Coronavirus will ‘change the world’ and Brussels will NOT survive, predicts French MP

“The health crisis we are all living through is one of major severity and scope,” M Bayrou, president of the Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem) party and mayor of the south-western city of Pau, told newspaper Le Figaro. He said: “The risk of social explosion is real. No crisis comes without major shake-ups or violence. But this tragedy will change our view of the world.

“We have learned that we are all ultimately one humanity threatened by a single epidemic, and that our method of organisation has made us weaker.”

The post-coronavirus period will be “very long,” M Bayrou continued, adding the pandemic would trigger an “unprecedented economic, social, and maybe even democratic crisis.”  

“A new world must emerge from this enormous upheaval,” he said, as he stressed the importance of solidarity between European states in times of crisis.

The Brussels bloc “will not survive this crisis without solidarity,” the French centrist noted.  

His comments echoed those made by France’s European Affairs Minister Amélie de Montchalin later on Sunday, who said that the EU’s response to the outbreak would determine its credibility and utility.

“If Europe is just a single market when times are good, then it has no sense,” Mme de Montchalin told France Inter radio.
 
“Our Europe is one of action, one of solidarity, and if certain countries see otherwise, well then the question of their place will raise itself, as will what the union should be doing as a group of 27,” she continued. “The crisis raises existential questions for Europe.”

The EU has so far failed to agree on measures to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic.

The bloc’s divisions were exposed after leaders hit an impasse on Thursday over how to minimise the economic damage and prepare for an eventual recovery, with the poorer south angered by the reluctance of the richer north to offer more support.

Germany and the Netherlands strongly opposed a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint ‘corona’ bonds to help finance an economic stimulus. They also locked horns over the sharing of medical equipment and border controls.

Mme de Montchalin, for her part, warned there would be no economic rebound in Germany and the Netherlands if the rest of Europe remained sick.

However, she cited a decision by Germany and others to take in seriously ill French coronavirus patients and relieve pressure on France’s healthcare system as proof that solidarity between EU states still exists.

Europe is the continent worst hit by the epidemic that arrived from China earlier this year, with more than 20,000 deaths.

Over 738,500 people have been infected across more than 170 countries and regions and about 35,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally published on Monday. 

Source: Read Full Article

Growth in Australia coronavirus cases slows, but experts urge caution

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia on Tuesday reported a sustained fall in the country’s rate of new coronavirus infections but officials and experts warned against complacency, stressing the need for further strict social distancing policies.

To ensure compliance, state authorities enacted sweeping powers to impose hefty fines and potential jail terms on anybody breaching rules that include a ban on public meetings of more than just two people.

Health Minister Greg Hunt reported there were about 4,400 coronavirus cases nationally, with the rate of growth in new infections slowing to an average of 9% over the past three days from 25-30% a week ago.

Of those, 50 people were in intensive care and 20 were on ventilators, Hunt said. The death toll in a country of almost 25 million stood at 19.

Based on the completion of more than 230,000 tests, the death rate for Australian cases was below 1%, significantly under the 10% being reported by some other countries and suggesting “early promising signs of the curve flattening,” Hunt said.

“That’s an achievement to which all Australians have contributed,” he said in a televised news conference.

Countries around the world are chasing the goal of “flattening the curve”, referring to a slowdown in the anticipated first wave of infections to stop hospitals being overrun with critical patients.

Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, said while Australia stopped short of the full lockdown imposed by other countries, it introduced social distancing measures relatively early.

“We acted much earlier than the likes of Italy and the United States,” Collignon told Reuters. “We had much less community transmission and we still shut our borders and implemented social distancing policies such as shutting down bars and pubs, and did much more testing.”

Collignon also noted there may be an element of luck in the current trend, and backed official moves to keep social interactions to a minimum.

Several states introduced penalties on Tuesday for people flouting social distancing requirements. The repercussions differ from state to state, but include fines of up to A$11,000 ($6,779), the potential of a six-month prison term and the requirement to wear an electronic tracking device.

CURVE FLATTENING

Philip Russo, president of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control, said talk of curve flattening was “premature.”

“We need to have weeks on end of decreasing numbers of new cases on a daily basis,” Russo said. “What we are seeing now is quite possibly normal daily variation.”

The government’s own caution was highlighted by a deal to boost the public health system with an extra 34,000 hospital beds sourced from private hospitals, along with thousands of doctors and nurses. Australia will also take delivery of more than 5,000 ventilators at the end of April, Hunt said.

Health officials said earlier on Tuesday they wanted to increase testing, especially in places of COVID-19 clusters such as Sydney’s Bondi area, which drew attention earlier this month after people ignored social distancing rules and flocked to the beach. NSW officials said that the virus may have been transmitted in the Bondi community via an infected backpacker who was not aware they were carrying the disease.

Like all affected countries, Australia’s financial and jobs markets have been roiled by the outbreak, prompting the government to unveil several stimulus packages.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that 113,000 businesses had registered interest in a new A$130 billion ($80 billion) six-month wage subsidy designed to stop spiralling unemployment and business closures.

The “job keeper” allowance brought the country’s coronavirus-related stimulus so far to A$320 billion, or about 15% of Australia’s gross domestic product, as economists forecast the country’s first recession in almost three decades.

Source: Read Full Article

U.S. airlines must suggest possible compensation for cash grants: Treasury

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Airlines must suggest possible compensation in return for government cash assistance and agree to conditions that include not cutting pay or laying off employees through Sept. 30, the U.S. Treasury Department said in guidelines issued on Monday as it prepares to quickly hand out $25 billion.

Congress approved legislation last week authorizing the $25 billion for passenger airlines, as well as $4 billion for cargo carriers and $3 billion in cash for airport contractors like caterers and airplane cleaners.

Under the law, Treasury is supposed to make initial payments of the grants designed to cover payroll costs by next week.

The companies “must identify financial instruments” that would “provide appropriate compensation,” the guidelines said, adding that these could include warrants, options, preferred stock, debt securities or notes.

The department told applicants to apply by April 3 at 5 p.m. to receive funds as soon as possible. Applications received after April 27 may not be considered.

Other conditions for the cash assistance include limits on executive compensation through March 2022 and no stock buybacks or dividend payments through September 2021.

Airlines may also apply for a separate $29 billion in government loans. Separate Treasury guidelines released Monday for loans said carriers must provide financial instruments “for the benefit of taxpayers, in equity appreciation or a reasonable interest rate premium.” Companies critical to U.S. national security can seek loans from a separate $17 billion fund.

Those seeking loans must describe losses they have “incurred or will incur as a result of coronavirus” and detail the cause of the loss such as reduced demand, unavailability of credit or unbudgeted medical expenses.

The Treasury Department said in reviewing applications for the cash assistance it will consider the “adequacy of the proposed financial instruments for providing compensation to the Federal Government.”

It also said it “may refuse to provide payroll support payments to applicants that have taken, or are currently evaluating, any action to commence a bankruptcy.”

Major U.S. airlines on Saturday asked the Treasury department to move quickly to release funds. They have cut tens of thousands of flights as travel demand collapses amid the coronavirus pandemic and warned that without cash they would need to quickly begin massive furloughs.

The chief executives of American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O), Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and others wrote in a letter that “given the urgent and immediate need, it is essential that these funds be disbursed as soon as possible.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday taxpayers will be “compensated” for providing emergency assistance to air carriers.

American Airlines said Monday it will be allocated about $12 billion of the combined cash assistance and government loans. It has said it expects that Treasury will not seek “onerous” conditions.

Source: Read Full Article

FCA executives, salaried employees to take pay cuts during coronavirus pandemic

DETROIT (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) top executives and salaried workers around the globe will take pay cuts in an act of “shared sacrifice” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered the automaker’s plants in Europe and North America, according to a company memo seen by Reuters.

Chief Executive Officer Mike Manley will take a 50 percent pay cut for three months starting April 1, while Chairman John Elkann and FCA’s board of directors will forego the remainder of their 2020 compensation. FCA said most global salaried employees will be asked to take a temporary 20 pct pay cut.

Source: Read Full Article

Aston Martin furloughing some staff after coronavirus plant closures

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Aston Martin said on Monday it is furloughing some employees as it handles the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak which has closed its car factories.

The pandemic has shut both the luxury brand’s plants, just as it starts production of its first sport utility vehicle, the DBX, crucial to a turnaround after disappointing sales last year contributed to a plunge in its share price.

Employers in Britain can claim for 80% of wage costs for staff whom they place on temporary leave, up to 2,500 pounds a month per employee, as part of a government scheme designed to help businesses whose operations have been hit by the fallout.

“(We are) utilizing all government aid available,” the company said in a statement.

Aston confirmed its capital-raising plans on Monday that will see a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll take a stake in the company.

It said it was also taking action to control operating costs and capital expenditure and is accessing additional funding facilities. Its directors said they remain confident that the firm has enough working capital for at least the next 12 months.

The firm’s production sites are currently not scheduled to reopen until April 20 and the central England-based firm said deliveries of its DBX were “still planned for summer 2020 dependent on production and supply chain returning as currently anticipated.”

Source: Read Full Article

Denmark eyes gradual reopening after Easter if coronavirus numbers stabilize

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark may gradually lift a lockdown after Easter if the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths remain stable, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Monday.

The Nordic country, which has reported 77 coronavirus-related deaths, last week extended until after Easter a two-week lockdown to limit physical contact between its citizens that began on March 11.

“Over the past week the number of hospital admissions has risen slightly slower than the week before and without the explosion in the numbers that we have seen in other countries,” Frederiksen told a news conference.

Last week, the number of hospitalizations for coronavirus in Denmark roughly doubled from 254 to 533, whereas admissions in the week before that more than tripled from the previous week, according to data from the Danish Health Authority.

The number of daily deaths slowed to five on Sunday from eight and 11 on Saturday and Friday respectively. Denmark has reported a total of 2,577 coronavirus infections.

“If we over the next two weeks across Easter keep standing together by staying apart, and if the numbers remain stable for the next two weeks, then the government will begin a gradual, quiet and controlled opening of our society again, at the other side of Easter,” Frederiksen said.

Denmark has imposed less strict limits on daily life than in Italy or France where people are only free to leave their homes to buy groceries, go to work if essential or seek medical care.

But the Danish approach has been considerably tougher than that of neighboring fellow European Union country Sweden, which remains largely open for business.

Danish authorities have restricted public assembly to 10 or fewer people, ordered the closure of schools, universities, day cares, restaurants, cafes, libraries, gyms and hair salons, and shut all borders to most foreigners.

A reopening would probably include people attending schools and work in shifts to avoid rush-hour traffic and too many people gathering in public at the same time, Frederiksen said.

“We do see signs that we have succeeded in delaying the transmission of corona in Denmark. The transmission is spreading slower than feared,” she said.

Frederiksen said she hoped to be able to present a plan for the first phase of a reopening by the end of this week after consultation with the other parties in government.

More than 738,400 people have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide and 35,006 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The countries that have suffered the most deadly outbreaks are both in Europe – Italy and Spain.

Source: Read Full Article

Some ultra-Orthodox Israelis chafe at coronavirus restrictions

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli police have used a drone, helicopter and stun grenades in recent days to prevent people gathering in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem in defiance of Health Ministry measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday, police, some in riot gear and surgical masks, encountered occasional resistance and verbal abuse while enforcing the measures in a part of the city whose residents have long chafed against the state.

“Nazis!” shouted a group of boys, as police pulled men off the narrow streets of Mea Shearim.

As well as broadcasting the message “Stay Home” from the helicopter and drone, police have issued offenders with fines.

Israeli officials describe the ultra-Orthodox as especially prone to contagion because their districts tend to be poor and congested, and in normal times they are accustomed to holding thrice-daily prayers with often large congregations.

Some of their rabbis have also cast doubt on the degree of coronavirus risk.

Many ultra-Orthodox reject the authority of the Israeli state, whose Jewish majority is mostly secular.

Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority are another sensitive community, where officials say testing for the virus has been lagging.

“There are three ‘Corona Countries’ – the ultra-Orthodox sector, the Arab sector and the rest of the State of Israel,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters on Sunday.

The Mea Shearim patrols represented an escalation in security enforcement. On Saturday, a funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners in Bnai Brak, an ultra-Orthodox town.

Reprimanded by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan for allowing what he deemed a “threat to life” at the funeral, police issued a statement vowing to “draw lessons to prevent similar situations recurring”.

Public gatherings are currently limited to up to 10 people, people must keep two meters apart and the public has been urged to stay at home unless they need to buy food, get medical attention, or go to work deemed crucial by the state.

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, ultra-Orthodox head of ZAKA, a volunteer emergency-medicine group, told Israel’s Army Radio that most ultra-Orthodox Jews did follow Health Ministry directives and only a small group defied them, possibly for political reasons.

“Everything they are doing has no value when they constitute a ‘ticking bomb’ because of whom people will get infected,” he said of those not following the government’s guidelines.

Israel has reported 4,347 coronavirus cases and 15 fatalities.

With the Health Ministry warning that the dead could eventually number in the thousands, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due on Monday to convene officials to discuss a proposed lockdown of some of the country.

Bennett has proposed setting up a coronavirus surveillance system that would allow authorities to focus lockdowns on areas most prone to contagion.

Source: Read Full Article

Italy expected to maintain lockdown as it awaits steady coronavirus decline

ROME (Reuters) – Italy looks certain to remain under lockdown for at least two more weeks, officials said on Monday, with the number of new coronavirus cases yet to show a decisive decline.

Nearly 11,000 people have died in Italy since Feb. 21, the highest death toll from the virus in the world, while some 97,689 people have been infected in a little over five weeks, more than anywhere except the United States.

Underscoring the dangers of the disease, the national doctors’ association announced the deaths of 11 more doctors on Monday, bringing the total to 61.

Not all of them had been tested for coronavirus before they died, it said, but it linked their deaths to the epidemic. Many were general practitioners in Lombardy, the worst-affected region in the north of Italy.

The governor of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, said the government would have to extend the near total clampdown on movement and business activities which were introduced nationwide on March 9 and are due to end on Friday.

“We have to agree on this with other regions, but I think we are talking about (maintaining the block) until at least mid-April,” he told reporters. The governor of the southern region of Puglia said on Saturday the restrictions should stay until May.

Lombardy, which is centered on Italy’s financial capital Milan, accounts for almost 60% of the total deaths in Italy and 42% of the confirmed cases. However, Fontana said he was hopeful infections under control were thanks to the unprecedented curbs.

“We’re on the right track, we’re maintaining a line that’s not uphill, but it’s not downhill either,” he said.

Related Coverage

  • Coronavirus death toll in Italy's Lombardy rises by around 458 in a day: source

The number of confirmed new cases fell on Sunday after three relatively stable days, but experts said a long period of decline would be needed before Italy could think about rolling back the restrictions.

“The number of new cases has to fall significantly,” said Silvio Brusaferro, the head of Italy’s public health institute, who is advising the government on how to handle the crisis.

“For sure the re-opening will happen gradually … We are even considering the British idea of ‘stop and go’, which envisages opening things for a certain amount of time and then closing them again,” he told La Repubblica daily.

Source: Read Full Article

Coronavirus crisis: Trust in French government dwindles as virus toll continues to rise

The poll, conducted by Ifop for Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), showed that 56 percent of French people do not trust the government to “effectively address” the worsening health crisis. Just 44 percent said that they approved of the government’s crisis response plan, down 11 points in one week.

Paradoxically, a separate poll by Ifop also commissioned by the JDD found that President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity rating had hit a two-year high, showing that his handling of the crisis was being given a big vote of confidence.

Some 43 percent of the French are “satisfied” with M Macron, according to the Ifop poll, an 11-point increase compared to the previous month and the highest since April 2018.

The polls were published shortly before France’s health chief Jérôme Salomon said that 40,174 people had tested positive for coronavirus in France, up from 37,575 a day earlier.

Among the nearly 19,000 patients now in hospital, 4,632 are in intensive care, M Salomon told a daily press briefing.

Health authorities reported 292 new deaths on Sunday, he added, up 13 percent on the previous day and taking the total number of fatalities to 2,606.

The polls were taken after the Macron government imposed drastic restrictions on movement on March 17 to slow the spread of the disease, with people ordered to stay home other than to buy food, exercise alone, carry out essential work or seek medical care.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on Friday that the “battle” against the virus was just beginning.

The first two weeks of April will be even tougher than the past fortnight,” he told reporters, before admitting that the unprecedented restrictions on public life would remain in place until at least April 15.

France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran, for his part, announced on Saturday that the government had ordered more than a billion face masks as it scrambles to keep up with demand.

Doctors, nursing home staff, police and other frontline workers are furious at the shortage of vital masks and other protective gear.

A plane arrived in Paris from China on Sunday carrying 5.5 million masks and other equipment, though health officials say the country needs 40 million masks each week for health workers alone as the outbreak rages on.

Our first Boeing 777 Cargo has just landed at #ParisCDG with close to 100 tonnes of medical equipment on board, including more than 5 million masks,” Air France tweeted.

Up to one-third of the world’s population is currently under lockdown as the virus forces countries to hit pause in a bid to slow its spread.

The coronavirus crisis has upturned nearly every aspect of society: wiping out millions of jobs, straining health care services and prompting scores of governments to dig deep into their pockets.

Worldwide coronavirus fatalities passed 33,000 on Monday as infections jumped to more than 700,000. European nations have been hit harder on a per capita basis, with 20,059 deaths.

• The first Ifop poll of 1,007 people was conducted online on March 26-27; while the second survey was conducted among 1,930 participants on March 19-28.

Source: Read Full Article