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France suspends all Brazil flights over Covid-19 variant fears - FRANCE 24

APRIL 13, 2021

France is suspending all flights to and from Brazil to curb the spread of a new Covid-19 variant found in the South American country, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday.

Experts say the Brazilian variant, known as P1, is particularly virulent and partly to blame for a sharp increase in the country's coronavirus death toll in March.

"We have observed that the situation is worsening and that is why we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France until further notice," Castex told parliament.

The prime minister noted that travellers from Brazil already needed to test negative for Covid-19 before their departure and upon arrival in France, and also quarantine for 10 days. But the government has also been facing mounting calls from health experts for a flight suspension to further limit potential spread.

A month ago, Health Minister Olivier Véran said that around 6 percent of Covid-19 cases in France were from the more contagious variants first found in Brazil and South Africa.

France has had 5.1 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, the highest number in Europe, and has seen more than 99,000 people die in the pandemic. The country is struggling with another wave of coronavirus infections and hospitalisations that is straining hospitals in Paris and elsewhere.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, criticising lockdowns, face masks and vaccines, but he faces mounting pressure to bring the situation under control amid a brutal new surge of the virus.

Brazil's Covid-19 death toll is the highest in the world after the United States and India.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

EU to borrow around 150 bln euros annually for recovery fund - REUTERS

APRIL 14, 2021

BRUSSELS, April 14 (Reuters) - The European Commission plans to borrow around 150 billion euros annually until 2026 to finance the bloc’s unprecedented plan to make its economy greener and more digitalised, making it the biggest issuer in euros, a document from the Commission showed.

The financing for the EU economic plan, agreed at 750 billion euros in 2018 prices, but totalling around 800 billion euros at current prices, would be through auctions and syndication through a primary deal network to enable regular payouts to EU governments as they complete agreed stages of projects and reforms.

The Commission document said the EU executive arm would issue bonds with benchmark maturities of 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years and bills below one year maturity – EU-Bills.

The Commission will start borrowing for the scheme as soon as all 27 EU national parliaments ratify the EU’s Own Resources Decision - a law raising guarantees from EU governments to the EU budget to 2.0% of GNI from 1.4% GNI until 2058.

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The ratification of the law is necessary because the guarantee of the EU budget will enable the EU to borrow at the lowest possible rates on the market.

It is only a backstop measure because the repayment of the borrowing is supposed to come from new taxes the EU is to agree on over the coming years, rather than from national budgets. (Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Canada Eases Immigration Requirements for Foreign Health Workers - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 15, 2021

By Kait Bolongaro

  •  Permanent residency now available after one year in country
  •  International students, those in ‘essential’ sectors can apply


Justin Trudeau’s government announced it will start expediting permanent residency next month for foreign workers on the front lines of the pandemic, as part of efforts to keep more of them in the country.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced on Wednesday a new program that shortens the residency requirement to one year, from three, for workers in the health system and other “essential” sectors like long-term care. Up to 90,000 new permanent residents will be admitted under the plan, which also facilitate immigrant status for international students.

The program is part of the Canadian government’s plan to ramp up immigrant numbers this year from the existing pool of foreign workers, as travel restrictions prevent inflows of people into the country. Trudeau plans to give immigration status to 401,000 people this year, more than double last year’s levels.

“It’s an incredibly important step in delivering on our 2021 immigration levels plan, which we are determined to achieve,” Mendicino said in a phone interview. “We are ahead of where we planned to be in the year.”

The program opens on May 6 and runs until Nov. 5.

FG fortifies security at Abuja, Lagos, other airports - PUNCH

APRIL 15, 2021

BY  Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja


 The Federal Government has reinforced the level of security at the Abuja, Lagos, Kano and other selected airports across the country.

Officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria confirmed on Wednesday that the reinforcement was part of measures deployed to tackle any form of attack by criminals.

On Monday the Federal Ministry of Aviation directed FAAN to increase security at airports after the FMA detected plans by criminals to attack some airports.

The ministry had outlined some of the airports that could be attacked to include the Abuja, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Lagos and Kano airports.

A memo dated April 9, 2021, signed by the Deputy General Manager, Administration and Logistics, FAAN, S.M. Mamman, and addressed to airport security chiefs, urged the recipients to deploy counter-measures for the protection of airports.

Following the ministry’s directive, additional security operatives from the military were seen at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on Wednesday, as our correspondent observed their presence at strategic locations in the facility.

There was increased presence of heavily armed military officers some few meters away from the tollgate entrance of the NAIA.

Before now the presence of armed security personnel used to be at the stated location, but the number increased on Wednesday.

The military men, who stationed some gun-carrying vehicles in suitable positions, also ensured thorough checks on selected vehicles before allowing them gain entry into the airport.

When told about the security reinforcement in Abuja airport and asked if similar situations were applicable in other airports, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Henriatta Yakubu, replied in the affirmative.

“Yes all are being factored in,” she stated in a text message response to our correspondent.

In the April 9, 2021 memo, FAAN alerted all airports to operate at a heightened threat level.

It stated that airport security chiefs had been mandated to submit a list of existing and additional counter-measures to address the threat, along with their cost implications where applicable.

It called for urgent emergency meeting of airport security committees to review the status of airport security, jointly recommend appropriate measures and share responsibility for effective implementation.

International travel is getting easier - except for the unvaccinated - CNBC

APRIL 15, 2021

Traveling abroad is getting less complicated for vaccinated travelers.  

A growing list of countries is reducing or eliminating quarantine and Covid-19 testing requirements for those who have been fully vaccinated, while keeping restrictions in place for those who haven’t.

Where vaccines are easing travel restrictions

Barbados announced this week that quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers will be reduced to zero to two days, during which they can move around their hotels. Unvaccinated visitors, however, must stay in their hotel rooms until they pass a Covid test on the fifth day, and wait several more days for results.

The new protocols start May 8.

Children aren’t eligible to be vaccinated yet, a fact which is complicating family travel plans this year, but Barbados doesn’t leave them out. Kids under 18 years old who are traveling with vaccinated parents are subject to the same rules as vaccinated travelers, according to Barbados’ tourism marketing website.

Mixed groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers aren’t quite as lucky. Vaccinated adults traveling with unvaccinated adult companions who “choose not to be separated” are subject to the more onerous requirements imposed on the uninoculated.

The hotels, palm trees and crystalline waters of Barbados. Barbados’ relaxed policy toward vaccinated travelers starts on May 8. Atlantide Phototravel | Corbis Documentary | Getty Images

With its new bifurcated restrictions, Barbados joins Estonia, Guatemala and Slovenia in creating different entrance requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. Most require vaccinations to be completed within two weeks of arrival, and some accept only U.S.-made or Europe-made vaccines.

Here’s how several countries are approaching the divide:

·        Croatia: Vaccinated travelers only need to show vaccine certificates to enter, but unvaccinated travelers need to test negative for Covid-19 (or show proof of recovery) and possibly self-isolate while awaiting test results.

·        Iceland: Lets vaccinated (and previously infected) travelers, regardless of origin, enter if they test negative on arrival. Many unvaccinated European travelers — plus residents of Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand — can enter by testing negative twice and quarantining for five to six days. All other unvaccinated travelers, including Americans and Canadians, are prohibited from entering.

·        Belize: Vaccinated travelers need no tests to enter, but unvaccinated travelers (including children 5 years and older) must test negative before or after landing. Those who test positive must quarantine for at least 14 days at the traveler’s expense.

·        Georgia: Vaccinated travelers from all countries can enter by air,  while unvaccinated travelers must hail from certain countries and test negative before and after arriving.

Will more places use vaccine-based policies?  

Yes, said Gloria Guevara, president of the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council.

“As the vaccine rollout continues to pick up pace, more and more countries will no doubt follow suit,” she said.

The U.S. state of Hawaii is currently working on letting vaccinated visitors bypass testing and quarantine requirements, according to local media. Lt. Gov. Josh Green indicated children will still need to test negative to enter, but kids of vaccinated parents may be exempt from testing if Hawaii reaches herd immunity, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Complaints about fairness are, in my view, ridiculous. Harry Nelson FOUNDER OF NELSON HARDIMAN

Phuket, Thailand, and Greece have indicated less restrictive vaccine-based protocols are in the works.

Such policies make “perfect sense,” said Harry Nelson, the founder of Los Angeles-based health care law firm Nelson Hardiman.

“My anticipation is that this will eventually be the rule in the vast majority of countries and that, at some point in the future … we will see some countries shift to a vaccination requirement,” he said.

Are these policies fair?  

No, said Nelson, “but the complaints about fairness are, in my view, ridiculous.”

He cited long-standing precedents for countries imposing proof of vaccinations for visitor entry, particularly with yeIlow fever. He said that the ongoing threat of Covid-19 variants makes it “fully reasonable for countries to impose vaccination requirements.”

“Fair is a concept that is irrelevant when it comes to controlling a highly infectious virus that is transmitted around the world,” he said.

Regarding Hawaii’s vaccine-based plans, Lt. Gov. Green told Honolulu local television station KHON that “We don’t discriminate against anyone. If they are against being vaccinated and they want to travel, they can just get [a] test, no big deal.”

Digital health passports are being designed to hold a traveler's vaccination status and Covid test results, alongside other relevant travel-related health data. “Every country has the right to set its public health policy as it sees fit,” said health care attorney Harry Nelson. LEREXIS | Moment | Getty Images

Guevara said while the World Travel & Tourism Council is against requiring vaccines to travel, the organization supports the introduction of a short-term health pass such as the European Commission’s “digital green certificate” to further enable safe international travel.

“We should not discriminate against those who wish to travel, but have not been vaccinated,” she said. “We know it will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate the global population, particularly those in less advanced countries, or in different age groups.”

Travel security firm International SOS is working with the International Chamber of Commerce to establish standards for the digital AOKpass, said Dr. Robert Quigley, global medical director at International SOS.

He said digital vaccine passport apps “are not being developed to be discriminatory, but conversely to help the travel industry get back on track and to help ensure the health and safety of citizens and travelers.”

Nelson said “the politics” related to fairness arguments and opposition to vaccine passports is a hindrance.

“We need to acknowledge the practical reality we are living with in these times and deal with it,” he said.

Boeing Finds Electrical Issue in New Areas of 737 Max Cockpit - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 17, 2021

BY  Julie Johnsson, Siddharth Philip and Mary SchlangensteinBloomberg News


A Boeing Co. 737 Max 7 jetliner flies during the flying display on the opening day of the Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) 2018 in Farnborough, U.K., Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg , Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. has found potential electrical flaws in two additional areas of the 737 Max’s cockpit, a week after a similar manufacturing defect prompted a temporary flying halt for recently delivered jetliners, said people familiar with the matter.

The planemaker has been inspecting the Max’s flight deck for other electrical faults near the flaw revealed last week with the plane’s standby power-control unit, and is crafting plans for repairs. The maintenance isn’t expected to be time-consuming or complicated, requiring only basic hardware such as nuts and bolts, according to a Max customer briefed by Boeing.

Still, the discovery of new problems adds to the embarrassment for Boeing, which is trying to engineer a smooth return for the Max after a 20-month grounding forced by two deadly crashes. The electrical issue potentially affects about 450 Max jets manufactured since early 2019, including about 90 aircraft operated by airlines with the rest are in storage.

The work should take a few days for each airplane once Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have an action plan, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the matter is confidential.

Boeing said it “is working with customers on service bulletins that will be submitted to the FAA for approval. The bulletins focus on ensuring a sufficient ground path in the flight deck of affected airplanes.”

The shares fell 1.2% to $248.18 at the close in New York.

The FAA hasn’t mandated any repairs yet while Boeing continues to assess the situation. “The FAA will thoroughly review any proposed fix that Boeing presents to us,” the agency said in an emailed statement.

Aviation Week reported earlier that the flaws were traced to a manufacturing change made in early 2019 that involves fasteners and a coating. In some instances, the coating may cover wiring, preventing a unit that controls back-up power for the aircraft from working properly.

The manufacturing change that led to the original problem was considered so minor that it didn’t require an FAA approval or a review by Boeing employees deputized as agency representatives, the regulator said.

Qatar Seeks Covid-19 Vaccinations for All World Cup Visitors - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 17, 2021

By 

Qatar said it’s in talks with coronavirus vaccine makers to ensure all 2022 soccer World Cup visitors are vaccinated.

“Right now there are programs under development to provide vaccination to all the attendees of the World Cup,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Friday during a virtual conference. “We will be able, hopefully, to host a Covid-free event.”

The Gulf state has seen a resurgence in Covid-19 cases despite pushing ahead with its inoculation program, forcing a lockdown to be reimposed. Qatar has administered 1.2 million jabs - enough for 21.6% of its people, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

Qatar, one of the richest countries on the planet per capita, is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure construction ahead of the FIFA event, fueling an oversupply in property.

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United Nigeria to Build MRO in Enugu - THISDAY

APRIL 17, 2021

BY  Chinedu Eze

New Nigerian Carrier, the United Nigeria Airlines has completed plan to build Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Enugu.

The aim is to slash the cost of maintenance by about 40 per cent. This was disclosed by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company, Obiora Okonkwo, when he led the management team of the airline to an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, on Wednesday.

When completed the facility would serve airlines in West and Central Africa and would save a projected $500 million for Nigerian airlines, which is the cost of ferrying aircraft overseas, payment for allowances for flight crew and rented space for aircraft, as maintenance schedule could delay aircraft due for checks for months.

Okonkwo said plans were already at an advanced stage, saying the airline was also in touch with some technical partners on the project, initially estimated to be completed in 24 months. He said what is holding the project from taking off is the finalisation of the allocation of land by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the company.

While waiting to have its own maintenance facility, he said United Nigeria could conduct A and B checks on its own because it has a formidable and well-experienced in-house maintenance team. “On our maintenance, we have our own maintenance system, we have quite experienced engineers and all the necessary tools to maintain our aircraft from One-A to Three-A in-house, that is our starting point. But in a very short time, we have started a process of acquiring land space from FAAN to set up our MRO; we thought we should have gone far in that at our operational base in Enugu and we felt it is more appropriate to locate our MRO in our base.

“FAAN is currently having some issues with space identification and clearing with all the interested parties involved. We are still in touch with them and hoping that very soon, they will be able to allocate to us the necessary place we need to be able to start our own plan.

“But on a takeoff plan, we gave ourselves 24 months to be able to do our full C-check in our own facility and also offer that service to other stakeholders in the industry, with that we are already two months behind the schedule but we hope that very soon, FAAN will clear that road for us and we will be able to embark on that project. That is our medium and long-term maintenance plan. So, we think that when that is done, we will be able saving ourselves some foreign exchange and other operators in the sector. We are in touch with some technical partners and that is at advanced stage”, he said. He said the airline was planning to expand its operations in the long-run and would take delivery of more aircraft to serve more routes.

“We are going to increase our fleet, we have four aircraft already, we are negotiating and finalising with the next two Embraer, by then, we would have consolidated on certain routes, we would have consolidated on certain passenger loads and we have plan thereafter to probably consider a larger body aircraft. Granted ERJ-145 might have its advantages but it has its disadvantages in terms of luggage because a typical Nigerian will want to travel with a lot of things, so the challenges are there, we will want to do something that will accommodate that shortly, but so far, we are coming around those challenges and dealing with it,” he said.

He gave kudos to the NCAA, saying so far the agency is happy with what the airline is doing with its internal maintenance. “Like the COO has said, we are very strict and thorough in terms of observing our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and also the rules and regulations as applied”, he added. The major problem Nigerian airlines have is having major MRO in Nigeria. Currently most aircraft are maintained overseas because Aero Contractors facility maintains Boeing 737 Classic and the facility is beset with many aircraft from Nigeria, Ghana, Congo that it is busy throughout the year.

Air Peace to commence Abuja-Gombe flights soon - THE GUARDIAN

APRIL 18, 2021

The management of Air Peace says it will be launching scheduled commercial flights to Gombe from Abuja and resume its Yola flight services.

The Chief Operating Officer of the airline, Mrs Oluwatoyin Olajide disclosed this in a statement in Lagos on Sunday.

Olajide said that the decision to commence the Abuja-Gombe route was a reflection of Air Peace’s resolve to open up the northeast as the region was currently underserved.

“This is part of our strategic route expansion drive and the determination to provide key connections, addressing the air travel needs of Nigerians while fostering economic development and unity.

“We are set to kick off Gombe operations and resume our Yola flight services very soon,” she said.

According to Olajide, the airline has already set up the Gombe station and is calling on residents of the state to apply to the airline as there are roles to be filled in the station.

On aircraft maintenance, she said: “We have 17 aircraft undergoing varying levels of maintenance overseas and once they start returning, we shall launch more routes and resume others that we temporarily suspended.

She added that the two brand new 124-seat capacity E195-E2 jets(of the 13 ordered) recently received from Embraer would soon be deployed to boost domestic and regional flight connectivity.

NCAA Approves Commercial Flight Operations at Bayelsa Airport - THISDAY

APRIL 18, 2021

•It’s a dream come true, says Governor Diri

BY  Chinedu Eze

After months of expectation, the Bayelsa State Government-owned airport finally received the nod of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Saturday to commence commercial flight operations. NCAA Director-general, Dr. Nuhu Musa, presented the regulatory body’s approval letter to an elated Governor Douye Diri at Government House, Yenagoa, after a NCAA team had completed the mandatory inspection of the airport and its facilities.

Musa said the airport met all airspace standards and was one hundred per cent ready for daytime flight operations.

The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted the NCAA DG as saying the approval was sequel to the report of the agency’s inspection team, which prior to the visit had certified that out of 29 gaps, the airport was able to close 26. He noted that other requirements were non-safety related and work was already in progress to achieve night flight operations.

Musa said the agency had to limit flight operations to daytime, as the runway lights were still being installed, stating that once completed, full approval would be granted. He commended the state government for the quality of work done at the airport and the capable personnel from the state that facilitated the issuing of the licence.

Responding, Diri expressed appreciation to God for making the long-awaited day possible. He said issuing of the operational licence was a winding journey that began from the administration of his predecessor. The governor commended his predecessor, Seriake Dickson, for his foresight in ensuring that the state had its own airport. Diri reiterated that Dickson started the project, which had been on the drawing board of past administrations, and saw to its completion before handing over to current administration. He said his administration was determined to ensure the commencement of flight operations at the airport, which was why it set the machinery in motion for NCAA’s nod.

The governor stated, “This is a dream come true for our state and our people. I thank God Almighty because this journey had been a winding one, from my predecessor, and I have been in the saddle for over a year waiting for this licence. Today, God made it possible.

“I also thank my predecessor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson. This airport had been on the drawing board but he took the bull by the horns by starting and virtually completed it. May I, on behalf of this government and the people of Bayelsa, appreciate him. As I came on board, having seen what he did, my administration had to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. Having been briefed on certain requirements, I wasted no time in approving what was necessary to ensure that the airport was ready for use. Today, we have the approval for the airport to commence commercial flight operations.”

Diri also expressed appreciation to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the NCAA DG, and officials for the approval and promised to do all within his powers to get full flight operations. He maintained that all the necessary facilities and equipment were in place and would be installed in no distant time, especially, the runway lighting system.

Emphasising the strategic importance of the airport, the governor stated, “Bayelsa State is a major contributor to the oil and gas business in Nigeria. Bayelsa is the centre not only of oil and gas but also other economic activities within the South-south and the South-east. “So, the Bayelsa airport is critical not only to Bayelsans but, indeed, the people of the South-south, South-east, and by extension, the nearby countries. We are at the border with the Gulf of Guinea.”

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