German economy rebounding, faces risk from virus resurgence

After shrinking 9.7 percent in the second quarter, the worst quarterly figure on record, the economy is rebounding from the severe shutdowns and restrictions on activity and movement of March, April and May. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 September 2020

German economy rebounding, faces risk from virus resurgence

  • The Ifo institute’s index released Thursday rose to 93.4 points in September from 92.5 points in August

FRANKFURT: A widely watched indicator of German business confidence has risen for a fifth month in a row as Europe’s largest economy rebounds from the coronavirus shutdowns — but the index remains below its long term average and uncertainty is high with virus cases rising.
The Ifo institute’s index released Thursday rose to 93.4 points in September from 92.5 points in August. The index is based on a survey of thousands of businesses about their view of current conditions and expectations for the future.
In this case the current assessment rose while the expectations part levelled off.
After shrinking 9.7 percent in the second quarter, the worst quarterly figure on record, the economy is rebounding from the severe shutdowns and restrictions on activity and movement of March, April and May.
Carsten Brzeski, chief eurozone economist at ING bank, said growth could rebound sharply with growth between 5 percent and 10 percent in the third quarter. But the recovery still faces hurdles and has a long way to go to regain its pre-pandemic footing.
“Given the recent softening of leading indicators, however, there is a risk of a double-dip in the fourth quarter,” Brzeski wrote in a research note, “unless social distancing rules are eased further; a very unlikely scenario given the latest increase in new COVID-19 cases.”


Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

Updated 27 November 2020

Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

  • Frustrated resort operators count the cost of holiday season restrictions

MEGEVE, France:  Megeve, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, was gearing up to welcome back skiers before Christmas after a COVID-19 lockdown was eased.

But France’s government — while allowing cinemas, museums and theaters to reopen from Dec. 15 — says its ski slopes must stay off limits until 2021, leaving those who make their living in the Alpine village frustrated and, in some cases, perplexed.

“When you’re outside, when you’re doing sport outdoors, that’s not the moment when you’re going to give COVID-19 to someone. COVID-19 is passed on in enclosed places,” said Pierre de Monvallier, director of ski school Oxygene, which operates in several resorts including Megeve.

Announcing a phased easing of the lockdown on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “impossible to envisage” re-opening ski slopes for Christmas and New Year, and that he preferred instead to do so during January.

“It felt like the door had been slammed in our face,” said Catherine Jullien-Breches, the mayor of Megeve, whose green slopes are generally covered with snow by mid-December.

“Unfortunately it’s a real drama for the economies of the villages and the winter sports resorts.”

People who live within 20 km of France’s Alpine resorts will able to visit from this weekend, but with the lifts staying shut, the main draw is missing.

“It’s like going on holiday on the Cote d’Azur and being told the sea is off limits,” said David Le Scouarnec, co-owner of Megeve’s Cafe 2 la Poste.

The problem for the resorts — and the hotels, restaurants, and workers who depend on them for their livelihood — is that their season is short, and they will have little time after the New Year to claw back lost revenue.

Other European authorities are wrestling with the same problem. Italy’s resorts regions are seeking approval for restricted skiing, but Austria, whose biggest cluster of the first wave of the pandemic was at the ski resort of Ischgl — where thousands were infected — is skeptical.

Prevarication cuts little ice, however, with Mathieu Dechavanne, Chairman and CEO of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, which operates cable cars at Megeve and other resorts.

He said who could not understand why the government allowed trains and metros to operate, but barred him from re-opening. “It’s like we’re being punished. We don’t deserve this. We’re ready.”