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Delta Air Lines to leave middle seats empty through April - ASSOCIATED PRESS

FEBRUARY 09, 2021

ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines said Monday it will continue to block some seats on all flights through spring break and Easter to provide a bit more space between passengers.

The Atlanta-based airline announced Monday that it will limit capacity on flights through April 30. Delta said it will block middle seats in most cabins although groups of three or more passengers can choose to sit together.

During the early days of the pandemic, several U.S. airlines blocked middle seats, although United Airlines never did. The others that temporarily limited the number of seats for sale have since dropped the practice, at least in the main cabin, including Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska and American.

A Delta official, Bill Lentsch, said the airline will monitor virus cases and vaccination rates as it reassess its seating policy.

Airlines that no longer block seats cite research by the Pentagon's transport command and others that concluded the risk of transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19 during a flight is very low.

Air travel was a major vector of the disease, especially in the early part of the pandemic, before most countries imposed travel restrictions. Many health officials also blamed travel for surges in newly reported virus cases in the U.S. after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Associated Press

Ottawa lays out criteria for quarantine hotels as it inches toward new travel rule - THE CANADIAN PRESS

FEBRUARY 09, 2021

OTTAWA — Hotel operators seeking to take part in Canada's mandatory three-day quarantine for returning travellers can now access the criteria, though it comes as cold comfort to a battered industry.

The conditions posted online put the government one step closer to fulfilling its late-January pledge that all passengers returning from non-essential trips abroad will have to self-isolate in a federally mandated facility for up to 72 hours at their own expense.

The government has not said when the measure, which aims to head off COVID-19 cases and contagious variants of the novel coronavirus at the border, will come into effect.

Hoteliers say the criteria seem reasonable, but doubt the quarantine rule will deliver a significant boost in business to the hammered hospitality sector.

To qualify as a "listed hotel," lodgings must be near one of the four airports currently accepting international flights — in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

They must provide transportation from the airport, free wireless internet access and no-contact meal delivery to rooms, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Hotels would also have to set up a process for brief outdoor breaks and report daily check-in and checkout numbers, as well as non-compliant guests to the agency. That means monitoring traveller movement within the building, it says.

Hotel submissions are due on Wednesday, two days after the criteria were posted online.

Hotel operators question whether the quarantine order, which will see guests pay upwards of $2,000, including the cost of a mandatory COVID-19 test, will help them rebuild after a sector collapse.

"I don't think this is going to boost anything," said Eve Paré, who heads the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal.

"There'll be very few travellers."

Association members have lost $700 million in room revenue and laid off 90 per cent of their staff, she said.

"It's been a disaster since the very beginning of the pandemic."

She added that the health agency's criteria seem easy to meet for hotels that lie within the requisite 10-kilometre radius of the airport.

"What they ask, it's pretty much what's already there," she said, referring to stipulations from ventilation to laundry to cleaning protocols. Hotels that have all but shut down will have to rehire cooks or order food from off-site, she noted.

The need to quarantine in a hotel is one of a series of federal measures targeting international travel in the past month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Jan. 29 that Canadian airlines had suspended flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30, and that hotel self-isolation was en route.

As of Jan. 7, residents who choose to fly abroad have had to provide proof of negative results for a COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before departure back to home soil.

The upcoming quarantine rule has faced resistance from civil liberties advocates concerned about its impact on mobility rights.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Monday it might unfairly impact Canadians — particularly lower-income travellers — who need to care for sick relatives or receive specialized medical care abroad.

In a letter to the federal transport minister and attorney general, the association demanded Ottawa carve out quarantine exemptions and fee waivers for certain situations.

The quarantine order is not the only area where Ottawa is playing catchup.

The Canadian Transportation Agency now faces a backlog of more than 16,000 unprocessed complaints from air passengers.

The buildup follows a surge of complaints after airlines began cancelling flights en masse without refunding customers starting in mid-March, as well as a slew of complaints in the preceding months when a passenger rights charter came into force.

About 60 per cent or nearly 8,000 of the roughly 13,400 complaints filed to the agency since mid-March relate to refunds, the regulator said in an email Monday.

"It really underscores the need for the government to find some way to mandate the airlines to provide passenger refunds," said NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach.

“The question for the government is, what improvements are they going to make to ensure that passenger complaints actually get heard by the CTA?"

The agency took 157 business days on average to resolve a complaint in 2020-21, compared to an average of 55 business days the year before, according to the regulator's response to an order paper question from the NDP.

Marc Garneau, when he was federal transport minister, announced in November the government planned to negotiate an aid package for struggling airlines that would be conditional on them agreeing to offer reimbursement for cancelled trips, but negotiations have faltered.

"To the extent that the announced negotiations between the government and airlines on financial assistance result in the payment of refunds to some passengers, a portion of the almost 8,000 complaints referenced above may be quickly resolved," the transportation agency said.

Fresh funding allocated to deal with the influx of complaints allowed it to start hiring 29 new employees in June and retain 32 others whose terms were set to wrap up last spring, the regulator said.

It has processed some 9,000 complaints over the past 11 months.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

For Hong Kongers, Canada is beaten path out of China’s grip - REUTERS

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

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Black History Month: ‘I didn’t know about racism until I came to Canada’ - WT

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

When an exhibit on Niagara’s Black military history was unveiled at the Niagara Military Museum in Niagara Falls in November, one of the panellists told the story of Private James Grant of St. Catharines.

In the First World War, where he was wounded by poisonous mustard gas, he was the first Black Canadian to be awarded the Military Medal for “conspicuous gallantry” for risking his life to rush desperately needed ammunition to his fellow soldiers in a battle in Belgium.

He was a hero, but the fact he was even allowed to be in the military unit was noteworthy: Black men were typically not welcomed by white-dominated military units in the Great War.

That kind of overt racism isn’t as visible these days in Niagara, but racialized people say it is very much alive here, even today.

As Canada celebrates annual Black History Month in February, Nwakerendu Waboso of Niagara Falls can’t help but wonder if the day will come when Canadians no longer face discrimination because of their skin colour.

The mother of three was born in Canada but moved with her parents to Nigeria when she was seven, then her family returned to Niagara when she was age 14. In Grade 8, at her school in St. Catharines, she was one of only two Black children.

“I didn’t know about racism until we came to Canada,” said Waboso. “It was quite a jarring experience for me. Prejudice was something I’d never experienced, nor was I prepared for it.”

The PhD student in child and youth studies is one of 20 students selected by Brock University as recipients of the new Horizon Graduate Student Scholarship, which over the next 10 years will provide $1 million collectively for high-achieving graduate students who are Black, Indigenous, people of colour or from other under-represented groups.

Sherri Darlene of Niagara Falls is founder of the Justice 4 Black Lives movement, and organized the rally in the city last summer that drew thousands after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. She said she’s felt the sting of racism in school, in stores, and in the workplace.

She’s even had hateful racial slurs screamed at her by a total stranger as she walked her dog on a beautiful day on Victoria Avenue.

“Canada likes to think we’re exempt from that, but I’ve lived here my entire life and I encounter racism on a regular basis,” she said.

Darlene said it’s time for society to have blunt conversations about racism and historical wrongs such as slavery, and overcome stereotypes through education — including curriculum in schools that isn’t limited to history books romanticizing white history.

“Let’s talk about the brutal history of slavery,” she said. “Let’s teach why it’s not OK to say the N-word.”

She is now routinely invited to speak at companies and to groups, but knows it will be a long, hard slog to overcome systemic racism. “I’ve got to do the work because the idea of my grandchildren going through what I went through in Niagara Falls is sickening to me,” she said.

Darlene hopes the worldwide outrage over the death of Floyd created a tipping point. So, too, does her 116-year-old great-grandmother living in the United States.

Darlene said long ago the woman’s son borrowed 25 cents from a neighbouring white woman, then later that day returned to pay her back. The woman’s husband came out and shot him dead, she said, adding that no police were called, and there was no investigation.

But Darlene said her great-grandmother has watched the rallies, including the one Darlene organized, with hope.

It’s unbelievable to her,” she said. “She’s really hopeful and she’s really amazed and proud, not just of me but how the movement is going.”



US Consulate Seeks Increase From 13,762 Nigerians Studying In America - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

FEBRUARY 10, 2021

•Opens EducationUSA advising centre in Ibadan


By Wale Akinselure

Up from over 13,762 Nigerians, the United States Consulate has expressed a desire to have an increase in the number of Nigerians studying in the United States.

This desire informed the opening of the third EducationUSA Advising Center in Ibadan, on Wednesday.

According to the latest Institute of International Education Open Doors Report, Nigeria retained its top ranking as the number one source of African students studying in the United States with about 13,762 Nigerians studying in more than 1,000 US colleges and universities.

The Ibadan centre of EducationUSA, which is the third after Lagos and Abuja offices, is set up to advise Nigerians who want to seek studies in the United States.

Cited at the American Corner, Jericho in Ibadan, the centre be offering a regular schedule of individual, group and online advising sessions to intending students.

At the centre, students will have the unique opportunity to explore the diversity and vitality of higher education in the United States. Periodically, representatives from US institutions, alumni as well as EducationUSA advisors will be available to interact with registered members and other interested members of the public.

Speaking at the opening, the US Consulate Public Affairs Officer Stephen Ibelli said the centre will assist prospective undergraduate and graduate students in navigating the admissions process by providing comprehensive and accurate information about the more than 4,000 accredited higher education institutions in the United States.

“We are extremely pleased to open an EducationUSA Advising Center in Ibadan,” Ibelli said at a brief ceremony attended by teachers, students, and educational administrators.

“Nigeria is home to so many talented, ambitious young people, who often ask us about studying in the United States.

EducationUSA presents an opportunity for young Nigerians to obtain a world-class education in the United States and then return home to contribute to Nigeria’s economic growth and development,” he said.

In his goodwill message, Oyo State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Barrister Sunkanmi Olaleye, expressed the readiness of the state government to partner with the US Consulate to expand access to the services of the new EducationUSA Advising Center.

In addition to Ibadan, EducationUSA Advising Centers are set to be opened in Calabar, Jos and Kano.

Over the last 21 years, the EducationUSA Advising Centers in Nigeria have directly contributed to an increase in the number of highly qualified Nigerian applicants to US institutions.


https://tribuneonlineng.com/us...

Emirates suspends flights from Lagos, Abuja airports - THE NATION

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Emirates Airlines has suspended flights from Lagos and Abuja airports to Dubai until February 28.

In a statement via its website, the airline said flights from Dubai to Nigeria will continue to operate as scheduled.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) recently placed a 72-hour suspension on Emirates flights from Nigeria over violation of travel guidelines put in place by the presidential taskforce on COVID-19.

The ban was lifted after the carrier agreed to withdraw the rapid antigen testing done prior to the departure flights from Nigeria.

“In line with government directives, passenger services from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) to Dubai are temporarily suspended until February 28, 2021,” the statement reads.

“Customers from both Abuja and Lagos will not be accepted for travel prior to or including this date.

“Passengers who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days are not allowed entry into the UAE (whether terminating in or connecting through Dubai).

“Emirates flights from Dubai to Lagos and Abuja will continue to operate as per the normal schedule. We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or contact the Emirates call centre for rebooking.”

Air Ticket Sales Dropped By $132m in Q1 2020 - DAILY TRUST

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

By Abdullateef Aliyu

Airlines ticket sales in Nigeria declined by $132 million in the first quarter of 2020 with a total of $151.09 million revenue made compared to $282.35m sales recorded in the previous year, a data from the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), has shown.

The data titled, "BSP Nigeria-R&S Monthly Reports-Market Data April 2020" showed that $57.79m worth of tickets were sold in January 2019 alone.

Ticket sales figures for February of the same year stood at $51.52m; March recorded $80.55m; April $92.59m bringing the total to $286.36m.

But in January 2020, travel agents made a huge sale of $70.03m regarded as the best performance in the industry with unprecedented high demand.

February 2020 saw ticket sales of $59.16m; March figure stood at $23.26m when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the industry with countries imposing travel restrictions.

In April 2020, there was a sharp decline in travels with BSP (Billing Settlement Platform) recording a $-1.36 deficit, indicating that the platform recorded more refunds than sales. The total tickets sold for first quarter 2020 decreased to $151m.

Speaking with newsmen on Tuesday, President of NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye noted that COVID-19 brought the entire sector to a halt.

She said January 2020 was one of the best months for aviation because of huge sales made by foreign carriers but the gains were reversed by the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic.

"Surprisingly, January 2020 was the best month for aviation in Nigeria in recent years. January of every year is usually very difficult for travel. First quarter is usually slow for business but January 2020 was a windfall followed by the month of February. After March 2020, the industry took a tumble for the worst because of COVID-19".

Emirates to Start Airlifting Nigerian Passengers from February 28 - THISDAY

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

By Chinedu Eze

The United Arab Emirates mega carrier, Emirates Airlines, has announced that it would start airlifting Nigerian passengers from Lagos and Abuja to its hub in Dubai from February 28, 2021.

Emirates spokesperson made this known in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday saying the airline would continue to operate its inbound flight to Nigeria.

The statement stated that the suspension of flights from Nigeria was in line with UAE Government directive.

It also reiterated that Nigerian passengers would not be allowed to transit from any other airport outside Nigeria to Dubai, disclosing that Nigerians who arrived in Dubai from transit destinations were not allowed to come into the country.

According to the statement, “In line with the government directives, passenger services from Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja) to Dubai are temporarily suspended until February 28, 2021. Customers from both Abuja and Lagos will not be accepted for travel prior to or including this date. “Passengers who have been to or connected through Nigeria in the last 14 days are not allowed entry into the UAE (whether terminating in or connecting through Dubai).

“Emirates flights from Dubai to Lagos and Abuja will continue to operate as per the normal schedule. We regret the inconvenience caused, and affected customers should contact their booking agent or Emirates call centre for rebooking. Emirates remains committed to Nigeria, and we look forward to resuming passenger services to Dubai for our customers when conditions allow.”

Last week, the federal government stopped Emirates flights from Nigeria when the airline started conducting Rapid Antigen Test (RDT) from February 1, 2021, and made it the final condition for airlifting Nigerian passengers to Dubai, insisting that passengers would be administered the test four hours before their flight.

This was in addition to Nigerian Government approved 72 hours COVID-19 test certificate for passengers before travelling.

But after securing a lift on the ban by the federal government, Emirates cancelled its flights from February 6, 2021.

Insecurity - Residents Now Pray, Fast Before Traveling in Southwest - VANGUARD

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Shina Abubakar and James Ogunnaike

The fear of Fulani herdsmen is now the beginning of wisdom in the South-West as commuters and drivers now resort to prayer and fasting before setting out on their journey.

Several unpleasant encounters with highway criminals by both drivers and commuters have left travellers to conclude that they are no longer safe in the South-West.

Also, there is a general fear in the mind of travellers because of the spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, and other criminalities on the roads.

Travellers and motorists, who spoke with Vanguard, expressed worry over the safety of the roads in the region.

Despite the coming on board of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun, motorists feel they are not safe on the highways.

We embark on prayer session before travelling--Commuters

A trader in Osogbo, Comfort Kehinde, disclosed that whenever she intends travelling out of the state, she embarks on a prayer session in the church.

She noted that the fear of wanting to travel is enough to increase her blood pressure than the travelling itself as her husband and children regularly warn her of the dangers on the road.

She said: "Whenever I intend to travel, I am always faced with two fears, banditry and kidnapping. From the time I board a car, till I get to my destination, it is always perpetual fear.

"Sometimes, I embark on fasting and prayers a week before I travel for fear of being kidnapped or robbed by bandits."

Also speaking, a commuter from Ogun State, Mr. Rotimi Olanrewaju, described travelling on Nigerian roads as a nightmare, putting into consideration the high rate of insecurity in the country.

According to Olanrewaju, the incessant kidnappings, killings, and other forms of insecurity on the nation's highways had put fear in the minds of the people.

He said: "The fear of kidnapping and armed robbery, among others, have enveloped major highways, especially in the South-West. This is gradually affecting the socio-economic activities in the region.

"The Federal Government should beef up security on Nigerian highways to reduce the incessant kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery that have become a daily occurrence."

Also speaking with Vanguard, a lawyer and rights activist, Morakinyo Ogele said that the state of insecurity in the region has assumed a frightening dimension.

Ogele lamented that the catalogue of the evils perpetrated by the herdsmen in the region remains countless.

He said: "It is no longer news that some criminal Fulani herdsmen are daily wreaking havoc in the South-West.

"The cocktails of their criminal activities are unprecedented; the Yoruba never witnessed these atrocities being perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen.

"Travelling from one town to another or any state in the South-West, you need fasting and prayer before you set out on such journey.

"Chiefs, students, market women, farmers, Obas are not spared in the hands of these satanic messengers.

"We must prepare ourselves to face any killer and those who are criminally-minded among the Fulani.

"I, therefore, call on the people in Yoruba land to brace up for self-defense."

Travelling on the highway is a serious risk -- NURTW

On his part, Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Ijetu unit, Kamorudeen Agbowo, lamented the state of insecurity on the roads, especially in the aftermath of the EndSARS protest.

Agbowo said: "Travelling on the highway is a serious risk, there are some routes that some drivers will not dare to go, especially, Ikare, Ekiti, Kogi and Abuja routes for fear of kidnapping and banditry.

"After the EndSARS protest, the roads were more vulnerable to attacks as the protest exposed police weaknesses, thereby, energising criminals."

The NURTW chairman in Ondo State, Comrade Jacob Adebo said his members need protection as criminal herders attack and kidnap them with impunity.

He said: "Our members now pray for safety, not that they don't pray before, but this kind of prayer is because of the present security situation in the country. Nobody is safe again. We are all living in fear.

"But with the recent development in Ondo State as regards the quit notice to herdsmen occupying the government forest reserves, I think with time, travellers would heave a sigh of relief."

Sanity'll return to our roads soon - Osun, Ogun, Ondo Amotekun Commanders

But assuring travellers and drivers of their safety, the Amotekun Corps Commandants for Osun, Ogun and Ondo states, said they are doing everything necessary to secure the highways across the region.

When contacted, the Amotekun Commandant in Osun State, Brig.-Gen. Bashir Adewinmbi (retd), said the corps is not working in isolation but collaborating with other Amotekun in the region to return sanity to the roads.

Adewinmbi said: "We are aware that the roads are not safe but we are working to improve the situation. Part of our plan is to establish patrol spots across our roads in collaboration with Amotekun in other states and security agencies.

"We are also exploiting areas of common interests with our partners and very soon, sanity will return to our roads."

No cause for alarm - Ogun Amotekun Commandant

Also speaking, the Amotekun Corps Commandant in Ogun State, Mr. David Akinremi, allayed the fear of residents of the state as well as travellers, especially with the current insecurity challenge facing the South-West.

Akinremi said: "The Amotekun in Ogun State has taken off because I have been appointed as the Commander of the Corps. I am sure a lot of things were considered before the appointment and to the glory of God, I have taken over.

"We are prepared, we are taking our time to ensure that we get the best available grassroots men who will be able to function adequately towards achieving the vision and purpose of establishing the agency. We have been given the go-ahead to commence recruitment and we are working out modalities to ensure that we have quality men in line with the Ogun standard of excellence.

"I want to assure our people that they don't need to entertain any fear. We have come to serve them. Our people have no cause to fear, we are on top of the situation. Notwithstanding that operatives have not taken off, we are doing some strategic work underground on the security situation on hand, not just within the state but in the South-West as a whole.

"We assure of protection of lives and property for everybody living in the state. Wherever you come from does not matter. What is important is that we must live together in an atmosphere of peace and harmony and respect of the rights of all.

"There is no security without human beings and no human beings without security. It is a symbiotic relationship. The work of security agencies, at whatever level, cannot be done without the support of the people. That is why we want to build a people-oriented organisation."

We're rooting out criminals elements -- Ondo Amotekun Commandant

Also, the Commander of Amotekun in Ondo State, Chief Adetunji Adeleye said the corps has set up an outfit tagged: Operation Clean Up to root out criminal elements across the state.

Adeleye said over 120 suspects have been arrested by the Operation Clean-Up team within the last two months.

The Special Adviser to the governor on Security Affairs, Alhaji Dojumo said: "As I talk to you, we have created flashpoint across the three senatorial districts and deployed security patrols including military personnel and federal highway patrol to those places.

"We have military checkpoints, safer highway patrol to areas where criminal elements operate.

"We have them between Owo/Ose highway, Akure/Ogbese highway, USO/Owo highway and other flashpoints in the Northern Senatorial District.

"In the Southern Senatorial Districts, we have checkpoints and have deployed security personnel to Akotogbo, lgbekebo, Okitipupa, Erinje, Ilutuntun, Ore, Omotosho and other areas.

"In the Central Senatorial District, our security personnel are at home to cover the district."


Nigeria, Pakistan, Canada Profit Most From Migrant Workers - BLOOMBERG

FEBRUARY 11, 2021

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