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Europe lifts virus shutters as Japan ends emergency



Europeans flocked to parks, gyms and pools on Monday as more countries eased coronavirus restrictions, while Japan lifted its state of emergency but urged vigilance to avoid another wave of infections.

In the United States, as the pandemic death toll approached the horrific milestone of 100,000, stir-crazy Americans also headed en masse to beaches and parks for the big Memorial Day weekend.

While many Americans wore masks and followed distancing rules, many did not — and images of packed pools and boardwalks triggered fears of a new flare up of the virus that has infected more than 5.4 million worldwide and killed more than 344,000, according to an AFP tally.

Meanwhile, hopes that anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could be used as a potential treatment for the virus were quashed as the World Health Organization halted clinical trials “while the safety is reviewed.”

Countries with increased cases of coronavirus, in percent, between May 18, 2020 and May 24, 2020. PHOTO: AFP / Patricio ARANA

With the global economy battered, governments are scrambling to provide relief to businesses and citizens wearying of mass confinement.

In hard-hit Spain, Madrid and Barcelona cautiously emerged from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with parks and cafe terraces open for the first time in more than two months.

Hundreds of people flooded Madrid’s famous Retiro Park to enjoy a stroll or a jog in the sunshine.

“The reopening of Retiro brings me a feeling of serenity, gives me comfort,” said Rosa San Jose, a 50-year-old schoolteacher.

In other parts of Spain, beaches reopened with strict guidelines for social distancing.

The Spanish government also announced that it would scrap quarantine for foreign arrivals from July 1, in the hope of helping the battered tourism sector.

‘Break the isolation’

As gyms and swimming pools reopened in Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain, slowing infection rates in Greece allowed restaurants to resume business a week ahead of schedule — but only for outdoor service.

“I’m thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends,” said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis.

Italy was among the countries enjoying new freedoms as it continues to exit lockdown. PHOTO: AFP / MARCO BERTORELLO

“The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it’s where the heart of the district beats.”

But not all the news from Europe was encouraging.

Sweden, which has gained international attention for not enforcing stay-at-home measures, saw its COVID-19 death toll pass 4,000, a much higher figure than its neighbours.

And in Britain, a political scandal raged on as Prime Minister Boris Johnson defied pressure to sack his top aide Dominic Cummings, accused of breaching the government’s own lockdown rules in March and April.

As Johnson separately announced the government will allow non-essential retail stores to reopen June 15, thousands of sun worshippers swarmed a beach — in the southern resort town of Bournemouth — underscoring the difficulty of enforcing social distancing rules in the summer months.

‘New lifestyle’

In the US, Americans are watching each other closely as states gingerly lift lockdown measures to varying extents. Video footage of a raucous, elbow-to-elbow pool party in Missouri over the weekend has now been viewed some 16 million times on YouTube.

As of Tuesday evening, the US death toll stood at 98,218, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, and the number of infections is over 1.66 million. Both are the highest anywhere in the world.

People enjoy the boardwalk during the Memorial Day 2020 holiday in Ocean City, Maryland. PHOTO: AFP / Alex Edelman

Americans desperate for breathing room and company after two months of lockdown also headed to beaches on both coasts. Crowds packed the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Police on horseback patrolled a bustling shoreline in Venice Beach, California.

In Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ended a nationwide state of emergency after new cases slowed to a crawl.

The move will help the world’s third-largest economy to gradually pick up speed again, but Abe urged citizens to remain cautious.

“If we lower our guard, the infection will spread very rapidly… we need to be vigilant,” he said.

He urged people to adopt a “new lifestyle” and continue to avoid the “three Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places and close contact.

The new epicentre

The pandemic may be under control in many parts of the world, but in Brazil it shows no sign of slowing.

Police on horseback patrol Venice Beach during the first day of the Memorial Day 2020 holiday weekend during the coronavirus pandemic in California. PHOTO: AFP / Apu GOMES

The world’s sixth-largest country has now recorded 22,600 deaths, even as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro continues to play down the threat.

He flouted social distancing rules again on Sunday, attending a rally outside the presidential palace in Brasilia, ditching his face mask, shaking hands and even hoisting a young boy onto his shoulders.

The White House said on Sunday it would bar entry into the US of non-Americans who have been in Brazil in the previous 14 days — despite Bolsonaro being a close ally of President Donald Trump.

World toll of coronavirus infections and deaths as of May 25, 2020 at 1900 GMT. PHOTO: AFP /

Trump himself launched a virulent attack on the media on Monday for criticising him for playing golf twice over the weekend, as the country fast approaches the 100,000 death milestone.

“The Fake and Totally Corrupt News makes it sound like a mortal sin!” tweeted the golf-loving president — as his rival for the presidency Joe Biden emerged from a two-month confinement, in a mask, to lay a Memorial Day wreath.

Trump has also threatened to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina in protest at the state’s slow lifting of virus restrictions.

When and how to exit lockdowns has divided Americans — some seeing the restrictions as an infringement of their liberties.

‘Very nervous’

Despite experts warning against reopening too soon, and recommending some form of confinement measures until a vaccine or treatment is developed, governments are feeling immense pressure to ease lockdowns.

Brazil — the world’s sixth-largest country — has been declared the latest hotspot with more than 360,000 reported cases. PHOTO: AFP / Tarso SARRAF

Reporting and photos: AFP


Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project



Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.

This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.

The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.

In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.

No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.

Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.

As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.

Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.

Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.

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Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services



Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.

Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.

“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.

“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.

Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”

Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.

“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.

To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.

Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.

Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.

For more information, visit

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Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops



Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.

As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.

Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”

“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”

Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.

All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.

Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at:

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