14 Jan 2021


Capital Economics Expects Egypt's Inflation to Rise in Coming 6 to 9 Months

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Capital Economics forecasts a rise in Egypt's inflation in the coming six to nine months due to higher fuel and food prices as well as a weaker local currency. 

In a Wednesday report, the investment bank said these factors would put the central bank's monetary easing on hold in the next months, defying earlier forecasts by other economists who expected the CBE to opt for 100 bps cuts in the first quarter of this year.

A drop in inflation in late 2021 would allow the CBE to resume cuts, Capital Economics said, forecasting rates to be slashed by 150 basis points by the end of 2022. 

Egypt's annual urban consumer price inflation declined to 5.4 percent in December, down from 5.7 percent in November, Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) data showed on Sunday. 

The inflation figures are slightly above the lower bound of the central bank's new inflation target of an average of seven percent (±2 percentage points) for the fourth quarter of 2022.

Capital Economics forecasts headline inflation to spike in the coming quarters and report around 7 percent in the third quarter, before falling back within the CBE's new target range by the end of 2021 and throughout 2022.

"A lower inflation target is likely to temper the CBE's appetite for further interest rate cuts," Capital Economics said.

It expects energy inflation to hike, especially with the base effects caused by the oil crisis. 

Capital Economics also expects the Egyptian pound to depreciate to EGP 16 per dollar by the end of the year, from a current EGP 15.6 exchange rate. This will drive up the prices of imported products.


Economics

MENA Countries Achieve Progress in Economic Governance: IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that countries in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and the Central Asian region had achieved remarkable progress in economic governance.

However, the IMF added that the surveys indicate that citizens and businesses continue to view weak governance and corruption as severe problems in the region, as governance indicators confirm this view.

"Good governance is a key to the effective management of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis. Strong fiscal governance ensures the effective use of resources to address the increased needs in the health sector and the economic fallout of the pandemic. Good governance, which enables more effective policymaking, also helps with a quicker response to the crisis," a lengthy report by the IMF reads.

The IMF said that while governance priorities vary according to country conditions, reforms aim at increasing transparency and accountability.

The high-level commitment and participation of stakeholders at the domestic and international levels -- particularly the business community, trade unions and civil society organizations -- is essential for the successful implementation of sustainable reforms. 

Digitization can transform government services and relationships with businesses and individuals, thereby increasing transparency, efficiency, accountability and popular confidence, the IMF added.

Lagarde Says ECB's Outlook for Euro Area Still 'Very Clearly Plausible'

The European Central Bank's (ECB) latest forecasts about the euro area's economic growth are still "very clearly plausible" despite COVID-19 tighter restrictions and renewed lockdowns, President Christine Lagarde said.

"I think our last projections in December are still very clearly plausible," Lagarde said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference. 

"Our forecast is predicated on lockdown measures until the end of the first quarter," she added.

In December, ECB trimmed its projections of 2021 growth to 3.9 percent based on assumptions, "which we believe are still correct today." 

Lagarde expected that economic restrictions could be eased or lifted from the second quarter of this year, and the bloc can overcome a "laborious" start to vaccinations.

"What would be a concern would be that after the end of March, those member states still need to have lockdown measures and if, for instance, vaccination programs were slowed down," Lagarde added.

ECB has already extended an ultra-easy policy into 2022 to support the eurozone.

Business

Egypt Aluminum Says Work Resumed After Workers' Sit-in

Egypt Aluminum (EGAL) said that all the company's sectors resumed work after it had announced earlier yesterday a sit-in staged by its workers, according to a bourse filing yesterday.

The company said that the sit-in was staged to demand the disbursement of profit shares and ended through negotiations.

Mohamed El-Saadawi, chairman of Metallurgical Industries Holding Company, said that Egypt Aluminum's losses increased in the last fiscal year to EGP 2.1 billion ($134.1 million).

He attributed the losses to the collapse of aluminum metal prices in the global mineral markets.

El-Saadawi added that Egypt Aluminum had previously paid bonuses of about EGP 126.1 million ($8 million) to workers despite its losses.

Egypt Aluminum's net losses decreased during the first quarter of fiscal year 2020/2021 to EGP 150.9 million ($9.6 million), down from EGP 277.8 million reported in the same year-ago period.

QNB Alahli's Profits Decline 12% YoY in 2020

QNB Alahli said yesterday that its consolidated profits for 2020 slumped 12.09 percent year on year, according to a bourse filing.

Profits reached EGP 7.49 billion ($478.29 million) in 2020, down from EGP 8.5 billion a year earlier, taking into consideration minority rights.

Interest income rose 6.4 percent year on year to EGP 14.63 billion ($934.23 million) in 2020, up from EGP 13.75 billion in 2019.

On a standalone basis, the bank achieved net profits of EGP 7.4 billion ($472.54 million) in 2020, down from EGP 8.32 billion in the prior year.

Stock Market

Egyptian Stocks Rise for 4th Consecutive Day; EGX30 Up 0.43%

Egyptian stocks ended Wednesday's trading higher, continuing to end trading in green for a fourth consecutive day.

The blue-chip EGX30 index rose 0.43 percent to close at 11,388.9 points, amid a turnover of approximately EGP 852.5 million ($54.4 million).

Its heaviest constituent, Commercial International Bank (CIB), saw its share price up 0.14 percent to EGP 63.3 ($4.04).

Its top-performing stocks included Dice Sport & Casual Wear, which jumped 6.36 percent to EGP 1.91 ($0.12), Beltone Financial Holding, up 4.21 percent to EGP 2.67, and Juhayna Food Industries, which gained 3.95 percent to reach EGP 6.9.

Other benchmark index stocks ending higher included Palm Hills Development Company, which gained 2.73 percent to reach EGP 1.455 ($0.093), Madinet Nasr Housing, which rose 2.57 percent to EGP 3.95, and Emaar Misr for Development, up 2.43 percent to EGP 2.53.

The worst-performing stocks included Egyptian Iron & Steel (Hadisolb), which plunged 9.92 percent to EGP 3.36 ($0.21) as the bourse resumed trading on the stock after a brief suspension that followed an announcement on liquidation of its steel plant in Helwan.

Other stocks ending in red were Credit Agricole Egypt, down 3.26 percent to EGP 27 ($1.72), Ezz Steel, which dropped 1.24 percent to reach EGP 11.05, and Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals, which lost 1.08 percent to reach EGP 10.97.

The broader EGX70 EWI index rose 1.09 percent to close at 2,227.97 points, while the EGX100 EWI gained 0.96 percent, closing at 3,225.53 points.

Foreign investors were net buyers to the tune of EGP 65.3 million ($4.16 million), while sales by Egyptian and Arab investors amounted to EGP 51.2 million and EGP 14.1 million, respectively.

Hassan Allam Properties Raises Stake in SODIC to 5%

Hassan Allam Properties has increased its stake in Six of October Development and Investment Company (SODIC) from 4.91 percent to 5 percent, according to a bourse filing yesterday.

Hassan Allam Properties has purchased 310,000 shares of the leading real estate developer at a total cost of EGP 4.806 million ($306,861), or EGP 15.5 per share.

EFG Hermes executed the transaction.

In December, the engineering and construction company Concrete Plus -- part of a consortium that includes Act Financial and Hassan Allam Consortium -- increased its stake in SODIC from 4.97 percent to 5.03 percent. 

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Hadisolb's Demerged Unit to Be Established as Company, Listed on EGX in Nearly 2 Months

The Egyptian Iron and Steel's (Hadisolb) demerged unit will be established as a company and listed on the stock exchange within nearly two months, according to disclosure to the bourse by the Metallurgical Industries Holding.

The Metallurgical Industries Holding, of which Hadisolb is an affiliate, said yesterday it expects to receive the Financial Regulatory Authority's (FRA) approval on the issuance of the demerged mining unit's shares within two to three weeks. 

It said that the establishment of the company is expected to take from a week to ten days from the FRA's approval, the disclosure read. Trading should begin within three weeks after the company's establishment.

The disclosure comes days after Hadisolb's EGM approved the liquidation of its steel plant in Helwan and the horizontal demerger of its mining unit.

It attributed the liquidation to increasing losses and the company's inability to continue operating.

Established in 1954, Hadisolb said that it incurred net losses of EGP 982.8 million ($62.8 million) between July 2019 and June 2020.

Egypt News

Sisi Announces Agreement With Siemens to Establish Electric Train Worth $23 Bn

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced yesterday an agreement with Siemens AG to establish an integrated system for the express electric train in Egypt, with a length of 1,000 km at a total cost of EGP 360 billion ($22.9 billion), Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement. 

The railway project will connect the Red Sea's Ain Sokhna to the Mediterranean's New Alamein City through the New Administrative Capital (NAC).

The first phase will be immediately established, comprising 15 stations with a length of 460 kilometers. The whole project is expected to be completed in two years.

El-Sisi said that the new electric train railway would represent "a great addition to the transportation network in Egypt," the statement read.

Also, El-Sisi received Peter Lürssen, chairman of German company Lürssen to discuss cooperation, especially in the field of shipbuilding technology.

Lürssen is a global leader in the field of ships, frigates and destroyers.

Egypt Agrees on Further Jet Fuel Discount to Boost Aviation, Tourism Sectors

Egypt's petroleum, civil aviation, and tourism ministries have agreed to provide additional jet fuel discounts, the cabinet announced yesterday.

Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El-Molla said that a discount of $0.15 per gallon would be applied starting from January 21 until the end of this year.

This discount comes "within the framework of supporting the tourism sector and stimulating the aviation program," in the face of the challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic on both sectors.

Meanwhile, Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Khaled El-Enany said this move would increase Egypt's tourist flows.

In April, the tourism ministry announced a discount of $0.10 per gallon would be applied upon the resumption of air traffic. 

Qatar Airways to Resume Flights to Egypt Starting Jan 18

Qatar Airways will resume its flights to Egypt on January 18 after air entry points were reopened following the AlUla agreement concluded in Saudi Arabia last week.

The company will resume flights to Cairo on January 18, and to Alexandria on January 25. 

Qatar Airways said on Twitter that it would operate a daily flight to Cairo and two flights a week to Alexandria.

EgyptAir to Increase Cairo-Doha Flights Following High Demand: Report

EgyptAir will operate two daily flights to Doha instead of the initially planned single daily trip in order to accommodate the increasing demand following the resumption of air traffic between Egypt and Qatar. 

Sources at the Ministry of Civil Aviation told Masrawy that there is a high demand for flights to and from Qatar, which urged the national carrier to decide to double its flights to the Qatari capital.

EgyptAir Chairman and CEO Roshdy Zakaria previously said a second flight to Doha may be added "if there is a demand."

The increasing demand follows the Civil Aviation Authority's decisions to lift the flight ban between the two countries and allow planes coming from Qatar to land at Egyptian airports following the AlUla agreement concluded in Saudi Arabia last week. 

The company will also operate four flights a week from Burj El Arab International Airport to Doha. 

The airspace between the two countries had been closed for nearly three and a half years. 

Top UAE Delegation Visits Sudan in Attempt to Break Deadlock in GERD Talks: SUNA

A top delegation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) foreign ministry visited Sudan in efforts to break a deadlock in negotiations over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), state-run Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) reported yesterday.

Talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the disputed Nile Dam reached a stalemate during the latest round of talks earlier this week.

An informed source told SUNA that the delegation from the UAE arrived in Sudan for a one-day visit that aims to converge viewpoints between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.

The source said the Emirati delegation met officials from the Sudanese foreign and irrigation ministries and was briefed on Khartoum's stance in the talks.

The Emirati initiative did not come upon Sudan's request, the source added, without providing further details.

The last tripartite meeting failed to achieve any progress due to disagreements over how to resume negotiations and procedural aspects related to managing the negotiation process.

Sudan stated the importance of mandating the experts appointed by the African Union (AU) Commission to propose solutions to the controversial issues related to the mega-dam.

However, Egypt and Ethiopia rejected Sudan's proposal because the AU experts are not specialists in the technical and engineering fields related to water resource management and dam operation.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its freshwater, worries the upstream GERD will significantly restrict the amount of Nile water that reaches its territory.

Ethiopia said the $4 billion project is a key to its development.

Mubarak-Era Strongman Safwat El-Sherif Dies at 87

Hosni Mubarak-era strongman Safwat El-Sherif died late on Wednesday at the age of 87 after a long battle with leukemia, his family announced.

El-Sherif served as information minister from 1982 to 2004.

His son Ehab Safwat El-Sherif told Youm7 that his father died in a Cairo hospital, to which he was admitted on Saturday for leukemia treatment.

His added that his father had been battling the illness for six years, refuting earlier media reports of him contracting the coronavirus.

A few months ago, the Court of Cassation upheld a three-year jail sentence against El-Sherif, who also served as the speaker of the Shura Council from 2004 to 2011, for illicit gains.

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Egypt, ITFC sign $1.1 billion financing agreement during virtual ceremony (courtesy of Egyptian Cabinet)

Egypt Signs $1 Bn Financing Agreement With ITFC to Import Staple Commodities, Petroleum Products in 2021

Egypt signed on Wednesday a $1.1 billion financing agreement with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) to import staple commodities and petroleum products in 2021, the petroleum ministry announced.

The agreement includes providing several financing programs that facilitate trade, provide capacity-building and institutional support and bolster competitive capacities for various commercial sectors.

It also includes implementing projects in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) targeting the digitalization of commercial operations and improving the cotton sector's value chain in Egypt.

The signing also targets bolstering female entrepreneurship through the SheTrades program, which is supervised by the ITFC.

The agreement was signed by Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of ITFC, Ashraf Abdullah, executive vice president of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) and Ahmed Yousef, deputy chairman of the Commodity Supply Authority.

The signing is part of a five-year framework agreement worth $3 billion signed between Egypt and the ITFC in 2018.

Egypt Signs COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Package With EBRD, WTO

International cooperation and tourism ministries have signed a technical assistance package with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) to revive the tourism sector.

The package is based on three main pillars: economic recovery, institutional strengthening and building resilience, and marketing and promotion

It is also designed to achieve better capacity building and develop the administrative structures of the bodies affiliated with the Ministry of Tourism and the private sector.

Moreover, the package will cover developing tourism promotion and boosting job creation.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Egypt's (CBE) Governor Tarek Amer, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait and Tourism Minister Khaled El-Enany agreed yesterday in a virtual meeting to implement new regulations and incentives to revive the tourism sector.

El-Enany and Marriott International's regional head discussed before establishing three- and four-star hotels in Egypt to develop the tourism infrastructure in touristic cities and new cities.

Egypt's tourism sector, one of the country's main sources of hard currency, is eyeing a gradual recovery after revenues dropped by about 70 percent to $4 billion in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, El-Enany previously said.

Lockdowns and restrictive measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus spread have drastically affected tourism, which comprises 12-15 percent of Egypt's GDP.

Egypt Reports 996 New Coronavirus Cases, 58 Fatalities

Egypt detected 996 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 152,719.

The Ministry of Health also reported 58 new deaths, which saw the total COVID-19 fatalities reach 8,362.

In the past 24 hours, 677 patients have been discharged from hospitals nationwide, bringing total recoveries to 120,312.

Karama Program Increases Spending by 50% YoY in 2019: CAPMAS

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced an increase in the value of the financial aid disbursed through the Karama program, reaching EGP 2.4 billion ($153.2 million) in 2019, a 50.4 percent year-on-year increase.

The number of individuals benefiting from the program's financial support increased to about 779,200 in 2019, compared with 291,700 in the previous year. The 167.1 percent increase is attributed to the transfer of some pensions and other cases to the program.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity also revealed that a study had been conducted to include 500,000 citizens in the Takaful and Karama program starting from fiscal year 2022/2021.

The program was launched in March 2015 to develop a social protection system and include low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly and orphans, with Takaful comprising one branch and Karama the other.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Telecom Egypt signed an agreement to provide integrated communication services to the program's beneficiaries.

The cooperation agreement aims to provide 3.5 million SIM cards to the program's beneficiaries, with voice calls and data provided at a minimum cost, making it easier for them to communicate with the ministry.

6 Red Sea Ports Close Down Due to High Winds

Egypt closed six Red Sea ports, five commercial and one fishing, due to high winds and rough seas, according to the Red Sea Ports Authority.

Among the ports that shut down are those of Suez, Nuweiba, Zeitiyat, Adabiya and Ain Al-Sokhna, along with the fishing port in Suez.

At the ports of Nuweiba, Suez and Zeitiyat, the waves reached 2-3 meters high. 

According to Mahmoud Shaheen, director of the center for analysis and forecasts at the General Authority of Meteorology, temperatures will start to decline within the coming few days in Egypt, ranging between 17-19 degrees during the day and 9 degrees at night.

Aladdin Actor Mena Massoud Visits Pyramids, Sphinx

Egyptian-Canadian Hollywood actor Mena Massoud, most known for his role in the Disney live-action of Aladdin, visited the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx as part of his visit to Egypt.

Massoud's visit comes as part of the cooperation between the tourism and emigration ministries to promote Egyptian tourism.  

Emigration Minister Nabila Makram and Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El-Enany accompanied the actor during his visit.

"We are proud of the Egyptians abroad and are always happy with the success they achieve," El-Anany said.

Massoud said that this is his third visit to Giza's main attraction, voicing strong admiration for what his Egyptian ancestors have created. He also shared pictures of himself in the tourist sites on his social media accounts.

Sports

Tennis: Mayar Sherif Reaches Main Draw of Australian Open

Egypt's Mayar Sherif reached the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the second time in four months, beating Serbia's Aleksandra Krunic in the final qualifying round of the Australian Open.

Sherif prevailed with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 win victory over Krunic to maintain her recent impressive run, having become the first Egyptian to reach the Australian Open main draw.

She also made history in September last year when she qualified for the French Open main draw, only to lose to second-seeded Karolina Pliskova after putting up a brave fight.

"I still have such a huge margin to improve so that gives me more advantage, gives me more motivation. And I can't wait to get back on the court and practice and work harder, to get back and play at this level," Sherif said at the time.

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(Courtesy of the tournament's official website)

Handball: Hosts Egypt Defeat Chile in World Championship Opener

Hosts Egypt opened their World Championship campaign with a 35-29 win over Chile in Cairo after a glamorous opening ceremony attended by President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi.

Sisi gave a speech to inaugurate the expanded 32-team tournament, saying the world is now able to "co-exist with the new reality forced by the coronavirus pandemic."

"God willing, we will overcome this ordeal and emerge more united in the face of various challenges," he added.

At Cairo's 30-year-old venue, Egypt claimed an 18-11 lead at halftime but were sloppy in defense in the second period to allow Chile to narrow the gap to six goals at the end.

Egypt next face Macedonia on Saturday before meeting European heavyweights Sweden in their last group game. The top three will advance to the main round.

Science and Technology

Bitcoin Extends Losses to $32,359

Bitcoin resumed sliding on Wednesday after it reached its all-time high of $41,973 on Friday.

The leading cryptocurrency fell as much as 6.8 percent to about $32,359 yesterday.

European Central Bank's (ECB) President Christine Lagarde said yesterday that there should be a global regulation of bitcoin, as the digital currency had been used for money laundering activities.

"(Bitcoin) is a highly speculative asset, which has conducted some funny business and some interesting and totally reprehensible money laundering activity," Lagarde said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference.

She did not disclose specific examples of money laundering cases.

"There has to be regulation. This has to be applied and agreed upon ... at a global level because if there is an escape, that escape will be used," she added.

YouTube Suspends Trump's Channel Over Policy Violation

YouTube has suspended US President Donald Trump's channel for at least a week and issued a strike under the platform's policies against violence.

"The channel is now prevented from uploading new videos or live streams for a minimum of seven days—which may be extended," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

This move comes "in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence" as the company also "issued a strike for violating our policies for inciting violence."

The video-sharing platform also removed videos from the White House's channel for violating its policy, yet it did not suspend it.

Besides, the platform also said it would disable comments underneath videos on Trump's channel.

Trump has recently been unable to communicate through social media platforms, after Twitter "permanently suspended" his account while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the firm would "indefinitely" block his Facebook and Instagram accounts "for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete." 

World

Trump Makes History by Being Impeached Again

Donald Trump has become the first US president to be impeached twice for inciting the deadly capitol riot and will face a Senate trial.

In a US House of Representatives vote yesterday, the majority voted for Trump's impeachment, with the House voting 232-197 to impeach Trump. .

Ten votes came from Republicans, and 222 came from Democrats. 

The first impeachment was in December 2019 when he was accused of pressuring Ukraine to dig up damaging information on President-Elect Joe Biden and his son.

National Guard Troops Seen Sleeping in US Capitol Building 1 Week After Riots

Hundreds of US National Guard troops have been seen sleeping in the US capitol building hallways before Democrats begin voting on impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Days earlier, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed and vandalized the capitol building where lawmakers gathered to certify Joe Biden's victory, after the outgoing president urged his followers to "stop the steal" of the presidential election, alleging that Biden's victory was based on fraudulent tactics.

General Daniel Hokanson, commander of the US National Guard, previously announced that between 10,000 and 15,000 security personnel would be deployed in DC by Saturday.

The deployment aims to enhance security during President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration, slated for January 20.

Sudan Says Ethiopian Military Aircraft Crossed Its Borders Amid Tensions

Sudan said yesterday that an Ethiopian military aircraft entered its airspace in an "unjustified escalation" amid years-long tensions over a disputed border area.

"In a dangerous and unjustified escalation, an Ethiopian military aircraft penetrated the Sudanese-Ethiopian borders," Sudan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, an Ethiopian military spokesman told AFP that the situation at the disputed border area is "normal" and that he has no "tangible information" regarding Sudan's claim.

This comes a day after Ethiopia warned Sudan that it was running out of patience, as the latter continued its military build-up in the disputed border area despite the Ethiopians' attempts to address the border tensions through diplomatic negotiations. 

Disputes center on agricultural lands in the Al-Fashqa region, which falls within Sudan's international boundaries, yet has historically been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers.

In December, Sudan said that it had restored control of all Sudanese territory in the disputed region.

Emirates Expects Full Fleet Return By End of 2021 Amid COVID-19 Vaccines Rollout

Dubai-based carrier Emirates expects a vital recovery in the travel industry and estimates its full fleet, which is composed of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, to be in use by the end of 2021, amid a speedy rollout of the coronavirus vaccines.

"Once the pandemic is over, and the global inoculation program has kicked in at pace, then I see the restoration and a recapture of activity curves in all aspects of the global economy at pace, probably in the middle to back end of this year," the carrier's President Tim Clark told Reuters in an interview.

Seventeen out of the company's 115 Airbus A380s and 137 out of its 160 Boeing 777s are currently flying to around 120 destinations, a decrease from 157 destinations before the pandemic.

The company has gradually resumed service since June after suspending flights in March, but demand for the resumed flights has collapsed due to fears of infection.

Virus Roundup: UK's Hotels May Host COVID-19 Step-Down Patients

Hotels could be used to host patients who no longer need full hospital treatment, Britain's Health Minister Matt Hancock told the BBC on Wednesday.

"This obviously would be a further backup plan ... We consider all the options," Hancock said.

"This would be for step-down patients, so patients who have been in hospital who no longer need the full hospital treatment but aren't quite ready to go home," he added.

The UK is currently looking for ways to limit the spread of the COVID-19 new variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

Nearly half of the intensive care units (ICU) staff in England amid the pandemic suffer from severe anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Some even reported feeling they'd be better off dead, according to a UK study published on Wednesday.

In Germany, authorities will not have the chance to ease the country's COVID-19 restrictions by the next month, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, stating the need to reduce gatherings further to curb the spread of the more virulent COVID-19 variant.

"One thing is already evident: It will not be possible to loosen all restrictions on February 1," Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday.

He added that it would take another two or three months for the effects of a vaccination campaign to kick in.

Johnson & Johnson is set to deliver the first doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Europe in April, an EU official told Reuters on Wednesday after a top lawmaker said the US healthcare company was likely to seek EU regulatory approval in February. 

Indonesia launched yesterday one of the world's biggest COVID-19 vaccination campaigns with President Joko Widodo getting the first shot of the Chinese vaccine. 

Jordan launched yesterday a free COVID-19 vaccination campaign, prioritizing healthcare workers, people with chronic illnesses and the elderly.

China's Sinovac Biotech defended its experimental COVID-19 vaccine's safety and efficiency on Wednesday, after researchers in Brazil released late-stage clinical data that showed effectiveness was much lower than initially announced.

The vaccine was just 50.4 percent effective at preventing infections in the Brazilian trial, including data on "very mild" cases, researchers said on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that the COVID-19 new variant first found in Britain had spread now in 50 countries, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20.

The WHO also indicated that a third new coronavirus "variant of concern" found in Japan may affect the immune response and needs further investigation.

"The more SARS-Cove-2 spreads, the greater the chances of it mutating. The higher levels of transmission mean we should expect more strains to emerge," said the WHO.

Vaccines and fresh economic stimulus promised by US President-Elect Joe Biden will give the global economy a chance to put the coronavirus pandemic behind it in 2021, policymakers and industry leaders told the Reuters Next conference.

"In the US ... they are holding all the cards, and if they put the money to work in a wise way, there is going to be a very, very, strong second half of 2021 and especially 2022," Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told the digital forum.

Top Headlines of the Week

Arab Markets
Egypt EGX30 11,388.90 +0.43%
KSA TASI 8,914.29 +0.34%
UAE ABU DHABI ADX 5,290.73 +0.62%
UAE DUBAI DFM 2,721.30 +0.75%
World Markets
US Dow Jones IA 31,060.47 -0.03%
NASDAQ-100 13,128.95 +0.43%
S&P 500 3,809.84 +0.23%
UK FTSE 100 6,745.52 -0.13%
Germany DAX 13,939.71 +0.11%
France CAC 40 5,662.67 +0.21%
Japan Nikkei 225 28,849.01 +1.38%
China HANG SENG INDEX 28,372.15 +0.48%
Currencies
US Dollar 15.63 15.73
Euro 19.01 19.14
Sterling 21.37 21.50
Saudi Riyal 4.17 4.19
UAE Dirham 4.25 4.28
Kuwaiti Dinar 51.53 51.89
Swiss Franc 17.59 17.70
Commodities
Oil Brent USD/bbl. 55.98 -0.14%
Wheat USD/bu.Mar 2020 656.75 -0.57%
Gold USD/t oz. 1,838.94 -0.36%
Gold Egypt LE/ oz. 1,838.84 -0.49%
Silver Egypt LE/ oz. 25.20 -0.58%

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