Travel News

New York to Drop Virus Restrictions in City and Around State - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 27, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- New York’s Covid-19 restrictions, in the city and around the state, will be scaled back in the coming days, ending indoor school mask mandates and requirements to show proof of vaccination in city restaurants, gyms and other venues.

The announcements Sunday added up to possibly the most significant erosion of restrictions since New York became the first U.S. epicenter for the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020. 

Governor Kathy Hochul announced that New York state would lift its indoor school mask mandate on March 2, citing a reduction in infections, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the omicron variant. Daily cases plunged from a record of more than 90,000 statewide in January to 1,671 on Sunday.

Then Mayor Eric Adams said the city would do the same on March 7, assuming “no unforeseen spikes and our numbers continue to show a low level of risk.”

He also said, also barring no change in the outbreak’s downward trajectory, that the city would lift the requirement to show proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and other public indoor venues. 

Waiting until March 7, Adams said in a press release, “will give business owners the time to adapt and will allow us to ensure we are making the best public health decisions for the people of New York.”

Adams didn’t address overall masking policies, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday loosened restrictions for indoor masking around the nation. Last week, the mayor dropped outdoor masking requirements for schoolchildren.

Hochul said in a press briefing in Albany that individual counties will still be able to impose their own mask rules, and parents can decide whether their child is safe to attend school maskless. She said about a third of the state continues to have a transmission risk greater than low to medium as defined by the CDC. 

“I want to send a loud message,” she said. “We will have no tolerance in our school system or anywhere else for any harassment or bullying” against those who decide to continue to wear masks.

Overall, she said, “We are in a much, much better place.”

In recent weeks, Covid-19 restrictions have been scaled back or eliminated in broad swaths of the U.S., with New York remaining among the last with strict anti-virus measures.

(Adds Hochul on schools not dropping mask mandate)

Fuel scarcity: Workers, travellers stranded in Kaduna - DAILY POST

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

Fuel scarcity hit harder in Kaduna State on Monday, as workers, businessmen and travellers were left stranded at various bus stops and garages in Kaduna metropolis and its environs.

DAILY POST reports that roads were deserted, leaving only pedestrians.

Various filling stations were locked, while several number of vehicles queued waiting for the arrival of fuel.

A litre of fuel, which sold for N1,000 Naira yesterday, (Sunday) goes for N1500 in the black market today.

Although the Kaduna State government had banned selling of fuel in Jerricans, car owners have been patronising black market since the scarcity hit the State.

According to Mrs. Juliet Adama, “I have stayed at Kakuri Bus stop trying to take a bus to Kawo since 6.00am, up till 9.00am, there is no vehicle.

“Some bus drivers drove pass us, saying they were looking for fuel, others were going to queue for fuel at filling stations.”

Also, Mr. Yohanna Madaki, who said he wanted to travel for a burial at Kafachan, said he cannot afford the cost of transportation.

“Some passengers have returned to their various homes. After staying for several hours, a passenger taxi came, and asked us to pay N5000. I cannot afford it. I am going back to my house,” he said.

Although, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had promised to supply enough fuel to ease transportation, the situation is not getting any better.

Fuel scarcity worsens as NNPC fails on demand, promises - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

By Kingsley Jeremiah, Abuja 

• Marketers sell above N300/litre
• IPMAN worst hit as depot owners, MOMAN operate at a loss
• NACCIMA calls govt, stakeholders to find solution

Almost a month after the scarcity of premium motor spirit threw the country into an energy crisis, indications emerged, yesterday, that the situation may go from bad to worse, as prices at the pump rose to over N300 per litre in some filling stations across the country, especially those owned by independent marketers.

Although the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited had said in Abuja that 2.3 billion litres of additional premium motor spirit were being imported into the country to complement existing one billion litres as part of measures to address fuel scarcity, The Guardian gathered, yesterday, that most marketers, especially depot owners who had made payment for products since December last year, were yet to receive the consignment.

Despite Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited’s promise of additional supply of fuel, scarcity of the product persists across the country …yesterday. PHOTOS: PHILIP OJISUA

While the queues appeared to have abated last week, the situation became worse from Friday, as many petrol stations remained shut, while those that opened and sold at the official price, had long queues of motorists waiting to buy the product.

In Lagos, most of the stations owned by independent marketers that were without queues sold the product for between N200 and N250 a litre.

Amid the disruption in the distribution system, consumers are worried about the lack of monitoring and silence on the part of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) in checking the excesses of some of the marketers that had products but selling above the pump price.

Multiple sources across the value chain equally confirmed, yesterday, that the existing strategy being deployed by the state oil firm in an attempt to enable it to recover cost after being transformed into a limited liability company may further worsen the prevailing situation.

Although the NNPC was expected to truck out products to most stations in the city centres owned by the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), most depot owners instead of supplying the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) now prefer selling the products at their stations in a bid to recover losses from bank loans and new challenges that include, payment for products in dollars, which they claimed they have to source at the black market.

A source, who is a top member of Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPMAN), who pleaded anonymity, said though the national oil company was trying its best to address the situation, realities are far from claims being made in the media.

Recall that a new N500,000 Ship-to-Ship Coordination Charge for each transhipment operation for petrol has reportedly been introduced by NNPC, the source said most of the depot owners now have to pay for their goods in dollars and have borrowed money since December to pay for products but are yet to load products three months after.

A memo from NNPC Limited with Ref. NNPC/ML/STS01, dated February 18, 2022, and addressed to all marketers with the heading, “Payment Of STS Coordination Charge” signed by O.I O Ajilo on behalf of GGM Shipping, reads, “Please be informed that the NNPC Management has directed that effective 10th February 2022, the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira, (N500,000.00) only will be charged for STS Coordination fee for each transhipment operation involving NNPC Marine Logistics.”

Guardian also gathered that while the marketers, including NNPC Limited, agreed to blend existing dirty fuel in the country, which was observed around January 11 this year, the depots appear to have enough products to effectively blend the dirty products.

“Most depot owners that have paid for products since December have not loaded. Usually, we have only 30 days to pay back loans to the bank; we now have to pay interest of above 60 days extra. Who will bear this cost? They are telling us to bear the cost and not increase the cost of the products. Aside from that, we were paying in naira for the NNPC vessels we have been using, when we pay, they load the products and send them to our depots; now we pay in dollars. That dollar is sourced at the black market. Who pays the difference between the official and the black market rates? In addition to that, we now incur costs for a ship-to-ship charge,” he said.

He challenged the NNPC to supply products across its depot to enable IPMAN members to get products and sell at the pump price of N165.

In most parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, black marketers are selling a litre for N400, just as long queues persist as most spend relatively five hours to get products.

While Nigeria is hosting global leaders in the oil and gas sector in Abuja from today, a look through most windows at the NNPC Tower, even from the Petroleum Minister’s waiting room shows the horrific queues at the Conoil and Total stations located in front of the towers.

For over a month now, it has taken the interventions of the Police and Army to ensure sanity on the roads as the dual road that links the Wuse area of the FCT to the Central Business District through the NNPC tower is now one way due to petrol queues.

Only a few fuel stations were dispensing both in the city center and the suburbs. The few that were dispensed at the actual pump price had very long queues.

While the price was selling for N165 per litre in the city, most stations on the way towards the other parts of the northern region were selling above N300 per litre.

On the Kubwa expressway and some parts of the city, especially Jabi, Wuyi, Wuse, Central Business District, Garki and others, few fillings were dispensing under heavy queues.

On the airport road, Shema filling was without fuel. NIPCO was dispensing under a long queue. Dan oil was under lock. Oando was dispensing on the Kubwa expressway with long queues as well as MRS. Most of the A.Y Shafa stations along the route had no fuel.

Although the Vice President of IPMAN, Abubakar Shettima, did not immediately respond to the request of The Guardian, yesterday, sources at the association told The Guardian that most members could not sustain the N165 pump price, insisting that it is now difficult to get products.

Recall that the Bayelsa State government had directed all fuel stations in the state not to sell petrol above N230 per litre although the national price is N165 per litre. In Benin, Conoil along the airport road was dispensing at N200 yesterday, while the NNPC along Sapele road near Protea Hotel had long queues but was dispensing at the actual price.

In Lokoja, the price remained high and even worse across small cities in the state. For instance, Olobo Global Oil, along the old Egume road in Anyigba under Dekina local government was selling at N230 per litre.

Decrying the situation, Managing Partner, The Chancery Associates, Emeka Okwuosa, said it remained unfortunate that the queues persist.

According to him, the development remained an indication that the country lacked proactive and competent regulators in the oil and gas industry.

“NNPC is really lagging behind in its jobs. Because of a couple of odd toxic supplies in the system, we are back to queues. NNPC needs to adopt a more robust approach. I am shocked that up to date people that imported the toxic supplies have not been sanctioned.

“We must sanction them to act as a deterrent and ensure it does not happen again. What this also shows is that we don’t have emergency supplies in storage to take care of situations like this,” he said.

Okwuosa noted that the Federal Government is more interested in paying humongous subsidies than in ensuring supplies of our fuel needs.

The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industries Mine and Agriculture (NACCIMA), at the weekend, called on the Federal Government and other stakeholders to find a definitive resolution to the lingering fuel queues.

NACCIMA urged the Federal Government to stop the importation of petroleum products and take immediate steps at ensuring that all refineries are working in full capacity for a definitive end to the importation of petroleum products.

U.K. Shares List of Suspected Covid Loan Fraudsters With Lenders - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- A list of companies that may have applied fraudulently for emergency loans during the pandemic has been complied by the U.K. Cabinet Office and is circulating among high street lenders, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Cabinet Office has shared the information with the British Business Bank which has passed it on to the banks who issued the loans. The list includes companies with duplicate names and firms that had already been dissolved when they applied for support, according to an executive at a bank who asked not to be named given the sensitivity.

“We work closely with Cabinet Office counter fraud function, who undertake data analytics for us which identifies possible cases of fraud which we can then share with lenders to investigate, or we can take other action as appropriate,” a spokesman for the British Business Bank said in an email. A spokesman for the Cabinet Office declined to comment.

The U.K. offered a number of pandemic lending packages totaling about 80 billion pounds ($107 billion). The Bounce Bank Loan Scheme, which extended around 47 billion pounds to smaller businesses with a 100% state guarantee, has come under scrutiny after the National Audit Office said last year there was “limited verification and no credit checks on borrowers.”

A Bloomberg News review of almost half of the loans granted under the separate 26.4 billion-pound Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, or CBILS, for bigger companies, found lenders handed out more than 130 million pounds to companies with questionable claims.

Theodore Agnew, a Treasury and Cabinet Office minister responsible for Whitehall efficiency, resigned in January after accusing the government of failing to properly root out fraud in the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

One of the people said the names on the list received by one bank number in the low hundreds. More than 1.5 million Bounce Back loans were granted in total.

Fears grow for Ukraine’s Antonov AN-225, the world’s largest plane - EVENING STANDARD

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

BY  Henry Jones

There are fears that the world’s largest plane by length, the Antonov AN-225, has been damaged amid intense fighting in Ukraine.

Only a single aircraft was ever completed, making its first flight in December 1988.

Since then, it has set a variety of records for its cargo capabilities.

Ukraine’s parliament said on Sunday that the aircraft has been “destroyed” by Russian forces.

It said in a tweet: “In 2020, the world’s largest transport aircraft AN-225 Mriya began to perform humanitarian flights and deliver medical supplies to combat the coronavirus in the EU.

“Then Ukraine defended Europe from the pandemic.

“Today, Russian troops have destroyed the world’s aviation legend.”

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also commented on the news, saying: “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’.

“But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state.

Amid fears for the aircraft’s status, the Ukrainian company Antonov said: “Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft.

“Stay tuned for (a) further official announcement.”

It has a wingspan of 88 metres (289ft) and a length of 84 metres (276ft) , making it the longest aircraft in existence.

Its cargo hold, at 43 metres long (141ft), is longer than the distance of the world’s first powered plane flight, completed by the Wright Brothers in 1903, at 37 metres (121ft).

According to flight tracking website Flightradar24.com, the aircraft arrived at Hostomel Airport on February 5, and has not left since.

Russia Bans All of EU From Its Airspace in Response to Sanctions - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

Russia banned aircraft from 36 countries from its airspace, including the entire European Union membership, in response to sanctions unfurled by the bloc in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. 

The move announced Monday in Moscow makes a wide swath of Russia -- a key route for travel between Europe and Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea -- off-limits for major carriers such as Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG

The list includes the U.K., which was already banned last week after Britain became the first major nation to ban Aeroflot and other Russian airlines. It doesn’t include the U.S.

Russia had already banned a number of the individual countries. The EU over the weekend banned Russian flights from its airspace.

European Union Bans Russian Flights in Bid to Rein In Putin 

Russian oligarchs’ superyachts dominate ports in European cities, but Ukraine sanctions may change that - MSN

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

Towering above the other boats in Barcelona’s port are three superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs which could be hit by sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

These multi-million-pound symbols of luxury may now be in the crosshairs of economic penalties brought in by the US, Britain and European Union.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday that Britain would draw up a “hit list” of oligarchs’ private jets, properties and other possessions but, she did not reveal who might be targeted. US government officials said the fine print of the sanctions was being worked out.

However, Washington named many oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin on a list published in 2018, and some could face fresh economic penalties.

In Barcelona’s superyacht refit bay is the Solaris, the 139-metre Bermudan-flagged yacht that belongs to Roman Abramovich, owner of 29 per cent of mining company Evraz, who gave up stewardship of Chelsea Football Club to its sporting foundation on Saturday.

Nearby is the 74-metre Aurora, owned by Andrey Molchanov, who has a controlling interest in LSR Group, Russia’s biggest building materials group. He was valued at £1bn according to Forbes magazine.

In 2018, Mr Molchanov was named by the US government in a list of Russian oligarchs but was not sanctioned.

Tourists visiting Barcelona also admire the sleek lines of the 70-metre Galactica Super Nova, owned by Vagit Alekperov, chief executive of Lukoil, Russia’s biggest energy company – who was personally valued by Forbes magazine at £16.1bn.

None of these businessmen have yet faced personal sanctions.

However, Lukoil is considered strategic to the Russian economy and is already subject to US and EU sanctions which curb exports and imports and debt-raising.

Mr Alekperov was among business leaders who were summoned to a meeting with Mr Putin in the Kremlin on the day Russian troops invaded Ukraine. His personal wealth fell £4.6bn on the first day of the invasion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr Abramovich, who was valued at £10.8bn by Forbes, was among 35 Russians on a list compiled by an anti-corruption foundation founded by imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

A spokesman for Mr Abramovich said: “He is not subject to sanctions and this has been confirmed by the Prime Minister.”

Last month, Andrey Kostin, the chief executive of VTB, one of Russia’s biggest banks, sailed his superyacht Sea Rhapsody into Barcelona. Mr Kostin has said the West is waging an “economic war” against Russia.

VTB was among five Russian banks that were banned from the Swift banking transfer system by the US government, prohibiting trade with Americans and freezing their US assets.

Meanwhile, Mr Putin’s own £73.2m superyacht, Graceful, which was in Germany last month, could be seized, as the Russian President is the subject of personal sanctions.

White House officials said his finances were opaque and difficult to track, but he may be subjected to a travel ban.

Ukraine conflict: Nigerian outrage at treatment of students at Poland border - BBC

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

BY  Stephanie Hegarty - BBC World Service

Nigeria's government has condemned reports that its citizens, and those of other African countries, have been stopped from leaving war-torn Ukraine.

Isaac, a Nigerian man trying to get into Poland, said border staff told him they were "not tending to Africans".

"We've been chased back, we've been hit with police armed with sticks," he told the BBC.

South African foreign office official Clayson Monyela also said students had been "badly treated" at the border.

There have also been numerous reports of Ukrainian security officials preventing Africans from catching buses and trains going to the border.

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Osemen, from Nigeria, told the BBC he had tried to get on a train in Lviv to take him to the Polish border but was told only Ukrainians would be allowed on board.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari said there were about 4,000 Nigerians in Ukraine, mostly students.

He said one group had repeatedly been refused entry to Poland so they travelled back into Ukraine to head for Hungary instead.

"All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under the UN Convention, and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference," Mr Buhari said in a tweet.

More than 350,000 Ukrainians have managed to flee the Russian invasion so far.

'Hotel only for Ukrainians'

University student Ruqqaya, from Nigeria, was studying medicine in Kharkiv in the east of the country when the city was attacked. She walked for 11 hours overnight before she arrived at the Medyka crossing with Poland.

"When I came here there were black people sleeping on the street," she told the BBC.

She says she was told by armed guards to wait as Ukrainians had to be let through first. She watched busloads of people, whom she described as white, being allowed through the border while only a handful of Africans were selected from the queue. After waiting for many hours, she was finally allowed to cross and made her way to Warsaw to fly back to Nigeria.

Asya, a medical student from Somalia studying in Kyiv, had a similar account. When she finally reached Poland, she said she was told "accommodation at the hotel was only for Ukrainians".

The Polish border force told the BBC that everyone fleeing conflict in Ukraine was being welcomed into Poland regardless of nationality. The BBC has tried to contact the Ukrainian border force but has yet to receive a response.

Nigeria's Foreign Minister Geofrey Onyeama said he had spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and had been assured that Ukrainian border guards had been given an order to allow all foreigners leaving Ukraine to pass without restrictions.

Nigeria's ministry of foreign affairs has now advised its citizens leaving Ukraine to head for Hungary or Romania, rather than trying to enter Poland.

The Nigerian ambassador to Romania has told the BBC that so far about 200 Nigerians - mostly students - have arrived in the capital Bucharest from Ukraine. Safiya Nuhu said many more were still arriving.

Nigerian emir’s attempt to delay plane causes row over ‘big man’ attitudes - THE TIMES

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

As the exalted ruler of what was once west Africa’s richest and most influential kingdom, the emir of Kano holds sway over millions. Even he, however, cannot hold up a flight when he is late.

A row has erupted between the emir of Nigeria’s historic city state and one of the country’s airlines after it refused to delay a plane on the runway when he arrived at the airport with just 30 minutes until take-off.

Aminu Ado Bayero arrived with his entourage at Lagos airport at 5.45am, 30 minutes before his Air Peace flight home to Kano was due to take off. The reason: his connecting flight from the Gambian capital Banjul, also operated by Air Peace, had been delayed.

FAAN blames air fare hike on exchange rate, fuel price - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

The Federal Airport Authority (FAAN), has blamed the recent hike in air fare on increased cost of aviation fuel and exchange rate.

Mr Kunle Akinbode, the Head of Cooperate Communications, Port Harcourt International Airport, stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Monday in Port Harcourt.

According to Akinbode, aviation fuel which sold for about N250 per litre, now sells for more than N400 per litre, adding that the hike also includes prices of spare parts which have drastically increased in recent times.

“FAAN and other regulatory agencies in the aviation industry are conscious of the plight of airport users, especially in respect to increased air fare by the various airlines.

“Currently, aviation fuel is selling for over N400 per litre, all aircraft components/parts required for operations are imported, so this has invariably affected air fare.

On how the new rate is affecting patronage by passengers, Akinbode noted that patronage was considerably good irrespective of the high flight rate.

“Nigerians will still fly irrespective of the cost because speed and security is a major advantage of air transportation over road,” he said.

One of the air passengers, who spoke to NAN, urged the Federal Government to extend its railway infrastructure development to the South-South region of the country.

“If we had an alternative like the railway, just like other parts of the country, a lot of us would prefer to use the train,” Mr Johnson Ikor, an airline passenger said.


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