Fears U.K. Public May Be Deleting Covid App to Avoid Isolating - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Politicians and scientists in the U.K. are concerned that people are deleting the official Covid-19 mobile phone app, or at least switching off its tracing function, to avoid having to self-isolate.
Just under 620,000 people in England and Wales were “pinged” by the National Health Service Covid-19 app and told to isolate in the past week -- a record, and up from around 530,000 the week before, official figures show.
Yet the recent rate of growth in app alerts has been slower than the increase in Covid-19 infections. That’s stirred warnings that amid the growing furor about a “pingdemic” and its impact on key industries, more people are simply disabling a key part of the app that the government and health experts say is critical to halting the spread of the disease.
The fear is that public trust in the test, trace and isolate program as a whole is eroding, just as virtually all pandemic rules were lifted in England this month.
“It isn’t rocket science: if you’re asking people to do something that’s difficult for them, guess what -- they’re not going to do it,” said Henry Potts, a professor at University College London who specializes in health data. “Isolating is difficult, it’s inconvenient -- for some people it’s very difficult.”
Potts said surveys show an increase in the number of app deletions in the last few months, and that suggestions ministers were considering tweaking the app to make it less sensitive had been “unhelpful.” They drew “attention from the fact that the reason you’re being pinged is that there’s lots of cases,” he said.
An opinion poll by Savanta ComRes released this month found that a third of 18 to 34 year-olds in the U.K. have deleted the app, having previously downloaded it. Jenny Harries, head of the U.K. Health Security Agency, told members of Parliament that she was “aware that people are choosing not to use the app.”
The app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously detect whether users have been within two meters of someone who’s subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 for 15 minutes or more. There’s no legal duty to self-isolate when someone gets an alert, but it’s strongly encouraged by the government.
“The reason that so many people are receiving notifications is simple. We have a highly transmissible virus that is being allowed to spread throughout the country with the bare minimum of mitigation,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the University of Leeds School of Medicine.
Daily cases in the U.K. as measured by specimen date reached more than 60,000 last week but have receded a bit. Cases fell for a third day on Friday, pulling the seven-day rolling average down to 44,249 from a recent peak of 47,696. Scientists, though, caution that the effects of reopening the economy haven’t yet filtered through into the data.
As food and logistics companies warn of critical staff shortages, ministers are allowing limited numbers of key workers to avoid the 10-day self-isolation that’s supposed to follow a “ping,” to ensure services can keep running. The government is also planning to exempt anyone who’s fully vaccinated from Aug. 16.
That change should happen immediately to avoid “large numbers of people” deleting the app and even avoid getting tested, senior Conservative MP Mark Harper told Parliament on Thursday. “People will simply stop listening and that’s very dangerous for public health,” he said.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the app had been downloaded over 26 million times, but declined to comment on how many people had since deleted it or switched off the contact tracing function.
The app prevented an estimated 600,000 Covid-19 cases and 8,000 deaths between September and December 2020, a spokesperson for the department said.
“The whole point about self-isolation is that we are protecting wider society and I think that people should be following the rules,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News on Thursday, calling it a “real shame” if people are deleting the app.
Ghana Says Delta Variant Driving Nation’s Third Covid-19 Wave - BLOOMBERG
Ghana seems to be facing a third wave of coronavirus infections driven by the more transmissible delta variant, according to President Nana Akufo-Addo.
The West African nation restricted the time of events such as weddings and funerals to two hours, banning post-event receptions because of the risk of people abandoning safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
“It appears that our nation like many others is experiencing a third wave of Covid-19 infections,” Akufo-Addo said in a state broadcast late Sunday. “These increased infections have largely been driven by the delta variant of the virus.”
Ghana has seen over 102,000 Covid-19 cases, including 823 deaths, since the first case was reported. Active cases more than tripled to 4,521 as of July 23 from 1,200 in June, according to Akufo-Addo who described the trend as alarming. The delta variant has led in recent weeks to “a rise in hospitalization and ICU bed uptakes, and tragically deaths,” he said.
The country, which aims to vaccinate its 20 million adults by the end of this year, has set aside $25 million to help fund local vaccine manufacturing, he said.
‘Take Advantage of Reduction in US EB-5 Investor Programme’ - THISDAY
BY Goddy Egene
International investors have been urged to take advantage of the reduction in the minimum investment in the EB-5 Investor Programme in the United States (US) to $500,000 from $900,000.
The Houston EB5, through the years, has worked diligently towards helping international investors gain permanent United States (US)residency in return for making a qualified real estate investment.
However, in 2019, the US government implemented changes to the EB-5 Investor Programme as part of a comprehensive EB-5 modernisation law passed by Congress, which led to the increase in the minimum investment amounts from $500,000 to $900,000 for Targeted Employment Area (TEA) investments and $1 million to $1.8 million for non-Targeted Employment Area (TEA) investments.
A new hope was reinstated following the recent court ruling by The U.S Northern District Court of California, which reduced the EB-5 Minimum Investment to $500,000 on June 23, 2021, on the ground that the decision to increase the minimum EB-5 investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000 must be vacated as the USCIS Acting Director lacked the authority at that time to issue that regulation.
Although there are currently two new EB-5 bills including Regional Center reauthorization circulating in the U.S. Senate, both contemplating a higher investment amount and this is expected to happen in September 2021, investors have between now until September 30th at the latest (per key USCIS Sunset dates) to secure their spot in an EB-5 project at the $500,000 investment level.
Beside, everyone in the industry is unsure how long this the ruling will remain effective, it is clear that for a short period of time investors can invest $500,000 to become eligible for an EB-5 green card. Hence, the Chief Executive Officer of 3INVEST, a real estate investment group and the African partner to Houston EB5, Ruth Obih, has advised intending investors to key into this opportunity.
“Just like the US lottery, this may just be a rare and final opportunity for families who want to obtain a 2nd passport through US EB5 Investing,” she said, noting that the 2019 increase to $900,000 saw a drop in the level of investors.
The Managing Director, Houston EB5, Acho Azuike, said: “Additionally, another attractive aspect of the new opportunity is that returns are paid yearly instead of being accrued.” He explained that going forward, only direct EB5 Investment and projects creating direct employment such as Moderno Porcelain works, which is the latest project currently offered by Houston EB-5 will qualify for the EB-5 Visa.
“Serving as the future of EB5 Investing, Moderno Porcelain Works, is currently one of the few approved operational businesses in the EB-5 industry ready and able to process direct EB-5 investments in the US. Moderno Porcelain Works offer a more personalised investment opportunity and smaller capital raise to begin each project,” said.
According to him, Houston EB5 chose to offer an EB-5 Visa investment in Moderno for several strategic reasons including the ability to provide repeatable, predictable results. “Moderno is a matured business model with several large retail and builder accounts to service. Your investment will fund the opening of new service locations (HUBs), expanding Moderno’s national reach. With six operational centres currently, in Texas, Florida, and Minnesota, EB-5 Houston completed the raise for three additional locations with plans to expand to a total of 60 cities by 2026,” Azuike said.
Heathrow Airport busy as travel restrictions are eased - YAHOO FINANCE
Heathrow Airport has been busy with passengers following the easing of travel restrictions, which mean people are not required to quarantine upon return from green and amber list countries.
Covid quarantine to be dropped for some Britons vaccinated abroad - THE GUARDIAN UK
Some Britons who have been double-vaccinated abroad will soon be able to travel to the UK more easily, as the government prepares to recognise jabs administered overseas.
Current restrictions mean only those who have been fully inoculated by the NHS are able to take advantage of avoiding quarantine if coming from countries graded green and amber under the traffic light system.
Hundreds of thousands of British citizens who are dual nationals or have been living or working abroad have still been forced to isolate for up to 10 days, but the rules are expected to be changed for some from August.
Those who have had both jabs in other countries but are registered with a GP in the UK will be able to apply to register these with the NHS – but the doses must be Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Janssen.
© 2021 SOPA Images
The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, signalled the move in a little-noticed response to an MP during a Commons debate last week.
He said: “By the end of this month, UK nationals who have been vaccinated overseas will be able to talk to their GP, go through what vaccine they have had, and have it registered with the NHS that they have been vaccinated.”
Zahawi said GPs would vet whether the jabs had been approved for use in the UK, with the more long-term goal of coordinating a commonly agreed vaccine standard with the World Health Organization and medicines’ regulators in the US and European Union.
He also hinted that all travellers coming from abroad who have been double-vaccinated with a jab authorised in the UK could have their doses recognised – not just those who are registered with a British GP – saying: “We want to offer the same reciprocity as the 33 countries that recognise our [NHS] app, and that will also happen very soon.”
Ministers are expected to announce the change later this week, as part of a review of the wider rules governing international travel due to be held before 31 July.
Given the NHS is a residency-based system, the number of people living overseas who are registered with a GP in the UK is likely to be fairly limited, leading to criticism that a tweak to the rules is “useless” for the millions of Britons living abroad for whom this will not make any significant change.
Expats who have been living outside the UK for some time and therefore are not registered with a GP (as they are told to deregister when they move abroad) will hope for a bigger overhaul of the rules later in the summer to also recognise their double-vaccination status.
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow airport, said “the travel sector is still the only part of the economy which is still under very tight controls by the government” and that there had been no “freedom day” for those who wanted to visit friends and relatives in another country.
The next update to the red, amber and green lists is not expected to happen until next Thursday, 5 August. Particular attention will be paid to the fate of France, which earlier this month ministers were advised to put on the red list over the spread of the Beta variant.
Instead, the government put France on what has become known as the “amber plus” list, meaning double-vaccinated travellers returning from the country are not able to avoid quarantine, and must instead isolate for 10 days at home or use the “test to release” system after day five.
Bleak Summer For Travellers As Airfares Soar Amid Naira Devaluation - LEADERSHIP
As the summer holiday approaches, Air passengers are expected to experience an increase in airfares due to devaluation of Naira as well as appreciation of crude oil price which also affect the price of aviation fuel, Jet-A1.
Also, inability to access foreign exchange from the official market has also put pressure on airline operations, causing airfares to skyrocket.
Aviation experts have argued that recent appreciation of crude oil price to $74.10 per barrel in the world market, and Naira’s free-fall to N505/$1 may further escalate the prices of jet-A1 as the landing cost will increase.
It was gathered that there has been a steady increase in the price of aviation fuel in the sector since April till date.
For instance, in April 2021, the price was between N250 and N275 per litre, which was about 200 per cent increase to the N110 price in 2016.
Presently, the price of aviation fuel is as high as between N295 and N300, while the product can be purchased for N302 and above per litre in the northern part of Nigeria.
The difference in prices at various airports, it was learnt, is due to the additional haulage cost incurred from taking the product from Lagos seaports to the airports across the country.
Aside from the multiple taxes and charges on the product, the monopoly of marketers at less viable airports has also raised the price in these airports.
While the cost of transportation of aviation fuel within Lagos is about N3 per litre, it is about N15 per litre travelling up North, as far as Maiduguri.
Similarly, the federal government statutorily earns N2:50 fuel surcharge tax per litre. Also, marketers are made to pay for operators’ permits, ground rent for tank farms, and access permits for equipment into airports.
However, airfares are already hitting the roofs and are expected to rise further due to the increasing price of aviation fuel and naira devaluation.
For instance, early morning first flight from Lagos to Kaduna now cost as much as between N60,000 to N65,000, depending, however, on time of booking.
Also, one-way ticket from Lagos to Port Harcourt hovers between N50,000 to N55,000 while from Lagos to Sokoto is between N70,000 to N80,000 and Lagos to Yola is between N63,000 to N65,000.
Speaking on the development, the director of engineering, Ibom air, Mr Lookman Animashaun said, airline operators are presently operating at loss due to the hike in aviation fuel and forex scarcity.
According to him, passenger traffic is expected to drop as airline operators will soon increase fares to meet the present realities.
He said: “Presently, Jet-A1 is soaring and that hasn’t translated into an increase in airfare yet because airline operators are being careful not to effect any increment now.”
“But, truthfully, they are running at a loss and despite that, they are not increasing fares in order not to scare passengers away but with the way things are going presently, they will increase fares. The only thing that can stop the increment is if the government provides a sort of intervention. If not, they will hike the prices, and it will affect passenger traffic, but if we don’t want it to come to that, something tangible should be done to bring down the price,” he said.
Also speaking on the current high cost of Jet A1 fuel and its effect on airline operations, the executive chairman of United Nigeria Airline, Dr Obiora Okonkwo, said the current price of aviation fuel has made operations much more difficult at the current fare regime.
“We started operations at N160 per litre barely four months ago and when you move from that price to over N270 within two months, you should expect whatever we are experiencing now in terms of high airfares.
“Aviation fuel alone takes between 30 and 40 per cent of airlines’ costs. This calls for grave concern to everyone,” Okonkwo added.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, a member of the aviation safety round table, Olumide Ohunayo, said since aviation fuel is a major cost in the industry, the increase in price will surely affect price.
He noted that there has been no significant difference between the early booking and late booking as a result of the hike in fuel price.
“Hike in Jet-A1, forex scarcity and naira devaluation are reasons for the high cost of air fares we have now. In the past we used to have differences in fares for early booking but now the difference between early and late bookings is no more significant due to the cost of Jet-A1 and this affects cost of operations for carriers.”
“Fuel is a major cost, and if aviation fuel keeps increasing, the cost of tickets will increase. We have not been able to find a nexus to the aviation fuel issue because we do not refine fuel in Nigeria. All fuels are imported. We have advocated that the airline operators should be involved in bringing aviation fuel into the country or they belong to an association that will make them buy in bulk from marketers, but all our airlines do not buy in bulk but individually, and because of the bad payment in the past, they are forced to pay before delivery,” he added.
Speaking on forex scarcity, Ohunayo advocated special window for airline owners, saying this will ease pressure on operators.
“It is a problem that affects procurement of parts and other components in the industry and training. We have asked for a special window and we hope that a special window will be provided for the sector to get spare parts.
“As the naira is being devalued and since operators collect 99 percent of their revenue in naira, it affects the overall bottom line because they collect in naira and spend mostly in foreign currency, definitely prices of tickets will be affected,” he said.
UK poised to end amber list quarantine for people vaccinated in US and EU - THE GUARDIAN UK
Ministers to discuss plans, with talks also to determine if they will apply to England only or all UK nations
Plans to significantly open up international travel are expected to be announced on Wednesday, with UK ministers poised to let people who have been fully vaccinated in the US and EU avoid quarantine if arriving from amber list countries.
The move would benefit millions of people by finally letting them be reunited with family and friends based in the UK, as well as businesses in the aviation and tourism sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Currently, only those who have been inoculated by the NHS are eligible for a “Covid pass” to show upon return that would allow them to skip the self-isolation period of up to 10 days if coming from an amber list country, under the rules of the traffic light system that grades countries according to their case, variant and vaccination rates.
Last week it was confirmed by the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, that those who had been jabbed abroad but were still registered with a GP in the UK would from August be able to have those doses recognised.
But the move came under criticism from Britons living abroad, who said it benefited a tiny number of people given the NHS is a residency-based system and so British citizens who have moved overseas would still be largely locked out.
The Guardian understands that senior ministers will gather for a meeting of the Covid operations committee on Wednesday morning to sign off plans to start treating Britons who have been fully vaccinated in the US and EU the same as UK residents.
US citizens who have a vaccine card proving they have been fully vaccinated and EU citizens who use the bloc’s “green pass” to demonstrate inoculation are also expected to have their documents recognised, as long as the vaccines they received are authorised for use in the UK.
Government sources stressed the change was not guaranteed and subject to a final agreement at the meeting, with conversations also taking place during the day between Whitehall and the devolved administrations about whether it would apply to England only or all four UK nations.
The Guardian also understands that ministers will discuss adding Spain to the amber plus list.
The whole of the mainland, as well as the Balearic Islands, which were downgraded several weeks ago from the green list, is at risk.
A significant number of European countries allow in Britons who have been fully vaccinated and Brussels’ advice to member states is to accept the NHS app, but the US bars anyone who has been in the UK in the past 14 days from entering the country.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the US president, Joe Biden, announced at the G7 summit in Cornwall last month they would set up a taskforce to re-establish international travel links between both countries.
But hopes of a breakthrough were shattered when the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said this week that the US would not lift the existing restrictions it places on British nationals owing to the prevalence of the Delta variant.
The US is on the UK’s amber list, meaning all travellers from the country must isolate for 10 days, though they can be released under the “test to release” system after day five. Under the changes hoped to come into force from August, Britons or American citizens who have been fully vaccinated in the US will no longer need to isolate as long as they test negative before departure and after arrival.
While likely to be welcomed by many, the move was expected to happen some time over the summer, given a review of the UK’s Covid rules on international travel was due to take place before 31 July.
Further changes to the red, amber and green lists are not expected to be made until next Thursday, with particular attention focused on France.
Ministers decided with only a few days’ notice that all those returning home from France who were fully vaccinated would not be exempt from self-isolating, with the Beta variant blamed for the move.
Some government figures are optimistic that France will be moved from “amber plus” from 9 August, given the number of Beta cases there is not as high as first thought.
The move caused a significant split among some cabinet ministers, given the Joint Biosecurity Centre had initially advised France be put on the red list – a significant step that would have meant only British residents and nationals being allowed to travel home across the Channel.
In an attempt to encourage the government to ease international travel restrictions, Heathrow, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic ran a 10-day pilot scheme, which they said showed US and EU fully vaccinated passengers could be safely exempted from the requirement to isolate.
Around 250 double-jabbed passengers on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens in July presented their credentials using paper or digital formats before boarding the plane.
Around 99% of their documents were verified as authentic, while just two passengers’ credentials were rejected. In one case there was a discrepancy between the name on the passenger’s vaccine card when compared to their passport, while another had been fullyvaccinated less than 14 days before travel.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, criticised the UK’s “overly cautious approach” to international travel, saying it would harm the country’s economic recovery and put half a million jobs at risk.
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow airport, also said there was “now no reason to delay” with exempting double-jabbed passengers from isolating.
How the Delta variant upends assumptions about the coronavirus - REUTERS
BY Julie SteenhuysenAlistair SmoutAri Rabinovitch
A woman wearing a mask passes by a coronavirus disease mobile testing van, as cases of the infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 continue to rise, in Washington Square Park in New York City, U.S., July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
July 26 (Reuters) - The Delta variant is the fastest, fittest and most formidable version of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about the disease even as nations loosen restrictions and open their economies, according to virologists and epidemiologists.
Vaccine protection remains very strong against severe disease and hospitalizations caused by any version of the coronavirus, and those most at risk are still the unvaccinated, according to interviews with 10 leading COVID-19 experts.
But evidence is mounting that the Delta variant, first identified in India, is capable of infecting fully vaccinated people at a greater rate than previous versions, and concerns have been raised that they may even spread the virus, these experts said.
As a result, targeted use of masks, social distancing and other measures may again be needed even in countries with broad vaccination campaigns, several of them said.
Israel recently reinstated mask-wearing requirements indoors and requires travelers to quarantine upon arrival.
U.S. officials are considering whether to revise mask guidance for the vaccinated. Los Angeles County, the most populous in the United States, is again requiring masks even among the vaccinated in indoor public spaces.
"The biggest risk to the world at the moment is simply Delta," said microbiologist Sharon Peacock, who runs Britain's efforts to sequence the genomes of coronavirus variants, calling it the "fittest and fastest variant yet."
Viruses constantly evolve through mutation, with new variants arising. Sometimes these are more dangerous than the original.
The major worry about the Delta variant is not that it makes people sicker, but that it spreads far more easily from person to person, increasing infections and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.
Public Health England said on Friday that of a total of 3,692 people hospitalized in Britain with the Delta variant, 58.3% were unvaccinated and 22.8% were fully vaccinated.
In Singapore, where Delta is the most common variant, government officials reported on Friday that three quarters of its coronavirus cases occurred among vaccinated individuals, though none were severely ill.
Israeli health officials have said 60% of current hospitalized COVID-19 cases are in vaccinated people. Most of them are age 60 or older and often have underlying health problems.
In the United States, which has experienced more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other country, the Delta variant represents about 83% of new infections. So far, unvaccinated people represent nearly 97% of severe cases.
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, said many vaccinated people are "so disappointed" that they are not 100% protected from mild infections. But the fact that nearly all Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 right now are unvaccinated "is pretty astounding effectiveness," she said.
'TEACHING US A LESSON'
"There is always the illusion that there is a magic bullet that will solve all our problems. The coronavirus is teaching us a lesson," said Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben Gurion University's school of public health in Israel.
The Pfizer Inc (PFE.N)/BioNTech vaccine, one of the most effective against COVID-19 so far, appeared only 41% effective at halting symptomatic infections in Israel over the past month as the Delta variant spread, according to Israeli government data. Israeli experts said this information requires more analysis before conclusions can be drawn.
"Protection for the individual is very strong; protection for infecting others is significantly lower," Davidovitch said.
A study in China found that people infected with the Delta variant carry 1,000 times more virus in their noses compared with the original version first identified in Wuhan in 2019.
"You may actually excrete more virus and that's why it's more transmissible. That's still being investigated," Peacock said.
Virologist Shane Crotty of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego noted that Delta is 50% more infectious than the Alpha variant first detected in the UK.
"It's outcompeting all other viruses because it just spreads so much more efficiently," Crotty said.
Genomics expert Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, noted that Delta infections have a shorter incubation period and a far higher amount of viral particles.
"That's why the vaccines are going to be challenged. The people who are vaccinated have got to be especially careful. This is a tough one," Topol said.
In the United States, the Delta variant has taken hold just as many Americans - vaccinated and not - have stopped wearing masks indoors.
"It's a double whammy," Topol said. "The last thing you want is to loosen restrictions when you're confronting the most formidable version of the virus yet."
The development of highly effective vaccines may have led many people to believe that once vaccinated, COVID-19 posed little threat to them.
"When the vaccines were first developed, nobody was thinking that they were going to prevent infection," said Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine and infectious disease epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta. The aim was always to prevent severe disease and death, del Rio added.
The vaccines were so effective, however, that there were signs they also prevented transmission against prior coronavirus variants.
"We got spoiled," he said.
Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, Alistair Smout in London, Ari Rabinovitch and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Will Dunham and Bill Berkrot
Vaccinated U.S. Travelers to England Will No Longer Quarantine - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- American and European Union travelers who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus will no longer need to spend 10 days in quarantine after they arrive in England.
Under plans backed by British ministers on Wednesday, international leisure cruises will also resume after being put on hold for more than a year.
The reforms to travel rules will allow visitors from the U.S. and most EU countries to enter the U.K. on the same basis as Britons who have received two Covid shots. U.K. residents are are no longer required to self-isolate when returning from most medium-risk countries.
More details are expected to be announced later on Wednesday. The rule change initially applies to England, but other nations in the U.K. have generally followed the same regimes for international travel.
The plans will deliver a significant boost to Britain’s aviation and travel sector, which has lagged the recovery in continental Europe.
This summer, American tourists on European holidays have largely bypassed the U.K. to avoid quarantines. And while vaccinated Britons can travel with less hassle to Spain or Portugal, EU residents haven’t been able to easily get to tourist attractions like the Tower of London.
Read more: Heathrow CEO Sees U.K. Ready to Let In Vaccinated Americans
While the U.K. decision will ease the barriers to travel from the U.S., the Biden administration isn’t likely to reciprocate any time soon. Last week, the U.S. advised Americans to avoid traveling to the U.K. because of a surge in coronavirus infections.
“We want people to be able to come from the U.S. freely in a way that they normally do. We’re talking to them the whole time,” Johnson said in an interview with LBC radio Wednesday. “At the moment we’re dealing with a delta wave, the U.S. is dealing with a delta wave, but be assured that we are on it the whole time.”
As Johnson’s government has eased restrictions in recent weeks, interest in foreign holidays has surged, especially for Britons aiming to visit neighboring European destinations.
Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet Plc and Wizz Air Holdings Plc have added capacity, though most of the action is still in the EU. The U.K.’s easing means more relief is on its way.
“This is absolutely positive,” Wizz Chief Executive Officer Jozsef Varadi said in an interview, referring to EU-U.K. travel. “It’s a move that is long overdue and needed to happen. It makes sense for both parties.”
Shares of EasyJet, most dependent on the U.K. among the three discounters, advanced as much as 5.3% on Wednesday. Ryanair added 2.6% and Wizz, which has been expanding into the U.K. from its Hungarian base, gained up to 6.9% after predicting a return to pre-pandemic capacity levels by August in its quarterly results report.
British Airways owner IAG SA, which would benefit from more traffic between the U.K. and the U.S., rose as much as 4%.
Under rules that went into effect this month, Britons with both doses of a Covid vaccine no longer have to quarantine for 10 days after returning to the U.K. from more than 100 countries on the so-called “amber list” of medium-risk locations.
Instead they must take Covid tests before setting off on their journeys to the U.K. and again after arriving. Similar rules on testing are expected to apply to travelers from the EU and the U.S., under the reforms drawn up by ministers.
Passengers will also need to show proof of Covid status via so-called vaccine passports.
Nigeria to reopen San Francisco mission in US - NAN
Nigeria will soon reopen its Consulate-General in San Francisco to provide consular services for the huge population of Nigerians residing on the West Coast of the US.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Gabriel Aduda, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York on Monday that the plan to re-open the mission had reached “an advanced stage“.
The Federal Government shut down the San Francisco, California, Consulate in 1989. The five-room, 4,250-square foot property is owned by Nigeria.
Aduda said: “We think rather than having Nigerians residing in California travelling to the East Coast or to the North Coast, they don’t have to travel that far.
“The mission (San Francisco) is very important and in the next few months, before the end of the year, the mission will be running,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary said that the ministry and members of the National Assembly committees on Foreign Affairs had visited all the Nigerian missions in the US in June for on-the-spot assessment.
“We visited the Embassy in Washington, DC, the New York Mission, the Atlanta Mission and we took a trip to San Francisco where we hope to re-open another mission that will service the West Coast,’’ he said.
On the state of facilities in the Nigerian missions, Aduda said there was the need for the facilities to be maintained as some of them had been in existence for so long.
“There is the need for upgrading, there is the need for routine maintenance and on the whole, service-wise, I think we were quite satisfied with what we saw at the missions.
“You will see that there are changes in all the missions in the US, especially Atlanta and New York, when it comes to the services that are being rendered to Nigerians.
“This is because, during the visit, it gave us the opportunity to discuss with the staff of the missions the new direction that the Federal Government is aiming,“ the said.
The permanent secretary said most of the challenges presented by the staff were immigration-related and they were already being addressed.
Aduda said Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) was totally responsible for producing passports and that the shortage of passport booklets was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 slowed down a lot of things and we got a lot of backlog, so the inability to meet up is what created the problem in offering passport service to Nigerians abroad.’’
The permanent secretary assured Nigerians living in the US of improved services on passport issuance.
He said with the level of support the ministry was getting from NIS, the missions would not be talking about shortage of passport booklet by the end of the year.
The permanent secretary said the Nigeria High Commission in London had a backlog of about 19,000 passports but had been cleared in three months.
He said another batch of passport booklets had been received at the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Atlanta adding, a lot is being done and we are hoping that before the end of this year, we will be on a clean slate.
Aduda commended the Consulate-General in New York for providing improved passport services to Nigerians within its jurisdiction and for organising a cultural show to promote Nigeria’s rich heritage.
The permanent secretary said the consulate had adopted cultural diplomacy through the show to sell the good image of Nigeria to the world.
The consulate had on Saturday organised a cultural show, with the theme “Nigeria: Our Community, Cultures and Unity’’, to showcase Nigeria’s festivals, dances, and fashions, among others.
Aduda, who was at the event, said the consulate had promoted Nigeria’s culture in a way that people would able be to buy-in.
He said people would get to know the opportunities, the advantages and rich resources in the country, adding, “we are going to do more of the shows.
“We only showcased two festivals – the Osun-Osogbo and the Argungu Fishing Festivals – out of the diverse cultural festivals. We hope it will actually draw people to exploit the tourism potential of the country.
“If you look at Osun-Osogbo festival, you will notice so many foreigners; if you look at Argungu, you will see many foreigners, if you look at Calabar carnivals at the end of the year, it is the same.
“In fact, there was a time we had about 20 different countries in attendance at the Calabar carnival, so apart from the economic benefit, you would have raised ambassadors that will go back with good image of the country,’’