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Airline Norwegian cancels 3,000 flights due to coronavirus impact

Low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle said on Tuesday it would cancel “approximately 3,000 flights” from mid-March to mid-June as the coronavirus outbreak hits travel.

Airline Norwegian cancels 3,000 flights due to coronavirus impact
Photo: Rune Feldt Rasmussen/Zuma/Ritzau Scanpix
Editor's note: The situation around the novel coronavirus is changing rapidly, and this article is no longer being updated. Please click HERE for the latest updates and HERE for all our coronavirus coverage.

The cancellations represent 15 percent of the airline's capacity for the period.

“The past week, Norwegian has experienced reduced demand on future bookings. The company will cancel about 3,000 flights to meet the change in demand. The cancellations represent approximately 15 percent of the total capacity for the period mid-March to mid-June,” the company said in a statement to the Oslo stock exchange.

The company added that the cancellations would affect the airline's entire network.

“More details will be shared as soon as they are ready to be implemented. Affected customers will receive information about these changes as soon as they take place,” the statement continued.

A significant number of staff at the company are likely to be affected by the decision.

“Unfortunately, cancellations will affect a significant share of our colleagues at Norwegian. We have initiated formal consultations with our unions regarding temporary layoffs for flying crew members as well as employees on the ground and in the offices.

“We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with unions and employees to work through this difficult situation together,” Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram said in the statement.

Norwegian has already suspended flights between Oslo and Milan until May based on travel guidelines from Norway's foreign ministry as well as health authority recommendations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week estimated that losses in revenue for airlines due to the new coronavirus could range from $63 billion (55 billion euros) to $113 billion, depending on whether the spread of the virus was contained.

Norwegian, which has been in deficit for three years and is heavily indebted due to an ambitious expansion policy, especially in long-haul flights, is particularly vulnerable.

Last Thursday, the company withdrew its 2020 forecast, which predicted a return to profits, citing the new coronavirus epidemic.

In early afternoon trading on Tuesday, shares in Norwegian were down 5.8 percent on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Denmark, authorities on Tuesday banned all flights to heavily affected areas, such as parts of China, Iran and Italy, for two weeks.

The Danish government also urged people to avoid public transport during rush hours.

On Tuesday, Denmark had 158 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and Norway had 192.

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COVID-19

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.” 

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