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The pandemic is changing Hollywood, maybe forever

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“No New ‘Movies’ Till Influenza Ends” blared a New York Times headline on Oct. 10, 1918, while the deadly second wave of the Spanish Flu was unfolding.

A century later, during another pandemic, movies — quotes no longer necessary — are again facing a critical juncture. But it’s not because new films haven’t been coming out. By streaming service, video-on-demand, virtual theater or actual theater, a steady diet of films have been released under COVID-19 every week. The Times has reviewed more than 460 new movies since mid-March.

Yet until recently — with only a few exceptions — those haven’t been the big-budget spectacles Hollywood runs on. Eight months into the pandemic, that’s changing. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. experimented with the $200 million “Mulan” as a premium buy on its fast-growing streaming service, Disney+ — where the Pixar film “Soul” will also go on Dec. 25. WarnerMedia last week announced that “Wonder Woman 1984” — a movie that might have made $1 billion at the box office in a normal summer — will land in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously next month.

Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same afterward. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID-19 is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover and potentially reordering an industry that was already in flux.

“I don’t think the genie will ever be back in the bottle,” says veteran producer Peter Guber, president of Mandalay Entertainment and former chief of Sony Pictures. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock.”

Many of the pivots in 2020 can be chalked up to the unusual circumstances. But several studios are making more long-term realignments around streaming. WarnerMedia, the AT&T conglomerate that owns Warner Bros. (founded in 1923), is now run by Jason Kilar, best known as the former chief executive of Hulu. Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, the Robert Iger heir, announced a reorganization to emphasize streaming and “accelerate our direct-to-consumer business.”

Universal Pictures, owned by Comcast, has pushed aggressively into video-on-demand. Its first major foray, “Trolls,” kicked up a feud with theater owners. But as the pandemic wore on, Universal hatched unprecedented deals with AMC and Cinemark, the largest and third-largest chains, respectively, to dramatically shorten the traditional theatrical window (usually about three months) to just 17 days. After that time, Universal can move releases that don’t reach certain box-office thresholds to digital rental.

While the nation’s second largest theater chain, Regal Cinemas, has resisted such deals, there’s widespread acknowledgement that the days of 90-day theatrical runs are over. It’s something the studios have long sought for the potential benefit of covering both platforms with one marketing campaign. Many see the pandemic as accelerating a decades-long trend.

“Windows are clearly changing,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount Pictures. “All this stuff that’s going on now in the business was going to happen, the evolution is just happening faster than it would have. What would have taken three to five years is going to be done in a year, maybe a year and a half.”

That condensed period of rapid change is happening at the same time as a land rush for streaming market share, as Disney+, HBO Max, Apple and Peacock wrestle for a piece of the home viewing audience dominated by Netflix and Amazon. With theme parks struggling and worldwide box office down tens of billions, streaming is a bright spot for media companies, and the pandemic may offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lure subscribers. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” are essentially very expensive advertisements for those streaming services.

Each studio, depending on their corporate ownership and streaming positioning, is taking a different approach. Paramount, like Sony Pictures, doesn’t have a streaming service to offload films to. Both have held back their tentpole releases while selling more midsized films to streamers. For Paramount, “A Quiet Place: Part II,” “Top Gun Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7” are waiting for 2021 while “The Trial of the Chicago 7” fetched a reported $56 million from Netflix and Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America 2” went to Amazon Prime Video for a reported $125 million.

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HBO Max has had a bumpier rollout than Disney+, so “Wonder Woman 1984” is an especially critical gambit for WarnerMedia following the audacious release of “Tenet.” As the first tentpole to test theaters reopened with safety protocols and reduced capacities, it has made about $350 million worldwide — a lot considering everything but far less than originally hoped for. Credit Suisse analyst Douglas Mitchelson called the “Wonder Woman” plans — which include rolling theatrical runs in China, Europe and elsewhere — “a grand experiment that could have-lasting implications if successful.”

Director Patty Jenkins acknowledged the simultaneous release was a kind of sacrifice, not just to HBO Max but to families stuck at home. “At some point you have to choose to share any love and joy you have to give, over everything else,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter.

It can be easy to cheer such moves, even if their financial performance remain cloudy (no studio has been transparent about its viewership numbers or digital grosses) and their long-term viability uncertain. Can you replicate $1 billion in box office in new subscriptions? And for how long will the one-time bounce of a new movie (unlike a series staggered over weeks or months) drive subscribers once streaming services are closer to tapping as many homes as they can?

“The whole thing is more complicated than people want it to be,” says Ira Deutchman, the veteran independent film producer and Columbia University professor. “The way movies are made and distributed, certainly at the studio level, has been really in need of change and hopefully this will bring it on. But when people hear that, it’s like: The pandemic is the straw that broke the camel’s back and now theatrical is dead. I personally feel that’s garbage.”

Deutchman considers the idea that people, after a year of quarantines and lockdowns, won’t want to leave their living room “ludicrous.” But he does imagine continued mergers and acquisitions, and “a new equilibrium” for distributors and theater owners.

So what could that mean on the other side of COVID, if moviegoers are once again comfortable sitting in packed theaters on opening weekend? It will almost certainly mean the months-long runs of films like “Titanic” or “Get Out” are a thing of the past. It could mean variable pricing on different nights. It could mean an even greater division between the franchise films of the multiplex and the boutique art house, with everything in between going straight to streaming.

But after decades of slow but steady decline in attendance, most think movie theaters will have to innovate in a way other than raising ticket prices.

“The outlook is pretty dire in terms of being a major theatrical exhibitor,” says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. He imagines shortened windows will mean few films — even the Marvel releases — ascending to $1 billion in worldwide box office. He can see some studios, like Disney, operating their own theaters as “mini-theme parks” with merchandising stuffing the lobbies.

In the meantime, theaters are hoping for much-needed relief from Congress. With the virus surging, about 40% of U.S. theaters are open; in New York and Los Angeles, they’ve stayed shut since March. Chains have taken on loans to stay afloat and avert bankruptcy. Cineworld, owner of Regal Cinemas (currently entirely closed) on Monday announced a deal for a $450 million rescue loan.

It will be a very different holiday season — usually the most lucrative corridor in theaters — for the movie business. How different 2021 and beyond will be remains to be seen. Some things, though, may never change.

“If you’re going to be in this business, no matter what you do or where it plays, whether it’s streaming or in cinemas, you’re going to make hits and you’re going to make flops,” says Guber. “The idea is to make more hits than flops.”

SOURCE

Pandemic inauguration could cut the choir, standing-room-only parties and maybe the historic lunch

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Outside President Donald Trump’s bedroom window on the north side of the White House is the sound of building: hammers, drills, the beep-beep of trucks backing up and metal planks clanking into place.

Construction of the parade platform for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration festivities is well underway. The viewing stand and bleachers are almost complete and each day they get closer to being done — all within Trump’s view — as it becomes clearer his days in the White House are coming to a close.
Despite the uncertainty of the coronavirus and Trump’s waning attempts to overturn the election, the structure is a growing reminder of the transition now in motion. Whatever else must change to accommodate the pandemic, people are getting ready for Biden’s inauguration come January, which will likely reflect the President-elect’s cautious, science-driven approach to the pandemic.
What’s more, the outgoing president may not even go to the incoming president’s swearing-in. Three White House officials familiar with Trump’s moods and patterns speculate he won’t be there for the hand-off.
“I can’t foresee a scenario where he goes and that tradition carries on as normal,” one of the officials tells CNN.
No doubt, the pomp and circumstance will be noticeably different this time around, according to interviews with multiple aides and administration officials, from the White House to Capitol Hill to the DC mayor’s office. The future of the traditional luncheon in Statuary Hall is up in the air, and it’s unlikely a choir behind the new President will be feasible.
The expectation is the inauguration will be smaller, too, and attendees will have to wear masks and maintain social distance within the ticketed parameters.
The congressional committee tasked with choreographing the festivities at the Capitol has tried to map out plans for a range of scenarios with consultation from medical experts, aides say.
The committee has been in an awkward limbo since Election Day, as Trump’s refusal to accept his loss mounted. While unable to dive-in exclusively with Biden’s team, the committee has spent the last several months making plans for whoever won the election. Aides maintained neutrality in recent weeks as Trump’s denial dragged on, communicating with both his and Biden’s teams as to what the options could be for January 20.

A scaled back event

The congressional committee is tasked with everything that happens within the ticketed parameter of Inauguration Day, which typically includes the vicinity from the Capitol itself to Fourth Street on all sides, an area that usually holds roughly 200,000 people. The iconic VIP platform — the setting of that image of politicians from both parties looking on as the new President takes the oath of office, surrounded by his spouse and family — holds 1,600 people.
No final decisions have been made as of yet, per the source, but it’s expected the platform will host far fewer than 1,600 people. There is also ongoing discussion about requiring Covid testing for anyone who remains on the main platform near Biden.
One aide cautioned the maximum number of tests that are currently able to be processed on Capitol Hill is approximately 300 per day, which could fall short of the normal volume of people allowed on the platform.
Biden said over the summer that he did not want to wear a mask for his Inauguration ceremony and an aide tells CNN that this is still the President-elect’s preference.
As with most things on Capitol Hill, the day’s historic events have their own currency. Members of Congress often use their allotted Inauguration tickets to ingratiate themselves with powerful constituents or high-rolling donors, the cache of being part of history is a sizable carrot to dangle.
Frustration is mounting this week, however. Those familiar with planning say members have not yet been told how many tickets they will have to distribute, if any. Instead, they’re being told to jot down names of those interested in attending and let those people know they’re in a holding pattern.
One thing the congressional committee has determined, no matter the number of attendees: everyone in the ticketed area will be required to follow mask and social distancing guidelines.
And the choir that is usually positioned on risers behind the President may not happen at all, according to an aide. The Marine Band, which has played at every inauguration since 1801 is still scheduled to participate.
One tradition that could also face rollbacks is the Inaugural Luncheon, held after the swearing-in. It is the first meal the new President eats, and it is usually served with 200 or so members of congressional leadership in attendance in Statuary Hall, the large tiled room with high-ceilings and dramatic columns.
The ceremonial lunch dates back to 1897, for President William McKinley, and new presidents pick their menus with care. President Obama’s swearing-in menu in 2009 was inspired by Abraham Lincoln, and featured seafood stew and American birds including pheasant and duck.
But the hall is typically packed tight for the luncheon, a dangerous thing in a pandemic especially as health experts have warned about the risks of indoor dining. This year, event planners will have to weigh carefully what kind of message a lunch could send to the American public who has been told over and over again to stay home and avoid exposing themselves and others to the virus.
Aides warn perception is everything. A recent memory, the fallout from the controversy earlier this month when House Democrats hosted an in-person new member dinner in the room. They allowed only two members per table and distanced the space between diners, but the public blowback led to an eventual cancel of the dinner. Instead, members got boxed dinners to take home.

Questions about a parade

The swearing in ceremony and the luncheon are just two of the areas of the inaugural day festivities that could look different this year. There are still questions about what a parade will look like with the D.C. Mayor’s office moving ahead with plans for one, but still uncertain about how it ultimately will unfold.
“We are planning for a parade as well as the other elements of the inauguration traditions; however, each inauguration reflects the person being sworn in so we await the appointment of the Presidential Inaugural Committee to understand how we can support their vision,” Susana Castillo, the mayor’s spokesperson said. On Wednesday this week, DC will revert to modified Phase Two Covid protocols, after spikes in numbers. For outdoor gatherings, the number of allowed people drops from 50 to 25.
The bulk of what the committees, the city and the National Park Service may have to do will be crowd control — to a degree and in a way that perhaps no other celebratory parade has had to do before. Throngs will want to celebrate Biden’s swearing-in; at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, there were 1.8 million people, according to city officials.
This is something the Biden team is contemplating, still, shy of eight weeks to go.
“The trick is to allow for celebration, but not in person,” says a source with knowledge of the planning discussions. “It feels almost an impossibility, but it is the only option.”
The source adds team Biden is all too aware of the power of presidential persuasion and anything short of virtual audiences will certainly compromise the authenticity of what the President-elect has been touting about being virus-aware. The success of the virtual Democratic National Convention in August is currently the model of how to successfully pull off a seamless Inaugural, says the source, who indicates there will likely be a large streaming component to the events of January 20, including the evening’s balls and entertainment, again much in the same vein as the DNC.
Celebrations without the physical camaraderie of those participating will also impact Washington itself, a city that gets a huge financial boon whenever a new President comes into office.
Hotels are booked months in advance, deposits are made on event venues for the dozens of Inaugural Balls, and smaller pre- and post-parties are hosted by DC’s society mavens and ambassadorial hierarchies, to welcome in a new administration.
“Those of us in the industry are bracing ourselves for a very quiet January,” says a longtime high-end event planner in Washington. “No one is counting on the business we would typically expect during an inaugural year.”

Almost 5 million Americans have already traveled by plane before Thanksgiving

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Almost 5 million Americans have already traveled by plane ahead of Thanksgiving — a pandemic-era high, according to the latest data.

Airport security screened 4.8 million people from Friday to Tuesday, the TSA said.

That’s still 59 percent less than the same period in 2019, when nearly 12 million people passed through American airports.

But it’s an uptick compared to earlier in the year, when some days saw as little as 90,000 or fewer trips, according to TSA figures.

Amtrak, meanwhile, has seen ridership drop 80 percent compared to last Thanksgiving, spokesman Jason Abrams said.

Only 27 percent of Americans plan to have a mixed-household Thanksgiving dinner amid the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a survey commissioned by the New York Times.

Fifty million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, according to a forecast from AAA and IHS Markit. The vast majority of those trips — 95 percent — were expected to be made by car.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned Americans against traveling for the holidays amid rising coronavirus rates.

SOURCE

Lessons for Africa from devastating Mauritius oil spill

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The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and its devastating impact is expected to last for decades. Over 1 000 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into pristine Mauritian waters, covering the nearby shore in toxic sludge and immersing the ecosystem in a desperate struggle for survival.

This environmental crisis couldnt have occurred at a worse time for Mauritius. The spill will seriously impede the recovery of a Mauritian economy highly dependent on coastal tourism and already battered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Mauritius and other African states need to promptly review their contingency strategies and response capacities so we can start positing immediate lessons to be learnt.

The national and international response to the MV Wakashio crisis was commendable. France, India, Japan and the International Maritime Organization cooperated to support local Mauritian efforts in a race against time to pump out the fuel from the vessel, which eventually broke apart on 15 August. Meanwhile local volunteers flocked to the shore with improvised booms and barriers.

Mauritius and other African states need to urgently review their contingency strategies

While a full investigation and report is urgently required, it is possible to start piecing together a narrative of what has occurred and how it turned so bad so quickly.

The MV Wakashio left China on 14 July heading for Brazil. On 25 July it ran aground on the reefs located roughly a mile off Pointe dEsny and the Blue Bay Marine Park along the south-eastern shore of Mauritius. No oil leakage was reported at the time, and the Mauritius coast guard swiftly deployed booms and took other preventive actions. The government activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan the following day.

By 5 August a minor oil slick was observed surrounding the vessel. It was still assumed that the countrys contingency plan was sufficient and that the risk of oil spill was still low. But then the MV Wakashio flooded and began sinking. Oil started to spill into the sea.

On 7 August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a national environment emergency. Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo suggested that this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem. Mauritius called for international help once the scale of the emergency became apparent and quickly overwhelmed the resources and capacity of the countrys national contingency plan.

The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating

More than 100 children killed and injured as violence intensifies in Ituri, DRC – Save the Children

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Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo between April and July. Save the Children is horrified by the recent escalation of extreme violence, in which also at least 17 children were injured and 12 were sexually abused.

In the same period, around sixty schools were attacked, and 17 health facilities – two of which were supported but the charity.

“The situation for children is getting worse by the day, in a conflict they should not have a part in. We need to ensure children can return to school, that they and their families can go to health facilities if they need to, and that they are protected”, said Malik Allaouna, Save the Children country director in DRC.

“We need more resources, and call upon the international community and the Government of DRC to help alleviate the suffering of these children. We are asking all involved parties to grant unhindered access to humanitarian workers, so they can support those who are most in need.”

Since January 2020, the situation in Ituri has deteriorated significantly in the Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi territories. At least 1,315 people were killed, including 165 children. An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced since January, adding pressure to the situation in Ituri, which already hosted over 1.2 million Internal displaced people in 2019.

“Children who had to flee from the violence told us they had to leave everything behind because militias came into the area of Djugu. Suddenly, they found themselves homeless and without any food, having to sleep in schools”, said Dr Macky Manseka, Humanitarian Health and Nutrition Programme Manager at Save the Children.

Save the Children, which has been responding to this crisis for over a year, warns that displaced populations do not have access to enough food. Communities are also lacking health and nutrition services, clean and safe water and hygiene materials, as areas become increasingly cut off by violence and resources are in low supply.

“For example, there were more than 235 new cases of severe acute malnutrition in July 2020”, Dr. Manseka continued. “But because of the violence, we cant follow-up properly on sick or malnourished children. As a consequence, their treatment is disrupted, which might lead to relapses or even deaths.”

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Note to editors:

Creepy technologies invade European post-pandemic workplaces

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Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa F. Etienne, said preparing for winter and hurricanes is critical to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Americas.

With more than 3.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the region and many areas reporting exponential rises in cases and deaths, “We are concerned by data showing the virus surging in new places that had previously seen a limited number of cases,” Etienne said in a press briefing today.

The PAHO Director noted, “In South America, our response to the pandemic will be impacted by the arrival of winter, while hurricane season will complicate our efforts in North and Central America, and especially in the Caribbean.”

Preparing for respiratory infections during winter

Winter, now starting in South America, “fuels respiratory infections—like seasonal influenza and pneumonia—that can rapidly spread in colder climates and as more people gather indoors to stay warm,” she said.

“This is a problem for patients because respiratory illnesses leave them at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection. Its also a challenge for strained health systems that will have to cope with the dual burden of a coronavirus pandemic and a spike in other respiratory illnesses. It does not help that the similar symptoms will make diagnosing COVID-19 even harder,” Dr. Etienne told journalists at the briefing.

Influenza vaccination “to prevent severe cases of flu is more critical than ever—particularly for high-risk groups like health workers, the elderly and people with chronic conditions. These same groups are also at high-risk of coronavirus infection,” she noted.

Seasonal influenza vaccination is ongoing in 14 countries, and more than 90 million people are being targeted. PAHO is helping countries buy vaccines through its Revolving Fund. “The Fund helped secure 24 million flu vaccine doses, despite the added logistical hurdles that were all facing in transporting essential supplies during the pandemic,” the PAHO Director explained.

Preparing for hurricane season

With hurricane season starting, PAHOs director suggested that officials in the Caribbean, Central America, and the East coast of the USA “review national hurricane response plans and conduct simulation exercises to ensure your disaster and COVID-19 responses are aligned. We should also plan for potential disruptions to the care of critically ill patients and refine evacuation plans.”

GCO responds to Amnesty report on non-payment of salaries by stadium contractor

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Office on Wednesday issued a statement in response to an Amnesty report accusing a company operating at the Al Bayt Stadium of not paying salaries to workers.
Here is the full statement:
In September 2019, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) was made aware, by the Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy, of delayed salary payments by Qatar Meta Coats W.L.L.
The company was financially sanctioned, and operations were suspended until all outstanding salaries were paid. Financial insecurity between November 2019 and April 2020 meant that Qatar Meta Coats workforce received irregular salary payments during this period.
In May 2020, the issue was partially resolved and all salary payments from February to May were paid in full by the company. There are a small number of outstanding salary payments preceding February, which will be resolved in the coming days. Qatar Meta Coats was recently sold and ADLSA is overseeing the activities of the new ownership to rectify the neglect of the previous owner, including renewing expired residence permits and health cards.
Working with our international partners, the government has bolstered legislative and operational frameworks to improve and further protect the rights of migrant workers, while clearly setting out the legal obligations of all companies operating in Qatar. We have made it clear to all employers that, in line with legislation, incidents of non-compliance will result in strict sanctions, including heavy fines, shutting down worksites, blacklisting, and prosecuting individuals responsible for neglecting the welfare of their workforce.
Furthermore, as part of our efforts to tackle exploitative labour practices by companies, draft legislation was passed last week to increase financial and non-financial penalties for labour law violations, including those related to delayed salary payments.
The government has made significant progress in recent years to reform the countrys labour system. There are still issues to overcome, including those related to the attitudes and behaviours of a small minority. This will take time, but we remain firmly committed to the task.

Read from source

Dozens dead in Pakistan as PIA plane plunges into Karachi houses

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Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner crashed into a residential neighbourhood while on approach to the airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, officials say.

At least two male passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi survived the crash on Friday, a health ministry spokeswoman told Al Jazeera.

There were at least 91 passengers on board the plane, according to an official passenger manifest shared with Al Jazeera by the officials.

Health ministry spokeswoman Meeran Yousuf told Al Jazeera by telephone that 85 people have died, with 53 bodies kept at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi’s largest government hospital, and 32 at Civil Hospital Karachi, another major state-run hospital.

Yousuf said the two survivors were being treated at the hospitals in Karachi, while 19 bodies have been identified so far.

At least six people who were on the ground when the airliner crashed into houses in the densely populated Model Colony area of Karachi, adjacent to the city’s international airport, were being treated for their injuries, she added.

“Our plane [an Airbus] A320 which was coming from Lahore to Karachi was on final approach,” said PIA chief Arshad Malik in a video message released after the crash.

“The last words we heard from our pilot were that there is a technical problem and he was told on final approach that he has both runways available to him to land on. But the pilot decided that he wanted to go around.”

The plane then rapidly lost altitude and crashed short of the runway into the Model Colony neighbourhood, witnesses told the local media.

Dense plumes of black smoke rose above houses in the narrow streets of the neighbourhood, with television footage showing several houses crushed from the impact of the aircraft.

UK to introduce quarantine for international arrivals from June 8

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Britain will introduce a 14-day quarantine for travellers arriving from abroad from June 8, interior minister Priti Patel said, with the government warning that anyone breaking the rules would face a fine or prosecution.

All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will have to self-isolate and provide details of where they will be staying under the plans, which were criticised by airlines, business groups and politicians alike.

“Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease,” Patel said at a news conference.

“We are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders.”

Those who breached the quarantine in the United Kingdom could be fined 1,000 UK pounds ($1,218), and spot checks would be carried out by health and border officials.

The quarantine will not apply to those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, nor to freight drivers, medical professionals or seasonal agricultural workers. The measures will be reviewed every three weeks.

The UK has recorded the highest number of deaths in Europe from coronavirus, with more than 36,000 people who have tested positive having died so far.

But the quarantine move is controversial, especially with the aviation sector, where flights have been grounded and passenger numbers slumped during lockdown measures.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary this week branded a proposed quarantine plan “idiotic” and accused ministers of “making it up as they go along”.

Virgin Atlantic said quarantine would prevent services from resuming and claimed there “simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest”.

Trump predicts coronavirus vaccine by years end, vows plague will pass

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As some states loosen lockdown restrictions in a bid to set the nation’s battered economy on the road to recovery, President Trump endorsed a state-by-state approach while predicting at a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday that a coronavirus vaccine could be available by December.

“I think we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump told the moderators, Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, saying he was “very confident” in the assessment. “We’ll have a vaccine much sooner rather than later.”

Asked by MacCallum if he was concerned about the potential risks of accelerating a vaccine and human trials, Trump responded: “No, because they’re volunteers. They know what they’re getting into … They want to help the process.”

That timeline was dramatically ahead of previous estimates from both public and private sector experts at the outset of the pandemic, which had said a vaccine could take up to 18 months, if not longer. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend it was “doable if things fall in the right place” to have a vaccine by January.

CORONAVIRUS TIMELINE SHOWS SHIFTING RHETORIC ON THE PANDEMIC

Trump also predicted that the U.S. would be self-reliant on antibiotics, without needing to rely on China, within two years. Republicans have said it’s “crazy” that America is reliant on China, a communist adversary, for critical supplies including antibiotics.

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However, Trump predicted that as many as 100,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus, in a significant increase from his estimate of 60,000 last month. “Were going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” Trump said, calling it a “horrible” situation. Without his administration’s actions, Trump asserted, “the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, thats the minimum.”

Trump generally backed the efforts of America’s governors to manage the crisis, saying that each state will have a different approach to reopening their economies.

“It’s going to pass,” he assured, repeatedly referring to the outbreak as the “plague.”

Trump went on to assert that Democrats and media organizations, who have mocked him for touting the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine in fighting coronavirus, were motivated by politics and “don’t want to see a good result.” Some media organizations even reported that an Arizona couple had consumed fish tank cleaner because they believed it contained hydroxychloroquine. The woman in that case had claimed she was following Trump’s advice despite openly attacking Trump on social media. Her husbands death after ingesting the liquid is now under investigation.

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