Israel Cabinet Approves Adding U.S., Canada to Travel Ban List - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- The Israeli cabinet approved recommendations by health officials to add the U.S., Canada and eight other countries to a list of banned travel destinations due to the spread of the omicron variant.
The decision is slated to take effect at midnight Tuesday, subject to approval by a Knesset committee.
Other countries on the list include Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.
Airlines Amp Up Warnings on 5G Service, See Risk of Late Flights - BLOOMBERG
BY Bloomberg News,
(Bloomberg) -- Widespread flight delays in snowstorms and low visibility could occur once new 5G wireless service rolls out in early January, airline executives and aviation officials are warning with increasing alarm.
The officials say the new wireless signals threaten to interfere with equipment on planes and helicopters that track aircraft altitude, which could prohibit landings in poor visibility and create a cascade of delays, diversions and cancellations -- a concern the wireless industry maintains is unfounded.
The issue is coming to a head as White House officials, regulators and industry groups struggle, without result, for agreement before the service starts Jan. 5. AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have offered power reductions. The aviation industry calls such cuts “inadequate.”
The prospect of flight disruptions comes as airlines struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic that led to billions of dollars in losses last year. Carriers also have been dealing with staff shortages and thousands of unruly passenger episodes this year and the industry is concerned the 5G clash will cost as much as $2.1 billion in flight disruptions, according to the trade group Airlines for America.
“If you were to ask us what our number one concern is in the near term, it is the deployment of 5G,” Southwest Airlines Co. Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly testified at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
Talks continue. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and officials from the White House’s National Economic Council met on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the meeting.
Aviation-industry groups at a Dec. 10 meeting with the NEC were told their proposal that 5G power levels get deeper cuts near airports than mobile providers promised wasn’t accepted, according to three people in the aerospace industry familiar with discussions. They spoke on the condition they wouldn’t be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks.
White House representatives didn’t reply to queries about the meetings.
The result is a deepening sense of gloom in the aviation industry that some level of service cuts are all but inevitable because the Federal Aviation Administration, faced with even a remote prospect that safety could be threatened by the new 5G signals, must act conservatively.
“What that means, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing less than a lot of flights are going to be canceled,” said Jeffrey Shane, a former airline industry official who also served in the U.S. Department of Transportation, speaking Dec. 10 at a government advisory panel on protecting radio frequency.
The 5G signals will operate in airwaves near those used by radar altimeters, which determine altitude by bouncing radio waves off the ground. The aviation industry says tests show 5G can interfere with the altimeters, posing hazards especially during bad-weather landings. Mobile providers dispute that outcome, saying the 5G signals are sufficiently separated from the frequencies used by altimeters, and are set to operate at safe levels.
Dispute Over Disruption Threat
On Wednesday Airlines for America said the 5G service could disrupt as many as 350,000 flights a year, based on some worst-case assumptions.
Wireless providers paid at least $81 billion for rights to the contested airwaves. They rejected predictions of trouble.
“The aviation industry’s fear-mongering relies on completely discredited information and deliberate distortions of fact,” said Nick Ludlum, a senior vice president at the trade group CTIA, which includes AT&T and Verizon as members.
“5G operates safely and without causing harmful interference to aviation operations in nearly 40 countries around the world,” Ludlum said in an email. “U.S. airlines fly in and out of these countries every day.”
The FAA and aviation groups say that other nations have imposed the kinds of protections that they are seeking or that the frequencies used in those countries have been located farther away from those assigned to aircraft equipment.
The FCC, which approved the mobile providers’ airwaves use, has declined to impose additional restrictions and said it is working with aviation regulators to resolve the dispute.
The FAA on Dec. 7 issued a pair of safety directives saying that it could impose a variety of restrictions that included prohibiting low-visibility landings in the proximity of 5G signals. The agency stopped short of specific limitations and said it was continuing to study the potential risks.
However, in recent days the potential for flight restrictions have become clearer, said multiple people familiar with discussions.
One manufacturer of the so-called radar altimeters estimated that 70% of airliners equipped with its devices might be prone to interference and, therefore, subject to FAA’s restrictions, according to two people familiar with the talks. While the number of planes isn’t yet known and is subject to change, it could involve thousands of aircraft, they said.
The FAA prohibitions affecting airline flights primarily focus on relatively uncommon low-visibility landings.
A pilot may only perform these so called CAT II and CAT III approaches -- in which pilots use a suite of technology to safely descend to runways in conditions like thick fog with almost zero visibility -- a few times a year, said former airline captain and safety consultant Benjamin Berman.
“It would be rare, but when it happened it would be very disruptive,” he said.
Similarly, the FAA said it may also prohibit certain satellite-guided approaches, which jetliners increasingly use to enhance efficiency.
Shane, speaking before the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board, said flight disruptions were “guaranteed” and predicted “a chaotic impact” on aviation.
If the altimeters are considered unreliable by FAA, federal regulations would ban many emergency air-ambulance flights, the Helicopter Association International said in a filing in the Federal Register.
Medical copters transport 40,000 to 50,000 people a year from roadside crashes and other sites where the altimeters are required, the group said. Those may no longer be permitted in the dozens of major cities where At&T and Verizon are introducing 5G, the group said.
Similarly, with 5G set to begin in greater Houston and New Orleans, helicopter operations that service oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico from those regions could also face new restrictions, the group said.
United Nigeria Airlines Commences Flight Operations to Anambra Airport - THISDAY
BY Chinedu Eze
United Nigeria Airlines said it has commenced scheduled flight operations to Anambra airport on Saturday December 18, 2021 in response to the demand of its growing loyal customers.
The airline said it would operate scheduled regular flights from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja and Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos to the brand new Anambra airport on Saturdays and Sundays in the immediate, adding that other flight schedules would be announced after.
The airline said already, booking portals and reservations for ticket sales have been opened on www.flyunitednigeria.com for the commencement of operations.
United Nigeria Airlines has also assured its customers of prompt service to unite them with their loved ones and families during the Christmas season and after.
The airline, which recently added Airbus A320 to its fleet said it would expand its operations in the new year.
COVID-19 Cases On The Rise As Nigeria Enters Fourth Wave - CHANNELS TV
Nigeria on Monday recorded 1,368 more COVID-19 cases, hours after the country confirmed that it had entered the fourth wave of the pandemic.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) released the new figure in an update on Monday night.
A breakdown of the daily infection rate showed that the new cases were confirmed in 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
Lagos, with 844 infections, recorded the highest number of cases for the day followed by the FCT with 209 persons contracting the disease.
Other states with newly-infected people include Oyo – 58 cases, Abia – 51, Ondo – 39, Ogun – 30, Kaduna – 26, Delta – 20, Akwa Ibom – 17, and Osun – 15.
Ekiti – 12, Anambra – 7, Zamfara – 7, Cross River – 6, Kano – 6, Kwara – 6, Rivers – 6, Bauchi – 5, Gombe – 3, and Plateau – 1 make up the other states with more infections for the day under review.
Monday’s update takes the number of COVID-19 infections in Nigeria to 225,255 out of which 211,660 have been discharged. But 2,985 deaths have thus far been reported from the disease in the country.
Before the figures were released, the agency had earlier said Nigeria has entered the fourth wave of the pandemic.
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, confirmed this is in a statement in which he urged Nigerians to adhere to approved protocols to combat the disease.
“Nigeria has recorded a 500% increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks across the country caused by the Delta and Omicron variants,” the NCDC boss, added.
“As of 19th December 2021, a total of 223,887 cases and 2985 deaths have been recorded in Nigeria across all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The country is now in a fourth COVID-19 wave. The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as NCDC and its partners, are therefore intensifying risk communication efforts to remind Nigerians of the risk we face and need to take collective responsibility to reduce transmission of the virus.”
According to him, the agency is launching a ‘Celebrate Responsibly’ campaign as part of efforts to fight the disease this Yuletide.
“The Celebrate Responsibly campaign calls on all Nigerians to take all necessary precautions for a safe and healthy Christmas and New Year celebration,” it said.
Nigeria to implement tit-for tat-policy on foreign carriers - THE NATION
The Federal Government said yesterday that is scaling up efforts to implement a retaliatory air treaty regime on foreign carriers which countries insist Nigerian carriers must buy slots at their airports before granting approval for flights.
Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu , disclosed this in an interview.
The new regime, which he described as ‘tit- for – tat ‘ has become imperative because some countries were deploying the slot allocation systems at their airports as a ploy to undermine Nigerian carriers.
He said Nigeria would not tolerate a situation where such countries hide under the cover of airport slots to give unfair commercial advantage to foreign carriers.
Nuhu said Nigeria made mistakes in the past and was determined to correct such anomalies.
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He said United Arab Emirates (UAE) , carrier – Emirates Airlines would not be cleared to resume flights into Nigeria until civil aviation authorities in the Arab Nation officially communicated the extra flight frequency granted to Air Peace.
The NCAA helmsman said: “Believe me, we are working on that and it is going to be tit-for-tat. Let me use an example and I am not saying that is what we are going to do, but just as an example. If a Nigerian airline is going to the United Kingdom and they insist that the Nigerian airline must buy slots, then any British Airlines that is coming into Nigeria will need to pay for slots too. It is tit-for-tat.
“If you tell me a particular airline from Nigeria cannot go to Heathrow because you cannot get slots, then, their airline too cannot come into Lagos because of slot issues. If you tell me a particular airline from Nigeria must pay, for instance, 100,000 pounds to operate to Heathrow, then, their own airline will have to pay the same amount of money to operate to Lagos. It is going to be reciprocity.
France is Planning No New Covid Restrictions for Now - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- France sees no need for a lockdown or more Covid restrictions at the moment even as countries like the Netherlands preemptively put more curbs in place, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
Speaking in an interview on France 2 television, Attal said limits have been announced on gatherings during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and the government will monitor the situation as the omicron variant rapidly spreads across the country.
Asked about the possibility of another lockdown, he said: “If we think the risks have risen, we could take another look. Nothing is excluded in principle.”
The rapid clip at which the French are signing up for boosters is helping, Attal said, noting that the shot is effective against omicron. Health Minister Olivier Veran said in a tweet that France would achieve 20 million booster shots as of Tuesday. That puts the country ahead of schedule, Attal said.
Separately, the French government will continue to consult with businesses and unions on the feasibility of using vaccine passes in the workplace, with a debate on the issue in Parliament slated for early next year, he said.
The government is not considering postponing school re-openings in the new year. The same is also true for the presidential elections in 2022, he said.
“We will vote in April,” Attal said.
New Zealand Delays Phased Border Reopening Due to Omicron - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand is pushing back the phased reopening of its border until the end of February due to the threat of the omicron variant.
“Waiting till the end of February will increase New Zealand’s overall protection and slow Omicron’s eventual spread,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Tuesday in Wellington. Previously, the government said vaccinated New Zealand citizens could return from Australia without undergoing managed isolation from Jan. 17.
“There’s no doubt this is disappointing and will upset many holiday plans, but it’s important to set these changes out clearly today so they can have time to consider those plans,” Hipkins said.
Airline passengers can claim if flight brought forward - EU court - REUTERS
LS (Reuters) - Passengers in Europe are entitled to compensation not only if their flights are delayed but also if they are brought forward by more than an hour, the European Union's top court ruled on Tuesday.
Under EU rules, passengers can claim damages if their flights are cancelled less than 14 days before departure or arrive more than three hours late or if they are denied boarding because of overbooking.
Compensation, ranging from 250 to 600 euros ($282.38-$677.70), depends on the distance of the flight, with a possible 50% reduction if the airline offers in advance to re-route the passenger so they arrive only a few hours late.
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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) determined that a flight should be regarded as cancelled if it was brought forward by more than an hour.
Judges reasoned that passengers could suffer the same degree of inconvenience as in the case of a delay, having to adapt their plans and even potentially missing the flight.
The compensation should also be the same as that due for a cancellation or delay, with no right to reduce the amount by 50% on the grounds that it has offered to re-reroute a passenger so that they arrive without delay at the final destination.
Airlines can still offer to re-route passengers if they do so sufficiently in advance.
The court also found that a passenger has a "confirmed reservation" not only if they have a ticket but also if a tour operator, through which the passenger has booked, has provided assurances of transport on particular flights.
The case came to the CJEU from courts in Austria and Germany relating to flights operated by Azurair, Corendon Airlines, Lufthansa subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Eurowings, as well as Laudamotion, now owned by Ryanair.
($1 = 0.8853 euros)
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)
Australia rules out lockdowns despite omicron surge - CNBC
- Australia must move past “the heavy hand of government” and authorities must stop shutting down people’s lives with Covid-19 lockdowns, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.
- Covid-19 cases have been breaking records over the last several days, the surge fueled by the more transmissible omicron variant, but Morrison insisted that limiting the spread of the virus comes down to personal responsibility.
File photo of Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he speaks during a press conference at Parliament House on March 22, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Sam Mooy | Getty Images
Australia must move past “the heavy hand of government” and authorities must stop shutting down people’s lives with Covid-19 lockdowns, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday, as daily infections in the country shot up to a new pandemic high.
Covid-19 cases have been breaking records over the last several days, the surge fueled by the more transmissible omicron variant, but Morrison insisted that limiting the spread of the virus comes down to personal responsibility.
“We have got to get past the heavy hand of government and we have got to treat Australians like adults,” Morrison told reporters, urging authorities to shift from “a culture of mandates” when it comes to masks and social distancing rules.
“We’re not going back to lockdowns. We’re going forward to live with this virus with common sense and responsibility.”
Swift lockdowns and strict social distancing rules have helped Australia to keep its Covid-19 numbers relatively low at around 260,000 total cases and 2,154 deaths. But most of the country has been reopening over the last few weeks after higher inoculations despite the threat from the omicron variant.
Authorities are now aiming to ramp up the rollout of booster shots with Morrison urging states to reopen hundreds of immunization hubs shut down after demand slowed when double-dose rates in people above 16 years topped 80%.
Despite the rapid spread of the omicron variant, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said “only a fraction” of those cases were ending up in hospitals. The number of people in hospitals has been creeping up, but remains far lower than during the delta wave.
Around 4,600 cases were reported in Australia on Tuesday, exceeding the previous high of some 4,100 over the weekend. New South Wales, home to Sydney, became the first Australian state to top 3,000 Covid-19 daily infections, while neighboring Victoria logged 1,245 cases. Other states have fewer cases.
The country that celebrates Christmas for more than 4 months a year - CNBC
BY Monica Buchanan Pitrelli
In the centuries-old carol “The 12 Days of Christmas,” celebrations span less than two weeks.
Today Christmas is regularly celebrated throughout December, and in some places, a good portion of November too.
But four months of festivities in the Philippines gives new meaning to the term “holiday season.”
The ‘ber’ months
Christmas is celebrated during the “ber” months, as it’s called in the Philippines — that is, September, October, November and December, said Robert Blancaflor, president of the Manila-based events design company Robert Blancaflor Group.
“Christmas is the longest celebrated season in the Philippines and … our country celebrates it the longest globally,” he said. “Can you imagine a whole nation willingly sharing warmth and love ... this long?”
“Everywhere you look here is just pure Christmas,” said Robert Blancaflor, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, adding he’s “glad to be living in such a joyous country.” Courtesy of Robert Blancaflor
But the parties don’t end in December.
“Christmas fever starts on Sept. 1 and ends the first week of January,” said Marot Nelmida-Flores, a professor of Philippine studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
This is, however, “a recent phenomenon,” she said. And the reason why is a familiar one.
Commercialization of the holiday
“With the proliferation of shopping malls, first in metro Manila which later on mushroomed far into the provinces, Christmas carols started to be heard soon after All Saints Day [on] Nov. 1,” said Joven Cuanang, a neurologist and respected art and culture enthusiast in the Philippines. “This was to attract people to start shopping for Christmas gifts — it was commerce-driven.”
Retail stores pushing out Christmas-themed merchandise earlier than in the past is responsible for so-called “Christmas creep” in many countries. A significant difference is that while others condemn the practice, Filipinos largely embrace it.
A Manila vendor sleeps among Christmas “parol,” or lanterns made of paper and bamboo that are shaped to resemble the Star of Bethlehem. NOEL CELIS | AFP | Getty Images
“Filipinos start to make parol, or Christmas lanterns, as early as September,” said Nelmida-Flores. “Now, many parts of the islands have their own trademark parol and Christmas theme plazas and parks.”
Another factor which adds to seasonal cheer, said Nelmida-Flores, is the return of the “balikbayan” — the estimated 2.2 million Filipino citizens who work abroad, according to the Philippines Statistics Authority. Overseas Filipino workers sent nearly $30 billion dollars back to the Philippines in 2020, which represents nearly 10% of the country’s total gross domestic product, according to data website Statista.
A sculpture in Manila pays tribute to overseas Filipino workers, many of whom are parents who spend years away from their children and loved ones to earn wages to financially support them. JAY DIRECTO | AFP | Getty Images
That likely won’t happen this year. Many of the overseas workers, who live in places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, aren’t traveling this year due to the global pandemic.
Marites Rheme Lopez Javier, who has been living and working in Singapore for 18 years, hasn’t seen her family in the Philippines since 2019. She plans to celebrate Christmas with them, including her first grandchild born last month, via video chat.
Javier said radio stations begin to play English and Tagalog Christmas songs in September. This is also when decorations — including Christmas trees — go up. Festivals and beauty pageants, a controversial yet wildly popular activity in the Philippines, start in October, she said.
L: Ramiro Hinojas, known as the “dancing traffic cop” directs Manila traffic in a Santa Claus costume; R: Marites Rheme Lopez Javier said Santa isn’t as popular in the Philippines as in other countries. “It’s the aunties [female relatives] who slide money into kids’ stockings.” L: TED ALJIBE | AFP | Getty Images; R: Courtesy of Marites Javier
She said as a child her family made their Christmas tree from manila paper and cardboard. Now, inexpensive plastic trees are the norm in her village.
When asked if she feels there’s “too much Christmas” in the Philippines, the 45-year-old native of Luzon island said, “No, we enjoy it! It’s a very happy time.”
Shifting celebrations earlier
The Peninsula Manila used to light its 45-foot Christmas tree in early November, but “we’ve moved it a tad earlier to the second Friday of October,” said Mariano Garchitorena, the hotel’s director of public relations.
He said “there’s no reason for delaying Christmas, since Christmas is always a good idea,” adding that this is what “any good Filipino, like myself, would say.”
The Peninsula Manila’s staff starts planning for Christmas in June, said Mariano Garchitorena. Courtesy of The Peninsula Manila
The hotel includes al fresco dining in its holiday plans “to take advantage of the nippy weather,” said Garchitorena. The average temperature in Manila in December is 25 C (78 F), according to Climate-Data.org.
Nina Halley, founder of the Manila floral and décor company The Love Garden, said she starts receiving Christmas orders in July.
“Philippines is very much influenced by the West, particularly the U.S.,” said Halley. “So the same pines and cypresses, pinecones and dried oranges are heavily used in our décor. Believe it or not, we import fir trees ... from Europe.”
A nation of faith
Religion is the foundation of the Philippines’ long festive period, said Blancaflor, adding that “the country is celebrating [its] 500th year of Christianity” this year.
Some 92% of people in the Philippines are Christian, according to the Stanford School of Medicine. Among the population of 110 million, more than 80% identify as Roman Catholic — a figure greater than that of Italy.
Some 88% of Filipinos said they were very or moderately religious, according to a 2020 survey by the Philippines social research institution, Social Weather Stations.
Catholics who attended nine days of pre-dawn “Simbang Gabi” masses in 2020 had to socially distance or attend sessions virtually in some areas, due to the global pandemic. Ezra Acayan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Many of the devout engage in the tradition of Simbang Gabi, a nine-day period of pre-dawn mass attendance that lasts from Dec. 16 to 24, said Blancaflor. The practice is thought to have been introduced by Spanish missionaries in the 17th century.
This used to mark the start of Christmas, said Cuanang, who recalled participating as a child: “Every dawn for nine days, we would huddle in the chill, going to church, culminating in the midnight mass on Christmas Eve.”
Joven Cuanang said when he was growing up in Ilocos in Luzon, children went house-to-house singing Christmas carols in exchange for tupig, a type of sweet rice cake, like the young Filipino carolers, circa 1955, shown here. Evans | Three Lions | Hulton Archive | Getty Images
Back then, celebrations were only about three weeks long, he said.
“Most people of my generation find the four-month period a little too long,” said 81-year-old Cuanang.
What so much celebrating says about the culture
“Filipinos are a happy people,” said Halley, who added that her fellow citizens will find “any reason to celebrate and prepare food, gather around a table, sing, dance and be merry.”
Nina Halley and her “Pink Roses Christmas Tree” arrangement, made with roses, carnations, gypsophila (baby’s breath) and eucalyptus. Courtesy of Nina Halley and The Love Garden
Blancaflor said the Christmas season highlights the best traits of the Filipino people: hospitality, generosity, creativity and dedication to family.
Most importantly, he said, Christmas showcases the culture’s devotion to helping one another.
Poverty levels climbed to nearly 24% earlier this year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. That translates to more than 26 million people who live below the poverty threshold of 12,082 Philippine pesos per month ($242) for a family of five.
Linda Abella, 63, fixes the decorations on her Christmas tree outside her house in typhoon-hit Palo, Philippines on Dec. 23, 2013. Ezra Acayan | NurPhoto | Corbis News | Getty Images
The country, comprising some 7,100 islands, is also prone to typhoons. On average, it’s hit by 20 a year, five of which are destructive, according to the Asian Disaster Reduction Center.
“Filipinos are quick to respond and channel the Christmas spirit to urgently [help] affected people above all else,” said Blancaflor. “One of the most beautiful things about the Filipinos [is] being able to smile through the downside of life and still be thankful amidst obstacles — knowing there will be a better day.”