Irish airline Aer Lingus to lay off 500 workers due to pandemic – dpa international

Social distancing guidelines in St. Stephen's Green, a park in central Dublin (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Citing a slump in air travel due to the coronavirus, Aer Lingus on Friday announced it will fire 500 workers and slammed Ireland’s interim government for failing “to take steps that other European [Union] member states have taken.” Citing a “catastrophic” collapse in air travel that has reduced it to 5 per cent of its pre-pandemic operations, the airline said that other European countries “have progressively restored transport services and connectivity in response to a European Commission invitation to do so.” The 30 flights undertaken by Aer Lingus in the past week amount to around 10 per cent of the level of activity the same week one year ago, the airline said.  Friday’s jobs cull followed a Monday announcement by Aer Lingus that pay and working hours will be cut to 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Singapore and China to reopen some travel in June – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — A “fast lane” for business and “essential” travel between Singapore and China will open next week, allowing some flights to resume between the two countries after a four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to officials. A Singapore Foreign Ministry statement released late Friday said that travel will initially be allowed between Singapore and six Chinese cities and regions, including Shanghai and Guangdong. Though the two countries have reported the most coronavirus cases in East Asia, Singapore believes “the prevention and control of Covid-19 and the economic and social recovery” in both to have “entered a new phase.” While the majority of China’s 84,160 reported coronavirus cases were diagnosed early in the year – after the virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan before spreading around the world – Singapore’s caseload has increased 33-fold since April 1, with thousands of foreign workers infected.

Singapore to allow transit flights from June 2 as restrictions eased – dpa international

Singapore harbour seen from Marina Bay, a popular vantage point for visitors (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore will permit some international passengers to transit through Changi Airport from June 2 as restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus are gradually lifted. Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority announced on Wednesday that the city-state aims to “gradually reopen air transport to meet the needs of our economy and our people, whilst ensuring sufficient safeguards for safe travel.” Changi Airport is a widely-used hub for travellers making their way to and from the Asia-Pacific region. Authorities closed two of its four terminals after international travel came to a standstill in the wake of the pandemic and Singapore’s ban on visitors and transit.

Singapore’s national airline records first-ever annual loss – dpa international

dpa

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore Airlines reported a net annual loss of 212 million Singapore dollars (149 million US dollars) for the year to March 31, the first time in the carrier’s 48-year history that it failed to earn an annual profit. The airline’s revenue was down nearly a billion dollars on 2019, when it posted a 683-million-dollar profit. The carrier put the reversal largely down to the impact of the new coronavirus pandemic – which halted most international travel even before Singapore’s government closed the country’s borders and imposed a lockdown on April 7. “Market conditions deteriorated abruptly in February,” Singapore Airlines noted in a statement. The airline signalled in March that it would be forced to temporarily ground 96 per cent of its capacity due to the pandemic.

Singapore shuts another airport terminal due to coronavirus – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Citing “the sharp decline in flight movements because of the global Covid-19 pandemic,” Changi Airport in Singapore said on Tuesday that it will temporarily close its Terminal 4 from May 16. Flights from the hub will be restricted to Terminals 1 and 3 – as well as Jewel Changi Airport, effectively a fifth terminal. Airport authorities had earlier suspended use of Terminal 2. One of the world’s busiest airports and usually a busy waystation for travellers en route from the Asia-Pacific region to Europe, Changi was on Monday was voted “World’s Best Airport” for the eighth consecutive year in the Skytrax World Airport Awards.

Lockdown leads to temporary re-wilding in Malaysia, but at a cost – dpa international

Shutters down on a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Dubbed one of the world’s 12 “mega-diverse” countries by wildlife experts, Malaysia is home to an array of instantly recognizable species, many of which have been driven to near-extinction by deforestation. A Google project in 2013 showed Malaysia losing almost 15 per cent of its jungle over the previous decade – much of it cleared to make way for plantations generating the palm oil that makes up around 4 per cent of exports. Although land clearances have slowed, decades of deforestation have left marquee species – such as the orangutan and local variants of elephant, rhinoceros and tiger – listed as threatened or endangered by monitoring organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The animals have been granted a respite of late, with their human tormentors transfixed by an epidemic that prompted an unprecedented response: shutdown.

Singapore’s March sales slump hints at worse to come – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s retail sales fell by 13.3 per cent year-on-year in March, a sign that the new coronavirus pandemic was walloping the economy even before a government-imposed lockdown in April. The March sales slump in South-East Asia’s richest nation came on the back of a collapse in international travel, which typically brings visitors keen to splash out in Singapore’s array of plush malls. The Department of Statistics, which published the data on Tuesday, attributed the decline to “weaker domestic consumption and fewer tourist arrivals as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Coronavirus and travel restrictions set to ravage Asia’s airlines – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — An industry body representing nearly 300 airlines warned on Friday that carriers in the Asia-Pacific region could see business drop by half this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which includes 290 airlines among its members, said on Friday that the sector faces a revenue drop of 113 billion dollars due to a pandemic that has killed an estimated 190,000 people worldwide. Airlines in the region face “a 50-per-cent fall in passenger demand in 2020 compared to 2019,” the IATA stated, warning of catastrophic knock-on impacts in related sectors. “11.2 million jobs are at risk, including those that are dependent on the aviation industry, such as travel and tourism,” according to Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Singapore-based Asia-Pacific vice-president.

Singapore to close pubs, cinemas as imported coronavirus cases rise – dpa international

dpa

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry on Tuesday announced a range of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, with “entertainment venues” such as bars, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs to be shuttered until April 30. The measures were announced as the ministry reported that 49 more people were diagnosed with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. Two people have died in Singapore after contracting the disease. Thirty-two of the new cases were categorized as “imported,” 27 of which were linked to a recent travel history to Britain, which on Monday announced a lockdown aimed at curbing its own spread of the virus.

Singapore’s schools reopen despite pandemic, bucking global trend – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s schools and kindergartens reopened as scheduled on Monday after a holiday, a day after the government announced a ban on visitors due to the pandemic. The reopening comes as the number of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, continues to increase in Singapore, with 32 new cases announced on Sunday for a total of 455. Two people have died. That number is relatively low compared with countries in Europe, the pandemic’s “epicentre” according to the World Health Organization, where widespread school closures have been ordered in recent weeks