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U.K. Covid Cases at Highest Level as Immunity Wanes, Study Finds - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 06, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Covid-19 infections in England reached their highest level in March since the pandemic began, driven by the omicron subvariant BA.2 and waning immunity among older adults, according to a new study. 

The overall Covid prevalence rate more than doubled last month from February when infection rates were falling from the omicron-led January peak, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London found. Since then the emergence of BA.2 -- a more-transmissible version of omicron- has accelerated new infections and become the dominant strain in England, accounting for about 90% of the samples that tested positive. 

The higher infection rates may result in an increase in hospitalizations despite the higher levels of vaccination among the population, said Paul Elliott, director of the React program, and chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Imperial College London.

Rates of Covid-19 are growing among adults over 55 years driven by higher mobility and waning immunity given that they received their booster shots earlier compared to other age groups, the study said. 

The latest results are the 19th round of the React-1 study and will be the last as the program comes to an end at the same time the U.K. cuts back on free coronavirus tests.

The Imperial College researchers raised concerns that it will become more difficult to detect emerging variants as the government scales back testing.  

“There are a lot of variants out there and it’s looking at the patterns that helps to identify variants of concerns and make sure that people see what’s coming,” said Christl Donnelly, a professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial.

Debt of defunct Nigerian Airways may haunt new Nigeria Air - CH-AVIATION

APRIL 06, 2022

Former employees of defunct Nigeria Airways (WT, Lagos) are petitioning against the establishment of new national carrier Nigeria Air demanding NGN33 billion naira (USD79.3 million) in outstanding pension and severance payouts, reports New Telegraph.

Their reaction is in response to the recent public notice by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that Nigeria Air had applied for an Air Transport License (ATL) to operate scheduled and non-scheduled passenger and cargo services within and outside Nigeria. The NCAA invited any objections to be lodged within 28 days.

This followed the March 7 public notice by the Federal Aviation Ministry inviting bids for the establishment of the new national carrier, including 49% equity shareholding from a private sector consortium including an international airline and 46% shareholding from Nigerian financial and institutional investors. All responses to the Request For Proposals must be submitted before May 10, 2022.

The former Nigerian Airways employees who asked not to be named told New Telegraph that NGN33 billion of a NGN78 billion (USD187.6 million) federal government (FG) compensation pay-out was still outstanding.

They had lost faith in their union representatives to protect their interests. They accused leaders of the Aviation Unions Ground Alliance (AUGA) of having lost interest in pursuing their cause after having pocketed as commission most of a previous NGN45 billion (USD108.2 million) disbursement.

Consequently, the group planned to petition the NCAA not to issue Nigeria Air’s ATL until the FG had paid its dues.

“We are not against the setting up of Nigeria Air. What we are asking is that they should pay us what is left of what we are owed before a new national carrier comes on board,” a spokesman for the group said. “We would have left this to our unions to do, but they do not give updates on what is happening,” they added.

“We are demanding that workers of the liquidated airline who are still alive should be put on a pension scheme. The liquidation of Nigeria Airways was at the instance of the government. We believe that the leadership of our unions has been compromised,” they said.

Wholly-state owned, Nigeria Airways went out of business in 2004, plagued by mismanagement, corruption, overstaffing, and a poor safety record. At the time of its closure, the airline was USD528 million in debt. In its heydays in the early 1980s, it had operated a fleet of 30 aircraft, which had shrunk to three at the time of its closure.

The company had been founded in 1958 after the dissolution of West African Airways Corporation (WAAC). It was rebranded in 1971, with the Nigerian government holding 51% until 1961 when it boosted its shareholding in the company to 100%.

Why Multiple Slots For Foreign Airlines Pitches FG Against Domestic Carriers - DAILY TRUST

APRIL 07, 2022

Multiple designations for foreign airlines are pitching the federal government against domestic carriers, Daily Trust reports.

The issue of multiple designations for foreign airlines has been a recurring challenge in the aviation sector. Stakeholders are sharply divided over the propriety of allowing foreign airlines multiple entry points in Nigeria.

Over the years, many foreign airlines operating to Nigeria land in more than two destinations amid grumbling from domestic airlines which argue that such a decision is tantamount to killing the domestic market, more so when Nigerian carriers are unable to reciprocate in line with the principles of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs).

Daily Trust further reports that many foreign airlines in Nigeria operate into multiple airports in the country. The latest to expand its footprint in Nigeria is Qatar Airways which recently increased its frequency to Nigeria to 21 weekly flights, landing in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt.

Airline operators argue that if the foreign airlines had been restricted to one major airport, more opportunities would have been created for them in distributing the passengers.

Apart from Qatar Airways, several other airlines operate into multiple destinations in Nigeria. For instance, Emirates Airlines also operates 21 weekly frequencies to Nigeria – 14 to Lagos and seven to Abuja; Ethiopian Airlines operates to four destinations, Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Enugu; British Airways flies to Lagos and Abuja.

According to an analysis by the president of the Aviation Roundtable (ART), Dr Gabriel Olowo, Britain has 21 flights into Nigeria weekly. European Unions have 43 frequencies every week into Nigeria, while the Middle East has 56 flights weekly multiple entries into Nigeria.

Currently, Air Peace is the only domestic airline operating international flights, flying to Johannesburg, South Africa and Dubai, UAE. Azman also operates flights to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

>span class="s2">However, domestic airline owners under the aegis of AON insist the granting of multiple frequencies is a way of frittering away the resources of the country and putting pressure on the country’s foreign currency reserve as the foreign airlines would always require foreign exchange to repatriate the money made from ticket sales.

Recently, it was revealed that Nigeria is owing foreign airlines $283m. This was the money accrued from sales of tickets which the airlines want to repatriate.

But operators say the request for repatriation of funds would reduce if the federal government stops granting multiple designations for foreign carriers.

AON president, Alhaji Yunusa Abdulmunaf, said, “All the foreign airlines that come into Nigeria, every day the central bank governor cries about the amount of money being repatriated abroad. We are talking about the scarcity of foreign exchange in the country, but the foreign airlines are removing billions of dollars every year from this country, and airlines in Nigeri have been hassled with lots of requests on how to repatriate dollars into the system. Where am I going to get it from?

“Yet we are creating more avenues for these things to happen by giving multiple destinations to these foreign airlines. All the foreign airlines that come to this country, maybe about 20 or 30 of them, have not been able to employ more than 150,000 Nigerians.”

Daily Trust reports that Nigeria currently has BASAs with over 70 countries which gives their airlines the freedom to fly into Nigeria. The federal government, in return, designates many Nigerian airlines to fly to those countries. However, due to the weakness of Nigerian carriers, they are unable to reciprocate.

Twenty two years ago, the federal government signed an Open Skies Agreement with the United States, but no Nigerian carrier currently flies to the US, leaving the Nigeria-US route an exclusive market for the American carriers. Delta and United Airlines have recently expanded frequencies to Nigeria; which points to the fact that the Nigeria-US route is not only viable but profitable.

Experts say the issue is complicated as the federal government is not ready to waive the huge revenues in dollars being generated from foreign airlines notwithstanding the fact that it exposes the foreign airlines to domestic markets.

The minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who acknowledged that granting multiple frequencies to foreign airlines was against the Cabotage Act, however, argued that there were still opportunities for domestic airlines to distribute the passengers to the hinterlands.

Sirika said, “Nevertheless, there are prospects for domestic airlines as they have opportunities for improved domestic markets by distributing International passengers for connection with these airlines.

“The grant of multiple entry points to foreign airlines into Nigeria has been an issue of contention by the airline operators of Nigeria and experts in the aviation industry for quite a while.

“As we all know, a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) is between two countries and not between airlines. In a BASA, we have the sharing of frequencies and not the allocation of frequencies. We also have single entry and multiple entries into each other’s countries for passenger and cargo flights.

“Multiple entry points are granted to foreign airlines based on the nature of their BASAs. It expands the business and grows the economy of foreign airlines. It also generates revenue for the country as foreign airlines are able to land at different airports connecting different areas of the country to foreign countries thereby promoting commercial trade, tourism and friendly relations.”

In her intervention on the issue, president of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, said there was nothing wrong for a foreign airline to depart from more than two airports.

She said, “My advice to the local airlines is that they should be able to connect Nigerians from the neighbouring states down to the regional base of the foreign airlines. Like in Kano, the airlines should think of how to bring people from Bauchi, Maiduguri, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, etc.

“The local airlines need to go back to the drawing board and work with the international airlines to know their timing so that they can use that same timing to plan out movements from other states to Kano. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

However, while some experts say instead of granting foreign airlines access to many airports, they should be encouraged to partner with the domestic carriers to bring in passengers from other airports. Others asked the domestic airlines to brace up for the competition in line with the global aviation best practice.

But as the federal government appears unwilling to reverse or withdraw multiple frequencies to foreign airlines, it is not clear how the domestic airlines which have threatened a lawsuit hope to prosecute their case.

Until then, the issue of multiple entries/frequencies for foreign airlines will continue to dominate discussions in the aviation industry.

Emirates Airlines ready to partner with Nigeria to establish national carrier - NAN

APRIL 07, 2022

Emirates Airlines has made an offer to partner with Nigeria in its quest to establish a national carrier.

Mr James Odaudu, Special Assistant to Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, stated in Abuja on Monday that the President of Emirates Airlines, Mr Tim Clark made the offer during a panel discussion at Dubai Expo 2020.

The panel discussion held to discuss the future of aviation at the Dubai Expo 2020.

Clark said Emirates Airlines would be happy to help if assistance was requested of it in starting Nigeria’s national carrier.

He added that such assistance would elicit requests for clarification, mostly from the media and industry stakeholders in Nigeria.

Clark spoke in support of Sirika’s position that Nigeria had a compelling need to establish a national carrier, going by certain indices.

“Of course, Nigeria needs a national airline. There is an enormous business case for the national carrier. Nigerians are seeking to travel all over the world. Nigeria is a powerhouse in Africa.

“We are very interested in flying there because it is a rich nation in terms of demand for services,’’ Clark said.

Sirika said at the session that the offer by Emirates Airlines could not be anything other than an endorsement of the need, the zeal, and the process for the national carrier project.

He said Emirates Airlines’ move was also an expression of confidence of the international aviation community in the commitment by Nigeria to own its own airline.

He said the offer was an encouragement to the many bidders currently preparing their Public Private Partnership bids for Nigeria Air in response to the Request for Proposal advertised by Nigeria.

Sirika assured that the process for the acquisition of the Air Operator’s Certificate and the Air Transport License was well on course for the expected launch date of the national carrier that Nigerians would be proud of.

“As has been repeatedly stated, the whole process for the establishment of the national carrier and all the projects under government’s aviation roadmap has been guided by the principles of transparency and accountability.

“Boldly speaking, this will remain till the final delivery of the project,’’ the minister said.

Expo 2020 was a World Expo hosted by Dubai from Oct.1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.

It was originally scheduled for Oct. 20, 2020, to April 10, 2021. The organisers kept the name Expo 2020 for marketing and branding purposes in spite of its postponement because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why You Shouldn’t Patronise Ticket Racketeers, Give False Details - DAILY TRUST

APRIL 07, 2022

By Chris Agabi

Seven days after terrorists attacked a train on the Abuja-Kaduna route, killing at least nine passengers, injuring 25, with at least 21 still held in the terrorists’ den, there are indications that some of the passengers may never be tracked or traced.

This shows that the tickets they travelled on may have false details. This is possible because a lot of times passengers travel with tickets they did not directly purchase.

Also, ticket racketeers may off-take tickets so that they could sell to desperate passengers for a markup. It could also mean that some of the passengers might have used false mobile numbers while purchasing their tickets. This happens even on ticket counters where the machines accept any 11-digit number and print out the ticket for a passenger.

Most passengers accept the tickets without questions because their interest is just to board the train to their destinations.

However, in situations of emergency, like the last train attack, those passengers may never be traced, whether they are safe or unsafe.

In the extant case, some of the 62 whose numbers are non-existent may be home with their families or in the hands of the kidnappers, but it would be difficult to establish their positions and so they cannot be accounted for.

Meanwhile, the NRC MD, while giving details on status of 362 validated passengers on board, he said, “191 persons on the manifest are now confirmed safe and at their various homes (additional five persons confirmed safe); 46 phone numbers on the manifest are still either switched off or not reachable since Tuesday morning; 33 phone numbers on the manifest are ringing but still no response from the other ends; 22 persons are reported missing by their relatives and eight persons confirmed dead.”

He further said there were a total of 20 train crew members on board, five NRC staff, of which two were still missing, 10 janitors, three of them still missing, with one dead, and three caterers, with two still missing.

He assured that intensive track repair works were ongoing at the site to enable the recovery of the remaining coaches and locomotives.

New Int’l Terminal: Immigration Posts New Officers To MMIA - INDEPENDENT

APRIL 07, 2022

By Olusegun Koiki

LAGOS – The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has deployed additional officers to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos following the commissioning of the new international terminal at the airport.

A source close to the service confided in our correspondent during the week that the officers would be deployed to the new terminal, which is expected to boost passenger traffic by an additional 14 million.

The source hinted that the officers were presently going through intensive two weeks training at the cargo unit of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos Command for reorientation and would only be allowed to join their mates on the completion of the training.

Also, it was learnt that after the two weeks of training, the officers would be sent to understudy the various units of the command in order to acquaint themselves with the rudiments of the Command.

The source said: “You need certain skills to work at such a Command. So, the training is very important for them. The attitude of our officers to the travelling public is very necessary, yet you must convey the message you need to convey to them without compromise.

‘After the training, we will now make them to understudy the various units to be able to know what others do. Then, the officers will go back to class and ask questions based on their observations and on how they can get a better result.”

Besides, our correspondent gathered that the Federal Government on Tuesday carried out a simulation exercise for agencies that would function at the new international terminal, including the immigration officers.

At the simulation training, it was learnt that some of the gaps noticed in the system were noticed and itemised for correction.

It was also learnt that the command has keyed into the three major agenda of Mr. Isah Jere Idris, the Ag. Comptroller General of the Immigration, which includes security of borders, staff welfare and on-time international passport issuance to applicants.

Recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 commissioned the newly built international terminal in Lagos.

The facility was built on a landmass of approximately 56,000 square metres, with 66 check-in counters and has the capacity to process 14 million passengers annually.

The new terminal is equipped with censored conveyor belt, seven jet bridges, 10 ultra-modern cooling systems, heat extraction in the baggage hall, ample space for duty-free shops and banks, recreational areas for children, 22-room hotel for stop-overs among others.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, among others, attended the commissioning.

Foreign Airlines Told to Cut Passengers Into Covid-Hit Shanghai - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 07, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- International airlines have been told to ensure that flights into Shanghai are less than half full as part of the Chinese financial hub’s latest attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19, according to people familiar with the matter.

Non-Chinese carriers were instructed by Shanghai’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday to reduce passenger loads to a maximum of 40% starting April 11 until at least the end of the month, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. Capacity on foreign flights already has a ceiling of 75%.  

The Shanghai CDC didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Separately, the three airlines currently flying from Hong Kong to Shanghai -- Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong Airlines Ltd. and China Eastern Airlines Corp. -- have been directed to rotate on the route so that they each only fly into the city once every three weeks, a person with knowledge of the situation said. That change starts from Friday and will last for an indefinite period, the person said. A 50% cap on the number of passengers on those planes will remain in place.

Early on in Shanghai’s outbreak, China discussed diverting international flights away from Shanghai entirely to ease the pressure on quarantine hotels and isolation facilities. Chinese carriers subsequently diverted many international flights away from the city while most foreign airlines continued operating as normal.

Under its rigid Covid Zero policy, China isolates all positive virus cases in government-run facilities, as a way of halting the infection’s spread. Authorities are having to build and convert more facilities as the caseload climbs, with the city’s cavernous convention center being converted into a facility for more than 40,000 beds. It’s a tactic that worked well at the start of the pandemic in Wuhan, but is proving tougher in the face of the more contagious omicron variant and in a larger and more open metropolis like Shanghai. 

Why China Is Sticking With Its Covid Zero Strategy: QuickTake

The city of 25 million people has seen food shortages, protests and people go without non-Covid medical care in the 10 days since a lockdown started in the eastern half of the city and was later expanded to include the more populous western side. The outbreak has virtually paralyzed one of China’s most populous and recognizable cities, with businesses shuttered and factories of companies like Tesla Inc. halting production because of the curbs. 

Shanghai reported 19,982 local Covid cases on Wednesday, according to data released by the municipal government. While the tally is low globally, it is a record for China, which effectively eliminated the virus in 2020 and for the first half of 2021, before the omicron and delta strains snaked through its defenses, which include border curbs, mandatory quarantines and repeated mass testing. 

The strategy is leaving China and the territory of Hong Kong increasingly isolated as the rest of the world dismantles border restrictions and opens up. Hong Kong has recently eased some of its inbound travel and quarantine curbs amid pressure from the business community, but it remains shut off to non-residents.

Canada to ban Nigerians, others from buying homes - PUNCH

APRIL 07, 2022

BY  Kayode Oyero

Canada is set to ban Nigerians and other foreigners from buying homes for two years as prices of real estate properties soar in the North American country.

The measure will help the country provide billions of dollars to spur construction activity in an attempt to cool off a surging real-estate market, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

According to the international news platform, the ban would be contained in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget today, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the matter is private.

However, the foreign-buyer ban won’t apply to students, foreign workers or foreign citizens who are permanent residents of Canada, the source said.

The move signals that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is becoming more assertive about taming one of the developed world’s most expensive housing markets — and that the government is growing more concerned about the political backlash to inflation and the rising cost of housing.

Home prices in Canada have soared more than 50% over the past two years. The market saw a record monthly increase in February as buyers acted ahead of rate increases by the Bank of Canada, taking the benchmark price of a home to C$869,300 ($693,000).

Canada, one of the top destinations of Nigerians, has witnessed an upsurge of global immigrants of late including Nigerians in their 20s and 30s who relocated after the #EndSARS protests in October 2020.

The Canadian Government had also said it targets receiving 1.2 million immigrants from 2021 to 2023 in order to make up for a shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic Now Won’t Fly to Hong Kong Until September - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 08, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. won’t resume flights to Hong Kong until at least September, despite the Asian financial hub easing up on Covid-19 related rules for airlines and travelers.

Although a ban on inbound flights from nine countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., was lifted on April 1 after almost three months, major foreign carriers have not rushed to return. U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic is one of the first carriers from those regions to publicly state its position.

“To ensure operational readiness for our London Heathrow–Hong Kong passenger services, we have taken the careful decision to extend the pause in operations, with the intention to resume services from September 2022,” Virgin said in an emailed statement.

British Airways Plc has responded to customers on Twitter to say its flights to Hong Kong won’t return until at least May 28. United Airlines Holdings Inc. is only selling tickets for non-stop services between San Francisco and Hong Kong from the start of July. 

Further out, Qantas Airways Ltd. is selling tickets for Sydney-Hong Kong starting Oct. 30, according to a check of its online ticket sales availability.

Virgin suspended flights to and from Hong Kong in late December. The carrier has also paused its cargo-only flights.

Foreign carriers are also navigating route-ban rules that could see inbound flights suspended for a week if they carry three or more Covid-infected passengers to Hong Kong. Emirates has served six such bans this year -- its Dubai-Bangkok-Hong Kong service has been suspended for a total of 77 days on and off.

Blackout on Lagos International Airport road raises security concerns - THE GUARDIAN

APRIL 08, 2022

Perennial blackout on the major access road into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, has raised security concerns for both travellers and residents along the busy artery.

Without functional streetlights in the last couple of weeks, the access routes in and out of the flagship port of entry have been in pitch darkness with noticeable hideouts for criminals to waylay travellers.

The Guardian learnt that the recently built expressway has been without power from Oshodi and Iyana-Isolo axis inwards the airport in the last four weeks.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) which owns the airport and manages its appurtenances have regretted the blackout, blaming it on wiring issues and the high cost of alternative source of power given the erratic supplies by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

It will be recalled that the Wing D of the international facility also suffered hours of an embarrassing power outage at the weekend, which the Authority blamed on a windstorm, though that has since been restored.

But the “dark tunnel” of the Lagos Airport road is a different proposition for nearby residents. Olumide Akinfolami, a resident of Ajao Estate, said the pitch-darkness that envelops the corridor is unbefitting.

“I live close by and from my rooftop I could see the total darkness at nightfall. I think whoever is in charge should do better to end this embarrassment. Nowhere in the world, including in war-torn cities, do you see an international highway unlit at night. It suggests a country that has shut down.

“It is always a deserted road around midnight, except for occasional vehicles that will race pass. That is a security risk for any user and adjoining community. The Lagos State government should wade in to restore power immediately,” Akinfolami said.

Motorists and pedestrians are now freely attacked around the Apakun bridge, from as early as 7:30 pm till daybreak.

“You will be the most unfortunate should your vehicle break down anywhere from Iyana-Isolo to Hajj Camp Access Gate of the Airport,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel, who runs a shuttle service at the International Airport, said “power outage has made the airport environs most risky for all. The bad boys with machetes and firearms are more emboldened to operate all over Ladipo and down to 7&8 area. Even the police are afraid of them.

“They have their hideouts in the darkness, waiting for any vehicle that will slow down for potholes and rough patches. Sir, my advice for you is if you are so unlucky and your vehicle breaks down anywhere on the airport road at night, put on the hazard light and run for your life as fast as your legs can carry you. You will return to meet your vehicle stripped but your life will still be intact. It is that bad,” Gabriel said.

FAAN earlier apologised to passengers and other airport users that witnessed a temporary power outage at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, at about 23 hours on Friday.

The outage was as a result of the evening rain that came with very fierce winds and storms, which “affected one of our feeders, and consequently resulted in the temporary disruption of power supply at the D wing of the airport.”

The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, urged FAAN to put necessary measures in place to avert a repeat of the power outage.

The committee chairman said the parliament was not happy with the development, adding that a prime airport like the MMIA ought to have standby generators that are supposed to switch on automatically immediately after the public power source goes off.

General Manager of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, disclosed that the international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport has six 4.8 KVA generators serving as alternative power sources to the terminal and that they usually switch on automatically within five seconds whenever there is disruption from the national grid.

Rabiu also disclosed that the greatest challenge facing the authority is that some of the underground cables are damaged and need total replacements because they were laid over 40 years ago.

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