French ski resorts protest plans to keep lifts closed over Christmas period


Ski resorts in the French regions of Isère and Savoie are protesting against the government”s decision last week to keep ski lifts closed over the festive period to stop the spread of the COVID-19.

The Isère department includes stations such as Alpe d’Huez, Les 2 Alpes and La Grave, whilst Savoie includes resorts such as Val d’Isère, Tignes, La Plagne, Les Arcs and those in Les 3 Vallées.

More than 600 people demonstrated in Bourg-Saint-Maurice (Savoie) despite the government veto, and organisers estimated 1,200 people attended the protest in Bourg d’Oisans.

It comes as the French government proposes “random border checks” to be put in place over the holiday season targeting people trying to get to foreign resorts.

Controls could include virus tests and a seven-day quarantine on skiers returning to France.

Prime minister Jean Castex is due to meet again with representatives of the French mountain communities on December 11 to “discuss the situation and decide when resorts can reopen”.

Crowds in Bourg-Saint-Maurice carried broken red hearts to express “the feeling of not being listened to,” explained Jean-Luc Boch, mayor of La Plagne and President of the Association of Mayors of Mountain Stations (ANMSM).

Residents of the town-resorts of the Haute-Tarentaise valley also joined the event.

“Our economic activity depends largely on tourism and there we feel it an injustice to have been the only ones put aside for the recovery in mid-December,” said Guillaume Desrues, mayor of Bourg-Saint-Maurice/Les Arcs.

Ski resorts say they’ve worked hard to put measures in place to keep resorts COVID-19 safe.

Yannick Amet, mayor of Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise told the crowds: “We have been working for three months in consultation with the medical profession, ski area operators and professionals from all sides, in order to coordinate our actions and set up screening centres in each of the communes using PCR and antigen tests”.

“The department of Savoie and the region are able to provide these tests on a massive scale. A reception centre in Bourg-Saint-Maurice is ready and can accommodate around forty people in safety”.

France says it stands by its decision to keep ski lifts closed despite resorts being open, to avoid outbreaks of contamination. And the latest move is to dissuade the French from visiting neighbouring countries to circumvent the ban.

Some areas have already opened in Switzerland and the country, which is not part of the European Union, intends to combine health protocols and economic imperatives to open its stations during the holidays.

Austria, announced today plans to re-allow individual outdoor sports, including skiing, as of December 24 but will limit the capacity of ski lifts.

The country will keep restaurants, bars and hotels largely closed until early January, officials said Wednesday. It also will require many people entering the country over the Christmas period to go into quarantine.

In Bulgaria, the resort of Bansko, European mecca for “low-cost” skiing, is also planning to open.

In Italy, a government decree on anti-COVID-19 rules for the holidays is expected shortly and, according to press reports, it should endorse the closure of ski slopes and ski lifts.

Spain plans to open its ski resorts, but conditions remain to be defined between the central government and the regions, according to Health Minister Salvador Illa.

“I want to protect my citizens, it’s my duty. That other countries don’t follow the same concept is their right, but I will continue to protect my citizens by preventing them from getting contaminated,” said Castex.

“We would prefer a harmonization at the European level, we are putting all our energy towards it. But at the end, the countries surrounding us are sovereign countries”.

“It’s not fair. We don’t understand how the decisions have been made,” Sara Burden spokesperson for the French resort of Morzine told Euronews.

“We don’t think it’s right the French resorts are closing and French businesses are suffering whilst skiers can go to other countries – so we would welcome the French government’s proposals”.

As for the plans for Christmas, resorts are keen to spread the message that there are plenty of activities to enjoy in the fresh air this winter.

“Most boutiques will be open (cheese shops, chocolate, potters), there will be walks and snowshoeing and guides will offer guided walks and ski tours, and there is an outdoor ice rink. Many restaurants will be open for take away meals,” says Burdon.

Chamonix also says its hills are still very much alive and they are ready to welcome hikers, bikers and paragliders.

Ski touring, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, sledging, spas, and shopping are all authorised activities.



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Cruise industry to introduce tough new COVID-19 measures when ban lifts in December


The world’s largest cruise industry association will introduce tough new COVID-19 measures, to come into effect when the current domestic ban on cruising soon lifts.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has confirmed it will impose mandatory COVID-19 tests for guests and crew before boarding, limit passenger numbers, and conduct daily health monitoring and temperature checks for all on board.

Joel Katz, CLIA’s managing director for Australasia, wants the Australian Government to replace the current ban on cruising, which expires on December 17, with a process that would allow cruise lines to start looking at a carefully managed resumption in 2021.

“Australia’s relative success in stemming community transmission of COVID-19 — together with the Australasian cruise industry’s robust strategy — creates an opportunity for a tightly managed and phased revival of the country’s $5 billion-a-year cruise industry,” Mr Katz said.

“This would initially involve restricted local cruises for local residents only, with limited passenger numbers, 100 per cent testing of guests and crew, and extensive screening and sanitation protocols in place.”

Under the proposed protocols, cruise ships would initially operate within Australian state or national borders while travel restrictions are in place and would be quarantined upon their return to Australian shores.

CLIA said its COVID-19 safety plan “is extensive and meets or exceeds the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia (CDNA) guidelines”.

Mr Katz said the industry is continuing to work with the Federal Government to develop a “framework for the resumption of cruising”.

Industry backs cruise controls

An inquiry found NSW Health had made “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes when the Ruby Princess and its thousands of passengers arrived.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

A Carnival Australia spokesman said the company welcomed CLIA’s proposal.

“The peak industry body Cruise Lines International Association Australasia is taking the lead in working with the Federal Government and government authorities in relation to the restart of cruising when the time is right,” he said.

The proposed guidelines come after a detailed examination into the Ruby Princess cruise ship’ arrival and the failings that led to it being at the centre of one of Australia’s largest coronavirus outbreaks.

Thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark when it docked in Sydney at the conclusion of two separate voyages in March.

On both occasions, the ship, owned by company Princess Cruises, was docked in Sydney, and some passengers were at the time displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

In the weeks that followed, 663 of the passengers tested positive for COVID-19 in Australia, and around the world, and 28 people died.

An inquiry was held in August and found the Ruby Princess cruise ship outbreak resulted from “serious”, “inexcusable” and “inexplicable” mistakes by NSW Health.

But the report from the special commission of inquiry made few recommendations, saying health authorities had recognised failings, and would “do things differently if they had their time again”.

“It is inappropriate and unhelpful to make recommendations to experts that in truth amount to no more than ‘do your job’,” Commissioner Bret Walker SC said in his report.

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E-Commerce boom lifts DHL freight flights from Melbourne to NZ


“We’ve always wanted to have a direct service out of Melbourne, but we never had the volume,” he said.

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Mr Edstein said DHL wanted a direct Melbourne-NZ service because it wanted to improve transit times, and side-step issues such as the curfew on flights in and out of the Sydney airport.

“When COVID-19 hit our volumes have soared, and we’ve always wanted to do this Melbourne-Auckland direct (service). And it’s been seven years in the planning to get up to a volume that will justify it, and we’ve now got that volume,” he said.

DHL Express’ Melbourne to New Zealand shipment volumes have jumped 49 per cent over the past year, making the route one of the fastest growing ones for DHL in the Oceania region. DHL said New Zealand is Victoria’s third largest export destination after China and the United States, buying about 7.6 per cent of Victoria’s exports.

Mr Edstein said the products DHL carried from Melbourne to New Zealand included clothing, electronic goods and spare parts.

“A lot of major companies have their distribution centre in Melbourne, and they don’t have a distribution centre in New Zealand. So because of our service, our overnight capability they can centralise all their stock in to one major location,” he said.

DHL Express has hired about an extra 120 staff in Australia since mid-year, because of the huge growth in demand for its services.

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Jobless rate lifts to 7pc but almost 179,000 people get work in October


The share of the workforce in part-time work has increased by 0.8 percentage points over the past year to 32.3 per cent.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, a record 13 million people held a job in February, with the unemployment rate at 5.1 per cent.

Analysts had been expecting a lift in the jobless rate due to the then-ongoing restrictions in Victoria as well as the reduction in the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy in the last week of September.

Monthly hours worked jumped by 21 million hours, while the under-employment rate fell a percentage point to 10.4 per cent.

The NSW unemployment rate improved by 0.7 percentage points to 6.5 per cent, while the measure deteriorated by 0.7 percentage points in Victoria to 7.4 per cent.

Victoria’s under-employment rate is now by far the highest in the country at 13 per cent.

Joblessness was relatively flat in Queensland, South Australia, ACT and Western Australia.

However, there was a spike in Tasmania of 0.6 percentage points to 8.2 per cent and 1 percentage point in the Northern Territory to 5.7 per cent.

Despite the modest increase in overall unemployment, the youth jobless rate jumped by a full percentage point to 15.6 per cent.

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SpaceX’s ‘Resilience’ Lifts 4 Astronauts Into NASA’s New Era of Spaceflight


It’s not yet the same as hopping on commuter flight from New York to Washington or renting a car from Avis, but Sunday’s launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station in a capsule built by SpaceX was a momentous step toward making space travel commonplace and mundane.

In the future, instead of relying on government-operated spacecraft, NASA astronauts and anyone else with enough money can buy a ticket on a commercial rocket.

“This is truly a commercial launch vehicle,” Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, said during a post-launch news conference, “and we’re grateful to our partners at SpaceX for providing it.”

NASA designated Sunday night’s launch as the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft built and operated by SpaceX, the rocket company started by Elon Musk. The four astronauts aboard — three from NASA, one from JAXA, the Japanese space agency — left Earth from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A Crew Dragon took two astronauts — Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley — to the space station in May, but that was a test flight to shake out remaining glitches in the systems.

The four astronauts on this flight are Michael S. Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor J. Glover of NASA and Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut.

NASA and SpaceX last week completed the certification process, which provides the space agency’s seal of approval that SpaceX has met the specifications set out for regularly taking NASA astronauts to orbit. This launch, known as Crew-1, is a regularly scheduled trip to take four crew members for a six-month stay at the space station.

“It marks the end of the development phase of the system,” Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA, said in a telephone interview with reporters on Thursday. “For the first time in history, there is a commercial capability from a private sector entity to safely and reliably transport people to space.”

Despite iffy weather — forecasts gave only a 50-50 chance of favorable conditions at the launchpad — the skies remained clear enough. At 7:27 p.m. Eastern time, the nine engines of the Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and brightened the night sky as the rocket arced over the Atlantic Ocean.

After dropping away from the second stage, which continued to orbit, the Falcon 9 booster turned around and landed on a floating platform. SpaceX now, as a matter of course, recovers and reuses the boosters. This same rocket stage will be used to launch the next quartet of astronauts to the space station next spring.

The Crew Dragon, named Resilience, is scheduled to dock on Monday at about 11 p.m. after a 27.5 hour trip as the capsule caught up with space station, which is traveling at more than 17,000 miles per hour.

When Mr. Glover arrives, he will become the first Black astronaut to serve as a member of the station’s crew in the 20-some years that people have been living aboard the International Space Station. Other Black astronauts have previously been aboard the space station, but they were there for briefer stays during space shuttle missions that helped assemble the orbiting outpost.

When asked during a news conference on Monday about his thoughts on making history, Mr. Glover modestly nodded to the significance.

“It is something to be celebrated once we accomplish it, and I am honored to be in this position and to be a part of this great and experienced crew,” he said. “And I look forward to getting up there and doing my best to make sure, you know, we are worthy of all the work that’s been put into setting us up for this mission. You know, unlike the election — that is in the past or receding in the past — this mission is still ahead of me. So, let’s get there, and I’ll talk to you after I get on board.”

He also said last week in an interview with The Christian Chronicle, a publication of the Churches of Christ, that the milestone was “bittersweet.”

“I’ve had some amazing colleagues before me that really could have done it, and there are some amazing folks that will go behind me,” Mr. Glover said. “I wish it would have already been done, but I try not to draw too much attention to it.”

Charles F. Bolden Jr., who served as NASA administrator under President Barack Obama, said that while Mr. Glover was making history, he should not feel burdened.

“Several of us have had an opportunity to try to talk with him regularly and try to help put him at ease and help him understand he’s not carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders,” said Mr. Bolden, who is also Black and spent almost 700 hours in space as a NASA astronaut. “He shouldn’t feel unusual responsibility because he’s Black. He should just go and be another crew member and have a good time.”

On Sunday afternoon, as the astronauts prepared for the launch, they were visited by Mr. Bridenstine and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX.

For Mr. Bridenstine, this was the last astronaut launch he would view as leader of NASA. In an interview last week with the magazine Aviation Week, Mr. Bridenstine said he would not, even if asked by the incoming Biden administration, stay on in his current role past the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Mr. Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX, remained out of sight after he said he “most likely” had a “moderate case” of Covid-19.

At the space station, the four astronauts who lifted off on Sunday will join three others already there: Kate Rubins of NASA and two Russians, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.

They will be doing what astronauts have been doing for the past two decades on the space station: overseeing scientific experiments, performing maintenance tasks, talking to students on the ground.

The astronauts, for example, will be collecting their own biological samples to help scientists on the ground study how dietary changes affect the body. The astronauts will also be growing radishes, the latest experiment to explore whether food can be grown in space. (Red lettuce and mizuna mustard greens are among earlier foods that the astronauts have studied.) They will also test whether fungi can break apart asteroid rock and help extract useful metals — a scientific prelude to extraterrestrial mining operations, and a follow-up to a similar, successful experiment that used bacteria.

With Crew Dragon entering operational status, the crew of the space station can be increased to seven. Since the retirement of the space shuttles, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was the only means for astronauts traveling to and from the space station. The Soyuz only has three seats, and they also serve as lifeboats in case of an emergency there — with two Soyuzes docked there, the maximum size of the crew was six.

But for now, there are not places for seven astronauts to sleep there. “We are currently short one crew quarters on board station,” Mr. Hopkins said during a news conference on Monday. “There are plans to to have a temporary station that will be up there. Not sure when it’s going to arrive. It could arrive mid mission, or it may not get up there while we’re still on board.”

Mr. Hopkins, the commander of the SpaceX crew, said that he might sleep in the Crew Dragon instead.

During the post-launch news conference, Ms. Shotwell said SpaceX would be launching about seven Dragon missions, some to launch astronauts, some to carry cargo, during the next 15 months. Those would almost all be for NASA, she said, but it was possible that it could include one for a private customer.

A couple of companies have announced that they are buying flights on the Crew Dragon to take wealthy private citizens for out-of-this-world vacations. One company, Axiom Space, will take three tourists to the space station, perhaps as soon as late 2021.

One passenger could be the actor Tom Cruise. Mr. Bridenstine confirmed in May that NASA was working with Mr. Cruise to help make a movie at the space station.

Michael T. Suffredini, the president and chief executive of Axiom Space, would not confirm whether Mr. Cruise was booked on the Axiom flight, saying the company does not disclose information about its customers.

Last week, Axiom said all three available seats had been sold. The fourth seat would be filled by an Axiom employee, Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut.

The other company, Space Adventures, is offering a free-flying Crew Dragon flight that will not dock at the space station, but instead will go around Earth on a highly elliptical orbit that will provide passengers with a view of the planet from a very high perch.

Mr. Bridenstine, in remarks concluding the Sunday night news conference, repeated what he has said many times before, that a new era is opening for NASA and the space industry.

“We are now going into basically operational missions that are commercial in nature, where NASA is a customer.” he said, “Our goal has been and will be to be one customer of many customers in a very commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.”

Katherine J. Wu contributed reporting.



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Vibe and Adina hotels open as lockdown lifts


Melbourne’s hotel industry is gearing up for an easing of border restrictions, but the CBD-based venues will have to overcome the lockdown malaise and travel restrictions on business and international visitors that are cruelling occupancy across the sector.

Both Sydney and Melbourne CBD hotels have seen room revenue slump three quarters on the year before.

The Travelodge Hotel Hurstville will open in August 2021. Credit:Artist’s impression

TFE Hotels chief executive Antony Ritch is cautious about the sector’s immediate prospects, but points to a lift in school holiday bookings and strong visitation at regional hotels as leading the way out of an arduous year.

Asked how optimistic he was the industry will bounce back next year, Mr Ritch said: “It’s relative. The key is charting a course through next year to the years ahead.”

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“Everything is about taking a long term view in tourism. The reason why we are opening the hotels and we continue to open them, is we look at the long term view.”

TFE will open another 241-room venue, under the Quincy brand, in Melbourne early next year.

It is also moving ahead with rolling out the Vibe Hobart in Tasmania later this month, a premium 130-room Adina product in Canberra in January next year and a similar 194-room venue in Sydney in March.

That will be followed by the Travelodge Hotel Hurstville, also in Sydney, in August 2021.

Mr Ritch expects corporate travel will take some time to open up.

Domestic visits accounted for around 80 per cent of the market prior to the pandemic. Hotels, including those in city centres, were now focused on soaking up demand from Australians unable to travel abroad.

“That’s a market that people are very focused on. But the balance is going to be the recovery of the business traveller,” he said.

Mr Ritch said people were hesitant to make bookings until they knew which restrictions were being lifted and where. “But we expect to see that ramp up nicely as we get through the next couple of weeks,” he said.

“Everyone’s working towards making sure the holiday season is going to be an active season for CBDs as well as regional locations.”

Melbourne and Sydney’s CBDs are “very reliant” on each other, Mr Ritch said. Because they were interlinked, they would feed into each other once restrictions were lifted in both locations. “The Sydney market has not had the full recovery it would have, should Melbourne have been open,” he said.

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Bunbury lifts New England over D.C. United


Teal Bunbury scored two goals – including the game-winner — to help rally the New England Revolution to a 4-3 victory over D.C. United in rainy conditions on Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass.

Tajon Buchanan was a force for the Revolution, as he instigated an own goal and assisted on the Revs’ second goal of the game.

The decider was set up on a breakout by the Revs in the 84th minute. Gustavo Bou delivered a cross to Adam Buksa, who was denied on a brilliant save by Bill Hamid. But the rebound set up Bunbury for the goal into the right corner for the brace and the win.

Buksa also scored in the 30th minute, and Matt Turner made two saves for the Revolution (8-6-8, 32 points), who snapped a three-match winless streak and improved to 3-0-1 against D.C. United this season.

Buchanan twice used his quickness on the right side to impact the game. The first time forced Russell Canouse into an OG in the 54th minute to tie the game at 2-2. Buchanan again would torture United with a centering pass in front that Bunbury delivered in the 67th minute to give the Revs a 3-2 lead.

It was Bunbury’s seventh and eighth goals of the season.

Yamil Asad scored in the 22nd minute and Griffin Yow tallied four minutes later for United, and Gelmin Rivas delivered an equalizer in the 75th minute, setting up Bunbury’s heroics.

Hamid finished with six saves for D.C. United (5-11-6, 21 points), who saw their three-match winning streak end.

The Revs trailed 2-0 after 26 minutes.

D.C. United jumped to a fast start as Edison Flores found an unmarked Asad open at the back door for an easy conversion. Asad’s low shot skipped off the hands of Turner and into the net for his third of the season.

D.C. United doubled the advantage after a defensive breakdown by New England allowed Yao to unleash a shot that caromed off the foot of Revolution defender Henry Kessler and into the net.

Buksa halved the deficit in the 30th minute after his left-footed shot off a set piece beat Hamid. Buksa’s goal was his team co-leading sixth of the season and third against D.C. United.

–Field Level Media



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Coronavirus latest: Demand for cars, elevators and dishwashers lifts earnings in Europe


Peter Wells in New York

The similarities between the latest stage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US and its surge over the summer are mounting up, with the country now averaging more than 60,000 cases a day for the first time since early August, and the highest level of hospitalisations in two months.

States reported 76,560 cases, according to Covid Tracking Project data, up from 57,294 on Wednesday and compared with 63,172 on Thursday last week.

The latest rise in infections ranks as the biggest since a record 76,588 cases were reported on July 17, however this ranking comes with a major caveat. Wednesday data from Alabama, Florida and Georgia “were not available” before Covid Tracking Project’s cut-off time for reporting that day, and therefore were not included in yesterday’s report.

These older cases were included in today’s figures, thereby boosting the most recent tally.

Rankings aside, the trend in the US remains clear. Over the past week, the country has now averaged 60,951 cases a day, the most since August 1.

Among those that reported the biggest one-day increases were Texas (6,291 including new and historical cases), Illinois (4,942), Wisconsin (3,632, including confirmed and probable cases). Indiana (2,850), Ohio (2,425), Utah (1,543), Montana (928) and New Mexico (819) had record increases, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.

There are 41,010 people currently in US hospitals with coronavirus, the highest level since August 20, when 41,988 hospitalisations were reported. Eight states reported record levels of hospitalisations on Thursday.

Deaths are also experiencing an upward trend. A further 1,173 fatalities were attributed to coronavirus, up from 994 on Wednesday and compared with 951 on Thursday last week.

This would rank as the biggest increase in deaths since 1,200 on September 16 but, again, the absence of Wednesday data from Alabama, Florida and Georgia in Covid Tracking Project’s snapshot means Thursday’s figure is probably boosted by these delayed numbers.

Over the past week, the US has averaged about 755 deaths a day, the highest level in a month.



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