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EU court: Tourists may get refunds over COVID measures

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2023)

Travelers whose package tours were ruined by the imposition of restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic may be entitled to at least a partial refund, the European Union’s highest court said Thursday.

The European Court of Justice weighed in after being asked for its opinion by a court in Germany, AP reported. 

The Munich court is considering the case of two people who bought a two-week package vacation for the Spanish island of Gran Canaria starting on March 13, 2020, just as the pandemic hit Europe. They are seeking a 70% reduction in the price because of restrictions that were imposed there two days later and their early return.

When the restrictions were imposed on March 15, beaches were closed, a curfew put in place and the plaintiffs were allowed to leave their hotel room only to eat, the EU court said. On March 18, they were told to be ready to leave at any moment, and two days after that they had to return to Germany.

The tour operator refused the requested reduction on the grounds that it couldn’t be held liable for a “general life risk.”

The EU court found that “a traveler is entitled to a reduction in the price of his or her package where a lack of conformity of the travel services included in the package is due to restrictions that have been imposed at the travel destination to fight the spread of an infectious disease, such as COVID-19.”

It said it doesn’t matter if similar restrictions are imposed at the traveler’s place of residence or in other countries.

The German court will now have to assess whether the restrictions in the specific case at issue “could constitute failures to perform or improper performances” of the contract by the tour organizer.

COVID-19

China says 200 million treated, pandemic ‘decisively’ beaten

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(Last Updated On: February 17, 2023)

China says more than 200 million of its citizens have been diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 since it lifted strict containment measures beginning in November.

With 800,000 of the most critically ill patients having recovered, China has “decisively beaten” the pandemic, according to notes from a meeting of the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by President and party leader Xi Jinping, AP reported. 

China enforced some of the world’s most draconian lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions and still faces questions about the origins of the virus that was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Heavy-handed enforcement prompted rare anti-government protests and took a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying that policies to control the outbreak had been “entirely correct.” The abrupt lifting in November and December of the “zero COVID” policy that had sought to eliminate all cases of the virus led to a surge in infections that temporarily overwhelmed hospitals.

Case numbers have since peaked and life has largely returned to normal, although international travel in and out of China has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

China is now transitioning to a post-pandemic stage after a fight against the outbreak that was “extraordinary in the extreme,” Xinhua said.

The government will continue to “optimize and adjust prevention and control policies and measures according to the times and situations with a strong historical responsibility and strong strategic determination,” Xinhua said.

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COVID-19

Study suggests people who had COVID-19 risk new-onset diabetes

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(Last Updated On: February 15, 2023)

A new Cedars-Sinai Medical Center suggests that people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 could stand an increased risk for new-onset diabetes.

The study’s results, conducted by researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai “have confirmed that people who have had COVID-19 have an increased risk for new-onset diabetes — the most significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.”

“Our results validate early findings revealing a risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after a COVID-19 infection and indicate that this risk has, unfortunately, persisted through the Omicron era,” said Dr. Alan Kwan, the author of the study and a cardiovascular physician at Cedars-Sinai.

“The research study helps us understand — and better prepare for — the post COVID-19 era of cardiovascular risk,” he said.

The study also suggests that the risk of Type 2 diabetes appears to be lower in those who had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to their infection.

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COVID-19

Iran registers over 160 new COVID cases, 2 deaths

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(Last Updated On: February 12, 2023)

The Iranian health ministry announced on Sunday that more than 160 new cases of COVID-19, and two deaths, had been recorded across the country in the past 24 hours.

“A sum of 161 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country based on confirmed diagnosis criteria during the past 24 hours,” the Iranian Health Ministry’s Public Relations Center said on Sunday, adding “82 patients have been hospitalized during the same time span.”

“Unfortunately, two patients have lost their lives in the past 24 hours, increasing the number of the dead to 144,781,” the ministry noted.

FARS news agency reported that according to the ministry, 233 people infected with COVID-19 are in critical condition.

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