French voters will go to the polls shortly to cast their ballots in local elections. There’s considerable unease that the voters going ahead while the country battles a coronavirus pandemic that’s prompted the government close bars, restaurants, cinemas and many shops. Some politicians have called for a postponement. The government reportedly came close to postponing these elections. Instead, they’ve ordered major changes to the way polling stations will work. Metal railings and barriers will channel voters along specific routes with tape markings on the floor to keep around a meter of space between those queuing to cast their vote. Gloves and hand sanitizer will be provided and voters have been asked to bring their own pens. The question is whether it’ll be enough to reassure people.
Meanwhile, Spain followed Italy and imposed a lockdown on its population who are now allowed out only to buy food and medicine and to go to work if they cannot do so at home. More European countries have imposed travel restrictions, including Estonia, which has announced that from Monday, it’s closing its borders to foreign travelers. Lithuania has banned most foreign visitors, while Latvia is suspending all international flights, ferries, buses and trains. No such bans are in force in Britain, though the government’s plan to manage the spread of the disease by building herd immunity has been criticized by more than 200 scientists.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted American Airlines, the world’s biggest carrier, to announce that it’s slashing its international flight by 75% on a year on year basis. Implementation of the reduction will begin on Monday and continue to May the 6th. American Airlines say it’s suspending nearly all its long-haul international flights to Asia, Europe, South America, and Australasia. It’ll be left with a drastically-reduced service. The changes will mean American parking, almost all of its wide body fleet, about 135 aircraft. Domestic services will also be cut by 20% to April compared with a year earlier, and by 30% to May. Carriers around the world are struggling because of the pandemic. British-based airlines have just issued a stark warning to the government that unless it gives them financial support, much of the industry won’t survive.
As concern about the spread of the disease grows in the US, the White House doctor has said President Trump has tested negative for coronavirus. He underwent the check days after hosting a meeting with the Brazilian president, some of whose entourage have been infected.
Australia is to require all international arrivals to self isolate for 14 days to try to contain the spread of the disease. The measure, similar to one announced by New Zealand on Saturday, comes into force on Monday.
COVID-19 continues to spread across Africa, where seven more countries reporting their first cases on Saturday. The virus has now confirmed to be present in 24 nations across the continent. There are fears a wider outbreak could place an unbearable strain on local services with poorer health infrastructure.
The war in Syria is entering its 10th year. The conflict started with antigovernment demonstrations in the southern city of Dara, but descended into a complicated war. Government forces of President Bashir al Assad, supported by Russia and Iran, have regained control of 70% of the country. Millions of Syrians have fled their homes.
The Cuban authorities have released a dissident artist from jail. Dozens of fellow artists have criticized the arrest of Luis Otero Alcantara two weeks ago. Mr. Otero, who has been briefly detained dozens of times in recent years, is known for his provocative performances criticizing the government. Mr. Otero’s supporters said he was arrested on trumped-up charges intended to silence a government critic. He’s been accused of several crimes, including insulting national symbols. Last year, he draped himself in a Cuban flag and lived with it for a whole month, even wearing it in the bathroom. Officials use social media this week to say he wasn’t an artist. State news outlets run stories on the importance of respecting the flag, but prominent supporters the Cuban Revolution spoke out against his detention, including the folk singer Silvio Rodriguez.
The government of Mali has issued a statement in support of the singer rocket Rokia Traore, who was arrested in Paris last Tuesday over an international child custody dispute. France was acting on an arrest warrant from Belgium after a court there ordered Rokia Traore to hand over her five-year-old daughter to her former partner, a Belgian national.