French debacle with Amazon continues, German hair salons open for business

Madrid Desk, May 4 (efe-epa).- The French labor ministry on Monday rejected a request from online retail giant Amazon to have access to emergency coronavirus funds to cover the cost of salaries after the company was restricted to distributing essential supplies.

Amazon confirmed it was looking to cover the costs of around 10,000 staff members at six distribution centers in the country.

An appeals court in Versailles last month upheld a ruling that limited the kind of products the company was allowed to ship in France, which Amazon said forced the temporary closure of six centers in the country, although it maintained its workforce.

The company has also been embroiled in a dispute with trade unions, which have denounced an alleged lack of social-distancing policy on the shopfloor.

Amazon could face a fine of 100,000 euros ($109,000) for each infraction of the rules.

Meanwhile, the European Union approved a 7 billion euro aid package to bailout flailing airline Air France saying the funds issued by the French government would help soften the blow of the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.

The move to bailout the company comes as airlines suffer to stay afloat after air travel has been reduced to repatriation services and cargo journeys as a result of the spread of Covid-19 and strict measures imposed worldwide.

 “This 7 billion euro French guarantee and shareholder loan will provide Air France with the liquidity that it urgently needs to withstand the impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition chief, said in a statement.

France is one of Europe’s worst-hit countries with over 131,000 cases so far and more than 24,000 deaths. The government plans to lift the lockdown on 11 May.

Across the border, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plan to revive public life has come up against the impatience of some regional leaders, pressure from businesses and legal challenges that mean there are exceptions to the coronavirus rules depending on the region.

The only common measure that came into effect on Monday was the reopening of the country’s hair salons following six weeks of closure, although they now must obey by strict health and safety protocol and can only attend customers by appointment.

The return to school, on the other hand, depends on authorities in each Land, or state. In some states, students were taking their exams a week ago, while in others secondary students were heading back to class today.

Just over two weeks ago, the chancellor agreed with regional leaders that all commercial spaces up to 800 meters squared would be allowed to reopen for business in the first stage of removing the lockdown.

But authorities in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt, two eastern states with low levels of infection, have permitted all retail stores to open on Monday. The same decision was taken by Rhineland-Palatinate, bordering France.

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