Indonesia announces safe travel corridor for visitors from Singapore to enter Batam and Bintan

JAKARTA: Indonesia is opening a safe travel corridor allowing people from Singapore to travel to Batam and Bintan, said Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto on Monday (Jan 24).

Speaking in a virtual press conference, Mr Hartarto said the Indonesian government decided to establish the travel bubble since the COVID-19 cases in Batam and Bintan are now under control.

“The government is pushing for a travel bubble between Batam, Bintan and Singapore to encourage tourism activities in Batam, Bintan,” said Mr Hartarto.

He added that the entry points will be Nongsapura ferry terminal in Batam and Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal in Bintan.

“The requirements for travellers are they must be vaccinated twice, and have a negative PCR test taken within three days (prior to travel),” said Mr Hartarto. 

Travellers must also have insurance worth S$30,000 and use the Indonesian COVID-19 tracing programmes PeduliLindungi and Blue Pass.

At the same press conference, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said that the travel bubble will be evaluated every week.  “If we think it is good, we continue. If not, we stop,” he said.

The two Indonesian ministers did not elaborate on the quarantine and other testing requirements of the safe travel corridor. They also did not specify when will this travel bubble start. 

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Flying and omicron: How to stay safe on a plane this holiday

Cloth masks should not be considered for flying; they aren’t even allowed on some airlines, especially in Europe. Lin Chen, director of the Travel Medicine Center at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass., and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said N95 masks are the best but not the most comfortable. She said KN95s are “quite good” also. For those who want to use a surgical mask, adding a cloth mask on top can help reduce any gaps.

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5 Important Tips for Driving in the Snow That Will Keep You Safe on Winter Road Trips

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Can a Gay Cruise Keep 5,500 People Safe Amid Covid?

Out of the 2,700 rooms sold, Mr. Campbell said only 35 have been canceled since Jan. 1.

For guests who cannot travel because of government restrictions or lockdowns, Atlantis is showing more flexibility and issuing credits for future cruises, Mr. Campbell said. Because of the fast-changing circumstances of the pandemic, he said, the company is approaching cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis and trying to accommodate as many people as possible.

“We are here to take care of people and we are doing our best,” he said. “But if someone comes to us and just says they want their money back, because they don’t feel comfortable going on the cruise, then we recommend that they take out ‘cancel for any reason’ travel insurance.”

Since restarting operations in the United States in June, many cruise lines and tour operators have adopted flexible cancellation policies, offering credit or refunds to customers who want to make itinerary changes because of the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, Atlantic Events hosted more than 25,000 guests each year, organizing specialty gay and lesbian events on cruise ships and resorts around the world. Last year it was forced to cancel or postpone several events, including its 30th anniversary cruise.

“We had almost two years with no income, and we are a tiny self-financed company. It was a huge challenge to survive,” Mr. Campbell said.

While the company does not offer refunds, it says that the health and safety of its guests is a top priority and it will be enforcing Royal Caribbean’s health and safety protocols, which includes a mask mandate indoors except while eating and drinking and in crowded spaces outdoors. Royal Caribbean officials say that while the Omicron variant has driven up cases on board its ships in recent weeks, most infections have been mild and have not resulted in severe illness. Still, with a growing number of crew members and passengers contracting the virus, the cruise line, like other cruise companies, has canceled several voyages this month in what it said was “an abundance of caution” as a result of “ongoing Covid-related circumstances.”

Passengers booked on the Atlantis cruise are closely watching the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship, which was chartered by another L.G.B.T travel company this week for a seven-night Caribbean cruise. The capacity for that ship is much smaller, at 2,218 passengers, but coronavirus cases have been reported to the C.D.C. and reached their threshold for an investigation.

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Travel experts share top tips for safe travel in Covid times – ‘important’ | Travel News | Travel

Travel experts share top tips for safe travel in Covid times – ‘important’ | Travel News | Travel – ToysMatrix

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Public crews plow through snow to makes road safe for travel

KX News (Bismarck) —There is an order of operations when it comes to plowing the streets of the Capital City.

“State Street, Expressway, Century, all the roads that are traveled the most were done first, and then our secondary and then we moved into residential,” Bismarck Public Works crew leader Chad Schiermeister said.

Many may see the snowfall as an exciting opportunity to participate in fun winter activities, but for Public Works crews, they’re tasked with clearing roads and making them safe for travelers.

“We had to plow all over again because of the blowing snow, it’s just drifting in areas, and we’ve got to get them off the street,” Schiermeister said.

Todd Timm is an equipment operator and has been with Bismarck Public Works for more than 20 years.

“You get used to it after a while. I’ve been here a long time. It’s just second nature to plow snow. I like to plow snow, it makes me feel like I’m getting something done,” Timm said.

Timm said no matter how difficult it may be, he will get the job done.

“It’s a little tough this time. We got a lot of wind late early this morning and it blew everything back in that we plowed, and we just keep plowing the roads over and over to just keep the roads open for emergency vehicles and for people to get around.”

That’s not the only challenge crews are left with.

Snow being pushed into roads from attempted neighborhood or residential clean-ups results in more snow having to be removed later on.

“If the citizens wouldn’t blow the snow back into the street, if they moved their cars out of the street, it would be very helpful, and we probably would get done a lot quicker,” Schiermeister said.

So much snow fell on the ground it interrupted traveling from Bismarck to Fargo, shutting down I-94 because of low visibility, compacted ice, and snowdrifts.

“The storm’s kind of progressive, moving west to east across the state over the last 12 hours. The roads started to shut down later last evening and into this morning,” NDDOT Public Information Specialist Matt Walstad said.

NDDOT crews are also working to make the highway safe to travel again.

“The roads are going to remain closed until the weather starts to calm down and we can get them open to a safer level,” Walstad added.

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AAA gives tips for safe holiday travel

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – More than 100 million people will be traveling this year for the holidays. 

So whether you are about to make your way home from Christmas or looking ahead to your new years trip, AAA wants to make sure you’re doing so safely. 

It says in 2021; there will be 34% more people traveling this holiday week compared to 2020. So if you’re getting in the car or on a plane, you’ll have to do some planning ahead. 

“we’re looking at about 109 Million travelers between December 23 and January 2,” says Nick Chabarria, spokesperson for AAA. 

XNA says its passenger numbers are only 10% less than what they were in 2019. So if you’re headed back to the airport, you’ll need to leave yourself a little extra time.  

However, wait times aren’t the only thing you should be thinking about. Fayetteville city health officer, Dr. Marti Sharkey, says if you were getting onto an airplane, you want to be as protected as possible. 

“If you’re going to be traveling, you need to wear a mask, but I would recommend wearing an N95. The upgrade will do a better job protecting you and the others around you,” says Dr. Sharkey. 

If you’re traveling in the car, more people on the road means more potential hazards.

“Make sure you’re paying attention, that you’re not driving distracted. Make sure you’re paying attention and driving a speed that’s appropriate to the conditions,” says Chabarria. 

There is also good news for drivers coming or going from Northwest Arkansas. According to AAA, Arkansas is in the top three states for lowest gas prices. Not a bad way to save a few holiday dollars before you get back on the road. 

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US Coronavirus: Flying home after the holidays? Getting vaccinated or boosted is the first step toward safe travel, expert says

Amid a surge of cases nationwide fueled by the Omicron coronavirus variant before the holiday season, parts of the country are reporting increased hospitalizations and deaths. And people need to be prepared for a heightened risk of infection during travel by taking preventative measures, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the school of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

“If you’ve only gotten two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, even though that officially counts as fully vaccinated, we know that its impact on breakthrough symptomatic illness is close to zero,” Hotez told CNN’s Amara Walker Saturday.

The initial two-dose regiment will still protect “better for serious illness,” he said, “but you still need to get boosted, I think, if you want to travel safely.”

Booster shots may take two weeks to provide peak immunity, doctors have said, meaning the sooner one gets vaccinated, the better. Other steps, including wearing a quality mask, can help lower risk of infection.

Millions of Americans who are immunocompromised should delay future travel plans for a few weeks if possible in the hope that the current surge won’t span as long as previous ones, Hotez said.

And due to the infectiousness of Omicron, “even if you’re boosted, you have to face the possibility that you could get symptomatic breakthrough illness going through airports and going on Ubers,” he said.

The US has fully vaccinated nearly 62% of its total population, leaving millions unvaccinated at higher risk for serious illness and death from Covid-19, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And more than 31% of those inoculated have received additional doses or boosters.
Even though early research indicates that Omicron may cause less severe illness than the Delta variant, the recently detected strain is highly contagious and threatens to strain health care resources, officials and experts have warned. A hallmark of the season has been the shortage of Covid-19 testing kits — a crucial tool in attempting to assuage the fast-moving virus.
Christmas Eve air travel well below 2019 levels amid flight cancellations as Omicron cases surge

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said while there’s always a risk to contract the virus while traveling, there are mitigation efforts available.

“So if someone has been exposed in your orbit or in your circle, or has been infected, you don’t have to assume everybody has it. Do continue to do things like wearing masks around people or testing,” Faust told CNN’s Boris Sanchez Saturday.

And for those traveling, Faust advises to look for “the weak links in the chain.”

“It’s not necessarily the actual airplane itself. It might be the airport line in the bathroom where you need to be extra careful with masks and other mitigation measures,” he said. “And I think depending on your threshold, you have to adjust accordingly.”

Treatment options narrow for Omicron

With millions traveling, Omicron was also partially responsible for the Christmas weekend cancellations of about 1,700 flights within, into or out of the US, according to aviation tracking website FlightAware.
Airlines, including Delta and United, have said they are experiencing staffing shortages due to Omicron, which became the dominant strain in the US last week as officials announced a new wave of measures to combat the spread.
There's a new drug to prevent Covid-19, but there won't be nearly enough for Americans who are eligible

And as for fighting Omicron, currently there is one monoclonal antibody treatment that is still expected to be effective against the strain, the US Food and Drug Administration said Thursday in a statement.

It is “unlikely” that the treatment known as REGEN-COV or the combined use of bamlanivimab and etesevimab “will retain activity” against Omicron, according to the statement. That means sotrovimab is the sole monoclonal antibody treatment currently available to fight the Omicron variant.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response has moved to halt allocations of the other monoclonal antibody therapies and that 300,000 additional doses of sotrovimab will be available in January, the agency said.

The US is also experiencing a shortage of the monoclonal antibody treatment Evusheld, which will only be given to people who have compromised immune systems and do not have active Covid-19 infections. Federal officials purchased up to 700,000 doses of the preventative drug — enough to help only one-tenth of the estimated seven million people who are eligible.
The Covid-19 vaccine is administered at a pop-up clinic in the international arrivals section of Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, on December 22, 2021.

Minorities are still at higher risk for Covid-19’s most severe outcomes

From the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, racial and ethnic minority communities have been bearing the brunt of Covid-19 — whether through illness, deaths or economic struggles.

Nearly two years on, some of those disparities remain.

Racial and ethnic minority groups who had other health conditions and contracted Covid-19 were more likely to have a higher in-hospital mortality rate than White patients, according to a study published Thursday in JAMA Health Forum.
Latinos still scrambling due to Covid-19 in New Jersey are on high alert over Omicron

The study, which tracked data from more than 14 million hospitalizations in Medicare beneficiaries between January 2019 and February 2021, found a decline in non-Covid-19-related hospitalizations and an increase in Covid-19-related hospitalizations across the board.

But “the average rate of Black and Hispanic Covid-19 hospitalizations exceeded that of White beneficiaries through February 2021,” researchers wrote.

“Beneficiaries hospitalized with Covid-19 were more likely to be from racial and ethnic minority groups relative to hospitalized beneficiaries prepandemic,” they also noted.

The “persistently widened disparity” in non-Covid-19 mortality may be connected to factors including differences in access to Covid-19 testing, access to care and changes in case mix and care quality related to pandemic factors, the authors wrote.

For Covid-19 hospitalizations, mortality was not “significantly different” for Black patients when compared to White patients, but mortality rose 3.5 percentage points in Hispanic patients.

The researchers suggested that a “spillover effect,” which increased Covid-19 hospitalizations, may have shifted the distribution of hospital resources “potentially widening racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes.”

For non-Covid-19-related hospitalizations, mortality in Black patients rose nearly 0.5 percentage points more than in White patients, “a 17.5% increase over the prepandemic mortality rate among Black inpatients.”

CNN’s Virginia Langmaid and Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.

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