European Airlines Cutting Fares To Woo Back Passengers

File: A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

With the coronavirus crisis putting a chill on travel, European airlines are reducing fares to attract passengers and fill the planes that are still flying.

Travel restrictions adopted by many countries to stem the spread of the disease have clobbered airlines, bringing air traffic to a near halt in the spring. And while traffic picked up during the summer, it is now falling off again.

According to Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic in Europe, traffic has been slowing over the past couple of weeks, and is now 54 percent below its comparable level last year.

A European airline trade association has put August traffic even lower, at just 30 percent of 2019 levels.

Eurocontrol is now more pessimistic about a recovery for the sector.

In the spring it had expected traffic to be 30 percent below 2019 levels in October, but it now sees a 57-percent drop.

While the pandemic has left airlines starved for cash, they have begun to cut fare prices.

According to ForwardKeys, a company which analyses the tourism market, airlines trimmed fares from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands to destinations in southern Europe by 15 percent in August compared with the same period last year.

In a study released Thursday it found that prices on some routes were down by more than one third.

– ‘Entice travellers’ –

“You have to entice travellers to return to flying and price is a factor,” said Reginald Otten, deputy managing director for France at budget airline easyJet.

He said the airline had managed to reopen some routes during the summer and the planes it flew were nearly full.

“But we are nevertheless around 30 percent of capacity, which is a very, very low figure, and the summer is the most important, most popular (time) for people to travel,” he told AFP.

Lower prices also stimulate traffic, according to Eddie Wilson, head of Ryanair DAC, one of the two firms which operate flights under the Ryanair brand.

Ryanair, which has used a low-cost model to become one of Europe’s biggest airlines, this week launched a brief buy-one-get-one-free promotion.

“At some stage you can’t sit there and look out of the window and hope that things will be alright and wait for the politicians to do something,” he said.

Beyond cutting prices, airlines can and are focusing on their most profitable routes.

But the reimposition of travel restrictions and tighter quarantine and testing measures could quickly undo their planning and efforts.

European airlines earlier this month urged national capitals to coordinate measures to limit the spread of the virus, saying the current patchwork of restrictions is hobbling a return to regular travel around the EU.

Airlines are responding to the drop in demand for travel “with the tools they have in hand: reducing capacity and promotional offers, but they have no control over the evolution of the pandemic and policies on restricting travel,” said Oliver Ponti, vice president of ForwardKeys.

“The effect of low prices will thus be limited, especially as consumers remain worried about their plans being disrupted and rapid reimbursement of their tickets in case of cancellation,” he added.

AFP

Nigeria Lifts Ban On Interstate Travel

 

Nigeria on Monday lifted the ban placed on interstate travels, disclosing that citizens can travel from July 1, provided such journeys are made outside curfew hours.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja.

Mr. Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), also said the government has approved the safe resumption of domestic flights in the country as soon as practicable.

He further revealed that the Federal Government also approved the safe reopening of schools nationwide, as part of plans for the second phase of the eased lockdown.

The SGF, however, stressed that the reopening of schools was specifically for graduating classes in preparation for examinations.

Below is the full statement by Boss Mustapha.

REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN OF THE PTF-COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL PRESS BRIEFING OF MONDAY, 29th JUNE, 2020

welcome you all to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Monday, 29th June 2020.

When the PTF briefed the nation on 1st June 2020, we informed you that Mr. President had approved amongst others, that we should proceed into phase two of the eased lockdown for a period of four weeks to enable the PTF to evaluate the developments properly and continue to ensure a balance between lives and livelihood.
We also cautioned that the gradual relaxation was subject to review should developments warrant it.

Within the Month under review, the PTF continued to monitor developments and consistently admonished Nigerians to change their behavior in view of the fact that the spread of the virus had entered the community phase. It is the considered opinion of the PTF that Nigerians, though aware of the existence of the virus, have generally misunderstood the objectives behind the reasoning of government in gradually relaxing the restrictions.

For the purpose of emphasis, the virus is still dangerous and has continued to wreak havoc at home and abroad. The exponential rise in the number of cases detected and the fatalities give cause for concern. Statistically, the following numbers should interest us:

Global, African and Nigerian Situation as at 27th June 2020
Description
World Statistics
African Statistics
Nigerian Statistics
Confirmed Cases
10,129,054
375,390
24,077
Fatalities
502,189
9,329
558
Recoveries
5,493,601
175,876
8,625
Samples Tested
N/A
N/A
130,164
Recent Spike in Daily Numbers
125,039 reported in the USA on 26/06/2020
N/A
779 reported in Nigeria on 27/06 2020

Statistical comparison between the exact dates in the months of May and June 2020 .

Period of Comparison

Global Numbers

African Numbers

Nigerian Numbers

May 28, 2020
Confirmed Cases:5,593,631
Deaths: 353,334
Confirmed
Cases: 89,592
Deaths: 2,370
Confirmed
Cases: 8,915
Deaths: 259
June 27th, 2020

Confirmed Cases:10,186,375
Deaths:502,985
Confirmed
Cases: 383,104
Deaths: 9,604
Confirmed
Cases: 24,077
Deaths: 558

Daily Reported Statistics in Nigeria from 18-27 June 2020:
June 2020
18th
19th
20th
21st
22nd
23rd
24th
25th
26th
27th
Cases
745
667
661
436
675
452
649
594
684
779
Recoveries
340
274
137
161
230
229
275
209
431
372
Fatalities
06
12
19
12
07
08
09
07
05
04
NOTE:
(i) For eight out of the days the daily numbers exceeded 500; and

(ii) For every detected case, there is a high possibility that up to five (5) have not submitted to testing and therefore not detected.

As we are all aware, the PTF in conjunction with sub-national entities, the organized private sector, put in place a number of measures. The PTF also escalated its activities around risk communication to Nigerians but we have observed with growing concern, the non-compliances with these measures designed to prevent transmission and protect vulnerable segments of the population. We hold the strong view that if such actions do not abate, experiences of the resurgence of the virus from other jurisdictions including China, the United States of America, Brazil, and across Europe may emerge in Nigeria and we run the risk of erasing the gains made in the last three months.

By way of a reminder, there is presently no known vaccine for the virus and that all over the world non-pharmaceutical measures still remain the most effective fighting opportunity we have for overcoming this pandemic.

To further strengthen our National Response, the PTF in the intervening period vigorously built partnerships locally and internationally. Similarly, we fully have decentralised the National Response with State Governments and communities taking ownership and more responsibility. These efforts have greatly improved our ability to maximally detect, trace, isolate, and treat nationwide successfully.

The PTF has also continued to pursue the strategic thrust of “telling (communicate), tracing (identify) and treating (manage)” cases, with a stronger focus on precision interventions in high burdened LGAs within identified states of the Federation. This precision intervention will be signposted by:

i. Aggressive scaling up of efforts to ensure effective community protection and sensitisation; and

ii. Increased provision of support and guidance to states in their response to the outbreak.

Ladies and gentlemen, the focus on the important roles to be played by the States is underscored by the following considerations:

i. The spread has entered the community phase which only States and LGAs should drive;

ii. The inaction of a particular State could endanger its neighbours and compromise the entirety of the response;

iii. States will be encouraged to make considerable efforts to ensure a push for compliance within the guidelines issued by the PTF;

iv. States must also take greater care in leading on public health measures in the LGAs under their jurisdiction, by working on surveillance, case finding, testing, isolation, tracing and quarantining contacts; and

v. FG will predicate its resource deployment to States on the level of compliance and the extent of collaboration received on this public health emergency.

Notwithstanding the challenges faced in the last one month and the fact that Nigeria’s statistics have been on the rise, substantial progress has been made in the following areas:

i. Harnessing of data, which shows that 60% of the confirmed cases are in a handful of local governments in the country (18 out of 774 LGAs nationwide), and putting in place targeted interventions;

ii. Increased capacity to detect, test and trace those infected with the virus,
through the activation of 38 molecular testing laboratories, resulting in raising the test count nationwide in excess of 130,000;

iii. A shift in focus to a targeted community-based approach, enhanced risk communication;

iv. Increased collaboration with the legislature, State Governments and the organised private sector;

v. Activation of a new, cost-effective policy on the evacuation of returning Nigerians;

vi. Increased awareness of COVID-19 among the population;

vii. Cushioning the socio-economic impact of the restrictions through the provision of palliatives to vulnerable members of various communities nationwide; and

viii. Successful re-opening sectors of the economy despite initial challenges in areas such as the banking sector, industry and agriculture.

Today, the PTF submitted its 5th Interim Report to Mr. President for his consideration. In the Report the PTF specifically reviewed the issues around the general level of compliance with prescribed measures, while taking note of the following:

i. Implications of the lack of general compliance with measures;

ii. the global and domestic developments especially in the area of rising statistics; and

iii. the continued restrictions in the education and transportation sectors as well as for activities that attract mass gatherings such as operations of markets, worship centres, and entertainment.

In doing the foregoing, the PTF considered the need for the continuation of the policy of striking the delicate balance between lives and livelihood as well as inputs received from different stakeholder groups.

The PTF similarly identified the underlisted areas of concern that would require attention under the on-going restrictions:

i. International travel;

ii. Entertainment activities;

iii. Educational services/sector; and

iv. Public and Private Sector offices.

You will recall that the PTF had in previous briefings stated that the aim of Phase Two was to sustain the gains from earlier steps taken for pandemic control and to enable additional sectors of the economy to restart activities. Given the challenges and the visible danger ahead occasioned by skepticism, poor public perception both leading to lack of compliance, it has come to the inevitable conclusion that the extension of phase two of the eased lockdown will be needed to:

i. consolidate the gains in the areas of the economy that have restarted,

ii. ensure better compliance with the health-based response;

iii. support the states in enforcing guidelines and protocols as well as strengthening the LGAs build community-level structures for ownership and effective risk communication; and

iv. help to better achieve the balance between saving lives and ensuring that the wellbeing and livelihood of citizens are protected.

I am pleased to inform you that Mr. President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020, through Midnight of Monday, 27 July 2020.

17.Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:

i. Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator;

ii. Permission of movement across State borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;

iii. Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;

iv. Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in-person in preparation for examinations;

v. Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable;

vi. Publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry and labour; and community activities;

vii. Provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response;

viii. Strengthening partnerships with States, Local Governments, traditional rulers, community/religious leaders and civil society to ensure increased public awareness and compliance with preventive guidelines;

ix. Encouraging State governments to empower Local Government Authorities to intensify contact tracing efforts and ensure stronger grassroots mobilisation to support the response;

x. Encourage States and Hospital authorities to ensure continuity of other health services to prevent fatalities from other life-threatening conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

xi. Deepening of collaboration with other mandate groups at States/Federal levels to harmonise the country’s COVID-19 response in the short, medium and long terms.

The National Coordinator will in due course announce and publish the details of the revised guidelines while relevant MDAs including Education, Transportation and Aviation will respectively consult further with stakeholders and issue guidelines for their sectors.

The PTF will now take your questions please.

I thank you for listening.

 

Chinese County Restricts Travel As Beijing Races To Contain COVID-19

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 29, 2020 shows an engineer taking samples of monkey kidney cells as he make tests on an experimental vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus inside the Cells Culture Room laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing. – China has mobilised its army and fast-tracked tests in the global race to find a coronavirus vaccine, and is involved in several of the dozen or so international clinical trials currently under way. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP.

 

Travel restrictions were placed on nearly half a million people near Beijing on Thursday as authorities rushed to contain a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus with a mass test-and-trace effort and lockdowns in parts of the Chinese capital.

Another 21 cases of the virus were reported in the past 24 hours in Beijing, the National Health Commission said, taking the total to 158 since a fresh cluster was detected last week after months of no confirmed local transmissions.

One case was also recorded in the neighbouring city of Tianjin and two more in Hebei province — which surrounds Beijing — prompting travel restrictions on Anxin county, home to nearly half a million people, banning most traffic going in and out of the area.

Essential service vehicles are allowed into Anxin, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Beijing, while private and government cars can enter and leave only if they have permission, state media said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: One Positive Case In Latest Round Of Premier League Testing

Beijing is collecting around 400,000 samples a day for testing amid fears the new outbreak could trigger a second wave of infections in China, which had largely brought the contagion under control since it emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

“I had wanted to get tested anyway, but my workplace said all mall staff must be tested,” a 25-year-old shop assistant surnamed Pang told AFP as she lined up at the Workers’ Stadium in central Beijing to be swabbed.

“I don’t really mind waiting, it’s for the greater good and the benefit of society.”

A chef from a nearby restaurant, who gave his surname as Wang, said he had been sent by his boss to get tested.

“Anyway we haven’t had many customers over the past few days, people are scared to go out as much now,” Wang told AFP.

– ‘Under control’ –

The latest outbreak started in Beijing’s sprawling Xinfadi wholesale market, which supplies more than 70 percent of the city’s fresh produce.

Some 30 residential compounds have been locked down.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiology expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said a high number of infections had broken out among market traders selling seafood, beef and mutton.

However, he told reporters that the outbreak had peaked around June 13, and had now been “brought under control”.

“That doesn’t mean there will be no patient report tomorrow,” he warned.

“This curve will continue for a period of time, and the number of cases will become less and less.”

On Wednesday, an official at the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention had said the number of people using the market would make the outbreak “hard to control”.

To prevent the virus spreading beyond Beijing, officials have urged residents to stay in the city and forbidden those in areas considered “medium and high risk” from leaving.

People who want to leave must be from a low-risk area and show they have tested negative for the virus within the last week.

Eleven markets have been shuttered, thousands of food and beverage businesses disinfected, and schools closed again in the city.

Several bars and restaurants in the popular Sanlitun area were ordered to close on Thursday, with staff told to get tested for the virus.

To secure the city’s food supply, officials were setting up temporary markets, releasing more pork from state reserves and sourcing vegetables directly from growers, said commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng.

Beijing’s airports cancelled two-thirds of all flights on Wednesday and flight-tracking websites showed around 140 passenger flights had landed or departed so far on Thursday.

The city normally handles more than 1,500 flights a day.

China also reported four imported cases on Thursday among nationals returned from abroad.

AFP

COVID-19: Germany Extends Foreign Travel Warning To Mid-June

Informations in German, English and Chinese languages about the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV are on display at the Tegel airport in Berlin on January 26, 2020.

 

Germany is extending a warning against worldwide travel until June 14 as curbs remain in place in many countries to stem the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday.

“We have not yet reached the point where we can recommend carefree travel,” Maas said. “Therefore it is necessary to extend the worldwide travel warning until mid-June”.

Europe’s biggest economy has brought home 240,000 stranded tourists in the last four weeks, Maas said, adding, “we’re not going to undertake such an action again in the coming summer”.

“We still have a situation where there are entry and exit restrictions in many countries, and international air traffic is grounded,” he said.

Germany would continue to discuss the situation with European partners during this time, he added.

“It will take weeks before things return to normal both here and in other countries. Therefore we do not assume that it is responsible to travel worldwide in the next few weeks, at least until June 14.”

Germany has closed its land borders and the European Union has also sealed external borders to incoming travellers to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Tokyo Olympics Postponement Will Cost IOC ‘Several Hundred Million Dollars’ – Bach

The government in March agreed to spend 50 million euros ($56 million) in a deal with commercial airlines to fly citizens home from affected regions.

Maas had already dampened German expectations of summer holidays in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper at the weekend.

“We have already experienced what an infection cluster in a popular holiday destination can do,” he added, referring to a chain of infections that began in the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute disease control authority on Wednesday reported over 157,000 confirmed coronavirus infections.

AFP

US Urges Citizens To Avoid All International Travel, Return Home

 

The United States on Thursday warned against any international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic and advised citizens to come home if possible.

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, US citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the State Department said as it upgraded its travel advisory to the highest level.

“US citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel,” it said.

The State Department said the growing number of temporary entry restrictions by governments as well as airline cancellations made smooth travel impossible.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Italy Passes China’s Virus Deaths, Braces For Long Lockdown

It also said that some US embassies had lower capacity to assist citizens due to departures of personnel over COVID-19.

AFP

Algeria Suspends Travel To Europe Over Coronavirus

 

Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad announced Monday a suspension of all scheduled travel links with Europe in a bid to forestall the spread of coronavirus.

The measure, to take effect from Thursday, will hit all “air and sea travel to and from European countries”, the premier’s office said.

“This exceptional suspension… will be accompanied by a repatriation plan for our citizens currently in the countries concerned,” it said.

Algeria has already announced a suspension from Tuesday of all traffic links with France, which hosts a large Algerian community, following cuts with Spain and Italy.

Four people have died from coronavirus in Algeria, according to the health ministry.

AFP

London Advises Brits To Avoid Travel to Iraq, Iran

Britain Flag

 

The British government on Saturday advised UK nationals to avoid travelling to Iraq and Iran in face of heightened tensions in the Middle East following the US killing of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad.

“Following the death of Qasem Soleimani and heightened tensions in the region… We now advise British nationals against all travel to Iraq (and) we now advise against all but essential travel to Iran,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement.

“The first job of any government is to keep British people safe,” the statement said.

“Given heightened tensions in the region, (we) now advise people not to travel to Iraq, with the exception of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and to consider carefully whether it’s essential to travel to Iran. We will keep this under review.”

On Friday, the US military killed Soleimani in an airstrike outside Baghdad international airport that shocked the Islamic republic and sparked fears of a new war in the Middle East.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed the death of the commander of its Quds Force foreign operations arm, and Tehran’s clerical leadership promised “severe vengeance… in the right place and time”.

In its statement, the British Foreign Office urged UK nationals in the region to “remain vigilant and monitor the media carefully.”

On Friday, foreign minister Dominic Raab had said that while London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force, “following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

Australia, Others To Try New System In Search Of Flight MH370

mh370Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia are to try a new method of tracking planes, almost a year after a Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 239 people, disappeared en route Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The trial system enables planes to be tracked every 15 minutes, an increase on the current 30 to 40 minutes.

Extensive search has been carried out to contact the flight MH370, since it disappeared in March 2014.

The new tracking device uses technology already installed on most long-haul jets.

The system is expected to increase the tracking rate to five minutes or less if there is any deviation from a plane’s expected route.

‘No silver bullet’

Australian Transport Minister, Warren Truss, said the new system was a “world first”. But he stressed the new technology would not necessarily have solved the mystery of MH370.

“It would have been very difficult, one would imagine, without knowing what precisely occurred in the case of flight MH370, to have intervened from outside,” he said.

“But at least it would have tracked the aircraft to within 15 minutes.”

Airservices Australia Chairman Angus Houston, who helped lead the search for the missing MH370, agreed it was “no silver bullet”.

“But it is an important step in delivering immediate improvements to the way we currently track aircraft while more comprehensive solutions are developed,” Angus Houston added.

The trial will begin in the Australian city of Brisbane before being extended to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Investigators searching for flight MH370 are focusing on an area of the Indian Ocean off the coast of western Australia.

Flight MH370, which is said to be operating a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.

Travel Guide: A trip to S.Africa

Enjoy this episode of Travel Guide as we take you through the roller coaster ride inside the Republic of South Africa with our guide Ini Thompson.

A trip to South Africa I

A trip to South Africa II