COVID-19: Lufthansa Puts 87,000 Workers On Reduced Hours

courtesy: lufthansa.com

 

European airline giant Lufthansa said Thursday it has placed 87,000 workers — more than 60 percent of its workforce — on government-backed shorter hours schemes, as air travel idles amid the coronavirus crisis.

Among the group’s 135,000 employees, cabin crew, ground crew and for the first time ever pilots are all affected by the measure, a spokesman told AFP.

Some 62,000 of the employees affected are in Germany, which doubled the number given on Friday of those who would work shorter hours until September.

In addition to the flagship German brand Lufthansa and low-cost arm Eurowings, the group includes smaller carriers such as Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Swiss.

Around 700 of Lufthansa’s 763 aircraft are parked following huge reductions in its flight operations, and its seat capacity is just five percent of its usual schedule until at least April 19.

Chief executive Carsten Spohr last month warned that “the longer this crisis lasts, the more likely it is that the future of aviation cannot be guaranteed without state aid.”

The group’s flight plan has been slashed to levels not seen since the 1950s, Spohr said.

READ ALSO: Wimbledon Cancelled Due To Coronavirus – Organisers 

Around the world, the International Air Transport Association has said up to $200 billion might be needed to rescue airlines.

Known in German as “Kurzarbeit”, Berlin’s support for people placed on shorter hours tops up workers’ pay from government coffers.

The scheme is widely credited with preserving thousands of jobs during the financial crisis in the late 2000s, and other countries like Britain and France have adopted the measure in the coronavirus fight.

Berlin extended access to the scheme as the virus hit Europe’s top economy, allowing companies to apply for support when a threshold of 10 percent of workers is affected, rather than 33 percent previously.

AFP

France Locks Down As Global Virus Panic Spreads

 

France goes into a near-total shutdown Tuesday over the coronavirus, the latest country to impose draconian restrictions affecting the lives of tens of millions of people.

European leaders also plan to ban all non-essential travel into the continent on Tuesday in a bid to stem a pandemic that has upended society, battered markets and killed thousands around the world.

With French President Emmanuel Macron describing the battle against COVID-19 as a “war”, governments around the world are scrambling to keep the public safe with measures rarely seen in peacetime, slamming borders shut and forcing citizens to stay home.

The crisis is infecting every sector of the economy, and global stocks have been on a rollercoaster ride, with Wall Street on Monday sinking more than 12 percent in the worst session since the crash of 1987.

Investors are still in panic mode, despite emergency interventions by central banks and governments to shore up confidence.

After the initial outbreak in a Chinese city in December, Europe has emerged as the epicentre of the virus with more deaths now recorded outside China than inside.

COVID-19 has now killed more than 7,000 people worldwide, including over 2,100 in Italy, the worst-hit country outside China.

READ ALSO: Philippines Suspends Stock Market Trade Over Coronavirus Fears

More than 180,000 cases have been recorded in 145 countries.

The head of the World Health Organization called Monday for every suspected coronavirus case to be tested, something which would send the known tally of the sick sky-rocketing.

“You cannot fight a fire while blindfolded,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists. “Test, test, test. Test every suspected case.”

In a sombre address to the nation, Macron ordered the French to stay at home for 15 days from midday Tuesday, banning all non-essential trips or social contacts.

Most shops, restaurants and tourist sites in the world’s most visited country are already shuttered.

About 100,000 police and gendarmes will be out on the streets to enforce the measures, after Macron warned violations would be punished.

“We are at war, a public health war certainly. We are fighting not against an army or another nation. But the enemy is there, invisible and elusive and on the move,” he said.

With European nations already closing their borders, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would ask the leaders of the bloc’s Schengen visa-free border zone to stop all non-essential travel into the area.

“Concretely, all trips between non-European countries and EU countries will be suspended for 30 days,” Macron said.

This follows a ban on inbound travel to the United States, whose President Donald Trump steeled the nation for a fight against the virus that he warned could last months.

US health officials said the first human trial to evaluate a possible vaccine had begun, although it may be another year to 18 months before it becomes available.

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and American drugmaker Regeneron also said they had started clinical trials for a new drug, Kevzara, an immuno-suppressor.

In another small glimmer of hope, China reported just one new domestic case on Tuesday — but found 20 imported from abroad.

– ‘Apocalyptic vibe’ –

Trump said he was asking Americans to restrict gatherings to groups of fewer than 10 people — as the streets of New York and the capital Washington stood largely deserted.

One customer at a French restaurant in Brooklyn said she felt the moves were unprecedented.

“I want strong leadership, but it’s scary. I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I don’t think my parents have, I don’t think anyone has,” Kelly McGee told AFP.

“There’s something about being in this apocalyptic vibe and being with other people and experiencing it together that I think I still crave.”

Trump acknowledged the United States “may be” heading into a recession due to the virus, as G7 leaders vowed to coordinate their response to the virus and “do whatever it takes, using all policy tools” — after a meeting held via videoconference.

Every sector from tourism to food to aviation is affected, as the global economy effectively goes into shutdown.German giant VW on Tuesday joined other European car makers in closing down plants and major world airlines have axed almost all flights temporarily, triggering pleas to help carriers survive.

Italy announced plans to renationalise national carrier Alitalia, while France said it was also ready to nationalise large companies if necessary.

There are growing doubts too over the European football championships set to take place in 12 countries this summer and the Olympics in Japan, as the virus shreds the sporting calendar.

Very few countries have been left untouched by the virus as it continues its relentless march across the globe, and a cascading number are taking increasingly drastic responses.

Britain called for an end to all “non-essential” contact and travel, while Switzerland declared a state of emergency.

Germany banned gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues and said playgrounds and non-essential shops would close.

Tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia were ordered into effective home quarantines, with Malaysia and the Philippines announcing unprecedented lockdowns.

In India, the world’s second-most populous country, where most schools and entertainment facilities have already shut down, the Taj Mahal was closed to visitors.

AFP

European Powers Urge Iran To Release British-Flagged Tanker

An image grab taken from a video released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on July 18, 2019, reportedly shows the Panamanian-flagged tanker Riah, that was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. STRINGER / IRINN / AFP

 

 

European powers urged Iran on Saturday to release a British-flagged tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz in what Britain called a “dangerous” move, warning its ships to avoid the strategic waterway.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it seized the Stena Impero Friday for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil.

The tanker was impounded off Bandar Abbas port for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after colliding with a fishing vessel, authorities said.

Britain said Iran had seized two ships in the Gulf, but the British owner of the Liberian-flagged Mesdar said it had been released after being temporarily boarded by armed personnel.

That came hours after a court in Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of an Iranian tanker seized by British authorities two weeks ago on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Friday’s incident showed “worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour”.

His government advised British ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for “an interim period”.

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation,” a spokeswoman said after an overnight meeting of Britain’s COBRA emergencies committee.

Germany and France urged Iran to release the tanker, whose seizure Berlin called a “dangerous further aggravation of an already tense situation”.

The Guards also said Thursday they had seized another “foreign tanker” and its crew days earlier for allegedly smuggling fuel, without giving further details.

Tensions in the Gulf have soared since May, with US President Donald Trump calling off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic downed a US drone.

Washington has also blamed Iran for multiple attacks on tankers in the Gulf.

Trump said Friday’s incident “only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran: trouble. Nothing but trouble.”

The Stena Impero had been heading for Saudi Arabia on Friday when it hit a fishing vessel, according to port authorities at Bandar Abbas, off which the tanker is now anchored.

Allah-Morad Afifipoor, director-general of the Hormozgan province port and maritime authority, said experts would investigate the incident.

– ‘Serious consequences’ –
The Swedish-owned tanker “has 23 crew and they are all on the ship,” he said, quoted by Fars news agency.

The Philippines said 18 Indians, three Russians, a Latvian and a Filipino were aboard.

Both Manila and New Delhi said they had contacted Tehran to seek their nationals’ release.

Afifipoor said the fishermen had issued a distress call after the collision, contacting the port authority when they “didn’t receive any response”.

“One of the reasons the British tanker was seized for further investigation was that for a period of time it was moving on its route with its transponder turned off,” he told ILNA news agency.

Tracking service MarineTraffic showed the Stena Impero had last signalled its location near the island of Larak at 9:00 pm (1630 GMT).

Its owner said the ship was transiting the Strait and was “international waters” when it was “attacked by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter,” the owner said.

Hunt warned that “if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences”.

But he told Sky News that “we’re not looking at military options, we are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation.”

The incident came as Trump and American officials insisted, despite denials from Tehran, that the US military had downed an Iranian drone that was threatening an American naval vessel in the Strait.

Trump said the drone had been threatening amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

The Revolutionary Guards released video footage they said disproved the US claims.

The seven-minute video, apparently shot from high altitude, shows a convoy of ships the Guards said they were tracking as they passed through the Strait.

The vessels could not be immediately identified, although one resembles the USS Boxer.

– US troops in Saudi –
As tensions soared, Iran’s archrival Saudi Arabia said it would once again host US troops to boost regional security.

The Pentagon said the deployment “ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats.”

The US military also said its patrol aircraft were monitoring the Strait, and announced a “multinational maritime effort” to ensure freedom of navigation in key waterways.

The escalation comes more than a year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and began ratcheting up sanctions against Tehran.

Earlier this month, Iran exceeded the deal’s caps on uranium enrichment, aiming to pressure the remaining parties to make good on promises to help prop up its economy.

Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if attacked.

EU Parliament Votes To Stop Hungary’s ‘Threat’ To Democracy

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session during a plenary session at the European Parliament on September 12, 2018, in Strasbourg, eastern France. FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

 

 

 

The European Parliament on Wednesday launched an action that could unleash unprecedented political sanctions against Viktor Orban’s populist Hungarian government for posing a “systemic threat” to the EU’s founding values.

The vote amounts to a stunning political blow for Prime Minister Orban, who had told the parliament on Tuesday that a scathing report leading to the vote was an insult to Hungary’s honor and people.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wasted little time in slamming the vote as “nothing less than the petty revenge of pro-immigration politicians”.

With elections for a new parliament in May 2019, the vote reflects growing pushback among traditional parties in Europe against the rise of populists, who oppose migration and are accused of undermining the rule of law.

Adopted by 448 votes for to 197 against and with 48 abstentions, the motion marked the first time the parliament has itself initiated steps under Article Seven of the European Union’s treaty. An earlier action against Poland was initiated by the EU executive.

Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini, who spearheaded the vote, smiled broadly and breathed a sigh of relief before embracing her supporters in parliament in the French city of Strasbourg.

“It is a positive sign of this parliament taking responsibility and wanting action,” Sargentini told a press conference afterward.

She had urged colleagues not to let Hungary off the hook, declaring that Orban’s rule “violates the values on which this union was built.”

The vote was based on a report that voiced concerns about judicial independence, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, religious freedom, and the rights of minorities and refugees under eight years of Orban rule.

The vote takes the first steps under Article 7 of the EU treaty, known by some in Brussels as the “nuclear option”, which could ultimately strip Hungary of its voting rights.

Other EU governments could halt any further action, however, and Poland has warned it would do so.

– ‘Historic vote’ –

In a brief speech to parliament on Tuesday, Orban vowed that Hungary would resist any attempt to “blackmail” it into softening its anti-migrant stance, which he charged was the motive behind the vote.

Though defiant, he was resigned to the outcome, saying the parliament seemed to have already made up its mind.

“Hungary will protect its borders, stop illegal migration and defend its rights,” said Orban, who embraces a vision of a Christian Europe and opposes an influx of Muslims and others.

Opposition to Orban’s vision does not just come from the left, with disquiet also in the main centre-right parliamentary group, the European People’s Party (EPP).

The EPP’s leader, Manfred Weber, said he would vote in favor of the motion targeting Orban’s government, whose Fidesz party belongs to his grouping.

But a party spokesman said the group was divided about 50-50.

While Orban’s actions have provoked opposition, they have been applauded by populists in the EU, with prominent far-right figures floating the idea of forging a pan-European alliance ahead of next year’s elections.

The Commission, headed by EPP member Jean-Claude Juncker, has repeatedly clashed with Orban’s government, especially since Budapest refused to admit asylum seekers under an EU scheme launched at the height of the migration crisis in 2015.

In July, the EU executive body warned it could take Budapest to the European Court of Justice over laws under which anyone assisting an undocumented migrant could be jailed for a year.

The top EU court could impose fines, which would be less drastic for Hungary than losing its voting rights.

The vote was hailed as “historic” by Berber Biala-Hettinga, Amnesty International’s expert on human rights in the EU.

“The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU. They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation,” she said.

AFP

12 European Hostages Freed In Cameroon

 

Twelve European tourists have been freed after being taken hostage in western Cameroon, where anglophone militants are campaigning for an independent state, the government said on Wednesday.

The group, comprising seven Swiss and five Italians, “were taken hostage by a band of armed terrorists” in the Nguti area of the Southwest Region before being rescued by troops on Monday in a “special operation,” the communication ministry said in a statement.

Antalyaspor Drops Eto’o From Squad

Samuel Eto'o, AntalyasporTurkish club, Antalyaspor have dropped Samuel Eto’o from their squad until further notice in a row over the striker’s comments on social media.

The former Cameroon Captain was involved in an alleged racist comments on social media, although he did not specify to whom he was targeting his criticism.

Reports in Turkey suggested Eto’o comments were a response to Antalyaspor’s Chairman, Ali Safak Ozturk, which he has denied.

The 35 years old joined the Turkish side in June 2015, as the keystone of the club’s bid in the Southern Mediterranean resort city to find national and even European success.

The most decorated African player of all time made his debut for Antalyaspor on August 15, 2015 in a league match against Istanbul Basaksehir.

Sweden Includes Ibrahimovic In Olympics Squad

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden, OlympicsZlatan Ibrahimovic has been listed in Sweden’s provisional 35-man squad for the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

But the 34-year-old has refused to disclose his intention whether or not to participate in the Olympics, until the Euro 2016 was over.

He is the captain of the Swedish national team at the ongoing European football competition.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s coach at the Olympics, Hakan Ericson, said he would keep Ibrahimovic’s chance of participating open, but acknowledged the probabilities were slim.

This comes after the Paris Saint-Germain forward agreed to conditional terms with Manchester United and to join the club after Euro 2016.

The Red Devils manager, Jose Mourinho, gave his approval to Ibrahimovic’s signing, as the duo were motivated to work together again after winning the Italian league title with Inter Milan in 2009.

Congo To Let 150 Adopted Children Leave Country After Two-Year Wait

congoDemocratic Republic of Congo will allow some 150 children adopted by foreign parents, mostly Americans, to leave the country after spending more than two years in legal limbo, the interior ministry said on Monday.

In 2013, Congo imposed a moratorium on exit visas to children adopted by foreign parents, citing fears that the children could be abused or trafficked. The government has also voiced concerns about adoptions by gay couples.

Congo became a favored international adoption destination in recent years because it has more than 4 million orphaned children, according to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, as well as lax regulation.

The central African nation is mineral-rich but deeply impoverished. It has suffered through two civil wars and armed groups continue to plague its eastern region.

Between 2010 and 2013, U.S. adoptions from Congo rose 645 percent, the U.S. Department of State said.

Interior ministry spokesman Claude Pero Luwara said an inter-ministerial commission had approved the exit visas. In November, the commission signed off on exit visas for about 70 children adopted by European, Canadian and American families.

Congo’s government has come under intense pressure from those countries’ governments to lift the suspension.

“The dossiers that were released … it was mostly American children,” Luwara said, adding that the commission will consider about 900 more foreign adoption cases and plans to complete its work next month.

Parliament is expected to take up a bill this year to lift the moratorium and regulate foreign adoptions.

The U.S. Embassy in the capital Kinshasa could not immediately confirm the interior ministry’s statement.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation in October found that the ban had spurred a black market in child smuggling, with more than 80 adopted Congolese children illegally transported out of the country and to the United States.

Falconets To Face South Africa In Final U-20 World Cup Qualifier

Falconets To Face South Africa In Final U-20 World Cup QualifierThe National U-20 women team, also known as the Falconets, will face South Africa in the final round of the African qualifying series for the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

The Falconets advanced at the weekend following a 4-1 aggregate win against their counterparts from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Similarly, their South African opponents beat Zambia 3-2 on aggregate to also advance to the final round of the competition.

Nigeria will host the first leg on October 24, while the return leg will be played two weeks later in South Africa.

All Asian, Oceania and European teams including the host country have qualified for the tournament.

Experts Attribute Drug Abuse Among Youth To Joblessness

drugSome psychiatrists in Abuja have attributed the rising cases of drug abuse and mental illnesses among young people to frustration and depression, resulting from joblessness in the society.



At a forum organised to sensitize youths about the dangers and effect of drug abuse on their health, the participants said societal rather than biological factors, account for more cases of drug abuse and mental illnesses among Nigerian youths.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Nigeria has a relatively high rate of drug abuse due to the continued availability of illicit pharmaceutical products in the country.

Other participants also believe that stigmatization makes drug abuse among youths worse.

Although there are no clear records of the number of youths involved in drug abuse in Nigeria, the resultant effect of such practice has continued to be a concern that both the government and the public must seek to address.

According to UNODC report, Nigeria is a transit point for heroin and cocaine intended for European, East Asian and North American markets.

Spanish Priest With Ebola Dies In Madrid Hospital

spanish priestSpanish priest, Miguel Pajares, 75, the first European infected by a strain of Ebola that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa, has died in a hospital in Madrid.

A spokeswoman for the city’s health authorities confirmed this on Tuesday.

The spokeswoman declined to say when Pajares, who was airlifted from Liberia on August 7 after contracting the disease while working for a non-governmental organization in the African country, had died.

The priest was being treated in the Carlos III Hospital, where he had been in quarantine since his return from Africa.

The Health Ministry said that he was being treated with the experimental drug, ZMapp, manufactured by U.S. company, Mapp Biopharmaceutical.

Two U.S. aid workers infected by the disease have shown some signs of improvements since being given the drug.

The Spanish priest, Pajares, was repatriated with co-worker, Juliana Bohi, a nun, who has tested negative for Ebola.

Nations Stopping Flight To Tel Aviv

PLASMA_MALAYSIA_AIRLINES_FIXEDThe United States and European airlines have suspended flights to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport after a rocket landed one mile away.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered three US carriers that fly to Israel – Delta, United and US Airways – to halt flights for 24 hours.

European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also said it “strongly recommends” that airlines should avoid operating to and from Tel Aviv.

The suspension prompted Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to ask the US to renew flights to Israel.

Israel Airport Authority also said the U.S. companies made the decisions on their own, and it urged them to reconsider, saying the airport was safe. “There is no reason that American carriers should stop flying to Israel and thus give a prize to terror,” airport authority said.

Even before the announcement, Swiss, Germanwings and Austrian Airlines said they had decided to suspend flights to Israel for two days while KLM also said they had suspended flights ahead of the EASA’s advisory.

The halt in service of the airlines comes less than a week after Israel began a ground operation in Gaza, and as airlines around the world re-think their flight paths over conflict areas in the wake of the crash of Malaysia airlines flight Mh17 in eastern Ukraine.