Germany boosts investments to bolster economy amid virus fallout

first_imgMerkel’s coalition could not agree on other measures like an accelerated phase out of the so-called solidarity tax, which helped pay for reunification, or an expansion of funds for state-backed loans and guarantees to ease a cash crunch for companies affected by supply and demand disruptions.The clearest sign that the virus was hitting the German economy came on Friday, when Deutsche Lufthansa AG slashed capacity by as much as 50 percent.“The impact on our booking situation is immense,” Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr said in an internal memo to employees seen by Bloomberg. “We must assume that it may take months before we will see first signs of stability,” he said in the Friday message.Read also: Indonesia announces $742m stimulus to shield economy from virus The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken its first steps to help companies and workers affected by the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak and will invest an additional 12.4 billion euros (US$14.1 billion) between 2021 and 2024.After more than seven hours of talks on Sunday night, Merkel’s coalition loosened rules for short-term work compensation, making it easier for big companies heavily affected by the virus like Deutsche Lufthansa AG to apply for aid to offset wages when they are forced to temporarily halt work. “No company in Germany should go bankrupt and no job should get lost due to the coronavirus,” the coalition said in a statement after the meeting.Pressure for Germany to act intensified in the days before leaders of Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc and the Social Democrats met in the chancellery in Berlin. The death of the first German from the coronavirus, a 60-year-old man who vacationed in Egypt, added to the pressure. While short of the full-blown stimulus package that many economists and investors urged, Germany’s government sought to walk a fine line between reassuring business and avoiding public panic. German companies cut spending for a third quarter at the end of 2019, leaving the economy vulnerable to supply chain havoc caused by the outbreak. Gross domestic product stagnated in the fourth quarter, slowing the annualized pace of growth to 0.3 percent.While Germany has Europe’s fullest budget coffers, Merkel’s government has long resisted pressure from the European Central Bank and other institutions to unleash its fiscal power with a stimulus that might benefit the region’s wider economy.European finance ministers were warned last week that a prolonged coronavirus outbreak in the region could threaten “cascading effects” stemming from companies suffering squeezed liquidity, which could then be amplified by financial markets.Empty stadiums?Germany is stepping up efforts to slow the spread. Health Minister Jens Spahn on Sunday proposed canceling events of more than 1,000 people, a move that would rule out most professional sporting events and big concerts. Germany’s professional soccer league vowed to finish the season, but said it would work with authorities about holding matches, opening the door to playing in empty stadiums.Eliminating the solidarity tax — a 5.5 percent surcharge on income — could shore up domestic demand. The tax, levied after the collapse of the Berlin Wall to help fund infrastructure in the former communist East, generated nearly 19 billion euros for the German government in 2018. It had been eliminated for 90% of taxpayers by the coalition — a cut that had been set to take effect in 2021.Read also: Indonesia can afford the coronavirus battle, but…Olaf Scholz, Merkel’s Social Democratic finance minister, had pushed for moving forward the reduction of the tax this summer. He also championed a plan to take on 42 billion euros of debt from cash-strapped communities in an effort to divert local coffers to infrastructure projects, such as school and road repairs.Recession warningMerkel’s CDU had previously ruled out a more sweeping stimulus package to stem the damage wrought by the virus outbreak, arguing that a surge in public spending won’t address worries among consumers and investors.That flew in the face of growing calls by industry groups for more action. The country’s influential industry federation BDI on Thursday warned of a recession and urged the government to consider stimulus measures.The meeting was overshadowed by the refugee crisis at the Greek-Turkish border and a conflict between Merkel’s CDU-led conservative bloc and the Social Democrats over the question of whether Germany should let some of the refugees into the country. The government agreed to help between 1,000 and 1,500 children who need medical treatment in the context of a European “coalition of the willing.”Topics :last_img read more

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20,000 worshippers quarantined in Pakistan after major search

first_imgTopics : In northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, authorities have so far quarantined 5,300 Tablighis or Islamic preachers who attended the Lahore meeting.”Health officials are conducting tests for coronavirus and some of them have tested positive,” Ajmal Wazir, a spokesperson for the region, told AFP on Sunday.Wazir said thousands of Tablighis from his province were stranded in other regions because of the closure of major highways across the country.About 7,000 have been quarantined in the central Punjab city Lahore, while in southern Sindh province up to 8,000 Tablighis have been quarantined, government officials said. Dozens more have been forced to self-isolate in southwestern Balochistan province.The Tablighi mosques and the movement’s other places of worship were shut down or marked as quarantine centers at the end of March.At least 154 worshippers who went to last month’s Jamaat had tested positive for coronavirus, with two fatalities, authorities told AFP.Coronavirus has killed at least 45 people in Pakistan but with only limited testing available, observers worry the number is far higher. Tablighi Jamaat is considered one of the world’s largest faith-based movements, with millions of followers, particularly in South Asia, and sends preachers to countries to spread Islam’s ideas.Numerous foreign nationals attended this year from countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria and Afghanistan, organizers said.About 1,500 foreigners are now quarantined in Pakistan, but others left the country without being tested.Gaza’s health ministry confirmed last month its first two cases of coronavirus were Palestinians who had attended the gathering.Pakistan’s science minister Fawad Chaudhry earlier expressed exasperation that the event had gone ahead, blaming the “stubbornness of the clergy”.Organizers said they cut the gathering short following advice from the authorities, however at the time they said it was due to rainy weather. Similar Tablighi Jamaat congregations held in Malaysia and India during the coronavirus pandemic have been blamed for spreading the virus to other nations. center_img Pakistan has quarantined 20,000 worshippers and is still searching for tens of thousands more who attended an Islamic gathering in Lahore last month despite the worsening coronavirus pandemic, officials said Sunday.Authorities said they want to test or quarantine those who congregated at the event held by the Tablighi Jamaat — an Islamic missionary movement —  between March 10-12 over fears they are now spreading COVID-19 across Pakistan and overseas.More than 100,000 people went to the meeting, organizers said, undeterred by government requests for it to be cancelled as the virus hit the country.last_img read more

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Business hit by COVID-19, Jakartans hope social restrictions can curb transmission

first_imgWhile many residents have been staying at home since the government advised social distancing in March, some hope the new, more comprehensive policy will finally curb COVID-19 transmission in the capital.Devita Anggraeni, a 30-year-old insurance salesperson, said that she had been working from home since the outbreak and would continue to do so during the large-scale social restriction period.While working from home had affected her productivity and social life, she hoped that Jakarta residents would comply with the policy.“If we look at other countries that have taken [similar] action, such as Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, which are really strict with their social distancing policies, it seems to be effective,” she told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.  As Jakarta prepares to enforce large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), residents hope that the policy will curb the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the capital.Jakarta has been the country’s COVID-19 epicenter since cases were first discovered in early March. The city has 1,369 cases, approximately half of the national total.Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has announced that large-scale social restrictions will take effect on Friday. The administration will close most schools and will limit group religious and social activities, in-office work and public transportation. “Large-scale social distancing may be the right thing to do for a certain period of time, until the situation is fully resolved or under control. Residents should heed the regulation as well,” she added.Read also: Satellite cities to follow Jakarta’s lead on large-scale social restrictionsBondan, a 23-year-old stockbroker, has not been able to work from home. He has been required to go to the office during the pandemic.Anies said that certain business sectors would be allowed to operate on-site during the social restriction period: health care, food, energy, finance, banking, communication, logistics and retail, among others.Bondan said that it would be difficult for stockbrokers to work from home, as it could cause miscommunications that could lead to duplicated orders or mispricing.“I’m personally not afraid [for my own health], but I’m scared that I might be a carrier of the virus,” he told the Post on Wednesday.Although Bondan said he thought the latest restrictions had come a bit too late, he hoped they would work well and would curb transmission, especially as Jakartans seemed to be emerging from their homes again, evinced by the return of traffic jams in some areas. Business players are hopeful about the restrictions but do not want them to last long.“The large-scale social restrictions are a decision made by the government, so businesses will comply. We hope that they won’t last long and will curb transmission so that business activities can return to normal,” said the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) vice chairman for logistics and supply chains, Rico Rustombi.He said that economic activities in Jakarta accounted for about 70 percent of the national total, adding that the policy would cause that activity to “die down for a while” and that formal and informal industries would be equally affected.Shopping centers have been hit hard by COVID-19. Several malls in Jakarta, including Kota Kasablanka in South Jakarta and Plaza Indonesia in Central Jakarta, have closed most of their shops due to a significantly lower number of visitors.Read also: App-based ‘ojek’ drivers demand compensation as new social restrictions bar them from taking passengers“They only open essential areas of the mall, such as supermarkets, banks, ATMs and restaurants for takeaway,” Indonesian Shopping Center Association (APPBI) chairman A. Stefanus Ridwan said, adding that shopping centers had sustained “huge amounts of losses” as a result of the outbreak.He said the association had asked for assistance from the government, including tax relaxations and loan repayment postponements from banks but that the government had not yet responded.Rico added that the interrupted cash flow of companies caused by the social restriction policy might also cause them to lay off their employees after Ramadan. “Medium and small companies face tough times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus, they have an obligation to give [employees] the [Idul Fitri] holiday bonus,” he said.Topics :last_img read more

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Postponing Games will cost IOC ‘several hundred million dollars’, says Bach

first_img“The IOC will continue to be responsible for its share of the operational burden and its share of the costs for these postponed Games.”The IOC, which has approximately $1 billion (926 million euros) in reserves, took the historic decision to postpone the Games, scheduled to open on July 24, until July 23 to August 8, 2021.If the coronavirus pandemic is not brought under control within a year, the Games cannot be postponed again and will be cancelled, the head of the organizing committee (COJO) Yoshiro Mori warned on Tuesday. A task force, which brings together the IOC and various partners, including COJO, “has established the priorities and management strategies to make these postponed Olympic Games feasible and successful”, Bach said. The postponement to 2021 of the Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic will cost the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “several hundred million dollars”, its president Thomas Bach said on Wednesday.”We already know that we have to shoulder several hundred million US dollars of postponement costs,” the German wrote in a letter to the Olympic movement, warning that, while the IOC would honor its financial obligations to Tokyo, it would probably have to make cuts.”We also need to look into and review all the services that we provide for these postponed Games,” he said.  These include creating “a safe environment with regard to health for all participants”.”At this moment, nobody knows what the realities of the post-coronavirus world will look like,” he said. “What is clear, however, is that probably none of us will be able to sustain every single initiative or event that we were planning before this crisis hit.”He added that the IOC should also view the crisis as an opportunity.”We can fairly assume that, in the post-coronavirus society, public health will play a much more important role. Sport and physical activity make a great contribution to health,” he wrote.Bach also said the Olympic movement should consider its relationship with esports in light of social distancing.”Whilst maintaining our principles by respecting the red line, with regard to the Olympic values, we encourage all our stakeholders even more urgently to ‘consider how to govern electronic and virtual forms of their sport and explore opportunities with game publishers’,” he said.center_img Topics :last_img read more

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Austria, Germany to reopen border mid-June

first_imgAustria and Germany plan to open their border in mid-June after it was closed for two months in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the government in Vienna said Wednesday.”From June 15, the opening of the border between Germany and Austria will be possible,” Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger told state radio station O1.Restrictions on crossing the border will begin to be eased from May 15, enabling business trips and family visits to take place, she added. With the tourism sector reeling, the European Commission was Wednesday set to urge EU countries to gradually reopen shuttered internal borders and to treat each member state according to the same criteria.This would mean that if Austria opens its border with Germany, it must also open the border with the Czech Republic if that country is in a comparable health situation to Germany. The German and Austrian chancellors, Angela Merkel and Sebastian Kurz spoke Tuesday and “agreed on a gradual opening” of the border”, the minister said.Both nations consider they have the virus under control and were among the first in Europe to start lifting the measures taken to halt the spread of the pandemic.The Austrian government was to examine Wednesday a progressive lifting of restrictions on freedom of movement to and from other border countries including Switzerland, Liechtenstein and eastern nations.Germany has a warning in force until mid-June against taking foreign holidays.center_img Topics :last_img read more

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Sweden opens up for sport

first_imgShe said it would apply to all sports and at all levels, but only in a way that respects current guidelines from the Public Health Agency.Events will have to take place outdoors and adhere to a ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people, meaning most games will have to be played in front of mostly empty stands. While professional sports would be exempt from the agency’s recommendation to avoid domestic travel of more than one to two hours, lower level teams would have to keep tournaments and matches local.An announcement on when the Swedish football league will resume had been greatly anticipated in the country as players around much of Europe are already back on the pitch. Topics : “It feels good that we are now at a point where we can begin a gradual return to some kind of normal,” said Swedish Football Association president Karl-Erik Nilsson.The association said it still did not have a schedule for the football league but would announce one soon.Home Affairs minister Mikael Damberg told reporters health restrictions for restaurants and bars meant that supporters would not be able to congregate in sports pubs as they did before.He also announced proposals for new legislation to toughen controls on restaurants and bars to make sure they respected guidelines on social distancing.center_img Competitive and professional sport can  resume from June 14, the Swedish government said Friday, but games would have to be played mostly without an audience.With Sweden’s softer approach to the new coronavirus, children’s sports activities continued and adults were able to go to practice sessions.”Now we’re also opening up for competitive play among all ages, which means that high-level sports can resume once again,” culture minister Amanda Lind told a press conference.last_img read more

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Humble Guardiola hails Liverpool, vows to learn from mistakes

first_imgManchester City manager Pep Guardiola congratulated Liverpool and manager Juergen Klopp on winning their first league title in 30 years, but was left ruing some earlier results that gave the Reds the chance to end their drought.Needing a win to keep their extremely slim chances of retaining the Premier League title alive, Guardiola’s side lost 2-1 away to Chelsea on Thursday despite a superb free-kick goal by Kevin De Bruyne.”Congratulations for Liverpool fans, the manager, the players. Well deserved, good champions,” Guardiola told a news conference at Stamford Bridge. “This season we dropped points at the beginning, some unfairly and some because we made mistakes like today. We’ve got to be more consistent,” the 49-year-old explained as he looked back on the season.”Two seasons ago we were 25 points in front of Liverpool and the next season they recovered. Now we’ve got to recover.”Christian Pulisic had given Chelsea the lead and they secured the win through a Willian penalty after Fernandinho was sent off for handling the ball on the goal-line.”It is not easy to attack Chelsea with their physicality in their team. Unfortunately we conceded mistakes and at this level against this quality it is difficult. We played until the end with a huge personality,” Guardiola said.The Spanish coach added that he was proud of his side, who will host newly-crowned champions Liverpool in their next league game on July 2, and that they would learn from their mistakes.”We can now say the last ten competitions we played, we won eight titles. That’s never happened before in this country. You cannot win all the time,” he said.”We have to take a little bit of perspective, be humble and say we can’t win all the time. We have to learn to avoid this situation again.”  Topics :last_img read more

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Sweden tops EU for new cases but says virus is slowing

first_imgSweden, whose softer approach to fighting the novel coronavirus drew global attention, has one of the EU’s highest rates of new cases but authorities say the spread is slowing.In the last two weeks, Sweden was only second to Luxembourg in the EU in terms of new cases per capita with new infections more than six times the European Union average.Unlike most European nations, Sweden never imposed a lockdown and made headlines for its high death toll. In May, Sweden was testing roughly 30,000 people a week but throughout June that was scaled up and in July the figure had more than doubled.On May 31, the country had recorded a total of 39,160 cases. On July 16, the number had almost doubled at 76,877, but deaths had only increased by just over 20 percent to 5,593. Row with WHO In late June, the rising number of cases led the World Health Organization’s European branch to put Sweden on a list of 11 countries witnessing an “accelerated transmission.”But Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell lashed out, calling it a “total misinterpretation” of data.Sweden’s Public Health Agency instead has repeatedly stressed that the large increase is mostly made up of milder cases, which would have gone unnoticed previously.US President Donald Trump has similarly said that the surges in cases around the US are related to increased testing.But unlike the US, the rise in cases in Sweden has not been accompanied by an increase in intensive care unit admissions.Karin Tegmark Wisell, head of microbiology at the Public Health Agency, told AFP that the decline in serious cases is also likely a product of barrier gestures.”People have learnt how to relate to the disease, to keep distance. We have become better at protecting the risk groups,” Tegmark Wisell said.Sweden’s high mortality has often been traced to the disease hitting retirement homes. Nearly half of all Swedish COVID-19 deaths are from care homes. It has kept schools for under-16s open and has not shuttered cafes, bars, restaurants and most businesses. Masks have been recommended only for healthcare personnel.Over the past 60 days, Sweden has seen a drastic increase in the number of new cases, but authorities stress that serious COVID-19 cases and associated deaths have declined.”If you increase testing you will find more cases,” deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten told AFP. “But the more serious cases, those who become sick and need hospital care have rather decreased,” Wallensten added.center_img Topics : Missing component Peaking at over 600 deaths a week at retirement homes alone in early April, the numbers have progressively gone down.Emma Spak, head of healthcare at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, said healthcare has improved after many health workers were caught off guard when the virus first struck.”It’s not only elderly care that’s got better at handling COVID-19 during these months, but all healthcare,” Spak said.Swedish officials have argued that lockdowns only work temporarily and that drastic short-term measures are too ineffective to justify their impact.Antoine Flahault, a professor of public health at the University of Geneva, said Sweden’s mistake was not the no-lockdown policy but late mass testing.”What is really sad for Sweden is that it did not combine the ambitious policy with massive testing,” Flahault told AFP.Flahault, while stressing that the current number of deaths was still significant, said the high mortality rate was more due to shortfalls in testing than not shuttering schools, bars or restaurants.Testing milder cases, he said, allows these people to self-isolate for fear of “contaminating their families,” he said.last_img read more

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France says up to 500 virus clusters but no ‘second wave’ yet

first_imgFrench authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters but there are no signs of an imminent “second wave,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday.Many of the current virus clusters involve abattoirs or other contained professional settings such as old age homes, he said.Others had resulted from family reunions during the summer holidays. “At this point we are very far from a second wave,” Veran told Franceinfo radio, as face masks were made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces including shops, covered markets and administrative buildings.”The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard,” he said.Nationwide the “R” number indicating the viral transmission rate now stands at 1.2, meaning 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average, according to the Sante Publique France health agency.But in some areas on the French mainland, the rate is much higher, with the southern Mediterranean region including Marseille and Nice now reporting a rate of 1.55. Brittany in western France stood at 2.6 percent — meaning 10 infected people could infect on average 26 more people.If the “worrying trends” continue the government will again consider regional lockdowns or even new nationwide confinement orders, Veran said, adding:  “All options are on the table.”People without face masks in public spaces risk fines of 135 euros ($155), but “we’re not going to start handing out fines for people reuniting with their families!” he added.Asked if France had enough masks to go around, having been caught woefully short when the outbreak gained speed in March, Veran said he was focusing on ensuring there were stocks in vacation hotspots as well as the Paris region.The government aims to have a stockpile of 60 million face masks by October, compared with just 3.5 million when the outbreak began.France has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with a coronavirus death toll of over 30,150 people.center_img Topics :last_img read more

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Greater Jakarta residents find ways to mark Independence Day despite COVID-19

first_imgRead also: Bank Indonesia releases commemorative Rp 75,000 bill to celebrate 75th Independence Day“We’ve been conducting this kind of flag-hoisting ceremony for seven years in a row,” said community member Amrih Maulana. “The ceremony aims to spread awareness about the condition of the Ciliwung River to the public. Hopefully, we can inspire others to take care of the Ciliwung River and other rivers in Indonesia.”Amrih went on to say that this year’s ceremony was limited to only a certain number of people due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, he said he hoped the community’s effort could inspire the Depok administration to care for the river. With the large-scale social restrictions still in place in Tangerang, Banten, the local administration decided to commemorate the country’s anniversary virtually by hosting online contests for traditional games and activities such the rubber relay race, the cracker eating contest and balloon dancing.In the meantime, the Jakarta administration is still allowing citizens to celebrate Independence Day in public as long as it involves no crowds. The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) also stressed that any Independence Day activities should adhere to health protocols.“Local officials will halt any activities that could potentially attract crowds,” Jakarta Satpol PP head Arifin said on Sunday.Despite the calls to be less festive during the extended weekend, Jakartans exited the city in droves to go on their holiday getaways. According to state-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga, 361,236 vehicles left Jakarta on Aug. 14 and 15, kompas.com reported. (trn)Topics : With the big and joyous celebrations of Independence Day canceled this year due to the pandemic, Greater Jakarta residents had to get creative to celebrate the country’s 75th anniversary.To replace the annual festivities, which are usually filled with physical games and direct interactions, youngsters living in North Sukabumi subdistrict in Kebon Jeruk district, West Jakarta, decided to create an 8-meter-tall kite adorned with the red and white colors of Indonesia’s flag. “Since young people in this neighborhood had no activities to do following the canceled festivities this year, they – from kids to teenagers and young adults – decided to build themselves a giant kite,” resident Cahyadi said on Sunday as quoted by tribunnews.com.  The youngsters spent three days building the kite on an empty street at night, because the neighborhood did not have a spacious area, and they also had to comply with physical distancing policy.The North Sukabumi residents planned to fly the kite at the Intercon field in West Jakarta.Elsewhere, members of the Ciliwung Depok Community carried on with their tradition of staging a flag-hoisting ceremony at the Ciliwung River on Monday.Wearing life jackets and safety helmets, members of the community, which is known for promoting sustainability at the river, arrived at the flag ceremony spot on inflatable boats, celebrating the tradition for their seventh time on Independence Day.last_img read more

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