Djokovic confirms error made on Australian travel entry form | News


By Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic said on Wednesday an incorrect answer was made on his Australian entry documents, breaching the country’s strict laws on reporting recent travel, as the government said it was still considering whether to deport the player.

Djokovic was held in immigration detention in Melbourne for several days after his visa was cancelled by border force officials, who questioned his medical exemption for a requirement to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

He was released on Monday after a judge quashed that decision, saying the cancellation of the visa was “unreasonable” because the player was not given time to consult with lawyers and tennis officials when he arrived in the country.

Djokovic said his travel declaration was filled in by his support team, who made an “administrative mistake” when they ticked the “no” box in response to whether he had travelled elsewhere in the 14 days before arriving in Australia.

“This was human error and certainly not deliberate,” Djokovic said. “We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes this mistakes can occur.”

The statement came as Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke considered whether to cancel the world no.1 tennis player’s visa ahead of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17.

Giving false or misleading information in the form is an offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison, and a fine of up to A$6,600 ($4,730) and can lead to cancellation of the offender’s visa.

Djokovic, who is seeking to win a record 21st tennis major at the Open, said his lawyers had provided additional information to the Australian government on Wednesday to clarify the matter.

A spokesman for Hawke, who has the discretionary power to again cancel Djokovic’s visa, said the minister was still considering taking action, a process that would be extended to assess the new information.

STRICT RULES

Australia has a policy barring non-citizens or non-residents from entry unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but offers a medical exemption. Djokovic’s visa was cancelled on the grounds he has not been vaccinated and his medical exemption was not satisfactory.

Monday’s court ruling did not address whether that exemption – based on Djokovic contracting COVID-19 last month – was valid.

Djokovic’s case provoked a row between Canberra and Belgrade and fuelled heated debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Questions arose about Djokovic’s movements before coming to Australia when social media posts appeared to show him in Belgrade less than two weeks before he headed to Spain and then on to Australia.

Accounts from two eyewitnesses and another individual, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday corroborated those social media posts.

Djokovic, who held another practice session at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, did not detail his travel in his statement on Wednesday acknowledging the mistake.

In its online explanation for the 14-day travel reporting requirement, the government said the information helps determine any necessary quarantine arrangements and allows health officials to contact any arrival if a fellow traveller tests positive for COVID-19.

INTERVIEW APOLOGY

The player also apologised in his statement for attending a L’Equipe interview and photoshoot on Dec. 18, the day after he said he learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said.

Djokovic denied media reports he also knew he had contracted the virus when he attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children a day earlier.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR result until after that event,” he said, adding that a rapid antigen test taken before the event came back negative.

Social media posts showed Djokovic posing with the children, without wearing a mask.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul, Byron Kaye and John Mair; Writing by Jane Wardell; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)



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Houston woman with no recent travel history tests positive for omicron variant, Judge Hidalgo confirms


HOUSTON – A northwest Houston woman with no recent travel history tested positive for the omicron variant of COVID-19 on Monday, according to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

“It’s normal for viruses to mutate, and given how quickly Omicron spread in southern Africa, we’re not surprised that it showed up here,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “Getting vaccinated and continuing to use prevention strategies, including wearing a mask when you are around people you don’t live with, social distancing, handwashing and getting tested when you have symptoms, will help slow the spread of the virus and help end the pandemic.”

According to the Texas Department of State and Health Services, the woman, who is in her 40s, was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this week and later genetic sequencing results showed the infection was caused by the omicron variant strain.

Rafael Lemaitre, communications director and senior advisor to Hidalgo, said the woman is likely the first person in Texas to test positive for the new variant.

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According to an official in the Harris County Judge’s office, the woman is fully vaccinated and has not required hospitalization.

“I would expect in the next several days to weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if we identify several more cases here in the area,” Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine – infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, said.

The B.1.1.529 variant was identified in South Africa last month and appears to spread more easily from person to person than most strains of the coronavirus. Currently, it is unclear if the Omicron variant is associated with a more severe disease. The department of health services said studies have commenced to determine how effective vaccines are expected to be against infection. However, vaccination is expected to continue to offer protection against hospitalization and death.

The case is now being investigated by Harris County Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.





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Hawaii confirms its first case of Omicron variant; patient had no travel history


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state confirmed its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant Thursday and officials said the unvaccinated Oahu resident had no history of travel.

That means there is likely community spread of the worrisome mutation in the islands.

“It’s going to take a layered strategy to combat this,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble, in a news conference. “It’s likely there are more cases.”

She urged residents to continue to wear masks, get vaccinated or a booster shot and take other precautions. “To me, the main thing is don’t rely on your vaccination status alone,” she said.

Kemble said the first Omicron case is an adult under the age of 65 who had previously had COVID.

The person is still be monitored, but so far has experienced mild to moderate symptoms.

Diagnostic Laboratory Services identified the specimen Monday as having a molecular clue that indicated it might be Omicron. The State Laboratory was able to confirm the finding Thursday.

The announcement comes amid growing fears about the Omicron variant, which has been detected in several states. Much remains unknown about the mutation, but scientists are concerned it could be more contagious. They are also studying whether it can thwart vaccines or other therapies.

Omicron is classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern.”

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2021 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.



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Australia confirms 2 omicron cases as travel curbs tighten


HONG KONG (AP) — Australian officials confirmed Sunday that two overseas travelers arriving in Sydney are the first to test…

HONG KONG (AP) — Australian officials confirmed Sunday that two overseas travelers arriving in Sydney are the first to test positive in the country for the omicron variant of the coronavirus, as nations around the world tightened controls against the worrying new strain.

The two passengers were among a group of 14 others who arrived in Australia from southern Africa on Saturday, They were asymptomatic and were both vaccinated for COVID-19. The remaining 12 have been placed in quarantine.

Neighboring New Zealand announced it was restricting travel from nine southern African countries because of the threat posed by the variant, and Japan widened its border controls to include more countries from the region.

Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening its tight border restrictions to leisure travelers from certain countries, announced a ban of its own on visitors from eight African counties. Similar restrictions took effect in the business hub of Singapore, which is barring entry and transit to anyone with a recent history of travel to seven southern African nations.

Sri Lanka banned disembarkation of passengers arriving from six African countries due to the detection of the omicron variant, as did the Maldives, the luxury Indian Ocean resort archipelago. In addition to the similar entry ban, quarantine officials in the Philippines have been ordered to track down recent travelers from southern Africa and put them in a quarantine.

Israel went further, barring entry to all foreign nationals, mandating quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad and red-listing travel to 50 African countries. It also approved use of the Shin Bet internal security agency’s controversial phone monitoring technology to perform contact tracing of individuals confirmed with the new omicron variant of coronavirus in Israel.

The tighter restrictions reflect steps rapidly taken by countries around the world to limit the spread of the omicron variant just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa. The act first, ask questions later approach reflected growing alarm about the emergence of a potentially more contagious variant nearly two years into a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, upended lives and disrupted economies across the globe.

While much remains to be learned about the new variant, researchers are concerned that it may be more resistant to the protection provided by vaccines and could mean that the pandemic lasts for longer than anticipated.

Cases involving the omicron variant have already been confirmed on multiple continents, with Germany, Italy, Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong all reporting cases in recent days.

David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert and government adviser on the pandemic in Hong Kong, said that even though it is not clear if current coronavirus vaccines are effective against the new variant, the city’s vaccination rate should be increased and that “booster doses should be implemented as soon” as possible.

He said that the two people who tested positive for the omicron variant had received the Pfizer shot and exhibited very mild symptoms, such as a sore throat.

“Vaccines should work but there would be some reduction in effectiveness,” he said.

The United States’ top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he would not be surprised if the omicron variant was already in the U.S., too.

“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility … it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci said on NBC television.

In Australia, the New South Wales health department said the infected travelers were from one of nine African countries that are now required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival in Sydney. The countries are South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi and the Seychelles.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the island nation was taking a precautionary approach. From late Sunday, only New Zealand citizens from nine African countries will be allowed entry to New Zealand, and they will be required to spend two weeks in a quarantine hotel run by the military.

Hipkins said officials were confident the variant hadn’t entered New Zealand and they were well placed to keep it out.

Many countries have slapped restrictions on various southern African countries over the past couple of days, including Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, and the U.S., in response to warnings over the transmissibility of the new variant. This goes against the advice of the World Health Organization, which has warned against any overreaction before the variant was thoroughly studied.

___

Schreck reported from Bangkok. Associated Press writers Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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Finnair confirms Asia expansion for summer 2022 | News


Finnair has unveiled plans to serve nearly 100 destinations in Asia, the US and Europe during the summer season, which begins on March 27th.

Finnair will open new long-haul routes to Busan in South Korea, Tokyo Haneda, Dallas in the US, and will also have Sapporo as a summer destination for the first time.

“We look forward to the world continuing opening again,” said Ole Orvér, chief commercial officer, Finnair.

“Before the pandemic, Japan was our single largest market outside our home market Finland, and we look forward to returning to all our five destinations in Japan.

“We are also opening a new route to Busan in South Korea, demonstrating our continuous commitment to offering the best and most sustainable connections between Europe and Asia via our Helsinki hub.”

“We are also pleased to strengthen our network in the US by adding Dallas as a new destination. Our customers will be able to enjoy great connections to other cities in North America through the extensive network of our alliance partner, American Airlines,” says Orvér.

If travel restrictions allow, Finnair will resume service to all the five destinations in Japan it served before the pandemic – Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo – and launch a new service to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Altogether, Finnair will fly up to 40 weekly flights between Helsinki and Japan in summer 2022.

Finnair flies daily to Tokyo Narita and Haneda, offering a total of 14 weekly frequencies to the capital of Japan.

The carrier also flies daily to Nagoya and Osaka and will introduce double dailies to Osaka in June. 

Finnair’s Sapporo route will be introduced for the summer season for the first time with two weekly frequencies, and Fukuoka in Southern Japan is served with three weekly flights.

Finnair connects customers to key Asian megacities, flying to Shanghai and daily to Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore and Bangkok.

Finnair offers daily flights to Delhi as of June.

The new Busan route in South Korea will be launched in March with three weekly frequencies.

In North America, Finnair will fly to Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, and open a route to Dallas as a new destination.

Dallas will be added to the network as of February 7th and will be operated four times a week, with excellent connections to Finnair’s partner American Airlines’ network.

As intercontinental traffic grows, Finnair will also strengthen its European network from Helsinki with smooth connections to more than 70 European cities, including new destinations Zagreb and Larnaca.

Finnair offers double daily flights to cities like Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Vienna, Zürich, Gdansk and Milan, and even more daily frequencies to Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Brussels, St Petersburg as well as the Scandinavian and Baltic cities.

“We look forward to being able to serve more customers in a more personal way. I also look forward to updating you on some additional destinations and routes within the coming weeks,” concluded Orvér.





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U.S. Confirms Broad Nov. 8 Opening for Vaccinated International Travelers


The U.S. government confirmed it will lift restrictions on international travelers beginning Nov. 8, allowing individuals fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to cross the border.

White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz confirmed the change on Twitter, calling the new U.S. travel policy “guided by public health, stringent and consistent.” The change applies to both land and air travel.

The U.S. in September announced that it was looking to a November date to begin allowing foreign citizens into the country following more than 18 months of borders being closed for non-U.S. citizens due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Travelers will need to show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a flight to the U.S. as well as negative results from a Covid-19 test taken within three days of departure.

Global Business Travel Association CEO Suzanne Neufang in a statement hailed the move. “I am delighted that the U.S. will reopen its borders to the many countries shut out for so many months—and in our most recent GBTA pandemic recovery poll, nearly 75 percent of respondents wholeheartedly agree with this particular action,” she said. “International travel is critical to promoting global trade and growing worldwide understanding.”

U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement noted that the formal setting of a reopening date “is critically important for planning—for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again. Reopening to international visitors will provide a jolt to the economy and accelerate the return of travel-related jobs that were lost due to travel restrictions.”

“The first two weeks of October 2021 have seen a 76 percent increase in the volume of U.K.-U.S. air bookings, as compared to the same period in September 2021,” said John Keichline, CEO of Reed & Mackay North America, in a statement. “Following the announcement today that U.S. borders will re-open to fully vaccinated travelers on Nov.8, we expect to see this increase further.”

Reacting to the announcement, Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, which operates a number of flights between the U.K. and U.S., in a statement said that “we’ve been steadily ramping up flying to destinations such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite U.S. cities on holiday or to reconnect with friends, loved ones and colleagues.”

Sean Doyle, CEO and chairman of British Airways, in a statement commented: “Nearly 600 days since the introduction of the U.S. travel ban, this is a pivotal moment for the entire travel industry and finally provides the certainty we have so desperately needed.”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, in a statement said: “The restart of this vital corridor will pay huge dividends for both economies and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic and is another important step on the road to recovery for the business travel sector. We now urge both governments to work together to simplify the testing procedures currently required for U.K.-U.S. travel to ensure it is as frictionless as possible.”

Scott Davies, CEO of the Institute of Travel Management, agreed: “The reopening of arguably the U.K. and Ireland’s most important trade and travel corridors is excellent and long anticipated news. We will now see the pent-up demand for business travel between our nations released. 

“Consistency and simplicity of the testing protocols will now be essential.”

According to CNN the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed airlines that all Food and Drug Administration authorized vaccines and all those with an Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization will be accepted for land and air crossings. It is not yet clear whether there will be exceptions for travelers under 18, who may not be eligible for vaccinations in their home countries. 





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Greg Hunt confirms international arrivals cap to be scrapped when Australia opens to travel


After more than 18 months, the Health Minister has confirmed international arrivals caps will be scrapped.

Thousands of Australians could be home by Christmas, with international travel caps to be scrapped when borders reopen and a phase to home quarantine begins.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Monday morning that with the news NSW is planning to fast-track international travel as early as the end of this month, that would mean the end of caps for Australians trying to return home – provided their home is in NSW.

“The reason we’re so keen is not just to ensure people can travel overseas and reunite with their family and friends and loved ones but also to ensure people are able to come back,” Mr Hunt told Radio National.

“They have carried part of the burden (during the pandemic). I acknowledge that.

“That has kept us safe but now we can bring them home. We can remove the caps for those returning Australians if they can get home quarantine.

“We want to see everybody home as quickly as possible.”

Mr Hunt said Australia was “very used” to home quarantine.

“With people crossing state borders, people home quarantining because they are a close contact,” he said.

“That’s a system that’s well established and well tried.”

Mr Hunt’s comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a plan on Sunday to fast-track reopening NSW’s international border following a discussion with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

“I know the NSW government is looking at ways to fast-track home quarantine in November, and if that happens we will be able to move to facilitate the opening up of the international border into NSW sooner,” Mr Morrison said on Sunday.

“Now, that would mean home quarantine for vaccinated Australians wishing to return home via Sydney and giving the option for international travel for vaccinated Australians to leave and return.”

It is understood the state could open its borders and transition from hotel quarantine to home quarantine on November 1.

Other states could keep strict restrictions on their international borders – including on arrival caps and hotel quarantine – until they reach 80 per cent full vaccination coverage.

States like Queensland and Western Australia have hinted their international borders could remain closed for even longer.

While Australian citizens and permanent residents will be the only people able to access the scheme at first, it could ramp up to include skilled workers and international students from next year.



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AHIC 2021: Accor confirms plans for Fairmont Djibouti | News


Accor is adding a new flagship property to its portfolio in Africa with Fairmont Djibouti.

Set to open in 2024, the hotel will feature 155 rooms and ten serviced apartments, with five food and beverage outlets combined with 1,398 sqm of events facilities.

Located in Djibouti City, the capital of Djibouti and one of the country’s most affluent areas, the property will be strategically located by the beach in Plateau Du Serpent offering its visitors convenient proximity to the port of Djibouti.

In addition, the seafront location will provide guests unparalleled views, setting Fairmont Djibouti to become the “new trophy asset” of the Djibouti hotel market.

“Accor has always been a key player in the tourism industry across Africa,” said Mark Willis, chief executive of Accor India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, “and Djibouti is no exception.

“We are confident that this project will greatly benefit the hospitality landscape of Djibouti with the introduction of one of Accor’s flagship luxury brand, Fairmont, while supporting government efforts for its Djibouti vision 2035.”

Accor is partnering with Carnegie Hill Hospitality, a company founded in 2018 which has positioned itself as a major player in the real estate sector in Djibouti, headed by Haibado Ismail, and showcases the strong ambition to be a leader in the tourism sector through “greenfield” developments and strategic partnerships in all segments of the hotel and real estate sector.

When speaking about this brand-new Fairmount project, Ismail stated: “It’s not about building one more hotel.

“The partnership with Fairmont and Accor underlines our desire to create a unique place, emblematic of Djibouti.

“At the heart of our approach, there is a desire for authenticity.

“It is about offering a discovery, a destination in its own right that reflects our rich history, a symbol of our welcome, our culture, our traditions and our ambitions.

“It is also about doing our part in the development of the country, its economy, while offering a hotel complex at the highest level of luxury and service.”

Once open, Fairmont Djibouti will welcome guests traveling for leisure and with family, while expecting a strong demand from corporate, governmental and military travellers.

With the government vision for 2035, tourism activity is a priority and looks to attract 500,000 visitors by 2035, eager to visit and discover the exceptional natural heritage of the country, the richness of the seabed, the discovery of the desert, nomadic life, that of the salt lakes and more.





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