As the rules are eased, travelers head to the United States for emotional meetings

CHARLES DE GAULLE AIRPORT, France (AP) – The U.S. on Monday lifted travel restrictions on a long list of countries such as Mexico, Canada and most of Europe, setting the stage for emotional reunions for nearly two years and giving a boost to the pandemic-ravaged air and tourism industries.

Women will hug husbands for the first time in months. Grandmothers will cradle grandchildren who have doubled their age since they last saw them. Aunts, uncles and cousins ​​will laugh at babies they haven’t met yet.

“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” Gaye Camara said of her husband in New York she hadn’t seen since before COVID-19 carried the fly here-and-there and around the world. . stop.

“Just talking about it excites me,” said Camara, 40, as he carried his luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, which could almost be confused with his pre-pandemic, busy self. of counter, although with facial masks.

The rules that go into effect on Monday allow air travel from a number of countries from which it has been restricted since the early days of the pandemic, as long as the traveler has a vaccination test and a negative COVID-19 test. Those crossing land borders from Mexico or Canada will require a vaccination test, but no testing.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but travel bans put tourists on the ground, frustrated business travelers, and often separated families.

The last time Camara saw Mamadou, her husband, in January 2020, they had no way of knowing that they would have to wait 21 months before hugging again. She lives in the French region of Alsace, where she works as a secretary. It is based in New York.

“It simply came to our notice then. I cried almost every night, ”he said.

Video calls, text messages, and phone conversations kept them connected, but they couldn’t fill the separation gap.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “Being with him, his presence, his face, his smile.”

Airlines are preparing for an increase in activity after the pandemic and the consequent restrictions caused international travel to collapse. Data from travel and analysis firm Cirium showed that airlines are increasing flights between the UK and the US by 21% this month compared to last month.

As a sign of the great importance of transatlantic travel for airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrated the reopening by synchronizing the departures of their early morning flights to New York on runways parallel to Heathrow Airport. London. BA CEO Sean Doyle was aboard his company’s plane.

“Together, even as competitors, we’ve fought for the safe return of transatlantic travel, and now we’re celebrating that success as a team. Some things are more important than overcoming, and that’s one of those things,” Doyle wrote. in a message to customers, noting that the flight carried the number that previously belonged to the Concorde supersonic.

For Martine Kerherve, being separated from loved ones in the United States was fraught with worries that they would not survive the pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.

“We told ourselves we could die without seeing each other,” said Kerherve, who was heading to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Paris. “We all went through periods of depression, anxiety.”

Before the pandemic, it was a trip that Kerherve and his partner, Francis Pasquier, made once or twice a year. When they lost it, “we lost our way,” Pasquier said.

Maria Giribet, on the other hand, has not seen her twin grandchildren Gabriel and David for about half of her life. Now, with 3 1/2, the boys are in San Francisco, which during the height of the pandemic could also have been another planet for Giribet, 74, who lives on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

“I’m going to hug them, drown them, that’s what I dream about,” Giribet said after billing his flight. Widow, she lost her husband due to a long illness before the pandemic and her three eldest children live abroad.

“I found myself all alone,” said Giribet, who was flying for the first time in her life alone.

The change will also have a profound effect on U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, where round-trip travel was a way of life until the pandemic arrived and the U.S. closed non-essential travel.

The shopping malls, restaurants, and shops on the main street of U.S. border cities have been devastated by the lack of visitors from Mexico. On the border with Canada, cross-border hockey rivalries that were community traditions changed. Churches that had members on both sides of the border hope to welcome parishioners they haven’t seen in nearly two years.

River Robinson’s American partner was unable to be in Canada for the birth of their son 17 months ago. He was thrilled to learn about the reopening of the US.

“I’m planning to take my baby for American Thanksgiving,” said Robinson, who lives in St. Louis. Thomas, Ontario. “If all goes well at the border, I’ll plan to drop it as much as I can.”

“It’s crazy to think he has another face of the family he hasn’t met yet,” he added.

The United States will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those used in the U.S. This is a relief for many in the United States. Canada, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used.

But millions of people around the world who were vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s CanSino or others that the WHO has not accepted will not be able to travel to the US.

The moves come as the United States has seen its COVID-19 prospects dramatically improve in recent weeks since the rising summer delta that pushed hospitals to the brink of many places.

Those in the travel industry hope it will give a boost after COVID-19 travel bans put the sector on its knees.

Travel agent Francis Legros, who wanted from Paris to a convention of the travel industry in Las Vegas, came out determined to give life to his company.

“We’re rebuilding,” he said. “It’s a new chapter, a new professional life.”

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Loller reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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