Top 10 News Highlights of August 2020
A lot happened in the month of August. Didn’t have the time to catch up?
We have listed down below the top ten highlights of August.
1. The New Travel Trend- Staycations
As the pandemic has hugely impacted the way holidays used to occur before, avid travellers are now finding new ways. A recent trend of COVID times is staycations. Now that international travel has taken a backseat, local staycations have been receiving many bookings from nearby residents. But, what is a staycation? A staycation means travelling and exploring to a nearby town. Since many tourists have been forced to cancel their business and international trips, they are looking out for different ways to travel. As slowly travel restrictions are being removed, people are trying to search for the safest way to travel and return to the normal. The main idea behind staycations is staying at a home away from home, which provides you with greater views but while maintaining all the necessary precautions. Hotels around India and the world are now encouraging people to step out of their houses and choose a staycation. Hotels and resorts are also promoting their sanitized places so that travellers wouldn’t have any doubt on its safety standards. So if you are missing travelling to your favourite places then the most convenient way for you to enjoy despite this pandemic is to head out to a staycation nearby for a week or two.
2. Vaishno Devi Yatra Resumes on 16 August After 5 Months
On the 16th of August, the auspicious doors to Vaishno Devi in Jammu were open to the public after five months. The shrine was closed to the public on March 18th this year. In the first week of the shrine’s opening, only 2,000 pilgrimages were allowed out of which 1,900 are said to be from Jammu and Kashmir. The remaining are said to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir. Pilgrimages were allowed only after online registrations. The government had also issued its own detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The pilgrims were given a set of guidelines for their safety and the safety of others to follow. Pilgrims who were residing in Covid-19 red zones were asked to submit negative test reports. It is only then that they will be allowed to visit. Pilgrims will also have to wear a face mask and install the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones before proceeding for the yatra. The traditional route from Katra to Bhawan via Banganga, Adhkuwari and Sanjichhat will be used for going up and Himkoti route-Tarakote Marg will be used for coming back from the Bhawan.
Devotees who will not be able to visit Vaishno Devi due to the pandemic can now get the prasad delivered to them straight from the Bhawan. The board managing the shrine has agreed with the department of posts for the delivery of prasad to people residing in any part of the country.
3. India Extends International Flights Suspension Till September 30
Recently the Indian aviation regulator announced that the suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till September 30. But, the international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis. This suspension does not affect the operation of international cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA. The domestic passenger flights were resumed after two months of the lockdown period, on 25th May. To pertain to the international passenger traffic, the Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has led to the initiation of Air Bubbles.
What is an air bubble? A set of countries agree to open their borders to each other but keep borders to all other countries closed. These have been successfully formed with the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany. Special international flights have also been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May. The international passenger flights have been suspended since March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has further stated that the relaxation on International flights will depend on how the virus behaves and how caseloads are being recorded within India as well as in the other countries. Keeping all this in mind, the international scheduled flights have been suspended further.
4. 8.8 km long Atal Rohtang Tunnel Connecting Leh-Manali Ready
The construction of the long-awaited Atal Rohtang Tunnel has finally been completed. The tunnel is said to connect Manali to Lahaul and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh throughout the year. The inauguration will be ready in two weeks. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi will be inaugurating it in September. The tunnel has been one of the most awaited because it provides connectivity to areas such as Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. These areas remain cut-off from the rest of the country for almost half the year during the winter season. The tunnel is also said to be significant from the military logistics point of view as it will provide better connectivity to the armed forces in reaching Ladakh. Constructed in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himachal Pradesh, the tunnel is said to become the world’s longest road tunnel at an altitude above 3,000 metres. The Manali-Sarchu-Leh road remains closed for nearly six months in a year due to the Pass being completely covered in snow between November and April. But after the inauguration, travellers will easily be able to visit Lahaul and Spiti valley throughout the year. The plan to build this tunnel was taken on 3rd June 2000. During that period Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister of India. Hence, it was named after him.
5. Indian Airlines Allowed to Serve Meals on Flights
In the newest SOPs laid out for domestic flights, Indian airlines have now been allowed to serve meals on flights. Earlier serving meals on flights were strictly prohibited to help avoid the spread of coronavirus. The civil aviation ministry has now changed the standard operating procedure for domestic and international flights. But now airlines can easily serve you hot meals with limited beverages as per the new guidelines. Now travellers boarding can choose to not carry any food items with them. Even though the meal and drink services were reinstated on 25th May, the on-board services were still banned. Food and beverages were permitted to serve on international flights earlier but not on domestic flights. Passengers were also not allowed to get their food on board. But in August a new SOP was released for flights that allowed Indian airlines to serve food and beverages onboard. They have further added that airlines are allowed to serve pre-packed snacks, meals or pre-packed beverages on domestic flights depending on the duration of the flight. International airlines and charter flight operators can also serve hot meals and limited beverages as per the standard practices.
6. No Restriction on Inter-State, Intra-State Travel in Unlock 4.0
According to the guidelines stated by Unlock 4.0, there are no longer any restrictions on the interstate and intrastate travel. This implies to both people and goods. There will longer be any need to acquire separate permission or an e-permit. The State governments have also conveyed that they can not impose any form of local lockdown outside the containment zones, without first consulting with the Central Government. The imposing of border restrictions have led to affecting economic activity majorly. Hence, this news has especially come out as a relief for travellers who wish to travel in their personal vehicles. But now they can easily do so without having to apply for a travel e pass. But people who wish to travel by trains or domestic flights, the SOP’s still applying. Hence, you will have to abide by all the government rules. The guidelines also continued to urge people to use the Aarogya Setu application. So take out that car that has been sitting in the dust for the past few months, and head out to the mountains or a nearby town to explore. But people above the age of 65 years, people with any form of underlying diseases, pregnant women or children below the age of 10 should be advised to stay at home an only head out for essentials or health reasons.
7. Malaysia Bans Entry of Tourists
The Malaysian government recently declared that their country is still facing challenges in stopping the spread of COVID-19. They further mentioned that they are treating the virus lightly, hence they have planned to implement stricter quarantine rules at certain locations. They further stated that they have extended the ban on the entry of foreign tourists. The senior minister of Malaysia, Ismail Sabri Yaakob also stated that “For now, Malaysia is not ready to open our borders to foreign tourists. Even between Malaysia and Singapore, we only allow people from two categories (to travel), including our citizens who had been stranded in Singapore.” However, they have allowed citizens of Singapore to enter, but only for business-to-business purposes in Kuala Lumpur. They have further received requests from restaurant workers from Thailand, domestic workers from Indonesia and also requested from AirAsia to allow commercial air travel. But they have decided to not approve any of these requests.
8. Direct Flights from Kochi to London Begin
Under the Vande Bharat Mission, the Air India airlines have decided to successfully operate direct London-Kochi-London flight. The service has been initiated from the last week of August till September 27th. The flights will be operated every week on Fridays and Sundays, connecting London and Kochi. Flight AI 1186 from London will land at Kochi at 0015 on Sundays and depart to London at 1220 on the same day. The second service will land at Kochi at 0400 on Fridays and depart at 0600 on the same day. Until now, Air India had been operating direct evacuation flights from London to Delhi and Mumbai. It later connected with the feeder flights to Kochi. However, these layovers in Delhi and Mumbai airports were creating chances of added exposure to the virus. Thus, the airlines decided to add a direct flight to Kochi. This has been specially done to promote direct connectivity to Europe. Further CIAL has decided to waive off landing fees for airlines operating direct services to European countries from Kochi. This decision will give a great advantage to the national carrier as it schedules direct London-Kochi flights. This will further help in impacting the ticket price. This initiative is hoped to influence other airlines to operate services to Europe.
9. Hawaii Shut Till October
Hawaii has decided to shut its borders for foreign travellers at least till October 1, 2020. As the US state has been experiencing a COVID-19 surge all summer. On 13th July, the Governor, David Ige announced a mandatory fourteen-day quarantine for all its residents and tourists. The earlier declared restrictions of Hawaii allowed travellers to enter the region freely. They were only required to enter Hawaii after showing a negative Covid-19 test. The test had to be taken 72 hours in advance of travel. But sadly the surging cases have continuously led to delay in its implementation. It was earlier supposed to be implemented in August. Then it was changed to September. But, now the tentative date is October 1. Just recently a statement was released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority where both visitors and residents, and all individuals, arriving from outside Hawaii, will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. The Hawaii Governor also added that he understands how the quarantine process takes a toll on the tourism industry. The Pre-Travel Testing Program has been put on hold at least through October 1 as of now. The order also includes new approval for ‘resort bubbles’ in the islands. The ‘resort bubbles’ wouldn’t allow visitors to skip the quarantine order However this would allow them to spend the 14 days at a resort rather than being stuck in a room.
10. Maharashtra Government Releases the Unlock 4.0 Guidelines
The Maharashtra government released the Unlock 4.0 guidelines that allowed the reopening of the hotels, district transport of goods and persons, private and minibuses. It also allowed offices to open with 30 per cent staff. Restrictions have now fairly been eased by the Maharashtrian government. Hotels and lodges can now operate with hundred per cent capacity. However, schools, colleges, cinema halls and swimming pools have been ordered to stay shut. Fresh guidelines have also been issued for state government offices, which exclude Emergency, health & Medical, treasuries, disaster management, police, NIC, Food & Civil Supply, FCI, N.Y.K. and Municipal Services. A vigilance Officer will also be appointed in every office for ensuring that precautionary measures such as social distancing, face coverings, etc. Some preventive measures will also be taken that will ensure that every office has been equipped with necessary measures of screening and hygiene such as thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers at all entry and exit points and common areas.