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JOB CUTS

Coronavirus: Frankfurt Airport operator to slash jobs as air traffic plummets

Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport said Tuesday that it plans to shed nearly one-fifth of its workforce, after air traffic plummeted in the second quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus: Frankfurt Airport operator to slash jobs as air traffic plummets
A traffic sign from Fraport at Frankfurt's airport.

The German company plans to cut 3,000 to 4,000 jobs out of around 22,000 across Fraport's Group companies.

Passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport, Germany's busiest, fell 94.4 percent year-on-year in the three months to the end of June.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus pandemic-hit Lufthansa to cut 22,000 jobs

At Fraport's Group airports worldwide, which also include Delhi's Indira Gandhi Airport and Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, “passenger traffic came to a virtual standstill in the second quarter,” the company said.

Only Lima Airport, in Peru, made a positive contribution to the group's financial performance.

“The economic effects of the pandemic will be felt well beyond the current year and permanently change our industry,” Fraport's chief executive Stefan Schulte said.

“We are therefore aligning our plans with the 'new normal' that we expect to reach by 2022/23. From this new starting point, we expect moderate long-term growth again,” he added.

Even in 2022/23, passenger volumes at Frankfurt Airport are expected to be 15 to 20 percent lower than 2019, the company said.

The recovery of passenger numbers into the start of the third quarter has been “agonisingly slow,” according to analysts at Berenberg. “We expected weak momentum here given Fraport's exposure to business traffic and intercontinental passengers, but the reality may still disappoint.”

Revenue fell 48.9 percent compared with the same period of 2019 to €910.6 million, Fraport said.

The company posted a net loss of €231.4 million, down from a profit of €164.9 million in the same period of the previous year.

In the second quarter, more than two-thirds of Fraport's employees were put on shorter hours, according to Fraport, with working hours reduced by around 60 percent across the workforce.

READ ALSO: German firms apply for Kurzarbeit for nearly 12 million workers affected by pandemic

“We responded quickly and comprehensively to the crisis and were thus able to lower costs with immediate effect. But this will not be enough in the medium term… We must therefore streamline and downsize our company to make it even more efficient,”  Schulte said.

However, in a sign of optimism, the company is continuing the expansion of Frankfurt Airport with the construction of Terminal 3.

“We believe that people will continue to want to travel and explore the world. We are confident that aviation will rebound as a growing market in the future,” Schulte said.

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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