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European court rules Moldova must compensate teachers deported to Turkey

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The Moldovan government should pay the five men, who are currently in custody in Turkey 28,000 dollars each, the court said, for their “forcible transfer’’ which “lacked a sufficient legal basis.’’

The five were secondary-school teachers at the Orizont chain of schools.

The Turkish ambassador claimed the schools were tied to a movement that Ankara blames for a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and accused the teachers of terrorism.

Fearing reprisals in their home country, the men had applied for asylum in Moldova in April 2018, the ECHR statement said.

They were arrested in September in a joint Moldovan-Turkish operation and flown out of Chisinau in a private chartered plane.

The ECHR said Moldova “had not only failed to give the applicants a choice of jurisdiction to be expelled to, but had deliberately transferred them directly into the hands of the Turkish authorities’’.

It said the operation was organised in a “manner as to take the applicants by surprise so that they would have no time or possibility to defend themselves.’’

Turkey accuses Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of masterminding a coup attempt by a faction of the military.

In March, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said 107 suspected Gulen supporters have been brought to Turkey, following extradition requests to 91 countries for 504 people, state news agency Anadolu reported then.

Abigael Joshua: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

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Malta holds another boatload of rescued migrants on high seas pending European solution

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Malta has rescued a group of 140 migrants and chartered a third tourist boat to hold them on the high seas after refusing their disembarkation, a government spokesman has confirmed.

Sources said the 140 rescued on Friday were in distress as their dinghy, which was already too small for all those people, was taking in water.

Malta has closed its ports to migrants in April and told the EU it could not guarantee the availability of assets to conduct rescues because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following its decision to close its ports, the government still wanted to live up to its international obligations to rescue people at sea who were in distress. On April 30, it chartered a tourist boat to house the 57 migrants rescued earlier in the day.

A second boat was chartered a week later after the Maltese army rescued another boatload of 120 migrants. Ten of them were allowed to disembark for purely humanitarian reasons.

The third boat commissioned on Friday will take the remaining 121 of a group of 140 rescued earlier in the day, as 19 of the group — mostly children, their parents and three pregnant women — were allowed to disembark in Malta.

The three chartered boats are outside Malta’s waters until a European solution is found. Malta is calling for solidarity from other EU member states.

(XINHUA)

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10 European nations regret U.S. pulling out Open Skies Treaty

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Ten European nations on Friday issued a joint statement regretting the United States’ withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, which they consider “a crucial element of the confidence-building framework that has been created over the past decades to increase transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area.”

“We regret the announcement by the government of the United States of its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, although we share its concerns regarding the implementation of treaty provisions by Russia,” said the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Sweden in the statement.

“We will continue to implement the Open Skies Treaty which has obvious added value for our conventional arms control architecture and our common security,” said the statement.

“We reaffirm that this treaty remains functional and useful. The withdrawal becomes effective after a period of six months,” it added.

“On matters relating to the implementation of the treaty, we will continue dialogues with Russia as previously agreed between NATO allies and other European partners in order to resolve outstanding issues such as undue restrictions imposed on flights over Kaliningrad,” it said.

German Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the German broadcaster n-tv on Friday that her country will make an effort to salvage the international Open Skies treaty.

“I deeply regret the U.S. announcement on the abandonment of the treaty,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, adding that in close coordination with Germany’s Foreign Office, “we will do everything we can to ensure that at the end of the day everyone will be able to stick with this contract.”

The U.S. administration revealed on Thursday its intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, which allows its states-parties to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.

The Treaty on Open Skies, which aims at building confidence and familiarity among states-parties through their participation in the overflights, was concluded in 1992 and entered into force in 2002.

Currently, 35 nations, including Russia, the United States, and some other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have signed it. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not ratified it yet.

(XINHUA)

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10 European naitons regret U.S. pulling out Open Skies Treaty

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Ten European nations on Friday issued a joint statement regretting the United States’s withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty, which they consider “a crucial element of the confidence-building framework that has been created over the past decades to increase transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area.”

“We regret the announcement by the government of the United States of its intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, although we share its concerns regarding the implementation of treaty provisions by Russia,” said the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Sweden in the statement.

“We will continue to implement the Open Skies Treaty which has obvious added value for our conventional arms control architecture and our common security,” said the statement.

“We reaffirm that this treaty remains functional and useful. The withdrawal becomes effective after a period of six months,” it added.

“On matters relating to the implementation of the treaty, we will continue dialogues with Russia as previously agreed between NATO allies and other European partners in order to resolve outstanding issues such as undue restrictions imposed on flights over Kaliningrad,” it said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday the United States is withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies, the latest move to abandon a major international arms control agreement.

(XINHUA)

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European Commission urges Latvia to boost health sector, step up SMEs support

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The European Commission, which on Wednesday released its recommendations to European Union (EU) member states, urged Latvia to bolster its health sector and step up financial support to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has exposed problems in the Latvian health sector, the Commission said. Although Latvia has taken timely steps to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the pandemic showed once again the health sector needs more funding and staff.

Noting that Latvia’s development finance institution Altum has launched a number of support programs for the enterprises affected, such as loans and guarantees, the Commission concluded that this support can only be accessed on strict conditions, which means that it only reaches the financially strongest companies.

Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can therefore be left without the necessary financial support, the Commission warned.

To lessen the pandemic‘s negative impact on the economy, Latvia should provide greater support to SMEs and finance already prepared projects, the EU executive said.

The Commission projects the coronavirus crisis to reduce the Latvian economy by 7 percent and the Baltic country’s unemployment to rise to 8.6 percent by the end of this year, while inflation is expected to be close to zero.

Its forecasts also suggest that Latvia’s budget deficit will widen to 7.3 percent this year. The government support measures implemented so far this year have already exceeded 3 percent of Latvia’s GDP, according to the Commission’s estimates.

(XINHUA)

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Cambodia lifts ban on travelers from U.S., Iran, 4 European countries, as nation detects no new COVID-19 cases

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Cambodia on Wednesday lifted a ban on foreign travelers from the United States, Iran, and four European countries after the kingdom has reported no new COVID-19 infections for more than a month.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng said in a statement that Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen approved the lifting of the ban on Tuesday.

The Southeast Asian country has imposed the ban on foreign visitors from the U.S., Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain and France since mid-March to stem the spread of the COVID-19.

The ban lifting came after the country has detected no new COVID-19 cases since April 12, and all 122 COVID-19 patients in the kingdom have recovered.

However, Bunheng said, entry restrictions for all foreigners to Cambodia remained in effect.

All travelers, both Cambodians and foreigners, wishing to travel to Cambodia must provide a health certificate issued by competent health authorities of their country within 72 hours, certifying that they are not tested positive for the COVID-19, he said.

Moreover, foreign travelers must provide proof of their insurance policy that shows minimum medical coverage during their intended stay in Cambodia in the amount not less than 50,000 U.S. dollars, he added.

The minister said the requirements for health certificate and insurance do not apply to any foreigner holding diplomatic visa (Visa A) or official visa (Visa B) of Cambodia.

He said all travelers, both Cambodians and foreigners, who travel to Cambodia will be transferred to waiting centers for COVID-19 lab tests and they must wait for their test results at those centers.

“If one or many of the passengers is tested positive for the COVID-19, the rest of the passengers (in the same group) will be quarantined for 14 days,” Bunheng said.

He added that for travelers who have been tested negative for the virus, they will be required to quarantine at their homes for 14 days under the monitoring from local authorities and health officials, and they will be required to test for the virus again on the 13th day of the quarantine.

(XINHUA)

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11 European countries make arrangements for reopening of borders

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Foreign ministers from 11 European countries agreed on Monday the terms for the reopening of borders and restoring the freedom of movement of European citizens, according to a joint declaration released by the Portuguese Diplomatic portal.

Gathered by videoconference, representatives from Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia concerted to restore “freedom of movement and circulation in the European Union,” said the declaration.

Based on the principles of proportionality and non-discrimination, the ministers agreed that, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Europe needs to go further.

The meeting defined the “survey of border control measures, resumption of transport and connectivity services, in addition to the progressive restart of tourism services and health protocols in hotel establishments,” said the declaration.

The opening will be done in stages, coordinated between EU member states and gradual to “avoid the risk that a rise in infections will get out of control,” it added.

It said that countries had combined to work on a “common understanding of health standards and procedures in a progressive manner.”

“We urge the tourism industry and related private actors to take advantage of the coming weeks to take appropriate preventive measures so that they can protect travelers as soon as freedom of movement and travel is restored,” it said.

“Even though the situation regarding the pandemic is different in each country, our goal is to coordinate in order to restore freedom of movement to travel safely,” it added.

(XINHUA)

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Reopening in European countries brings about “encouraging” results: report

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European countries which started reopening earlier have registered lower average growth rates in new COVID-19 cases, presenting “encouraging data” and “hope” to Portugal, Portuguese Lusa News Agency reported Saturday.

“The European countries that started the lifting of restriction measures before Portugal, such as Norway, Austria and the Czech Republic, are among the countries which currently have the lowest average growth rates in the number of new COVID-19 cases,” said a survey by the National School of Public Health (ENSP) released on Saturday.

ENSP researchers said “these data are encouraging” and give “hope that the level of transmission of COVID-19 may remain low with the measures of de-confinement,” which started two weeks ago in Portugal, according to Lusa.

“The average growth rate in the number of new cases in May (in Portugal) is much lower than that observed in April, indicating a slowdown in contagion,” the report quoted ENSP as saying.

However, ENSP researchers stressed that the effects of isolation measures to combat COVID-19 are having a bad effect on some Portuguese, “aggravating the existing inequalities” among different generations by mainly affecting those aged between 26 and 45.

“It is the age group most affected by the suspension of professional activity. They suffer the most significant loss of income, and most of them have to work at the workplace, exposing themselves to the risk of COVID-19,” Lusa quoted ENSP as saying.

Portugal had entered a “state of calamity” as of May 3, after the “state of emergency” imposed on March 19 and ended on May 2. Under the Portuguese Constitution, a state of emergency is the highest of three emergency levels.

On May 4, Portugal started its 3-phase of reopening to restart the economy and society.

(XINHUA)

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European ministers discuss joint roadmap for recovery

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A common European economic recovery plan was in the focus of Friday’s video conference of European ministers responsible for internal market and industry.

The ministers discussed the Joint Roadmap for Recovery, which was presented in late April by the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission. The roadmap aims to address the need for a comprehensive recovery plan and investment that will help relaunch economies hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The upcoming months will be crucial for restoring the EU’s Single Market and shaping the future of the European industry. As the health crisis recedes, it is important to avoid an uncoordinated recovery, given the strong economic interdependence of the Member States of the EU,” said Croatian Economy Minister Darko Horvat who chaired the conference that was organized by the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The meeting was also attended by the European Commission’s Executive-Vice President Margrethe Vestager and the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton.

According to the ministry’s press release, the Joint Roadmap consists of four key areas: a full functioning and revitalized single market, an unprecedented investment effort, global action, and a functioning system of governance.

Ministers agreed that green transition and digital transformation will have a central role in the efforts to revitalize and modernize the European economy. Investments in clean and digital technologies will help in creating new jobs and new economic growth, the press release says.

(XINHUA)

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Analysis: Germany’s restart the litmus test for European soccer?

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Tensions are rising ahead of the restart of the German Bundesliga this weekend.

Millions of football fans are eagerly awaiting kick-off while a recent surveys speak of a divided country. The latest surveys show that 56 percent of the German population oppose the restart of the league amid the coronavirus.

Statements by Real Madrid star Toni Kroos indicate that the German league’s attempt to finish the 2019/2020 season could have a signal effect for the entire European soccer landscape.

“In Spain, many have the impression: If the Germans can’t manage this, nobody else is going to make it,” the German international commented.

His home-country will be under close observation, the 30-year-old added. Infection numbers have been lower than some major countries in Europe, the midfielder said, that indicates proper crisis management. “If they can’t finish the season, who can? Considering that, all eyes are on Germany this weekend.”

While all 36 professional teams of the first and second-tier are locked up in a quarantined hotel for seven days to prepare for the return to action, Fredi Bobic prefers to see the positive side of the situation.

“There is no pressure. We shouldn’t feel like that. We ought to see the gigantic chance,” the Eintracht Frankfurt sports director commented.

“We know we will be under observation. But this can be a role model not only for football but for professional sport in general,” Bobic said.

The Bundesliga season has been postponed since mid-March and will become the first competition to reopen after the shutdown. The nine remaining rounds of matches will be played out until the end of July, the league association announced.

The association announced the league had approved a proposal to increase the number of substitutes from three to five to increase options for coaches and to prevent injuries to players who haven’t competed on the field for months.

Several coaches called the restart a journey into the unknown. Hertha’s new manager Bruno Labbadia spoke of a “blind flight.”

Ahead of the delicate 180est Ruhr derby against Borussia Dortmund, Schalke coach David Wagner said the restart feels like the first pre-season game.

“To play such an important game without fans makes my heart bleed,” said Dortmund managing director Michael Zorc.

As tensions rise, setbacks come along with the preparation based on a strict hygiene concept set up by the league association.

Augsburg coach Heiko Herrlich is going to miss his side’s game against VfL Wolfsburg after violating quarantine rules. The former striker left the team hotel unauthorized last week to visit a nearby supermarket to buy toothpaste and hand lotion.

Herrlich admitted to having made a fatal mistake. To return to his job Herrlich has to face two infection tests and will miss his side’s first game this Saturday.

A few days ago, Hertha striker Salomon Kalou was suspended after posting a video from inside the player’s locker room showing several severe rule violations.

“Football will be entirely different as for us in the arena it will be less emotional. Maybe we should remember games of our early days as kids. We didn’t care about spectators but wanted to win the game,” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: European Region infections top 1.8 mln amidst vaccine hope, controversy

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As COVID-19 has made more than 1.8 million people sick and caused over 163,000 deaths in the European Region’s 54 countries, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) suggested on Thursday that a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready in a year at the earliest.

While there is a vaccine hope, there is also a vaccine controversy. France has cried foul after the country’s pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said it would reserve first shipments of any COVID-19 vaccine for the United States.

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe warned that the “emergency fatigue” would undermine the gains in fighting COVID-19 and that there was “no room for complacency.”

An online dashboard, maintained by the WHO European Region, showed that 1,803,789 confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in 54 countries in the Region, with 163,458 deaths as of 10:00 a.m. CET (0800 GMT) on Thursday.

VACCINE HOPE & CONTROVERSY

The Amsterdam-based EMA, an agency of the European Union (EU) responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines in the EU, said on Thursday that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus could be ready in a year under an “optimistic” scenario.

“For vaccines, since the development has to start from scratch … we might look from an optimistic side that in a year from now, so beginning of 2021,” Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy, told an online press briefing.

“The ambition is to try to have such vaccines available in a year from now. This might be possible at least for the frontrunners (of vaccine developers),” Cavaleri said.

“These are just forecasts based on what we are seeing and what we expect might happen. But again I have to stress that this is a best-case scenario, (and) we know not all vaccines that enter into development may make it till the end and will come to the authorization,” he added.

In France, a vaccine-related controversy made headlines after Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson told U.S. media on Wednesday that “the U.S. government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk.”

“The declaration of Sanofi boss has upset the President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron) because this vaccine must be a global public good…The vaccine should be available to everyone at the same time,” an official at the Elysee told French media.

“A vaccine against COVID-19 should be a public good for the world. The equal access of all to the virus (vaccine) is non-negotiable,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe wrote on Tweeter.

Philippe added that Sanofi’s chairman Serge Weinberg had given him “all the necessary assurances” with regard to the distribution in France of any potential Sanofi vaccine.

Sanofi is among dozens of drug companies that are currently working on vaccine projects against COVID-19. One of its projects involves a partnership with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office for preparedness and response.

NO ROOM FOR COMPLACENCY

“Until a vaccine or treatments are at hand for everyone, limiting the virus requires a partnership of people and policymakers,” Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a virtual press conference from Copenhagen.

It has been 16 weeks since they were notified of the first cases of the novel coronavirus in the European Region, Kluge said.

“Today, in the 39 countries that are easing restrictions in the European Region, our behavior remains as important now as ever before,” Kluge said. “There’s no room for complacency — remain vigilant.”

“Emergency fatigue threatens the precious gains we have made against this virus. Reports of distrust in authorities and conspiracy thinking are fueling movements against social and physical distancing,” he warned.

The WHO official said that the risk across all countries in the European Region remains very high and the east of the European Region is seeing continued rising case counts.

Russia, Britain and Spain remained among the top 10 countries around the world reporting the most cases in the past 24 hours, according to Kluge.

Kluge’s cautious assessment came one day after a stern warning from another WHO official that the novel coronavirus may never go away.

“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said on Wednesday at a press conference in Geneva. “It is important that we be realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.”

“We may have a shot at eliminating this virus” with the help of a vaccine, Ryan said, adding that the vaccine must then be “highly effective” and “made available to everyone” and that “we will have to use it.”

(XINHUA)

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Coronavirus vaccine takes at least one year: European Medicines Agency

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A COVID-19 vaccine might be ready and available in at least one year, the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday.

“Vaccine development timelines are difficult to predict,” EMA said on its website. “Based on past experience, EMA estimates that it might take at least a year before a vaccine against COVID-19 is ready for approval and available in sufficient quantities to enable widespread use.”

EMA has been in discussion with developers of 33 potential COVID-19 vaccines and also with developers of around 115 potential COVID-19 treatments.

Among other potential treatments undergoing clinical trials include lopinavir/ritonavir, currently used as an anti-HIV medicine, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, currently used as treatments against malaria and certain autoimmune diseases.

(XINHUA)

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PM Johnson accused of ducking COVID-19 comparisons with European nations

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain’s COVID-19 death toll was “deeply horrifying” on Wednesday after he was accused of avoiding comparisons with other European nations.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer told parliament he was “baffled” by the government’s withdrawal of daily graphs comparing Britain’s deaths and infections with those of other countries

He said that the charts had been “used for seven weeks to reassure the public.”

Johnson did not explain why the graphs were no longer used, but he said scientific advisers believed international comparisons were “premature… [until] we have all the excess death totals for all the relevant countries.”

“Now I am not going to try to pretend that the [British] figures, when they are finally confirmed, are anything other than stark and deeply, deeply horrifying,” he said.

Pressed again on the dropping of daily comparisons, Johnson said the government was “watching intently what is happening in other countries.”

Signs of increasing infections in some nations that had already relaxed lockdowns gave “a very clear warning not to proceed too fast or too recklessly,” he added.

Britain has reported Europe’s highest official death toll of more than 33,000. Health data analyst Jamie Jenkins estimated on Tuesday that its true total is more than 60,000, based on seasonal excess deaths.

Johnson allowed a minor easing of Britain’s lockdown this week, encouraging people who are unable to work from home to resume their journeys to work from Wednesday.

Schools are scheduled to gradually reopen from June 1.

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Spotlight: France, Spain join ranks of European nations easing virus lockdown amid second-wave fear

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France and Spain on Monday cautiously joined the ranks of European nations loosening coronavirus restrictions, while the fear of a second-wave outbreak is hanging over.

The easing came a little shy of two months after the two governments imposed nationwide lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed 26,643 lives in France and 26,744 in Spain, according to the latest official tallies.

The relaxation also came as the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the global coronavirus caseload had passed the 4 million mark.

“I FEEL I’M REBORN”

People in France can now move more freely. More important for them, meetings with family and friends are allowed if the gathering draws no more than 10 people.

Business can resume, factories can kickstart long-stalled assembly lines, and pupils can return to schools — if safety precautions are in place.

“I’m so excited. It’s so good to go back to work after a long period of confinement. I feel that I’m reborn,” said Josephine, a florist in Paris.

In the French capital, one million stickers on the ground in train and metro stations and seats marked social distancing. Commuters had to wear masks and need to fill in a document to use public transport in rush hours. Any offender risks a fine of 135 euros (145.95 U.S. dollars).

Under the new rules, citizens can only travel up to 100 km unless for professional and urgent reasons, while restaurants, cafes and cinemas are still banned from receiving customers.

France‘s first-day post-lockdown “is going as it should,” said Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, minister of state for transport, expressing “satisfaction to see that the wearing of the mask is well respected.”

In Spain, 51 percent of the population were allowed to progress to Phase One on Monday, while regions of Madrid, Catalonia, among others, remained at Phase Zero after failing to meet certain criteria.

The regions that have moved into Phase One will see a gradual reopening of commerce, with bars, shops, libraries, and museums allowed to open under reduced capacity and strict hygiene rules.

Meetings of up to 10 people are allowed. Members of the same family can travel in the same car or sit next to each other on public transport, although they have to respect social distancing, and everyone taking public transport has to wear a face mask.

The Phase One will last at least two weeks before some regions are allowed to progress to Phase Two, which will see further easing of restrictions.

“SAVE LIVES, STAY CAUTIOUS”

Both governments have opted for a gradual approach to lifting the confinement measures, aiming to perk up their ravaged economies without prompting a second wave of outbreaks.

In a Twitter message to citizens, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Thanks to you, the virus has slowed. But it is still there. Save lives, stay cautious.”

Currently, a single positive case in France can infect less than one person, with the reproduction rate (commonly referred to as R0) slightly over 0.6, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

“We know that when we gradually lift the confinement, there will be the R0 rise. What we want is to maintain the rate below one, so that the epidemic declines,” the minister said.

“De-confinement is not a return to the life as before,” he stressed, adding that a lockdown may be reimposed if the virus spreads rapidly.

To Pascal Crepey, a French epidemiologist, the risk of the virus resurgence remains high and depends on the success of the first phase of the de-confinement.

“The risk of an epidemic resurgence exists as long as there is no vaccine neither treatment,” Crepey told Xinhua. “All measures that aim to slow the epidemic spread are good, including barrier gestures, mask. If they are respected, surely, they will help to make the virus situation under control.”

FURTHER STEPS ACROSS EUROPE

In other parts of Europe, Monday saw governments take further steps to return to normalcy.

Belgium entered phase 1B of the de-confinement, with businesses throughout the country allowed to reopen under strict conditions.

The reopening came one day after the expansion of social contacts, which allows people to receive up to four guests, family members or close friends in each home visit.

Cyprus made another big step back to normality by calling final year students back to classes to have a normal school year conclusion. Last week, Cyprus kick-started its economy by allowing 25,000 retail shops and the construction sector to resume operation.

In Greece, students in the final year of high school also returned to their classrooms on Monday. They will be followed by other high school and middle school pupils on May 18.

Greece started easing on May 4 the full lockdown, which was imposed on March 23. After hair salons, bookstores and other shops opened a week ago, now about a third of employees and businesses that were suspended have returned to work, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas noted on Monday during a regular press briefing.

(XINHUA)

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European Commission proposes to extend entry ban to EU until mid-June

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The European Commission on Friday invited the member and associated states of the Schengen area without border controls — a total of 30 countries — to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union (EU) for another 30 days, until June 15.

The Commission first invited the heads of state or government on March 16 to introduce the entry ban, which doesn’t apply to doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researchers or experts helping to cope with the coronavirus, as well as persons carrying goods, frontier workers and seasonal agricultural workers.

The de facto entry ban, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies to all EU member states except Ireland (Schengen member states), as well as four Schengen associated states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).

The coronavirus pandemic situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide, so continued measures are still needed at the external borders to reduce the risk of the disease spreading through travel, the EU executive said.

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: On verge of coronavirus collapse, European airlines in quest for bailouts

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The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the aviation industry across Europe.

Due to a significant drop in passenger numbers and a cash flow crisis caused by lockdowns and travel restrictions, several airline operators have been forced to reduce flight schedules, ground airplanes and lay off workers, among others, to avoid a coronavirus collapse. And yet, some operators still have no choice but to file for bankruptcy or seek government assistance.

INDUSTRY “IN FREE FALL”

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa served an average 350,000 passengers per day. Currently, the figure stands at less than 3,000. Since March, TAP Air Portugal has grounded 3,500 flights and closed 75 of its 90 international routes. Scandinavian Airlines was also forced to suspend most of its routes.

Faced with the pressure, some operators are unable to carry on. On March 5, British low-cost carrier Flybe announced that it was ceasing operations.

Calling March “a disastrous month” for aviation, Alexandre de Juniac, director general and chief executive officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has said that “the industry is in free fall and we have not hit bottom.”

Accordingly, airline operators across Europe have begun to cut costs, drastically reduce pay and layoff workers.

The International Airlines Group (IAG), owner of British Airways, released a financial report on May 7, showing that since late March the group’s passenger capacity has decreased by 94 percent, most of its planes have been grounded, and the group lost 1.68 billion euros (1.82 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter of this year. The group will impose a “restructuring and redundancy program,” which may involve the slashing of up to 12,000 jobs at British Airways.

Lufthansa had announced a loss of 1.2 billion euros in the first quarter, and projected further losses for the second quarter. The company is expected to cut 10,000 jobs.

Other airline operators face the same fate. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) plans to reduce its workforce by about 5,000 people; Hungary’s Wizz Airlines is forced to lay off 1,000 people, nearly one-fifth of its staff; and Latvia’s flag carrier airBaltic has laid off nearly 700 people.

SEEKING GOV’T HELP

In dire straits, Europe’s major airline operators are turning to their respective governments for help.

On May 7, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said his government will help TAP Air Portugal on condition of gaining “more control” over its management. The French government recently provided seven billion euros in aid to Air France. Lufthansa and the German government are in talks on a financial aid package of nine billion euros.

The Danish government has said that, together with Swedish government, they would provide a government guarantee of three billion Swedish kroner (306 million U.S. dollars) to SAS.

As the coronavirus curve has begun to flatten in various parts of Europe, governments are gradually relaxing border controls and travel bans, and certain airline operators are also preparing to resume operations.

Czech Airlines and TAP Air Portugal have recently announced that they will resume selected international services after May 18. Lufthansa plans to resume more flights from June, but it is impossible to foresee when it will return to normal schedule.

Industry insiders generally agree that even when travel restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the willingness of people to travel by air is expected to remain limited initially, in particular on international destinations.

Pandemic fear will suppress the demand for air travel for a long period of time. It may take two to three years or even longer for the European aviation industry to return to normal, they said.

(Xinhua reporters Chen Zhanjie in Rome, Wang Huihui in London, Yuan Liang in Budapest, Lin Jing in Copenhagen, Wen Xinnian in Lisbon, He Miao in Stockholm, Shen Zhonghao in Frankfurt, Li Deping in Riga also contributed to the story)

(XINHUA)

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ECB’s Lagarde calls for common European fiscal response amid coronavirus crisis

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President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Christine Lagarde on Friday stressed the importance of a common European fiscal response as Europe moves to the next phase of combating coronavirus crisis.

The success of the European Union’s single market means supply chain integration is three times tighter within the euro area than with the rest of the world, Lagarde said in her opening speech to an online event organized by the Italy-based European University Institute.

She cited an ECB analysis which finds a common shock is amplified by about 30 percent in the euro area, “meaning all countries have to act together to mitigate large crises effectively,” she said.

Meanwhile, various measures were taken to ensure sufficient liquidity for firms. “Europe will have to move to the next phase of its crisis response. The focus will need to shift from providing backstop support to enabling the recovery,” Lagarde noted.

ECB staff recently estimated that euro area GDP could fall by between 5 percent and 12 percent this year, depending on the duration of containment measures and the effectiveness of policies to mitigate the shock.

In the medium scenario of an 8-percent drop in GDP, additional government financing needs resulting from the recession and the required fiscal measures, may exceed 10 percent of euro area GDP, Lagarde said.

This means additional debt issuance due to the pandemic could stand between 1 trillion euros (1.08 trillion U.S. dollars) and 1.5 trillion euros in 2020 alone, she said. “We need, as a union, to be prepared for this future.”

So far, fiscal measures adopted in the euro area have been diverse, ranging from around 2 percent of GDP to more than 40 percent.

Lagarde said a common European fiscal response that is “swift, sizeable and symmetrical” would help to counter the risk of widening asymmetries among member states and exiting this crisis with greater economic divergence.

It will also provide an opportunity to reconsider and redefine what is Europe’s common interest, she said.

As for the ECB, Lagarde reiterated that the central bank will “play its full part” in line with its mandate.

“We will do everything necessary within our mandate to support the recovery and we remain undeterred in delivering on our price stability objective,” Lagarde said.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: European countries eye cautious easing of lockdown, WHO forecasts COVID-19 deaths in Africa

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BEIJING, May 8 (Xinhua) –Some European countries are preparing to gradually ease lockdown measures placed to contain the spread of COVID-19 as positive signs have been seen, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has forecast more cases and deaths in Africa if mitigation measures fail.

CAUTIOUS EASING IN EUROPE

CAUTIOUS EASING IN EUROPE

CAUTIOUS EASING IN EUROPE

Western Europe has seen a decrease in daily infections in the last four weeks, Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said Thursday. “Slowly but surely, we are seeing positive signs.”

Kluge also confirmed that 32 of 43 countries across the European region, which had implemented partial or full domestic movement restrictions, were moving to carefully ease some of the measures.

France would start to ease restrictions from May 11 through “a very gradual process,” which would stretch over several weeks at least to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday, adding that the exit would be differentiated among regions.

Next week, about 1 million children and 130,000 teachers will return to school. Some 400,000 companies will resume business. Libraries and small museums may reopen while access to beaches could be allowed at the request of mayors.

Under the new rules, France maintains restrictions on public gatherings of over 10 people and keeps borders closed until further notice. Mask-wearing will be mandatory on public transport.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Thursday announced a plan for the second phase of re-opening in the country.

According to the plan, restaurants, retail shops and malls are allowed to reopen from May 11. Some schools, libraries and religious communities will gradually reopen from May 18.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a roadmap to ease the country’s lockdown measures.

Changes in lockdown measures will be “modest, small, incremental and very carefully monitored,” Raab said, stressing the need to maintain social distancing in the coming weeks.

Greece is also gradually returning to normalcy. After the national lockdown was eased earlier this week, more shops, restaurants, open-air cinemas and museums are scheduled to open in May and June, Greek Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni said Thursday.

In Spain, nearly all 17 autonomous regions have asked the government to allow them to advance on May 11 to the second phase of the country’s four-stage plan to ease coronavirus restrictions.

The second phase will see bars allowed to open their terraces at 50 percent capacity, while social gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed and small shops permitted to open at 30 percent of capacity.

WHO Europe said that the European region, with a total of 1.6 million cases and almost 150,000 deaths, accounts for 45 percent of cases and 60 percent of fatalities worldwide.

The agency is also concerned over a worsening situation in the eastern part of the region as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russian, Ukraine, and Tajikistan have seen increases in new cases over the past week.

CONTINUED SURGE IN AFRICA

CONTINUED SURGE IN AFRICA

CONTINUED SURGE IN AFRICA

The African continent is on the spot as COVID-19 cases surpass 50,000. According to the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, caseload across Africa has reached 51,698 as of Thursday morning.

The WHO on Thursday said that between 83,000 to 190,000 people in Africa could die of COVID-19 while an additional 29 million to 44 million are likely to contract the disease if containment measures fail to work.

“While COVID-19 likely won’t spread exponentially in Africa as it has done elsewhere in the world, it likely will smolder transmission hotspots,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

Moeti said that robust mitigation measures are key to averting widespread transmission of the disease that could overwhelm already fragile health systems in Africa.

Since the first case was reported on Feb. 14 in Egypt, the disease has so far affected 53 states except for Lesotho, the WHO African regional office noted in its latest update.

From Nigeria in the west to South Africa and Kenya in the east, COVID-19 cases are accelerating at an alarming rate as most countries engage in mass testing.

The United Nations on Thursday launched an updated COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan that requires 6.69 billion U.S. dollars to help fragile countries cope with the pandemic.

The updated plan added nine countries, including some in Africa, such as Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe.

Apart from the direct health impact, the global recession and the domestic measures taken to contain the virus will take a heavy toll on the poorest countries, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said.

The international community must be prepared for a rise in conflict, hunger, poverty and disease as economies contract and health systems are strained, said Lowcock.

(XINHUA)

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Multiple European countries take steps to relax coronavirus rules 

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Scores of European countries further relaxed  coronavirus restrictions on Monday, with experts the world over – and residents of those countries affected – waiting to see if they strike the right balance between safety and openness.

We take a look at some of the changes, although this is by no means a comprehensive list.

In Austria, some 100,000 final-year students returned to vocational and high-schools for the first time since mid-March.

Also on Monday, elderly people in care homes were allowed to receive visitors again, although some restrictions remain in place.

In Belgium, working from home remains the norm, but some industrial and business-to-business firms needing their employees to be on site resumed activities with precautionary measures in place.

Fabric shops were allowed to open because of their role in the production of masks.

More public transport began running, and Belgians are now allowed to do sports with two people from outside their households, within a prescribed distance.

In Croatia, small businesses, including hair and beauty salons, reopened under instruction to respect health guidelines. Other, larger shops will have to wait a week.

Courts reopened in Cyprus on Monday, although under strict guidelines.

Retail shops and hardware stores also reopened.

However, people are still expected to respect a 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. (2100 – 0300 GMT) curfew.

Germans began going to the hairdresser from Monday under strict hygiene rules, while more pupils were allowed to return to class as several states gradually lifted restrictions on schools.

Across most of Germany, where restrictions vary by region due to the federal division of powers, social-distancing measures remain in place, limiting people to meeting in pairs outdoors at a distance of 1.5 metres, or with people from their own household.

But the central state of Saxony-Anhalt, which has seen relatively few cases, is easing those rules from Monday, allowing people to meet in groups of up to five.

Meanwhile in Greece, failure to wear a mask on public transportation, in hospitals or at doctors’ offices is punishable by a fine.

However, hair salons, electronic goods stores and bookshops reopened.

Although people can once again leave their homes and move freely, there are limits.

People are expected to stay within their local districts. Island residents are not allowed to visit the mainland for now

Social distancing and face masks are still required in Hungary, but many of the restrictions on residents were lifted on Monday – for people who don’t live in Budapest.

The health situation in the capital remains dangerous and restrictions still apply.

In Iceland, universities and high schools opened, but with restrictions.

Students are required to maintain two metres apart, as have schoolchildren between six and 15 years old.

That rule is also in force in  kindergartens, which have remained open during the shutdown.

The ban on public gatherings was also eased.

Up to 50 people can now gather. Previously the limit was 20.

Small firms, including beauty parlours and hairdressers, were allowed to resume work.

The government of Finland said on Monday that it would ease restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather from 10 to 50 people from June 1, and allow libraries and museums to reopen.

According to Li Andersson, Finland’s minister of education, universities and high schools have been advised to continue with remote schooling until the end of the spring term.

Primary and lower secondary schools will reopen from May 14.

Schools have been open for the three lowest grades.

Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen gradually at some point in June, but legislation to put that into effect is pending.

On Monday, the construction and manufacturing sectors resumed activities.

Bars and restaurants reopened, but only for takeaway service.

Hence, people can do more outdoor exercise and visit their loved ones, but there has been confusion about who falls under that category.

Parks and cemeteries reopened on Monday, and funerals took place with small congregations.

The government has promised further openings this month if the curve of infections stays low.

Similarly, several restrictions have already been lifted in the Baltic country of Lithuania.

On Monday, borders opened for residents who want to travel, but the opening doesn’t work both ways.

Outsiders who want to enter Lithuania still have to wait.

Air and sea travel does not resume until May 10.

The first airlines – among them Germany’s Lufthansa – announced that flights to Lithuania would start again in mid-May.

The case is no different in Luxembourg where the government is to allow up to 20 people to gather outside by May 11, as long as they follow social-distancing guidelines.

Groups of up to six may gather indoors. Most smaller shops are to be able to reopen from that date too, as can hairdressers if their customers make appointments.

Each citizen is to be sent 50 protective face masks by post – as will commuters from neighbouring parts of France, Germany, and Belgium.

The government hopes cafes and restaurants can reopen as of June 1.

However, indoor playgrounds, cinemas, and bowling alleys are to stay closed for now.

Poland reopened hotels and shopping centres, as long as a rule of one person per 15 square metres of retail surface is adhered to.

Food courts, fitness centres and playgrounds in those centres remained closed, but libraries and museums reopened.

Hotels reopened on the condition that they would comply with safety rules, just as hotel swimming pools and fitness centres remained closed.

Bulgaria was not left out of efforts to ease the lockdown measures imposed by the government as outdoor sport is now allowed in the form of tennis, cycling, athletics, and golf.

Swimming pools in fitness centres are allowed to open, although the rest of the centre must remain closed.

Driving schools have reopened though.

Open-air restaurants, and the terraces of restaurants and cafes, are to reopen under strict conditions from Wednesday.

The ban on road travel to and from the capital, Sofia, is also to be lifted on Wednesday.

In Spain, small businesses, such as hairdressers, opened on an appointment-only basis.

Customers can now collect from restaurants, food that they have ordered in advance.

The measures represent the first phase of a four-phase operation to remove restrictions.

Four islands – El Hierro, La Graciosa, and La Gomera in the Canaries and Formentera in the Balearics – were allowed to skip phase one as they have not been as badly affected as the rest of the country.

There, the first businesses and smaller markets have begun to open, as have open-air restaurants and cafes.

The rest of Spain is to begin phase two on May 11.

PORTUGAL

In Portugal, small businesses with a shop floor of up to 200 square metres, among them bookshops, hairdressers and shoe shops, have reopened, as have car dealerships.

A mask requirement remains on public transport and in shops.

Outdoor sport is allowed again, with some stretches of beach reopened for water sports like surfing.

There was bad news for Catholic pilgrims, however.

For the first time in more than 100 years, there will be no pilgrimage to the central Portuguese town of Fatima, after the rector of the shrine there made the “painful” decision to cancel.

The second phase of Portugal’s three-phase plan to relax restrictions begins on May 18.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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WHO European director calls for dual-track health systems responding to COVID-19

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Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Europe, on Thursday called on governments and health authorities to prevent the impact of COVID-19 from being amplified by neglecting other vital health protection measures.

During a weekly news conference on COVID-19 broadcast online from Copenhagen, Kluge called for restoration of dual-track health systems safely and quickly so as to continue “delivering regular health services, whilst responding aggressively to COVID-19”.

He also called on people and communities to “ensure your child is vaccinated”.

The WHO official warned that “COVID-19 is not going away any time soon”, giving another bleak batch of figures on the impact of COVID-19 in the European region.

“Today, the European Region accounts for 46 per cent of cases and 63 per cent of deaths globally.

“The Region remains very much in the grip of this pandemic,’’ Kluge said.

According to him, the region has reported 1,408,266 confirmed cases of infection, of which 129,344 have resulted in untimely deaths.

He also addressed the prospect of a looming second wave of infections, which virologists suspect may strike in autumn.

“Our position has been that the key issue here is to work with what we call inter-waves.

“So we use the first wave to buy time to fight a second or a third wave, particularly if there is no vaccine or no equal access yet to the vaccine or any treatment,’’ he noted.

For this “inter-wave” response, Kluge once again stressed that dual-track health systems, which encompass the public and the private sectors, need to manage “repeated waves” of COVID-19 as well as the demand made on the health services for other infections.

“So the key issue is to be prepared, whether it is for a second wave or an older outbreak of the other infectious agents,’’ he said.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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WHO European director calls for dual-track health systems responding to COVID-19

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Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Europe, on Thursday called on governments and health authorities to prevent the impact of COVID-19 from being amplified by neglecting other vital health protection measures.

During a weekly press conference on COVID-19 broadcast online from Copenhagen, Kluge called for restoration of dual-track health systems safely and quickly so as to continue “delivering regular health services, whilst responding aggressively to COVID-19.”

He also called on people and communities to “ensure your child is vaccinated.”

The WHO official warned that “COVID-19 is not going away any time soon,” giving another bleak batch of figures on the impact of COVID-19 in the European region.

“Today, the European Region accounts for 46 percent of cases and 63 percent of deaths globally. The Region remains very much in the grip of this pandemic,” said Kluge.

The region has reported 1,408,266 confirmed cases of infection, of which 129,344 have resulted in untimely deaths, according to Kluge.

He also addressed the prospect of a looming second wave of infections, which virologists suspect may strike in autumn.

“Our position has been that the key issue here is to work with what we call inter-waves. So we use the first wave to buy time to fight a second or a third wave, particularly if there is no vaccine or no equal access yet to the vaccine or any treatment.”

For this “inter-wave” response, Kluge once again stressed that dual-track health systems, which encompass the public and the private sectors, need to manage “repeated waves” of COVID-19 as well as the demand made on the health services for other infections.

“So the key issue is to be prepared, whether it is for a second wave or an older outbreak of the other infectious agents.”

(XINHUA)

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