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England’s Covid travel red list to be cut to a dozen countries

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England’s Covid travel red list to be cut to a dozen countries

Ministers will slash England’s travel red list to about a dozen countries, but plans for replacing the requirement for a negative PCR test with a lateral flow one to avoid isolation hang in the balance.

Destinations including Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are expected to be moved off the red list on Thursday, meaning passengers returning from them will not have to isolate in a hotel for 11 nights at a cost of more than £2,000.

The move means restrictions at the border will be at their loosest since the third lockdown began nine months ago.

The Foreign Office has also announced it will drastically overhaul its travel advice. Currently, it still issues advice to people not to travel to some non-red list countries for all but essential reasons based on Covid grounds.

This is separate to the health rules which are led by the Department for Transport, but significant because the discrepancy meant that travellers going to non-red list countries were not covered by normal travel insurance and so had to pay substantially more. The FCDO is no longer advising against non-essential travel to 32 countries and territories – including Algeria, Ghana and Malaysia – and will only reimpose it solely for Covid reasons “in exceptional circumstances such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed”.

Given the current Covid vaccines have held up against the Delta variant, which is dominant in the UK and increasingly usurping other variants overseas, government insiders are increasingly confident the move to slash the red list is safe.

However, ministers also hoped to be able to announce that PCR tests – which travellers have to test negative with to avoid isolation from non-red list countries if they are fully vaccinated – were being replaced with significantly cheaper lateral flow ones.

A source with knowledge of the discussions said the idea was still “up in the air” and “not settled yet”, sparking fears the change could be delayed until after the October half-term, when many people would be looking to take advantage of relaxed travel rules.

The final decision will be made in a meeting on Thursday morning and is expected to be announced that afternoon. Given health restrictions are a devolved matter, it will be up to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to decide whether to follow suit.

Brazil and South Africa have faced the toughest restrictions longer than almost any country, as they were both put on the red list in January owing to fears that the Gamma and Beta variants that were discovered in the two countries respectively were more resistant to vaccines. Pockets of Beta cases sprang up in the UK, but Delta was then imported from India and began to outstrip most other variants owing to its high transmissibility.

There are 54 countries on the red list, which include all of those in mainland South America and southern and eastern Africa. The London-based World Travel and Tourism Council, which represents industry firms, said the sector’s recovery would continue to be “sluggish” owing to policies such as the red list.

The government has been criticised by Tory MPs – including the former prime minister Theresa May – for not unlocking international travel as fast as many other countries. Over the summer, she said it was “incomprehensible” that the UK – being “one of the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world” – was the “most reluctant to give its citizens the freedoms those vaccinations should support”.

Gradual changes have been made to the rules, including most recently the axing of the three-tier traffic light system that graded countries red, amber or green. There is now only a red list, and all other countries that do not feature on it are treated the same. However, there are still different rules for those who are fully inoculated and those who are not, partly in an attempt, government sources have said, to encourage everyone to get both jabs.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said this week: “We are accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good, and today’s rule changes are good news for families, businesses and the travel sector.

“Our priority remains to protect public health but, with more than eight in 10 people now fully vaccinated, we are able to take these steps to lower the cost of testing and help the sector to continue in its recovery.”

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Reps To Investigate Subsidy Regime From 2017 To 2021

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Reps To Investigate Subsidy Regime From 2017 To 2021

The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the petroleum products subsidy regime from 2017 to 2021.

The resolution followed a motion by Honourable Sergius Ogun who stated that component costs in the petroleum products subsidy value chain claimed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is highly over-bloated while the transfer pump price per litre, used by the NNPC in relation to Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC), is underquoted.

The lawmaker described this as fraudulent while also expressing worry that the subsidy regime has been used by the NNPC and other critical stakeholders to subvert the nation’s crude oil revenue to the tune of over $10 billion.

The committee is to report back to the House within eight weeks for further legislative action.

Wednesday’s move by the lawmaker came on the same day that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mele Kyari ruled out the possibility of a subsidy for diesel.

He made the comments while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Downstream, alongside the CEO of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Farouk Ahmed, among others.

“In our country today, we do not produce AGO and we regret that our refineries are not working,” he said. “Are we doing anything about it? Yes. I have heard the honourable members lamenting; yes, they (the refineries) are not working.

“This is the truth. I don’t want to bore you with why they are not working, but they are not working; I admit they are not working but we regret it. I will invite this committee at your convenience to join us to see how much work we have done to get them back to work, but they will not come back tomorrow.

“They will not! You cannot start it tomorrow. We regret this; we regret this situation, and we are doing everything possible. As a matter of fact, we have decided to do a quick fix for the Warri refinery. The reason is very simple: we don’t even want to go the long route of doing comprehensive turnaround maintenance because we are concerned.”

 

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2023: Presidency Must Return To Southern Nigeria, Fayose Insists

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2023: Presidency Must Return To Southern Nigeria, Fayose Insists

A former governor of Ekiti State Ayodele Fayose has insisted that the southern part of Nigeria must produce the country’s president in 2023.

Fayose, a two-time governor under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said this in a series of tweets on his official handle on Wednesday, pinning his argument on the party’s constitution.

“The PDP Constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the Party shall pursue its aims & objectives by “adhering to the policy of the rotation & zoning of Party & Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice, and fairness’,” Fayose maintained.

“The current President of Nigeria is a 2-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it MUST be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or NOTHING. Awa ‘South’ lo kan’. Nigerians should await details soon.”

Fayose, who contested the PDP presidential primary, lost out to former Vice President Atiku Abukar in the exercise held earlier this month.

He has been one of the strong advocates for a power shift to southern Nigeria despite the party Atiku from the northern region, as the party’s flagbearer.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who also lost in the exercise, had campaigned, among others, based on a power shift to the south.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), however, is fielding a southerner – Bola Tinubu – as its presidential candidate to honour the power-sharing deal called zoning between the north and south.

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Senate confirms Buhari’s ministerial nominees

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Senate confirms Buhari’s ministerial nominees

The senate has confirmed seven persons nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari for ministerial positions.

The upper legislative chamber confirmed the nominees on Wednesday after they were screened by the “committee of the whole” chaired by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

The ministers-designate will replace those who resigned to pursue political bids.

Rotimi Amaechi, Ogbonnaya Onu, Godswill Akpabio and Emeka Nwajiuba are some of the ministers who resigned to pursue presidential bids.

The ministers confirmed on Wednesday are Henry Ikoh (Abia), Umana Okon Umana (Akwa Ibom), Ekuma Joseph (Ebonyi), Goodluck Nana Obia (Imo), Umar Ibrahim Yakub (Kano), Ademola Adewole Adegorioye (Ondo), and Odo Udi (Rivers).

During screening, Ikoh said as a way of tackling employment in the country, “technical” graduates can be job creators.

“On the unemployment situation, we need more technical graduates to do most of the things we are doing right now. If you are a technical graduate, you can employ yourself and employ others,” he said.

On his part, Umana said the country could boost its foreign exchange earnings with its free trade zones.

“On the issue of how to boost foreign exchange, I want to say that even the free zones platform is a veritable platform for this,” he said.

“The free zone is a platform that can drive production because when you produce for export, you earn foreign exchange.”

Nakama said the federal government must be ready to make some compromise to end the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

“On tackling the issue of ASUU, my answer is that there will be leave of compromise. Government and ASUU will have to come to a compromise and through this, we will able to solve these incessant strikes once and for all,” he said.

The remaining four nominees were asked to “take a bow and go” on the grounds of their experience.

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