Covid News: US-Mexico Border Reopens to Vaccinated Tourists

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Families Reunite as the US Reopens to Vaccinated Travelers

Families who had been separated from loved ones for more than 18 months were finally able to see them again, after the US lifted its travel ban for vaccinated foreigners.

“So, we’re really happy, really happy that US Customs is opening, and really happy that we can be together and build our lives together.” “Because of travel restrictions, I couldn’t see her. But finally, she made it here and we’ll have a good time.” “This is your grandma.” “Just elated, you know, there are no words. I don’t have any words.” “That’s the thing that I’ve missed the most is them not being able to be together, just because I know how much it means to me to be able to hold him, and having them not be able to do that, it’s been really painful. So, I’m so glad it happened. I’m so glad it’s real. It’s just, it’s amazing. It’s yeah, it feels really, really, really good.”

Families who had been separated from loved ones for more than 18 months were finally able to see them again, after the US lifted its travel ban for vaccinated foreigners.CreditCredit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

As the United States reopened to fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries on Monday, it was a morning of joyous reunions, some hard-earned.

Jolly Dave’s odyssey started last weekend, with a seven-hour bus ride from the Indian state of Gujarat to Mumbai. There she took a three-hour flight to New Delhi, then boarded a 16-hour flight to Newark.

ms. Dave, 30, was traveling to meet her boyfriend, Nirmit Shelat, 31, whom she had not seen since last winter, when she had returned to their home state of Gujarat, expecting to stay for a few months. But then India experienced a devastating coronavirus surge, and her travel was restricted.

mr. Nirmit, a project manager at Bank of America, had stayed in the United States. When the United States finally lifted its restrictions on travelers from India, Mr. Nirmit went online, booked an Air India flight for Ms. Dave and paid $1,700 for the one-way ticket from New Delhi to Newark’s Liberty International Airport.

On Sunday night, mr. Nirmit drove 600 miles north to New Jersey from their home in Charlotte, NC, checked into an Airbnb in Freehold, NJ, at 6:30 am and then headed to Newark’s Terminal B to greet Ms. Dave.

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“My Lady Luck is back,” he said as he waited. “You can make daily calls, stay connected by FaceTime, but you want to experience her fingers, her touch, her kiss. She told me she wants to break the Apple wall.”

They saw each other from down a hallway, and embraced upon reuniting. She kept her mask on as they kissed. He got emotional. She was carrying three roller suitcases and four bags.

“The Apple wall is broken,” she said.

At Miami International Airport, Natalia Vitorini, a 28-year-old student living in Miami, with her parents on Concourse D after they got off the morning’s first flight from São Paulo, Brazil. She had her 3-week-old son in a stroller.

Her mother, Débora Vitorini, 56, who works in the biomedical industry in São Paulo, bought her ticket within hours of the announcement of the reopening date. She and her husband, Sergio, arrived a little after 6 am

The last time they had seen each other was in March 2020. Natalia Vitorini got pregnant earlier this year, and gave birth to her son a few weeks ago. “I was waiting for the border to open so my mom can come to see my baby,” she said.

When Natalia Abrahao, 40, saw her fiancé, Mark Ogertschnig, 45, emerge into Terminal B at Newark off a flight from Amsterdam at about noon, she leapt into his arms. He spun her around as she kicked up her heels.

“Finally!” she said. “Finally!”

The couple had gotten engaged on March 13 last year at Gianni’s, a restaurant in the Versace mansion in Miami, just days before international travel shut down.

mr. Ogertschnig, who is from the Netherlands, had been living in the United States, and they lived together for the first five months of the pandemic, but his visa expired and he had to return home. Twice they had taken advantage of a loophole in the travel rules that let travelers from a banned country spend two weeks in a country that was not on the list, such as Canada or Mexico, and then enter the United States.

In August, they reunited in Cancún for a week to celebrate her 40th birthday. “I never loved Mexico so much!” she said.

When the United States announced its reopening plans, he promised to be on the first flight. He booked a flight for Nov. 1. He then moved it when he found out Nov. 8 was the official reopening.

“I was almost like, if you’re not there the first day, I’m done,” she said, laughing, as she waited for him to emerge from screening.

In the early afternoon, the arrivals area at Kennedy Airport’s Terminal 1 began to fill up with people waiting for loved ones, many with balloons in hand. By the time her mother arrived, Svenja Ostwald’s two daughters had accidentally released the M and I balloons they were holding to spell out “Omi,” a German term of endearment for grandmother.

The two massive silver letters glittered near the ceiling, giving the arrivals area a more festive feeling. ms. Ostwald, 37, who lives in Manhattan, had picked up the girls early from day care in order to greet her mother, Christiane Ecklemann, who was flying in from Frankfurt at 2:04 pm She estimated that if it were not for the travel restrictions , the girls, who are 5 and 3, would have seen their grandmother at least six times.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Ms. Ostwald after she and her daughters hugged Ms. Ecklemann, 70, shortly after 3 pm

The distance had been difficult not only for Ms. Ostwald, who would have welcomed her mother’s help with the girls, but also, she said, for Ms. Ecklemann, who lives alone. “She was isolated, and not being able to share things was hard,” she said.

Soon after the Ostwalds reunited with Ms. Ecklemann, a small dog named Whiskey yipped beneath the escaped balloons in Terminal 1. Ye Jin, 36, had brought the dog with her to pick up her mother, Ni Fu Ying, 64, who was flying in from Berlin and who had not visited since the start of the pandemic.

Seeing her mother at last made her grateful that the United States was accepting visitors from abroad again, she said, adding that the vaccine rules did not bother her.

“It makes me feel better about her flying,” she said, gesturing to her mother. “I just wish it could have happened much sooner.”

Correction

Nov. 8, 2021

An earlier version of this item referred incorrectly to Gujarat. It is a state in India, not a city.

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