In Brief

Ryanair boss condemns 'lunacy’ and ‘hysteria’ over coronavirus

Michael O'Leary says social media has lost perspective on the outbreak

The boss of Ryanair has condemned what he called “lunacy on social media” and “hysteria” in coverage of the coronavirus. 

Speaking to Sky News, Michael O’Leary appealed for a calm and measured approach to the coronavirus outbreak and said “Let's not have irrational panic measures.”

As his airline adjusted its flight schedules, he said the decision to cancel the Ireland-Italy Six Nations rugby match in Dublin this coming weekend was “not sensible or proportionate”.

Earlier this week Ryanair confirmed it was to cut the frequency of services to northern Italy by 25%, after it witnessed a passenger no-show rate of up to 50% for Italy flights.

Ryanair’s share price has lost a quarter of its value since the crisis unfolded. Asked whether he felt investors had over-reacted, O'Leary said: “I suspect so”.

He said of the outbreak: “I'm reasonably optimistic it will be reasonably short-lived - remember we're coming into the spring-summer period in Europe. That itself will help to limit the spread of a flu-like virus.”

Turning to the national conversation over the virus, he said: “We would hope to see some of the hysteria taken out of the coverage of the Covid-19 virus outbreak that we've seen over the last week, more accurate government... and WHO (World Health Organisation) information being communicated and help us to fend off some of the frankly lunacy communicated on social media.”

Airlines are being hit hard by the saga. IAG, the owner of British Airways, and easyJet have been among the carriers cutting capacity in services to and from Italy because of falling demand.

The BBC reports that British Airways is cancelling 216 flights from London to destinations including New York, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

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