The U.S. lifted restrictions Monday on travel from a long list of countries including Mexico, Canada and most of Europe, setting the stage for emotional reunions nearly two years in the making and providing a boost for the airline and tourism industries decimated by the pandemic.
Wives will hug husbands for the first time in months. Grandmas will coo over grandsons who have doubled in age since they last saw them. Aunts and uncles and cousins will snuggle babies they haven’t met yet.
“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” Gaye Camara said of the husband in New York she has not seen since before COVID-19 brought the fly-here-there-and-everywhere world to a halt.
“Just talking about it makes me emotional,” Camara, 40, said as she wheeled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, which could almost be mistaken for its pre-pandemic self, busy with humming crowds, albeit in face masks.
The rules that go into effect Monday allow air travel from a series of countries from which it has been restricted since the early days of the pandemic — as long as the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Those crossing land borders from Mexico or Canada will require proof of vaccination but no test.
American citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but the travel bans grounded tourists, thwarted business travelers and often separated families.
When Camara last saw Mamadou, her husband, in January 2020, they had no way of knowing that they’d have to wait 21 months before holding each other again. She lives in France’s Alsace region, where she works as a secretary. He is based in New York.
“It was very hard at the beginning. I cried nearly every night,” she said.
Video calls, text messages, phone conversations kept them connected — but couldn’t fill the void of separation.
“I cannot wait,” she said. “Being with him, his presence, his face, his smile.”