Now that the world is starting to open back up, CNN Travel is helping you make plans for 2021 and beyond through these weekly round-ups of travel news. Come here to learn about the attractions opening their doors, the destinations relaxing entry rules, and the places where Covid spikes have forced authorities to pull down shutters.
English people will finally be able to hug each other on Monday. This isn't due to a relaxation of the country's "stiff upper lip," but rather the next stage of easing coronavirus restrictions in England. As well as cautious physical intimacy -- by which we don't mean pajamas and twin beds -- the green light has also been given to indoor hospitality and entertainment, including pubs, restaurants, cinemas and museums. International travel is set to reopen, with people allowed to vacation in a very limited "green" list of countries -- only a few of which are actually welcome UK tourists. Portugal, which will reopen to British visitors just in time for May 17, is set to the biggest tourism winner. The UK's other nations -- Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland -- each implement their own sets of restrictions, which you can get the lowdown on here.
One of Italy's most popular islands, Capri -- an upscale destination in the Gulf of Naples -- has stolen a march on its tourism rivals by this week declaring that it was within days of becoming "Covid-free," with its vaccination program almost concluded.
In Germany, Munich's world-famous Oktoberfest may have been canceled last week for the second year in a row, but there was cheer in parts of Bavaria this week as some outdoor beer gardens opened up.
And a little further east in Romania, Bran Castle -- the reputed home of Count Dracula -- is offering free Covid-19 vaccinations for anyone brave enough to visit. Word to the wise: If a shadowy male offers to let you skip the line and get both jabs at once in the neck, turn him down.
In Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, country legend Dolly Parton's theme park Dollywood reopened this week on a limited basis. And on May 13, the US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Americans who are fully vaccinated can now go without masks indoors or outdoors -- as the US roll out has been a success, that already applies to more than a third of the population. Two of New York's most legendary hotels have opening dates lined up: The Plaza, the French Renaissance-inspired monolith beside Central Park, is slated to reopen on May 20, while The Peninsula, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, will welcome guests on June 1. More than 37 million people are expected to travel in the United States for the Memorial Day holiday at the end of the month, a big boost from last year's record low.
In Asia-Pacific, a two-way travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands is also set to finally open on May 17 after months of planning. In another burst of neighborliness, the Cook Islands' vaccination roll-out will begin Tuesday, with vaccines obtained from New Zealand.
Coronavirus restrictions have even reached the tiny dining-table-sized summit of Mount Everest, with China planning to set up a "line of separation" to prevent climbers from the Tibetan side mixing with climbers ascending from Covid-hit Nepal.
The fact that this highest section of Everest is known as the "Death Zone" gives some indication it's not an environment conducive to lingering, and Reuters reports that it's not clear how the separation line will be enforced or who will be enforcing it.
The Maldives was one of the first countries to fully reopen to tourists, but it has now banned tourists from South Asia until further notice, cutting off an escape route for wealthy Indians fleeing their country's Covid crisis. The ban applies to all visa holders from India, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and anyone who has transited through those countries in the past two weeks.
Switzerland hopes to open indoor restaurants by May 31, while the European Union could open by the end of June to fully vaccinated vacationers from countries with low Covid infection rates, under a plan revealed last week.
The proposals, published by the European Commission, advised that arrivals must have been inoculated 14 days before arrival with a vaccine from its approved list.
Washington D.C. plans to fully reopen by June 11, but with mask restrictions still in place. The first stage of a two-part plan unveiled by Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday will see the lifting of capacity restrictions on most indoor activities on May 21, apart from in bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues.
St. Helena, the tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic where Napoleon was once exiled and which only got an airport in 2017, is now fully vaccinated and will reopen to visitors from June 21. The super-remote island is one of the limited number of destinations on the UK's "green" list.
If you're tired of staring at the walls of your spare room-turned-office, you might be tempted by the picturesque Italian towns of Santa Fiora in Tuscany and Rieti in Lazio. Both towns are offering to pay up to 50% of the rent of anyone who decides to move and telecommute on a long-term basis. It doesn't matter what you do for a living, as long as you have an "active" job and are tech-savvy enought to do it anywhere. Applicants must have an "active" job, even if they can do it in front of a laptop on a panoramic terrace overlooking olive groves while sipping a glass of red wine. It doesn't matter what you do for a living, as long as you're tech-savvy enough to do it anywhere. So-called "smart working villages" are now flourishing in Italy as local authorities grasp the potential of boosting high-speed internet and setting up equipped "labs" for telecommuters.