many workers at both companies' properties will be paid at least through that date.

Disney's American resort hotels are not accepting reservations that fall before June 1.

The situation is much worse at SeaWorld's American parks, including Busch Gardens. The company has furloughed 90% of its workforce, borrowed more cash, and warned its investors about its financial future. Things had been improving at SeaWorld for the past few years as the company pivoted from animal entertainment offerings to focus on rides and events, but now that turnaround is in jeopardy.

MARCH 26, 2020:

American Airlines Guts In-Flight Service & Seating Rules

In another sign that the airlines are abandoning old ways to navigate this new world, American Airlines has temporarily changed the way it runs its flights.

• Through May 31, seat assignments will be loosened so passengers can change seats and "practice social distancing" when there's available space. So don't bother paying extra for a seat assignment unless you insist on claiming a specific spot—customers can move around to different places.

• The carrier (following the lead of Southwest Airlines) will suspend food and beverage service for flights that travel less than 2,200 miles (which the airline says are usually less than 4½ hours long). Beverages are now restricted to water, canned beverages, or juice. Alcohol will no longer be sold in the Main Cabin (Economy), although First Class retains the privilege. For longer flights such as long-haul international, the airline announced what it terms "streamlined" offerings; no snacks, drinks, or alcohol will be sold in the Main Cabin on long domestic flights. Only long-haul flights will now have food and booze in the Main Cabin. Bottom line: Pack your own food and drink.

• Don't expect to travel with your pet: "Because schedule changes increase the risk of leaving a pet stranded, all checked pet service will be suspended beginning March 25. Carry-on pets and emotional service animals are still allowed."

MARCH 25, 2020:

Three More U.S. National Parks Lock Their Gates

Because some stubborn people hear "isolate now" and apparently think "vacation, dude!", the government has had to close Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks—three of America's busiest.

Rangers report that last week, 30,000 people swarmed into the Great Smoky Mountains park every single day—5,000 per day more than came last March.

When attendance numbers go up while Americans are being told to stay indoors, you've got a problem. Closing the parks entirely was the only way to prevent nitwits from infecting each other in some of the prettiest places on earth.

Yosemite had already closed for the same reason.

MARCH 24, 2020:

Southwest Airlines Suspends In-Flight Service

If you're still flying, bring your own food and drink. For the foreseeable future, Southwest is suspending all food and beverage service for all its flights.

The change is intended to prevent multiple people from touching the same items. 

First State-to-State Quarantine Requirement Is Announced by Florida

As of today, any person flying to Florida from New York will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

The order will only cover those flying into the state, not those arriving by car. The governor, Ron DeSantis (R) stated that the logistical problems of checking the residency of vehicle passengers would be unsurmountable.

The state of Florida has yet to issue any directives for citizens to stay at home.

Miami-Dade and Broward are currently the only two counties in Florida to ask all non-essential workers to stay home.

The Governor claimed a lock-down plan would be too damaging to the economy, but that a self-quarantine travel order should be enough to keep the virus at bay. "That’s the only way we can be sure the virus isn’t going to be reintroduced to the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

Many health experts have argued that his reasoning on this issue is flawed. The virus is already spreading in Florida's general population.

The requirement also applies to flyers from New Jersey and Connecticut.

Real ID Deadline for Flyers Pushed Back

A new identification law that was to have taken effect on October 1 has been delayed.

Under the law, travelers would have had to show either a passport, a Global Entry card, or a so-called "enhanced driver's license" to get through security at airports in the United States.

To avoid crowding Department of Motor Vehicles offices by citizens attempting to comply, the federal government has delayed implementation of the law. A new deadline has not yet been set. 

MARCH 23, 2020:

Olympics Will Be Postponed, Probably Until 2021

Surprising no one, the Summer Games, which were scheduled to be held in Japan beginning July 24, will not happen as scheduled.

The International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, made the decision on Monday. Other details will be determined in time, but it's thought the postponement will last until at least 2021.

Several nations had already announced they would not be sending athletes to compete if the Games were held this summer.

This is not the first time that an international crisis has postponed the Olympics. In 1944, London was scheduled to host, but the event was canceled. London instead hosted four years later, in 1948.

Because of the Olympics, Tokyo was on Frommer's Best Places to Go list for 2020. Glastonbury (see below) also made the cut. With both events rolling over to next year, they have now become great options for your 2021 travel plans.

Glastonbury Festival Canceled

The world-famous Glastonbury music festival will not happen in 2020, its organizers announced.

"Clearly this was not a course of action we hoped to take for our 50th anniversary event," they wrote. Even if isolation practices have ended by the planned June dates, current distancing restrictions will not allow enough time to prepare the concert's infrastructure.

People who had snagged hard-to-get tickets for the event have the option of converting those tickets to the 2021 event.

Sandals Shutters All Its Resorts Until May

If you were thinking of waiting out the current situation on some Caribbean island, you won't be doing that at a Sandals resort.

The Jamaica-based company has closed all properties until May 15. The closure includes the Beaches resort brand as well.

Club Med has already announced closures at its properties.

More refund policy information from resorts and hotels worldwide can be tracked through the official links we have collected on this page.

MARCH 20, 2020:

Yosemite National Park Closes Completely

While some U.S. national parks remain open but without services (see our March 18 updates), one of the country's crown jewels, Yosemite, is closing entirely.

Park management said the closure was at the request of local health authorities. No reopening date was announced.

Florida Finally Closes Its Beaches... Or Does It?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared on the Fox News television show Fox & Friends on Thursday to issue strong words to spring breakers: "You’re not going to be able to congregate on any beach in the state," he said. "Many of the hot spots that people like to go to, whether it’s Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Clearwater Beach, are closed entirely for the time being."

That verbiage has yet to be followed up with an executive order (see here for the pages with such orders), however, and the state's beaches technically remain open, though local leaders insist they are enforcing social distancing (recent photos belie those assertions).

The state shuttered all bars and clubs on St. Patrick's Day; restaurants and other businesses are still operating, but have been asked to decrease density and impose limits on how many customers at a time they serve.

• In other Florida news, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, ordered the closure of all hotels as of 6pm on Sunday. All visitors have been told to leave the county.

MARCH 19, 2020:

State Department Tells Americans: Please Don't Go Abroad

The U.S. State Department announced its most serious travel advisory level applying to all international travel.

Today's new directive, designated by the color red, is Level 4: "Do Not Travel."

The advisory is not a travel ban. Instead, it's a formal indication that the State Department now suggests that Americans do not travel abroad, and if they are already in another country, that they either return home or shelter in place—things that most Americans have been doing out of common sense anyway.

The reasoning had less to do with the potential of contracting the illness and more to do with the disruption of systems: "Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice.  Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips."

If you go abroad, the advisory warns, "your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe."

China, Italy, and South Korea had already been on Level 4 advisories due to COVID-19 concerns.

Read more about how to interpret State Department travel advisories.

Germany Delays Oberammergau For Two Years

A statement by the German National Tourism Office announced its Oberammergau Passion Play, which attracts audiences from around the world every 10 years, will not be performed this year.

"The municipality of Oberammergau and the directing team of the Passion Play around Christian Stückl had to make this decision to protect the health of participants and spectators," the statement said. "The premiere is scheduled for May 21, 2022, and we are looking forward to welcoming our guests from the U.S. and around the world."

The five and 1/2-hour Oberammergau, which normally runs from mid-May to early October, is staged every 10 years and began in 1633.

MARCH 18, 2020:

U.S. National Parks Are Open But Suspend Services

American national parks have received orders to suspend their services, and in response they have closed visitor centers, park-run food and shelter options, and shuttle buses, except in a few cases operated by private vendors. Because toll booths are no longer staffed, admission fees have also been suspended.

Entrance gates remain open. People who are experienced in self-sufficient camping may find the national parks to be appealing grounds for self-isolation.

Yet overcrowding was one of the reasons the government issued the order for closures to begin with. Last week, visitors furloughed from their jobs used their new free time not to shelter in place but to pour into landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion, creating an unexpected public health concern.

With no more services to make it easy to visit, it's hoped attendance numbers will subside substantially.

Hawaii Announces: No Tourism for 30 Days

In a move that would have been shocking just a week and a half ago, the governor of Hawaii David Ige asked all potential visitors to the state to postpone their visits for 30 days.

As in many other places around the United States, all bars will close, restaurants are shifting to pick-up and delivery-only operations, and cinemas and visitor attractions will be shuttering for now.

"The actions I’m announcing today may seem extreme to some of you, and we know that it will have negative effects to our economy. But we are confident that taking aggressive actions now will allow us to have a quicker recovery when this crisis is over," said Gov. Ige. Tourism is the top industry in Hawaii.

Canadian Border Closes to U.S.

Just two days after the original announcement stating that U.S. citizens would still be allowed to enter Canada, the government there has pivoted. As for now, all non-essential travel between the two neighbors is forbidden. Both nations are saying that trade will not be affected.

In corollary news, Canadian Carrier Porter Airlines announced today that it was suspending all flights until June.

MARCH 17, 2020:

European Union Closes Borders for 30 Days

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement. At this stage, travel between EU countries will still be allowed in most cases, but travel into this 27-nation alliance will be blocked. European Union nations include France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Luxembourg, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

Rental-Car Companies Offer Help to College Students

Because so many college students are unexpectedly having to leave campus and get home quickly, some rental-car companies are easing restrictions for college-age drivers.

Enterprise is dropping the minimum age for car rentals to 18 from 21 and eliminating the standard fee charged to younger drivers. This waiver will be in place through May 31. Cars must be reserved in advance, and students will be required to show a valid school I.D. For complete information, click here.

Avis is also waiving surcharges for younger drivers through April 30, but the minimum age for renting a car with that company is still 21, at least for now. Visit the Avis website for further details and restrictions. 

MARCH 16, 2020:

Canada Closes Off, St. Kitts & Nevis Requires Quarantine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose wife tested positive for COVID-19, has decided to close the Canadian border to non-citizens. Interestingly, the ban will not apply to United States citizens "for the moment."

Others who will be permitted to cross the border include flight crews, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and diplomats.

In a move that will raise ethical issues, Trudeau also announced that Canadian citizens with symptoms of the virus will not be allowed to enter the country. He encouraged all Canadian citizens currently traveling to come home right away.

St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean announced that all visitors will be required to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. The directive applies to travelers from China, Italy, Iran, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, and Spain. So far, the Caribbean nation has no reported cases of COVID-19.

TSA Will Let You Bring More Than 3.4 Ounces of Hand Sanitizer Through Airport Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has rolled out a new webpage with information relating to COVID-19.

Travelers can consult the page to find important updates from the agency and track airports where TSA officers have tested positive for the virus. As of this writing, the site lists six cases among airport security employees in California and Florida.

Among the more noteworthy announcements on the info page: For bottles of hand sanitizer, the TSA is waiving the 3.4-ounce limit on liquids in carry-on bags. Passengers can now bring hand sanitizer in bottles up to 12 ounces in size through airport security.

The change applies to hand sanitizer only; all other liquids must be kept below 3.4 ounces.

Now if only there was a single bottle of Purell left on store shelves to buy.

MGM and Wynn Casino Hotels Close 

During this pandemic, groups of 50 or more are deemed dangerous, so hanging around a casino floor would be an unwise gamble indeed.

All the more reason that as of today, MGM Resorts is closing all of its Las Vegas properties until May 1. The affected resorts are The Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, and New York-New York.

Wynn has also closed Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Boston Harbor. Those closures will tentatively last two weeks, although extensions are possible. The company will continue to pay employees.

Caesars has suspended live entertainment until March 31 but has yet to announce hotel closures.

MARCH 15, 2020:

Governors Across the US Order Bars and Restaurants to Close

Every hour, it seems, the list is growing. On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom of California announced that all "bars, nightclubs, wineries, brewpubs and the like" must close until the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ohio closed all bars and restaurants, too, with Illinois set to follow suit on Monday.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker banned all gatherings of more than 25 people in that state, and restaurants will become takeout-only beginning Tuesday evening.

Similarly, in New York all restaurants and bars will close to onsite customers, though restaurants will be able to continue doing deliveries of food.

All these measures seem to have been inspired by a plea made on the Sunday morning news talk shows by Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He advised people to stop crowding into bars and restaurants until this crisis is past.

The city of Hoboken, New Jersey, closed all bars and restaurants yesterday but the rest of the state has not yet followed suit.

Across the United States, new regulations are being put into place to eliminate bar seating and reduce restaurant occupancy.

More states are liable to announce similar restrictions.

Dutch Bars and Restaurants Close, and Kissing the Blarney Stone Stopped

From Monday until May 6, all restaurants, cafes, bars, and schools in the Netherlands will be closed, including Amsterdam's famous coffee shops. Anyone who is visiting the country will be forced to find food by other means.

In Ireland, visitors have long made pilgrimages to Blarney Castle, where bending over backward to kiss the iconic Blarney Stone is said to give a person the gift of gab. Because swapping spit with strangers can currently bestow a more unwanted gift, the owner of the castle has put a stop to the tradition for now.

Puerto Rico Goes on Lockdown

The governor of the island announced today that starting at 6pm all nonessential businesses will close until the end of the month. Remaining open: food sellers, pharmacies, banks, gas stations, and health services. The government is also instituting a 9pm-to-5am curfew, starting tonight.

Norway Expels Foreigners; Australia Mandates Isolation for Visitors

Norway has introduced the most extreme travel restrictions yet of any country in this crisis. The center-right government has announced that foreigners without a residence permit will be expelled. It is currently unknown how this measure will play out in practice.

Additionally, foreigners may not enter the country at airports. Only Norwegian citizens and residents will be admitted for now.

In another extraordinary move, the nation banned vacation home rentals, such as those offered through Airbnb.

Measured in per-capita infections, Norway is currently one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Australia has decreed that all international visitors must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. That will require tourists to have their own means or arrangements for someplace private to stay for two weeks. Violators will be fined A$13,000 (a little over US$8,000).

Australia also banned all cruise ships (of the very few still sailing) from its ports for 30 days.

On Monday, Germany will will close its land borders with Austria, France, and Switzerland.

Overwhelmed Airlines Say Cancel Online Now But Call to Rebook Another Time

The major airlines are now asking customers not to phone reservation call centers unless your flight is scheduled to depart in the next 72 hours.

"Please don't panic if you are flying soon and can't get through to us before the flight," Virgin Atlantic told customers in a tweet. "We will apply the same policies when we get to you, even if it’s after your scheduled departure. Thank you for your patience as we adapt during this unprecedented situation."

To take pressure off call centers, American Airlines told customers they could cancel flights online without rebooking right now. Customers can reschedule anytime before the end of the year.

Sharp Cuts to International Flights Announced by Major Carriers

Late Saturday American Airlines announced that it would cut international capacity by 75% for flights March 16 through May 6. Nearly all of the carrier's long-haul flights to Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and South America will be affected.

Those were the most drastic service changes, but Delta and United have said that they will also be making deep service cuts on both domestic and international flights. For Delta that will mean a 40% cut in capacity, including almost all flights to Europe. United is planning similar cuts to European service.

Southwest Airlines, the only U.S. carrier to resist making service cuts so far, announced that it, too, was mulling suspending many flights. For more, click here.

Chaos for Arriving International Travelers at U.S. Airports

There was no "social distancing" at the 13 "funnel airports" that were still accepting passengers from Europe yesterday. Instead, crowds of people were kept in masses for up to six hours, slowed down by understaffing and "enhanced entry screenings."

The worst crowding and waits, from all reports, were at New York's JFK Terminal 4, Chicago O'Hare's Terminal 5, and the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

Other airports that have been designated as "funnels" are Los Angeles International Airport, Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Logan International Airport (Boston), Newark Liberty International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Hartsfield Jackson-Atlanta International Airport, Miami International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (Honolulu).

At some airports there were multi-hour waits for luggage, and there have been reports of incoming travelers not being rigorously screened for fevers. For the full story, click here.

MARCH 14, 2020:

Trump Administration Extends Travel Ban to Britain and Ireland

The new ban will go into effect on Tuesday, according to Vice President Mike Pence. U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to travel back home. The Trump administration said the ban was in response to the doubling of confirmed cases in the U.K. overnight.

Tour Operator G Adventures Suspends All Tours Between March 16 and April 30

The popular travel company sent an email to clients announcing they would get a future travel credit worth 110% of the cost of their tour and such ancillary services as hotels, prepaid optional activities, and transfers. The company will not reimburse the cost of airfare and travel insurance. Those tours already in progress will continue, according to the company. Full details are here.

MARCH 13, 2020:

Delta Air Lines Cuts Flights By 40%

Delta Air Lines is slashing service by 40%—a bigger cut than after the September 11 attacks.

Some 300 jets are now mothballed, affecting all flights to Continental Europe, which was necessitated by Donald Trump's surprise travel ban. Flights to the United Kingdom remain in place for the time being.

Royal Caribbean, NCL, Costa Cancel Cruises for a Month

Beginning Saturday, Royal Caribbean will pause all cruises on American itineraries for 30 days. The cruise line has not yet explained how it will reimburse passengers with canceled plans, but you'll find a link to the company's COVID-19 policy webpage here.

NCL—parent company for Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas—will also suspend operations immediately.

Ships currently at sea will conclude their voyages "as soon as possible," according to the announcement. NCL is offering passengers with bookings before April 11 the option of a full refund or a 125% credit toward a future sailing.

Earlier this week, the Miami New Times accused NCL of giving telephone agents scripts that gave the impression that COVID-19 was not a concern on the line's ships. NCL did not respond to the allegations in the report.

Europe-based Costa Cruises also put a stop to its itineraries through April 3. MSC Cruises temporarily suspended service as well.

Pres. Donald Trump tweeted that he asked the cruise lines to shut down.

More information about each line's policies as they develop can be tracked through the official links collected on this page.

Closed: Czech Republic, Norway, Plus South American Flight Bans

The Czech Republic is the latest nation to impose drastic population control measures. After this weekend, borders will be closed for 30 days.

Prague, the capital, has enforced the closing of sports centers, spa services, and galleries, while the national government has mandated restaurants must close by 8pm.

Anyone may exit the country but re-entry will not be permitted for tourists. While Czech citizens will be allowed to return, the country's international train services will stop on Friday.

The Czech government created an information sheet to inform foreigners of their obligations. Click here for that.

Like Israel, Norway will now force new arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days when they enter the country from anywhere except another Nordic country. This effectively ends casual tourism there for the short term.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris has closed to visitors. A reopening date was not disclosed.

Two of the most popular tourist sights in Europe, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, have closed until the end of the month at least.

In South America, Argentina and Venezuela have suspended all flights from the U.S., Europe, China, Iran, Japan, and South Korea.

Peru's flight ban is less wide; the country will not accept planes from Europe and Asia, and Paraguay will not allow flights from Europe to land again until March 26.

Mount Everest Will Not Kill Any Climbers This Year

Nepal has canceled this spring's Mount Everest climbing season and will not issue permits for mountaineers seeking to summit the world's tallest mountain.

Last year, at least 11 climbers and their guides failed to come home. The trek is so dangerous that China had already closed its side of the mountain.

Considering that even in a normal year the Everest Trek generates a body count, this is one closure that will have saved lives even before the virus arrived there.

MARCH 12, 2020:

All Disney and Universal Theme Parks to Close

In the space of a few hours, all Disney and Universal theme parks announced temporary closure.

First, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim declared they will lock their gates on Saturday, March 14, to comply with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order that gatherings of more than 250 people in that state should be rescheduled or canceled.

In Thursday's announcement, Disneyland said that the temporary closure will be in place through the end of March.

Variety reports that this is only the fourth time that Disneyland has fully suspended operations since it opened in 1955. The other three closures were in response to the 9/11 attacks, JFK’s assassination, and the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Previously, Disney had showed no signs of shutting down, praising its anti-viral measures as being "in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies."

• Several hours later, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, announced the shutdown of its four theme parks and two water slide parks. The dark period will be in effect from Sunday night until the end of March. Staff will be paid during the break.

• Disney Cruise Line will cancel all departures beginning Saturday, March 14, through the end of the month.

Disneyland Paris will close until the end of March as well after attempting to continue operation with crowd thinning measures in place.

Hotels at the newly closed parks will remain open for several additional days to give guests time to make travel arrangements.

• Disney parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo also remain temporarily closed.

 Minutes after Disney World threw in the towel, the two theme parks and one water park of Universal Orlando Resort announced they will also shut down at the end of the day on Sunday. They are scheduled to remain closed until the end of March, although that may be extended.

On Thursday, Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles also announced plans to close until March 26. Universal Studios Japan closed a few weeks ago, with a projected reopening date of March 22.

Ireland and Denmark Announce Lockdowns, European Airports in Chaos

Both Denmark and Ireland announced a raft of restrictions in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19.

As in many other nations, schools will close, as will museums and other cultural institutions, non-essential civil servants will stay home, and large gatherings are now forbidden. Both nations intend to lift the lockdown by the end of the month, but that may change. 

In other news, European Union President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel issued a joint statement condemning the United States' travel ban, announced on Wednesday. They objected to the fact the ban was enacted unilaterally by the United States without any consultation conversation or even a warning.

"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent, and it requires cooperation," the statement said.

European airports erupted into chaos Thursday as thousands of travelers scrambled to return to the United States.

Vice President Mike Pence announced that all Americans returning from Europe would be funneled through 13 airports, but he didn't specify which airports passengers should go to. He added that returnees would be asked to go into 14 days of self-quarantine. 

Virgin Voyages Postpones Launch to Summer

Nascent cruise line Virgin Voyages is postponing the launch of its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, to this summer.

Originally scheduled to set sail in March, the vessel will now begin its inaugural festivities on July 15, according to a notice on the brand's website. The official maiden voyage has been bumped back to August 7. The changes are being made, the notice says, as a response to the "current global health crisis."

For passengers already booked for an inaugural sailing, Virgin is offering a full refund along with a credit equal to 25% of the booked fare to be used on a future sailing. If you don't opt for a refund, you get a 200% credit to apply to another sailing, along with a $500 onboard credit to use during that cruise.

New York City: Broadway Goes Dark, Met Museums Close

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has outlawed gatherings of 500 or more people through March 31. This in effect closes Broadway's theatres and many other large performing arts houses in the state.

The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, and Carnegie Hall have canceled all events through March 31.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will also temporarily close its three city institutions starting on Friday.

Tours of U.S. Capitol, White House, Pentagon Halted

Tours of the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C., have been suspended through April 1, although legislative sessions continue.

More details can be found on the special information page on the Capitol's website.

White House tours have also been canceled, although the official website has not yet been updated to reflect that information.

Tours of the Pentagon have been shelved as well, with no reopening date announced.

Princess Cruises Suspends Operations for 60 Days

Princess Cruises announced it will not operate cruises between March 12 and May 10. The stoppage affects the company's entire fleet of 18 ships. Voyages are currently scheduled to resume on May 11.

Princess will grant affected customers a 100% credit on the value of their cruise to apply toward a future one, plus an unspecific amount in onboard credit.

From the announcement: "Princess will honor this offer for those guests who had made final payment and cancelled their booking on or after February 4, 2020. The future cruise credit can be used on any voyage departing through May 1, 2022."

You'll find a link to the Princess refund instructions on Frommer's' updated list of travel operators' COVID-19 policy webpages.

MARCH 11, 2020:

President Trump Suspends Travel For Europeans Into the United States

President Trump has announced that he will suspend all incoming travel for most European citizens into the United States for 30 days. Exceptions will be made for American citizens and permanent legal residents who have had “appropriate screenings" and citizens of the United Kingdom. The ban on travel will start on Friday. Click here for the New York Times coverage.

To see the Department of Homeland Security's clarification of Trump's characterization of the policy and the list of nationalities for whom travel is suspended, click here.

Just how this will affect flights between Europe and the United States is unclear, as is much else, including what "appropriate screenings" will entail and why this particular arrangement would be effective in stemming the spread of the virus.

Viking River and Ocean Cruises Suspend Operations Until May 1

Viking announced it will cancel all itineraries through April 30. The decision will temporarily berth the 79 vessels of its fleet.

Because Viking is a private company that does not answer to shareholders, its compensation plan is among the most generous in the cruise industry: Affected customers will be given a credit for a future cruise that costs up to 125% more than their canceled vacation, and they may give the credit to someone else.

Travelers can find a link to the Viking refund instruction page on Frommer's' updated list of travel operators' COVID-19 policy webpages.

Amtrak Bookings Plunge by Half

American railway carrier has warned that reservations have dropped by 50% and cancellations are up 300% since the COVID-19 crisis began.

"We believe we will likely suffer the loss of several hundred million dollars in revenue during this fiscal year, and we might lose more,” Senior Vice President Stephen Gardner told workers in a memo, Reuters reports.

Prior to the appearance of the coronavirus, Amtrak had been on course to break even for the first time in its 49-year history.

Thailand Suspends Tourist Visas for 19 Nationalities

Thailand withdrew its "Visa on Arrival" and Visa Exemption privileges to tourists from countries including Italy and South Korea, temporarily closing the door to visitors from those places.

The United States, Canada, and Western European nations are not yet banned, but if you're planning a visit to Thailand, check the latest status before departure.

India Suspends All Tourist Visas

Although India had recently made obtaining visitor visas much easier in an effort to stimulate tourism, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the nation to suspend issuance of tourist visas altogether.

The ban will be in effect until April 15.

Norwegian Air Planning to Cut 15% of Flights

Norwegian Air plans to cancel approximately 3,000 flights from mid-March to mid-June, according to a notice on the carrier's website. That amounts to a 15% reduction in flight capacity, reports Travel Weekly.

Norwegian has not yet announced which flights will be canceled. Affected ticket holders will be notified by email and text message if their travel plans are disrupted.

MARCH 10, 2020

Delta, United, American Broaden Change Fee Waivers, Cut Flights

Delta Air Lines revised its change fee policy on Monday. Previously, the carrier would only waive the fee on a limited number of flights purchased within a recent specified date range.

The provision has now been expanded to cover all flights—for every destination—departing throughout March and April, even if the ticket was purchased long ago.

Within hours, United Airlines essentially matched the policy change. United will waive change fees for flights purchased before March 31, even if the purchase was made months ago.

American Airlines joined on Tuesday but its new policy is not as generous, covering only tickets purchased in March.

American's policy seems to be designed to stimulate air ticket sales, while Delta's change was explicitly made to give recourse to any passengers who do not wish to travel.

Passengers can now either rebook their flights immediately or bank the value of the flight in the form of a voucher that can be redeemed without penalties. The vouchers will be valid until the end of December 2020 (United), January 2021 (American), or February 2021 (Delta). If the new flights are more expensive, passengers will have to pay the difference, which has always been the standard for flight changes.

The policy revisions follow pressure from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who sent letters to the three airlines' CEOs to ask them to reconsider their fees.

Blumenthal told the airlines that they had a "moral obligation to make clear to consumers that they will not be charged additional fees for taking steps to keep themselves, their loved ones, and the public safe."

Change fees typically start around $200 per ticket.


Also on Tuesday, both American and Delta announced major flight cuts due to a drop in customer demand caused by fears of the virus. United has already reduced its flight schedule—by 20% internationally and 10% domestically—through at least April.

American will reduce international flights by 10% through the summer and will reduce domestic flights by 7.5% through April. Visit the airline's website for a full schedule of cutbacks.

Delta, meanwhile, is reducing international flight capacity by 20%–25% and domestic by 10%–15%.

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Industrials Conference in Atlanta this week, Delta CEO Ed Bastian addressed the c</