Foreign airlines seek new risk-based guidelines for travel - THE GUARDIAN
Foreign airlines have urged governments to follow new guidelines initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to encourage safe travels across borders.
The airlines, under the aegis of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), sought a “risk-based approach” that reduces the emphasis on testing and quarantine.
Specifically, the new proposal deemphasizes proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a mandatory condition for entry or exit. Relaxes measures such as testing and quarantine requirements for travellers, who are fully vaccinated or have had a confirmed previous COVID-19 infection within the past six months and are no longer infectious.
The recommendation ensures alternative pathways for unvaccinated individuals through testing so that they are able to travel internationally. The WHO recommends rRT-PCR tests, or antigen detection rapid diagnostic tests (Ag-RDTs) followed by confirmatory rRT-PCR tests of positive samples, for this purpose.
Also, the WHO asked airlines to implement tests and quarantine measures for international travellers “on a risk-based manner” with policies on testing and quarantine regularly reviewed to ensure they are lifted when no longer necessary.
IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, said these “commonsense, risk-based recommendations” from WHO if followed by states will allow for international air travel to resume while minimising the chance of importing COVID-19.
“As WHO notes—and as the latest UK testing data proves—international travellers are not a high-risk group in terms of COVID-19. Out of 1.65 million tests carried out on arriving international passengers in the UK since February, only 1.4 per cent were positive for COVID-19. It’s long past time for governments to incorporate data into risk-based decision-making processes for re-opening borders,” Walsh said.
WHO also called on states to communicate “in a timely and adequate manner”, any changes to international health-related measures and requirements.
“Consumers face a maze of confusing, uncoordinated and fast-changing border entry rules that discourage them from travelling, causing economic hardship across those employed in the travel and tourism sector. According to our latest passenger survey, 70 per cent of recent travellers thought the rules were a challenge to understand,” said Walsh.
Additionally, WHO encouraged states to look at bilateral, multilateral, and regional agreements, particularly among neighbouring counties, “with the aim of facilitating the recovery of key socioeconomic activities” including tourism, for which international travel plays a vital role.
“The pandemic has put more than 46 million jobs, normally supported by aviation, at risk. By incorporating these latest WHO recommendations into their border opening strategies, states can begin to reverse the economic damage of the past 18 months and put the world on the road to recovery,“ said Walsh.
Flag carrier reopens W’Coast operations - THE GUARDIAN
Nigerian flag carrier, Air Peace, has set July 23 date for the resumption of flight operations into Banjul in Gambia and Dakar in Senegal.
Spokesperson of the airline, Stanley Olisa, yesterday said the operation will provide more options for regional connectivity, beginning with three weekly flights.
Olisa said the Dakar and Banjul routes will be operated with the ultramodern Embraer 195-E2 aircraft, “and we shall resume more routes and increase frequencies to other destinations as we take delivery of more brand new E195-E2s as well as other aircraft undergoing maintenance abroad.”
Air Peace suspended its regional routes following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown that ensued last year. But the airline is now resuming these routes, the first being Accra, which was restored in March, 2021.
Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, earlier said that the West Coast operation is among the 26 destinations expected to begin soon.
He said: “We are still processing documents for the London route. Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) will help us push further. We have also applied for China and India too. We have already had seven flights to China and 22 to India already. All of these are markets waiting for Air Peace,” Onyema said.
Air Peace currently services 17 domestic routes, five regional routes and two international destinations, including Johannesburg, while it boasts of a mixed fleet of 28 aircraft, the latest being three brand new 124-seat capacity E195-E2 jets.
NAHCON cautions pilgrims on fake entry visa for hajj - THE GUARDIAN
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has warned intending pilgrims against patronising fake tour agencies in a bid to cut corners to go to Saudi Arabia.
The commission urged the general public to report to NAHCON, any person collecting money and giving assurance of securing 2021 Hajj slot under the entry visa, stating that such arrangement does not emanate from the commission, nor from the Saudi authorities.
In a statement signed by the Head, Public Affairs division of the commission, Hajia Fatima Sanda Usara, it warned intending pilgrims not to fall victims to fraudsters in the name Hajj travels.
The statement reads: “It has come to the attention of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) that some travel agencies are collecting Hajj fares from intending pilgrims with the assurance of securing Hajj slots for them under the entry visa category. It is alleged that such agents attribute their claims to NAHCON’s permission.
“In a warning first issued on Friday, May 28th 2021, NAHCON had dissociated itself from any agent claiming to transport pilgrims to 2021 Hajj without Saudi Arabia’s clearance. Thereafter, the Kingdom had categorically stated that only the 60,000 selected to perform Hajj from within Saudi Arabia shall be allowed access into the holy sites where the Hajj rites take place.
“Anyone caught at the vicinity without a legal permit shall be fined 10,000 Saudi Riyals equivalent to over a million Naira. Saudi Press Agency has already informed of arrests due to violation of this restriction.
“NAHCON is reiterating the warning to the general public to be cautious of falling victims to fraudsters in the name of Hajj travel agents. Such persons are preying on the desperation of some intending pilgrims to perform Hajj at all costs, which in itself violates the Islamic principle of pilgrimage for the sake of Allah.
Of course with an entry visa, an individual can travel only as far as into Saudi Arabia but not near the holy sites without the Hajj permit, whose issuance has long been closed.
“No foreign pilgrim was allowed to access the application website, talk little of registering.
“It is also alleged that the so-called Hajj agents connive with some Saudi legal residents through whose residential licenses (igama) they would secure the Hajj permit for their clients. The warning here is that the system is biometrical with the original owners’ data fully computed. Therefore the mismatch would be automatically detected once subjected to screening. No one should fall victim to detention and embarrassment for the sake of performing Hajj 2021.
“NAHCON urges all intending pilgrims to bear the Hajj restriction with patience until the situation is reversed. This patience will itself earn one handsome reward. Anyone who does contrary does so at his own peril.
“The general public is kindly invited to report to the Commission, any person collecting money and giving assurance of securing 2021 Hajj slot under the entry visa.”
COVID-19: Eiffel Tower to reopen after nine-month closure - PUNCH
The Eiffel Tower is to reopen to visitors on Friday for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.
The lifts of the “Iron Lady” are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300-metre (1,000-foot) summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Daily capacity is set to be restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing.
And from Wednesday next week, visitors will need to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test, in line with recent government-imposed requirements.
“Obviously it’s an additional operational complication, but it’s manageable,” the head of the operating company, Jean-François Martins, told AFP.
After a final round of safety checks by staff, he announced that the “lady is ready”.
Early reservations for tickets during the summer holiday period underline how the tourism industry in Paris has changed due to travel restrictions.
Martins said there was an “almost total absence” of British ticket holders, while only 15 per cent were Americans and very few are from Asia.
Half of visitors are expected to be French, while Italians and Spanish make up a higher proportion than usual.
The long closure has caused havoc with the finances of the operating company, Sete, which runs the monument on behalf of Paris city authorities.
It is set to seek additional government aid and a fresh 60-million-euro cash injection to stay afloat, having seen its revenues fall by 75 per cent to 25 million euros in 2020.
The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has also been hit by problems linked to its latest paint job, the 20th time it has been repainted since its construction in 1889.
Work was halted in February because of high levels of lead detected on the site, which poses a health risk to labourers.
Tests are still underway and painting is set to resume only in the autumn, meaning a part of the facade is obscured by scaffolding and safety nets.
Keeping Nigeria’s best brains in the country - VANGUARD
WHILE we rejoice at the “good news” of the British Government’s approval of work permits for Nigerian international students who wish to work in Britain after the completion of a UK degree at bachelor’s degree level or above, we must also consider the disadvantage – brain drain.
For 2020 alone, out of 13, 000 young Nigerians educated at home and who travelled to the UK for their university education or PhDs, the UK government offers to “retain the brightest and the best students to continue to contribute to the UK post-study.’’
When we compute the number of students who will benefit from such work permit in 10 years and the number of Nigerians in other countries like the US where bright Nigerians are retained or induced to contribute to the development of the host countries, we will see why our country is failing.
It bears noting that human resource remains the most valued of all the resources and other means of production.
Any country that cannot provide a conducive environment at home for its best brains to thrive and contribute to the development of that country is dying.
For Catriona Laing, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, the approval of work permit for Nigerian international students may be “a testament to the strengthening of educational relationship between the UK and Nigeria”, but we must not be blind to the corresponding huge loss it is to the development of Nigeria.
As at today, most of Nigeria’s best brains are either in the US, UK or other developed or developing countries, making scientific inventions and other landmark achievements for their host countries.
To be able to practice medicine in the US, one has to be among the best physicians in the world.
In August 2010, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu, revealed that a research found that more than 5,000 Nigerian-trained medical doctors were practising in the US alone. That figure must have increased today. It is estimated that 77 per cent of Black doctors in the US are Nigerians. In December 2017, Vanguard reported that 35, 000 doctors left Nigeria for the UK and the USA!
One of the ways to halt this mass exodus of our best brains to foreign countries is to strive to replicate here at home the conditions that lure them to other countries, especially steady power supply, quality educational and professional training, gainful employment opportunities, conducive working environment and security of lives and property.
Government must also show that it is sincere in its quest for technological breakthrough in the country by investing in research and functional education. Unfortunately, it seems a lost battle as government officials are at the forefront of sending their children and wards to schools abroad with public funds!
‘Truckers’ Ignorance Fuelling Gridlock on Port Access Roads’ - THISDAY
BY Eromosele Abiodun
The designer and manager of the electronic call-up system aimed at containing Apapa gridlock, Trucks Transit Parks (TTP) Limited has lamented poor compliance by truck owners/drivers as well as a deviant resistance from an extortion industry worth N100 million daily before the deployment of the electronic system for continued traffic gridlock in Apapa.
The Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mr. Temidayo Adeboye, who disclosed this in a chat with newsmen in Lagos, said efforts of the truckers to circumvent ETO was fuelled by ignorance of the gains the new operational method would deliver to transporters if wholly embraced.
Adeboye, who revealed that it took his company more than six years of painstaking research to understand Apapa Gridlock and build the electronic solution deployed in February 2021, said 50 per cent of Apapa traffic were bound to the ports. According to him, the focus was to effectively regulate the maritime traffic and solve half the problem.
He said: “We have been researching Apapa for over six years and now understand the demographics of different truck traffic which can be categorized into three major parts, namely; the maritime traffic, oil and gas traffic; the FMCG’s (fast-moving consumer goods), manufacturers and freelancers.
“Holistically, we couldn’t take these segments at once, so we believed that if we are able to solve the problem for the largest single demographic among these three categories, it means that half of the problem will be resolved.”
“It is been tough. We had to build everything from the scratch. We couldn’t go out to buy a solution off the shelf since there is no country in the world with this particular type of port problem. We had to go round, visit places, take best practices and come here to develop our indigenous solution in Nigeria and by Nigerians,” he stated.
Noting the improvement in the flow of traffic, he said the extortion industry whose earnings on the port access road was allegedly put at N100 million daily before the introduction of ETO was being contained as more trucks are captured in the call-up system. He said expectations were that the problem of corruption would be tackled once there was free-flow of traffic to and from the port.
“The extortion industry in this Apapa is about N100 million a day. That is what it used to be. If we can fix 50 per cent of the problem, nobody can extort money from port-bound truckers”, he said.
He disclosed that while other types of trucks have been streamlined and allocated time belts in a bid to ensure all trucks on ETO platform get into the ports within 24 hours of booking, export trucks have posed a major problem, challenging the entire project.
Adeboye, who insisted that the ease of traffic in Apapa largely depends on effectively regulating the movement of export cargo, disclosed that NPA in tackling the challenge is creating export zones.
He said, “until we find a solution to the export problem, we can’t get to that 24-hour entry target. The export problem is really abhorring.” He said the cooperation of stakeholders and adherence to the policy and the time guideline would help a great deal.
“If everybody can just do the right thing, everybody will transit within 24hours. But right now, what we are seeing is a maximum of 48 hours if it is not an export container,” he added. He also blamed the slow start of ETO on transporters who failed to heed the initial call to register as only 120 truckers with 2,000 trucks registered and attended their training but a week after the deployment of the scheme, the number rose to 2000 transporters and 50,000 trucks.
“On the day we started, we managed to register 120 transporters and about 2000 trucks but after a week of kick-starting the process, we recorded over 50,000 trucks and more than 2000 transporters. “This was possible because many port users couldn’t find a better means of accessing the port but to go through the system. So many people that didn’t come for the training and were still stuck in the old ways of doing things. “A combination of these factors nearly crashed our system before we had to create various segments”, Adeboye explained.
Delta Resumes Flight to Lagos - THISDAY
Delta Airlines has resumed operations at Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport to pre-pandemic levels with the resumption of its non-stop service to the United States four times a week. 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 pandemic. The choice of non-stop services to Delta’s largest hubs enable customers to connect onto flights to 130 destinations across the US 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.
“Delta is the longest-serving U.S. airline in Nigeria and the country remains an important market for us,” said Bobby Bryan, Delta’s Commercial Director, Africa. “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,” he added.
The additional service from New York also provides cargo customers with increased capacity for the safe transportation from Nigeria. With short connection times in New York, cargo can be swiftly forwarded to destinations throughout the U.S. and beyond. Delta’s flights to Lagos, which have been in operation since 2007, supports economic and trade ties between Nigeria and the US.
Data from the Office of the US Trade Representative showed that the value of US goods and services trade with Nigeria was estimated at $10.4 billion in 2019 with exports valued at $5.3 billion and imports into the US worth $5.1 billion.
ECOWAS TPO to deepen intra-Africa exports beyond 16 per cent - THE GUARDIAN
By Benjamin Alade
The Economic and Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Trade Promotion (TPO) Network, has said it would work towards facilitating the ease of business by increasing the volume of trade within the region, adding that it will build an army of exporters that will boost intra-Africa trade.
The Network, while noting that intra-Africa exports only account for about 16 per cent of Africa’s global export, said the region’s trade only accounts for a 10th of member-states global trade.
President of ECOWAS TPO Network, Olusegun Awolowo, made this known yesterday, at the launch and first yearly general meeting of the Network in Abuja.
Awolowo reiterated the need to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), adding that the establishment of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) was a step in the right direction to increase trade in the region.
He added that the low utilisation of the scheme, especially among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which account for a large proportion of economic activities within the region, highlights the need for more efforts.
“Several reviews that highlighted the challenges hindering the utilisation of the ETLS showed that they are centred around lack of adequate information on the existence, enrollment, endowment, enforcement, expenses and entry strategies.
“It is therefore imperative that through the TPO network, we work towards facilitating the ease of trade for our MSMEs within the ECOWAS region and Africa at large, thereby building an army of exporters that will boost intra-Africa trade”, he said.
He added that economic integration in the sub-region will be further deepened.
In her remarks, Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mrs Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, said the network would play a major role in strengthening economic and commercial cooperation among member States and beyond.
She however assured the Network of the EU’s continuous support.
Also, the President, ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claud Kassi Brou, while reiterating commitment to partner with the Network, said they will continue to provide guidance in line with the decision of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
UAE: Emirates suspends passenger flights from Nigeria, South Africa until at least July 31 - KHALEEJ TIMES
The airline had earlier extended the suspension until July 21.
Dubai-based airline Emirates has extended the suspension on flights to and from South Africa and Nigeria until July 31.
The airline had earlier extended the suspension until July 21.
In an update on its website, the airline said the extension is in line with government directives that restrict the entry of travellers originating from these two countries into the UAE.
"Only one daily passenger flight to Johannesburg will operate as EK763; however, outbound passenger services on EK764 remain suspended," the airline said.
"Customers who have been to or connected through South Africa or Nigeria in the last 14 days will not be permitted on any Emirates flights bound for Dubai," the carrier added.
Earlier this month, the airline had also extended the suspension on inbound passenger flights from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the UAE until at least July 21.
Floodwaters still rising in western Europe with death toll over 120 - REUTERS
BY Martin SchlichtDavid Sahl
- More than 100 people have died in Germany
- 1,300 people missing in district south of Cologne
- Dam close to Belgian border flooded
- Belgium declares day of mourning as death toll reaches 20
SCHULD/ERFTSTADT, Germany, July 16 (Reuters) - German officials feared more deaths on Friday after "catastrophic" floods swept through western regions, demolishing streets and houses, killing more than 100 people and leaving hundreds more missing and homeless.
Communications were cut in many areas and entire communities lay in ruins after swollen rivers tore through towns and villages in the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as parts of Belgium and the Netherlands.
After days of heavy rain, 103 people have died in Germany alone, the largest number killed in a natural disaster in the country in almost 60 years. They included 12 residents of a home for disabled people surprised by the floods during the night.
In Belgium, which has declared a day of mourning on Tuesday, officials said there were at least 20 dead and another 20 missing.
The flooding was a "catastrophe of historic dimensions," said Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ruling CDU party's candidate to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel when she steps down after an election in September.
The devastation of the floods, attributed by meteorologists to a climate-change driven shift in the jet stream that has brought inland water that once stayed at sea, could shake up an election that has until now seen little discussion of climate.
"It is a sad certainty that such extreme events will determine our day-to-day life more and more frequently in the future," Laschet said, adding that more measures were needed to fight global warming.
Merkel held a video conference with Laschet who updated her on search and rescue efforts, a government spokeswoman said, adding that the chancellor plans to visit the affected areas soon. German public broadcaster ARD said Merkel will visit Schuld, one of the worse-hit towns, on Sunday.
Proposals by the Greens, running a distant second in polls to Merkel's conservatives, to introduce motorway speed limits to cut carbon emissions had previously drawn outrage.
Days after the European Commission unveiled plans to make Europe the "first climate-neutral continent, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the scale and intensity of the flooding was a clear indication of climate change and demonstrated the urgent need to act.
CONCERN OVER DAMS
Achim Hueck, a fish farmer in the town of Schuld, said he had only just managed to escape. "It was rising really fast, it started from the path back here," he said, pointing to the wreckage of his business.
"There was a path, there were ponds, lots of them up there. Fishing hut, toilet facilities, everything is gone," he said.
As officials assessed the damage, the devastation appeared to have exceeded that caused by disastrous flooding in eastern Germany almost 20 years ago.
Some 114,000 households in Germany were without power on Friday and mobile phone networks had collapsed in some flooded regions, making it hard for authorities to keep track of the number of missing.
Roads in many affected areas were impassable after being washed away by the floods. Rescue crews tried to reach residents by boat or helicopter and had to communicate via walkie-talkie.
"The network has completely collapsed. The infrastructure has collapsed. Hospitals can't take anyone in. Nursing homes had to be evacuated," a spokeswoman for the regional government of Cologne said.
Authorities worried that further dams could overflow, spilling uncontrolled floods into communities below, and were trying to ease pressure by releasing more water.
Some 4,500 people were evacuated downstream from the Steinbachtal dam in western Germany, which had been at risk of a breach overnight, and a stretch of motorway was closed.
Thousands of residents in the north of Limburg province in neighbouring Netherlands were ordered to leave their homes early Friday as floodwaters peaked.
Emergency services were on high alert, and authorities were also reinforcing dikes along vulnerable stretches where floodwaters continue to rise.
Waters were receding in the southern city of Maastricht, where there was no flooding and in the town of Valkenburg, where damage was widespread, but no one was hurt.
France sent 40 military personnel and a helicopter to Liege in Belgium to help with the flood situation, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitter.
"The waters are rising more and more. It's scary," Thierry Bourgeois, 52, said in the Belgian town of Liege. "I've never seen anything like it."
In the town of Maaseik, on the Dutch border, the Meuse had risen beyond a retaining wall and was spilling past sandbags placed on top.
Several towns and villages were already submerged, including Pepinster near Liege, where around 10 houses partially or fully collapsed.
The death toll in Germany is the highest of any natural catastrophe since a deadly North Sea flood in 1962 that killed around 340 people.
Floods at the Elbe river in 2002, which at the time were billed by media "once-in-a-century floods", killed 21 people in eastern Germany and more than 100 across the wider central European region.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told magazine Spiegel the federal government aimed to provide financial support for the affected regions as quickly as possible, adding a package of measures should go to the cabinet for approval on Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Kirsti Knolle, Douglas Busvine, Anneli Palmen, Matthias Inverardi, Tom Sims, Thomas Escritt, Anthony Deutsch, Phil Blenkinsop; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Alex Richardson and Sandra Maler