Daily News Roundup

January 30, 2020

THURSDAY, January 30

Qantas is continuing flights in and out of mainland China despite a number of other carriers taking the country off their schedules as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

Global carriers including British Airways have suspended all flights to mainland China, while others have dramatically scaled back services.

Qantas flights into and out of mainland China are so far unaffected as the airline continues discussions with the federal government to run an evacuation mission for Australians stranded in China’s virus-plagued Hubei province.

If and when the evacuation is given the go-ahead by the Chinese government the Australians would be taken to Christmas Island where they would be kept in isolation for up to three weeks.

They will be kept away from a Sri Lankan family held there while fighting deportation.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says common areas in the detention centre on the island will not be used.

He said each evacuee would be assessed individually by the hazardous materials team on the island.

“People will stay within the centre until we get medical clearance for them to come out,” Mr Dutton said.

On Wednesday, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline was continuing to review its underperforming Sydney-Beijing route.

The airline had already announced plans to axe that service from March, but Mr Joyce suggested that could happen sooner.

“We continue to review that, continue to review the loads, and whether we look to do that earlier, or keep it operating until that date,” Mr Joyce told reporters at the opening of a new pilot training school in Queensland.

He also said it was too early to say what impact the coronavirus outbreak might have on the carrier’s business.

He said the most similar comparison to coronavirus was the 2003 SARS epidemic in 2003, which cost the airline $55 million in lost earnings over a six to eight-month period and led it to cut some international capacity.

Virgin Australia does not operate flights to mainland China.

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It’s official. Britain will no longer be part of the European Union from tomorrow.

This follows the European Parliament giving final approval to Britain’s divorce from the EU. 

After an emotional debate during which several speakers shed tears on Wednesday (local time), EU politicians voted 621 for and 49 against the Brexit agreement sealed between Britain and the 27 other member states last October, more than three years since Britons voted to get out.

Thirteen politicians abstained and the chamber then broke into a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, a traditional Scottish folk song of farewell.

Britain’s 73 departing EU politicians headed for an “Au Revoir” party in the EU chamber after the vote.

Earlier in the day, Britain’s ambassador to the EU handed documents formalising Brexit to a senior EU official.

Against a backdrop of British and EU flags at the bloc’s Brussels headquarters, Tim Barrow, smiling, passed over a dark blue leather file embossed with the emblem of the United Kingdom.

After protracted divorce talks, Britain will leave the club it joined in 1973 at midnight Brussels time on Friday, when British flags will be removed from EU offices and the EU flag lowered on the British premises there.

With a status-quo transition period running only until year-end, fresh talks — covering everything from trade to security — will begin soon on a new relationship.

“We are considering a zero-tariff, zero-quotas free trade agreement. But the precondition is that EU and British businesses continue to compete on a level playing field,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told the chamber.

“We will certainly not expose our companies to unfair competition.”

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told envoys of the remaining 27 members earlier on Wednesday that a loose association agreement like the EU has with Ukraine should serve as the basis for new relations, diplomatic sources said.

“We will not give ground on issues that are important to us,” Mr Barnier said, according to sources briefed on the closed-door meeting.

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The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant didn’t have a long-recommended warning system , but it is not clear whether it would have averted the crash

World press agencies are reporting that the system is known as a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS, which would have sounded an alarm if the aircraft was in danger.

While the cause of the wreck that killed the former NBA superstar, his 13-year-old daughter and the seven others aboard on Sunday is still under investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board may again recommend helicopters with six or more passenger seats be required to have such equipment.

The pilot in Sunday’s crash, Ara Zobayan, had been climbing out of the clouds when the chartered aircraft banked left and began a sudden 1200ft descent that lasted nearly a minute, investigators said on Tuesday.

It slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside, scattering debris more than 500ft.

“This is a pretty steep descent at high speed,” the NTSB’s Jennifer Homendy said.

“We know that this was a high-energy impact crash.”

The last of the victims’ bodies were recovered on Tuesday and coroner’s officials said the remains of Bryant, Mr Zobayan and two other passengers have been identified using fingerprints.