Travel News

UAE Passes Seychelles to Become Most Vaccinated Nation - BLOOMBERG

JULY 04, 2021

(Bloomberg) --

The United Arab Emirates has overtaken Seychelles to become the world’s most vaccinated nation, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

The Persian Gulf nation has so far administered 15.5 million doses, enough to cover 72.1% of its mostly expatriate population of 10 million based on a two-dose regimen. The Seychelles has administered enough doses to cover 71.7% of its population of just under 100,000.

Cases in the UAE have remained elevated, though. Last week, the U.S. raised its travel warning for the country to its highest level, citing a “very high level” of coronavirus. Saudi Arabia has temporarily prohibited travel and the UAE has been on a “red list” for travel to the U.K. since January.

Daily infections have hovered at around 2,000 since March from a peak of about 4,000 in February. The UAE, though, tests more people per capita than most nations and has one of the lowest fatality rates in the world.

And unlike other countries, the country has largely shunned lockdowns since emerging from one last year. While the oil-rich capital Abu Dhabi has announced some curbs and plans to restrict public spaces to vaccinated people from August, Dubai remains largely open.

Dubai, the financial hub of the Middle East, is preparing to host the delayed Expo 2020 international exhibition in October. The emirate is aiming for 25 million unique visits and hopes to generate billions of dollars in revenue.

Vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc are available in the UAE, though the country’s vaccination program has hinged on Sinopharm, which is being produced locally. The government said it plans to offer a third Sinopharm shot to people who’ve already got two doses.

We Are At The Mercy Of Private Car Owners, FCT Residents Cry Out - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

JULY 04, 2021

• Count pains of going to work as city lack public transportation system

By Tyavzua Saanyol - Abuja 

Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has lamented that commuters in and within the city have to depend majorly on private car owners for their means of transportation.

Tribune Online investigation reveals that in some areas, residents would have to wait for over an hour or more before accessing a means of transportation to work.

Speaking with a resident of Kurudu whose office is in Garki, Area 3, Sunday Agbo said “getting a vehicle to convey me to town during rush hour is a struggle.

“You have to struggle for a seat once a vehicle arrives at this junction (pointing at the Army barracks phase 2 junction) or you may end up going to work very late,” he stated.

The situation is not different from that of Jikwoyi and Nyanya as our reporter witnessed commuters rushing vehicles on the arrival in order to secure seats.

Joy Attah told Tribune Online that “how fast one gets a vehicle here depends on many things, if there is hold up on the road, many car owners would decide to wait till the tariff jam reduces. That means commuters will have to wait for a long time.

“Sometimes, if few car owners are stopping to pick people, it will also be a challenge as the population of commuters would keep swelling up with few vehicles available and everyone desiring to get to work early. We just have to go through this vehicle struggling experience every working day.”

She lamented that “you know there is no public transportation system here in the Capital City, there are taxi vehicles but they are not enough.

“So we have to depend on vehicle owners who work in town to take us to work and bring us back home,” she stated.

In Lugbe, the situation is the same as well as in Kubwa areas. All over the FCT, residents depend largely on private vehicle owners for their daily transportation needs.

In 2013, FCT Administration banned commercial buses popularly known as Araba from plying routes in the main city giving reasons that the policy was to reduced traffic-congested within the city metropolis as the buses were becoming a nuisance to the city.

The Administration then said only licensed high capacity buses popularly known as El-Rufia buses would cater for the transportation needs of residents on major routes into the city centre.

In 2015, FCT Administration bought over 100 high capacity buses and added up to the buses that were already on the ground sending them to all the major routes leading into the city.

The Administration went further to dedicate some of the buses to ply some major routes within the city.

However, these buses did not last much as within a year, they started breaking down and their number on various routes began to diminish.

By 2017, most of the El-Rufia buses were seen parked at FCTA yard along Kubwa road and other yards within the city leaving a scanty number to ply major routes like Gwagwalada, Nyanya and Zuba Suleja route.

It seemed to lack of maintenance of these buses made it difficult for the administration to keep them running on the road. Gradually, these buses are becoming invisible and residents are now paying the hard price.

Border restrictions to begin easing, slowly, for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers - THE CANADIAN PRESS

JULY 04, 2021

WASHINGTON — After nearly 16 months of rigid travel restrictions, Canada is finally starting to loosen the rules — but only for a specific few.

Effective Monday, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents — those who have had a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada — will be able to skip the 14-day quarantine.

Eligible air travellers will also be exempt from the requirement that they spend their first three days in Canada in a government-approved hotel.

But the Canada Border Services Agency has a warning: would-be travellers will still be prohibited from entering the country if they were not eligible to travel to Canada before Monday.

Travellers must use the ArriveCAN app or web portal prior to departure to log their vaccination details, as well as the results of a negative COVID-19 test that's less than three days old.

Anyone who arrived before Monday will still be required to spend a full two weeks in quarantine upon arrival, the agency says.

"If you were unable to come to Canada on July 4 of this year, you can't come in on July 5 — there's been no change to all of the restrictions and the provisions that have been issued on that front," said Denis Vinette, CBSA vice-president, travellers branch.

"However, for those that can come to Canada, it's a very cautious, early first step in starting to delay or remove some requirements at the border."

Vinette said the agency is anxious to ensure people understand what is changing, as well as what is not, in order to prevent excessive delays or tie-ups at border control points.

"I think we can expect, certainly in the early days, individuals believing that, you know, July 5 is here, Canada is now open for tourism, recreation and things of that nature. That is not the case," he said.

"We've prepared our front-line staff, who've been having to deal with this since the onset, for those types of scenarios."

The ArriveCAN portal can be accessed either via the Apple or Android app or online via the federal government's website at canada.ca. Travellers are required to use the latest version of the app, which will be updated when the regulations change.

The mutual travel restrictions between Canada and the United States — which prohibit all discretionary travel between the two countries while continuing to allow the movement of trade, essential workers and international students — are due to expire July 21.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Boss of Nigeria's Dana Air arraigned on felony charges - CH-AVIATION

JULY 05, 2021

The Managing Director of Nigeria's Dana Air (9J, Lagos), Jacky Hathiramani, has been arraigned on charges of conspiracy, diversion, and felony in the Federal High Court in Abuja, the country’s newspapers report.

Federal High Court Justice Obiora Egwuatu, on June 30, ordered Hathiramani, the first defendant, and two unnamed co-accused in case number CR/101/21 to re-appear in court on October 13, 2021, in connection with the diversion of NGN450 million naira (USD1 million) from the sale of certain assets. Hathiramani is also the Managing Director of Dana Air's holding company, Dana Group, an industrial conglomerate in Nigeria.

This followed after the prosecution did not oppose a request by the defense for the postponement of the court hearing on the grounds that Hathiramani was currently out of the country for health reasons and therefore unable to appear in court on June 30. Defense counsel, Senior Advocate Sade Adedeji, said Hathiramani was also facing trial in another matter in Lagos state, which also had been adjourned as a result of his absence.

In an emailed response to a request for comment from ch-aviation, Hathiramani said: "It’s a misrepresentation and nothing to do with Dana Air. It’s an old issue already settled out of court with Ecobank." He gave no further insight.

As previously reported, Hathiramani in March 2021 confirmed to ch-aviation that he, along with six directors of the airline, had been called in for questioning by the Nigerian Police Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) in connection with an investigation into fraud, conversion, and embezzlement relating to an aircraft of the now-defunct Afrijet Airlines (6F, Lagos). Dana Air had leased the aircraft, an MD-82, 5N-BKI (msn 49483), from the state-owned Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). There had reportedly been disagreement between the companies over outstanding lease payments and block-hour charges.

How 2021 hajj pilgrimage ban will affect Nigeria, others – NAHCON - THE GUARDIAN

JULY 06, 2021

Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Zikrullah Hassan, has said that the ban of international pilgrims from the 2021 hajj exercise will create a backlog crisis for Nigeria in subsequent years.

Hassan spoke on Tuesday at a one-day seminar, themed “Hajj, Communications and Covid-19 Pandemic” organised for State Pilgrims Welfare Boards (SPWBs) public relations and information units by the commission in Abuja.

He noted that new applicants may have a long wait ahead before they could have a chance to perform hajj.

Saudi Arabian authorities had barred international pilgrims for 2021 Hajj, declaring that only 60,000 pilgrims, including its citizens and nationals residing in the country, would be allowed to take part in the exercise.

Hajj 2021 rites are expected to commence on Saturday, July 17, 2021 and continue till Thursday, July 22, 2021.

“We have to get use to the queuing system and Nigeria won’t be the first to practise that system. In Indonesia and Malaysia, some people do not go to hajj until after 20years after they had paid. This is due to the numbers but I don’t think Nigeria would get as worst as that.

“Indeed, we have to learn the reality that an intending pilgrim might have to wait for two years or more and this is because the number we have on ground has already gone beyond what we can expect will be our allocation year in year out”, he stated.

Hassan, while also expressing disappointment over the development, urged the Saudi Arabia government to take a clue from World football bodies on how they were able to move on with football competitions amid the pandemic.

“We must leave with the Covid-19 pandemic and saying it may go away so sudden might be wishful thinking. The world is strong enough to overcome any challenges. I am aware that in Europe there is currently the European football competition going on and luckily we can see the crowds in the stadium.

“I am not saying football is not good but from the point of view as a hajj manager, what is football compared to worshipping Allah? So it is now left for the hajj managers to take a clue from the football competition where the stadium are now 75 percent occupied.

While appealing to Muslims to embrace the Hajj Savings Scheme (HSS), Hassan noted that scheme would enable subscribers have the advantage of gaining profit as they await the pilgrimage.

The NAHCON boss added that the effect of monetary devaluation in the face of unstable Naira exchange rate to the dollar would be cushioned by the return on investment when hajj deposits are done through the scheme.

According to him, the seminar was organised to debate upon problems of communication in the changing world of the pandemic, saying the ultimate goal is to gain deeper understanding of the challenges and arrive at solutions that would be applicable on their operations.

Seven airlines got N2.84bn COVID-19 stimulus package – FG - PUNCH

JULY 06, 2021

The Federal Government has said seven local airlines received a N2.84bn COVID-19 stimulus package.

It said the target of N2.3tn estimated to be spent under the Economic Sustainability Plan had not been achieved.

According to a statement issued in Abuja on Monday, the Federal Government appropriation part of that total, being N500bn, had been released completely by the end of May.

The Federal Government said the funds released had made attaining several objectives of the plan possible.

Speaking on the allocation of funds to the aviation sector, the Minister of State for Budget and Planning said N5bn had been released to support local airlines, ground handlers and other aviation allied businesses.

He said, “Seven scheduled operators, comprising Dana, Overland, Air Peace, Azman, Aero, Arik, and Max Air, received N2.84bn.

“20 non-scheduled operators, comprising cargo and private jet services received N949,909,000; five ground handling operators, including the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company of Nigeria Plc, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc, Presion Aviation, Batuke Resources Ltd and Swissport Intl Ltd, received N233,333,000; the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies received N196m.

“Airport Car Hire Association of Nigeria received N196m; seven in-flight catering services operators received N233,333,000 and aviation fuel operators received N233,333,000.”

Diaspora Nigerians switch away from real estate as depreciating exchange rate erodes returns - NAIRAMETRICS

JULY 06, 2021

by Victor Enengedi

Four years ago, when Nigeria first suffered a major currency crisis, Chukwuemeka decided it was time to invest in Nigeria. Following the devaluation that occurred in 2016, his $50,000 savings when converted to naira is worth N19 million much higher than the N9.8 million it was worth just two years earlier.

He plunged his savings into real estate investments in the country acquiring a slew of rental properties that helped generate income from his motherland. By the time he was done in 2017, he had sunk in over $100,000 or about N36 million in Nigeria as investments.

READ: Nigeria records lowest remittances from abroad since 2008

This is the same investment motivation for most Nigerians in the diaspora looking to invest back home. Work hard, save money and invest some of the savings in Nigeria. Real Estate investments such as hotels and rented properties have been the mainstay for diaspora Nigerians for obvious reasons. It is the easiest form of investment for those not savvy with doing business in Nigeria, and a convenient choice for those weary about the intricacies that come with manufacturing, farming, or trade. However, this perception is changing more noticeably as the economic situation in the country deteriorates.

Trustfund Pensions Limited The Covid-19 Pandemic and the ensuing fall in oil price has dealt a serious blow to the economy forcing massive depreciation of the currency and triggering a spike in inflation rate. As Nigerians wallow in economic despair, so is the fortune of diaspora Nigerians who see the value of their investments erode. Real Estate, the investment of choice is a poster child for the erosion of purchasing power.

READ: Diaspora remittances are down 61% YoY highlighting need for CBN’s Naira4Dollar promo

According to Chukwuemeka his N36 million investment is now worth much less when converted to dollars. Rather than get back the $100,000 he brought into Nigeria he is likely to get much less should he decide to flip the property. This situation has made several others like him reconsider their investment options.

Nigerians in the diaspora are increasingly aware of the effect of exchange rate devaluation on their investment returns, especially from real estate, and are reconsidering their moves. Now, they are delving into areas previously viewed with caution and trepidation for fear of losing their investments.

A diaspora Nigerian, Olayinka James, who is also the CEO CyberGuard Global Consulting explains his rationale for diversifying away from real estate.

READ: FG states reason for $100 charges, others imposed on Nigerians in diaspora

“Although there is profit from real estate investments in Nigeria due to the massive population growth, the instability of exchange rate makes it less desirable as an investment vehicle for wealth accumulation. For instance, if you had invested $1M in real estate about 6yrs ago when the dollar was exchanging for N280, that same investment including possible appreciation would be worth around 70% using today’s exchange rate.”

The alternative for him is FinTech, which he believes, provides a lot more returns if the right deal is on the table.

Konga “Fintech has a lot of room to grow in Nigeria. Globally, the overall Fintech market proved remarkably resilient in 2020 despite a broad array of uncertainties. Aas an investor, I believe that investing in Fintech has the potential for quick returns in the magnitude comparable to what the early investor in pay stack just cashed out. Over 400% return in a few short years,” he says.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals capital importation into Nigeria between April and December 2020 was just $1.6 billion compared to over $9 billion a year earlier. With the dire economic situation, foreign investors have abandoned investing in Africa’s largest economy. This has turned the attention of monetary authorities to diaspora Nigerians who are thought to remit over $20 billion into the country annually.

The CBN in March launched its naira 4 dollar policy which was aimed at diaspora Nigerians looking to send money to loved ones locally or just repatriate their savings in hard currency into the country. While no official data indicates how successful this scheme has been, the CBN’s indefinite extension of the policy suggests it may be working.

Critics point to the external reserve as perhaps the biggest indication that the policy may not be producing the desired effect required to boost dollar inflows and strengthen the exchange rate. Diaspora Nigerians, it will seem, have other government policies which they see as incentives for investing in the country. An example is the Agriculture sector.

Jaiz bank Ayoola Julius, another diaspora Nigerian who cofounded an Agric-Startup firm, Green Gold Africa, explained why he delved into the sector.

“The government is putting policies in place to support the agricultural sector and there are investment opportunities in this area. You can now actually get into agriculture without owning a farm. There are investment platforms like Green Gold Africa where the diaspora can invest to support agriculture in Nigeria.”

But Ayo has got his fingers burnt in the past when he ventured into the real economy particularly retailing and logistics. “I have dealt with very difficult business people in Nigeria,” he explains.

Everyone tends to look at business opportunities through a rose-tinted glass. No amount of feasibility study or due diligence will save your investment if you deal with people who are insincere. I have lost money not because the business was not viable but because I was defrauded by someone, I thought I could trust. This is not a characterisation of most Nigerians as most people I have met are honest hard-working Nigerians but once you get your fingers burnt once, you tend to be too careful and lose out on good opportunities later.”

He is also worried about the effect of the depreciating exchange rate. “Exchange rate fluctuations are also a major challenge for transactions across borders. The dwindling value of the Naira makes me think what effect the fluctuation will have on my returns on investments and the true value of my capital repatriation.”

There are more investors like Ayoola and Yinka staking their future in the Nigerian economy which they left behind years ago. A promoter of a consortium of investors based in Canada informed Nairametrics they were interested in “big-ticket deals” that can absorb up to $2 million of investors. The consortium is made up of Nigerians living in the Northern American country, looking for high returns on investment in Africa’s largest economy. Like most diaspora investors, they have enough real estate in their portfolio and are looking to diversify into other sectors of the economy.

Increasing adoption of technological tools has also played a major role in boosting confidence to invest in the country. Diaspora Nigerians can now leverage on several options to track their investments, monitor payments, record and view expense journals. According to Emeka, he has had better visibility of his truck business than even his real estate investment.

“I can see when my track is delivering products and even when they are buying fuel,” he excitedly remarks.

Despite the increasing disinterest in real estate, it remains a major destination for diaspora inflows. However, its days of dominance are fast declining.

Ibom deploys A220 aircraft on Lagos-PH routes - THE GUARDIAN

JULY 06, 2021

Indigenous carrier, Ibom Air, has deployed its Airbus 220-300 aircraft to serve the Lagos-Port Harcourt-Lagos route that opened yesterday.

The Airbus, which is a boost to the airline’s fleet capacity, will also drive competition on one of the busiest routes in the country.

The Rivers State government, at the colourful reception of the maiden flight into Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Omagwa, Rivers State, said Ibom’s “grand entry” was a breath of fresh air for local aviation and economy of the region.

Rivers’ Commissioner of Transportation, Osima Ginah, said the Port Harcourt route is a strategic corridor for passenger traffic, yet underserved by operating carriers.

“We are, therefore, delighted to welcome Ibom Air. Ibom will actually increase commercial activities in Rivers State because it is going to make the business economy thrive. Most times when you get to the airport other airlines are not available, but with Ibom Air coming to Rivers, you know you have an alternative.

“Port Harcourt is a business hub and I want to assure Ibom Air that we have enough passengers for them to do business. It is a welcome development. It is going to boost the economy of the state because more people will come to Rivers and this will ease transportation,” Gina said.

Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Ibom Air, George Uriesi, said the deployment of the A220-300 for Port Harcourt was apt because the state has the capacity.

Uriesi said the inaugural flight to Port Harcourt had 90 per cent load capacity, which is impressive for the new entrant. He said: “Port Harcourt has the capacity. The first flight was about 90 per cent full, and the return leg is the same too. We expected that Port Harcourt would provide the kind of load factor to justify the use of this aircraft type and we need it to create more capacity for Port Harcourt passengers.”

Uriesi added that the airline was keenly looking at further expansion, though dependent on the traffic demand.

“We have four or five targets in our expansion drive. But the decision on where we go is always based on numbers (traffic). So, it is very likely that one of the destinations will be a northern city,” he said.

British Airways settles lawsuit over data breach which hit 420,000 people - REUTERS

JULY 06, 2021

British Airways has settled a legal claim over a major data breach that affected 420,000 customers and staff.

The breach in 2018 included the leaking of names, addresses and card payment details and led to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) handing out its largest ever fine at £20 million.

Law firm Pogust, Goodhead, Mousinho, Bianchini and Martins (PGMBM) said the settlement was reached following mediation with BA and the terms are confidential.

Previously, lawyers said the lawsuit was the largest group action over a data breach in British legal history, with 16,000 claimants when filed in April last year.

The deal struck will see claimants paid out and the airline said it has directly apologised to those involved.

Harris Pogust, chairman of PGMBM, said: “We are very pleased to have come to a resolution on this matter after constructive mediation with British Airways. This represents an extremely positive and timely solution for those affected by the data incident.

“The Information Commissioner’s Office laid out how BA did not take adequate measures to keep its passengers’ personal and financial information secure. However, this did not provide redress to those affected. This settlement now addresses that.”

A BA spokesperson said: “We apologised to customers who may have been affected by this issue and are pleased we’ve been able to settle the group action.

“When the issue arose we acted promptly to protect and inform our customers.”

The ICO initially threatened to fine BA £183 million for the breach under GDPR rules, but this was reduced to £20 million due to the airline pointing out it was in financial difficulty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PGMBM is also representing a growing number of claimants in a case relating to a similar data breach of EasyJet data revealed in May 2020, which saw nine million passengers’ data exposed, including names, email addresses and travel information.

Mr Pogust added: “The pace at which we have been able to resolve this process with British Airways has been particularly encouraging and demonstrates how seriously the legal system is taking mass data incidents.

“This is a very positive sign as we look ahead to what will be an even bigger case against EasyJet relating to their 2020 data breach, as well as other similar international actions.”

UAE ranked world's 2nd safest country in 2021 - KHALEEJ TIMES

JULY 07, 2021

The UAE has been ranked the second safest country among the world's 134 countries in 2021 in a new report.

The UAE's top ranking can be attributed to its robust health sector and Covid-19 vaccination campaign. The UAE is now the world's most vaccinated nation, with 64.3 per cent of residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The index takes into account three fundamental factors – war and peace, personal security, and natural disaster risk. It also includes the unique risk factors stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Globally, Iceland was rated the safest country, followed respectively by the UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Finland, Mongolia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and New Zealand.

The Global Finance magazine's index of the world's safest countries ranked other Gulf countries highly as well. Qatar was ranked 3rd, Bahrain at 12th, Kuwait at 18th, Saudi Arabia at 19th and Oman ranked 25th.

Among other significant countries, Australia was ranked 11th, Switzerland at 14th, Japan at 22nd, China at 26th, the United Kingdom at 38th, Egypt at 65th, the United States at 71st, India at 91st and Pakistan at 116th.

Philippines, Colombia, Guatemala, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Yemen and North Macedonia ranked at the bottom.

"Countries with serious civil conflict that have high risks from a natural disaster such as the Philippines, Nigeria, Yemen, and El Salvador all reported relatively low death tolls from Covid-19, yet performed poorly in terms of safety overall," Global Finance said.

"Yemen's brutal civil war and El Salvador's high murder rate (highest in Latin America) offset any improvement in safety ranking because they avoided the worst-case scenario surrounding Covid-19."


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