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Spread & Containment

Cathay Pacific Slashing Passenger Flights To Hong Kong Over Holiday Season

Cathay Pacific is cutting back on both long- and short-haul passenger flights to Hong Kong next month to adjust for a looming staffing shortage over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
About a third of all inbound flights to the city in December will.

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Cathay Pacific is cutting back on both long- and short-haul passenger flights to Hong Kong next month to adjust for a looming staffing shortage over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

About a third of all inbound flights to the city in December will be converted to handle mostly cargo, the Post has learned.

Outbound flights are expected to continue operating as normal, with about 620 scheduled for next month.

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"Operational and travel restrictions that remain in place continue to constrain our ability to operate flights," a company spokeswoman said on Thursday, referring to the city's ongoing anti- coronavirus pandemic measures.

"We are consolidating our passenger flight schedules for December 2021, including cancelling a number of flights to Hong Kong."

Given the city's tough quarantine restrictions, Cathay Pacific passenger flights into Hong Kong are currently staffed on a volunteer basis. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

The airline does not have enough aircrew for so-called "closed loop" operations, meaning volunteer staff are needed for flying in and out of the city.

During the three-week shifts, they are confined to their hotel rooms between flights, then must quarantine for up to 14 days after returning home.

The airline said it was rebooking affected customers onto other airlines or routing them through airports where it would still be operating in December to ensure they could maintain their same-day arrival for hotel quarantine bookings.

Travellers flying into Hong Kong need a confirmed hotel booking for either 14 or 21 days, and the city's 11,500 rooms are consistently sold out months in advance, making last-minute changes very difficult.

Cathay Pacific fires 3 pilots with Covid-19 after probe finds 'serious breach'

Shukor Yusof, of aviation advisory firm Endau Analytics, said Cathay's cutback on flights during the festive season could prove to be a "blessing in disguise" instead.

"Given the rise in cases in Europe, and Hong Kong's determination to be Covid-free, Cathay will be in a better position in 2022 as its health and operational discipline get the better of the competition," he said.

Cathay's anticipated cutback on flights, particularly from continental Europe, comes as Covid-19 rates are once again soaring there, with the unvaccinated bearing the brunt of the impact.

The airline's staffing woes also come in the wake of tightening of rules for aircrews exempted from quarantine after three pilots breached company protocol in Frankfurt by leaving their hotel rooms. The trio subsequently lost their jobs.

The event, which saw 150 Cathay staff quarantined at the government's isolation camp in Penny's Bay, sparked wider discontent over how the government has treated aircrew and growing reluctance by staff to operate higher-risk flights.

Cathay 'close' to breaking even; FedEx will not reopen Hong Kong pilot base

As of Thursday, the airline's flight schedule data indicates about 620 outbound flights for sale in December, but only 430 of them returning to Hong Kong. The latter number does not take into account possible cancellations.

Cathay operated 3,856 flights to Hong Kong in December 2019 and 453 in the same month last year, data from aviation analytics firm Cirium showed.

The cutbacks are another blow to Cathay's attempts to recover from the pandemic, as it continues to lag behind global peers.

Hong Kong has seen almost no local infections in months under its tough zero-Covid strategy, but its mandatory 21 days' hotel quarantine requirement for those returning from many destinations means the city is effectively shut off from the outside, even as the rest of the world has begun reopening.

Tougher quarantine regime for Cathay Pacific aircrew puts Hong Kong flights at risk

The quarantine policy, which affects both travellers and aircrew, is one of the strictest in the world, and is aimed at preventing imported cases from slipping into the community and jeopardising chances of fully reopening the border with mainland China - Hong Kong's largest economic partner.

A HK$39 billion (US$5 billion) government-led bailout, the axing of 5,900 jobs, closure of Cathay Dragon, and its daily passenger volume plunging 99 per cent from 100,000 people per day marked some of the lowest points of the airline's pandemic-ravaged experience.

Cathay remains propped up by robust air cargo activity and cost savings, which have helped push it "close to" breaking even between July and October.

The airline said it expected to still report a "substantial" loss for 2021, despite an improvement in its fortunes across the second half of this year.

More from South China Morning Post:

Read the original article on South China Morning Post. For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.

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Spread & Containment

A rapid, highly sensitive method to measure SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in…

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Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in multiple areas across the world to track the prevalence of the virus, serving as a proxy for determining the status of COVID-19. Of particular importance is that WBE can be used to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19, including asymptomatic cases. However, one of the major drawbacks of WBE for SARS-CoV-2 has been that the traditional method was not very sensitive, and low viral loads could not be reliably detected.

Credit: Hiroki Ando, et al. Science of the Total Environment. August 8, 2022

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in multiple areas across the world to track the prevalence of the virus, serving as a proxy for determining the status of COVID-19. Of particular importance is that WBE can be used to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19, including asymptomatic cases. However, one of the major drawbacks of WBE for SARS-CoV-2 has been that the traditional method was not very sensitive, and low viral loads could not be reliably detected.

A team of scientists from Hokkaido University and Shionogi & Co, Ltd., have developed a simple, rapid, highly sensitive method for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. The method, EPISENS-S, which does not require specialised equipment, was described in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has had the lowest number of cases per capita. Thus, the viral loads in sewage have also been lower, and much more difficult to evaluate using established WBE methods—due to their low sensitivity. Prior work by the research team showed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was associated with solids in sewage, so they focused on developing a method to analyse the solid phase of wastewater.

The method they developed, EPISENS-S, involves centrifuging collected wastewater samples to separate all the solids in the samples. The solids were then treated with a commercially available kit to extract all the RNA; the RNA was then reverse transcribed and amplified to obtain a substantial amount of DNA copies. A separate set of samples was subjected to treatment with polyethylene glycol followed by RNA extraction and reverse transcription to synthesize DNA: the method that is currently widely implemented in Japan. The DNA obtained from each of these methods was subjected to quantitative PCR (qPCR).

The team found that the EPISENS-S method is approximately 100 times more sensitive than the polyethylene glycol method. They used EPISENS-S to conduct a long-term analysis of wastewater from two sewage treatment plants in Sapporo city, and found that there was a high correlation between changes in RNA concentrations in the collected samples and changes in the number of reported cases in the city. EPISENS-S can also detect and quantify the Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV), which is associated with fecal matter and is used as an internal control.

EPISENS-S provides a way to track COVID-19 cases that are asymptomatic, as well as those that have not been clinically confirmed. In addition, it has great potential to continue tracking the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 as vaccination rates increase. Finally, EPISENS-S could also be adapted to track other viral diseases with low infection numbers and viral loads.


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Spread & Containment

Mish’s Daily: Step Back to the Monthly Chart on Transportation

Last Friday, I spoke on Women of Wall Street Twitter Spaces and Fox Business’s Making Money with Charles Payne to talk about a key monthly moving average.What…

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Last Friday, I spoke on Women of Wall Street Twitter Spaces and Fox Business's Making Money with Charles Payne to talk about a key monthly moving average.

What makes this moving average so important right now is that three of the Economic Modern Family members are testing it. The three members, Granddad Russell 2000 (IWM), Grandma Retail (XRT) and Transportation (IYT), well deserve their status as what Stanley Druckenmiller calls the "inside" of the U.S. economy. In fact, the components of the modern family were put together before we heard Druckenmiller's viewpoint. We have observed how predictive they all are in helping us see in advance the next big market direction. Hence, these "inside" indicators -- right now -- are all sitting just above a 6–7-year business cycle low.

For the purposes of this daily and because we have featured this sector a lot lately, the chart of IYT is a perfect example of this moving average and what to watch for. Except for the brief blip in 2011 when the government shut down, and then again during the pandemic, IYT has sat above the dark blue line for 11 years. Currently, that line sits at the 195 area. The same is true with IWM and XRT, both marginally holding their monthly MAs.

So, watch IYT to either hold, and begin a rally possibly back closer to 220, or for IYT to fail 195, in which case we see the whole market selling off further.

To note, the other family members, such as Sister Semiconductors (SMH) and Prodigal Son Regional Banks (KRE) are still sitting well above the monthly MA. Big Brother Biotechnology (IBB), however, is now trading below it. And not in the family, but still notable, is the REIT sector (IYR), also sitting below it. SPY has the same MA, only that one sits at 310 (a long way off).

Incidentally, junk bonds broke down under this moving average in November 2021. The market has been slow to take junk bond's hint.

For more information on how to invest profitably in sectors like biotech, please reach out to Rob Quinn, our Chief Strategy Consultant, by clicking here.

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Mish in the Media

A business cycle is about 6-7 years - where are the indices now and what should you watch for? Mish discusses this question in this appearance on Fox's Making Money with Charles Payne.


ETF Summary

  • S&P 500 (SPY): Testing the previous low; 362 support, 370 resistance.
  • Russell 2000 (IWM): Broke the June low of 165.18; 162 support, 170 resistance.
  • Dow (DIA): Broke June low -289 support, 298 resistance.
  • Nasdaq (QQQ): Testing the June low;269 support, 280 resistance.
  • KRE (Regional Banks): Relative outperformer; 57 support, 61 resistance.
  • SMH (Semiconductors): 187 support, 194 resistance.
  • IYT (Transportation): 196 support, 200 resistance.
  • IBB (Biotechnology): 112 support, 118 resistance.
  • XRT (Retail): 55 support, 60 resistance.


Mish Schneider

MarketGauge.com

Director of Trading Research and Education

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We can turn to popular culture for lessons about how to live with COVID-19 as endemic

As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic to an endemic, apocalyptic science-fiction and zombie movies contain examples of how to adjust to the new norm…

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An endemic means that COVID-19 is still around, but it no longer disrupts everyday life. (Shutterstock)

In 2021, conversations began on whether the COVID-19 pandemic will, or even can, end. As a literary and cultural theorist, I started looking for shifts in stories about pandemics and contagion. It turns out that several stories also question how and when a pandemic becomes endemic.


Read more: COVID will likely shift from pandemic to endemic — but what does that mean?


The 2020 film Peninsula, a sequel to the Korean zombie film, Train to Busan, ends with a group of survivors rescued and transported to a zombie-free Hong Kong. In it, Jooni (played by Re Lee) spent her formative years living through the zombie epidemic. When she is rescued, she responds to being informed that she’s “going to a better place” by admitting that “this place wasn’t bad either.”

Jooni’s response points toward the shift in contagion narratives that has emerged since the spread of COVID-19. This shift marks a rejection of the push-for-survival narratives in favour of something more indicative of an endemic.

Found within

Contagion follows a general cycle: outbreak, epidemic, pandemic and endemic. The determinants of each stage rely upon the rate of spread within a specified geographic region.

Etymologically, the word “endemic” has its origins with the Greek words én and dēmos, meaning “in the people.” Thus, it refers to something that is regularly found within a population.

Infectious disease physician Stephen Parodi asserts that an endemic just means that a disease, while still prevalent within a population, no longer disrupts our daily lives.

Similarly, genomics and viral evolution researcher Aris Katzourakis argues that endemics occur when infection rates are static — neither rising nor falling. Because this stasis occurs differently with each situation, there is no set threshold at which a pandemic becomes endemic.

Not all diseases reach endemic status. And, if endemic status is reached, it does not mean the virus is gone, but rather that things have become “normal.”

Survival narratives

We’re most likely familiar with contagion narratives. After all, Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion, was the most watched film on Canadian Netflix in March 2020. Conveniently, this was when most Canadian provinces went into lockdown during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A clip from the film Contagion showing the disease spreading throughout the world.

In survival-based contagion narratives, characters often discuss methods for survival and generally refer to themselves as survivors. Contagion chronicles the transmission of a deadly virus that is brought from Hong Kong to the United States. In response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is tasked with tracing its origins and finding a cure. The film follows Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon), who is immune, as he tries to keep his daughter safe in a crumbling Minneapolis.

Ultimately, a vaccine is successfully synthesized, but only after millions have succumbed to the virus.

Like many science fiction and horror films that envision some sort of apocalyptic end, Contagion focuses on the basic requirements for survival: shelter, food, water and medicine.

However, it also deals with the breakdown of government systems and the violence that accompanies it.

A “new” normal

In contrast, contagion narratives that have turned endemic take place many years after the initial outbreak. In these stories, the infected population is regularly present, but the remaining uninfected population isn’t regularly infected.

A spin-off to the zombie series The Walking Dead takes place a decade after the initial outbreak. In the two seasons of The Walking Dead: World Beyond (2020-2021) four young protagonists — Hope (Alexa Mansour), Iris (Aliyah Royale), Silas (Hal Cumpston) and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) — represent the first generation to come of age within the zombie-infested world.

The four youth spent their formative years in an infected world — similar to Jooni in Peninsula. For these characters, zombies are part of their daily lives, and their constant presence is normalized.

The trailer for the second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond.

The setting in World Beyond has electricity, helicopters and modern medicine. Characters in endemic narratives have regular access to shelter, food, water and medicine, so they don’t need to resort to violence over limited resources. And notably, they also don’t often refer to themselves as survivors.

Endemic narratives acknowledge that existing within an infected space alongside a virus is not necessarily a bad thing, and that not all inhabitants within infected spaces desire to leave. It is rare in endemic narratives for a character to become infected.

Instead of going out on zombie-killing expeditions in the manner that occurs frequently in the other Walking Dead stories, the characters in World Beyond generally leave the zombies alone. They mark the zombies with different colours of spray-paint to chronicle what they call “migration patterns.”

The zombies have therefore just become another species for the characters to live alongside — something more endemic.

The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead (2015-), Z Nation (2014-18), and many other survival-based stories seem to return to the past. In contrast, endemic narratives maintain a present and sometimes even future-looking approach.

Learning from stories

According to film producer and media professor Mick Broderick, survival stories maintain a status quo. They seek a “nostalgically yearned-for less-complex existence.” It provides solace to imagine an earlier, simpler time when living through a pandemic.

However, the shift from survival to endemic in contagion narratives provides us with many important possibilities. The one I think is quite relevant right now is that it presents us with a way of living with contagion. After all, watching these characters survive a pandemic helps us imagine that we can too.

Krista Collier-Jarvis does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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