State Dept. Updates Travel Advisories Due To Ongoing Pandemic – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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State Dept. Updates Travel Advisories Due To Ongoing Pandemic

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The Department of State expanded its travel advisories to warn
U.S. citizens not to travel to many areas due to ongoing
“unprecedented risks” posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The
Department is warning travelers against going to
“approximately 80% of countries worldwide.”


The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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Coronavirus news live: Latest UK travel green list and vaccine updates

‘Don’t book foreign summer holidays yet’, says Liz Truss

Most of Europe and the US should move onto the UK’s “green list” next month, according to ministers.

The government is expected to announce a green list of destinations – from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine as of 17 May – shortly, and then review this list every three weeks.

While the public await the official list, the UK has amended its travel advice to show a list of low-risk nations ahead of the expected return to non-essential travel in mid-May.

Meanwhile, epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson has said he feels “fairly optimistic” there will be a return to “something which feels a lot more normal by the summer”.

The expert from Imperial College London, who advises the government, also said the UK data on deaths and cases was “very encouraging” and it was unlikely the NHS would be overwhelmed after an expected rise in Covid cases in late summer.

But Professor Stephen Reicher, another expert, has warned the public to take Boris Johnson’s comments suggesting social distancing could be scrapped in summer with a “pinch of salt”.


No evidence Covid-19 vaccines affected by drinking alcohol, says health regulator

There is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are affected by drinking alcohol after having had the jab, a UK regulator has said.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was responding to reports on social media that people ought to avoid drinking for up to two weeks following a vaccine.

In January, advisers to Drinkaware, an alcohol education charity which is funded by the alcohol industry, said there was some evidence drinking, particularly heavy drinking, may interfere with the body’s ability to build an immune response to some vaccines.

There is no information on this in patient information leaflets from the NHS or the vaccine manufacturers however that would suggest a link of this kind.

A spokeswoman for the MHRA said: “There is currently no evidence that drinking alcohol interferes with the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines.

“We would advise anyone concerned about this to talk to their healthcare professional,” PA reported.

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 12:08


Eight Asiatic lions at Indian zoo test positive for Covid

Eight Asiatic lions have tested positive for Covid-19 at a zoo in Hyderabad, India, in the first such case reported in the country.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India’s largest organisation for research and development, tweeted that one of its life science institutions in Hyderabad, The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), would carry out “detailed investigation of the samples for genome sequencing to find out if the strain came from human beings or not.”

Veterinarians at the Nehru Zoological Park reportedly noticed the lions showing Covid-like symptoms in the last week of April.

Vishwam Sankaran has more:

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 11:58


Most of Europe should be on ‘green list’ next month, ministers say

Most of Europe and the US should move onto the UK’s “green list” next month, according to government ministers.

This “big bang” reopening for travel is due in large part to the UK’s successful rollout of the vaccination programme, which has seen one in four Britons receive both doses of the vaccine at the time of writing.

After the initial green list of countries – from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine as of 17 May – is announced, the list will be reviewed every three weeks.

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:39


Key questions and answers on EU travel plans

Amid lots of talk about travel and the UK’s “green list” of destinations, the EU is proposing that travel restrictions are eased on their end.

But the new proposals can be implemented, modified or ignored by member countries.

Simon Calder takes a look at the key questions and answers:

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:25


85% following self-isolation rules after positive test – ONS

Around 85 per cent who test positive for Covid-19 are continuing to follow the rules for self-isolating, a new survey has suggested.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) findings – based on responses collected from adults in England between 12-16 April – found 15 per cent of people reported at least one activity during self-isolation that broke the rules, such as leaving home or having visitors for a reason not permitted under legislation.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:10


What restrictions will ease by end of May?

A government adviser has predicted this summer will feel “a lot more normal” – if not “completely normal”.

On that note, here is a reminder of restrictions that will remain in place by the end of this month, and those that will have been lifted if all goes to plan:

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:54


‘Sensible and cautious precautions’

Professor Stephen Reicher said people will need to be careful in future, but not in a way that limits daily life.

The government scientific adviser said: “Even after restrictions go, it makes sense to have sensible and cautious precautions; not in a way that limit our everyday lives, not in a way that stops us seeing people or hugging people, but just realising, for instance, that on the whole, we are safer outside, don’t sit too close to people, open the windows.”

He added: “So we need to be sensible about this, we need to be cautious about this, and in that way I think we’re much more likely to get to a space where our lives are much more back to normal, much more tolerable, where we can meet and hug our loved ones, but don’t just hug anybody.”

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:21


‘The rules will be pretty much the same all over Europe’

Here is Portugal’s tourism minister explaining the EU’s plans to restart tourism.

“The rules will be pretty much the same all over Europe,” she said.

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:13


Iceland travel

In more travel news, a British tour operator has persuaded Iceland’s prime minister to permit UK holidaymakers to be admitted on production of an NHS vaccination card.

Simon Calder, our travel correspondent, reports:

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:11


‘The British market is really important to all Europe’

Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, said the country is “taking the lead” at the European Council in negotiations aimed at opening up the European Union to UK holidaymakers.

She told BBC Breakfast: “We are really pushing hard to open up to third countries like the UK.

“I’m not going to tell you how important is the British market to Portugal. I just want to tell you that the British market is really important to all Europe, and in that sense we are ready to welcome you when you are ready to come.”

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:00

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U.S. to restrict travel from India over coronavirus starting Tuesday

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration made the determination on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Biden signed a proclamation barring entry to most foreigners who have been in India in the past 14 days, with exceptions for legal permanent residents, spouses and close family members of U.S. citizens, and some others. He cited the spread of the virus and its variants.

“The CDC advises, based on work by public health and scientific experts, that these variants have characteristics of concern, which may make them more easily transmitted and have the potential for reduced protection afforded by some vaccines,” Biden said in the proclamation.

He said the CDC has concluded that “proactive measures” are needed to protect public health from travelers from India.

With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.

Biden spoke Monday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the growing health crisis and pledged to immediately send assistance. This week, the U.S. began delivering therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for India to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, a CDC team of public health experts was expected to be on the ground soon to help Indian health officials move to slow the spread of the virus.

The White House waited on the CDC recommendation before moving to restrict travel, noting that the U.S. already requires negative tests and quarantines for all international travelers. Other restrictions are in place on travel from China, Iran, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa, which are or have been hotspots for the coronavirus.

There was no immediate comment on the new limits from the State Department, which on Thursday reissued a warning to Americans against traveling to India and said those already in the country should consider leaving by commercial means. That warning was accompanied by a notice that the department was telling the families of all U.S. government employees at its embassy in New Delhi and four consulates in India that they could leave the country at government expense.

U.S. diplomatic facilities in India have not been immune from the pandemic and a handful of local staff have perished from the virus. Several dozen other local and U.S. staffers have been sickened by COVID-19, according to officials who were not authorized to discuss personal matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The State Department has declined to comment on the number of staff affected, citing security and privacy concerns.

But even as the U.S. boosts pandemic assistance to India and allows some of its diplomatic families to come home, other aspects of the relationship continue unhampered.

Just minutes after the White House released the new travel restrictions, the State Department said it had approved more than $2.4 billion in arms sales to India, which the U.S. believes will be a critical counterbalance to China in the Indo-Pacific region.

The sale includes six Boeing P-8I patrol aircraft and related technology to be used for surveillance. The department said the deal “will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.”

By Associated Press Writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville, who reported from Philadelphia.

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Thailand Suspends Travel From India as It Steps up Coronavirus Measures at Home | World News

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand has suspended issuing travel documents from India over concerns of imported coronavirus cases, as more venues were closed in Bangkok on Monday as part of efforts to contain a third wave of infections in the Southeast Asian nation.

India on Monday set a global record for coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day with 352,991 new infections, as its caseload crossed 17 million and with hospitals running out of oxygen, beds and anti-viral drugs.

The Thai embassy in New Delhi said in a statement that certificates of entry for non-Thai nationals travelling from India will be suspended until further notice.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) denied reports that private jets carrying wealthy people from India were flying into Thailand.

“We confirm that no chartered flights from Indian millionaires have sought permission from the CAAT to come to Thailand,” it said in a statement on the weekend.

There would be four repatriation flights from India to Thailand in May, CAAT said.

Thailand is dealing with its own outbreak and reported 2,048 new cases on Monday, bringing its total infections to 57,508 and 148 coronavirus-related fatalities.

Of the cases reported on Monday, 901 were in Bangkok, which has been the epicentre of the outbreak.

Parks, gyms, cinemas and day-care centres in Bangkok were ordered to shut starting on Monday until May 9.

A 20,000 baht ($635) fine was also introduced for not wearing masks in public with new measures being considered to rein in the outbreak.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Chayut Setboonsarng and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Ed Davies)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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Coronavirus latest: Osaka and Tokyo seek state of emergency decrees as variants fuel surges

The Canadian government said on Tuesday its border containment measures were effective, as a travel ban with the US was extended.

Justin Trudeau, prime minister, defended Ottawa’s protection efforts, but warned bans could be imposed on incoming flights from specific countries, such as India.

The ban on nonessential travel between the US and Canada has been extended until at least May 21, as Canadian provinces consider internal travel curbs to halt a Covid-19 surge, including new variants of the disease.

“As cases rise and variants of concern continue to emerge across the country, we will continue to do what it takes — for as long as it takes — to keep Canadians safe,” Bill Blair, Canada’s public safety minister, said on Tuesday.

Canada’s top doctor said that more than 66,000 “variant of concern cases” have been reported across Canada. Most are the B.1.1.7 variant first seen in the UK.

“These represent the tip of the iceberg, as there are many thousands more Covid-19 cases that have screened positive for problematic mutations,” Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, said on Tuesday. 

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,131,773 cases of Covid-19, including 88,327 active cases, and 23,667 deaths reported in the country. 

People queue outside a vaccination centre in Edmonton
People queue outside a vaccination centre in Edmonton © AP

Canada has extended restrictions on travellers flying to the country that require them to be tested for Covid-19 and undergo mandatory hotel quarantine.

In February, the Trudeau government said air passengers landing in Canada would be tested for Covid-19 and then have to undergo a three-day hotel quarantine, at their own expense, while they wait for results. That is in addition to showing a negative coronavirus test before boarding.

Health Canada, a federal agency, said about 1 per cent of air travellers are testing positive while in a quarantine hotel. 

The agency said 117 flights have arrived at Canadian airports in which at least one passenger tested positive, with 20 arriving from the US. Another 24 came from Europe, while 29 originated from Delhi. 

British Columbia is imposing travel restrictions within the province to ensure only essential travel between the province’s five health regions. “We’re in a serious situation,” said John Horgan, the provincial premier.

Separately, Manitoba commercial truck drivers who regularly travel into the US will now be able to get a jab in adjacent North Dakota.

The deal, believed to be the first such cross-border vaccine agreement, could eventually expand to include other essential workers such as health-care providers.

“The US has got a lot of vaccines and Canada’s got less,” Doug Burgum, North Dakota governor, said on Tuesday. “We want to do our part to help those essential workers from Canada who are frequently travelling through our state.”

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Hat tip to a politician who took on thankless task in New Mexico | Coronavirus

Bill McCamley just quit one of the most difficult, demanding and depressing jobs in state government.

He headed the agency that for a year has tried to manage the claims of more than 100,000 unemployed people at a time.

McCamley stuck to canned statements regarding his departure, but he was definitive about one part of his future.

I asked him if he would make another run for Congress.

“No sir,” McCamley wrote in a text message.

What are you running for, if anything?

“Nothing,” McCamley replied.

He probably expected those questions. McCamley, 43, has been running for public offices for more than a third of his life.

At 26, he was elected as a Doña Ana County commissioner. By 29, McCamley was running for Congress in the 2nd District, which sprawls across the southern half of the state. He lost to an oilman in the Democratic primary election.

At 32, McCamley lost again, this time to a Republican for a seat on the state Public Regulation Commission. He rebounded at 34, winning the first of three terms as a state representative.

McCamley had higher ambitions than the Legislature. He gave up his seat to run for state auditor in 2018.

It was the job he coveted. McCamley holds a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The thought of becoming state auditor fit his interests and energized him.

As a legislator, McCamley wouldn’t accept so much as a cup of coffee or lunch from lobbyists. He would talk to any constituent or advocate. But he didn’t want their gifts or the appearance of being unduly influenced.

Being state auditor would have authorized him to double-check the spending practices of other politicians and their governments.

But McCamley lost by a landslide in the Democratic primary. Fortunately for him, he had a politician’s connections.

A fellow Democrat, Michelle Lujan Grisham, was elected governor. She hired McCamley as Cabinet secretary of the Department of Workforce Solutions.

In another era, the agency was called the Labor Department. Somehow, labor became a politically loaded word instead of something to take pride in.

More important than the department’s name are the drawbacks of the system.

Cabinet positions are political appointments. And the jobs often go to politicians instead of proven administrators.

Aside from the prison system or the mammoth state Department of Health, no agency is as difficult to run as Workforce Solutions. Its leader must learn to navigate the Byzantine federal laws the state has to follow in deciding if someone qualifies for unemployment benefits.

Workforce Solutions had 9,600 unemployment claims on March 9, 2020, the beginning stage of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of claims soared to 150,000 in June. It dipped after that, but still remained above 100,000.

Each week I received calls or emails from people who were desperate. Their unemployment benefits had stalled or been denied. They complained about a heartless bureaucracy.

After checking as far as I could on the more outrageous complaints of government inefficiency, I would call McCamley. He always responded, though he said privacy laws prohibited him from discussing the specifics of any case.

I would provide him with details anyway, and he would listen.

A drug counselor who no longer could work in a county jail because of COVID-19 had stopped receiving his unemployment checks. He didn’t have a computer, and he couldn’t get anyone from Workforce Solutions on the phone.

McCamley looked into the snag. Soon after, the drug counselor was told he needed to submit another form for his benefits to resume. Someone who’d been worried about surviving got the help he needed.

A retail store worker who’d been grievously injured on the job, then fired, wasn’t receiving unemployment benefits. He couldn’t understand why.

It took a few weeks, but McCamley’s department removed the roadblock. The ousted retail worker began receiving benefits.

In another case, management ordered a worker at a national pizza chain to transfer to another store. The new assignment required many miles of travel, but the worker didn’t have a car or other means of transportation. He was out of work because he couldn’t get to the new restaurant.

The pizza company fought the worker’s claim for unemployment compensation. McCamley ruled for the former employee. He had wanted to work but was thrust into an impossible assignment — during a pandemic, no less.

McCamley and his crew made mistakes, I’m sure. No one — not a CEO or a school principal or a Cabinet secretary — can make thousands of decisions without getting some wrong.

McCamley worried about errors, knowing every decision had human consequences. He also balanced emotion with the law.

Many times people quit jobs to look for something better, then applied for unemployment benefits. They didn’t qualify. McCamley’s agency had to deny money to people who’d made an uninformed decision.

“The job is heartbreaking,” he once told me.

On that day, he had been investigating the unemployment claim of a man living in his truck.

McCamley understands the dignity of work. And he learned that losing elections isn’t the worst setback, not by a long shot.

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Brazil-Florida travel continues despite risk of spreading deadly P1 coronavirus variant

MIAMI – France suspended all flights from Brazil on Tuesday, yet Florida’s daily flights to and from Brazil continue despite the risks of a more transmissible coronavirus variant.

Brazil has the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States. More than 350,000 people have died of COVID-19, including about 1,300 babies.

Epidemiologists said the high transmission rate in Brazil increases the risk of more deadly variants. University of Sao Paulo researchers reported Brazil’s P1 coronavirus variant is mutating into a version that could be resistant to vaccines.

“Anyone going to Brazil needs to understand what the situation is,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with Florida International University.

The remains of a woman who died from complications related to COVID-19 are placed into a niche by cemetery workers and relatives at the Inahuma cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance is urging people to avoid all travel to the country and listed it at a high level 4 risk. According to the CDC, there have been 126 verified cases of the P1 coronavirus variant in Florida.


President Joe Biden’s administration has already restricted travel from Brazil for anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. Also, the U.S. Department of State requires returning fliers to show a negative coronavirus test to board their flights.

COVID-19 patient Everton Nascimento de Oliveira, 32, receives treatment at the emergency unit of a field hospital set up for COVID patients in Ribeirao Pires, greater Sao Paulo area, Brazil, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has the backing of right-wing politicians in charge of Congress, has protected the economy at all costs.

Marty said hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases in Brazil. Officials reported there is an increasing number of people who are younger than 40 years old who are dying of COVID-19. During the second wave, gravediggers have been working right into the night.

Cemetery workers wearing protective gear lower the coffin of a person who died from complications related to COVID-19 into a gravesite at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The city of Sao Paulo started the daily addition of 600 graves in its municipal cemeteries on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Andre Penner) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Marty said all travelers — even those who are fully vaccinated — should also be tested for the coronavirus within three to five days of arrival to South Florida.

“Could it be more stringent? Yes, it could. But of course, you always have to balance needs. There are reasons why people must travel back and forth,” Marty said about the U.S. regulations for travel to and from Brazil.

Copyright 2021 by WPLG – All rights reserved.

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How to Use Technology to Prepare for Travel During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Once you’ve figured out the logistics to get in and get out, you will have more homework to do. Don’t expect your favorite airport restaurants or lounges to be operating normally. Before leaving home, check your airport website to see what’s open near your terminal; if your options are lacking, pack a meal. Likewise, when you arrive at your destination, make sure to check the websites for the restaurants and tourist sites that you hope to visit for their hours. The travel industry is far from returning to normal.

To make traveling smoother, airlines may require travelers to present a vaccine passport, digital documentation proving that they have been vaccinated. Airlines have been testing mobile health apps including CommonPass, ICC AOKpass, VeriFLY and the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass app to ensure travelers can present their health data in a secure, verifiable way.

Most of the apps will, in theory, work like this: If you get vaccinated at a medical facility, the app connects with the database of that facility to retrieve your information. The app then loads a QR code, which is a digital bar code, verifying that the vaccine was administered. You could then show that bar code at the airport check-in counter, the boarding gate or immigration control.

Too much is still up in the air with vaccine passports for widespread use, Mr. Harteveldt said. Airlines, government agencies and cruise lines are still testing the apps to determine which products are the most reliable and easy to use. Things could get chaotic if different parties require people to download different passport apps, and many experiments may fail. Vaccine passports have also set off a fierce political debate over the legality of requiring digital credentials for a vaccine that is ostensibly voluntary. (The Biden administration has said it would not push for mandatory vaccination credentials or a federal vaccine database.)

So the best we can do with vaccine passports right now is nothing. Don’t upload your data to any of the apps just yet — but when it comes time to travel, do check your airline’s website for updates on vaccine passports and follow the instructions.

The rest of your travel tech prep will largely be the same as it was in pre-Covid times. Pack a spare battery pack, charging cables and a safety pin to eject your SIM card. Then do the following:

Unlock your phone. Your phone must be unlocked to work with foreign SIM cards. Many newer smartphones come unlocked by default, but you should call your carrier to confirm that your device will work with other wireless carriers.

Buy a foreign SIM card. If you’re traveling abroad, you can avoid paying expensive international roaming fees to your carrier by temporarily using a foreign phone plan. When you arrive at your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or a cellphone store and insert that into your phone; you can also order a SIM card online and have it delivered to your home before you travel. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIMs, which are essentially a digital SIM card to add a separate phone plan. I’ve had mixed experiences, including eSIMs that failed to activate when I reached my destination, so I prefer physical SIMs.)

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Universal Jurisdiction Annual Review 2021: A year like no other? The impact of coronavirus on universal jurisdiction – World

The year 2020 will remain in memories, by and large, as a period unlike any other. The covid-19 pandemic has turned around countless lives, and continues to do so as we write these lines. State institutions worldwide, including judicial bodies, have had to drastically change their functioning and priorities. With so many activities coming to a brutal halt, have cases related to universal jurisdiction (UJ) also stalled? Luckily, far from it.

While the pandemic has had an impact on UJ cases, it has been more of a reorganization than a complete halt. As the next pages show, many cases did move forward and new suspects were brought to justice. Put differently, even a global health crisis did not imperil the use of UJ across the world –proof, if ever it was needed, of the solidity of the progress made in the last years (see previous UJARs for details).

“Past the first few weeks in spring when the whole world was taken aback, the judicial community has rapidly adapted” summarizes Valérie Paulet, Legal Consultant at TRIAL International and Editor of the UJAR. “Prosecutors, judges and NGOs reacted quickly and developed creative ways of carrying out their work. Their agility and the extra effort they put in must be saluted.”

Strengthening remote investigations

Unsurprisingly, field investigations were considerably limited by national lockdowns and movement restrictions. Even when international travel was allowed between lockdowns, fact-finding missions require a freedom of movement on the ground that could hardly be met. Some ongoing investigations which relied on the capacity of witnesses, victims, investigators and judges to travel abroad either slowed down or stalled. Countries were not equally affected, as the German example below demonstrates.

NGOs in particular, whose investigations rely on flexibility and adaptability, had to find new ways of getting in touch with victims and witnesses. “We relied even more heavily than before on our networks”, explains Bénédict De Moerloose, Head of International Investigations and Litigation at TRIAL International. “Local partners initiated contact with victims and witnesses and created an initial bond, then we would meet them via secure video calls. A certain level of trust was already there. On the plus side, it brought us even closer to our collaborators in the field.”

Remote meetings presented other advantages: victims and witnesses could talk from their homes, reducing risks of being overheard or followed. Being in a familiar space was also comforting for vulnerable individuals, who could share their experiences in a safe environment. In some instances, the objects or souvenirs surrounding them in their homes prompted memories that helped to establish facts. Likewise, a new emphasis was put on complementary investigative methods, such as satellite imagery and online tracking.

Security, the cornerstone of remote investigations

On the investigators’ side, online interviews meant they could speak to witnesses spread throughout the world in a single day, speeding up their work considerably. This came with a sine qua non: additional efforts were made to ensure understanding, consent and, of course, the utmost security for interviewees.

Guaranteeing the confidentiality of remote discussions has always been a primary concern, but the pandemic has encouraged all actors to go even further. Both NGOs and domestic authorities have taken unprecedented measures to ensure all communications were safe and confidential. Yet this is merely the tip of the iceberg: as the pandemic sweeps across the globe, it is unlikely that interviews will be carried out face-to-face again in the near future. All professionals must prepare to keep up these efforts in the long run. And security, especially online, is never permanently acquired.
Despite rapid adaptations, investigations unquestionably slowed down in 2020. The number of trials, on the other hand, was remarkable in spite of the exceptional circumstances.

Reaping the efforts from previous years

Eighteen new cases went to trial in 2020, bringing the total to 30 ongoing trials. What is perhaps the most prominent trial in recent years opened in Germany against Syrians Anwar R. and Eyad A. (see p. 48). It made the international headlines and was unanimously hailed as a significant step against impunity for State crimes. Other high-profile cases include Fabien Neretsé in Belgium, Roger Lumbala in France and Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland.

For Christian Ritscher, a German Federal Public Prosecutor: “2020 was definitely a year of trials, in which the investigative efforts of the previous years have come together.” On the other hand, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) regrets that cases in France were hit by many more delays, explained precisely because investigations had been slacking for years. Most of the cases opened in 2020 could move forward thanks to fact-finding and evidence- gathering missions conducted beforehand. The pandemic and its consequences have emphasized the need for investigations to be conducted as swiftly and thoroughly as possible so that the cases can move ahead when/if the context evolves. This lesson also applies to investigations in unstable zones, which may become inaccessible within a matter of days.

Case-by-case arbitration

In some instances, the public health crisis has resulted in the provisional liberation of suspects (see e.g., Mahamat Nouri, p. 38). Although this publication highlights the progress in fighting impunity, there is no doubt that the rights of the accused are equally important to building credible justice: “All legal actors have at heart the fairness and efficiency of justice, including the authors of the UJAR. The purpose is not to punish indiscriminately, and certainly not to bypass the rights of the defense in order to do so”, says Valérie Paulet. No shortcuts, no cutting corners.

Similarly, in a context where contact is synonymous with danger, summonses to court had to be vetted as absolutely necessary. Prosecuting authorities have had to weigh even more carefully than usual which acts–or whose presence–could not be done without. With fewer people allowed in the courtroom and limitations on victims’ and witness’ travels, a case-by-case set-up had to be defined for each hearing.

This is a cautious approach that has paid off: in the trial against Anwar R. and Eyad A. in Germany, just one of the 52 trial days had to be cancelled due to a covid-19 suspicion. Much like “traditional” security parameters, the do no harm principle extended to anticontamination measures and prevailed even in the most sensitive cases.

The year 2020 has been a sobering one. Sanitary considerations have been added to the many difficulties of using universal jurisdiction. Despite all this, the cases presented in this UJAR prove that States have risen to the challenge and that justice will not keel.

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Bangladesh to impose week-long air travel ban after COVID surge | Coronavirus pandemic News

All international and domestic flights to be banned for a week from Wednesday, coinciding with another lockdown amid spike in cases.

Bangladesh has announced plans to ban all international and domestic flights for a week from Wednesday, coinciding with yet another lockdown to counter a spike in novel coronavirus infections.

All international passenger flights to and from Bangladesh will remain suspended from April 14 to 20, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said on Sunday.

More than 500 flights will be cancelled because of the ban, said the CAAB’s Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.

Domestic passenger flights and chartered helicopter flights are included in the suspension, while some exceptions may be made for medical evacuations, humanitarian relief and cargo flights, the aviation authority said.

A surge in COVID-19 cases since March prompted the government to enforce a nine-day nationwide shutdown until Tuesday, to be followed by yet another seven-day lockdown from Wednesday to slow the spread of the virus.

The authorities imposed a ban on air passengers from Europe and 12 other countries on April 3. Passenger flight operations on domestic routes were suspended on April 5.

Ex-PM tests positive

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, her oppositional Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said on Sunday.

Zia has been asymptomatic and was doing well, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a senior leader of the BNP, told a news briefing, urging people to pray for her.

The 74-year old politician has been under the supervision of her private physicians at home in Dhaka ever since she was released from jail after the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suspended her prison term on health grounds in March last year.

Zia, a three-time prime minister in the 1990s and 2000s, had been in prison since February 2018 after a court sentenced her to five years in jail for misappropriating funds meant for orphans. A higher court later doubled the term.

Eight other staff members of her home have also been tested positive for the COVID-19, according to her physician Mohammad Al Mamun.

Bangladesh, which reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus last March, reported its highest single-day increase in infections on Friday, with 7,462 cases. So far, the country has reported some 684,756 cases and 9,739 deaths.

The South Asian nation previously imposed a nationwide shutdown for more than two months beginning March 2020.

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