Spain Opens Borders To All Vaccinated Travellers

File photo of commuters wearing face masks and sitting on a train at the Atocha Station in Madrid, Spain. PHOTO: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

Spain opened its borders to vaccinated travellers from all over the world on Monday, hoping an influx of visitors will revitalise an all-important tourism sector that has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The opening kicks off what many are hoping will be a busy summer tourism season in Europe as vaccine rates pick-up across the continent.

On Monday morning, with the mercury already high, tourists from Germany, Ireland and Belgium could be seen passing through the arrival gates at Malaga airport.

At least 20 international flights landed in the morning at the most important tourist gateway in the southern Andalusia region.

READ ALSO: WHO Warns Of June-July Covax Doses Shortfall

Visitors arriving in the sun-soaked Spanish resort of Malaga were happy to finally be able to hit the beach after more than a year of lockdown misery.

“We’re thrilled, delighted. We love Spain, the sun, the food and everything about it,” said Irish holidaymaker Gillian Ford, who arrived from rainy Dublin having had her second vaccination.

“You only live once so you need to get out of here and enjoy,” she said before heading off to the beaches of Marbella with her husband Edward.

Under the new rules, Spain from Monday is allowing visitors in who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days.

Non-vaccinated Europeans — who could previously enter Spain with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours can now take a cheaper antigen test within the past 48 hours instead.

For some, the new rules allowed for long-overdue trips.

“I haven’t been out of Belgium for a year,” said Rose Huo, a 73-year-old Belgian who came to spend a month with her sister.

“Everyone is happy I think. We are still very careful but it’s a start,” she said.

 

– Hopeful for recovery –

Heavily dependent on its tourism industry, Spain was one of the Western economies worst hit by the pandemic, seeing a 10.8 per cent fall in its GDP in 2020.

The Spanish government has set an objective of drawing 45 million travellers by the end of the year.

But by the end of April, the country had only seen 1.8 million visitors, according to official statistics.

Regardless, those in the tourism sector are still hoping for a summer surge of visitors.

Jose Luis Prieto, president of Spain’s travel agents’ union (Unav) is hoping for a “spectacular recovery” after a punishing year.

According to him, over the last few weeks tour operators in Britain, France and Germany — Spain’s three main markets — have been receiving a large number of enquiries.

Across the country, from the Costa del Sol to the Canary Islands, hotels and restaurants have reopened after months of closures, and airlines have restarted routes dropped during the height of the pandemic.

Spain will also begin allowing cruise boats into its ports again from Monday.

 

– ‘Disappointing’ UK rules –

Despite Spain’s easing of measures, the United Kingdom, a huge tourism market for the country, has not yet removed Spain from its list of at-risk countries.

That means British travellers will have to quarantine on their return home as well as pay for expensive Covid-19 tests.

The British normally make up the largest contingent of tourists to Spain — in 2019 over one-fifth of Spain’s 83.5 million arrivals were from the United Kingdom.

Britain’s decision to keep Spain on its amber list was, however, “disappointing”, Health Minister Carolina Darias said.

Spain had put several measures in place to lure British tourists to its shores, such as allowing them to enter without having to present a PCR test from late May.

Against the backdrop of uncertainty, major travel operator TUI has cancelled all its flights to Spain until June 13.

London will not revisit its decision for another three weeks, losing precious time for those in the hospitality sector hoping to recover.

AFP

Children Risk ‘Generational Catastrophe’ From Covid, Says Rights Group

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: A boy wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus stands beside a stall selling watermelons at a market in Siliguri on April 30, 2021. (Photo by Diptendu DUTTA / AFP)

 

The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected children’s rights worldwide, with young people risking a “generational catastrophe” if governments do not act, a rights group said in an annual survey Thursday.

Millions of children have missed out on education because of COVID-19 restrictions while there will be a long-term impact in terms of their physical and mental health, Dutch NGO KidsRights said as it launched its annual ranking.

The survey ranks Iceland, Switzerland and Finland as best for children’s rights and Chad, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone as the worst, out of a total of 182 countries.

Marc Dulleart, founder and chairman of KidsRights, said that the effects of the pandemic on children had “unfortunately exceeded our predictions at the outset last year”.

READ ALSO: Africa Not Ready For Imminent Third Coronavirus Wave – WHO

“Apart from patients of the coronavirus, children have been hardest hit, not directly by the virus itself, but fundamentally failed through the deferred actions of governments around the world,” he said.

“Educational recovery is the key to avoiding generational catastrophe,” Dulleart added.

The group said schools for more than 168 million children have been closed for almost a full year, with one in three children worldwide unable to access remote learning while their schools were shut.

An additional 142 million kids fell into material poverty as the global economy was hit by the pandemic, while 370 million kids missed out on school meals.

KidsRights paid tribute to Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford for his campaign to extend free school meals.

It also hailed Bangladesh for taking over a national TV channel for homeschooling and praised Belgium and Sweden for trying to keep schools open.

Meanwhile, 80 million children under the age of one could miss out on routine vaccination for other diseases because of disruption to healthcare systems, it said.

The report said there was also an “astonishing increase” in domestic violence during lockdowns, with children often the victims.

KidsRights included Palestine on its list for the first time, placing it in the 104th position due to a focus on healthcare despite difficult circumstances.

However, as in previous years, it gave low scores to Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, due to a lack of legal protection for children relative to their wealth.

Britain and New Zealand were ranked at 169 and 168 respectively, below North Korea, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan, and just ahead of Eritrea.

Austria and Hungary also fell heavily due to discrimination.

The survey uses UN data to measure how countries measure up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

AFP

Unemployment Rise Leaves Nearly A Third Out Of Work In South Africa

Jetro Gonese and his braille typewriter. South Africa's anti-coronavirus lockdown has had a devastating impact on the visually impaired Luca Sola AFP
Jetro Gonese and his braille typewriter. South Africa’s anti-coronavirus lockdown has had a devastating impact on the visually impaired Luca Sola AFP

 

 

South African unemployment reached 32.5 percent of the workforce between October and December 2020, the national statistics agency said Tuesday, the highest level since record-keeping began in 2008.

The number of unemployed people increased “by 701,000 to 7.2 million compared to the third quarter of 2020,” a Stats SA statement said.

“The movement… resulted in a significant increase of 1.7 percentage points in the official unemployment rate to 32.5 percent,” it added.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, was already in recession when the coronavirus pandemic hit last March.

Months of rolling restrictions to stem the virus have stifled economic activity and bled tens of thousands of jobs.

Most of the latest unemployment increase was seen among workers aged between 25 and 34, followed by the 15-24 group.

Most job losses were observed in finance, community and social services, and manufacturing.

The 32.5 percent unemployment rate is the highest ever registered by South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey, surpassing the previous record of 30.8 percent in the third quarter of last year.

‘Getting worse’

Stats SA also said however that a benchmark of underlying joblessness that is not included in the official unemployment rate showed a slight fall.

The “expanded” unemployment rate, which includes people too discouraged to actively seek work, fell by half a percentage point to 42.6 percent at the end of 2020.

The joblessness figures reflect “the dire consequences of the strict COVID-19 lockdown measures” that “hurt business profitability and confidence, forcing companies to restructure their operations,” and lay off workers, Nedbank analysts said.

The figures were released on the eve of an annual national budget speech, during which the government details spending plans for the coming financial year.

Unions have planned strikes nationwide to protest stiffer economic challenges and job losses.

“The situation is getting worse,” said Frank Nxumalo, spokesman for the Federation of Union South Africa (FEDUSA).

“There are more people of working age who are unemployed than those employed, which means the labour market is not creating any jobs,” he noted.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that South Africa’s economy contracted by eight percent last year, and has forecast growth of just three percent for 2021.

Yankees Stadium Becomes Vaccination Site For New York’s Poor

In the Yankees stadium, residents of the Bronx are supposed to have an appointment to get the Covid-19 vaccine, but many say the process is too complicated and wait for hours for the shot.
(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

 

 

Defying the cold and rain, hundreds of people bundled up in thick coats came to get vaccinated Friday in the famous Yankees baseball stadium in the Bronx, a New York borough that has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s like a choice between life and death,” said Ines Figueroa, 64, a Puerto Rican resident of the Bronx, after receiving the shot. Her husband died in January of complications linked to the virus which she too contracted, although without developing any symptoms.

The positivity rate in the Bronx is the highest in all of New York’s five boroughs: it was at 6.67 percent Friday, double the rate in the wealthier area of Manhattan, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said.

That is why the authorities in this traditionally Democratic bastion of the city decided to reserve the vaccinations on offer at the stadium exclusively for residents of the Bronx.

– ‘Equity and fairness’ –
Since the start of the pandemic last March, the death rate in New York’s Black and Latino communities has been double that of their white counterparts.

That same racial disparity has played out across the United States, where more than 453,000 people have died of the disease.

Yet these same minorities have until now received fewer vaccinations than other communities.

In New York, figures released on Sunday show that among the 500,000 doses of vaccine already administered, only 15 percent went to Hispanic people, even though they represent 30 percent of the population of eight million. And 11 percent went to African Americans, who make up 25 percent of the population.

“This is about equity. This is about fairness,” said left-leaning Mayor Bill de Blasio at the entrance to the stadium. “This is about protecting people who need the most protection because the Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus.”

Of the 15,000 appointments on offer in the coming days, some 13,000 have been allocated on Friday.

 

Almost half the vaccine doses in New York City have been given to white people, although they make up only 32 percent of the population
(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

 

– ‘Troubling’ –
Although in principle the Yankees stadium only offers vaccinations by appointment, many people in line on Friday did not have one. For many, the registration process is not up to scratch, requiring a strong internet connection, a good knowledge of English, and sometimes hours of patience.

After trying in vain for 15 days to get an appointment, Manuel Rosario, 76, managed to get a shot at the stadium on Friday, after standing in line for four hours.

“There should be three more centers like this in the Bronx,” said Rosario, who contracted Covid without symptoms in April. At this rate, “they will have finished vaccinating everyone in two years,” he said.

That relative slowness in rollout due to a shortage of vaccines has been echoed across the country. That is why, to date, only 8.4 percent of Americans have been immunized, according to official data.

“It is deeply troubling that we could be right now doing 400,000, 500,000 vaccinations a week, and we can’t get supply,” said de Blasio.

Distrust of the authorities, a glut of fake news that the vaccine is dangerous, or fear of arrest for undocumented migrants had also contributed to the slow vaccination of minorities, according to experts.

“It has to work out because we are all human beings and we all need the vaccine to survive,” says Manuel Rosario.

Like him, Mercedes Ferreras, a 73-year-old Dominican, came on Friday without an appointment. “I have a computer, but I don’t know how to use it,” she explained.

The same went for Fausto Lopez, 72, who came even though a friend tried to dissuade him, telling him that the vaccine would be a pretext for implanting a chip that would turn him into “a robot”.

“There is too much false information,” said the retired cleaner, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and has already undergone seven operations.

“The vaccine will change my life,” he said.

COVID-19 Deaths Exceed Two Million Worldwide

FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima. The new coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 lives worldwide, an AFP tally showed July 18. Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP

 

Total confirmed deaths from Covid-19 around the world passed two million on Friday, according to a count by AFP. 

As of 1825 GMT on Friday, 2,000,066 people have died of the virus since it first emerged in China in late 2019, according to the count based on official figures provided by authorities.

The grim milestone comes as countries around the globe battle rising infections, despite the gradual rollout of vaccination campaigns.

In total, 93,321,070 cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide since the start of the pandemic, according to the AFP count.

Europe is the continent where the health crisis has proved most deadly, with 650,560 fatalities to date.

Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded 542,410 deaths, while the United States and Canada have counted 407,090.

The individual countries that have suffered the highest death tolls are the United States (389,581), Brazil (207,095), India (151,918), Mexico (137,916), Britain (87,295) and Italy (81,325).

These six countries alone make up more than half of the global death toll.

The one-million death mark was breached on September 28, over nine months after the first death was reported in China. Since then the pandemic has accelerated and one million people have died in less than four months.

Last week was the deadliest since the pandemic broke out, with an average of over 13,600 deaths daily worldwide — a 20 percent rise over the previous week.

Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic since October, accounting for a third of global deaths. The 52 countries and territories in the region have recorded an average of 5,570 deaths every day — 17 percent higher than a week earlier.

Latin America and the Caribbean saw deaths rise by 25 percent last week, with a daily average of 2,751 fatalities, followed by the US and Canada (up 20 percent at 3,490) and Africa, also up 20 percent at 869.

Belgium has the most deaths in terms of the population with 1,751 fatalities for a million inhabitants followed by Slovenia (1,501) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1,344).

 

AFP

 

Kenya Reopens Schools After 10-Month Virus Closure

Students of Olympic Primary School wait in a line to have their temperatures measured at the entrance of the school in the early morning of the official re-opening day of public schools on January 4, 2021, in Kibera slum, Kenya, as students return to school following a nine-month closure ordered by the government in March 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
PHOTO: Gordwin ODHIAMBO / AFP

 

Millions of Kenyan pupils returned to school on Monday for the first time since classes were dismissed 10 months earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mask-wearing students had their temperatures checked before entering school to repeat their lost academic year, in what was both a relief and a concern to their parents.

“As a parent, I am pleased that the children are back in school,” said mother Hildah Musimbi.

“At the moment we have got a lot of fear because we really don’t know if other children in school have the virus or even if the teachers have the virus, or even if the support staff in school have the virus.”

READ ALSO: Immigration Enforces Ban On 100 Travellers For Violating COVID-19 Protocols

Kenya shut schools in March 2020 when the new coronavirus arrived in the country and partially re-opened to select classes in October.

All primary and high school students returned on Monday, while universities and colleges were free to open and would do so on varying dates.

“We are happy to be back in school, that was a long break,” Mercy Nderi, a pupil at Kasarani Primary School in Nairobi said.

Teachers turned back students who were not wearing facemasks while struggling to maintain social distancing in crowded classrooms.

“It is difficult because we don’t have sufficient desks to ensure we keep children one metre (yard) away from each other but we are trying our best,” said Mvurya Mumbai, a headteacher at Voi Primary School.

When schools were partially re-opened in October, there was a spike in COVID-19 cases, with pupils and teachers falling ill and at least one school principal dying.

Kenya has had almost 97,000 cases and over 1,600 deaths since the start of the outbreak, with a surge in its positivity rate of up to 20 percent in October decreasing to below five percent in the past week.

“The turnout is good and as you have seen, apart from crowding, all students are wearing their masks and teachers are ready to teach so let us support them,” Education Minister George Magoha said when he toured Olympic Primary School in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, the largest in the country with 4,700 pupils.

“There is no reason why parents should fail to send children to school,” he said.

“We have put in place adequate safety measures but they need to ensure they give them masks.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta this weekend extended a 10:00 pm to 4:00 am curfew until March 12.

Kenyans have been under some form of nighttime curfew since March 25 last year, when they were ordered to stay indoors from 7:00 pm. In July this was moved back to 9:00 pm and in September to 11:00 pm, before being taken back to 10:00 pm in November as cases soared.

AFP

Facebook Moderators Press For Pandemic Safety Protections

Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, testifies remotely during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election" on November 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo By Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Image
Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, testifies remotely during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election” on November 17, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo By Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Image

 

More than 200 Facebook content moderators demanded better health and safety protections Wednesday as the social media giant called the workers back to the office during the pandemic.

A petition signed by the contract workers living in various countries said Facebook should guarantee better conditions or allow the workers to continue their jobs from home.

“After months of allowing content moderators to work from home, faced with intense pressure to keep Facebook free of hate and disinformation, you have forced us back to the office,” said the open letter released by the British-based legal activist firm Foxglove.

The letter called on Facebook to “keep moderators and their families safe” by maintaining remote work as much as possible and offering “hazard pay” to those who do come into the office.

When the pandemic hit, Facebook sent home most of its content moderators — those responsible for filtering violent and hateful images as well as other content which violates platform rules.

But the social platform discovered limits on what remote employees could do and turned to automated systems using artificial intelligence, which had other shortcomings.

“We appreciate the valuable work content reviewers do and we prioritize their health and safety,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to AFP.

“The majority of these 15,000 global content reviewers have been working from home and will continue to do so for the duration of the pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

The workers’ letter said the current environment highlights the need for human moderators.

“The AI wasn’t up to the job. Important speech got swept into the maw of the Facebook filter — and risky content, like self-harm, stayed up,” the letter said.

“The lesson is clear. Facebook’s algorithms are years away from achieving the necessary level of sophistication to moderate content automatically. They may never get there.”

The petition said Facebook should consider making the moderators full employees — who in most cases may continue working remotely through mid-2021.

“By outsourcing our jobs, Facebook implies that the 35,000 of us who work in moderation are somehow peripheral to social media,” the letter said, referring to a broader group of moderators that includes the 15,000 content reviewers.

“Yet we are so integral to Facebook’s viability that we must risk our lives to come into work.”

UK Retailer Marks And Spencer Axes 7,000 Jobs On Virus Fallout

Logo above the entrance to a M&S (Marks and Spencer) store in central London. Credit: AFP Photo

 

Marks and Spencer, the British retail chain selling clothes and food, is to cut around 7,000 jobs as the coronavirus pandemic increasingly pushes customers to shop online, it said Tuesday.

The job cuts, to be carried out over the next three months, include losses from its central support centre, in regional management and in its UK stores, M&S said in a statement.

Marks employs more than 80,000 staff, of whom the vast majority work in the UK.

Chief executive Steve Rowe said the company would become a “leaner, faster business set up to serve changing customer needs”.

Alongside the job cuts, M&S “expects to create a number” of positions to help the group meet a surge in online demand for its products.

While total group sales slumped by around one fifth in the 19 weeks to August 8 — which included most of the period Britain was in lockdown — online revenue surged nearly 40 percent, Marks said Tuesday.

“It is clear that there has been a material shift in trade and whilst it is too early to predict with precision where a new post-COVID sales mix will settle, we must act now to reflect this change,” Marks said.

The company joins the likes of UK department store chains Debenhams and John Lewis, as well as pharmacy group Boots, in cutting thousands of jobs owing to fallout from COVID-19.

Official data last week showed that Britain’s economy shrank by one fifth in the second quarter, more than any European neighbour, as the lockdown plunged the country into its deepest recession on record.

Even though the UK economy is beginning to rebound as the government eases strict confinement measures — gross domestic product grew by 8.7 percent in June — analysts expect a surge in unemployment by the end of the year.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak plans to end in October the government’s furlough scheme that is paying up to 80 percent of wages for around 10 million workers during the pandemic.

 

AFP

 

Nintendo Says Quarterly Net Profit Surges To $1 Billion

File photo: Nintendo said on August 6, 2020 that its quarterly net profit leapt to 1 billion USD, as the gaming industry enjoys extraordinary demand from players stuck at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP).

 

 

Nintendo on Thursday reported net profit surged to $1 billion in the first quarter, with players stuck at home during the coronavirus virus driving extraordinary demand for the gaming industry.

The Japanese giant raked in 106.5 billion yen for the three months to June, a more than six-fold increase from 16.6 billion yen a year earlier.

Sales more than doubled to 358 billion yen, as demand for its popular Switch console remained robust, as the device entered the crucial fourth year since its launch.

The results far exceeded the expectations of analysts and come on the back of the runaway success of both the Switch and Nintendo’s hit “Animal Crossing” game.

“Sales for the entire Nintendo Switch family rose 166.6 percent year-on-year to 5.68 million units,” the firm said, referring to both the original Switch and the stripped-back Switch Lite.

Nintendo is one of a “handful” of major companies seeing significant business opportunities from the coronavirus outbreak, analysts said.

“Demand for video games has remained strong among people staying home following the pandemic,” Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo, told AFP ahead of the results.

“The lockdown boom is expected to continue for now,” he added.

Despite the blockbuster figures, the Kyoto-based firm declined to upgrade its full-year forecast, leaving intact its projection of 200 billion in net profit for the fiscal year to March, down 23 perfect from the previous year.
-AFP

Lufthansa Posts Q2 Net Loss Of 1.5 Bn Euros As Virus Curtails Travel

In this file photo taken on March 15, 2018 the name of German airline Lufthansa is pictured on a model airplane at the company’s headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, where the airline is presenting it’s annual report.
Daniel ROLAND / AFP

 

 

German airline giant Lufthansa said Thursday it made a net loss reaching 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on travel.

The German flag carrier carried around 1.7 million travellers during the three months to the end of June — a 96 percent drop from the same period last year as lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus restricted air travel worldwide.

Profit in the same period of the previous year was 754 million euros.

Lufthansa said demand for air travel would return to pre-crisis levels in 2024 at the earliest, as it predicted a “clearly negative” operating loss in the second half.

The group, which received a government bailout worth 9 billion euros, had announced in June that 22,000 jobs would have to go.

Although it had said then that it would use schemes for shorter work hours and other crisis arrangements to avoid outright redundancies, the company said Thursday that was now “no longer realistically within reach for Germany either”.

“We are experiencing a caesura in global air traffic,” Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr said.

The collapse in traffic led to an 80 percent drop in quarterly revenue to 1.9 billion euros for Lufthansa Group, which also includes Austrian Airlines and Swiss. In the second quarter of last year, Lufthansa reported revenue of more than 9.5 billion euros.

The company said its fleet is to be permanently reduced by at least 100 aircraft, although its 2024 capacity will correspond to that of 2019.

Lufthansa previously said they would reduce its use of Airbus A380s and Boeing 747s.

In June, Lufthansa secured a 9 billion euro bailout from the German government, which now has a 20 percent stake in the group.

The airline said it now has 11.8 billion euros in liquidity, including government funds.

The group said it has so far reimbursed around 2 billion euros to customers in 2020 due to cancelled flights.

Fraport, which controls Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa’s main hub, said this week it plans to cut 3,000 to 4,000 jobs — as much as one-fifth of its workforce.

Passenger traffic at Frankfurt, Germany’s busiest airport, fell 94.4 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2020 compared with last year.

 

 

-AFP

Total Suffers First Quarterly Loss Since 2015

 

 

 

Total suffered its first net loss in five years in the second quarter due to the plunge in crude prices triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, the French oil company said Thursday.

The $8.4 billion loss included $8.1 in writedowns in asset values due to the drop in oil prices, in particular for its oil sands investments in Canada where production costs are high.

But its adjusted net income — a measure that excludes changes in the value of its stocks of oil and exceptional items — remained positive. At $130 million, it was down 96 percent from the same period last year, however.

“During the second quarter, the Group faced exceptional circumstances: the COVID-19 health crisis with its impact on the global economy and the oil market crisis,” said the company’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanne in a statement.

The lockdowns imposed in many countries to slow the spread of the coronavirus triggered a massive drop in demand for oil, causing prices to plunge.

While crude prices have recovered somewhat as economic activity resumes, oil companies are reporting massive losses as lower prices make it difficult to operate profitably and accounting rules force them to take huge charges to the value of their assets.

Total’s output slid four percent to 2.85 million barrels per day of oil equivalent.

For 2020, it now forecasts an average daily output between 2.9 and 2.95 million barrels per day, a slight reduction from earlier guidance.

The company’s board of directors decided to maintain an interim quarterly dividend of $0.66 per share, reaffirmed its sustainability at $40 per barrel oil and said that the breakeven point on its energy assets is below $25 per barrel.

The main international oil contract, Brent, was trading at $43.47 on Thursday.

Given the volatile situation Total said it aims to cut operating costs by $1 billion and keep investments below $14 billion this year. However it reaffirmed ambitions to diversify, including by investing in a giant offshore wind project off Britain and acquiring more residential gas and electricity customers in Spain.

Total’s share price edged 0.2 percent higher in early trading in Paris, while the CAC 40 index shed 0.5 percent.

 

 

 

-AFP

Italy’s Serie A To Resume On June 20

FILE PHOTO: Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match. PHOTO: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Italy’s Serie A can resume on June 20 after a three-month absence in a country hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said on Thursday.

“The Technical and Scientific Committee gave its agreement on the protocol and the federation assured me that it had a Plan B and a Plan C,” Spadafora said after a video conference meeting with Italian football chiefs.

“In light of these considerations, the championship can resume on June 20.”

Italy football federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina assured the minister that there would be a play-off system if the championship were again interrupted.

“We had a very useful meeting,” said Spadafora.

“From the start, I said that football could restart once all the security conditions had been met and with the agreement of the Technical and Scientific Committee on the different protocols.”

Spadafora said that Italian Cup semi-final matches, between Inter Milan and Napoli and AC Milan and Juventus, could be played the week before the championship returned.

“Italy has started to return to normal life again, it is only right that football should do the same,” he continued.

“I also hope to be able to send a positive signal to the whole country by taking advantage of the week from June 13 to 20 to conclude the Italian Cup,” he added with hopes of staging the semi-finals on the weekend of June 13-14 and the final on June 17.

The announcement of the resumption of the Italian league comes just after the English Premier League confirmed it will restart on June 17.

The German championship has already resumed and Spain’s La Liga will return to the pitch the week of June 11.

Among the five major European championships, only the French Ligue 1 has been definitively stopped.

No top-flight matches in Italy have been played since Sassuolo beat Brescia 3-0 on March 9, before the championship was suspended by a pandemic which has killed over 33,000 people in the country.

Most teams have 12 games left to play, but there were four postponed fixtures.

AFP