LONDON — England will drop its mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from more than 50 countries but leave the restrictions in place for travelers coming from the United States, deepening the isolation of America and delivering another rebuke to President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The European Union recently upheld a ban on travelers from the United States, even as it opened its borders to visitors from Canada, Rwanda, Thailand, and 15 other countries. England’s policy, announced Friday, is not as draconian: Visitors from America can still enter the country so long as they agree to isolate themselves for two weeks.
But those from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and dozens of other countries will be able to travel to England with no restrictions — an arrangement intended to bolster the languishing tourism industry in time for the summer vacation season. The regulations will take effect July 10.
Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland apply their own travel policies and may not follow England’s lead in easing restrictions.
The United States has barred most visitors from Britain since March, after briefly exempting them from a travel ban on the European Union. At the time, Europe was dealing with far more coronavirus infections than the United States. Since then, the epicenter of the pandemic has moved across the Atlantic.
During the initial phase of the outbreak, Britain stayed open to travel from viral hot spots like Italy, Spain, and Iran. By the time it imposed the quarantine measures, its infection rates were among the highest in the world.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told the BBC on Friday that the United States would be excluded from the immediate relaxation because of the “very high numbers of infections” in the country.
The government has designated countries with green, yellow, and red lights, based on “the prevalence of coronavirus, the numbers of new cases and potential trajectory of the disease in that destination.” The United States has a red light.
But the list of green light countries comprises more than 50 — among them Vietnam and Hong Kong, though not mainland China. Some could still require travelers from Britain to quarantine on arrival. On the British end, many arriving passengers will still be required to provide contact information.
New York Times
Thai officials urge caution as holiday weekend starts
BANGKOK — Thai authorities urged vigilance Friday as the country celebrates its first long holiday weekend after lifting most restrictions imposed to fight the spread of the coronavirus. No new local infections have been reported in Thailand in more than a month.
The four-day holiday starting Saturday, incorporating two Buddhist holy days, is expected to see Thais return en masse from the cities where many work to their family homes in rural areas. Such reunions usually take place during April’s Songkran festival, but this year those holidays were canceled and travel strongly discouraged due to the pandemic.
The Transport Ministry has said it is expects 7.6 million people nationwide to be traveling between provinces.
Officials from the special government center set up to deal with the pandemic expressed concern Friday about the large number of travelers flocking to high-risk places.
“We eased measures for high risk activities therefore you should stay vigilant all the time,’’ said Taweesin Witsanuyothin, a spokesman for the center.
Thailand has had 3,180 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 58 deaths, surprisingly low numbers for a country that is a major travel hub whose largest share of tourist arrivals last year came from China, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated.
Thailand’s government began imposing social distancing rules and closing down gathering places in mid-March, and at the beginning of April barred scheduled passenger flights from abroad.
For more than five weeks now, the small number of new infections found in Thailand have been limited to infected Thais returning from abroad on special repatriation flights.
Pakistan’s foreign minister tests positive for virus
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced he’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
He says he felt a “slight fever,” immediately quarantined at home, and later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Qureshi is the senior most government official to contract the virus. Pakistan’s infection rate has been steadily climbing as Prime Minister Imran Khan eased restrictions saying the country’s fragile economy would collapse under a strict lockdown and the poorest would suffer the most.
Khan has gone on national television to ask Pakistanis to wear masks and social distance, but the vast majority largely ignore the precautions.
Serbia marks its highest daily death toll
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia announced the highest number of daily deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the Balkan country, as authorities declared an emergency in the capital of Belgrade.
Authorities say 11 people have died and there were 309 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours. This compares to the highest previous daily figure of nine deaths on April 14.
Serbia has gone from a very tight lockdown to almost total relaxation, allowing spectators back to the soccer and tennis venues and reopening nightclubs. Government critics have said this was because populist authorities wanted to hold the June 21 parliamentary election that tightened their grip on power.
The Belgrade crisis team on Friday said nightclubs and cafes will be closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and public gatherings limited to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Those not wearing masks in closed spaces face strict fines.
Emergency measures also have been introduced in several other towns in Serbia where hospitals have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in recent days.
Belgrade authorities said the rules will be reviewed in two weeks. So far, there have been 25,504 confirmed cases and 298 deaths in Serbia.
South African cases continue to increase
The city has more than 22,000 cases and Gauteng province, which also includes the capital, Pretoria, now has nearly 30 percent of the country’s cases.
South Africa has Africa’s most confirmed cases with more than 168,000.
The country has the most developed health care system in sub-Saharan Africa and in places it’s already pushed near the limit, with more than 2,000 health care workers infected and beds in Gauteng’s public hospitals filling up.
India prepares to reopen monuments amid surge
NEW DELHI — India reported another single-day record high of new virus cases Friday while its monuments like the Taj Mahal will reopen for tourists next week.
The 20,903 new cases took the national total to 625,544. The Health Ministry also reported another 379 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking fatalities up to 18,213.
With the current rate of infections, India is expected to surpass Russia’s 660,000 cases in coming days and become the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil. It has the eighth-most fatalities in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, but both numbers are thought to be far higher than has been confirmed around the world.