Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Coronavirus latest: Europe reopens borders for summer travel

8 min read
  • Many European countries, including Germany and France, are reopening their borders to Europeans wishing to make non-essential journeys or visit tourist spots 
  • Germany has removed travel warnings for 27 European nations, with Health Minister Jens Spahn urging caution when traveling abroad 
  • Germany’s seven-day virus reproduction rate has risen to 1.09
  • More than 7.8 million confirmed cases globally and over 432,000 fatalities

All times in GMT/UTC  

11:40 Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and France are set to invest €750 million euros to secure 300 million doses of drug maker AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine.  

The four-country bloc, known as Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), also have an option to buy a further 100 million doses, an Italian government spokesman said. The IVA is hoping to secure vaccine doses for all member states as soon as possible 

Under the deal, doses are split between countries on a pro-rata basis based on population, a source at the French President’s office said on Monday. 

“What we’ve asked for and what has been agreed is for production to take place in Europe.” The French government also said it hoped to strike similar deals with other pharmaceuticals companies soon, the source added. Watch video02:20

Covid breakthroughs drive German biotech boom

11:15 German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier confirmed Monday that the government is investing in biotech firm CureVac.

The move follows attempts by the US in March to acquire a stake in the company. Germany will pay €300 million ($337.4 million) for a 23% share.

“The German government has decided to invest in this promising company because it expects that this will accelerate development programmes and provide the means for CureVac to harness the full potential of its technology,” Altmaier said at a news conference.

He added that Germany wants to strengthen its sectors in life sciences and biotech and that the government would not have any authority over CureVac’s business strategy.Watch video03:56

Why is everyone so interested in CureVac?

10:50 Filming of the sequel of sci-fi blockbuster film “Avatar” resumed in New Zealand, now that the country has declared itself coronavirus-free. Filming had been suspended in March, shortly before New Zealand began its strict lockdown. 

As the government lifted all restrictions and declared the nation free of the virus, it has still maintained border controls. 

But the film’s director James Cameron and producer John Landau, plus dozens of crew members, were allowed to enter New Zealand on economic grounds. The movie is set to boost the economy, by providing fresh jobs.  

“This one production alone is going to hire 400 New Zealanders to work on it,” Landau told local media, after completing a quarantine in a hotel in Wellington. 

“We’re going to spend, in the next five months alone, over $70 million here,” he said. 

Avatar is among a handful of productions that are resuming in New Zealand, which hopes to win more film business after its successful campaign against the coronavirus.Watch video00:56

Ardern declares NZ virus victory

09:43 A plane carrying holidaymakers from Germany has landed in Mallorca for the first time since the Spanish island shut down to non-essential air travel.  

The TUI flight, fully packed with 189 passengers, had taken off from the west German city of Düsseldorf on Monday morning. Later this afternoon, a second flight is scheduled to arrive from Frankfurt.

Only holidaymakers from Germany have been allowed to travel to the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera.  

According to the regional government, Germany was selected not only because it’s where the Balearic Islands receive a majority of its tourists, but also because it considers the pandemic to be well under control in Germany.

The pilot project is intended to test security measures against COVID-19, which will then be used nationwide when the rest of Spain reopens mass tourism to visitors from Schengen countries on June 21. In its first contingent, a total of up to 10, 900 travellers are permitted.

09:09 South Korea could face a second wave of coronavirus infections with as many as 800 new cases a day by July if the government does not implement stricter social distancing measures, a  prominent infectious disease specialist has warned.

Referring to his research model, Ki Moran, a professor of cancer control and population health at South Korean’s  National Cancer Center, said that if the infection rate remains at this level, the country will report 254 new cases daily by June 25 and 826 by July 9.

Ki’s warning comes after South Korean health authorities extended coronavirus prevention and sanitation guidelines on Friday until daily new infections drop to single digits.

Seol Dai-wu, an expert in vaccine development, said the Seoul government is wary of losing its hard-won recognition and global praise for how it has handled the pandemic.

08:45 Non-essential retailers including clothes shops, books and toys stores are reopening across England for the first time since the country went into lockdown in late March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to return to stores. “People should shop, and shop with confidence,” he said.

To meet the UK’s COVID-19 guidelines, shops and malls must ensure shoppers and workers can stay safe. Shops have also deployed plastic screens at payment counters and organizing a one-way traffic system inside. Some shops will only take payments by card and not cash. Stores in London’s Oxford Street, the capital’s most famous shopping street, have prepared hand sanitizing stations and introduced social distance markings for the occasion.  

According to analysts, the pandemic has created a significant shift to online shopping. To entice shoppers back, the upend department store Selfridges has taken on street performers to entertain customers queuing outside, while DJs play music indoors. Selfridges said the last time it had to close its doors was during World War II when it was hit by a bomb in 1941.

07:52 As France looks to accelerate the reopening of its economy, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has signalled that he also hopes citizens will gradually return to the office. 

“Working from home remains preferable, in the sense that it allows us to have a gradual return and can limit the circulation of the virus. But I’ve always considered that working from home was not the panacea,” Le Maire told France Info radio.

Even though many of France’s eateries and shops have resumed business, many white-collar employees are still working from home, particularly in the capital Paris. 

Meanwhile, Health Minister Olivier Veran urged for caution, telling French news channel LCI that “the largest part of the epidemic is behind us but the virus is not dead. We did not completely defeat it and we are controlling its circulation. We continue testing.”
France reported on Sunday nine new coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 29,407 and marking the fifth day with under 30 deaths.

07:36 Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei index has dropped more than 3.4% over fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections following a surge in US cases and a new outbreak in China.

The Nikkei 225 index lost 774.53 points, to close at 21,530.95, while the broader Tokyo Stock Price Index, commonly known TOPIX, dropped 2.54%, or 39.90 points, to 1,530.78.

“Concerns over a second wave of infections are growing as clusters of new infections were reported in the US and China, while the number of new cases increased in Tokyo,” said Okasan Online Securities, a stand-alone Japanese security group.

07:03 Denmark has agreed to a series of initiatives to stimulate its deteriorating economy amid the pandemic including cash handouts and a fund to support struggling companies.

The Nordic country is facing its biggest economic contraction since World War II this year due to the coronavirus lockdown measures.

According to Denmark’s finance ministry, it has injected more than 300 billion crowns ($45 billion, €40 billion) into the economy in aid packages including tax and VAT payment extensions and direct subsidies, but most of the aid will now be phased out.

The cash injection will be financed by Danes’ own holiday allowance, which had been frozen over an overhaul of its holiday pay system. Three out of five of the frozen weeks, earned by Danes themselves, will be paid out before October, amounting to around 60 billion Danish crowns.

As part of the new deal, citizens on public benefits will also receive a separate 1,000 crowns one-off payment. A fund worth 10 billion crowns will be allocated to support struggling companies.Watch video02:09

Closed borders hit German shops that cater to Danish customers

06:37 Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah has offered 500 railway carriages for use as makeshift coronavirus hospital wards following reports of hospitals overflowing with virus patients.

Shah, India’s second-most powerful politician after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was scheduled for a meeting with all major political parties to discuss New Delhi’s struggles to contain a spike in infections.

Delhi currently has about 9,000 beds allocated to COVID-19 patients among public and private hospitals. However, a state government panel of experts has warned that the capital will need at least 15,000 beds by the end of June.

India has reported a surge with more than 11,000 new coronavirus infections nationwide for a third consecutive day, taking the total to more than 332,000, including 9,520 deaths. The South Asian country is the fourth hardest-hit by the pandemic after the US, Russia and Brazil.

06:13 Greece has announced zero new fatalities for the fifth consecutive day, the longest run since mid-March.

The country’s death toll remains at 183. Nine new confirmed cases of the virus in the past 24 hours have increased the total number of infections to 3,121.  

Slowly resuming tourism, Greece is opening a second airport to international visitors in the city of Thessaloniki. Depending on the country of origin, arriving passengers might all be required to be tested or be tested at random.

Flights will be allowed only from European Union countries, at least until June 30. Land travel with neighbouring EU country Bulgaria has also resumed.

Greek museums are also reopening following a three-month shutdown. Visitors are required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing measures.

05:50 France is fully reopening its economy, including all restaurants, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.

“We must relaunch our economy,” Macron said. The French president said restaurants in the Paris region will be allowed to open indoor seating starting today in addition to outdoor sitting. Restaurants in other French regions have already reopened.

From June 22, all nursery schools, primary schools and junior high schools will reopen.

Macron also confirmed that the second round of local elections that were suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown will now take place on June 28.

05:39 Hong Kong Disneyland will reopen as of June 18 — following a similar move by Shanghai Disneyland last month.

The park will reopen with limited visitor capacity and upon arrival, visitors must fill out health forms and have their temperature taken.

It will also implement social distancing measures on rides, in restaurants and other facilities. All visitors will be asked to wear masks. Activities requiring close interaction such as photo sessions with Disney characters have been suspended.

The city’s social distancing measures, which prohibits gatherings of more than eight individuals and limits the capacity of  eateries, are set until June 18. Hong Kong currently has 1,110 reported cases of the coronavirus with four deaths.

Meanwhile, China has reported 49 new coronavirus cases as Beijing reinstated measures to contain a resurgence. Of the new cases, 36 were reported in the capital.

05:15 Thailand has lifted its nightly curfew and allowed alcohol to be served in restaurants again starting today.

Domestic flights are also resuming at full capacity but incoming international flights have been banned until June 30. Borders are still closed to foreign arrivals and bars and pubs are still closed.

Thailand has not reported any domestic transmissions of the virus for 20 days as of Sunday. On Monday, the Southeast Asian country recorded no new coronavirus infections or deaths, maintaining the total of 3,135 confirmed cases and 58 deaths.

04:41 EU and UK leaders are set for further Brexit talks today. But with regular EU meetings being put on ice amid the coronavirus crisis, freelance interpreters have been losing work. The people who facilitate communication within a multilingual Europe are now fighting for survival.

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