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U.S. Bans Travel From India; Mask Mandate Extended: Virus Update - BLOOMBERG

MAY 01, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden banned most travel to the U.S. from India beginning Tuesday as the country struggles to combat the worst surge of coronavirus cases in the world. Passengers on airplanes, buses and other forms mass transportation in the U.S. will have to keep wearing masks.

New York City restaurants can expand their indoor dining capacity to 75% on May 7. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 80,000 city employees are expected to return to their offices May 3, providing an “important indicator” to the private sector to follow suit. Oregon reimposed tighter restrictions on most of the state, as Connecticut eased curbs on bars and restaurants.

Los Angeles will close the mass vaccination site at Dodgers Stadium by the end of May as demand for shots falls across the region. Disneyland reopened after 13 months, though only to California residents for now.

Key Developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 150.8 million; deaths exceed 3.17 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.3 billion doses have been given
  • Is Europe’s vaccine nightmare coming to an end?
  • Covid shots come in bulk. The world needs single servings
  • How India’s vaccine drive crumbled and left a country in chaos
  • What are vaccine passports and how would they work?: QuickTake

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Brazil Reaches 1 Million Daily Doses (5:32 p.m. NY)

Brazil reached a self-imposed daily Covid-19 vaccination goal, but a shortage of shots poses a risk to the immunization plan going forward.

The seven-day moving average of shots given rose to 1 million for the first time since applications started in mid-January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A total of 47,111,974 million vaccines have now been administered in Brazil, mostly of China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shot. That’s enough to cover almost 15% of the population with one dose and fully inoculate 7.4%.

Oregon Clamps Down (5:08 p.m. NY)

Governor Kate Brown put 15 of Oregon’s counties, about 80% of the population, under more severe restrictions as a new viral surge sweeps through a partially vaccinated population. The Democratic governor said hospitalizations have doubled in the last week.

The restrictions prohibit indoor dining, put limits on religious gatherings and sharply curb capacity at gyms, movie theaters and other public venues.

Brown, under heavy criticism by businesses and opponents, said it was “not a decision we take lightly.” But, she said, “As your governor, I chose to save lives.”

Vaccinated Floridians Can Drop Masks Indoors (4:40 p.m. NY)

Florida’s surgeon general issued guidance saying that fully vaccinated people “should no longer be advised to wear face coverings or avoid social and recreational gatherings” except in undefined “limited circumstances.” The guidance appeared to allow vaccinated Floridians to drop mask wearing indoors. Earlier this week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people were freer to not wear masks outdoors.

Surgeon General Scott Rivkees noted the “tremendous steps” taken to vaccinate Floridians and that vaccines “dramatically diminish hospitalizations and deaths” from Covid-19 and curb its spread.

Mexico Seeks More Doses From U.S. (4:22 p.m. NY)

Mexico’s president said on Friday that he’s seeking another 5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from the U.S., his latest appeal to countries including Russia and China to help the nation speed up its vaccination pace.

The U.S. already lent Mexico over 2.7 million vaccines in March and April, and declined to comment about whether it plans to share more shots with its southern neighbor.

TSA Extends Mask Requirement (3:42 p.m. NY)

Passengers on airplanes, buses and other forms mass transportation in the U.S. will have to keep wearing masks to guard against the spread of Covid-19 as federal officials extended a mandate that was set to expire within days through the busy summer travel season.

The Transportation Security Administration on Friday announced it was extending the mandate through Sept. 13. The move is in step with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which still advises face coverings to limit the spread of coronavirus in crowded indoor spaces, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Connecticut Eases Restrictions (3:27 p.m. NY)

Governor Ned Lamont signed an order easing restrictions at bars and restaurants in Connecticut. The move means these outlets will be able to serve alcohol outdoors without food orders starting Saturday, and lifting the same limit for indoors on May 19.

Biden Bans Travel From India (2:28 p.m. NY)

President Joe Biden banned most travel to the U.S. from India beginning Tuesday as the country struggles to combat the worst surge of coronavirus cases in the world, the White House said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the travel ban, which won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the India,” her statement said.

India recorded 387,000 new infections on Thursday, a record high, and nearly 3,500 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

NYC Indoor Dining Moves to 75% (1:07 p.m. NY)

New York City restaurants can expand their indoor dining capacity to 75% on May 7, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday. The announcement aligns New York City with the rest of the state, Cuomo said in a news release.

Hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services also can open at 75% capacity on May 7, and gyms and fitness centers in the city can open at 50% capacity on May 15, Cuomo said. The easing of restrictions comes as new cases continue to fall in the state.

NYC Sees Example in Worker Return (1 p.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 80,000 city employees are expected to return to their offices May 3, providing an “important indicator” to the private sector to follow suit after the pandemic kept millions of people at home.

“People need to come back because we have work to do,” de Blasio said Friday on a WNYC radio interview.

Less than 16% of workers in the New York metropolitan area were back at their desks as of April 30, according to data from Kastle Systems.

Variants a Risk After One Pfizer Shot (12:42 p.m. NY)

People who haven’t fought off Covid-19 before are still vulnerable to infection from variants after getting the first dose of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine, underscoring the need for fast and full inoculation regimens, according to a U.K. study published Friday.

Among those who previously had mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid, the protection was “significantly enhanced” after a single dose against the variants first seen in the U.K. and South Africa, researchers said in the study, published Friday in the journal Science.

Disneyland Reopens (12:35 p.m. NY)

Walt Disney Co.’s Disneyland is opening its gates after being closed for 13 months due to the pandemic.

The theme park in Anaheim, along with the nearby Disney California Adventure, will initially be opened only to California residents with capacity limits and social distancing measures in place. Disney has laid off 32,000 employees over the past year, most of them in the theme-park unit. The company plans bring back more than 10,000 furloughed employees for the reopening.

The theme park is sold out for weekends through May, an indication of pent-up demand for leisure activities as the pandemic eases.

U.S. Supports Taiwan at WHO Event (11:43 a.m. NY)

The U.S. said Taiwan deserves to be heard at a key World Health Organization event next month due to its contributions to global health, a call likely to anger officials in Beijing who have blocked the island’s participation in recent years.

“Taiwan’s outstanding control of Covid-19 and its donations of PPE demonstrate its strong contribution to global health,” State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted on Friday, referring to personal protective equipment. “Taiwan has some of the world’s leading experts in combating this disease, and we need to hear from Taiwan at the World Health Assembly.”

India Strain Suspected in Austria (11:18 a.m. NY)

A woman who recently returned to Austria from India may be infected with the Indian variant of the coronavirus, according to preliminary tests in the province of Salzburg. The suspicion has yet to be confirmed by genome sequencing, according to the province’s health secretary Petra Juhasz. It would be the first time the variant has been detected in Austria.

Dodgers Stadium to Stop Shots (10:03 a.m. NY)

Los Angeles will close the mass vaccination site at Dodgers Stadium by the end of May as demand for shots falls across the region. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement doses will be shifted across the city, expanding no-appointment vaccinations and mobile clinics.

The stadium is one of the largest vaccination sites in the U.S. The closure also comes as L.A. County has met the yellow tier’s criteria for one week and could be moved into the less restrictive tier in the middle of next week, health officials said. That would allow local authorities to increase capacity in more sectors and for bars to provide indoor services at 25% capacity.

Biden’s ‘Tough Call’ on Troops (7:25 a.m NY)

President Joe Biden said in an NBC News interview that it will be a “tough call” on whether to order U.S. troops to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

“It is a tough call whether they should require that for the military because they are in such close proximity with other military personnel,” Biden said.

Shot Approval Sought for Ages 12-15 (7:05 p.m. HK)

BioNTech and Pfizer submitted a request to expand conditional marketing authorization of their vaccine in the EU to 12-15 year-olds.

More Flights Out of India (5:01 p.m. HK)

International and domestic airlines are adding flights out of India to bring home residents and citizens as the nation’s coronavirus outbreak goes from bad to worse. Air India Ltd. plans to increase its weekly frequency of flights to the U.S. to 32 starting May 11, up from the current 29.

Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. meanwhile are planning to charter flights from India to help South Koreans there wanting to return.

Call for New Probe Into Covid Origin (4 p.m. HK)

The World Health Organization should convene another investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that looks beyond animal sources, a group of scientists said in an open letter. The signatories proposed specific steps on what any new probe should take into account.

Astra to Seek U.S. Clearance (3:09 p.m. HK)

AstraZeneca Plc confirmed it will apply for U.S. emergency authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine in the first half of 2021 after it missed an original target this month that raised questions over whether the company would pursue the clearance at all.

France Finds India Variant Cases (2:03 p.m. HK)

The first three cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in India have been identified in metropolitan France, the health ministry said late on Thursday in a statement. All three individuals returned from India and tested positive this month.

Ethiopian Airlines Ready to Restart Flights to Enugu - THISDAY

MAY 01, 2021

By Chinedu Eze

Ethiopian Airlines said it is fully prepared to resume operations to Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, as soon the federal government gives the go ahead for international flights into the airport.

This assurance was given by the airlines' Manager, Senait Ataklet, who led the airlines' team on a courtesy visit to the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji in Abuja.

Ataklet also disclosed that the airline was equally planning to introduce cargo operation to the airport to cater for the needs of its South Eastern passengers this time around.

She described the Enugu route as an important one that the airline would not want to undermine, stating that Ethiopian Airlines would want to be the first to land in Akanu Ibiam International Airport when it is eventually reopened for international flights operations.

The Manager who solicited for supports from the committee further disclosed that Ethiopian Airlines was ready and willing to render assistance to federal government in setting up national carrier if given the opportunity, stressing that the airline has attained robust experience and capabilities in airline management and aircraft maintenance, which would be put at the disposal of the proposed new national carrier.

Nnaji, while thanking his visitors for coming, stressed that the duty of the legislature is to make appropriate legislation and properly oversight the industry for the benefits of the flying public and airlines.

He assured the team that his committee was determined to ensure that the industry was safe for flight operations through its oversight responsibility.

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has hinted that the three international airports in Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt would soon resume flight service to international airlines and the airlines have expressed their readiness to start operation, waiting for the go-ahead from government.

It is expected that Nigeria would give Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to signal resumption of operations from these airports.

Anambra airport records maiden flight - NAN

MAY 01, 2021

Maiden flight on Friday landed at the newly constructed Anambra International Cargo Airport, Umueri, done by the Anambra State Government.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that two aircraft; Boeing 737 mark N5,-BUJ, and Embraer 145 both owned by Air Peace Airline landed by 2.26 pm and 2.46 pm respectively.

Gov. Willie Obiano of the state, who addressed excited Anambra people at the airport, said the state did not borrow a Kobo to construct the airport.

He said that the project began in December 2020, and the landing and other facilities were achieved within 15 months.

“We began this project in January 2020 when COVID-19 was adversely affecting economies of every state, nation, and the world over.

“We were able to start and by the grace of God we are here to witness this historic event,” he said.

Obiano who listed facilities already completed said the airport has the best and longest runway, control tower, and lightning system in Africa.

Mr Allen Onyema, Chief Executive Officer, Air Peace Airline, said he was overwhelmed at the standard of the project.


Air Peace making history as 1st airline to land in Anambra Airport. Photo/NAN

“This Anambra airport is about the best in Africa in terms of the facilities we have here,” he said.

Chief Neville Uchendu, a contractor handling some construction works in the state, said the quality of work done at the airport would stand the test of time.

Mr Lawrence Anikpe, Senior Special Adviser to Obiano on Internally Generated Revenue, said the time the governor started the project was a sign that the state was blessed with a prudent manager.

Disneyland reopening marks California's COVID-19 turnaround - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MAY 01, 2021

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Disneyland swung open its gates to cheering visitors donning sequined Minnie Mouse ears and snapping selfies Friday, marking a dramatic turnaround in a state so overwhelmed with coronavirus cases just four months ago that patients were being treated in outdoor tents.

California's world-famous theme park, which reopened after an unprecedented 13-month closure, is admitting only state residents and operating under a limited capacity for now.

Once inside, guests decked in Disney gear waved excitedly at employees tidying up the park's hallmark Main Street, which was lined with hand sanitizing stations and signs reminding people to wear face coverings.

After spending the year mostly teaching her third-grade class from a tent in her backyard, Libby Birmingham was thrilled to be there. The 38-year-old, who attended the park regularly before the pandemic with an annual pass, took the day off work to make the trip down from Pasadena with friends.

“Disneyland is like my happiest place, to be totally honest,” she said. “It’s one of those places that I can always enjoy, and it lets me be the kid — not always be in charge of the kids.”

The reopening highlights a big shift for the nation's most populous state from just months ago when COVID-19 cases were surging, hospitals were running out of ICU beds, and hundreds of people died from the virus each day.

Now, California boasts the country’s lowest rate of confirmed coronavirus infections and more than half of the population eligible for vaccination has received at least one dose. Children have been returning to in-person classes, shops and restaurants are expanding business, and Gov. Gavin Newsom set June 15 as a target date to further reopen the economy, albeit with some health-related restrictions.

“It has such a symbolic nature to really quantifying that we’re finally rolling out of COVID,” said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of state tourism promoter Visit California.

Theme parks were among the last California businesses allowed to reopen, in contrast to states with fewer restrictions such as Florida, where Disney World’s Magic Kingdom resort has been up and running, though at lower-than-usual capacity, since July. Another major U.S. amusement park, Ohio’s Cedar Point, opened last summer and will do so again for the upcoming season — only this time, it won’t require masks on rides.

At Disneyland, visitors must wear masks and can remove them to eat only in designated areas. Hugs and handshakes with characters are off limits, and parades and fireworks shows have been shelved to limit crowding.

On Friday, an updated Snow White ride drew throngs of visitors who were methodically spaced out in a winding outdoor line to prevent congestion indoors. Other areas of the park had fewer people. In a section devoted to Star Wars, there was ample space for children to run freely, and visitors waved from a distance to Rey, who flashed a smile and waved from a platform overlooking the park.

Outside a popular boat ride, Allison Sanger and her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, stopped by a cordoned-off patio to chat with a parasol-twirling Mary Poppins and Bert. The 28-year-old said she was glad her daughter could get close enough to see the characters and snap photos even with the new rules.

“We honestly have so many memories here,” she said. “We missed our memories and our magic.”

There was even a marriage proposal.

Zach Bolger, 35, said he met his girlfriend, Mackenzie Brown, 26, some three years ago at Disneyland trading collectible pins. The couple returned to the park Friday, and Bolger pulled out a ring box near Snow White’s wishing well. Brown cried tears of joy.

While California continues to “strongly discourage” anyone from visiting the state as tourists, the travel industry is banking on pent-up demand from its own nearly 40 million residents for a comeback. An advertising campaign encourages Californians to travel within the state, mirroring a pitch made after 9-11 .

In a state with so many people shut in for so long, even in-state tourism could be a huge boost. Disney’s California parks have long had a loyal local fan base while its Florida locations rely more heavily on international tourists, said Carissa Baker, assistant professor of theme park and attraction management at University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

Disneyland is a major economic engine in California, drawing nearly 19 million in attendance the year before the coronavirus struck, according to the Themed Entertainment Association. It and other such attractions were shuttered in March 2020 as Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide shutdown order.

For now, the park and neighbouring Disney California Adventure are restricted to operating at 25% capacity under state health rules. Disney is only taking reservations from state residents, though California also allows fully vaccinated out-of-state visitors to attend theme parks.

The reopening was also welcomed by park employees eager to get back to work and owners of hotels and shops in the surrounding city of Anaheim. The city's convention centre saw more than 300 cancellations since the pandemic and so far has rebooked a quarter of them, said Jay Burress, president of Visit Anaheim.

At an early morning flag ceremony, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek thanked the park's employees, many who greeted each other with fist-bumps and bright-eyes, though their smiles were concealed by constellation face masks. He asked them to “bring the magic back” for visitors who were kept away during the 412-day closure.

“We’re not just another theme park," Chapek said. "We’re something special, and we’re something special because of all of you, because you bring magic to the world.”

___

Associated Press photographer Jae C. Hong and writers John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report.

Amy Taxin, The Associated Press

COVID-19: Nigeria Bans Flight From Brazil, India, Turkey - LEADERSHIP

MAY 02, 2021

By Ejike Ejike, Abuja

The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 has banned incoming flights from Brazil, India and Turkey, noting that anyone who has been in these three countries within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Nigeria will be banned from entering the country.

The chairman, PSC on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this in a statement signed by him and made available to journalists on Sunday.

According to him, “The following measures shall apply to airlines and passengers who fail to comply with I and II(a) above: i Airlines shall mandatorily pay a penalty of $3,500 (Three Thousand Five Hundred dollars) for each defaulting passenger. ii. Non-Nigerians will be denied entry and returned to the country of embarkation at cost to the Airline.

“Nigerians and those with permanent resident permit shall undergo seven days of mandatory quarantine in a Government approved facility at the point-of-entry city and at cost to the passenger. The following condition shall apply to such passengers: i. Within 24 hours of arrival shall take a COVID-19 PCR test ii. If positive, the passenger shall be admitted within a government-approved treatment centre, in line with National treatment protocols. iii. If Negative, the Passenger shall continue to remain in quarantine and made to undergo a repeat PCR test on day seven of their quarantine.

“Passenger(s) arriving in Nigeria from other destinations. Must observe a seven day self-isolation at their final destination. Carry out a COVID-19 PCR test on day 7 at selected laboratory. Shall be monitored for compliance to isolation protocol by appropriate authorities,” he outlined.

The PSC chairman, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said the latest regulation, however, does not apply to passengers who transited through these countries.

He also said passengers who provide false or misleading contact information would be liable to prosecution.

“Person who willfully disregard or refuse to comply with directions of Port-Health staff, security agencies or evade quarantine shall be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” he added.

The PSC chairman said that state governments were required to ensure that all returning travelers from all countries were monitored to ensure adherence to the mandatory seven-day self-isolation period and the repeat COVID-19 PCR test on the seventh day after arrival.

He stated that this travel advisory shall come into effect from May 4, 2021.

Mustapha noted that the guidelines were subject to review after an initial period of four weeks.

According to him, “over the last few weeks we have been monitoring with concern, the increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in several countries, with additional focus on countries with high incidence, fatality rate and widespread prevalence of variants of concern.”

EU Proposes End to Travel Restrictions for Vaccinated Tourists - BLOOMBERG

MAY 03, 2021

By Nikos Chrysoloras

The European Commission proposed easing restrictions on tourism and leisure travel for those who have been fully inoculated, adding to signs of a gradual return to normalcy as vaccinations gather pace.

The European Union’s executive arm “proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorized vaccine,” according to a statement on Monday. “This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process,” the Commission said.

The new rules would replace a current blanket ban for non-essential travel to the EU for residents of all but a handful of countries. The bloc is working on the introduction of a vaccine passport system that will ease travel for those inoculated or can prove that they have recently recovered from the coronavirus and are thus considered immune.

Uncertainty as stiffer foreign travel protocols begin today - THE GUARDIAN

MAY 03, 2021

By Chukwuma Muanya, Wole Oyebade (Lagos) and

• Stakeholders query travel ban from India, Brazil, Turkey over COVID-19 spike 

• Airlines face $3,500 fine per defaulting passenger 

• Decision hasty, not based on data, says Tomori 

• Experts rally govt to rapid testings at Lagos, Abuja airports

Chaotic scenes are expected at the check-in counters of Nigeria-bound airlines as a new set of stiffer protocols takes effect today. The new guidelines, among others, ban air travellers from India, Brazil and Turkey, with a fine of $3,500 per defaulting passenger.

The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 at the weekend rolled out a fresh guideline for inbound passengers, reducing the validity period of pre-boarding COVID-19 PCR test from 96 to 72 hours.

Besides, non-Nigerian passport holders and non-residents who visited Brazil, India or Turkey within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria will be denied entry into the country. This regulation, however, does not apply to passengers who transited through these countries.

For arriving passenger who fails to comply, the airline shall mandatorily pay a penalty of $3,500 for each defaulting passenger, while non-Nigerians will be denied entry and returned to the country of embarkation at cost to the airline.

Nigerians and those with permanent resident permit, who visited Brazil, India or Turkey within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria shall, among others, be made to undergo seven days of mandatory quarantine in a government-approved facility at the point-of-entry and at cost to the passenger.

Officials of foreign airlines, yesterday, hinted that the implementation of the fresh guideline was too hasty and readily puts airlines in a difficult position.

Country representative of one of the affected airlines said: “I think the implementation was rather too quick. We got the new travel advisory late Saturday and it readily comes into effect on Monday. It means airlines will have to start going through all intending passengers’ details one after the other to avoid violation of the air bubble. It is a tedious and difficult situation for us all, not only in Nigeria. I will not be surprised if some of our flights don’t make it here,” he said.

Other stakeholders said the guidelines were in order, but the Federal Government should do more to provide on-arrival rapid tests at Lagos and Abuja international entry ports.

Indeed, many countries and destinations have lately announced restrictions after the caseload of COVID-19 patients spiked in India. Among them are Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Dubai, Canada, Pakistan, New Zealand, Iran, Australia, Netherlands, Thailand, and Italy.

Indian hospitals, morgues and crematoriums have been overwhelmed as the country has reported more than 300,000 daily cases for more than 10 days straight. Many families have been left on their own to find medicines and oxygen.

At the weekend, India pushed the world record for daily new cases higher, reporting 401,993 new cases on Saturday and then 392,488 yesterday. It is averaging over 3,000 Covid deaths each day, with more than 200,000 dead in total, with evidence suggesting the official numbers vastly understate the toll.

In Brazil, new coronavirus cases have fallen off a late-March peak, but remain high by historical standards. Total deaths in the country are second only to the United States.

Turkey imposed a nationwide “full lockdown” on Thursday, lasting until May 17, to curb a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, with the world’s fourth highest number of cases and the worst on a per-capita basis among major nations.

A statement signed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said Nigeria had been monitoring with concern the increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in several countries over the last few weeks.

He said: “Of the countries assessed, this interim travel advisory applies to three countries in the first instance. These precautionary measures are a necessary step to minimise the risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases introduced to Nigeria from other countries, while national response activities continue.

“Nigerians are strongly advised to avoid any non-essential international travels to any country at this period and specifically to countries that are showing a rising number of cases and deaths.

“For Nigerians arriving from or with contacts with India, Brazil or Turkey, they shall within 24 hours of arrival take a COVID-19 PCR test. If positive, the passenger shall be admitted within a government-approved treatment centre, in line with national treatment protocols; and if negative, the passenger shall continue to remain in quarantine and made to undergo a repeat PCR test on day seven of their quarantine.

“False declaration: Passenger(s) who provided false or misleading contact information will be liable to prosecution. Person(s) who willfully disregard or refuse to comply with directions of Port Health staff, security agencies or evade quarantine shall be prosecuted in accordance with the law.

“State governments are required to ensure that all returning travellers from all countries are monitored to ensure adherence to the mandatory seven-day self-isolation period and the repeat COVID-19 PCR test on the seventh day after arrival. We urge members of the public to adhere to all COVID-19 preventive measures in place including adherence to the national travel protocol, proper use of face masks, regular hand washing and physical distancing,” the advisory read in part.

Travel consultant, Sunday Olumegbon, yesterday, said while Nigeria is trying to keep safe, both the travellers and airlines would suffer more disruptions. “I have a number of clients that have made their travel plans for either business or medical trips abroad. Most of them are jittery now because of the new protocols and the less likelihood of being taken by airlines without additional cost, that is, if they find airlines that will airlift them.

“I really cannot blame the Nigerian government. They have a duty to keep the country safe. I think they can do better. A country like Ethiopia some days ago set up a high-end COVID-19 testing laboratory at its main hub in Addis Ababa, providing quick and accurate test results on arrival. In three hours, your result is ready. Why not in Lagos and Abuja airports, instead of having to quarantine travellers?” Olumegbon queried.

Aviation security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said Nigeria had been on this path at the onset of the pandemic. “Often, we take a knee-jerk or copycat approach without making an effort to take initiatives that are original to us. Why not behave the way the South Koreans and Chinese had done? Be original.

“My suggestions, modified from what I said earlier in March last year; redistribute all the foreign airlines to the four or five international airports and none of them must go to more than one in the four or five, except those from the same country like the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

“We have about 30 foreign airlines coming to Nigeria, it therefore means each of the international airports would be having six foreign airlines flights. The aim is to be able to effectively and efficiently test, trace and track any infected passenger. Each airport must have testing centres and adequate skilled manpower in sufficient numbers to do the testing 24 hours at the airports for arriving travellers,” he said.

IN his reaction, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, a virologist and chairman, Expert Ministerial Review Committee on COVID-19, said: “While the focus is on passengers who have been in India 14 days prior to entering Nigeria, I think we should also include passengers who transit through India. It does not take forever to get exposed to an infected person.

“Also, a targeted rather than blanket ban should be pursued for the following reasons. We have no direct flight to and from India. So, they can come in transiting through Addis, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Kigali, Lome, Accra, or Europe. What of an India-origin passenger who comes into Lagos via Seme border, how do we monitor such? We should focus on passenger and not the flight.

“This requires upping the performance of our staff at the points of entry, serious attention to details of arriving passengers and forms completed and diligent monitoring such as immediate sample collection on arrival, daily temperature and symptoms checks. Blanket checks are by nature discriminatory. When we discovered UK’s B.1.1.7 variant and it was spreading in the UK, did we ban UK flights? When our B.1.525 variant invaded UK, did they ban flights from Nigeria? What UK did was to strengthen internal mechanisms targeted and focused on the passenger and not flight bans.

“The countries that have banned Indian flights have based this decision on data. How many flights from India come into the country, how many passengers are Indians, which part of India are they coming from? We have no clue or answers to the questions and we cannot wake up without evidence and just throw in a blanket ban.

“Again, the devil is in the implementation of our guidelines. With our disregard for honesty and accountability, our Ports Of Entry (POE) will become Points Of Escape (POE) for the travellers after a few rupees have changed hands.”

NCAA lifts Azman Air suspension after six weeks - PUNCH

MAY 03, 2021

BY  Okechukwu Nnodim

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has lifted the suspension it placed on Azman Air on March 15 following series of incidents involving the airline’s Boeing 737 aircraft.

Azman announced on Sunday that the lifting of the suspension was confirmed in a meeting held between the management of the domestic airline and NCAA on May 1, 2021.

The airline stated that its operations of all the Boeing 737 aircraft in its fleet were suspended by the regulator pursuant to Section 35 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 and Part 1.3.3.3 (A) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) 2015.

In the announcement, signed by the airline’s management, it said, “In this regard, having satisfactorily undergone the safety audit and implemented the corrective action plan as recommended by the regulatory body, we are pleased to inform the general public that the suspension is hereby lifted.”

The NCAA had explained that it suspended Azman Air in order to enable the authority to conduct an audit of the airline and determine the root causes of the incidents, as well as recommend corrective actions to forestall future re-occurrence.


Airport security app Clear looks to score with U.S. ‘vaccine passport’ - REUTERS

MAY 03, 2021

Over 60 U.S. stadiums and other venues are deploying an app from Clear to verify people’s COVID-19 status, placing the New York company known for its airport security fast lanes at the forefront of a national debate over “vaccine passports.”

Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants and New York Mets are among the first big businesses to demand guests prove they tested negative for the virus or are immunized against it. While the teams welcome paper proof, they encourage downloading records onto Clear's Health Pass feature for convenience.

As with mask mandates, such requirements are under attack from Republican politicians and anti-surveillance activists, as un-American intrusions on civil liberties. They fear businesses will discriminate against the unvaccinated and unnecessarily amass personal data.

Republican governors including in Florida and Texas last month moved to bar some establishments from asking about immunization status, though legal experts say door-checks are lawful to protect public health.

Privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation fears Clear and other passport apps will hold data indefinitely and morph into consumer trackers. Clear said users control their health records.

As a business based on replacing physical IDs, tickets and credit cards with facial or fingerprint recognition, Clear has a huge opportunity in emerging health-check rules that would familiarize more people with its technology.

"Those experiences where you have to prove something about you – if we can help empower the consumer to get through that more quickly - that is our core business," said Catesby Perrin, Clear's executive vice president of growth.

So far, Clear is among coronavirus health app frontrunners, with partners including United Airlines (UAL.O) for its Los Angeles-to-Honolulu flights and the Venetian resort in Las Vegas for conventions it hosts.

With fans anxious to get back to live sports, the Giants said its promotion generated about 6,000 Clear downloads in April. Nationwide, over 70,000 Health Passes are used for venue admission weekly, Clear said, though the app is only starting to verify vaccination status.

Also gaining traction is Excelsior Pass, funded by New York state, which supports verification of tests and vaccinations within the state. The app generated 500,000 certificates in April, and a companion app for businesses to verify them had 40,000 installations, New York spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said.

Excelsior Pass developer IBM Corp (IBM.N) is in discussions with additional states, vice president Eric Piscini said.

In Europe, several governments have introduced apps that may be required to access transport, gyms and restaurants, while the 27-nation European Union races to develop a “gateway” that will enable them to work across borders.

Airline-backed Travel Pass and the nonprofit CommonPass, which was installed an estimated 20,000 times over the last two months in the United States, are being tested for international flight checks.

It remains unclear whether high-tech options to prove health status will be widely required. At their best, apps would combat fake records by validating information against public health databases, but that is no small task.

Piscini said it requires accessing at least 64 separate databases in the United States. But California, for example, has yet to specify whether and when it will share records with apps.

Clear has started testing access to vaccination records but declined to disclose details.

New online tools that have gained a few thousand users, including VaxYes and ConfirmD, are attesting to the veracity of vaccine certificate uploads by having medical professionals weed out forgeries.

"The demand (to automate) is there. There's just a myriad different hoops to get through," said Mohammad Gaber, chief executive of VaxYes developer GoGet.

AIRPORTS TO BALLPARKS

Clear users upload a driver's license or other identity document and take a selfie, which the system checks to make sure they match before connecting to COVID-19 test results from hundreds of labs or the proof of vaccination.

Some venues also require a symptom survey on Clear or an automated temperature check at a Clear kiosk.

Users get a "green" pass with their headshot and a QR code to show staff or scan at entrances. Venues pay for the system.

Texas music festival Electric Cookout adopted Health Pass to reduce chances of an outbreak, said co-founder Pooja Shah. About 50 out of 1,200 attendees used it at an April event and received access to special areas, she said.

Clear's primary service, priced at $179 annually, enables customers to use biometric scans to skip ID card inspections at nearly 40 U.S. airports. It also offers a free service enabling registered users to jet through "Clear lanes" to access entertainment venues.

Combining subscribers and non-paying users, Clear, whose services also go by Alclear and Secure Identity, said it has about 5.7 million members.

The company will not disclose financial results, but announced in February a $100 million funding round with investors including growth firm General Atlantic and the National Football League's 32 Equity fund.

Clear still has hurdles to become accepted and get people comfortable with using it.

The Seattle Mariners baseball team promoted Clear's technology for ID-less beer purchases from 2018 through 2019. The team said the effort did not generate "meaningful" usage data.

Washington state's alcohol regulator said Clear cannot be the "sole methodology for ascertaining legal age."

Clear said it was pleased with results and continues to educate regulators.

The Giants aim to enable card-less concession sales this year, and its chief business development officer, Jason Pearl, is enthusiastic about Clear’s technology. “I don’t think anyone else comes close.”

Nigerian medics making waves in the diaspora - THE CABLE

MAY 03, 2021

BY VICTORIA HARRISON

Time after time, education has proved to be a gateway to invaluable opportunities, not only for its direct participants and their families, but for the world as a whole. It is said that the value of education cannot be accurately quantified. As such, rewards such as honour, prestige and recognition have been perceived to be adequate measures of the value of education. More often than not, Nigeria has been a recipient of these rewards by virtue of her citizens who, home and abroad, are thriving in their careers. These careers span the fields of law, medicine, engineering, sports and the arts.

In recent years, a number of Nigerians have projected the country into the limelight of the medical profession. These outstanding individuals have worked hard to distinguish themselves and have earned the respect of their contemporaries in countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe and indeed, all over the world. Here is a brief look at the feats of some of these high-achieving professionals in the diaspora.

1. Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye

Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye is a renowned fetal and pediatric Nigeria born surgeon based in Texas. In 2016, he successfully operated on a baby-in-utero. The mother, at the 23rd week of pregnancy had gone for a routine ultra-sound and it was discovered that her baby had a rare birth defect known as sacrococcygeal teratoma, a large tumor located on the fetus’ tailbone. Olutoye led a team of 21 doctors to remove the tumor. The five-hour surgery involved removing the baby from the uterus for 20 minutes so as to remove the tumor and then placing the baby back into the womb for the remainder of the gestation period, after which she was safely delivered.

For this groundbreaking feat, Olutoye was appointed surgeon-in-chief at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the US. He now leads one of the largest children’s hospital surgery departments in the world.

Olutoye received his medical degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. In 1996, he went on to earn his PhD in anatomy from Virginia Commonwealth University. He completed his residency in general surgery at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Virginia Commonwealth University, and his fellowships in pediatric and fetal surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is certified in surgery and pediatric surgery by the American Board of Surgery. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the West African College of Surgeons. Olutoye is a member of the American Surgical Association, the American Pediatric Surgical Association and past president of the International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society.

In 2019, Olutoye was appointed professor and the E. Thomas Boles chair of the pediatric surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

2. Professor Iyalla Elvis Peterside

Dr. Peterside is an attending neonatologist in the division of neonatology at Children’s Hospital and director of the intensive care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked in four continents including Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. His expertise includes care of the neonatal patient, infection control with emphasis on catheter-related blood stream infections, the use of ECMO to treat critically ill patients in respiratory and cardiac failure.

He received his primary medical education in Nigeria at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1985. He did his internship at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Nigeria and Booth Hall Children’s Hospital, Manchester, England. He did his residency at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Nigeria, Booth Hall Children Hospital, Manchester, England, the Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York and Cornell Medical Center, New York. In addition to these prestigious qualifications, Professor Peterside is Board Certified by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and London. He is also the president of the Philadelphia Perinatal Society.

In March 2021, the Nigerian-born medical doctor was recognized as one of America’s best physicians of the year 2020 by the US National Consumer Advisory Board.

3. Dr. Njideka Udochi

Dr. Njideka Udochi is yet another shining example of the innate spirit of excellence that thrives in Nigerians. Shortly after the appointment of her sister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, the Nigerian-born physician became the very first black female to emerge Family Physician of the Year in Maryland, United States. This award was bestowed on her by the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians (MDAFP) in 2021. Becky Wimmer, the academy’s executive director, revealed that Njideka Udochi was selected from six candidates because she “continues to provide her patients and communities with passion and care” and also remarked that “all her contributions made her stand out.” The award is the MDAFP recognition of Udochi’s exemplary character and her embodiment of the values and traditions of a model family physician. It is a position of great honor and prestige and is no small feat indeed.

For Njideka Udochi, a graduate of medicine from the University of Nigeria with over 33 years of experience, excellence in her chosen career field and a long-standing character of integrity go hand in hand and this is evidenced by the stellar ratings from her patients who commend her as the best family doctor they have ever had. In her practice, she is known by her patients as a doctor who establishes a connection with each individual and strives to treat all her patients as if they are her family. After earning her master’s in public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School, Njideka Udochi proceeded to undergo her residency at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in 1988. The following year, she completed her fellowship in the same university. She is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. For five years following this, she worked as a medical director for Baltimore’s Healthcare for the Homeless and a former HIV clinic known as the Health Education Resource Organization (HERO). Over the period of seven years, Udochi has worked with about 152,857 patients from Maryland and Washington, DC as well as patients from 114 countries around the world. She is currently resident in Columbia, Maryland in the United States.

4. Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu

Another exceptional medical practitioner flying the Nigerian flag high in the USA is Professor Onyema Ogbuagu. He is an associate professor of medicine in the clinician-educator track and director of the HIV clinical trials program of the Yale AIDS Program, Section of Infectious Diseases of the Yale School of Medicine. He was recently recognized as one of the researchers instrumental in the creation of the Pfizer vaccine for the infamous COVID-19 virus. As a Yale infectious diseases specialist, he ran Pfizer’s vaccine trial at the school, and he subsequently served to reassure black people in America and worldwide that they have nothing to worry about concerning the vaccine.

Between 2003-2010, Dr. Ogbuagu received his education at the University of Calabar College of Medical Sciences and completed his residency at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He had his fellowship at the Yale School of Medicine in 2012. In response to the COVID pandemic, he is the Yale principal investigator on multiple investigational therapeutic and preventative clinical trials for COVID-19 including remdesivir (now FDA approved), Pfizer and GSK COVID-19 vaccines. Professor Ogbuagu has over 18 years of experience in the medical field.

Other Nigerian medics who have gained recognition in the diaspora are Dr. Bennet Omalu, Dr. Isioma Okobah among others.

Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-American physician, was the first to discover and publish findings on the chronic traumatic encephalopathy in American football players while working in Pittsburgh. So profound was his discovery that his article was expanded into a book titled Concussion. It was later adapted into a film of the same name, in which Omalu was portrayed by famous Hollywood actor, Will Smith.

Isioma Okobah, in 2017, bagged the highest medical award in the US as the 2017 Prestigious Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians Award. The award is for practicing physicians in the US who have distinguished themselves among colleagues and in their community by their contribution towards the development of family medicine.

With the aforementioned, it is clear that there is no shortage of brilliance and capacity for greatness amongst Nigerians. These outstanding individuals and many more Nigerian professionals are but a few among the many professionals who spin a different narrative of Nigeria and Nigerians in diaspora. Their exploits speak louder than any written words.

Victoria Harrison is a researcher and an enthusiast of everything good about Nigeria. She is currently studying law at the University of Lagos.

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