Categories
UAE

COVID-19: Dubai passengers returning to Scotland now have to quarantine for 10 days

As of January 11, 2021, passengers travelling to Scotland from Dubai will have to undergo a quarantine period of 10 days.
Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Passengers travelling from Dubai to Scotland will now be required to quarantine for 10 days, following Scotland’s updated travel restrictions that came into effect on Monday.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said in a statement: “It is evident, both in Scotland and in countries across the world, that the virus continues to pose real risks to health and to life and we need to interrupt the rise in cases.

“Imposing quarantine requirements on those arriving in the UK is our first defence in managing the risk of imported cases from communities with high risks of transmission.”

The new rules includes passengers who have travelled to Scotland from Dubai since January 3, from the date they arrived back in the country. Passengers will be required everyone to isolate for 10 days, even if they present a negative PCR test.

Since November 14, 2020, UAE-UK flight services have been allowed to operate on an “air corridor” basis, which means passengers did not have to go through quarantine.

“Imposing quarantine requirements on those arriving in the UK is our first defence in managing the risk of imported cases from communities with high risks of transmission. That is why we have made the decision to remove Dubai from the country exemptions list,” said Matheson.

“Whether or not an overseas destination has been designated for quarantine restrictions, our message remains clear that people should not currently be undertaking non-essential foreign travel.

“People need to stay at home to help suppress the virus, protect our NHS [National Health Service] and save lives.”

COVID-19 vaccine

In line with the plan to vaccinate more than 50 per cent of the country’s population against COVID-19, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) revealed that 66,219 people received a coronavirus vaccine in the last 24 hours.

According to a statement issued on Sunday night, the total number of people vaccinated has reached 1,086,568 so far across the nation.

As of January 10, the UAE has confirmed 2,876 new cases of COVID-19, taking the overall tally in the country to 230,578.

Categories
Headline USA New York Politics

US airlines urge Trump to lift travel ban on passengers from Europe and UK

A group representing major US airlines on Monday urged the Trump administration to lift travel bans on passengers flying in from Brazil, Europe and the UK as the air travel industry continues to strain under the weight of the on-going coronavirus pandemic and as the UK announced a new international travel ban.

The plea came in a letter authored by Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group that represents most US airlines including international giants American, United and Delta, in which they backed a CDC proposal to implement a global testing program requiring negative tests for most international passengers returning to the US.

The letter, addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, called on the Trump administration to ‘move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible.’

The group said the entry restrictions should be ‘removed concurrently with the testing program, which will provide yet another layer of safety in the travel journey’.

The emergence of A4A’s letter came on the same day that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new nationwide lockdown in the UK until mid-February, as the nation grapples to control a ‘super’ mutant strain of the virus that’s causing cases to surge.

Airlines of America has urged the Trump administration to lift travel bans on passengers coming to the US in lieu of a negative coronavirus test before take-off (pictured: British tourists returning to UK check in their luggage in Spain)

The airline industry has been decimated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with growth said to have been set back more than two decades in the last nine months

The airline industry has been decimated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with growth said to have been set back more than two decades in the last nine months

The UK lockdown forbids overseas travel except for only a handful of ‘legally permitted’ reasons, such as work, putting already-planned holidays on ice.  

Meanwhile, the Trump administration in March banned most non-US citizens that have been in Europe from visiting the United States.

Then in November, a Reuters report revealed that the White House was considering rescinding restrictions from the 26 members of the Schengen area that allow travel across open borders, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil.

‘We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,’ the airlines’ letter released Monday said.

A senior administration official said the CDC proposal to expand international testing requirements faces significant opposition from people at senior levels of the administration, including in Pence’s office.

The CDC on December 28 began requiring all airline passengers arriving from Britain – including U.S. citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

The move came after a highly contagious new strain of the virus was detected in the UK, though it has since been found in the US. 

Airlines are seeking at least 14 days before new requirements take effect and ‘consideration of inadequate testing and results availability in specific countries rather than a blanket worldwide requirement is also needed,’ the letter said. 

The International Air Transport Association declared the financial impact of COVID-19 to be in the region of $118.5 billion in losses for 2020

The International Air Transport Association declared the financial impact of COVID-19 to be in the region of $118.5 billion in losses for 2020

Airlines for America Full Statement: 

Dear Vice President Pence:

Airlines for America (A4A), on behalf of our member passenger carriers, is writing to express our support for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States. A4A also urges the Administration to move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible. These entry restrictions should be removed concurrently with the testing program, which will provide yet another layer of safety in the travel journey.

We are grateful for the support and relief that you and the Administration have provided to assist the airline industry during the pandemic. From the onset, we have worked with you and your colleagues on the Coronavirus Task Force to protect the health and safety of our passengers, crew members and communities while also continuing to provide the essential economic activities on which our country relies. We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place.

Carriers have provided the CDC and other agencies feedback regarding how we can work to stand up an international testing program quickly. We strongly support CDC’s decision to allow both molecular and antigen testing as a way of facilitating the ability of passengers to access testing. Among the items we discussed are an implementation timeline of at least 14 days so that carriers can effectively communicate new requirements to customers and train staff around the world. Consideration of inadequate testing and results availability in specific countries rather than a blanket worldwide requirement is also needed. Given the scope of this requirement, we would appreciate the government’s consideration of making rapid testing available for this effort. Special consideration for unique circumstances such as connecting passengers and U.S. citizens on short round trip journeys need to be factored into the plan as well so as not to discourage travel and the benefits of increased testing. The CDC and other agencies have been open to our feedback and we appreciate the spirit of cooperation in support of the same objectives.

Mr. Vice President, we share optimism that the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight now that safe and effective vaccines are being distributed. We and our employees are extremely proud of the role we are playing in that effort. However, we also know that additional vigorous action is needed in the months ahead to bring the virus under control. We are committed to partnership with the U.S. government in that effort as well, including on an international testing program, and any other ways we can work together to safely and responsibly restore domestic and international air travel.

 

News of the letter’s existence came on the same day that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be heading back into lockdown for a third time, in a desperate attempt to keep the mutant coronavirus strain at bay.

The measures are due to be in place across the nation until at least mid-February, with schools and universities shuttered, non-essential businesses closed and the public ordered to stay home.

Britain is also currently grappling with a second new strain of the virus said to originate from South Africa. Experts have voiced fears that strain may not be picked up by vaccines and could also pose a more deadly threat.

As a result, British officials have put a halt to all non-essential travel, including international air travel. Within the UK, domestic holidays are also banned.

The UK Government stressed that Britons currently abroad do not need to rush back to the UK.

But ministers are poised to require a negative Covid-19 test for all UK arrivals to curb the spread of the disease.  

UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove meanwhile today delivered a stark warning that lockdown will only start to be lifted gradually in March – and that timeline depends on the government meeting its highly ambitious targets for vaccination. 

Airlines for America has not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment as to how the UK’s latest lockdown may affect their White House request.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the UK variant of the virus has been found in upstate New York.

The governor said the man, who works at a jewelry store in Saratoga Springs, had COVID-19 symptoms but is ‘on the mend.’ 

Three other people linked to the jewelry store have tested positive for COVID-19, but Cuomo said it’s unknown if they have the variant.  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be heading back into lockdown for a third time, in a desperate attempt to keep a mutant coronavirus strain at bay

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be heading back into lockdown for a third time, in a desperate attempt to keep a mutant coronavirus strain at bay

A report released Monday claimed that the coronavirus pandemic, which began in March, has in just nine months reversed more than two decades worth of airline growth.

According to Cirium, COVID-19 has reduced passenger traffic on global airlines to levels not seen since 1999.

More than 40 airlines completely ceased or suspended operations, and experts expect more to fail in 2021.

From January 1 to December 20, there were 16.8 million passenger flights completed globally — a 49 percent drop from the same time period in 2019 when 33.2 million flights were tracked, according to Cirium data.

There were 13 million scheduled passenger flights flown in 2020 and just 3.8 million international flights as a result international borders shutting down.

In comparison, in 2019, 21.5 million domestic flights were recorded in the same period, marking a 40 percent drop in domestic travel for 2020.

International travel, meanwhile saw a 68 percent drop year-over-year due to the pandemic, with 11.7 million international passenger flights recorded in the same period last year.

Cirium expects passenger demand for air travel to bounce back in 2024 or 2025, with domestic and leisure traffic being the first segments to show ‘sustained recovery.’

COVID-19 has reduced passenger traffic on global airlines to levels not seen since 1999, new data shows (Pictured LAX on December 23)

COVID-19 has reduced passenger traffic on global airlines to levels not seen since 1999, new data shows (Pictured LAX on December 23) 

There were 13 million scheduled passenger flights flown in 2020 and just 3.8 million international flights as a result international borders shutting down - a dcrease of 67 percent Turin Airport, in Italy, pictured above last month)

There were 13 million scheduled passenger flights flown in 2020 and just 3.8 million international flights as a result international borders shutting down – a dcrease of 67 percent Turin Airport, in Italy, pictured above last month)

American has been the hardest-hit airline by the pandemic, reportedly racking up net-debt of $25 billion

American has been the hardest-hit airline by the pandemic, reportedly racking up net-debt of $25 billion

In November, and with no end to the pandemic yet in sight, the International Air Transport Association declared the financial impact of COVID-19 to be in the region of $118.5 billion for 2020.

Calling it, ‘the airline industry’s worst financial year, bar none’, the announcement came as an update to a previous prediction in June that forecasted net losses of $84.3 billion.

For 2021, the IATA also doubled its original net forecast for this year from $15.8 billion to $38.7 billion.

The so-called ‘Big Four’ – Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines – have been pleading for additional bailouts as the pandemic continues to crimp travel.

American, which has lapped up $13.5 billion in taxpayer cash, is in the worst position. The Texas-based carrier has $25 billion of net debt, roughly 6 times its forecast EBITDA for 2022, according to Refinitiv estimates that assume three-quarters of sales return in two years.

UK’s travel guidelines on lockdown:

Travel

You must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (for example, for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:

  • work, where you cannot reasonably work from home
  • accessing education and for caring responsibilities
  • visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • buying goods or services that you need, but this should be within your local area wherever possible
  • outdoor exercise. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of an animal, or veterinary services

If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practice social distancing while you travel.

Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble. See the guidance on car sharing.

If you need to use public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance.

International travel

You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.

Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.

If you are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination.

 

Categories
UAE

COVID-19: One more Indian state updates travel rules for passengers from UAE, elsewhere

The Kempegowda Iinternational Airport in Bengaluru.
Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: A negative COVID-19 RT-PCR (reverse transcript-polymerase chain reaction) test result has been made mandatory for international passengers travelling to the south Indian state of Karnataka.

“For all passengers travelling from international destinations to Karnataka, a valid negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test [result], issued within 72 hours before departure, is required,” Air India Express tweeted on Thursday. Those who fail to produce the negative test certificate would be subjected to mandatory RT-PCR test for COVID-19 on arrival at the airport, the airline added.

Airline sources said Karnataka on Wednesday updated the travel rules in wake of the new variant of Coronavirus found in the United Kingdom.

A circular issued by the Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare Service, a copy of which has been obtained by Gulf News, stated: “In view of a new variant of SARS CoV 2 virus, [variant under investigation (VUI)-20212/01] reported by the government of the UK, the World Health Organisation, the Government of India, and the Government of Karnataka have initiated measures to strengthen surveillance of international passengers who have travelled to India from or transited through UK in the past four weeks.” The circular said the new regulation was applicable to all international returnees arriving from any country to Karnataka through airports/seaports and shall be implemented with immediate effect from the date of issue of the circular.

“All international passengers arriving in Karnataka from any country shall have COVID negative certificate (issued within 72 hours from time of departure). Otherwise, they will be mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR test for COVID-19 at the port of entry,” the circular stated.

Free testing option

The updated rules will be implemented at Bengaluru and Mangaluru international airports and at seaports in Mangaluru and Karwar. “Authorities at all the ports shall take necessary measures to implement this with immediate effect, in association with jurisdictional DHOs,” the circular said. It clarified that the facility for RT-PCR testing or swab collection shall be made available at the port of entry. “Passengers who have given swab samples for tests shall be advised strict home quarantine till receipt of the lab report. The passengers can opt for free RT-PCR testing by the government or express test at the airport at their own expenses,” added the circular.

Karnataka is the second state in India to announce changes in COVID-19 related travel rules in the wake of the new strain of the virus. Earlier, the western Indian state of Maharashtra had made it mandatory for all travellers from the UK, Europe and Middle East to undergo 14 days’ mandatory quarantine as a precaution. These passengers have to spend the first seven days under institutional quarantine, followed by seven more days of quarantine at home.

Authorities have also clarified that passengers originating from or transiting through the UK will not be permitted to enter India between December 23 and December 31. Transit passengers originating from the UK, if any, will also have to undergo 14 days of institutional quarantine.

The Indian states of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal had already made it mandatory for international passengers to present a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test report upon arrival.

Categories
Headlines UK London

Heathrow bosses warn passengers they must book Covid swabs BEFORE heading to the airport

Heathrow passengers today had a taste of the new normal as they underwent swab tests before boarding flights to the US.

Passengers were seen flooding into the London airport this morning, despite a series of travel bans on UK travellers.

More than 50 countries across the world have imposed restrictions on UK travel – with some banning flights entirely – after the identification of a mutant Covid-19 strain in Britain.

However flights to the US can continue, so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test before they fly from the UK. 

Testing at Heathrow was yesterday disrupted after a ‘plumbing issue’ at one of the airport’s on-site PCR testing facilities – operated by Collinson – forced one of the labs to partially shut.

Some were moved across to different terminals and faced longer waits for their test results.

Heathrow bosses say the ‘plumbing issue’ has now been fixed.

But airport chiefs today warned passengers to book Covid tests before arriving for their flight, saying passengers ‘cannot simply show up on the day without pre-booking’ a test.

Passengers continued to flood into the London airport today (pictured) to catch flights out of the country

Passengers were seen arriving at the London airport (pictured), despite more than 50 countries across the world imposing restrictions on UK travel

Passengers were seen arriving at the London airport (pictured), despite more than 50 countries across the world imposing restrictions on UK travel

The restrictions were put in place after a mutant strain of coronavirus was identified in the UK. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

The restrictions were put in place after a mutant strain of coronavirus was identified in the UK. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

However flights to the US can continue from Heathrow (pictured), so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test before they fly from the UK

However flights to the US can continue from Heathrow (pictured), so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test before they fly from the UK

But passengers arriving yesterday faced disruption to testing after a'plumbing issue' at one of the airport's on-site PCR testing facilities - operated by Collinson - forced one of the labs to partially shut. Pictured: Passengers arrive today

But passengers arriving yesterday faced disruption to testing after a’plumbing issue’ at one of the airport’s on-site PCR testing facilities – operated by Collinson – forced one of the labs to partially shut. Pictured: Passengers arrive today

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight. Pictured: A passenger arrives at Heathrow Airport today

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight. Pictured: A passenger arrives at Heathrow Airport today

The airline said it needed people to take a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test to travel, which must be taken within 72 hours of departure. Pictured: Passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

Yesterday, the Covid testing facility, run by Collinson, was forced to close part of one of its Terminal 2 labs - where Virgin flies from - over a leak in one unit. Pictured: A passenger at Heathrow Airport today

Yesterday, the Covid testing facility, run by Collinson, was forced to close part of one of its Terminal 2 labs – where Virgin flies from – over a leak in one unit. Pictured: A passenger at Heathrow Airport today

Passengers were today seen waiting at Heathrow's Terminal 2 as flights continue to leave the London airport

Passengers were today seen waiting at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 as flights continue to leave the London airport

Security staff at Heathrow Airport were seen speaking to customers waiting to fly out this morning

Security staff at Heathrow Airport were seen speaking to customers waiting to fly out this morning

Which countries have banned flights from the UK?

EU

All flights from UK banned – 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.

UK travellers allowed with a negative test – 

Cyprus, Greece – three negative tests required plus self-isolation. 

Still allowing own nationals to enter – 

Hungary, Portugal, Spain.  From today France is allowing French nationals, British nationals living in France and haulage vehicles to enter

REST OF EUROPE

All flights from UK banned –

Norway, Switzerland, Turkey,  

REST OF THE WORLD 

All flights from UK banned – 

Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, The Philippines.

Still allowing own nationals to enter –

Singapore 

UK travellers allowed with a negative test – 

Liberia, US.   

The ‘plumbing issue’ came after the US imposed a test requirement for UK travellers after the identification of a new mutant strain of Covid-19 in the UK. 

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight.

The airline said it needed people to take a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test to travel, which must be taken within 72 hours of departure.

Virgin Atlantic is currently running jets to New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston and Atlanta.

The airline hailed its partnership with Heathrow rapid testing lab Collinson as it confirmed the news yesterday. 

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic confirmed to MailOnline yesterday: ‘Virgin Atlantic will be implementing new pre-departure Covid-19 testing for all customers travelling from London to the United States from December 24.

‘With the health and safety of our customers and people always our number one priority, we will require all travellers to present evidence of a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test, taken within 72 hours of departure, including on-site at the airport.

‘Throughout the crisis, Virgin Atlantic has been championing a robust pre-departure passenger testing regime in order to reopen the skies at scale and safely replace border restrictions.

‘In August we were the first UK airline to implement on-site rapid testing for our crew and with our partner Collinson, we already offer pre-departure rapid testing for customers on several routes including Hong Kong and Barbados.

‘This is the latest addition to a range of rigorous, multi-layered health and safety measures to ensure that all customers fly safe and well.

‘We will work closely with our transatlantic partner Delta Air Lines on an aligned customer offering.

‘More information will be provided to customers due to depart from London Heathrow to the US in the coming days, including New York flights. We are in close contact with Governor Cuomo’s office to communicate these plans. 

Passengers were seen waiting in queues near to a sign saying that tests must be booked before travel

Passengers were seen waiting in queues near to a sign saying that tests must be booked before travel

However flights can to the US continue, so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test. Pictured: A passenger takes a Covid test (library image)

However flights can to the US continue, so long as passengers provide a negative Covid test. Pictured: A passenger takes a Covid test (library image)

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight

All passengers from the UK flying anywhere in America will now need a negative Covid result to board any Virgin Atlantic flight

Yesterday, the Covid testing facility, run by Collinson, was forced to close part of one of its Terminal 2 labs – where Virgin flies from – over a leak in one unit.

Singapore and the Philippines are the latest countries to ban UK flights from Christmas Eve 

Two more countries have imposed travel bans on the UK ahead of Christmas Eve after the identification of a new coronavirus strain in Britain.

Singapore will ban entry to UK travellers from Wednesday night. Health officials in the Philippines say they will suspend flights from the UK from Christmas Eve until December 31.

It brings the total number of countries restricting entry to UK travellers to at least 55.

The latest bans could also have a wider impact on British travellers, with Singapore a popular stop-off for those flying from the UK to Australia.

Singapore health officials say transit from the UK through the Southeast Asian city-state will not be allowed under the new travel ban.

The ministry of health website said: ‘All long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to the UK within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore.

‘This will also apply to all those who had obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore.’

Transit through the Philippines for UK travellers is also banned.

The issue impacted the speed customers got their tests back. 

It brewed up a perfect storm for those attempting to fly in ever-changing rules and regulations. 

A spokesman yesterday said: ‘None of our supplier relationships have changed. Due to a plumbing issue at Heathrow Airport on Sunday, we were forced to close part of our T2 testing facilities.’

‘While the facilities can currently still receive and swab travellers, the test processing area of the facility has been impacted and forced to close. Therefore, all T2 tests are being shuttled over to T5’s lab facilities for processing, which is having a knock-on effect on the speed of turn-around for both facilities.

‘We are working closely with Heathrow Airport to reopen the T2 labs as soon as possible, and in the meantime we are doing everything we can to ensure travellers receive their test results as quickly as possible.

‘We have also explained the situation to passengers and asked them to ensure that they are leaving adequate time for test results to be processed in line with airline check-in timings.’

On Monday British Airways, Virgin and Delta said they will require passengers traveling from the UK to just New York City to test negative after being asked by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to take action.

The airlines agreed on Monday as 40 countries around the world banned travel from the UK over a new strain of COVID-19 that has been detected there. The new strain is 70 percent more infectious than what has been seen previously.

Cuomo had asked the federal government to ban all travel from the UK but having had his request fall on deaf ears, he went to the airlines instead.

United Airlines said it would stick to its current procedures but would not enforce testing on its flights to Newark.

It was unclear if Delta and BA’s rules will enforce negative tests on flights to other parts of the US, or if it will only apply to flight to New York.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn't acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn’t acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK

WHAT THE AIRLINES ARE DOING

British Airways

Mandatory COVID-19 tests on all flights to NYC starting December 22.

No mandatory tests on all other flights. The airline also flies to LA, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Miami

Delta and Virgin 

Mandatory tests on all flights to the US, starting with NYC and Atlanta from December 24. 

Travelers will be required to take a LAMP or PCR test up to 72 hours prior to departure adding another layer of safety when they travel. 

The airline also operates flights to Orlando and one-stop routes to other US cities 

They are telling people with flights booked to monitor their website for information.  

United Airlines

No mandatory COVID-19 tests on any flights. 

Twice daily flights from London to the US scheduled for 2021 

American Airlines 

Partner with BA. No mandatory tests on flights

But passengers on all of the airlines are expected to pay around £90 for their own tests then present them on departure.

Currently, travellers can only enter the US from the UK or continental Europe with an exemption. Generally if a person has been in Europe, Iran, China and or the UK in the last 14 days, they cannot get into the country as per Trump’s March executive order. American citizens and greencard holders can get back into the country.

Once they arrive in New York, the state law is that they test negative within 72 hours of arrival, quarantine for three days and then test negative again on the fourth day, or quarantine for 14 days.

The CDC guidance for people coming from overseas is that they quarantine for 14 days, if they can get into the country at all

But it has not stopped dozens of flights from the UK arriving in the US every day and comes as the worrying new variant spreads.

Passengers were today seen arriving in the US on Virgin flights from the UK, with some saying said they didn’t have to take a COVID test before boarding on Tuesday.

Passengers arriving at JFK from Britain on Tuesday told DailyMail.com they were surprised at the lack of screening prior to boarding their flight.

The rules are not officially introduced until December 24, though testing at Heathrow airport is taking place today.

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, who arrived in New York today, said airport officials in Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about any symptoms he may have been suffering from or potential exposure.

‘They didn’t ask me anything,’ he said. ‘There was really nothing to that effect.’

Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been brought into effect.

A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK's Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow

A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about his health or potential symptoms

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about his health or potential symptoms

The 19-year-old reiterated his surprise, however, at the seeming lack of safeguarding before he boarded his flight bound for the US.

‘People in the UK are very worried about [the new virus strain]. All of Europe is worried – and I was worried.

‘But I was surprised there was nothing really at the airport about it at all.’

Grablevsky said customs officials took down his details when he deplaned in JFK and was told the state would be in touch.

He said he received a text that required him to acknowledge that he understands he must now quarantine for 14 days.

Similarly, Brian Austin also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight.

He said there was around 110 passengers onboard, all of whom were also not required to take a COVID test.

Austin didn’t speak to the pre-boarding protocol in the UK, however insisted he felt ‘very safe’ aboard the flight, and when he arrived in the US.

‘They went overboard with sanitation, they provided disinfectant wipes and they were seen to be disinfecting surfaces throughout – so we felt safe.

‘Also arriving here we felt it was a very safe experience. Officials were emphasising masks, emphasising hand sanitiser and so on – so we’re happy travellers.’

Categories
Headlines UK

Buddha Air plane flies the wrong way, taking passengers to airport 160 miles from its destination

Wrong way, Bud! Buddha Air plane flies the wrong way and takes its passengers to airport 160 miles from its destination in Nepal

  • The Nepalese airline was supposed to fly south to Janakpur from Kathmandu’s  Tribhuvan International Airport
  • But instead it flew north west to Pokhara in central Nepal due to ‘human error’
  • 69 passengers were flummoxed to find themselves in the wrong Nepalese city 

A Nepalese airline accidentally dropped passengers at the wrong airport 160 miles from their intended destination after a mix-up by staff. 

The Buddha Airlines plane was supposed to fly south to Janakpur from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport but instead it flew north west to Pokhara in central Nepal.

The 69 passengers were flummoxed when they found themselves looking out of their plane windows at the wrong Nepalese city. 

Passengers of the Buddha Air plane were shocked to find that they had landed at an airport 160 miles away from their intended destination. Pictured: Buddha Air plane at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (file photo)

The Nepalese airline was supposed to fly south to Janakpur from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport but instead it flew north west to Pokhara in central Nepal

The Nepalese airline was supposed to fly south to Janakpur from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport but instead it flew north west to Pokhara in central Nepal

‘There was miscommunication between the ground staff and the pilots,’ an official from the airline told The Kathmandu Post. ‘The flying pilots also did not look at the passengers’ manifest.’   

Poor weather conditions meant flights to Pokhara were permitted until 3pm. Buddha Air took action and changed the flight numbers around and transferred the 69 passengers intending to go to Janakpur onto a flight cleared for Pokhara by air traffic controllers. 

While everything was in the right order on paper, the ground staff and the flight attendant failed to brief the pilots about the change of flight number and so they flew the plane to Pokhara. 

The 69 passengers were flummoxed when they found themselves looking out of their plane windows to find themselves in the wrong Nepalese city of Pokhara. Pictured: Pokhara airport in Nepal (file photo)

The 69 passengers were flummoxed when they found themselves looking out of their plane windows to find themselves in the wrong Nepalese city of Pokhara. Pictured: Pokhara airport in Nepal (file photo)

The ‘breezy’ weather meant passengers who had boarded Buddha Air’s ATR 72 on Friday faced delays. The conditions meant pilots were having to rush to get out on time and use any available travel window in which they were allowed to take-off.  

‘Paperwork was fine,’ Birendra Bahadur Basnet, managing director of Buddha Air said. ‘There were weather conditions also so the pilots were more focused on flying.’

The passengers were flown to Janakpur directly from Pokhara later in the day, the airline said. 

The mix-up is said to have been caused by human error. 

‘It’s an occupational error, or a human error you can say,’ said Basnet. ‘Though such errors cause losses to the organisation, it has nothing to do with the safety issue.’

The passengers were flown to Janakpur directly from Pokhara later in the day, the airline said Pictured: Buddha Air plane standing at the Bharatpur Airport in Nepal (file photo)

The passengers were flown to Janakpur directly from Pokhara later in the day, the airline said Pictured: Buddha Air plane standing at the Bharatpur Airport in Nepal (file photo)

Buddha Air, admitting their mistake, have launched an internal investigation into the incident. 

‘Our internal committee will recommend an appropriate system not to repeat the mistake in the future,’ said Basnet.

Former director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Tri Ratna Manandhar, said the incident happened due to miscommunication. 

‘It’s not part of safety lapses but it’s a serious lapse on the part of management,” said Manandhar. ‘Such lapses cause passengers to suffer. On the other hand, airlines too have to bear losses.’

These mishaps are rare. But in March last year, a British Airways plane intended for Düsseldorf in Germany instead landed in Edinburgh, Scotland after the flight paperwork was submitted incorrectly, according to reports. 

Nepalese airlines are all banned from flying in the EU because of concerns about how they are run and accidents are common. 

The EU Air Safety List ban airlines ‘for failure to adhere to the applicable international safety standards’. 

Categories
Chicago Headline USA New York Politics

Passengers arrive in New York from the UK WITHOUT being checked for COVID despite mutant strain

Passengers arriving in New York City on Virgin flights from the United Kingdom said they didn’t have to take a COVID test before boarding Tuesday, despite the discovery of a new mutant strain of the virus in Britain that is 70 percent more infectious.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn’t acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK.

Several other countries responded to the news of the highly transmissible strain’s discovery by closing their borders to the UK, while more than 120 other nations are now requiring British travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.

Aggrieved that the US government has so far taken neither action, Cuomo persuaded three airlines – British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic – to mandate COVID tests for passengers coming to Big Apple from the UK.

British Airways’ mandate commenced Tuesday. Delta and Virgin’s, meanwhile, will begin on Thursday.   

Passengers arriving at JFK from Britain on Tuesday told DailyMail.com they were surprised at the lack of screening prior to boarding their flight, considering the emergence of the mutant strand.

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about any symptoms he may have been suffering from or potential exposure.

‘They didn’t ask me anything,’ he said. ‘There was really nothing to that effect.’

Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about his health or potential symptoms

A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK's Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow

A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn't acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn’t acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK

Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been brought into effect.

WHAT THE AIRLINES ARE DOING

British Airways

Mandatory COVID-19 tests on all flights to NYC starting December 22.

No mandatory tests on all other flights. The airline also flies to LA, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Miami

Delta and Virgin 

Mandatory tests on all flights to the US, starting with NYC and Atlanta from December 24. 

Travelers will be required to take a LAMP or PCR test up to 72 hours prior to departure adding another layer of safety when they travel. 

The airline also operates flights to Orlando and one-stop routes to other US cities 

They are telling people with flights booked to monitor their website for information.  

United Airlines

No mandatory COVID-19 tests on any flights. 

Twice daily flights from London to the US scheduled for 2021 

American Airlines 

Partner with BA. No mandatory tests on flights

The 19-year-old reiterated his surprise, however, at the seeming lack of safeguarding before he boarded his flight bound for the US.

‘People in the UK are very worried about [the new virus strain]. All of Europe is worried – and I was worried.

‘But I was surprised there was nothing really at the airport about it at all.’

Grablevsky said customs officials took down his details when he deplaned in JFK and was told the state would be in touch. 

He said he received a text that required him to acknowledge that he understands he must now quarantine for 14 days.

Similarly, Brian Austin also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight. 

He said there was around 110 passengers onboard, all of whom were also not required to take a COVID test.

Austin didn’t speak to the pre-boarding protocol in the UK, however insisted he felt ‘very safe’ aboard the flight, and when he arrived in the US.

‘They went overboard with sanitation, they provided disinfectant wipes and they were seen to be disinfecting surfaces throughout – so we felt safe.

‘Also arriving here we felt it was a very safe experience. Officials were emphasizing masks, emphasizing hand sanitizer and so on – so we’re happy travelers.’

On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would be locking down London and parts of southeast England due to a new strain of the coronavirus, which scientists say is 70 percent more transmissible than the original strain. There is no evidence to suggest it’s more deadly.

Cuomo voiced outrage Monday that, considering New York currently has ‘about six flights a day’ coming in from the UK, the White House has so far done ‘absolutely nothing’ to either cut off travel to Britain, or mandate testing for British travelers.

‘To me this is reprehensible because this is what happened in the spring,’ he added, referring to the fact that COVID-19 entered the country earlier this year via travelers from Europe.

‘Doing nothing is negligent. It’s grossly negligent,’ he added.

Brian Austin (pictured with his wife, Dawn) also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight. He said there was around 110 passengers onboard his flight

Brian Austin (pictured with his wife, Dawn) also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight. He said there was around 110 passengers onboard his flight

Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been introduced

Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been introduced

Travelers look at Covid-19 results after being tested inside JFK International airport in New York on December 22, 2020

Travelers look at Covid-19 results after being tested inside JFK International airport in New York on December 22, 2020

Oore Adegbite, right, arrives at JFK International Airport after flying from London on Tuesday

Oore Adegbite, right, arrives at JFK International Airport after flying from London on Tuesday

Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force in charge of testing, told ABC News on Sunday that he doesn’t believe a travel ban on the UK is necessary yet.

‘I read the British medical journals this morning, it’s up to 20 percent of cases in one county, aside from that it is very low and we don’t know that it is more dangerous,’ Giroir told the network. ‘I don’t think there should be any reason for alarm right now.’

In addition to currently opposing a total ban on all UK travel, the US government reportedly also currently has no intentions of imposing mandatory COVID-19 screenings for all flights arriving from Britain, as Cuomo has urged.

According to Reuters, White House coronavirus task force members backed requiring negative pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday, but the Trump administration has decided not to take any action for the time being.

Much of the world shut their borders to Britain after the discovery of a mutated variant of the novel coronavirus, though the European Union recommended on Tuesday that members roll back sweeping closures to allow some travel.

Canada is implementing enhanced measures to screen travelers from Britain, including those arriving from other nations, its public safety minister said on Tuesday.

While British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic voluntarily agreed to Cuomo’s request to only allow passengers who test negative to board flights to NYC, dozens of other flights every day between the UK and the US remain unchecked.

The US still has the highest number of COVID cases and deaths in the world but the UK has a higher number of deaths per capita. Belgium is the worst

The US still has the highest number of COVID cases and deaths in the world but the UK has a higher number of deaths per capita. Belgium is the worst 

In addition to currently opposing a total ban on all UK travel, the US government reportedly also currently has no intentions of imposing mandatory COVID-19 screenings for all flights arriving from Britain

In addition to currently opposing a total ban on all UK travel, the US government reportedly also currently has no intentions of imposing mandatory COVID-19 screenings for all flights arriving from Britain

BA operates daily flights from London to L.A.X. and next week they cost as little as £200. The airline also flies direct to Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Miami. Passengers will not be required to provide negative test prior to boarding any of the aforementioned flights.

Delta and Virgin also offer one-stop flights to Orlando but tests are not yet required on those flights yet either. The airline says it will enforce testing on all US-bound flights eventually, but they haven’t said when it’ll go into effect on non NYC or Atlanta flights.

United – which operates two daily flights between Heathrow and Newark – said it wasn’t going to change its rules because the federal government hadn’t insisted on it yet.

‘No additional changes are being made at this time but we will continue to monitor the situation,’ a spokesman told DailyMail.com.

American Airlines enforces testing ‘if the destination insists on it’.

A British Airways plane arriving at JFK on Monday, one of dozens that flew in throughout the day, while more than 40 other countries cut off British travel

A British Airways plane arriving at JFK on Monday, one of dozens that flew in throughout the day, while more than 40 other countries cut off British travel

A global air traffic map shows dozens of flights over the Atlantic on Monday including many from London to JFK while more countries cut the UK off over the new strain of COVID-19

A global air traffic map shows dozens of flights over the Atlantic on Monday including many from London to JFK while more countries cut the UK off over the new strain of COVID-19

Britain's infection rate, in yellow, has rebounded sharply since the end of a national lockdown at the start of December - a resurgence blamed on the new variant of Covid-19 which has left the UK isolated by a series of travel bans. The US infection rate is still higher than in Britain, with some scientists and politicians saying America should also stop flights from the UK

Britain’s infection rate, in yellow, has rebounded sharply since the end of a national lockdown at the start of December – a resurgence blamed on the new variant of Covid-19 which has left the UK isolated by a series of travel bans. The US infection rate is still higher than in Britain, with some scientists and politicians saying America should also stop flights from the UK 

The Trump administration has repeatedly refused to issue mandates for many federal COVID-19 safety policies for air travel, making only strong recommendations on issues such as mask wearing. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to mandate masks in interstate air, bus and train travel after taking office on Jan. 20.

The White House in August scuttled an effort to require airlines to collect contact tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers, Reuters reported.

The White House in July rejected a proposal to require facial coverings at U.S. airports, train and transit stations and onboard airplanes, trains and transit services and earlier dismissed proposals to require temperature checks of airline passengers.

Speaking on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it is possible the new COVID-19 variant is already in the United States.

‘You really need to assume it´s here already,’ Fauci said.

Michael Osterholm, a Biden COVID-19 adviser, on Tuesday said all options need to be considered to stem the spread of the new UK variant. He urged the Trump administration to come up with a plan.

‘We really need to develop a national response,’ he told CNN. ‘Everything needs to be on the table.’

Categories
UAE

Abu Dhabi update: Passengers from these countries don’t need to quarantine

Abu Dhabi Airports
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Passengers from select countries will not be required to undergo quarantine, according to a statement from Abu Dhabi Media Office.

As of December 22, 2020, citizens from ‘Green Countries’ that do no not have to quarantine upon arrival to Abu Dhabi include:

  1. Australia
  2. Brunei
  3. China
  4. Greece
  5. Greenland
  6. Hong Kong
  7. Malaysia
  8. Mauritius
  9. New Zealand
  10. Saudi Arabia
  11. Singapore
  12. Taiwan
  13. Tajikistan
  14. Thailand
  15. Uzbekistan
  16. Vietnam

“Travellers from green countries will be allowed into the emirate when they receive a negative test result, while travellers from other countries must self-isolate for 10 days. Country classifications will be reviewed every two weeks,” said the media office.

All other passengers will need to undertake a PCR test on the sixth day if they are staying six or more consecutive days, as well as on day 12 if they are staying for 12 or more consecutive days.

Travel Procedures

Before making any travel arrangements to Abu Dhabi, travellers are urged to carry out the following procedures:

  • Contact your airline for important travel information and familiarise yourself with the guidelines and regulations set by relevant authorities.
  • Ensure you meet entry visa requirements to visit the UAE.
  • If you are travelling with Etihad Airways, you’ll be covered by Etihad’s COVID-19 global wellness insurance cover. Cover is included with every Etihad Airways ticket for travel up to March 31, 2021.

Ahead of departure

Travellers to Abu Dhabi will be required to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test received within 96 hours prior to their scheduled departure.

Airport arrival

Upon entering the emirate, travellers will be given a PCR test at the airport and must wait for the negative result to be received. International travellers from countries on the green list will no longer be required to self-isolate upon receiving a negative result. Travellers from other countries will be required to self-isolate for 10 days only.

All travellers will need to take a PCR test on day six for those staying for six days or more, and on day 12 for those staying for 12 days or more.

Departure from Abu Dhabi

Ensure you are familiar with the travel and health requirements of the destination you are headed to.

Categories
Headline USA New York

Passengers opened the door of the Delta plane that was going to take off from New York | The State

Great scare on the track

Photo:
Spencer Plat / Getty Images

Two passengers aboard a Delta flight that was preparing to take off from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York opened a door of the plane and went down the emergency slide with their dogconfirmed an airline spokesperson.

The couple was traveling on flight 462 to Atlanta and when they left the Airbus A321 they caused the takeoff to be aborted, around 10:55 a.m. yesterday, according to police sources and a spokesman for the airline.

Antonio Murdock, 31, told Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) police that his post traumatic stress disorder it was unleashed on the plane. He and his partner, Brianna Greco (23) were arrested after the incident.

Brian Plummer, who was also on Flight 462, told The New York Times who saw the couple and their dog changing seats several times as the plane prepared to depart. Later, Murdock got up and told a flight attendant that he was unable to sit up due to his post-traumatic stress disorder. “If I sit down, I’ll be scared,” he said, according to Plummer.

Murdock and Greco, both from Florida, were charged with trespassing, reckless danger, disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

The plane returned to the gate and the rest of the passengers were placed on other flights. “Maintenance technicians have evaluated the aircraft and it was scheduled to return to service” last night, Delta added in a statement cited by New York Post.

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Categories
Delhi The Buzz

India orders surveillance of all passengers who came from or transited through UK in past 4 weeks


Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 22

India on Tuesday ordered surveillance of all passengers who travelled from or transited through the UK in the last four weeks and laid down protocols for testing and isolation.

The new set of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Health Ministry describes the activities to be undertaken at the point of entry and in the community for all international passengers who have travelled from or transited through the UK in the past 4 weeks (from November 25 to December 23).

All international travellers as described above will be required to declare as per existing procedure their travel history (of past 14 days) and fill up the Self Declaration Form to be screened for Covid.

“All passengers coming from the UK during the period from December 21 to 23 shall be subjected to the following process:

Respective state governments shall ensure that all passengers travelling from or transiting through airports in the UK and disembarking in India would be subjected to RT-PCR test on arrival. In case of a positive sample, it is recommended that spike gene-based RT-PCR test should also be performed by an appropriate laboratory,” the SOPs say.

Passengers testing positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit coordinated by the respective state health authorities. If the report of the sequencing is consistent with the current SARS-CoV-2 virus genome circulating in the country; the ongoing treatment protocol, including home isolation/treatment at facility level as per case severity, may be followed but if the genomic sequencing indicates the presence of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (reported by the UK) then the patient will continue to remain in a separate isolation unit.

The patient shall be tested on 14th day, after having tested positive in the initial test.

In case the sample is found positive on the 14th day, further sample may be taken until his two consecutive samples taken 24 hours apart are tested negative.

Those who are found negative on testing with RT-PCR at the airport would be advised quarantine at home.

The SOPs also say

State-wise passenger manifest of the flights from the UK landing at various international airports in India for the past 4 weeks (from November 25 to December 23) shall be conveyed by the Bureau of Immigration to state governments and Integrated Disease

Surveillance Programme (IDSP) so that this data would be provided to the surveillance teams.

Importantly, all the contacts (without any exception) of those travellers who arrived at various airports on December 21-23 and tested positive would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centres and would be tested as per ICMR guidelines.

Contacts of the suspect case have been defined as co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind along with identified cabin crew.

Even names of those found RT-PCR negative at airport testing shall be shared with the respective states by the central unit of IDSP and advised for quarantine at home and tested as per ICMR guidelines.

Those international travellers from the UK who arrived in India from November 25 to December 8 (1st and 2nd week from November 25) will be contacted by District Surveillance Officers and advised to self-monitor their health. If anyone amongst them develops symptoms, they will be tested by RT PCR and subjected to the protocols as stated in the SOP.

“The list of international travellers who arrived in India, as described in the scope above, between December 9 to 23 (3rd and 4th week) will be shared with respective state and District Surveillance Officers for daily follow-up till 14 days after their arrival in India.

These passengers will receive daily calls or visit from state health officials to ask about their health status for the day.

“You are requested to self-monitor for development of symptoms suggestive of Covid, ie, fever, cough, difficulty in breathing for 28 days from the date of arrival from the UK.

In case you develop symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty in breathing), put on a mask immediately, isolate yourself at home and inform District Surveillance Officer or contact National (1075) or State Helpline. District Surveillance Officer has to ensure daily follow-up of passengers under observation for 28 days starting from date of arrival,” the Ministry said.

For all the above travellers, District Surveillance Officer shall facilitate testing (irrespective of previous testing at the place of origin or at the airport of arrival) with RT-PCR.

“In case the passengers have moved to locations outside the city of arrival, intimation should be sent to the district/state concerned for needful as above,” SOPs say.

Those who test positive shall be isolated in an institutional isolation facility in a separate (isolation) unit by the respective state health authorities and tested as per new protocols issued keeping the mutated UK strain in mind.

The Centre said a new variant of SARS-CoV 2 virus [Variant Under Investigation (VUI)-20212/01] has been reported by the Government of United Kingdom (UK) to World Health Organisation (WHO).

“This variant is estimated by European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) to be more transmissible and affecting younger population. This variant is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations. One of the most significant is an N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people,” notes the new SOP.





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Categories
UAE

COVID-19: Meet Indian expat passengers from UAE who had entire passenger flights to themselves in 2020

K.S. Sasikumar, left and Thinley Youdin Bhutia on the flights that they had all to themselves
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The year 2020 saw many unexpected things happening in almost everyone’s life. For two Indian expats in the UAE, flying solo on a passenger flight was perhaps the most unexpected thing to happen in the year.

A 65-year-old man and a six-year-old girl, both hailing from the South Indian state of Kerala, were among those who  flew all alone on two separate flights shortly after flight services from India to the UAE resumed following the COVID-19-imposed air travel suspensions. Another Indian expat, Thinley Youden Bhutia, had just one co-passenger for company when she arrived on the first flight from India to the UAE after services resumed on July 12.

No, they were not among those people who opted to fly alone on private jets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their “solo” flights happened rather by a fluke. They were not as delighted as they would have been had the flights not happened during the peak of the pandemic when passengers were more worried about the spread of coronavirus during air travel.

K. S. Sasikumar found his flight from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala to Sharjah on July 14 all for himself, while Diya Mariya took the solo flight from Chennai in Tamil Nadu to Abu Dhabi on July 25.

Sasikumar, who runs a trading company in Sharjah, had been to his hometown on March 12 and had planned to return on March 26. However, due to the lockdown and flight suspensions he got stuck in India like tens of thousands of other UAE residents.

As his ICA approval was rejected twice and expired once, Sasikumar had contemplated taking a private jet along with some other passengers to get back to the UAE. He even thought of taking the long route via the US after reports about some flying from India to the US to get back to Dubai came out. However, to his luck, he had a valid ICA approval when the UAE and India made the “air bubble agreement” to resume flights from India to the UAE on July 12.

“I had a return ticket with me. But, I couldn’t use that. I kept a watch on the earliest possible flight to return and managed to book on the Sharjah-Thiruvananthapuram flight on July 14. I had also managed to get a valid negative COVID-19 test report, which was announced just a few days before,” Sasikumar told Gulf News. “The flight landed with 151 passengers. I was surprised when I was told I was the only one to fly back. I guess no one else could make it due to the issues related to travel permissions and COVID tests.”

NAT K.S Sasikumar-1608527922421
K.S. Sasikumar with his family
Image Credit: Supplied

Sasikumar said he had initially feared that the flight would be cancelled. “Still I stayed back and waited patiently as I was sure the aircraft would have to return to the UAE anyway.”

He said he was sad to see all shops and counters closed and curtained at the airport in Kerala’s capital city. “One staff member assisted me till the immigration. I got escorted by another airline staff till the flight,” Sasikumar recollected.

Special experience

A businessman in the UAE since 1979, Sasikumar had taken several flights to many countries (more frequently to India, Thailand and the US) for business and personal trips over the past four decades. But, the flight to Sharjah on July 14 was entirely different. “The crew sat on their seats. I was all alone in passenger seats. The take-off and landing were very smooth. During the flight it almost felt like I was driving alone in the air,” he explained.

The crew members were friendlier than usual and treated their solo passenger with extra snacks, said Sasikumar. “I had only booked a sandwich and water. They gave me chips, coffee, biscuits etc”

However, he couldn’t take a nap even when there was no one else to disturb. “As such, the tension about catching the virus during air travel was a big concern those days. On top of it, wearing the mask and face shield etc was indeed a hassle.”

On landing in Sharjah around 8.30pm, he said his heart sank to see a deserted airport with no hustle and bustle that existed during the pre-pandemic days. “I think I came out in five minutes. My 30kg baggage was kept on the floor outside the conveyor belt. On arrival, the COVID-19 test was done in a separate building where I had to go in a bus and the immigration clearance was done after that.”

He said he breathed a sigh of relief once he reached home where his wife had been unexpectedly separated from him for four months. “I suffered for four months. But, my return flight was a record. I appreciate the airline and the crew for the service. Usually I don’t take selfies. But, I took a couple of selfies aboard to keep memories of my solo flight,” said the grandfather of one.

Unaccompanied minor

In the case of Diya, the flight on July 25 was not meant to happen as the airline had already informed the passengers who had booked tickets that they could board the flight only with COVID-19 negative PCR test reports from Pure Health-approved labs as per a fresh announcement made that week. Diya was on vacation at her grandparents’ house and apparently, her grandmother had missed that call. Hence, they ended up reaching the airport to catch the flight.

NAT Diya Maria-1608527920125
Diya Maria, who flew solo from Chennai to Abu Dhabi, with her mother Sajitha Pauly after their reunion
Image Credit: Supplied

Though Diya’s journey seemed difficult initially, the family managed to discuss the issue with the officials of various departments. Diya was later allowed to fly considering the fact that the new rule would be implemented only from August 1, as against the previous announcement, and that children below 12 could fly without a PCR report by then.

Diya’s mother Sajitha Pauly was a member of the “#TakeMeToMom” social media campaign launched by Indian mothers in the UAE whose children were stuck back home during the pandemic. The grade one student in Bright Riders School in Abu Dhabi eventually flew all alone as an unaccompanied minor. After she landed in Abu Dhabi, Diya was escorted to her anxious mother.

Though Diya did not take any photos while inside the flight, a smiling photo of her with her mother after their happy reunion is something that the family would cherish forever.

“Diya was the face of children who got stranded in India during the pandemic. Her solo flight was historic. Mothers in our group were very happy when she reached,” said Dr. Nita Salam, a founder administrator of the #TakeMeToMom group.

One co-passenger for company

While Sasikumar and Diya had the luxury of having a whole flight all for themselves, another Indian expat, Thinley Youden Bhutia, had just one co-passenger for company when she arrived on the first flight from India to the UAE after services resumed on July 12.

NAT Thinley Youden Bhutia 1-1608527929644
Thinley Youden Bhutia aboard the New Delhi-Sharjah flight
Image Credit: Supplied

An emergency medical dispatcher in Sharjah, Thinley had been stuck in her hometown in the north eastern state of Sikkim after the flight suspensions. Following repeated flight cancellations, Thinley finally managed to book a return flight from New Delhi to Sharjah on July 12, which happened to be the first flight to land from India to the UAE.

“Upon arrival at the gate, I realised only me and one Punjabi brother were there to travel on that flight. It felt awkward, but at the same time I felt good that we are safer with very limited number of people in the entire plane,” said Thinely. “After facing numerous hurdles on the way from my hometown to Delhi, it was a miracle journey to the UAE for me. I felt very special at the Sharjah International Airport when staff got shocked to see only two of us in the entire plane … VIP feelings, you know,” she chuckled.

Thinley said her co-passenger had sat a few seats away to maintain social distance and hence he did not come in the selfie that she took on board. “I may not look great in that selfie, but that is an extra special one for me,” Thinley said about the selfie in which empty seats can be seen behind her just like in the one taken by Sasikumar.