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UK Drops Face Masks, Social Distance Rules From July 19, As PM Johnson Pushes Freedom Day Button

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Boris Johnson

From July 19, the United Kingdom (UK) will no longer require British citizens to wear a face mask while the country will end the social distancing rules and other mandatory rules to curtail Covid, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a briefing on Monday.

Johnson said the government will also no longer going to announce advisorys to encourage people to work from home.

In a bold shift despite daily Covid cases rising a fifth in a week to 27,000, the PM told a Downing Street briefing that they could hit 50,000.

But he insisted even though the pandemic “certainly won’t be over” by July 19 and people should not be ‘demob happy’ the government will no longer issue ‘top down’ orders.

Johnson insisted he had to “balance the risks… the risks of the disease, and the risks of continuing with restrictions.”

“If we don’t go ahead now when we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link between infection and death.

“If we don’t go ahead now when the summer firebreak is coming up, the school holidays, all the advantages that that should give us in fighting the virus, then the question is, ”when would we go ahead?”

“Particularly given the likelihood the virus will have an extra advantage in the colder months, in the autumn, and in the winter.

“So we run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage in the colder months, or again putting everything off to next year so I do think it’s going to be a very balanced decision next week.”

The one-meter plus decree and advice to work from home where possible will be dropped, with mask-wearing no longer mandatory – while pubs and other venues will not have to collect customer details and will again be able to serve drinks at the bar.

Johnson also said limits on gatherings are going and torpedoed the idea of legally requiring Covid certificates at bars and restaurants, with the vaccination drive instead of being trusted to do the heavy lifting of protecting the public.

The news was warmly welcomed by the hospitality industry and other sectors that have been hammered by the crisis.

However, although the premier said he intends to replace self-isolation with testing for anyone who is double jabbed and comes into contact with a positive case, he did not say when that would happen and it is understood it will probably be after July 19. Children would also be covered by the arrangements.

Johnson also said an announcement will be made later in the week on dropping the “bubble” rules that have been causing chaos in schools. There have been signs that the change will only take effect at the start of next term in September – although Sajid Javid suggested tonight that it could happen this month.

The PM stopped short of confirming that quarantine requirements for “amber list” countries will be waived for double-jabbed Brits from July 19. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to make an announcement later in the week.

The plan for the final stage of the roadmap will be subject to a final approval next Monday, although it appears it would take something extraordinary to change the PM’s mind at this stage.

The UK today recorded another 27,334 cases – up nearly a fifth on the same day last week – but deaths remained in single figures at nine.

The government has also said it will “maintain contingency plans for reimposing economic and social restrictions at a local, regional or national level” in case the situation deteriorates.

Meanwhile, doubts have been raised over whether mask-wearing will be completely scrapped this month, even though the law will fall away. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has refused to say whether he will keep the rules on the Tube, while Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has demanded a rethink to protect the vulnerable. Unions warned it would be gross negligence to drop the requirement.

Government sources suggested that in theory train companies and businesses could keep demanding face coverings are worn, even if the law is changed. Nicola Sturgeon has also suggested that the rules could continue for longer in Scotland.

Asked whether he would keep wearing masks, Johnson said it would ‘depend on the circumstances’ – pointing out that a crowded Tube train is very different from a deserted late-night service.

Chris Whitty – flanking the PM as usual at the briefing – said he would don a covering if other people were “uncomfortable.”

Putting his faith in the vaccines, Mr. Johnson said: We’re seeing rising hospital admissions and we must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid.

“In these circumstances, we must take a careful and a balanced decision.

“And there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”

He said the expectation remains that by July 19 every adult in the UK will have had the offer of the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and two-thirds will have had a second dose.

And he highlighted that lockdowns ‘inevitably take their toll on people’s lives and livelihoods, on people’s health and mental health.”

“We must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer, and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves ‘when will we be able to return to normal?” he said.

“And to those who say we should delay again – the alternative to that is to open up in winter when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.”

Speaking at Downing Street, science chief Sir Patrick Vallance warned that ‘deaths are increasing’ and “we would expect that to continue as Covid cases rise, as he said people must ‘behave accordingly in terms of trying to limit transmission.”

Sir Patrick said infections are “going up” and “the link between cases and hospitalisations and cases and deaths is weakened but not completely broken, and we would expect to see some further increase.”

He said, “we are in the face of an increasing epidemic at the moment and therefore we need to behave accordingly in terms of trying to limit transmission.”

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Emirates Lands In Nigeria In Style

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Emirates has today touched down in both Abuja and Lagos, marking the restart of daily services to Nigeria from Dubai. It received a spectacular water canon welcome at Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos. 

Both flights from Dubai, EK 785 to Abuja and EK 783 to Lagos, were welcomed to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and Murtala Muhammed International Airport with water cannon salutes. Upon arrival, a cake cutting ceremony was also held between Emirates officials and the airport authorities to mark the resumption of operations.

Paulos Legesse, Country Manager Nigeria said: “We are delighted to resume operations to and from Nigeria, and are pleased to see strong interest from our customers, reflected in robust forward bookings from the time of our announcement, as well as today’s full flights from Dubai to Abuja and Lagos. The services will also give our customers the opportunity once again to safely experience Emirates’ superior product and service, offering them convenient travel options to Dubai, an already popular destination for Nigerian travellers, as well as seamless connectivity other key cities across our network.”

The aircraft being deployed to both Nigerian cities is the three class Boeing 777-300ER which offers 8 luxurious First Class suites, 42 generous Business Class seats, and over 300 seats in Economy Class.

Customers across all classes were able to enjoy the airline’s regional delicacies onboard, as well as its renowned in-flight entertainment system, ice, featuring over 4,500 channels of on-demand entertainment, including Nollywood films and content.

Emirates operates to Abuja with EK 785 and 786. EK 785 departs Dubai at 1100hrs, arriving in Abuja at 1540hrs. The return flight, EK 786 takes off from Abuja at 1900, arriving in Dubai at 0435hrs the next day. Emirates flight EK 783 to Lagos departs Dubai at 1030hrs, arriving in Lagos at 1540hrs. The return flight EK 784 departs Lagos at 1810hrs, arriving in Dubai at 0415hrs the next day.

Travelling to Dubai: Ensuring the safety of travellers, visitors, and the community, Covid-19 PCR tests are mandatory for all inbound passengers arriving to Dubai, including UAE citizens, residents and tourists, irrespective of the country they are coming from. Travellers coming from Nigeria must hold a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate for a test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

Additionally, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has specified designated laboratories for passengers departing Nigeria and travellers must obtain their certificate from one of the labs listed here to be accepted on the flight. Travellers coming from Nigeria will also need to take another Covid-19 PCR test on arrival at Dubai International Airport.

Since it safely resumed tourism activity in July 2020, Dubai remains one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, especially during the winter season. The city is open for international business and leisure visitors. From sun-soaked beaches and heritage activities to world class hospitality and leisure facilities,

Dubai offers a variety of world-class experiences. It was one of the world’s first cities to obtain Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) – which endorses Dubai’s comprehensive and effective measures to ensure guest health and safety.

Dubai is currently hosting the world for Expo 2020, happening between October 2021 and March 2022. Through the theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, Expo 2020 Dubai aims to inspire people by showcasing the best examples of collaboration, innovation and cooperation from around the world.

Its programme is packed with experiences to suit all ages and interests, including a rich line-up of themed weeks, entertainment, and edutainment. Art and culture fans as well as food and technology enthusiasts can explore exhibits, workshops, performances, live shows and more.

Emirates continues to lead the industry with innovative products and services and recently took its customer care initiatives further with  even more flexible booking policies which have been extended to 31 May 2022.

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Npower Latest News: Npower Payment Update as at December 2

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Npower

The Npower programme has been under a lot of criticism lately for its inability to pay the programme’s beneficiaries their stipends since September. This article will be providing updates concerning the programme, payment of stipends and other updates concerning it.

Earlier in the week, the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS) posted on its Facebook page that there had been a reversal of payment status. NASIMS apologized for the incident, saying that the reversal was caused partly by instability in network, causing it to bounce back after waiting days to “clinch the next payment process has elapsed.” They stated that they were working on resolving it, and all qualified beneficiaries would be paid eventually.

Then on Thursday, NASIMS addressed a Facebook post to the unpaid beneficiaries of Batch C1. The post informed beneficiaries that payment of the outstanding September stipend had begun.

This comes at a period when the affected beneficiaries are going through a frustrating period, considering the economic situation of the country (with rising prices of food and other products) approaching the festive period. It will come as a relief to many that at least one part of the outstanding payments has commenced, when the demand for the payment has been high in recent weeks.

NASIMS then implored the beneficiaries to continue monitoring their accounts closely, in case they are credited with their stipends without receiving any alerts. The Management System also confirmed that correction of any issues associated with payment is still ongoing, and once again assured the beneficiaries that all those concerned and qualified will be paid.

After posting the update concerning the September payment, NASIMS went ahead to speak concerning the October and November stipend payments. The Management System once again stated that in order to avoid false information, beneficiaries should bear in mind that the payment of the October and November stipends have not started.

NASIMS said that it was still working on issues concerning payment and hoped to settle everything as soon as possible.

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Npower Payment: NASIMS Talks Payment of October and November Stipends

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Npower

The National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS) has released an update concerning the payment of the Npower October and November stipends to the Batch C volunteers of the Npower programme. The failure to pay the stipends has launched quite the discourse concerning the efficacy of the programme.

In a Facebook post, NASIMS addressed the lack of payment, responding to the enquiries of some beneficiaries. These beneficiaries had previously repeatedly made attempts to find out exactly when the payments for October and November would be commencing.

NASIMS first moved to clarify how the payment process works, explaining that the payment procedure is not quick and it takes time. The group stated that the account would need to be validated before anything else, after which the bank account details would be forwarded to the Central Bank of Nigeria, who will in turn send out the required stipends to the financial institutions.

The Facebook post closed with NASIMS saying that they are not aware of an exact date on which the payment of the October and November stipends will commence, but mentioned that they are sure that the payment process will be starting anytime soon.

Also, the Federal Government – through NASIMS – has told the beneficiaries of Batch C to provide their Bank Verification Numbers if they are yet to do so, as the BVN is necessary for account validation. The Federal Government also confirmed that if payment status reflects as ‘Pending’ on the dashboard, it means that the account has been successfully validated.

At this stage, beneficiaries are to simply be patient and wait for the payment to be made.

NASIMS also stated that its attention has been drawn to a ridiculous post going around social media, concerning the commencement of Batch C2 selection. The post announced that the Batch C2 of the Npower programme had begun and individuals would need to pay N4500 to be enlisted.

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