WebJet launches cheap Alice Springs flight deal for all airlines

If there was a time to go to the Northern Territory, this year is it.

With borders lifting, and wide open spaces aplenty – it’s the holiday destination we all need to visit in 2021.

Now, online travel booking platform Webjet has dropped a massive flight sale – with no pesky blockout periods – so you can get to parts of the Top End with a massive saving.

In conjunction with Northern Territory tourism, Webjet has dropped a six day sale, slashing all fares to Alice Springs – with all airlines – by $200.

The sale – which kicks off today – will last until May 11, so you will need to be quick to grab a bargain.

But with all travel dates and no blackout periods applied, you’re bound to find a time and discount that works for your booking.

The only catch is that the discount will not apply to intrastate fares, so you won’t be able to fly from Darwin to the Red Centre and receive the $200 discount.

Alice Springs, which has skyrocketed in the past 12 months as one of Australia’s hottest travel destinations, has a calendar full of events throughout the year of 2021.

RELATED: Cairns is Australia’s most popular city to visit in 2021

“Travellers from all around the world have Uluru on their bucket list, and with many Australians having yet to make the journey to this incredible part of the world Webjet are delighted to be able to make bucket list trips an affordable reality,” Webjet’s David Galt said.

“The stark and majestic beauty of the Territory cannot be underestimated, alongside Uluru there are many other natural and cultural wonders to enjoy – there really is no other place on earth like it.”

Alice Springs was named as one of Australia’s favourite place for a holiday in 2021 by Skyscanner last week.

Flight booking data released by Skyscanner revealed that Cairns is the top destination for Australian travellers, with COVID-19 travel restrictions taking previous favourites like Bali and Phuket out of play.

The Tropical North Queensland city was found to be the top destination for travellers of all categories – couples, families and groups – for June to October this year.

But the platform said Alice Springs, a surprise contender, had suddenly become the third top trending search location among all Australian holiday-makers.

The Northern Territory town, which recently hosted the 10-day Parrtjima Festival and is close to the majestic MacDonnell Ranges and great expanse of the Simpson Desert, came third behind the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Broome, Darwin, Hobart, Cairns, Adelaide and Gold Coast completed the list of top trending destinations for Australian travellers overall.

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economists warning about Australia’s hard border policy

Australia is at risk of damaging its global standing if it maintains its controversial closed border strategy, economists say.

The federal government’s tough travel ban on India is the latest temporary restriction aimed at quashing the threat of overseas COVID-19 outbreaks.

But ahead of next week’s budget, CEDA senior economist Gabriela D’Souza has warned the draconian measures could have an unintended cost.

“To continue our closed border policy is a threat to our commitment to globalism, especially as other countries begin to vaccinate the populations and open up their borders and welcome migrants,” Ms D’Souza said on Tuesday.

Speaking as part of a pre-budget panel at the National Press Club, Ms D’Souza said there was a giant elephant in the room.

“Migrants, in short, are good for the budget,” she said.

“How are you going to keep migration going, to meet your targets, when the borders are closed?

“That challenge will require our governments, at all levels, to think much more deeply and creatively about how to solve the problem.”

Ms D’Souza said migrants provided vital skills to the labour market, were younger, worked for longer, and put “far more” into the tax system than they took out.

“Permanent skilled migrants are a net benefit to the budget, with an annual fiscal revenue of about $9bn over their lifetime,” she said.

“It will help with the budget recovery process.”

Ms D’Souza said the quarantine system needed a “rethink” because migration needed to return in a way that lowered coronavirus-related health impacts on Australians.

She said universities were also struggling because they couldn’t have international students or hire senior lecturers.

“Purpose-built quarantine seems like our best bet for keeping Australia at COVID normal,” Ms D’Souza said.

But Employment Minister Stuart Robert said Australians needed to “step up” and plug key workforce shortages.

“Even if we turn that migration tap on at the end of the year, it will be a number of months before you start seeing that flow through,” Mr Robert told Sky News.

“This will be a big focus this year on skilling, employment, apprenticeships.

“Over the last five years 50 per cent of all jobs growth has been through migrants

“We have to confront this challenge as a nation without that migration lever, at least for the next 12 months.”

In June 2020, Ms D’Souza’s father died in India and she was unable to return to support her family in the aftermath due to the travel restrictions.

“No other advanced Western country has put in place such measures,” she said.

“I hope that when the government makes these decisions about border shutdowns, they realise the sacrifices migrants and people who live parts of their lives overseas are being asked to make.”

Economist Leonora Risse also told the event that the government needed to slash “all forms of pink tape” that get in the way of women’s workforce participation.

“Economists have long been pointing out the ways that the tax and transfer system makes it financially unviable for women,” Ms Risse said.

She warned that women who opted to work from home were put at a disadvantage compared with men returning to the workplace because research showed that career opportunities favoured those present in the office.

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Cairns is Australia’s most popular city to visit in 2021

Cairns has become Australia’s favourite place for a holiday but an unlikely rival is inching closer to the top spot, according to new data on where we’re travelling in 2021.

Flight booking data released by Skyscanner this week revealed Cairns is the top destination for Australian travellers, with COVID-19 travel restrictions taking previous favourites like Bali and Phuket out of play.

The Tropical North Queensland city was found to be the top destination for travellers of all categories – couples, families and groups – for June to October this year.

That is perhaps no surprise as those months are dry season in Cairns, where the mild and sunny weather provides the perfect escape from the southern winter.

RELATED: Five best things to do in Cairns

RELATED: Cairns named Aussie town of the year

The reopening of Queensland’s notoriously strict border to most travellers in Australia could also be behind the surge in interest in Cairns, a Skyscanner travel expert told news.com.au.

“We’ve seen real pent up demand as borders and domestic restrictions have eased, with travellers itching to see more of Australia, use up annual leave and plan a getaway with friends, family and loved ones,” they said.

“There are also some great bargains to be had for flexible flights and that coupled with the good weather has been drawing travellers north to explore some of the most renowned beauty spots, right on our doorstep.”

RELATED: Cairns spot even better than Great Barrier Reef

Unexpected town rivals other tourist spots

The Queensland hotspots of Gold Coast, Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Whitsundays and Port Douglas, along with capital cities like Darwin and Hobart, are also among the top destinations for travellers in 2021.

But an unexpected rival to those perennial favourites is the outback town of Alice Springs, which has suddenly become the third top trending search among all Australian holiday-makers.

RELATED: Alice Springs’ ‘graveyard’ packed with planes

The Northern Territory town, which recently hosted the 10-day Parrtjima Festival and is close to the majestic MacDonnell Ranges and great expanse of the Simpson Desert, came third behind the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Broome, Darwin, Hobart, Cairns, Adelaide and Gold Coast completed the list of top trending destinations for Australian travellers overall.

Skyscanner’s latest report also shed light on Australians’ holiday habits as the country adjusts to life during COVID-19.

Trip duration is shorter in 2021 – just 16 days, compared to 21 in 2019 – which has been attributed to shorter domestic flights, according to a recent Skyscanner survey.

Price of holidays matter, with 37 per cent of participants saying price was a key factor in determining where they chose to travel.

Thankfully, we’re spending 35 per cent less on the average fare compared to 2019, due to lower prices and the shift to domestic travel.

But Australian travellers seem to be upgrading airfares from the cheapest option, prioritising direct routes, flexible fares, preferred airlines and airports of choice.

Bucket lists being re-imagined

At a time when international borders remain closed except for New Zealand, domestic tourism appears to be “booming”, Skyscanner’s head of Asia Pacific, Paul Whiteway, said.

“Our new research shows there is pent up wanderlust, with 37 per cent of those surveyed saying the culture and experiencing new things to do on holiday is impacting their destination preferences,” he said.

“This desire to get out and explore has led Aussies to re-imagine their bucket list travels for the time being and reconsider the incredible destinations closer to home.

“Where measures have been announced providing clarity on dates and restrictions, we have seen direct correlations with interest for example with the recent New Zealand travel corridor.”

Mr Whiteway said travel demand was also being driven by enticing travel deals, such as airline fare sales, and increased flexibility.

“Travellers want to get away safely and within the rules, and we expect that as we see more travel become possible, travellers will respond with their booking behaviours,” he said.

Top destinations for travellers in June-October


2019: Phuket

2021: Cairns, followed by Gold Coast, Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast and Port Douglas


2019: Rome

2021: Cairns, followed by Darwin, Hobart, Broome and Hamilton Island


2019: Denpasar (Bali)

2021: Cairns, followed by Darwin, Gold Coast, Prosperine (Whitsundays) and Townsville

Top trending searches for all Aussie travellers

1. Prosperine (Whitsundays)

2. Hamilton Island

3. Alice Springs

4. Broome

5. Darwin

6. Hobart

7. Cairns

8. Adelaide

9. Gold Coast

10. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Elizabeth Miroforidis and Nickolas Kakias vow to fight for son Alexander as he battles rare illness

The parents of a young boy who died from a rare genetic disorder almost three years ago have faced the agonising reality of another child diagnosed with the condition.

Parents Elizabeth Miroforidis and Nickolas Kakias lost their boy Elias after he was diagnosed with dilated Cardiomyopathy Barth Syndrome aged just eight months old.

The condition affects the heart and blood flow around the body.

Tragically, the Sydney family discovered their third son, Alexander, also suffers from the same syndrome.

On Wednesday he was flown from Sydney to Melbourne for treatment, father Nickolas and Elizabeth told news.com.au.

“He was stable enough to be transported but still was very unwell,” Nickolas said after putting the 20-month-old on a flight to Melbourne on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, his mother vowed: “This time I’m coming home with my son.”

“We’ll stay strong for our little man,” Nickolas said, stressing that he was so grateful to everyone who had rallied in support of his family — particularly staff at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

News of their second son’s rare illness touched their local community in Sydney’s inner west, with two GoFundMe pages set up to support the family.

As of Wednesday afternoon the pages had raised more than $6300.

RELATED: Baby girl’s fight against shocking disease

Baby Elias had developed an infection in infancy and was put on a Berlin heart — a mechanical device that supports patients with late stage heart failure.

He was awaiting a heart transplant but, due to blood clotting, died from brain damage in August 2018.

One year later the family were blessed with another child, Alexander, a little brother to their other son Romeo.

But “after such sadness there was concern”, the couple’s friend Megan Collier wrote on a GoFundMe.

Another GoFundMe was launched by the owner of Greek nightclub Defi II, in Belmore, which is supported by a ticketed event on May 14.

RELATED: Concerns over early C-section births

The family was told there was just a one per cent chance Alexander would be born with the same condition, but have since discovered he does have the rare condition.

Little Alexander was flown from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney in intensive care to Melbourne to receive enhanced treatment.

Elizabeth and Nickolas will join him in Melbourne later this evening.

Nickolas and Elizabeth said they think there needs to be more awareness and funding for children with heart conditions.

“I don’t think people really understand unless you’re in the children’s hospital, and you meet all these different families,” Elizabeth said.

“Every day there’s another kid born with another heart condition. It’s just getting worse and worse,” Nickolas said.

“I don’t think there’s enough fundraising or awareness.”

Both parents said they were incredibly grateful to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, who they said had an “amazing cardiac ICU team”.

“This time I’m coming home with my son,” mum Elizabeth insisted at the end of her interview with news.com.au.

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Victoria to change travel restrictions with Perth

Victoria may begin accepting travellers from the Perth and Peel regions from midnight, just days after the state slammed its border shut to parts of Western Australia.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed health authorities would contemplate whether to change the travel rules on Tuesday despite four new cases reported in WA’s hotel quarantine scheme overnight.

Mr Foley told reporters he expected the Perth and Peel regions would change from red to orange zones on Tuesday night.

It would mean travellers would be able to enter the state but have to isolate until returning a negative test.

“Any arrivals that have come in since that (red zone) was declared would therefore be considered a lower risk and released from quarantine,” Mr Foley said.

“There will be more information from the chief health officer, but that’s looking pretty certain.”

Victoria, along with New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory, closed its border to arrivals from Perth on Friday.

Victoria is only accepting Victorian residents from the state who must isolate for 14 days once they touch down.

Mr Foley confirmed 265 travellers who flew in from Perth with an infected traveller on April 21 had all tested negative to coronavirus, with one result pending.

The Victorian man arrived in Perth on April 3 from Shanghai and his room was alongside a family of three from the United Kingdom – two of whom also became sick with the virus.

They caught coronavirus from a couple who had travelled from India and were in an opposite room.

The Commonwealth Security Committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss any assistance for India as well as any extra steps that may need to be taken to minimise the risk of infections spreading to Australia.

The Indian health system is at breaking point from the country‘s second deadly COVID-19 wave, with horrific scenes of overwhelmed hospitals, oxygen supplies critically low and people dying in the streets.

More than 17 million people in India have contracted coronavirus.

“Clearly, what’s happening in India is a humanitarian catastrophe, and it’s going to increase for some time yet,” Mr Foley said.

“We’ve seen an increasing number of returned traveller from the subcontinent returning positive at twice the rate of other returnees, and we’re seeing those returnees disproportionately test negative on day zero.

“It raises uncertainty as to the testing of the infectivity levels of the pandemic in India.”

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Surrogate mum for couple in China forced to raise baby due to COVID

A surrogate for a couple living in China has been forced to raise the baby for almost a year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Emily Chrislip, 25, from Idaho, in the US, gave birth to the young girl on May 18, in the middle of the pandemic, The Sun reports.

She and husband Brandon, who have a son of their own, agreed to look after the baby for four weeks, but it has now been nearly 12 months.

RELATED: Mum acting as surrogate for family dies during birth

“At first, we thought it would be a max four weeks, and then it kept getting longer and longer,” Ms Chrislip told People magazine.

“At this point, we’ve just accepted that we don’t know … but we wouldn’t have it any other way. She is so loved and right now, we are the constant in her life.”

Ms Chrislip made the decision to be a surrogate after the birth of her son Camden, who is now two years old.

She said that she couldn’t imagine not being able to have her own biological child, and had been lucky enough to have an easy pregnancy, so looked into the process.

RELATED: Surrogate banned from child’s life after bitter dispute

The mother-of-one was chosen in September 2019 to be a surrogate for a couple in China, explaining that the initial plan was for her parents to be here for the birth.

“We were going to let them be in the delivery room to see her be born and then they would have had their own room at the hospital with her and my husband and I would have had our own room,” she said.

“At the time of birth, my job was supposed to be completed.”

However, two months before she gave birth, the coronavirus pandemic put everything on hold, and the biological parents were unable to travel to the US from China.

The baby’s parents asked the couple if they would care for their daughter, instead of her being left with a nanny agency.

Although it was a tough decision to make at first, they decided it was the right thing to do – but they had no idea it would last nearly a year.

Ms Chrislip said she tries to put “barriers up” knowing that they will one day have to give her away.

“We definitely love her and will always care for her, but we understand she is not ours,” she said. “We just treat her as our own because at this stage in life it is so important to have the proper attention and love.”

RELATED: Woman unexpectedly dies during C-section birth

In exchange for being a surrogate, Ms Chrislip received between $US35,000 ($A44,000) and $US40,000 ($A51,000) in compensation – which they used to pay off student loans and buy a bigger home.

It is illegal in the UK to pay a surrogate, except for their reasonable expenses.

After the year they’ve had, Ms Chrislip admits she’s not sure if she could be a surrogate again, although would consider it for the same parents if they wanted more kids.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

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Melbourne Aldi customer in tears after stranger pays grocery bill

A stranger’s unexpected gesture has left a mum in tears following an incident at her local Aldi store.

The woman took to Facebook to explain that she was at the Maribrynong, Melbourne store when her card declined three times “for whatever reason”.

However, it was the kind gesture of the woman behind her that left her both in shock and extremely grateful.

“A shout out to the kind-hearted lady at Aldi Maribrynong today, thank you again,” the woman began her post.

“I did a medium shop today without the kids and paid by card.

“The cashier didn’t see the nappies at the end of the shop and so scanned them through as a second transaction.

“My card, for whatever reason, was declined. I tried three times, then said to the cashier, no worries I will have to come back another day.”

RELATED: Coles and Woolies fix trolley problem

However, it was at this point the customer behind her stepped in and told the cashier she will pay for the woman’s goods – an act that left the mum in tears.

She said it was a combination of it being a “surprise gesture” and the fact that she wanted to make sure her child would have nappies when she got home, that had her feeling very emotional.

She added that it is nice to see that “people still care about others and a special few will go the extra mile” and that she will definitely be “paying this forward” when she goes out in the future.

After sharing her story on Facebook, her post has gone on to attract more than 3500 comments, with people equally blown away by the stranger’s act.

RELATED: Aldi celebrates 20 years in Australia

“I’m blubbering right now! Always thankful when our faith in other people is rewarded. Bless,” one person wrote.

“Just came home from a night out with friends and that made me cry,” another added.

It’s not the first time an Aldi customer has been blown away by a stranger’s gesture.

Last year, a woman took to Facebook to explain a man paid $50 off her shopping after she let him jump ahead of her in the queue as he only had a few items.

“I usually do that to people as I buy in bulk,” she explained, posting about the incident in a Facebook group.

RELATED: Shopper’s baffling find at Coles

While she didn’t get the man’s name, she was shocked when she went through the checkout herself and realised he had not let her kind action go unrewarded.

“There was a surprise waiting at the counter, that man paid $50 off my shopping before he left,” she revealed.

“I appreciate it very much; just goes to show kindness goes a long way.”

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UAE Bans Travel from India for 10 Days Due to Worsening Covid-19 Situation

The UAE has banned travel from India for 10 days from Sunday due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country. The travel ban will come into effect from 11.59 pm on Saturday, April 24, and is subject to review after 10 days, the Gulf News reported.

Passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will also not be permitted to board from any other point to the UAE, the report said. However, departure flights will continue to operate and the ban will not extend to UAE citizens, diplomatic passport holders and official delegations, it said.

Anil Punjabi, chairman, Eastern Region, Travel Agents’ Federation of India said travel agents in India received the notification from Emirates. Effective April 24, 2021 and for the next 10 days, Emirates flights from India to the UAE will be suspended. Furthermore, passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE.

Affected customers should contact their travel agent or Emirates contact centre for rebooking options, the airline said in a travel advisory on its website. The travel and tourism sector in India have already been hit hard by the pandemic. Further flight suspensions are an additional blow, Punjabi was quoted as saying in the report.

According to Khaleej Times, people are barred from booking flights from the UAE to Indian destinations after April 24 on the Emirates, Etihad, flydubai and Air Arabia websites. The UAE is the latest country to impose a travel ban on passengers from India after it recorded the world’s highest number of 3,14,835 COVID-19 cases in one day on Thursday.

India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16.It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19.India crossed the grim milestone of 1.50 crore on April 19. The UK on Monday added India to its COVID-19 travel “red list”, which effectively bans all travel from the country and makes a 10-day hotel quarantine compulsory for UK residents arriving back to the country.

Hong Kong banned flights from India for 14 days from Tuesday. Pakistan on Monday decided to ban for two weeks travellers coming from India.

France on Wednesday announced a ban on travel from India from Saturday. Oman announced it will bar travel from India along with Pakistan and Bangladesh from April 24, the report said.

The entry ban for passengers from India to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait continues, it said. On Tuesday, the US advised its citizens to avoid travelling to India, even if they are fully vaccinated as there is a ‘very high level’ of COVID-19 in the country.


Read all the Latest News and Breaking News here

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Laos Locks Down Capital, Provinces as COVID Cases Climb — Radio Free Asia

Laos has announced a two-week lockdown in the capital Vientiane, with restrictions also ordered in several provinces as the number of COVID cases in the country suddenly climbs, Lao media sources say.

Vientiane will now be shut down from April 22 to May 5, Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh announced on Wednesday. City residents must remain home unless buying groceries or seeking medical help, and travel between the capital and the provinces is now banned, Phankham said.

Only essential state and private workers may now travel to their jobs, and entertainment venues have been completely closed, Phankham said, adding that more testing stations will soon be set up around the city.

“We have 28 more cases of COVID-19 infection today,” Phonepadith Xangsayrath—director general of the Ministry of Health’s National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology—told a press conference in the capital Wednesday.

“Yesterday, we took samples from many of the people who were in contact with the entertainment venues attended by four previous COVID-19 infected persons, and we found that 26 people in Vientiane have tested positive for the virus, ” Phonepadith said.

“Two Lao workers returning from Thailand also tested positive for the same virus in southern Champassak province, which brings our total number of cases to 88. We’re now testing more people in the capital and in some of the high-risk provinces,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Phoutone Muongpak—Lao Vice-Minister of Health and Head of the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control—pointed to what he called a spike in the number of cases of infection in the country since early April.

“Now, our country is at high risk of having a COVID-19 outbreak in the community, especially in the capital Vientiane and in Savannakhet province,” he said.

“I would like to urge our people to comply strictly with the prime minister’s previous orders by stepping up border controls, stopping illegal crossings, and then arresting and sending to quarantine centers anyone who enters Laos illegally,” he said.

Lockdowns in the provinces

In Borikhamxay and Saravan provinces, authorities have now ordered all schools closed from April 19 to May 2 in districts where infected persons live, while in Savannakhet’s Vilaboury district authorities locked down four villagers after a Lao worker returning illegally from Thailand went to one village and then visited the others.

Three districts of Xayaburi province, bordering Thailand, have already been locked down to prevent border crossings, with patrols now stepped up on the border in Borikhamxay, Khammaouane, and Savannakhet, and possible crossing points along the Mekong River guarded around the clock by soldiers and police, sources say.

Prime Minister Phankham has meanwhile called for health authorities to step up the vaccinations of target groups, expanding the program to the general public as soon as possible, and is encouraging private clinics and hospitals to buy COVID-19 vaccines from foreign suppliers and administer the inoculations to their own employees and members of the public themselves.

One private clinic owner in Vientiane expressed interest in the plan, saying, “I’ve been asked by many patients whether I provide that service. I expect that only the rich will come to the clinic, though, while members of the public and workers insured by the government will go to the public hospitals.”

Lao residents already qualifying for vaccinations are meanwhile flocking to district and provincial hospitals, waiting for their shots, while in Vientiane a large public hospital is having trouble controlling the crowds.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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