Powell: Jobs recovery faces ‘long tail’ of a couple of years

(Reuters) – Despite “a lot of strength in the economy,” millions of U.S. workers displaced from restaurant, travel, and similar jobs will struggle to find new employment and need steady support from the government, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Thursday, warning a full jobs recovery could take years.

“There is a particular part of the economy which involves getting people together and feeding them, flying them around the country, having them sleep in hotels, entertaining them,” Powell said in online remarks to the Fed’s annual economic symposium. “That part of the economy will find it very difficult to recover…That is millions of people who are going to struggle to find work. We need to stay with those people….We are looking at long tail of probably a couple of years at least.”

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Boeing to offer second layoff plan, CEO Calhoun sees smaller market ahead

By Bhargav Acharya

(Reuters) – Boeing Co. said on Monday it would offer employees a voluntary layoff package with pay and benefits for the second time this year, as the plane maker battles a coronavirus-induced slowdown in global air travel.

It will be offered to employees in the commercial airplanes and services businesses as well as corporate functions, Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun wrote in a note to employees, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“Unfortunately, layoffs are a hard but necessary step to align to our new reality, preserve liquidity and position ourselves for the eventual return to growth,” Calhoun said in the note.

“We anticipate seeing a significantly smaller marketplace over the next three years.”

The health crisis, which has hammered plane makers, airlines and suppliers, has added to the woes of Boeing that has been grappling with a production freeze and year-long grounding of the 737 MAX following two fatal crashes.

The company doesn’t have a set target at this time and was encouraging all eligible employees interested in the voluntary layoff package to apply, Boeing said in a statement.

The move to extend the overall workforce reductions beyond the initial 10% target is in response to employee feedback, Calhoun said.

The plane maker had said in April it would cut its 160,000-person workforce by about 10%, many of which was to be completed by the end of this year at its commercial aircraft division.

More details will be made available to the employees beginning Aug. 24, according to the CEO’s note.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Britons rush home from France to beat new quarantine rules

By Alistair Smout and Tangi Salaün

LONDON/CALAIS, France (Reuters) – British travelers rushed home from summer holidays in France on Friday, booking planes, trains, boats and even private jets to get home before a 14-day quarantine comes into force in response to rising coronavirus infections there.

The government announced late on Thursday that it would impose a quarantine from 0300 GMT on Saturday on arrivals from France, giving an estimated 160,000 UK holidaymakers there just over 24 hours to get home or face self-isolation on return.

The sudden rule change dealt a fresh blow to tourists, airlines and tour operators. The pandemic has left many travel groups cash-strapped and fighting for survival.

Many British tourists headed towards the French port of Calais hoping to catch a ferry or a shuttle train home in time.

“We’ve changed our plans when we heard the news last night. We decided to head back home a day early to miss the quarantine,” one British woman at a service station on the motorway to Calais said after her week in southern France.

Queues of cars built up in Calais through Friday afternoon. Ferry companies were adding extra crossings to help more people get home, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, head of the Port of Calais, told Reuters.

PrivateFly, a British-based jet provider, said it had seen three times the normal number of enquiries and bookings.

The new quarantine rules apply to France, the second-most popular holiday destination for Britons, as well as to the Netherlands and the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Spain, Britons’ favorite holiday destination, came under British government quarantine rules on July 26.

“We’ve also had a number of enquiries from clients booked to travel to these destinations in the coming weeks to change their travel plans in order to avoid quarantine zones,” PrivateFly CEO Adam Twidell said.

France warned it would reciprocate, dealing a further blow to airlines’ hopes of an August recovery given they may have to cancel yet more flights.

Airline and travel shares tumbled. British Airways-owner IAG was down 6% and easyJet, which said it would operate its full schedule for the coming days, fell 7%.

TIGHTENING QUARANTINE

When Europe first went into lockdown in March, Britain was criticized for not restricting arrivals from abroad. But since June, it has introduced strict quarantine rules for arrivals from countries with infection rates above a certain level.

This contrasts with an easing of rules at home, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the gradual reopening of the economy to resume, weeks after pausing it.

Transport minister Grant Shapps said the government needed to balance the need to open the economy and to contain the virus. The UK recorded 1,441 COVID-19 cases, the highest daily tally since June 14, official data showed on Friday.

Shapps told BBC Radio he sympathized with travelers but that they should not be entirely surprised, given the fluid situation around the pandemic.

“Where we see countries breach a certain level of cases … then we have no real choice but to act,” he told Sky News.

Airlines UK, an industry body representing BA, easyJet and Ryanair, called on Britain to implement more targeted quarantines on the regions with the highest infection rates and to bring in a testing regime.

An EU study showed that imported cases of COVID typically only account for a small share of infections when a pandemic is at its peak, but are more significant once a country has the disease under control.

(Writing by Sarah Young; Additional reporting by Kate Holton; David Milliken and Richard Lough; Editing by Nick Macfie, Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry)

UK will be ‘ruthless’ over quarantine, Johnson says when asked about France

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government was prepared to be ruthless with even its closest partners over COVID-19 quarantine rules, after he was asked whether France would be removed from the government’s safe-travel list.

Britain has in recent weeks imposed a 14-day quarantine period for arrivals from countries like Spain and Belgium, responding to rising infections and fears of a second wave of the virus, having initially declared them safe for travel.

“We’ve got to be absolutely ruthless about this, even with our closest and dearest friends and partners around the world,” Johnson told reporters on a visit to Northern Ireland.

“We will be looking at the data a bit later on this afternoon … looking at exactly where France and other countries are getting to, and you know we can’t be remotely complacent about our own situation.”

The French health ministry reported 2,524 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday – the highest since its lockdown restrictions.

That has prompted speculation it could be the next European country added to Britain’s list – a move that would affect the large number of British tourists travelling there during English school holidays.

For UK holidaymakers, France is the second most-visited country behind first-choice destination Spain. Almost 13 million Britons traveled to France in 2017, data from Statista showed.

Britain usually welcomes about 3.5 million visitors from France each year according to the same data, making France the second biggest market for tourists coming into the UK behind the United States.

(Reporting by William James; editing by David Milliken and Stephen Addison)

United Airlines bets on Florida, adding dozens of flights a day starting November

By David Shepardson

(Reuters) – United Airlines is adding up to 28 daily nonstop U.S. flights to Florida starting Nov. 6 as the Chicago-based airline bets on a rebound in leisure travelers heading to sunny skies.

The direct flights are from non United hub cities in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York/LaGuardia, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio to four Florida destinations.

United said it is part of its “continuing strategy to aggressively, and opportunistically manage the impact of COVID-19 by increasing service to destinations where customers most want to fly.” But the carrier said it could reduce the number of flights if COVID-19 infections in Florida remain high.

New Florida flights will go to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa.

Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of domestic network planning, said the new flights represent “United’s largest expansion of point-to-point, non-hub flying and reflects our data driven approach to add capacity where customers are telling us they want to go.”

United can adjust up or down. Gupta said the added Florida flights could amount to more than 400,000 additional seats this winter season. He said many U.S. travelers are picking Florida instead of international destinations.

There are modest signs of improving air travel demand. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 831,789 people on Sunday — the first time it screened more than 800,000 people since March 17. That is still down 70% over prior year figures.

Still, Florida has reported 542,792 coronavirus cases, the second most of any U.S. state behind only California, according to a Reuters tally, and more than 10% of all reported U.S. cases. If coronavirus cases in Florida remain high, “we will adjust our plans,” Gupta said.

Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly said at a Texas Tribune forum on Wednesday the airline is still trying to figure how many flights to offer as it works to reduce its $20 million a day losses. “It is pure guesswork at this point” Kelly said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)

There is no ‘zero risk’ in easing travel restrictions, WHO says

By Bhargav Acharya and Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – There is no “zero risk” strategy for countries easing international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and essential travel for emergencies should remain the priority, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

In a long-awaited update to its guidance on travel, the United Nations global health agency said cross-border trips for emergencies, humanitarian work, the transfer of essential personnel and repatriation would constitute essential travel.

“There is no ‘zero risk’ when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in the context of international travel,” it said in the updated guidance posted on its website on Thursday.

A surge of new infections in many parts of the world has prompted some countries to reintroduce some travel restrictions, including testing and quarantining incoming passengers.

The WHO had said in June it would update its travel guidelines before the northern hemisphere summer holidays.

The WHO’s guidance can be used by governments and industries to help shape policies, but is not enforceable.

The updated travel advice is little changed from previous guidance, which also included infection control advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding touching the face.

The WHO urged each country to conduct its own risk-benefit analysis before lifting any or all travel restrictions. Authorities should take into account local epidemiology and transmission patterns, it said, as well as national health and social distancing measures already in place.

Countries that choose to quarantine all travelers on arrival should do so after assessing the risks and consider local circumstances, the WHO said.

“Countries should continuously plan for and assess their surge capacities for testing, tracking, isolating and managing imported cases and quarantine of contacts,” it said.

The WHO said this week that international travel bans cannot stay in place indefinitely, and countries will have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within their borders.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Writing by Kate Kelland, editing by Diane Craft, Marguerita Choy, Grant McCool and Timothy Heritage))

Three more states, D.C. and Puerto Rico added to New York’s COVID-19 travel advisory

(Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered those arriving in New York from an additional three states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico to quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The states of Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota were added to the travel order which was first issued in June. The District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico were also added.

Travelers arriving in New York from a total of 34 states are now required to quarantine, Cuomo said.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Franklin Paul)

Good vibrations? COVID quiet time soothes Earth’s seismic shakes

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – COVID-19 lockdowns worldwide led to the longest and most pronounced reduction in human-linked seismic vibrations ever recorded, sharpening scientists’ ability to hear earth’s natural signals and detect earthquakes, a study found on Thursday.

Vibrations travel through the earth like waves, creating seismic noise from earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and rivers as well as human actions such as travel and industry.

In the study, published in the journal Science and conducted using international seismometer networks, scientists found that human-linked earth vibrations dropped by an average of 50% between March and May this year.

“The 2020 seismic noise quiet period is the longest and most prominent global anthropogenic seismic noise reduction on record,” they wrote. The work was co-led by the Royal Observatory of Belgium and five other institutions using data from 268 monitoring stations in 117 countries.

Beginning in China in late January, and followed by Europe and the rest of the world in March to April, researchers saw “a wave of quietening” as worldwide lockdown measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Travel and tourism were all but halted, millions of schools and industries closed, and many people were confined to their homes.

The relative quiet allowed scientists to “listen in” in more detail on the earth’s natural vibrations, said Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at Imperial College London who co-led the work.

“It has yielded a new window on the natural seismic signals, and could let us see more clearly than ever what differentiates human and natural noise,” he said.

The study said its findings also showed that seismologists can help establish how long people take to react to the imposition and lifting of lockdown measures.

The largest drops in human-induced vibrations were seen in densely populated areas like Singapore and New York City, but drops were also seen in remote areas like Germany’s Black Forest and Rundu in Namibia. Barbados, where lockdown coincided with the tourist season, saw a 50% drop in seismic noise.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Ten more states added to New York quarantine order: Cuomo

(Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered those arriving in New York from an additional 10 states to quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus as cases flare up across the country.

Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington were added to the travel order which was first issued in June. Minnesota was removed.

Travelers arriving in New York from a total of 31 U.S. states are now required to quarantine upon arrival in New York, according to the travel advisory.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

WHO to travelers: keep an eye on ‘anywhere and everywhere’ COVID-19

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged travelers to wear masks on planes and keep themselves informed as COVID-19 cases surge again in some countries, prompting new restrictions in places like Australia.

Spokeswoman Margaret Harris urged people not to be caught off-guard by resurgent local epidemics and quarantine measures, saying: “If it’s anywhere, it’s everywhere and people travelling have to understand that.”

“This virus is widespread and people have to take that very, very seriously.”

The WHO said last month that it would update its travel guidelines ahead of the northern hemisphere summer holidays but they have not yet been released.

In the meantime, travelers should “remember things will change, or may well change”, Harris said at a Geneva briefing.

“We’re seeing a lot of upticks, a lot of changes in different countries, countries that had successfully shut down their first transmission are seeing second upticks,” she added, mentioning Australia and Hong Kong.

Lockdown measures were reimposed in Australia’s second biggest city on Tuesday, confining Melbourne residents to their homes unless undertaking essential business, as officials scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

The WHO’s previous guidance for travelers has included common-sense advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, washing your hands and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Harris also proposed on Tuesday wearing a mask on planes, a measure which is already a requirement of many airlines.

“If you are flying, there is no way you can social distance in a plane, so you will need to take other precautions including using a face covering,” she said.

(Reporting by Emma Farge, Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Shields; Editing by Catherine Evans)