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Foreigners needed to fill Singapore tech jobs crunch, says central banker - REUTERS

MAY 04, 2021

BY  Anshuman Daga


A boom in technology jobs across all sectors in Singapore and a shortage of tech workers means the country will have to rely on foreigners to fill the gap, Ravi Menon, the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore said on Tuesday.

Singapore is emerging as a regional tech hub but headhunters say it faces a severe talent crunch as more firms move in. This is partly because of government policies to tighten foreign hiring to offset falling Singaporean employment amid the coronavirus pandemic. read more

Singaporeans make up just over one-third of the estimated 25,000 tech workforce in the local financial sector, Menon said during a webinar on job opportunities in the financial services and tech jobs in the industry.

"The competition for tech talent is economy-wide as more sectors embark on digitalisation," said Menon, adding that the pipeline of local tech graduates wasn't enough to fill the vacancies.

The city-state, an Asian base for many multi-nationals and banks, is home to global companies such as Facebook (FB.O) and Alphabet's Google (GOOGL.O), while ByteDance and Zoom (ZM.O) are hiring aggressively in the country of 5.7 million people.

The large mismatch between demand and supply of tech workers meant that "we have to continue to depend on foreigners to fill the growing vacancies for technology jobs over the next few years," Menon said.

"If we tighten this inflow excessively, it will impair not just the competitiveness of our financial centre but dampen the prospects for creating good jobs in the future, especially for Singaporeans," he said.

Singapore also needs to build a strong pipeline of local tech talent by involving financial institutions, individuals and the government, the central banker said.

The Singapore government has imposed tighter immigration curbs but also said it must remain open to overseas talent.

Effective this year, Singapore rolled out a new work visa for foreign executives of tech firms.

The country's total employment in 2020 shrank the most in more than two decades.

Vietnam Extends Quarantine Past 14 Days After India Variant Found - BLOOMBERG

MAY 04, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Vietnam is keeping people in quarantine centers longer than the 14-day period in its latest step to prevent the spread of coronavirus amid the emergence of cases being traced to overseas travelers.

Provinces were instructed by the health ministry to “temporarily keep” in quarantine until further notice people who have completed the 14-day isolation, according to a post on the government website. Three patients in Vinh Phuc were found to be carrying a virus variant first detected in India, the health ministry said.

Authorities are scrutinizing cases including that of an Indian national who checked into a hospital in Hanoi on May 3 and tested positive for Covid-19 earlier on Tuesday. This was after he had completed the required 14-day quarantine when he arrived in Vietnam on April 17. He isolated in a hotel in the coastal city of Haiphong and tested negative twice after ending quarantine.

It’s Not Just India. New Virus Waves Hit Developing Nations (2)

The Hanoi government has placed the apartment building that’s home to about 1,500 people including the Indian national under temporary lockdown, according to the city’s health department. Authorities are also keeping a close watch on the case of a hotel staff member in Danang whose transmission is still unknown, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Vietnam, which has among the lowest number of infections in Southeast Asia, has ordered movement restrictions after domestic Covid-19 cases flared up for the first time in a month. The nation is lagging peers in the region on vaccination, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

Hanoi has shut schools, tourism sites and sidewalk eateries while Ho Chi Minh City shuttered cinemas, spas and gaming venues and suspended conferences. As of the morning of May 4, Vietnam had a total of 2,985 cases and 35 deaths.

When can we start travelling overseas again? - THE CANADIAN PRESS

MAY 04, 2021

Itching to travel again? You're not alone.

One Ottawa travel agency says people are booking Caribbean and resort vacations for as early as this September and cruises are quickly filling up for next year.

"A lot of people are booking now because they've had their first vaccine," said Carolyn Pernari, president of Centrum Travel-CWT Vacations. "Everyone's just feeling more comfortable to take that plunge."

In the past month, Pernari said, she's seen a big jump in overseas vacation bookings, especially for fall and winter 2021. Cruises are in hot demand for 2022 while Canadians are also planning domestic travel.

"It's been related to the actual vaccination rollout, for sure. People just think that they're going to be vaccinated by September, so that they're going to be safe to travel after that."

  • Each day this week, CBC Ottawa is asking one question that's been on people's minds as vaccine campaigns pick up across Canada. This is part one.

People are mainly booking packages in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico, Pernari said. There are also more reservations for yachts and smaller resorts, and some couples are booking destination weddings.

"One of our agents is booking probably 10 vacations a day. She's very, very busy," Pernari said.

Once quarantine travel rules change, Pernari thinks demand for travel will jump even more.

But will travel be safe?

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor with the University of Ottawa, said he doesn't foresee leisure travel happening on a large scale until people get their second vaccine dose.

In Canada, where gaps are as long as four months between shots, that means no travel until the fall.

"That's the way it should work. But I don't have a lot of faith in policy makers to do what should be happening," said Deonandan. "So I wouldn't be surprised if somehow we started opening up travel to those who've only had one shot."

Even if the population is well vaccinated, there will still be risks from variants and new COVID-19 cases, said Deonandan.

There will have to be vaccine passports. I don't see a way around it. - Raywat Deonandan, epidemiologist


"Vaccination is not a bulletproof vest," he said. "Because you're vaccinated doesn't mean you can't become a carrier and bring infection back."

The risk level of the destination also matters, said Deonandan, and travel to the U.S. could be "fairly robust" by September and October if both countries have low case counts and high vaccination rates.

"There should be public health control and surveillance," he said. "There will have to be vaccine passports. I don't see a way around it."

EU Looks to Open Borders After a Year of Pandemic Isolation - BLOOMBERG

MAY 04, 2021

BY  Nikos Chrysoloras and Viktoria Dendrinou

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union aims to take a significant step toward a return to normalcy with plans to reopen its borders after months of pandemic-induced restrictions.

Just in time for the summer travel season, Spanish, Italian and Greek beaches along with cities like Paris, Rome and Berlin would be able to welcome travelers who have been fully inoculated against Covid-19, under a proposal by the European Commission.

It’s “time to revive the EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle -- safely,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

While still battling a third wave, Europe is showing signs of gaining control of the disease, which has infected more than 30 million in the region. Lockdowns in several countries are being loosened as contagion rates ebb and inoculations ramp up.

The EU’s executive arm recommended welcoming visitors from countries with relatively low infection rates as well as those who are fully vaccinated, according to a statement Monday. The proposals require approval from a weighted majority of the bloc’s 27 member states and could be adopted as soon as the end of May, according to a commission official.

The new parameters would replace a blanket ban for non-essential travel to the EU for residents of all but a handful of countries. The rules have been in place for more than a year and represented a bitter blow for a region that prides itself on open borders.

Under the proposal, member states would be obliged to accept proof for all shots approved in the EU -- including those produced by Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE, AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.

National governments will have the discretion to accept shots that have cleared the World Health Organization emergency use listing process, but they can’t recognize other vaccines on their own. This means people inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik or the Sinopharm and Sinovac shots from China will not be allowed to travel freely to the EU solely based of their immunization status.

The new rules include a so-called emergency brake, which would allow member states to restore travel bans on countries where risky new variants emerge or contagion rates spike. In such an event, only essential workers, such as diplomats and health-care staff, would be allowed entry from those countries, and even then, they would be subject to strict testing and quarantine requirements.

Faced with a sector crippled by the pandemic, tourism ministers from Group of 20 nations are expected to approve guidelines on issues including safe mobility when they hold a virtual summit on Tuesday. The G-20 -- the forum that brings together the world’s major economies -- is expected to support measures for so-called vaccine passports, including the EU’s Green Digital Certificate.

The next step in the EU’s approval process will happen on Wednesday when member-state representatives convene in Brussels to discuss the proposal.

A commission official told reporters in Brussels that Israel will definitely be on the list of countries whose vaccinated residents are allowed to travel to the EU. Reciprocity will also be considered as a factor for easing leisure travel, the official added when asked about U.K. residents.

The commission will draw up a list of approved vaccination certificates issued by non-EU countries. Discussions with Washington will hopefully lead to the introduction of a uniform certificate that meets the EU’s security and accuracy standards, the commission official said.

(Updates with details about EU and G-20 meetings)

Airlines kick as coronavirus tests raise airfares by 45% - THE GUARDIAN

MAY 05, 2021

By Wole Oyebade


•PCR test cost between $90 and $208
•Arik Air restores Abuja-Maiduguri flights

Airlines, yesterday, raised the alarm over the cost implication of mandatory coronavirus tests, citing the impact on airfares that have spiked by over 45 per cent.

The airlines, following a survey of PCR tests globally, said the cost implication currently borne by travellers raises a barrier against demand surge and air travel recovery.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), therefore, called on governments to ensure that high costs for COVID-19 testing do not put travel out of reach for individuals and families.

The body, representing 280 airlines, said COVID-19 testing must be affordable as well as timely, widely available and effective if the sector must make headway.

Meanwhile, Arik Air has restored flights connecting Nnamdi Azikwe Airport, Abuja and Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Passengers traveling from Lagos can connect to this service beginning from Monday, May 10, 2021.

An IATA sampling of costs for PCR tests, the test most frequently required by governments in 16 countries, showed wide variations by markets and within markets.

Findings from the markets surveyed, showed that only France complied with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation for the state to bear the cost of testing for travellers.

Of the 15 markets where there is a cost for PCR testing to the individual, the average minimum cost for testing was $90. The average maximum cost for testing was $208. In Nigeria, the test costs an average of N50, 000 ($105) per entry.

At the average low-end costs, adding PCR testing to average airfares dramatically increases the cost of flying for individuals. Pre-crisis, the average one-way airline ticket, including taxes and charges, costs $200 (2019 data).

A $90 PCR test raises the cost by 45 per cent to $290. By adding another test on arrival, the one-way cost would leap by 90 per cent to $380. Assuming that two tests are needed in each direction, the average cost for an individual return trip could balloon from $400 to $760.

The impact of the costs of COVID-19 testing on family travel would be even more severe. Based on average ticket prices ($200) and average low-end PCR testing ($90) twice each way, a journey for four that would have cost $1,600 pre-COVID, could nearly double to $3,040—with $1440 being testing costs.

IATA’s Director-General, Willie Walsh, said as travel restrictions are lifted in domestic markets, airlines were seeing strong demand and expected the same in international markets.

“But that could be perilously compromised by testing costs – particularly PCR testing. Raising the cost of any product will significantly stifle demand. The impact will be greatest for short-haul trips (up to 1,100 km), with average fares of $105, the tests will cost more than the flight. That’s not what you want to propose to travelers as we emerge from this crisis. Testing costs must be better managed. That’s critical if governments want to save tourism and transport jobs; avoid limiting travel freedoms to the wealthy,” Walsh said.

Travel expert, Sunday Olumegbon, said the multiple test regime was bound to affect travel demand. Olumegbon noted that all booked international flights had increased by an average of N100, 000, without considering the cost of coronavirus mandatory tests.

“An average passenger would require about three COVID-19 tests in the course of a journey. Someone coming from the UK would have done a test over there, do another one upon arrival here. And when leaving Nigeria, he or she would do another. Two tests in Nigeria are over N100, 000. He or she is already looking at a total of N500, 000 for a trip that earlier costs N250, 000. Now, if travel is not very important, how many people will do such a trip? That is where we are now,” Olumegbon said.

Airlines recently urged governments to bear the cost of testing, in compliance with the World Health Organisation’s recommendation. The world health body stipulates that states should not charge for testing or vaccination required for travel or the issuance of certificates.

The WHO COVID Emergency Committee recently reiterated this position, calling on governments to reduce the financial burden on international travellers of complying with testing requirements and any other public health measures implemented by countries.

“Many states are ignoring their international treaty obligations, putting a travel recovery in jeopardy and risking millions of livelihoods. High testing costs also incentivize the market for fake certificates.

Testing costs should not stand between people and their freedom to travel. The best solution is for the costs to be borne by governments. It’s their responsibility under WHO guidelines. We must not let the cost of testing—particularly PCR testing—limit the freedom to travel to the rich or those able to be vaccinated. A successful restart of travel means so much to people—from personal job security to business opportunities and the need to see family and friends. Governments must act quickly to ensure that testing costs don’t stall a travel recovery”.

“If governments are not going to make testing free, at least they must ensure that there is no profiteering by testing companies at the expense of people who just want to get back to some form of normality in their life and travel habits. And that scrutiny should include governments themselves who, under no circumstances, should charge a tax for this critical service,” Walsh said.

U.K. to Offer Fast-Track Immigration for Oscar, Nobel Winners - BLOOMBERG

MAY 05, 2021

BY  Emily Ashton

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. announced a fast-track immigration route for people who have won top awards including Nobel Prizes, Oscars and Golden Globes.

Changes to Britain’s “global talent” visa program mean those who hold qualifying prizes will no longer need to apply to one of six endorsing bodies, and can make a single visa application instead, the U.K. Home Office said in an emailed statement.

Award winners from across science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology can take advantage of the new rules, the Home Office said.

“Winners of these awards have reached the pinnacle of their career and they have so much to offer the U.K.,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said in the statement.

Seven African nations Nigerians can travel to by road - THE NATION

MAY 05, 2021

By Oladeji Adeola

Travelling by road could be an amazing experience, depending solely on where you are heading, your purpose of visiting and the mode of transport.

Travelling by road is cheap and very exciting. It enables you to sight see, interact and take pictures along the way. It is a flexible mode of transport as it gives you the options of cancelling or setting out without much preparation.

To leave the shores of Nigeria legally by road, you are required to have a Nigerian passport, Valid Identification Card, Yellow card or certificate that shows you’ve been vaccinated from Yellow fever and of course Money.

Here are some African countries you can travel to as a Nigerian:

1. GHANA: The journey from Nigeria to Ghana by road is quite a long one but it’s the scenic route. So brace yourself for the adventure. You can either choose to go directly with a transport company or hire out a taxi to take you. You can also get a bus from Jibowu or Maza maza heading to Accra or Weija.

Ghana has great street foods, tourist markets and amazing people. To avoid extortion on the road, arm yourself with your passport, yellow card and Ghana Cedis before travelling. It is also advisable to have other means of identification like a driver’s license or a student/work ID Card.


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2. MALI: Travelling by road to Mali, a sub-Sahara African country is more popular and cheaper through Northern Nigeria. The famous Katsina –Maradi route is still in operation regardless of the hiccups on the way. Another alternative is to board a vehicle from Togo heading to Mali or go to Northern Ghana and board a bus.

3. CAMEROON: To travel to Cameroon, first you need to head to Akwa Ibom in Southern Nigeria from where you’ll travel to the city of Calabar. The second half of the journey is to the town of Ekom and to the Cameroonian border. Lastly, you can board a bus from Ekok to Douala.

4. IVORY COAST: Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. Travelling to Ivory Coast by road allows you to see some nice places in Cotonou, Togo and Ghana and take good pictures of them.

Basically, travelling to Ivory Coast by road is good for sightseeing. You can board a bus going to Côte d’Ivoire by road in Maza Maza, Lagos State.

5. BENIN REPUBLIC: There are a lot of amazing places for sight-seeing and fun activities in this country, places like Hotel Benin Marina Beach, The Pendjari National Park and Cotonou craft market.

If you won’t be traveling with a transport company, you can board a bus at Mile 2 Motor Park in Lagos going to the borders of Seme. From there, you can board a taxi to Cotonou.

6. TOGO: Togo is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. The country extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located.

You can travel to Togo with transport companies or board a bus at Mile 2 Motor Park in Lagos.

7. SIERRA LEONE: Sierra Leone is on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea to the northeast. The capital of Sierra Leone and its largest city is Freetown.

You can travel directly from Lagos to Freetown with a transport company or by a private car. If you are looking for a cheaper way to get to Sierra Leone from Nigeria by road, Mile 2 Motor Park in Lagos is your other option. There you can select the vehicle that you wish to convene you.


Nigerian regulator lifts safety ban on Azman Air operations - CH-AVIATION

MAY 05, 2021

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has lifted its suspension of Azman Air's B737 operations after greenlighting corrective measures implemented by the carrier following a safety audit.

Among the violations the NCAA listed in its March post-grounding audit included an unsettled debt of NGN1.545 billion naira (USD3.782 million) owed as at December 2020. Other shortcomings included the "incompetence" of both Azman's maintenance director as well as chief pilot, both of whom were blamed for a poor culture of safety at the airline and who have since been replaced.

In a statement on May 1, 2021, the NCAA confirmed it had reviewed “the corrective action plans that were developed and implemented to address the non-compliance and non-conformances identified by the audit (Level 1 findings) and found them satisfactory. In view of the above, the authority hereby lifts the suspension of Parts A3 and D43 of the operations specifications issued to Azman Air with regards to the operations of the B737 aircraft type.”

The duration of the suspension was not without scandal after Azman Air was forced to publically apologize to the NCAA's director-general, Musa Nuhu, after airline staff, in an official airline press release, levelled allegations of "unprofessionalism and extortion" against him. Azman management subsequently repudiated the statement and expressed its regret to Nuhu and the NCAA.

Azman Air, in a separate statement, confirmed the lifting of the suspension, adding it would resume operations soon. It remained “committed to raising the standard when it comes to the safety of crew, equipment, and passengers,” the airline said.

The NCAA on March 15, 2021, had suspended the operation of Asman's fleet of two B737-300s and four B737-500s. As previously reported, this followed an incident involving Azman's B737-500 5N-SYS (msn 28565) leased from GECAS, which had experienced a burst tyre on landing at Lagos in February. Although no one was injured, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria had rated the incident as serious.

Azman partly owns and partly leases its B737 fleet. One B737-300 as well as the B737-500 are leased from GECAS, with another B737-500 leased from Standard Chartered Aviation Finance.

The carrier serves domestic routes including to AbujaKanoLagos, and Maiduguri, according to the ch-aviation schedules module.

Thai travel agencies offer COVID-19 'vaccine tours' to U.S. - REUTERS

MAY 05, 2021

BY  Panarat Thepgumpanat Chayut Setboonsarng

Travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus "vaccine tours" to the United States, as some wealthy Thais grow impatient awaiting mass inoculations that are still a month away amid the country's biggest outbreak so far.

The tours reflect global differences in vaccinations, with the United States and Britain making swift immunisation gains, but many lower income nations - and increasingly their well-off citizens - are still working to secure doses.

Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht to 200,000 baht ($2,400 to $6,400) for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.

"Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is one jab, but 90% of inquires want Pfizer (PFE.N)," which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, the agency's owner, Rachphol Yamsaeng, told Reuters.

He said a group was tentatively scheduled to leave next week.

My Journey Travel is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot and said it has received hundreds of calls in three days.

The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand's tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the pandemic.

"All tour agencies are suffering now," said Rachapol, whose agency is also offering similar trips to Serbia. "Whatever we can do, we have to try to do it."

A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the U.S. State Department's website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit.

The United States is not the only destination offered to Thais. Another agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day "VACCation in Russia" to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht ($6,700).

Thailand's main vaccination drive is set to begin in June with locally-produced AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shots.

Its latest outbreak has accounted for more than half of its total 74,900 infections and 318 fatalities.

Thailand's tourism ministry warned on Wednesday that customers should carefully examine vaccination packages after the foreign ministry said U.S. regulations may vary by state.

United Nigeria Airlines increases Lagos, Abuja flights - THE NATION

MAY 05, 2021

United Nigeria Airlines says it has increased its flight frequencies from Lagos to Abuja and verse versa with effect from Friday.

Mr Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu, the airline’s Head, Corporate Communications said, in a statement in Lagos on Wednesday that the airline would now fly Lagos-Abuja at 16:00hrs every day.

Uchegbu said that there would also be an additional flight from Abuja to Lagos every day at 17:30hrs.

“The new schedule adds to United Nigeria Airlines regular schedule on the Lagos-Abuja-Lagos route,” he said.


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