What you need to know today
- The global death toll from COVID-19 has risen to over 263,000, while over 3.7 million people are known to have been infected
- Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has warned a second wave may arise before autumn
- Moscow’s mayor has suggested the city’s infection tally is triple the official figure
- Over 33 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began
- Germany is scaling back its lockdown measures even further, with all shops set to reopen later in May.
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
21:48 A brewery in the German state of Hesse has been giving out free beer rather than let it go to waste due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The owners of the Willinger Brauhaus gave away an estimated 2,600 liters (690 gallons) of light and dark beer on Thursday. The beer was intended for hotels and restaurants, but coronavirus closures made the brewery’s normal deliveries impossible.
Brewery owner Franz Mast told Reuters news agency that he needed to empty his brewery’s tanks to fill them up with fresh beer to prepare for when bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen.
The free beer give-away was a massive success with customers. Dozens of people lined up outside the brewery — making sure to wear masks and socially distance as they waited to pick up their on-the-house beverages.
“I hope it helps the brewery, that is why we are here. This way, we can sit in the garden later today, in the sun, and have a nice Willinger beer,” customer Natalie Julius told Reuters.
21:18 German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Pope Francis on the phone Thursday to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much of the call focused on the political and humanitarian situation and underscored their support for countries with developing economies.
“Both favored supporting poorer countries in particular in the coronavirus pandemic,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a statement.
The chancellor and the pope stressed the importance of “cohesion and solidarity in Europe and the world” while navigating the coronavirus crisis.
Merkel also invited Francis to visit Germany as soon as it is possible to travel once again.
20:31 Here’s a summary of the latest events in Europe on Thursday:
Germany: Horse racing has resumed as German authorities continue to ease restrictions aimed at curbing the novel coronavirus pandemic. The races were held at the Neue Bult track near the northern German city of Hanover. Jockeys were obliged to wear masks as they raced horses without spectators. Betting, however, was allowed online. More horse races are expected to take place in Cologne on Friday.
United Kingdom: British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab warned that easing the UK’s lockdown poses a major risk to the population. “The point at which we make even the smallest of changes to the current guidance will be a point of maximum risk. If people abandon the social distancing … the virus will grow again at an exponential rate,” Raab said. The UK has surpassed Italy with the highest death toll in Europe
Slovakia: Slovak authorities extended border controls with its neighboring countries, including Austria, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary until the end of May. Current border controls were expected to expire on May 8. But Slovak Interior Minister Roman Mikulec said that allowing entry to foreigners could undermine efforts to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic. Slovakia has been criticized for its tough lockdown measures, including a 14 day mandatory quarantine at state-run facilities for all returning nationals.
Georgia: Georgian authorities announced plans to ease lockdown restrictions in the capital, Tbilisi, on Monday. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said shops would be allowed to resume operations. Gakharia said Monday’s easing of restrictions is the first step in a staggered plan to return to normality. He added that domestic tourism would resume on June 15 and that foreigners would be allowed to travel to the country as of July 1. “The world knew us as a country with an ancient hospitality tradition, now the world should recognize us as a safe country destination,” said Economy Minister Natia Turnava.
Denmark: The Danish government has announced plans to reopen shops and schools. Stores are allowed to resume operations starting on Monday, the government said. A week later, on May 18, secondary schools would be allowed to open, along with restaurants, bars and cafes. However, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people would remain in place until further notice. Meanwhile, Danish authorities have yet to announce a date to reopen the border. Authorities are expected to make an announcement on the matter by June 1.
19:49 US President Donald Trump said in the Oval Office that he has discussed how to deal with the coronavirus crisis with Germany.
DW asked Trump if he has contacted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for advice regarding how to combat the pandemic.
“We’re very close to Germany. We have a very good relationship with Germany,” he said. “Our countries communicate.”
“Germany has done very [well],” he added. “They have a very low mortality rate like we do.”
Germany’s coronavirus mortality rate is 4.6%, while the rate in the United States is 6.0%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
19:13 Italian authorities reported a major drop in the number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus. The Civil Protection Agency said 274 people died on Thursday compared to 369 the day before. The number of daily infections has also stabilized at around 1,400, according to the state agency.
Italy is considered one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with more than 214,000 infections and nearly 30,000 deaths. It was the first country to enact a nationwide lockdown to curb the outbreak.
The United Kingdom has, however, surpassed Italy in the number of coronavirus-related deaths. London has reported more than 30,600 deaths caused by the deadly pathogen along with 208,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
18:30 WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti called on Madagascar to clinically test a herbal drink that its president, Andry Rajoelina, has claimed cures coronavirus in 10 days.
“We would caution and advise countries against adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy,” said Moeti. “I can understand the need, the drive to find something that can help. But we would very much like to encourage this scientific process in which the governments themselves made a commitment.”
Rajoelina has claimed that Covid-Organics infusion, derived from a plant with proven anti-malarial properties known as artemisia, is a natural way to cure the deadly pathogen.
Rajoelina said “the WHO has indicated that artemisia could lead to a cure for coronavirus,” without providing evidence to show a causal link.
Earlier this week, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize sent out a cautious tweet about the concoction.
“We received a call from the government of Madagascar, who asked for help with scientific research,” Mkhize tweeted. “Our scientists would be able to assist with this research. We will only get involved in a scientific analysis of the herb. We are not at that point yet.”
17:50 German lawmakers voted unanimously in favor of suspending an annual pay raise as Europe’s powerhouse economy struggles with the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The increase, which reflects nationwide wage developments, would have represented a 2.6% raise starting in July. Currently, German lawmakers receive about €10,000 ($10,830) per month.
Michael Grosse-Brömer, chief whip of the center-right CDU/CSU bloc, said it is “completely the wrong time” to move forward with a raise for lawmakers.
Although the German economy is weathering the economic fallout better than most European countries, it still has more than 10 million peopleregistered for the government-supported short-term work program known as Kurzarbeit.
The program allows companies to keep workers on their payroll while the government temporarily covers part of their wages. It is intended to keep people in their jobs while allowing for a smoother resumption of economic activity key during the post-pandemic recovery.
17:40 In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told opposition lawmakers that the government would approach the next phase of coronavirus lockdown with “maximum caution,” said a government spokesperson.
“His priority above all else would be to ‘save lives,'” and to protect the country’s taxpayer-funded National Health Service, the spokesperson added.
Johnson is expected to make a televised speech on Sunday to inform the public of his government’s plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions on public life.
17:15 Bulgaria’s emergency task force has complained that citizens were disregarding the protective measures still in place, a day after the country’s first coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
“A permanent violation of the restrictions has actually been observed,” the head of the task force, Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, told reporters. People should demonstrate responsibility and wear face masks in closed rooms, on public transport and in shops, he added.
On Wednesday, restaurants and cafes were allowed to reopen their outdoor spaces, as long as they implemented strict hygiene rules. These include ensuring a minimum distance of at least 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) between tables and that all employees were wearing face masks.
17:05 French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said France would continue to restrict entry for EU nationals until June 15. For travel originating outside the EU and Schengen zone, travel will be denied in most cases “until further notice,” Castaner said.
Popular destinations, including France’s southern beaches and Alpine lakes, will remain closed until local authorities and government representatives determine it is safe to permit general access. This is expected to be completed on a case-by-case basis.
French Prime Edouard Philippe also said Thursday that the government would reinforce the national lockdown it is partially lifting on Monday if the spread of the new coronavirus accelerates again.
France spearheaded efforts to close the EU’s external borders until the novel coronavirus pandemic eased and member states have the situation under control. It is unclear how long travel restrictions will remain within the EU and Schengen area as most member states have decided on restrictions to mobility unilaterally.
“We were recently notified by the White House Medical Unit that a member of the United States military, who works on the White House campus, has tested positive for coronavirus,” said Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
Gidley said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have since tested negative for the virus and “remain in good health.”
The military aide is believed to be party of a Navy unit that provides valet services for the president.
16:10 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government has struck an agreement with the country’s 10 provinces and three territories to increase pay for essential workers.
“We’re working with the provinces and territories to make sure everyone has what they need to get through these tough times,” Trudeau said. “And today, I’m announcing new support for essential workers across the country.”
He said the government would provide 4 billion Canadian dollars (€2.7 billion, $2.9 billion), which would comprise 75% of the total cost. It is now up to provincial authorities to determine which jobs are considered essential.
15:45 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad postponed parliamentary elections slated for May 20, saying the novel coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible to go forward with the vote at this time, according to state-run media.
Instead, Assad’s decree set the election date for July 19.
Syria’s last parliamentary election took place in 2016. However, anti-government activists maintain that the elections are illegitimate given the ongoing conflict and the inability for millions of Syrian refugees outside the country to participate in the vote.
Syrian authorities have reported 45 confirmed cases of the deadly pathogen and three deaths as a result of COVID-19. However, public health experts have warned that the number of positive cases could be much higher as a result of the government’s inability to scale up testing.
Nearly 400,000 people have died in the conflict in Syria, which erupted in 2011 when government forces launched a brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protesters calling for Assad to release political prisoners and step down. Since then, the war has transformed into a multi-front conflict drawing in non-state actors, regional forces and global superpowers.
15:30 EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the 27-member bloc must go “back to the future” of its open borders project known as the Schengen zone.
In a bid to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic, countries across Europe imposed stringent border controls, effectively choking cross-border travel in the otherwise borderless Schengen zone.
“We now need to get back to the future, back to normality. And we need to do so as soon as the health situation allows it,” said Johansson. “Member states introduced different measures in an uncoordinated manner. Unwinding these different national restrictions will take some time, but we can do it.”
She also called for the inclusion of the EU’s latest member states to be included in the Schengen zone.
“In the long run, we have to do better than return to the status quo,” Johansson said. “We need to update and further strengthen Schengen. To begin with, I want Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to join.”
15:06 German airline Lufthansa said it is continuing talks with the German government for state support as it struggles with the collapse of international travel due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The conditions are currently being discussed,” the airline said. “A stake by the German government in the company’s share capital is also part of the negotiations.”
Lufthansa said it is offering a 25% stake in the company in exchange for government support of €9 billion ($9.7 billion). Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said the company is “losing about a million euros in liquidity reserves per hour.”
Some German officials, including Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, have supported the partial nationalization of Lufthansa. However, the government’s junior coalition partner — the Social Democrats (SPD) — have categorically opposed state aid without strings attached.
“The state is not some idiot that will just hand over money and have no say after that,” the SPD Carsten Schneider told Berlin-based newspaper Die Welt earlier this week.
14:20 The global luxury goods industry is set to collapse with sales expected to drop by up to 35%, according to a study published by the Bain and Company consulting firm.
The study forecasts luxury sales to drop to €189 billion ($204 billion), down from €281 billion in 2019. The pandemic is expected to spur mergers along with acquisitions of weakened brands. However, the pandemic will also change consumer habits going forward, said Bain’s Claudia D’Arpizio.
“The psychological aspects will probably reshape these markets for good. There was already a trend toward frugality, more cautious spending and looking for deeper meaning,” she said. “This does not mean people won’t spend money. They will spend money on brands that stand for something, that really engage them.”
Luxury goods comprise high-end apparel, handbags, footwear, watches and beauty products, according to the study.
13:57 Greece will reopen the Acropolis and other ancient monuments on May 18, officials said on Thursday. The Athens monument was made off limits two months ago in a bid to curb coronavirus infections. Restaurants are to open on June 1 and museums are set to start welcoming guests in mid-June under new hygiene rules, Greek authorities said. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on its tourism sector. With its 10.7 million population, the Mediterranean nation has so far seen 2,663 coronavirus cases and 147 deaths.
13:55 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has dismissed criticism from German Foreign Heiko Maas concerning the US decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a letter seen by Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Despite the funding freeze, the US is “deeply committed to working with the international community to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” Pompeo said. He noted that historically, Washington has been the largest single donor to the UN health agency.
However, Pompeo cited “a string of mismanaged pandemic responses” and “public kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party regime” as reasons behind the suspension in funding.
The US has a “particular interest in (the WHO’s) performance, transparency and accountability,” Pompeo said. “We need functional, reliable global institutions, not dysfunctional, inept bureaucracies.”
Last month, Maas lamented the funding freeze, likening it to “throwing the pilot out of the plane in mid-flight.”
13:43 Italian churches will be able to welcome worshipers for Mass starting May 18, the authorities and the country’s bishops’ conference announced on Thursday. The joint statement ends an emotionally-charged dispute that started late last month when the government announced a gradual easing of the coronavirus lockdown but decided to keep the restrictions on religious gatherings in place.
The bishops responded by saying they could “not accept seeing the exercise of freedom of religion being compromised.”
Most churches in Italy are already open for individual visits. In order to restart communal services under the Thursday deal, church buildings would need to be cleaned according to new hygiene measures and worshipers would be required to maintain a safe distance between one another. The Italian Interior Ministry said it was also in talks with other religious groups about similar arrangements that would allow them to continue communal worship.
Here is our round-up of coronavirus stories from Asia:
China: Amid the global recession, Chinese exports unexpectedly rose 3.5% last month compared to April last year. The jump was partly driven by the country’s sales of medical equipment, such as face masks, and cloth products that can be used to make masks. The daily export value of medical supplies jumped more than threefold last month. However, imports to the country fell 14.2% year on year, a steeper drop than last month, according to the customs agency.
While the export figures defy forecasts and signal optimism for the Chinese economy, the pandemic has shown that “the global supply chain has been proven to be problematic” which could prompt a “structural shift” in trade between China and the rest of the world, Professor Steve Tsang from the SOAS University of London told DW.
Japan: The health authorities in Japan approved remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, the second country to list the US-made anti-viral drug as a treatment after the US. The medication had been delivered to treat Ebola. A US clinical trial on patients infected with the coronavirus showed that the drug could shorten recovery time. However, the use of the drug had no significant effect on mortality rates. A Japanese anti-viral medication, Avigan, is expected to be approved for use in Japan by the end of the month.
The Philippines: The US-UK owned Ruby Princess docked off Manila Bay after unloading its passengers in Sydney last month due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Out of some 2,700 passengers, 650 later tested positive for the new coronavirus. After being moored off Australia, the cruiser has now brought home over 200 of its Filipino crew members. Coast guard teams are now due to board the ship and conduct swab tests. The crew members who test positive would be hospitalized while those who test negative would be asked to go into self-isolation for several days, the authorities said.
South Korea: Korean Air pledged to reopen 19 international routes starting in June, including its links to Washington DC, Frankfurt, Beijing, Toronto, and Kuala Lumpur. It is one of the first companies to announce an uptick in its flights, signaling that the peak of the global pandemic might be over. The flagship airline had suspended over 90 percent of its flights amid the pandemic-triggered restrictions in late March. It currently offers 55 flights per week on 13 international routes compared to over 900 flights and 110 long-haul destinations before the crisis, according to the Korea Times. Turkish Airlines was also mulling a new flight plan this week that would see it gradually restart domestic flights in June and return to normal in the following four months.
Singapore: Health authorities registered 741 new coronavirus infections in Singapore, the vast majority of them migrant workers, putting the country’s total to 20,939. The migrant workers’ community has been bearing the brunt of the pandemic in the wealthy island nation, where the authorities ordered them to isolate in their crowded dormitories.
12:49 Some 3.2 million people were laid off in the United States last week, fresh benefit claims figures have revealed. It is a slight decline from the previous week’s number
The new data brings the total number of claims filed to 33.5 million since the pandemic forced businesses to close their doors in mid-March. That is the equivalent of one in five US citizens. As recently as February, the unemployment rate had reached a 50-year low of just 3.5%.
12:22 Sweden’s death toll has now passed the 3,000 mark, the country’s Public Health Agency announced, far exceeding its Nordic neighbors.
The official death toll in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants has now reached 3,040, up from 2,941 on Wednesday.
The Scandinavian country also has the highest number of infections in the region, registering 24,643 cases in total, more than double that of Denmark and three times Norway’s figure.
Sweden has taken a more lenient approach in dealing with the outbreak, with most schools, shops and restaurants staying open and relying on the public to maintain social distancing and good hygiene.
12:08 The Philippines’ largest broadcaster has asked the Supreme Court to allow it to go back on air 48 hours after its operations were blocked when lawmakers did not renew the media outlet’s franchise.
ABS-CBN Corp, which has been heavily criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte, asked the court to reverse the implementation of the order by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
“The public needs the services of ABS-CBN now more than ever, as the country grapples with the effects of COVID-19,” the network said.
“In this time of public health emergency, ABS-CBN plays a significant role in providing continued employment to thousands of employees and delivering valuable information and entertainment to millions of Filipinos locked down in their homes,” it added in its petition.
11:50 Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown will be lifted on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced, despite the accelerating number of cases in the country.
Khan said the decision had been made because a large number of the country’s workers could not afford to live without being able to go to work.
“We know we are lifting the lockdown at a time when our curve is going up, but it is not edging up as we expected,” Khan said in televised remarks.
This marks the end of a five-week lockdown for Pakistan. The country has reported 24,073 coronavirus cases, with 564 deaths. Thursday saw the highest single-day increase during the outbreak, with 1,523 cases.
11:47 Spain is continuing its downward trend of reported daily infections and fatalities.
Spanish health authorities have reported some 200 new deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, a decrease from Wednesday’s 244, taking the total number of fatalities to just over 26,000. That is down from over 900 deaths a day at the outbreak’s peak. Spain has reported more than 220,000 infections making it, as it stands, Europe’s highest for coronavirus cases.
The country is slowly rolling back its restrictive measures. Children have been allowed to go outside for short walks with parents since April 26 and adults followed last weekend with outings for exercise.
The government’s top virus expert said that any possible upsurge in the number of infections as a result of the loosening of restrictions will be seen in the coming days.
“It is from here on that we should start to see if there are any effects,” Fernando Simon said. “We have not noticed anything yet. We are maintaining the same tendency.”
11:42 The German Football League (DFL) has announced that the Bundesliga season will officially restart on May 16. It is the first European league to resume play since the coronavirus pandemic forced a stop in operations. The DFL said players wouldl adhere to a strict health protocol. Matches are to take place behind closed doors.
11:27 Eight people on a German cruise ship who tested positive for coronavirus are to be taken to hospital, cruise operators have announced. The ship has been docked at the port town of Cuxhaven since April and is carrying thousands of stranded crew members but no passengers.
Around 2,900 crew members of the Tui fleet were housed aboard the boat following delays in returning many to their home countries. After the first positive case on board, all were tested and a further eight cases were confirmed.
The infected crew members will be isolated and treated in a facility near Cuxhaven. The cruise ship operator also said the nine crew members had been given SIM cards so they could contact their family members outside of Germany.
11:09 The German parliament has voted to keep benefits for employees taking parental leave the same, in spite of the lower incomes brought on by the pandemic.
The adoption was passed by a broad majority meaning that, although the benefits are normally commensurate with the salary earned in previous months, those parents whose incomes have been reduced because of the outbreak, will not receive less compensation from the government.
11:00 German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, has warned the crisis is far from over, suggesting the pandemic and its effects on life could last into next year.
Germany has seen a loosening of restrictions recently, with small businesses and schools reopening, but Braun said the battle is still in its infancy. “We are not living after the pandemic now – rather we are living in the middle of a pandemic, one that will be with us for a while – at least for this year and that’s being very optimistic,” Braun told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
10:46 The president of French soccer club Lyon has said he hopes the resumption of the Bundesliga can prompt a rethink about the decision to abandon the season in France.
The top two leagues in Germany have been given the go-ahead to play behind closed doors from May 15 after a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers.
However, the remaining Ligue 1 matches were canceled last month, with Paris Saint-Germain declared champions and Lyon, who were will still in contention for a European place, told they would not be eligible for a Champions League or UEFA Cup berth due to their seventh place finis
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas told sports newspaper L’Equipe: “It might not be too late to imagine … something coherent on a political level,” adding that “by adapting our methods we could probably finish the league.”
Aulas has suggested a playoff system to end the league by late August and threatened to claim millions in damages should the league not resume.
10:30 China is reporting almost no new cases of COVID-19, and the government has been pushing to restart the economy. But returning to work is difficult to reconcile with preventing new outbreaks. How confident are people that they can safely return to a new normal?
DW visited a family in Beijing to see how they are dealing with the push to reopen businesses.
09:50 Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has said that the actual number of infections in the Russian capital was roughly three times higher than official figures have shown. So far, authorities have reported some 92,000 cases whereas Sobyanin has suggested the figure is closer to 300,000, the TASS news agency reported.
The number of cases nationwide currently stands at 177,160, with more than half occurring in Moscow. These latest official figures mean that Russia has now exceeded the number of infections in both Germany and France. The official death toll from COVID-19 is 1,625 but some Kremlin critics have suggested this figure is inaccurate and that it is in fact much higher.
09:32 German industrial output plummeted at a record rate in March as the pandemic in Europe’s biggest economy took hold, according to the Federal Statistics Office (Destatis).
Monthly production contracted 9.2% in March, to register the biggest drop in Germany since records began in 1991. Analysts had expected a fall, but not one quite so substantial.
The Ministry for Economic Affairs warned that worse is to come. “It is to be expected that the drop in production in April will be even steeper,” the ministry said.
09:13 The Vice President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Germany has warned there could be a second wave of infections if people do not uphold social distancing measures.
Lars Schaade made the declaration as Germany’s economy began opening up, with more shops open for business and hairdressers back at work.
The health official’s comments also come on the back of encouraging numbers in terms of the reinfection rate.
09:05 Black people in the UK are far more likely to die of COVID-19 in the UK compared to whites, said the British Office for National Statistics (ONS). People of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, and mixed descent are also at larger risk.
“Black males are 4.2 times more likely to die from a COVID-19-related death and Black females are 4.3 times more likely than White ethnicity males and females,” the ONS said.
The announcement follows a study by University College London that found a smaller, but still large discrepancy in COVID-19 deaths between different ethnic groups.
“It is essential to tackle the underlying social and economic risk factors and barriers to health care that lead to these unjust deaths,” said one on the authors of the analysis, Delan Devakumar.
After adjusting for age and other social and demographic characteristics, the risk for people of African decent was still 1.9 times greater, according to the ONS.
A similar adjustment leaves males in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic group 1.8 times more likely to have a COVID-19-related death, and females 1.6 times more likely compared to their white counterparts.
“These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the ONS said.
08:23 The reinfection rate in Germany is down to 0.65, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has revealed.
The rate is one of the factors that are closely monitored when deciding on contact restrictions.
As recently as last week, RKI had announced the figure had increased to 1.0, after a steady decline, meaning that each infected person is infecting at least one other, on average
The latest figure of 0.65, however, is a significant improvement, meaning that among 100 people who have tested positive for the novel virus, 65 others will be infected by them, suggesting the number of new cases will decrease.
08:02 German police have targeted suspected Islamists in Berlin, suspecting them of illegally securing state aid linked with the coronavirus pandemic.
The police raided homes and vehicles of five people from “the Salafist scene,” authorities said. The group is believed to have “acquired in a fraudulent manner economic aid offered by the city of Berlin.” Sources cited by the Tagesspiegel newspaper said sums between €50,000 and €60,000 ($54,000 – $64.810) were involved.
The suspects were part of the “hard core” extremists attending the Fussilet mosque, which served as a meeting point for Islamists in the German capital before it was closed in early 2017. The mosque had allegedly harbored people wanted by the German authorities, most notably Anis Amri who killed 12 people by driving a truck into a Christmas market in 2016.
The five suspects targeted on Thursday include a former associate of Amri’s and an imam, according to Tagesspiegel.
07:41 A new artwork by street artist Banksy in honor of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has gone on display in a hospital in Southampton, paying tribute to medical staff battling the COVID-19.
The picture shows a boy in dungarees playing with a figurine of a nurse in a superhero cape, discarding Batman and Spiderman in the process, who are both left behind in what appears to be a waste paper basket.
It is an entirely black and white image, entitled “Game Changer,” with the exception being a red cross emblazoned on the nurse’s uniform.
“Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white,” Banksy said in a note for hospital workers.
For now, the artwork will reside at the University Hospital Southampton but the plan is to eventually auction it to raise money for the NHS. In the past, creations from the anonymous artist have fetched millions.
07:30 Coronavirus restrictions have impacted many aspects of daily life … and even the biggest day in many people’s lives. But in Germany, some of those wanting to get married have taken advantage of a creative solution…
07:00 Residents in Beijing are able to travel around China, without having to go into quarantine upon their return, but they will have to use a smartphone app.
At the height of the crisis, locals in the Chinese capital were not even able to make short, commuter journeys. Now they may travel to and from Beijing if they get the green light from the app that they are corona-free.
The so-called Health App is proving particularly popular among those wishing to travel around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan area, formerly known as the economic region of China, as the provinces now recognize each other’s health via QR codes, enabling business workers to commute.
06:24 An increase in tensions between China and the United States is hindering the global battle against the pandemic, the European Union’s ambassador to China has said.
Nicolas Chapuis said during a media briefing that China is in an unique position to help alleviate the increasingly strained relations between Washington and Beijing, as well as further its economic reforms to avoid wrecking international supply chains, the decoupling of leading economies and the surge in protectionism.
“We are seeing high levels of tensions, strategic, economic, political, growing day after day. It is our opinion that these tensions are not conducive to the cooperative spirit we need today,” Chapuis said.
06:00 A number of German politicians have written to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) asking for an end to the border controls in place due to the pandemic, according to German media.
In a joint statement, 12 members of the German and European Parliaments called for the rapid reopening of border crossings, as reported by the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND). “After more than seven weeks, there must be an end to barbed fences and tollgates in the heart of Europe,” the statement reads.
The politicians want the emergency measures lifted by May 15 at the latest.
Earlier this week Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn also wrote to Seehofer to express his displeasure at the restrictions.
“The border closures and controls are causing growing discontent among the population on both sides of the border and risk permanently damaging cross-border coexistence,” Asselborn warned.
05:15 The Philippine economy has contracted for the first time in more than two decades with officials warning it is likely to get worse as the nation struggles with the pandemic.
Gross domestic product fell 0.2% in the first quarter of the year, the worst figure in the Philippines since 1998 as the country joins numerous others in financial meltdown due to widespread lockdowns that have shut down economies.
“Containing the spread of the virus and saving hundreds of thousands of lives, though the imposition of the (quarantine) has come at great cost to the Philippine economy,” Economic Planning Acting Secretary Karl Chua said. He added things could get worse before they get better: “The first quarter, I think, is still respectable given the very difficult environment that we are in. The second quarter might be worse,” he said.
The Philippines has reported more than 10,000 cases while its death toll currently stands at more than 600.
04:23 The United Nations has issued an appeal for $4.7 billion (€4.35 billion) to “protect millions of lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries.”
The money will be in addition to the $2 billion the UN called for when it launched its humanitarian response plan on March 25.
“The most devastating and destabilizing effects will be felt by the world’s poorest countries,” the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said. The plan for the full $6.7 billion prioritises around 20 countries, including Afghanistan and Syria.
“The spectre of multiple famines looms,” Lowcock said. “Extraordinary measures are needed.”
03:15 New Zealand Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson says that the country could restart professional sport as early as next week. The move would make New Zealand the first major rugby nation to resume playing the sport at an elite level.
New Zealand will decide on Monday whether to move the alert “Level 3” to “Level 2.” The nation has been relatively successful in containing COVID-19, and eased some restrictions last week, allowing 400,000 people to return to work.
03:00 Outside of the US, here’s the latest from the Americas:
Brazil: The country saw its largest rise in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, with 10,503 new cases and 615 fatalities in the last 24 hours. Brazil’s health minister acknowledged for the first time that lockdowns are necessary to control the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, the spokesman of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the threat of the virus, tested positive for COVID-19, raising concerns about Bolsonaro’s exposure.
Colombia: President Ivan Duque declared a second state of emergency to help companies that were shut down to slow the spread of the virus. Duque said he would use the 30-day emergency to enact measures to help small and medium-sized companies, including subsidizing up to 40% of employees’ salaries and postponing income tax payments until the end of this year. Colombia has logged over 8,600 cases and nearly 400 deaths.
Panama: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Panama rose by 208 for a total of 7,731 on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said. The number of deaths climbed as well, bringing the current total of fatalities in the Central American country to 218.
Costa Rica: The government is currently embroiled in a spat with El Salvador over testing figures. Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele has accused Costa Rica of purposefully carrying out fewer tests to keep its case figures low. Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry expressed “concern” over Bukele’s comments and defended its testing practices. Costa Rica has had relative success in containing the virus, reporting no new deaths in over two weeks — although its daily test total is only half of what it was at the end of March.
El Salvador: Public transportation across El Salvador will be suspended starting on Thursday. The suspension will last for 15 days, the government said. El Salvador has enacted some of the strictest measures in the Americas to curb the spread of the virus and has been carrying out more tests than some of its neighbors.
Mexico: Mexico’s government plans to cut funds for women’s shelters, despite a spike in domestic violence cases since lockdowns went into effect. The cuts, which are part of an austerity drive to soften the economic blow of the virus, would primarily affect counselling centers for indigenous women. Activists say cutting funds would harm women seeking help while only saving the government up to $40,000. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador flatly denied that violence against women has risen during the crisis, despite data from the government’s domestic violence hotline which suggests otherwise.
Canada: The province of British Columbia will start reopening its economy in mid-May. The provincial government said it would provide guidelines on how stores, restaurants and hair salons can safely reopen. The Pacific Coast province recorded Canada’s first COVID-19 death, but the number of new cases has since dropped off.
02:48 Germany has reported 1,284 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total number of infections to 166,091, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed on Thursday. The country’s death toll has risen by 123 to 7,119. The latest figures are an increase from the 947 new cases logged a day prior, with the number of new cases rising steadily over the past three days.
01:50 Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, has provided administrative assistance to other authorities more than 200 times as part of government efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, according to a report in the Rheinische Post newspaper. The assistance ranges from transporting masks — the Bundeswehr transported 10 million masks from China to Germany during the month of April — to manufacturing disinfectants and controlling access to clinics. Eighty-two assistance measures have already been carried out, 121 are ongoing and 33 more are planned, according to the newspaper report.
01:00 More than 500 cases of coronavirus in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been linked to a fruit and vegetable market in the city of Chennai. Health officials have traced contacts and quarantined over 7,000 people linked to the Koyambedu wholesale market, which is one of the biggest such markets in Asia.
Fearing food shortages, authorities had allowed the market to remain open during India’s six-week lockdown. Now, some shops are to be relocated to the city’s suburbs so that the supply does not stop completely.
00:44 German cities and municipalities estimate the coronavirus crisis will lead to revenue losses of €40 to 60 billion ($43.1 to $64.7 billion).
“The tax revenues, especially the business tax, are plummeting dramatically,” Gerd Landsberg, the head of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), told the daily Bild newspaper.
Other sources of funds like museums, public transportation and swimming pools have also dried up — and covering the missing billions won’t be possible for towns to do by themselves.
Local governments rely on tax revenues to fund basic services, including the local health departments which have been working nonstop since the pandemic began.
Landsberg urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to approve a safety net for local municipalities.
He suggested the federal government take over some of the costs that currently fall under the responsibility of local leaders — such as covering the housing costs for people on welfare.
00:03 The United Nations says that the COVID-19 crisis has hampered drug trafficking around the world, leading to shortages of illegal drugs in several countries.
These shortages could have serious consequences for users as they turn to dangerous synthetic drugs, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report published Thursday.
Heroin, in particular, is in short supply in Europe, North America and Southwest Asia. Drug shortages in the past have also led to a rise in sharing needles, which can spread hepatitis and HIV as well as COVID-19.
The UN also warned that organized crime rings and drug traffickers are exploiting the pandemic “to enhance their image among the population by providing services, in particular to the vulnerable.”
00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: US plans to stand down COVID-19 task force
jsi, rs, tg/rt (DW; AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)