Spain, France Impose Tight Controls As Global Infections Pass 150,000

Pedestrians walk past a closed resteraunt in Le Touquet, northern France on March 15, 2020, as France battles the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. 
Pedestrians walk past a closed resteraunt in Le Touquet, northern France on March 15, 2020, as France battles the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

 

France pressed on with local elections Sunday despite having closed bars and restaurants, as more nations imposed tight restrictions to try and contain the coronavirus that has infected more than 150,000 around the world.

Following Italy’s move last week, Spain on Saturday imposed a near-total nationwide lockdown, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.

The COVID-19 virus has so far claimed 196 lives in Spain, making it the worst-hit European country after Italy. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife is among those infected.

France, meanwhile, ordered the closure of restaurants, bars, cinemas and nightclubs, but said food shops, pharmacies and banks would remain open, while voting began for local elections.

In a sign of growing alarm, the US extended a travel ban on European nations to the United Kingdom and Ireland, starting midnight on Monday.

The restrictions threw airports across the US into disarray, with incoming travellers forced to wait hours for medical screenings.

US President Donald Trump tested negative for the disease, having come into contact with several members of a Brazilian presidential delegation who have since tested positive.

“One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, the president remains symptom-free,” Trump’s physician Sean Conley said.

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has gone past 156,000 worldwide with more than 5,800 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

– Borders and airports closed –
A week that saw schools and businesses shut down indefinitely, millions of travellers barred from crossing borders, celebrities and politicians infected and the whole of Italy locked down ended with a flurry of government announcements.

Australia on Sunday announced all arrivals in the country will face mandatory 14-day self-isolation, starting at midnight (1300 GMT Sunday).

“We are going to have to get used to some changes in the way we live our lives,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Trump declared a national emergency and announced a $50 billion package, with similar measures being taken by governments from Austria to Canada.

European nations ramped up border controls, while Chile has quarantined more than 1,300 people aboard two cruise ships after an elderly Briton aboard one of them tested positive for the coronavirus.

Squares and streets from Milan to Madrid were deserted on Saturday as government calls to stay at home were heeded by most.

Some Italians took to singing to each other from their windows to beat the isolation, while the Vatican said Sunday that its traditional Easter week celebrations would be held without worshippers.

The country that saw the biggest increase over the last 24 hours was Italy, which recorded 175 deaths, while Iran had 97 and Spain 63.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed Europe as the new epicentre of the pandemic after a dramatic slump in domestic cases in China, where the virus first emerged in December last year.

China on Sunday reported 16 new imported cases of the coronavirus, the highest in over a week.

Public health dilemmas

The human cost is rapidly being matched by the economic cost — financial markets endured a rollercoaster ride all week with spectacular losses triggered by fears of a global recession followed by huge gains after government spending pledges.

Tech giant Apple closed all of its stores outside China until March 27 while British Airways became the latest global firm to hint at drastic action to come, with CEO Alex Cruz telling staff to expect job losses.

Airlines have cancelled thousands of flights worldwide and some airports have shut terminals.

As economies reel and finance experts mull the impact, governments are also facing public health dilemmas — whether to try to stamp out the disease entirely with drastic restrictions or try to manage its spread.

British officials have argued for trying to flatten the curve — managing the outbreak to push the peak of the crisis to summer when hospitals will be able to cope better.

They have said this will help create “herd immunity”, though experts are divided over whether there is evidence to support the theory.

“We don’t know enough about the science of this virus, it hasn’t been in our population for long enough,” said the WHO’s Margaret Harris.

Football seasons curtailed

Britain had resisted imposing any major restrictions, but the media reported on Saturday that a ban on large gatherings would come into force from next weekend.

But most other governments in affected regions have already ordered drastic action.

On Sunday, the Philippines closed off its capital Manila, Saudi Arabia banned international flights, and New Zealand said arrivals would have to self-isolate.

Africa has so far been spared the worst of the illness, but Rwanda declared its first case on Saturday in a sign of the widening global spread and Madagascar said it was suspending flights to Europe for a month from March 20.

Also growing was the impact on the sporting calendar, with football seasons curtailed, Formula One races postponed and cricket tours called off.

Japan was forced to deny claims that the Tokyo Olympics could be called off after Trump said “maybe they postpone it for a year”.

Paris Shuts Museum Over Coronavirus Fears

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 people visit the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Louvre museum in Paris was closed for the day on March 1, 2020, management said, as staff withheld labour citing fears over the coronavirus. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

 

The Louvre museum in Paris kept its doors closed to visitors Sunday as staff withheld labour citing fears over the coronavirus, a union representative told AFP.

Some 300 staff of the world’s most visited museum met in the morning and voted “almost unanimously” not to open in the morning, Christian Galani of the CGT labour union told AFP.

“The meeting was arranged to discuss the concerns of staff,” he said, adding management representatives were unable to convince workers to go to work.

France has recorded 100 coronavirus cases, and two deaths, since the end of January.

On Saturday, the government announced several measures to try and curb the outbreak, including cancelling all gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces.

“The Louvre is a confined space which welcomes more than 5,000 people a day,” said Galani, adding: “there is a real concern on the part of the staff.”

Workers are demanding stepped up protective measures, including the provision of hand sanitising gel and window barriers to separate cashiers from members of the public.

The Louvre received 9.6 million visitors in 2019.

AFP

Coronavirus: Who Is Most At Risk Of Dying?

FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP

 

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across 61 countries hit 86,000 Saturday with nearly 3,000 deaths to date, the profile of those most at risk of dying is coming into focus, experts told AFP.

But the overall mortality rate remains uncertain, they said.

The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment to its top-level Friday, with the global health crisis edging closer to a pandemic.

Among those infected with the virus, older adults with preexisting heart conditions or hypertension face a sharply higher risk, according to preliminary statistics, including from a study covering more than 72,000 patients in China.

Among a subset of 44,700 infections confirmed through lab tests as of mid-February, more than 80 percent were at least 60 years old, with half over 70, said the study, that was published in the official China CDC Weekly.

Initial reports from outside China are similar, with the first 12 victims reported in Italy mostly in their 80s, and none under 60. Several had known heart problems.

Men in the China study were more likely to die than women by a margin of almost 3-to-2.

But whether that was due to behaviour — notably that most men in China smoke, while few women do — or biological factors, such as hormonal differences, is still unknown.

One striking finding from the China study is the near absence of cases among children.

The 10-19 age bracket comprised one percent of infections, and a single death. Children under 10 made up less than one percent, with no deaths reported.

“We are still trying to wrap our heads around the deficit of cases among those under 20,” Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Centre, told AFP in an interview.

“Is it because young children are less susceptible than adults, and thus simply don’t get infected? Or if they do, that they have less disease?”

It is surprising infections of very young people are so low, she added, because they tend to be among the hardest hit by almost all respiratory infections — whether viral or bacterial.

Heroic health workers

David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, was also mystified.

“Where are the infected children???,” he wrote in an email. “This is critical — perhaps kids are not being tested because they have mild symptoms.”

Another possible explanation is that children in China were out of school for the lunar new year holiday when the virus began to spread widely in January.

“But young children still live in households where they can be infected by their parents,” Viboud noted.

A lower rate of infection among the youngest age groups was also seen during the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, but was less marked.

SARS, which is also a coronavirus, broke out in Guangdong Province and killed 774 people out of 8,096 infected.

The death of 34-year old Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang in early February, along with several more health workers in their twenties sparked speculation they had died because of repeated exposure, or even sheer exhaustion.

Li’s death sparked outrage in China because he had been muzzled by authorities for calling attention to the virus.

Cellphone video images on social networks showed nurses and doctors, unable to cope with the caseload, breaking down in hysterics.

“A more likely reason why young clinicians are getting infected is because they were operating outside their level of expertise and training,” John Nichols, a professor in the department of pathology at the University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

“It is noble that the junior doctors pony up valiantly to help, but they most likely would not have had the necessary training in handling infectious patients.”

The larger question of just how lethal COVID-19 is, remains unanswered.

‘Somewhere in the middle’

The ratio of confirmed cases to deaths suggests a mortality rate of 3.4 percent, but several studies have concluded that up to two-thirds of infections in China and elsewhere have gone undetected, which would make the virus far less deadly.

“At the moment, we don’t have a good understanding of the real mortality rate,” Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne told Australian television.

“It is estimated at about two percent.”

With SARS — which killed nearly one in 10 patients — early mortality figures turned out to be underestimated, in part because victims of the virus did not die quickly.

With the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, however, the opposite happened, said Viboud.

“Within a few weeks of the outbreak, the mortality estimate declined first 10-fold, and then 100-fold, as we moved from severe pneumonia to getting all flu cases.”

“Here, I think we are somewhere in the middle,” she added, saying the current two percent mortality estimate could well decline.

The seasonal flu has an average mortality rate of about 0.1 percent but is highly infectious, with up to 400,000 people worldwide dying from it each year.

The China CDC study showed that COVID-19 was “mild” for more than 80 percent of confirmed cases.

Arsenal Knocked Out Of Europa League By Olympiakos

 

Youssef El-Arabi scored in the last minute of extra-time as Olympiakos knocked Arsenal out of the Europa League on Thursday on a night when four former European champions were eliminated.

Ajax, Celtic, Benfica, and Porto went out but Manchester United hardly broke a sweat after Simon Deli of Brugge conceded a penalty and earned a red card in the 23rd minute at Old Trafford and won 5-0.

Arsenal had won the first leg of the round of 32 ties 1-0 in Greece.

Defender Pape Abou Cisse canceled out that advantage when he headed in a corner after 53 minutes.

Arsenal could not break through and were forced to extra time.

Giorgos Masouras hit the bar for Olympiakos in the 112th minute and a minute later Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck for Arsenal, putting them back in front with a spectacular flying kick.

However, in the final minute of extra time, Arsenal cleared an Olympiakos corner but was still disorganised when the ball was swung back into the area.

The cross found El Arabi free in front of goal for an unchallenged shot.

“Very hard, very tough,” said Aubameyang. “Their last-minute goal was unlucky for us.”

Last year Arsenal reached the final.

“It hurts a lot,” said Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager. “Attack against defence in 25 metres is difficult, but we created enough chances to win the game comfortably.”

Olympiakos coach Pedro Martins was delighted.

“We were determined, we believed we could qualify and we made it,” said he said. “Tactical intelligence, effectiveness, inner strength, courage…they all weighed in this success.”

At Old Trafford, one of United’s recent signings Bruno Fernandes gave the hosts the lead with a penalty after Deli’s flying intervention.

The other new boy, Odion Ighalo, making his first start, hit his first goal for the club in the 34th minute.

Tentative Ajax

For the Nigerian, who says United were his childhood club, it was a moment to celebrate, but the emotion was mixed.

Ighalo lifted his shirt to reveal a picture of his sister Mary Atole who died suddenly at her home in Canada in December. Ighalo also has her name stitched into his boots.

“I have been waiting for this,” said Ighalo. “It’s a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Scott McTominay and Fred, with two late goals, completed the 5-0 rout and 6-1 aggregate win.

“The football we played at times pleased me the most,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Manchester United manager.

“The players are smiling, they are playing with confidence and that is what we want. The new lads have brought that in.”

Ajax, Champions League semi-finalists last year, kicked off two goals down to Getafe, this season’s Liga surprise team, and conceded another after five minutes.

Jaime Mata exploited tentative Ajax defending to spin and drill in a low shot from close range.

That left the home needed needing to score four, they managed two, the first from young Brazilian Danilo Pereira, with his first for the club, and an own goal when Mathias Olivera deflected a free-kick. Getafe held on comfortably.

Copenhagen scored three goals on three shots as they won 3-1 at Celtic, but deserved the victory.

Jozo Simunovic’s weak back pass gave Copenhagen the ball close to goal after 51 minutes and Micheal Santos completed the punishment.

With seven minutes left, Odsonne Edouard leveled with a penalty but as Celtic tried to press, their defence panicked twice in the last five minutes. Pep Biel and Dame N’Doye coolly accepted the gifts to make the aggregate score 4-2.

“It just wasn’t our day and we’re big boys, we can take it on the chin and we’ve got to make sure we bounce back,” said Celtic captain Craig Brown

Benfica went out 5-4 on aggregate after repeatedly throwing away the initiative as they drew 3-3 at home to Romanians Cluj.

Porto subsided 3-1 at home to Bayer Leverkusen to go out 5-2 overall.

Inter Milan beat Ludogorets 2-1 to advance 4-1 in a match played in an empty San Siro because fans were banned to avoid spreading coronavirus.

The game between FC Salzburg and Eintracht Frankfurt was postponed because of a forecast of dangerously high winds and will be played on Friday.

AFP

 

Every Child Under ‘Immediate Threat’ From Climate, Poor Diet – UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

The world is failing to protect children from the health dangers posed by climate change and poor diet, a landmark UN report said Wednesday, warning that every child is under “immediate threat”.

According to more than 40 of the world’s pre-eminent child and adolescent health experts, not one country on Earth is adequately protecting the next generation from the impacts of carbon emissions, the destruction of nature and high-calorie and processed foods.

They said that excessive carbon emissions, produced overwhelmingly by wealthier nations, “threaten the future of all children” and will burden them with additional health dangers, from deadly heatwaves to the increased spread of tropical diseases.

The report, commissioned by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, also highlights the threat children face from harmful marketing of fat- and sugar-laden foods, alcohol and tobacco.

“The big message is that no single country is protecting children’s health today and for their future,” said Anthony Costello, professor of International Child Health and Director of the Institute for Global Health at University College London.

“When you look at the damage being done to children’s lungs by air pollution, we’ve got a very limited time to sort this out,” he told AFP.

“We have the solutions, what we don’t have is the political leadership and will to make it happen.”

The report, published in The Lancet medical journal, ranks the performance of 180 countries when it comes to child survival, education and nutrition rates.

Under these criteria, less-developed nations such as Central African Republic and Chad perform particularly poorly compared to rich countries such as Norway and the Netherlands.

However the rankings are largely reversed when the impacts of air pollution from per capita carbon emissions were assessed.

“The world’s decision makers are failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights, and failing to protect their planet,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

11-fold obesity surge

Around 250 million under-fives in low- and middle-income countries risk being stunted due to malnutrition and other impacts of poverty, the authors said.

At the same time, the number of obese children worldwide has surged 11-fold since 1975 to stand at 124 million.

Children in some countries see as many as 30,000 adverts on television in a single year. And despite industry self-regulation, one study showed that children in Australia were exposed 51 million times to alcohol adverts in just one year of televised sport.

“Industry regulation has failed,” said Costello.

“And the reality could be much worse still: we have few figures about the huge expansion of social media advertising and algorithms aimed at our children.”

The authors called on governments to radically reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate goals and to tighten regulation of harmful marketing.

Current emissions pledges put Earth on course to warm more than 3C by 2100, which “would lead to devastating health consequences for children”, from rising sea levels and heatwaves to disease and malnutrition.

Coronavirus: Death Toll Rises, Millions More Confined

 

 

 

The new coronavirus that appeared late December has claimed 563 lives, infected more than 28,000 people in mainland China and spread to more than 20 countries.

Here is a timeline.

New virus

Health authorities in Wuhan, an industrial city in central Hubei province, first document the new illness on December 8.

On December 31, China alerts the World Health Organization (WHO) to cases of pneumonia in the city.

Several infections are traced to a Wuhan market, which is shut on January 1.

As infections rise, Chinese officials say on January 7 they have identified a new virus from the coronavirus family. It is named 2019-nCoV.

First death

China announces its first death in Wuhan on January 11.

Two days later the first case outside China is reported in Thailand, originating in Wuhan.

Japan reports its first case, also from Wuhan, on January 16.

The United States, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan confirm cases over the following days.

The US starts screening flights from Wuhan, to be followed by Asian countries.

Human transmission

By January 20, nearly half of China’s provinces are affected, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

A Chinese infectious disease expert confirms the illness can be transmitted between humans.

Epicentre quarantined

Wuhan is placed under quarantine on January 23, with transport links cut there and in other Hubei province cities, affecting more than 56 million people.

The WHO says the outbreak is an emergency in China but not yet globally.

Beijing cancels events for the upcoming Lunar New Year. Several landmarks are closed.

The first two deaths are reported outside Hubei.

On January 24, the first cases are recorded in Europe, in France.

Public shutdown

Beijing extends the Lunar New Year holiday to limit travel.

On January 27, the US and Germany tell their citizens not to travel to China.

On January 28, Germany and Japan announce the first two confirmed human-to-human transmissions outside China.

Evacuations

On January 29, the US and Japan become the first of several nations to start evacuating citizens from Wuhan.

The coronavirus emerges in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates.

Some international airlines suspend their China flights. Foreign companies shutdown Chinese factories and shops.

International emergency

On January 30, the WHO declares a “public health emergency of international concern”.

Russia shuts its border with China.

On January 31, as Britain, France and North Korea airlift their nationals, Italy declares a state of emergency.

The US says on February 1 it is banning the entry of foreign nationals who had recently travelled to China, a move followed by other countries.

First deaths outside China

On February 2, Wenzhou — around 800 kilometres (500 miles) from Wuhan — becomes the second city to be locked down.

The Philippines reports the first coronavirus death outside China.

China says it will pump in 1.2 trillion yuan ($173 billion) to protect growth. Chinese stocks collapse on February 3, the first day of trading since the holiday.

On February 4, Hong Kong reports a coronavirus death, the second outside the mainland.

Singapore announces its first cases of local transmissions. Gaming centre Macao closes its casinos for two weeks.

The WHO says the outbreak does not yet constitute a “pandemic”.

– Cruise ship infections –
On February 5, Hong Kong announces a mandatory two-week quarantine for all travellers from mainland China.

Millions more on the Chinese mainland are told to stay at home.

Twenty people on a cruise ship off the Japanese coast test positive for the virus, with around 3,700 onboard.

Airbus closes an aircraft production facility in Tianjin near Beijing, and Vietnam joins countries banning arrivals from China.

Five Persons Confirmed To Have Coronavirus In France

 

The daughter of a Chinese tourist who is seriously ill in a Paris hospital has become the fifth person in France to be confirmed with the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.

Her 80-year-old father was the fourth confirmed case in France of the new coronavirus that has killed more than 100 people since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

“A fifth case has been detected,” Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told a news briefing.

“It’s the daughter of the Chinese tourist who was hospitalised recently in intensive care in a serious condition,” Buzyn added.

The woman in her thirties, “whose condition has worsened, who needs oxygen,” has also been placed in intensive care, Buzyn said.

The minister said a first plane was due to fly Wednesday evening to Wuhan, the epicentre in China, to repatriate 200 French people stranded there.

Coronavirus Forces Paris To Cancel Lunar New Year Parade

 

Paris, home to two of the three French people taken ill in China’s coronavirus outbreak, cancelled a Lunar New Year parade on Sunday as a “precaution”, the capital’s mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

“Yesterday, I met members of the Chinese community in Paris who themselves wished to cancel the procession” scheduled for Republique square, the mayor told reporters.

“The principle of precaution takes precedence,” she added.

On Friday, France’s health ministry said three people who had recently travelled to China were confirmed to have contracted the virus — the first cases in Europe.

One was a patient at a hospital in the southwestern city of Bordeaux and the other two in the capital. All three were “very well”, according to France’s director-general of health Jerome Salomon.

Health officials were tracking other people the three had been in contact with.

The Lunar New Year, sometimes called Chinese New Year, marks the beginning of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.

This year, the start to the Year of the Rat fell on Saturday, but celebrations in China were dramatically scaled down amid a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 56 and infected nearly 2,000.

Hidalgo did not specify whether other New Year’s celebrations planned for the coming days would also be called off, including the main, yearly procession in Paris’ so-called Asian quarter, set for next Sunday.

“We were informed of the cancellation of the festivities last night,” said Pierre Ducerf, a representative of the Franco-Chinese Association.

Celebrations planned for Bordeaux on Sunday were also cancelled.

The outbreak emerged in late December in Wuhan, an industrial and transport hub of 11 million people in China’s centre, spreading to several other countries including the United States.

A precautionary lockdown of Wuhan city has since been expanded to much of the rest of Hubei province.

France on Sunday put in place a medical team of several dozen experts at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to take charge of any arrivals with possible symptoms of infection with the contagious virus.

French carmaker PSA on Saturday said it would repatriate expat staff and their families — 38 people in total — from Wuhan.

They would be quarantined in the city of Changsha, 300 kilometres (180 miles) from Wuhan where the virus originated, before being allowed to return “to their countries of origin”, the company said in a statement.

The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

AFP

Western Powers Condemn Iran Attack On US Bases

 

 

Western powers on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile attack on Iraqi bases housing the US and other foreign troops, urging an end to the escalating crisis.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran said it was in response to the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week, warning it would hit back even harder if Washington responded.

 Trump: ‘All is well’

“All is well!” US President Donald Trump’s tweeted. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

He would be making a statement Wednesday morning, he added.

– ‘Resounding blow’ –
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described Soleimani as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief”, made it clear Israel would strike back if attacked.

“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” he warned.

‘Urgent de-escalation’

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on Iran to end its attacks.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition — including British — forces,” he said, urging Iran not to repeat them but instead to “pursue urgent de-escalation.

“A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group. Britain’s defence ministry said there had been no British casualties.

‘No-one’s interest’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the attack was yet another example of “escalation and increased confrontation”.

“It is in no-one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further,” he added. He too warned that the crisis was hampering the fight against Islamic State.

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the Iran crisis Friday to discuss what the bloc can do to reduce tensions.

‘Violation of… sovereignty’

Iraq’s prime minister’s office said it had received an official message from Iran warning it of the missile attack just before it happened.

Iran had told premier Adel Abdel Mahdi that “the strike would be limited to where the US military was located in Iraq without specifying the locations”, said the statement from his office.

“Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its territory,” the premier’s office added.

Civilian flights rerouting

In the wake of the Iranian attack, a number of airlines said they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

Its Russian counterpart, the Federal Air Transport Agency, recommended airlines avoid the air space over Iran, Iraq and the Persian and Oman Gulfs.

Air France, KLM And Lufthansa Halt Flying Through Iran, Iraq Airspaces

 

 

A growing number of airlines said Wednesday they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace or flights to the region after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against bases housing US troops in Iraq.

“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” an Air France spokesman told AFP.

Iran launched a series of missiles at the bases housing US troops in the early hours, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran’s supreme leader later called it a “slap in the face” after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad international airport last week.

Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

The regions is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.

A KLM spokesman told AFP: “Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes.”

In Germany, Lufthansa said it had cancelled its daily flight to Tehran in addition to halting overflights of Iran and Iraq until further notice.

It added that Saturday’s twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.

UAE carriers Emirates Airline and low-cost Flydubai said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for “operational reasons”.

Australia’s Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.

“We’re adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice,” said a spokesman.

Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.

Vietnam Airlines said it will make “appropriate adjustments” of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said their planes do not fly through airspace affected by latest flare-up.

Macron Urges Iran To Avoid ‘Escalation’, Voices ‘Solidarity’ With US

Macron Signs Controversial French 'Anti-Rioters' Bill Into Law

 

French President Emmanual Macron on Sunday assured US counterpart Donald Trump of “his complete solidarity” and urged Iran to avoid “military escalation that could aggravate instability in the region.”

Macron noted “mounting tensions in Iraq and in the region”, and expressed concern that Iranian forces that were commanded by slain general Qasem Soleimani could take actions that would destabilise the region, in a statement issued by the Elysee presidential office.

The French president “reiterated the necessity that Iran put an end” to such activities.

“The priority should be pursuing international coalition action against Daesh, with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, for its security and for regional stability,” Macron said, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

Man Killed, Two Injured In Paris Knife Attack

BREAKING: 'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue

 

knife-wielding man went on the rampage in a park south of Paris Friday, killing a man out for a walk with his wife and wounding two other people before being shot dead by police, officials said.

The Paris police department said the man had attacked “several people” around lunchtime in the park in the suburb of Villejuif.

Some managed to evade him, but the man claimed at least one life — that of a 56-year-old Villejuif local, according to the commune’s mayor Franck Le Bohellec.

The victim “was walking with his wife when the attacker approached; he wanted to protect his wife and it was he who received the knife blows,” the mayor explained.

According to a source close to the inquiry, another man was seriously wounded in the attack and a woman sustained light injuries.

The attacker fled and was later shot dead by police in the neighbouring suburb of Hay-les-Roses.

He had made his way to a shopping centre “where he seemingly intended to continue his attack,” Hay-les-Roses mayor Vincent Jeanbrun told BFMTV.

“Luckily the police were quickly alerted and made their way rapidly to the scene where they neutralised him by killing him,” Jeanbrun said.

Police did not provide a motive for the attack, which came just four days before France marks the fifth anniversary of the killing of 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris by two brothers vowing allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

 High alert 

France remains on high alert after being hit by a string of attacks by jihadist extremists since 2015, with more than 250 people killed in total.

The day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a man linked to the Islamic State (IS) group shot and killed a policewoman in a Paris suburb before taking hostages at a Jewish supermarket the following day, killing four more people.

Police eventually killed all three attackers but it was the beginning of the wave of strikes on French territory.

The deadliest came in November 2013, when 130 people died in bombings and shootings at Paris’s Bataclan concert hall, several bars and restaurants, and the Stade de France sports stadium.

In 2016, a man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on the July 14 national holiday, killing 86 people. He was shot dead by police.

In December 2018, a man who swore allegiance to IS shot dead five people at a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg. Police shot and killed him after a two-day manhunt.

Most recently, a police staff member who had converted to a radical version of Islam stabbed four colleagues to death at the Paris police headquarters in  October.

AFP