South Korea considers stricter social distancing restrictions amid highest level of Covid-19 infections in third wave – travel

South Korean authorities will consider tighter social distancing restrictions on Sunday to clamp down on economic activities after last week saw the fastest spread of infections since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun is to meet with health authority officials at 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) to decide whether virus curbs need to be tightened further to slow transmissions, Yonhap News said.

South Korea reported 450 infections of the new coronavirus on Sunday after reporting more than 500 new coronavirus cases for three days in a row, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

This third wave marks the highest level of infections in nearly nine months.

South Korea on Tuesday began applying Level 2 social distancing rules, the third-highest in the country’s five-tier system, in greater Seoul area.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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Hilarious Australian slang words that baffle foreigners

It’s not until you converse with someone from another country that you begin to appreciate just how zany the Australian vernacular is.

In our story last week about things that shock travellers about Australia, we discussed how many elements of our speech leave foreigners scratching their heads (for example, our habit of adding ‘o’ to the end of places, like “servo” and “bottle-o”).

Since then, we’ve discovered a charming article done up by travel visa website Byevisa, that attempts to explain the most confusing Aussie slang terms to people embarking on a trip down under. Here they are …

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1. Thongs

This one really baffles visitors, especially those from the United States. In the USA a thong is a piece of underwear. In Australia, it’s what they call flip-flops. Sometimes they also call them “double-pluggers”. If they break their flip-flops you may hear them exclaim that they just had “a blowout in their double-pluggers”.

2. Barbie

It’s not a plastic doll. Down under a “barbie” is short for barbecue. There is actually a whole range of confusing terms you may encounter at an Australian barbecue. An “avo” is an avocado, a “chook” is a chicken, an “Esky” is a portable cooler, “snags” are sausages, “sunnies” are sunglasses and a “tinnie” is a can of beer. And if they say “bring a plate” they don’t mean bring your own empty plate because they don’t have enough crockery. They mean bring a plate of prepared food to share.

3. Cactus

What you think it means? A spiky plant. What it means in Australia? Broken, or not functioning. For example, “I can’t drive us down the coast this weekend, my car is completely cactus”.

4. Shark biscuit

Believe it or not, this is not a type of Animal Cracker cookie. This is someone who is not very good at surfing.

5 . Lappy

Not to be confused with an erotic dance, this is what Australians call their laptop computer.

6. Ankle biter

Many people will think this is in reference to a small, angry, vicious dog, but this is how Australians refer to young children.

7. Swimmers

In most parts of the globe, this term means people partaking in the activity of swimming. In Australia it is often used to refer to a swimming costume. Eg “I’ll come to your pool party, I just need to find where I left my swimmers”.

8. Ta

People think this means goodbye, as in “ta-ta”. But in Australia “ta” is also short for “thank you”.

9. Tea

If an Australian says to you “I have to be home in time for tea,” they are not necessarily referring to a hot beverage. They are probably referring to dinner.

10. Stuffed

In many countries on Christmas Day people will say that they are “stuffed” (full) and couldn’t eat another thing. In Australia “stuffed” often means tired. Eg “I can’t come around to your house tonight, I’m utterly stuffed after work”.

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San Francisco faces ‘most dangerous time ’ with jump in coronavirus cases, sets new Covid-19 curbs – travel

San Francisco was moved to the most restrictive tier by California following a jump in coronavirus cases, prompting a slew of new measures across the city.

“I don’t know how to be more clear — this is the most dangerous time we’ve faced during this pandemic,” said Mayor London Breed.

The new restrictions will kick off Sunday, starting with the closure of movie theaters, gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums, and even houses of worship — a move resisted by Los Angeles on Friday. The capacity at indoor stores, including pharmacies, will be cut by half to 25%.

Outdoor entertainment activities including carousels, ferris wheels, train rides and trampolines will also be shut, though playgrounds, mini-golf, skate parks and batting cages can still operate. Schools that have already opened will be able to stay open. Along with most of the state that faced new restrictions, the 10 p.m. overnight curfew will also start Monday, the city said.

The move is hitting San Francisco just as Thanksgiving kicked off the holiday season, with an expected increase in travel and retail activity. The city also advised its residents against leaving the county and recommended a 14-day quarantine for anyone who has traveled out of the state.

San Francisco county has had over 15,000 coronavirus cases and 160 deaths, much lower than many other parts of California. In all, the state has had over 1.1 million Covid-19 cases and over 19,000 deaths.

A number of California counties were also moved into the most restrictive “purple” tier, including neighboring San Mateo county, where the San Francisco International Airport is located.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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Rough rescue: Storms, broken plane force layover for turtles

BOSTON (AP) – They might have gotten there faster by walking, but at any rate, these endangered turtles had a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Bad weather, a damaged propeller and an unscheduled stop in Tennessee complicated the rescue of 30 critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that were among hundreds recently found on the beaches of Cape Cod, stunned and almost killed by falling ocean temperatures.

Volunteers and conservation experts initially took the turtles to the New England Aquarium in Boston and the National Marine Life Center on Buzzards Bay, where they began the long rehabilitation process before being moved to wildlife centers along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

A batch of 30 New Orleans-bound turtles had a harder trip than most.

Their plane left Wednesday but had to change course and refuel twice because of storms and strong winds. A rock kicked up during takeoff after the second refueling, in Chattanooga, damaged the propeller and grounded the plane.

Staff members of the Tennessee Aquarium collected the animals and cared for them overnight. On Thanksgiving, the turtles were loaded onto a shuttle bus borrowed from the airport and driven the rest of the way to New Orleans, arriving on Thanksgiving Day.

“When we learned the plane could not reach its final destination, a flurry of calls went out, and within an hour, we had safe, warm overnight housing secured for these turtles,” said Connie Merigo, manager of the New England Aquarium’s marine animal rescue department.

The turtles appear to be in good condition at their new home, operated by the Audubon Nature Institute’s Coastal Wildlife Network, but they will require significant care before they can be released back into the wild, according to the New England Aquarium.

Kemp’s ridley turtles are the smallest sea turtles in the world, growing to a little over 2 feet. They are found in the Atlantic as far north as Nova Scotia but are seen most often in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Bear biologists concerned famous grizzly

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) – Bear biologist Mike Boyce was staked out on a road in south of Wilson for much of the day on Nov. 17 keeping tabs on five grizzly bears that were napping, playing and feeding on a deer carcass.

“They devoured it in just a matter of a couple hours,” Boyce said from the scene.

For three weeks and running this has been what the Wyoming Game and Fish Department employee’s workdays look like: keeping tabs on grizzly 399 and her four cubs, spreading the word of their whereabouts and trying to keep both people and the bears out of harm’s way.

“I’ve been on this full time,” Boyce told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “Since they left the park – when was that?”

Grizzly 399, he recalled, first ventured south the last week of October. The 24-year-old bear did go back north to her normal territory in Grand Teton National Park, but her detour to familiar terrain lasted a single day. The valley’s most well-known wild animal has recently been living in the southern valley near ranches and subdivisions.

Mostly her stay has been conflict-free. But the change in habitat has taken a potentially perilous turn recently as grizzly 399 has started to key in on human-related foods.

“It’s a bit unnerving for our agency,” Wyoming Game and Fish Regional Supervisor Brad Hovinga told the News&Guide.;

“Here’s a bear that’s long habituated to being around people,” he said. “Now she’s in a new area that has different food sources, and some of those food sources are associated with human and residential activity.”

The three known types of unnatural sustenance that bear 399 has obtained are honey from a beekeeper’s hives, a grain mix meant for livestock and a residential compost pile. The sow grizzly and her large litter took advantage of all those foods over the last week to 10 days. Two of the three “food rewards” received were significant.

“They were on beehives for at least two days,” Hovinga said. “They pretty much cleaned up all the food that was available.”

Nobody was around to interrupt the behavior, he said, which persisted until the apiarist’s colony had been wiped out.

When the grizzly family found the pelleted livestock grain they gorged for about an hour. Boyce arrived, fired firecracker-like “bird bombs” to scare the bears off – and it worked.

“Even though they did return they didn’t get a food reward the second time,” Hovinga said. “But they did get a significant food reward the first time.”

The compost pile was raided at night in the southern valley. The grizzlies’ tracks told the story of what happened.

In the aftermath of all incidents, Boyce worked with the landowners to “secure the attractants.” Any subsequent attempts to access the foods were deterred.

Still, the five grizzlies remain in the area and the adage “a fed bear is a dead bear” often rings true. Grizzly bears are intelligent animals that dutifully return to what works to pack on calories. In this case it’s a food supply in backyards and areas that aren’t ideal for humans and grizzlies to coexist. Often the behavior isn’t tolerated by wildlife managers, who haze, relocate or kill the animals to reduce the hazard.

It’s unclear whether there’s a plan to address the famous family group of grizzly bears that has been exploiting human-related foods. The state of Wyoming, Hovinga said, is taking its cues from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has jurisdiction over grizzly bears, classified as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

An interview request with the Fish and Wildlife Service was declined, and a statement the agency was preparing was not conveyed by press time. Grand Teton National Park officials also declined an interview for this story.

Hearing news of her troubles on Nov. 17, longtime grizzly 399 photographer and advocate Tom Mangelsen was disheartened.

“That’s not good,” he said. “The beekeeper needs to take responsibility for leaving honey out that the bears might find. Same thing with compost.

“You can’t just have stuff out,” he said, “and expect the bears to not find it and eat it.”

Lorna Miller, a longtime wildlife advocate, was also bummed to learn of the development in grizzly 399’s sojourn. In her view, the community failed.

“That’s really discouraging, but it was almost inevitable,” Miller said. “One of the myths of Jackson Hole is that we take great care in being proactive on wildlife issues. We have the regs, but we don’t enforce them.”

Most of the privately owned areas where grizzly 399 has spent the month of November fall within Teton County’s bear conflict priority zones, where bear-resistant trash cans are required, restaurant grease must be secured and special bird feeder rules are in effect. Enforcement has been minimal, but wildlife advocates and managers say the zoning rules have still worked to curb conflict. As they’re written today, the regulations do not address beehives, livestock feed or compost.

Only time will tell how grizzly 399’s precarious situation shakes out.

Rafter J Ranch residents Deb and John Kuzloski spent part of their day on Nov. 17 enjoying a nearly exclusive viewing, watching through binoculars and spotting scopes as grizzly 399’s cubs roughhoused and tugged at a stripped-down mule deer carcass while their famous mother lounged under a spruce tree. The scene was “amazing,” John said, but also worrisome because of its location.

“I hope this is not her demise,” he said. “Why is she doing this? I think what we’re observing, although at the microscopic level, is how the occupied habitat expands – but that’s just my wild-a(asterisk)(asterisk) speculation.”

Hovinga pointed out that although grizzly 399 is in a new and concerning area, she’s acting like herself.

“It’s not like she’s learning a new behavior, she’s just foraging for what’s available,” he said. “These are bears trying to make a living in a residential area. There is different food on the ground.”

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Europe’s ski resorts have mountain to climb to save season amid pandemic – travel

Europe’s ski resorts are desperately trying to salvage the new season amid the pandemic, but travel restrictions, the need for social distancing and disagreement among governments about whether to open at all mean they have a mountain to climb.

During the first wave of infections last season, some ski centres became breeding grounds for the coronavirus, accelerating its spread across Europe.

With the continent in the grip of another wave of the virus, some authorities are nervous about reopening slopes for Christmas, the New Year and beyond, even though resorts have plans to mitigate the risks of a repeat of early 2020.

“If we (Italians) are the only ones not to open, it would be an economic disaster,” said Michele Bertolini, who heads a lobby group for owners of local businesses like restaurants and ski rental shops in the small resort of Passo del Tonale in the Trentino region, near Austria and Switzerland.

National leaders are at odds over what to do.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said it would not be possible “to allow (Christmas) holidays on the snow” and wants an agreement among European countries to act in unison.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which has few resorts but many skiers who flock to other countries, agrees. She admits, however, that striking a deal will be difficult given resistance from Austria, a skiing hotspot.

“If we are closed but other areas are open, then probably Italians will choose to spend their holidays in another country and this would be doubly disastrous,” Bertolini told Reuters.

At the Passo del Tonale resort, machines pump artificial snow on to slopes in anticipation of the season starting. Chair lifts bob idly on cables and restaurants are locked shut.

Swiss resorts, meanwhile, have started opening and do not plan to close, despite a relatively high number of deaths nationally related to the coronavirus.

“If it’s open, I’ll definitely ski,” said Swede Max Ahlstedt, on the glacier in Zermatt which offers year-round skiing. “You just have to…accept wearing a mask.”

Austria is under a national lockdown that ends on December 7 and resorts hope to reopen before Christmas. France is keeping resorts open but lifts closed at Christmas.

Win back trust’

Travel restrictions complicate matters, as many of the millions of Europeans who ski each year go abroad to do so.

Austria depends heavily on tourism from Germany, which currently requires anyone arriving from Austria to go into quarantine. Conte has threatened similar measures for Italians visiting Austria to ski.

Despite the obstacles, some resorts are hoping to open, even if numbers are sharply down compared to a normal season.

“We want to send a signal that we have learned a lot from our experiences and win back trust,” said Andreas Steibl, director of the tourism body at the resort of Ischgl, the location of Austria’s worst coronavirus outbreak to date.

Thousands of people were infected there last winter, including foreign visitors who then went home.

Repairing its reputation is essential to the resort that called itself the “Ibiza of the Alps” because of its party scene. Ischgl was originally supposed to open on November 26. That has been pushed provisionally to December 17.

Enjoying the great outdoors on skis typically involves spending a lot of time inside.

Many ski lifts are enclosed, restaurants are the only place to get a hot meal on the slopes during the day and skiers like to stop in bars at the end of the day.

With social distancing rules reducing capacity in those places, and fewer visitors overall, the season will be a shadow of previous ones.

“No one believes in a 20% fall (in Austrian revenues) anymore,” said Oliver Fritz, senior economist at Austrian economic think-tank Wifo.

“My rather optimistic forecast was minus 30% for the whole period but even getting near that would be sensational.”

For national economies that is billions of euros less. In Austria alone, the Finance Ministry estimates that revenue from ski resorts is worth roughly 800 million euros a week.

For local communities the longer term impact is worrying.

“We have infrastructure, mainly consisting of ski lifts, which needs a lot of investment,” said Bertolini in Passo del Tonale.

“If these big investors hit economic crisis, my great fear is that we won’t just say goodbye to next year but we will need several years to get back on our feet.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Los Angeles County to impose new Covid-19 restrictions on social gatherings – travel

Nearly all social gatherings of individuals from more than a single household will be banned in Los Angeles County for at least three weeks starting Monday under new restrictions local health officials unveiled on Friday, citing a continued surge in Covid-19 infections.

The public health order specifically exempts religious services and protests under constitutionally protected rights in an apparent nod to Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a New York state order that had restricted the size of religious gatherings.

The Los Angeles County measures, affecting some 20 million people living in and around the nation’s second-largest city, go beyond a curfew imposed last week by California Governor Gavin Newsom barring social gatherings and other non-essential activities across most of the state between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Taken together, they represent the most stringent Covid-19 measures imposed on the Los Angeles area since California’s first-in-the-nation statewide lockdown in March, early in the pandemic. They also are among the most restrictive in effect nationwide.

State and local authorities have instituted, or re-imposed, a wide range of limitations on social and economic activity in hopes of blunting a wave of coronavirus infections raging out of control across the country following a late-summer lull.

Political leaders and health officials have also escalated public appeals to pandemic-weary Americans in recent days urging them to stay home, avoid gatherings and curtail Christmas shopping as they wait for promised vaccines.

In announcing the latest temporary constraints, L.A. county health officials said the daily tally of newly documented infections had exceeded 4,500 cases for five straight days, crossing a threshold previously set for additional measures to curb the contagion.

Under the new L.A. County order, which runs through December 20, residents are advised – but not required – to stay home as much as possible and to always wear face coverings when outside their homes and around others.

But any social gatherings of people from more than one household are prohibited, whether in public or private, and whether indoors or outside. The latest order still permits some measure of commercial activity, albeit at reduced levels.

It lowers the maximum occupancy levels for “essential” retail businesses, including grocery stores, to 35% of capacity, while non-essential retail locations such as indoor shopping malls and personal care services such as nail salons can remain open at 20% of capacity.

Beaches, trails and parks remain open, too, so long as individuals keep their distance from others outside their households and wear a mask. The same applies to golf courses, tennis courts, skate parks and other outdoor recreational venues.

All indoor and outdoor service at bars, restaurants, wineries and breweries remains prohibited under an earlier county order that restricted them to takeout and delivery only.

Health officials around the country have warned that the holiday travel season and onset of colder weather – leading to greater social mixing and people congregating indoors – is fueling a Covid-19 surge that has sent infections, hospitalizations and deaths to record levels.

Nearly 388,000 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed across Los Angeles County to date, including more than 7,600 deaths, with 10% of all diagnostic tests coming back positive – twice the rate considered concerning by health authorities.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Ireland to lift Covid-19 curbs ahead of many European countries – travel

Ireland will allow shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs serving food to reopen next week, and permit travel between counties from December 18, to facilitate a “different but special” Christmas, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Friday.

Ireland became one of first European countries to reimpose tough Covid-19 constraints six weeks ago when the government shut non-essential retail and limited pubs and restaurants to takeaway service under its highest level of restrictions.

From Tuesday, however, the economy will begin to be one of the most open across Europe after a sharp cut in the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people to below 100, behind only Finland and Iceland across the continent.

“We now have the opportunity to enjoy a different, but special Christmas. We can be with our loved ones and remember those we’ve lost. We will come through this together,” Martin said in a televised address.

Neighbouring England will also exit a national lockdown next week but large parts of the country must live under the toughest category of Covid-19 curbs, while France will only start a phased unwinding from December 15 and Germany will likely keep bars and restaurants closed until January.

Martin made his announcement the day the entire hospitality sector and non-essential retail in British-run Northern Ireland closed for two weeks, potentially leading to a rush of cross-border Christmas shopping.

Pubs that just serve drinks will remain shut across Ireland, meaning such venues in Dublin will have pulled their last pint of 2020 in March. Non-food pubs in other counties were briefly allowed to open in September.

“I lay awake last night and the thoughts of not trading this Christmas, and maybe not until next summer. I feel demoralised, dazed by it all,” Willie Aherne, owner of Dublin’s Palace Bar told broadcaster Virgin Media News.

People can welcome up to two other households into their homes between December 18 and Jan. 6.

Health officials credited a mid-October ban on household visits for the sharp fall in infections, although cases have not fallen to the 100 per day officials targeted to keep them low for a sustained period. Ireland reported 206 cases on Friday.

The adaptation by many shuttered stores to takeaway or click-and-collect services limited the economic damage over the last six weeks with data on Friday showing retail sales fell by just 0.7% month-on-month in October and were up 8.1% year-on-year.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Correction: Rescued Dogs-Airlift story – Washington Times

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Disney to lay off 4,000 more at California, Florida parks

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – The Walt Disney Co. announced plans to lay off 4,000 more workers in its theme parks division in California and Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the industry.

The announcement by the company was made in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week, saying 32,000 employees will be terminated in the first half of fiscal year 2021, which began last month. In late September, the company had already announced plants to terminate 28,000 theme park workers.

In the SEC document filed on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, the company said it also put 37,000 employees not scheduled for termination on furlough as a result of the pandemic.

“Due to the current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating, the company has generated efficiencies in its staffing, including limiting hiring to critical business roles, furloughs and reductions-in-force,” the document said.

The company also said they may make more cuts in spending such as reducing film and television content investments and additional furloughs and layoffs.

In Florida, the company has been limiting attendance at its parks and changing protocols to allow for social distancing by limiting characters’ meet and greets.

The company has not specified the number of workers that would be affected in its Orlando theme parks.

Disney’s parks closed in March as the pandemic started spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened in the summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen pending state and local government approvals.

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