Travel News

US Mission contacts immigrant visa applicants affected by Trump’s restrictions - PUNCH

MARCH 17, 2021

BY   Adelani Adepegba

The United States Mission has said that it is prioritising immigrant visa applicants affected by the travel restrictions under the Presidential Proclamations 9645 and 9983 signed by former President Donald Trump last year.

This followed the Presidential Proclamation signed by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021, titled, ‘Ending discriminatory bans on entry to the United States’.

Trump had suspended entry into the US by certain nationals from various countries, including Nigeria, based on visa type.

But the US Mission in a statement on Tuesday said its Consulate-General in Lagos had already contacted all immigrant visa applicants, whose applications were affected, and was prioritising the processing of the pending cases.

It noted that media reports claiming that Nigerians denied visas on or after January 20, 2020, could re-apply for free were inaccurate, adding that the proclamation announcement applied only to certain immigrant visa cases and did not apply to tourist, business, student, or other non-immigrant visas.

The statement titled: ‘United States Mission in Nigeria prioritizes immigrant visa applicants refused under Presidential Proclamation 9983’, read in part, “On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed a Presidential Proclamation titled: ‘Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States’. This ended the travel restrictions under Presidential Proclamations 9645 and 9983 that had suspended entry into the United States of certain nationals, based on visa type, from various countries to include Nigeria.

“In Nigeria, this proclamation banned entry for certain immigrant visa categories. The US Consulate-General in Lagos has already contacted all immigrant visa applicants whose applications were affected and is prioritising the processing of these pending cases.”

The mission further disclosed that the consular sections in Abuja and Lagos were gradually restoring routine visa operations in accordance with COVID-19 safety mitigation protocols.

It said the validity of non-immigrant visa payments (known as the MRV fee) had been extended till September 30, 2022, to allow all applicants, who were unable to schedule a visa appointment as a result of the suspension of routine consular operations, an opportunity to schedule and/or attend a visa appointment with the already paid fee.

“Non-immigrant visa applicants, who were previously refused and would like to apply again, will need to submit a new visa application (DS-160) and pay a new visa application processing fee,” the mission added.

NCAA backs Sagamu Cargo Airport, disowns Wasimi - PUNCH

MARCH 17, 2021

The controversy surrounding the establishment of two cargo airports in Ogun State was laid to rest on Tuesday when the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, told the Senate that necessary approval was granted to the one in Sagamu.

A former governor of the State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was routing for the Wasimi Cargo airport while the Governor Dapo Abiodun-led administration in the state is interested in that of Sagamu.

However, when the Director General of the NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation on Tuesday, he said his agency had no record of the Wasimi airport.

The NCAA boss said the agency had no file about a Cargo Airport currently being constructed in Wasimi, Ogun State which about N2bn was said to have been approved for its take off in the 2021 budget.

Nuhu said that NCAA only had record of the Sagamu Cargo Airport.

When asked whether NCAA had any record giving approval for the establishment of Wasimi Cargo Airport, Nuhu said, “I asked and I was told that there is no such document with NCAA.”

The NCAA DG however admitted that he knew of no law that forbids a state from operating two cargo airports.

118 stranded Nigerians return from Libya - DAILY POST

MARCH 17, 2021

By Nsikak Nseyen

Nigeria, on Wednesday, received another batch of 118 Nigerians stranded in Libya.

A tweet on the official Twitter page of ‘Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, said the returnees arrived in the country at 1:30 am on 17th March, 2021.

It further stated that the returnees will be quarantined at the Federal Capital Territory Hajj camp for 14 days in line with the new COVID-19 protocols

”18 Returnees ( 51 Males, 41 Females, 17 Children, and 9 Infants ) Stranded Nigerians in Libya just arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at about 1:30am local time today 17th March 2021 via Buraq Air.

”The returnees will be quarantined at the Federal Capital Territory Hajj camp for 14 days in line with the new COVID-19 protocols by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19,” it tweeted.

Paris goes into lockdown as COVID-19 variant rampages - REUTERS

MARCH 19, 2021

By Benoit Van Overstraeten, Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) - France imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and parts of the north after a faltering vaccine rollout and spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants forced President Emmanuel Macron to shift course.

France reported 35,000 new cases on Thursday and there were more COVID patients in intensive care in Paris than at the peak of the second wave,

Now was the time to tighten restrictions, Castex said.

“Four weeks, the time required for the measures to generate a sufficient impact. (It is) the time we need to reach a threshold in the vaccination of the most vulnerable.”

The lockdowns will kick in from Friday at midnight in France’ 16 hardest-hit departments that, with the exception of one on the Mediterranean, form a corridor from the northern Channel port city of Calais to the capital.

Barbers, clothing stores and furniture shops will have to close, though bookstores and others selling essential goods can stay open.

Schools will stay open and people will be allowed to exercise outdoors within a 10 km (6.2 miles) radius of their homes. Travel out of the worst-hit areas will not permitted without a compelling reason.

“Go outdoors, but not to party with friends,” the prime minister said.


Castex said France would resume inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine now that the European Medicines Agency had confirmed it was safe.

Seeking to shore up public confidence in the Anglo-Swedish vaccine, critical if France is to hit its targets, Castex said he would get the shot on Friday.

“I am confident public trust in the vaccine will be restored,” he said, though he acknowledged it might take time.

Although Macron stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown, the lockdowns may be extended to other regions if needed and may yet slow the country’s economic recovery.

Medical staff members watch French Prime Minister Jean Castex on TV as he addresses the nation about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and the lockdown restrictions, at the Clinique de l'Estree - ELSAN private hospital in Stains, near Paris, France, March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

>span class="FullscreenOverlay-button-1FTU6 Slideshow-inline-image-container-1dktB" aria-label="image">A nationwide nightly curfew in place since mid-December remains in place, though it will start an hour later, at 7 p.m.

>span class="FullscreenOverlay-button-1FTU6 Slideshow-inline-image-container-1dktB" aria-label="image">“It was the right decision in January. We would have had an unbearable three-month lockdown. We did well not to do so.”

Not everyone agrees. In the intensive care unit of a private hospital on the edge of Paris, doctors expressed resignation at having once again to deal with overloaded wards.

“We’re back here again,” said ward chief Abdid Widad.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said some hospitals would start using monoclonal antibodies which are synthetically manufactured copies of infection-fighting proteins, on certain patients at high risk of progressing to severe illness.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Benoit Van Overstraten, Richard Lough, Matthias Blamont; Additional reporting by Clotaire Achi; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Alexandra Hudson

We suspended Azman Air to avert national tragedy –NCAA - PUNCH

MARCH 19, 2021

BY  Kayode Oyero

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority says it suspended the operations of local airline, Azman Air, to avert a national tragedy and loss of life which may become inevitable if the airline continues to operate with disregard for safety procedures.

NCAA Spokesman, Sam Adurogboye, said this in a statement on Friday titled, ‘NCAA Puts The Record Straight On Azman Air Suspension’ which was made available to The PUNCH.

He said the civil aviation regulator of the Nigerian airspace will not be blackmailed and or threatened while carrying out its statutory responsibility.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that the NCAA suspended the operations of the airline on Tuesday after the airline suffered three incidents in quick succession. The NCAA had also ordered the airline to undergo a safety audit to determine the root cause(s) of the incidents, and recommend corrective actions to forestall re-occurrence.

Azman in a statement had, however, claimed that the airline complied with safety standards, and was safe.

But in the statement on Friday, the NCAA said, “Over a period of about six weeks, Azman Air Boeing 737 aircraft operating scheduled passenger flights were involved in three separate incidents, resulting in damage to the aircraft in each case but with no loss of life, for which we are grateful to God.”

The NCAA also said the Accident Investigation Bureau is currently investigating the “serious incidents”, adding that it exercised its duty as the regulator and sanctioned the engineers of the airline and Azman Air itself for certain breaches of safety produces but the fines were yet to be paid.

“The alarming trend of tyre failures, in combination with improper tyre maintenance procedures, are a clear and strong indication of an accident chain formation in its final stages. There was an urgent need to break the accident chain before a completely avoidable national tragedy occurs. No responsible Civil Aviation Authority will fold its arms and wait for the next incident to occur, perhaps a fatal accident, before taking action,” it added.

“Finally, neither the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority nor its Director General will succumb to any blackmail and or threat in carrying out the statutory responsibility of the safety and security oversight, in addition to the economic regulation, of the civil aviation industry in Nigeria, as enshrined in the 2006 Civil Aviation Act,” the statement concluded.

Azman Air, which started commercial flight operations in Nigeria in 2014, has its hub at the Kano airport. The airline has up to seven aircraft in its fleet which mostly comprise B 737 aircraft. It plies about 10 domestic destinations.

The Nigerian civil airspace has maintained a relatively safe record in about a decade now. The last air crash involving commercial airplane in the country was in June 2012 when a Dana Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft from Abuja crashed near the Lagos airport while attempting an emergency landing, killing all 153 souls on board and six on the ground.

Substandard Fence: 25 Airports At Risk Of Security Breaches - LEADERSHIP

MARCH 20, 2021


Over 25 airports with substandard fencing need to be re-fenced, adopting the perimeter fencing as required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to avert another security breach in the country, LEADERSHIP Weekend can exclusively reveal.

Investigations showed that most of the existing fences of airports in the country are also poorly manned and could be easily breached by terrorists and bandits.

It was gathered that the poorly built fences, coupled with underutilisation of airport premises, especially those closer to the fences had given room for thick bushes to grow, covering up the fences in some instances, thereby, allowing hoodlum to take cover and attack, insider sources revealed.

It was also learnt that most of the poorly fenced airports are surprisingly in the Northern part of the country where insurgency and banditry reign.

The insecurity in Ekiti and Ondo local airports are also an invitation to disaster waiting to happen if the porous fences are not fixed.

Findings also revealed that though Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt airports boast of the best fencing infrastructure in the country, they still fall short of the ICAO standard.

To meet the ICAO recommended practices, market observers said there is need for adequate provision of huge funds to construct perimeter and operational fences across all the over 25 airports operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

The funds are also expected to take care of the several hundreds of kilometres of landmass across the airports in the country.

ICAO security guidelines prescribe that all airports must be secured with double perimeter fences.

To meet this specification, nets barbed wire, cameras, sensors, infrareds, intrusion detection devices are required, all of which would cost close to N1 trillion to fix.

Stakeholders have warned that Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and hoodlums may use the Kaduna airport attack as a template to continue to attack airports facilities as well as abduct users of the airports, especially under the current porous security system across airports nationwide.

They said that if the frequent security breaches at the airports continue, it may lead to threat to lives and property, which may consequently affect the perception of the flying public.

Armed bandits had attacked workers of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and those in Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) quarters in Kaduna State, abducting several persons, including a family of six and a housewife with her two children.

The bandits had gained access to the quarters through the airport runway at midnight, storming into the apartment of their victims in a brazen manner.

Their ability to gain access to the runway further raises the question of the porosity of the airport premises.

Reacting to the issue of insecurity at the airports, the secretary-general of Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, condemned the recent attack, calling for the erection of perimeter fences across all airports in the country

Saidu noted that the attack was not the first time, even as he warned that necessary security measures should be taken by the government to safeguard both the airport and the personnel.

He lamented that every year, some critical safety infrastructures are budgeted for such as the perimeter fence but those concerned fail to execute the projects.

Saidu said, “They budget for perimeter fences but where does the budget go? You saw the fence on television. We have security operatives at the airport of different kinds. How did the hoodlums come in?

“We wrote to Senator Hadi Sirika, the aviation minister, asking him to look inward and see loopholes and ask questions because there are people in the system that are colluding with outsiders like they did to Nigeria Airways but we have not heard or seen his response till now.”

He noted that perimeter fences are one of those critical things that must be done before anything, calling on committees on aviation to do their oversight functions well.

Saidu explained stressed the need for synergy between all the security operatives, especially the Nigerian Air Force as there is provision for them at the airport

He noted that aviation parastatals’ staff are essential service providers, hence there should be provision for them to be at the airport quarters instead of staying far from airports

Saidu also noted that while the act establishing FAAN empowers them to bear arms, nothing has been done till date as they keep playing politics with it.

On the way out, he suggested that all acts establishing aviation agencies in the country must be urgently followed by compelling the aviation minister to set up boards of parastatals to stop giving room for corruption, bad management and clash of interest.

In his submission, CEO of Centurion Securities, Group Capt John Ojikutu (rtd), warned that FAAN and concerned security operatives should reinforce security at the airports.

Captain Ojikutu who revealed that aviation infrastructure is higher on the lists of terrorists’ targets for attacks pointed out that Nigeria requires a very urgent  security directive from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to update  airports emergency and airport security management programmes to tackle insecurity around the airports.

According to him, operators may request arms support from the military, especially the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), stressing that the trend of attacks may be rehearsals of big things waiting to start happening.

Ojikutu said, “All the federal airports are expected to have aviation security programmes approved by the NCAA. All federal airports are expected to have an airport security committee. If any airport is deficient in any of these, it would be serious negligence and the NCAA must take necessary enforcement action. These are not teething problems but part of age old traditional operation standards”.

In terms of movements within the airport premises, Ojikutu condemned the use of commercial buses, popularly known as Kombi buses, plying the airport access road in the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) area in Lagos, insisting that such mode of transportation may pose security challenges to both the public and airport users.

LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that presently, there are about 100 kombi buses operating on the road, while the background of the owners, the drivers and the buses’ registration particulars may not be substantially known and guaranteed for the airport security assessment.

For a more serene airport environment, Ojikutu called for a more organised shuttle system within the airport premises.

The aviation security expert added: “The heavy traffic on that road could also be an albatross to the management of the airport in the event of any serious occurrence of airport emergency requiring urgent evacuation of victims of aircraft accidents.

“Moreover, the security of the airport infrastructure and safety of travelling passengers cannot be sufficiently guaranteed. Solving the problems of the airport service road should start with FAAN management retaking and exercising proper ownership of the airport service road that is presently being used as a public road.”

Chairman, Senate committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, had advocated for state and local government policing as a way of enhancing the security architecture in and around the country

Regretting the sordid security challenges which had pervaded the country in recent times, Adeyemi said, “I think the time has come for Nigeria to evolve a system that will appreciate the size of the nation and the diversities. You don’t recruit a graduate we graduated from University of Maiduguri for instance and you post him to Lagos to come and police. He doesn’t know the system and the areas. So, criminals can take advantage of that”.

Also, Capt Hamisu Yadudu, the managing director of the agency had assured that FAAN is working round the clock to ensure that security and safety are sustained at the airports.

Speaking at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos shortly after the first bandit attack, and during the oversight function visit by the Senate committee on Aviation, Yadudu regretted the attack on its staff quarters, but vowed that the management, the state government and the various security agencies would not relent in their efforts in ensuring safety of humans and equipment at all the airports across the country”.

U.S. government seeks more Nigerian students in American schools - NAN

MARCH 20, 2021

U.S. government seeks more Nigerian students in American schools

“At present, we have over 14,000 Nigerian students studying in the U.S and we hope to grow that number,” an official says.

The Government of the United States of America is seeking to have more Nigerian students study in American tertiary institutions.

This was made known during the formal opening of the EducationUSA Centre at the American Space, on Friday in Calabar.

Speaking during the inauguration of the Centre, Aruna Amirthanayagam, Country Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy, Abuja, disclosed that EducationUSA was an arm of the U.S. Government promoting education in the U.S.

According to Mr Amirthanayagam, there are about 4,500 educational institutions in the U.S, making it one of the greatest educational destinations in the world.

He said “We really want more Nigerians to come and take part in our educational system. Through our EducationUSA Centre in Calabar, we hope to have more students from Cross River going to the U.S. to further their education.”

The Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate General, Lagos, Stephen Ibelli, said the centre helps to facilitate the movement of Nigerian students to tertiary institutions in the U.S.

Mr Ibelli said through arrangement, no fewer than 14,000 Nigerians had gained admission into schools in the U.S.

“At present, we have over 14,000 Nigerian students studying in the U.S and we hope to grow that number and further strengthen the ties between both countries.

“This is where the EducationUSA Resource Centre comes in. So, we urge the residents of Cross River to visit the centre and learn about the educational opportunities in the U.S. free of charge.

“We are also opening centres in Benin, Awka, Enugu to provide this information, so that students don’t have to travel all the way to Lagos Abuja or other big cities,” he said.

In his remark, the Cross River State’s Commissioner for Education, Godwin Amanke, said the state was proud to identify with EducationUSA.

Mr Amanke said the state would take advantage of the centre to ensure that its students get first-hand information on scholarships and empowerment programmes.

“The information given here is the information that people pay for but through the EducationUSA Resource Centre, it is free.

“However, as much as it is okay for Nigerian students to travel to the U.S. to study, all I ask for is for them to come back and develop our country when they are done,” he said.


UAE launches Govt experience exchange programme - KHALEEJ TIMES

MARCH 20, 2021

The programme was launched in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the African Peer Review Mechanism of the African Union

The UAE government has launched the UAE-Africa government experience exchange programme, aiming to share successful experience in government modernisation, enabling the African continent to keep pace with global trends and opportunities for development.

The programme was launched in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Peer Review Mechanism of the African Union (AU-APRM). It included a ministerial dialogue featuring a number of ministers, government officials, and experts from the UAE, nine African countries, AU-APRM, and the United Nations. The meetings focused on six main themes, namely: Future Readiness, Government Excellence and Capabilities, Strategy and Innovation, Government Services, Food Security, and Economic Transformation.

Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State participated in the dialogue along with Ohood bint khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, Gloria Akobundu, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD/APRM in Nigeria, and an array of African ministers and UAE officials.

The dialogue and high-level discussions reflected strong ties and shared values of innovation, determination, and cooperation, between participating governments to exchange experiences and discusse opportunities for greater collaboration to design the next-generation governance.

The UAE-Africa ministerial dialogue focused on promoting partnerships between the UAE and African countries, in addition to exchanging knowledge and successful experiences; in particular, UAE government work model, accelerators, excellence, and innovation which will aid governments in their aim to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union Agenda 2063. The partnerships also aim to support partner countries find innovative solutions promoting the development process and achieve shared prosperity.

Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State, reaffirmed that UAE’s leadership is committed to strengthening the strategic partnership with Africa, which is based on equality, fraternity, and mutual respect and reflects longstanding cultural, trade, and social relations. He praised efforts of African Union Member States to build a better future.

Ohood Bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, said that the Experience Exchange Programme between UAE Government and the African Union reflects the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to build partnerships and develop government work model globally.

He reterated UAE Government keenness on sharing its advanced experiences, knowledge, and innovative work model with governments in order to achieve global objectives. She added; “It is especially important in such times of great challenge, that we remain committed and focused on the path ahead. As nations, we need to show agility to deal with rapid changes and the resilience to remain focused on our development goals.”

The Honourable Princess Gloria Akobundu, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD/APRM in Nigeria, said: “We welcome the UAE engagement to support the national development planning in Africa” and further added; “we nedd to focus on specific topics under national planning and policy design, such as climate change, food security, women empowerment, and government leadership programs.”

High-level participants from African countries included Dr Fitsum Asefa Adela, Minister in Charge of the Planning and Development Commission in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; Richard Tusabe, Minister of State in Charge of the National Treasury in the Republic of Rwanda; Andrew David Adejo, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Joel Saitoti Torome, Permanent Secretary of Planning in the Republic of Kenya; Dr Jonathan Titus-Williams, Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development in the Republic of Sierra Leone; Madam Marian Kpakpah, Chief Director for Planning in the Ministry of Planning in the Republic of Ghana; Amira El Fadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs in the African Union; and the Honourable Princess Gloria Akobundu, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD/APRM in Nigeria.

The programme’s high-level discussions witnessed participation of; Mohammed bin Taliah, UAE Chief of Government Services; Huda Al Hashimi, UAE Chief of Strategy and Government Innovation; Dr Yasir Al Naqbi, assistant director-general for Leadership and Government Capabilities in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs; Khalid Al Harmoodi, executive director of Government Performance in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs; Marwan Al Zaabi, Assistant Secretary General of the Arab Government Excellence Award and Director of the Sheikh Khalifa Government Excellence Program; Dr Radheya Al Hashimi, Director of the UAE Government Accelerators in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs; Ahmad Lootah, acting director of the UAE Government Leaders Programme in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs; Essa AlHashemi, Head of the Food and Water Security Office; and Haif Al Hammadi, executive director of Business and Corporate Strategy at Tecom Group from the UAE.

Additionally, senior officials and experts from the Republic of Angola, the Republic of Botswana, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of Ghana, the Republic of Kenya, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of Rwanda, the Republic of Sierra Leone, and the Republic of South Africa engaged in discussions and experience sharing.

During sessions, UAE Government participants highlighted the development initiatives launched over the past years, focusing on enhancing strategic leadership, designing future policies, and following up on their implementation focusing on achieving national vision and priorities. They further show-cased UAE government work methodology to achieve excellence in providing government services to customers, by involving them in designing and proposing ideas that contribute to accelerating digital transformation and shifting towards a proactive services model. In addition, UAE speakers addressed the need to establish an advanced government database for national skills and talents to discover and develop future leaders.

Participants also discussed the importance of enhancing government performance by setting national KPIs and goals to be achieved within a specific period, studying results and assessing government entities’ achievements. Speakers showcased UAE Government Excellence Model and its updates, focusing on specific pillars building future government, including: enablers, vision realization, and value proposition. The interactive sessions tackled the 100-day challenge methodology adopted by the UAE Government Accelerators.

Speakers highlighted strategic plans designed by UAE government to achieve food security and stressed the importance of promoting cooperation globally, applying state-of-the-art technologies, publishing scientific researches to develop food security initiatives, in addition to investing in human capital, creating future employment opportunities and empowering SMEs.

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COVID-19: Germany on brink of new coronavirus restrictions after 'exponential growth' in infections - SKYNEWS

MARCH 20, 2021

The country's fight against the virus has been held back by a sluggish vaccine delivery programme.

Germany appears likely to re-impose several coronavirus restrictions as it struggles with an "exponential growth" in infection numbers.

Under an agreement made with state governors two weeks ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel is supposed to re-impose restrictions in regions where the number of new weekly cases is above 100 per 100,000 residents.

On Friday, the nationwide average stood at 95.6.

Mrs Merkel said: "The situation is becoming very difficult.

"We have exponential growth...so it is good we had agreed on an emergency brake and unfortunately we will have to make use of this emergency brake."

Infection rates have been rising in Germany, particularly among younger people, fuelled by a recent easing of restrictions and the growing incidence of the more easily transmissible variant first found in the UK.

Mrs Merkel met 16 state leaders on Friday and the group will meet again on Monday to discuss extending a lockdown that has been in place since mid-December, as well as reversing plans to reopen the economy.

A sluggish vaccination campaign, delivery delays and a three-day pause in the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have meant that just 8.5% of the population have received their first vaccine dose, far behind countries such as the UK and US.

Speaking on Friday, Mrs Merkel told reporters: "The motto is 'vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate'."

State leaders have said they are ready to make up for the time that was lost while European authorities investigated claims of blood clots being linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine was declared "safe and effective" by the bloc's medicines regulator earlier this week.

Germany will send vaccines directly to GPs, with vaccinations expected to begin at surgeries from mid-April at the latest.

Extra doses will be sent to regions on the French and Czech borders.

Two large vaccination centres in Berlin have been reopened and people who had their appointments cancelled this week due to the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine are able to return without making a new appointment.

The Minister-President of the southwestern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, 72, received an AstraZeneca vaccination on Friday, in a move aimed at boosting confidence.

Mrs Merkel said Germany has "a good chance" of offering a vaccine to every resident by the end of the summer, also adding her vote of confidence in the AstraZeneca jab.

But health minister Jens Spahn warned that vaccines will not be enough on their own to contain the third wave of the pandemic, as there is not enough supply.

"The rising case numbers may mean that we cannot take further opening steps in the weeks to come. On the contrary, we may even have to take steps backwards," he said.

Germany expects to receive 15 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the second quarter of this year, a few million fewer than expected, he added.

Mrs Merkel said Germany would consider ordering doses of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik, a move backed by Mr Spahn, but the chancellor said she would prefer this move was undertaken by Europe.

It comes as pressure builds on other nearby countries to tackle the growing third wave.

In France, the government announced new restrictions this week.

In Poland, more people are on respirators than at any time since the beginning of the pandemic, with children making up a greater percentage of those in hospital.

Officials there blame the variant discovered in the UK and have warned worse is to come, as a new lockdown begins on Saturday.

Hungary has extended its lockdown for another week and in Bosnia, which has yet to start mass vaccination, a lockdown began in the capital on Friday.

US says ‘drop box’ visa processing is still suspended in Nigeria - NAIRAMETRICS

MARCH 20, 2021

The US Government said that the suspension of the ‘drop box’ visa processing is still in force and not yet been lifted in Nigeria.

By Chike Olisah

The United States Government said on Friday that the suspension of the non-immigrant visa interview waiver process, popularly referred to as ‘drop box’ is still in force and not yet been lifted in Nigeria.

The clarification by the embassy is coming against the background of recent media reports which suggests the lifting of the ban.

This disclosure is contained in a statement issued by the US mission in Nigeria, titled, ‘Drop Box Visa Processing Is Not Available in Nigeria, According To U.S. Mission To Nigeria’ issued by the US mission in Nigeria, on Friday, March 20, 2021.

The statement also says that the US State Department continues to evaluate each country’s eligibility based on numerous factors such as overstaying rates and visa-related fraud.

The statement from the US mission in Nigeria reads, “Despite recent media reports, the non-immigrant visa interview waiver process, popularly known as the “drop box,” has been discontinued in Nigeria since 2018. The State Department continually evaluates each country’s eligibility based on numerous factors including overstay rates and visa-related fraud. U.S. Mission Nigeria is committed to promoting legitimate travel to the United States. All applicants who wish to apply for a visa must kindly appear for an interview.’’

What you should know

It can be recalled that the US mission in Nigeria, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, announced the indefinite suspension of drop box process for visa renewals in all its consulates in Nigeria, noting that visa applications would no longer be accepted by DHL in the country.

The ban may not be unconnected to reports of Nigerians overstaying in the US when on a visit.

The mission in its statement said, “All applicants in Nigeria seeking a non-immigrant visa to the United States must apply online, and will be required to appear in-person at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or U.S. Consulate General in Lagos to submit their application for review. Applicants must appear at the location they specified when applying for the visa renewal. Mission Nigeria’s processing procedures are regularly reviewed in order to assess our ability to quickly, efficiently, and securely process visa applications. The U.S. Mission is taking this step to provide more efficient customer service and promote legitimate travel, and will continue to facilitate applications of established travellers to the best of its ability.’’

The suspension of “Drop box” visa application in Nigeria was one of the stringent visa policies introduced by the Donald Trump administration which also restricted entry into the US by certain nationals including Nigerians based on visa type.


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