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Ireland tightens Dublin COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge

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The Irish government on Friday (18 September) announced strict new COVID-19 restrictions for the capital Dublin, banning indoor restaurant dining and advising against all non-essential travel, after a surge in cases in recent days. Ireland, which was one of the slowest countries in Europe to emerge from lockdown, has seen average daily case numbers roughly double in the past two weeks and significant increases in those being treated for the virus in hospitals, writes Conor Humphries.

“Here in the capital, despite people’s best efforts over recent weeks, we are in a very dangerous place,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a televised address to the country, announcing the restrictions.

“Without further urgent and decisive action, there is a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis.” The measures, which include a ban on indoor events, will last for three weeks, he said. Ireland had the 17th highest COVID-19 infection rate out of 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control on Friday, with 57.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days.

The government reported three deaths from the virus on Friday, bringing the total toll to 1,792. Countries across Europe, including Britain, Greece and Denmark, on Friday announced new restrictions to curb surging coronavirus infections in some of their largest cities. Ireland on Thursday tightened its COVID-19 travel restrictions by imposing quarantines on travellers from major holiday markets Italy and Greece.

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Commission approves €39.6 million Greek scheme to support certain vegetable producers affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €39.6 million Greek scheme to support producers of certain vegetables in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will be open to producers of ‘Kalamon' table olives, early watermelon of low coverage and spring potatoes.

It will be also open to producers of greenhouse crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants in Crete. The scheme aims at addressing the liquidity needs of the beneficiaries, thus helping them continue their activities during and after the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Greek scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid does not exceed €100,000 per beneficiary as provided by the Temporary Framework for undertakings in the primary agricultural sector and (ii) the scheme will run until 30 June 2021.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58929 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €450 million Greek scheme to support companies active in certain sectors affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €450 million Greek scheme to support companies active in the tourism, transport, construction and energy sectors that have been particularly affected by the measures imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The support, which will take the form of subsidized loans, will be open to companies with up to 3,000 employees in the sectors concerned.

The scheme will be financed with the resources of the Greek Infrastructure Fund (also called ‘InfraFoF'), which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Greek State. The Greek Infrastructure Fund is managed by the European Investment Bank. The scheme will be implemented through local banks on behalf of the Greek Infrastructure Fund, which also requires the banks to provide complementary financing to the public loans.

The measure aims at helping the beneficiaries address their liquidity needs and continue their activities during and after the outbreak. The Commission found that the measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, i) the support can be granted only in relation to new loans; ii) the interest rates applied to the subsidized loans are in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework; and iii) the subsidized loans may be granted until 30 June 2021.

The Commission concluded that the scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the Greek economy, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58368 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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Commission approves €9.35 million Portuguese employment aid scheme to preserve jobs on the Azores Islands during the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €9.35 million Portuguese aid scheme for preserving employment on the Azores Islands during the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. It follows two measures approved by the Commission in May 2020, which have expired.  The scheme aims at compensating the wage costs of companies in the Region of the Azores, which would otherwise have laid off personnel due to the coronavirus outbreak and the emergency measures taken by the state to limit its spread.

The period for aid applications is 20 July to 31 December 2020 and aid can be granted as from April 2020. The maximum subsidy period is eight months. For the employers, there are two support options under the notified measure. Under the first option, the wage subsidy will amount to €111.13 per month and employee corresponding to 13.47% of the regional minimum gross monthly salary (including employer's social security contributions) and will be paid in one instalment. Under the second option, the wage subsidy will amount to €196.38 per month and employee, corresponding to 23.8% of the regional minimum gross monthly salary (including employer's social security contributions) which will be paid in three instalments.

The Commission found that the Portuguese measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, employers commit to keep the employees covered by the subsidies for the period during which they receive aid. The Commission concluded that the Portuguese measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58658 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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