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Nicola Sturgeon closes Scottish border to the rest of the UK in Covid-19 battle

Scotland's borders have been closed to people from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire.

The extreme measures have been taken by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who has plunged the country in to strict multiple-tiered lockdown measures in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Non-residents will only be allowed in to the country – and vice versa – with a 'reasonable excuse'.

The new rules came into effect from 6pm on Friday and also made it illegal for people from tier three and four areas to leave their local authority unless it is for essential reasons.

Edinburgh Live reports that Scots also aren't allowed to travel to other parts of the UK under the news rules, which could see Brits illegally coming in and out of Scotland hit with a £60 fine.

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The new travel guidance reads: "Under current Scottish regulations, given the state of the epidemic in these countries, unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions) you must not travel between Scotland and England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales.

"This applies to people who live in Scotland and to people who live in any of these countries who are thinking of coming to Scotland."

  • Boris Johnson to unveil Christmas Covid rules tomorrow in TV address

Miss Sturgeon has also encouraged Scots not to take a holiday this year, making it illegal for people to travel out of their tier three or four local authority to travel to an airport.

She said: "I know people have been asking why are we making it against the law depending on where you live to travel to an airport, but not against the law to fly to another country.

  • Child, 2, dies after suffering 'serious injuries' at block of flats as man, 40, arrested

"Just because it's not against the law… does not mean we think it's ok to do it right now.

"This is a global pandemic and it's for that reason that we have in recent months repeatedly advised people not to travel overseas unless its for an essential purpose."

Last month, she plunged Scotland in to a two-week 'circuit breaker' lockdown that banned pubs from opening between 6pm and 6am.

It coincided with the school half-term, and was intended to "apply a brake to the virus for 16 days from Saturday 10 to Sunday 25 October across Scotland".

With Christmas approaching, it is expected that Sturgeon will work alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson to agree to a plan that will allow families to spend time together, even if just for a few days.

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Turkey's behaviour "widening its separation" from EU, Borrell says

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey’s rhetoric on Cyprus is aggravating tensions with the European Union and Ankara must understand that its behaviour is “widening its separation” from the 27-nation bloc, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell speaks on relations with the U.S. during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo

“We consider the recent actions and statements by Turkey related to Cyprus contrary to the United Nations resolutions and further igniting tensions,” Borrell told a news conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“We consider that it is important that Turkey understands that its behaviour is widening its separation from the EU … In order to return to a positive agenda, as we wish, will require a fundamental change of attitude on the Turkish side.”

He was referring to comments by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who called for an equal “two-state” solution in Cyprus during a visit earlier this week to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

Erdogan also said Turkey and Northern Cyprus would no longer tolerate what he called “diplomacy games” in an international dispute over rights to offshore resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey is an official candidate for EU membership.

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Only Ankara recognises Northern Cyprus as an independent state and it has no diplomatic relations with the government of Cyprus, which is a member of the EU.

Cyprus called Erdogan’s visit “provocative and illegal”.

The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey over illegal exploration at sea when its leaders meet next month.

“Time is running, and we are approaching a watershed moment in our relationship with Turkey,” Borrell said.

The EU has failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus, but it has so far held off imposing sanctions that Athens and Nicosia are seeking.

Germany, which has led diplomatic talks with Ankara, wants to give dialogue a chance because of close EU-Turkey trade ties.

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Pfizer launches pilot delivery program for potential coronavirus vaccine in 4 states

Pfizer has launched a pilot delivery program for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in four U.S. states, as the U.S. drugmaker seeks to address distribution challenges facing its ultra-cold storage requirements.

Pfizer’s vaccine, which was shown to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on initial data, must be shipped and stored at -70 degrees Celsius (minus 94°F), significantly below the standard for vaccines of 2-8 degrees Celsius (36-46°F).

“We are hopeful that results from this vaccine delivery pilot will serve as the model for other U.S. states and international governments, as they prepare to implement effective COVID-19 vaccine programs,” Pfizer said in a statement on Monday.

It picked Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee for the program after taking into account their differences in overall size, diversity of populations, immunization infrastructure, and need to reach individuals in varied urban and rural settings.

The four states will not receive vaccine doses earlier than other states by virtue of the pilot, nor will they receive any differential consideration, Pfizer said.

The company expects to have enough safety data on the vaccine from the ongoing large scale late-stage trials by the third week of November before proceeding to apply for emergency use authorization (EUA).

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Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE have a $1.95 billion deal to supply 100 million doses of the vaccine to the U.S. government, which has an option to acquire up to an additional 500 million doses.

Earlier on Monday, rival Moderna Inc said its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, boosting hopes that vaccines against the disease may be ready for use soon.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a new technology called synthetic messenger RNA to activate the immune system against the virus.

(Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Richard Pullin)

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Covid-19 coronavirus: New Auckland case tried to call in sick, ended up working in a mask

A woman at the centre of the new Covid outbreak tried to phone in sick to her job at an Auckland CBD store but ended up coming in and wearing a mask.

The woman, aged in her 20s, worked at A-Z Collections in High St in a role serving customers.

The situation has been criticised by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who says he is frustrated and disappointed by the incident.

It has led to a call for Auckland CBD employees to work from home tomorrow.

The woman became symptomatic on Monday, and was tested on Tuesday.

But despite receiving advice to isolate, she talked to her manager, and went to work on Wednesday, wearing a mask.

Goff told NewstalkZB it was a big problem and the worst thing that could’ve happened.

He said Auckland could beat Covid again, but Aucklanders needed to follow the rules, and work collectively.

The mayor also told RNZ “it is not great news”.

“The worst thing that happened in this case is the woman having been told to isolate, then told by a store manager to come into work. That is frankly unbelievable.

“I just can not understand that. It defies common sense. There is a lesson in that, and you think that is a lesson people didn’t need to learn.”

Earlier, health bosses said people who work in downtown Auckland are being asked to do their jobs from home if possible tomorrow.

Director of public health Caroline McElnay said there has been a detailed interview with the confirmed case.

The woman is in a customer-facing role in their job at A-Z Collections on Auckland’s High St, McElnay said.

She called in sick to work after being told to isolate but after a conversation with her manager went to work and wore a mask.

The woman’s three close contacts are colleagues and friends and are being moved to a border hotel. They are all reported to be feeling well.

The woman also took a number of “very short” Uber trips to work and drivers are being contacted and asked to isolate.

The woman’s movements have been released.

These include:

Smith and Caughey’s on Queen St on Saturday November 7 (3.50–6pm).

Red Pig Restaurant, Kitchener St on Saturday November 7 (6-8.30pm)

Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant on Sunday November 8 (11.30-11.45am).

Takeaways from The Gateau House on Queen St on Sunday November 8 (6.40-6.50pm)

Takeaways from Starbucks Queen St and from Sunnytown Restaurant, Lorne St, on Monday November 9 (11.31-11.40am)

Anyone in the Auckland area and anyone throughout New Zealand should stay home if they have cold and flu symptoms, she said.

Out of an abundance of caution, Aucklanders who work in the CBD should work from home tomorrow, said McElnay, and if you have to go into that area you should wear a mask.

The woman’s swab is being processed overnight for genome sequencing and has been received by ESR.

An incident involving a fire alarm – where people in managed isolation mingled with apartment guests where the woman lives – is not likely to be a source of infection for the case as it was at 8pm on Monday night.

Alert level move?

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said the situation was different for the last outbreak when Auckland went back into alert level 3 – but said that wasn’t to say they wouldn’t review alert levels tomorrow.

He said it appeared the case was currently contained.

Hipkins asked that employers should “go out of their way” to make sure their staff could stay home if sick. He said it was disappointing the woman’s manager told her to go to work despite the health official’s advice to her to stay home.

McElnay said there was no information at this stage the woman or her contacts moved outside of the CBD.

Hipkins said he was comfortable that the guidance they were giving today was the best they could give on the information they had.

There was no danger of an “enhanced risk” outside CBD.

Hipkins, who is also Education Minister, said he was conscious it was exam season and his advice to NZQA is to continue exams as normal at this stage as he was aware exams were usually in a socially distanced setting.

Anyone with an exam tomorrow should still go until told otherwise, said Hipkins.

Hipkins said it was speculation to link the source to the woman living and working near to a managed isolation facility but it would be part of the investigation.

“We’re asking people to do the right thing here.”

Hipkins said there would likely be more information tomorrow.

McElnay said the test was taken quite late on Tuesday night.

Hipkins said he hoped there would be more QR scanning because it meant they could notify people quickly if they might have been exposed.

“My message to everyone is you don’t know when this might come up. So keep scanning.

“The QR code keeps everyone safe.”

He said “we are a very, very mobile people” so no one could assume that because the bulk of the cases were in Auckland, the rest of the country wasn’t at risk.

The Government hasn’t drawn a line on a map defining the bounds of the CBD but are asking employers to exercise caution.

Those who live in the CBD should minimise their movements and contacts.

Hipkins has had several conversations with the Prime Minister, who is in Wellington. If Cabinet needs to meet tomorrow, it would happen digitally.

Shutting down the heart of the city reflected the fact that we’re not dealing with widespread community cases, said Hipkins.

And the measures might help stop more draconian measures, he said.

The woman, in her 20s, developed symptoms on Monday and was tested on Tuesday. The results were confirmed this morning.

The woman lives alone in a Vincent St Residences apartment, did not visit the supermarket while infectious and had limited movements around the city.

The manager of The Gateau House cake shop on Queen St said they had just been told by health officials that a woman who recently tested positive to Covid-19 had visited her cake shop on Tuesday.

However, they had not been told “too much” information as of yet.

She said apparently the woman had not spent too long in her store.

She said her staff who had been working on Tuesday would now get Covid-19 tests and stay home until they got their results.

Her cake shop could stay open in the meantime but would be undergoing a thorough clean.

“We will disinfect our area, get staff to wear masks, provide hand sanitiser and follow precautions and do our part,” she said.

Manager of the Red Pig, Yeain Nam, is waiting to hear whether the restaurant can stay open.

The restaurant has a Covid-19 tracer QR code available and a sign-in book for those who don’t have the app.

She says she’s not sure if all customers used the app.

Last Saturday night the restaurant had between 60-80 customers, says Nam.

On busy Saturday nights, the restaurant can see up to 100 customers.

A staff member at the Sunny Town Chinese restaurant on Lorne St said she had “only just heard” that a woman who tested positive to Covid-19 had visited her restaurant.

“We are surprised,” she said.

She said her restaurant had not been contacted by health authorities.

She was now set to call her manager and plan what response the restaurant would take.

But she said her staff would be looking to wear masks and potentially distance restaurant tables immediately.

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Sale hammer falls on large-scale central North Island Ata Rangi Pastoral dairying venture

Ata Rangi Pastoral, a large-scale central North Island dairying venture which aimed to show how sustainable, pasture-based production was done, has turned sour, with the last properties sold last week under the auction hammer.

Ata Rangi Pastoral was registered in 2015, to establish, by conversion, five dairy units and one dry-stock, or dairy support, farm on a swathe of forested land north of Taupo,stretching from Whakamaru to Tokoroa.

Founding shareholders New Zealanders Brent Cook and Ged Donald were reported at the time to be aiming to be the standard-bearer for sustainable, pasture-based production in New Zealand.The pair returned the land to New Zealand ownership, purchasing it from a US investment fund.

The venture, which has been under BNZ Bank asset management, ended last week with the sale by auction of three of the farms.

Another farm, called Mangakino, was sold about a year ago for $14m, and a 612.7ha property named Atiamuri, settled last month. The 541 hectare dairy support property, known as Wainui, has been sold with settlement under way.

Property Brokers’ Brian Peacocke, who co-handled the sales, said last week the 593.1ha Tokoroa Downs farm had sold for $15.17 million; Twin Lakes (482.8ha) for $9.7m, andWhakamaru (494ha) for $11.54m.
Tokoroa Downs was bought by Trinity Lands, a large-scale dairy and kiwifruit production company, headed by new Fonterra chairman and former Zespri chairman Peter McBride.

Another farm buyer is understood to be the North Island’s Ferris family company, whose shareholders include former Ata Rangi chief executive Stephen Veitch.

The sale prices of Wainui and Atiamuri were confidential.

All the properties were bought by different entities, Peacocke said.

Companies Office records show Ata Rangi Pastoral is wholly-owned by Brent Cook, a global finance industry businessman based in Sydney. He is understood to have bought his first New Zealand dairy farm, at Oamaru, in 2013.

He has been approached for comment.

Ged Donald, a dairy farmer and developer, is understood to have been bought out of Ata Rangi by Cook in late 2016.

Herald inquiries suggest the venture was a casualty of a combination of factors, including high capital expenditure as global commodity milk prices plunged between 2015 and 2017, falling production following a change from high feed input farming, and more recently, rising environmental compliance and water costs.

The former forestry land would have required high levels of fertiliser.

Cook is understood to have been involved in an unsuccessful bid led by New Zealand businessman Sir Michael Fay to buy the failed Crafar dairy farming estate. The 22-farm estate was New Zealand’s biggest family-owned dairy farming business and was put into receivership in 2009. After a tortuous receivership and sale process it was eventually bought in 2015 by a Chinese company.

The Herald has learned Cook and Donald bought the land that would become the Ata Rangi farming group in 2014 for around $35m – before new water management rules were introduced.

Cook owned 65 per cent of the venture and Donald the balance.

Over 18 months the partnership cleared from forestry around 3300ha of land and converted it to dairying farms.

Herald inquiries suggest the conversion project, which included building five milking operations and 20 staff houses, cost around $40m.

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U.S. has seen over 1 million new coronavirus cases in first 10 days of November

The U.S. has surpassed 1 million new confirmed coronavirus cases in just the first 10 days of November, with more than 100,000 infections each day becoming the norm in a surge that shows no signs of slowing.

The 1 million milestone came as governors across the nation are making increasingly desperate pleas with the public to take the fight against the virus more seriously. The Wisconsin governor planned to take the unusual step of delivering a live address to the state Tuesday, urging unity and co-operation to fight COVID-19.

Minnesota’s governor ordered bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m., and Iowa’s governor said she will require masks at indoor gatherings of 25 or more people, inching toward more stringent measures after months of holding out.

The alarming wave of cases across the U.S. looks bigger and is more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring, mainly in the Northeast, and then in the summer, primarily in the Sun Belt. But experts say there are also reasons to think the nation is better able to deal with the virus this time around.

“We’re definitely in a better place” when it comes to improved medical tools and knowledge, said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious-disease researcher.

Newly confirmed infections in the U.S. are running at all-time highs of well over 100,000 per day, pushing the running total to more than 10 million and eclipsing 1 million since Halloween.

Several states posted records Tuesday, including more than 12,000 new cases in Illinois, 7,000 in Wisconsin and 6,500 in Ohio.

Deaths — a lagging indicator, since it takes time for people to get sick and die — are climbing again, reaching an average of more than 930 a day.

Hospitals are getting slammed. And unlike the earlier outbreaks, this one is not confined to a region or two. Cases are on the rise in 49 states.

Tuesday saw the country hit a new high in hospitalizations, with nearly 62,000 patients now receiving medical care for COVID-19. The COVID Tracking Project, whose data has been cited by Johns Hopkins University and the White House, said 17 states also reported record single-day hospitalizations Tuesday.

“The virus is spreading in a largely uncontrolled fashion across the vast majority of the country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.

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While deaths are still well below the U.S. peak of about 2,200 per day back in April, some researchers estimate the nation’s overall toll will hit about 400,000 by Feb. 1, up from about 240,000 now.

But there is also some good news.

Doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive. Patients have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Also, testing is more widely available.

In addition, a vaccine appears to be on the horizon, perhaps around the end of the year, with Pfizer this week reporting early results showing that its experimental shots are a surprising 90% effective at preventing the disease.

And there’s a change pending in the White House, with President-elect Joe Biden vowing to rely on a highly respected set of medical advisers and carry out a detailed coronavirus plan that experts say includes the kind of measures that will be necessary to bring the surge under control.

Biden pledged during the campaign to be guided by science, make testing free and widely available, hire thousands of health workers to undertake contact-tracing, and instruct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide clear, expert advice.

“We are already seeing encouraging signs from President-elect Biden with regard to his handling of COVID-19,” said Dr. Kelly Henning, a veteran epidemiologist who heads the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ public health programs.

“I am relieved to see he’s already put some of the smartest scientific minds on his new coronavirus task force and that they are acting urgently to try and get the pandemic under control as quickly as possible.”

While the first surge in the Northeast caught many Americans unprepared and cut an especially deadly swath through nursing homes, the second crest along the nation’s Southern and Western rim was attributed mostly to heedless behaviour, particularly among young adults over Memorial Day and July Fourth, and hot weather that sent people indoors, where the virus spreads more easily.

The fall surge similarly has been blamed largely on cold weather driving people inside and disdain for masks and social distancing, stoked by President Donald Trump and other politicians.

Even in parts of the country that have been through coronavirus surges before, “you see people breaking out of it” and letting their guard down, Schaffner said.

“There really is COVID fatigue that is blending into COVID annoyance,” he said.

The short-term outlook is grim, with colder weather and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s ahead. Generations of family members gathering indoors for meals for extended periods “is not a recipe for anything good,” Hanage said.

Other factors could contribute to the spread of the virus in the coming weeks: Last weekend saw big street celebrations and protests over the election. On Saturday night, an upset victory by Notre Dame’s football team sent thousands of students swarming onto the field, many without masks.

Meanwhile, the next two months will see a lame-duck Congress and a president who might be even less inclined than before to enact disease-control measures. Those voted out of office or no longer worried about reelection for at least two more years, “are not going to be motivated to do a fantastic job,” Hanage said.

Experts are increasingly alarmed about the virus’s resurgence in places like Massachusetts, which has seen a dramatic rise in cases since Labor Day, blamed largely on young people socializing.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is warning that the health care system could become overwhelmed this winter, and he recently ordered restaurants to stop table service, required many businesses to close by 9:30 p.m., and instructed residents to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Brooke Nichols, a professor and infectious-disease mathematical modeler at Boston University School of Public Health, said the governor’s actions don’t go far enough.

“Right now because of the exponential growth, throw the kitchen sink at this, and then you can do it for not as long,” Nichols said.

Meanwhile, political leaders in a number of newer coronavirus hot spots are doing less. In hard-hit South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem has made it clear she will not institute a mask requirement and has voiced doubt in health experts who say face coverings prevent infections from spreading.

Even higher case and death rates have been seen in North Dakota, where many people have refused to wear masks. Gov. Doug Burgum has pleaded with people to do so, and praised local towns and cities that have mandated masks. But he has avoided requiring masks himself.

Both Noem and Burgum are Republicans and have taken positions in line with those of the president.

“It would be simplistic to say it’s a Red-vs.-a-Blue experience, but it does kind of go along party lines of whether people took it seriously, tried to prevent it and took painful measures, versus those who said, `Let it rip,”’ said Dr. Howard Markel, a public health historian at the University of Michigan.

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.

With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton

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'Incel-linked' accused in Toronto van attack goes on trial

TORONTO, CANADA (AFP) – The trial of a Canadian man linked to the misogynist “incel” movement and accused of killing 10 people by ploughing a van into pedestrians in Toronto begins on Tuesday (Nov 10).

Alek Minassian faces 10 charges of premeditated murder and 16 of attempted murder following the attack in April 2018 that killed eight women and two men, aged 22 to 94 years old, and others badly injured in Canada’s largest city.

The Ontario Superior Court trial, which will be live-streamed at Toronto’s convention centre, had been scheduled for earlier this year, but was twice postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With restrictions to limit the spread of the illness still in effect, it will now be held by video conference.

The 28-year-old will appear from prison, where he has been held since his arrest on the day of the rampage. The judge, lawyers and witnesses will all connect by videolink.

The general public, meanwhile, will be able to watch proceedings broadcast on large screens at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The trial is expected to last up to four weeks and will be heard by a judge, with no jury.

Since he has already admitted to planning and carrying out the carnage, the trial will focus on Minassian’s state of mind and criminal responsibility at the time of the attack, not whether he was the perpetrator.

His mother says he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that includes impaired social interactions or communication.

More on this topic

According to the Toronto Star newspaper, the defence will argue that because of mental illness, he is not criminally responsible.

The attack took place on a warm spring afternoon in the North York neighbourhood of Toronto when huge crowds strolled along busy city streets.

Driving a white rented van, the accused drove at high speeds along two kilometres of roads and sidewalks, indiscriminately targeting passers-by.

‘Involuntary celibates’

Minassian was found immediately following the attacks standing by the van with its front end mangled and behaving erratically, video footage aired at the time showed.

He’d stopped his rampage, he told police, only after his windshield was obscured by a splashed drink.

During a four-hour interrogation, he described anger he felt toward women and said this had motivated the attack.

He said he had joined an online community of like-minded men who described themselves as “incels” or “involuntary celibates”, whose sexual frustrations led them to embrace a misogynist ideology.

Just prior to the attack, he posted on Facebook from his phone, “The incel rebellion has already begun,” and referenced American mass killer Elliot Rodger, who committed a similar attack in California.

While it is a “transnational movement”, the incel subculture is mainly based in North America, according to an analyst at Moonshot, a British organisation that works to combat violent extremism online.

Most of them are teenagers or in their twenties, and report suffering from mental illnesses, she said.

“More so than any other extremist groups, the incel community is a product of the Internet. They were born on the Internet,” the researcher, who asked not to be named in this story for security reasons, told AFP.

More on this topic

Minassian and Rodger are seen as “heroes” by some members of the community, which is sure to follow Minassian’s trial.

A 17-year-old accused of murdering a woman at a massage parlour in a separate case became the first person in Canada to be charged with terrorism in May 2020 over his suspected ties to the “incel” movement.

Minassian, however, has not been charged with terrorism.

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Covid 19 coronavirus: Air NZ passengers caught out by voucher system can change flights

By RNZ

Air New Zealand says people caught out by the requirement to have a managed isolation voucher before flying to this country can change their flights.

Travellers are now required to have a voucher for a bed in a facility before boarding an international flight to New Zealand.

The country’s managed isolation facilities are now fully booked until after Christmas, meaning people who have booked flights without a voucher might be left high and dry.

Some who booked flights home before the voucher system went live contacted RNZ earlier this week, concerned they could not secure a place in managed isolation to match their flights.

Air New Zealand says people unable to get a voucher may make one date change at no extra cost.

If a customer has a non-refundable ticket, they also have the option to hold the fare in credit.

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Dozens dead as Eta wreaks waterlogged havoc on Central America

TEGUCIGALPA/GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – The remnants of Hurricane Eta unleashed torrential rains and catastrophic flooding on Central America, with fatalities sharply up on Thursday mostly because of mudslides as streets turned into rivers and bridges came tumbling down.

A man carries his dog as he walks with other people through a flooded street during the passage of Storm Eta, in La Lima, Honduras November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

More than 70 people were reported killed across the region of mostly poor countries wedged between Mexico and Colombia, and at least hundreds were stranded on rooftops or cut off by floods.

In Guatemala, the death toll shot up past 50 over the course of Thursday, according to President Alejandro Giammattei, who said mudslides around a couple small towns swallowed about a couple dozen homes.

“Right now, we’re trying to get there on foot because there’s no other way,” said Giammattei, referring to flooded out roads that complicated rescue efforts.

One of the fiercest storms to hit Central America in years, Eta struck Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday with winds of 150 miles per hour (241 kph) before weakening to a tropical depression as it moved inland and into neighboring Honduras.

Families waded through flooded streets of the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, while cars sat almost submerged in parts of the central Guatemalan city of San Pedro Carcha, television footage and images posted on social media showed.

Overall, eight fatalities were confirmed in Honduras, as more than 5,000 people were holed up in shelters while 63 communities were cut off from communications, according to the government. Officials said 20 bridges there had been destroyed.

Video posted on social media showed one of the bridges, spanning the Ulua River just east of San Pedro Sula, disappearing into the waterway after a raging torrent pulled it down.

The government said about 500 people were rescued from their roofs in Honduras on Thursday as water levels continued to rise, but many others were likely still stranded.

Slideshow ( 4 images )

“We will not leave the area until we rescue the last person,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez told media, adding that rescue efforts led by police, soldiers and firefighters will continue overnight.

Damage and destruction had spread across most of Honduras and speedboats and helicopters would be sent to take people to safety in inaccessible areas, Hernandez said earlier in the day.

Media in Nicaragua also reported two miners had been killed in a mudslide.

‘FRIENDS ALIVE’

Guatemala’s Giammattei had already declared a state of emergency in nearly half of the country’s 22 departments.

In southern Costa Rica, a landslide killed two people in a house, a Costa Rican woman and an American man, officials said. Meanwhile, five people, including three children, died in flooding in Panama’s Chiriqui province, near the Costa Rica border, authorities said.

There was at least one silver lining in Honduras, where 60 fishermen who disappeared at sea on Tuesday returned after taking shelter on cays until they were rescued, said community leader Robin Morales.

Calling their survival a “miracle,” Morales said a man among them presumed dead from a heart attack also made it back.

“Our friends are alive, thank God,” he said.

Across swathes of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica, high winds and heavy rain have damaged hundreds if not thousands of homes, forcing thousands to take cover in shelters.

Eta was moving northwest over Honduras and Belize and headed toward the Caribbean, at eight miles per hour (13 kph) on Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. Heavy rains continued and the storm’s top winds edged up to 35 mph (56 kph).

It is forecast to return to sea and regain momentum as a tropical storm, possibly reaching the Cayman Islands, Cuba and southern Florida in the coming days, the NHC said.

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Business

Major Networks Cut Away From Trump’s Baseless Fraud Claims

The three big broadcast networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — cut away from President Trump’s news conference at the White House on Thursday as the president lobbed false claims about the integrity of the election.

Mr. Trump timed his appearance to air during the networks’ evening newscasts, which draw the biggest collective audience in TV news. But the anchors broke in after a few minutes to correct some of his falsehoods.

“We have to interrupt here, because the president made a number of false statements, including the notion that there has been fraudulent voting,” said Lester Holt, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor. He added, “There has been no evidence of that.”

On ABC, the anchor David Muir broke in and told viewers “there’s a lot to unpack here and fact-check.” The CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes spent about 90 seconds ticking through several of Mr. Trump’s baseless statements.

Although the cable news networks CNN and Fox News continued carrying Mr. Trump’s remarks live, the decision by the broadcast networks to break away deprived Mr. Trump of a significantly larger audience for his unfiltered — and un-fact-checked — remarks on the election. The three network evening newscasts are seen by a larger and broader viewership than the programming on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News at that hour.

The question of whether to air Mr. Trump’s appearances live has bedeviled television executives since the start of his presidency. Earlier this year, networks struggled with how to contextualize information from Mr. Trump about the coronavirus that doctors and public health officials considered misleading and sometimes downright wrong.

On Thursday, MSNBC was the first outlet to break away from Mr. Trump’s news conference, after just 35 seconds. (MSNBC, which has a large liberal following, has been more aggressive than other channels in choosing to hold off on airing the president live.) The move “was not done as a stunt, or out of theatrics,” the anchor Brian Williams told viewers, but rather, “we just can’t have it. It was not rooted in reality and, at this point in where our country is, it’s dangerous.”

On CNN, a caption appeared below Mr. Trump as he spoke reading, “WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE, TRUMP SAYS HE’S BEING CHEATED.” On Fox News, a graphic conveyed a different message: “TRUMP: ‘THEY’RE TRYING TO STEAL THE ELECTION.’”

On Fox News afterward, the network’s chief White House correspondent, John Roberts, told viewers that “we haven’t seen any evidence” to back up the president’s unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud. (Mr. Roberts was reporting from the White House briefing room, where he wore a protective mask.) The anchor Bret Baier concurred, reminding viewers, “we have not seen the evidence yet.”

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