The World Health Organization (WHO) has increased its risk assessment of the coronavirus to “very high” at a global level.
According to BBC.com, WHO’s health emergencies program executive director Dr. Mike Ryan said the agency is not trying to scare people by issuing the highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and impact.
“This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up! Get ready!” Ryan said in a statement. “This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens; you have a duty to the world to be ready.”
The WHO is calling on governments around the world to take the coronavirus outbreak seriously and work hard to contain it within their borders and avoid “the worst of it.”
In addition to the confirmed cases in China, where the viral outbreak originated, at least 4,351 cases have been reported and confirmed across at least 48 countries, including 67 deaths as of Friday.
The WHO said Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Nigeria all reported their first confirmed cases Thursday, which were all connected to the coronavirus-spreading-through-europe.html” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>outbreak in Italy. Officials said most cases of the viral infection have been traced to known contacts or clusters of cases.
The organization also recently revealed the number of new coronavirus cases outside China now exceeds those inside the country for the first time. WHO officials said countries must act “swiftly” and “aggressively” to contain the virus.
Earlier this week, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee said the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo in July could be canceled if the coronavirus outbreak shows no sign of dissipating.
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Travel Industry Lauds Passage of Paycheck Protection Program Reform Bill
The U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act on Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval.
The reform bill provides business owners with additional flexibility and more time to utilize loan money and still be forgiven under the PPP established to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The travel industry has been quick to commend lawmakers. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is in full support having advocated for the improvements behind the scenes.
“We commend the Senate for passing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), which would change PPP loan terms—in some cases retroactively—in a number of ways ASTA has advocated for, including five-year loan terms, reducing the requirement that 75 percent of the loan must go to payroll to get forgiveness, allowing forgivable expense over 24 weeks (as opposed to the current eight) and allowing companies to restore headcount without jeopardizing forgiveness by the end of the year (versus the current June 30),” Eben Peck, EVP Advocacy, ASTA, said in a statement.
“While the PPP will remain complex, this bill gives more flexibility to PPP recipients and increases the chances that loans can be fully forgiven,” Peck concluded.
The U.S. Travel Association also wasted no time praising the decision, calling it an “important step.”
“The PPP changes passed by both chambers are another important step in providing relief to small businesses that otherwise will not survive until the economic recovery phase,” added U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “The modification to the portion of funds that can be used for non-payroll expenses is especially crucial to travel-related small businesses, which have comparatively high capital overhead but virtually zero incoming revenue because of the necessary measures in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.”
U.S. Travel still believes that there’s more work to be done to ensure a successful recovery. The organization is encouraging officials to extend PPP eligibility to non-profit and quasi-governmental entities responsible for driving local and regional economic development.
“Like the businesses they serve, the finances of these non-profits have been devastated by the standstill in travel and tourism, and the moment of recovery will be moot unless they can keep their lights on to take advantage of the return in travel demand,” Barnes stated. “We urge leaders to move urgently to enact the next phase of coronavirus response legislation, which is absolutely vital to the future of the travel and tourism industry, and to prioritize expanding eligibility to those most hard hit by this pandemic such as destination marketing organizations.”
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