AMCON plans to operate Arik, NG Eagle side-by-side - CH-AVIATION
The state-owned Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) intends to retain Arik Air (W3, Lagos) alongside its new start-up NG Eagle (XGE, Lagos), at least until the end of 2021, according to Arik Air Receiver Manager, Kamilu Omokide.
He told THISDAY newspaper that AMCON had concluded plans to wet-lease three more aircraft for Arik Air, which has been in receivership with AMCON since 2017. “Currently we are doing very well with operational expenses.” He added: “Arik does not plan to get out of business. It will operate side-by-side with NG Eagle for a while. We have been able to access wet-leases and we have been able to run them very professionally. We have a plan to bring three more planes with the support of AMCON on wet lease, ACMI.”
He continued: “We cannot pull all of our aircraft from Arik. Arik will be sustained throughout this year. Arik has a very big space at its headquarters that can take in four airlines on a good arrangement where costs can be shared. It has good workers who are experienced and we have been training staff since AMCON took over, something that was rare in the past. Our pilots are some of the best in the industry,” he added.
AMCON spokesperson Jude Nwauzor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Omokide said AMCON had injected NGN375 billion naira (USD916 million) into Arik Air since it took it over in 2017 to rescue the business. The airline at the time had defaulted on loan repayments to the Nigerian government.
He said when AMCON took over, many of the aircraft in the Arik fleet had been overseas on mandatory maintenance because the airline couldn’t afford to bring them back. Creditors were closing in on the airline, with flight cancellation as high as 40%, resulting in passengers mobbing the airline’s headquarters demanding refunds.
“So, the decision of AMCON to intervene was nationally imperative in order to save the airline because of the critical role it was playing; to stabilise the industry and, to rescue our funds.”
Omokide confirmed that former Arik Air aircraft had been moved to start-up NG Eagle. Two former Arik Air B737-700s, rebranded in NG Eagle livery at the Ethiopian Airlines MRO at Addis Ababa earlier this year, have been reported parked in the Arik Air hangar at Lagos last month.
NG Eagle was incorporated on July 11, 2019, with a share capital of NGN1 billion (USD2.5 million), of which AMCON holds NGN499.9 million (USD1.2 million), with the rest held by private investors.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority previously confirmed to ch-aviation that NG Eagle was in Phase Three/Four of its AOC certification drive and had applied to use at least three B737NGs to operate domestic routes. Nigerian regulations require a minimum of three aircraft for a start.
Meanwhile, Omokide said AMCON would not be able to repair all of Arik’s aircraft. It planned to keep one of the company’s two A340-500s and convert it into a freighter. According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Arik Air’s A340-500s were CS-TFW (msn 910), stored at Lagos, and CS-TFX (msn 912), stored at Lourdes/Tarbes. Omokide revealed the purchase of the A340-500s at USD280 million had been one of the major factors contributing to Arik Air’s bankruptcy.
“Acquisition of A340-500 at that whooping sum was a single most important error. Another of the mistakes was the zeal to commence international operations to London Heathrow, New York JFK, and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo. They could not charge fares that were comparable to what other major carriers charged on the routes. It was a strategic error. The aircraft (A340-500) was a killer. It could not generate enough revenue to offset its operational cost. That was due to a lack of corporate governance,” he said.
Wanted: Efficient airport terminals - THE NATION
Do our airports give a good travelling experience to passengers? Poor cooling system, epileptic power supply, damaged or pilfered baggage, geriatric elevators characterise them. But, the experience seems to be changing at privately managed airport terminals, KELVIN OSA-OKUNBOR reports
Giving passengers a good treat as they process their flights through airport terminals is gaining global traction as authorities comply with new health and safety protocols wrought on the industry by COVID-19 pandemic.
Airports across the globe have, in the last one year, introduced new safety and healthy measures endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Civil Aviation Organisation to curb the spread of the ravaging pandemic.
From application of hand sanitisers, disinfection of passenger luggage, to temperature checking before entering airport terminals, the authorities have not relented.
In fact, some airport authorities have gone ahead to install infrared facilities that will reduce human contact, all in a bid to improve passengers experience at airports.
Significantly, airport authorities, including terminal operators in Nigeria, are not leaving anything to chance in improving the ambience of their terminals with top notch technological facilities to improve passenger experience.
Over 24 airports fall under public management coordinated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Scores of complaints by passengers using these airports have forced the government to scale up efforts at ensuring they meet the acceptable minimum standards.
To underscore the point, many airlines and passengers are pushed to ask the managers of the publicly managed terminals to emulate the standards available at a few privately managed terminals in Lagos, Asaba, Uyo, and Osubi.
Significantly, many passengers are excited at new developments at the private airport terminal in Lagos .
Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA2) Terminal Two, Ikeja, Lagos is a private terminal sealed under a concession agreement between the Federal Government and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) .
Operational since 2007, the terminal, according to its managers, has attracted the attention of global regulators, including the International Air Association (IATA), and Airports Council International (ACI) as it seeks to adopt good passenger experience with the installation of modern safety and operational facilities.
A few years ago, the operators installed bar coded check-in equipment that reduces processing time for passengers using the terminal.
Only last month, the operator of the first privately managed airport terminal in Nigeria, committed over $500,000 to acquire x-ray screening machines, air conditioners and escalator equipment at the facility to improve passenger experience.
To drive this ambition of becoming a terminal of choice for airlines, passengers and other airport users, the company last week started the upgrade of facilities at the MMA2 Terminal Two.
Besides new air conditioners being installed to improve the cooling of the facility, more electronic checkin facilities that allow passenger swipe their boarding pass were also installed to enhance seamless facilitation.
The upgrade of facilities at the terminal has sparked reactions from passengers and other users who travel through the airport, urging why operators of other terminals have not deemed it fit to fix their facility.
In an interview, a passenger, who identified himself as Kamal Ololade Ahmed, on a flight from Lagos-Kaduna processed from the terminal, was excited at the level of adherence to COVID-19 safety and protocols.
Ahmed said: “Too many things fascinated me on that day. First, I saw the seamless compliance with COVID-19 protocols, including the measuring of temperature and the sanitising of hands. My bags were also disinfected. It was done without any hassles. I have been to other airports where these protocols are either not obeyed at all or only applied sparingly. You could also avoid them, if you were a very important person.
“Then I came into a hall that was large enough to accommodate all the passengers seeking to board and check-in for their flights, it was so comfortable and I immediately started comparing it to my experience in other airports in Nigeria, including the international airports.
” I also observed that a new set of air conditioners were being installed to enhance the cooling in the facility. It has no competitor, yet it is further being enhanced by the owners.
“I went up the escalator effortlessly. When these escalators were being installed in 2006, I was one of those who laughed at the operator. I was sure it was going to break down permanently as similar facilities in other airports had broken down so soon after they had been installed.
” I am used to the irregular behaviour of the escalators in other airports. I wonder how the expatriates coming to Nigeria feel when they arrive at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. I always pray quietly in my heart that they would have cause to fly out through MMA2 and come to the realisation that Nigeria is not an irredeemable case.
” Nigerians can actually provide world class infrastructure I earnestly hope that MMA2 will soon commence international flights and change the widely held perception that Nigeria or Nigerians cannot run a proper facility.”
A frequent flyer, Mr Idris Lawan urged other terminal users to emulate the maintenance culture in place at the private terminal.
He said: “It is 14 years and these escalators are still working. A large number of us went up the escalator and came into the check-in point as if we were in Europe or the United States of America. At the check-in court, I expected some bottlenecks. I was surprised to see that the check-in procedure was electronically handled. If you had your boarding pass, you only had to swipe it and you are checked in.
“Again, as a regular traveller, I remember when it was inaugurated around 2015 by the then Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka, I laughed, because I assumed it was going to break down shortly after. It is over 10 years and it is still working. I am sure Mr. Chidoka will look back with joy that he participated in the inauguration of such an enduring airport infrastructure.
“My curious mind made me ask one of the officials why this was happening. He explained that the owners of MMA2 are very particular about security. They had acquired new X-ray machines to replace the ones that were beginning to reflect wear and tear and also enhanced the quality of screening at the airport.”
He, however, challenged managers of publicly managed airport terminals to up their game.
The frequent flyer asked: ” How could a private company create such an edifice and yet does not enjoy the full support of government? Why can’t the Federal Airport Authority of Nigerian (FAAN), with all the resources of the government and its internally generated revenue (IGR), create a terminal of this status?
“Why must the government continue to insist on running the nation’s airports so inefficiently and inflicting pain on Nigerians when there is an alternative of handing over these airports to BASL?”
Emirates becomes one of the first airlines in the world to trial IATA Travel Pass, a digital platform for COVID-19 updates and test verification - EMIRATES
Dubai, UAE, 19 January 2021 – Emirates has partnered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to become one of the first airlines in the world to trial IATA Travel Pass – a mobile app to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with any government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information.
IATA Travel Pass enables Emirates passengers to create a ‘digital passport’ to verify their pre-travel test or vaccination meets the requirements of the destination. They will also be able to share the test and vaccination certificates with authorities and airlines to facilitate travel. The new app will also enable travellers to manage all travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience.
Prior to a full roll out, Emirates will implement phase 1 in Dubai for the validation of COVID-19 PCR tests before departure. In this initial phase, expected to begin in April, Emirates customers travelling from Dubai will be able to share their COVID-19 test status directly with the airline even before reaching the airport through the app, which will then auto-populate the details on the check-in system.
Adel Al Redha Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer said: “While international travel remains as safe as ever, there are new protocols and travel requirements with the current global pandemic. We have worked with IATA on this innovative solution to simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner. We are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to pilot this initiative, which will provide an enhanced customer experience and conveniently facilitate our customers’ travel needs.”
Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security said: “We’re proud to work with Emirates to make IATA Travel Pass available in the Middle East region. With its global customer base and network traffic, Emirates as a partner will also bring invaluable input and feedback to improve the Travel Pass programme. This is the first step in making international travel during the pandemic as convenient as possible giving people the confidence that they are meeting all COVID-19 entry requirements by governments. As borders re-open, IATA Travel Pass will be further enhanced with more capabilities to meet all governments testing or vaccination verification requirements and Emirates customers will be among the first to have these services.”
Within the IATA Travel Pass app, the integrated registry of travel requirements will also enable passengers to find accurate information on travel and entry requirements for all destinations regardless of where they are travelling from. It will also include a registry of testing and eventually vaccination centres – making it more convenient for passengers to find testing centres and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
The platform will also enable authorized labs and test centres to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers. The global registry, managed by IATA, will manage and allow the secure flow of necessary information amongst all stakeholders and to provide a seamless passenger experience.
Emirates is committed to providing a seamless customer experience at all touchpoints. In the last few months, it has introduced a smart contactless journey with an integrated biometric path and other services including self-check-in and bag drop kiosks at Dubai International airport for a smoother airport experience.
Kenya Airways suspends flights to the United Kingdom - REUTERS
NAIROBI, April 5 (Reuters) - Kenya Airways will suspend flights to the United Kingdom effective April 9, the airline said in a statement.
The announcement comes days after the Britain said it would add Kenya to its travel “red list”. (Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
Apapa-Yaba standard gauge rail begins operation soon - THE GUARDIAN
By Adaku Onyenucheya
The long-awaited standard gauge expected to provide the needed alternative to the movement of cargo on the road to solve the persistent gridlock around the Apapa seaports will kick off operation before the end of this quarter.
The rail is expected to aid the evacuation of cargoes from the ports, facilitate export, reduce gridlock on port access roads and curb the huge revenue losses to the bottlenecks at the ports. The project, which is being executed by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and AMP Terminals, is designed to run alongside the existing narrow gauge from the Apapa Seaport to the NRC terminal at Yaba. It is projected to deliver 500 wet and dry cargoes daily. This is expected to reduce the volume of cargoes moved on roads. The Director of Operations, NRC, Niyi Alli, said the narrow gauge rail line has been functional while the standard gauge, earlier delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, would make a significant change in the volume of hauled through the rail.
Alli said the two railway lines would increase the efficiency of the delivery of goods from and to the port, adding that the NRC is hoping to move about 500 containers by rail daily when the project is completed. He noted that once transportation efficiency would crash the prices of goods in the country. He explained that the NRC is working with the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to reduce inefficiencies at terminals. Part of the plan, he said, is to ensure that the trains leave the port an hour after arrival. Recall that African Centre for Supply Chain (ACSC) practitioners had disclosed that congestion at the Nigerian ports was negatively impacting Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) and that the country loses $14.2 billion to the challenge yearly.
The electronic call-up system, which commenced operation recently amidst tall expectation that it would end the Apapa gridlock, has experienced multiple setbacks with some stakeholders alleging sabotage. On how the expected rail operation would affect the electronic call-up system, Alli said it would not take the whole market. He envisaged 4:6 sharing formula in favour of roads. “The electronic call-up system will still be there, we are going to complement each other. What you will find is that the ease of doing business and transportation would be greatly enhanced because we won’t have all the drivers come into the port anymore, so Apapa will become a beautiful place again like it used to be,” he stated. On the cost of moving cargoes, Alli said: “We don’t have a set price template. But obviously, the market forces will eventually determine the charges. We have to be competitive as road operators are in the market.”
APM Terminals Apapa and NRC had last year announced the restoration of rail service for the evacuation of containers from the Lagos Port Complex Apapa as part of efforts to decongest the port access roads.
They developed a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which was facilitated by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) to bridge the communication gap and ultimately lead to more efficient cargo evacuation by rail. Under the new arrangement, containers will be discharged at Alagomeji terminal in Yaba, Lagos, and Ijoko Terminal in Ogun State while trucks would be deployed to both locations to collect the containers and return empty, which the NRC will convey back to the port. Besides, port operators have expressed hope and fears about the reality of the rail service as they await its full operation.
The National President, African Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Frank Ogunojemite, clamoured for rail for years, adding that an efficient multimodal system will help ease the transportation of cargoes and reduce pressure on the roads.
He said while the railway is still under construction, putting it to use would promote port efficiency, reduce the gridlock and increase the lifespan of the roads while reducing road accidents. Ogunojemite said if used properly, the turnover would be rapid. He said while it takes two-three weeks to deliver a container to other parts of the country by road, rail would spend a few days to get to any part of the country. He, however, noted: “I believe that there are some cabals that may sabotage the efforts because they make money from the trucks on the roads. When the rail begins to work, efficiency will go up while the cost will reduce. They will not be able to extort anymore. Around December and January, the cost of taking containers just from the port to the Lagos mainland was over N1 million,” he said.
The President of Shippers Association, Lagos State (SALS), Jonathan Nicol, recalled that the rail facility was very active and efficient in the 1970s and 1980s but that lack of interest in the development of ports killed the system. The National Deputy President, Air Logistics, the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Segun Musa, said Nigeria can never experience effective trade facilitation or clearance of cargo without the support of the rail sector, which essence is to facilitate movement of import and export goods in and out of the port. He said, while the railway will reduce the cost of clearance and facilitate cargo clearing at the ports, there is a need to put the railway into proper use to build up the Inland Container Depots (ICDs) that have not been functional.
Musa said this will enable consignments to be rolled down to ICDs in the northern and eastern corridors, where owners of the consignments would go to clear their cargoes instead of coming to Lagos State to clear them, as it would reduce the cost of delivery of the cargo. “This railway will help reduce the cost of transportation of consignment. Haulage is not meant to deliver cargo to any distant area, the essence of haulage is to distribute cargoes within and that is why we have not been having an effective transportation system in the delivery of cargo because there is no way you can use haulage and get it at a reasonable cost or faster. “Railway is very cheap, it carries a high volume of cargo from one point to the other, so the function of haulage is to compliment the effort of the rail sector in the distribution of cargo. “We are hopeful that the government will not only link the rail line to NPA, APM terminal, and NRC but will also give space for trans-loading and also get us enough coaches that can pick containers, vehicles, general cargo from the port to final destination,” he said.
Musa said when the rail line is put into proper use, it would reduce the gridlock as there won’t be a need for haulage, adding that while the rails can take over 50 containers at once, about 50 trucks would be taken away from the road per day. “The essence of haulage waiting on the road would reduce because more of the containers – we have about 5, 000 containers to move out of the port in a day and the rail has taken almost 3, 000 definitely, we will be needing fewer trucks to take the remaining 2, 000. “The main cause of the gridlock is because we don’t have enough space in the port for most of those trucks to go in at the same time to load their cargo for delivery. The space in the port is so small and when you have to allow a large number of haulage to come inside, it brings congestion within that corridor, which is not limited to bad roads. “Now if we have an effective rail system, we will have lesser trucks on the road, especially with the effort of the call-up arrangement for haulage, it will reduce the number of trucks on the road,” he added.
The National Coordinator of Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNIFFIEC), Dr. Odita Chukwu, said the railway system would expedite movement by creating seamless container movement and drastically reducing to minimal the containers that go up the country. He said while there are 50 trucks to transport containers on the road, thereby creating gridlock and congestion at the port corridors, the railway will take up those 50 containers at a stretch.
“Why most of the vessel stay in anchorage is because they did not see space to drop the container they have, that is why you see them lying at the anchorage till the permit comes for them to come into berth. If consistently the rail officials maintain the status quo and continue working effectively, you will see that nothing at all will disturb the system. Chukwu called for the sustainability of the rail line, adding that the management of the railway should be handed over to private partners for it to be maintained and serviced adequately for it to last for a longer period.
National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), Lucky Amiwero, said what causes our roads to be destroyed is the wet cargoes, stating that experts should be contacted while the railway is being developed. “Heavy tonnage destroys the road. The railway is made for heavy cargo/tonnage and it is faster, cheaper, better, and safer. The rail will move most of the cargoes from the road especially the wet cargo, those are the heavy cargoes we have to move from the road to the rail,” he said. Amiwero said if Nigeria must achieve a proper transportation system in the movement of cargoes, the railway system distribution level should be taken to the hinterlands where the North and East can benefit from it, rather than a short distance from the port area to neighbouring environs within the west. “We must look at the distribution level of the rail, it is not just to build rail, there must be a utility programme of that rail. If you are taking rail from Lagos-Kaduna or Lagos-Kano, then it can supply the Northern area, what we have now is the same rail system within the western zone. It is so short. When you look at people who have cargoes within the port, most of them transport it to the North.
“The advantage of rail will be better when it is linked to Kano, Kaduna and it can supply the corridors within the North, that will be an advantage and they are land lock zones because they don’t have ports,” he said Speaking on the cost, Amiwero said: “Moving cargoes by road is more expensive because of the complexity we have within the port area where we have human interference and involvement in trying to see how they can fill their pockets.” Amiwero expressed fear on the durability of the trains that would be used for the service, while charging noting that the trains should not be acquired, saying: “China products are not too good and Nigeria believe in using their product.”
Speaking on displacing trucks out of the road, Former Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Lagos State Chapter, Abdullahi Inuwa, said the railway system would not put truck drivers out of job, but would rather improve the transportation sector and create more jobs for truck drivers in other regions of the country away from the port. “The railway will not affect the truck drivers, it would rather improve the transport sector. What this means is that the movement of trucks to long distances would reduce because some of the truck drivers that are far away from Lagos would drive down to the nearest railway station to pick the containers to the final destination. “That is, the railway will reduce the influx of trucks coming down to the port environment, as most consignments are taken to the northern and eastern part of the country. It will create another job for some of our members within that corridor. It would also reduce their stress of coming down from the north to the port in Lagos to cause congestion,” he said.
In Canada, U.S., vaccine 'passports' could be new point of cross-border contention - THE CANADIAN PRESS
Americans when it comes to the idea of vaccine "passports."
The poll was conducted last month for the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Institute for Health Research at the University of Manitoba.
It found 52 per cent of Canadian respondents supported showing proof of vaccination, compared with 43 per cent of Americans.
Among U.S. respondents, 36 per cent opposed the idea, compared with 33 per cent of Canadians surveyed.
Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
The White House said Tuesday it won't impose a federal requirement, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signalled willingness to consider it.
"We will continue to work with our partners in the United States and internationally to ensure that this is done properly," Trudeau said Tuesday about how best to reopen the Canada-U.S. border.
"We have already seen the importance of proof of vaccination for international travel ... in a pre-pandemic period in recent years. It will surely be important, but the details of what we are going to do about it, we are still fine-tuning."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was unequivocal when she ruled the idea out Tuesday — an indication that requiring proof of vaccination would be a tough sell in a country that prizes individual liberties.
"The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential," Psaki said.
The priority for the White House will be to protect the "privacy and rights" of U.S. residents "so that these systems are not used against people unfairly," she said.
"There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Ontario to impose stay-at-home order, close non-essential retail, sources say - CDC
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. ET. You'll be able to watch it live in this story.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford's cabinet has approved a provincewide stay-at-home order and will close non-essential retail stores for all but curbside pickup, multiple sources told CBC News Tuesday night.
The move comes in the wake of criticism that restrictions announced last week — what the government called "emergency brake" measures — are insufficient to slow the spread of Ontario's third wave of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health reported another 3,215 cases of the illness Wednesday morning, the most on a single day since Jan. 17, when the second wave was at its peak in the province. Health units also logged 17 more deaths of people with COVID-19, pushing the official toll to 7,475.
The seven-day average of daily cases has climbed to 2,988, its highest point since January 18.
The upward trend in new infections comes as the province logged a record-high day for vaccinations, with 104,382 doses administered yesterday, according to the ministry.
Meanwhile, sources familiar with cabinet's decision said the stay-at-home order would take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday and last up to four weeks. CBC News is not naming the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement.
The sources said only grocery stores and pharmacies would be permitted to stay open for customers to shop indoors. They said big box retail stores would be restricted to selling only grocery and pharmacy items for in-person shopping.
Garden centres would also be permitted to stay open, according to the sources.
There is no indication that a provincewide closure of schools is part of the government's plan. In the stay-at-home order that was in place in Ontario in February, schools were explicitly excluded.
One of the sources said manufacturing and construction sites will be permitted to continue operating, with increased COVID-19 testing and more enforcement of public health guidelines, but CBC News could not obtain independent confirmation of that detail.
Earlier Tuesday, Ford defended the measures he'd announced last week, yet hinted additional restrictions were coming.
"I think we made massive moves last week by basically shutting down the entire province," Ford said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"That was huge, shutting down thousands and thousands of businesses, that I hate doing, but we're going to have further restrictions moving forward, very, very quickly."
Even though the government's measures left malls open over the Easter weekend, Ford scolded Ontarians for going shopping.
"I truly was hoping that people wouldn't be going in there to the volume that we saw," Ford said during the news conference.
"A lot of people were going into the malls and doing their little wander around and coming out with no bags," he said. "I'm sorry, but going to the malls is not essential."
Pressure has grown in recent days on the Ford government to tighten public health measures and ensure better protections for the province's essential workers.
The medical officers of health from three of Ontario's biggest public health units — Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa — urged the province on Monday to impose a stay-at-home order, travel restrictions between regions and an emergency mandate for paid sick days.
The top public health doctors in Toronto and Peel Region also ordered the closure of schools, sending nearly 600,000 students to online-only classes just days ahead of a rescheduled week-long spring break. Students in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health unit are similarly shifting to online learning for the time being.
WATCH | Toronto's medical officer of health on her decision to close schools:
Associations representing physicians and nurses issued statements saying more needed to be done to prevent further deaths and to ensure the health-care system is not overwhelmed.
Ontario has reported on average more than 2,800 new cases of COVID-19 daily over the past week. There are 504 people with COVID-19 being treated in ICUs. Admissions to intensive care previously peaked at 420 during the second wave of the pandemic earlier this year.
In Toronto, the health-care system has become so strained that the Hospital for Sick Children announced yesterday it would establish a temporary, eight-bed intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients aged 40 and under. The idea is that the new unit would help ease the burden on other hospitals in the city, which reported 1,095 more cases of COVID-19 in this morning's update.
Ford's expected announcement comes shortly after provincial health officials outlined Phase 2 of Ontario's immunization campaign.
While the plan includes an effort to get vaccines to about 90 "hot spot" neighbourhoods in 13 public health units, essential workers under 50 will likely need to wait until at least Mid-May before they can book an appointment for a first dose.
Ontario's own COVID-19 science advisory table has repeatedly cautioned that the third wave — driven largely by more transmissible and more deadly variants of concern — is dangerously outpacing the current rate of vaccinations, especially, in Toronto and Peel and York regions.
And a new analysis from ICES — an Ontario research organization that tracks data on a broad range of health-care issues — used postal codes to show people in Toronto's hardest-hit neighbourhoods aren't accessing COVID-19 vaccines at the same rate as those in higher-income areas that have seen far fewer infections.
For example, in the tony St. Clair and Rosedale area about 22.4 per cent of eligible adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the most in any part of the city.
Compare that to the Jane and Finch area, where only 5.5 per cent of eligible adults have gotten their first shot, despite having a rate of hospitalizations and deaths from the illness more than eight times that of St. Clair and Rosedale.
Vaccine passports will revive international travel: Booking Holdings CEO -
by Seana SmithAnchor
As millions of Americans get vaccinated and the demand for travel returns, some big players in the travel industry are supporting the idea of vaccine passports in an effort to revive international travel.
“We need to start rebuilding international travel. And if there’s something like a technological way to show that you are safe to travel, then I am in favor of that,” Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings (BKNG), the parent company of Booking.com, Kayak and Priceline, told Yahoo Finance. “We really need international travel to come back and the only way that's going to happen is if we have more people vaccinated and governments feel it is safe to travel.”
After more than a year of restrictions, a full travel rebound rests on reopening international destinations, especially in tourist reliant countries. A vaccine passport, which is a digital card that would show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, could help countries do just that. The idea is that it would help reopen borders by loosening some of the testing and quarantine mandates.
If it happens though, it’s up to the private and nonprofit sectors to implement a system. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday said the administration will not support “a system that requires Americans to carry a credential” and that there will be “no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
‘A lot of pent-up demand’ for travel
According to a recent Booking.com survey, travel demand is showing signs of recovery. 71% of adults in the U.S. say COVID-19 vaccinations make them feel more hopeful and optimistic about traveling in 2021. Meanwhile, 74% of Booking.com’s accommodation partners in the U.S. say they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future of their business.
“There absolutely is a lot of pent-up demand,” said Fogel. “We know that people love to travel. Basically, they are waiting to feel safe and now that people are getting their vaccines, they are feeling it is okay to travel. We are beginning to see [the rebound] happen.”
The survey also showed that more than half of Americans have re-evaluated the importance of travel in their lives. They now view it as more important than they did before the pandemic because of the "role it plays in their emotional well-being."
As more people book vacations, demand will ultimately struggle to keep up, pushing prices higher after being depressed for more than a year.
“You should have done it yesterday,” Fogel said of booking summer vacations. “We are seeing airfare and hotel prices go up.”
And that’s certainly being reflected in airports nationwide. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers screened 1.58 million travelers on Friday, marking the busiest travel day since the pandemic began. In fact, the TSA has screened more than 1.5 million people at airport checkpoints every day since the start of the month.
Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance
Lagos to close Ikeja road for 15 months - THE NATION
By Adeyinka Aderibigbe
The Lagos State Government will be diverting the traffic on Adegbola Street from Sunday 11th April, 2021 for 15 months.
This is to enable the construction of Ikeja Overpass for the Red Line Project of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit.
Commissioner for Transportation Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, in a statement, explained the diversion was in line with the need to preserve and protect motorists and other road users against any form of accident during the stipulated construction duration.
While assuring adequate traffic management plan has been put in place for the period of the diversion, the Commissioner disclosed that motorists from computer village and Simbiat Abiola Way heading towards Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway will be diverted to Akinremi street to link Oshifila Street to make their way through the rail level crossing to their desired destinations.
Oladeinde further stated motorists from Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway will equally be diverted to the Ikeja rail level crossing to connect Balogun Street and connect Oduyemi Street to link Obafemi Awolowo way to other locations.
Oladeinde also added that traffic advisory board will be placed at Ikeja under bridge area, Simbiat Abiola way Junction and Adebola/Balogun Junctions to serve as a guide and reminder for motorists that ply these corridors frequently.
United Nigeria Airline commences operation in Owerri - THE SUN
From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The United Nigeria Airline yesterday began its full operation in Owerri, the Imo State capital as it airlifted its first set of passengers from the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri to Lagos State.
Earlier, during the opening ceremony to launch its presence in the State, the Chief Operating Officer of the airline Osita Okonkwo promised their passengers of a different and refined way of operation.
He said that the airline would inject digital equipment to satisfy their customers. According to Okonkwo, the United Nigeria airline Is expected to extend its operation to other parts of the country in a shortest time.
Airways currently plyed by the airline are , Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Asaba and Owerri.
Speaking also at the event, the airport, manager , Rejoice Ndudinachi expressed happiness on the addition of United Nigeria airline to the Sam Mbakwe airport, adding that its inclusion will boost the economy of the State.