Covid-19 live updates: Oxford jab should be fine for US travel – adviser


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Image caption: Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the payback as “heartening”

Businesses have handed back more than £1 billion claimed through the Government’s furlough scheme, the Treasury has said.

HMRC said £1.3 billion had been returned by firms to the government since July 2020 because the funds had been over claimed or they no longer needed the cash.

The furlough scheme is due to come to finish at the end of this month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said thanks to the scheme “nearly two million fewer people are now expected to be out of work in the UK than previously feared”.

He added: “With our recovery under way it is heartening to see that £1.3 billion in furlough grants have been returned as the economy recovers.”

It is estimated the scheme will have cost the government £70 billion when it concludes on 30 September – with nearly nine million people being supported at the height of the pandemic last year.

“HMRC and the National Audit Office estimate between 5% and 10% of the total furlough money claimed could represent over claims,” warned Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA.

“The advice to all businesses, as the scheme ends, must be to review all their furlough claims and ensure that if they have overclaimed, they make arrangements to pay HMRC back as soon as possible.

“This should help to avoid interest and penalties.”





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Snowdon hikers who left parking money plus tip on windscreen hit with £70 fine


Two walkers heading up Snowdon left a five pound note on their car windscreen and came back to find a £70 parking ticket slapped on it.

Andrew Frith and Olivia Donnelly turned up to the popular Welsh beauty spot thinking a car park nearby would take card payments.

However, when they discovered they the machine wasn’t taking cards they thought they could still use a £5 note they had – only to discover that machine was coins only, NorthWalesLive reports.

So, the honest couple left the bank note, accompanied by a note explaining their situation, to cover the parking £4 fee – plus a little extra for the inconvenience.

But the West Midlands couple, who have a home in Y Felinheli, said they were stunned to come back to their car and find the money still on the windscreen wiper alongside a parking ticket.



The note and banknote left by Andrew and Olivia under the windscreen wiper of their car. The money was neither claimed or pinched in the six hours they were up Snowdon
The note and banknote left by Andrew and Olivia under the windscreen wiper of their car. The money was neither claimed or pinched in the six hours they were up Snowdon

Andrew said: “It is a sad state of affairs when genuine people who do the right thing are still penalised.

“Surely the parking system is not in place to target this type of goodwill and honest behaviour?”

Andrew and Olivia regularly go hiking in Snowdonia and often use the Pen-y-Pass car park – which accepts card payments.

However, when that car park was full they had to use the council’s other nearby pay-and-display at Gwastadnant.

“We did not bring coins in view of past government guidance that they could encourage the spread of Covid,” said Andrew, a 42-year-old financial consultant.

“We had to pay £4, so we asked around and were given £5 by another hiker, who very generously refused to take any promises from us.

“The banknote was left under the wiper with a friendly note to the parking attendant. So we were very disappointed to arrive back later to find a penalty notice.”

Andrew accepts that, by the letter of the law, the lack of a pay-and-display ticket meant they risked a fine.

However the couple assessed the risk and hoped that commonsense would apply.



Pay-and-display machines at the Pen-y-Pass car park at the foot of Snowdon
Pay-and-display machines at the Pen-y-Pass car park at the foot of Snowdon



Andrew, who has a weekend home in Y Felinheli, said he often pays over the odds because he wants to contribute to local walking facilities
Andrew, who has a weekend home in Y Felinheli, said he often pays over the odds because he wants to contribute to local walking facilities

“I’m sure the parking attendant could have found a way,” he said. “Add it to petty cash at the end of the day, or even donate it to charity.”

“Everyone has rules but this was not in the spirit of them, nor was it morally justifiable.

“Over the last 12 months I must have paid £50 more than I needed to on parking.

“So all we’re calling for is a little common sense and a bit of human decency.”

Gwynedd Council said a cashless payment system has been introduced in the “vast majority” of its pay-and-display car parks.

A spokesperson said: “Some locations mean that it is difficult to introduce this system due to internet and phone coverage and we have raised the matter with the company that provide us with this service.”

Gwynedd Council said penalty notices include advice on how appeals can be lodged by those who feel they have been fined unfairly.

“Every appeal is thoroughly assessed,” added a spokesperson.

“At the end of this process, should the complainant remain unhappy, they have the right to appeal to an independent adjudication body.”

Did the couple do the right thing? Or should they have looked for another car park – or even used the shuttle buses? Have you say in the have your say in the comments below





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Concerts, fine arts, auction add up to busy week | Arts and Travel


It’s definitely on. 

This week, live concerts are the rage, with every imaginable musical genre livening up prime outdoor spots throughout the city.

Ready to fill your cultural calendar? 

See a breakthrough S.C. film at the Gibbes

Here’s your chance to see Julie Dash’s heralded 1991 film on the big screen.

“Daughters of the Dust” tells the story of an early 20th century multigenerational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off South Carolina. It explores their struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even farther from their roots. 

When and where: 6 p.m. April 22. Register online at the Gibbes website, www.gibbesmuseum.org; Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. in downtown Charleston.

Why it’s hot: Know where you’re from.

Who it’s for: Those who revel in coastal Carolina culture.

Collect art like a girl at the ‘Dare to Dream’ virtual auction

Part of the Like a Girl: Dare to Dream project, this virtual auction offers up the works created by Fer Caggiano on exhibit at City Gallery

The net proceeds of this fundraiser will be donated to three organizations that help girls and women reach their highest potential: YWCA Greater Charleston; Girls on the Run Coastal South Carolina; and Women in Aviation, Palmetto Pride Chapter.

When and where: Starts April 22 just before midnight and ends April 25 at the same time at www.32auctions.com/LGDD. View the portraits through May 2 at City Gallery, 34 Prioleau St. in downtown Charleston.

Why it’s hot: Support local organizations while elevating your collection.

Who it’s for: Those who are all in for Charleston’s woman-powered artistry and achievement.

‘Blame it on the Bossa Nova’ at a free library concert

New Muse Concerts kicks off its 2021 season with two free performances of “Blame it on the Bossa Nova!” Featuring Alva Anderson on voice and viola and Duda Lucena on voice and guitar, the first of two concerts is April 23 and a second is April 29. Get into a Latin groove by way of choro, samba rhythms, jazz and the flowing Bossa Nova tunes.

The audience is invited to stay on after the concerts to chat with musicians.

Uncover more stories from Charleston’s 350 years of history that have been long forgotten over time. Sign up for this 5-part newsletter course to learn about key historical moments that aren’t told in the story of Charleston.

For more information on the shows, outside Commonhouse Aleworks, go to newmuse.org. Pro tip: Space is limited and reservations are required. To sign up contact lyonsj@ccple.org.

When and where: 1 p.m. April 23; outside the Mount Pleasant branch of the Charleston County Public Library, 1400 Carolina Park Blvd. in Mount Pleasant.

Why it’s hot: Alfresco Latin sounds are hotness personified.

Who it’s for: Anyone ready to get moving to the music.

Kick back and get happy with ‘Brass in the Woods’

Charleston Symphony has just announced “Brass in the Woods,” an outdoor concert of its brass symphony quintet at The Woodlands Nature Reserve. Enjoy the bold sounds of the Charleston Symphony Brass Quintet on the grass with a forest backdrop — and bring your picnic baskets, coolers, blankets and chairs.

The lineup includes popular music from Broadway, the Great American Songbook and even some New Orleans Jazz.

Tickets can be purchased at the gate the day of the concert or online by goign to https://charlestonsymphony.org/event/brassinthewoods/.

When and where: 4 p.m. April 25 (gates open at 3 p.m.) The Woodlands Nature Reserve, 4279 Ashley River Road in Charleston.

Why it’s hot: A horn blows in the forest, and everybody’s listening.

Who it’s for: Those who love big sounds in open spaces.

Spring concert series with harbor views

If you like harbor views with your music, then you’ll love this spring concert series.

“Wind down at WestEdge” offers live music at the WestEdge community across from Brittlebank Park downtown Thursday and Friday evenings through May 7. Bring your chairs (but no coolers) and grab drinks and food from WestEdge restaurants while chilling out and listening up.

Thursday nights feature Band of Brothers, an acoustic band playing cover songs. Each Friday, a different band will play, covering everything from jazz to bluegrass.

When and where: Thursday and Friday from 5-8 p.m.; outside the 22 WestEdge building next to the Ashley River in downtown Charleston. (Free two-hour parking is available in the garage above Publix at 10 WestEdge.)

Why it’s hot: It’s the perfect way to wind down near the water.

Who it’s for: Those clocking out and ramping up.

Follow Maura Hogan on Twitter at @msmaurahogan.





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Another big FAA fine + vaccines and travel, Spring Break, SFO testing, route news, more


In this week’s air travel news, the FAA has issued another huge fine against a disruptive airline passenger; the CDC still advises against travel, even for vaccinated individuals; spring-breakers are taking to the air even though some destinations are advising them to stay away; Greece and Belize are opening their borders to vaccinated travelers without a testing or quarantine requirement, and Hawaii is working on plans to do the same; San Francisco International moves its rapid COVID testing center this week; Alaska Airlines unveils more new routes and will begin code-sharing with American in more markets (including one from SFO) as AA plans a big build-up at Austin; Southwest Airlines adds three more U.S. airports to its network; Spirit Airlines will offer the only non-stop service between Los Angeles and New York LaGuardia; the JetBlue founder’s new startup carrier gets DOT approval; United trims summer international route plans from Washington Dulles; Japan Airlines returns to San Diego; and British Airways gives its frequent flyers a break.

The Federal Aviation Administration has struck again in its new crackdown on unruly airline passengers, this time slapping a $14,500 fine on a traveler who refused to obey flight attendants. Last week, we reported on the FAA’s imposition of a $27,500 civil penalty against a Delta passenger who struck a flight attendant, part of a new get-tough policy on in-flight behavior that the agency announced in January. In the latest case, the disruptive flyer didn’t hit any of the flight crew, but was loud and obnoxious, causing the flight to return to the airport. According to the agency, the incident happened on a Dec. 23 JetBlue flight from New York to the Dominican Republic.

“The passenger crowded the traveler sitting next to him, spoke loudly, and refused to wear his face mask,” the FAA said. Flight attendants moved the seatmate to another location and warned the unruly passenger about his refusal to wear a face mask and his continued imbibing of alcohol that he brought on board himself, which are both violations of FAA rules.

“Despite these warnings, the passenger continued to remove his face mask and drink his own alcohol,” the FAA said, leading the captain to declare an emergency and take the plane back to JFK Airport, where it landed “4,000 pounds overweight due to the amount of fuel on board.”

A man receives a nasal swab COVID-19 test at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

A man receives a nasal swab COVID-19 test at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Plenty of potential air travelers were hoping that the newest COVID guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued last week, would say it is OK for individuals who complete their vaccinations to take flight once again – but it didn’t, much to the dismay of the airline industry. CDC officials were reportedly planning to ease travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans, but decided at the last minute to leave that out of the new guidance. That means the agency’s previous warnings remain in effect, and Americans should continue to avoid all unnecessary travel, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” the agency’s travel guidance says. You can see the full CDC travel policy here.


The younger segment of the population is the least likely to be vaccinated, but that isn’t stopping many of them from hitting the road for their traditional spring-break trips – a season that is now in full swing. On five of the first 10 days in March, the number of TSA passenger screenings at airports topped 1 million, a relatively high number in the pandemic era. Orlando International Airport officials said last week that they are expecting traveler numbers during spring-break season (Feb. 28 to April 13) to increase by 600,000 over the same period last year – a jump of 45%. (By comparison, the number of spring-break travelers at the airport last year fell by 1.8 million from 2019 levels, so this year’s number is still historically low.)

But faced with the prospect of hundreds of unmasked revelers hitting their beaches and potentially spreading the virus, some destinations are less than enthusiastic about welcoming them. According to various press reports, the city manager of Miami Beach has suggested that spring-breakers should go to Las Vegas. The public health director of Los Angeles County, still reeling from a massive virus outbreak, said that “spring travel can lead to another surge that, frankly, would be almost impossible to tolerate,” and warned that anyone arriving from out of state is still required to quarantine for 10 days. UC Davis is offering students $75 gift cards if they stay in town during the school’s March 22-26 break. And the U.S. Embassy in Mexico said in a statement that “U.S. citizens should reconsider Spring Break and other non-essential travel to Mexico due to COVID-19,” noting that “cases and hospitalizations remain high in most of Mexico,” and that Americans who do vacation there have to produce a negative COVID test result before they can board a flight home.

Last year, in March 2020, Miami Beach closed off its beaches to spring break visitors and asked them to refrain from large gatherings.

Last year, in March 2020, Miami Beach closed off its beaches to spring break visitors and asked them to refrain from large gatherings.

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

As vaccination numbers continue to grow – in the world’s wealthier countries, at least – there is a growing consensus that destinations could reopen their borders without other restrictions (like testing and quarantines) for those who got their COVID shots. The latest examples are Greece and Belize. Greece’s tourism minister, Harry Theocharis, said last week that the country is preparing to reopen this summer – perhaps as soon as mid-May, according to a Reuters report. “Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or have antibodies, or test negative. All tourists will be subject to random testing,” he said. Greece depends heavily on tourism, and it has been urging member countries of the European Union to open their borders to vaccinated visitors this year by adopting a standardized vaccination passport. And Belize said it is now allowing travelers to enter the country without a COVID test if they can show documentation proving that they were vaccinated at least two weeks before arrival.

The state of Hawaii is working on plans to exempt vaccinated mainland visitors from its mandatory 10-day quarantine, just as it currently exempts those who show a negative COVID test. However, local news reports suggest that program isn’t likely to take effect until May at the earliest, as Hawaii Gov. David Ige is concerned about the CDC’s continuing guidance against all nonessential travel. “In addition, there is currently no way to verify if a person has been vaccinated, and there isn’t sufficient information on the length of the vaccine’s efficacy beyond three months,” Ige said last week.
 
With the focus of public health officials shifting gradually from COVID testing to vaccinations, the travel industry is pressuring the federal government to come up with a standardized “health passport” that can be used by all travelers and will be universally accepted as proof that they have been tested and/or immunized. More than two dozen airline, travel and business groups sent a letter to the White House last week urging the Biden administration to take the lead in creating standardized health credentials that could facilitate the resumption of travel. However, the groups also said that a COVID vaccination should not become mandatory for travel, either domestic or international.

Speaking of testing, San Francisco International Airport said its on-site rapid COVID testing center, which opened in July, is moving on March 15. It will still be in the International Terminal, but will move from Level 1, Courtyard A to Level 3, at the Aisle 6 ticket counter in the Edwin M. Lee International Departures Hall. SFO said the new location for the appointment-only testing center “will provide travelers with easier access to other airport facilities for their travel, including ticket counters, security checkpoints, and shopping and dining.” Travelers can book an appointment through the GoHealth Urgent Care site here.

Alaska is flying new routes to destinations in the Pacific Northwest, including to one in Northern California.

Alaska is flying new routes to destinations in the Pacific Northwest, including to one in Northern California.

Mike Siegel/TNS

U.S. airlines are continuing to add new domestic routes as travel slowly revives, concentrating on destinations that would likely appeal to leisure travelers. Alaska Airlines last week announced four more new routes beginning June 17, including one to Northern California. The airline said it will introduce daily year-round Q400 flights from its Seattle hub to Redding, Calif., and to Idaho Falls, Idaho, along with daily E175 service to Boise from Austin and Chicago O’Hare.  And Southwest Airlines, which has already added 14 new destinations to its route map since the pandemic started, just announced three more, with plans to begin service at Eugene, Ore.; Bellingham, Wash.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C. – although in typical Southwest fashion, it didn’t immediately say when, or where it will fly from those airports. (Last week, Southwest also kicked off its previously announced new service at Colorado Springs Airport, with flights to Denver International, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas Love Field and Chicago Midway.)

The next phase of Alaska Airlines’ growing partnership with American Airlines will include more code-sharing in the western states starting May 6. American said last week it will put its AA code on Alaska’s flights between San Francisco and Austin, San Diego-Austin and Portland-Austin, as well as Austin-Seattle and Alaska’s recently announced Austin-Boise service. That’s just part of American’s plan for substantial growth at Austin this summer. On May 6, AA said, it will begin new daily service from Austin to Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando and New Orleans, followed by new routes from Austin to Tampa starting June 3, Raleigh-Durham beginning July 2, and Washington Dulles starting Aug. 17. American said it sees real promise for the Austin market due to “the exponential growth of the region.”

One new route announcement last week really caught our eye: Spirit Airlines said that on June 12, it will begin new non-stop service between Los Angeles International and New York LaGuardia. You know how many airlines fly non-stop between LAX and LGA? None. That’s because LaGuardia has a “perimeter rule” banning flight of more than 1,500 miles. However, there are two exceptions: One is for flights from LGA to Denver and the other is for flights on Saturdays. And that’s the loophole Spirit will use: Its LAX-LGA flights will only operate once a week, on Saturdays. Spirit said it will also introduce new service from LaGuardia to San Juan in April and to Nashville in May, and will expand its space at the New York airport by moving all Ft. Lauderdale departures to Terminal A, the old Marine Air Terminal. Meanwhile, Spirit also announced last week it will add St. Louis to its network, launching daily flights starting May 27 to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation last week gave its approval for Breeze Airways to begin interstate passenger operations. Breeze, the startup carrier created by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, has already started hiring staff and taking delivery of 15 leased Embraer 190 aircraft, although for the longer term, it has ordered 60 Airbus A330-200s, with the first one expected in August. Under Neeleman’s business plan, Breeze will operate on routes between secondary U.S. cities that are currently unserved or underserved by existing airlines. It’s unlikely Bay Area travelers will see Breeze jets anytime soon, however. In a DOT filing last fall, Breeze said it expects to begin flying from a city in the southeast to four northeastern airports, then expand to another southern airport with flights to points in the northeast, southeast and southern plains. It did not name any of the airports.

In international developments, the ongoing stagnation of travel has reportedly led United Airlines to give up on a number of global routes from its Washington Dulles hub this summer, as the carrier has decided to suspend them at least through October. That includes United transatlantic service from IAD to Amsterdam, Dublin, Geneva, and Tel Aviv, as well as transpacific service from IAD to Beijing and Tokyo Haneda. Seasonal summer flights from Dulles to Edinburgh and Lisbon will be dropped for 2021. In other news, Japan Airlines has resumed service three days a week between San Diego and Tokyo Narita, a route that is code-shared with American Airlines. And British Airways said it will give a break to its most frequent flyers by extending their Executive Club tier status for another year if it is due to expire in 2021.



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Amazon to Pay Fine for Withholding Tips From Delivery Drivers


Amazon agreed on Tuesday to pay $62 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle charges that it withheld tips to delivery drivers over a two-and-a-half year period, in a case that highlights the federal government’s increased interest in gig-economy workers.

The F.T.C. said in an announcement that Amazon had promised its Flex delivery drivers that they would receive 100 percent of all customers’ tips. But starting in 2016, the F.T.C. said, Amazon secretly lowered the hourly delivery wages, which were advertised at $18 to $25, and tried to mask the smaller wages by using customer tips to cover for the smaller hourly pay. The net effect was that the contract workers received smaller overall take-home pay, the agency said.

The practice wasn’t disclosed to drivers but the Flex drivers noticed the compensation reductions and began to complain. Amazon stopped the practice in 2019, after it became aware of the F.T.C.’s investigation, the agency said. The company settled without admitting wrongdoing.

“Rather than passing along 100 percent of customers’ tips to drivers, as it had promised to do, Amazon used the money itself,” said Daniel Kaufman, the acting head of consumer protection at the F.T.C. “Our action today returns to drivers the tens of millions of dollars in tips that Amazon misappropriated, and requires Amazon to get drivers’ permission before changing its treatment of tips in the future.”

Flex workers are classified by Amazon as independent contractors and often use personal vehicles for deliveries of the company’s Prime Now and AmazonFresh items. Customers can give a tip to delivery drivers on the checkout page.

Amazon is facing greater regulatory scrutiny overall. The Seattle company is under investigation for antitrust violations amid growing concerns from lawmakers and regulators about the power of the big tech companies.

The case also illustrates greater bipartisan scrutiny over Big Tech’s treatment of contract workers, who are a growing portion of Amazon, Google and Facebook’s workforces.

“Amazon is one of the largest and most feared corporate empires on the planet, and it is critical that global regulators carefully scrutinize whether the company is amassing and abusing its market power through unlawful practices,” Rohit Chopra, a Democrat and a commissioner, said in a tweet about the settlement.

Amazon said in a statement that its pay for contract workers was among the “best in the industry.”

“While we disagree that the historical way we reported pay to drivers was unclear, we added additional clarity in 2019 and are pleased to put this matter behind us,” it said.





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Dumped freezer outside closed tip lands Hook man with hefty fine


A man from Hook has been given a fixed penalty notice for fly-tipping household waste outside a recycling site outside its normal opening hours.

A small fridge, baby gate and two cardboard boxes was among the rubbish dumped outside the recycling site at Airmyn in November 2020.

Following investigation, the resident was issued a £400 fly-tipping fixed penalty notice, which he paid early and therefore paid an amount of £300.

Paul Tripp, head of streetscene services at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It’s not acceptable for individuals to dump waste outside of a household waste recycling site. If that happens, like in this case, we will investigate and we will take the appropriate action.”

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East Riding of Yorkshire Council has reminded residents that they are responsible for disposing their own waste properly and legally – either by using their household bins, taking it to their local household waste recycling site or using the council’s bulky waste service.

The council have warned that anyone caught fly-tipping could be ordered to pay a £400 fixed penalty notice and, if unpaid, the issue will be taken to court, where they could face an unlimited fine or even imprisonment.

Although, household waste recycling sites are only currently open for essential waste due to the current lockdown restrictions. Visitors are being reminded to maintain two metre social distancing at all times, wash their hands before and after visiting and residents are advised to travel alone in their vehicles.

Council recycling sites are open 7 days a week – from 10am until 5pm – to find your closest site, click here and search for ‘recycling’.

Residents can report any fly-tipping or suspicious activity to the council on 01482 393939, or online by clicking here.





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