Travel restrictions to be relaxed for vaccinated Canadians
Travel|Americas|: Ottawa: Canadians and permanent residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will no longer have to quarantine upon their return from abroad starting July 5, officials announced Monday. From 11:59 pm (0359 GMT) on that day, they will also face reduced testing requirements in this first phase of lifting public health restrictions for travelers. "We'll come back to Canadians on next steps," Health Minister Patty Hajdu told a news conference, acknowledging growing pressure to fully reopen the border. "We can see the finish line," she said. "Let's finish strong and let's make sure that we protect our gains." Ottawa said in a statement it "continues to strongly advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel worldwide," citing the risk of importing the novel coronavirus and its variants. Fully vaccinated or not, foreign nationals including Americans are still prohibited from entering the country for discretionary travel. And Canadians who can show proof of having received two doses of an approved vaccine - Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson - at least 14 days prior to arrival must still get pre- and on-arrival tests, be asymptomatic, and have a suitable quarantine plan. They will, however, not be required to stay for up to three days at a government authorized hotel at their own expense while they await their on-arrival test result, nor have to test again after eight days. Canada closed its land border with the United States and international airports to all non-essential travel at the onset of the pandemic last year, and has renewed those measures monthly. The latest order is scheduled to lapse on July 21. A suspension of all flights from India, introduced in April after increased Covid-19 cases were detected in travelers arriving from the country, has also been extended another month. But Pakistan has been removed from that ban. Pressure has been mounting from airlines and tourism operators, as well as lawmakers in Washington, to ease border restrictions. Public health officials, Hajdu said, are monitoring the spread of pandemic. She warned that "as Covid rages out of control in other countries, it (still) presents a clear and present danger to all countries." Public Safety Minister Bill Blair added: "We recognize that people are anxiously awaiting to reopen the border and, as Canada reaches high levels of vaccination coverage and the Covid-19 severity trends continue to decline, the risks associated with international travel will decrease." As of Monday, 25 million Canadians or 66 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, while seven million are now fully vaccinated. New infections are also trending downward from an April peak.
Airlines, holiday companies ramp up pressure on Britain to ease travel rules
Aviation|Travel|: London: Britain's airlines and holiday companies are planning a "day of action" on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on the government to ease travel restrictions, with just weeks to go before the start of the peak summer season. Travel companies, whose finances have been stretched to breaking point during the pandemic, are desperate to avoid another summer lost to COVID-19. But with Britain's strict quarantine requirements still in place that now looks likely. As the clock ticks down to July, Europe's biggest airline Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group on Thursday launched legal action to try to get the government to ease the rules before the industry's most profitable season starts. On Wednesday, June 23, pilots, cabin crew and travel agents will gather in Westminster, central London, and at airports across Britain to try to drum up support. Hard hit aviation Britain's aviation industry has been harder hit by the pandemic than its European peers, according to data published by pilots trade union BALPA on Sunday. That showed daily arrivals and departures into the United Kingdom were down 73% on an average day earlier this month compared to before the pandemic, the biggest drop in Europe. Spain, Greece and France were down less than 60%. UK airports were also badly affected, with traffic in and out of London's second busiest airport Gatwick down 92%, according to the data. Time is running out for the industry, said the union. "There is no time to hide behind task forces and reviews," said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton. "BALPA is demanding that the UK Government gets its act together and opens the U.S. routes and European holiday travel destinations that it has blocked with no published evidence at all." Over 45,000 jobs have already been lost in UK aviation, with estimates suggesting that 860,000 aviation, travel and tourism jobs are being sustained only by government furlough schemes.
The popularity of Filipino cuisine
Travel|: In a 2021 article published by ChefsPencil.com, it said that Filipino food is the tenth most popular food tagged on Instagram. While it’s no secret that Gen Z Filipinos are partial to snapping their food, when you consider it’s more popular than French, Peruvian and Spanish cuisine, it underlines the universal appeal of dishes from the Southeast Asian country. While the buttery richness found in French haute cuisine may be one reason health-conscious Gen Z-ers are turning to Asian food for their posts (with Thai, South Korean and Japanese food all making appearances in the top five most popular tags on Instagram), Filipino food has unique distinctions to its higher profile neighbours. In an article for Culture Trip, Filipino, Katrina Escalona, described how, “with the Filipinos’ knack for combining flavours and making the most of any and all ingredients at their disposal, what results is unpretentious, no-frills food that’s simply delicious.” The archipelago’s dishes are often referred to as being shaped by the country’s colonial past, with Spanish influences featuring heavily following their control of the nation up until the late 1800s. The Americans followed the Spanish and waves of Chinese immigrants also influenced Filipino flavours. Although dishes vary depending on regions and islands, a common characteristic found in many recipes is sourness. Most commonly derived from a vinegar made from sugarcane, its use is thought to have originated from vinegar’s preservative powers, before widespread use of refrigeration. Calamansi, also known as the Philippine lemon, adds to the often sour nature of the nation’s cuisine and can be found in numerous dishes. Saltiness is also another feature, with bagoong, which is a fermented shrimp paste and patis – the Filipino equivalent of Thai fish sauce, frequently used. Arguably the most famous of foods (aside from Jollibee) is adobo. It’s a meat stew combination of sour and salty notes, with bay leaves, garlic and black pepper. Vegetable and fish variants of adodo are also popular.
COVID-19 travel pass: All the health ‘passports’ you should know about
Travel|: Dubai: With the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry affected almost immediately, and continuously since was travel and tourism. As several countries fight the COVID-19 waves with steadily increasing vaccination rates, governments and airlines deem that health ‘passports’ could be the way forward to boost trade and tourism. A health passport or a travel ‘pass’ is designed to contain the traveller’s health data – in particular his/her COVID-19 health data which could include past rapid-PCR test results, details of COVID-19 recovery, details of vaccinations and/or current vaccination status. A ‘vaccine passport’, however, is limited to people who have been fully vaccinated and only stores vaccination information. Which ones are in operation now? IATA Travel Pass – Global airlines International Air Transport Association (IATA) has introduced a travel pass which can used if travelling on participating airlines. The IATA Travel Pass is a mobile app that helps travellers store and manage their verified certifications for COVID-19 tests. IATA Director-General Willie Walsh said Gulf airlines would be going live with IATA’s Travel Pass in the next few weeks. Also read What is the COVID-19 passport? All you need to know about the IATA Travel Pass COVID-19: UAE and Gulf airlines ready to go live with IATA Travel Pass on all flights The app has four elements – health requirements based on travel destination, testing centre registry at arrival or departure locations, ability to allow authorised labs to send test results via the app and a complete digital passport that allows storage and sharing of relevant data. IATA Travel Pass, is globally applicable, if the airline you travel on is one that is using the pass, which is on trial basis as of now. IATA travel pass screen (sample) Image Credit: Media kit/IATA International Air Transport Association Emirates said this week that it was scaling up its IATA Travel Pass capabilities on its flights to Barcelona, Moscow, Istanbul, New York JFK, Madrid and from London Heathrow with plans to scale up across all of its flights by July, in addition to offering customers travelling from Dubai paperless verification of COVID-19 related medical records through its partnership with the Dubai Health Authority. As for Etihad, you can use the IATA Travel Pass app on routes departing from Abu Dhabi to North America up to 15 June 2021. In addition to this, Etihad is offering one free PCR test at designated labs in case the passenger participates in the trial of the IATA travel pass. This is valid for travel until June 30, the airline said on its website. EUDCC – European Union On Wednesday, the European Union [EU] approved the use a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests. The certificate, previously called the Digital Green Certificate, is now known as the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC). Greece led the drive to have the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms. It is hoped that this pass will help revive summer travel and boost Europe’s travel industry. Starting July 1, for 12 months, all EU countries must recognize the certificate. They will be issued free of charge and certify that a person has either been fully vaccinated against the virus, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the disease. The rules will not be heavily enforced for 6 weeks to allow countries to prepare. Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News | Graphic News Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland. The passes will be issued by individual nations, not from a centralized European system. The passes will reportedly contain a QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries. Excelsior Pass – New York New York officials introduced the Excelsior Pass app as the country's first government-issued vaccine passport. Holders would get a QR code that would not only verify their vaccination status but could also include other personal details like proof of age, driver's license and other health records. The currents scope is limited, as it primarily holds vaccine information and recent COVID-19 test information for people who had vaccines or tests in New York state, though New Yorkers can ask their doctors to add out of state vaccinations to the registry. Common Pass – The Common Project and World Economic Forum The Common Pass is also an app-based system which promises the ability to store, verify data, and share COVID-19 related entry requirements without revealing personal health information. As of now, the app requires an invitation code to use in limited destinations. In addition to serving as a platform to share the details of vaccinations and/or tests, the app also verifies that source of the test results come from a verified source and that those results satisfy the health requirements of the destination. If the requirements are met, the app gives the travelers a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ certificate that can be used to enter without revealing any private health data. The pass is operated by The Common Project, and is backed by the World Economic Forum but is not under any government. The pass is being used in a few countries including the UK, Hong Kong, Germany and the United States of America. Several airlines also trialed the pass, including Qantas, Lufthansa, Swiss Air Lines etc. AOK Pass – International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Supported by International SOS and SGS Group, the AOK Pass by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is yet another digital tool created to allow for easy sharing of health data to boost travel and trade. The app is used for sharing COVID test results by accredited labs, in the form of a digital pass for the traveler. The pass can be presented to authorities and the data can be scanned via a QR code. The pass does not collect or store additional health information. AOK Pass by ICC: The pass can be presented to authorities and the data can be scanned via a QR code. Image Credit: Media library/https://www.aokpass.com/ AOK Pass, the ICC says, cab used for travel, on trade routes and for events. The ICC also claims that the app is scalable to become a vaccine passport if necessary. CovPass – Germany The CovPass initiative by Germany, launched on Friday, is a vaccine passport or certificate which is available for free to people who are fully vaccinated. The pass will be issued starting June 14 (Monday), local media reports said. The list of centres and pharmacies allowed to issue the pass haven’t been listed yet but will be documented on a website dedicated for this. The certificate will store vaccination details, date, name and date of birth of the person. The pass will, in the future, be able to store COVID-19 recovery details and other relevant results. The vaccination passport should be available to everyone in Germany who is fully vaccinated by the end of this month, Health Minister Jens Spahn said. “The goal is that this certificate can also be used in Helsinki, Amsterdam or Mallorca,'' Spahn told reporters in Berlin. People who have been fully vaccinated will either get a letter with a QR-code they can scan with their phones or they can contact their doctors or pharmacies to retroactively get the digital pass.
UAE airport safety: Banned and permitted things to carry in your luggage
UAE|Travel|: Dubai: Seeing airport security throw away your things can be frustrating. But you can save yourself a lot of hassle by understanding all the rules and packing your luggage correctly. Airports have rules in place as to what you can and cannot pack in your checked in luggage as well as your cabin baggage when you travel. If you are planning to travel out of the UAE, it can be difficult to remember what items you can and should not bring onto airplanes or into your checked in luggage. Choosing your bag All bags brought into UAE airports must have at least one flat surface. Round and irregular shaped parcels will not be accepted at check in. Your bag also shouldn’t have a long strap. You can check in rectangular luggage, a handbag with a flat bottom or any box, as long as it is sealed properly. If your bag doesn’t have at least one flat surface or is irregularly shaped and oversized, it will be immediately rejected at check-in. Checked in luggage According to Dubai Airports, a maximum two pieces of baggage are allowed for international travel, with the total weight not exceeding 32 kg. However, this definitely varies by airline and fare type. Always make sure you check with your airline before you fly. Baggage larger than 90 cm long, 75 cm high and 60 cm wide, or that does not have a single flat surface, will need to be checked in at the oversized baggage counter as it won’t be accepted on the standard size luggage scanning belt. Hand luggage Usually airlines accept two pieces of hand luggage. A shoulder bag such as a purse, laptop bag and backpack, as well as a small cabin bag. Cabin baggage should have a maximum length of 56 cm, width of 45 cm and depth of 25 cm including all handles, side pockets and wheels. Liquids In a carry on: These days the restriction on liquids is universal, although enforcement of the rules may vary from country to country. In UAE airports, all liquids should be packed inside a clear, re-sealable plastic bag, within your hand baggage. The item can’t be more than 100 ml and the total of all your items can’t exceed one litre. Exceptions: Medication, baby milk and foods and special dietary requirements to be used during the trip. In a checked in bag: Packing liquids can be done in any quantities into checked in bags. Airport security doesn’t impose any limits on liquids on checked bags. If you do pack liquids into your checked baggage, the only concern is making sure the bottles and containers don’t open up and leak into your suitcase. Tip: Unscrew the tops of your bottles and cover with saran wrap before screwing the top back on. This helps prevent spillages. According to Abu Dhabi Customs, each traveller is permitted to bring a maximum of 4 litres of alcohol or one carton of hops when travelling into the UAE. Money The UAE keeps a close eye on money laundering and suspicious financial activities, as a result passengers traveling are supposed to declare whether they have large sums of cash on them. The rule in the UAE is that cash, currencies and travelers cheques cannot altogether exceed Dh100,000 as long as the passenger’s age is over 18 years old. Food According to UAE government you can in fact import a certain limit of food for non-commercial purposes. These include no more than: • 20 kg of yoghurt • 50 litres of oil (including olive oil) • 10 kg of various types of vegetables and fruits • 100 kg dates • 10 kg sweets and bread • 30 kg of grains, cereals and red meat • 10 kg of fish and seafood • 500 gm of caviar • 11 kg of eggs • 20 kg for honey and sugar products • 5 kg for herbs and spices including vinegar, orange blossom water and rose water • 500 gm of saffron • 10 kg of special-purpose food such as children's food is allowed • 20 litres of drinks and syrups including water • 5 kg of juice concentrates • 25 kg of canned food. Medicines The UAE government advises tourists to be extra cautious about bringing in certain types of medicines into the UAE. Some medicines from other countries could contain substances that are banned in the UAE, which could lead to the arrest of those carrying them. If you are visiting the UAE with medicine that may be banned you should carry the doctor's prescription, and ensure that the quantity of tablets justify normal use during your scheduled duration of stay. It would be advisable to get a certificate from the your embassy. Customs authorities in the UAE regularly update the list of medicines banned in the UAE. People visiting the UAE must check their websites before travelling to search your medicine’s name. Top 20 medicines that are banned in the UAE Alpha-methylifentanyl Betamethodol Cannabis Codoxime Concentration of poppy straw Fentanyl Methadone Morphine Opium Oxycodone Phenoperidine Trimeperidine Ketamine Codeine Cathinone Amphetamine Pentobarbital Bromazepam Risperidone Tramadol Check out the full list on the Ministry of Health website What are banned items to have in any luggage? All kinds of narcotic drugs, including hashish, cocaine, heroin, poppy seeds and hallucination pills. Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries. Goods from Israeli origin or bearing Israeli trademarks or logos. Crude ivory and rhinoceros horn. Gambling tools and machineries. Three layers fishing nets. Original engravings, prints, lithographs, sculpture and statues in any material. Used, reconditioned and inlaid tyres. Radiation polluted substances. Printed publications, oil paintings, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines, stone sculptures and mannequins which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies, or deliberately implying immorality or turmoil. Any other goods, the importation of which is prohibited under the authority of UAE customs laws or any other laws in the country. Forged and duplicate currency. Cooked and home-made foods. What is allowed when you travel? Passenger’s personal belongings are permitted entry and shall be exempted from customs fees. Still and moving image video cameras with their appropriate tapes, films and accessories. Cash money, currencies and travelers cheques altogether less than Dh100,000 and the passenger’s age shall not be less than 18 years old. Radio systems, combined broadcasting apparatus, CD and DVD players with agreeable quantities. Agreeable quantities of projectors for displaying slides and films including accessories. Telescopes Mobile telephone Portable TV sets Computers including laptops Baby strollers Portable music equipment Sports equipment Portable typing sets Portable calculators Disabled wheelchairs and cars Source: Dubai Customs Carry on vs. Checked in Loose batteries According to Emirates Airlines, batteries that are spare or loose, including lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries, for portable electronic devices must be carried in carry-on baggage only. Power banks Articles which have the primary purpose as a power source, such as power banks, are considered as spare batteries. These batteries must be individually protected to avoid short-circuit. Each passenger is limited to a maximum of 20 spare batteries. Batteries, exceeding 100 watt hours or 2 grams lithium content Lithium batteries, spare or loose with a watt-hour rating exceeding 100 watt hours but not exceeding 160 watt hours for consumer electronic devices, Portable Medical Electronic Devices (PMED) or with a lithium content exceeding two grams but not exceeding eight grams for PMED only require special permission from the airline. A maximum of two spare batteries are allowed in carry-on baggage only. These batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuit. E-cigarettes E-cigarettes, including e-cigars, e-pipes, Electric Portable Incense (perfume) burner or other personal vaporizers that contain batteries must be individually protected to prevent accidental activation. They cannot be placed in your checked in luggage. Can only be travelled with on a carry on. Personal motorised vehicles For safety reasons, airports in the UAE will not accept personal motorised vehicles such as hover boards, Segways and smart or self-balancing wheels on flights. UAE Airports, for example, prohibits the carriage of all such devices – with or without batteries - as checked–in or carry–on baggage. This regulation still applies even if you’re connecting in the UAE from an airline that has accepted them. Gas cartridges, small, non-flammable Gas cartridges that are small and non-flammable and containing carbon dioxide or other gases require special permissions from each airlines and not more than one device per customer. Smart bags: Do or Don’t? Whether you’re flying with Emirates or any other airline, bear in mind that if you are flying to the United States, smart luggage has been banned since January 2018. A number of other airlines have banned smart bags from the hold unless the lithium battery can be removed. Smart bags use lithium batteries to run GPS tracking systems, phone chargers and electronic locks, which have been linked to causing fires on planes. Passengers can carry the bag into the cabin if it’s small and the battery can be switched off. Source: Emirates Airlines *This information are based on archives and official websites. Please check with the relevant airport and airline before flying to confirm what is allowed and not.
Kuwait suspends travel from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka
Travel|: Dubai: Kuwait on Monday announced the suspension of commercial flights from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka until further notice, in its efforts to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, state media said. The decision, which was issued by the Kuwaiti government, also bans entry of travellers from the four countries. It excludes cargo flights. People who are allowed to enter Kuwait from the four countries, must have been in another country for at least 14 days before coming to Kuwait, according to a statement carried out by state news agency (KUNA) said. Last week, Kuwait barred citizens who have not been vaccinated from travelling aboard from May 22.
UAE, Bahrain, approve quarantine-free travel corridor
Travel|Bahrain|: Dubai: The UAE and Bahrain on Monday approved the setting up of a quarantine-free travel corridor for vaccinated people and for those who will be allowed to travel between the two countries as of the first day of Eid Al Fitr. The move comes as part of the joint UAE-Bahrain cooperation and coordination to press ahead with measures aiming at recovery from the fallout of COVID-19. The quarantine-free travel corridor will ease the travel of vaccinated people between the two countries with the need to apply health quarantine requirements upon their arrival, while abiding by precautionary measures, to ensure safe travel for all. The step reflects the keenness of the leaderships of both countries to ease the movement of individuals and achieve the desires goals of vaccination campaigns, eventually leading to reach to advanced rates of vaccinated people. As per the new rule, citizens and expatriate residents, who want to benefit from the quarantine-free travel corridor, need to show evidence confirming they have received the last shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, or a certificate proving that through “Al Hosn” app. The strategic UAE-Bahrain cooperation and partnership is highly important in light of challenges facing the world due to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. It supports the coordination and efforts by both countries in their battle against the pandemic.
RIF Trust hosts Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment Webinar
Travel|: Vanuatu is a small tropical island nation which is part of the British Commonwealth. Featuring some of the happiest people in the world, the Southwestern Pacific island is renowned for its warm water, diving, active volcanoes, tropical rainforests, and spectacular lagoons and beaches - an ideal destination for memorable adventures. Vanuatu is considered one of the world’s most culturally diverse nations. With more than 1,000 spoken languages and a population of 250,000, Vanuatu happily welcomes new citizens through its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme to help boost its economic development and growth. Launched in 2017, the Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment Programme is one of the newest and fastest growing programmes that has attracted worldwide appeal through its high due diligence, transparency, and efficiency. Vanuatu passport holders can travel to 130 different countries visa-free, including the UK and EU Schengen Area. Join us on Tuesday, April 6th at 5 PM (Gulf Standard Time) to be among the first to hear about the new qualifying investment option for the Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment programme that will be announced by our special guest Hon. Ronald Warsal Kalmasei, CEO of the Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment Unit. Topics of discussions: • What are the benefits of acquiring a second citizenship/passport through the Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment Programme? • What is the newest investment option of the Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment Programme? • Can an applicant add their wife, siblings, parents, or grandparents to his/her application? • What is the total programme cost and when do applicants pay? • How long does the process take until the passport is issued and delivered? Reserve your spot for our webinar this Tuesday, April 6th to learn more about this life-changing opportunity for you and your family. To arrange a private consultation with an advisor for the Vanuatu CBI programme, please email email@example.com, call +971 (0) 4 520 6777 or visit www.riftrust.com
Sheikh Hamdan’s college in Dundee: A college that inspires students to aim for the skies
Europe|Education|Travel|: ‘Small in size but great in our ambition’ is the slogan that aptly sums up the Al Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland. Funded primarily by the late Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, through the Al-Maktoum Foundation, the college is an eye-opener to students and visitors. I had the privilege of first visiting this amazing haven for post-graduate education sometime during the early 2000s. I was a guest at the graduation ceremony of a Summer batch attended by girls from around the UAE’s many colleges, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bahrain. High-quality learning with multicultural perspective Formerly known as the Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, the college was established in 2001, under the chairmanship of Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of Sheikh Hamdan’s Office and Chancellor Lord Murray Elder, a delightful character who looks like a character from the Harry Potter series. Tucked away in a quiet side of the seaside town of Dundee, the historic college is located close to the City Centre, Abertay University and the University of Dundee. It can easily be accessed by students who live in the neighbouring town, faculty or visitors. Upon entering past its giant oak doors, you arrive at the foyer and reception area and is at once taken in by its inspiring, relaxing and friendly ambience, something that stands it out from other colleges. Graduates from the 24th Summer School at the Al Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland. Image Credit: P.K. Majeed/Gulf News One of the first rooms you will encounter is the large Sheikh Hamdan reading library, housed next to a guest room. I saw several students poring over books and making notes as they read Islamic and world history. Besides the library, the college provides everything students may need during their course. I discovered the Shaikh Maktoum Gardens, IT suite, Student Hub and Common Room containing a TV, seating, and vending machines during my tour. One of the unique education features was that the college offered personalised, face-to-face teaching. There was so much to like about the place and its ambience, and it catapulted me back in time to my school and college days, bringing back wonderful memories of learning history, geography, science or mathematics. read more Al Maktoum College in Dundee: Lessons in diversity for global citizens Emirati students describe Dundee Summer School as ‘powerful’ and ‘life-changing’ experience Al Maktoum College testimonials Dundee college: From strength to strength My host was College Director Dr Abu Bakr Jaber, who wears lightly the challenging role of running a campus where a multicultural perspective enriches the high-quality teaching and learning to help broaden students’ minds and prepare them for a future workplace. I saw girls from different communities and understood that this was a place that truly surpassed background or ethnicity. Its aim was to grow leaders, something that was also close to Sheikh Hamdan’s heart and fuelled his desire to invest in promoting education to Arab girls in particular, not just in Scotland but also in the UAE. The college focuses on education through academic, technical and customised programmes recognised by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). One of its principal aims is to build bridges between western and Muslim communities, which was evident from my tour, the first of many that I would enjoy over the years. For a positive change in societies The college also endeavours to develop the next generation of professionals and scholars, both from the Emirates and other Muslim countries and while engaging with students from Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or Dubai While interacting with some students, I discovered that most thought differently and were working towards a positive change within their societies and communities. Since its founding in 2001, the college has seen students from over 30 different nationalities graduate through its stylised and contemporary courses, which offer Higher National Certificate and Diploma (HNC/D) qualifications. Furthermore, the college is in partnership with the University of Dundee in launching Scotland’s first Master’s degree in Islamic Banking and Finance during the 2019/20 academic year. Small in size but great in our ambition — is indeed the essence of the Al Maktoum College for Higher Education in Scotland. Long may it live.
A traveller's worst nightmare: Testing positive for COVID-19
World|Travel|: Late last year, Jose Arellano, a U.S. Navy veteran, and his wife, Gloria, traveled 2,000 miles from home to the resort town of Oaxaca, Mexico, to use up about $400 in plane tickets they had purchased at the start of the pandemic. The couple used masks, face shields and disinfectant, but not even a week into the trip, Jose Arellano, 56, who had asthma, and then Gloria Arellano, 54, began to get headaches and run a fever. They had both contracted the coronavirus and were battling it in a place where they had no doctors or health insurance and no nearby family or friends to offer support. There is no way of knowing how many people have been infected with the virus on a trip, but one insurance provider, Seven Corners, has had 2,000 claims filed for related illnesses since June, said the company's president, Jeremy Murchland. And, one medical evacuation business said it has averaged three flights a month for those with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. More people are travelling Only 10% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but more people are travelling than at any time in the past year. Most will return home healthy, but some will fall ill with COVID-19 and end up quarantining in a hotel or being ordered to a government facility. Others will become sick enough to be hospitalised away from home, and a few will face costly air ambulance flights - or worse. Also read COVID-19: All your vaccine queries answered Who is allowed to work in the UAE? All you need to know COVID-19 rules announced for Ramadan 2021: All you need to know In the Arellanos' case, things quickly deteriorated, and on Dec. 28, after a month in the hospital with COVID-19, Jose Arellano, who had worked for San Diego County for 30 years, died of a lung infection. Gloria Arellano is still recovering at their home in Tijuana, Mexico, where they had settled full time after retirement. Their son, Christian Arellano, 28, who flew from Tijuana to Oaxaca to help his parents, was also infected. "They were victims to the optimism bias that it's not going to happen to them," he said. Basic amenities, no comfort Jeremy Salomon, 39, who runs Privilege Luxury Club, a membership travel group, in Copenhagen, Denmark, was at the tail end of a working trip on the Caribbean island of St. Barts when, on Jan. 17, he woke up feeling off. His coronavirus test came back positive, and he was told to quarantine for at least seven days, so he arranged to pay for extended time at his hotel. The next day, however, the manager asked if he would move to "some nice studios" that the island had for those who needed to quarantine so the hotel wasn't subject to rumors, he said. Salomon was transported by ambulance to a local sports center with basic suites. "It had a rubber sheet on the mattress. There were no towels. There were no blankets. There was no toilet seat," he said. "The fridge was empty; there wasn't even a bottle of water." Also read UAE COVID-19 Diaries - Dubai mum: 'How my 7-month-old babies beat COVID-19' Video: New Indonesian envoy in Dubai, who survived COVID-19 twice, shares valuable lessons COVID-19: Watch Bollywood home alone diaries Luckily for him, the general manager of Eden Rock, a hotel where he had spent one night earlier in his trip, heard about his ordeal, picked him up and drove him to a villa with six bedrooms, indoor and outdoor saunas, a pool and a private beach. The hotel gave him the use of the villa for free. Unluckily for him, he quickly became too sick to enjoy any of it. "I spent 10 days basically in a fetal position in bed, coughing and brutal fever," he said. "They brought breakfast every morning, and I'd maybe eat it every second day. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be in that prison cell. You don't send someone there to recover." Salomon said that now when he books clients into a hotel he asks about the quarantine policy, and if the guests won't be allowed to stay, where they would be expected to go. Dormitory over hotel Bilal Riazuddin, a 22-year-old university student from London, did not have Salomon's connections. Riazuddin flew to Malaysia in late December to visit his parents and had to prebook an approved hotel for a mandatory 10-day quarantine. He opted for the least costly option, the ibis Styles Kuala Lumpur Fraser Business Park Hotel, for about $40 a night. He said it was "comfy." When he was tested for the coronavirus in anticipation of his discharge, the results came back positive on his ninth day, so within a few hours he was driven in an ambulance with three others to a government-run free quarantine dormitory that had soldiers posted out front. He said he was given a dingy room that came with a desk, bed, mattress, sheet, ceiling fan and shared bathrooms. There was no kitchen (the people living there got three meals a day), no running water in the room, no hand sanitizer, no pillow or blankets, no air conditioning and no laundry in the building. Most of the 20 or 30 men on the floor were assigned a roommate, but Riazuddin had a single. However, there was no lock on his door. "A couple of times people came into the wrong room. They just open up the door," he said. "No one spoke English, so I'd just stare at them and they'd leave." Full-blown medical evacuation Amy, a travel adviser who asked to be identified only by her first name to protect her privacy, traveled to the Maldives with her 20-year-old daughter in mid-January. They both tested negative before leaving the United States, came up negative again in Dubai, where they spent two nights en route, and then twice again in the Maldives, when they moved from one resort to another. Then, 12 days into their trip, the daughter's fifth PCR test came back positive. "I was really shocked. Look at how many tests we had, and all our travel was custom and private," Amy said. "We asked for her to be tested again and they said, 'No.'" Although her daughter's only complaints were a headache and fatigue, and they were comfortable in a luxurious private overwater bungalow, Amy feared authorities would separate them. She decided to request an evacuation using her membership with Covac Global, a company founded to provide medical evacuations during the pandemic. Amy had paid $1,295 for 15 days of Covac Global's coverage when she booked their trip. An air ambulance stationed in Qatar could have been ready to go quickly, but the staff wasn't vaccinated. The daughter, who remained asymptomatic, would have had to spend the 24-hour flight on a stretcher in an isolation pod, a scenario Amy nixed. A different air ambulance was found with vaccinated staff who agreed the daughter only needed to stay in the pod for takeoff, landing, refueling and when being transferred between planes, said Ross Caldwell Thompson, CEO of Covac Global. Read more Overseas Filipinos can now fly back home as Philippines revises travel restrictions UAE: Can I take the COVID-19 vaccine before I travel? All told, more than 30 people worked to make the flight happen, he said, including getting governmental permissions from six countries. The extra resort stay, plus phone calls and the cost of shipping back their luggage, since the plane was too small to carry it, cost Amy about $11,000. Had she not purchased Covac's coverage, the repatriation would have cost about $200,000, said Thompson, whose company also does fee-for-service evacuations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention referred questions about the frequency of repatriation of COVID-19 positive people to the State Department, where a spokesperson said those statistics aren't collected. She did say that those who test positive for the virus while abroad "should prepare to remain overseas for an extended period and seek medical attention locally." Have a plan When a person gets ill far from home, even if they speak the language, knowing what to do in the midst of a developing crisis is daunting. "If you do decide to take the risk of going, especially taking a trip to a foreign place where you have nobody you know, have a plan just in case," said Christian Arellano. "The thing that affected us the most was scrambling. To find where to go, who to talk to, where we could get the medicine, where we could stay," he said. When the Arellanos first started feeling sick, they visited a medical clinic, where a doctor said they had asthma. A second physician eventually diagnosed COVID-19. Christian Arellano said that despite his mother's illness, she "ran all over town getting all the medicine, thousands of dollars in just medicine." As the situation worsened, the couple called the U.S. Consular Agency in Oaxaca, which said no area hospital beds were available. They suggested an oxygen tank. With Jose Arellano's condition deteriorating, the couple spent $25,000 for a Mexican air ambulance to take him to the Naval Medical Center in La Jolla, California. Meanwhile, Christian, a student at San Diego State University whose classes were remote, flew to Oaxaca to help his mother. He saw his father briefly before the older man was airlifted to the United States. "He was barely alive, to be honest," Christian Arellano said. "He was in such bad shape the doctors decided to sedate him and intubate him before the ambulance." Jose Arellano would never regain consciousness. He was transferred to Jacobs Medical Center, also in La Jolla, and given high-tech treatment. $1 million in medical bills In Oaxaca, Gloria Arellano's condition worsened. A doctor drove Christian and his mother around the city in search of a hospital bed for her. The only thing available was in a private facility at a cost about $4,000 a night. A banking glitch prevented her son's debit card from working, and his mother was nearly turned away, but he reached an uncle who offered a credit card. Gloria Arellano was there three nights. Then, Christian Arellano developed gastrointestinal problems, and he, too, turned out to be positive for the virus. They flew back to Tijuana Dec. 16. The Jacobs Center didn't allow Gloria Arellano to visit her husband until Dec. 27. The next day their daughter, Joselyn Arellano, 27, got to see him. They were all with him when he died the following day. He was buried Feb. 8 with full military honors. The family is facing over $1 million in bills and expects insurance to cover about 60%. They are left wondering how something that was supposed to bring joy brought so much sorrow. "I know my parents decided to take the trip, but they tried to take the most precautions they had," Christian Arellano said. "When I was in Oaxaca, I would see all these foreign tourists walking round, no masks at all, just happy about life. It's kind of infuriating when you see people who aren't taking it seriously."
Your all-inclusive resort in the Maldives awaits
Hotels|: Positioned at the most northern tip of Maldives in the beautiful Haa Alifu Atoll, the magnificently serene all-inclusive JA Manafaru offers privacy and distance from other islands as it sits idyllically where the Arabian Sea meets the vast Indian Ocean. The remote location is beyond the rest of the islands’ cluster, offering unspoilt natural landscapes to explore. The award-winning resort describes this as ‘the true Maldivian experience’, whereby guests have the sense of discovering a pristine natural landscape uninterrupted by an excess of tourists. Fringed with exquisite powder beaches and crystal-clear waters teeming with exotic marine life, the chic enclave features 84 luxurious beachfront and over-water villas and residences, each with their own private pool and in some cases two. The accommodation options range from 135 sqm to 2,000 sqm, providing complete serenity, with even entry-level options showcasing a larger area than most deluxe categories in the Maldives. The lagoon-ringed island location reassures guests of its safety, as it is far and away from any hustle and bustle or large tourist or locally inhabited areas. Image Credit: Supplied Image Credit: Supplied Image Credit: Supplied On the island, there are a wealth of options for romantic & family dining, including traditional Maldivian cuisine, international fare and seafood feasts, all available on the all-inclusive meal plan, which also entitles guests to premium beverages from 11am-11pm. One of the most picturesque spots on the island has been transformed into the new White Orchid Lounge – a stunning lounge that sits in the ocean treating guests to balmy breezes as they indulge in Asian street food and melodic beats. Guests can also enjoy a wide range of premium beverages and cuisine across multiple venues including Kakuni, the all-day venue and island hub, Andiamo Bistro and Pool with its lush green backdrop and Ocean Grill – awe-inspiring beachfront dining under the stars. Image Credit: Supplied Image Credit: Supplied Couples and families can spend time together enjoying Maldivian cooking classes, dolphin watching, scenic boat cruises, fishing trips, on the eco golf driving range and in the award-winning Calm Spa Sanctuary, offering Ayurveda, aromatherapy, and wellness journeys. Couples & families can also engage in multiple activities together like diving at the PADI certified dive centre for beginners and experienced divers, jet-skiing, water-skiing, mono-skiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, stand-up paddling and catamaran sailing. There’s a Marine Awareness Centre to conserve local ecology, as well as beach volleyball, futsal pitch, tennis court, badminton court, pool table, and games room as well a recently upgraded fitness pavilion, now with the addition of stretching studio and yoga deck. As with all properties within the JA Resorts & Hotels portfolio, JA Manafaru Maldives is following a full programme of safety and sanitisation which includes government directives and the protocols of the World Travel & Tourism Councils #SafeTravels initiative.
Travel advisory: UAE Embassy in Cairo alerts tourists of new US$25 entry visa fee to Egypt
UAE|Travel|: Dubai: Arab and Gulf tourists will soon have to pay a new visa fee to enter Egypt, according to a decision published in the Egyptian government gazette. On its official social media channels, the UAE Embassy in Cairo announced that starting from March 21, 2021, tourists from Arab nations and the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) will be required to pay a visa fee of US $25, which is equivalent to Dh92. On its official Twitter account, the UAE mission said: “The UAE Embassy want to inform nationals from Gulf countries and the states included in the League of Arab States that Egyptian authorities have imposed entry visa fees on all citizens of Arab countries, at an amount of US $25. Note that the decree will take effect from March 21, 2021.” The 22 countries in the Arab League include: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen. The travel advisory from the UAE Embassy was made decision by Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfiq on visa fees for citizens of Arab countries visiting Egypt was published in the Egyptian government gazette. The decision exempted nations that had previously signed exemption agreements with Egypt, but did not specify these countries. Earlier in June 2020, Egypt said it imposed an entry visa fee on Gulf states, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, although the decision was not implemented at the time, and it was eventually cancelled and postponed until now. A previous decision had also imposed entry visa fees on Qatari citizens, which was effective since November 2017. Tourism in Egypt during COVID-19 Tourism is the main source of Egypt’s national income, and was hard-hit by the pandemic. In an effort to boost Egypt’s vital tourism industry, authorities last September allowed travellers arriving at airports in resort cities of Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh, Marsa Allam and Taba to undergo the PCR test at those airports for 30 dollars if they did not have a COVID-19 negative certificate. All travellers, including Egyptians, are required to present a negative CPR test result to be allowed into Egypt. The test should be conducted 72 hours before arriving in the country. The Egyptian government earlier said the measure was taken due to recent increases in virus infections in several countries.
RIF Trust hosts St Lucia Citizenship by Investment Programme Webinar
Travel|: St Lucia is often referred to as the “Helen of the West” for the island’s immense beauty. Visitors and residents of St Lucia are spoiled for choice with its iconic Piton Mountains, pristine beaches and waterfalls, “drive-in” volcano, and luxury hotel resorts. St Lucia is a small tropical Commonwealth island gem in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Despite its modest population of 183,000, the island openly embraces new economic citizens to its shores through its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme. Tune in tomorrow March 16th for an in-depth 1-hour webinar on St Lucia’s Citizenship by Investment programme, hosted by RIF Trust. We will be having a conversation with Nestor Alfred, the CEO of the St Lucia Citizenship by Investment Unit, on the recent updates to the programme. St Lucia is newest CBI programme in the Caribbean starting in 2015 and features some of the highest due diligence, transparency, and efficiency in the world. St Lucia citizens can travel to over 146 countries visa-free, including the UK and EU Schengen Area. Join us tomorrow, March 16th at 5 pm (Gulf Standard Time) to find out more about the recent updates to the programme including a new temporary COVID-19 Relief Bond investment option and the expansion of the scope of family-members, including siblings, that can be included in an application. Topics discussed will include: Why should a single applicant or family acquire Citizenship by Investment? What are the core benefits of the St Lucia Citizenship by Investment programme? How popular is St Lucia Citizenship by Investment for UAE residents? What are the new and competitive investment options available for Caribbean CBI applicants? How do the new changes to regulations impact the way an applicant can include extended family members? Reserve your spot for our exclusive webinar now to give you and your family the best opportunity to learn about how the St Lucia Citizenship by Investment programme can change your life. To arrange a private consultation with an advisor on the St Lucia’s CBI programme, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, call +971 (0) 4 520 6777 or visit www.riftrust.com
UAE, Israel discuss establishing quarantine-free travel corridor
Government|Travel|: Abu Dhabi: The Governments of the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel have entered into formal discussions to establish a quarantine-free travel corridor between the two countries. The travel corridor, which would apply to passengers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, will facilitate travel for commercial, tourism, and official purposes. Meetings between the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs are currently under way to negotiate the terms of the agreement, with the aim of finalising and implementing the agreement in April 2021. The two sides affirmed that the establishment of a travel corridor between the UAE and Israel would increase the level of bilateral exchange in the wake of the historic Abraham Accords Peace Agreement and generate additional opportunities to reinforce economic and people-to-people ties. The two sides noted that discussions to establish such a corridor come in recognition of successful efforts by the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. As the two countries leading the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns, the UAE and Israel expressed their shared commitment to demonstrating that ending the pandemic requires widespread, effective vaccination and coordination between countries. The leadership of the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel reiterated that strengthening global health security is a collective responsibility. As models for the international community in combating COVID-19 through the provision of accessible care, the UAE and Israel underlined the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation to achieve an equitable and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
Is Migrating to Canada in 2021 a good idea?
Travel|: On Friday, February 26 at 2 PM GST, UAE’s largest and most trusted Immigration Consultant Y-Axis will be holding a Free Canada Webinar for the curious as well as the interested. Since 1999, Y-Axis has assisted many to realize their overseas aspirations. Specialists in the Immigration process, Y-Axis has expertise for handling diverse kinds of immigration cases, each requiring a different approach. Assured of receiving first-rate benefits, an increasing number of people in the UAE are opting for Y-Axis over other consultants. Canada is targeting 1.2 million newcomers to the country that are to be welcomed by the Canadian government between 2021 and 2023. Get all your questions on Canada Migration answered by industry experts. Get answers to the most common Canada immigration queries, such as – • How do I apply? • What are the different options available for me? • What is the procedure? • How to get maximum points? • Which immigration pathway is ideally suited for me? With the almost 80 Canada immigration pathways available – some going through the provinces, requiring a provincial nomination as the first step – the options can be quite intimidating for many of us. Selecting the best choice among them all, thereby maximizing your chances of being granted a visa, is indeed possible. All you need to do is to ask the right people. Come, be a part of the experience. Register now
Google fined $1 million for misleading French hotel rankings
Travel|: Paris: Google has agreed to pay a fine of 1.1 million euros ($1.3 million; Dh4.7 million) after French authorities concluded the search engine displayed "misleading'' rankings for French hotels. Previously, Google used the official source Atout France as well as input from other hotel-industry websites in its algorithm to rank hotels from one to five stars. After receiving complaints from hoteliers about Google's rankings, the French government's fraud and competition agency launched an investigation in 2019 and 2020. It said it was to monitor "the nature and fairness of the information provided by the platform'' across 7,500 establishments. Google said that it has now made the "necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search.''
Dear Reader, Gulf News is innovating again
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