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Countries across the world ban flights from UK due to fast-spreading new COVID-19 strain

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A number of countries — including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Israel — have announced that they will ban flights from the UK due to fears over a new variant of the coronavirus, which could be 70% more infectious.

The moves come after the Dutch government confirmed at least one case of the same mutation that has prompted parts of Britain to return to lockdown rules.

The country’s health ministry said the case in Holland had been identified at the beginning of December and is being investigated. It said that the air travel ban from 5am (GMT) on Sunday 20 December will likely stay in place until at least 1 January.

“An infectious mutation of the COVID-19 virus is circulating in the United Kingdom. It is said to spread more easily and faster and is more difficult to detect,” the Dutch health ministry said in a statement.

The UK recorded a further 35,928 of coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period. Another 326 deaths have been announced within 28 days of a positive test.

Here’s a breakdown of the countries that have made a judgement on the new strain in the UK so far:

Germany

Europe’s biggest economy has announced it will restrict travel between Germany and the UK from midnight on Sunday 20 December. It has also banned travellers from South Africa, after the two countries reported identifying a new coronavirus strain.

A regulation is being drawn up and the federal government is in contact with European partners, a spokesperson for the German government said.

Belgium

Similar measures have been announced by Belgium, which has suspended flights. Trains to Belgium have also been banned.

Italy

Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, said that the country’s government had decided to act after Britain “raised the alarm”over a new form of COVID-19 strain.

He said that the government has a “responsibility to protect Italians” and as such “after having warned the British government, the health ministry will sign a provision for the suspension of flights with the UK.”

Austria

Austria joined the raft of countries and said it would also halt flights from the UK, however, it had not confirmed the details on the timing of the ban at the time of publication.

Bulgaria

Following the lead of other countries, Bulgaria also announced it will suspend flights to and from the UK over the new variant of COVID-19.

France and Spain

Other EU countries such as France are also reportedly planning similar course.

Meanwhile Spain has said that it is liaising with the European Commission and the European Council for a coordinated response amid the new situation.

Israel

It is not just EU countries banning Britons, Israel has also banned all entry to all non-Israelis flying from the UK following the emergence of the new variation of COVID-19.

Kuwait

Kuwait’s civil aviation authority has added Britain to its high-risk list of countries following the outbreak of the new strain, meaning all flights from the UK are banned.

The Gulf state banned commercial flights to 31 countries which it deemed a high risk due to the spread of the virus, in August.

Scotland

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there would be a strict travel ban from Scotland to the rest of the UK throughout the festive season.

Ireland

Ireland could follow the lead of several EU countries and also ban travellers from the UK amid the coronavirus mutation. Restrictions could possibly come into force from midnight on Sunday and remain in place for an initial period of 48 hours, before being subject to review.

Irish health secretary Stephen Donnelly will be making a statement on the coronavirus development in the UK. The measures could apply to both flights and ferries.

Czech Republic

The country has not yet announced a ban but it is imposing stricter quarantine measures for people arriving from the UK.

Watch: UK reports highest daily increase in cases as concerns grow over new virus strain

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned its European members on Sunday to increase measures to prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.

It said that outside Britain, nine cases of the new strain have been reported in Denmark, as well as one case in the Netherlands and another in Australia.

The news comes the day after the prime minister and the Welsh and Scottish devolved governments put 18 million people across the UK under severe restrictions until end of 2020.
The hit on the airline industry

COVID-19 has brought the airline industry to its knees following global lockdowns and airline groundings, which saw passenger levels retract to record lows and profit losses steepen.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects a net loss of $118.5bn (£87.6bn) in 2020, a deeper recision of its $84.3bn forecast in June.

A net loss of $38.7bn is also expected in 2021, more than double the projected $15.8bn loss six months ago.

In line with the travel restrictions, Transport for London (TFL) has told travellers that they should not leave as the capital enters Tier 4 restrictions. TFL advised people to only travel for work, if they cannot work from home or for other legally permitted reasons.

“If you do need to travel, please walk or cycle where possible. To aid social distancing for those who do need to travel, we are continuing to run as full a service as possible on the public transport network,” TFL said. It is also running an “enhanced cleaning regime” to help keep everyone safe.

Tour operator TUI (TUI.AG) has cancelled all flights out of London Luton airport as it falls under the new Tier 4 measures. But TUI will “continue to operate out of Gatwick and Stansted which are located in tier two areas,” the company said.

The Dutch public health body, the RIVM, therefore “recommends that any introduction of this virus strain from the United Kingdom be limited as much as possible by limiting and/or controlling passenger movements.”

Currently, the Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown until mid-January with schools and all non-essential shops closed to slow a surge in the virus.

PM Mark Rutte has advised Dutch citizens not to travel unless strictly necessary.

“Over the next few days, together with other EU member states, (the government) will explore the scope for further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being brought over from the UK,” a government statement said.

A government statement said that Rutte’s cabinet is “closely monitoring” the developments of the COVID-19 virus abroad and is “investigating the possibilities for additional measures for other modes of transport.”

It added: “In the coming days, it will, in close collaboration with other EU member states, look into the possibilities of further restricting imports of the virus from the United Kingdom.”
What the restrictions look like

Similarly, the UK’s Foreign Office has advised against all but “essential travel” to the Netherlands.

“Travellers should consult their airline operator before travelling. This ban does not currently apply to car, ferry and train passengers, though the Dutch government are keeping this under review and advise against all but essential travel via these means,” the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) said.

Additionally, all passengers arriving in the Netherlands are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

On Saturday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced stricter coronavirus measures in London, the South East and East of England amid concerns about the spread of a new strain of the virus which may be up to 70% more transmissible.

Johnson introduced a fourth tier of COVID-19 restrictions in the regions, as well as unveiling tighter plans around households gathering during Christmas.

The devolved governments of Wales and Scotland Wales also announced new measures on Saturday.

All of Wales will be placed into the highest level of lockdown (tier 4) with all non-essential shops closing.

Meanwhile, cross-border travel has been banned in Scotland. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon there would be a strict travel ban from Scotland to the rest of the UK throughout the festive season.

The WHO said it was in “close contact” with the UK about the new strain of the virus, with the international health body and Britain sharing information and analysis about the outbreak.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the UK had informed WHO about the development after modelling showed a rapid spread in South East England.

During a press conference on Saturday, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance said the new coronavirus strain is thought to have emerged in the UK in mid-September. By December, it was responsible for more than 60% of infections in London, Vallance said.

The Tier 4 restrictions mean that 18 million people in the UK will now be unable to spend Christmas with their loved ones.

For residents in tiers one, two and three, rules allowing up to three households to meet will now be limited to Christmas Day only. In tier four, people should not mix with anyone outside their own household, apart from support bubbles, the PM said.

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Protests Erupt in Jos Over Sexual Abuse of Underage Girls by Lebanese

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Tension was high yesterday at the Abattoir community, Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State as residents, mostly women and young girls protested the alleged sexual molestation of about 14 young girls in the area by a Lebanese.

The alleged molestation, the protesters claim, has been ongoing for years without anything being done but when the man was eventually arrested and handed over to the Police, he was said to have been released from the Police station hence the protest.

It was gathered that the Lebanese was arrested and handed over to the Police on Thursday after the parents of two of the minors in the community reported that their children were sexually molested.

Apart from the two girls, 12 more girls also confessed that they were also at different times molested by the suspect whom they said did unprintable things to them.

The protesters called for justice to be served and appealed to Government, NGOs, and Civic Society Organizations to intervene so that the issue is not swept under the carpet like previous ones.

One of the protesters, Abigail Haruna said, “This thing has been going on for almost 20 years. I grew up in Abattoir here and I have been hearing about it. This time around, about 14 girls between the ages of 10 to 11 are involved. A Lebanese man in Abattoir here used to sexually molest the girls, one that is 11 is pregnant. This should not be allowed to fester.”

Another protester, Esther Emmanuel added, “Since when I was little, I heard about this man that he uses little girls to do blue film but we never took any action but thank God this case came up yesterday (Thursday). Parents of the girls went to the Police station to report.

“It is really annoying that this thing has been happening but we never did anything about it. None of these girls are up to 15 years. Two of the girls are pregnant, one has HIV, this is annoying. The problem is that when it happens, you will not hear anything again, the issue will just die off like that.

“The parents are left with their children, they will be asked to go and take care of their children and will even be blamed for refusing to talk to their children. If we go to their country, will they allow that? We want justice to be served. The man was arrested but now what we hear is that he has been released.”

But the State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Gabriel Uba when contacted said “The Police is aware of the situation and investigation is ongoing to ascertain the true state of the matter.

“Nobody is happy to hear such a devilish act, investigation is ongoing. Nobody released the man, if they don’t get vital information, they will do things out of ignorance. The matter has been transferred to the State CID, the man has not been released.”

(Vanguard)

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We can’t raise N160m, parents of abducted Greenfield university students, staff cry out

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Photo source: Channels Television

Parents of the remaining 16 kidnapped students and three staff of Greenfield University, Kaduna on Friday gathered to pray for the safe release of their children.

This was even as they appealed to the Federal Government to urgently assist them in rescuing their children from the bandits.

According to them, the bandits are demanding N160 million cumulative ransom for them to release the remaining 16 students.

“We are worried about their safety. The innocent students had spent 24 days in the kidnappers’ den.

To this end, speaking on behalf of the parents, the Chairman of the parents’ forum, Marcus Zarmai, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to use his office to secure the release of the students before something sinister happens to them.

According to him, the kidnappers are demanding a sum of N10 million on each of the 16 students, making N160 million.

“Even after, we the parents have collectively paid them over N60 million ransom for the release of our children and they failed to release them.

Zarmai said, having exhausted all the money they have to pay as ransom, “We, the parents are appealing to the Federal Government to assist us to pay the ransom demanded or find any other way to ensure the safe return of our children.”

Recall, the man behind the abducted students had three weeks ago threatened to kill the 16 students if the ransom is not paid.

However, Sheikh Ahmed Gummi had come out to say they have reached out to the bandits and they have agreed not to kill the remaining students.

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Former Defence Chief Joshua Dogonyaro is Dead

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General Dogonyaro died in Jos on Wednesday at the age of 80.

Dogonyaro, a retired lieutenant general, died at the age of 80 on Wednesday.

The first son of the deceased, Joseph Dogonyaro, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview in Pankshin, on Thursday.

“Daddy has been sick for some time until yesterday when he had a stroke and we rushed him to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for medical attention.

“Unfortunately, early this morning (Thursday), around 3.00 a.m. precisely, he breathed his last.

“His death comes as a rude shock to us as a family. We are going to miss his love and warmth as a grandfather, father, brother, uncle and supporter,” he said.

Joseph said the family was trying to cope with the shock of the general’s demise and would discuss the funeral arrangements soon.

He described his father as “a General who was so faithful and loyal to the nation, Nigeria.”

“He was a general who had no bias mind as a detribalised Nigerian. He served this nation faithful and identified with all Nigerians and Africa as a continent.

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