Biden clarifies COVID ‘Over’ comments: Pandemic ‘basically is not where it was’
NEW YORK — President Biden sought to clarify his comments from days earlier that the coronavirus pandemic “is over,” telling guests at a fundraiser that the COVID-19 situation is not as bad as it was.
Biden attended a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York City ahead of his speech Wednesday to the United Nations General Assembly. At one point, speaking about efforts on the pandemic, Biden referenced his comments to Scott Pelley of CBS last week in which he said the pandemic was “over.”
Biden acknowledged he was “criticized” for the remarks, adding, “But it basically is not where it was.”
The president also urged those in attendance to get their booster shots if they have not already.
Biden drew heat from public health experts and some lawmakers for his remarks to “60 Minutes” at the Detroit Auto Show last week, which was the first time the event was able to be held at full capacity since the onset of the pandemic.
“The pandemic is over,” he told the program. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s — but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.”
The United States is still recording an average of more than 400 deaths per day from COVID-19, according to New York Times data, and more than 1 million Americans have died from the virus since the pandemic began in early 2020.
Highly contagious variants have spread throughout the globe, making it nearly impossible to fully eradicate COVID-19.
As a result, the Biden administration has focused its messaging on the importance of getting vaccinated and receiving booster shots to increase immunity as well as the wide availability of antiviral pills and other forms of treatment for those who contract the virus.
Barbados Mask mandate and travel protocols end
Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw (left) announces the end of COVID-19 related mask and travel protocols in the company of Attorney General Dale Marshall (centre) and Minister of Tourism and International Transport Lisa Cummins in this screen grab obtained from social media video – GP
The Barbados Government will end the mask-wearing mandate and travel protocols related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at midnight on Thursday in Barbados.
Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw said mask wearing in general was now going to be optional, but she said it remained firmly intact for select places across the island.
“Mask wearing, however, remains mandatory for persons in nursing homes, private hospital, and senior citizens’ homes; people in healthcare institutions including staff, visitors, clients, and patients; all institutions where medical and dental services are provided,” Bradshaw said.
“Persons in prison, including staff, prisoners, and visitors; staff and students at all educational institutions, all nurseries, and all daycare facilities for both children and adults; and of course, persons who have COVID-19, as well as persons who are travelling on public service vehicles.”
Bradshaw added that all travel protocols will be discontinued, and Barbados will join 95 per cent of the countries in the western hemisphere that preceded the island with this decision.
“There will, therefore, be no testing requirements for entering Barbados, whether your are vaccinated or unvaccinated,” she said.
Coincidentally, Chairman of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Renee Coppin pleaded with government to remove the remaining COVID-19 protocols because she feared that they may make Barbados as a tourist destination “uncompetitive”.
Her remarks came during the BHTA’s quarterly meeting and panel discussion this past Friday at the Mount Gay Visitors Centre.
“Finally, Japan will reopen the border,” Digital Minister Taro Kono wrote on Twitter.
“Visa waiver is back, no daily limit and free individual visits.”
He made the announcement ahead of a speech at the New York Stock Exchange by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is attending the UN General Assembly and is expected to offer details on the easing of entrance rules.
Japan, along with China, has been a holdout in continuing tough restrictions on visitors as much of the world has moved on from the pandemic.
Japan, by contrast, never imposed a strict lockdown during the pandemic.
Tourists who will come to Japan will enjoy a weak yen, which has plummeted so low against the dollar that the finance ministry yesterday intervened in the currency market for the first time since 1998.
The return of the visa-waiver programme suspended in March 2020 will restore the ease of access that saw a record 31.9 million foreign visitors to the country in 2019.
Since June, Japan has allowed tourists to visit in groups accompanied by guides, a requirement that was further relaxed to include self-guided package tours.
The cautious approach to reopening has been deliberate, said James Brady, Japan analysis lead at the US-based Teneo consultancy.
Prime Minister Kishida “took office a year ago knowing that perceived mishandling of the pandemic had been a key factor in undermining public confidence” in his predecessor’s government, Mr Brady told AFP.
“He has been extremely careful not to repeat those mistakes.”
Japan has recorded around 42,600 virus deaths in total – a vastly lower rate than many other countries – and 90% of residents aged 65 and over have had three vaccine shots.
There is no law requiring people to wear masks, but they are still near-ubiquitous in public places like trains and in shops, with many Japanese willing to sport masks when ill even before the pandemic.
While the return of mass tourism should give a “slight bump” to Japan’s economy, the benefits are likely to be limited by China’s zero-Covid policy, Mr Brady said.
“Much of the economic benefit pre-pandemic came from high numbers of Chinese visitors coming and spending lots of money on tech products, cosmetics,” he explained.
But “currently, Chinese citizens face their own travel restrictions at home and won’t be traveling to Japan in large numbers”.
There is “pent-up demand” for travel to the country, however, according to Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights for travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.
“Searches for travel to Japan reached their highest point this year at the end of August,” and while flight bookings were just 16% of 2019 levels in early September, “we’d expect bookings to jump” when the visa rules are scrapped, Mr Ponti said.
Demand from Europe may still be subdued “due to the increase in the cost of living in Europe caused by the Russian-Ukraine crisis plus the rising fuel costs driving up air travel costs”, said Liz Ortiguera, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
Covid: Hong Kong to end controversial hotel quarantine policy
By Grace Tsoi & Peter Hoskins
BBC News, Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s government says that from Monday people arriving in Hong Kong will no longer have to go into mandatory hotel quarantine.
Travellers will also no longer have to show a negative Covid test before boarding a plane to Hong Kong.
Instead they will monitor themselves for possible infection for three days.
The news sparked a rush for flight tickets to Hong Kong, with the Cathay Pacific website operating a queuing system to book.
Hong Kong has had some of the world’s toughest rules as it follows China’s zero Covid policies.
So its departure from what the mainland is doing is a long-awaited decision. Restrictions on people arriving have been in place for more than two years.
The prolonged closure of its border has hit Hong Kong’s economy hard and left the Asian financial centre at a disadvantage compared with its rivals in the region such as Singapore.
Singapore on Friday unseated the city as Asia’s top financial market in the Global Financial Centres Index.
“Hong Kong has been isolated from the international community for two-and-half years, and is suffering from it,” Hao Hong, chief economist of Grow Investment Group told the BBC.
“While the end to hotel quarantine is a step forward, rebuilding confidence takes time, especially against the tide of exodus of talents from Hong Kong.”
“It will take a while before people and businesses respond to the new arrangements and airlines adjust their schedules,” said Louis Kuijs, chief Asia Pacific economist of S&P Global Ratings.
“And a sizeable share of the people and activities that have left Hong Kong in recent years will not come back.”
Earlier on Friday Japan announced that it was relaxing entry rules, with tourists able to visit without a visa and without needing to go through a travel agency from 11 October. A cap on daily arrivals will also be lifted.
World Covid Stats