Tag: News

Hong Kong, Singapore Announce Plans for Travel Bubble | World News

By Farah Master and Aradhana Aravindan

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Hong Kong and Singapore will set up a travel bubble, the two cities announced on Thursday, as they moved to re-establish overseas travel links and lift the hurdle of quarantine for visiting foreigners.

Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary Edward Yau and Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said travellers under the scheme would need to get negative COVID-19 test results and travel on dedicated flights.

Further details, including the launch date, will be fleshed out in coming weeks, they said.

“It is a safe, careful but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world,” Singapore’s Ong said.

For Hong Kong, which has banned non-residents since March, the deal with Singapore is its first resumption of travel ties with another city. Travellers from mainland China and neighbouring Macau still face 14 days in quarantine.

Singapore has already announced pacts on essential business and official travel from China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and opened unilaterally to general visitors from Brunei, New Zealand, Vietnam and most of Australia.

This week, Singapore eased quarantine to just seven days for travellers from Hong Kong, from 14 earlier. It has put the city on its list of low-risk places.

International travel in Asia has collapsed during the pandemic because of border closures, with passenger numbers down 97% in August, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines says.

Following the news, shares in Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific surged more than 7 percent in afternoon trade.

Hong Kong’s daily coronavirus infections have dropped mostly into single digits since August and it has eased some social distancing curbs. Singapore has similarly seen its daily cases fall below 10.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)

(Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Town recreation department offers scaled-back Halloween events | Local News

Without resorting to trickery, local children will have several opportunities to get their treats come Halloween.

Making good on promises to provide traditional Halloween activities that adhere to coronavirus social precautions, town Recreation Director Deborah Giardino this week announced a series of low-risk events aimed at safely entertaining the little monsters.

“Halloween as a whole is happening,” Giardino stated on Tuesday night while briefing selectmen on Foxboro’s haunted happenings.

The first activity, which already has sold out, is scheduled for Oct. 17-18 and Oct. 24-25, and involves recreation staffers hiding Halloween eggs filled with nut-free candies in the yards of participating families. According to Giardino, eggs will be hidden between 6 and 7 p.m. on the above dates.

Next, on Saturday, Oct. 31 from 2 to 4 p.m., a trick-or- treat drive-by is planned for the Ahern Middle School driveway loop — envisioned as a socially-distanced version of the long-standing Halloween parade through the town center.

Describing the drive-by as a “down-home event,” Giardino said representatives of the Kraft Group, Grace Chapel and other participating businesses, along with the town recreation, police, fire and highway departments, will set up stations along the school driveway and distribute treats to children in passing vehicles.

Vehicles will enter via the Mechanic Street entrance and exit on Chestnut Street.

“Friends of Foxboro Recreation have been instrumental in helping us pull that all together,” Giardino explained.

There will be no charge for the drive-by, but online registration is required to assist in planning. Parents can register by visiting the recreation department website.

Finally, the recreation department once again is asking local goblins and ghouls to bring their carved pumpkins to the town Common, where they will be outfitted with battery-operated tea lights (provided by the recreation staff) and displayed just outside the iconic Common fence.

Launched four years ago, the pumpkin display has been growing and this year will be judged, with prizes awarded to winners in several categories targeting different age groups.

Assistant Recreation Director Renee Tocci said that anyone interested should drop off their carved pumpkins at the Common on Sunday, Oct. 25. During the ensuing week, recreation staffers will take pictures of the entries for judging purposes and possible positing on the recreation department’s Facebook page.

If participants wish to retrieve their pumpkins they may be picked up on Sunday, Nov. 1. Any pumpkins remaining at that time will be donated to an area farm for animal feed, Tocci said.

Thanking Giardino and Tocci for their efforts at preserving a sense of Halloween normalcy for local families, Selectwoman Leah Gibson acknowledged that townspeople have different thoughts on the wisdom of maintaining social rituals during the coronavirus pandemic.

“People are looking for us to take a stand,” Gibson said, “and it sounds like our stance is we have the CDC and board of health guidelines, follow the rules and do what you feel comfortable with for you and your family.”

Giardino added that alternate low-risk activities suggested by members of the local board

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Partners protect habitat and expand outdoor recreation | News

We know from experience that maintaining permanent vegetative cover along the shorelines of rivers, streams and lakes leads to higher quality water and wildlife habitat. That’s why conservation groups are working with public partners and landowners to protect land along the Cannon River.

Thanks to the collaborative work of the Trust for Public Land, Goodhue County, and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, the Minnesota DNR will add 205 acres to the Cannon River Turtle Preserve Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) and the Cannon Valley Trail will add 9 acres to this public trail system. The effort will help protect habitat important for turtles, such as Blanding’s turtle, one of southeast Minnesota’s rarest turtle species. It will also provide opportunities for wildlife-based recreation including hiking, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, and nature observation.

The addition of these newly protected lands is the outcome of people working together to achieve a shared vision for land stewardship. “This land protection project is emblematic of the great work The Trust for Public Land is doing with partners to protect lands along the Cannon River,” said DJ Forbes, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land. According to Forbes, by coordinating with and responding to the priorities of the MN DNR, Goodhue County and the Cannon Valley Trail, land with exceptional natural resource value and immense outdoor recreation opportunities has been protected for Minnesotans to utilize and enjoy.

“This is an excellent opportunity for young and old to be a part of nature and protect the areas for future citizens to enjoy,” said Brad Anderson Goodhue County District 2 Commissioner and Cannon River Watershed Partnership Board Member. “The coordinated efforts of the organizations is the best way to acquire and protect these sensitive areas right outside our back doors,” he said.

The Cannon River, one of Minnesota’s seven Wild and Scenic designated rivers, flows through the newly protected land near its confluence with the Mississippi River in Red Wing. The land is primarily made up of floodplain forest, yet it also has steep slopes and prairie habitat high above the Cannon River. It also includes a calcareous fen, one of Minnesota’s rarest wetland types.

The Cannon Valley Trail also passes through this newly protected property. The beautiful 19.7-mile Cannon Valley Trail connects the cities of Cannon Falls, Welch and Red Wing, providing great opportunities to walk, run, and bike. According to CVT Manager Scott Roepke, a ‘Cultural Heritage’ park, planned for this new 9-acre parcel, will allow trail visitors to explore a unique flat-topped archeological mound and other culturally significant sites.

The 205-acre addition to the Cannon River Turtle Preserve SNA, which was funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, increases the SNA in size by nearly 25% and continues the protection of this dynamic environment. This SNA contains southern terrace floodplain and maple-basswood forest, oak-hickory woodland, and prairie with ongoing prairie reconstructions that look down on the Cannon River. This land is critical habitat for the “threatened” Blanding’s Turtle. The MN DNR’s SNA Program protects the best

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Travel News | CNN Travel

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The most fascinating forbidden places in the world

The ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has made bustling cities like New York resemble ghost towns. Social distancing has shut national parks and turned tropical paradises into forbidden islands. But instead of dreaming about canceled trips, why not learn about some strange places that have always been forbidden? Here’s Some Adventure Travel Inspiration for When the COVID-19 Pandemic Ends Turns out there’s been an actual ghost town (that’s North Brother Island, by the way) within New York City limits for 80 years. And some islands have long been prohibited—for fascinating reasons. While all the places below are restricted in some way, a few can be visited by invitation, seen from afar, or experienced through replicas (once travel restrictions have ended). For now, there’s no time quite like a self-quarantine for descending into the online rabbit hole, where you’ll find plenty of photos and information for a virtual vacation. 1. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine In April 1986, an electrical test triggered a chain reaction at the Chernobyl No.4 nuclear reactor. The explosion and resulting reactor fire spewed radioactive particles into the atmosphere for nine days, becoming the worst nuclear accident in history. Shortly after the meltdown, a sarcophagus of concrete and lead was built over the reactor, and an exclusion zone was established with a radius of 19 miles. This Zone of Alienation was later expanded to 1,000 square miles and contains some of the most radioactively contaminated places on earth. In recent years, the New Safe Confinement, a steel entombment structure, was built over the previous sarcophagus. Since 2011, tour groups have been allowed to visit parts of the zone.

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Weymouth Public Schools cancel April vacation – News – Weymouth News

WEYMOUTH – School officials have officially canceled April school vacation.

Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Curtis-Whipple said the cancellation of the vacation would restore four school days.

“We changed the last day of school to June 19,” she said on Friday, April 10. “It was on June 20.”

The April vacation period, which is April 21-24, also includes Patriots Day, April 20, a state holiday.

Schools have not been in session since March 16 under emergency declarations issued by Gov. Charlie Baker and Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund.

Baker extended the date for schools to remain closed until May 4.

The emergency order exempts school districts from having to fulfill a state law that requires students to attend classes for 185 days.

Curtis-Whipple said administrators determined it would be better for students to complete academic lessons during the April vacation period because they are at home under Baker’s stay-at-home-advisory.

Teachers in all grades have prepared academic lessons for students, which they access by email, websites, and online-video-conference sessions.

“Some students can be given an activity without having to do anything electronically,” Curtis-Whipple said. “Not everybody has the capacity to do online learning.”

School officials recently distributed 600 Chromebooks to students who don’t have computers in their homes, according to Curtis-Whipple.

The school district has created 70 “professional learning communities,” which consist of academic instruction by electronic and non-electronic methods.

Curtis-Whipple said the schools have an optional learning structure for all students to receive instruction under the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s guidelines.

“It’s a suggested learning structure, but it is not mandatory,” she said.

Curtis-Whipple said the structured lesson pattern was created because some parents wanted their children to have a format to follow while completing their studies.

The academic work is intended to keep students engaged with learning. They won’t be graded during this period, according to school officials.

“We have also changed the grading period,” Curtis-Whipple said. “The third term will be extended until the end of the school year on June 19.”

Curtis-Whipple said the school district’s most important priority is to support the students’ social and emotional needs amid their concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The school district is also providing free bagged lunches at Seach Primary School and Abigail Adams Middle School from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on weekdays.

Some of the food available includes fresh vegetables, milk, whole grain muffins, and cheese sticks, according to Elizabeth Sauro, Weymouth Public Schools food services director.

All students are eligible to receive a free meal under the state and federal requirements of the program.

Curtis-Whipple said 15,000 lunches have been provided to students since the program began March 16.

Additional information about the school lunch program is available online at the school district website: weymouthschools.org.

Curtis-Whipple said the coronavirus pandemic is not delaying plans to construct modular classrooms at the primary schools to accommodate an influx of fifth-graders under a school redistricting plan that takes effect in September.

“The foundation work is being done behind Academy Avenue school

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Outdoor recreation still available for Fort Bragg area families – News – The Fayetteville Observer

Spring Lake Outpost has asked the state to be considered an essential business and remain open while coronavirus regulations are in place. Its owners said it has approval to operate until it receives a final answer.

In the midst of North Carolina’s stay at home order, outdoor recreation is finding ways to maintain social distancing guidelines.

The Spring Lake Outpost, a kayak and canoe rental company that schedules outings on the Little River, is one of those businesses.

This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Fayetteville Observer at fayobserver.com/subscribenow. Follow fayobserver.com/topics/coronavirus for more coronavirus coverage.

The business is in its fourth season. It usually kicks off its season with a Kayak Festival in March.

The new coronavirus, called COVID-19, and social distancing guidelines caused the festival to be rescheduled for some time later, but owner Izdihar “Izzy” Eaton said the business is still able to operate while following rules.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed a March 27 stay at home order outlining which businesses are essential, or approved, to stay open.

The order states that as long as social distancing is maintained and there are 10 people or less, outdoor recreation — which includes walking, hiking, running, golfing or biking — is exempt from the order.

Public playgrounds, with equipment that could increase the spread of the virus, are closed.

To ensure clarification, Spring Lake Outpost submitted a request to the North Carolina Department of Revenue to be considered an essential business.

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Engaging in outdoor activity is STILL permitted in NC as long as you are upholding social distancing requirements. We are an open outdoor recreation area enforcing maximum sanitization standards of all equipment. You can maintain your health while having fun in the sun! Come outside this weekend. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this, please don’t hesitate to reach out! 🌞🛶🌿🌎💚

A post shared by Spring Lake Outpost (@springlakeoutpost) on Apr 3, 2020 at 5:37am PDT

“We’re confident that we will be allowed to stay open, because it falls into the same category as outdoor recreation,” Eaton said. “With measures to curb the pandemic, we feel like this is a healthy activity that can get people out of the house to breathe fresh air.”

To show that the business stands by that belief, it is offering free rentals for children ages 16 and younger.

“Until life normalizes, we understand kids are home from school and want to burn off energy,” Eaton said. “We understand there’s challenges and want to be able to relieve that financial stress and know there’s military families nearby who want to enjoy time together. This is a way to teach how to be outdoors safely and continue to produce health and wellness for families.”

Eaton said state officials have OKd the business to continue its operation until it receives a final response.

In the meantime, extra precautions are being

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Vacation rentals continue despite county’s coronavirus ban | News

With just two known cases, Haywood County is largely holding its ground as a safe have from the COVID spread rapidly enveloping the rest of the state and nation.

That’s made the already popular tourist destination all the more enticing for those fleeing hotspots elsewhere. In hopes of keeping visitors at bay, the county has issued a ban on most overnight accommodations and vacation rentals. 

However, some property owners who rent through online sites like Airbnb have continued to offer bookings, according to a random survey conducted by The Mountaineer.

Many said they were not aware of a ban, a more common response among those who don’t live here and handle rentals from afar.

Carolyn Walker, who has a couple vacation rental units at Lake Junaluska, can’t imagine why anyone would still be taking bookings.

“How on earth could you not know what is going on? How can anyone think it’s OK to be moving around the country right now?” said Walker, who has turned down several reservations since the order came out. “I have been so bothered by people who either just aren’t taking it seriously or who think we don’t have any cases here yet so we are safe.”

There are more than 1,100 vacation rentals listed for Haywood County on Airbnb, and hundreds more on similar online rental sites.

In The Mountaineer’s randomly selected survey of 40 online vacation rental owners, one-third were willing to accept a weekend booking from an out-of-town visitor.

The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority has been doing its best to get the word out. It would normally be launching a spring campaign to lure visitors here, but is now doing just the opposite: telling visitors to stay home.

Informing vacation rental owners of the rules, let alone policing any offenders, is problematic, however.

“It is hard to reach everybody,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the TDA. “And there are some that are going to do it regardless. The county is very concerned about it.”

A nightly room tax is collected on all vacation rentals, and those in the TDA’s database have been getting regular email advisories. But not when it comes to Airbnb renters. Room taxes on Airbnb bookings come in as a lump sum payment without revealing the identity of the individual property owners, leaving TDA no way of knowing which houses are being rented out or by whom on Airbnb.

Protecting your own

Haywood County isn’t alone. From Colorado to California, tourist destinations have been swarmed with people trying to escape the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s a precarious situation for smaller, rural towns with limited health care infrastructure. There’s just 20 respirators at Haywood Regional Medical Center.

“We would be pushed to accommodate our own county residents much less a bunch of other people coming in,” Walker said.

That reality is one reason Jane Rolen scrambled to cancel her upcoming rental reservations after the ban came down last week, despite disappointing guests coming in for an anniversary celebration the following

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