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Travel News

Delta Air Lines resumes flight operations to Lagos - PUNCH

JULY 14, 2021

BY Juliana Ajayi


Delta Air Lines Inc. has resumed flight operations at Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport to pre-pandemic level.

Flight operations between Lagos and New York-JFK are scheduled four times weekly.

The flight from New York-JFK joins Delta’s existing daily service to Atlanta, which restarted last September following a short suspension due to the airport’s closure at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline said the choice of nonstop services to its largest hubs enable customers to connect onto flights to 130 destinations across the United States within four hours of arrival in either Atlanta or New York.

Delta flies Airbus A330-200 aircraft to Nigeria, which include Delta One business class, complete with fully flat-bed seats and aisle access for all, as well as Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, according to a statement on Monday.

The Delta Air Lines Commercial Director, Africa, Bobby Bryan, said “Delta is the longest-serving US airline in Nigeria and the country remains an important market for us.

“Facilitating trade as well as providing valuable air links for families and friends to re-connect is key to our mission here in Nigeria and around the globe. Never has this been more important as the world recovers from the pandemic.”

According to the statement, the additional service from New York also provides cargo customers with increased capacity for the safe transportation of cargo from Nigeria.

It said with short connection times in New York, cargo could be swiftly forwarded to destinations throughout the US and beyond.

Delta’s flights to Lagos, which have been in operation since 2007, support the continued economic and trade ties between Nigeria and the US.

Data from the Office of the US Trade Representative shows that the value of US goods and services trade with Nigeria totaled an estimated $10.4bn in 2019 with exports valued at $5.3bn and imports into the US worth $5.1bn. US foreign direct investment in Nigeria (stock), meanwhile, was $5.5bn in 2019, a 21.5 per cent increase from 2018.

Customers traveling between Nigeria and the US are encouraged to review entry requirements prior to travel.

One Million People Are Still Shielding From Covid in England - BLOOMBERG

JULY 14, 2021

BY  Khadija KothiaBloomberg News


(Bloomberg) -- More than one million people in England who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus are continuing to shield even after the U.K. government stopped advising them to stay at home, research suggested.

Only 37% of the 3.7 million people in England who are classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” feel comfortable entering restaurants and bars or education settings, according to a survey of 1,066 people published by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday.

Some 29% -- the equivalent of more than one million people -- said they were still shielding, even though the government stopped advising them to do so from April 1.

Three-quarters of those who felt uncomfortable in educational, cultural or hospitality venues said mandatory wearing of face coverings would help put them at ease.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided to lift the legal requirement to wear face masks in crowded spaces and on public transport, along with other pandemic restrictions on July 19. Johnson is already facing calls to rethink his plan, with scientists warning that the country is heading for a peak of infections and as many as 2,000 hospital admissions a day next month.

England Faces Up to 200 Daily Covid Deaths When Peak Hits

The ONS survey is likely to add to pressure on Johnson’s government to retain some pandemic restrictions as cases rise.

On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said people who are extremely vulnerable should “go to the shops and pharmacy at quieter times of the day” and avoid those who are not vaccinated.

Why insecurity worsened in Nigeria, by Aregbesola - THE GUARDIAN

JULY 14, 2021

• Says #EndSARS crisis carryover of COVID-19 frustrations
• Urges restructuring of markets, transport systems to prevent transmission

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has said that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed immensely to the upsurge of multifaceted insecurity crises and economic woes currently affecting the country.

He also disclosed that the #EndSARS crisis that rocked the country, which left 57 civilians, 37 policemen and six soldiers dead and property worth billions of naira destroyed, was a carryover of the COVID-19 frustrations.

According to him, COVID-19 pandemic led to the partial dismantling of economic activities, caused geometric increase in joblessness and offered opportunities for criminals to recruit the youths into their gangs.

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The former Osun State Governor spoke, yesterday, at the Ekiti State University (EKSU), while delivering a lecture entitled: “COVID -19: The Economy and Security,” to mark the third yearly lecture of the Faculty of Arts of the institution.

He warned that unless the nation’s markets, building settlements and transportation systems are revolutionised, there would always be easy transmission of COVID-19 or other communicable diseases in the near future, adding that the country may not be lucky next time.

The minister urged the security forces to always be proactive, saying that once there is instability in the income of people, those in low tolerance threshold will take to crimes.

“The effect of COVID-19 on the economy is humongous. It is not surprising therefore that the GDP fell by 23 per cent, while household incomes fell by 60 per cent. The fall in GDP was largely due to the fact that the four states put under lockdown account for two thirds of the economy.

“This development was a nightmare for the Nigerian economy, considering that oil accounts for 80 per cent of government revenues.”

Aregbesola revealed that the World Bank gave a pathetic account that private remittances of Nigerians in the Diaspora declined by between 80 and 90 per cent in the first quarter and 25 per cent in the whole of 2020.

In his submission, the EKSU Vice Chancellor, Prof. Eddy Olanipekun, stated that the issue of COVID-19 has posed challenges to the country’s social, economic and political affairs, saying time has come for the nation to build a strong response mechanism that can tame emergency situations.

The Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Ibrahim Abdu-Raheem, said the lecture was conceptualised to ruminate on how best the country could handle post-COVID-19 situation and redirect the economy for better prosperity for the nation.

Dubai sets a world record: A 200-foot deep pool with a ‘sunken city’ - CNBC

JULY 14, 2021

BY  Monica Buchanan

Dubai is already home to the world’s tallest building. Now it can lay claim to the world’s deepest diving pool too.

Deep Dive Dubai opened on July 7, just 10 days after being named the world’s deepest diving pool by the Guinness World Records.

The new indoor pool is nearly 200 feet deep and holds almost 3.7 million gallons of water. It’s also home to a vast underwater attraction resembling a “sunken city” that divers can explore either on their own or with a guide.

The attraction is open to travelers aged 10 and older, including those who are donning a mask and tank for the first time. 

‘Sunken city’

With graffiti, crumbling facades and a large portrait of Marilyn Monroe hanging on the wall, Dubai’s new vertical diving pool contains the remnants of a lost submerged city. There’s an apartment building and library — even an arcade with a vintage Pac-Man machine, foosball and pool table.

As for the size of the underwater city, several dives are needed to fully explore it, according to the website.

Beginners can dive to a depth of 40 feet, while those with certifications can explore the entire pool either with a guide or alone. Certified divers can also “free dive” — which is diving without a tank, using breath only — while connected to a fixed ascent line. Courses are also available to teach divers new skills. 

Bookings are by invitation only. Actor and rapper Will Smith wrote about his visit in an Instagram post that has been liked more than 3 million times in four days.

Public bookings will open later in July at the company’s website. Prices start at 800 United Arab Emirates dirhams ($218).

The appeal of pool diving

Diving in a pool has several benefits over the ocean. For starters, weather and water conditions are controlled. There are no currents or rough seas, and dives aren’t canceled due to bad weather.

Pool water can be well-lit, even at lower depths. Dubai’s new pool has 156 lights positioned throughout the pool and water temperatures are maintained at a comfortable 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is sound and mood lighting throughout Deep Dive Dubai, a 196-foot vertical pool that opened last week. There is sound and mood lighting throughout Deep Dive Dubai, a 196-foot vertical pool that opened last week. Courtesy of Deep Dive Dubai

There is, however, no living marine life, including coral, which is normally a huge part of the leisure diving experience. But that isn’t a deal-breaker for Dubai-based American Kyle McGee, who has 15 years of diving experience in places such as Egypt, Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands.

In fact, he’s excited to try it.

“When we are diving, we often are focused on marine life, and it would be nice to try some unusual activities under the water without having to worry about spotting fish,” he said. “I think it would especially be a great way to practice maintaining buoyancy while playing fun games and exploring.”

A hyperbaric treatment chamber is scheduled to open later this year at Deep Dive Dubai, as is a restaurant where diners can peer into the pool as divers swim by. A hyperbaric treatment chamber is scheduled to open later this year, as is a restaurant where diners can peer into the pool as divers swim by. Courtesy of Deep Dive Dubai

Dubai’s newest attraction appeals to inexperienced divers as well. Television travel commentator Lindsay Myers wants to learn to dive, but finds the “unknown” of the open ocean intimidating.

“I would for sure be more comfortable learning how to dive in a pool,” she said. “This pool is great because it’s baby steps into the direction of diving eventually in the ocean.”

Liju Cherian, from the neighboring country of Oman, agreed. He wants to dive but has shied from it in the past due to a lingering asthma condition. But he’s interested in Deep Dive Dubai because he’d rather “dive in a pool than an ocean” — at least in the beginning.

Another record for Dubai

In conjunction with Deep Dive Dubai’s opening, Abdulla Bin Habtoor, a spokesperson for Deep Dive Dubai, said the new pool is an investment in Dubai’s growing sports culture and adventure tourism sectors.

It is also another record-breaking architectural feat for Dubai, which is home to the world’s:

The record-breaking Dubai Mall is also home to the world's largest shopping mall aquarium, where visitors can cage snorkel and dive with sharks. The record-breaking Dubai Mall is also home to the world’s largest shopping mall aquarium, where visitors can cage snorkel and dive with sharks. GIUSEPPE CACACE | AFP | Getty Images

Dubai is known for its Guinness World Records, from the world’s largest fountain at The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah to the largest gathering of people to eat breakfast cereal together (1,354 participants).

Dubai also holds the distinction of having the fastest police car — a Bugatti Veyron purchased for $1.6 million in 2016.

 

ECB takes first step in long march to digital euro - REUTERS

JULY 14, 2021

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -The European Central Bank took a first step on Wednesday towards launching a digital version of the euro, part of a global drive to meet growing demand for electronic means of payment and tackle a boom in cryptocurrencies.

An electronic equivalent of banknotes and coins, the digital euro will likely be similar to an account that euro zone citizens can keep at the ECB rather than a commercial bank.

While it probably will not feel very different from any online bank account or digital wallet, it will be intrinsically safer as the ECB cannot run out of euros, unlike a private company.

The ECB’s Governing Council on Wednesday formally gave the go-ahead to the investigation phase of the project, which should last 24 months and be followed by three years of implementation.

The main aim of the initiative is to avoid leaving digital payments to the private sector, particularly if the use of physical cash starts dwindling, like it has in Sweden.

“Our work aims to ensure that in the digital age citizens and firms continue to have access to the safest form of money, central bank money,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said.

Work on a digital euro accelerated after Facebook unveiled plans to create its own currency in 2019, a potential threat to central banks’ core business.

Unlike Facebook’s proposed Diem or any other cryptocurrency, a digital euro would be backed by a central bank. The ECB is keen to get a piece of the digital action to guard against cash euros becoming obsolete should cryptocurrencies gain traction for real world spending.

“We cannot exclude that sometime in the future these coins might gain popularity and in that case the risk is that the possibility to use central bank money will be much lower,” ECB board member Fabio Panetta said.

NO MAJOR OBSTACLES

The ECB said it had conducted experiments in the past year, finding “no major technical obstacles” with the digital euro’s ledger - which could be centralised, distributed or a mix of both - its privacy and safety, and offline use.

It will now start working on the design of the digital euro, consulting with stakeholders ranging from banks to retailers.

It also define the role for banks and fintechs, which will probably offer digital euro wallets to customers on the ECB’s behalf.

The ECB will also start talks with European Union lawmakers to seek legislative changes that may be needed because the digital euro was not foreseen by EU Treaties.

“A discussion by the end of this year on policy objectives and uses of a digital euro ... could be a good starting point,” Panetta told an EU lawmaker in a letter accompanying the decision.

German finance minister Olaf Scholz welcomed the announcement on Wednesday as did Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and the country’s banking federation, a positive sign given the initial scepticism towards the digital-euro project in cash-fond Germany.

Reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alison Williams

Being Nigerian Outside Nigeria: An Extra Burden - P.M.NEWS

JULY 15, 2021

BY  Dare Babarinsa

Visiting Austria for the first time and realizing that the police officers are particularly interested in the same set of people: The Nigerians.

I’ve been in and out of South Africa for the last five years. On my first arrival in Johannesburg, January 2014, I was welcomed at the airport by Fr. Terry Nash. He was smiling, I was smiling, too. I was in the company of six other guys who introduced themselves – from Delta State, Akwa-Ibom, Benue, Anambra, etc.

It got to my turn and I said IMO. Fr. Nash’s smile ripened into a giggle, “I have heard about Imo, I met many people from Imo State because I’ve been in prison ministry. Nigerians generally make up a high population in the prison here. And the Imo guys make the church in prison so vibrant, those guys are great”, he said, still smiling.

My own smile had left me. Years later I would find myself suffering what seems like a stigma that comes with being Nigerian. Every time I found myself in the airport, my identity as a Nigerian is a source of worry: being asked to step aside for extra questions, being delayed by extra protocol because I’m Nigerian.

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Three years ago I was returning to Nigeria on holiday. There was small chaos at the airport: the noise of police whistles and the barking of police dogs filled the air, “get that man”, a chubby white policeman was screaming. “Somebody has been caught with drugs again”, an unknown Black man quickly hinted me, “it is these Nigerians”. I quickly became furious.

“You can’t be sure it’s a Nigerian”, I retorted. Well, the guy was caught. Behold, he had a strong Nigerian accent while he was begging the policemen, and had the angled shape of my head: Igbo, with a rosary on his neck. I gave up on defending Nigerians’ reputation.

I gave up because shortly after a Nigerian family volunteered to do clean up in a certain Catholic parish in Johannesburg, the police stormed into the church one day and found drugs hiding behind the terbanacle. I gave up when a Nigerian asked by an immigration officer to step aside, was scolding the officer for delaying him and raining legal threats, “I know my rights, you can’t keep me this long”, only for the immigration officer to find that his documents had all been forged.

Once, on returning to South Africa from Nigeria I was with an old Yoruba woman who couldn’t speak or read English, her son in Pretoria had a newborn baby. She had been invited, they somehow succeeded in making her a passport and got her a visa. She couldn’t read anything or understand any information at the airport, so I helped her because my Yoruba is fluent.

When finally we reached Johannesburg the immigration officers had questions about some “strange” things in her bag. I told them those were cooking ingredients, I was the translator between her and the officers. Soon she became worried and whispered into my ear, “Eyi n di isoro. Fun won ni five hundred naira” (this is becoming a problem, give them five hundred).

“Won o kiin gba five hundred (they don’t accept N500”, I replied.

“Oya fun won ni one thousand” (then give them one thousand). She squeezed a wrinkled one thousand naira note into my hand. I told her they do not use naira here. “haaaaaah” her mouth opened. I expected that, I smiled.

Bribe is a Nigerian culture, even our old people believe it works, and that there is no other way of moving past an obstacle aside from bribe, there is no other means of progress asides bribe. Bribe is a Nigerian salvation.

Weeks later I had a Nigerian friend who was in dire need. He lived with me, he talked about his two million naira which he was expecting from Nigeria, with many proves of the availability of the money. So he borrowed six thousand rand from me. My friend, it’s now more than two years, he never paid. He fled to someplace else and never returned my calls. I learned later he had borrowed also from a Kenyan who was our neighbor, and this neighbor kept asking where my ‘brother’ was. Until today he never paid, and it doesn’t prick his conscience.

It’s important for we Nigerians to ask ourselves serious questions. What is the most important thing to a Nigerian? What kind of factors in our childhood makes us desperate and dangerously competitive? Sometimes we are under the pressure of our parents and peers to “prove ourselves”.

When the average Nigerian travels abroad he doesn’t travel to merely make a livelihood. His plan is to outshine his peers. I do not find this common among South Africans. They’re usually satisfied, they just want to have what they need, they don’t kill themselves over what is beyond them.

The first time I had a drive to Durban with a senior brother from Mariannhill we saw a Nigerian suspiciously passing a tightly-folded bag from under the counter, then they made signs to each other, then he sneaked out. Another man entered and sneakily collected it.

The Zambian brother tapped my back, “drugs, they are your brothers”. The saddest thing is that those who choose to talk about this are attacked and bullied on social media, they are regarded as unpatriotic citizens. Because Nigerian morality ends with sex and marriage. Finished. Talk about issues on human sexuality and you’ll see the bible-thumping Nigeria saying, “hellfire, Adam and Steve, weapons of the devil, it is not our culture”, but bribery is our culture. Everything else asides from sexual activity is survival, so it’s unofficially acceptable. Our mouths are sharp when HIV is mentioned, we often think we are very moral. What shall it profit a virgin who is a thief? Nigerian morality is faux.

“What is your brother doing in Malaysia?”

“He is hustling”, that is all you can say. He’s just hustling. He comes back to Nigeria and does Thanksgiving and the priest blesses him with chasuble spread out. He pays his tithes and gives huge offerings, and his name is announced in church. But nobody notices that poor man at the corner of the church who is a gateman and gives his offering from the little he earned through honest work.

What is your brother doing in Dubai? You give random and vague answers: He’s trying to find something, we are praying he succeeds, please put him in prayer. You know that kind of prayer, right?

A South African Bishop once made a joke, “it is easier to trust a stone than to trust a Nigerian. You keep a stone on this table, you’ll still find the stone when you come back. Keep a Nigerian and come back later, the Nigerian is gone”. And yet we wonder why religious orders outside Africa are afraid of considering Nigerian applications. Our brothers who were admitted into American dioceses arrived at the airport and then ran away.

I visited a church in Johannesburg where I heard during the announcements that the guy who teaches the altar servers had been shot dead. A Nigerian. Later the circumstances surrounding his death did not match with a person who would teach mass servers how to serve Holy Mass.

It should make us ask questions about what we value the most as Nigerians: religion or integrity? Perhaps something is wrong with how we have been evangelized.

Back home in Nigeria, Nigerians who are not corrupt are seen as fools by their fellow Nigerians. Their wives mock them. Those Nigerians who studied abroad and now see the world differently, hardly ever come close to political offices in Nigeria, they just won’t fit in. And yet we love Jesus the most, we are the bastion of faith in Africa. Do you know why your visa has been rejected many times? It’s because your passport is a Nigerian passport. Ask your friend from Tanzania, he’ll tell you how easy it is for him to get a visa.

Do you know why your admission into that European University is taking long? It’s because they’re still investigating your documents to be sure that they’re not fake. Ask your South African friend, he already got an admission.

Now that a new word has been added into the Oxford Dictionary “Nigerian Scam” (please google it) we can be sure that our position in the world is in the first place. Think Nigerian, but let it be that your reputation is important.

Identify as Nigerian, but make sure those who come after you are not denied privileges because of you. Because of those who represent us positively around the globe, because of the many Nigerians who work to earn their living, I am proudly Nigerian. I am proudly Nigerian, because Pius Adesanmi was, Chinua Achebe was, because Anthony Cardinal Okogie is, because Chimamanda Adichie is, because Fela Kuti was, because of people such as Flora Nwapa, Ben Okri, Dora Akunyuli, Bishop Hassan Kukah, etc. There are many models you could choose from instead of adding to our dirty script. Save other Nigerians from stigma, be true.

*Dare Babarinsa is a Renowned Journalist, Columnist, Historian, and Author.

Airline refunds: What are your rights as a consumer?' - YAHOO FINANCE

JULY 15, 2021

Travel refunds are at the front of many people’s mind in the COVID era — but what are your rights?

Receiving a full refund within 14 days is your right as a consumer if significant parts of the package have to be changed. You also have the right to cancel your holiday if the government warns against travelling to that destination and the surrounding area, even if the organisers don’t cancel the trip.

The regulator says passengers should have reasonable expectation of safety, enjoyment and freedom from anxiety, which they would not fully get if government advice changed. Since March last year, the Competition and Markets Authority has received over 23,000 complaints about cancelled flights and holidays.

The CMA is now investigating whether British Airways and Ryan Air broke consumer law for failing to refund passengers for flights they could not legally take. Your rights must be clearly set out to you by organisers of package holidays, because you are entitled to cancel without a termination fee if there are unavoidable circumstances at what would have been your destination.

Asia’s Air Travel May Take Three Years to Recover From Pandemic - BLOOMBERG

JULY 15, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Asian air travel may take another three years to recover fully from the devastation wrought by the pandemic, lagging behind rebounds in other regions and offering a stern headwind for refiners making jet fuel.

It’ll take until 2024 for international air travel across the region to reach pre-virus levels, a year after global traffic hits that milestone, according to the International Air Transport Association. Similarly, consultancy Energy Aspects says jet fuel consumption will reach pre-pandemic volumes only in 2023-2024.

The drawn-out timelines highlight the difficulties facing Asia and the likely consequences for jet fuel, a traditionally prized part of the oil-products market. Low rates of vaccination in many countries, the challenge posed by the fast-spreading delta variant, and persistent lockdowns have all set back the recovery even as the U.S. and Europe press on. All that means Asia’s aviation industry is unlikely to offer significant support to the region’s hard-pressed refineries, which process crude from the Middle East and elsewhere into fuels.

Both North America and Europe have seen strong demand during the holidays, with the European Union relaxing quarantine and lockdown requirements, according to Mayur Patel, regional sales director for Japan and Asia Pacific at OAG, an aviation analytics firm. “Sadly, the same cannot be said for Asia, where the low level of vaccination rates, sudden and sharp lockdowns, and inconsistent regulations frustrate any real attempt at a recovery,” he said.

Just this week, Indonesia -- the largest economy in Southeast Asia -- surpassed India’s tally of daily cases, marking a new center for the highly-contagious delta variant. Elsewhere, Malaysia has been struggling to contain a recent outbreak, Seoul in South Korea has imposed its toughest restrictions yet, and Japan is preparing to host the Olympic Games without spectators.

Bubble Trouble

While there have been signs some countries including Singapore are rethinking their Covid-zero stance to open up, it’s likely international travel will still take longer than the rest of the world to restart. Australia’s plan to launch a quarantine-free travel bubble with the city-state is now more likely to occur only by the end of the year, according to an Australian diplomat.

“We expect passenger traffic for international Asia-Pacific to restart in early 2022 at the earliest,” an IATA spokesperson said in an email interview. “We don’t think that the variant situation will improve, so governments are unlikely to start lifting controls before vaccination becomes sufficiently widespread to limit community contagion.”

That means a longer struggle for Asian refiners. Given the differentiated recovery, some processors have been looking to Europe and the U.S. as outlets for jet fuel, shipping more to both regions. With lackluster demand, the margin for making jet fuel in Asia has sunk to $5.99 a barrel at Wednesday’s close compared with $15.54 in December 2019, Bloomberg Fair Value data show.

Asia’s jet fuel usage accounted for a third of global consumption in 2019, according to Energy Aspects. Right now, the region’s overall flight numbers -- domestic and international -- are 70% of pre-virus levels, but if China is excluded are only 40%, according to George Dix, an analyst. “We currently expect Asian jet demand will not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023-2024, although domestic travel will have largely recovered by the end of 2022.”

Given the challenges, regional refiners will continue to redirect kerosene, which includes jet fuel, into the gasoil pool this quarter, aiming to tap into winter fuel heating demand the following quarter, according to Sri Paravaikkarasu at energy consultancy FGE. “The full recovery of international air travel has a long way to go,” she said.

Three more Thai islands open to vaccinated travellers - AFP

JULY 15, 2021

Three more Thai islands opened to vaccinated foreign tourists on Thursday despite a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases propelled by the Delta variant.

The islands -- Samui, Tao and Phangan -- welcomed visitors as part of the kingdom's push to revive its battered tourism industry.

Thailand launched its "sandbox" scheme on July 1, allowing vaccinated travellers to visit Phuket island. Tourists do not have to quarantine in a hotel but can not leave Phuket for two weeks.

Under Thursday's expansion, tourists must stay at an approved hotel on Samui for a week and can leave their accommodation on day four.

They will have to produce a negative Covid-19 test before being allowed to venture to Tao or Phangan after their first week.

The rest of the country is struggling to rein in infections from the Delta variant, which authorities say now makes up nearly 80 percent of its caseload.

Virus hotspot Bangkok and nine provinces are under tightened restrictions, including a night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Thailand recorded almost 9,200 new infections and a record daily high of 98 deaths on Thursday.

- 'Don't want to rush' -

Phuket has received 5,000 foreign tourists since its reopening, 10 of whom have tested positive for Covid-19.

Authorities are not expecting a big influx of tourists immediately to Samui and the other two islands.

Tourism Association of Koh Samui president Ratchaporn Poolsawadee described Thursday's start of the "Samui Plus" scheme as a soft opening.

He said 75 percent of residents on the three islands were vaccinated.

"It is expected that arrivals will improve after tourists learn the rules and regulations. And then some rules and regulations could be tweaked," Ratchaporn told AFP.

"We don't want to rush (Samui Plus)."

Tourism makes up one fifth of Thailand's national income and the economy is suffering its worst performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Ratchaporn said tourism was worth $918 million to Samui before the pandemic but the virus had cut turnover to $88 million last year.

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Stakeholders Tackle FAAN over Security Tax - THISDAY

JULY 16, 2021

BY  Chinedu Eze 


of international airlines that operate in Nigeria have alleged that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had diverted the multibillion-naira security tax it collected from passengers for the provision of facilities at the airports.

But FAAN has denied the allegation, saying it was false. Every passenger traveling to international destination pays $20 security tax to FAAN. It was introduced in 2010 to provide infrastructure that would further fortify the airports against terror attacks. FAAN recorded 323,751 international passengers at the Lagos and Abuja airports in the first quarter of 2021, that paid $6, 475, 020 (N2, 661, 233, 2020) security fee of $20 each.

One of the officials who spoke to THISDAY, on condition of anonymity, explained that every passenger travelling out of the country pays $20 security tax and FAAN has been collecting the money since 2010, but so far security infrastructure and other facilities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), which is the major gateway have not improved.

The official lamented that even Aviation Security (AVSEC) personnel are inadequate most times the x-ray machines at the airport are not manned. Also, the source alleged that AVSEC workers at the terminal gates are not enough and were being complemented by Nigeria police.

The official told THISDAY that if the huge revenues accruing from security tax were used for the airport maintenance and provision of security equipment, the international airports in Lagos and Abuja would become more functional with modern facilities.

“Besides, when the tax was introduced it was meant to be for a period of time but it has become permanent which every passenger travelling out of the country must pay,” the source said. “FAAN has been recruiting new personnel lately but there are still paucity of aviation security personnel so police have to complement them and police have brought their ways in the streets into the airport.

“Every day you notice that passengers are being extorted. Sometimes AVSEC officials would stop a passenger, accuse him of not having one document or another and after he would tell the passenger to go and meet the police officer, who will ask him to pay some money.

“The police should not be permanently stationed at the airport, but should be called up when the need arises. So FAAN need to train more aviation security personnel.

“If you go to FAAN headquarters or even at international terminal you will see so many workers who are not doing anything, just idling away but there are not enough Aviation Security officials. I was told that it is not easy to train AVSEC officials because they have to be profiled and their names must be sent to DSS, which would vet the names and investigate and profile them,” he further alleged.

To the President of Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria and the Managing Director/CEO of Merchant Express, a cargo company, Kingsley Nwokoma, revenues from the security tax was meant to provide facilities to alleviate the rigour of passenger processing at the airports.

“Passengers suffer a lot of delays because the needed equipment or personnel are inadequate. Travel is supposed to be great experience for passengers but the airports in Nigeria give you bad experience, where you can wait for a long time before you board you flights because there are inadequate and outmoded equipment. “It is unfortunate that we are where we are, but FAAN has to improve its system, it is not about collecting revenue. It should provide efficient service,” Nwokoma said.

When contacted, the Regional Manager in charge of MMIA, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Abbah, said she would not comment on the issue. But the General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, told THISDAY that the allegations were not true. “We have ICAO approved training centre, which caters for the whole of West Africa and I can tell you that AVSEC and Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Services personnel are the most trained in FAAN,” she said.

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