AIRLINE INDUSTRY FURY AT HOTEL QUARANTINE PLANS - THE INDEPENDENT UK
â€˜Each day the UK is isolated from the world is causing untold economic damage.â€™ say the chief executives of British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic
The bosses of Britainâ€™s biggest airlines have written to the prime minister demanding "an urgent roadmap for the reopening of air travelâ€.
Chief executives including Sean Doyle of British Airways, Johan Lundgren of easyJet and Shai Weiss of Virgin Atlantic are dismayed at the prospect of extending travel restrictions to include hotel quarantine.
Details of the policy are expected formally to be announced later today by the home secretary, Priti Patel. It is expected they will apply to arrivals from 30 countries deemed high risk because of the prevalence of new variants of coronavirus. Most are in South America and southern Africa, but Portugal is also on the list.
The airline chiefs write: â€œWhat is clear is the dramatic impact that restrictions â€“ both current and should hotel quarantine be introduced â€“ will continue to have both on UK airlines, and the wider UK economy.
â€œIt is essential that a clear set of conditions are agreed allowing for the easing of all travel restrictions. This roadmap is vital for retaining consumer confidence and securing the future of UK aviation as we approach the critical summer trading period.
â€œEach day the UK is isolated from the world [is] causing untold economic damage, both to the UKâ€™s essential aviation infrastructure â€“ its airlines, airports and ground handers - but also to those businesses that depend on the UKâ€™s connectivity within a global economy.â€
Britainâ€™s airlines have received backing from the International Air Transport Association (Iata). A spokesperson said: â€œComing only two weeks after the government announced further restrictions at the border, new rules on hotel quarantine will plunge the aviation and travel industry deeper into crisis.â€
â€œThere are several vital questions that need to be answered. â€œWhat is the scientific assessment of the further advantage to public health to be achieved from mandatory hotel quarantine given a flight ban is already in place?
â€œWhat economic impact assessment has been drawn up, especially for the UKâ€™s global connectivity, the aviation industry, and vital air cargo arrivals such as vaccines?
â€œIf ministers cannot answer these key questions, it damages public confidence that there is a coherent strategy for suppressing Covid-19 and a roadmap in place for returning to normal life.â€
The home secretary yesterday told Parliament: "From January 2020, the government have had a comprehensive strategy for public health measures at the border. â€œThe government have to make difficult decisions and choices, working with operational partners, and that is exactly what we have done from day one throughout this pandemic.â€
Ms Patel will set out the timescale for hotel quarantine, as well as exemptions from the new rules.
English lockdown set to last until at least March, Johnson indicates - REUTERS
By Andy Bruce, Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated on Wednesday the COVID-19 lockdown in England would last until March 8 when schools could start to reopen as the government announced new measures to clamp down on travel to and from Britain.
A highly contagious new variant of the virus, which emerged in southeast England at the end of last year, has led to a soaring number of infections across Britain with cases and deaths reaching record levels.
On Tuesday, Britainâ€™s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 100,000, the first European state to reach that figure, leading to questions about Johnsonâ€™s handling of a crisis that has also battered the economy.
England has been in lockdown since the start of January with schools, pubs and restaurants closed and people told to stay home as much as possible. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose governments decide on their own measures, are also under various restrictions.
Britain has begun a vaccination programme aimed at delivering shots to 15 million people in priority groups by the middle of February.
Johnson told parliament he hoped that would allow schools to begin reopening the following month.
â€œWe hope it will therefore be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday the 8th of March, with other economic and social restrictions being removed (then or) thereafter, as and when the data permits,â€ he said.
Britain has banned travellers from 22 high-risk nations, where new coronavirus variants have emerged, such as South Africa and some in South America, or may be present, like Portugal.
The government said new measures would mean travellers to Britain from those countries who could not be refused entry would now have to quarantine for 10 days in government-provided accommodation.
Those wishing to leave Britain will need to explain why in a declaration checked before departure, with vacations not an acceptable reason, said Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel. More police will be on duty at ports and airports to send home people who had no valid reason for travel. [L8N2K253Y]
â€œPeople should simply not be travelling,â€ she told parliament, citing cases of people turning up at a London train station with skis.
â€œThat is clearly not acceptable. We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world that they are in, mainly in sunny parts of the world. Going on holiday is not an exemption.â€
Airlines and the travel industry, which are struggling after eleven months of the pandemic, called for urgent support in the wake of the measures and for a clear roadmap out of the restrictions.
Britain has the worldâ€™s fifth highest toll from COVID-19, reaching 101,887 by Wednesday, and the highest deaths per 100,000 people. Johnson has said he feels deep sorrow about the loss of life, but added the government had done everything it could.
He has faced strong criticism from the opposition, in the media and from many health experts for not locking down sooner, failures in the testing and tracing system, and problems in providing protective equipment for medics. His government is hailing the roll-out of the vaccination programme as a big success, however.
Asked repeatedly by the leader of the Labour opposition, Keir Starmer, why Britain had fared so badly, he said there would be a time to learn lessons but â€œI donâ€™t think that moment is nowâ€ when 37,000 people were in hospital with the virus.
â€œThere are no easy answers, perpetual lockdown is no answer,â€ he said.
Additional reporting by William James, Sarah Young and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Angus MacSwan
Cyprus to start loosening COVID-19 lockdown next month - ASSOCIATED PRESS
NICOSIA, Cyprus — A steady decrease in new coronavirus infections three weeks into Cyprus' nationwide lockdown is allowing for the start of the gradual, targeted lifting of closures and restrictions, the country's health minister said Wednesday.
Constantinos Ioannou said that the first places to reopen as of Feb. 1 will be hair and beauty salons followed a week later by retail stores, shopping malls and elementary schools. Students in their final year of high school will also go back to classes on Feb. 8, while places of worship will again permit a maximum attendance of 50 faithful. The number of people allowed to visit family at home is capped at four people as of Feb. 8
Ioannou said twice-a-day excursions requiring text message approval remain in effect for now because authorities want to avoid â€œhasty, high-risk actionsâ€ that would undermine efforts for a speedy return to normality.
To ensure workplace safety, reopened businesses will be obligated to conduct rapid coronavirus tests to at least 20% of their staff. Ioannou said Cyprus is second among all European Union member states in the number of rapid and PCR testing relative to its population.
The health minister said despite a delay in vaccine procurement, authorities are upbeat about making up lost ground because authorities have ordered â€œmany moreâ€ vaccine doses than the countryâ€™s 900,000-strong population.
He noted a higher-than expected number of people wishing to be vaccinated and projected that 100,000 people will be vaccinated by the end of March including those over 80 and front-line health care workers.
More testing will be carried out on confirmed infections to determine the spread of the new coronavirus variant within the community, Ioannou said.
Cyprus on Tuesday announced 109 new COVID-19 cases from nearly 11,000 tests, a far cry from 907 cases it reported a month ago. There have been 190 deaths attributed to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
The Associated Press
FG To Receive 802 Nigerian Returnees From Saudi Arabia - LEADERSHIP
By INNOCENT ODOH
The federal government says it has made arrangements to receive 802 Nigerian returnees from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Aduda, stated this in a statement stressing that the 802 Nigerian nationals returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport today January 28 and tomorrow, January 29.
The 802 Nigerians are part of those said to be having issues of illegality in the oil-rich country which has threatened to rid their country of illegal migrants.
Meanwhile the ministry has announced an induction course for career and non- Career ambassadors-designate and their spouses between February 8th- 10th, 2021.
Aduda, who said this in a statement, stressed that the induction is to prepare the appointed envoys for effective representation in their respective missions and countries of accreditation.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 12 announced the posting of 95 career and non-career ambassadors. 43 of the ambassadors-designate are career ambassadors while 52 are non-career ambassadors.
Local airlines should not die - BUSINESSDAY
Which is the main domestic airline in Nigeria? The answer to this question changes by the day. Today it is Aero, tomorrow it is Arik, and then it is Air peace. In the past, we had Chanchangi, Sosoliso, Bellview, Oriental airlines and others that are no longer in operation. The rate of failure in the aviation industry in Nigeria is very disturbing considering the critical role airlines play in the economic development of every nation. Not only does it increase world trade activity by enabling faster and easier movement of passengers and goods, it also provides jobs to millions of people.
This is why we are worried by the recent revelation by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) that over 50 local airlines have collapsed in the last 30 years. Alex Onyema, vice president of AON disclosed this on Thursday 10th December, 2020 when members of the association paid a courtesy call on Senate president Ahmed Lawan in his office. He further stated that the aviation industry has been constantly threatened by imposed taxes and charges.
Agreed, COVID- 19 has worsened the situation for airlines all over the world, but Nigeriaâ€™s problems started long before COVID 19. Many Nigerian airlines both alive and dead have a similar story. The struggles on both the cost and revenue side have made failure the norm. Government policies have not been friendly to the operators.
That over the last 30 years in Nigeria, over 50 airlines have gone down is not something to be happy about. Even when the owners of these airlines succeeded in other businesses, why did they fail in aviation? It could be traced to so many factors including corporate governance, but most importantly, policies. The policies have not been friendly to the growth of aviation industry. The waivers granted to the operators by both previous and present administrations for the importation of commercial aircrafts and spare parts were observed in breach by both government agencies and the operators.
Obtaining bank credit is another challenge. Many of the operators borrow money at high interest rates. Despite the fact that everything about aviation business is imported, most of the operators find it difficult to obtain Foreign Exchange to do their business. Multiple taxation, cumbersome visa procurement process and expensive aviation fuel are other challenges facing the industry.
The problems plaguing the aviation industry would be solved if government has the political will, commitment and vision to do so.
Nigeria can develop its aviation sector when it limits the operations of foreign airlines to create opportunity for local airlines to flourish and modernise the airports through public private partnership.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) projects that enhanced intra Africa air connectivity and improved domestic services would generate about 17, 400 jobs and add about $128.2 million annually to Nigeriaâ€™s GDP. This cannot be realised with the present infrastructure decay at airports and hostile operating environment.
For Nigeria to grow and have strong flourishing, indigenous airlines, government must create opportunities for them to maximise the huge passenger market, which presently is exploited by international carriers. Every country protects its own indigenous airlines, provides them incentives and also protects their interests. But on the contrary, Nigerian governments over the years have given foreign airlines unlimited opportunity to airlift Nigerian passengers without any kind of partnership with local carriers and government does not have any policy that encourages foreign airlines to invest in the country, help train Nigerian personnel or even give Nigerians job opportunities in their international operations. We condemn a situation whereby one foreign carrier is given the opportunity to operate to more than one airport in the country, hop from one airport to another and contribute nothing to aviation development in the country.
Airline is the backbone of aviation anywhere in the world. The aviation industry is largely dollar denominated and the non-availability of foreign exchange is not helping the situation for Nigerian carriers. They carry out maintenance at the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul agencies overseas. The minimum cost of D-check is about $2 million.
Not only that, most of the Nigerian airports lack basic facilities including Instrument landing Systems. Meanwhile, the Federal Government is in the process of concessioning some of the major airport facilities. Although, if done transparently it is going to take a relatively long time to finish the process, but it is the responsibility of government to provide safety critical equipment at the airports, including ILS and airfield lighting.
Going forward, an enabling environment must be created for local airlines to thrive. Suffice to say that when people know they can travel at any time without hitches, the business environment would be galvanized.
Qatar Expands Africa Network - THISDAY
Qatar Airways said it has rebuilt its Africa network to 23 destinations and more than 100 weekly flights.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: â€œWe are proud to be the leading international carrier connecting Africa with Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., offering more flexible travel options and a global network of flights that passengers, trade and business partners can rely on. â€œHaving launched three new destinations in Africa with Abuja, Accra and Luanda joining our network in 2020, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to the region by adding new routes and steadily increasing frequencies across the continent.
â€œWith the resumption of Alexandria and Cairo, we will operate over 100 weekly flights to and from Africa with connections via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport, to our global network of over 120 destinations.
â€œAs global travel recovers in 2021, we look forward to further expanding our network and offering more connections to and from Africa.â€ The national carrier of the State of Qatar continues to rebuild its network, which currently stands at over 120 destinations with plans to increase to over 130 by the end of March 2021.
â€œQatar Airways has become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax.
â€œThis follows HIAâ€™s recent success as the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These recognitions provides assurance to passengers across the world that airline health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment,â€ the airline also said.
It stated that passengers could book flights with peace of mind, knowing that Qatar Airways offers unlimited date changes and fee-free refunds for all tickets issued before 30 April 2021, for travel completed by 31 December 2021. The carrierâ€™s industry-leading flexible booking policy also provides the permanent feature of exchanging tickets for a travel voucher with 10 per cent additional value for all customers booking travel via qatarairways.com.
China "No Longer" Recognises British-Issued Hong Kong Passports - NDTV
"From January 31, China will no longer recognise the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and ID document, and reserves the right to take further actions," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
China on Friday said it will "no longer recognise" the British National (Overseas) passport for Hong Kongers, as Britain prepares to open its doors to millions more residents of the former colony following a Beijing security crackdown.
"From January 31, China will no longer recognise the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and ID document, and reserves the right to take further actions," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
UK bans direct flights from UAE, shutting world's busiest international route - REUTERS
Britain said it was adding the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda to its coronavirus travel ban list because of worries over the spread of a more contagious and potentially vaccine resistant COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa.
â€œThis means people who have been in or transited through these countries will be denied entry, except British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights who must self-isolate for ten days at home,â€ U.K. Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter on Thursday.
Emirates and Etihad Airways said on their websites they would suspend all U.K. passenger flights from 1300 GMT on Friday when the ban takes effect.
The U.K. transport department advised British nationals currently in the United Arab Emirates to make use of indirect commercial airline routes if they wished to return to Britain.
Dubai to London was the worldâ€™s busiest international route in January with 190,365 scheduled seats over the month, according to airline data provider OAG.
Emirates and Etihad normally carry large numbers of passengers connecting from Britain to destinations like Australia through their airport hubs, meaning the decision to cancel those flights will have far-reaching implications.
The Australian government said it will add more charter flights from Britain if needed as a result of the Emirates and Etihad cancellations.
Eran Ben-Avraham, an Australian stranded in Britain due to strict limits on the number of arrivals in Australia, said his options for getting home were continually shrinking.
â€œAt the moment it is only giving us three options of flying Qatar, ANA or Singapore Airlines,â€ he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. â€œEvery day it is making it more difficult to get home. The flights back are anywhere from like 4,000 pounds ($5,487).â€
Reporting by William James in London and Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Melanie Burton in Melbourne Editing by William Schomberg, Karishma Singh and Jane Wardell
Insecurity: FG To Resuscitate Airstrips - LEADERSHIP
Minister of aviation Hadi Sirika said the federal government is committed to resuscitating and ensuring functional airstrips all over the country to combat insecurity and boost commercial activities.
He stated this when a delegation sent by Emir of Hadejia and led by a former deputy governor of Jigawa State Ibrahim Hassan paid him a courtesy visit.
A statement signed by the press officer of the ministry, Sanni Datti, said while speaking specifically on Hadejia airstrip, the minister said many reasons have been given for the resuscitation of airstrips among which was historical purposes and to combat insecurity in the country.
According to the statement, Sirika said, â€œAs we are faced by security challenges, citing functional airstrip in Hadejia will help in combating insecurity as the airstrip can be used by the Nigerian Air force, Police and of course, civil aviation.â€
He further added that Hadejia once doubled as a centre of learning, trade and commerce in northern Nigeria.
â€œWe are starting now by engaging aviation experts and consultants to come up with an assessment. In our plans, the airstrip is going to be managed in such a way that there is plan for future expansion in terms of landmass and commercial activities.â€
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Senator Hassan told the minister that they were in his office to appreciate the ministryâ€™s effort towards resuscitating Hadejia airstrip.
According to him, â€œThe ministry had shown seriousness towards the rehabilitation of the airstrip by sending experts and consultants to conduct an assessment.â€
Portugal Sets Limits for Citizens Wanting to Travel Abroad - BLOOMBERG
By Joao Lima
- Government plans to limit departures by air and land
- Home Affairs Minister Cabrita says there will be exceptions
Portugal announced restrictions for citizens wanting to travel abroad as it tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government will limit departures by air and land, with some exceptions, during the next 15 days, Home Affairs Minister Eduardo Cabrita said in parliament on Thursday. Some controls will be reintroduced along the land border with Spain, the government said in an emailed statement.
â€œWe will contribute to the European decision that limits flights between areas of risk in all the European Union, and will require a test and quarantine,â€ Cabrita said.
Portugal is currently facing one of the worldâ€™s worst outbreaks and on Thursday reported the highest daily number of new confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
The government also said that schools will remain closed until at least Feb. 14, with online teaching provided from Feb. 8.
(Updates with detail on border controls in second paragraph.)