DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Long-haul carrier Emirates says it will cover the costs of passengers’ coronavirus-related medical expenses in an effort to encourage more travelers to fly on the airline.
Emirates on Thursday said passengers can claim medical expenses of up to 150,000 euros ($174,000) and quarantine costs of 100 euros ($116) per day for 14 days if they are diagnosed with Covid-19.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of the government-owned airline, said: “We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually reopen, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel.”
The airline said the coverage is good for passengers flying until Oct. 30.
Here’s what else is happening around the world during the pandemic.
‘Huge Discrepancy’ in S. Africa Death Reports
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have reached nearly 400,000 as the country reported a new daily high of 572 deaths.
South Africa is now one of the world’s top five countries in terms of reported virus cases, and it makes up more than half of the cases on the African continent with 394,948. Deaths are at 5,940.
Public hospitals are struggling as patient numbers climb, and more than 5,000 health workers have been infected.
The struggles by Africa’s most developed country in coping with the pandemic are a worrying sign for other, far less resourced countries across the continent as the spread of infections picks up speed.
In addition, the South African Medical Research Council has reported a “huge discrepancy” between the country’s confirmed Covid-19 deaths and the number of excess deaths from natural causes.
The new report shows more than 17,000 excess deaths from May 6 to July 14 compared with data from the past two years.
According to the report, “In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase — by the second week of July, there were 59% more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected based on historical data.”
The council’s president, Glenda Gray, said the excess deaths could be attributed to Covid-19 or to other widespread diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis whose treatments might be suffering as resources are directed toward the pandemic.
And some South Africans might be staying away from health facilities altogether as fears of the new virus spread.
Hong Kong Records Record High
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s coronavirus infections hit a record high on Thursday with 118 new cases.
Of those, 111 were locally transmitted while authorities were unable to trace the source of others.
Hong Kong has a total of 2,250 confirmed cases with 14 deaths.
To combat the outbreak, the Hong Kong government has made masks compulsory on public transport and in public indoor areas. Health officials have urged people to stay home as much as possible, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Social distancing measures have been tightened in light of the worsening situation, with gatherings of more than four people banned. Businesses such as gyms and amusement parks are also temporarily shuttered, while eateries and restaurants can only operate at a limited capacity.
Switzerland Adds 15 Nation to Quarantine List
GENEVA — Swiss authorities have added another 15 countries, including Mexico and Luxembourg, to their list of nations facing increased risk of Covid-19 infection from which travelers entering Switzerland will be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine.
There are now 42 countries on the quarantine list, based on per capita outbreak levels over the past two weeks.
Under the Swiss rules, arriving passengers must “immediately and directly” go home or to other “suitable accommodation” for 10 days, and contact cantonal or regional authorities within two days.
Release is permitted only after no symptoms have been shown for the duration. In some cases, cantonal officials provide food and other assistance to those under quarantine — but no support for loss of income is provided.
The move effective Thursday adds Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the United Arab Emirates to the list already including Brazil, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Airbus Workers Strike Over Job Cuts
MADRID — Airbus workers in the European aircraft manufacturer’s eight plants in Spain are striking Thursday against the consortium’s decision to cut 1,600 jobs over the next few months.
Battered by the coronavirus pandemic, Airbus said in June that it must eliminate 15,000 jobs, more than 10% of its global workforce, to safeguard its future and warned of more thin years ahead. The cuts are mostly in Europe and affect 900 employees in Spain.
That’s in addition to 700 layoffs out of 2,600 global job cuts in the consortium’s defense division announced in February.
Workers chanted “Zero layoffs!” as they marched from the Airbus plant in Getafe, on the outskirts of Madrid, to the local town hall, demanding more political involvement to revive the industry and investments that will guarantee long-term employment.
The Spanish government is one of Airbus’ founders and holds an 11% stake in the company.
Protests were also held in other plants, including in big operation centers in Seville, Cádiz and Albacete.
Workers’ unions have said a series of strike actions will continue in September if their demands are not heard.
76 People Infected in a Prague Nightclub
PRAGUE — The day-to-day increase of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic has surpassed 200 for the second straight day.
One of the latest clusters appeared in Prague where 76 people have been infected in a nightclub.
The Health Ministry said the number of infected reached 247 on Wednesday, the biggest increase since June 28.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said the government will discuss a possible return to some nationwide restrictions but did not given any details.
The Czech Republic has reported 14,570 cases with 364 deaths.
Tokyo Hits Single-Day Record of 366 New Cases
TOKYO — Tokyo has confirmed a record 366 new coronavirus cases, as Japan started a four-day weekend with many people traveling on a tourism promotion campaign despite concerns it may accelerate the spread the virus.
Tokyo’s numbers had fallen to just several in late May after a pandemic state of emergency ended, but infections since late June have made a steady climb, with the number tripling in the first three weeks of July. Tokyo has 10,420 confirmed cases with 327 deaths.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike asked residents to stay home as much as possible during the long weekend and avoid nonessential out-of-town trips, even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government went ahead with a “Go To” tourism promotion campaign that excludes Tokyo for now.
Tokyo, which had allocated 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients, has asked hospitals to secure up to 2,800 more. Koike said the city is also in the process of securing hotel rooms for slightly sick patients.
2,100 Cases Linked to a German Slaughterhouse
BERLIN — A German official says authorities have linked more than 2,000 coronavirus infections to a June outbreak at a slaughterhouse that led to a partial lockdown in two western counties.
Regional authorities restored some coronavirus restrictions in the Guetersloh and Warendorf areas in late June after more than 1,400 people at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck tested positive for the virus.
North Rhine-Westphalia state’s health minister, Karl-Josef Laumann, told Thursday’s edition of the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that authorities have linked 2,119 cases to the Toennies outbreak. He said a link is possible in another 67 cases.
The partial lockdown has been lifted and the slaughterhouse reopened, with improved hygiene precautions.
Iraq Reopens Airports Despite Increased Infections
BAGHDAD — Iraq opened its airports to commercial flights after months of lockdown as part of the government’s plan to ease restrictions despite record numbers of coronavirus cases expected to exceed 100,000 this week.
Airports were shut in March along with full-day curfews. Cases have risen exponentially since then, in particular after the Eid holiday in June.
The curfew has been extended many times due to rising case numbers, which has exacerbated a severe economic crisis spurred by falling oil prices and crippled Iraq’s private sector.
Iraq’s Health Ministry reported 2,700 new cases over a 24-hour period on Wednesday, bringing the country’s total to 99,865. More than 4,000 people have died.
Flights to Beirut and Cairo were scheduled to take off 10 a.m. on Thursday.
The curfew will also be lifted after the Eid al-Adha holiday on July 30.
685 Covid Deaths in India Wednesday
NEW DELHI — India has recorded 685 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 444 previously unreported fatalities, bring the nationwide death toll from the pandemic to 29,861.
The Health Ministry on Thursday also reported a new record surge of 45,720 new coronavirus cases, taking the total tally of infections to 1,238,635.
Many states in India have started reimposing lockdowns as health authorities struggle to trace transmissions.
Late Wednesday, the Himalayan region of Kashmir announced a five-day complete lockdown in areas that have been categorized as red zones. A two-day complete lockdown also started Thursday in West Bengal state.
India has recorded the third most virus cases in the world, after the United States and Brazil.
Masks Made Mandatory in Melbourne
MELBOURNE, Australia — Wearing masks became compulsory in Australia’s second-largest city of Melbourne on Thursday as coronavirus hot spot Victoria state reported 403 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases and five deaths.
The daily infection tally for the state was down from a record 484 posted Wednesday.
Much of the spread is blamed on sick workers who do not take time off while they wait for coronavirus test results. The state government said Thursday that workers who do not have sick leave will be eligible for a support payment of 300 Australian dollars while they await test results.
A large majority of Melbourne residents appeared to be complying with the new face covering regulation.
For the first week of the mask mandate, police are to “exercise discretion” in imposing fines.
More Cases in Xinjiang
BEIJING — China continues to see newly confirmed coronavirus cases in its northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 18 reported Thursday.
More than 50 people have been infected in China’s latest outbreak focused on Xinjiang’s regional capital and largest city of Urumqi. City leaders have restricted travel, locked down some communities and ordered widespread testing to contain the spread.
An additional three confirmed cases brought from outside China were reported by the National Health Commission.
China has reported 83,729 cases of Covid-19, with 4,634 deaths.
59 New Cases in South Korea
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 59 new confirmed Covid-19 cases after a dual rise in local transmissions and imported infections.
The figures from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday brought the national caseload to 13,938, including 297 deaths.
The agency says 43 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul area, which has been at the center of a virus resurgence since late May. Authorities have struggled to trace transmissions and predict infection routes as people increasingly venture out in public. New clusters have been tied to office buildings, churches, live-in facilities and door-to-door salespeople.
Officials say at least 20 cases were imported infections. South Korea mandates tests and enforces two-week quarantines on all people arriving from overseas.
67,860 New Cases in a Day in Brazil
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s health ministry has reported a record 67,860 confirmed coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours.
The previous mark for one day was 54,771, set June 19.
The new high reported Wednesday comes as some regions of the South American nation are partially reopening for business while others that had previously controlled the spread of the virus are seeing increases.
Brazil has counted more than 82,700 deaths from Covid-19 and 2.2 million confirmed infections. Both are believed to be undercounts.
One of the infected is President Jair Bolsonaro, who said Wednesday that he has tested positive for the virus for the third time in two weeks.
Florida Governor Pushes Schools Reopenings
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says there is a strong need to reopen schools. He says keeping them closed will lead to depression, social isolation and a higher dropout rate. However, he said parents should be able to keep children at home if they fear the coronavirus.
In an address on a state-run television channel Wednesday, DeSantis said that if school districts want to delay opening, or allow teachers to work remotely, they should be allowed to do so.
A Florida teachers union has filed a lawsuit seeking to block what it calls “reckless and unsafe reopening” of public schools for face-to-face instruction.
DeSantis acknowledged there are worries about returning children to school, but “it should also be asked how safe it is to keep schools closed.”
Arizona Schools Could Go Either Way
PHOENIX — Arizona’s top education official says the state’s school districts should be empowered to reopen campuses for the new school year based on public health data instead of committing now to specific reopening dates.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said she has outlined her priorities to Governor Doug Ducey. He is expected to announce the next steps for school reopenings this week.
Ducey previously announced that schools would not reopen until Aug. 17, weeks after they normally open. Hoffman says schools need guarantees of full funding for distance learning.
Trump Blames Dismal Situation on Protesters & Mexico
WASHINGTON — President Trump is casting wide blame for a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases, pointing to racial justice protests, travelers from Mexico and young bar-goers.
Holding his second briefing on the virus in as many days after a three-month hiatus, Trump sought on Wednesday to explain the rise in confirmed cases across the nation’s South, Southwest and West.
Trump said cases among young Americans first started to rise “shortly after demonstrations.” He said the protests after the death of George Floyd “presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide.”
He also says a “substantial increase in travel” around Memorial Day and summer vacations was also a driver of new cases.
Further, he says, “Young people closely congregating at bars and probably other places, maybe beaches,” likely also led to new cases.
Trump also blames travelers crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for spikes, saying cases in Mexico are surging, although the U.S. death toll of 146,190 far exceeds Mexico’s 41, 190.