Travel News

Which countries have imposed fresh Covid rules on travellers from China? - afp

JANUARY 04, 2023

Around a dozen countries have slapped fresh travel regulations on travellers from China, as the world's most populous nation faces a surge in Covid cases following its decision to relax strict virus restrictions.

Here is a run-down of the countries that have imposed mandatory Covid tests and other rules on arrivals from China:

- United States -

As of January 5, the United States will require negative Covid tests taken within two days of departure -- or documentation proving passengers have recovered from the virus within the last 90 days -- for all entries from China.

Acceptable tests include "a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered and monitored by a telehealth service or a licensed provider", according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

The rules include those travelling from Hong Kong and Macau.

- European Union -

Starting January 5, all those arriving in France from China must present a negative PCR test result, or a rapid antigen test, that was taken less than 48 hours before their flight.

Italy and Spain have also imposed Covid test requirements.

European countries are set to meet this week to discuss a joint response to the issue, with incoming EU presidency holder Sweden saying it was "seeking a common policy for the entire EU when it comes to the introduction of possible entry restrictions".

- Australia

Australia is also requiring travellers from China -- including Hong Kong and Macau -- to provide a negative Covid-19 test before arrival, citing a "lack of comprehensive information" from Beijing about the outbreak.

- Canada -

Canada is asking travellers arriving from China to show a negative Covid test taken no more than two days before their departure.

- United Kingdom -

In rules that come into effect on January 5, all travellers to the UK from China must submit a negative test before boarding.

The UK government also said it would test "a sample of arrivals" to monitor for new variants.

- Israel -

Israel is requiring Covid tests on foreigners intending to travel from China, with a screening centre set up to test arrivals who volunteered.

- Japan -

Japan was one of the first countries to impose new rules on arrivals from China, requiring them to submit a negative Covid test.

Those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days at designated facilities and Tokyo will also cap flights coming from mainland China.

- South Korea -

South Korea has also taken steps to screen travellers from China, requiring them to provide a negative Covid test before and after arrival.

Travellers from Hong Kong and Macau are exempt from the rules.

- India -

India will require travellers from China and a spate of other Asian countries to provide a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of departure to the country.

- Morocco -

The north African nation of Morocco has taken some of the strictest measures, banning entry outright for all travellers from China.

The ban will take effect on January 3 and last until further notice, "in order to avoid a new wave of contaminations in Morocco and all its consequences", the country's foreign ministry said.


'Govt Must Impose Travel Restriction From China' - VANGUARD

JANUARY 04, 2023

The Youth Party has urged the Federal Government to immediately restrict travel from China in other to avoid another pandemic. The Party made this known in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ayodele Adio.

Mr. Adio noted that "although China is refusing to share accurate information on infections and deaths from the resurgence of Covid, it is estimated that at least 5,000 people are dying daily from the dreaded virus." He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to first restrict travel from China and take necessary steps to trace, isolate and test passengers from China in the last two weeks.

"About 13 countries have restricted travel from China to protect their citizens, and I wonder why the Federal Government is waiting for knowing the huge traffic between Nigeria and China," Mr. Adio said. "We must ensure we immediately impose travel restrictions from China and take the necessary steps to track passengers that have arrived in Nigeria from China in the last two weeks."

Additionally, the party noted that Nigeria's health system and economy cannot manage another pandemic and must do everything necessary to avoid a resurgence.

Why China's Covid wave is stirring fear - AFP

JANUARY 04, 2023

China is experiencing a huge Covid-19 surge after years of hardline containment restrictions were dismantled last month.

A growing number of countries are worried about a lack of data and transparency surrounding China's outbreak.

Here is why it is sparking concern:

- Unreliable data -

Beijing has admitted the scale of the outbreak has become "impossible" to track following the end of mandatory mass testing last month.

The National Health Commission has stopped publishing daily nationwide infection and death statistics.

That responsibility has been transferred to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will only publish figures once a month after China downgrades its management protocols for the disease on January 8.

China has only reported 15 Covid deaths since it began unwinding restrictions on December 7, shortly after which it narrowed the criteria by which deaths from the virus are recorded.

This has stoked concerns that the wave of infections is not being accurately reflected in official statistics.

Authorities admitted last week that the scale of data collected is "much smaller" than when mandatory mass PCR testing was in place.

CDC official Yin Wenwu said authorities are now compiling data from hospitals and local government surveys as well as emergency call volumes and fever medicine sales, which will "make up for deficiencies in our reporting".

Chinese hospitals and crematoriums are struggling with an influx of patients and bodies, with rural areas hit particularly hard.

Several countries including the United States, Australia and Canada last week said they were imposing testing restrictions on arrivals from China because of a lack of transparency on infection data.

- Piecemeal estimates -

Last month, a few local and regional authorities began sharing estimated daily infection totals as the scale of the outbreak remained unclear.

Health officials in the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang believed one million residents were being infected every day last week. The cities of Quzhou and Zhoushan said at least 30 percent of the population had contracted the virus.

The eastern coastal city of Qingdao also estimated around 500,000 new daily cases and the southern manufacturing centre of Dongguan forecast up to 300,000.

Officials in the island province of Hainan estimated Friday that the infection rate there had surpassed 50 percent.

But top health official Wu Zunyou said Thursday that the peak had passed in the cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Tianjin, with Guangdong province -- the country's most populous -- saying the same on Sunday.

Shanghai's top infectious diseases expert, Zhang Wenhong, has told state media the megacity may have entered its peak period on December 22, with an estimated 10 million residents having contracted Covid.

Leaked notes from a meeting of health officials last month revealed they believed 250 million people had been infected across China in the first 20 days of December.

Independent infection models paint a grim picture. University of Hong Kong researchers have estimated nearly one million Chinese may die this winter as a result of opening up.

And health risk analysis firm Airfinity forecast 11,000 deaths and 1.8 million infections per day, with a total of 1.7 million fatalities by the end of April.

- New variants? -

Many countries have cited concerns over potential new variants as a reason to screen Chinese arrivals for Covid.

But there is as yet no evidence of new strains emerging from the current wave.

Top CDC official Xu Wenbo said last month that China was developing a national genetic database of Covid samples derived from hospital surveillance that would help track mutations.

Chinese health experts have said in recent days that the Omicron subvariants BA.5.2 and BF.7 are most prevalent in Beijing, in response to public fears that the Delta variant may still be circulating.

They said Omicron also remained the most dominant strain in Shanghai.

In many Western nations, these strains have been overtaken by the more transmissible subvariants XBB and BQ, which are not yet dominant in China.

Beijing has submitted 384 Omicron samples in the past month to global online database GISAID, according to its website.

But the country's total number of submissions to the database, at 1,308, is dwarfed by those of other nations, including the United States, Britain, Cambodia and Senegal.

Recent samples from China "all closely resemble known globally circulating variants seen... between July and December", GISAID said Friday.

University of Hong Kong virologist Jin Dong-yan said on an independent podcast last month that people need not fear the risk of a deadlier new variant in China.

"Many places all over the world have experienced (large-scale infection) but a more deadly or pathogenic variant did not emerge afterwards," said Jin.

"I'm not saying that the emergence of a (more deadly) strain is completely impossible, but the possibility is very small."

Flight Delays to Continue as Manila Airport Reels From Glitch - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 04, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines’ main airport will continue to have flight delays Tuesday as airlines reel from a technical glitch on New Year’s Day that stranded thousands of passengers and caused a backlog at the flag carrier that could take weeks to clear. 

Operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the capital region are expected to fully normalize Wednesday or Thursday, said Bryan Co, senior assistant general manager at the agency that manages the gateway. There will be no more cancelled flights but delays are expected, he told CNN Philippines Tuesday.

A power supply problem caused the Manila airport’s traffic management system to go offline for several hours on Sunday, which Co said disrupted holiday travel plans of more than 65,000 passengers. The Department of Transportation has launched a probe and senators are also planning an investigation.

Philippines Restores Air Traffic Control After Power Outage

Philippine Airlines Inc. will likely clear the backlog caused by the glitch “in a few weeks,” spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said in a separate CNN Philippines interview, adding that the national carrier has deployed bigger planes and additional flights to normalize operations. Cebu Air Inc. is also working on the recovery of its network, the airline said in a Facebook post Monday.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which runs and maintains air navigation facilities, is coordinating with airlines to ensure safety of passengers. “All procedures are in place, including for contingency, so we will be ready to respond just in case it happens again,” Edgardo Diaz, deputy director at the aviation authority said separately on state television.

The agency is prepared to answer questions from lawmakers when they conduct an inquiry into the incident, Diaz said.

PLDT Inc. Chairman Manuel Pangilinan was among those affected by the New Year’s Day delays, tweeting that he had to return to Haneda airport in Japan from a Manila-bound flight with radar and navigation facilities down in the Philippine airport. “6 hours of useless flying but inconvenience to travelers and losses to tourism and business are horrendous,” he tweeted Jan. 1. In a tweet the following day, Pangilinan said his companies are “happy to participate” in improving connectivities and power supply at the airport.

Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista on Dec. 28 said the government plans to start accepting proposals this year to develop the more than 70-year-old airport, with the terms for its privatization likely ready in the first quarter.

--With assistance from Ditas Lopez.

(Updates with comments from airport official from fifth paragraph.)

China slams 'unacceptable' Covid curbs on travellers from its territory - AFP

JANUARY 04, 2023

China called the mounting international restrictions on travellers from its territory "unacceptable" on Tuesday after over a dozen countries placed fresh Covid curbs on visitors from the world's most populous nation.

The United States, Canada, Japan and France are among the countries insisting all travellers from China provide negative Covid tests before arrival, as concerns grow over a surge in cases.

China's steep rise in infections comes after Beijing abruptly lifted years of hardline restrictions last month, with hospitals and crematoriums quickly overwhelmed.

But Beijing has pushed ahead with a long-awaited re-opening, last week announcing an end to mandatory quarantines on arrival in a move that prompted  Chinese people to plan trips abroad.

"Some countries have taken entry restrictions targeting only Chinese travellers," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing.

"This lacks scientific basis and some practices are unacceptable," she added, warning China could "take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity".

Asked about China's reaction, France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne defended the new rules.

"I think we're performing our duty in asking for tests," Borne told franceinfo radio.

"We will continue to do it."

The rules imposed affect all travellers coming from China -- not just Chinese nationals -- while Beijing continues to restrict inbound visitors and not issue visas for tourists or international students.

Countries including the United States have also cited Beijing's lack of transparency around infection data and the risk of new variants as a reason to restrict travellers.

China has only recorded 22 Covid deaths since December and has dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such deaths -- meaning that Beijing's own statistics about the unprecedented wave are now widely seen as not reflecting reality.

Visa denial: Canadian college withholds Nigerian applicant’s fees - PUNCH

JANUARY 05, 2023

By Adekunle Sulaimon

A Canadian college, George Brown, has withheld the part payment of school fees paid by a Nigeria applicant, Miss Precious Ademokun, who got denied a study visa by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Ademokun who spoke with the CBC News said she had received her admission into a programme at George Brown College in April and paid CAD8,867 for the first semester fees out of the total of CAD16,872 for both semesters, before applying for a student visa on July 4, adding, “I was told the visa application process could take six to eight weeks.”

The 19-year-old lady maintained that after months of waiting in Nigeria for her study permit application to be processed, she was denied a student visa — and the Toronto college she applied to won’t refund her money.

“I’m very disappointed and sad,” Ademokun told CBC Toronto.

Car Owners Strain as More Loan Payments Soar to $1,000 a Month - BLOOMBERG

JANUARY 05, 2023

(Bloomberg) -- The percentage of US consumers paying at least $1,000 a month for their cars soared to a record, adding to concerns that borrowers may be getting in over their heads.

Almost 16% of consumers who financed a new car in the fourth quarter have monthly payments reaching that level, up from 10.5% a year earlier, according to data collected by Edmunds.com Inc., a provider of data on the automotive industry. The share of auto owners paying that much was just 6.7% in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Used-car prices have been softening over the past few months, and banks are warning of trouble ahead in auto loans — a potential wave of missed loan payments, followed by repossessions — should consumers owe more than their cars are worth. In the meantime, auto debt continues to climb and the average new-car price has soared to a record of almost $50,000.

Wall Street is holding its breath as the threat of a recession looms, which has the potential to hurt both borrowers and lenders. Outstanding US auto loans rose to $1.52 trillion in the third quarter of 2022, up from $1.44 trillion a year earlier, while remaining slightly lower than student-loan debt and far below mortgage debt, which totaled almost $11.7 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The pandemic was a boom time for the sale of both used and new cars, “but as we shifted toward an environment with diminished used-car values and rising interest rates over the past few months, consumers have become less insulated from those riskier loan decisions, and we are only seeing the tip of the negative-equity iceberg,” Ivan Drury, director of insights at Edmunds, said in a statement. 

The average annual percentage rate for new vehicles rose to 6.5% in the fourth quarter from 5.7% in the previous three months and 4.1% a year earlier, according to Edmunds. That’s prompting some shoppers to have second thoughts about pre-ordered vehicles and increasing the number of vehicles sitting in showrooms. 

“For the first time in a year and a half to two years, customers are backing out of some pre-sold vehicles and there are cars hitting the lot that aren’t pre-sold,” David Christ, head of Toyota Motor Corp. brand sales in the US, said in an interview, citing higher borrowing costs. “Interest rates for new cars have gone up significantly.”

Auto buyers are more vulnerable than many other borrowers to falling victim to predatory lending practices. On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James and the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Credit Acceptance Corp., accusing the subprime auto lender of luring thousands of low-income individuals into unaffordable high-interest car loans. The company said in a statement that “the complaint is without merit” and it will “vigorously defend ourselves in this matter.”

Mark Cohen, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied bias in the auto-lending industry, said he’s less concerned about $1,000 car-loan payments and more worried about the type of borrower taking on debt with such obligations.

“The $1,000-a-month payment is not necessarily a problem by itself,” he said in an email. “What matters is who is paying that amount. For the median household currently earning about $70,000 annually, that would be roughly 17% of their monthly income,” while the “typical payment-to-income ratio is closer to the 4%-to-6% range for most car buyers.”

FG advises undocumented Nigerians to vacate Equatorial Guinea immediately - THE SUN

JANUARY 06, 2023

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Federal Government has undocumented Nigerians resident in Equatorial Guinea  and unable to renew their permit to vacate immediately in adherence to the advisory issued by the government of that country and avoid sanction.

The Management of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), said the advisory became necessary following a letter from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the subject matter.

In a statement by Head, Media, Public Relations and Protocols Unit, NiDCOM, Abuja, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, “a report by the Government of Equatorial Guinea on October 17, 2022 was issued, advising undocumented foreigners in their country to leave voluntarily or face government sanction.

“According to the report, this is aimed at curbing elements of sabotage and creating stability in the country of Equatorial Guinea.

“The letter also stated that obtaining one or two-year residence permit by foreigners goes between $410 and $620.

“As a Commission committed to the welfare of its citizens, we advise that Nigerians in Equatorial Guinea should renew their permit if possible, or apply to come back home to Nigeria, if undocumented, to avoid sanctions by the Government of Equatorial Guinea.”

Immigration levels to Canada hit record high in 2022 - YAHOO FINANCE

JANUARY 07, 2023

Canada has settled more than 800,000 newcomers in the last two years

Canada accepted a record number of immigrants in 2022, as the federal government seeks to fill ongoing labour shortages with newcomers.

The federal government settled 431,645 new permanent residents in 2022, more than the previous record set in 2021 of 405,000.

"Newcomers play an essential role in filling labour shortages, bringing new perspectives and talents to our communities, and enriching our society as a whole," Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"I am excited to see what the future holds and look forward to another historic year in 2023 as we continue to welcome newcomers."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has set out a plan for immigration to fill labour shortages in key sectors, including healthcare, skilled trades, manufacturing and technology. Ottawa unveiled its new immigration targets in November, saying it plans to welcome 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025.

The government says immigration accounts for nearly 100 per cent of Canada's labour force growth. More than half of Canada's new permanent residents are admitted under the economic category, which takes into account the ability to meet labour market needs or create economic opportunity by owning, operating or investing in a business.

"Immigration is even more critical to the labour market than ever before," said Statistics Canada in a report about the country's immigration levels that was released in November.

"Recent immigrants, whose age structure is younger than the general population, constitute a pool of workers who can help mitigate the impacts of labour shortages in a number of sectors and regions across the country."

Immigration is also a key driver of the country's population growth, with approximately 75 per cent of growth coming from immigration, mostly in the economic category.

In the first nine months of 2022, Canada's population grew by 776,217, according to Statistics Canada, surpassing total growth for any full-year period since Confederation in 1867. The data agency says the high level of growth was mostly due to international migration, which pushed Canada's population over 39 million for the first time. The government has said that by 2032, immigration is projected to account for 100 per cent of the country's population growth.

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

FG condemns kidnapping of train passengers in Edo - THE GUARDIAN

JANUARY 08, 2023

The Federal Government has described the kidnapping of train passengers at Tom Ikimi Train Station, Igueben in Edo as despicable and utterly barbaric.

The Director of Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Transportation, Mr Henshaw Ogubike, said this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.

”The Public is hereby reassured that the security agencies are making efforts to rescue the kidnapped train passengers.
”The Nigeria Police is on the trail of the criminals and have mobilised with a view to protecting the lives and property of the remaining passengers.

”The government is saddened by this unpleasant development and assures on its prompt response to the ugly situation.
”Further details will be communicated later, ” Ogubike stated.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some suspected herdsmen allegedly armed with AK 47 riffles attacked the train station at Igueben on Jan. 7 and kidnapped some passengers waiting to board the train to Warri.


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