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Young Cuban doctor helps with Italy’s battle against Covid-19

Issued on: 17/05/2020 – 10:56Modified: 17/05/2020 – 10:56

Neither the northern Italian chill nor t..

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Neither the northern Italian chill nor the unfamiliar language has deterred a young Cuban doctor who for the past two months has been helping in the fight against coronavirus in Europe, thousands of miles from home.


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Roberto Arias Hernandez, one of Cuba's so-called "Army of White Coats" sent by his country in March to help Italy battle a spiralling epidemic of COVID-19, said he and his colleagues were "simply doctors."

"Today it is our turn more than ever to play our role," the 28-year-old internist told AFP on a recent morning, before starting his shift at the Crema Maggiore Hospital in the heart of Lombardy, the region hardest hit by the virus.

Arias, who is on his first mission abroad, is part of a group of 51 other doctors and specialists, more than half of whom have experience fighting Ebola in Africa.

Their mission began on March 22, a rainy day marked by "abysmal" cold, recalled the Caribbean islander.

The group of Cubans was dispatched to the city of Crema, whose 34,000 inhabitants were suffering under a dizzying rise in the number of coronavirus cases and a seemingly relentless number of deaths.

In Lombardy, over 15,000 people have died from the virus, nearly half of the 31,610 recorded so far in the entire country, according to latest figures on Saturday.

The fear

"Fear is always felt, because you're going to fight… in the epicentre of the pandemic worldwide," confessed Arias.

"You want to do it, but you're also afraid that you won't be up to it," he said, adding that after the initial worries subsided, the team "performed quite well."

Working side by side with colleagues from the other side of the world who trained at different universities posed no problems, Arias said. In terms of technical language, "we understand each other perfectly."

Moreover, Arias said he appreciated the good humour and warmth of the Italians, even under trying circumstances.

"Italian doctors have a personality like the Cubans," Arias said. "They're cheerful, they all greet you, they thank you for being here. Some of them make jokes."

Arias, who has been working non-stop since he arrived, begins the day doing rounds, accompanied by an Italian doctor and a nurse, after the complex step of donning protective gear – a gown, mask, glasses, transparent visor and gloves.

Getting out of bed is the hardest part of the day.

"That's when you feel the fatigue. But you reactivate your neurons and you realise that you came for this and that's what you're fighting for," he said. "You take a shower and tell yourself, 'C'mon, let's do this again.'&quoRead More – Source

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Italy reopens to tourists from Europe after economically crippling lockdown

Issued on: 03/06/2020 – 09:02Modified: 03/06/2020 – 09:02

Italy reopens to travellers from Europe ..

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Italy reopens to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after the country went into coronavirus lockdown, with all hopes pinned on reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.


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Gondolas are ready to punt along Venice's canals, lovers will be able to act out "Romeo and Juliet" on Verona's famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome's Colosseum.

But there were fears many foreign tourists would be put off coming to a country still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

"Come to Calabria. There's only one risk: that you'll get fat," the southern region's governor Jole Santelli said on Sunday as the race began to lure big spenders — or any spenders — back to Italy's sandy shores.

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,000 deaths.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its contagion numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs foreigners to return, and quickly.

But it is still reporting dozens of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn the government may be being hasty in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

'Like a leper'

International flights were only expected to resume in three main cities: Milan, Rome and Naples.

And there were concerns that those who usually come in by car, train or ferry from neighbouring countries would go elsewhere on their holidays.

Switzerland has warned its citizens that if they go to Italy they will be subject to "health measures" on their return. The country will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.

Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — but again, not Italy, described last week by Vienna's health minister as "still a hotspot".

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.

In response to perceived anti-Italian sentiment, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has warned countries not to treat Italy "like a leper".

He said Saturday he would be travelling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece to persuade them Italy is safe for foreign tourists.

Arrivals in Italy from Europe will not be required to self-isolate unless they have recently travelled from another continent.

Too expensive

Italy's lockdown has had a particularly devastating effect on the tourism sector, which amounts to some 13 percRead More – Source

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Covid-19: France records more than 100 new deaths as country’s lockdown eases

Issued on: 02/06/2020 – 21:15Modified: 02/06/2020 – 21:15

France's Covid-19 death toll rose b..

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France's Covid-19 death toll rose by more than 100 for the first time in 13 days on Tuesday, as the country enacts a new easing of lockdown measures.


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The French health ministry said that the number of fatalities had risen by 107, or 0.4 percent, to 28,940, the fifth-highest tally in the world.

It also said the number of Covid-19>Read More – Source

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France denounces Ryanair ‘blackmail’ in employee pay-cut-or-redundancy ultimatum

Issued on: 02/06/2020 – 17:52Modified: 02/06/2020 – 17:52

France on Tuesday denounced as “blackmai..

Issued on: 02/06/2020 – 17:52Modified: 02/06/2020 – 17:52

France on Tuesday denounced as "blackmail" an ultimatum from low-cost carrier Ryanair for its French employees to choose between a five-year pay cut or a number of redundancies in an escalating labour dispute.


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The offer from the Dublin-based no-frills carrier, long accused by critics of abrasive labour tactics, comes as the aviation industry grapples with an unprecedented crisis after the collapse in global demand for air travel due to the coronavirus.

"Blackmail is never an option," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio. "Jobs will be protected by imaginative solutions, but definitely not through blackmail," he said.

The aviation industry is facing drastic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has closed borders across the world and paralysed air transport.

Ryanair has already announced plans to axe 3,000 pilot and cabin crew jobs, or 15 percent of staff across its European network.

In France, Ryanair operates from hubs including the Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux airports.

The Irish company has told French unions to accept plans to cut wages by 20 percent for pilots and 10 percent for stewards and air hostesses from July 2020, or face the redundancy of 23 pilots and 27 cabin crew staff.

Under current plans, staffers who are earning minimum wage would see their work time cut by 20 percent. Employees would progressively regain their salary up until 2025.

'They're not playing the game'

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said she was "shocked" by Ryanair's proposal and said the company must go back to the drawing board and "really talk (with employees), but not blackmail."

Since 2017 companies can open up talks with their employRead More – Source

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