Government Ministers have said the Cabinet meeting next Friday that will decide a timetable for reopening key sectors of the economy will be “very significant” as it will restore society to close to where it was pre-Covid-19.
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris have both alluded to the three sectors most affected by lockdown, aviation; indoor hospitality; and sport and live cultural events, being in line for timely reopenings during June and July.
Other Government sources have said the “mood music” around aviation, in particular, has improved substantially in recent weeks. The confidence has been bolstered primarily by the success of the national vaccination programme in meeting its targets. It is now likely that 1 million vaccine doses will be administered in May alone, with growing confidence within Government that 82 per cent of eligible adults will have been offered at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of June.
While the Government could delay until mid-August to implement the digital travel certificate, the indications given by several Government sources on Sunday were it was veering towards seeking if possible the middle of July.
The growing confidence was confirmed by Mr Harris on Sunday: “Two weeks ago people were talking about closing the border and mandatory hotel quarantine. Now we are talking about when we can get back in the skies again. I suppose that is a sign of the success of our vaccine programme,” he told RTÉ’s the Week in Politics programme.
Mr Harris said Friday’s meeting would be “very significant as it would address reopening” for what he described as the “three trickiest sectors.”
He said the Government would give clarity on when people could return to indoor dining and entertainment in restaurants in pub and also said his colleague, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin was working on a detailed programme that would allow live events to be piloted, in a similar vein to what has been done with live outdoor gigs in Liverpool earlier this month.
Mr Harris said the EU digital green certificate (to allow passengers who are immune, vaccinated or with clear tests to travel) would form a very big part of the timely return of the aviation sector. Stressing the importance of air connectivity to Ireland, not just for tourism but also for business, he said it was very “very significant that there is political agreement around the green certificate”, which will be formally ratified this week.
Mr McGrath said the Government had provided extensive supports to airports and airlines but its priority was to “get planes back in the sky. We are a country that depends on international connectivity”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, he said a lot of work has been done on the digital certificate but added “some domestic decisions need to be made about the application of that in an Irish context”.
He said the Government wanted to implement it as quickly as possible but would be also taking account of public health advice.
He said no decisions had been taken in relation to the date for reopening.
Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.
Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”
Madrid y toda España están hoy de enhorabuena.
El Paseo del Prado y El Retiro son ya Patrimonio Mundial de la UNESCO. Merecido reconocimiento a un espacio de la capital que engrandece nuestro legado histórico, artístico y cultural.
Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.
For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.
Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.
This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.
The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.
The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.
“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.
The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.
Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.
The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.
Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.
Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.
“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.
“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.
Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.
First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.
Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.
Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.
“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.
However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.
“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.
CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.
As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.
“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.
Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.
The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.
Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS.
At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.
In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.
He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.
The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.