Britain's border could shut entirely to stop new Covid variants resisting a jab - MIRROR UK
Britain's borders could shut entirely to non-Brits under drastic plans being considered by ministers.
The shock proposals would shutter travel into the UK over the fear that new variants of Covid in future could resist the vaccine.
The dramatic idea goes even further than other draft plans on the table to force arrivals into quarantine hotels, like in New Zealand.
Currently anyone arriving in the UK must have a negative Covid test and also isolate for 10 days. Travel is also banned from South America and southern Africa where mutant Covid strains have emerged.
Rumours have been swirling for days that the government could go further - but there's been no confirmation of how.
Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed ministers have looked at an idea of shutting the border entirely to non-Brits from anywhere in the world.
He told Sky News: "Well look, we always keep these things under review - and itâ€™s been considered.
"There is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains that there are.
"Ao different strains of this coronavirus are cropping up in other countries, [and there are] concerns that thereâ€™s a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine.
"Thatâ€™s why last week the Prime Minister toughened up the current restrictions… Thatâ€™s the right approach for now but obviously everythingâ€™s always kept under review.â€
The Daily Telegraph reported that the option of banning all non-British travellers was back on the agenda for a Covid operations committee in the coming days, despite previously being rejected by Boris Johnson.
That would go further than other plans for restrictions. The alternative plans include forcing arrivals to self-isolate in airport hotels and pay for their stay, rather than being allowed to go to private homes where enforcement is weaker.
Mr Eustice also suggested lockdown may only ease significantly in late Spring or early Summer, as fears grow that restrictions will stretch beyond Easter.
Asked when people can book holidays for the summer he said: "I do realise, we absolutely realise peopleâ€™s lives are on hold in some ways.
"Theyâ€™re in lockdown and nobody can quite see where we will be by the summer.
"But what they can see is the pace at which we are rolling out the vaccine. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
"Once we get all those vulnerable cohorts vaccinated and start to move down the age ranges, in late Spring, early Summer, I really think it will be possible to return to life much closer to normal.
"It wonâ€™t be entirely normal initially, but we will be able to come out of the lockdown and start living life again in the way we once did."
Concerns over safe sky as accident record worsens - THE GUARDIAN
Stakeholders harp on quality assurance, training to tackle human errors Worried by the dip in aviation safety records globally, experts have pushed for concerted efforts to deepen safer sky across the local operations.
The stakeholders, who recently revisited causes of incidents and accidents in the aviation industry, said renewed efforts were imperative given the place of human factors in air mishaps.
Specifically, they sought in-organisation quality assurance and good communication mechanisms, regulatory safety oversights, personnel routine training programmes and better collaboration between operators, service providers and regulatory agencies.
Indeed, aviation prides itself as the most regulated industry in the world. But it has not been able to say the same about safety lately.
A review of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Safety Report of 2020 shows that in 2019, globally, there were a total of 114 aviation accidents â€“ six of which were fatal with 239 fatalities.
This 2019 global accident rate of 2.9 accidents per million departures is the highest in the previous five years and represents an increase of 12 per cent from the year 2018 figure.
The same report shows that the African Indian Ocean (AFI) Region, to which Nigeria belongs, recorded an accident rate of 2.8 accidents per million departures, though with one of the least estimated departures of 1,440,701 â€“ representing only 3.8 per cent share of total global traffic.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, observed that the safety record was one of the highest accidents rates per region globally.
Nuhu, who spoke at the conference aimed at â€˜preventing human factors in air accident investigations,â€™ organised by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria and the League of Aviation and Airports Correspondents (LAAC), in Lagos, said it was common knowledge, widely propagated within the industry that at least 70 per cent of aviation accidents were contributed to human factors.
He, however, noted that every aviation accident is a global tragedy. â€œThis means that the industry, through the accident investigative authorities, must be determined to unravel the probable causes, contributory factors and develop appropriate Safety Recommendations that are based on safety risk assessments and considerable cost-effectiveness. The regulatory authorities must enforce their implementation by certified entities and licensed personnel to prevent reoccurrence and improve safety records,â€ Nuhu said.
Commissioner AIB, Akin Olateru, in his opening remarks, reckoned that most aircraft accidents occur due to the failure of human factors, to warrant its proper understanding, with the intent of reducing it to the barest minimum.
Olateru said despite the positive development in the trend of accidents recorded since the beginning of the 21st century, the number of air accidents is still unsatisfactory.
â€œConsequently, it is of paramount importance to do everything that would contribute to substantial reduction of the human factor failure in air transportation.â€
National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President, Abayomi Agoro, said several factors could account for human errors, which include poor communication between cockpit and control tower, loss of situational awareness, inadequate training, poor facilities, and fatigue.
Agoro emphasised that poor communication and training on new facilities are needed to improve the situation in the air space.
He noted that while airlines are not compliant with some of the latest technology on ground, personnel are not getting requisite training as and when due.
â€œThe issue of communication has been something we have been calling on the government and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), as the service provider, to do more. The poor communication is not only from the ground equipment. Sometimes, it is from the air stations. All of these can lead to incidents or accidents.
â€œEven now that we have data exchange that has to do with the Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), not all the airlines are compliant and not all the controllers have gone through the training. So, definitely, itâ€™s one of the areas we have to look at critically to prevent human factors in mishaps,â€ Agoro said.
Representative of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Akin George, described the air communication system in Nigeria as weak.
â€œThis has been a recurring problem for the last 10-15 years. Solutions have been offered, but we take one step forward and within a month or two, we are back to the norm.
Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru.
â€œOne of the critical elements of human factors is communication. If you cannot communicate with your controller; then who is controlling who? As of today the communication between aircraft and the services coming out of Kano to Lagos is extremely weak. If you happen to be operating from the eastern side of the country, coming out of Calabar or Uyo, Port Harcourt and youâ€™re heading towards Kano, itâ€™s extremely weak. In most cases you have to depend on another aircraft to rely on your information.
â€œNow while all these are going on, the aircraft does not stay in one place. So, you have a dynamic situation which for me, remains high risk and that is one of the areas we need to tackle as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk.â€
Dr. Etete Ifeanyi of the NCAA accentuated the role of Quality Assurance Manager within an organisation, saying this set of professionals have a very critical role in ensuring safety.
Ifeanyi said sensitivity of the office demands independence and direct access to the CEO.
â€œIt is expected that the Quality Assurance Manager must be an independent person that can report directly to the CEO, who must also be part of that quality assurance system. What the CAA does is to audit what the quality assurance system has already audited. That is what our job is supposed to be because he or she is the eye of the CAA within that organisation.
â€œAny CEO that would not allow his or her own personnel within the quality assurance system to do the work, believe me, that boss is heading towards catastrophe. He may be picking on little gains that he believes are there when he forces the person to do what is not right, that has an effect.
â€œThe quality assurance system in any organisation should cover each and every department in every unit of that organisation and the basic function of the quality assurance system is the adequacy of the procedures and policies and compliance with the regulatory requirement to conformance with the procedures.â€
UK keeping its borders open for now: environment minister - REUTERS
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is keeping its borders open for now environment minister George Eustice said, after speculation that the country could be completely shut to arrivals, after it recently tightened requirements for travellers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
â€œItâ€™s right that we are cautious about travel, but we donâ€™t think itâ€™s right at the moment to close it down altogether and close the border,â€ Eustice told LBC radio on Friday.
Britainâ€™s current lockdowns ban most international travel while new rules introduced on Monday require a negative pre-departure test for travellers plus a period of quarantine on arrival.
Reporting by William James, writing by Sarah Young; editing by Alistair Smout
Nigerians detained in Saudi Arabia cry out, FG reacts - DAILY
Some Nigerians detained in Saudi Arabia over expired visas and inability to renew their residency, have appealed for help.
In a video seen by DAILY POST, one of them urged the Nigerian government to intervene.
â€œWe all here are Nigerians. We have been more than 3, 6, 7 months without any action or information on transportation back to Nigeria.
â€œAccording to the rules and regulations of this location, you should be here for 2 weeks. But we have been here for more than 5, 6, 7 months. Others have flown back to their country.
â€œOnly we Nigerians donâ€™t have any source or way to go back. Iâ€™m here on behalf of others to beg for your pardon to help us; assist us please to get back to our countryâ€, he said.
The footage caught the attention of the federal government.
On Friday, Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, confirmed that the nationals would be flown home next week.
â€œThere are plans for evacuation: 28, 29 Jan, in two batches of 400 and 200 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairsâ€, she tweeted.
The official called for enlightenment campaigns for people to desist from irregular migration.
â€œItâ€™s become very dangerous and more difficult,â€ the NIDCOM chief added.
FG to evacuate 600 Nigerians stranded in Saudi Arabia Jan 28 - PUNCH
BY Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
The Federal Government has said that 600 Nigerian irregular migrants in Saudi Arabia will be evacuated on January 28 and 29 in batches of 400 and 200.
The Chairman, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said their evacuation was delayed due to issues relating to COVID-19.
The stranded citizens were being kept at a detention facility by the Saudi authorities pending their repatriation.
A video on social media had shown the Nigerians lamenting the hardship they were facing at the detention facility.
The immigrants wrapped in black polythene bags were lying on the floor in a packed room.
A voice in the video said, â€œWe are here more than three months, six months, seven months ago, without any action, no better information on transport to Nigeria.
â€œAccording to the rules and regulations of this location, we are not supposed to be here for more than two weeks.
â€œMost nationals of other countries have been flown back to their countries. Only we Nigerians donâ€™t have any source or way of getting back.â€
But Dabiri-Erewa in a tweet on Friday said the stranded citizens would soon be evacuated back home.
She stated, â€œNigerian irregular migrants in Saudi Arabia are due to be evacuated on the 28 and 29th of January, pending any unforeseen issues. Their evacuation was delayed due to issues relating to COVID-19. We appeal to Nigerians to resist traveling abroad without proper documents.â€
Biden seeks to require international air passengers to quarantine upon arrival - REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Thursday that would require international air travelers to quarantine upon U.S. arrival, and directed U.S. agencies to implement a federal mask mandate in interstate transportation.
Bidenâ€™s order says â€œto the extent feasibleâ€ air travelers must comply with applicable U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines concerning international travel â€œincluding recommended periods of self-quarantine.â€ It does not explain how it will be enforced.
The order also directs U.S. agencies to hold talks with Canada and Mexico â€œregarding public health protocols for land ports of entryâ€ including implementing CDC guidelines. Nearly all non-essential travel at U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico is suspended through Feb. 21.
The CDC recommends a seven-day quarantine for people arriving in the Unites States from nearly all countries.
The order calls on agencies to â€œimmediately take actionâ€ to require masks on or in airports, commercial aircraft, trains, public maritime vessels, including ferries, intercity bus services and all public transportation, but grants them the ability to issue exemptions.
Biden is directing agencies to reconsider international contact tracing requirements for U.S.-bound passengers, which was abandoned by the Trump White House, as well as the possibility of follow-up COVID-19 testing for travelers after they arrive in the United States.
The Biden administration is implementing new coronavirus testing requirements for nearly all international air passengers beginning on Tuesday, following a CDC order last week. Under the new rules, all U.S.-bound passengers age 2 and over must get negative COVID-19 test results within three calendar days of travel.
The Biden administration announced it would reimpose entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and most of continental Europe after President Donald Trump issued an order on Monday lifting them effective the same day the new testing rules take effect.
Biden also wants new public health measures at U.S. sea ports. In October, the CDC let a no-sail order expire for cruise ships. A U.S. House committee said the White House had blocked the CDC from extending the pandemic-related no-sail order through mid-February.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot
Britain to discuss tighter travel restrictions: BBC - REUTERS
LONDON (Reuters) - British ministers are to discuss on Monday further tightening travel restrictions, the BBC reported on Saturday, adding that people arriving in the country could be required to quarantine in hotels.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference on Friday that the UK may need to implement further measures to protect its borders from new variants of COVID-19.
Britainâ€™s current restrictions ban most international travel while new rules introduced earlier in January require a negative coronavirus test before departure for most people arriving, as well as a period of quarantine.
The government is considering making it mandatory for travellers to spend that 10-day quarantine period in a hotel for which they would have to pay, as a way to enforce the quarantine rules, the BBC said.
Amid growing worries about new COVID-19 variants, critics of Britainâ€™s current quarantine policy say it is not sufficiently enforced.
Stricter border rules would be a fresh blow for the aviation and travel sectors, already under great financial strain from close to a year of COVID-19 restrictions and minimal revenues.
In England, the 10-day quarantine requirement can be reduced if the traveller has a negative COVID-19 test after five days, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have slightly different rules.
Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Frances Kerry
Britain ramps up flight ban as Portugal suspends all UK travel - YAHOO FINANCE
The UK has added more countries to its flight ban list in a bid to control the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.
Britain is banning all arrivals from Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo from Friday, transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted.
â€œAll passengers from these countries except British and Irish Nationals and third country nationals with resident rights will be denied entry,â€ he said.
It came as Portugalâ€™s prime minister Antonio Costa said on Thursday that all flights to and from the UK would be suspended from Saturday as the country also tackles rising cases of the more transmissible strain.
He told a news conference that only repatriation flights would be allowed between both countries to reduce the â€œrisk of contagion.â€
Many countries have placed curbs on travel from the UK in Europe and beyond. Countries around the world that have banned UK travel include Turkey, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Argentina, Jamaica, Morocco, Chile, and Colombia.
Under new measures, everyone entering England from anywhere outside the country, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
In addition to this, proof of a negative coronavirus test is required to travel to England. This may be taken up to three days before your journey begins.
The new, fast-spreading variant of the COVID-19 virus prompted the UK government to impose a national lockdown at the start of this year.
However, the chances of lockdowns persisting into the summer now appear to be growing, with a change in tone in government statements in recent days.
A string of comments by ministers in the past 24 hours have dashed hopes Britain could bring down coronavirus infection rates and roll out vaccines fast enough to ease restrictions from March.
But prime minister Boris Johnson declined to rule out the nationwide lockdown lasting into the summer on Thursday.
He said it was â€œtoo early to sayâ€ when curbs would be eased, warning over the contagiousness of the new coronavirus variant.
Home secretary Priti Patel added at a Downing Street press conference that it was â€œfar too earlyâ€ to speculate, when asked if people could book foreign holidays this summer. She reiterated the need to curb current non-essential travel.
Israel bans international flights to curb coronavirus spread - REUTERS
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will ban passenger flights in and out of the country from Monday evening for a week as it seeks to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants.â€œOther than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign,â€ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting.
The ban will come into force from Monday at 2200 GMT and last until the end of January, a statement from Netanyahuâ€™s office said.
The countryâ€™s borders have largely been closed to foreigners during the pandemic, with only Israeli passport holders allowed entry.
Also on Sunday, Israel expanded its rapid vaccination drive to include late teens. The vaccines were initially limited to the elderly and other high-risk categories, but are now available to anyone over 40 or - with parental permission - those between 16 and 18.
The inclusion of late teens is meant â€œto enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams,â€ the Education Ministry spokeswoman said.
Israel awards a matriculation certificate to high school students in grades 10-12 who pass exams, administered by the Education Ministry, that play a major role in acceptance to universities. They can also affect placement in the military, where many Israelis do compulsory service after high school.
Israel has the worldâ€™s fastest vaccine distribution rate. With regular imports of Pfizer Inc. vaccines, it has administered at least one dose to more than 25% of its 9 million population since Dec. 19, the Health Ministry says.
The country has been under a third national lockdown since Dec. 27, which it plans to lift at the end of January. Critics say the government has mishandled the crisis, lacking a clear long-term strategy and allowing politics to cloud its decisions.
Education Minister Yoav Galant, speaking on Ynet TV, said it was too early to know if schools would reopen next month.
Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Writing by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams; Editing by Frances Kerry
Denmark halts UAE flights for five days over COVID-19 - REUTERS
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates said on Friday it was in talks with Denmark after the Nordic country temporarily halted all flights arriving from the Gulf Arab state, a major travel hub, due to potentially unreliable coronavirus tests in Dubai.
Denmarkâ€™s transport ministry said the five-day travel restrictions, comes after concerns were raised about the coronavirus tests administered in Dubai before departure. It added it had taken the decision after a detailed tip-off, without elaborating.
â€œAll accredited UAE testing centres are regularly subject to strict quality checks,â€ the UAE foreign ministry said, adding there are severe penalties for non-compliance with international standards to ensure the highest level of quality in testing.
The statement said the UAE was communicating with Danish authorities â€œto clarify the details and casesâ€ behind the decision in order to guarantee the safety of all travellers.
Denmark earlier this month made it mandatory for travellers to show a negative test from the previous 24 hours before departure towards Denmark from all countries.
Late on Friday, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Twitter 50 persons with COVID-19 had flown in from Dubai in January alone. 33 of those arrived after Denmark made it mandatory to test negative for COVID-19 before departure.
Several Danish celebrities, including former footballer Nicklas Bendtner, were criticised earlier this month after Danish media reported they had travelled to regional tourism hub Dubai on holiday despite the government advising against going abroad to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Additional reporting by Alaa Swilam in Cairo, Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen; Editing by Mark Potter, Aurora Ellis and Alistair Bell