By Stephanie SchupskaUniversity of GeorgiaPreserving produce doesn’t have to happen over a hot stove or by finding more room in the freezer. It can be as simple as slicing it, laying the slices in a dehydrator and storing the dried pieces.“Some of the advantages to drying food is it’s inexpensive, no cost other than a little electricity if you use a dehydrator and packaging to store it because you can sit it out at room temperature,” said Elizabeth Andress, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension food safety specialist. Dried food doesn’t have to be refrigerated because the moisture that would cause it to spoil has been pushed out. Andress’s favorite foods to dry are apples, figs and pineapple. Last year, she experimented with drying Roma-type tomatoes, which she sliced and sprinkled with oregano. “It smelled like a pizza kitchen when we were drying them,” she said. “They were great just eaten as is.” It’s too humid in the Southeast to dry foods outside, Andress said. In other parts of the country, like California, people can lay their food out on a tray and place it in the sun. From branch to shelfFruits are one of the easiest types of produce to dry. Unlike vegetables, which usually require blanching before they can be dried, fruits can be sliced and placed on a dehydrator.But some fruits don’t work, like kiwi. “The slices ended up shrinking so much that it was just a mouthful of seeds,” she said.To dry an apple or another fruit, follow these steps: 1. Choose good quality. If it’s moldy, mushy or browning, throw it out. 2. Wash the fruit, and slice it evenly. “The more even the width and sizes, the more even drying will be,” she said.3. Place it on a tray in an electric dehydrator. If your oven can be programmed for low temperatures, you can use it. Set the dehydrator’s temperature at 140 F. Food dried at lower temperatures might never fully dry. At higher temperatures, it dries faster on the outside becoming hard but leaving the inside moist and likely to rot.4. Wait a few hours and keep a close eye on the slices as they get nearer to the end of drying. Food close to being done will dry faster at the end than at the beginning.5. Seal the finished pieces in freezer-weight plastic bag or in plastic storage boxes.Follow the same steps with vegetables, except blanch them first. Blanching time depends on the vegetable. The only vegetables that don’t have to be blanched are onions, okra and peppers (all types). “You might also want to use some pretreatments with light-colored fruits to prevent rapid browning,” Andress said.Other foods that can be dried are meat jerky, seeds, herbs and greens like kale and collards. Foods can also be pureed and dried flat, much like Fruit Roll-Ups.Health benefitsFor people worried about preservatives, extra sugar or, in some cases, added oils, home-dried fruits and vegetables can be a healthier solution.“One advantage to me of doing some of the fruits I like, like apples and pineapples, is sometimes commercially, they’ve added sugars and sugar coatings to them,” Andress said. ‘This way, you can just have them plain.”As a diabetic, she says she still has to watch how much she eats. A whole dried apple has the same amount of sugar as a fresh apple; it just has a smaller volume.It’s not just sugars that consumers have to consider. “Those hardened banana chips that you buy commercially often have some tropical oils in them, as well as sugar infused to give them that crispness,” she said. “Homemade bananas will be chewier, but you can get them in their natural forms without the additives.”Using dried foodsFruits can be mixed with nuts as a trail mix or eaten straight. So can homemade jerkies. Dried vegetables make a good starter for soup mix.Drying “tends to be popular with people who do hiking and backpacking and kayaking and such,” Andress said. “A real advantage is the condensed volume, lighter weight and small storage space.”For more information on drying food, visit www.homefoodpreservation.com.
The following piece authored by former Vermont Finance Commissioner Tom Pelham asks six vital questions about this year’s budget process. In a kind of Socratic manner, the answers emerge from the questions themselves.Pelham talks about the increase, not decrease, in the state budget even through the Great Recession; about the budget gap; about income tax rates paid by top 1.73 percent of Vermont wage earners; about local TIFs reducing revenues going to the statewide Education Fund; and what role the somewhat mysterious ‘Rainy Day’ fund played in the actual rainy day of August 28, 2011. Budget Preparationsby Tom Pelham Vermont’s blogs and news media are filled with stories about the state budget. It’s sure to be an engaging, if not entertaining, few months that follow the Governor’s budget address. Fiscal 2013 is likely a pivotal year, equivalent to the late ‘80’s, when a few wrong turns traumatized the state budget well into the 1990’s. To sharpen our collective knowledge base, if not our wits and possibly spears, I crafted the following six leading questions for consideration. The purpose here is not to determine right answers, but to lead those who so chose a few paces into the forest of the state budget by providing context, information and links to key sources of information. The links embedded below will help inform the conversation as we move forward and seek to bridge divides on fiscal matters and keep Vermont on a fiscally responsible path. Warm-up – Question 1: Context: As Vermont struggled to regain its financial footing following the fiscal adventures of the late 1980’s (extra points if you name the then Governor and Chief of Staff) and the resulting $65 million general fund deficit, Governor Richard Snelling embarked on a path of temporary tax increases and substantial budget cuts to stem the flow of red ink. Governor Snelling, unfortunately, died in the first year of his new administration and Lt. Governor Howard Dean took charge, with the promise to stay the fiscal course crafted by Snelling. Dean’s first budget for fiscal 1992 was a 2.1% increase, his second a 2.15% cut (as in less money, not a slower rate of growth), and his third a 2.07% increase. Essentially, Dean’s 1994 budget was about the same level as his 1992 budget and not much higher than Snelling’s 1991 budget. During these same years, Dean also set about the hard-nosed task of insuring that the ‘sun set’ provisions associated with Snelling’s temporary tax increases were honored, which, by 1996 they were. Question: Was Howard Dean’s choice to follow the Snelling path the best choice for Vermont? Follow the Money: Question 2: Context: I know a cut when I see one, having cut a few budgets myself along the way. The impression I get from the newspapers and TV news and some blogs and from listening to advocates and watching the hand ringing of legislators is that the state budget has been cut repeatedly during this recession. But then I click the link below and find the Total Budget has increased by $585.6 million since 2008, or 3.4% annually http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2012/FY08_-_FY12_Total_…(link is external) and I click here at page 21: Section B.345-Total Human Services and find that the AHS budget servinghttp://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2012/FY09_-_FY12_Gov__T…(link is external) our most vulnerable has increased by $235.4 million over the past three years, or 4.3% annually. Further, since fiscal 2000, the AHS budget has increased at the rate of 7.15% per year. How these spending increases become cuts in the eyes of the media, especially in the context of minimal population growth and a declining population of young folks is a wonder! Question: Given flat population growth and a declining child count, by how much does a budget have to increase to be considered an increase? Looking Forward ‘ Question 3: Context: The Budget Gap projection is a relatively new way to provide context to the budget process. It is developed by a free ranging (by accounting standards) agreement of budget staffers working for the legislature and the Governor. Here is its most recent profile. http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2013/FY13_Gap_Oct_Conse…(link is external) The Budget Gap focuses only on the general fund which accounts for about 40% of all state non-federal spending. At the top of the first numeric column is the amount $1,235.9 million, which is the general fund budget approved by the legislature for the current fiscal year, fiscal 2012. You can also find this same amount here under the column FY12 CofC (Committee of Conference). This table includes a profile of all spending across state government during this current recession. http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2012/FY08_-_FY12_Total_…(link is external) Note that the FY 12 general fund amount of $1.2359 billion is a 7.3% increase over the FY 11 amount of $1.152 billion. The 7.3% increase was supported in part by new taxes passed in prior legislative sessions as well as one-time revenues. From the Budget Gap projection, we can see the ‘gap’ between the current fiscal 2012 amount and the projected 2013 amount of $1,361.5 million is $125.6 million, amounting to a 10.2% increase. However, the ‘official’ general fund revenue estimate for fiscal 2013 is only $1267.2 million. The ‘official’ estimate can be found here, on page 16: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/state_forecasts/2011-07%20July%20Forecast…(link is external) Question: In view of the fiscal year 7.3% general fund increase, should the Governor recommend and the legislature agree to raise taxes to fund fiscal year 2013 at $1,361.5 million for a 10.2% increase over fiscal 2012. Ringing the Dinner Bell ‘ Question 4: Context: At the link below you’ll find an excel spread sheet profiling income tax filers and receipts for calendar 2009, the most recent data available. Click on ‘Income Statistics- State’ and then hit the ‘excel’ button and click on the ‘Statdol’ tab and you’ll be ready to gorge, as some say, on OPM, better known as ‘other people’s money’ or give definition to your principled view of a ‘fair share’. http://www.state.vt.us/tax/statisticsincome.shtml(link is external) The important columns to focus on are AGI Income Class, Returns, and Net Vermont Tax. From these you can calculate ‘effective’ tax rates for each income group. You’ll note that only half the phrase ‘millionaires and billionaires’ applies to Vermont, as the cumulative income of all our 292 highest income earners amounts to less than one billion. Also note that of the 353,858 filers, those over $200,000 AGI comprise 6,094 or 1.73% of the total. I draw a line at $200,000 as these are the folks the President has in his sights for the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts for everybody else will remain in place. In 2009, this group paid 5.8% or $156.6 million of their AGI to the state of Vermont which comprised 31% of all state income taxes. IRS data, found here, http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html#table8(link is external) indicates these filers also pay 24% of their AGI in federal income taxes. These taxpayers also pay sales, meals and rooms, property and all the other taxes levied by local, state and federal government. It’s also of note that about 33% of these filers are 65 or over. Question: Should Vermonters pay more income taxes to both the state and federal government? If so, which income groups among us should pay more and how much more should they pay? TIF Me Once, then TIF Me Twice, then TIF Me Once Again ‘ Question 5 Context: A Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District is an area designated by both the municipality and state to encourage redevelopment. Property taxes on the value of the land in place at the time of state designation of a TIF district continue to be paid to the municipality and education fund as usual. However, property taxes attributable to new grand list growth after the date of designation over the next 20 years can stay with the municipality to support infrastructure costs within the TIF District. The City of Burlington has been TIF’d twice, plus a bit more. The first TIF, called the ‘Waterfront TIF’, was approved in 1996 and included the Burlington Square Mall up to Church St. You can read about this TIF here: http://www.cedoburlington.org/waterfront/moran_plant/BRC%20Documents/6-1…(link is external) In 1996, the listed value of the land in the TIF district was $42.2 million. Today, the listed value is around $140 million for an increase of almost $100 million, or 8.3% annually, over the past 15 years. In 2009, the state legislature granted Burlington the right to finance additional debt with taxes from this TIF district for an additional 20 years. I call the legislatures action ‘TIF me twice’. In June of this year, the state approved and designated another ‘downtown TIF’ district for Burlington that essential surrounds and expands the ‘waterfront TIF’. Here’s a map showing both TIF districts: http://www.dhca.state.vt.us/TIF/Burlington/documents/Proposed%20and%20Ex…(link is external)The grand list value of property within this TIF district at the time of designation was $170.8 million. Current state law allows that 75% of the taxes attributable to grand list growth be retained by the City of Burlington. Combined, the ‘waterfront’ and ‘downtown’ TIF comprise around 10% of Burlington’s taxable grand list. Burlington planners estimate that the new ‘downtown’ TIF alone will divert $35.4 million from the education fund over the next 20 years on top of the millions diverted due to the ‘waterfront’ TIF. http://www.dhca.state.vt.us/TIF/Burlington/documents/ProjtotalTIFrev.pdf(link is external) Further, education property taxes across Vermont are destined to rise. Because of the recession, property values are declining (see recent analysis here): http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/reports/Legislative%20Briefings/2011_11_1…(link is external)and the legislature’s efforts to constrain education spending have been weak, with little effect resulting. Also, during the last legislative session, the Governor recommended and the legislature agreed to reduce permanently by $23.2 million the transfer required by law from the general fund to the education fund. You can see this here on Line 4 (b): http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/education/EF_Outlook_-_Final_May_2011.pdf(link is external) Question: Are Burlington’s TIF districts a ‘raid’ on the Education Fund or a reasonable diversion of funds to support Burlington’s development projects? Tropical Storm Irene was a ‘Rainy Day’ ‘ Question 6 Throughout this recession, some have advocated spending Vermont’s ‘Rainy Day’ fund to support on-going state programs. Among these advocates were Senator’s Ashe, Racine and Pollina. The opposing view included Senator’s Bartlett, Brock and Snelling. Governor Douglas also opposed dipping into the ‘Rainy Day’ fund. You can read about one instance of this kerfuffle here: http://vtdigger.org/2010/04/28/senate-passes-budget-kills-rainy-day-amen…(link is external) Vermont’s Rainy Day fund is technically not a fund, but a reserved balance in the general fund in an amount greater than the general fund budget passed by the legislature. Think of it as the balance in your checking account that you’ve promised yourself not to spend, but save for a ‘rainy day’. Vermont’s ‘Rainy Day’ fund equals 5 percent of the prior year’s budget. This reserve also allows the State to avoid borrowing money to pay current bills as the state borrows cash from the ‘Rainy Day’ reserve to pay bills and repays the reserve when tax revenues are high, say during the April income tax season. Then came Tropical Storm Irene, washing roads and bridges and downtowns and homes downstream, with the latter two a.k.a. as the property tax grand list. For some communities, covering even the short term costs of clean-up were an impossible task, so the State reached out a helping hand. Because of the ‘rainy day’ reserve, the State could make advanced payment to communities on state grants (say Town Highway Grants) owed the community and allow for the delayed payment by communities on money owed the State (say property taxes to the Education Fund). This maneuver provides communities hit hard by Irene a bit of help in covering the immediate costs of clean-up left by Irene. Absent the ‘Rainy Day’ fund, it’s likely these near term bills could not be paid without either the state or municipalities taking out loans. Question: With 20/20 hindsight, whose position was more responsible, the Ashe, Racine and Pollina team or the Bartlett, Brock and Snelling team? Tom Pelham served as Commissioner of Housing in the Snelling Administration, Commissioner of Finance and Management under Governor Howard Dean in the 1990s, and from 2003 to 2009 served as Tax Commissioner for Governor Jim Douglas.
Hit the water this spring with our River’s Edge Outfitters Fly Fishing Adventure Giveaway!Enter below for your chance to win:A full day guided fishing trip and instruction for two on River’s Edge Outfitters’ private trophy trout watersandAccommodations for two at the Fly Club on Rock Creek on River’s Edge’s beautiful 190 acres, complete with private trout waters, waterfalls, nature trails, and an outdoor fire pit.This giveaway is now closed, but sign up for more free giveaways here.Rules and Regulations: Package must be redeemed within 1 year of winning date. Entries must be received by mail or through the www.blueridgeoutdoors.com contest sign-up page by 12:00 noon EST on May 15th, 2013. One entry per person. One winner per household. Sweepstakes open only to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older. Void wherever prohibited by law. Families and employees of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and participating sponsors are not eligible. No liability is assumed for lost, late, incomplete, inaccurate, non-delivered or misdirected mail, or misdirected e-mail, garbled, mistranscribed, faulty or incomplete telephone transmissions, for technical hardware or software failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connection, or failed, incomplete or delayed computer transmission or any human error which may occur in the receipt of processing of the entries in this Sweepstakes. By entering the sweepstakes, entrants agree that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and River’s Edge Outfitters reserve the right to contact entrants multiple times with special information and offers. Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine reserves the right, at their sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes. Winners agree that Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and participating sponsors, their subsidiaries, affiliates, agents and promotion agencies shall not be liable for injuries or losses of any kind resulting from acceptance of or use of prizes. No substitutions or redemption of cash, or transfer of prize permitted. Any taxes associated with winning any of the prizes detailed below will be paid by the winner. Winners agree to allow sponsors to use their name and pictures for purposes of promotion. Sponsors reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. All Federal, State and local laws and regulations apply. Selection of winner will be chosen at random at the Blue Ridge Outdoors office on or before May 30th, 6:00 PM EST 2013. Winners will be contacted by the information they provided in the contest sign-up field and have 7 days to claim their prize before another winner will be picked. Odds of winning will be determined by the total number of eligible entries received.
By Marcos Ommati/Diálogo June 11, 2020 The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation held the digital conference “The Cuban Threat in Latin America” on May 14. Among the topics discussed were the influence of Cuba in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and how disinformation campaigns promoted by Havana have been destroying democracies and maintaining military interventions in those countries.Dr. Carlos Ponce, senior fellow and director of Latin American Programs at the foundation hosted the conference, which featured Carrie Filipetti, deputy assistant secretary for Cuba and Venezuela at the U.S. Department of State as the keynote speaker.Carrie Filipetti, deputy assistant secretary for Cuba and Venezuela at the U.S. Department of State, served as the keynote speaker at “The Cuban Threat in Latin America” digital conference sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)“We are looking at how mysteriously Cuba is really penetrating, not just Latin America, but the world with its human rights abuses, support for terrorism, and ideology. And one of the best ways that it does that is through misinformation, through the attempt at hiding the truth,” said Filipetti during her opening remarks. “When we now talk about victims of communism, we are talking not just about those who have been murdered by communist regimes, or those who have seen their family members harassed, abused, or detained, but those whose children have been stripped away. What we are really talking about is another critical victim, the truth,” she continued.Disinformation affects us allFilipetti said that disinformation is a threat that affects every individual Cuban’s life and livelihood. She focused on two specific areas: Cuba’s disinformation regarding its role in Venezuela and the COVID-19 response.“It goes much further than just the Cubans supporting the Venezuelan regime. It is really a parasitic relationship between the Cuban regime and the Maduro team, so much so that it makes them virtually indistinguishable. In fact, according to eye-witness reports, Cuba’s ambassador to Venezuela directly organizes and oversees Maduro’s counterintelligence units, which are the same units responsible for torture and repression in Venezuela,” Filipetti said. “No abuse is committed in Venezuela without the Cuban ambassador’s knowledge and that is not surprising. Maduro himself, actually, recently stated that the Cuban ambassador is practically a member of the Venezuelan council of ministers.”Maduro is an agent of the Castro regimeThe Department of State official went on to say that there are 25,000 Cubans working in Venezuela and over the past 20 years, Cuba and Venezuela have signed more than 1,400 agreements. “So, truth be told, Nicolás Maduro is a de facto agent of the Castro regime.”When it comes to COVID-19, Filipetti sees that the threat posed by the virus is perhaps equaled only by the threat posed by disinformation about the virus itself. She sees a complete lack of transparency in providing critical health care information including data about infection rates, successful treatments, and more. “In Venezuela for example, we have seen doctors and journalists in prison for sharing accurate and up-to-date information about the spread of COVID-19 in the country,” she said. “And this all matters because what COVID-19 shows us more than ever is that we cannot tolerate this disinformation in even one country, because ultimately what affects one of us, affects all of us.”According to Filipetti, her office confronts disinformation in Cuba in a number of ways, including taking the issue to international institutions, such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations.
3SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr The labor participation rate edged up to 63 percent in March – the highest since March 2014 – marking another solid month for job growth, said NAFCU Chief Economist and Director of Research Curt Long.The unemployment rate edged up to 5 percent in March as the labor force expanded 396,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Friday. Non-farm payrolls in March rose 215,000. Wages rose 0.3 percent from the prior month. continue reading »
5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray responded Friday to 329 legislators who wrote him calling for the bureau to use its exemption authority to achieve regulatory relief. While Cordray’s letter outlines some steps the bureau has taken to tailor its regulations, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is calling for more substantive relief.“We are glad to see the director responded to the concerns voiced by Congress, and appreciate some of steps the CFPB has taken in the right direction to provide relief–such as making the changes prompted by the HELP Act, which broaden the relief for small creditors offering mortgages in rural and underserved areas. Nevertheless, the thousands of pages of new regulations from CFPB are a continuing burden on credit union operations and the outlined relief in the letter has had a minimal impact on this as a whole,” said Ryan Donovan, CUNA’s chief advocacy officer. “The bureau has an important opportunity to provide more significant relief to credit unions during upcoming rulemakings on payday lending, debt collection and overdraft protection, and to make changes where needed in rules that have been finalized.“We appreciate the leadership of Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), and the members who wrote to the CFPB, and we appreciate that Director Cordray responded to the inquiry,” Donovan added. continue reading »
continue reading » Stephanie DeGrand has a simple strategy for human resource (HR) success. She puts herself in her employee’s shoes, and that makes all the difference.Co-workers describe DeGrand, a human resources specialist for $1.4 billion asset Capital Credit Union in Green Bay, Wis., as positive, passionate, and supportive.DeGrand always has had a tendency to view situations from multiple perspectives. Often teased about making valid points on both sides of an argument, DeGrand has relied on this ability to diffuse difficult situations with employees and build trust across all of the departments in her role.“I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, the ones who intentionally manipulate a situation can make it harder to trust people,” DeGrand says. ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
“We are extremely sorry to hear the news of the closure of the tourist company Thomas Cook, which has a long tradition and experience in dealing with tourism. What is extremely important is that none of their guests who are currently in Croatia will be damaged or neglected. The British government will take care of flights that will take all tourists home, while the insurance agency of the British government will cover the costs of tourist accommodation, point out in a joint statement from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism regarding the collapse Thomas Cook. RELATED NEWS: “When it comes to the current and future impact of the shutdown of Thomas Cook on the arrival of British tourists in Croatia, we want to emphasize that there are a number of quality British tour operators offering their offers for Croatia, ie we believe that this situation will not significantly change the situation in the UK as an emitting market.”, They point out in a joint statement sent to us by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. In the current part of the tourist year, Croatia has been visited by about 800 tourists from the United Kingdom, who spent about 4,1 million overnight stays, which is an increase of 4 and 3 percent compared to last year. Also, the Ministry of Tourism is in communication with the hotel houses so that all guests are informed in time about the current situation and to ensure that they can continue their stay in Croatia without hindrance. Although there were indications that even the blackest scenario could happen, it was expected that Thomas Cook would be able to stabilize, ie raise enough capital to continue the day’s work. But one of the oldest and most famous travel agencies in the world realized late and in the worst possible way that it must change and adapt to new circumstances and market trends. Unfortunately, it is now too late for a new direction, and this situation will certainly support the entire air transport well. Of course, the big hole will certainly be filled by competition, but this will certainly be a cold sobering shower and the last warning sign for all airlines. Source: MVEP Photo: Pixabay.com “The Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian National Tourist Board, as before, will continue to intensively promote Croatia on the UK market, one of our most important markets, and carry out activities related to strengthening air connectivity. That is why we believe that in the coming years Croatia will be one of the most popular destinations for guests from Great Britain”, Conclude in a joint statement MVEP and MINT. THE DESTRUCTION OF THOMAS COOK: 190 BRITISH TOURISTS STUCK IN DUBROVNIK
When Ketut Suarsa Dipa, 41, heard about an outbreak caused by a new strain of coronavirus in China in January, he was not particularly concerned.But as the virus, later called SARS-CoV-2 which causes the COVID-19 disease, spread fast across the globe and dramatically reduced the number of foreign tourists coming to Bali, the freelance driver began to worry about whether he would earn enough for his family and perhaps even the possibility of getting infected himself. “Many customers have decided to cancel their trips to Bali. Most of them say that they decided to stay at home, because of worries about the virus,” said Suarsa, who is a father of three. Topics : The Bali Immigration Office recorded 392,824 tourists arriving in February, a 33 percent drop from January, after the government imposed travel bans to and from mainland China on Feb. 5 to curb the spread of the outbreak. Australians replaced Chinese as the biggest number of foreign tourists last month, followed by India and Japan.Only 4,820 Chinese tourists remained in Bali in February, decreasing significantly from 113,745 people the previous month.Suarsa said that it was not only Chinese travelers who had stopped traveling to the island. “My customers [who had booked] from India, Bangladesh and South Korea also canceled their trips,” he said.Suarsa said he felt grateful that tourists from Australia were still coming but given the wider travel restrictions imposed by Indonesia and other countries he is not sure that he can make a living driving tourists in the upcoming months. Wayan Juni, 31, a resident of Kuta, voiced similar concerns as guests canceled bookings at her family homestay. Guests from Australia currently occupy two out of four rooms in her building, the two others have been empty since two guests from South Korea and the United States canceled their trips.“[The homestay] is usually fully booked in March,” she said.Tourism areas such as Kuta, Legian and Seminyak appear to be quiet. Many hotel staff members say they are worried about layoffs, as fewer guests are arriving.Deputy Bali Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati said several hotels had reduced shifts to cut employment costs. “We understand this is because some hotels depend on Chinese tourists, and the occupancy rates have dropped to only 5 percent, and even zero,” said Ardana, who is also the chairman of Bali Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI Bali).He said the drop in foreign tourist numbers has cost the tourist sector Rp 50 billion (US$3.53 million) per day, and he fears that the worst is yet to come. “I’m worried that other countries will ban travel to Indonesia,” said Ardana, hoping that Australia would not impose any travel restrictions on Bali.Bali Tourism Agency head Putu Astawa said that aside from Australia, tourists from Europe were still coming and they mostly stayed in Sanur.A Chinese man tested positive for the virus early in February, eight days after returning from Bali. He departed on Lion Air flight JT2618 from Wuhan – the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak – to Bali on Jan. 22. He took Garuda Indonesia flight GA858 from Denpasar to Shanghai on Jan. 28 and checked into a hotel in Shanghai at 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 29.The Indonesian authorities have played down the possibility that he was infected with the virus while on the island. “We also know that he got in a taxi or other public transportation upon returning to Shanghai on Jan. 28. He might have been infected there,” said Achmad Yurianto, a Health Ministry spokesperson.The provincial administration, however, has since increased surveillance to keep the island free from the virus. It has prepared mitigation systems and applied World Health Organization standards.With three hospitals—Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar, Sanjiwani Hospital in Gianyar, and Tabanan Hospital in Tabanan—earmarked for treating coronavirus patients, two Indonesians and 10 foreign nationals are under observation in a total of five hospitals. The two other hospitals being Mangusada Hospital and Siloam Hospital, all in Badung, each treating one patient with suspected symptoms. “We are waiting for the COVID-19 test results [for the patients],” said Bali Health Agency head Ketut Suarjaya.He said the administration was also preparing Udayana Hospital in Jimbaran as an isolation hospital if a large number of cases emerged. Suarjaya said thermal screening was being applied at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport. “Those who show symptoms like fever and a high temperature will be sent to the hospital’s isolation unit and will be observed for at least 14 days,” Suarjaya said.
Topics : In a virtual summit hosted by Britain, representatives of Denmark, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United States agreed to open up foreign borders for seafarers and increase the number of commercial flights to speed up repatriation efforts, a UK government statement said.They also committed to designate seafarers as “key workers” and encouraged other countries to follow.”Today marks a new chapter for seafarers and, alongside our international partners, we are taking a stand to end the bureaucracy preventing men and women around the world from returning home,” Britain’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.About 90% of world trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in some jurisdictions are still affecting supply chains despite an easing of lockdown in many parts of the world.Guy Platten, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping association, said the countries who had agreed to open up borders must now act on their commitments.”Governments must now use this summit as a catalyst to implement the solutions the shipping industry has provided, applying the political will needed to put them into practice,” he added. A dozen countries including the United States, Britain and Singapore agreed on Thursday to speed up efforts to get hundreds of thousands of stranded merchant sailors home after they had been at sea for many months due to the coronavirus.Some 200,000 seafarers are affected, with COVID-19 travel restrictions make it almost impossible to rotate crews, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organization. Many have been at sea for longer than an 11-month limit laid out in a maritime labor conventionShipping industry officials say many sailors are at breaking point, in a situation the United Nations has described as a “humanitarian crisis”. Maritime welfare charities have warned of an increase in suicides.