UAE: Residents cancel travel plans despite accumulating annual leaves amid Covid – News


Most people are opting to spend their vacations locally



Published: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 10:55 AM

Last updated: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 11:03 AM

Some UAE employees are avoiding taking a long annual leave to travel abroad and opting instead for a shorter vacation to spend locally, fearing that they might get stranded overseas due to constantly-changing travel restrictions.

The recruitment and HR industry say that employees are increasingly opting to spend their annual leaves locally since some companies have asked their employees to exhaust their annual leaves. But some employees have still accumulated a good number of annual leaves, as they were not able to travel abroad during the past two pandemic years.

“With new regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the UAE and many countries imposing strict restrictions and lockdowns, employees are now rethinking their leave plans to avoid being stranded,” said Mayank Patel, country head of Adecco Middle East.

He pointed out that there might not be any change in annual leave policies of employees for now, as the spike in cases is also pushing back to the previous days of ensuring colleagues’ safety and work from home. However, in the best interest of the organisation and to ensure employees have a work-life balance, this may result in accommodating a part of their leaves to be adjusted.

Waleed Anwar, managing director of Upfront HR, suggested that it is wise for most people at the moment to stay in the UAE to avoid being stranded overseas. “This is the general opinion we are hearing from our clients in the UAE. Travelling will come with the risk of being stranded. In most cases, unless you are in a customer-facing role, most companies will offer employees the flexibility to work remotely to allow for continuous flow of work, wherever they are.”

Vijay Gandhi, regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Korn Ferry, believes that if the past 18 months have brought a huge change to the way many people work, then the coming years will bring an even greater revolution in working practices in the UAE.

“Location neutral jobs will lead to more flexibility. More offices will change in design to allow for this flexibility based on job and team demand. We will continue to see creative and different working ideas emerge and fit the new working environment,” he added.

The change in the working week in UAE, according to Gandhi, will also bring in a positive spin to the work from home culture. “Individuals are not rewarded by 9-5 or Monday-Friday parameters, but pegged to outcomes they are achieving on a regular basis. In general, the work environment will undergo a significant change, with remote working being part of the norm.”

Spending annual leave locally

Waleed Anwar added that now more than ever, UAE employees are spending more leaves locally due to restrictions on travel globally. “Because they’re afraid of being stranded overseas and not being able to return, so the leaves are definitely shorter and changing from the traditional long summer leaves we are used to taking in this country.”

Over the last two years of the pandemic, some employees have accumulated annual leave for not being able to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions while some employees have no annual leftover at all because employers encouraged them to take leave during the lockdowns, he added.

Starting January 1, 2022, the UAE government shifted its weekend from Friday-Saturday to mid-Friday until Sunday to help local businesses and also improve residents’ work-life balance.

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“Change in weekends should not change how many leave days people are entitled to, because as per the UAE labour law, employees are entitled to 30 days’ leave after completing one year of employment, out of which 22 days are working days – which will still remain the same with the change in the weekend,” said Anwar.

People-intensive firms may change annual leaves

Recruitment and HR industry say that firms operating in the people-intensive industries, such as tourism, retail and hospitality, are likely to recruit more people with the change in the weekend. Such firms may also alter employees’ annual leave due to the Covid-19 pandemic and structure it in a way that would help them meet their targets and also benefits the employees.

“This new working week will definitely stir changes in many industries, such as F&B and hospitality business, to make arrangements in brunch and dining offers, Friday special offers, etc. They could also consider hiring additional staffing during the new weekend leading to new revenue opportunities in this sector,” said Patel.





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Supervisor alerts residents to travel delays from Greenville to Quincy


District 2 Supervisor Kevin Goss often makes the drive from his Greenville-based district into Quincy. He wants residents to know that helicopter logging has resumed near Indian Falls. He said to expect 45 minute delays if you happen to be at the beginning of the stopped traffic.

That has been his experience. He said the logging operation lasts about 45 minutes and then, when the helicopter stops to refuel (about 15 minutes), both lanes of traffic are allowed to proceed simultaneously. Then the process repeats itself.

Yesterday Goss was elected to be the chairman of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. He has held the position before and knows the work that it entails, but said it’s exactly where he wants to be as he helps his district rebuild following the devastating Dixie Fire. The fire disproportionately impacted his district including leveling the communities of Greenville and Indian Falls.

But it’s not just about his district. “I’m excited to be leading the county again,” he said. As chairman, Goss will be privy to all of the information that he believes is necessary to make the best decisions for his district and the county. In addition to rebuilding, Goss sees infrastructure such as readily accessible internet as critical.

District 1 Supervisor Dwight Ceresola will serve another term as vice chairman.



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Live updates: St. Louis area residents urged to avoid travel


A holiday traveler wearing a face mask arrives at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

A holiday traveler wearing a face mask arrives at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

AP

CLAYTON, Mo. — St. Louis area health officials have urged the public to avoid travel and gatherings amid a new spike in COVID-19 infections.

“The community is not as safe as it was a month ago, and you should consider that as you plan your activities,” the St. Louis County health department said Thursday in a news release that encouraged vaccinations, booster shots and masking.

The state’s first confirmed case of the omicron coronavirus variant was detected earlier this month in a St. Louis resident.

The county recorded 774 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the largest one-day total since early January. Another 593 new cases were recorded Tuesday.

The recent surge has driven the average daily count of new cases to 398, a 15.6% increase over the past week and a count well into the CDC’s high transmission threshold, the news release said.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:

— Ever-morphing coronavirus requires holiday calculus for 2nd winter

— Omicron less likely to put you in the hospital, British studies say

— US Supreme Court to hold special session on worker vaccine requirements

Go to https://APNews.com/coronavirus-pandemic for updates throughout the day.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With hospitalizations and infections on the rise in Alabama, the state will have a limited number of doses of a new drug that can be used to treat COVID-19, health officials say.

The state’s initial supply of 780 courses of the Pfizer oral drug Paxlovid, which the Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use as the omicron variant spreads rapidly, will be distributed through pharmacies, the Department of Public Health said Thursday.

Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, said the drug will be available to people who aren’t hospitalized with the illness but isn’t a substitute for vaccinations.

Less than half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. Alabama has the nation’s second-highest death rate from the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — In South Carolina, where COVID-19 cases are again rising and less than 52% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, hospitals are concerned that an oncoming omicron surge would worsen a staffing crunch among doctors, nurses and other frontline workers.

In the state’s Grand Strand region, hospitals are already contending with high vacancy rates, especially among specialty nurses and lower-wage jobs like emergency room registration clerks, said Gayle Resetar, the chief operating officer of Tidelands Health, which runs four hospitals in the coastal area.

“Any amount of additional workforce out with omicron is pretty catastrophic,” she said.

Hospitals are still busy catching up on other surgeries and procedures delayed by the pandemic, Resetar added: “It won’t take many hospitalized patients to throw us into the overwhelmed state. It’s really more about the availability of staff than it is rooms.”

Dr. Christine Carr, an emergency department physician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said her ER has closed an entire 12-bed pod because there is no one to staff it.

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PHOENIX — Arizona’s top public health official is urging residents to be “influencers” who “gently encourage” their families and friends to get COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots for the sake of themselves and others.

“The importance of influencers can’t be overstated when it comes to encouraging people to protect themselves from COVID,” Department of Health Services interim Director Don Herrington said in a blog post Wednesday.

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Britain’s public health agency says preliminary data suggest that people with the omicron variant of the coronavirus are between 50% and 70% less likely to need hospitalization than those with the delta strain.

The U.K. Health Security Agency findings add to emerging evidence that omicron produces milder illness than other variants — but also spreads faster and better evades vaccines.

The agency said Thursday that, based on cases in the U.K., an individual with omicron is estimated to be between 31% and 45% less likely to attend a hospital emergency department compared to delta, “and 50 to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital.”

It cautioned that the analysis is “preliminary and highly uncertain” because of the small number of omicron patients in hospitals and the fact that most were in younger age groups. As of Dec. 20, 132 people had been admitted to U.K. hospitals with confirmed omicron, of whom 14 — aged between 52 and 96 — died.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarians aged over 65 are being offered a one-off payment of 75 levs ($43) in addition to their monthly pensions if they get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said Thursday that pensioners who have not received a jab will get the payment after the first dose. Those who have had one dose will get the money after receiving a second dose and those getting a booster dose when the program kicks off.

The program, scheduled to begin in January and to last until the end of June, is part of the new government’s campaign to encourage the vaccination process

The Balkan country of 7 million remains the least vaccinated in the 27-nation European Union, with less than one-third of its adults fully vaccinated.

“We want to be a normal European country with vaccination rates that are comparable to the rest of Europe. And that depends on each of us,” Petkov said.

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BERLIN — Germany is adding the United States, Spain and Portugal to its list of “high-risk areas” but removing neighboring Austria.

Travelers arriving from “high-risk areas,” the lower of two risk categories, must self-isolate for 10 days unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. That period can be cut to five days with a negative test.

Germany’s disease control center said Thursday that the change of status will take effect on Saturday.

Along with the U.S., Spain and Portugal, Finland, Monaco and Cyprus are being added to the list. Belize, Bosnia, Malaysia and Serbia are also being removed.

Germany didn’t add any new countries to its list of “virus variant areas,” the top risk category. Travel from those countries is restricted largely to German residents and citizens and anyone arriving must self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.

That list currently contains the U.K., South Africa and seven other southern African countries.

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PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Health Department has canceled its giveaway of rapid COVID-19 tests scheduled for Thursday after demand at earlier giveaways depleted its supplies.

A department spokesperson announced Wednesday that the giveaway would be canceled but that the city would move forward with a fee vaccine clinic at the center.

The department began giving away tests Saturday at a series of community events that have seen high demand and people waiting in long lines to get the kits. The city has distributed close to 24,000 kits, each with two tests, since Saturday as nationwide demand has increased.

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BERLIN — The leaders of the Netherlands and Germany’s most populous state are appealing to people not to cross their border to shop and eat.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hendrik Wuest, the governor of neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state, said in a joint statement Thursday that “with the spread of the omicron variant in our countries, it is now even more important to limit our contacts.”

The Netherlands imposed a nationwide lockdown on Sunday, shutting all non-essential stores, bars and restaurants until Jan. 14.

Germany has not locked down but it is stepping up contact restrictions — shutting nightclubs and removing spectators from major events — in most regions after Christmas.

Rutte and Wuest wrote that borders are being kept open because people in border regions in particular are strongly intertwined. But they urged people to “deal responsibly with these open borders.”

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LAS VEGAS — A federal judge has refused to block the masking mandate imposed by the school district for metropolitan Las Vegas to combat the spread of the coronavirus, and dismissed a lawsuit filed by two students’ parents.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey on Wednesday denied the request for a preliminary injunction, saying that the parents didn’t establish a viable legal basis for their lawsuit’s challenge to the Clark County School District’s mandate for students and staff.

The parents contended that the masking mandate violated their fundamental rights as parents, including making medical decisions for their children. The parents also said they were left out of the process in which the policies were adopted.

Dorey’s 22-page ruling said the “perceived wrongs” cited by the challenge didn’t violate any constitutional rights.

The ruling also said the parents’ lawyers denied in court that there was a COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the parents’ lawyers, Sigal Chattah, said on Twitter that the ruling would be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since August.

The tourism hub on the Arabian Peninsula on Thursday reported 1,000 new infections — a drastic surge from record lows of roughly 50 infections just weeks ago, before the the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

The daily update represents a significant jump from the 665 cases authorities reported on Wednesday.

The UAE boasts one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with over 90% of the country’s eligible population fully vaccinated. Infections had plummeted in recent weeks, and there were few COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths.

Authorities say the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 remains low, around 3%.

Although a mask mandate remains in place nationwide, there are few movement restrictions. Bars, restaurants and beaches are bustling amid Dubai’s peak tourism season. Hotels are fully booked through the holidays.

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LONDON — The British government says it won’t introduce any new coronavirus restrictions until after Christmas and called early studies on the severity of the omicron variant encouraging.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said two studies suggesting omicron carries a significantly lower risk of hospitalization than the previously dominant delta strain was “encouraging news.” But he said it was “not very clear yet … by how much that risk is reduced.”

Even if it is milder, the new variant could still overwhelm health systems because of the sheer number of infections. Javid said the British government would “keep analyzing (the) data and if we need to do anything more we will, but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas.”

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TIRANA, Albania — Two countries in the Balkans region of Europe where less than half of the populations are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus have reported their first two cases involving the omicron variant.

Albania’s Technical Experts’ Committee said it sent 221 infection samples to a German laboratory and two matched omicron’s profile.

“But the delta variant continues to prevail” in the country, the committee said in a statement.

About 40% of Albania’s 2.8 million population has received two vaccine doses and 5% a third one

Albania’s government imposed a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew to limit the spread of the coronavirus but plans to lift it for New Year’s celebrations. However, the number of people allowed to gather in the same place will be limited.

Serbia also confirmed its first case with the omicron variant on Thursday. Serbian state television broadcaster RTS said the infected person came to Serbia from the African nation of Botswana.

Authorities in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, have announced plans for a New Year’s Eve celebration with open concerts.

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LONDON — A third dose of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines significantly increased the immune response to the omicron variant, according to a new study by University of Oxford researchers.

The laboratory study, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, compared antibody levels in blood samples from people who received two doses of vaccine with samples from those who had received a third dose.

While two doses provided much less protection against omicron than earlier variants, levels of neutralizing antibodies rose sharply after a third dose, the study found.

The study also found that unvaccinated people who had recovered from COVID-19 probably have “little protection from reinfection with omicron,” though they may have some protection against serious illness.

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ATHENS, Greece — Christmas concerts and other events have been canceled in Greece as part of new restrictions that include a mask requirement that applies outdoors and in all public areas.

Incoming travelers will also be required to take COVID-19 tests on the second and fourth days after their arrivals.

The restrictions are set to take effect Friday and to remain in effect at least through Jan. 3 as Greece braces for the expected impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

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PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron urged his compatriots in an Instagram video Thursday to be extra-careful over the holidays to avoid spreading the coronavirus, as the government’s scientific advisory body warned that the country could soon see hundreds of thousands of infections per day.

The French government has canceled New Year’s gatherings and urged more working from home but has stopped short of adopting some of the tougher measures imposed elsewhere in Europea.

The end-of-year holidays “are moments to see each other again, moments of gaiety, of insouciance,” Macron said. “But this year once again, because of the virus, I ask you to have a lot of vigilance.”

Macron spent the last Christmas season isolated with COVID-19. He asked people this year to get tested, get vaccinated and to wear masks. He also thanked hospital workers and others working through the Christmas weekend.

France is seeing more confirmed virus infections than at any time in the pandemic, with more than 80,000 new cases recorded Wednesday and more than one in 100 people in the Paris region testing positive.

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BANGKOK — Officials in Thailand say an Israeli tourist who was the subject of a nationwide police manhunt after breaking out of quarantine while apparently infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detained on a southern resort island

The 29-year-old man will be charged with breaking quarantine regulations and then deported and banned from Thailand for life following his release from hospital detention, authorities said.

Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said Thursday that the the tourist allegedly left quarantine at a Bangkok hotel on Dec. 17, before his coronavirus test result was completed. It eventually showed he was infected with the omicron variant.

Thailand has had a few dozen cases of omicron, but all were found in quarantined individuals. It has only had two reported cases of domestic transmission, and the case of the missing Israeli dominated news reports.

Officials said two RT-PCR tests were taken after he turned himself in on the southern resort island of Kho Samui on Wednesday. Both were negative.

Supakit said the man could have recovered in the two weeks between his first test taken upon arrival on Dec. 17 and the Dec. 22 tests.

– This item has been corrected to show man’s date of arrival was Dec. 17, not Dec. 7.

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BERLIN — Germany’s health minister expects a surge in coronavirus cases around New Year’s.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told public radio network WDR 2 on Thursday that Germany hasn’t seen a big, rapid wave of new infections from the omicron variant, which has already hit other European countries such as Britain.

Lauterbach said that would change “around New Year and in the first week of January.”

The government is urging Germans to limit their contacts over the holiday period and to get vaccinated, including with booster shots if they already had initial doses.

Official figures show 70.7% of Germany’s population received a first round of vaccines, while 35% has had boosters.

Police said about 5,000 people gathered in the center of Munich late Wednesday to protest against pandemic restrictions and a planned vaccine mandate. Some participants attacked officers and 11 people were detained, police said.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — An Israeli hospital says a man who was reported to have died from the omicron variant of the coronavirus was found to have the delta variant.

Israeli health officials reported the death earlier this week. It would have been the country’s first omicron casualty.

Soroka Hospital, located in the southern city of Beersheba, said Thursday that final test results from the Israeli Health Ministry indicated the man was infected with delta.

Israel has identified 341 cases of omicron. It has greatly restricted air traffic in and out of the country and is imposing a series of public restrictions to prevent the spread of the highly contagious variant.

The Health Ministry director is also considering whether to administer a second booster shot to at-risk groups, following a recommendation by a medical advisory group.

Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, has reported over 8,200 COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic.

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BEIJING — China is redoubling efforts to control new virus outbreaks with a lockdown of the 13 million residents of the northern city of Xi’an following a spike in coronavirus cases.

The measure comes just weeks before the country hosts the Winter Olympics in Beijing, roughly 1,000 kilometers (6210 miles) to the west.

There was no word on whether the virus was the newly surging omicron variant or the far more common delta. China has recorded just seven omicron cases — four in the southern manufacturing center of Guangzhou, two in the southern city of Changsha and one in the northern port of Tianjin.

China has also been dealing with a substantial outbreak in several cities in the eastern province of Zhejiang near Shanghai, although isolation measures there have been more narrowly targeted.

Authorities have adopted strict pandemic control measures under their policy of seeking to drive new transmissions to zero, leading to frequent lockdowns, universal masking and mass testing. While the policy has not been entirely successful while leading to massive disruptions in travel and trade, Beijing credits it with largely containing the spread of the virus.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has set a new record for daily COVID-19 deaths as it struggles to resolve a shortage of hospital beds amid weeks of surging cases.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday that 109 people died in the latest 24-hour period. That raised the country’s total number of pandemic fatalities to 5,015.

The agency reported 6,919 new coronavirus cases, the vast majority of them involving the delta variant.

Infections surged after South Korea significantly relaxed its pandemic restrictions in early November as part of its efforts to restore pre-pandemic normalcy. Alarmed by the spike, health authorities on Saturday restored the country’s toughest distancing rules such as a four-person cap on private gatherings and a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants and cafes.

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SYDNEY — Australia is reporting a major spike in coronavirus infections a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected lockdowns or mask mandates to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

The country’s most populous state, New South Wales, listed 5,715 new cases Thursday. That was up from 3,763 a day earlier and almost as many as were recorded across all of Australia on Wednesday.

There were 347 people in New South Wales hospitals, up from 302 the previous day, and 45 in intensive care units, up from 40.

Victoria state also saw a sharp increase, reporting 2,005 new infections Thursday.

Morrison on Wednesday convened a Cabinet meeting with leaders of Australia’s states and territories but ruled out lockdowns.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court says it will hold a special session to weigh challenges to two Biden administration policies covering vaccine requirements for millions of workers, policies that affect large employers and health care workers.

The high court’s announcement that it will hear arguments in the cases on Jan. 7, an extraordinarily fast timeline, comes amid rising coronavirus infections. The court had not been scheduled to hear cases again until Jan. 10.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 last week that the vaccine or testing regime for workers at larger companies could take effect. The plan, which was to take effect Jan. 4, requires workers at larger companies to be vaccinated or wear face masks and get tested weekly.

The high court also will hear arguments over a rule published Nov. 5 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that applies to a wide range of health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It requires their workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. I





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Residents Express Travel Concerns Amid Spread of Omicron Variant – NBC4 Washington






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Covid-19: Saudi advises citizens, residents to avoid unnecessary travel – News


Health authority concerned about rising number of Covid-19 cases and the spread of Omicron variant



Reuters

Reuters

By Web Desk

Published: Sat 18 Dec 2021, 8:59 PM

Saudi Arabia’s health authority, Weqaya, has issued a travel advisory urging all residents and citizens to avoid unnecessary travel outside the Kingdom, especially to high-risk countries.

The Public Health Authority announced this advisory due to concerns over the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, the emergence of Omicron variant, and the rapid spread of the virus in many countries, according to a SPA report.

Several countries have tightened restrictions and even suspended social activities during the holiday season.

Weqaya has also recommended that travellers coming from outside Saudi Arabia, whether citizens or residents, regardless of their vaccination status, to avoid social contact for at least five days, and take a Covid PCR test in the event of respiratory symptoms or if there is a rise in body temperature, the report said.

Weqaya has also urged all incoming travellers to adhere to Covid preventive measures like wearing a mask all the time, avoiding crowded and public spaces, constantly sterilizing hands, and avoid shaking hands.

The health authority has also advised people to take their booster shots.





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Canadian Government Warns Residents to Avoid Nonessential Travel


For travelers from Canada who are unclear what to do about holiday plans in international destinations, the federal government issued new guidance on Wednesday that could tip the scales: Consider canceling your trip.

Since early November, Canada has seen a steady rebound in coronavirus cases, according to a Dec. 10 epidemiology report published by the country’s public health agency. Now, with the rise of the Omicron variant — which spurred travel restrictions around the globe connected to several countries in southern Africa — the Canadian government has issued an advisory against all nonessential travel just over a week before Christmas.

“To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly, now is not the time to travel,” the country’s health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

The advisory will be in effect for four weeks and will then be re-evaluated. The government also plans to increase testing at the border, Mr. Duclos said, and will provide more detail in future announcements.

The Dec. 10 epidemiology report also shows that fewer than 1 percent of Covid-19 infections were contracted during international travel and that fewer than 1 percent were linked to an exposure to someone who had traveled.

Yet Mr. Duclos said avoiding travel was smart because Canadians abroad may not be able to gain access to health care if they get sick during travel.

“The situation abroad is already dire in many places,” Mr. Duclos said. “Once they have left Canada, there is very little we can do to help them.”

Fully vaccinated Canadians traveling by air or land for less than 72 hours will still be able to return home without providing proof of a negative coronavirus test, the country’s transportation minister, Omar Alghabra, said.

Over 76 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, according to federal data, with unvaccinated patients accounting for more than three-quarters of hospitalizations and deaths reported to the public health agency as of November.

As the holidays near, the country’s most populated province, Ontario, is recommending that personal gatherings be limited to 25 people as cases mount, fueled in part by the spread of new variants, including Omicron, which is estimated to infect 7.7 times as many people as the Delta variant, provincial health experts reported.

Provinces are racing to offer booster doses and free rapid antigen tests to Canadians through the holiday season, with an inventory of 16 million booster doses currently available and 35 million rapid tests scheduled for distribution by the federal government.



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Canadian Government Warns Residents to Avoid Nonessential Travel


For travelers from Canada who are unclear what to do about holiday plans in international destinations, the federal government issued new guidance on Wednesday that could tip the scales: Consider canceling your trip.

Since early November, Canada has seen a steady rebound in coronavirus cases, according to a Dec. 10 epidemiology report published by the country’s public health agency. Now, with the rise of the Omicron variant — which spurred travel restrictions around the globe connected to several countries in southern Africa — the Canadian government has issued an advisory against all nonessential travel just over a week before Christmas.

“To those who were planning to travel, I say very clearly, now is not the time to travel,” the country’s health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

The advisory will be in effect for four weeks and will then be re-evaluated. The government also plans to increase testing at the border, Mr. Duclos said, and will provide more detail in future announcements.

The Dec. 10 epidemiology report also shows that fewer than 1 percent of Covid-19 infections were contracted during international travel and that fewer than 1 percent were linked to an exposure to someone who had traveled.

Yet Mr. Duclos said avoiding travel was smart because Canadians abroad may not be able to gain access to health care if they get sick during travel.

“The situation abroad is already dire in many places,” Mr. Duclos said. “Once they have left Canada, there is very little we can do to help them.”

Fully vaccinated Canadians traveling by air or land for less than 72 hours will still be able to return home without providing proof of a negative coronavirus test, the country’s transportation minister, Omar Alghabra, said.

Over 76 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, according to federal data, with unvaccinated patients accounting for more than three-quarters of hospitalizations and deaths reported to the public health agency as of November.

As the holidays near, the country’s most populated province, Ontario, is recommending that personal gatherings be limited to 25 people as cases mount, fueled in part by the spread of new variants, including Omicron, which is estimated to infect 7.7 times as many people as the Delta variant, provincial health experts reported.

Provinces are racing to offer booster doses and free rapid antigen tests to Canadians through the holiday season, with an inventory of 16 million booster doses currently available and 35 million rapid tests scheduled for distribution by the federal government.



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Australia travel restrictions: Australia opened its borders for the first time in more than 18 months to permanent residents, citizens and their families


Australia instituted one of the world’s harshest coronavirus closures on March 20, 2020, which left many Australian nationals stranded abroad. The country was an early coronavirus success, managing to keep the number of cases low, but a slow vaccination rollout and the spread of the delta variant prompted Morrison’s government to tighten restrictions in July 2021.



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Emergency response: Residents urged to avoid travel in damaged areas | News


Kentucky Transportation Cabinet personnel are assisting with storm damage response in several western Kentucky counties.

Graves and Marshall counties are requiring the most assistance, officials said.

“Due to the widespread damage and severity of damage overnight travel is not advised along I-69 and parallel routes in Marshall County or Graves County,” according to KYTC.

Traffic is currently being re-routed on Interstate 69 between Benton and Mayfield.

Other closures in the area include:

• A major power line is down near the Mayfield Airport and the Graves-Marshall County Line between the KY 131 Mayfield Exit and the U.S. 641-Spur Exit 41 Interchange at Benton.

o The closure is along I-69 between Benton and Mayfield around the 34 to 37 mile marker.

• According to the Lyons County Judge Executive, KY 93 South is currently closed between Barrett Road and Eddy Creek Marina due to a downed power line

• Fulton County reports heavy damage to houses and farm buildings in the Cayce community along KY 94, KY 239, and KY 166. The crew has cleared trees to reopen KY 94 between U.S. 51 and Hickman.

• In Caldwell County, U.S. 62 remains blocked between Princeton and Dawson Springs

• KY 293 is blocked south of Princeton



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Marion County residents discuss local traffic, travel concerns


In response to recent Letters to the Editor that discussed the growth of Ocala/Marion County and how it is affecting the local traffic, multiple county residents wrote in and shared their thoughts and concerns on the topic:

“I agree wholeheartedly that building and development needs to cease. I travel from Dunnellon on Highway 40 across county to Forest High School. My husband works off 200 and I have a daughter who lives near Vanguard. I travel a lot weekly to and from Dunnellon and Ocala. I see multiple accidents daily. The road in front of Forest High is the scariest. My daughter was involved in a five-car pileup at the beginning of the school year and yet the speed limit is still 50mph passing by there 30 minutes before school starts. I am a mother of five and have lived in the Ocala National Forest, worked at various schools, and seen Ocala grow over the past 30+years. People are dying daily unnecessarily because of the traffic safety in and around Ocala. Something has to be done to stop people from moving here and/or fix traffic patterns,” says Kara Billig, Dunnellon resident.

“I understand that you like open space and don’t want to be crowded. You don’t want expanded airports and train service. However, if you want open space, you are going to have to buy it. You can’t demand that others are not entitled to the same things you sought when you arrived. If you want small town feel without hundreds of people seeking to move in, I suggest you try an area with a dying industry. Say, for example, a coal mining area. Florida is a desirable place to be, especially if you come from a high tax northern state. If there are jobs, people will come,” says Ocala resident Tom Peterson.

“We do not want more residential development in this area. I live on 60th Avenue and have to fight to get out of my driveway. People speed up like letting me out will cause them to be late. That and getting into my driveway. I put my blinker on in plenty of time. Yet people will be on my butt and slam on the horn as I turn in. We do not need more traffic on SW 60th Avenue. The noise is terrible, bad mufflers, and the speeding is ridiculous. I have contacted the local Sheriff about speeding by 60th and 63rd where they come over a small hill. People think they are supposed to punch their gas. I find this distressing as children live in homes along this area. I never see a cop pull anyone over in this area. So I guess you’re allowed to go as fast as you can and no one cares about it except residents along the road. I was excited to move here two years ago. Not so much now, the town is changing too fast. We are going to become another Kissimmee. No more horses, no more cows, no more farm land. We will become all residential and the new airport extension will just ruin this area. Very sad to think about that,” says Kathleen Scarpati, Ocala resident.

“Why hasn’t the airport opened for business with a regular flight schedule? There are lots of snowbirds that have to travel long distances to fly home, and back, plus the town has put large amounts of money into the airport and they could get some of it back with commercial flights. This town is plenty big enough to support an airport,” says Ocala resident Ronald Wright.

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