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The travel and tourism industry, unarguably, is one of the most affected sectors since the onset of COVID-19. With country borders sealed, cities brought to a standstill and all transportation stationary, it is difficult to imagine the recovery trajectory of travel. Industry experts suggest that while travel will eventually recover in stages, we should expect a shift in both travel norms and traveller behaviour. Travel news is on hold but your plans can still be made for later.
VFS Global addresses some common questions on every traveller’s mind and sharing guidelines to assuage their concerns and help navigate their holiday plans once international borders open again.
What happens to passports submitted before services were suspended?
Following the national lockdown in India, Visa Application Centres had to shut down operations in adherence to directives from central and local authorities and diplomatic missions. When the Visa Application Centres are allowed to re-open, VFS Global will be able to evaluate at which stage of assessment each application is and resume the applicant return process accordingly.
Will Visa Application Centres open for appointments once the national lockdown lifts?
Visa Application Centres in any city/country operate according to the directives of the central and local authorities and the diplomatic mission/the country being applied to. In some cases, even if central/local authorities lift the lockdown, the country you are applying to may not be accepting visa applications. In this scenario, an open Visa Application Centre might not serve your purpose. Make sure you’re checking regulations by not only your government, but also that of the country you plan to visit.
What are health and safety precautions implemented at the centres?
As per guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization, as well as local authorities, both customers and employees at Visa Application Centres will be subject to body temperature checks, face masks and gloves — for their own protection and that of others. Centres are also maintaining preventive measures such as disinfecting high-contact surfaces, use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing practices.
When services resume, can one avoid visiting a Visa Application Centre as a social distancing precaution?
Once services resume, customers who wish to avoid visiting public places can also use optional services, such as the Visa At Your Doorstep service for application submission — with this service, trained VFS Global staff will visit the customer’s location of choice (home, office, etc.) to complete the visa application submission process and/or biometric enrolment if needed, while maintaining necessary health precautions. In India, this service is available for select destination countries only, and will resume after lockdown subject to approvals from the concerned embassy/consulate.
Customers using regular services as well are encouraged to opt for courier services to get their passports back (once the centres re-open), to avoid crowding as a precautionary measure.
Would we be required to submit medical history for visa applications?
Medical reports are usually a part of required documentation in some visa applications, though they may or may not be related to COVID-19. However, as governments may beef up health screening measures going forward, make sure you’ve carefully been through the updated document checklist requirements for the country you’re visiting, in case of any medical and vaccination histories are required as part of your visa application.
What about work and residency permits?
Although most governments have currently suspended travel visa services, customers may still be able to apply for other categories such as long-stay visas or residence permits. However, this remains limited to only a few countries. Several countries have put in place border control measures, temporarily disallowing certain non-essential travelers to submit visa applications. Nevertheless, if you already hold a valid work or residence permit, you may still be able to enter some countries, despite entry restrictions.
What happens to a valid visa, if the country in question has restricted/banned travel?
Advisories for various countries differ with regards to who can enter, irrespective of whether they hold a valid visa or not. Some countries have imposed border control measures that only allow citizens, residents, or specific permit holders to enter the country, and disallow other non-essential travellers even if they hold a valid visa.
Citizens who are yet to travel and whose existing visa has expired or is expiring soon can re-apply for a fresh visa when operations resume. Those who had already travelled before lockdown to a foreign country and whose visas are due to expire soon, are urged to reach out to the concerned embassy/consulate for assistance.
Given the fluid ongoing scenarios and threads of misinformation, being armed with the correct data about your travel destination, as well your own country, are paramount before you set out on your next journey. In order to aid customer queries and concerns, VFS Global has set up a dedicated webpage for COVID-19 customer advisories that is updated daily and covers visa application processes for the 64 governments they serve worldwide. (IANS)
By- Salil Gewali
If humanity is hurt, God is hurt.
Religion without compassion might give way to hatred. Compassion with a "self-interest" motive is completely irreligious. But of late, some of the religions have departed from those basic human values. Love and compassion are for only those who follow their "specific" faith. Very sadly, the religions are up as trading commodities in the world of proselytization. Better preachers attract more followers. Of course, no issue if they are not vying for their religious "supremacy". But the ground reality is utterly different. The claim for exclusive supremacy has become the first commandment --- a real bone of contention among the existing religions. In the name of religion, we have polluted our minds. we have corrupted our souls. We have also gone so much astray that God must have now shut his gateway to heaven!
Are we not too foolish to believe in the twenty-first Century --- my God is different and your God different? If the Sun and the Moon are the same for Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, by that simple logic, why is the CREATOR of the infinite cosmos not ONE for all? Is the digestive system in the stomach of a Hindu and a Christian different? The body system secrets the same kind of digestive enzymes to digest the food eaten by people of any faith. One divine power is controlling each of us. It is too outrageous that we bear malice and hostility towards others for God. The paths are different but the destination is the same. One wonders in amazement, why we are so "unscientific" in our approach to the Almighty? Why is there so much bad blood among the different faiths? Truly, our fanaticism and belligerence have become the stumbling block in our understanding of the real teachings of the holy scriptures.
Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.The recent unprecedented brutal atrocities upon Hindus in Bangladesh during the holy festival of Durga Puja made each of us more anxious. It should also serve as a wake-up call for West Bengal and Assam. How could one's holy place of worship provoke godless hatred in others? If God-believing people nurture animosity for others, then that religion itself has been wrongly understood or misinterpreted. Who all are to blame? Is there any organisation of rectitude that will come up to address this glaring fault line?
Brutal atrocities upon Hindus in Bangladesh during the holy festival of Durga Puja made each of us anxiousFile
All should agree that "tolerance to inhumanity" begets more violence. The act of vandalizing the religious pandals of Hindus in Bangladesh is utterly unpardonable. This calls for serious soul-searching. Who has placed the Holy Koran near the sanctum sanctorum of Hanuman Idol? The investigating agency has found out that it was not by Hindu, but some Iqbal Hossain with wrong intent upon the minority Hindus.
Iqbal Hossain, a Muslim, deliberately placed a copy of the Quran at a Puja Pandal and gave hate speeches against HindusFile
Of course, this act is not at all sacrilegious as understood. One holy mandap and another holy book do not make anything unholy. But the "intention" must be good. It is my personal observation. But this incident, a pre-mediated plan with "wrong motive", has stoked the unprecedented communal violence in Bangladesh. And consequently, many places of worship were desecrated, sacred idols were destroyed, houses and business properties of the minority community were burnt down. Besides the United State, even UN officials condemned this diabolical cruelty against the minority Hindus. Tulsi Gabbard, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, retorted – "God is love, and his true servants embody and manifest that love in this world. It is time for the supposedly secular government of Bangladesh to protect that country's religious minorities from the jihadist forces of hate."
The Hindus in the country are experiencing regular vitriolic attacks from the dogmatic group which is beyond descriptionFile
Hatred for Hindus is not confined to Bangladesh. Even in the home states, Hindus are not at all safe. Kashmir, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala have become the hotbed of crime and violence against Hindus even then being the majority. The Hindus in the country are experiencing regular vitriolic attacks from the dogmatic group which is beyond description. The silence of the unpatriotic media, and other sinister forces have given enough leverage to such extremist elements. It has been established that madrasas are factories where tender minds are radicalized – the fact is passionately reiterated by an eminent social activist Khalid Umar of Lahore, Pakistan. Just two days ago, one boy in Assam posted a photo in which he placed his foot on a Ganesh idol. Such shocking instances with photos and videos are regularly posted on social media. But such cases are suppressed too soon.
Well, one can't agree more than what Human Right Activist and a senior journalist of Bangladesh – Mr Saad Hammadi has said --- "Such repeated attacks against individuals, and destruction of the homes and places of worship of minorities in Bangladesh over the years show that the state has failed in its duty to protect minorities. Targeting religious sensitivities to stoke communal tension is a serious human rights violation and requires immediate and decisive action from the government to address the situation of minorities in the country."
Here one wishes that all people would stand with Mr Saad Hammadi. The hatred and violence should always be vociferously condemned by one and all. No one has the right to hold humanity to ransom. As believers of GOD, all should shake off narrow dogmatism and malice. All need to follow the path that takes us from darkness to light and ignorance to knowledge. The practice of expressing LOVE and COMPASSION for "all" ---- irrespective of caste, creed, and colour, always ensures communal harmony and peace. Not just that, it is the pathway to DIVINITY. If humanity is hurt, God is hurt.
An India-based writer and researcher, Salil Gewali is best known for his research-based work entitled 'Great Minds on India' that has earned worldwide appreciation. Translated into Twelve languages, his book has been edited by a former NASA scientist – Dr AV Murali of Houston, USA.
By- Your Service
Taking out time for family has become very difficult as people are pretty busy in daily life and find very little time to spend with their loved ones. Planning a family vacation is an excellent way through which the whole family can step away from their daily life and have fun. You can find many destinations for a family vacation, but there is no place that can beat Aruba.
Being a part of the Caribbean islands, Aruba is a great destination to spend quality time with family. A family vacation in the Caribbean is just a fantastic choice as the islands are a great blend of everything that sums up an unforgettable time filled with adventure and fun. Aruba being one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands, is perfect for spending some quality time with family members.
There will never be a boring moment in Aruba as there is a lot to do for the best of vacation time. Be prepared to have the best of time and relaxing times. As you are going on a family vacation, you need to book and plan everything to make sure that you do it online to get the best deals. Enjoy your budget vacation in Aruba with your loved ones. Here are the ten reasons you need to plan your dream family vacation to Aruba.
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1. Beaches Curated for Families & Kids
There are plenty of beaches, in Aruba, and the best one amongst them is Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. Along with your family, you can make the most of your time by spending time on the beach. To make your beach day even more impressive, you must pack some snacks and your favourite drinks.
2. Amazing Outdoor Adventures
You can treat your family to unique outdoor activities in Aruba, such as UTV tour, ATV tour, snorkelling, Catamaran sail, jeep tour, jet skiing, and a lot more only at Around Aruba Tours & Rentals. If your kids love to indulge in some thrilling adventures, then there are many activities from which they can choose.
3. Safest Island
When it comes to family, safety becomes the topmost priority. You don't have to worry about it when you are in Aruba, as this island is regarded as one of the safest islands amongst the other Caribbean islands. You will not face any issues during your family vacation.
4. Best Accommodation for Families
In Aruba, there is a vast range of accommodations to choose from, due to which you can find the perfect pick for small as well as big families. At www.VacationAruba.com you can find amazing Aruba villas for your stay. It is an excellent choice as they are quite reasonable and provide many amenities and facilities. The Aruba villa has great interiors, an outdoor facility, amazing bedrooms, clean bathrooms and huge living space. Aruba Villa Rental are the perfect and luxurious vacation rental for families.
5. Interesting Sightseeing Attractions
There are many sightseeing attractions in Aruba, so you must choose to visit the places you like. You will get to find many fun-filled excursions which you will be able to do that your kids will really enjoy.
6. Rich Culture & Heritage
Family is all about the culture and the heritage that has been running for many years; similarly, the island has a rich culture & heritage which you will love to know. Visit the alluring sightseeing destinations of the island and book a tour so that the tour guide can guide you well. On the guided tour, you will get to listen to many stories related to the places that you will visit. Your kids and other family members will love it.
7. Perfect Fishing Adventure
The fishing adventures are just perfect if you and your family love fishing, so along with them, you can head out to catch all the exotic species. You will get to find such amazing species which you might not get in your home country, and the best part about Aruba is that the water is always brimming with lots of fish to catch. There are many fishing techniques that you can try out, like deep-sea fishing, trolling, fly fishing, and a lot more. After fishing, you can enjoy the catch of the day as there are some restaurants which will serve you.
8. Great Cuisine Options That Fits All
You will find a very wide range of cuisine options in Aruba due to the rich cultural diversity. There are people from different parts of the world who reside in Aruba, due to which you will find your cuisine easily on the island. It is best if you try out the local Aruban cuisine and cocktails, which you will not get anywhere else. Apart from experimenting with food, there is a wide variety of street food as well as fine dining options.
ALSO READ: How Vacations Create Strong Family Bonds
9. Breathtaking Natural Beauty
The natural beauty of Aruba is such that you will just be enchanted by it. You can spend quality time with your family members along with enjoying the breathtaking sights. There are tons of natural wonders that you will love, and the sights are such which you might not find them anywhere else. The incredible beauty of Aruba is what attracts people from all different parts of the world. Plan your days in Aruba in such a way that you are able to visit most of the natural wonders.
10. Snorkeling Fun
By snorkelling in Aruba, you will get to see the exotic species and the marine life of Aruba.Pexels
This activity is something that all of your family members will truly love. By snorkeling in Aruba, you will get to see the exotic species and the marine life of Aruba. Be prepared to get truly mesmerized by the beauty of Aruba. There are many snorkeling spots in Aruba, and everywhere you will have a great experience. You must try out snorkeling at Eagle Beach to get the best experience. The water in Aruba is so clear that you will have a great experience doing snorkeling.
Here were the ten reasons you need to plan your dream family vacation to Aruba. On vacation, remember to make each moment the best when you are in Aruba.
Disclaimer: (This article is sponsored and includes some commercial links)
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has for the first time spotted signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy, opening up a new avenue to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.
The possible exoplanet -- or planets outside of our Solar System -- candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile, NASA said in a statement.
Astronomers have, so far, found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth.
An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way, NASA said.
"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The exoplanet candidate was spotted in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located in M51. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. The X-ray transit they found using Chandra data lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero.
Based on this and other information, the team estimates the exoplanet candidate in M51-ULS-1 would be roughly the size of Saturn and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun.
The team looked for X-ray transits in three galaxies beyond the Milky Way galaxy, using both Chandra and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. Their search covered 55 systems in M51, 64 systems in Messier 101 (the "Pinwheel" galaxy), and 119 systems in Messier 104 (the "Sombrero" galaxy).
However, more data would be needed to verify the interpretation as an extragalactic exoplanet. One challenge is that the planet candidate's large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, thwarting any attempts for a confirming observation for decades, NASA said.
Named in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.
Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), Chandrasekhar was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: NASA, Space, Milky Way galaxy, Solar System, an X-ray telescope.