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EU advises further relaxing travel rules for foreigners

The Boston Globe 2/22/2022 Globe staff
Street vendors and shoppers were seen on a street in Asuncion on February 22, 2022. The Paraguayan government announced on Tuesday that it lifted all sanitary restrictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the use of facemasks in indoors and in crowded spaces. © NORBERTO DUARTE Street vendors and shoppers were seen on a street in Asuncion on February 22, 2022. The Paraguayan government announced on Tuesday that it lifted all sanitary restrictions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the use of facemasks in indoors and in crowded spaces.

COVID-19 cases have fallen in Massachusetts after a surge driven by the Omicron variant swept across the US and the world.

Below, we’re gathering all the latest news and updates on coronavirus in New England and beyond.

  Feb. 22, 2022  

Fox News’ Cavuto returns to work after bout with COVID-19 — 12:27 p.m.

By The Associated Press

Fox News host Neil Cavuto has returned to work after surviving a bout of COVID-19 and pneumonia that he says included time in an intensive care unit and some “touch-and-go” periods. Cavuto, who hosts the 4 p.m. Eastern hour on Fox News Channel and a two-hour program at noon on the Fox Business Network, was back on the air Monday after being off since the week of Jan. 10.

Cavuto, 63, is a cancer survivor who has multiple sclerosis and said he was vulnerable to the coronavirus despite being vaccinated. It was his second case of COVID-19. “It really was touch-and-go,” Cavuto said. “Some of you who’ve wanted to put me out of my misery darn near got what you wished for.” Cavuto said doctors told him that if he had not been vaccinated, he would not have survived, because it provided some defense.

While some personalities on Fox have promoted vaccine skepticism, Cavuto said that he was “not here to debate vaccinations for you.” He said he owed viewers an explanation about what he had gone through, after asking for privacy throughout his illness. He read portions of letters from some viewers, including a woman named Janice who wrote, “dead or alive, as long as he isn’t on my TV, it’s a good day.” “Well then, sorry about today, Janice,” Cavuto said.

UK’s COVID-test wind down puts end to $35 billion growth boost — 11:09 a.m.

By Bloomberg News

Boris Johnson’s decision to wind down COVID testing in England marks the beginning of the end for a system that has added more than 26 billion pounds ($35 billion) to the economy since the start of the pandemic.

The prime minister said this week that the test and trace program is set to be severely scaled back as part of a new era of “living with COVID.” Access to free tests is ending and other elements are also being phased out, with Johnson citing the vast cost to the Treasury of running the system.

That will come with a cost to the wider economy. Data from the Office for National Statistics show test and trace was responsible for around one in seven pounds of economic growth in 2021.

The plan added an average of 1.8 billion pounds a month to growth last year, peaking at 2.8 billion pounds in December.

Finland’s restaurants to see end of pandemic curbs as COVID cases drop — 9:57 a.m.

By Bloomberg News

Finland plans to end all pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants as declining case numbers allow a return to a more normal nightlife.

Finland will end all restrictions on trade, opening hours, and the number of customers in restaurants from March 1, according to a proposal from the ministerial working group that is coordinating Finland’s COVID-19 response.

The total number of cases has continued to decline in Finland amid considerable regional differences, the government said. While the need for hospital care has remained high in many areas, the burden of intensive care is lower than in previous epidemic peaks.

EU advises further relaxing travel rules for foreigners — 9:12 a.m.

By The Associated Press

European Union member countries agreed Tuesday that they should further facilitate tourist travel into the 27-nation bloc for people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus or have recovered from COVID-19. The European Council is recommending that EU nations next month lift all testing and quarantine requirements for people who received vaccines authorized in the EU or approved by the World Health Organization.

Individuals who received the last dose of their primary vaccination series at least 14 days and no more than 270 days before arrival, or who have received a booster dose, would be eligible along with those who recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days of travel.

The EU’s executive commission welcomed the non-binding guidance, which also makes clear that no test or additional requirements should be applied to children under 6 who are traveling with an adult. “The updates will further facilitate travel from outside the EU into the EU, and take into account the evolution of the pandemic, the increasing vaccination uptake worldwide and the administration of booster doses,” the European Commission said.

Travelers who received vaccines that were approved but WHO but are not authorized for use in the EU may still be asked to present a negative PCR test or to quarantine, the European Council said. So far, the EU has authorized the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax.

HSBC bankers grounded as pandemic cut business flights by 96 percent — 9:06 a.m.

By Bloomberg News

HSBC Holdings Plc’s logo is seen by millions of passengers throughout the world’s airports -- but its own staff aren’t among them.

The bank’s average worker racked up 307 kilometers (191 miles) of business travel last year, not quite enough for one round trip between HSBC’s UK offices in London and Birmingham. This is down from 4,228 km two years ago.

Even as nations relax their COVID-19 travel curbs, HSBC has continued to drastically scale back plane trips, mostly on long-haul routes. Its staff traveled 28.5 million km in the air last year, down 87 percent from 2020, and 96 percent from 2019, according to figures published Tuesday alongside the bank’s fourth-quarter results.

The collapse in business travel is proving handy to HSBC’s efforts to cut its carbon emissions and help finance the world’s transition away from fossil fuels. The bank has said it will become a net zero emitter by 2030 and provide as much as $1 trillion of finance to help its clients reduce their carbon footprint.


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The bank said on Tuesday its emissions from business travel had fallen from 272,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2019, to 12,000 tonnes last year, shrinking from about 40 percent of the bank’s overall greenhouse gas emissions to 3.5 percent.

Back in 2019, HSBC’s travel and entertainment budget was around $400 million. By last year, it was less than $60 million, according to Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson.

“As part of our cost plan, we don’t want to see that returning above $200 million, i.e. we are planning on at least a 50 percent reduction in travel pre-COVID to post-COVID,” Stevenson said in a phone interview.

“Consistent with our ESG objectives, we are putting in a permanent reduction in our approach to travel that we wouldn’t have had pre-COVID.”

HSBC’s London-headquartered rival Standard Chartered Plc said last week that its own flight emissions had fallen 96 percent from their 2019 baseline, primarily driven by the pandemic. This far exceeded the bank’s target of a 28 percent reduction.

Queen still has mild COVID symptoms, cancels online meetings — 6:01 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth II canceled scheduled online engagements on Tuesday because she is still experiencing mild cold-like symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19, Buckingham Palace said.

The monarch “has decided not to undertake her planned virtual engagements today, but will continue with light duties,” a palace spokesman said.

Officials confirmed the queen tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. The diagnosis prompted concern and get-well wishes from across Britain’s political spectrum for the 95-year-old queen.

The palace said Sunday that Elizabeth, who has been fully vaccinated and had a booster shot, would continue with “light” duties at Windsor Castle over the coming week.

Hong Kong orders mandatory COVID-19 tests for all residents — 5:51 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Hong Kong will test its entire population for COVID-19 in March, the city’s leader said Tuesday, as the city grapples with its worst outbreak driven by the omicron variant.

The population will be tested three times in March, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a news conference Tuesday.

Lam said that testing capacity will be boosted to 1 million a day or more.

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Dubai airport is busiest for global travel as virus persists — 4:28 a.m.

By The Associated Press

Dubai’s main airport said Tuesday it has retained its top place as the world’s busiest for international travel with around 29 million passengers shuttling through the global gateway last year.

The 2021 passenger figures are encouraging for the tourism-driven economy of Dubai, regarded as a critical link between East and West. The numbers are sign that international travel has picked up somewhat since the coronavirus pandemic spawned unprecedented global lockdowns and border closures in 2020. Last year’s figure represents a 12% increase in traffic at Dubai International Airport compared to 2020, which had recorded nearly 26 million travelers.

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Returning to Fox Business, Neil Cavuto credits vaccination with saving life — 1:31 a.m.

By The New York Times

Neil Cavuto, the veteran Fox Business host who has not appeared on the network for more than a month, returned Monday, telling viewers that his absence was because of COVID-19 pneumonia that sent him to an intensive-care unit “for quite a while.”

“It really was touch and go,” Cavuto said on his show “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” on Monday, adding, “Doctors say had I not been vaccinated at all, I wouldn’t be here.”

Cavuto said this recent infection was “far, far more serious” than the one he got last year.

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Hong Kong could see 3,000 COVID deaths by May, experts forecast — 1:21 a.m.

By Bloomgberg News

The worsening Covid outbreak in Hong Kong is likely to claim more than 3,000 lives by the middle of May, according to a forecast by a team of medical professors and health data experts.

Daily infections are likely to peak at nearly 183,000 in early March, before gradually dropping to around 400 by mid-May, according to an updated forecast from the Laboratory of Data Discovery for Health and the University of Hong Kong’s WHO Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control. Deaths would peak at almost 100 a day in late-March, with cumulative casualties hitting 3,206 in mid-May, according to the analysis released Monday.

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  Feb. 21, 2022  

State House to reopen to public, with mandate visitors prove they’re vaccinated or show negative test — 8:34 p.m.

By Matt Stout, Globe Staff

The Massachusetts State House will reopen to the public on Tuesday with various rules and restrictions, including a mask mandate, ending the longest-running closure of a state capitol in the continental United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The return of visitors will come 708 days after legislative leaders first shuttered the building in mid-March 2020 as the virus took hold.

Those age 5 or older will be required to show proof they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, or a negative test from within the last day, to access the building, according to official guidelines released Monday night by the Bureau of the State House. Masks will be required in all common spaces, including hallways, elevators, restrooms, and event spaces within the building.

Children under 5 years old are exempt from both the mask and vaccine or testing mandate.

Visitors will also be limited to entering the State House between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. but can remain in the building if the House or the Senate are still in session “for the purposes of viewing the session.”

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