New Zealand records first local COVID-19 case in months; today marks one year since Australia’s first confirmed cases

Israel will close its only major airport for at least a week, authorities said Sunday, effectively sealing itself off from international travel in a bid to vaccinate more of its population before new variants of the coronavirus take hold.

The cabinet agreed Sunday to bar incoming and outgoing international passenger flights at Ben Gurion International Airport from midnight Monday until at least the end of January, unless a parliamentary committee votes to overturn the plan.

Ben Gurion Airport in Israel (note, photo is from pre-pandemic timesCredit:Andrew Burton

The few exceptions will include cargo flights, medical evacuations and “firefighting flights,” according to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Departures will be banned except for certain extreme cases, including family funerals and legal proceedings, which will require individual approval by health authorities.

A variant of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom, which appears to be significantly more contagious, has been detected in some of Israel’s latest positive cases, according to media reports.

Washington Post

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Retail sales continue rebound, having risen 7 months in a row since COVID low in April

Retail sales have risen for seven months in a row and are now more than 5 per cent higher than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The data agency released numbers for November on Friday that showed Canadian retailers racked up more than $55 billion in sales during the month. That’s more than $600 million higher than they were the previous month, and the seventh straight monthly gain since shopping cratered in March and April of 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning.

The increase was led by higher sales at food and beverage stores and higher online sales — continuing the internet shopping trend that exploded last spring.

Different types of stores saw different sales changes, including:

  • Food and beverage stores, up 5.9 per cent.
  • General merchandise, up 1.6 per cent.
  • Building and garden supply, up 2.2 per cent.
  • Gas stations, down 1.6 per cent.
  • Clothing and accessories, down 3 per cent.

Sales grew in every province except Manitoba, where they declined by 3.1 per cent. Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic noted that Manitoba’s lag is likely because that province was among the first to move into a second lockdown phase.

“That could be a preview of what is coming in the data for December and January from some other larger provinces that have since taken similar measures,” Kavcic said.

While retail sales numbers look strong “in the rearview mirror,” as Kavcic put it, the data agency indeed warned that the streak of growth may come to an end with next month’s numbers, which cover the normally busy shopping month of December.

StatsCan said Friday that preliminary data suggests retail sales were down by 2.6 per cent in December. That estimate is based on early numbers from 59 per cent of retailers surveyed by the data agency, so the number may change as more retailers report their numbers.

It may also get worse as retailers locked down by government orders report their sales data.

“We’re set for a steep decline in December as lockdown measures spread more widely across major parts of the country and then extended into January,” Kavcic said.

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Caltex surges with 11 new stations in last two months to start strong in 2021

Lipa City residents now have more access to Caltex’s clean and quality fuels with the rise of the new 18-pump fueling station in Barangay Inosluban.

Clean and high-quality fuels are now made available in more provinces as Caltex, marketed by Chevron Philippines Inc. (CPI), recently opened new service stations in Pampanga, Pangasinan, Bataan, Batangas, Cebu, and Bukidnon in support of the reopening of the economy. This brings the total number of newly-opened Caltex stations in 2020 to 30.

Caltex presently has a growing retail structure composed of nearly 650 retail stations across the archipelago, a figure that is expected to climb as Caltex opens more stations this year. This is a testament to the success of its retailer-owned retailer-operated business model.

CPI recently opened a Caltex service station in the municipality of Guagua, Pampanga. Situated along the Jose Abad Santos Avenue, Barangay San Antonio, this12-pump fueling station is now ready to supply fuel for motorists traveling in the area and to support the transport of forestry and fishery resources, such as rice, corn, and tilapia, which are staples in the province.

Another Caltex service station stands in the highly urbanized Olongapo City. Located along the busy stretch of Rizal Avenue, this service station now serves the fuel needs of residents in Barangay West Bajac-Bajac and its neighboring districts.

The newly-established service station in Barangay Culis, Hermosa, Bataan also serves as a vital pit stop for private and commercial vehicles traversing the Roman Highway, which is a national arterial road that straddles 10 Bataan towns.

A new18-pump Caltex fueling site also opened in Inosluban, Lipa City, Batangas and is now ready to cater to its residents and tourists. Aside from being once known as the coffee center of the world, Lipa City is also dubbed as the “Little Rome of the Philippines” for being home to many Catholic churches.

In Visayas, another Caltex station rose in San Fernando, a coastal municipality of Cebu. The area is part of Metro Cebu, which encompasses the largest domestic port in the Philippines. The fuel station’s presence in the area provides a reliable source of power for the engines of shipping and logistics vehicles operating around Metro Cebu.

The newly-opened Caltex service station in San Fernando, Cebu offers cleaner and reliable fuels for private vehicles and commercial fleets around Metro Cebu, where the largest domestic port in the country is situated.

Down south, two Caltex stations opened along the National Highway in Bukidnon, ensuring an uninterrupted journey for motorists in the area. The stations are located in the landlocked areas of BarangayAglayan, Malaybalay City, and Barangay Kisolon, Sumilao. Bukidnon is regarded as the “Food Basket of Mindanao” as it is a major producer of rice, corn, and sugarcane.

All Caltex stations carry the premium Euro 4 compliant fuel Caltex with Techron, which guarantees maximized vehicle performance, enhanced engine protection, and lower emissions. Aside from providing clean and quality fuels, Caltex also maintains strict safety protocols and offer contactless payment methods for safer travels.

“To match the Filipinos’ increasing demand for better fuel, while catering to key industries that are gradually reopening, we seek to sustain the upward trend of our retail network growth this year and onwards. We are constantly expanding our brick-and-mortar network to power a worthwhile journey for our customers wherever they are,” said CPI Country Chairman and General Manager Billy Liu.

The opening of more Caltex stations will help the local fuel industry meet the increasing demand stiffened by the country’s improving economy. According to the Asian Development Outlook 2020 Update, the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product is forecast to grow by 6.5% in 2021.[1]

Caltex’s launch of new service stations and quality fuel products, partnerships, and latest promotions allow it to kick-start 2021 stronger and more equipped to serve the country’s fuel needs.

Motorists can find the nearest Caltex station in their area at

[1]The Philippines’ GDP is expected to contract by 7.3% in 2020 and grow by 6.5% in 2021 – ADO 2020 Update, Asian Development Bank

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Malaysian Buy-Now-Pay-Later fintech platform Split generates US$2.48mil revenue for businesses “in a matter of months”

  • 500 Startups-backed platform has signed more than 250 Malaysian brands
  • Allows shoppers to access interest-free instalment payments; isn’t tied to any bank

Malaysia’s first channel-agnostic “Buy Now Pay Later” (BNPL) fintech platform, Pay with Split (Split), has been successful at generating US$2.48 million (RM10 million) in revenue for Malaysian businesses “in a matter of months”.

Split works by enabling merchants to offer up to three interest-free instalments to their customers, which customers can repay using any debit or credit card from any local bank (hence “buy now, pay later”). The platform guarantees a transparent shopping experience without hidden costs or budget constraints.

Since April 2020, Split has signed more than 250 Malaysian brands, including merchants the likes of Dyson, Switch, Lorna Jane and Gamers Hideout. Being channel-agnostic, Split can be used on e-commerce platforms and offline stores, but also on social media platforms, chat applications and live streams.

The platform is backed by Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups and global talent investor Entrepreneur First.

“We created Split to provide a win-win solution to both merchants and their customers. During this difficult time, we want to financially empower consumers to worry less about affordability and instead shop with confidence,” says Split cofounder Dylan Tan.

“As our platform also allows shoppers to make purchases with debit cards, Split opens up to merchants a massive untapped segment of consumers who can now access instalment payments for the first time. We want to disrupt the traditional credit card model by offering consumers an alternative that is accessible, interest-free and does not charge them penalties for having an outstanding balance. Malaysians will find that our model is very consumer-friendly and that’s entirely by design.”

Tan adds that Split isn’t tied to specific banks. Just by connecting to Split, merchants can immediately offer their BNPL instalments from all local banks. “Ultimately, we aim to broaden the reach of our merchants, connecting them to as many shoppers as possible and vice versa,” he adds.

First.  “We created Split to provide a win-win solution to both merchants and their customers.

Adding flexibility

Split touts easy-to-use features. Online customers are able to shop and finalise their purchase as they normally would. During the virtual checkout, they will be given the option to pay with Split. The platform would automatically divide a payment into as many as 3 monthly instalments, as well as provide customers with step-by-step instructions on how to complete their first payment.

Split works offline as well – users can opt for offline payment plans via uniquely-generated QR codes at physical stores. Merchants without a storefront can use Split’s dashboard to generate a payment link to send to their customers on any social media, chat applications or on their live streams.

For merchants, Split works by paying them upfront and in full for every order made, as well as assuming the risk of non-payments and fraud. It also serves as a lead generation tool. Through independent marketing initiatives, Split gathers potential customers and redirects them for free to merchants, which in theory creates constant influx of prospects to its merchant partners.

The platform claims that, to date, it has generated more than 20,000 monthly referrals on behalf of businesses directly from its website.

Split notes that its channel-agnostic feature allows the platform to cater to financing needs of a larger network of businesses across multiple platforms, beyond that of e-commerce. It monetises through a small success fee percentage with every successful transaction, as part of its partnership with each of its merchants.

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USA 4-0 Colombia: Sam Mewis scores hat-trick in first home game in 10 months

Sam Mewis scored a penalty to complete a hat-trick and claim her 21st international goal

Sam Mewis scored a hat-trick as the United States beat Colombia 4-0 in Orlando on Monday.

The Manchester City midfielder, 28, scored twice in the first half before securing her first international treble just after the interval.

Her older sister Kristie, 29, added a fourth goal late on as the Women’s World Cup holders extended their unbeaten run to 33 matches.

The US have another friendly against Colombia in Orlando on Saturday.

Sam Mewis slotted in from Megan Rapinoe’s pass before heading home a Carli Lloyd cross to become the 30th US women’s player to reach 20 international goals as he US outclassed a Colombia side that failed to manage a shot on target.

She claimed her 21st, from 69 appearances, after Lindsey Horan was brought down in the penalty area.

Colombia failed to have a shot on target while Brazil-born midfielder Catarina Macario made her US debut as a substitute after being cleared by Fifa to play for the country she moved to at 12.

For the US, who had Catarina Macario making her debut as a substitute after being cleared by Fifa to play for the country she moved to at 12, this was a first home game since beating Japan 3-1 in the SheBelieves Cup final last March. They did, though, play the Netherlands in Breda on 27 November, winning 2-0.

A limited-capacity crowd of 4,000 was permitted at Exploria Stadium, which will host this year’s SheBelieves Cup, which begins on 18 February and also features Brazil, Canada and Japan.



Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Naeher
  • 5O’HaraSubstituted forPurceat 72′minutes
  • 7Dahlkemper
  • 4Sauerbrunn
  • 19DunnSubstituted forSonnettat 72′minutes
  • 3MewisSubstituted forLavelleat 64′minutes
  • 8Ertz
  • 9HoranSubstituted forMewisat 64′minutes
  • 6Williams
  • 10Lloyd
  • 15RapinoeSubstituted forMacarioat 45′minutes


  • 14Sonnett
  • 16Lavelle
  • 22Mewis
  • 23Purce
  • 24Campbell
  • 25Smith
  • 29Macario


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 12Sepúlveda
  • 2Ibarguen
  • 16Carabalí
  • 3Arias
  • 15VelásquezSubstituted forGuerraat 77′minutes
  • 8Caro
  • 21SalazarSubstituted forReyesat 67′minutes
  • 18PaviBooked at 23minsSubstituted forAcostaat 45′minutes
  • 11Usme
  • 10RobledoSubstituted forCaicedoat 90+1′minutes
  • 9RomeroBooked at 40minsSubstituted forCaicedoat 45′minutes


  • 1Giraldo
  • 7Reyes
  • 14Guerra
  • 19Caicedo
  • 20Caicedo
  • 22González
  • 23Acosta

Live Text

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Man ‘too scared to go home’ because of coronavirus allegedly hid in US airport for three months

A man accused of hiding in a US airport for three months was “too scared to go home” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a court has heard.

Californian man Aditya Singh has been arrested on charges that he hid in a secured area at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for three months.

After his arrest on Saturday, the 36-year-old told police the coronavirus pandemic left him afraid to fly.

His lawyer, assistant public defender Courtney Smallwood, said it was unclear why Mr Singh came to Chicago or whether he had ties to the area.

She said he was unemployed and did not have a criminal record.

Mr Singh was spotted by two United Airlines employees who asked him for identification.

He allegedly lowered his mask and showed a badge that actually belonged to an airport operations manager who had reported it missing in late October, prosecutor Kathleen Hagerty said.

The employees called police and they took Mr Singh into custody.

Mr Singh was “scared to go home due to COVID”, Ms Hagerty said.

She said he told authorities he had found the badge and other passengers at the airport had given him food.

Mr Singh is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft.

Before she granted Mr Singh bail, Cook County judge Susana Ortiz said it was troubling that someone could remain in a secured area at the airport for so long without anyone noticing.

“Being in a secured part of the airport under a fake ID badge allegedly, based upon the need for airports to be absolutely secure so that people feel safe to travel, I do find those alleged actions do make him a danger to the community.”

She said Mr Singh was prohibited from setting foot in the airport but he could be released if he paid $1,000.

However, Mr Singh remains in the Cook County Jail.


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COVID-19 brings first consumer confidence drop in 3 months

BANGKOK (NNT) – Concerns linked to the new wave of COVID-19 infections has weighed on both daily life and business, resulting in the first drop in the Consumer Confidence Index in 3 months.

Consumer confidence in December 2020 was measured at 50.1 points, down from 52.4 the previous month. Economic confidence was also down to 43.5 from 45.6 points.

Employment confidence dropped from 50 points to 47.5 and confidence in future revenue prospects retracted from 61.6 to 59.2. The downtrend was seen across the board in all regions of the country and in all instances was attributed to the new bout of COVID-19 infections.

President of the Economic and Business Forecasting Center of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thanawat Polwichai surmised that if the situation persists for more than three months, the economy will grow in only a 0.9 to 2.8 range with a worst-case scenario being a contraction of 0.3 percent.

He said government economic stimulus is needed pointing to the co-pay scheme, while mentioning that if the situation improves in three months, recovery could be seen as soon as Quarter 2.

The president said a private sector suggestion to widen eligibility for the co-pay scheme and increase its cap from 3,500 to 5,000 baht per person would spur circulation, projecting the state needs to inject 200 to 300 billion baht into the economy to keep it afloat, or 400 to 600 billion baht to trigger growth.

He said further loans by the state are not yet needed, especially if economic stimulus can be pulled off soon as to trigger tax payments.

Information and Source
Reporter : Praphorn Praphornkul
Rewriter : Rodney McNeil
National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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Canadian dollar falls by most in 7 months on pandemic lockdown fears

Article content

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar slumped to

near a two-week low against its broadly stronger U.S.

counterpart on Monday, as investors worried about stricter

lockdowns globally to help contain rising coronavirus


The Canadian dollar was trading 1.1% lower at 1.2820

to the greenback, or 78.00 U.S. cents, its biggest decline since

June 11. The currency touched its weakest intraday level since

Dec. 29 at 1.2835.

Global equities slipped from record highs as

worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 90 million, while the

price of oil , one of Canada’s major exports, fell more

than 1%.

On Friday, economists and industry groups warned that

protracted COVID-19 restrictions across much of Canada are

darkening the outlook into the first quarter, after data showed

the country lost more jobs than expected in December.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is considering

“more extreme measures” on top of the widespread lockdowns in

place to combat record-breaking COVID-19 cases, its premier said

on Friday.

Speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian

dollar, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

showed on Friday. As of Jan. 5, net long positions had fallen to

14,524 contracts from 15,368 in the prior week.

The U.S. dollar gained against a basket of major

currencies on Monday as widening U.S. Treasury yields and

expectations of more fiscal stimulus lifted it for a third

consecutive day.

Canadian government bond yields were mixed across the curve,

with the 10-year down about half a basis point at

0.809%. Earlier, it touched its highest yield since April 9 at


(Reporting by Fergal Smith

Editing by Paul Simao)

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Fatigue is most common side effect of long Covid and it could last months – World News

Coronavirus symptoms, including organ malfunctions and depression, could plague sufferers for months after initial infection, according to a new study from China.

Sixty-three per cent of the 1,733 patients admitted to Wuhan’s Jin Yin-tan Hospital at the start of the pandemic in January 2020 were still suffering from fatigue in May.

A further 26 per cent still had sleeping problems and a third of patients showed signs of kidney problems, including a build-up of bodily waste in the blood.

Dr Cao Bin, of the China Japan-Friendship Hospital in Beijing, said the findings highlight “a need for post-discharge care”.

Passengers at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in March last year

The study also highlights the low levels of antibodies in some of the participants, meaning a sufferers’ immune system may only be able to fight offer reinfection for a short time.

Writing in the medical journal  The Lancet, the doctor said: “Longer follow-up studies in a larger population are necessary to understand the full spectrum of health consequences from Covid-19.”

He added: “Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving the hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care.”

doctor wearing a facemask looking at a lung CT image from a patient at a hospital in Wuhan
A doctor wearing a facemask looking at a lung CT image from a patient at a hospital in Wuhan

In relation to antibodies, he said: “The risk of reinfection should be monitored.”

Further research by Dr Cao revealed that almost a quarter of the participants also suffered depression and anxiety nearly half a year after first being admitted to the hospital for treatment.

It comes amid claims the number of people who have been infected with Covid-19 in Wuhan – the original epicentre which saw huge public gatherings and parties for New Year’s Eve – could be around three times the official figure.

That’s according to a study by researchers based in the city.

With the Wuhan total population at more than 10 million, the researchers estimated that as many as 168,000 Wuhan residents were infected with the virus, compared to the official number of 50,340 hospitalised cases.

It’s believed that around two-thirds of the total number were asymptomatic.

Coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan at the end of 2019, with the first outbreak of the virus linked to a seafood market in the capital city.

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US consumer credit up 4.4% in November, best in 5 months – Long Island Business News

U.S. consumer borrowing rose 4.4% in November, its strongest showing in five months, led by strong gains in auto and student loans that offset a drop in credit card borrowing.

The Federal Reserve said Friday that the rise represented an increase of $15.3 billion, the best showing since June. Borrowing had risen $4.5 billion in October.

Borrowing for autos and student loans increased by $16.1 billion, while borrowing in the category that includes credit cards fell by $786.7 million after a larger $5.5 billion drop in October.

The drop in credit card use was an indication consumers remain cautious about spending amid a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

Consumer borrowing is closely watched for indications of the willingness of households to take on more debt to support their spending, which accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first job losses since April and evidence that the economy is slowing as coronavirus cases surge.

The changes in borrowing left consumer credit at $4.18 trillion in November, up a modest 0.5% from a year ago.

The Fed’s monthly consumer credit report does not cover home mortgages or any loans secured by real estate, such as home equity loans.

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