Europe declares Australia a Covid-19 ‘danger zone’, bans travellers


Australia has been identified as a “Covid danger zone” by European authorities, with extra travel restrictions being introduced.

Australians wanting to travel to Europe may need to rethink their plans, with the country declared a “Covid danger zone” due to surging Omicron case numbers.

Extra restrictions will be placed on Australian travellers, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.

The directive comes after the US Centre for Disease Control warned Americans to avoid travelling Down Under, declaring Australia “high risk”.

European countries have been advised to block visitors from Australia entirely, or impose tougher restrictions, including quarantine and testing requirements.

Australia continues to ban tourists from entering the country.

But for the first time since the pandemic began, Australia is on the receving end of similar bans.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the moves taken by Europe and the US were of “real concern” but were not surprising, given high case numbers across the country.

“Our infection rates are so high because there wasn’t the preparedness,” Mr Albanese said on Sunday.

“One of the reasons why the rollout of the booster is so low compared to with European countries is because the rollout of the original vaccine was so slow.”

Mr Albanese blamed the Morrison government for vaccine supplies and public health messaging.

After Australia experienced its deadliest week of the pandemic, he accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of being “complacent”.

The European Council has listed Australia, Canada and Argentina as Covid-19 hot spots in its official directive, excluding them from the so-called EU white list.

Countries on the list, which is reviewed fortnightly, include New Zealand, Colombia, Indonesia, Rwanda, Bahrain, Chile, Kuwait, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and China.

Cyprus, Greece and Italy will still allow Australians to continue to travel.

In a statement, the European Union said Australia was “removed from the list of countries for which EU travel restrictions should be lifted”.

“New testing and self-isolation requirements may apply, depending on which EU member state you’re travelling to, regardless of whether you’re considered fully vaccinated or not,” the statement said.

Mr Albanese said other countries can “make their own judgments” on Australia, but the nation has “been absolutely magnificent” during the pandemic.

“The high vaccination rates, once supply has been available, shows that Australians are prepared to do whatever it takes to look after each other, look after their families, neighbours, their communities and country,” he said.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher batted away questions about the border closures at a media conference on Sunday.

Mr Fletcher said what other “jurisdictions did is up to them” but the federal government would continue to focus on protecting Australians.

He reiterated how successful Australia had been compared to Europe and the US, stating the low number of deaths per capita.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention listed Australia as “Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19” on Friday, warning Americans to avoid travel.

Australian data published on Friday confirmed there were 458,863 active cases of Covid-19 across the country.



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W.H.O. says it’s time to lift COVID-19 restrictions; Calls travel bans “ineffective”






W.H.O. says it’s time to lift COVID-19 restrictions; Calls travel bans “ineffective”
























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Covid news live: WHO recommends lifting international travel bans, says proof of vaccination not necessarily needed | World news









International traffic bans should be lifted, proof of vaccination not necessarily needed: WHO










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Coronavirus digest: Travel bans ineffective, WHO says | News | DW


The World Health Organization on Wednesday said international travel bans “do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress” of countries.  

In a statement issued after a WHO meeting, the UN health agency said travel restrictions that were introduced to curb the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus demonstrated “the ineffectiveness of such measures over time.” 

In late November, several countries suspended flights to and from southern African countries, citing concerns over omicron. Most governments have lifted this ban. 

The WHO also urged countries not to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as the only way for travelers’ entry, citing inequity in vaccine distribution

Countries should consider adjusting some measures, including testing and quarantine requirements, “when appropriate,” that put a financial burden on travelers, the WHO said. 

Separately, the WHO said that coronavirus cases globally rose by 20% last week to more than 18 million.

Infections increased in every world region except for Africa, where cases fell by nearly a third, according to the WHO. 

The number of deaths globally remained similar to the previous week, at about 45,000. 

Here’s a roundup of the latest developments on COVID-19 from around the world:

Africa

South African-born biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong opened a plant in Cape Town, South Africa, that will be the first on the continent to produce COVID-19 vaccines from start to finish.

The NantSA facility aims to produce a billion doses annually by 2025.

The plant is South Africa’s third vaccine manufacturing facility, but it would make vaccines itself rather than producing them from semifinished batches.

Soon-Shiong, who is also a medical doctor, will transfer technology and materials from his California-based NantWorks to scientists in South Africa to produce second-generation vaccines “within the year.” They will also work on vaccines targeting cancer, TB and HIV.

“Africa should no longer be last in line to access vaccines against pandemics,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the opening of the plant.

Ramaphosa said Africa had secured 500 million vaccine doses through the African Union’s vaccine acquisition task team, but the continent needs more.

“These doses represent only around half of what the continent needs to vaccinate 900 million people in order to achieve the 70% target set by the World Health Organization,” said Ramaphosa.

Europe

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that people in England would no longer be required to wear face masks from next week.

He told Parliament on Wednesday that measures introduced to combat the omicron variant were no longer needed as scientists believe infections have peaked in the UK.

“Because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire as a result from the start of Thursday next week,” Johnson said.

He intended to drop self-isolation rules for people with coronavirus in March.

The prime minister also announced an end to the vaccine certificates mandate but added that businesses could continue asking for COVID-19 passes if they wanted to.

Museums and concert halls in the Netherlands opened as beauty salons and gyms to protest the Dutch government’s pandemic policies.

The cultural sector is protesting rules that they must remain closed while COVID-19 measures were lifted on shops and “contact professions” like barbers, nail salons and sex work.

During the protest, nail artists were giving manicures at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Barbers also gave haircuts on the stage of Amsterdam’s historical concert hall, Concertgebouw.

A man gets a haircut during a rehearsal at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam

People got haircuts during a rehearsal at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam

Authorities handed out enforcement notices to a number of the 70-odd venues that took part in the day-long protest.

Germany recorded more than 100,000 daily COVID-19 cases for the first time. The new single-day record of 112,323 comes as Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he believed there could be twice as many unreported cases as known ones. 

Lauterbach told broadcaster RTL that Germany had not reached the peak and compulsory vaccination should be introduced by May. 

In the east-central German state of Thuringia, some 1,200 demonstrators, protesting COVID measures, marched past the home of Gera’s Mayor Julian Vornab, police said. 

Asked if he felt threatened, Vonarb said: “The police were there, but not in proportion to the number of demonstrators.”

Bodo Ramelow, the state leader of Thuringia, said marching up to politicians’ homes was nothing other than intimidation.

Protests against Germany’s pandemic policies have increased in recent weeks. Some 70,000 people joined anti-COVID measures protests across Germany earlier this week.  

Austria recorded a record number of infections. “We have close to 30,000 infections. That is a frighteningly high figure,” Chancellor Karl Nehammer said.

The previous record for new daily cases, 17,006, was set a week ago.

Sweden set a new daily record for COVID-19 cases, registering 37,886 on Tuesday, health agency data released on Wednesday showed. The country is in the middle of a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Kronoberg, one of Sweden’s 25 health care regions, said it would pause all testing except for hospital and elderly care patients and staff.

In Slovenia and Croatia, laboratories can not process tests fast enough. The two countries recorded record-high new COVID-19 cases of 12,285 and 10,427, respectively.

The Tourism Ministry in Cyprus announced that the country will lift all entry requirements on March 1 for travelers who present proof of receiving a booster shot

The tourism-reliant island nation currently requires travelers to either show proof of a negative COVID test or to self-quarantine upon arrival.

Under the new rules, travelers who haven’t received a booster shot can enter the country if it has been less than nine months since they received their last dose. 

Americas

The United States plans to distribute 400 million N95 for adults free of charge from next week.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a White House official said the masks would be available at pharmacies and community health centers.

President Joe Biden’s administration hopes that it will help curb the rapidly spread omicron variant.

Also in the US, Starbucks said it would no longer require its workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The move to reverse the policy that Starbuck had announced earlier this month came after the US Supreme Court rejected a plan by the Biden administration to require vaccines or regular COVID testing at companies with more than 100 workers.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said coronavirus infections in the Americas are reaching new peaks, with 7.2 million new cases and more than 15,000 COVID-related deaths in the last week. 

“The virus is spreading more actively than ever before,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told a press briefing.

According to the PAHO, the Caribbean has had the steepest increase in infections since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The regional agency recommended that countries prioritize rapid antigen tests for people experiencing symptoms and who are at risk of spreading the virus amid a shortage of testing. 

Asia

India reported 282,970 new infections on Wednesday, the highest in eight months.

Authorities said omicron was causing fewer hospitalizations and deaths than the delta variant, which killed hundreds of thousands of people in India last year.

While infection rates have recently fallen in India’s big cities, experts say cases nationally could peak by the middle of next month.

“We have to worry about hospitalization and deaths and that will come later,” Tarun Bhatnagar, from the ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology, told the Reuters news agency.

Japan widened COVID-19 curbs to several towns and cities, including Tokyo, as it battles a record wave of omicron infections.

The country has resisted complete shutdowns, instead focusing on requiring restaurants and bars to close early and not serve alcohol.

It also urged the public to wear masks and practice social distancing.

A sharp rise in infections has begun to paralyze hospitals, schools and other sectors in some areas.

Oceania

New Zealand called off the national cricket team’s tour of Australia before the scheduled first match because of strict COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

The Black Caps, as they are commonly known, would not have had to isolate on their return home when the tour was first announced.

The spread of the omicron variant in Australia has caused New Zealand’s government to defer a plan to introduce quarantine-free travel between the countries.

fb, lo/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)





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UAE bans international travel for non-vaccinated citizens from January 10


UAE bans international travel for non-vaccinated citizens from January 10

In a stringent move to prevent the spread of COVID, the United Arab Emirates has announced a ban on unvaccinated citizens from travelling abroad from January 10. As per the news reports, fully vaccinated citizens would also require a booster shot to be eligible to travel. However, the said ban will not apply to those with medical or humanitarian exemptions.

With this announcement, the UAE becomes the latest country to impose new curbs amid a rise in infections. As reported earlier, many countries have already put strict restrictions into place for unvaccinated people before they are allowed to travel.

While some countries have made negative COVID test results mandatory before travel, some have also made quarantine mandatory for travellers upon arrival.

If reports are to go by, more than 90% of the population in the UAE has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while around 34 per cent had already received the booster jab as of December 24.

The latest travel rules in the UAE were announced by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Reportedly, these measures were taken to ensure that health and safety are prioritised.





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UAE bans travel for unvaccinated citizens, booster dose required for vaccinated | World News


The United Arab Emirates announced a travel ban on its citizens unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), starting January 10. The National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) of the UAE said that the vaccinated citizens, in order to travel, are further required to obtain the booster dose as per the country’s Covid protocol.

The Arab nation will allow travel for individuals medically exempted from taking the Covid-19 vaccine, humanitarian cases, and those travelling for medical and treatment purposes.

“Ban on Travel on UAE citizens unvaccinated with #Covid19 vaccine, starting Jan 10, 2022, with a requirement to obtain the booster dose for the fully vaccinated,” the official handle of NCEMA posted on Twitter. “With an exemption for medically exempted from taking the vaccine, humanitarian & treatment cases.”

The travel ban has been announced amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, in the United States and Europe. The surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations, with the new variant of concern causing breakthrough infections, have also led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights across the globe.

On Saturday, the UAE reported 2,556 fresh Covid-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, taking the cumulative infections to 764,493, according to the ministry of health and prevention. The ministry reported one virus-related death, taking the country’s death toll at 2,165.

Earlier this week, HT reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to the UAE in January has been put off because of concerns over the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the country. While no official announcement regarding the visit was made by any of the two countries, it was expected that PM Modi would have been in the UAE on January 5-6.



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Princeton University bans student travel outside the county until mid-February


Princeton University has notified students that “personal travel” outside the county or township is not allowed until at least mid-February due to an increase in coronavirus omicron variant cases.

Princeton University’s Dean Jill Dolan and Vice President. W. Rochelle Calhoun announced on Monday that students are barred from traveling outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township, where Princeton University is located.

“Beginning January 8 through mid-February, all undergraduate students who have returned to campus will not be permitted to travel outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township for personal reasons, except in extraordinary circumstances,” the administration officials announced.

The officials said that the travel policy will be in place from Jan. 8 until at least Feb. 15.

PRINCETON STUDENT SAYS HIS COLLEGE EXPERIENCE ‘BASICALLY RUINED BY COVID’

Princeton, New Jersey - April 14, 2017: People wander around the Princeton University Campus during early spring.

Princeton, New Jersey – April 14, 2017: People wander around the Princeton University Campus during early spring.
(iStock)

“Student groups that currently have events planned for outside Mercer or Plainsboro should contact their sponsoring office for guidance. We’ll revisit and, if possible, revise this travel restriction by February 15,” they continued.

Fox News asked Princeton University to define what “extraordinary circumstances” would allow students to leave Mercer County or Plainsboro Township. The university did not respond by press time.

The officials also announced a “gradual return” to campus for undergraduate students, which will begin a week later than originally anticipated.

OMICRON COVID-19 VARIANT: CORNELL, PRINCETON SHIFT TO REMOTE FORMAT

Blair Hall on the campus of Princeton University. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Blair Hall on the campus of Princeton University. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
((Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images))

“Updated modeling suggests that staggering undergraduates’ return over ten days from January 14 – 23 will help flatten the curve of the campus positivity rate, which will allow the University to better respond to the increase in positive cases we anticipate when students come back to campus,” the officials noted.

Princeton University is also requiring eligible students to get a coronavirus booster shot before Jan. 31.

Billy Wade, a junior at Princeton University, told Fox News that the new travel restrictions are “well-intentioned but potentially unnecessary.”

“The travel restrictions limiting students to Mercer County [were], as I understand it, established so students did not travel to places like NYC, catch the virus and bring it back to campus,” Wade said. “The University is doing their best to create a bubble where breakthrough cases are kept to a minimum while maintaining as much normalcy as possible.”

Exterior view of University Chapel on the Princeton University campus, Princeton, New Jersey, November 4, 2011. (Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images)

Exterior view of University Chapel on the Princeton University campus, Princeton, New Jersey, November 4, 2011. (Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images)
((Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images))

Currently, 99% of undergraduate students at Princeton University have received the coronavirus vaccination, according to university data.

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On Dec. 14, Princeton University Dean Jill Dolan and Vice President. W. Rochelle Calhoun announced that all remaining exams beginning Dec. 16 would be shifted to a remote format due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the state.



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Princeton University bans student travel outside the county until mid-February


Princeton University has notified students that “personal travel” outside the county or township is not allowed until at least mid-February due to an increase in coronavirus omicron variant cases.

Princeton University’s Dean Jill Dolan and Vice President. W. Rochelle Calhoun announced on Monday that students are barred from traveling outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township, where Princeton University is located.

“Beginning January 8 through mid-February, all undergraduate students who have returned to campus will not be permitted to travel outside of Mercer County or Plainsboro Township for personal reasons, except in extraordinary circumstances,” the administration officials announced.

The officials said that the travel policy will be in place from Jan. 8 until at least Feb. 15.

PRINCETON STUDENT SAYS HIS COLLEGE EXPERIENCE ‘BASICALLY RUINED BY COVID’

“Student groups that currently have events planned for outside Mercer or Plainsboro should contact their sponsoring office for guidance. We’ll revisit and, if possible, revise this travel restriction by February 15,” they continued.

Fox News asked Princeton University to define what “extraordinary circumstances” would allow students to leave Mercer County or Plainsboro Township. The university did not respond by press time.

The officials also announced a “gradual return” to campus for undergraduate students, which will begin a week later than originally anticipated.

OMICRON COVID-19 VARIANT: CORNELL, PRINCETON SHIFT TO REMOTE FORMAT

Blair Hall on the campus of Princeton University. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images) <span class="copyright">(Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)</span>

Blair Hall on the campus of Princeton University. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“Updated modeling suggests that staggering undergraduates’ return over ten days from January 14 – 23 will help flatten the curve of the campus positivity rate, which will allow the University to better respond to the increase in positive cases we anticipate when students come back to campus,” the officials noted.

Princeton University is also requiring eligible students to get a coronavirus booster shot before Jan. 31.

Billy Wade, a junior at Princeton University, told Fox News that the new travel restrictions are “well-intentioned but potentially unnecessary.”

“The travel restrictions limiting students to Mercer County [were], as I understand it, established so students did not travel to places like NYC, catch the virus and bring it back to campus,” Wade said. “The University is doing their best to create a bubble where breakthrough cases are kept to a minimum while maintaining as much normalcy as possible.”

Currently, 99% of undergraduate students at Princeton University have received the coronavirus vaccination, according to university data.

GET THE FOX NEWS APP HERE

On Dec. 14, Princeton University Dean Jill Dolan and Vice President. W. Rochelle Calhoun announced that all remaining exams beginning Dec. 16 would be shifted to a remote format due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the state.



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Davos Economic Forum Is Postponed as Omicron Leads to Further Cancellations, Travel Bans


Israel is set to bar its citizens from traveling to the U.S. and Canada because of the spread of the Omicron variant—as the World Economic Forum said it would postpone next month’s annual meeting in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos for the second successive year.

As Omicron continues to drive new restrictions on travel and social interactions, Israel’s government said it would place the U.S. and Canada along with eight other nations on a growing list of countries to which its citizens are barred from traveling.

Also placed on the list Monday were Italy, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Turkey and Switzerland. The ban comes into effect Tuesday night, subject to a final approval by lawmakers expected on Tuesday morning. Most of Africa and other European countries are already on the Israeli no-fly list.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, speaking on Sunday, asked business leaders to have employees start working from home if possible.



Photo:

Marc Israel Sellem/Jini/Zuma Press

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that the country is just entering its fifth Covid-19 wave, ushered in by the spreading Omicron variant within its borders.

“In my opinion, in three or four weeks, maybe sooner, we will see a jump in morbidity that will leave no room for doubt,” Mr. Bennett said Sunday.

The criteria Israel’s health ministry uses to put countries on the no-fly list is based on the percentage of travelers to Israel from a certain country that test positive for the variant, or on how widespread the variant is in the country or its immediate neighbors.

An annual New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown Los Angeles was canceled Monday for in-person attendees amid fears over Omicron. The closest thing the spread-out city has to a central celebration was supposed to be invite-only this year, for front-line workers and first responders. Instead, it will be live streamed for the second year in a row, organizers said. Covid-19 rates in Los Angeles County are rising quickly, though still well below last winter’s peak.

Israel was the first country to close its borders to foreigners in late November just as word of the Omicron variant began to spread from South Africa, so most incoming travelers are Israelis themselves. Those returning from countries on the no-fly list must quarantine for seven days before another negative Covid-19 test can release them from isolation.

Mr. Bennett asked business leaders to have their employees start working from home if possible.

The majority of Israel’s 175 confirmed Omicron cases are returnees from abroad, though it has also begun to spread though the local community, according to figures published by Israel’s health ministry on Sunday. There are another 380 cases where the variant is highly suspected.

“The numbers are still not high but this is a very contagious variant and doubles every two or three days, as we are seeing around the world. It is possible to say that the fifth wave has begun,” Mr. Bennett said Sunday.

The WEF’s organizers said it would delay the in-person meeting planned for Jan. 17-21 until the early summer and hold online sessions for participants next month.

“Despite the meeting’s stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of Omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary,” the organization said.

Much the same happened last winter. The WEF abandoned plans to hold in-person sessions, but also had to give up on its plans for a summer session, again because of the disruptive effect of the pandemic on business travel plans.

The yearly event, which first took place in 1974, had been a mainstay of the global business set. Past attendees have included Chinese President

Xi Jinping,

former President

Donald Trump

and financier

George Soros

and thousands have crowded annually into the Alpine resort

Elsewhere, a lockdown was reimposed in the Netherlands on Sunday because of Omicron, with all nonessential shops, bars and restaurants closed until mid-January. In Denmark, new national restrictions began Sunday morning. Cinemas, amusement parks, theaters and museums will shut for the next four weeks. Bars and restaurants must also shut at 11 p.m.

As the U.S. and other countries fight Omicron, scientists in South Africa are starting to get a clearer picture. WSJ visited a leading lab studying the coronavirus strain, which appears to partially evade vaccines, is more infectious, and might cause milder symptoms. Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Denmark’s Serum Institute said Omicron is expected to become the dominant strain there within days. It is already dominant in the U.K., according to estimates derived from British health data.

The government outlined financial support on Sunday for those businesses compelled to close and for those closing voluntarily, with the spread of the variant already limiting footfall for many businesses. The government also agreed a salary compensation program last week.

In Germany, regional and federal government representatives are expected to meet for an unscheduled Covid-19 summit on Tuesday to review additional restrictions ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Scientific advisers to the government warned that Omicron’s rapid spread poses a threat to Germany’s critical infrastructure that could require support from the armed forces and disaster relief services.

The highly infectious nature of the variant means there is a risk that large segments of workers in sectors ranging from police to firefighting, healthcare, electricity and water supplies may have to isolate at the same time, threatening the continuity of these services, the newly appointed task force of experts warned in a position paper dated Dec.19 and seen by The Wall Street Journal.

As a consequence, authorities should take measures now, limiting physical contacts between people and ensure that essential services are maintained in the event of a rapid rise in infections, the experts warned.

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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