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German tourism giant TUI suspends most operations over coronavirus fears

German tourism giant TUI said Monday it was suspending the "majority" of its operations over coronavirus fears, and made a request for state aid.

German tourism giant TUI suspends most operations over coronavirus fears
An TUI stand at a near-empty airport in Mallorca on Sunday. Photo: DPA

In a press release, the group, which employs 70,000 people worldwide, said the move would affect its “package travel, cruises and hotel operations”.

Hanover-based TUI has a presence in over 100 countries and operates a host of airlines, cruise ships and hundreds of hotels.

READ ALSO: These are the countries banning or restricting travel from Germany

The firm was taking “substantial cost measures” to mitigate the effect on its earnings, adding that it would apply for state aid guarantees “to support the business until normal operations are resumed”.

It also said it was withdrawing its profit forecast for the current financial year.

Those who cancelled their booked trips with TUI should be given the chance to either receive a full refund, or re-book to a future date. This applies to all fares, and not just refundable or flexible ones.

Berlin on Friday promised “unlimited” credit to help companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic as part of postwar Germany's biggest help package worth at least €550 billion.

The package, even in its first stage, is bigger than the €500 billion help offered by the German government during the 2008 financial crisis.

For 2018-19, TUI reported net profit attributable to shareholders of €416 million ($462 million), down 42.8 percent on 2017-18.

With the virus infecting nearly every sector of the global economy, concerns are growing the world will be catapulted into a damaging recession, leading to stock markets enduring horror losses and wild swings.

READ ALSO: Germany unleashes biggest post-war aid package against coronavirus

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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