Oil marketers begin establishment of autogas conversion centres in filling stations - PUNCH
BY Okechukwu Nnodim
Oil marketers have commenced the establishment of autogas conversion centres in their filling stations following moves by the Federal Government to begin the use of autogas in vehicles in 12 pilot states this year.
Operators in the downstream oil sector under the aegis of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria stated that the use of autogas in vehicles would reduce the demand pressure on Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol.
They told our correspondent on Wednesday that this was another reason why many marketers decided to start creating conversion centres in their respective filling stations and to further boost the autogas consumption drive of the Federal Government.
Sunday PUNCH had exclusively reported that the Federal Government had selected 12 states for the pilot phase of the conversation of vehicles using petrol and diesel to enable them to run on Liquefied Petroleum Gas, also known as autogas.
The Programme Manager, National Liquefied Petroleum Gas Expansion Implementation Plan, Dayo Adeshina, had explained that the LPG component in the autogas initiative would be implemented in the 12 states.
Adeshina had told our correspondent that the 12 states were Lagos, Ogun, Bauchi, Gombe, FCT, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta and Bayelsa.
The National LPG Expansion Implementation Plan is domiciled in the Office of the Vice President and has been making moves to ensure the usage of gas both for cooking, in automobiles and for other purposes.
Reacting to the moves by government, the National Public Relations Officer, IPMAN, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, stated that the programme was in the right direction and was achievable because industry operators were ready to run with it.
He said, “The entire world is almost moving towards the use of gas because it is more environmentally friendly than petrol or diesel. So it is pertinent that Nigeria should key in because in the western world, gas-powered vehicles are more on the streets.
“So the Federal Government should put up an enabling environment that would ensure that Nigerians will adopt the use of LPG and Compressed Natural Gas in vehicles.
Covid Self-Isolation Period Slashed To Five Days, Announces Sajid Javid - HUFFINGTONPOST
Health secretary says new rule in England will come into force from Monday.
Health secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the self-isolation period following a positive Covid test will be cut from seven to five days.
From Monday, people in England will only have to self-isolate for five full days, but will have to take two negative tests before they leave isolation at the start of day six.
The health secretary said the decision had been made following data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) which showed that around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of day five.
UK announces temporary suspension of walk-in service in Nigeria - PUNCH
BY Noah Banjo
The United Kingdom Mission in Nigeria has announced a temporary suspension of the Flexi Appointment, known as the walk-in service, at its Visa Application Centres.
In a statement on Monday, the mission noted that the move was to ensure the safety of its customers who stand outside the VAC.
The Mission added that visa applicants will not be attended to should they appear before their appointment date.
The statement read in part, “To protect the safety of customers waiting outside of our Visa Application Centres, the Flexi Appointment (walk-in) service has been temporarily suspended. You will not be able to book one of these appointments online or by turning up at the VAC. If you have already paid for this service (before 10 January) then you can still benefit from this.
“You should not attend the VAC until it is your allocated appointment time, or you have been contacted by TLS to collect your passport. Visa customers who turn up at the VAC significantly before their appointment will be asked to leave and return at the correct date and time.”
The UK Mission, however, stated that there would be exceptions for serious cases such as health emergencies, which would be on a case by case basis.
The statement added that applications for student visas are being processed within the normal time frame.
“Where there are extremely compassionate or compelling circumstances (for example, a medical emergency), UKVI may consider expediting specific cases. However, the bar for this is high and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“We are aware that large numbers of prospective students are queuing outside of the Visa Application Centre to try and secure a visa appointment. Student applications are being processed within the customer service standard of 15 working days,”the statement added.
France Eases U.K. Border Restrictions for Vaccinated People - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. travelers will no longer need an essential reason to enter France from Friday as long as they are vaccinated, the French government said.
France is also lifting the requirement to self-isolate for people who have had the Covid vaccine, according to a statement from Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office on Thursday. All travelers will need a negative test less than 24 hours old.
The French government said the travel restrictions were no longer needed given the omicron variant was now widespread in both countries.
The rules remain unchanged for non-vaccinated people.
Sadiq Khan: London mayor calls for temporary visa scheme for construction workers - EVENING STANDARD
The Government is being urged to create a temporary visa scheme for construction workers to tackle the double impact of Brexit and the pandemic on the building industry.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is proposing that ministers create a Coronavirus Recovery Visa of at least a year, to help sectors struggling with shortages of workers, including construction.
The mayor is also calling for a regional shortage occupation list that allows London and other cities to attract and retain staff in sectors with acute staff shortages.
Before Brexit, the capital was dependent on migrant building workers, with more than half the workforce being from the EU and beyond, said the mayor.
He added that official figures show the number of construction workers in the capital from the EU fell 54% in the three years to April 2020.
Mr Khan said: “Tackling London’s housing crisis has always been one of my top priorities since becoming mayor.
“We’ve worked tirelessly over the last five years to get London building again, and the construction sector forms a key part of London’s Covid recovery plan.
“However, both our recovery and efforts to deliver the genuinely affordable homes Londoners desperately need could now be put at risk if there isn’t the skilled workforce available to build them.
“The Government must look beyond their current blinkered approach to immigration and recognise the impending crisis that is already enveloping one of our most vital industries.
“Training our own people to take on jobs in the construction sector is an admirable aim and one we’re working hard to meet, but in the meantime we need skilled tradespeople on site now to manage the short-term crisis and build a strong recovery.”
Whisky for visas: India, UK start post-Brexit trade talks - AFP
Britain and India began hammering out a post-Brexit trade deal on Thursday, with London seeking a cut in tariffs on Scotch whisky and greater access to the Asian giant's services and tech sectors.
New Delhi, which is notoriously reticent about lowering trade barriers and was dubbed the "tariff king" by former US president Donald Trump, wants in return to make it easier and cheaper for Indians to obtain British visas.
A joint statement after Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and British Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan formally launched the talks in Delhi reiterated a target of doubling bilateral trade volumes by 2030.
"Both sides have agreed that we will focus initially on areas which are of mutual benefit and where there is less disagreement, and for which we have set a very aggressive timeline of next few months," Goyal told reporters.
"We feel confident that there is so much complementarity between the two economies that we should easily be able to come up with a very substantive agreement in the initial phase... I think we are committed to concluding this negotiation in about a year's time," he said.
"The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
"We are seizing the opportunities offered in growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home," he said.
Britain has struck trade deals with Japan, New Zealand and Australia as it attempts to compensate for falling trade volumes with the European Union since it left the bloc in January 2020.
The total volume of trade at stake in a deal between Britain and India is small fry, however, equivalent to about three percent of London's total volume of commerce with the EU, Bloomberg News reported.
New Delhi's push to ease the granting of UK visas for Indian nationals may also fall foul with Brexit supporters who were keen to cut immigration.
Conservative lawmaker Edward Leigh told parliament last week that "working-class voters who voted Brexit did not vote to replace immigration from Europe with more immigration from the rest of the world".
Asylum seekers can work in care homes after Priti Patel rule change - TELEGRAPH
BY Charles Hymas
Asylum seekers who have waited more than a year for a decision can now work to help ease the care home recruitment crisis under a rule change sanctioned by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.
Up to 32,000 asylum seekers who have been waiting more than 12 months are eligible for jobs as care workers after they were added to the Government’s shortage occupation list. They are only permitted to work if they are in a shortage profession and have spent more than a year waiting.
Industry chiefs and government advisers said the asylum seekers could play a vital part in plugging gaps in the hard-pressed care sector where there are an estimated 140,000 vacancies, accounting for 10 per cent of the workforce.
Although the Government’s rule change is ostensibly designed to enable the sector to recruit foreign workers, many of the vacant care jobs are not eligible for the necessary visas because they fall below the minimum salary allowed of £20,480.
Asylum seekers do not require visas as they are already in the UK and, unlike other shortage occupations like butchers, welders and laboratory technicians, care workers do not require specialist training.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said it could have a major impact as social care facilities are under “huge pressure” with historic shortages of staff made worse by workers off sick with omicron or quarantining.
“We are in a space where we would welcome any opportunities to find new talent for social care. We have a real staff crisis,” he said.
The relaxation of visa rules for foreign workers was helpful but many would have to be paid more for the same job than staff in post for as long as five years, he added. “That’s going to cause major problems. I don’t think the Government has understood the level of funding,” he said.
Using asylum seekers to tackle labour shortages has been urged by the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which recommended ministers should go further and allow them to enter the jobs market after six months, rather than 12 months.
The MAC said it not only had an economic benefit but there was also evidence it had a “large positive impact” on asylum seekers’ long-term job prospects, if their applications were successful, and helped them integrate better into British society.
‘Surrendering to immigration’
Last September, Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, said he would be “open-minded” about allowing asylum seekers to do jobs which helps tackle the UK’s labour shortages.
Rob McNeil, deputy director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, said that until now the shortage occupation list was “close to meaningless” for asylum seekers as it focused on specific qualifications such as graphics programmers or technicians for nuclear power stations.
“Care work is a different proposition because although it is difficult work, it requires little specialist training, so it is accessible for more people,” he said. “It’s not possible to say at this stage how many people might take up this option, but it’s certainly possible that, at least for some asylum seekers who have waited without a decision for over a year, this development will widen the options for work.”
Tom Pursglove, an immigration minister, said: “The changes announced in regards to the care sector are a temporary measure to help the sector respond to unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic. Eligible asylum seekers must apply to the Home Office for permission to work in an occupation with shortages.”
Ben Greening, executive director of Migration Watch, said: “Instead of surrendering yet again to the immigration lobby, the Government should have ensured higher pay and better terms for care workers. It should have made these jobs more attractive, including for UK jobseekers. Instead, it has thrown this opportunity away.”
Omicron Ban: Nigerian Government Seeks End To Travel Restrictions To Saudi Arabia - SAHARA REPORTERS
As part of measures towards the removal of travel restrictions placed on Nigerians intending to visit Saudi Arabia, the Nigerian Government has written to Faisal Al-Ghamdi, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Nigeria.
In a statement on Saturday, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, appealed to the Saudi authorities to review the travel restrictions it placed on Nigerians over the Omicron outbreak.
SaharaReporters had reported last year that citing the increasing cases of Omicron, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suspended flights from Nigeria.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation in Saudi Arabia had confirmed the flight suspension in a circular to all airlines operating in the kingdom.
The minister noted that many countries which had earlier placed bans on Nigeria had since reversed their positions having studied the achievements of Nigeria in containing the Pandemic.
“Although Nigeria has understood fully the reason for the ban by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was for the best interest of its citizens.
“But that the steps taken so far by Nigeria Authorities to curtail the spread of the Omicron variant have made it possible for many countries to consider Nigeria as safe, removing Nigeria from the blacklisted countries,” Dada stated.
He also said a cordial relationship existed for years and continued to exist between the two countries.
While expressing optimism for a timely response to Nigeria’s request from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mr Dada pledged to continue to give every necessary support and cooperation to the ambassador.
Al-Ghamdi in his response expressed satisfaction with the effort of the Nigerian Government in containing the spread of Omicron, promising to convey Nigeria’s message to the relevant Authorities back home in Saudi Arabia.
He stated that just like in Nigeria where there were bodies in charge of monitoring and the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia also had similar agencies responsible for monitoring and controlling the pandemic.
Ethiopian Airlines Cargo Introduces Online Booking Platform - THISDAY
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services has launched a new feature that enables customers to make online reservations for their cargo.
The platform enables customers check flight schedules, space availability, loadability of freight and make real-time booking of their shipment in single and convenient way.
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services said it is rolling out the online booking following the introduction of the mobile application to heighten its customer’s experience.
The Mobile App, which is available for Android and IOS, brings convenience to customers with a real-time update through a range of self-service features.
On the Mobile App, customers can check flight schedule, submit enquiry, receive notifications when the shipment is ready, book charter flights, and track shipments.
Ethiopian provides its customers with fully automated cargo service using the latest technologies for data, information and market intelligence with 100% e-AWB from its main hub in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopian Airlines has transformed its cargo operations and provides fully automated cargo service with one of the latest Cargo IT systems by adopting the latest aviation systems and technologies.
Why Cuba’s extraordinary Covid vaccine success could provide the best hope for low-income countries - CNBC
- Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines to date, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba has said provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when administered in three doses.
- The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid.
- The WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for low-income nations, John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via telephone.
Workers transport a shipment of the Cuban Soberana Plus vaccine against Covid-19, to be donated by the Cuban government to Syria, at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, on Jan. 7, 2022. YAMIL LAGE | AFP | Getty Images
Cuba has vaccinated a greater percentage of its population against Covid-19 than almost all of the world’s largest and richest nations. In fact, only the oil-rich United Arab Emirates boasts a stronger vaccination record.
The tiny Communist-run Caribbean island has achieved this milestone by producing its own Covid vaccine, even as it struggles to keep supermarket shelves stocked amid a decades-old U.S. trade embargo.
“It is an incredible feat,” Helen Yaffe, a Cuba expert and lecturer in economic and social history at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, told CNBC via telephone.
“Those of us who have studied biotech aren’t surprised in that sense, because it has not just come out of the blue. It is the product of a conscious government policy of state investment in the sector, in both public health and in medical science.”
To date, around 86% of the Cuban population has been fully vaccinated against Covid with three doses, and another 7% have been partly inoculated against the disease, according to official statistics compiled by Our World in Data.
These figures include children from the age of two, who began receiving the vaccine several months ago. The country’s health authorities are rolling out booster shots to the entire population this month in a bid to limit the spread of the highly transmissible omicron Covid variant.
I think it is clear that many countries and populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope for getting vaccinated by 2025. Helen Yaffe LECTURER IN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid.
“Just the sheer audacity of this tiny little country to produce its own vaccines and vaccinating 90% of its population is an extraordinary thing,” John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via telephone.
Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba says provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when three doses are administered.
Cuba’s vaccine clinical trial data has yet to undergo international scientific peer review, although the country has engaged in two virtual exchanges of information with the World Health Organization to initiate the Emergency Use Listing process for its vaccines.
Unlike U.S. pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna, which use mRNA technology, all of Cuba’s vaccines are subunit protein vaccines — like the Novavax vaccine. Crucially for low-income countries, they are cheap to produce, can be manufactured at scale and do not require deep freezing.
It has prompted international health officials to tout the shots as a potential source of hope for the “global south,” particularly as low vaccination rates persist. For instance, while around 70% of people in the European Union have been fully vaccinated, less than 10% of the African population have been fully vaccinated.
A street in Havana, Cuba, amid the Covid-19 pandemic on Oct. 2, 2021. Joaquin Hernandez | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
For this to hope to be realized, however, the WHO would likely have to approve Cuba’s vaccines. The WHO’s vetting process involves assessing the production facilities where the vaccines are developed, a point which Cuba’s health officials say has slowed progress.
Vicente Verez, head of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute, told Reuters last month that the U.N. health agency was assessing Cuba’s manufacturing facilities to a “first-world standard,” citing the costly process in upgrading theirs to that level.
Verez has said previously that the necessary documents and data would be submitted to the WHO in the first quarter of 2022. Approval from the WHO would be an important step in making the shots available throughout the world.
When asked what it would mean for low-income countries should the WHO approve Cuba’s Covid vaccines, Yaffe said: “I think it is clear that many countries and populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope for getting vaccinated by 2025.”
“And actually, it affects all of us because what we are seeing with the omicron variant is that what happens when vast populations have almost no coverage is that you have mutations and new variants developing and then they come back to haunt the advanced capitalist countries which have been hoarding vaccines,” she added.
Students, who are accompanied by their mother, are being vaccinated with a dose of the Soberana 2 vaccine against the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, developed in Cuba, at the Bolivar educational center in Caracas, Venezuela on December 13, 2021. Pedro Rances Mattey | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Kirk agreed that the WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for developing countries.
“One thing that is important to bear in mind is that the vaccines don’t require the ultra-low temperatures which Pfizer and Moderna need so there are places, in Africa in particular, where you don’t have the ability to store these global north vaccines,” Kirk said.
He also pointed out that Cuba, unlike other countries or pharmaceutical companies, had offered to engage in the transfer of technology to share its vaccine production expertise with low-income countries.
“The objective of Cuba is not to make a fast buck, unlike the multinational drug corporations, but rather to keep the planet healthy. So, yes making an honest profit but not an exorbitant profit as some of the multinationals would make,” Kirk said.
World Health Organization warns of Covid ‘tsunami’ from delta and omicron variants
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned last month that a “tsunami” of Covid cases driven by the omicron variant was “so huge and so quick” that it had overwhelmed health systems worldwide.
Tedros repeated his call for greater vaccine distribution to help low-income countries vaccinate their populations, with more than 100 countries on track to miss the U.N. health agency’s target for 70% of the world to be fully vaccinated by July.
The WHO said last year that the world was likely to have enough Covid vaccine doses in 2022 to fully inoculate the entire global adult population — provided that high-income countries did not hoard vaccines to use in booster programs.
Alongside pharmaceutical industry trade associations, a number of Western countries — such as Canada and the U.K. — are among those actively blocking a patent-waiver proposal designed to boost the global production of Covid vaccines.
The urgency of waiving certain intellectual property rights amid the pandemic has repeatedly been underscored by the WHO, health experts, civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders, international medical charities, Nobel laureates and human rights organizations.
An absence of vaccine hesitancy
The seven-day average of daily Covid cases in Cuba climbed to 2,063 as at Jan. 11, reflecting an almost 10-fold increase since the end of December as the omicron variant spreads.
This comes as the number of omicron Covid cases surges across countries and territories in the Americas region. The Pan American Health Organization, the WHO’s regional Americas office, has warned that a rise in cases may lead to an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks.
PAHO has called on countries to accelerate vaccination coverage to reduce Covid transmission and has repeated its recommendation of public health measures, such as tight-fitting masks — a mandatory requirement in Cuba.
Yaffe has long been confident in Cuba’s ability to boast one of the world’s strongest vaccination records. Speaking to CNBC in February last year — before the country had even developed a homegrown vaccine — she said she could “guarantee” that Cuba would be able to administer its domestically produced Covid vaccine extremely quickly.
“It wasn’t conjecture,” Yaffe said. “It was based on understanding their public health care system and the structure of it. So, the fact that they have what they call family doctor and nurse clinics in every neighborhood.”
Many of these clinics are based in rural and hard-to-reach areas and it means health authorities can quickly deliver vaccines to the island’s population.
“The other aspect is they don’t have a movement of vaccine hesitancy, which is something that we are seeing in many countries,” Yaffe said.