Travel News

UK PM Boris Johnson to assess latest omicron data before deciding on new Covid curbs - CNBC

DECEMBER 27, 2021

BY  Matt Clinch


  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already started new curbs to help stop the spread of the omicron variant, largely focusing on indoor mixing.
  • But England has so far held off on adding to current stay-at-home orders and increased mask-wearing.
  • Johnson will reportedly digest new data on Monday looking at case rates, hospitalizations and ICU figures, as well as deaths.
  • The Christmas holiday meant official figures were paused over the weekend, but on Friday the U.K. reported a record of 122,186 infections over a 24-hour period.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Stow Health Vaccination centre in Westminster on December 13, 2021 in London, England. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Stow Health Vaccination centre in Westminster on December 13, 2021 in London, England. Jeremy Selwyn | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. leader Boris Johnson will speak with his top medical advisors on Monday before deciding whether to impose any new Covid-19 restrictions for England this week.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already started new curbs to help stop the spread of the omicron variant, largely focusing on indoor mixing. But England has so far held off on adding to current stay-at-home orders and increased mask-wearing.

Johnson will reportedly digest new data on Monday looking at case rates, hospitalizations and ICU figures, as well as deaths. The Christmas holiday meant official figures were paused over the weekend, but on Friday the U.K. reported a record of 122,186 infections over a 24-hour period.

Johnson has previously said that he would not hesitate to act and bring in new curbs after Christmas if needed, but research suggesting that the omicron variant may be less severe than the delta strain could cause him to hold fire. Information on the length of hospital stays and how many infections are leading to hospitalizations will no doubt prove crucial. 

Any new restrictions will likely be unpopular within his own Conservative Party, with many lawmakers staging a recent rebellion against the prime minister. A significant number are unhappy at current Covid restrictions as well as a series of gaffes, scandals and embarrassments in recent weeks. Johnson’s ratings have also suffered badly in national voter polls.

New measures would also have to be voted on by the wider House of Commons and lawmakers will have to be recalled from their Christmas vacations. Thus, Johnson may just urge caution to English citizens ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations instead of launching formal restrictions.

A U.K. government study published Thursday said that people are far less likely to be admitted to the hospital with the Covid omicron variant than the previous delta strain.

The U.K. Health Security Agency said individuals with omicron are estimated to be between 31% and 45% less likely to attend emergency departments compared to those with delta, and 50%-70% less likely to require admission to a hospital.

The analysis is “preliminary and highly uncertain” due to the small numbers of omicron cases currently in hospitals, but it does tally with similar findings from scientists in South Africa and research teams at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.

While the number of daily deaths remains low currently and initial research suggests that the omicron variant might not be as severe as other Covid strains, health experts have repeatedly warned that the sheer number of infections could lead to mounting fatalities and an overwhelmed health-care system.

The U.K. has reported nearly 12 million infections and at least 148,324 deaths since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University.

Singapore lifts travel ban imposed on 10 African countries over Omicron - BUSINESS STANDARD

DECEMBER 27, 2021

has lifted the ban it imposed on 10 African countries over the variant of coronavirus, while authorities expect a rapid doubling of cases in the coming days.

Passengers arriving in with travel history to Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe within the past 14 days will come under the country's Category IV border measures from 11.59 pm on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said it expects a new wave of local cases "soon" given the higher transmissibility of the variant.

"In the coming days and weeks, we should expect more community (local) cases and rapid doubling of cases. This is again a process we need to go through, in order to live with COVID-19," it said.

"However, the peak of the wave can be blunted and we can avoid overwhelming our healthcare system again if everyone plays their part to get their vaccinations and booster doses, self-test regularly and self-isolate if tested positive," the Channel News Asia quoting the MoH said.

In particular, those who have recently arrived from overseas or been in contact with an infected person should reduce their social interactions.

"We have done whatever we can to prepare ourselves for it; especially in administering boosters to our population and starting vaccinations for our children. We seek the cooperation and understanding of everyone, as we weather through an wave in the next one to two months," the channel quoting the ministry said.

Instead of being isolated in dedicated facilities by default, Omicron cases will be placed on home recovery or treated at community care facilities depending on their clinical presentation, the channel reported.

This means the travellers with links to these countries must take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within two days before departure to Singapore, as well as an on-arrival PCR test. They will also have to serve a 10-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility. Another PCR test will be administered at the end of their quarantine period.

Previously, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to these 10 African countries were not allowed to enter or transit following initial reports on Omicron cases there. citizens and permanent residents returning from these countries would have to serve a 10-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.

The MoH said it initially adopted a "more cautious risk containment approach" to reduce the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant into Singapore.

"The Omicron variant has since spread widely around the world," the ministry said, adding that Singapore is updating its travel restrictions accordingly.

"As the global situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures in tandem with our roadmap to becoming a Covid-resilient nation, it said.

"Current observations from affected countries and regions suggest that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than currently circulating variants. Globally, the Omicron variant has overtaken the Delta variant as the predominant variant in numerous countries, such as the UK and Denmark," it added.

Available data suggests that Omicron infections face reduced risks of hospitalisation and severe disease compared to Delta infections, the MoH added.

"Locally, our Omicron cases have so far not been severe as well, none has required intensive care or oxygen supplementation, although this may be partially due to most cases being fully vaccinated and from younger age groups," it said.

Preliminary estimates from overseas studies also indicate that two doses of mRNA vaccines reduce the risk of symptomatic infection from Omicron by about 35 per cent. The risk is further reduced to about 75 per cent lower for individuals with a primary and booster mRNA regimen.

"There should be better protection against severe infection and death due to cellular immunity and other factors," said the MoH.

"It is therefore important for us to press on with our booster vaccination programme to enhance protection against infection and severe disease, it said.

Also, Omicron cases in Singapore will be placed on home recovery or treated at community care facilities depending on their clinical presentation, instead of being isolated in dedicated facilities by default, the ministry said.

"evidence indicates that the Omicron variant is likely to be more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant, and that vaccines, especially boosters, retain substantial protection against hospitalisations caused by Omicron," the channel quoting the MoH said.

"In the last week, we had several unlinked Omicron cases as well as clusters in the community. This was not unexpected given the high transmissibility of the variant, the ministry said.

Based on the authorities' "updated understanding", Omicron cases will be allowed to follow protocols 1-2-3 as with other COVID-19 cases, it said.

As of Saturday, Singapore has detected 546 confirmed Omicron cases comprising 443 imported cases and 103 local infections.

On Sunday, Singapore reported 209 new COVID-19 cases, 100 of which were imported or those arriving here.

There was also one fatality, taking the country's death toll from coronavirus complications to 822.

As of Sunday, Singapore has recorded 2,77,764 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Fauci Says Domestic Travel Vaccination Rule Should Be Considered - BLOOMBERG

DECEMBER 27, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s medical adviser said a domestic travel vaccination rule should be considered as the omicron variant fuels record Covid-19 case loads in some states and holiday travel continues to be disrupted around the U.S. 

Anthony Fauci said on MSNBC on Monday that it would be “reasonable to consider” a requirement to be vaccinated for coronavirus before getting on a domestic flight. Later, in an interview on CNN, he said people should consider avoiding larger New Year’s Eve parties. 

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

Fauci also reiterated that officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are seriously discussing whether its feasible to shorten isolation and quarantine time for essential workers. 

A surge in cases prompted U.S. airlines to scrap about 2,800 flights over the holiday weekend because of personnel shortages, and has disrupted plans for some of the traditional year-end college football games. 

U.S. travel stocks retreated in premarket trading on Monday, led by United Airlines Holdings Inc., which sank 2.2% at 7:13 a.m. in New York. Delta Air Lines Inc. lost 1.3% and American Airlines Group Inc. dropped 1.7%. Among cruise-ship operators, Carnival Corp. declined 2.7%, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. retreated 2% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. fell 1.6%.

While some studies have suggested the omicron variant is less severe, particularly for vaccinated people, rising case loads have prompted concerns hospitals could still be overwhelmed with patients, a situation now being seen in pockets of the U.S. 

Chinese City Disinfects; U.S. Flights Cancelled: Virus Update

Biden is expected to discuss the situation in U.S. states on Monday with the National Governors Association. His remarks follow a spike in Covid-19 infections to record levels in several states, including New York, which reported 49,708 new cases on Dec. 24. 

Passengers with positive PCR tests, still show up for flights – Lagos airport manager - BUSINESSDAY

DECEMBER 27, 2021

Murtala Mohammed, airport manager, International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Victoria shin-Aba has said that some passengers with positive PCR tests still come to the airport to board flights.

Shin-Aba who also doubles as the regional manager, South West Airports said, this has become a major challenge for them and the Port Health Services as these passengers are often educated and know the implications of having a positive PCR test result.

Speaking with newsmen in Lagos, the MMIA Airport Manager stated that, it was sad that, despite warnings that persons tested positive for Covid-19 should isolate and stay indoors for their treatment, these persons are seen roaming around in public places and interacting with others.

Shin-Aba disclosed that her team had been in contact with the Port Health Services and had held meetings regarding the matter.

“People with a positive COVID test still come to the Airport to board, I don’t know for whatever reason; They know with this they can’t travel but they still bring it but they are definitely not allowed to travel”.

The Shin-Aba stressed that on a daily basis, FAAN personnel ensures compliance of passengers to the Covid protocols by enforcing the use of facemask, sanitizers are always available, adding that with the Omicron variant the spread needs to be stopped by all means.

Speaking on facilities at the airport, Shin-Aba, noted that the era of power outage was now a thing of the past as heavy duty generators have been purchased and installed including Universal Power Systems (UPS) to sustain power before the generators are switched on.

In addition, She revealed that recently, scanning machines were installed on both sides of the screening points at both the arrival and departure side of the airport.

She expressed delight that passenger traffic had increased tremendously since last week and that the current facilities at the terminal were being overstretched as a result of long usage.

She however expressed the hope that it would soon be over when the new terminal was inaugurated.

“The terminal was built for the capacity of two million passengers but as we talk, we have ten million passengers. Definitely, it is well over stretched and we still do our best for passengers comfort but the challenge is the cooling system but we are still working on them”.

Senegal's new commuter train makes first journey from capital Dakar - REUTERS

DECEMBER 27, 2021

By Diadie Ba

DAKAR, Dec 27 (Reuters) - A new $1.3 billion commuter railway in Senegal meant to ease traffic gridlock and modernise a crumbling public transport system made its inaugural journey from the capital Dakar on Monday.

The Regional Express will connect Dakar with Diamniadio, an industrial city being built on a dusty plain about 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.

The first new railway since independence from France in 1960 is a cornerstone of President Macky Sall's Senegal Emergent plan, which includes a new airport, roads, sports arenas and a sleek conference centre.

The projects have burnished Senegal's image as one of Africa's fastest-growing economies. And the air-conditioned trains are expected to reduce pollution in Dakar, where banged-up old buses and taxis hurl clouds of black smoke as they inch towards the capital each morning.

"Senegalese people deserve to travel in comfort and safety, while controlling their time, with a mass transport system that meets the best international standards," the government said in a statement on Monday.

The 45-minute ride with built-in Wi-Fi will cost nearly $3 in a country where half the population lives in poverty, though shorter trips will be cheaper.

About 115,000 passengers are expected to commute daily on the train between Dakar and Diamniadio, the government said. Further extensions will connect the main airport and eventually other cities and towns in the coming years.

Reporting by Diadie Ba and Edward McAllister; Editing by Richard Chang

CDC shortens recommended Covid-19 isolation and quarantine time - CNN

DECEMBER 27, 2021

By Maggie Fox, CNN

(CNN)The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday shortened the recommended times that people should isolate when they've tested positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they don't have symptoms -- and if they wear a mask around others for at least five more days.

The CDC also shortened the recommended time for people to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus to a similar five days if they are vaccinated and often to no time if they are boosted.
"Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, CDC is shortening the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others," the CDC said in a statement.

    "The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others."

      Quarantine refers to the time people stay away from others if they are exposed to a disease but not yet testing positive or showing symptoms.
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        CDC changed those recommendations, too. "For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days," it said.
        "Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19."

        This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

        Flight Cancellations Persist During U.S. Snow Storms, Covid Surge - BLOOMBERG

        DECEMBER 27, 2021

        (Bloomberg) -- Flight cancellations that disrupted U.S. travel over the Christmas weekend stretched into Monday, with winter storms further pressuring carriers that were already short-staffed because of spreading Covid-19 cases.

        More than 1,000 U.S. flights were canceled Monday as of 1 p.m. New York time, after more than 2,800 were dropped over the weekend, according to data from FlightAware.com. One of the hardest-hit carriers was Alaska Air Group Inc., whose operations at its main base at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were affected by snowfall and some of the region’s coldest temperatures in years.

        An omicron-fueled wave of Covid cases remains a concern, weighing on airline shares. United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it canceled about 2.9% of its scheduled flights Monday due to omicron-related staffing issues. Airlines have taken various steps to prevent infections among their crews, including a vaccine mandate at United and a monthly surcharge for unvaccinated employees at Delta Air Lines Inc. Major airlines have said most of their employees have been vaccinated.

        Anthony Fauci, a top medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said earlier that a domestic-travel vaccination rule should be considered to curb the spread of the virus on airplanes. Studies have shown that people who get three doses of certain Covid-19 vaccines have protection against omicron, although breakthrough infections are becoming increasingly common. The Airlines for America lobby group said it’s been told that such a mandate isn’t coming in the near term.

        American Airlines Group Inc. scrapped 2% of flights on Monday according to FlightAware and said it had “nothing new to share” on cancellations. Delta’s cancellation rate was also 2%. The airline didn’t immediately respond to requests for information. Southwest Airlines Co. said it had 50 cancellations out of 3,600 flights scheduled for Monday, and none were due to Covid-19.

        Sun Country Airlines Holdings Inc. canceled all of its domestic flights before 8 a.m. Central Time on Monday because of a “temporary third-party network system outage” that required it to temporarily switch to manually processes. While the issue was resolved by midday, Sun Country said it expected delays across its system on Monday.

        At Alaska Airlines, 137 flights had been canceled Monday, or about 20% of the carrier’s schedule, according to FlightAware; the carrier grounded 196 flights on Sunday.

        SkyWest Inc., which operates regional flights for United, Delta, American and Alaska, canceled 259, or 11%, of its flights Monday and an additional 12% were delayed, according to FlightAware data.

        The airline is “working to recover after weather impacting several hubs, as well as increased COVID cases and quarantines amongst crewmembers, have resulted in higher than normal flight cancels through the weekend and today,” St. George, Utah-based SkyWest said in a statement.

        U.K. Rules Out Tighter Covid Restrictions Before New Year - BLOOMBERG

        DECEMBER 27, 2021

        (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government won’t introduce stricter Covid-19 restrictions in England before the end of the year despite the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

        Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he’s monitoring the latest data and urged people to be careful, particularly at New Year celebrations. 

        His comments came as the U.K. reported 98,515 new coronavirus cases on Monday. While that’s the first reading below 100,000 in almost a week, the figures have been affected by spotty data over the Christmas holidays.

        “We don’t think there’s any need for any further measures until the New Year, but we will keep that under review,” Javid said in comments broadcast on Sky News on Monday. “We’ll watch the situation very carefully, and should in the future we need to act, we won’t hesitate to do so.”

        The worry is that the health service gets overwhelmed by the explosion in Covid cases driven by the highly-transmissable omicron strain. Infections have jumped by more than a quarter of a million in the past week, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to respond. 

        The U.K.’s devolved administrations have already toughened their rules, with changes coming into effect Monday in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

        While many experts say Johnson needs to do more in England, he’s facing backlash within his own party over curbs.

        “When we get into the new year, of course, we’ll see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing until then at least,” Javid said.

        New York City schools plan to reopen as scheduled on Jan. 3 despite rise in cases citywide - CNN

        DECEMBER 28, 2021

        New York City public schools, the largest public school system in the country, will reopen as planned on Jan. 3 following a winter recess, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday. 

        The city is revamping its Covid-19 testing policies in an attempt to keep more students in school during the latest surge, de Blasio said. 

        Schools will be provided at-home testing kits for classrooms when a student has tested positive, and students will take two tests per day over seven days, he said. With this new policy, any student who doesn’t have symptoms and tests negative after one day of two rapid tests will return to school the next day, he continued.  

        The previous policy mandated that fully vaccinated students identified as close contacts did not have to quarantine if they were symptom-free and tested, but unvaccinated students had to quarantine for 10 days or test out.

        While he emphasized that New York City schools are some of the safest places in the city, the city will adjust its testing process to catch cases sooner and keep more students in school. 

        The city will also double the amount of PCR Covid-19 tests they do at schools per week and will include both vaccinated and unvaccinated students, de Blasio said.

        New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams joined Tuesday's news conference to show support for the adjusted school testing plan. 

        "We must reopen our city, and we can do that," Adams said. "And so, you and the governor and I are sending a clear message to New Yorkers, and to this entire country, that we are together to fight this real battle we have. Two clear messages we are saying, loud and clear. Your children are safer in school, the numbers speak for themselves. And we are united to make sure that they will continue to be safe."

        The announcement comes after Hochul said on Monday that two million testing kits, which contain two tests each, are going to New York City schools by Friday. An additional 3 to 3.5 million testing kits are expected to be sent to schools throughout the rest of the state, she said. 

        CNN's Elizabeth Stuart and Melanie Schuman contributed reporting.

        FG responding to passport supply to Embassy in Italy – NUNAI - VANGUARD

        DECEMBER 29, 2021

        NUNAI confirmed this in a video interview with journalists on Tuesday in Abuja, debunking recent media publication that over 1.5 million Nigerians are yet to be issued their passports.

        Frank David, Secretary of NUNAI, who described the recent report as a fallacy, said the total number of Nigerians in Italy are not up to a million.

        David said it is however impossible for over one million Nigerians supposedly living in Italy to be stranded for lack of passport.

        He noted that currently, there are 209,000 Nigerians in Italy, 180,000 are legally documented with 29,000 yet to be documented.

        David said that as much as NUNAI, the umbrella body of all Nigerian Associations in Italy will continue to appeal to the Federal Government for regular Supply of booklets, they also appreciate the intervention so far.

        “The publication by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) which claims that 1.5 million Nigerians in Italy are in need of passport booklets in Italy is a fallacy and we debunk such claims.

        “The population of Nigerians in Italy is not up to one million. And on the issue of passport, yes there are requests for people who need to renew their passports or get fresh passports.

        “But the mission has captured thousands of Nigerians who are having issues with passport in the past months and that is a great deal.

        “There was an intervention about three months ago, especially in my own city, Modena, we were able to capture about 250 people, we went to another city called Pesaro and we were able to capture 138 people.

        “We went to another city which I supervised and they were able to capture over 170 people. So, if you sum all these figures up you will get about a thousand.

        “Be that as it may, there are other cities that need to be covered and that is not to say that they are up to a million. I stand to debunk that any day, any time.

        “NUNAI as it were is the umbrella body of all Associations in Italy which NIDO should be part of, and NUNAI has been working with Embassies long before the existence of NIDO in Italy.

        “I wouldn’t want to speak more in favour or in criticism of NIDO because I do not know their modus of operandi and how they got their information.

        “NUNAI has been in the forefront of issues that concerns Nigerians in Italy, in terms of welfare, in term of documentation, we have been working assiduously in collaboration with Embassies,” David said.

        Mr Mike Oputteh, Welfare Officer of NUNAI,  also appreciated the federal government, the Nigerian Ambassador to Italy, Mfawa Abam, and the Immigration attache to the Mission for their response.

        Oputteh said that Amb. Abam and the Immigration Attaché to the mission have been working tirelessly to ensure the challenges of scarcity of passports is solved to ameliorate the plight of Nigerians living in Italy.

        “We are all aware of the challenges the Nigeria Immigration Service is experiencing, which is not only affecting Nigerians in Italy but even those living in Abuja.

        “The supply of booklets to Italy is not regular, but there are cases where the Embassy gets 1,000, gets 500, gets 2,000.

        “After we have made a passionate appeal to the two Ministers, the Comptroller General of Immigration, we have started getting supply.

        “Before the Christmas we got supply of about 1,500 because I work closely with the Immigration and they promised to give us more, they are talking of giving us 10,000 booklets to clear the backlog.

        “There is an improvement, and the Immigration and the Nigerian mission is working but more need to be done because Nigerians have to renew their passports and get new ones.

        “I am using this medium to continue to appeal to the Minister of Interior who have been supporting NUNAI, the Foreign Minister, the Comptroller General of Immigration to please continue to supply us booklets.

        “At least if we can be getting regular supply of 2,000 booklets monthly, it will help us clear backlog but for now, we do not have regular supply,” Oputteh said.


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