Tag: Questions

How do travel bubbles work? 4 questions answered as Hong Kong and Singapore team up.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, even as nations shut their borders and airlines struggled with record-low passenger levels, there was a lot of optimism about “travel bubbles” — a controlled return of quarantine-free air travel between designated cities or countries. Since then, with few countries’ outbreaks truly under control, there has been far more chatter about potential travel bubbles than there have been actual bubbles implemented.

But this weekend, Asia’s first bubble, between Hong Kong and Singapore, will finally make its debut.

The two cities’ “Air Travel Bubble,” set to start Sunday, will test whether regions can safely partner in a return to quarantine-free travel in the pandemic era. The practice could soon emerge in other places, including North America, as scientists learn more about the coronavirus and as nations inch closer to offering vaccines.

So: How do bubbles work? Here’s what you need to know.

What is a travel bubble?

Sometimes called a travel corridor, a travel bubble is a partnership between two or more places with similar rates of covid-19 that allows for quarantine-free leisure travel in both directions.

The first large international travel bubble to make headlines was a potential agreement between Australia and New Zealand, both of which had very low coronavirus caseloads early in the pandemic. The two nations hoped to implement a bubble in September, but those talks sputtered when Australia saw a rise in cases in August. While travel from New Zealand to Australia may not require quarantining, New Zealand still has strict quarantine requirements in place for all arrivals.

Where do travel bubbles exist?

The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania created Europe’s first quarantine-free bubble in May. By July, however, the European Union’s “Re-open EU” initiative had rendered it redundant.

You could, in theory, call Re-open EU — which allowed for controlled travel within the border-free Schengen Area and Britain — a travel bubble, although the E.U. and Britain did not. In that agreement, nations were allowed to set their own restrictions and pace beginning in July, but rising coronavirus cases curbed free travel again not much later: England, for instance, recalled quarantine-free travel conditions with Spain two weeks after allowing travel there. Many E.U. nations implemented new restrictions as coronavirus flare-ups emerged, and since October, many nations have again implemented shutdowns or travel limitations, with quarantines and testing required. (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have since reestablished their own bubble.)

Hong Kong and Singapore, by contrast, have significantly slowed their outbreaks: Hong Kong has had fewer than 5,500 coronavirus cases, while Singapore has seen about 58,000, with the lowest death rate in the world. When the cities’ bilateral air travel bubble opens Sunday, residents will be able to take advantage of daily flights on Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

How does a bubble work?

The creation of a travel bubble does not mean that you’ll be able to visit as freely as you would have pre-pandemic. Instead, travel

Continue reading

Travel and Coronavirus Testing: Your Questions Answered

Many places are offering coronavirus tests, including some hospitals, urgent care clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. Some churches and fire stations are offering testing, too. Airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue and American Airlines are offering testing at the airport or at nearby drive-through sites for passengers heading to certain destinations. Some airports have clinics in terminals. Companies, including CareCube and Pixel by LabCorp, will mail a test to you and you send back a sample; they promise to send you your results within 12 to 34 hours and 36 hours, respectively. JetBlue has a partnership with Vault Health for mail-in tests.

It’s a good idea to start by reaching out to your doctor’s office to see what all the available options for testing are and how long it will take to get results. If you don’t have a primary care provider, a good place to start is on city and state health department websites, which outline the various testing options and locations.

You should get a coronavirus test before you travel. Figuring out the exact time can be tricky, but you can’t wait too long to take the test because you might not get the results back in time to go on your trip.

For those reasons, many destinations, including France, Aruba, Bonaire, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, require that the test be taken within 72 hours of departure. Abu Dhabi and Croatia require test results are within 48 hours of departure. Some airlines, like Egypt Air, allow travelers to use results from a test taken up to 96 hours before traveling, depending on where they are traveling from and to.

Continue reading

Hotel quarantine interim report recommends changes but accountability questions remain

The division of the findings of the Victorian COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry into two – the interim report published today, with a final report due December 21 – is aimed at making a timely contribution to the redesign of the quarantine systems that will remain key to Australia’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic for some time to come.

With a view to the expected influx of returnees at Christmas, the national cabinet is due to discuss necessary changes later this month. Justice Jennifer Coate’s clear recommendations for how to devise and operate a quarantine system will surely be pivotal to its deliberations.

Key recommendations

Coate’s primary message is that quarantine – in whatever form it might take – is a public health operation. So any future quarantine system needs to be designed in a manner that ensures the centrality of this public health imperative.

We must wait until the final report to find out what Coate has to say on the larger governance and accountability questions surrounding “the decision” to contract out the front line of Victoria’s hotel quarantine operation to private security provision. However, her interim report already tells us a lot – if indirectly.

The report states it “is clear from the evidence to date” that the majority of those involved in the hotel quarantine program who contracted the virus were:

private security personnel engaged by way of contracting arrangements that carried with them a range of complexities.

It is therefore unsurprising that the issue of the appropriateness of contracting-out is the elephant in the room across a number of its key recommendations.

In particular, the recommendations record that the expertise of those involved in future quarantine operations will be crucial. Moreover, every effort should be made to ensure people working at quarantine facilities are “salaried employees” who are “not working in other forms of employment”.

Rydges on Swanston was one of the quarantine hotels where coronavirus outbreaks occurred.
James Ross/AAP

It takes little effort to surmise that contracted-out service delivery is unlikely to meet any of these demands.

As I have explained elsewhere, to contract out a statutory function in whole or in part requires that it be translated into a “service” that private sector providers are capable of delivering.

In the Victorian case, this meant the front line of the hotel quarantine operation was performed pursuant to an “observe and report” security services contract. It was carried out by an entirely casualised workforce with little infection-control training and no lawful powers of enforcement. Many or most of them worked in other jobs at the same time.

Read more:
Melbourne’s hotel quarantine bungle is disappointing but not surprising. It was overseen by a flawed security industry

Coate also recommended that, alongside the “embedded” presence of expert infection-control personnel, a 24/7 police presence be established at every facility-based quarantine operation. This clearly points to the failure of contracting-out from an enforcement perspective as well.

So, by implication or otherwise, the interim report confirms that too little thought was

Continue reading

Answers to your questions about how climate change affects winter recreation in Maine

Maine has long been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who in winter have gone downhill skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. But as climate change makes sub-freezing temperatures and sufficient snowpack less consistent, and as tourists seek out new kinds of experiences, traditional winter outdoor recreation businesses in Maine are having to adjust.

Some ski resorts have suffered through slow winters due to a relative lack of snow, while opportunities to go ice fishing are shrinking as lakes consistently freeze later and thaw earlier in the year.

To share information about the effect of warming temperatures on Maine’s economy, communities and ecosystems, the Bangor Daily News hosted an online event on Oct. 15, bringing together four experts to share their work on the topic. The webinar was the third of four BDN Climate Conversations, which will help shape our coverage of climate issues.

The conversations bring together scientists from the University of Maine and other research institutions as well as local subject matter experts.

During last week’s event, people who tuned in wanted to know more about the impact of warmer temperatures on winter recreational activities in Maine. Here are some of their biggest questions.

Michael San Filippo

Is it possible that climate change may, paradoxically, cause colder temperatures on average in Maine during the winter in the future? Rising temperatures are weakening the jet stream, allowing frigid arctic air to reach further south.

While climate change has made weather conditions more volatile, the overall trend shows that the planet is getting warmer, including in Maine.

There have been some examples in recent winters of places in Maine getting single-digit or sub-zero temperatures one day and above-freezing temperatures the next, but it is unlikely that there will be any significant cooling as long as the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise. Still, there could be some variability from one decade to the next, with some on average being cooler than others, due to natural factors such as volcanic eruptions.

Kenneth Capron

Couldn’t it be argued that this trend is actually good for Maine for the tourism and agriculture industries? Are earlier ice-outs better or worse for the fish in our lakes and rivers?

It depends on what kind of tourism business you run, which is why many businesses that historically have catered to snowmobilers or downhill skiers have diversified the types of activities they offer. Many ski resorts have built or connected to area mountain bike trails to attract customers in warm months, for example. Cross-country skiing requires less snowpack than snowmobiling, and fat bikes or fat tire bikes can be ridden either in snow or on bare or muddy ground.

In places that tend to draw hikers or enthusiasts of other traditional summer outdoor activities, the milder weather — especially during fall foliage season — has boosted business in the state’s tourism industry over the past few decades. Relatively warm and dry weather in the months of September and October has been credited by officials

Continue reading

Lee Answers Questions On Proposed Homeless Hotel

CHATSWORTH, CA — District 12 Councilmember John Lee has released answers to a series of frequently asked questions about the proposal to turn a Devonshire Street Travelodge into temporary homeless housing.

The transformation, administered by state initiative Project Homekey, is being proposed in order to comply with a court order to provide 6,700 new beds in the city of Los Angeles for homeless people living near the freeways, over the age of 65, or at vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

According to Lee’s release, the city would purchase the property, which has 72 rooms available. The rooms would be targeted towards any homeless individual from District 12, with priority given to people over 55, living near the freeways, or with previous health issues. The rooms will need to be available by April, and will initially serve as interim housing lasting three to five years, though some rooms will be permanent later on.

The project is referred to as “interim housing,” a “stop-gap measure until individuals are able to find long-term housing,” according to the release.

The project is mostly funded by the Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds allocated by the state. Homeless grants are being used for necessary safety and Americans with Disability Act upgrades. Across the state, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is picking up 75 percent of the tab for rooms, according to a report in the Mercury News. As of April, the state has distributed $150 million for counties to pay for motels and homelessness services.

The site will be substance and alcohol-free and observe a curfew. A to-be-determined private security company will provide 24-7 onsite security, and Lee says that his public safety deputy will be in regular communication with the LAPD to keep the public apprised of the security situation in the nearby area.

24/7 onsite staff will be “experienced with facility operations, resolving conflicts, and other types of issues related to behavior and facility rule compliance.” Case management staff and social workers will be available during the day and early evening hours. Drug and mental health services will be offered, but it is illegal to require clients to participate in them.

Lee said that the project is different from the Topanga Apartments, a proposed project that would turn a car sales and lot garage at the intersection of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Devonshire Street into a 63-unit homeless apartment complex. Rather than interim housing, the site would provide long-term residency and intensive support. Lee says that he strongly opposes that project because he does not believe it is suitable for the site. A Motel 6 near Roscoe Boulevard and the 405 Freeway was sold to a private developer before the court ruling.

Feedback has been mixed. “We’re happy to hear Councilmember Lee supports this project!” the West Valley Peoples’ Alliance, a social justice group, wrote in response to a Facebook post by Councilmember Lee. “We would love to work on solutions for people experiencing homeless in CD12, especially welcoming the new residents into our

Continue reading