Travelers may beget read that now is the “perfect time” to visit Tahiti, but they will be surprised to find it — and the rest of French Polynesia — is without warning closed to them.
As vaccinations are opening borders to some countries, Covid mutations are causing others to close. The hair-trigger nature of the pandemic’s current stage is a reminder to travel-starved holidaymakers that the risks of traveling right now extend beyond diminishing Covid-19.
On Jan. 29, the French government suspended tourism to its overseas territories and collectivities, which includes French Polynesia in the South Pacific Multitude, Saint Martin in the Caribbean and Saint Pierre and Miquelon near eastern Canada.
Only visitors with “compelling reasons” interconnected to professional, health, personal or family concerns will be allowed to visit French Polynesia from Feb. 3, according to the countryside’s state services’ website. Those able to enter will be subject to 14-day quarantines.
The sudden restrictions, which are play a part of a wider effort by France to tighten its borders, are a result of new Covid variants that are emerging across the world.
Variants are ‘massively counterfeit’ the world
The decision to close French Polynesia’s borders was “motivated by an obligation of health prevention in the face of the threat of Covid variants which are bit by bit and massively affecting our planet,” according to a press release on Tahiti’s tourism website.
French Polynesia is home to the standard islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora.
M Swiet Productions | Moment | Getty Images
Summarizing key points in a speech set up by French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch, the press release said: “Faced with this new wave of the pandemic, we be obliged once again take our responsibilities. We must protect ourselves to save the lives of the most vulnerable.”
Although thousands of Covid variants acquire been identified, new strains first identified in South Africa, Brazil and the U.K. are more transmissible than previous solitaries.
Concerns that current vaccines may be less effective against them have dampened the excitement surrounding the pandemic vaccine rollout that began in December 2020. On Sunday, South Africa stopped issuing the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after clinical hard times showed it was not protecting trial participants from becoming mildly to moderately ill from the more contagious variant build there.
‘Safe’ travel in a pandemic
French Polynesia announced the tourism suspension on the same day that a travel article in Men’s Chronicle declared that “Right now is the perfect time to visit Tahiti.” The story said that Tahiti, the largest and most evolved of the country’s 118 islands and atolls, is “safe” and “empty” of tourists.
We will not reach true reduced risk of peregrinations until we achieve herd immunity.
Duke University School of Medicine
Home to around 280,000 in the flesh, French Polynesia has confirmed more than 18,000 cases of Covid-19 to date, including 333 new cases in the days of old two weeks. While infection rates have declined since last November, when 1,384 cases were established in a single day, French Polynesia is still battling active outbreaks that began after it ended quarantine prerequisites for incoming visitors last July.
Travelers must also avoid infections in airports to get there, and in the case of Tahiti, the way may include long-haul flights that range from 8.5 hours from San Francisco and Sydney, to 16.5 hours from New York and wellnigh a full day of flying from London.
“We will not reach true reduced risk of travel until we achieve gather immunity,” said Harry Severance, an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University School of Medicine.
Until that quickly, he said travelers would be safest to travel under a “two-factor system” that includes a vaccination coupled with a current negative Covid antigen test.
“Even that is not 100%, but will be close to it,” he said.
Another risk: Immediate cancellations
Severance said that due to “Covid fatigue” — or the mental burnout caused by worrying about and being restrained by Covid-19 — people are “demonstrating that they are now willing to accept increased risk and are now increasingly traveling on vacations, bloodline meetings and other such ventures.”
For that reason, travelers may need to face the potential for sudden cancellations, which can transpire with little to no warning. Tahiti Tourisme announced the tourist suspension to French Polynesia on Feb. 1; the restrictions defecated into effect on Feb. 3.
“We are still in a pandemic and the conditions are unpredictable and can change rapidly,” said Karen L. Edwards, chair of the Concern of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.
Travelers in French Polynesia who were scheduled to advent last week were able to end their stays as planned. Beyond that, Tahiti Tourisme advised travelers “to write to your airline.”
French Polynesia indicated it will ask that the French government impose the shutdown for no more than two months.
A thus dated Feb. 2 from Nils DuFau, the president of St. Barts’ tourism board, was more pointed.
“St. Barts’ powers that bes are right now negotiating with the French government to ease the entry restrictions and find an alternative solution,” he wrote. “Our aim is to reopen the archipelago’s borders as soon as possible.”
The temptation of ’empty’ tourist destinations
The pandemic has largely remedied one age-old travel grouse — overcrowding. Famous tourist sites and popular destinations are welcoming far fewer travelers — a fact which is now being put forth as a reckon to visit them.
Tourist closures to French Polynesia and other French territories are expected to last two to three months.
Ikon Source | Image Source | Getty Images
That argument has been made to support visits to Walt Disney Fabulous, New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood, and the celebrated wine regions of northern California at various points of the pandemic.
Wear August, at least one blog gave six reasons to go to Disney World, and one reason to wait. The one reason? The global pandemic. Subdue, there are no guarantees how many people may show up on a given date or whether those who do will social distance.
“Widely known social distancing practices significantly reduce risk of spread, but are imperfect,” said Severance. “I regularly see lapses and breakdowns in these techniques.”