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Today apps will help you pick up European, Oriental and Arabic on your smartphone. You can also go for short-term courses at edtechs or full-blown ones at regular institutions

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Foreign language | EdTech



Namrata Kohli  | 
New Delhi 


If you’ve spent time in a country whose native language you don’t speak, you know how painful and embarrassing it can be to be able to communicate only through facial expressions, sign language and a handful of poorly-pronounced phrases. “When I was in France, I went to a beauty salon for a haircut,” recalls Delhi-based homemaker Manju Malhotra. “When I asked them to make my hair “petite” as that was the only word I knew, they cut it so short that I hated myself.” She confesses that being able to speak the right language, even at a basic …




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Gateway city: In spite of setbacks, Australia is determined to have a Singapore travel agreement by the end of the year. Photo / 123RF

OPINION:

In spite of the current state of the Transtasman bubble, Australia has said it is determined to open its borders to Singapore by the end of the year.

But what does this mean for New Zealand and other countries with adjacent safe travel agreements, such as the Cook Islands?

Speculation that a safe travel bubble with Singapore may be imminent was fuelled last week by Air New Zealand’s international flight scheduling update.

As well as a return to three flights a week for popular US ports – San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles – Singapore saw a huge increase in capacity for Summer.

Auckland is scheduled to gain weekly flights to Changi Airport from October 31. By the end of November Christchurch Airport is set to gain five direct Singapore flights a week.

This huge uptick in capacity led many to believe the national carrier was jumping the gun.

Air New Zealand was quick to dismiss inside knowledge of a potential Singapore Bubble, saying that these flights were part of the extended ‘Maintaining International Air Connectivity’ MIAC programme.

Singapore Airlines say they remain flexible to 'meet the demand'. Photo / Supplied
Singapore Airlines say they remain flexible to ‘meet the demand’. Photo / Supplied

Seats on these routes are being subsidised in part by cargo freight and the Government scheme to keep air links afloat which otherwise would be unviable.

“Nearly 75,000 people have returned to New Zealand on flights supported by the scheme” said Transport Minister Michael Wood, who announced the latest round of the scheme in May.

53 per cent of the total number of people to pass through MIQ facilities have entered the country on these subsidised MIAC air links.

However, this summer schedule anticipates both that the MIAC scheme will be extended ( the current funding ends in October ) and that there will be a dramatic increase in demand for international travel between Singapore and New Zealand.

A spokesperson for Singapore Airlines told the Herald that their own summer schedule had not been released but that the carrier “will remain nimble and flexible in adjusting capacity to meet the demand for air travel.”

There are currently 10 passenger flights a week to Auckland and four passenger flights a week to Christchurch operated by SIA.

Airlines have no certainty when a new travel bubble will be announced, but they can be fairly confident of where it will be.

Australia has been clear that Singapore is next in line for a travel agreement.

Australia’s High Commissioner to Singapore Will Hodgman was firm that a bubble would be in place this year.

“Given the outbreak in Australia, the unpredictability of this virus, it is more likely that travel will be possible towards the end of this calendar year,” Hodgman told Bloomberg news last week.

The growing outbreak of the Delta variant is a spanner in the works.

Even so, it seems that Australia is

A woman wearing an N95 mask poses for a selfie next to a tourist attraction in Spain

A woman wearing an N95 mask poses for a selfie next to a tourist attraction in Spain

International travel for non-essential reasons like going on holiday has been legal since 17 May, but with so few countries on the green list, the destinations where travellers can go without quarantining are few in number.

While the government has always said that international travel would be limited, the travel industry had not foreseen that the list would be as limited as it is, particularly now that Portugal has been moved to the amber list.

So what could get travel going again and what are the roadblocks?

Coronavirus variants

While the government is concerned about importing new cases into the UK, the biggest concern is that tourists could bring in a vaccine-resistant variant that would render vaccination efforts useless and endanger public health.

The difficulty is working out when a variant – or in Portugal’s case – a mutation, is significant enough to change a country’s traffic light status.

Is it when it is classified as being “of concern”, “of interest” or just when it’s identified in the first place?

“The move from variant of interest, to variant of concern, has never been properly identified as the parameters to look at,” Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at University of Exeter’s Medical School tells the BBC.

“They mostly all start off as variants of interest and become variants of concern when displaying activities and properties of being more infectious, severe disease causing and bypassing the current vaccines.”

But where that line is drawn is important, particularly if the identification of a variant or mutation is enough to move a country from one level to another.

Some in the industry think the government is becoming too risk-averse.

“There’s talk of a new variant and everything shuts down,” says budget airline Jet2’s boss Steve Heapy. “Is that how it’s going to be going forward?”

“If it is, then they’re trying to defeat mother nature – virus do have variants all the time.”

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, says the sector isn’t calling a reopening of travel everywhere.

“But if the government is going to have this kind of risk appetite…then it’s going to be really difficult to see how we can have a summer season,” he says.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “We have always been clear that protecting public health is our priority and that if decisive action was needed, it would be swiftly taken.”

Will islands reopen?

The industry had hoped that while mainland Greece and Spain might not yet be on the green list, at least some of the Spanish and Greek islands would be.

A girl wearing a mask on Balos beach in Crete, Greece

The travel industry had hoped that some of the Greek Islands would be on the government’s green list for foreign travel

The island policy was used last year and Transport secretary Grant Shapps said in April that it was something his department wanted to consider.

But

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – U.S. airlines and agencies are preparing for increased domestic air travel this summer even as the government continues to debate whether to allow more foreign travelers to visit.

Shares in American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines were sharply higher on Tuesday after top executives said that the pace of a leisure travel recovery was increasing.

“We’ve been very, very pleased with the pace of demand recovery,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein told an industry conference. “Bookings have been better than expected.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks about aviation security ahead of the summer travel season during a news conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, May 25, 2021, in Arlington, Va.

As more Americans pass through airports, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to hire another 1,000 officers by July 4, a peak U.S. travel period, after hiring 3,000 officers since Jan 1.

“We have already seen a sharp rise at the nation’s airports and will continue to experience steady increases throughout the summer,” Acting TSA Administrator Darby LaJoye told a news conference at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

The TSA screened 1.86 million passengers on Sunday, the highest daily total since March 2020.

United said it now expects its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to be positive in the third quarter and trimmed its forecast for a decline in unit revenue in the current quarter.

And American is seeing “encouraging signs” in business and international travel, which have been hit hard during the pandemic, Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr said.

The improvements come as more American become vaccinated, companies prepare for workers to return to offices and travel, and as more countries open their borders.

However, the United States continues to bar the entry of nearly all non-U.S. citizens from most of Europe, South Africa, India, China, Iran and Brazil, despite pressure from travel groups to lift restrictions.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the press conference the government is “following the facts, the data, the science in making the decision as to when business, international travel actually can resume… This is something we are evaluating each and every day.”

The administration has held extensive meetings on the topic, officials have told Reuters, but made no decisions.

Industry officials think Biden could lift restriction on the United Kingdom and Ireland as soon as early June. COVID-19 cases in both countries have declined.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, told Reuters “the UK is the furthest along. Our belief is, if we can open UK, the rest follows.”

The two men, both from Senegal, were reported by other visitors on April 30 for having ignored a “no crossing” sign and climbed onto a part of the wall beyond Watchtower 20, which is still being redeveloped.

In a statement on the official Mutianyu Great Wall WeChat account, the operator said much of the wall in this area is unstable and in need of repair. “From a safety point of view, the Wild Great Wall is steep and the bricks are loose, so if you are not careful, you will get lost or get injured,” the statement said. “It is never suitable for climbing and walking.”

The operator called on visitors to respect and protect the ancient structure, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After learning of the two men’s behavior, it said, the operator “immediately took corresponding measures, using the ticketing system and monitoring system to locate the information of the two tourists and put them on the ‘blacklist,’ restricting their eligibility to purchase tickets.”

The paper said that the topic went viral on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, quoting one user as commenting “whether they are Chinese or foreigners, they should be treated equally if they violate the regulations.”

The Great Wall is one of China’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing more than 10 million visitors a year prior to the pandemic. Even last year, more than 48,000 people visited per day during the country’s Golden Week holiday in October.
Despite the dire warnings about doing so, many people do in fact hike the undeveloped sections of the structure, with Lonely Planet having even released a guide to doing so, published in association with the China National Tourist Office, to the “Great Wall’s most spectacular wild hikes.”

The Mutianyu section of the wall sits about 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of central Beijing, and is one of the most well-preserved and popular sections of the monument to visit, though not as heavily trafficked as Badaling, the closest accessible part of the wall to the Chinese capital.

“It also must be pointed out that many unrestored sections of the Great Wall are not technically open to the public, though rarely policed,” the guide notes. “In fact, wild hiking on the Great Wall is quite common, with local tour companies running guided treks, some of them overnight.”

According to The Japan Times, the Japanese government has decided to further tighten entry restrictions by banning foreign residents who are travelling from India, Nepal or Pakistan.

Until recently, foreign nationals with a valid resident status as well as Japanese citizens who had travelled to these three countries were allowed to re-enter Japan on the condition that they spent the first six days of a two-week quarantine at a government-designated facility. In the midst of Japan’s third state of emergency, however, officials have decided to temporarily deny re-entry to foreign residents who are flying in from those countries. This is due to the Covid-19 spike in the region caused by new coronavirus variants. 

There are some exceptions to the new rule. The Immigration Services Agency of Japan states that foreign residents with re-entry permission will be allowed to return provided they departed Japan on or before May 13. 

The entry ban will be take effect from Friday May 14. It is unclear as to how long the restriction will be in place for. Japanese nationals will still be able to re-enter the country. 

This article was originally published on May 12 and updated on May 13.

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Hopes that holidays to popular tourist destinations could soon restart have been boosted after the government scrapped advice that said people should avoid all but essential travel to areas including mainland Portugal and Spain’s Canary Islands.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the updates meant the level of Covid risk in some places was no longer “unacceptably high”, prompting speculation about which countries will be put on the “green list” when international travel is allowed again.

Ministers are putting the finishing touches to their traffic light system, that will grade countries green, amber or red, determining whether travellers returning from those countries need to quarantine at home, in a hotel or not at all. The final lists are expected to be signed off on Thursday and announced on Friday.

Covid passports have also been promised by the government to help travellers prove their vaccine status but on Tuesday, Downing Street hinted the repurposed NHS app may not be ready to carry them by 17 May.

The Foreign Office’s update this week appeared to give a glimpse at which countries could be on the green list – meaning people will not need to quarantine when they arrive in the UK from them. The advice against all but essential travel was lifted for countries including Malta and Israel, as well as several Greek islands, including Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete.

While the government said it would give seven days’ notice for allowing foreign trips again so the aviation and tourism industries can have some time to prepare, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, could give them a few days’ extra notice by making the announcement on Friday, when the green list should be unveiled, instead of next Monday.

Department for Transport sources stressed the Foreign Office advice was drawn up separately and not indicative of which countries would be on the green list. They added islands were unlikely to be included on the green list to start with, but could be “separated out as the summer proceeds”.

There may only be about a dozen countries on the green list when it is released, but it is understood that those are likely to include very small nations that not many people travel to from the UK. Government insiders stressed the initial list would be “cautious” and “limited” and could be bolstered with more popular destinations at the review points every three weeks.

Meanwhile, concerns were raised about digital vaccine passports being developed by the NHS not being fully ready for 17 May.

Henk van Klaveren, head of public affairs at the Airport Operators Association, said he believed the app being developed did not include proof of a traveller’s negative test result, that countries may require to let people skip quarantine.

He added that the passenger locator form – used to monitor where arrivals say they will be staying and quarantining in the UK – also needs digitising quickly, to avoid people potentially spreading Covid while they wait for the documents to

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden marks 100 days in office on Friday, April 30.

Judging a president’s performance after 100 days in office is an American political tradition that historians say began with Franklin Roosevelt’s first term in 1933, when he embarked on a rapid-fire rollout of measures to counter the Great Depression.

Here are some of the key policy issues of Biden’s first 100 days and how he has fared so far:

COVID-19 RESPONSE

Biden’s major COVID-19 promise was 100 million shots in Americans’ arms by his first 100 days in office. Some 290 million shots have been distributed, more than 230 million administered, and about 96 million Americans are fully vaccinated, 29% of the population.

Biden’s vaccination campaign built on efforts started under President Donald Trump to manufacture and distribute the shots, but he added mass vaccination sites and ramped up government agencies to aid the distribution effort.

The United States has now vaccinated more people than any other country, although the pandemic has killed 572,000 people, more than any other country as well.

Over 3,000 people were dying per day when Biden took office. Now that figure is under 700 a day.

Biden’s next 100 days will force him to face vaccine hesitancy among millions of Americans, and an uptick in variants of the virus.

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

Biden devoted much of his first several weeks in office to passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill to limit economic fallout from the pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan, passed over Republican opposition, delivered on the key economic promise Biden made on the campaign trail: checks for Americans.

Helped by the stimulus plan for families and businesses and also by the steady rollout of vaccines, economic growth is expected to top 7% this year, the fastest since 1984. It would follow a 3.5% contraction last year, the worst performance in 74 years.

Nearly 1 million jobs were added in March, up from 379,000 in February. The improvement is expected to continue as normal commerce resumes and people become comfortable again with dining out at restaurants and other in-person services.

But the gap in employment levels compared with the months before the pandemic remains massive and concentrated in industries like leisure and hospitality that are important sources of jobs for the less skilled.

U.S. payroll employment is about 8.5 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020. A million or more jobs would be needed beyond that to account for the usual month-to-month growth in the labor force and employment.

Graphic: The jobs hole facing Biden – https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ECONOMY/JOBS/xlbpgygrnpq/chart.png

FOREIGN POLICY

Biden has proved to be unexpectedly tough on foreign policy regarding America’s chief challengers. He has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow’s interference in the 2020 elections and a massive cyber hack attributed to Russia, and referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer.”

Biden has held on to Trump-era sanctions on Iran and refused to lift them as a condition for getting

The Global Travel Taskforce has released its initial report on how international travel can resume from May 17, detailing plans for a “traffic light” system that will be rolled out in the coming weeks. This news has been long-awaited by Brits eager to make plans for a summer holiday.

It has been confirmed that anyone arriving in the UK from a destination classified as “red” will need to isolate in a government-regulated hotel for 10 days upon their return, as well as undertake three Covid-19 tests – one before their departure, one on day 2 of their arrival to the UK, and the last on day 8 of their quarantine period.

Anyone arriving from an “amber” destination will need to quarantine at home for 10 days upon their arrival, as well as take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 of their isolate period. However, they will have the option to pay for a private PCR test on day 5 (also known as undertaking ‘test and release’) and end self-isolation early if their test comes back negative.

Lastly, anyone arriving in the UK from a country on the “green” list will be required to take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on or before day 2 of their arrival to the UK. However, they will not need to quarantine or take any additional tests, unless they receive a positive test result.

To be put on the “green” list, countries must have low or decreasing Covid-19 infection rates, a high number of residents already inoculated, be deemed to have a low prevalence of Covid-19 variants, and have access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

The decision regarding which countries will be classed as “green”, “amber”, or “red” will be made in early May, ahead of the hoped for restart on 17 May. The categories will be driven by the data and evidence nearer the time. However, upon looking at the current infection and vaccination rates, it’s likely that destinations such as Israel, Iceland, Portugal, and possibly the USA could be first to open to Brits.

The traffic light system allows for destinations to move categories, depending on the risk of Covid-19, which means that countries classed as “amber” in the coming weeks, may move into “green” in time for the summer holidays. Therefore, it is possible that Spain, Italy, and other popular holiday destinations in Europe could start as “amber” due to the rising Covid-19 numbers, but turn “green” as their infection rates fall again.

Of course, this also means that destinations could be removed from the “green” list if infection rates rise. For example, infection rates were previously falling in Croatia but have recently spiked. In this scenario, it’s possible that Croatia would be removed from “green” and put into the “red” category, meaning anyone returning from there would have to isolate in a quarantine hotel and undertake three Covid-19 tests.

The government has acknowledged that changing a countries status