EU industry chief tells Facebook to adapt to EU, not other way round

EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton said on Monday it was for Facebook to adapt to Europe’s standards, not the other way round, as he criticized the U.S. social media giant’s proposed internet rules as insufficient.

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with European Commissioner for Values and Transpare
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS: EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton said on Monday it was for Facebook to adapt to Europe’s standards, not the other way round, as he criticized the U.S. social media giant’s proposed internet rules as insufficient.

The blunt comments came after a short meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and two days before Breton is due to present the first of a raft of rules to rein in U.S. tech giants and state-aided Chinese companies.

“It’s not for us to adapt to this company, it’s for this company to adapt to us,” Breton, a former CEO at French telecoms provider Orange and French technology company Atos, told reporters after the meeting.

Zuckerberg had earlier told reporters he had a good, wide-ranging conversation with Breton.

Breton also said he would decide by the end of the year whether to adopt tough rules as part of the digital services act to regulate online platforms and set out their responsibilities.

He dismissed a discussion paper issued by Facebook on Monday that rejects what it calls intrusive regulations and suggests looser rules whereby companies would periodicially report content and publish enforcement data.

“It’s not enough,” Breton said, adding that Facebook had omitted any mention of its market dominance and also failed to spell out its responsibilities.

FORCE FOR GOOD OR BAD?

EU justice chief Vera Jourova, who also met Zuckerberg, was equally adamant on Facebook’s role in the fight against online hate speech, disinformation and election manipulation.

“Facebook cannot push away all the responsibility. Facebook and Mr Zuckerberg have to answer themselves a question ‘who do they want to be’ as a company and what values they want to promote,” she said in a statement.

“It will not be up to governments or regulators to ensure that Facebook wants to be a force of good or bad.”

Breton will announce proposals on Wednesday aimed at exploiting the EU’s trove of industrial data and challenging the dominance of Facebook, Google and Amazon. It will announce rules to govern the use of artificial intelligence too, which will also affect companies such as Facebook.

Referring to the possibility that the EU may hold internet companies responsible for hate speech and other illegal speech published on their platforms, Facebook in its discussion document said this ignored the nature of the internet.

It urged regulators to understand the capabilities and limitations of technology in assessing content and allow internet companies the flexibility to innovate.

Zuckerberg’s visit came on the heels of visits by Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Microsoft President Brad Smith to Brussels last month.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Alison Williams and Gareth Jones)

Exclusive: Italian government leaning towards third term for Eni CEO – sources

ROME/MILAN: The Italian government is leaning toward reappointing Claudio Descalzi as CEO of state-controlled oil firm Eni, provided he will work with a new board to speed up efforts to cut carbon emissions, four senior political sources told Reuters.

The largest member of the ruling coalition, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, has been highly critical of the veteran oilman in the past, not least because he is being tried in Italy for alleged corruption over a 2011 oil deal in Nigeria. Descalzi denies any wrongdoing.

However, Rome is keen for an experienced leader with a track record of dealing with geopolitically sensitive areas such as Africa and the Middle East to oversee interests there, and to help Eni shift toward cleaner sources of energy without inflicting too much damage on profitability.

“No final decision has been made yet, but Descalzi has a good chance to be reappointed,” a government member of the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Eni, a rich source of dividends for stretched state coffers, has traditionally been seen as a key piece of Italy’s energy policy and also important for foreign policy because of its extensive overseas presence.

Descalzi’s second term leading the company comes to an end in May and the government is expected to flag as soon as March whether or not he will be kept on. The 64-year old executive is due to present Eni’s latest business plan on Feb. 28.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, a PD minister, said on Friday that “very valuable people” were running state-owned companies, which also include utility giant Enel and defense group Leonardo , but did not elaborate.

The 5-Star Movement is not opposing Descalzi’s reappointment as long as he is prepared to work with a new board to accelerate moves to cut carbon emissions, a prominent member of the movement said.

“He is winning round key figures in the party,” the official said, also asking not to be named.

The nomination process at Italy’s state-controlled companies is traditionally the subject of intense political horse trading because of their size and importance. Talks usually go down to the wire and can change unexpectedly on political vagaries.

The Treasury, which owns 4.34per cent of Eni and controls another 25.76per cent via state lender CDP, has the right to appoint six members of Eni’s nine-strong board. It is expected to present a list of candidates that will include the name of the new CEO.

The Treasury declined to comment for this story, as did Eni.

DON’T ROCK THE BOAT

Descalzi was first appointed to the top job at Eni in 2014 by the government of Matteo Renzi, whose Italy Alive party is now a junior member of the ruling coalition.

Helped by major discoveries in Egypt and Mozambique, Descalzi transformed the company into one of the industry’s most successful oil and gas explorers. He has shunned costly bets on North American shale gas and more recently won accolades from investors by signing a flurry of deals in the Gulf.

However, his leadership has not been without controversy.

In one of the oil industry’s biggest ever scandals, Italian prosecutors allege Eni and Royal Dutch Shell bought a Nigerian oilfield in 2011 knowing most of the US$1.3 billion purchase price would go to agents and middlemen in bribes.

The trial, which includes Descalzi because he led Eni’s exploration and production business at the time of the transaction, is drawing to a close, but is not expected to conclude until after the nomination process for a new CEO.

Eni and Shell, like Descalzi, have denied wrongdoing.

Despite the allegations, two of the sources said Rome was drawn to keeping Descalzi as a steady pair of hands at a time of increasing turmoil in Libya, where Eni is the biggest foreign oil and gas producer. “The (Italian) government at the moment is weak and the message coming out of Rome is to rock the boat as little as possible,” one of them said.

Descalzi’s experience could also help Eni meet growing pressure from politicians and investors for oil companies to do more to address global warming.

The CEO, a physicist by training, set up Eni’s green energy unit in 2015 and introduced a target for net-zero carbon emissions from exploration and production operations by 2030.

However, rivals such as Repsol , Shell and, more recently, BP , have gone further, and Descalzi is under pressure to set bolder targets.

“He’s got the ball rolling but now he’s got to raise the bar,” one of the sources said.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Giselda Vagnoni in Rome, Stephen Jewkes in Milan, Editing by Mark Potter)

Chanel halts Beijing fashion show over COVID-19 fears

PARIS: French fashion house Chanel said on Monday (Feb 17) it was postponing a show set for May in Beijing following an outbreak of a new coronavirus that has infected some 70,000 people across China.

“Considering the current situation and following the guidance of Chinese authorities, Chanel has decided to postpone its project of a replica of the Paris – 31 rue Cambon 2019/20 Metiers d’art collection in May in Beijing to a later and more appropriate moment,” a statement said, without giving a new date.

“Chanel is monitoring the situation closely. At the foremost are the health and well-being of its teams and clients,” it said.

The “31 Rue Cambon” show was first held in Paris in December, inspired by the studio and workshop of founder Coco Chanel. The decor was created by the film director Sofia Coppola.

Hundreds of trade shows and other major events in China have been cancelled in recent weeks over fears of the virus, which has killed nearly 1,800 people in mainland China since it was first reported in December.

Last week, the Chinese designer Jarel Zhang cancelled the showing of his new collection during Paris Fashion Week in March “in order to ensure the health and safety of both countries and reduce the number of contacts” that could spread the flu-like disease.

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Thailand reports new coronavirus case, to increase entry screening

BANGKOK: Thailand said on Monday (Feb 17) it had recorded one new case of the coronavirus and was increasing screening of visitors from Singapore and Japan entering the country in response to the widening outbreak.

The new case, a 60-year-old Chinese woman whose family members earlier contracted the virus, takes the total number of cases in Thailand to 35 since January, Sukhum Kanchanapimai, the health ministry’s permanent secretary told a news conference.

“This is the from an old case of a Chinese family of nine, all of them have now been infected,” he said.

READ: China coronavirus death toll surpasses 1,700; decline in new cases outside Hubei

READ: COVID-19 threat could erode with time just as with H1N1, say experts

Fifteen of the infected people in Thailand have recovered and returned home, while 20 are still being treated in hospital.

Some 1,770 people in China have died from the virus, along with a handful in other countries and territories but Thailand has not recorded any fatalities so far.

Thai health authorities said they will expand virus screening to cover travellers from Japan and Singapore, in addition to those from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

READ: Scramble to track Cambodia cruise ship passengers after coronavirus case reported

READ: Southeast Asia feels the burn as COVID-19 keeps Chinese tourists at home

Japan and Singapore have two of the highest numbers of reported cases outside China.

Anyone from those places who displays coronavirus symptoms will be quarantined at a government hospital.

“Travellers from Japan and Singapore that developed a fever or respiratory symptoms within 14 days of entering the country will be treated like travellers from China,” Sukhum said.

In addition, Thailand will not allow entry by any foreign nationals who were passengers of the Westerdam cruise ship, now docked in Cambodia, after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia over the weekend.

There were 21 Thai nationals on board the ship and health authorities said all of them will be quarantined for 14 days when they enter Thailand.

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COVID-19: Australia to evacuate more than 200 citizens from cruise ship quarantined at Japan port

SYDNEY: Australia will evacuate more than 200 of its citizens onboard a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship being held under quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday (Feb 17).

Morrison said the passengers will depart on Wednesday and will be taken to Australia’s tropical north, where they will be required to be quarantined for another 14 days.

READ: COVID-19 cases on Diamond Princess ship rise to 355

The Diamond Princess, cruise ship, owned by Carnival Corp , has been quarantined since arriving in Yokohama on Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong before it travelled to Japan was diagnosed with the virus.

“For those more than 200 Australians who will be returning to Australia, we are going to have to require a further 14-day quarantine period to be put in place on their return to Darwin,” Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

READ: COVID-19: What you need to know about the Diamond Princess ship quarantined in Japan

Morrison also said space on the Qantas Airways plane will be provided for an unspecified number of New Zealand citizens on the cruise ship.

Those passengers will be transferred to New Zealand when they arrive in Darwin, Morrison said.

On Sunday, the United States evacuated about 400 citizens from the Diamond Princess, while Canada, Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong have also announced plans to repatriate passengers.

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Japan prosperity rite draws thousands in loincloths despite winter cold

OKAYAMA, Japan: About 10,000 Japanese men clad only in loincloths braved freezing temperatures at the weekend to pack into a temple and scramble in the dark for lucky wooden talismans tossed into the crowd, in a ritual that dates back five centuries.

The highlight of the raucous day-long ‘Hadaka Matsuri’ festival came at 10pm on Saturday, when the lights went out and a priest threw bundles of twigs and two lucky sticks, each about 20cm long, among the participants.

That set off a 30-minute tussle for the sticks, coveted as symbols of good fortune and prosperity, although most men escaped with just a few cuts and bruises, in contrast to past occasions, when some have been crushed to death.

“Once a year, at the coldest time in February, we wrap ourselves in just a loincloth to be a man,” said 55-year-old Yasuhiko Tokuyama, the president of a regional electronics firm.

“That’s the significance of this event and why I continue to participate.”

A man carries a boy on his shoulders during a naked festival where men dressed in loincloths snatch
A man carries a boy on his shoulders during a naked festival where men dressed in loincloths snatch a wooden stick called “shingi” tossed by the priest at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture Japan February 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

A monk presides a ceremony during a naked festival where men dressed in loincloths snatch a wooden
A monk presides a ceremony during a naked festival where men dressed in loincloths snatch a wooden stick called “shingi” tossed by the priest at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture Japan February 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Plenty of sake and beer is sold outside the temple to warm the revelers, but a purifying plunge into pools of cold water before the start of the festival was a shock to the system for most.

The annual celebration at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple in the southern city of Okayama has its roots in a competition to grab paper talismans that dates back more than 500 years.

But as its popularity grew, the paper talismans began to rip, as did the clothes of the rising number of participants, so that eventually wooden sticks were adopted and garments discarded.

Scramble to track Cambodia cruise ship passengers after coronavirus case reported

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia: Holland America Line said it is working with governments and health experts to track passengers who disembarked from its Westerdam cruise ship docked in Cambodia after an American woman tested positive for coronavirus in Malaysia.

The cruise line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp , said none of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew have reported any symptoms.

READ: Cruise liners steer clear of mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore over COVID-19 fears

“Guests who have already returned home will be contacted by their local health department and be provided further information,” a statement from the company said.

Six passengers tested negative for COVID-19, according to laboratory results received from the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 17.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the six passengers – four citizens of the United States and two from the Netherlands – are now at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, waiting to board their respective flights, and are in good health.

“The embassies have been informed of the test results and the passengers will be allowed to board their flights in order to continue their journey to their respective destinations,” said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement.

As of Monday, Malaysia has 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of whom eight have recovered completely.​​​​​​​

Passengers of the Westerdam had been cleared to travel by Cambodian authorities after health checks when the cruise ship docked on Thursday. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.

READ: Thailand refuses entry to cruise ship amid coronavirus concerns

READ: Chess, squabbles aboard cruise ship cast away by coronavirus fears

But on Saturday, Malaysia said an American woman who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday on a chartered flight had tested positive for the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,700 people, the vast majority in China.

The woman’s husband tested negative for the coronavirus.

About 137 of the 145 passengers on the chartered flight had already left for other countries as of Sunday after showing no signs of illness, Malaysian authorities said.

Dozens more of the Westerdam passengers had flown through Thailand and onward to other countries, Thai officials said.

At least 236 passengers and 747 crew remain aboard the vessel off the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville, Holland America said. Others were in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital.

Holland America said it is working with health officials in Malaysia and Cambodia and experts in the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“These experts are working with the appropriate national health authorities to investigate and follow-up with individuals who may have come in contact with the guest,” said Dr. Grant Tarling, Chief Medical Officer for Holland America Line.

Several hundred other passengers who left the ship are still in Cambodia, according to passenger Holley Rauen, a public health nurse and midwife from Fort Myers, Florida.

“I believe there’s 300 Americans here at this hotel plus a few hundred from other countries. We will all be tested for the coronavirus today and tomorrow by the Cambodian Ministry of Health,” Rauen told Reuters on Sunday.

“We have no idea when we get to get home but Holland America is working on all of our flight reservations. We have ambassadors from the US Embassy here in Phnom Penh as well as from Australia and other countries to help people figure out what to do,” she said.

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Clock’s ticking for Nissan boss Uchida to show he has a plan – sources

TOKYO: Nissan’s new CEO Makoto Uchida doesn’t have time to work his way into the job. He is effectively on probation and has a matter of months to show he can revive the ailing automaker, according to three people familiar with the thinking of some on the company’s board.

The mission: the new boss must prove to the board he can accelerate cost-cutting and rebuild profits at the 86-year-old Japanese giant, and that he has the right strategy to repair its partnership with France’s Renault , the sources told Reuters.

The pressure intensified on Thursday when Nissan, which has had a year of turmoil since the arrest and sacking of long-time leader Carlos Ghosn, posted its first quarterly net loss in nearly a decade and slashed its annual profit forecast.

One of the people familiar with the intentions of some on Nissan’s 10-member board said an assessment of Uchida’s efforts and a decision on his future would likely be made toward the middle of the year.

“Probation is more or less the right way to describe the situation Uchida is faced with, if not more serious,” the source said this week.

“In the worst-case scenario he could be shown the door.”

Uchida referred Reuters queries to Nissan about whether he had just months to demonstrate he could turn the carmaker around, whether board members were satisfied with his work, and his relationship with other senior executives.

The company rejected suggestions of Uchida’s uncertain circumstances as having “no factual basis”. “Effectively or otherwise, Uchida is absolutely not on probation,” a Yokohama-based spokesman added. “There does not exist such a concept or system within Nissan to put a CEO on probation. He is CEO.”

Some supporters also stressed that Uchida has only been in the top job for little more than two months, while Nissan’s business has been in decline since 2017. Executives and analysts have previously said the company’s current woes are not of Uchida’s making, but are the fallout from an aggressive and poorly executed global expansion under Ghosn and Uchida’s predecessor Hiroto Saikawa.

“Nissan is on the right path for recovery … although it might be a gradual process,” Uchida, formerly Nissan’s China chief, said in a video message to employees in October, shortly after being named CEO.

ROCKY START

Still, it has been a difficult start for the new CEO, who officially took the helm at the beginning of December and must act swiftly to counter a slide in sales that is accelerating in key markets like the United States and China.

When he took the stage at corporate headquarters in Yokohama early that month, Uchida billed himself and his senior leaders – No. 2 Ashwani Gupta and No. 3 Jun Seki – as a tight “one team” that could deliver a bright new dawn for the automaker.

Later in December, two board members sat down with Uchida – whose elevation has been opposed in some quarters – to tell him he needed to consult more with Seki and Gupta, stressing he had been given the top job on the condition that he worked closely with the pair, according to two of the sources.

The “one team” hasn’t shown much unity, though.

Seki resigned in late December and joined electric motor producer Nidec Corp as president.

Chief Operating Officer Gupta, meanwhile, has griped privately to colleagues about having a dysfunctional working relationship with the new CEO, according to two of the sources, but he is committed to work with Uchida to turn Nissan around.

One source said the board would not brook internal squabbles or procrastination among Uchida, Gupta and the rest of the executive team: “The biggest problem is nothing getting done, at a time when we need to take decisive actions.”

Gupta referred Reuters queries to Nissan, which said Uchida and Gupta were “cooperating closely, sharing information, and are engaged with executing the performance recovery plan and other reform moves, including fixed cost-cutting”.

UNRAVELING

Nissan, Japan’s second-biggest automaker after Toyota , faces an array of structural woes, from high fixed costs to weak management to a strained partnership with Renault, which began unraveling after Ghosn’s arrest in late 2018.

The problems come at a pivotal time when Nissan and other automakers are attempting to come to grips with a major, and costly, technological shift towards electric and self-driving vehicles.

The carmaker posted a net loss of 26.1 billion yen (US$238 million) for the October-December third quarter and it cut its annual operating profit forecast by 43per cent to 85 billion yen.

Though Nissan expects to report a small profit for the year ending in March, some executives are worried it could post a loss, according to the sources, especially given the fact that the forecast does not take into account the impact on sales in China and beyond from the coronavirus outbreak.

Uchida said, at the earnings media conference on Thursday, that Nissan was looking at the possibility of accelerating existing restructuring plans, as well as implementing additional measures – but he added the company would not be able to provide details of those extra steps until May.

Interactive Graphic: Nissan’s sales woes https://tmsnrt.rs/2TWHyfl

Interactive Graphic: 2023 recovery goals https://tmsnrt.rs/38CJJsw

‘CRISIS MODE’

Uchida replaced Saikawa, who resigned in September after admitting to being improperly overpaid. His appointment was contentious, with some members of the board’s six-strong nomination committee pushing for Seki or Gupta, according to two of the sources.

Seki, in fact, garnered the most first-choice votes – three – but not a majority, leading to another round where second preferences were taken into account, Uchida received five second-choice votes so won the job, the people said.

By mid-January, however, some board members were starting to regret the decision, said the sources. While Uchida had touted a fresh start in his speech in December, he has still not publicly spelled out specifics on strategy.

Some members of the board complained that he was even sitting on some of the turnaround measures hammered out by Nissan executives last year, before he took the reins of the company, the sources said.

A team led by Seki, and charged with formulating a series of turnaround measures, had proposed effectively pulling out of Indonesia, where the Nissan group’s market share fell below 2per cent in 2018, according to a separate source close to that team.

Under the plan, the company would ask partner Mitsubishi , an SUV powerhouse in Southeast Asia, to contract-manufacture Nissan cars and help market them in Indonesia, the person said.

When Uchida became CEO, however, he struck a cautious stance and made no decisions on that proposed pullout, though the idea has more recently began gaining momentum after much prodding by Uchida’s subordinates and the board, according to the source.

In November, Seki’s team also suggested Nissan go into a more intense “crisis mode”, significantly stepping up spending cuts, including sizable reductions in year-end bonuses for top executives, said the source, adding that the proposals had not been implemented under Uchida.

(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Pravin Char)

Fast-food companies in China step up ‘contactless’ pickup, delivery as coronavirus rages

NEW YORK/BEIJING: With the coronavirus outbreak in China continuing to spread, McDonald’s Corp , Starbucks Corp and other fast-food companies are ramping up “contactless” pickup and delivery services to keep their workers and customers safe, the companies said.

McDonald’s has implemented contactless pickup and delivery of Big Macs, fries and other menu items across the China as the outbreak has unfolded.

Customers order remotely – on mobile phones or by computers in store – and employees seal the meals in bags and put them in a special spot for pickup without human contact, McDonald’s says on its website.

For delivery orders, drivers drop McDonald’s packages at building entrances, disinfect their delivery bags and wash their hands more frequently. Drivers carry ID cards showing that they – and the people who made and packaged their food – had their body temperature scanned to prove they do not have a fever.

“While we look at how to further improve the process, the stepped-up preventive measures apply to all of our servicing channels,” McDonald’s said in a statement to Reuters.

The flu-like virus has infected more than 68,500 people globally and killed 1,665 as of Sunday, mostly in the central Chinese province of Hubei. Some major Chinese cities still resemble ghost towns as China struggles to get its economy back on track after a prolonged Lunar New Year holiday.

In early February, 83per cent of all stores on the Meituan-Dianping delivery platform – one of the largest in the country – were closed, according to Beijing-based data firm BigOne Lab.

Earlier this month, China’s National Health Commission recommended that deliveries limit contact.

Starbucks suggests customers order coffee via its app and then wait outside its cafés until they get a pick-up notice. Orders are placed on tables just inside café entrances.

If they do enter Starbucks locations, customers have their temperature taken at the door, as fever is one of the main symptoms of infection, and baristas wear masks.

For delivery, Starbucks said it regularly sterilizes containers and that its delivery people have their temperature taken daily. Indoors staff must wash hands every 30 minutes, and public areas are sterilized every 2 hours.

Starbucks delivery is provided by ele.me, owned by ecommerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The measures illustrate how companies are quickly adapting in order to sell prepared food while keeping people safe.

Yum China Holdings Inc rolled out contactless delivery on Jan. 30, with contactless pickup coming two days later at its KFC and Pizza Hut locations, the company said.

CHANGING HUMAN TRANSACTIONS

There had been contactless delivery in China prior to the crisis, when couriers would drop packages at a consumer’s door or lobby or place parcels in lockers for later pickup.

But since the outbreak, many residential compounds are limiting access for drivers and asking customers to pick up their own packages.

In transactions that previously would have involved one person handing a package to the other, the driver now puts the food down – on the back of a moped, for instance – and then steps back and waits for the customer to take it and leave.

One customer, for example, asked a delivery person to put a parcel in the elevator and press the button for the designated floor. The customer grabbed the package when the doors opened – unaccompanied by the courier, according to a post on CCTV News’ social media account on Weibo, said Allison Malmsten, a marketing strategy analyst at Daxue Consulting in Shanghai.

The outbreak “redefines contactless food delivery,” Malmsten said via email.

Since the start of the outbreak, Yum China has closed more than 30per cent of its locations. There have been “significant interruptions,” with sales off as much as 50per cent in those that remained open since the Lunar New Year holiday, versus the same time last year, Chief Financial Officer Ka Wai Yeung said in a Feb. 5 earnings call.

The crisis has accelerated the rollout of Yum China’s contactless services in China, it said in a statement.

“These services have been well-received by customers and are playing an important role in ensuring that our delivery business continues to hold up during this period of significantly reduced dine-in traffic,” it said.

Early during the epidemic, meal delivery took a hit because customers feared contact with drivers would put them at risk of infection, according to news reports.

Cases of couriers being diagnosed with the virus after working for days arose in Shenzhen and Qingdao cities.

The companies’ reliance on pickup and delivery to offset some losses does, however, have limitations.

Malmsten said many drivers cannot return to work due to travel restrictions, and those who can return face long hours and physical and mental fatigue. As a result, SF Express, the second-largest courier in China, has ramped up hiring, she said.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Dan Grebler)

Trump threatens intelligence block over Huawei: US diplomat

WASHINGTON: The United States’ ambassador to Germany said Sunday (Feb 16) that President Donald Trump had threatened to cut off intelligence-sharing with countries that dealt with Chinese tech firm Huawei.

Washington has been pressing allies to ban Huawei, one of the world’s largest tech firms, from next-generation 5G mobile data networks, saying it is a security risk.

READ: Rebuffed by UK, US pitches ‘big tent’ for Huawei rivals in Europe

READ: US defence chief warns of Huawei ‘threat’ to NATO

Ambassador Richard Grenell said Trump “instructed me to make clear that any nation who chooses to use an untrustworthy 5G vendor will jeopardize our ability to share intelligence and information at the highest level.”

Grenell said on Twitter that the president had called him on Sunday from Air Force One, the presidential plane, to convey the message.

Key US allies in Europe, notably Britain and France, have said they will not ban Huawei from building 5G networks but will impose restrictions.

Publicly, the US has been restrained in its response, but Trump was reportedly furious with London.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Huawei was a “Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence.”

READ: Commentary: Is Huawei dangerous because it’s Chinese? What about Facebook?

READ: Huawei dismisses new suspension of ‘unjust’ US ban

The tech company vehemently denies the US allegations, and Beijing has characterized its treatment as “economic bullying.”

A US indictment on Friday laid more criminal charges against Huawei related to theft of intellectual property, adding to earlier allegations that the company stole trade secrets from American carrier T-Mobile.