Tag Archives: coronavirus

World tourism loss exceeds €1 trillion

The economic damage to the global tourism sector as a result of the coronavirus pandemic restricitons is likely to exceed $1 trillion in 2020, which would set the industry back two decades, according to a new report from the United Nations.

“Depending on when travel restrictions will be fully lifted, the World Tourism Organization expects international tourism receipts (i.e. spending by international tourists) to drop between $910 billion and $1.2 trillion this year, which would set the global tourism industry back by 20 years,” UNWTO said.

The report adds that the coronavirus-related restrictions brought international travel to a crashing halt in April and May, resulting in international tourist arrivals that trailed last year’s total by almost 60% through the first five months of 2020.

The UNWTO has underlined that the tourism sector employs one in every ten people on Earth and warns that up to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk.

Tourism came to a standstill in mid-March. 2020. International tourist arrivals decreased by 56% in the first months of the year, with numbers in May down by 98%. This translates into a loss of nearly $320 billion in exports – over three times what was lost during the whole of the 2009 global economic crisis.

Forward-looking scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals and receipts from international tourism of 58% to 78% for the whole year depending on the speed of con- tainment of the pandemic, the duration of travel restrictions and the gradual re-opening of borders that has now begun but remains uncertain.

Trade Commissioner Hogan resigns

“This evening I have tendered my resignation as EU Trade Commissioner to the President of the EU Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen”, reads the letter of resignation of Phil Hogan, the Irish politician, serving as the EU Trade Commissioner. The decision came amid controversy over breakig the strick sanitary rules during his visit to Ireland. He has been criticised for participating in a gala dinner, without considering the COVID-19 sanitariy measures, attending an event organised for 82 people celebrating golf club anniversary, which caused indignation of his compatriots.

“It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU Commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead.

“I deeply regret that my trip to Ireland – the country that I have been so proud to represent as a public servant for most of my adult life – caused such concern, unease and upset. I have always tried to comply with all relevant COVID-19 Regulations in Ireland and had understood that I had met with all relevant public health Guidelines, particularly following confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test. I reiterate my heartfelt apology to the Irish people for the mistakes I made during my visit. The Irish people have made incredible efforts to contain the coronavirus, and the European Commission will continue to support you, and all EU Member States, in defeating this terrible pandemic.

“Let me say from the heart that I fully appreciate and recognise the challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to our society and the global economy. As European Trade Commissioner, I have been at the frontline of the European Union’s response to the crisis.

“I recognise and appreciate the devastating impact of Covid-19 on individuals and families, and I fully understand their sense of hurt and anger when they feel that those in public service do not meet the standards expected of them. It is important to state that I did not break any law. As a public representative I should have been more rigorous in my adherence to the Covid regulations.

“It has been the honour of my life to serve as European Commissioner, first in Agriculture and Rural Development and then in Trade. I believe the project of European Union is our shared continent’s crowning achievement: a force for peace and prosperity the likes of which the world has never seen. I also believe that Ireland’s destiny is deeply European, and that our small, proud, open nation will continue to play an inspiring and proactive role at the heart of the EU.

“I made a lifelong commitment to public service, throughout the course of my almost 40-year political career, as a member of the Local Authority, Oireachtas, Minister and two terms as European Commissioner .I am proud of my record and achievements as European Commissioner and I hope history will judge them favourably, when the final assessment is made.

“I remain convinced that at a time when the global economy faces significant challenges and turbulences, the importance of the EU as a global leader remains paramount. It has been my priority as EU Trade Commissioner to strengthen this global leadership role in trade, and to boost Europe’s capacity to protect itself from unfair trading practices. The EU must remain at the heart of the multilateral system of open, fair and rules-based trade, and continue pursuing a positive reform agenda.

“Brexit also represents a significant challenge for the EU and for Ireland in particular for which I have been centrally involved from the outset. I hope that the EU Member States, with Ireland at their vanguard, and the UK, can overcome their differences and work together to reach a fair, mutually beneficial and sustainable trade deal. EU and UK citizens and businesses deserve nothing less.

“I would like to thank President von der Leyen, my fellow Commissioners, Council members and MEPs for their support and encouragement since my appointment as EU Trade Commissioner. I would also like to thank my Cabinet, team and family for their support”.

EU €63M Remdesivir contract with U.S.Gilead

#COVID19 European Commission has signed a contract with the pharmaceutical company Gilead on July 28 to secure treatment doses of Veklury, the brand name for Remdesivir. The medicine Remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, is a broad-spectrum antiviral medication developed by the California biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc. It is administered via injection into a vein.

As from early August onwards, and in order to meet immediate needs, batches of Veklury will be made available to Member States and the UK, with the coordination and support of the Commission. The Commission’s Emergency Support Instrument will finance the contract, worth a total of €63 million, the European Commission announced the day after.

«This will ensure the treatment of approximately 30,000 patients presenting severe COVID-19 symptoms. This will help to cover the current needs over the next few months, while ensuring a fair distribution at EU level, based on an allocation key, taking into account the advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The Commission is now also preparing a joint procurement for further supplies of the medicine, expected to cover additional needs and supplies as from October onwards» the Commission spokesperson announced.

A contract has been signed yesterday, less than a month after the authorisation of Remdesivir, which will allow the delivery of treatments from early August for thousands of patients” Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said. “The Commission is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to secure access to safe and efficient treatments, and is supporting the development of vaccines against coronavirus. Yesterday’s agreement is another important step forward in our fight to overcome this disease” she added.

«Remdesivir is not a cure. Worse, it causes kidney failure: out of the first 5 patients treated with this drug at Bichat @APHSP hospital [39 hospials + 6 univeristy groups in France], 2 were put on dialysis. When will we have the results of Discovery? What is the WHO waiting for to react? » wrote on his Twitter micro blog Professor Didier Raoult, the Director of IHU Mediterranean Infection, Marseille, France, – the unique Institute based on University hosptial, devoted to infectious and tropical deseases, and also the microbiological research in the field.

Sassoli: «time to deliver» recovery

Parliament President David Sassoli urged EU leaders to take action on Europe’s recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Sassoli addressed heads of state and government at the start of a video conference of the European Council on 19 June to discuss the recovery plan and the EU’s next long-term budget.

“Time is a luxury we cannot afford,” he said. “We need to act urgently and courageously, as EU citizens, businesses and economies need an immediate response. Our citizens expect bold action. Now it is time for us to deliver.”

Sassoli called the Commission proposal “ambitious” but added: “In our view it only scratches the surface of what needs to be done.”
The President also spoke out against issuing loans as part of the recovery plans. “Parliament is keen to stress that any common debt issued must be repaid fairly, without burdening future generations,” he said.

“Let us not forget that providing support solely in the form of loans would have an asymmetric impact on the indebtedness of the individual member states and would be more costly for the Union as a whole. We have an opportunity now to refashion Europe and make it more equal, greener and more forward-looking. To this end, we should seize our chance to introduce a basket of new own resources.”
Sassoli called the introduction of new own resources for the EU “an essential prerequisite” for any overall agreement on the EU’s long-term budget.

Stressing the importance of an ambitious recovery plan and budget, he said: “Now is not thetime to water down our ambitions. We need to show our citizens the value of Europe and our ability to come up with solutions that matter in their lives.”

The President also addressed the ongoing EU-UK talks on future relations. The previous day Parliament had adopted a report setting out its views. “We will push for an ambitious, overarching and comprehensive agreement in line with the joint commitments undertaken in the political declaration. We believe that this is the best possible outcome for both sides and, despite the limited time available, with goodwill and determination, it is still possible. We have every faith in our negotiator, Michel Barnier.”

EU encourages lifting Schengen controls

European Commission issued a statement on travel restrictions in which it “strongly encourages the remaining member states to finalise the process of lifting the internal border controls and restrictions to free movement within the EU by 15 June 2020.”

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, insisted on the recommendation that internal borders must “reopen as soon as possible.” But she added that the main thing is for everyone to open internal borders completely before opening the EU’s external ones to third-country travelers.

While Germany, France and Belgium have said that they will lift travel restrictions on June 15, Spain is still preventing full mobility between its own regions. This situation is due to end by June 22, when the state of alarm declared to fight the Covid-19 epidemic expires.

The EU Commission said it is aware that coordination issues will not be easy. “We understand that reopening on Monday for countries that have not yet decided to do so could be complicated, and that some might take an extra week or two,” Johansson added.

EU €55M aid to Syria refugees

As part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis has mobilised an additional €55 million for refugees from Syria and vulnerable persons in Jordan and Lebanon to fight the pandemic. It will provide critical and targeted support in key areas such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene. The newly adopted package brings the total assistance mobilised through the EU Trust Fund to over €2.2 billion since 2015, doubling the target originally set.

“Jordan and Lebanon are showing huge resilience and solidarity in hosting Syrian refugees. It is our duty to continue supporting them, especially in the current coronavirus pandemic situation. The EU will host the fourth Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region on 30 June in direct support of the UN efforts for a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian conflict and to mobilise necessary financial support for Syria and neighbouring countries. The Conference will also continue to provide a unique platform for dialogue with civil society organisations from the region,” High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security  Josep Borrell, said.

“Our continued commitment to support Syrian refugees and partner countries like Jordan and Lebanon hosting them remains unwavering. We are responding today to the urgent needs in fighting the COVID-19 crisis with a substantial and targeted assistance package. Despite the European Union’s continued strong solidarity with partner countries, the needs of the Syrian refugees continue to be important and cannot be neglected. In this regard, the 2020 Brussels IV Conference will provide an opportunity for the international community to mobilise the necessary financial assistance” Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, commented.

Malta Airport may open June 15

Malta airport could reopen on 15 June but decision still depends on agreement granted by the health authorities the Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli indicated.

Farrugia Portelli said the Prime Minister will be announcing an official date for reopening the airport in the coming days.

The target date has been set earlier, and all stakeholders agreed that a confirmation is needed as soon as possible, she continued.

“We have always said the airport should be closed until 15 June but we will continue assessing this with the health authorities,” she said on TVM’s Xtra on May 28 night programme, pointing to the government intention of mid-June reopening.

Farrugia Portelli underlined that there will be a summer vacation possible for the guests of the archipelago country.

“It will be a safer summer than ever before,” she said, adding that safety protocols will be introduced once the airport reopens.

Tourism operators have been waiting for the reopening of the airport and lifting of travel restrictions to encourage tourism, contributing to about 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). All travel came to standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Malta in March.

Malta medical experts have established 616 cases, 501 patients received treatment and recovered, but still 108 cases remain active. Seven from COVID-19 infections resulted in related deaths.

Vatican Museums reopen from June 1

The Vatican Museums reopening coincides with Italy’s gradual easing of the nearly 3-month lockdown, which allows many businesses and activities to restart.

The reopening of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo and a new open-bus tour have also been announced.

Health and art:

Due to the current health emergency situation, the Vatican Museums are ensuring a very careful balance between safety and health needs and the dynamics of a museum visit, without compromising the essence of such a visit.
Hence, in keeping with the norms of hygiene and physical distance, visitors to the Museums will be subject to a body temperature check and will be allowed in only with a facemask.
A medical and health team from Italy’s Misericordie volunteer group and the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department will ensure every need during the opening hours.
Other important requirements for the reopening of the museums will be revised from time to time as the current emergency situation evolves.

Online booking:

In order to restrict the number of entries, the Vatican Museums have limited ticket sales to only online booking from the official website http://www.museivaticani.va.

For this emergency period, the online booking fee of €4 will not apply.

There are also variations to the opening hours:
– Monday to Thursday: the Pontifical Collections will remain open from 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m., with the last entry at 6.00 p.m. (exit from the museum sectors starts at 7.30 p.m.)
– Friday and Saturday: from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., with the last entry at 8.00 p.m. (exit from the museum sectors at 9.30 p.m.).

Museums visits on Friday and Saturday are accompanied by the possibility to take part in an aperitif in the Pine Cone Courtyard to enjoy the sunset.
The usual free entry to the museums on the last Sunday of the month has been suspended.

EU provides €3bn assistance to partners

The Council today adopted a decision to provide up to 3 billion euros of macro-financial assistance to ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners to help them cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial assistance will be provided in the form of loans on highly favourable terms and allocated as follows:

Albania: €180 million
Bosnia-Herzegovina: €250 million
Georgia: €150 million
Jordan: €200 million
Kosovo*: €100 million
Moldova: €100 million
Montenegro: €60 million
Republic of North Macedonia: €160 million
Tunisia: €600 million
Ukraine: €1200 million.

EU assistance will help these jurisdictions cover their immediate financing needs which have increased as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Together with the support from the International Monetary Fund, the funds will help enhance macroeconomic stability and create space to allow resources to be allocated towards protecting citizens and to mitigating the negative socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID19: EU tourism re-launch

Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions.

The Commission’s guidance aims to offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air. As soon as the health situation allows, people should be able to catch up with friends and family, in their own EU country or across borders, with all the safety and precautionary measures needed in place.

The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.

The Commission’s Tourism and Transport package includes:

An overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond;
A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel;
A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.

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