Category Archives: Lifestyle

Global: 4,5K flights cancelled

Brussels 25.12.2021 Global Christmas travel suffered with over 2,100 flights canceled amid surging COVID-19 cases. United Airlines canceled 177 flights and Delta canceled 150 flights on Christmas Eve due to shortage of staff.

Dozens of flights across Australia have been cancelled, with thousands of airline staff being forced into isolation.

Over 4,500 flights have been cancelled around the world in the past two days and thousands more were delayed as the highly infectious #Omicron variant disrupted holiday travel, according to tracking website #FlightAware:

Additional holiday travel restrictions

Brussels 25.12.2021 Anna van Densky The Omicron variant is “in the process of becoming or has already become dominant in several countries, including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom” according to the World Health Organisation, which is supposed to lead to an increase in the number of patients in need of hospiatlisation.

Sweden announced a restriction of the conditions of entry into its territory for travellers from other countries of the European Union, who will have from December 28 to present a negative Covid-19 test, even if they are vaccinated. However, children under 12 and travellers of Swedish nationality or residing in Sweden are not obliged to comply with this rule.

Seven other EU member states – Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia, Italy, Greece and Austria – already require a negative test, even for those vaccinated from the EU, and Finland announced on Tuesday evening that she was going to do the same.

Thousands of travellers have cancelled their Christmas travel plans due to the spread of the Omicron virus worldwide, and in particular, forced by the travel restrictions imposed by the governments in a bid to halt the spread of the new COVID-19 virus variant.

Just in days before Christmas, Europe has been stepping up restrictions to cope with in upcoming surge of the Omicron variant. A variant “in the process of becoming or already become dominant in several countries, including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom”, according to the WHO, and whose very high contagiousness could have serious consequences on the collective level – the outbreak of contaminations automatically leading to an increase in the number of hospitalised patients.

Travel within the European Union: the validity of the vaccination certificate limited to nine months. The validity of a European Covid digital certificate, when it concerns the vaccination of its holder for intra-EU travel, has been limited to nine months (270 days), the European Commission confirmed on Tuesday December 21, while vaccination campaigns are continuing in the EU for the booster dose.

This provision aims to harmonise the various rules in force in the Member States. The validity period adopted takes into account the guidelines of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), according to which booster doses are recommended no later than six months after the end of the first cycle of vaccination. The certificate will remain valid for a grace period of three additional months, in order to allow the adaptation of national vaccination campaigns and citizens’ access to booster doses.

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders defended this harmonisation, while several countries already require a PCR test when entering their territory, even for an intra-EU traveller who has already been vaccinated.

“Unilateral action in member states would bring us back to the fragmentation and uncertainties we experienced last spring. The nine-month acceptance period for vaccination certificates will give citizens and businesses the certainty they need to plan their trips with confidence. It is now up to the member states to ensure that the reminders are deployed quickly to protect our health and ensure the safety of travel “, commented the Belgian commissioner, quoted in a statement.

Champagne sales record year

Brussels 11.12.2021 The outlook for the key Christmas and New Year festive season, however, is clouded by uncertainty over the recently detected Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but Champagne sales are expected to mark a record year as shops and restaurants replenish stocks after months of virus-related restrictions and as retail demand surges, an industry body said Friday, December 10.

Jean-Marie Barillere, co-president of the CIVC Champagne industry association and president of the Champagne brand group UMP, told AFP that the sector was headed for sales of 315 million bottles this year, representing turnover of 5.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion).

If confirmed, that would beat the current annual sales record of 5 billion euros, reached in 2019, before Covid struck.

The sales increase comes after severe spring frosts followed by summer rains wreaked havoc on French vineyards, some of which are forecast to report harvest losses of as much as a third for the year.

But Champagne must be aged more than a year and producers traditionally keep millions of bottles stored in their cellars to ensure steady supplies from one year to the next.

Strong exports, especially to English-speaking countries, were a big factor for the bumper year, Barillere said.

“The pandemic has created new consumer habits,” he said. “Everything related to entertaining at home is in high demand, including champagne.”

However the prospects for traditional events and restaurant dining over Christmas and New Year’s depends on Covid developments, and whether the Omicron strand prompts new travel restrictions, curfews or lockdowns.

Europe: Omicron hits travel

Brussels, 11.12.2021 TUI (TUIFF) says a surge in Covid-19 infections and the Omicron variant is taking its toll on winter holiday bookings.

Europe’s biggest travel company said on Wednesday, December 8, it had been seeing “positive momentum” in bookings but that had weakened because of “the increased media coverage of rising [coronavirus] incident rates and the emergence of new Omicron variant.”

The company said that if “current sentiment prevails,” it would likely only operate around 60% of pre-pandemic capacity, towards the lower end of where it had hoped to be. Bookings for this winter were currently at 62% of levels seen in 2018-2019, it added.

“In light of recent trends, capacity will likely be modified towards the lower end of our winter capacity plans of between 60% and 80%. We expect the current short-term booking behavior to continue,” TUI said in its annual report.

Covid-19 infections have been rising in some of TUI’s most important markets. Germany on Wednesday recorded its highest number of daily deaths from Covid-19 since February, as it struggles to bring a fourth wave of the pandemic under control.

In the United Kingdom, pressure is mounting on the government to introduce tougher restrictions to try to limit infections amid rising case numbers. The seven-day rolling average on November 29 was over 45,000, the highest it’s been since a peak around October 17.

Venice Floating Nativity

Brussels 06.12.2021 Venice has been attracting people for hundreds of years, and with a natural setting as its lagoon, where even a floating nativity scene has become an open-air artwork.

The floating nativity scene brings the magic of Christmas in the lagoon of Venice with baby Jesus emerging from the waters, surrounded by a floating Joseph and Mary under the sunset near the island of Burano.

Due to the changes of sunlight throughout the day and with the water enhancing the colours of the silhouettes, the scene offers an atmosphere of serenity throughout the day.

The artwork, created by Francesco Orazio, a greengrocer with an artistic talents, was completed on Saturday, December 4, in an open stretch of water, out of the way of vessels.

The painted plywood Nativity figures were fixed by wooden stakes and then anchored on the bottom of the lagoon. And, for a couple of hours a day, the feet of the statues are exactly level with the water.

Omicron: France restricts travel

Brussels 02.12.2021 France has announced new rules for all travellers – vaccinated or not – arriving in France from non-EU countries in the face of the new variant of Covid-19 named Omicron.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking after the weekly meeting of the government’s Defence Council on Wednesday, on December 1, announced the implementation of new rules aimed at controlling the spread of the newly-detected Omicron variant.

A government Decree published on Thursday, December 2, provides more detail.

The new rules come into force at 00.01 AM on Saturday, December 4th, and the testing requirements apply to everyone aged 12 or older – including those who have French citizenship or permanent residency in France.

All travellers – vaccinated or not – will require a negative Covid test in order to enter France from any country outside the EU or Schengen zone. This would include travellers from the UK, the USA and Canada.

The test must have been taken within 48 hours of departure. The decree states that only tests “that are able to detect protein N of Sars-Cov2” can be used – this covers all PCR tests but not all antigen tests. Home tests have never been accepted for travel purposes.

Spain: torture as entertainment

Brussels 13.10.2021 “Spain… join the 21st century! This game is a sadistic form of torture that reminds us of the times when gladiators were fighting in the colosseum or even before!!” calls OIPA NGO, demanding to stop the barbarism of torturing bulls with fire for fun. The ritual usually takes place every year around 13th November at midnight.

However all this suffering is only the beginning: the following day the bull will be killed in a slaughterhouse.
What is even more astonishing is that the event represents a huge risk also for humans that are watching. A few months ago, a 71-year-old man has been charged by a bull on fire in Jerica and died, for instance. Those in charge of organizing these festivals refuse to accept the danger to humans and say it is not that painful after all for the bulls.

The bull is tied to a pole in the middle of a square. In the meantime, hot ashes are scattered around the floor of the arena. Five bonfires, one for each of the holy martyrs of Medinaceli, light up the bullring where the ritual will take place.

The torture begins: a wooden frame is forcibly attached to the bull’s head. Either sides of the wooden frame are then set on fire, giving the impression that the bull has flaming horns.
The poor creature is then released and can do nothing but run around in pain at extremely high speed with the risk to crash, in an attempt to escape the flames and avoid the bonfires. The animal would probably have been blinded because of the fire burning its cornea. Every so often bulls hit their heads so fast that they die.

This atrocious physical and mental torture, considered as a “tradition” takes the name of ‘Toro Jubilo’ or ‘Bou Embolat’ and is still practiced in two Spanish regions, namely Catalonia and the Valencia Community.

Spain: man dies at bull festival

Brussels 31.10.2021 A 55-year-old man has died at a bull festival in Spain – marking the first death of its kind in the country since the start of the pandemic. The man died as a result of the grave injuries caused by a bull when he participated in the ‘bous al carrer’ in the Castellón town of Onda, as sources from the Ministry of Health have confirmed to Europa Press.

The provoked animal was filmed Saturday, October 30 lifting the reveller in the air on the end of its horns and dumping him on the ground as shocked onlookers were attempting to find a refuge in a shop next door.

Some of the party goers tried to entice the bull away to stop it attacking the injured man again as he lay unconscious on the ground.

The injured man was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead after haemorrhaging blood from a gore wound in his left thigh near to his groin which had perforated his femoral artery. VIDEO of dramatic moments of incident below:

He has also received a severe blow to the head that has caused a head injury, according to the newspaper ‘Levante-EMV’.

Onda town hall officials announced they were suspending the rest of the night’s events when they learned he had lost his life.

Selfie fatalities trend

Brussels 29.10.2021 In the age of the smartphone, avoiding taking selfies in death-defying, if spectacular, locations can now be added to the list of precautions for tourists.

A study by the Spanish iO Foundation, focused on tropical diseases, has revealed that between January 2008 and July 2021 at least 379 people – one out of every fortnight on average – have lost life while taking selfie. It is a growing trend, which after a brief pause due to the pandemic has resurfaced during the first seven months of this year, producing 31 fatal accidents – one per week – despite the raft of travel restrictions still in place worldwide.

“It is a growing problem that, because of the dimensions it has taken on, can now be considered a public health issue. The study has helped us to put it into context and that is the first step toward taking preventive action,” says Manuel Linares Rufo, president of the iO Foundation and lead researcher on the report. Tourists accounted for 141 deaths during the period under investigation, compared with 238 fatalities among local residents.

This shows that the tendency to take risks is much higher among the travellers, taking into account that only a tiny fraction of the world’s population is going on vacation.

The countries where the highest number of reported fatalities are India (100), the United States (39) and Russia (33), which head a list of more than 50 nations. Spain, with 15 deaths, is sixth alongside Australia. The researchers of the report, which will be published shortly in the Journal of Travel Medicine, have also compiled data on the 10 most lethal places on Earth for selfie hunters, although this has not been included in the final text.

These are, without being ordered in terms of the number of fatalities: Niagara Falls (USA/Canada), Glen Canyon (USA), Charco del Burro (Colombia), Penha Beach (Brazil), Mlango Falls (Kenya), the Ural Mountains (Russia), the Taj Mahal and Doodhpathri Valley (India), the island of Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia) and the Langkawi archipelago (Malaysia).

EU Protecting artists’ status & revenues

Brussels 29.10.2021 Artists and cultural workers have been heavily affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Find out how the European Parliament wants to protect them.

Arts and culture have provided comfort and relief to many people affected by the recent crisis. However, artists themselves are a vulnerable category, further affected by the pandemic.

The cultural and creative sectors were hit harder than tourism, with revenues down more than 30% in 2020 compared to 2019. The music sector lost 75% of its turnover and the performing arts one even more with 90%.

To provide more stability, Parliament is calling for a European Status of the Artist, creating an EU-wide framework on working conditions and minimum standards, including equal access to social security, sickness insurance, pension schemes and a common EU definition of artists.

MEPs emphasised that differences between EU countries on the legal status of artists hinder collaboration and cross-border projects. Member states should foster mobility by recognising each other’s cultural diplomas, reducing red tape and avoiding double taxation.

They called for specific programmes to encourage young creators to move and exchange across Europe.

During the crisis, many authors and performers adapted to new digital distribution formats. While this allowed them to reach audiences, it also exposed them to unfair practices by dominant streaming platforms. Imposed “buy-out clauses” deprive authors of royalties by purchasing full copyright from them in exchange for a one-off payment. MEPs urged the European Commission and EU countries to ensure that artists have access to collective bargaining and that revenues are fairly distributed to all creators and rights holders.

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