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Push to restart as job losses hit once inconceivable heights

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A Mexican restaurant remains closed under current orders to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Friday, May 8, 2020, in South Portland, Maine. Under Gov. Janet Mills' current plan, Maine restaurants will be allowed to reopen on June 1. Bars will have to wait until July 1 to reopen.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments Friday related to national and global response, the work place and the spread of the virus.


TRAVEL: In some regions, airlines ravaged by the outbreakare testing vastly diminished schedules. There are also some signs of a return for cruise lines as well, from which many first recognized the severity of the outbreak as isolated passengers did interviews from their cabins.

— Royal Caribbean said Friday that bookings for next year are “within historical ranges” compared with the same period last year, before the pandemic struck. Prices for 2021 cruises are up mid-single digits compared with this year.

The company is seeing increased cancellations for cruise reservations this year.

— Lufthansa's airlines will reactivate part of their fleet next month as they begin to ramp up service after the initial peak of the pandemic in Europe.

Lufthansa, its budget subsidiary Eurowings and Switzerland’s Swiss carrier, will put 80 aircraft back into service starting June 1. So far, it has been operating a limited “repatriation flight schedule” designed to be flown by 80 planes.

RETAIL: In the span of several days, two major U.S. retail chains sought bankruptcy protection. Retailers have upended operations to survive, but most are bleeding money because most locations remain closed.

— Gap, Ulta Beauty and Kohl’s plan to reopen some locations in states that have eased lockdown restrictions.

Ulta Beauty plans to reopen 180 locations Monday in Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. It won't allow customers to test products and will keep its curbside pickup service.

Kohl’s which has already opened stores in four states, will reopen stores in 10 additional states Monday. Fitting rooms will remain closed.

Gap plans to reopen 800 of its Old Navy, Athleta, Gap, Banana Republic, Janie and Jack and Intermix stores before the end of the month. It’s starting with a small selection of locations in Texas this weekend.

CENTRAL GOVERNMENTS & BANKS: Nations struck early by the outbreak, and some U.S. states are reopening their economies, but at a glacial pace and with new, strict guidelines.

— Australia plans to reopen the economy in three stages by July, but there are no plans to open the country to general international travelers in the foreseeable future. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday the states will set their own pace in easing restrictions.

— The northern Italian province of Bolzano is reopening stores this weekend in defiance of Rome's program, citing a special statute that grants it some autonomy. According to the statute signed Friday, stores may reopen on Saturday, ahead of the official May 18 opening date nationally, followed on Monday by bars, restaurants, hairdressers and museums -- which are not slated to open nationwide until June 1.

— Swiss government officials have backed down from plans to require restaurants and bars to take the names and phone numbers of their patrons as a way to fight the coronavirus, saying it’s now “optional.”

The flip-flop Friday comes after privacy advocates, restaurant owners and legal experts cried foul over the requirement that was aimed to help improve monitoring of the outbreak as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

After nearly two months of closure, most schools, stores and businesses in Switzerland are set to reopen Monday because case counts have declined in recent weeks.

RESTAURANTS: Restaurants are reviewing operations as dining rooms reopen in some regions. The index that follows restaurants and hotels has plunged 27% in the past three months, among the worst in the S&P 500, and the job losses in the industry have been massive.

— Same store sales at company-owned Ruth’s Chris Steak House locations slumped 83.5% in April, and that was for restaurants still open for take-out and delivery.

All dining rooms at company-owned restaurants are closed, Ruth’s Hospitality Group said Friday.

The company withdrew financial guidance for the year, suspended its quarterly dividend and share repurchases, and suspended all restaurant construction and non-essential capital expenditures.

MARKETS: Markets are rising Friday as they have all week, despite devastating numbers contained in the monthly U.S. jobs report.