Tag Archives: Government regulations

Australia to amend legislation making Fb, Google pay for information

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The creator of proposed Australian legal guidelines that may make Fb and Google pay for journalism says his draft laws might be altered to allay a few of the digital giants’ considerations, however would stay essentially unchanged

Fb has warned it would block Australian information content material reasonably than pay for it.

Google has mentioned the proposed legal guidelines would lead to “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube,” put free providers in danger and will result in customers’ information “being handed over to large information companies.”

Sims mentioned he’s discussing the draft of his invoice with the U.S. social media platforms. It might be launched into Parliament in late October.

“Google has received considerations about it, a few of it’s that they only don’t prefer it, others are issues that we’re fortunately going to interact with them on,” Sims advised a webinar hosted by The Australia Institute, an unbiased think-tank.

“We’ll make modifications to deal with a few of these points — not all, however some,” Sims mentioned.

Among the many considerations is a concern that underneath the so-called Information Media Bargaining Code, information companies “will be capable to someway management their algorithms,” Sims mentioned.

“We’ll have interaction with them and make clear that in order that there’s no means that the information media companies can intervene with the algorithms of Google or Fb,” Sims mentioned.

He mentioned he would additionally make clear that the platforms wouldn’t need to disclose extra information about customers than they already share.

“There’s nothing within the code that forces Google or Fb to share the information from people,” Sims mentioned.

Sims was not ready to barter the “core” of the code, which he described because the “bits of glue that maintain the code collectively, that make it workable.”

These included an arbitrator to deal with the bargaining imbalance between the tech giants and information companies. If a platform and a information outlet can’t attain an settlement on worth, an arbitrator could be appointed to make a binding choice.

One other core side was a non-discrimination clause to forestall the platforms from prioritizing Australia’s state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Particular Broadcasting Service, whose information content material will stay free.

Sims mentioned he didn’t know whether or not Fb would act on its risk and block Australian information, however he suspected that to take action would “weaken” the platform.

Spain and France and have each didn’t make Fb and Google pay for information by means of copyright legislation. Sims mentioned he has spoken about Australia’s method by means of truthful buying and selling legal guidelines to regulators in america and Europe.

“They’re all wrestling with the identical drawback,” Sims mentioned.

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Guidelines proposed by California insurance coverage commissioner supply

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LOS ANGELES — After a number of years of insurers dropping owners’ insurance policies in areas hard-hit by wildfires, the California insurance coverage commissioner is pushing for laws that may offset rising premiums with reductions for mitigating wildfire dangers.

On Oct. 19, the Division of Insurance coverage will host an investigatory listening to the place owners, trade specialists and insurance coverage suppliers, amongst others, can provide their enter into laws Commissioner Ricardo Lara plans to provoke that may in all probability speed up premium will increase for some owners whereas giving them an opportunity to learn the way their property’s danger is calculated and alternatives to scale back it, Lara’s workplace mentioned.

“The truth is local weather change goes to proceed to disrupt communities by way of excessive warmth and climate and have an effect on our insurance coverage markets,” Lara mentioned. “Utilizing my authority as a regulator to have a look at these key areas is basically going to be vital.”

For a number of years now, the housing market in California’s increasing wildland-urban interface, the realm the place suburbia blends with the wildlands, has been rocked by wind-driven fires which have worn out housing inventory and years of insurers’ income together with it. In response, insurers have been dropping insurance policies in these at-risk areas by the hundreds, pushing individuals into the secondary market, and dramatically elevating the premiums for a lot of others, arguing that the tandem strikes are supposed to restrict their monetary dangers.

However on the identical time, client advocates say, insurers have been slow-rolling the speed will increase throughout the remainder of their portfolio, conserving the will increase total under 7% yearly so it does not open them up for a public inspection, enabled beneath Proposition 103, permitted in 1988.

Lara’s workplace mentioned it might push for insurers to hunt charge will increase extra reflective of the dangers the businesses’ actuaries spell out, which suggests in all probability larger than 7%, however it might additionally require insurers present extra info to owners on what they’ll do to scale back these dangers.

“Time and time once more we heard from customers, ‘How do I enchantment my rating? How do I do know what I have to do to decrease that rating?’ And proper now there’s nothing,” Lara mentioned.

To melt the rate-increase impression, Lara mentioned his workplace would require that insurers present and clarify the reasoning behind a house owner’s explicit hearth danger rating. Hundreds of house owners in the previous couple of years have obtained notices when their insurance policies ended telling them they had been instantly uninsurable due to hearth dangers, or conversely, that it might value prohibitively extra to stay lined and there was nothing they might do to vary it.

“We’re saying, ‘Let’s promote transparency and acknowledge that home-hardening, that is science-based, works,” Lara mentioned.

To that finish, insurers have been working with the Insurance coverage Institute for Enterprise & House Security to stipulate an ordinary method to dwelling hardening on a person and communitywide scale, which wildfire specialists say is vital to limiting the lack of life and property. Lara mentioned he’ll work with these teams to find out what sorts of methods owners can take to scale back their dangers and get a reduction. A failed Meeting invoice that Lara endorsed earlier this 12 months would have required insurers to cowl properties whose homeowners diminished their dangers.

Traditionally, Californians have a spotty observe report of mitigating their wildfire dangers on a big scale, and with few exceptions, native governments have executed a poor job of implementing the requirements that exist already. Each customers and native governments could have a job in seeing the proposed laws bear fruit after statewide mitigation requirements are set.

“We’re incentivizing the buyer and incentivizing the area people to deliver down the chance and conserving the insurance coverage market vibrant the place they’re competing for individuals’s companies,” Lara mentioned.

One insurance coverage group, the American Property Casualty Insurance coverage Affiliation, which represents about 60% of the property casualty insurance coverage market, welcomed the upcoming listening to as a chance to revisit the rate-making course of total. Insurers have complained that California’s legal guidelines do not enable them to cost within the rising dangers linked to local weather change as a result of they’ll set charges primarily based solely on previous losses.

“APCIA applauds the commissioner’s curiosity in bettering the regulatory system to encourage extra insurers to put in writing insurance coverage in high-risk wildfire areas and provides client extra decisions,” the group mentioned in a press release. “Clearly, California is dealing with dramatically completely different situations with 5 of the state’s largest fires occurring simply this 12 months. Local weather change is altering situations in California and we count on this to be the ‘new regular.’ “

(c)2020 Los Angeles Instances

Distributed by Tribune Content material Company, LLC.

PHOTOS (for assist with photographs, contact 312-222-4194): CALIF-WILDFIRES-BOBCAT

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content material Company.

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Apology, no firing: Official stated US scientists harm Trump

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WASHINGTON — A Trump well being appointee who’s accused of attempting to muzzle an essential scientific publication within the midst of the coronavirus pandemic apologized Tuesday for a separate video wherein he reportedly says scientists battling the virus are conspiring in opposition to President Donald Trump and warns of taking pictures in America if Trump loses the election.

Michael Caputo, the highest spokesman for the Division of Well being and Human Providers, apologized to his employees for the Fb video, stated an administration official, who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate inner issues.

The division is standing by Caputo to this point within the face of calls by congressional Democrats for his dismissal — and for the resignation of his boss, HHS Secretary Alex Azar. However Caputo, a Trump loyalist and former New York political operative, has develop into a major new downside for a White Home that has struggled all 12 months with its coronavirus response.

He might be heard on an HHS podcast asserting that Democrats do not desire a coronavirus vaccine earlier than the election in an effort to punish Trump. Though Trump has made the identical assertion, with no proof to assist it, such broadsides are usually not in a division spokesman’s regular portfolio.

Information studies alleged final week that Caputo’s workplace tried to take over and muzzle a scientific weekly from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention that publishes what is meant to be authoritative, unvarnished details about disease-fighting efforts, together with, most significantly at current, COVID-19.

Then on Monday got here an account of the video on Caputo’s private Fb web page wherein he accused authorities scientists of conspiring in opposition to Trump and advised violence might escape after the election.

Caputo was named the highest HHS spokesman in April, throughout a tense interval in relations between the White Home and HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

On a taxpayer-funded podcast earlier this summer season he accused Democrats and the media of not wanting a coronavirus vaccine till after the elections in an effort to defeat Trump.

“There are individuals in america authorities on the Democrats’ facet … (who) don’t want a vaccine,” he stated.

“They don’t desire a vaccine till November 4th,” he added, citing the day after the presidential election. It is extremely uncommon to make use of an company communications platform for such a blatantly political message.

Over the weekend, Caputo made headlines when Politico and The New York Instances reported that his workplace had tried to achieve management over a CDC publication generally known as the MMWR, or Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In earlier administrations, political appointees within the HHS secretary’s workplace maintained a hands-off coverage.

The story took a wierd flip Monday, after the Instances reported a few reside video hosted by Caputo on his private Fb web page. In it, Caputo reportedly accused authorities scientists of conspiring in opposition to Trump as a part of a “resistance.”

The message turned apocalyptic when Caputo reportedly predicted that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would refuse to concede defeat to Trump within the election, and violence would escape. The Related Press was unable to independently view the video.

HHS supported Caputo, with a press release calling him a “crucial, integral a part of the president’s coronavirus response, main on public messaging as People want public well being info to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There was no instant assertion from the White Home.

Makes an attempt to interview Caputo have been unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., referred to as on Azar to fireside Caputo, accusing the spokesman of attempting to intrude with CDC studies. And Senate Minority chief Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., referred to as on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one instance of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officers at CDC have privately complained of current efforts by political appointees at HHS to attempt to edit or press for modifications within the company’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to useful resource for public well being professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, however they reveal telling particulars. One revealed earlier this 12 months famous that whereas Trump’s journey restrictions dramatically lowered journey from China in February, nothing was being achieved at the moment to limit journey from Italy and Europe, the place the coronavirus was spreading broadly and quickly. Evaluation of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March advised it was launched there from Europe and different elements of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an dependable Trump loyalist. His current ebook, “The Ukraine Hoax,” claims the president’s “phony” impeachment was rooted in an enormous conspiracy.

His appointment at HHS was seen as an try by the White Home to exert extra management over Azar, whom different administration officers have been attempting in charge for the federal government’s sluggish response within the preliminary weeks of the pandemic.

At HHS, he is been carefully affiliated with Operation Warp Pace, the federal government’s effort to have thousands and thousands of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine prepared for distribution as quickly as one is authorised by the Meals and Drug Administration.

Caputo interviewed Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a prime outdoors adviser to the vaccine effort, on an HHS podcast July 31. Commiserating with Slaoui over Democrats and information articles that have been crucial of the physician, Caputo stated:

“I do know that’s laborious to consider, however the people who find themselves abusing you, and who’re beating down Operation Warp Pace, and the unbelievable historic work that’s happening, they don’t desire a vaccine till November 4th. I don’t wish to discuss politics right here, however November third is a crucial day. They don’t desire a vaccine now due to politics, sir.”

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Related Press information researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.

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The Newest: Madrid to impose lockdowns in some areas

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MADRID — The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in city areas the place the coronavirus is spreading sooner.

Deputy regional well being chief Antonio Zapatero mentioned Wednesday that the measures will almost certainly have an effect on southern, working-class neighborhoods of Madrid the place an infection charges have been steadily hovering since August.

Zapatero mentioned that Madrid desires to “flatten the curve earlier than the arrival of autumn and the issues that chilly climate might carry,” including that the measures to be taken might be determined by this weekend.

Madrid and its surrounding area of 6.6 million folks have accounted for almost one third of Spain’s new instances, which have averaged 8,200 per day for the previous week.

Total, Spain has had greater than 600,000 instances and simply over 30,000 deaths.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— Trump denies downplaying virus menace, regardless of audio recording, and continues to forged doubt on masks

— India’s virus instances move 5 million and are nonetheless hovering, testing feeble well being care system and shutting in on US whole

— Iowa governor received’t budge on mandating masks at the same time as virus deaths rise

— Doubts persist as NYC’s hybrid college 12 months is about to begin

———

Comply with AP’s pandemic protection at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

———

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

LONDON — The British authorities plans to ration coronavirus testing, giving precedence to well being employees and care house employees after widespread reviews that folks all through the nation have been unable to schedule checks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday will face questions on his dealing with of the COVID-19 pandemic within the Home of Commons and earlier than a key committee amid the outcry over the scarcity of testing.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland says the federal government is within the technique of drawing up a brand new precedence record for testing, suggesting that college students and their households could possibly be subsequent in line after the Nationwide Well being Service and social care.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proved that our personal well being depends upon the well being of others and the atmosphere, and that exploiting nature means exploiting others.

Francis doubled down on his insistence of the interconnectedness of individuals and the planet throughout his common viewers Wednesday, held in a Vatican courtyard with the trustworthy spaced aside to restrict contagion.

Francis mentioned if individuals are unable to ponder the sweetness and majesty of nature with out exploiting it, they are going to be equally unable to ponder others with out profiting from them. He mentioned: “He who lives to take advantage of nature finally ends up exploiting folks and treating them like slaves. It is a common regulation.”

Francis is anticipated to elaborate on the themes of solidarity, fraternity and look after creation in an encyclical he’s anticipated to signal Oct. three on dwelling within the post-COVID world.

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HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam will resume worldwide industrial flights connecting the nation to a number of Asian locations beginning Friday, after a monthslong shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The flights, nonetheless, are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, consultants, managers, expert employees, traders and their households. They aren’t but out there for vacationers.

The flights connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh Metropolis to locations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will function weekly, the federal government web site introduced. Flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume subsequent week.

To board a flight, passengers should maintain a certificates exhibiting they’ve examined damaging for the coronavirus not more than 5 days earlier than the departure date. Upon arrival, they are going to be examined and quarantined, the report mentioned.

Vietnam shut down worldwide flights on April 1. Nationwide provider Vietnam Airways estimated final month that it might lose $650 million in 2020.

Vietnam has reported 1,059 instances of the coronavirus. It managed to keep away from any deaths till July, when the virus crept into town of Da Nang, killing 35 folks.

However no new instances have been reported for 2 weeks. Final week, Da Nang lifted a journey restriction after two months.

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic has registered one other steep rise in coronavirus infections, with the variety of new confirmed instances surpassing 1,600 in in the future for the primary time.

The Well being Ministry says the day-to-day enhance reached a brand new document of 1,677 on Tuesday. The document was damaged 4 instances final week.

The capital of Prague has the best quantity of people that examined constructive, over 141 per 100,000. The surge has prompted some European nations, together with Slovakia, Denmark, Britain and Switzerland to impose journey restrictions for travellers from the Czech Republic.

In line with authorities figures launched on Wednesday, 333 folks wanted hospitalization. That quantity was over 400 through the first wave of the pandemic within the spring.

The Czech Republic has had 38,896 folks contaminated with 476 deaths.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s each day coronavirus tally has stayed under 200 for 2 weeks, however the authorities is urging folks to not decrease their guard.

Authorities mentioned Wednesday that the 113 instances added within the final 24 hours took the nation’s whole to 22,504, together with 367 deaths.

Eighty-one of them have been within the Seoul metropolitan space, the center of a latest viral resurgence.

Vice Well being Minister Kim Gang-lip known as on folks to chorus from having pointless gatherings and visiting crowded locations.

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UNITED NATIONS — The brand new president of the U.N. Normal Meeting is warning that unilateralism will solely strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic and is asking for a brand new dedication to world cooperation together with on the honest and equitable distribution of vaccines.

Turkish diplomat and politician Volkan Bozkir, who took over the reins of the 193-member world physique on Tuesday, introduced that the Normal Meeting will maintain a high-level particular session on the COVID-19 pandemic in early November, although diplomats mentioned the date could slip.

Bozkir takes over from outgoing Normal Meeting President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who presided over a novel year-old session that he mentioned was “outlined by a pandemic” and included digital conferences and new voting procedures.

Bozkir advised diplomats from U.N. member nations, seated at socially distanced areas within the meeting chamber, that “confronting the consequences of the coronavirus in all their dimensions might be an overarching precedence for my presidency.”

He mentioned “no state can fight this pandemic alone,” and it’s the members’ duty “to strengthen folks’s religion in multilateral cooperation and worldwide establishments, with the U.N. at their heart.”

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British MP who leads Kashmir group denied entry to India

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Indian officials have denied a British lawmaker entry after she landed at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport

NEW DELHI —
Indian officials denied a British lawmaker entry on Monday after she landed at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, according to an accompanying aide.

Debbie Abrahams, a Labour Party Member of Parliament who chairs a parliamentary group focused on the disputed region of Kashmir, was unable to clear customs after the Indian visa she presented was rejected, the aide, Harpreet Upal, told The Associated Press.

Abrahams and Upal arrived at the airport on an Emirates flight from Dubai at 9 a.m. Abrahams said immigration officials did not cite any reason for denying her entry, but continued to shout that she didn’t have a visa.

The visa she showed at customs, a copy of which was shared with the AP, permitted her to “attend technical/business meetings,” and expired in October 2020.

A government official who requested anonymity because it was an immigration matter said the lawmaker wasn’t allowed to enter India because her visa wasn’t valid, information the official said she had already received “in another communication sent to her.”

Abrahams , 59, has been a member of Parliament since 2011 and was on a two-day personal trip to India, to be followed by a three-day trip to the portion of Kashmir that Pakistan controls.

After India won independence from British rule in 1947, the Himalayan region of Kashmir was split between India and the newly formed country of Pakistan. The archrivals have fought two wars over the territory, both claiming it in its entirety.

In a phone interview with AP while awaiting her return flight to the U.K., Abrahams said that she’d be trying to organize a visit to India-controlled Kashmir with the India High Commission in London since October, but had been unsuccessful. She had, however, received permission to visit Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and was planning to fly to Islamabad later this week.

“It was implied to me that it was linked to that,” Abrahams said, referring to a conversation with officials at the U.K. High Commission in New Delhi.

“They were also aware of the trip to Pakistan. It looks as though politics is playing a part in this action,” she said.

Abrahams has been an outspoken critic of the Indian government’s move last August stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and demoting it from a state to a federal territory.

Shortly after the changes to Kashmir’s status were passed by India’s Parliament, Abrahams wrote a letter to India’s High Commissioner to the U.K., saying the action “betrays the trust of the people” of Kashmir.

India took more than 20 foreign diplomats on a visit to Kashmir last week, the second such trip Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has organized in six months.

Access to the region remains tight, with no foreign journalists allowed.

In a statement, Abrahams related her ordeal in Delhi.

“I tried to establish why the visa had been revoked and if I could get a ‘visa on arrival’ but no one seemed to know,” she said. “Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn’t know and was really sorry about what had happened. So now I am just waiting to be deported … unless the Indian Government has a change of heart. I’m prepared to let the fact that I’ve been treated like a criminal go, and I hope they will let me visit my family and friends.”

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Cost of China’s anti-virus fight rises with workers idle

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BEIJING —
Real estate agent Du Xuekun’s sales usually jump after the Lunar New Year holiday. But this year, Du has been at home for a month with no income after vast swathes of China’s economy were shut down in a sweeping effort to contain a virus outbreak.

Du, who lives in Jiaozhuo, near the central city of Zhengzhou, is one of millions of people who are bearing the soaring cost of the most extreme anti-disease measures ever imposed. Some businesses are reopening, but Beijing has told the public to stay home if possible.

“People will buy food and clothes online but for sure won’t buy an apartment without seeing it,” said Du.

Industries from auto sales to travel to retailing effectively shut down after curbs were imposed starting Jan. 23 with the suspension of most access to Wuhan, an industrial metropolis of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak.

Travel restrictions expanded to cities with more than 60 million people, while curbs on business spread nationwide. The Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep factories and offices closed. Nationwide, thousands of restaurants and cinemas have been shut to prevent crowds from gathering.

The rising losses threaten to become a political liability for the ruling Communist Party. Local officials have been ordered to revive business activity but are moving cautiously.

By Sunday, some 1,665 deaths and 68,500 cases had been reported in the two months since the first infections in December.

Economists warn optimism that the disease might be under control is premature. Even if auto manufacturing and other business resumes as planned, activity won’t be back to normal until at least mid-March.

Losses are expected to be so large that forecasters have cut estimates for China’s economic growth.

Forecasters including Capital Economics say growth, already at multi-decade lows, might fall to 2% in the three months ending in March, down from the previous quarter’s official figure of 6%.

“If the economy really gets into a tailspin, the challenge for the party will be substantially increased,” said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Locking down Wuhan might have hurt more than it helped by causing panic and was “very damaging to the economy,” said Tsang.

“They will have to rethink the lockdown approach,” he said.

The ruling party has responded to the mounting economic pressure by promising tax breaks and subsidies to companies hurt by the anti-disease measures.

The government needs to “maintain stable economic operation and social harmony,” President Xi Jinping said Wednesday.

On Friday, the Ministry of Finance announced that companies with monthly sales below 100,000 yuan ($14,000) will be exempt from value-added and other taxes. It said companies that cannot repay loans might be allowed to invoke “force majeure,” a last-resort legal measure that can waive obligations in disasters.

Travel and hospitality were hardest-hit after the government canceled group tours and told businesspeople to put off travel. Airlines canceled thousands of flights and hotels closed.

The manager of a travel agency in Shenyang, the biggest city in China’s northeast, said its monthly revenue, usually 100,000 yuan ($14,000), fell to zero. He said the agency still is paying rent and wages of 20,000 yuan ($2,800) a month.

“We don’t expect to see a recovery until May or June,” said the manager, who would give only his surname, Xu. “We do hope the government can give us a tax exemption or reduction, but we still have seen no subsidies.”

Property sales have fallen to almost zero over the past three weeks. The industry employs millions of people and drives demand for appliances, furniture and other consumer goods.

Du, the real estate salesman, said he usually closes two sales a month and earns 7,000-8,000 yuan ($1,000-$1,100). He needs to make a 3,000-yuan ($430) monthly loan payment whether he works or not.

“I have no base salary and live on commission,” said Du, 27. “Without sales, there will be no income.”

Chinese leaders already were struggling to shore up economic growth that slowed to 6.1% last year thanks to weak consumer demand and a tariff war with Washington. Some economists, citing industry surveys and other data, say real growth already was much weaker than that.

The anti-disease measures closed factories that supply the world with smartphones, furniture, shoes, toys and household appliances. That sent shockwaves through other developing countries that supply industrial components and iron ore, copper and other commodities.

South Korea and other economies that rely on China as an export market face potential job losses.

E-commerce companies are hiring extra workers to cope with a flood of demand as families stay home and buy groceries online. But streets in Beijing and other major cities are still empty and eerily quiet.

Auto sales plunged 20.2% in January from a year earlier, deepening a 2-year-old decline in the industry’s biggest global market. Sales fell 9.6% last year to 21.4 million, well below their 2017 peak of 24.7 million.

That is squeezing global automakers that look to China to drive revenue as they spend billions of dollars to develop electric vehicles to meet government sales targets.

“Enterprises are under huge pressure,” said a statement by an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

China rebounded relatively quickly from its 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, but economic conditions now are less rosy.

SARS struck when China was entering a history-making boom powered by construction and exports. Growth peaked at a blistering 14.2% in 2007. By contrast, the latest virus hit in the midst of a slowdown.

In smartphones, Apple, Huawei and other brands face a potential hit because China is both their No. 1 market and global production base.

Shipments might fall as much as 50% this quarter compared with the final three months of 2019, according to research firm Canalys.

There is a “high risk” that component suppliers, with factory workers still stranded in their hometowns by travel bans, “will not be able to ramp up to normal capacity if the outbreak is prolonged,” Canalys said in a report.

Apple and other global vendors face a “serious impact” if the virus spreads and those suppliers close, the report said.

“The current situation will likely lead to some of the worst ever shipment numbers,” it said.

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Cost of China’s anti-virus fight rises with workers idle

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BEIJING —
Real estate agent Du Xuekun’s sales usually jump after the Lunar New Year holiday. But this year, Du has been at home for a month with no income after vast swathes of China’s economy were shut down in a sweeping effort to contain a virus outbreak.

Du, who lives in Jiaozhuo, near the central city of Zhengzhou, is one of millions of people who are bearing the soaring cost of the most extreme anti-disease measures ever imposed. Some businesses are reopening, but Beijing has told the public to stay home if possible.

“People will buy food and clothes online but for sure won’t buy an apartment without seeing it,” said Du.

Industries from auto sales to travel to retailing effectively shut down after curbs were imposed starting Jan. 23 with the suspension of most access to Wuhan, an industrial metropolis of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak.

Travel restrictions expanded to cities with more than 60 million people, while curbs on business spread nationwide. The Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep factories and offices closed. Nationwide, thousands of restaurants and cinemas have been shut to prevent crowds from gathering.

The rising losses threaten to become a political liability for the ruling Communist Party. Local officials have been ordered to revive business activity but are moving cautiously.

By Sunday, some 1,665 deaths and 68,500 cases had been reported in the two months since the first infections in December.

Economists warn optimism that the disease might be under control is premature. Even if auto manufacturing and other business resumes as planned, activity won’t be back to normal until at least mid-March.

Losses are expected to be so large that forecasters have cut estimates for China’s economic growth.

Forecasters including Capital Economics say growth, already at multi-decade lows, might fall to 2% in the three months ending in March, down from the previous quarter’s official figure of 6%.

“If the economy really gets into a tailspin, the challenge for the party will be substantially increased,” said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Locking down Wuhan might have hurt more than it helped by causing panic and was “very damaging to the economy,” said Tsang.

“They will have to rethink the lockdown approach,” he said.

The ruling party has responded to the mounting economic pressure by promising tax breaks and subsidies to companies hurt by the anti-disease measures.

The government needs to “maintain stable economic operation and social harmony,” President Xi Jinping said Wednesday.

On Friday, the Ministry of Finance announced that companies with monthly sales below 100,000 yuan ($14,000) will be exempt from value-added and other taxes. It said companies that cannot repay loans might be allowed to invoke “force majeure,” a last-resort legal measure that can waive obligations in disasters.

Travel and hospitality were hardest-hit after the government canceled group tours and told businesspeople to put off travel. Airlines canceled thousands of flights and hotels closed.

The manager of a travel agency in Shenyang, the biggest city in China’s northeast, said its monthly revenue, usually 100,000 yuan ($14,000), fell to zero. He said the agency still is paying rent and wages of 20,000 yuan ($2,800) a month.

“We don’t expect to see a recovery until May or June,” said the manager, who would give only his surname, Xu. “We do hope the government can give us a tax exemption or reduction, but we still have seen no subsidies.”

Property sales have fallen to almost zero over the past three weeks. The industry employs millions of people and drives demand for appliances, furniture and other consumer goods.

Du, the real estate salesman, said he usually closes two sales a month and earns 7,000-8,000 yuan ($1,000-$1,100). He needs to make a 3,000-yuan ($430) monthly loan payment whether he works or not.

“I have no base salary and live on commission,” said Du, 27. “Without sales, there will be no income.”

Chinese leaders already were struggling to shore up economic growth that slowed to 6.1% last year thanks to weak consumer demand and a tariff war with Washington. Some economists, citing industry surveys and other data, say real growth already was much weaker than that.

The anti-disease measures closed factories that supply the world with smartphones, furniture, shoes, toys and household appliances. That sent shockwaves through other developing countries that supply industrial components and iron ore, copper and other commodities.

South Korea and other economies that rely on China as an export market face potential job losses.

E-commerce companies are hiring extra workers to cope with a flood of demand as families stay home and buy groceries online. But streets in Beijing and other major cities are still empty and eerily quiet.

Auto sales plunged 20.2% in January from a year earlier, deepening a 2-year-old decline in the industry’s biggest global market. Sales fell 9.6% last year to 21.4 million, well below their 2017 peak of 24.7 million.

That is squeezing global automakers that look to China to drive revenue as they spend billions of dollars to develop electric vehicles to meet government sales targets.

“Enterprises are under huge pressure,” said a statement by an industry group, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

China rebounded relatively quickly from its 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, but economic conditions now are less rosy.

SARS struck when China was entering a history-making boom powered by construction and exports. Growth peaked at a blistering 14.2% in 2007. By contrast, the latest virus hit in the midst of a slowdown.

In smartphones, Apple, Huawei and other brands face a potential hit because China is both their No. 1 market and global production base.

Shipments might fall as much as 50% this quarter compared with the final three months of 2019, according to research firm Canalys.

There is a “high risk” that component suppliers, with factory workers still stranded in their hometowns by travel bans, “will not be able to ramp up to normal capacity if the outbreak is prolonged,” Canalys said in a report.

Apple and other global vendors face a “serious impact” if the virus spreads and those suppliers close, the report said.

“The current situation will likely lead to some of the worst ever shipment numbers,” it said.

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Q&A: How virus is impacting Asia’s cruises and passengers

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A new viral outbreak is wreaking havoc on cruises in Asia, where some passengers are stranded aboard ships and others can’t leave China.

Japan’s health ministry has confirmed 174 cases of the COVID-19 virus aboard Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess, which is docked in Yokohama, Japan. The ship that carried 3,700 passengers and crew into Japan is expected to remain under quarantine until at least Feb. 19.

Meanwhile, Holland America’s Westerdam — which says it has no confirmed cases of the virus — is floating in the Gulf of Thailand with nowhere to dock. The ship’s 2,257 passengers and crew had expected to disembark in Thailand on Thursday, but Thai authorities say the ship isn’t welcome. Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines have also refused to let the ship dock because it made a stop in Hong Kong less than two weeks ago.

Here are some questions and answers about the virus’s impact on the cruise industry and passengers:

HOW MANY CRUISE SHIPS ARE IN ASIA RIGHT NOW?

The Cruise Lines International Association — which represents around 90% of global cruise capacity — says around 10 of its 272 member ships are currently in Asia. Only the Diamond Princess has confirmed cases of virus, the association said. Six of the 10 ships have cancelled their itineraries for now, including Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas and MSC’s Splendida.

HAVE ANY SHIPS BEEN ALLOWED TO LET PASSENGERS OFF?

Yes. On Sunday, Dream Cruises said passengers on its World Dream were cleared to disembark in Hong Kong after screenings found no positive tests for the virus. The ship had arrived in Hong Kong four days earlier. In Italy, more than 6,600 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark from Carnival’s Costa Smeralda on Jan. 31 after a Chinese passenger was found to have the flu and not the virus.

ARE CRUISE SHIPS BANNING SOME PASSENGERS FROM BOARDING?

Yes. Policies vary, but in general, cruise companies won’t allow passengers or crew to board if they have visited, traveled from or passed through airports in China, Hong Kong and Macau within a certain time period — usually 14 days or 30 days. They also aren’t allowing people to board if they have been in close contact with someone with the virus. Royal Caribbean was banning all passengers with passports from China, Hong Kong and Macau, but the company lifted that ban Monday. Norwegian Cruise Lines is still banning passengers who hold those passports.

IS A QUARANTINE THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE A VIRAL OUTBREAK ON A CRUISE?

According to Tara Smith, a professor who researches infectious diseases at Kent State University’s College of Public Health, a hospital — not a ship — is the best place to keep people quarantined. The Diamond Princess may have already had environmental contamination when the quarantine began, which puts passengers and crew at risk of further transmission. “I think this was done without a lot of thought to consequences of ongoing transmission within the ship and the mental health of the passengers,” Smith said.

WHAT OTHER PRECAUTIONS ARE CRUISE LINES TAKING?

Cruise lines are scanning the temperatures of passengers and crew and having them complete questionnaires before they board any ship. MSC says it’s conducting elevated deep-cleaning on its ships; Royal Caribbean also says it has stepped up cleaning of its ships and air filtration systems.

CAN PASSENGERS CATCH THE VIRUS THROUGH THE VENTILATION SYSTEMS?

Japanese health ministry official Masami Sakoi said the cabins on the Diamond Princess have separate air-conditioning systems, so guests aren’t sharing the same air. “We do not consider the air-conditioning system as the cause of spreading infections,” he said.

WHAT IS LIFE LIKE FOR PASSENGERS ABOARD THESE SHIPS?

Christina Kerby, a communications director with a health care company in San Francisco, struck an upbeat tone in her Twitter posts aboard the Westerdam. She says the ship is holding spin classes, magic shows and towel-folding demonstrations. But she expressed regret when Philippine crew members couldn’t disembark in Manila to see their families, as they’d hoped. The situation is more grim aboard the Diamond Princess, where those under quarantine watched as officials in hazmat suits carried off sick passengers. Passenger David Abel has described the ship as a “floating prison.”

WHEN WILL CRUISE OPERATIONS RETURN TO NORMAL?

That’s unclear. Royal Caribbean has cancelled eight China sailings through March 4. Princess Cruises has cancelled 12 cruises through March 20. Holland America said it’s weighing port restrictions in Asia before deciding on a cruise scheduled to leave Yokohama on Feb. 28. Norwegian Cruise Lines has canceled scheduled Asian cruises on the Norwegian Spirit through Dec. 7. In some cases, cruises are being rerouted. Norwegian said a 24-day cruise leaving South Africa on March 22 that was supposed to end in Singapore will now last 27 days and end in Greece, for example.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS IMPACT CRUISE COMPANIES?

Asia is not yet a major destination for cruises. This year, around 10% of cruise ships worldwide were scheduled to be deployed to Asia, according to Cruise Lines International Association. That’s down slightly from 2017, and compares to 32% deployed to the Caribbean and 28% to Europe and the Mediterranean.

The virus may not have much impact on cruise bookings outside of Asia, says UBS analyst Robin Farley. Past experience shows that concerns about viruses usually remain regional, she said.

Cruise companies could be hurt by lower passenger volumes coming out of Asia, however. The association said its members expected 4.2 million passengers from Asia this year, or 12.5% of all passengers. That would be up from 3.4 million in 2016.

But even if 2020 passenger volumes from Asia are lower than expected, they can recover quickly. In 2015, a viral outbreak in Korea hurt demand for cruises from China. But by 2016, Korea was once again a top destination for Chinese travelers, Farley said.

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Q&A: How virus is impacting Asia’s cruises and passengers

[ad_1]

A new viral outbreak is wreaking havoc on cruises in Asia, where some passengers are stranded aboard ships and others can’t leave China.

Japan’s health ministry has confirmed 174 cases of the COVID-19 virus aboard Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess, which is docked in Yokohama, Japan. The ship that carried 3,700 passengers and crew into Japan is expected to remain under quarantine until at least Feb. 19.

Meanwhile, Holland America’s Westerdam — which says it has no confirmed cases of the virus — is floating in the Gulf of Thailand with nowhere to dock. The ship’s 2,257 passengers and crew had expected to disembark in Thailand on Thursday, but Thai authorities say the ship isn’t welcome. Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines have also refused to let the ship dock because it made a stop in Hong Kong less than two weeks ago.

Here are some questions and answers about the virus’s impact on the cruise industry and passengers:

HOW MANY CRUISE SHIPS ARE IN ASIA RIGHT NOW?

The Cruise Lines International Association — which represents around 90% of global cruise capacity — says around 10 of its 272 member ships are currently in Asia. Only the Diamond Princess has confirmed cases of virus, the association said. Six of the 10 ships have cancelled their itineraries for now, including Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas and MSC’s Splendida.

HAVE ANY SHIPS BEEN ALLOWED TO LET PASSENGERS OFF?

Yes. On Sunday, Dream Cruises said passengers on its World Dream were cleared to disembark in Hong Kong after screenings found no positive tests for the virus. The ship had arrived in Hong Kong four days earlier. In Italy, more than 6,600 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark from Carnival’s Costa Smeralda on Jan. 31 after a Chinese passenger was found to have the flu and not the virus.

ARE CRUISE SHIPS BANNING SOME PASSENGERS FROM BOARDING?

Yes. Policies vary, but in general, cruise companies won’t allow passengers or crew to board if they have visited, traveled from or passed through airports in China, Hong Kong and Macau within a certain time period — usually 14 days or 30 days. They also aren’t allowing people to board if they have been in close contact with someone with the virus. Royal Caribbean was banning all passengers with passports from China, Hong Kong and Macau, but the company lifted that ban Monday. Norwegian Cruise Lines is still banning passengers who hold those passports.

IS A QUARANTINE THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE A VIRAL OUTBREAK ON A CRUISE?

According to Tara Smith, a professor who researches infectious diseases at Kent State University’s College of Public Health, a hospital — not a ship — is the best place to keep people quarantined. The Diamond Princess may have already had environmental contamination when the quarantine began, which puts passengers and crew at risk of further transmission. “I think this was done without a lot of thought to consequences of ongoing transmission within the ship and the mental health of the passengers,” Smith said.

WHAT OTHER PRECAUTIONS ARE CRUISE LINES TAKING?

Cruise lines are scanning the temperatures of passengers and crew and having them complete questionnaires before they board any ship. MSC says it’s conducting elevated deep-cleaning on its ships; Royal Caribbean also says it has stepped up cleaning of its ships and air filtration systems.

CAN PASSENGERS CATCH THE VIRUS THROUGH THE VENTILATION SYSTEMS?

Japanese health ministry official Masami Sakoi said the cabins on the Diamond Princess have separate air-conditioning systems, so guests aren’t sharing the same air. “We do not consider the air-conditioning system as the cause of spreading infections,” he said.

WHAT IS LIFE LIKE FOR PASSENGERS ABOARD THESE SHIPS?

Christina Kerby, a communications director with a health care company in San Francisco, struck an upbeat tone in her Twitter posts aboard the Westerdam. She says the ship is holding spin classes, magic shows and towel-folding demonstrations. But she expressed regret when Philippine crew members couldn’t disembark in Manila to see their families, as they’d hoped. The situation is more grim aboard the Diamond Princess, where those under quarantine watched as officials in hazmat suits carried off sick passengers. Passenger David Abel has described the ship as a “floating prison.”

WHEN WILL CRUISE OPERATIONS RETURN TO NORMAL?

That’s unclear. Royal Caribbean has cancelled eight China sailings through March 4. Princess Cruises has cancelled 12 cruises through March 20. Holland America said it’s weighing port restrictions in Asia before deciding on a cruise scheduled to leave Yokohama on Feb. 28. Norwegian Cruise Lines has canceled scheduled Asian cruises on the Norwegian Spirit through Dec. 7. In some cases, cruises are being rerouted. Norwegian said a 24-day cruise leaving South Africa on March 22 that was supposed to end in Singapore will now last 27 days and end in Greece, for example.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS IMPACT CRUISE COMPANIES?

Asia is not yet a major destination for cruises. This year, around 10% of cruise ships worldwide were scheduled to be deployed to Asia, according to Cruise Lines International Association. That’s down slightly from 2017, and compares to 32% deployed to the Caribbean and 28% to Europe and the Mediterranean.

The virus may not have much impact on cruise bookings outside of Asia, says UBS analyst Robin Farley. Past experience shows that concerns about viruses usually remain regional, she said.

Cruise companies could be hurt by lower passenger volumes coming out of Asia, however. The association said its members expected 4.2 million passengers from Asia this year, or 12.5% of all passengers. That would be up from 3.4 million in 2016.

But even if 2020 passenger volumes from Asia are lower than expected, they can recover quickly. In 2015, a viral outbreak in Korea hurt demand for cruises from China. But by 2016, Korea was once again a top destination for Chinese travelers, Farley said.

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