The Latest: Airline hit hard by virus plans to cut costs

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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Expert warns many countries are driving blind as they reopen.

– Brussels Airlines makes cost-cutting plan to return to service.

– Spain reports new virus cases and death toll.

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BRUSSELS – Hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, Belgium’s Brussels Airlines unveiled Tuesday a cost-cutting plan that will result in the reduction of 25% of its workforce.

The Lufthansa subsidiary, which employs 4,000 people, has suspended its flights as a result of the pandemic, which has put air travel at a halt. The carrier, which also suffered from the bankruptcy of travel operator Thomas Cook last year, plans to reduce its fleet from 54 to 38 aircraft as part of the restructuring.

Brussels Airlines says it is losing one million euro ($1.08 million) a day because of revenue losses, aircraft leasing and maintenance costs. The company has asked the government for €290 million ($314 million) in aid.

“While the turnaround plan is indispensable to overcome the crisis, the ongoing discussions with both the Belgian government and Lufthansa remain essential,” Brussels Airlines said. “The Belgian home carrier hopes for a positive outcome of the talks with the Belgian authorities on the financial support that is needed to overcome the consequences of this unprecedented crisis, while it seeks for assistance of Lufthansa for the restructuring costs.”

Brussels Airlines said it is confident it will “grow again in a profitable way” when air travel returns to normal.

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MADRID – Spain is reporting 176 new confirmed deaths for coronavirus during the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 26,920.

New infections confirmed by laboratory tests are up on Tuesday by 426. The total contagion, including antibody tests, stands at 269,520.

The figures were slightly up from a day before, but records usually see an increase on Tuesday as unreported data over the weekend shows up in official statistics.

Nearly 140,000 people have recovered after contracting the virus, Spain’s Health Ministry says.

Roughly half of Spaniards are starting to enjoy a loser version of the country’s stringent lockdown adopted in mid-March.

On Tuesday, the government published a new set of rules requiring all incoming visitors from overseas to quarantine for two weeks if they arrive after May 15.

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ATHENS, Greece – Police in northern Greece say migrants at a holding site near the country’s border with Turkey have staged violent protests following weeks of delays in processing their asylum claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities said the protests also involved unaccompanied minors at the closed facility which currently houses some 250 asylum seekers. No injuries were reported.

The asylum service’s operations have been scaled back due to the pandemic restriction measures that have affected many public services.

Greek authorities are struggling to cope with a spike in migrant crossings from Turkey, at the land border and islands, that occurred before the lockdown.

Greece and Turkey were also involved in a standoff at the border for more than two weeks in late February and early March – after Turkey’s government announced it would no longer prevent migrants trying to reach the European Union. Greece used police and its armed forces with assistance from the EU border protection agency Frontex to stop thousands of migrants trying to force their way over the border.

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LONDON – Budget airline Ryanair will begin operating nearly 1,000 daily flights starting in July – assuming government restrictions on flights within Europe are lifted after the shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The carrier says it will restore 90% of its pre-COVID-19 route network. The airline has been operating with a skeleton schedule since mid-March, with some 30 flights daily between Ireland, the UK and Europe.

On the plane, lining up for toilets will be forbidden, though access to bathrooms can be made on request. Crew members will wear masks and offer limited services.

The airline also announced that passengers flying in July and August will be required at check-in to state how long their planned visit will be and what address they will use during their visit. The information will be given to governments in the event they want to monitor the passenger for isolation requirements.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark – A top medical official in Denmark said Tuesday that “it is very unlikely that another wave of corona will occur” in the Scandinavian country.

“But we may see changes in the reproduction rate,” said Kaare Moelbak of Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in Denmark.

Currently the Danish so-called reproduction rate, which measures the average number of people a person with the virus infects, is at 0.7, down from a previous 0.9. It has been below 1.0 in the past weeks.

Moelbak said Denmark now had built up a test capacity and can now isolate infected people.

He spoke at a news conference with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen who announced that Denmark will create an agency to ensure the supply of protective equipment and testing facilities to “strengthen the preparedness” in the future.

“We don’t want to stand in a situation where we lack tests and protective equipment,” Frederiksen said.

Denmark started a lockdown March 11 and has in the past weeks slowly reopened society.

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PARIS – French children start going back to school on Tuesday as the country is gradually lifting confinement measures, following two months of lockdown.

Authorities say 86% of preschools and primary schools are reopening this week.

Most schools across the country start accommodating children on Tuesday. In Paris, schools will reopen Thursday.

Classes are capped at 10 students at preschools and 15 elsewhere. Students are required to keep physical distance from each other and wash their hands several times a day. Teachers must wear a mask.

School attendance is not compulsory. The government has allowed parents to keep children at home amid fears prompted by the COVID-19, as France is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Junior high schools in regions with fewer virus cases are expected to reopen next week. A target date hasn’t been scheduled yet for high schools.

As of Tuesday, French authorities reported nearly 140,000 people infected with the virus and more than 26,000 deaths.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo – Kosovo’s acting prime minister has returned to his office after the person suspected of being exposed to the virus tested negative, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti “has returned to the regular working regime” and he has not been tested of the virus because “the suspected person he had contacted resulted negative,” said Perparim Kryeziu, a government spokesperson.

A day earlier Kurti said he was quarantining himself at home following contacts with a possible virus-infected official.

Kosovo has eased some of its lockdown measures, but it is still with closed borders and many businesses remain shut.

As of Tuesday, Kosovo has had 28 confirmed virus deaths and about 900 confirmed cases.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak breached 1,000-mark on Tuesday, making it the country with the most COVID-19 deaths and the highest fatality rate in Southeast Asia.

The COVID-19 task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto confirmed 16 new deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 1,007.

The number of coronavirus fatalities become under scrutiny in recent days as media reports and medical experts said the national death toll was likely more than double the official figure of 1,007.

Indonesia has one of the lowest testing rates in the world and some epidemiologists say that has made it harder to get an accurate picture of the infections in the world’s fourth most populous country.

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LONDON – The coronavirus pandemic has scuttled summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, a highlight of the year for thousands of British pagans, druids and assorted revelers.

English Heritage, which looks after the ancient stone circle, says restrictions on public events to slow the spread of the virus make it impossible to hold the event. It said it had decided to cancel the gathering “after much deliberation and in consultation with our partners in the police and the emergency services, the druid and pagan community and others.”

English Heritage says it will stream the sunrise online on the solstice, June 21.

Thousands of people usually gather to watch the sun rise behind the Neolithic monument in southwest England on the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day of the year.

Stonehenge, a World Heritage site, is believed to be 4,500 years old. It is known for its alignment with the movements of the sun.

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MADRID – Spain will require all visitors from abroad to quarantine for 14 days if they arrive in the country after May 15.

The new Health Ministry order, published Tuesday in Spain’s official gazette, says the goal is to “limit the risks derived from the international traffic of people” during the rollback of the coronavirus lockdown.

Travel agencies and transport companies must inform their customers about the new regulations before they sell their Spain-bound tickets, and airlines need to make sure that passengers fill out a “location card” in case they need to be contacted after their trip.

Tourism-magnet Spain is starting to loosen the grip after seven weeks of strict confinement. Authorities have reported more than 26,700 deaths for the new coronavirus and over 268,000 infections confirmed by tests.

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NEW DELHI, India – India is reopening parts of its colossal rail network and will run limited trains as the country begins easing its nearly seven-week strict lockdown amid an increase in coronavirus infections.

Special trains will depart from select big cities Tuesday, including Delhi and Mumbai, and run to full capacity. Passengers will be allowed to enter stations only if they are asymptomatic and clear thermal screening; they must maintain social distancing on board and will be given hand sanitizers upon entry and exit.

The train network often described as India’s lifeline spans 67,000 kilometers (42,000 miles) and carries more than 20 million passengers daily.

India’s rail, road and air services were suspended in late March as part of a tight nationwide lockdown that has helped keep confirmed coronavirus infections relatively low for a population of 1.3 billion. But in recent days, as the lockdown has eased and some businesses have reopened, infections and deaths due to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, are increasing.

India has confirmed 70,756 coronavirus cases, including 2,293 deaths.

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SINGAPORE – Singaporeans will be able to get a haircut at the barber or pop in to their favorite bakery Tuesday as the government loosens coronavirus restrictions three weeks before a partial lockdown ends.

Despite an upsurge in cases due to an outbreak among foreign workers staying in crowded dormitories, the government says transmission in the local community has dropped and it plans a phased reopening of the economy. Barbers and hairdressers, food manufacturers and outlets, and laundry shops are among selected businesses that can open with strict health measures in place Tuesday after five weeks of shutdown.

Barbers are open by appointment only and notices outside shops call for face masks before entry. Officials reminded citizens not to rush out or loiter outside.

Singapore has reported 23,822 infections, the most in Asia after China, India and Pakistan. But it has a low fatality rate of 21 deaths. About 90% of cases are linked to foreign workers’ dorms, which have all remained locked down as testing continues.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Lufthansa planes park at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Lufthansa said that the Lufthansa Group, which includes Eurowings, Swiss and Brussels Airlines as well as Austrian Airlines, will cut its overall long-haul seat capacity by up to 90% due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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