Aviation amid COVID-19 pandemic - NAN
Last year was turbulent for the aviation industry. This year is still taking shape and the industry is not sure of how things will turn out, writes YUNUS YUSUF
THE year 2020 will not be forgotten in a hurry, owing to the global disruption in all fields of human endeavour, largely because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, code-named as COVID-19.
The aviation industry, just like every other sector of the economy in 2020, had its own share of the disruption courtesy of COVID-19.
The outbreak of the coronavirus from Wuhan, China and its threat to lives and businesses led to the introduction of lockdowns and other stringent measures across cities of the world to curtail its spread.
Nigeria, like other countries, had begun the 2020 business year on a promising note. But when in March 2020, the first confirmed case of the disease was reported, the hope of a bright economy prosperous 2020 becomes deemed.
Nigerian ground handling firms in the aviation industry consequently, counted revenue losses due to the pandemic-induced plunge.
Aviation stakeholders have expressed divergent views on the effects of COVID-19 induced lockdowns and travel restrictions, which had forced ground handling firms to consider job cuts and cost reduction measures in a bid to survive.
A former President, National Associations of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, said in the first two months of the global lockdown, the Nigerian travel industry lost more than N180 billion and thousands of jobs.
Bernard said in Nigeria, about 24,000 jobs were cut, while many employers had ceased payments for few, who still had their jobs retained until business situations improve.
Also, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that so far, African airlines lost nearly $5 billion in revenue following the spread of COVID-19 on the continent due to low passenger demand.
Stakeholders also called on the government to consider an urgent bailout for the industry to remain afloat.
While others, especially the airlines and the service providers in the industry, would have to innovate to ensure their survivability post-COVID-19.
The Chief Executive Officer of Aglow Aviation Support Services, Mr Tayo Ojuri, at an occasion remarked that COVID-19 had drawn back the aviation sector after â€œthe robust growthâ€ witnessed in recent years.
â€œDespite the milestones in recent years, the outbreak of COVID-19 had led to a disruption in the sector.
â€œThis has drawn back the recent increase in passenger traffic and aviation contribution to GDP,â€™â€™ Ojuri said.
Also analysing the setback the industry experienced in 2020, former commandant of the Lagos Airport and aviation security consultant, retired Group. Capt. John Ojikutu said COVID-19 has seriously rewind the bright progress the aviation industry had recorded in recent times.
Ojikutu, however, said the pandemic had exposed some weaknesses in the airlinesâ€™ commercial practices and the negligence in the oversight in those practices.
According to him, the operators hide under these weaknesses and the responsible authority negligence on oversight of their commercial practices.
â€œThis, they used in asking for government financial palliatives, two months into the lockdown, as if the pandemic is the bane of loses in figures of their one-year earnings.
â€œThere was also the negligence in the periodic maintenance of necessary critical aeronautical landing equipment that led to the diversions of international flights to neighbouring countries. This caused huge loses of revenue earnings.
â€œThere were setbacks in the reconstruction of the infrastructure at some airports, especially those Enugu, Lagos, Abuja, Owerri and Benin among others where the air and passengers traffic are higher,â€™â€™ Ojikutu said.
He observed that the evacuation of foreign nationals exposed the weaknesses in the bilateral air services agreements between countries and the differences in what some countries call national or flag carriers and private airlines carriers.
â€œWhile most foreign carriers moved unrestricted in and out of our country, it was not easy for our domestic carriers to do same into other countries.
â€œWe lost out in spite of the capacities in some of our domestic carriers. It is very doubtful if the pre passenger traffic figures will come by soon in the next three years locally and internationally.
â€œThe only available market for our domestic airlines are local and regional cargo freighting; otherwise, most of them will sooner than later be out of operations,â€™â€™ the former Lagos Airport chief said.
Similarly, foreign airlines have also been caught in the forex tangle, as over $200 million of accumulated ticket fares sold in the last couple of weeks have lately been stuck in Nigeria due to constraints at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Aviation stakeholders, however, believe that unless the Federal Government bailed out the local industry operators and avail them a special forex window, airfares might continue to spike and become unbearable for the travelling public.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) monitoring of fares showed a slightly varying price range across the airlines and routes.
On the average, all routes, subject to availability, were sold for between N55,000 and N75,000 Economy Class one-way tickets. Return tickets for the same class averaged N120,000.
The one-way Business Class of N58,000 was sold for an average of N100,000, where available.
For instance, an Azman Air Lagos-Kano Economy flight ticket that used to sell for N30,000 went for N55,000.
The same airline sold Lagos-Abuja 10.00 a.m. flight for N85,000. Dana Airâ€™s Lagos-Abuja Economy Class is selling for N56,000, compared to N29,000 average rates in the past.
A travel agent, Akin Ogunnubi, said indications of fare hike had been palpable in recent months but aggravated when aviation unions picketed Arik Air.
â€œArik has the second-highest traffic after Air Peace. Picketing such an airline means serious disruption across the network,â€™â€™ Ogunnubi remarked.
The Chief Operating Officer of one of the local carriers said the major worry was the high cost of maintenance.
A C-check, which is required every 18 months, now costs an average of $2 million per commercial aircraft.
â€œAt N500 to $1, a C-check is now N1 billion; just for one aircraft! And that is one component of other obligations.
â€œSo, if you have N33,000 tickets now selling for N70,000, you cannot really blame the airlines, but the economy and its handlers.â€™â€™
The Federal Government has announced a plan to prepare a special credit line to support the financial liquidity of airlines amidst the pandemic.
Apart from the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), rolling out measure to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, stakeholders in aviation are not happy that there is no specific government policy aimed at tackle the devastating impact of the pandemic on the sector.
Unless the existing credit facilities obtained by airline operators, and other stakeholders fall within the scope of CBN intervention facilities, they may not be entitled to take benefit of the CBN policy on the pandemic which provides for an extension of moratorium and reduction in the interest rate payable on CBN intervention facilities.
Since the onset of the COVID-19, the government has helped airlines survive the crisis with approximately $173 billion in various forms of financial support.
The Nigerian government, particularly, pledged to support local airlines with N4 billion, which the operators are yet to receive.
IATA said more support would be needed in the form of fiscal stimulus. Many of the support packages are running out while the industry losses continue to mount. Airlines losses are now forecast to exceed $118 billion in last year.
The industry is expected to continue burning out cash at a rate of almost $7 billion per month in the first half of 2021.
Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, advised that financial support must come in ways that do not further inflate debt, which has risen by 51.4 per cent during the crisis to $651 billion.
â€œTo put this into perspective, total industry revenue in 2021 is expected to be $459 billion. Financially-viable airlines will be needed to lead the economic recovery from the depths of the COVID-19 crisis. Government support of $173 billion has helped many to survive.
â€œWith the potential to safely re-open borders and revive travel with testing, the Nigerian government will need to add measures that stimulate demand.
â€œSuch targeted initiatives will help generate revenues, avoid adding debt to airlines and immediately generate economic activity across the value chain,â€™â€™ de Juniac said.
Yusuf is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Canada airlines agree to cancel all flights to warm destinations: PM Trudeau - REUTERS
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadaâ€™s major airlines have agreed to suspend all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30 from Sunday as part of the fight against a second wave of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
Trudeau also told reporters that all arriving airline passengers would be required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at the airport and then wait in a hotel at their own expense until the results arrived.
Reporting by David Ljunggren
Nigeria to compete in $20.6b methanol market - THE GUARDIAN
By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja
Signs $3.6b FID To Harness Gas, Reduce Carbon Emission Years after wasting huge amount on the importation of methanol, the Federal Government has disclosed its intention to compete in the global methanol market with a new investment.
The Federal Government and some private sector investors sealed the Final Investment Decision (FID) on the Brass Fertiliser and Petrochemical Company Limited, expected to turn Nigeria into one of the worldâ€™s largest producers of the product.
Sponsored by two Federal Government agencies, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporate (NNPC) and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), as well as a private firm, DVS Engineering Limited, the project is expected to cost about $3.6b and turn out about 10, 000 metric tons of methanol.
Methanol, also referred to as methyl alcohol and derived from natural gas and other sources, is used for industrial purposes. It serves as energy carrier for factories and electricity generation and alternative fuel in the face of the demand for cleaner energy. Globally, the market share of the product, standing at $20.4b in 2020 is projected to hit $26.6b by 2025.
Nigeriaâ€™s failure to develop its petrochemical industry, especially methanol, has been regarded as the reason manufacturing companies are importing about 80 per cent of their raw materials worth over $10b.
At the event in Abuja, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said the country currently imports 100 per cent of its methanol needs.
According to him, the project would halt importation of methanol into the country, creates 30, 000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and about 6,000 permanent jobs, when operational.
Last year, the Federal Government had put the nationâ€™s total gas reserves at 203.16tr cubic feet (TCF), representing a marginal increase of 1.16tcf or 0.57 per cent from the 202tcf recorded in 2019. But the investment to unlock the resources remained elusive; thanks to recent efforts on the Nigerian LNG train seven, a new gas processing plants in Edo and the FID on the methanol plant.
Sylva, who took over office as Minister after being Governor of Bayelsa, an oil producing state, which houses the gas plant, had declared last year as â€˜the year of gas.â€™
He sees the current FID as another milestone in Nigeriaâ€™s efforts to maximise and monetise gas, which is usually flared or re-injected for crude oil production.
Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, said the current administration has taken about similar FIDs in the last five years, a development that showed positive signs, despite COVID-19 challenges and low investment appetite across the oil and gas industry.
He described the move as governmentâ€™s indication to boost domestic use of gas in the country, stressing that the momentum would be sustained.
â€œThis is not a virtual project,â€ Kyari said jokingly, stressing that the project would be implemented to time to enable the country creates value from gas resources.
EU countries recommend tightening travel restrictions - THE GUARDIAN
The 27 EU countries recommended tightening travel restrictions on Friday, including discourage all non-essential trips from and to areas with high COVID-19 infection rates.
The non-binding recommendations follow a proposal by the European Commission and set out the unionâ€™s general approach to travel within the bloc.
So far, the bloc is theoretically divided into green, yellow, and red zones according to infection rates (in addition to grey for those where insufficient data is available).
However, as almost all countries fall under the highest category, almost the entire map is red.
To introduce some more nuance, the countriesâ€™ ambassadors to the EU on Friday agreed on the adoption of â€œdark redâ€ zone, where the infection rate over two weeks is higher than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
For travellers on non-essential trips from such an area, the countries recommend requiring a test prior to departure as well as quarantine at their location of destination.
The same applies to areas where new variants of the virus are highly prevalent.
There should be exceptions for essential workers from those areas in some circumstances, however, and citizens returning to their country of residence.
The latter should be permitted to take a test on arrival rather than before the departure, for example.
Why govt should support Nigerians to travel abroad â€“Teriba - PUNCH
BY Tunde Ajaja
An economist and Chief Executive Officer, Economic Associates, Dr Ayo Teriba, has called on government at all levels to support Nigerians to travel abroad, whether as migrants or for educational and other related purposes.
He noted that it is archaic to view migration as brain drain, noting that some developed countries sponsor their citizens to other countries to acquire skills and education, and in turn make a lot of money from remittances and knowledge transfer.
Teriba was one of the lead discussants at the 2021 Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies Roundtable, tagged â€˜Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability of Nigerian Statesâ€™, which held virtually a few days ago. The event was chaired by CIAPS Director, Prof Anthony Kila.
There have been concerns over the rate at which Nigerians, including professionals, were relocating abroad, especially Canada and the United States, with many expressing fears that this could have severe negative impact on the country in the coming years.
But Teriba disagreed, saying migration should now be viewed as brain gain.
He said, â€œPhilippines train housekeepers and help them to migrate and they support them in their destinations. Beyond that, they train nurses and sailors and enable them to travel abroad. That is how your human capital can earn foreign income for you through remittances.
â€œChina is at the backyard of every country, with its China town and Chinese restaurant, and with these they have created an official migration path for their citizens. If you go to those places you meet Chinese there.
â€œIf I want to choose a university to study, I still go to Cambridge or Harvard. I wonâ€™t go to any Chinese university. How come those who do not have such academic holy land are now overtaking Europe and the United States in technology, for example 5G technology. That is their gain. They took advantage of the migration path.
â€œChina, South Korea and India sponsor their youths in thousands for PhD abroad. Those who want to come back can do so while those who want to stay can stay. That is how they are catching up and overtaking the western countries in technology.
â€œSo, Nigeria needs to look at its citizens and stop denying the fact that the youths have a natural desire to migrate. Help them to migrate. Support them and if they donâ€™t come back, they would send money home and you would be better off for it. The current way countries view migration is to see it not as brain drain but brain gain.â€
Citing examples of how countries made money from remittances from their nationals abroad, Teriba said in 2019, India got $80bn from remittances while China got $70bn. â€œSo, support your nationals to go abroad and dividends would come to you, in the form of remittances,â€ he added.
â€œNigeria needs the money to move the country forward. We are broke. We have one of the highest populations in the world and you are talking about brain drain? If you give some underprivileged persons some skills that they can go and use abroad, you reduce the number of the poor.â€
He lamented that it was said states and the Federal Government have neglected human capital, whether by equipping the people with education or skills.
…seeks more focus on states
Teriba also called for more focus on states, adding that every state is viable if only they recognise their strength. He said they should also focus on generating investments and not just revenue.
He added, â€œI disagree with the common belief that some states are not viable, I believe every state is viable. You only need to point to where their strength is. States should look at their internal revenue generating capacity, particularly, the revenue intensity of the different sectors. They should then apply more efforts where more revenue would come from.â€
He said states and the Federal Government had paid more attention to revenue than on investment. â€œStates need to link assets to their borrowing, liberalise sectors where they have monopoly, commercialise assets to close value gap and see how they can unlock liquidity from their balance sheets,â€ he added.
Kila also stressed that it was wrong to focus all attention on the Federal Government alone, adding that the discourse was about how states manage their economy. He added, â€œIdeally, we should be focusing on the states. I would even argue that we should be focusing on the local governments. Part of what we want to do is to look at the performances of these states and see how to help them improve.â€
Other panellists were the Managing Director, The Point Newspapers, Mrs Yemi Kolapo; Mr Rotimi Olarewaju of CIAPS and the Executive Editor, Businessnewscorp, Mr Phillip Isakpa.
Anxiety As Dubai Declares Nigerians Must Travel Directly From Nigeria Effective Monday - NIGERIA TRIBUNE
By Shola Adekola - Lagos
This may not be the best of times for Nigeria and its citizens around the world as the latest information reaching Tribune Online has indicated that the Dubai authorities have tactically banned airlines from carrying Nigerian passengers into the United Arab Emirates effective from Monday, 1st February, 2020.
According to a circular which emanated from the Dubai Airport Operations Control Center, titled â€˜Dubai Travel Protocol Update -Travel From Nigeriaâ€™ and dated, Friday, January 29, 2021, the Dubai authorities had declared:â€Kindly be advised that effective from 01 February 2021, the following conditions must be met for travel from Nigeria.
â€œDeparting from Nigeria to Dubai, all passengers are required to obtain a negative COVID-19 certificate. The PCR should be conducted within 72 hours of the date of departure.
â€œAll passengers are required to conduct a rapid COVID-19 test and obtain a negative result within four hours of their departure time.
While insisting that passengers must travel directly from Nigeria to Dubai, the Dubai authorities equally declared that â€œNo passengers may enter Dubai from any other country /station if they have visited or transited via Nigeria in the last 14 days.â€
Other airlines have started notifying their Nigerian passengers that they have henceforth suspended their airlift to Dubai because of the ban.
According to a memo addressed and sent out by Egypt Air to its travel partners, the airline declared: â€œSequence to the memo we received from Dubai Airport Authority asking all Nigerian Travelers coming to Dubai to fly direct effective 1st February, 2021, in view of this, we therefore request you to kindly notify our esteemed passengers that Egyptair will not lift passengers from Nigeria to Dubai from 31st January, 2021 until further notice.
â€œYou are hereby advised to check and cancel all your bookings and inform your passengers about this new development. We are in view of the above expressly authorize full refund for those who want to make refund and seek for alternative or tickets will be opened for future flights for passengers need to keep their tickets . Tour code for refund process: FT*DXB COVID-19 . We thank you for all the trust you reposed on our carrier & promised to update you if any further development on this in the nearest future.â€
The latest travel ban may not be unconnected with the recent death of a Nigerian passenger who died of COVID-19 complications few hours after flying into Canada from Nigeria.
The Nigerian who was said to have arrived in Toronto on a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit and got on a connecting Toronto-bound flight after flying from Lagos, Nigeria, to Atlanta died of the pandemic.
According to the report, the man apparently took a COVID-19 test in Nigeria, but hadnâ€™t received the results before departing Nigeria. He was pronounced dead on arrival in the North American country and the Canadian Border Services Agency was notified, the report further said.
Many stakeholders while commenting on the circumstances surrounding the death of the Nigerian passenger had predicted the subsequent consequences the death of the Nigerian would have on Nigerian travelers around other countries.
The latest action of the Dubai authorities according to the feelers across the countryâ€™s aviation sector is that of uncertainty as many believed that other countries may take similar measures against Nigerian travelers.
As the ban on Nigerian travelers takes effect from today, key players have been asking questions about the what becomes of the fate of the only Nigerian airline operating into the Dubai/Sharjah as according to the conditions given by the Dubai authorities declared that an Airport Rapid Test has to be done by the Airline.
Amongst questions being asked by key players include if the new rules apply to the Nigerian carrier, Air Peace Flight to Sharjah and if the airline can afford to do Rapid test for all its passengers. https://tribuneonlineng.com/an...
Lagos Third Mainland Bridge reopens today - P.M.NEWS
By Aisha Cole/Lagos
The Lagos State Government said partial opening of the Third Mainland Bridge will resume from 00.01 a.m. on Monday, following the early completion of the casting of some joints.
Commissioner for Transportation, Dr Frederic Oladeinde, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Lagos.
The re-opening will allow the resumption of movement arrangements of 12.00 a.m. for Lagos Island bound motorists and 12.00 noon for Mainland bound motorist subsist.
The bridge was totally shut on 28 January to enable completion of repair works on the double sized expansion.
It was to be reopened on 2 February.
However, the casting was accomplished much faster, by Saturday.
Oladeinde expressed gratitude to Lagos residents, especially those affected by the closure, for their understanding.
â€œLASG hereby appeals to residents to cooperate with the state government as all other ongoing rehabilitation projects would come to an end in a very short while.
â€œThe benefits, including safety, is for all and sundry,â€™â€™ Oladehinde said.
Dubai blamed for COVID-19 cases abroad as travelers return home with UK, South African variants - ASSOCIATED PRESS
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates â€“ After opening itself to New Yearâ€™s revelers, Dubai is now being blamed by several countries for spreading the coronavirus abroad, even as questions swirl about the city-stateâ€™s ability to handle reported record spikes in cases.
The governmentâ€™s Dubai Media Office says the sheikhdom is doing all it can to handle the pandemic, though it has repeatedly declined to answer questions from The Associated Press about its hospital capacity.
â€œAfter a year of managing the pandemic, we can confidently say the current situation is under control and we have our plans to surge any capacity in the health care system should a need rise,â€ it said.
But Nasser al-Shaikh, Dubaiâ€™s former finance chief, offered a different assessment Thursday on Twitter and asked authorities to take control of a spiraling caseload.
â€œThe leadership bases its decisions on recommendations from the team, the wrong recommendations which put human souls in danger and negatively affect our society,â€ he wrote, adding that â€œour economy requires accountability.â€
Dubai, known for its long-haul carrier Emirates, the worldâ€™s tallest building and its beaches and bars, in July became one of the first travel destinations to describe itself as open for business. The move staunched the bleeding of its crucial tourism and real estate sectors after lockdowns and curfews cratered its economy.
As tourism restarted, daily reported coronavirus case numbers slowly grew but mostly remained stable through the fall.
But then came New Yearâ€™s Eve â€“ a major draw for travelers from countries otherwise shut down who partied without face masks in bars and on yachts. For the past 17 days, the United Arab Emirates as a whole has reported record daily coronavirus case numbers as lines at Dubai testing facilities grow.
In Israel, more than 900 travelers returning from Dubai have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the military, which conducts contact tracing. The returnees created a chain of infections numbering more than 4,000 people, the Israeli military told the AP.
Tens of thousands of Israelis had flocked to the UAE since the two countries normalized relations in September. Israeli Health Ministry expert Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis was quoted by Channel 13 TV as complaining in a call with other officials that a few weeks of travel had been more deadly than decades of no relations with the Arab nation.
Since late December, Israel has required those coming from the UAE to observe a two-week quarantine. Israel later shut down its main international airport through the end of the month over rising cases.
Dubai didn't close its borders over holidays: Now the party haven faces its biggest COVID-19 surge yet
View |200 Photos World struggles to stop spread of coronavirus Nations around the world are taking drastic measures to contain the spread of coronavirus including closing borders and quarantining citizens.
In the United Kingdom, tabloids have splashed shots of bikini-clad British influencers partying in Dubai while the country struggled through lockdowns in an attempt to control the virus. Britain closed a travel corridor to Dubai in mid-January that had allowed travelers to skip quarantine over what was described as a significant acceleration in the number of imported cases from the UAE.
â€œInternational travel, right now, should not be happening unless itâ€™s absolutely necessary,â€ Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC. â€œNo parties in Paris or weekends in Dubai. That is not on, and in most cases, itâ€™s against the law.â€
Meanwhile, mutated strains of the coronavirus have been linked back to Dubai. The U.K. instituted a travel ban Friday barring direct flights to the UAE over the spread of a South African variant of the coronavirus.
Denmark already discovered one traveler coming from Dubai who tested positive for the South African variant, the first such discovery there. As with Britain, Danish celebrities similarly traveled to Dubai for New Year's celebrations.
In the Philippines, health authorities say they discovered a British strain infecting a Filipino who made a business trip to Dubai on Dec. 27. He returned to the Philippines on Jan. 7 and tested positive.
He â€œhad no exposure to a confirmed case prior to their departure to Dubai,â€ the Philippines Department of Health said. In the time since, Filipino authorities have discovered at least 16 other cases of the British variant, including two from Lebanon.
As daily reported coronavirus cases near 4,000, Dubai has fired the head of its government health agency without explanation. It stopped live entertainment at bars, halted nonessential surgeries, limited wedding sizes and ordered gyms to increase social distancing. It also now requires coronavirus testing for all those flying into its airport.
The UAE had pinned its hopes on mass vaccinations, with Abu Dhabi distributing a Chinese vaccine by Sinopharm and Dubai offering Pfizer-BioNTechâ€™s inoculation. The UAE says it has given 2.8 million doses, ranking it among the top countries in the world.
But people including al-Shaikh now question Dubaiâ€™s capacity to handle the increasing cases. Hospitals contacted by the AP largely referred questions to Dubaiâ€™s government, which has declined to comment. Dubaiâ€™s Saudi German Hospital responded by saying it was â€œhoping to read the real news,â€ without elaborating.
Dr. Santosh Kumar Sharma, medical director of Dubaiâ€™s NMC Royal Hospital, told the AP â€œthe number of cases (is) ever rising,â€ with more than half its beds occupied by coronavirus patients.
The World Health Organization said that before the pandemic, the UAE had nearly 13,250 hospital beds for a country of more than 9 million people. It said Dubai and the UAEâ€™s northern emirates built field hospitals amid the pandemic with about 5,000 beds, and Abu Dhabi built more.
But Dubai closed its 3,000-bed field hospital in July â€“ the same day it reopened for tourism. Dubai and the UAEâ€™s Health Ministry now advertise for nurses on Instagram.
â€œThe sad thing is that great efforts have been made since January 2020 for us to come and undermine them with our own hands,â€ al-Shaikh wrote. â€œWhat makes things worse is the lack of transparency.â€
Yet that came after the UAEâ€™s autocratic government told officials to â€œrefrain from questioning the efforts of all those who have worked to contain this pandemic.â€
Contributing: Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The British Passport Stoking Controversy in Hong Kong - BLOOMBERG
As China asserts its control over Hong Kong with a national security law that came into force in mid-2020, the U.K. is offering some residents of its former colony a potential route out: a proposal to allow longer stays in Britain and a pathway to future citizenship. More than 5 million people, including dependents, could qualify, although only a fraction of that total is expected to make the move anytime soon.
1. Whatâ€™s the plan?
It has to do with giving expanded rights to Hong Kong residents with unique travel documents known as British National (Overseas), or BN(O), passports, and to those considered to be eligible for them. The U.K. created the passports before handing Hong Kong back to China in 1997. They allowed holders to visit the U.K. visa-free for up to six months, but didnâ€™t automatically confer the right to live or work there. Holders also werenâ€™t eligible to access public funds.
2. Whatâ€™s changing?
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons in July 2020 that a new â€œbespoke immigration routeâ€ would allow holders of BN(O) status to come to the U.K. without the previous six-month limit. They would be allowed to stay and work in the U.K. for five years. After that period, they could apply for settled status and, after a further 12 months with that status, for citizenship. Family dependents would also be allowed into the U.K. and there would be no limit on the numbers allowed to apply.
3. Who is eligible?
There were 469,000 holders of BN(O) passports as of early October 2020, according to the U.K. Home Office. Others born before the July 1, 1997 handover could register before that date, however. The Home Office estimates there are 2.9 million BN(O) citizens eligible to move to the U.K., plus a further 2.3 million dependents and 187,000 people aged between 18 and 23 who have at least one BN(O) parent, bringing the total to about 5.4 million, or around 70% of Hong Kongâ€™s 7.5 million population.
4. Whatâ€™s the process and how much does it cost?
From Jan. 31, 2021, individuals can apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa for either 30 months or five years. BN(O) citizens and their dependents can apply online from outside or inside the U.K. The visa costs 250 pounds ($343) per person to stay for five years. Each person must also pay an immigration health surcharge to use the National Health Service, which costs 3,120 pounds per adult and 2,350 per child. The costs are slightly lower for a 30-month visa. For a family of four, including two children, total fees could be almost 12,000 pounds. Applicants must also prove that they can house and support themselves financially for at least six months in the U.K. This can be demonstrated by money in bank accounts, income from a job in the U.K., other income such as renting out a property and offers of support or accommodation from friends or family. Applicants will also need to provide a tuberculosis test certificate.
5. Why is the U.K. doing this?
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Chinaâ€™s imposition of the national security law as a â€œclear and serious breachâ€ of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for Hong Kongâ€™s return to China in 1997. In an interview with Sky News in June 2020, Raab said the U.K. was prepared to sacrifice a potential free trade deal with China to protect Hong Kong citizens, and the government has said it has a moral obligation to them.
6. What has the reaction been from China?
China has criticized the U.K.â€™s move as an inappropriate interference in the countryâ€™s domestic affairs and a violation of its promises under the handover agreement not to confer the right of abode to Chinese citizens in Hong Kong who hold BN(O) passports. â€œThe Chinese side has repeatedly expressed its grave concern and strong opposition and will certainly respond with countermeasures,â€ the Chinese Embassy in London said in a statement on Jan. 29. The Chinese Foreign Ministry separately said it wonâ€™t recognize the passports as travel documents. Practically, that may have little effect, as Hong Kongers donâ€™t use them for travel to the mainland. Instead, they can serve as an extra passport when traveling, allowing holders to access more countries visa-free than the Hong Kong passport alone.
7. Why didnâ€™t Hong Kong people get regular British passports?
People born in Hong Kong after the 1997 handover, who were both Chinese citizens and permanent Hong Kong residents, became eligible for the new Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) passports. While then-Conservative Prime Minister John Major cited Britainâ€™s â€œcontinuing responsibilities to the people of Hong Kongâ€ in a speech in the city in March 1996, at the same time there was concern within his Tory party back home about the potential scale of arrivals from Hong Kong, according to Jonathan Dimbleby in his book â€œThe Last Governor.â€
8. How many people might move to the U.K.?
No one knows. The British government says a lot depends on how the political situation in Hong Kong evolves and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In an impact assessment, it estimates between 123,000 and 153,700 BN(O)s and their dependents may arrive in the first year and between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years. Under those assumptions, the government sees a net benefit to the U.K. economy of between 2.4 billion and 2.9 billion pounds over five years. Raab said in July he expects â€œa large numberâ€ of those who are eligible to remain in Hong Kong or move elsewhere in the region.
The Reference Shelf
- An article by Johnson on Hong Kong from June 2020 in the Times.
- A Bloomberg story from January 2021 on people applying for visas.
- A Businessweek story by Marc Champion and Peter Martin on Chinaâ€™s Hong Kong strategy.
- A Bloomberg story on passport issuance from December 2020.
- The Last Governor. Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong. By Jonathan Dimbleby.
- East and West. By Chris Patten.
- A BN(O) U.K. government factsheet.
— With assistance by Shawna Kwan
Covid-19 - Nigeria May Suspend Flights From UAE, Netherlands - Official - PREMIUM TIMES
By Nike Adebowale
"If they insist on having these additional tests being done, then PTF has decided that their operations will be suspended into Nigeria."
The Nigerian government has said it may suspend flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The Netherlands due to the new COVID-19 protocols introduced by both countries for incoming travellers.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, while speaking at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Monday said both countries recently requested that passengers from Nigeria must carry out a PCR test four hours before departing the country.
"In addition to the requirements are a requirement for PCR test before passengers depart from Nigeria to their countries. They are adding an extra requirement of having a rapid test done four hours before departure or before you board," he said.
"For us, passengers do the test 72 hours before departure and then the PCR test and the PTF recognizes the rights of all countries to put in measures to protect their citizens just like Nigeria has done," Mr Nuhu said.
"If they insist on having these additional tests being done, then PTF has decided that their operations will be suspended into Nigeria."
Mr Nuhu said the countries and airlines coming from there cannot determine for Nigeria who to approve or how these tests will be done.
He said the government will be discussing with the airlines and countries involved.
This will enable the PTF to have a clear and transparent process on determining who will do these test "based on the requirement for accreditation by NCDC, National Laboratory Council, Lagos state government for Lagos airport and FCT for Abuja airport."