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Virus misinformation fuels panic in Asia



False alerts about a man shot dead at a coronavirus checkpoint, old footage of a supermarket stampede in reports of panic buying, and a 2015 video of a police raid on a brothel recirculated with a misleading claim.

A deluge of online misinformation and hoaxes during the coronavirus crisis is stoking fear and confusion across Asia, where violators of lockdown rules can face jail and hefty fines in some countries.

AFP has produced more than 150 lockdown-related misinformation reports across the region since February, when governments beyond China began introducing restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The hoaxes are created by a wide array of people with varying motives — from those looking to discredit governments and deepen religious divides, to pranksters — and then shared widely as fact.

In April, a hoax was shared on Facebook in the Philippines post its lockdown suggesting a motorcyclist had been shot dead for ignoring a virus checkpoint.

In fact, the footage — which was viewed tens of thousands of times in multiple posts — was of a police training drill.

The hoaxes are created by a wide array of people for varying motives — from people looking to discredit governments and deepen religious divides, to pranksters. PHOTO: AFP / Lillian SUWANRUMPHA

Some users were outraged, and questioned the purportedly fatal use of force by the police, which has long been accused of human rights abuses and led President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.

But others suggested the man had been “hard-headed” and was justly punished for stubbornly ignoring the checkpoint, echoing the types of sentiments from Duterte’s supporters who have cheered on the thousands of drug war deaths.

Other misinformation circulated in the Philippines has included doctored advisories about lockdown extensions and false posts about anti-government protesters flouting gathering bans.

Elsewhere in Asia, a Facebook post in Thailand included a video purporting to show panicked buyers scrambling for goods in Malaysia after it implemented a strict lockdown.

Thai Facebook users — who viewed the video hundreds of thousands of times — shared it with comments expressing worry there would be similar scenes in Thailand.

The clip, in fact, showed shoppers in Brazil on Black Friday, an annual day of sales, in November 2019.

“(Misinformation) has fuelled a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among people,” said Yvonne Chua, an associate professor of journalism at the University of the Philippines.

Face masks, panic buying

The online mayhem has taken a greater hold when governments have communicated poorly, according to Axel Bruns, a media professor at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Prominent misleading posts have included political smears, rumours about extreme lockdown measures and misinformation intended to stoke religious tensions. PHOTO: AFP / Ted ALJIBE

“It seems to me the more effective government communication has been about lockdowns, but really about all aspects of their coronavirus response, the less foothold there has been for mis- and disinformation,” Bruns said.

In Thailand, where movement restrictions were imposed in March, anxiety spread over misleading messages saying people who did not wear face masks in public would be fined 200 Thai baht ($6).

The misinformation quickly spread on Facebook, Twitter and the messaging app Line, and Thai police were forced to refute the claim in a press conference.

But less than a month later, however, some provinces did introduce much harsher fines for those who failed to wear face masks, further fuelling confusion.

Axe attack hoax

In Pakistan, where coronavirus restrictions were recently relaxed, one hoax video suggested shoppers had attempted to flee a store after police discovered it had ignored the lockdown.

But that video was actually of a police raid on a brothel in 2015.

Many Pakistani users pointed out that the clip was old, but not before it was viewed tens of thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp.

In neighbouring India, misinformation has also been rife after a nationwide lockdown was imposed in March.

Misinformation has been rife in India after a nationwide lockdown was imposed in March. PHOTO: AFP / Arun SANKAR

Prominent misleading posts have included political smears, rumours about extreme lockdown measures and misinformation intended to stoke religious tensions.

One graphic video of an axe attack was viewed tens of thousands of times in false posts on Facebook and Twitter, with claims it showed Islamist extremists killing a Hindu man during the lockdown.

In reality, the video showed an attack in Pakistan.

While some social media users identified the clip as from abroad, others appeared misled by it, suggesting it was evidence that India needed “army rule”.

Bruns said the deluge of misinformation was partly due to governments’ inabilities to adequately reassure their citizens.

“The circulation of misinformation is increased during such times because people are desperately looking for answers to their questions about what’s happening, why, and what they can do to protect themselves,” said Bruns.

“And if they can’t find enough satisfactory answers from official sources, they’ll start to look elsewhere.”

Reporting and photo: 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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