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Airlines Pushback Reopening Flights Between US And Europe Amid Covid Case Surges 

US borders are currently closed to travelers from the European Union (EU) and the UK, and have been that way for over 500 days now. While there hasn’t been a formal announcement as to when these borders will reopen, airlines are beginning to push back the scheduled restart of their London-New York flights. 

Initially flights were set to resume between the two major cities in September, but now airlines are waiting until November. New outlets in Ireland seemed to allude that the US would be lifting its travel ban in time for Labor Day weekend, however, no official announcements have been made to confirm those reports. 

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The EU is currently discussing whether or not they will reopen their borders to US citizens while the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be keeping land borders between Mexico and Canada closed until at least September 21st. 

Land border restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens.lawful permanent residents, or individuals traveling for school or medical reasons. Travel into Canada is also now allowed for US citizens who are fully vaccinated. 

Jeff Zients is the White House Covid-19 coordinator who recently held a press briefing regarding the reopening of international borders and US travel in general. 

“The interagency working groups are currently developing a policy process, and we will be ready when it is the right time to consider reopening travel. And that’ll be guided, as always, by science and public health.”

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Travel correspondent Simon Calder claims that “in the past 48 hours I have asked a number of travel industry chief executives about when the current presidential proclamation banning arrivals from the U.K. might be lifted. Their answers and predictions range from ‘September’ to ‘no idea’.”

“The main problem now appears to be two-fold: inertia (once draconian rules are imposed, they can be slow to remove), combined with an unwillingness in Washington DC to complicate the difficult domestic situation at a time when the Delta variant is running wild across America, especially in the key tourism state of Florida.”

Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group told the press that “the figures are going in the wrong direction for the U.S. and I don’t really see any appetite in the U.S. to open up sooner rather than later. It is slightly different for the U.S. because they have such a big domestic market, which means international travel makes up a smaller proportion of the industry’s revenues.”

The US currently allows entry to any US citizen and their dependents as well as anyone who has spent 14 days in a country not listed on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s prohibited list.

International Buyers Looking At US Housing More Than One Year After Pandemic Began 

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US saw a major increase in domestic real estate transactions. International buyers took the opposite approach and avoided investing in any US properties while the pandemic continued due to the uncertainty of the world’s economy.

Sales of US homes to foreign buyers fell by about 31% from April 2020 to March 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

International buyers purchased around 107,000 properties during that time, which marks the lowest unit volume and lowest dollar volume since 2011, according to NAR. 

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“The big decline in foreign purchases of homes in the U.S. in the past year is no surprise, given the pandemic-induced lockdowns and international travel restrictions.”

“Yet, even with the absence of foreign buyers, the U.S. housing market strengthened solidly,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

China, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are typically the top five countries continuously investing in US property. The amount of money brought in this past year, however, was down by at least 50% for buyers from China, Canada, and Mexico. The UK was the only nation that actually saw an increase in investment this year. 

Normally, China takes the lead in terms of the most amount of US property purchased throughout a given year, however, those transactions decreased significantly during the Trump administration. Now, China buyers have been inquiring more and more. 

“There has been quite a positive impact on the demand from the Biden boost, as the U.S. is being perceived as much more predictable now, and visas are also much easier to be obtained.”

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Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai IQI, a home listing site in China claimed that “on the other side, and now that we are over a year dealing with the Covid pandemic, it has lessened the impact on the buying decisions because flights to the U.S. are possible.”

Home prices are now 15% higher than they were pre-pandemic in the US; which makes sense considering the economic impact the nation has been enduring. Chimel stated that these rising prices, however, create a new demand for international buyers who may be afraid that they’re missing out on prime investment opportunities.”

Additionally, homes in the US are much less expensive than homes in places like London or Hong Kong, where a lot of buyers inquire about US property. The number of virtual tours on almost all major real estate sites in the US have increased exponentially. 

“So if that’s an indication of the comfort, then certainly this has increased, because people are now used to do far more things online shopping, education, also working from home online, and that also had an impact on the property market,” said Chmiel.

“As travel restrictions loosen and foreign students return to U.S. colleges in the upcoming year, there is likely to be some growth in foreign buying of U.S. real estate. High home prices and the ongoing lack of inventory could, however, pose a challenge for buyers,” Yun said.

UK Covid-19 Restrictions To Be Extended Due To Spreading Of Delta Strain 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a delay of the next phase of England’s Covid-19 recovery and reopening efforts this week. According to reports from the British media, England will likely delay entering into the next phase of their reopening by four weeks amid a surge of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus which was initially discovered in India. 

Originally, restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21st. These restrictions included the use of face masks, limiting the number of individuals who can meet indoors and outdoors, and what time establishments like nightclubs and bars can close. Reports suggest that the UK could be waiting until July 19th for any of these restrictions to be lifted or modified. 

Currently indoor gatherings are to be limited to six people indoors at a time and 30 people outdoors. People are being advised to continue to work from home whenever possible. 

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Public Health England, a group that has been compiling pandemic data for the UK, has reported this week that 42,323 new cases of the Delta variant have been recorded throughout the country, this is a 240% increase when compared to the amount of cases reported in the previous week. 

So far more than 70 million vaccine doses have been administered throughout the UK, and around 80% of the nation has received at least one dose. However, Public Health England reported that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were only 33% effective against the delta variant after a single show. 

Johnson told the media that he was prepared to continue lockdown and remain cautious when it comes to future reopenings. When it is eventually implemented, the fourth (and final) stage of the UK government’s “roadmap” of lockdown will allow for greater social gatherings to occur with less restrictions in terms of facial coverings and social distancing. 

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So far, all three of the government’s previous reopening stages have worked out to plan, so this delay in reopening as an extra precaution is being relatively well received, especially now that more England residents are receiving their vaccines. 

Investors and economic leaders aren’t too worried about the delays in reopenings either, especially considering it’s only set to last another month. 

“Leisure companies could be worst affected by any delay to lockdown easing in England as it will require a continuation of the social distancing rules, meaning pubs and restaurants can’t operate at full capacity,” said Russ Mould, investment director at British stockbroker AJ Bell.

“However, investors don’t seem too bothered by the risk, perhaps because speculation points to a mere four-week delay, albeit during a seasonally busy time.”

Only time will tell how long these delays will last, but the government is remaining positive that the UK will return to a greater sense of normalcy this summer.

US Airline Companies Want Government Leaders To Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions 

Major airline companies are urging the United States government to move quicker when it comes to lifting travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Many countries within the European Union have opened up their borders for international travel, causing many US airline leaders to urge our nation to do the same. 

This week, the heads of several major airline companies held a virtual news conference to discuss the easiest way to ease and fully remove travel restrictions, specifically between the United States and United Kingdom, where Covid-19 has been prominent. 

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The call included chief executives of Heathrow Airport, group leaders in the US Travel Association, as well as the CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

The US has barred nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK from coming back to the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Airline officials have claims that no change is expected to occur, so they’re taking matters into their own hands by calling on government leaders. 

This past Friday France announced, however, that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the country starting June 9th. American Airlines President Robert Isom said: 

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“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for service. We have a lot of capacity to be ready to go for European travel, so we’re going to take it whenever it comes.”

Many airline officials believed that May 2021 was going to be the month in which international travel would really be able to resume with many individuals getting vaccinated, however, the government has yet to make any major changes to the current restrictions and requirements. 

The White House is mainly focused on bringing US vaccination rates to where President Joe Biden initially planned for it to be by the 4th of July; 70% of Americans having at least one vaccine. Additionally, the Biden administration is focusing on getting younger Americans vaccinated, as adolescents currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America. 

“We certainly understand the desire of many Europeans to come to travel the United States and vice versa. We can’t respond to public pressure or even emotion. We have to rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts,”  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

German Scientists Claim They Can Improve Covid Vaccines To Further Prevent Blood Clots 

A team of scientists in Germany believe that they have figured out why an increased number of individuals have experienced blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines. 

The scientists also believe that they can tell the manufacturers how to improve the vaccine itself to avoid clots. Rolf Marschalek, a professor at Goethe university in Frankfurt, and colleagues spoke with the media recently about their discovery. 

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“The key is in the adenovirus – the common cold virus that is used to deliver the spike protein of the coronavirus into the body. The mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna do not use this delivery system and there have been no blood clotting cases linked to them.”

The blood clots have been very rare, as with any vaccine, however, many parents are concerned about the younger age groups receiving their vaccines as there’s already less of a chance that they’ll develop severe Covid illness, but an increased risk that they would experience a blood clot. 

Currently the UK is offering vaccines to anyone under the age of 40 wherever vaccines are available. There have been 309 blood clotting cases in the UK out of 33 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine. The scientists in a preprint analysis claim that they believe the “problem lies in the entry of the adenovirus into the nucleus of the cell rather than just the cellular fluid, where the virus normally makes proteins.” 

“The adenovirus life cycle includes the infection of cells entry of the adenoviral DNA into the nucleus, and subsequently gene transcription by the host transcription machinery. Here lies the problem: the viral piece of DNA is not optimised to be transcribed inside of the nucleus.”

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Inside of the cell’s nucleus, parts of the spike protein splice, or split apart. These sliced pieces can then become mutant protein pieces that free float throughout your body, and lead to an increased risk of blood clots; although it’s extremely rare that that will occur. 

Professor Marschalek claims that Johnson & Johnson are already in discussions with him, as he’s only continued to emphasize that “the vaccines can be redesigned to avoid the problem.” 

“Johnson & Johnson is trying to optimize its vaccine now. With the data we have in our hands we can tell the companies how to mutate these sequences, coding for the spike protein in a way that prevents unintended splice reactions.”

No word on whether or not AstraZeneca has been contacted or not, and the research presented still needs to go through a peer review in order for it to gain more national credibility throughout the United Kingdom.

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Airline CEOs Urging Governments To Open Travel Between US And UK

Several large airlines based in the United States and United Kingdom have called upon their government leaders in an attempt to revive air travel between the two countries. Airline leaders are asking for an international summit to discuss the issue and lay out a possible plan for bringing back travel between the two nations. 

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his UK counterpart Grant Shapps received the letter which was signed by the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and JetBlue Airways.

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“Public health must guide the reopening of international air travel and we are confident that the aviation industry possesses the right tools, based on data and science, to enable a safe and meaningful restart to transatlantic travel.” 

JetBlue and US industry group Airlines for America have stated previously that they both have plans to revive travel between the US and UK this summer. 

“US and UK citizens would benefit from the significant testing capability and the successful trial of digital applications to verify health credentials.” 

The executives discussed in the letter how an increase in vaccinations between both countries, as well as advanced testing efforts now being implemented in international airlines, should give travelers the confidence that they’ll be safe from infection. 

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Both nation’s airlines also discussed the economic recovery efforts that they’re enduring, as the travel industry took one of the biggest hits as a result of the pandemic. The US is the nation that currently bars the most non-US citizens from entering into the country due to Covid-19 safety concerns. 

“Just last week, Secretary Buttigieg and G7 Transport Ministers met to discuss the complexities around reopening international travel and how to do so safely.” the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement. 

“These conversations are ongoing. The Department will be reviewing the letter with other agencies as part of the whole of the government approach to COVID recovery.”

The UK’s Department for Transport didn’t immediately respond to the letter, however, it’s expected that the two nations will be in talks in the coming months on how to best reopen travel. 

UK Homes

UK Homeowners Struggling To Complete Interior Renovations Due To Labor Shortages

An industry-wide labor shortage in the United Kingdom is causing a multitude of homeowners to be left waiting for months longer than usual for bathroom and kitchen renovations/installations. The labor shortage is growing due to a combination of Brexit-related issues as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While the pandemic overall has caused a major increase in the amount people have invested in their homes, the demand for labor hasn’t been able to keep up. Specifically, bathroom, kitchen, and room renovations would, on average, take about four to eight weeks to complete before the pandemic, and now homeowners can expect to be waiting at least 12-18 weeks. 

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Damian Walters is the chief executive of the British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom, and Bathroom Installations, and recently spoke to the press about the “unprecedented demand for kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and home improvement in general” throughout the pandemic. 

“Lengthening lead times were part of the fallout from the incredible labor shortage. Our organization has been inundated with inquiries from retailers desperate to recruit more fitters. There were a number of problems, including an ageing workforce and a decrease of youngsters wanting to take up apprenticeships. Brexit had also deterred tradesmen from moving to the UK for work,” Walters explained.

“There are not going to be any tradesmen parachuting in from Europe, or anywhere else for that matter. EU migration was a little bit like a Band-Aid that’s been ripped off and the real problems have been exposed,” he said.

B&Q is known as the UK’s largest DIY project chain, and according to their data sales of supplies for interior DIY projects have increased by 13% within the last year of the pandemic, with some of the most popular projects being organizing outdoor spaces, and new kitchen and bathroom designs.

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Global supply chains are still dealing with trading disruptions brought on by the pandemic while demand has continued to increase for these supplies. This is not only bad for the DIY renovator, but for contractors who are still in business but don’t have access to the supplies they need to complete the projects being asked of them. 

The EU has reported shortages in everything from plumbing materials, to screws, handheld and power tools, as well as appliances like washing machines and fridges. 

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom, and Bathroom Installations has announced a campaign that will begin this fall and hopefully recruit 700 apprentices from the UK’s school systems every year to become apprentices in the construction industry. Without new recruits, according to Walters, the “problem will only worsen, as a third of sole traders are due to retire over the next decade.” 

“We simply haven’t focused on vocational learning, and that has caused huge problems in terms of a gap between the demand and the available labour to do this type of work. Put bluntly, we’ve relied for too long on an ageing workforce who are now looking forward to their retirement. We need to pull out all the stops to prepare a new generation of skilled installers ready to take their place,”  said Walters.

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UK Cat Owners May Be Forced To Microchip Their Pets Due To Increase In Thefts 

The millions of cat owners in the United Kingdom may soon be forced to microchip their furry friends, or face fines for refusal, due to new government policies that are working to prevent feline theft, which has been on the rise within the past year for the nation. 

Police data in the UK shows that the number of cats being stolen has tripled within the past five years; with a notable 12.3% increase last year alone. Owners are now being called upon to microchip their cats the same way dogs are so in the case of a petnapping, they’ll be easier to track down; and it will be easier to find the perpetrator. 

Local media reports wrote that  “a microchipping measure, which means animals can be tracked and identified if stolen and resold, is being introduced as part of a package of changes by a ministerial taskforce to combat the growing black market in stolen pets. Those who do not get their cats registered will face a fine of up to £500.”

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Robert Buckland is the UK’s justice secretary who’s running the taskforce for this initiative alongside Priti Patel and George Eustice, the home and environment secretaries. One government spokesperson spoke to the press this week about these new measures:

“Last month the home secretary, the lord chancellor and the environment secretary met to discuss a cross-government approach to combating this issue and we will announce next steps in due course. This builds upon the huge amounts of work already undertaken by junior ministers and officials to address this cruel and criminal practice.”

Stefan Blakiston Moore, an advocacy and government relations officer for Cats Protection, said: “It is a Conservative manifesto commitment [for cats to be legally microchipped] so we hope they will come forward with this. Cats Protection has been campaigning for it for a number of years. We are waiting for a response to that but we are hopeful a positive change will come and compulsory microchipping is brought in.”

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Moore explained that currently in the “UK there are 2.6 million cats that are not microchipped. It is usually a significant amount of cats and the risk is when they go missing or are stolen as has been reported. Without a microchip it is extremely difficult to reunite them with their owners.”

Ministers are also considering a ban on all cash purchases of pets as a means of stopping the black market for pet trading; one of the largest black markets in the world besides drugs. Some cat breeds can sell for over $2,000, and lockdown has led to a major surge in dog and cat sales, which has led to an increase in pet theft. 

“There is a thriving black market in cash sales of animals, no questions asked. A cash ban is appealing because we know it crippled the stolen scrap metal industry and microchipping is absolutely central to the way in which animals’ welfare is maintained,” a senior government source told the press.

The bill is currently being discussed among ministers in the UK, and a decision will likely be reached in the coming month.

Crown

Duke Of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, Has Died At The Age Of 99

Lifelong companion to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, has died this week, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement. He was 99-years-old. 

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family joins with people around the world in mourning his loss,” the palace said in a statement. 

In mid-February the duke was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London after feeling sick for a few days. The palace later confirmed he was being treated for an infection and would need heart surgery. 

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On March 1st Prince Phillip was transferred to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, also located in London, where he received continuous treatment for his infection before undergoing heart surgery. After a successful surgery, the duke was discharged in min-March. 

Given the UK’s current Covid-19 restrictions, it’s unclear as to what any tribute plans will look like for the prince. The Queen will need to sign off on any plans before they’re confirmed and it’s unknown if those plans were even made yet. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of the duke this week, claiming he’d “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world.”

The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest-serving British consort. In 1947 he married who was then referred to as Princess Elizabeth in a wedding that helped ease a country’s stress from the damage done by World War II. 

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Throughout his seven decades of service, Philip was often accompanied by the Queen on royal engagements, but also conducted thousands of his own solo appearances. He supported a multitude of philanthropic endeavors and was associated with over 800 organizations. He also founded the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, which is a “youth development program that operated in more than 130 countries and territories around the world,” according to the website. 

The duke was originally born the Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921. At just 18-months-old, his family left Greece when King Constantine was forced to abdicate after a military revolt. The family would later move to England in 1928. 

Philip became a decorated naval officer for his service during World War II, and when peace finally returned to Europe, he would go on to have one of the most public romances of the 20th century. 

Tributes for the duke have been appearing all throughout the world from Commonwealth nations, including India and Australia. According to CNN, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had “distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”

Royal Family Faces Pressure To Respond To Harry And Meghan Interview

Buckingham Palace is currently under pressure to respond to the heavy allegations of racism following an interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan. The most shocking revelation of the interview was that the couple revealed a member of the family asked about how dark the skin tone of their child would be while Meghan was still pregnant.

Prince Harry made Oprah, who was running the interview, clarify that neither the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh made the remark regarding Archie’s skin tone, however, they also refused to clarify who actually said it, leaving the other royal family members open to suspicion. Meghan told Winfrey that concerns over Archie being “too brown was a pretty safe assumption,” but her and Harry refused to identify who said it, claiming it would be “very damaging” if they did.

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Meghan also suggested that her son’s mixed-race status is what led to him being denied the title of prince; something that is automatically given to any grandchild of a sovereign, which is what Archie is. The couple claimed that racism in general was a “large part” of their decision to leave Britain, and while the UK was not bigoted, the UK press and tabloids were.

Keir Starmer is the labor leader within the palace who claimed the “race and mental health issues raised by Meghan were bigger than the royal family, and should not be put to one side. There is no place for racism in our society.”

Meghan also made shocking claims that during her short time in the palace, she became extremely depressed and suicidal. “I just didn’t want to be alive any more.” Asked whether she had contemplated suicide, she replied: “Yes, this was very, very clear, and very scary. Though I begged for help, and asked to go somewhere to seek help, I was told I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

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Harry then went on to criticize his own father, who stopped taking calls from his son after the couple announced their departure as working royals, which also led to the couple being cut off financially. When asked about if the royal family had apologized at all for any of what the couple has endured within the past few years, Harry claimed they hadn’t, because they felt unsupported.

Harry also clarified that the two of them never “blindsided” the Queen as the media heavily suggested, and instead informed her last year of their intent to quit. He claimed to have too much respect for his grandmother to ever just leave without a warning.

Royal author and historian Robert Lacey claims the repercussions from this interview “would reverberate for a long time because this is more than just a criticism of someone’s personality. This is a first-hand testimony to a dysfunctional family. It’s probably the most damning condemnation of the royal family and how they operate I’ve ever heard.”

So far, the palace and royal family members have yet to respond to the interview beyond seeing what the tabloids have said of it, which has so far been fairly split down the middle, surprisingly.