Tag: COVID

California’s new COVID order: Leisure travelers must stay home

Stop traveling, the governor says.

With the “regional stay-at-home” order issued Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom is imploring Californians to stay home for the next three weeks and cinching already tight restrictions in areas where the COVID-19 pandemic has hospitals under the heaviest pressure.

Outlining the new restrictions, which include new capacity limits for retailers and other changes, state officials said hotels and other lodgings will be allowedto open for critical infrastructure support only.” But in the immediate aftermath of the governor’s announcement Thursday afternoon, details of the new travel restrictions remained unclear.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Service, said the state is effectively telling, not asking, Californians to stop all nonessential travel. That includes canceling holiday travel plans, he added.

“The message of the day is, as much as you can, be at home,” Ghaly said.

However, he and Newsom also stressed that parks and beaches would remain open and that Californians could boost their mental health by hiking, running, fishing, practicing yoga, skiing, snowboarding and otherwise savoring outdoor activities.

The new regional stay-at-home order, which officials said goes into effect within 48 hours of the announcement, applies in California regions where ICU availability is less than 15%. Among other things, the new order “prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, and requires 100% masking and physical distancing in all others.” It is to remain in effect for at least three weeks.

The order’s regional grouping categorizes Los Angeles County within an 11-county area that also includes Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The 11 Southern California counties and 12 counties in the Central Valley could be required to implement the new restrictions on Friday, based on current projections of the rising number of patients who have been admitted to intensive care units.

VisitCalifornia.com, the state’s tourism website, puts the new rules in blunt terms: The state, it says, has “banned non-essential travel in most of the state beginning Dec. 4.”

In a widely circulated letter to industry professionals, Visit California President and Chief Executive Caroline Beteta wrote that in the 23 counties immediately affected, “hotels can remain open, although the order announced today bans non-essential travel statewide.”

She also noted that ski resorts can stay open (but must close their food and beverage services) and that campgrounds must close, along with wineries, breweries, museums, zoos, family entertainment centers and aquariums.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area spokesman Tim LeRoy confirmed the information about ski operations. California State Parks did not respond to questions about how the governor’s order would affect its campgrounds. As of Wednesday, 83 state campgrounds were at least partly open.

Other details of the state’s plan for enforcing the tighter limits remained unclear Thursday afternoon.

In a web Q&A explaining the new travel guidelines, state officials said: “Stay in your county if you can. Don’t drive more than 2-3 hours.”

“You can

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Need to cancel your holiday travel plans amid COVID? Here’s the latest on changes and refunds

With California’s pandemic policies tightening, COVID-19 cases escalating and vaccines unlikely to reach most people until spring or later, many families are rethinking their holiday travel plans. “It’s time to cancel everything,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a news conference Wednesday night.



a group of people standing next to a sign: A flight crew member at LAX on Nov. 23, just ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


© (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A flight crew member at LAX on Nov. 23, just ahead of the Thanksgiving travel period. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of health and human services, said Thursday the state is, in effect, telling, not asking, Californians to stop all nonessential travel. That includes canceling holiday travel plans, Ghaly said. The new requirements, to take effect Friday, were in response to stress on critical care services and hospital intensive care units. Details on how the state would enforce such a broad restriction remained unclear Thursday afternoon.

Here’s a quick look at how airlines, lodgings and other travel suppliers are handling reservation changes and cancellations.

Airlines

In late August and early September, several airlines dropped their ticket change fees at least through the end of this year. Among them: Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian and United.

Southwest Airlines, which has had the most flexible major airline ticket policy for years, continues to allow passengers to rebook their flights for travel up to one year from the original purchase date.

It’s easier to get a credit or vouchers for future travel than it is to get your money back. As millions of travelers learned in the first months of the pandemic, many airlines refused to issue refunds unless they had canceled or significantly delayed a flight themselves. And even then, many did their best to nudge customers toward accepting travel credit rather than cash.

But as the Federal Trade Commission noted, airlines are required to offer refunds for canceled or significantly delayed flights, even if the cause is beyond their control. If your airline resists, report it to the U.S. Department of Transportation — but be warned that the DOT can take months to process complaints and the process is far from a sure thing.

Trains

Amtrak has waived change fees for tickets bought by Dec. 31. You may be eligible for a credit voucher or a refund, depending on the type of ticket you bought.

The cheapest Saver Fares give refunds only within 24 hours of booking; these tickets can’t be changed, either. Value Fares offer a refund or voucher if you cancel within 15 days of your departure. Canceling closer to your departure date may cost you 25% of the ticket price.

Flexible, Business and Premium fares will give you a full refund or voucher with no fees as long as you cancel in advance. If you don’t show up without canceling, you forfeit your ticket.

Buses

Greyhound is allowing bus riders to postpone their travel plans through Jan. 31. Requests for a credit voucher must be made at least a day before you are scheduled to leave. (This doesn’t apply to cash or

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Welsh Covid travel rule changes unfair on pubs, say critics | UK news

The Welsh government is under fire over changes to its Covid travel rules that critics say will lead to people from Wales crossing the border for nights out in England.

From Friday, a rule that bans people from leaving Wales except for reasons such as work or education will be replaced with one that allows Welsh residents to go to tier 1 and 2 areas in England. At the same time a law comes into force that stops pubs and other licensed premises in Wales selling alcohol and forces them to close at 6pm.

Welsh pub owners said people from Wales were bound to travel into England for a drink and meal. Mark Jones, who runs the Stanton House Inn in Chirk, north Wales, said: “I’m just half a mile from the border. We’re going to close and I know some people from here will go to pubs in England. It isn’t fair.”

Ashley Rogers, the commercial director of a business council that covers north Wales, said: “It will put pubs in Wales at a competitive disadvantage. On the back of an awful year it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”


Conservatives in the Welsh parliament called for the government to think again. Darren Millar, the shadow Covid recovery minister, said: “While any lifting of travel restrictions between Wales and England is to be welcomed, there can be no doubt that this news will rub salt in the wounds of the Welsh hospitality industry.

“With Welsh pubs, cafes and restaurants being banned from selling alcohol on their premises, many of their customers will be taking their custom and cash across the border to enjoy a tipple with a meal in England instead.

“The Welsh Labour-led government must rethink its new rules, engage with leaders the hospitality industry and adopt a more targeted approach to intervention that keeps the Welsh pound in Wales, and attracts the English pound into Welsh businesses too, especially in the run-up to Christmas.”

Asked if the rule change meant Welsh residents would be able to go to pubs in tiers 1 and 2 in England, a Welsh government spokesperson said there would be no legal restrictions, but added: “We strongly advise people in Wales not to travel into those parts of England and Scotland where the infection rate is lower, to help prevent them taking coronavirus with them.”


The changes mean people from tiers 1 and 2 in England can go on holiday to Wales. The spokesman said: “People in England living in tier 1 and 2 areas can enter Wales. However we are asking people to think carefully about their actions and the risk of spreading the virus. We continue to ask people to do what they should do, rather than what they can do under the law, in order to play their part in preventing the spread of coronavirus.”

Under the new rules for Wales travel to and from tier 3 areas in England, level 3 and 4 areas in Scotland

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Covid: Travel allowed between Wales and parts of the UK

Image copyright

Getty Images

Image caption

Wales’ Covid rules previously banned all but “essential” travel between Wales and England

People will be able to travel from Wales to tier one and two areas in England and Scotland from Friday.

The new regulations prohibit travel into tier three zones in England, tiers three and four in Scotland and the whole of Northern Ireland.

Previously people could
only travel out of Wales if it was “essential”.

But the Welsh Government said it still strongly advised people against travelling to other parts of the UK to help control the spread of the virus.

England’s lockdown ended on 2 December and it now has a
three-tiered system.

The Scottish government has a
five-level alert system
of Covid-19 restrictions.

It means for people in Wales, travel to London will be possible, but not Birmingham or Bristol.

Large parts of the Midlands, North East and North West, including Manchester, as well as Kent,
are in tier three.

A majority of England is in the second highest level – tier two – including London and Liverpool city region.

Image caption

Wales has different coronavirus rules to England

The new regulations were announced after the cabinet met on Wednesday to decide on the latest travel restrictions as England’s lockdown came to an end.

It comes as Welsh pubs, restaurants and cafes face a
ban on serving alcohol on their premises
from Friday and will be unable to open to customers beyond 18:00 GMT.

‘A mockery’

Image copyright

The Boat Inn / Facebook

Image caption

The owner of The Boat Inn in Chepstow says she feels like everything is stacked against Wales’ pubs

Mandy Symonds has owned The Boat Inn in the border town of Chepstow in Monmouthshire for 18 months.

She said she was “gutted” when she realised the new regulations meant her customers could go into England – “a 20 second walk away” – to drink alcohol in a pub when she could not serve them any.

“I’m closing… everything’s stacked against you,” she said.

“It’s a mockery. I feel like he [First Minister Mark Drakeford] is deliberately trying to drive us out of business.

“The rules should be the same all over the country…

“I’ve spent so much money here, invested in a marquee and put heating in there, lost half our tables, put screens up, staff are wearing masks, there’s track and trace… I feel beaten down over it all now.”

She said she did not know when she would reopen but it would depend on restrictions.

‘So confusing’

Image caption

Clare Davenport says the lifting of the travel rules will make little difference to her

Boundary Lane in Saltney is the border between Wales and England.

Claire Davenport lives in Flintshire but works on the English side of the border. She said the lifting of travel restrictions would not affect her too much.

“My family tend to keep within Wales and don’t go into England really because we’ve got Broughton shopping park. But it

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Covid quarantine hotel staff won’t be banned from other sites, NSW premier says

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has backed hotel quarantine employees working across several hotels as authorities race to understand how a cleaner who worked at a quarantine hotel and a regular hotel in Sydney contracted Covid-19.



a tall building: Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

The state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, also acknowledged on Thursday that interim public health advice meant thousands of commuters who caught trains and trams in Sydney should get tested immediately and self-isolate until updated advice is issued within 48 hours.

Health officials are worried about the potential spread of coronavirus given the cleaner travelled on public transport while potentially infectious.

Berejiklian said “at this stage” there was no reason to delay Monday’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions relating to larger venue and event capacities and the reopening of dancefloors. But the premier said she would not rule out altering her position if the health advice changed following further investigations.



a tall building: Authorities are racing to determine how a Sydney quarantine hotel worker, who also worked at a neighbouring property, contracted coronavirus despite having no direct contact with infected returned travellers.


© Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
Authorities are racing to determine how a Sydney quarantine hotel worker, who also worked at a neighbouring property, contracted coronavirus despite having no direct contact with infected returned travellers.

Related: Stranded Australians promised free quarantine on return face $5,000 government bill

Urgent genomic testing will help authorities better understand how the woman contracted the virus. Chant said the cleaner didn’t come into direct contact with returned travellers so “there isn’t a smoking gun in terms of how we would say the transmission event happened”.

The cleaner developed symptoms on Saturday – mostly signs of fatigue – but was only tested on Wednesday night. After her positive result, her family also was tested late on Wednesday night, with all five members returning negative results. They will be required to isolate for 14 days.

Authorities believe the cleaner was infectious when she worked at the Ibis Hotel in Sydney’s Darling Harbour on 27 November – which is not a quarantine hotel – as well as when she later worked three shifts at the Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour on 28-30 November. The hotels are next door to each other and are owned by the Accor group.

The Novotel is a police-guarded quarantine hotel for returned travellers. If a guest subsequently tests positive for Covid-19 they are sent to a health hotel managed by NSW Health.

Chant said “there’s a very narrow window when actually anyone is infectious in the police hotels”. She said once urgent genomic sequencing showed what strain of the virus the cleaner had authorities could “do the detective work” to understand how she became infected.

Colleagues who worked with the woman at the hotels and anyone who caught the same public transport services have been asked to get tested immediately and self-isolate.

Chant said the woman wore a mask on her more than hour-long daily commute from Minto to the Darling Harbour hotels.

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CDC: Add COVID Testing to Your Holiday Travel Plans

Stay home this holiday season, but if you must travel, get tested both before and after your trip, CDC officials said at a news conference on Wednesday.

People who insist on traveling should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 with a “viral test” 1-3 days before travel, and 3-5 days after travel. After traveling, people should avoid “non-essential activities” for 7 days.

If someone does not get tested before or after traveling, they should avoid “non-essential activities” for 10 days, CDC officials said. Better yet: just don’t go anywhere.

“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve to stop this exponential increase,” said Henry Walke, MD, CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager. “Testing does not eliminate all risk, but it does make travel safer.”

Cindy Friedman, MD, chief of CDC’s Traveler’s Health Branch, said travel volume was high during Thanksgiving, and that even a few resulting infections could further the virus’s spread. Officials have been warning of a “surge on surge” emanating from holiday travel.

A reporter noted that the agency’s last guidance about Thanksgiving travel was released a mere week prior to the holiday, and asked if the CDC waited too long to issue those recommendations. Walke said the agency is issuing the new guidance now, weeks prior to the next big holiday travel period, “to provide additional consideration for the American public, healthcare providers, and public health administrators.”

“Our hope is that before the upcoming holiday season, people hear the message about staying home and protecting themselves,” he said.

Shorter Quarantine Options Clarified

As previous reports had predicted, CDC officials also unveiled more nuanced COVID-19 quarantine recommendations for close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The agency offered two alternate quarantine periods: 7 days after a negative test or 10 days if the person is not tested at all. Previously, the recommendation was a blanket 14 days’ isolation for exposed individuals.

However, Walke stressed that the agency still recommends the 14-day quarantine as the best way to stop the spread of the virus, and said that people should continue to monitor symptoms for a full 14 days, regardless of quarantine length.

The two additional options were added based on “extensive modeling data,” including from academic medical centers, as well as pre-print websites. John Brooks, MD, CDC’s chief medical officer for COVID-19 response, said that with the 10-day period, residual risk of transmission is reduced to 1%, with an upper limit of risk at 12%.

“Ten days is where risk got into a sweet spot that we liked,” he said.

For 7 days of quarantine, residual risk of transmission with a negative test was 5%, with an upper limit of risk around 10%, Brooks added. Either a PCR test or a viral antigen test can be used for discontinuing quarantine.

Walke said the agency looked for an option that doesn’t require testing so as to ease the burden on public health departments. “Testing is difficult in some locations,” he said.

“Our public health partners have options

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New Covid case in NSW as Sydney hotel quarantine cleaner tests positive | Sydney

A Sydney hotel quarantine worker has been diagnosed with Covid-19, raising infection fears after she worked at a second hotel.

The New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard, said he had been notified of the new case at 1.22am on Thursday. “She worked at the Novotel and the Ibis at Darling Harbour,” he told Seven’s Sunrise program. “One of those is a police quarantine hotel.”

The woman is understood to have worked shifts as a cleaner at the Novotel, which is being used to quarantine returned international travellers between 28 November and 30 December, and at the neighbouring Ibis, a regular non-quarantine hotel, a day earlier – on 27 November.

NSW Health urged anyone who worked at the hotels on these days to monitor for symptoms, self-isolate and get tested. Guardian Australia has sought clarification as to whether the woman regularly worked at both hotels, thus potentially increasing Ibis guest and staff risks of exposure, or had permanently shifted to the Novotel on 28 November.

“The good news is her five family members were tested overnight and they are all negative, so that is a good outcome,” Hazzard said.

The woman’s family will still be required to isolate, and urgent genome sequencing is being undertaken to confirm whether the woman contracted the virus at the hotel or picked it up in the community.

The hotels are both owned by the Accor Hotel group and sit next to each other at Darling Harbour.

Ensuring hotel quarantine staff do not work across multiple venues has been one of the key takeaways from both Victoria’s second wave of Covid infections and the Adelaide clusters.

The woman lived in Minto in south-west Sydney and health authorities are urging anyone in the area to get tested, even if they have the mildest symptoms.

“She travelled the days that we’re particularly concerned about, which is last Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, she travelled from Minto to Central on our rail system,” Hazzard told the ABC. “And then from Central she travelled on a light rail system down to Darling Harbour.

“To anybody who was using that particular railway line or the light rail, please look out for symptoms, get tested, and listen to the advice from New South Wales Health until the results are through.”

The news comes a day after NSW recorded 25 straight days without a single Covid case in the community and the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced a swath of social restrictions would be eased from Monday. As this case was discovered after 8pm, it will be counted in Friday’s numbers, so Thursday will be recorded as the state’s 26th Covid-free day.

The NSW chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said on Wednesday she believed that the state had “probably virtually eliminated” community transmission. Berejiklian said she anticipated there would be more cases. Hazzard said he also expected there would be more cases “because we are in a pandemic”.

He told ABC News Breakfast this case was unlikely to change the easing of restrictions scheduled

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Australia politics live: NSW hotel quarantine worker tests positive for Covid | Australia news

NSW Health is calling on people in Sydney’s north-west to get tested if they have even the mildest Covid-19 symptoms, after the state’s sewage surveillance program detected traces of the virus at a sewage treatment plant in Riverstone.

Fragments of the virus that causes Covid-19 have been detected in samples taken on Sunday 29 November from the sewerage system that drains parts of Riverstone, Vineyard, Marsden Park, Shanes Park, Quakers Hill, Oakville, Box Hill, The Ponds, Rouse Hill, Nelson, Schofields and Colebee.

Detection of the virus in sewage samples could reflect the presence of known cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in recent weeks in the area served by this sewage treatment plant. However, NSW Health is concerned there could be other active cases in the local community in people who have not been tested and who might incorrectly assume their symptoms are just a cold.

Particularly in light of the easing of restrictions on gatherings announced [yesterday], it is important that people in these areas be aware of any symptoms of illness, and immediately isolate and get tested should even the mildest of symptoms appear. Cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose or scratchy throat, cough, tiredness, fever or other symptoms could be Covid-19.

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CDC recommends postponing holiday travel as Covid surges

The Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday urged Americans to postpone holiday travel after a busy Thanksgiving weekend that likely led to a further surge in coronavirus cases.



a person standing in front of a building: Travelers walk through Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Nov. 29, 2020.


© Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo
Travelers walk through Terminal 3 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Nov. 29, 2020.

“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing and deaths are increasing,” said Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager during a press briefing. “We’re asking Americans to help prevent these increases and avoid travel.”

People who do travel should be tested one to three days before and three to five days after their trips, while avoiding public activities for seven days, the agency said.

The agency released similar guidance against travel over Thanksgiving, but officials said travel volume remained high.

“Even if only a small percentage of those travelers were asymptomatically infected, this can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections moving from one community to another,” said Cindy Friedman, chief of the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch.

The Thanksgiving guidance was at odds with messaging from the White House but tracked with state restrictions that are being imposed in response to the worsening pandemic.

The CDC, as previously reported, also said it was shortening the recommended quarantine times for people who have been exposed to the virus from 14 days to 10 days if the individual is not exhibiting any symptoms. If someone has tested negative, the CDC recommends quarantining for seven days, though officials say 14 days is still the best way to reduce transmission.

The U.S. has reported 13.7 million cases and more than 270,000 deaths so far. CDC officials said they expect an uptick in cases from the Thanksgiving holiday to show up in case counts in the next week or two.

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TUI secures third bailout in COVID travel slump survival battle

FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) – TUI secured a third bailout on Wednesday, striking a deal with the German government, private investors and banks for an extra 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion) as the world’s largest holiday company tries to ride out the coronavirus-linked travel slump.

London-listed TUI has already received 3 billion euros in state loans this year and the latest government aid prompted calls from opposition lawmakers for Berlin to ensure that it came with strings attached.

TUI, which last year took 23 million people on holiday, lost 1.1 billion euros in the second quarter after the COVID-19 pandemic brought global travel to a halt.

The travel slump has wiped out TUI’s revenue and strained its balance sheet as it burned through between 550 million euros and 650 million euros a month.

TUI’s largest shareholder, Russian billionaire Alexey Mordashov, who owns 25% of the company, said he is expanding his investment as part of the capital measures.

Mordashov’s stake will increase to 36% if he gets an exemption from financial watchdog Bafin from making a mandatory takeover offer. Otherwise, he will hike it to 29.9%.

Including the new rescue package, TUI now has 2.5 billion euros as of the end of November, its chief executive Fritz Joussen said, adding that TUI was healthy before the crisis and now has the funds to prepare for life after the pandemic.

The package comes with a ban on management bonuses and dividends, a German economy ministry spokeswoman said.

However, budget lawmaker Sven-Christian Kindler from the opposition Greens called on the government to include strict rules on climate and job protection into the package.

“The federal government must not repeat the same mistakes it made with the Lufthansa rescue deal,” Kindler said, referring to a bailout of Germany’s flagship airline in June.

The new TUI rescue package includes a 500 million euro capital increase with subscription rights and a 420 million euro so-called silent participation from Germany’s economic support fund WSF, which can be converted into equity at any time.

It also includes a non-convertible equity hybrid from WSF worth 280 million euros, a state guarantee of 400 million euros, an extra 200 million euro credit facility from state bank KfW and the extension of an existing KfW facility to July 2022.

The nominal price of TUI’s shares will be reduced to 1 euro from 2.56 euros, followed by a rights issues of 509 million new shares, which shareholders still need to sign off at an extraordinary general meeting in January.

Some of the proceeds will be used to repay 300 million senior notes of TUI due in October 2021.

Bank of America, Barclays, Citi and Deutsche Bank are organising the capital hike.

($1 = 0.8301 euros)

Editing by Emma Thomasson and Alexander Smith

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