November 25, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: German health institute advises slow reopening

  • New York Governer Cuomo says the WHO moved too slowly to help countries prepare
  • The UN human rights chief criticizes use of crisis to arrest journalists and restrict information
  • Face coverings will be mandatory in public places throughout Germany as of Monday
  • Bavaria will introduce a fine of up to €5,000 ($5,400) for violation of mask rules
  • German airline Lufthansa has said it is likely to shed 10,000 jobs due to the impact of the pandemic

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:59 We are now closing this live updates article.

21:36  Here is the latest from across Europe:

France: The French government is set to give a €7 billion ($7.6 billion) aid package to its flagship airline Air France KLM and was also working on a package worth around €5 billion in government-backed loans for the car maker Renault. In exchange for the aid, the airline is expected to follow environmental criteria and present a plan to reduce its CO2 emissions. French Finance Minister Brune Le Maire said the state was aiming to support the Air France. At the same time, he noted the French government was not thinking about retaking ownership of the company, where the state still holds a 15.9% stake.

The Netherlands: Dutch Eredivisie football league canceled the remainder of the season, becoming the first top-tier league in Europe to do so. Eredivisie also said no champion would be declared. The Amsterdam-based Ajax was leading the standings when the games were suspended amid the escalating pandemic. The club was tied on points with AZ Alkmaar, but ahead of them on goal difference. Previously, Dutch Premier Mark Rutte said that large public events, including football games, would remain suspended until September.

Germany: The nation’s relative success in the fight against the coronavirus “cannot lead to a landslide of further relaxations of restrictions,”  said Lars Schaade, vice-president of the official Robert Koch Institute. With over 2,300 new cases reported in Germany on Friday, Schaade added that the number would need to drop to a few hundred a day before the country can consider easing any more of the restrictions. Earlier this week, the German government opened some businesses and stores and more restrictions are set to be lifted in early March.

Slovenia: Hundreds of employees in Slovenia’s nursing homes protested against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. The staff claim the state is not doing enough to help them fight the disease, with its reaction amounting to “systemic discrimination against the elderly.” They also accused the health ministry of refusing to transfer the infected residents to hospitals. “We will not remain silent while (the authorities), by using the coronavirus as a cover, try to transform care homes into cheap nursing hospitals.” Health Minister Tomaz Gantar dismissed the protest, which lasted for about 15 minutes and involved over 70 nursing homes, as “politically motivated.”

Belgium: The gradual lifting of lockdown measures in Belgium should start on May 4, with the government allowing gatherings of up to 10 people. Athletes would be allowed to train and public transport would return to its usual mode of operation, according to the national broadcaster RTBF. Non-essential shops are set to opening on May 11, and schools in Flanders to start work from May 15. Separately, the country’s top football league signaled it would nix the rest of the season.

RussiaThe Russian military has created a combat group of over 30,000 people to tackle the coronavirus crisis, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu. The country also has over 200 soldiers combating the pandemic outside Russia’s borders. In a separate statement, the military said that five medical teams arrived to the Moscow region on Friday to “help the civilian colleagues with treating patients suffering from viral infections.” The teams have been trained “to work in the new epidemiological conditions.” Meanwhile, health officials reported a sharp rise in Moscow mortality rates, which jumped from 21 deaths last Friday to 41 reported today.

18:36 Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France will give a €7 billion ($7.6 billion) aid package for Air France KLM and that it was also working on an aid deal worth some €5 billion for car manufacturer Renault in the form of government-backed loans.

France will issue €3 billion in direct loans and guarantees on another 4 billion in bank lending for Air France, the minister said.

“Air France’s planes are grounded, so we need to support Air France,” Le Maire said on France’s TF1 television, adding that the aid would come with conditions attached designed to make the company “become the most environmentally friendly airline on the planet.”

In exchange for the aid, KLM is expected to  comply with environmental criteria and present a plan to reduce its CO 2 emissions.

But a full nationalization of Air France was not on the agenda, Le Maire said, in reference to a formerly state-owned company that the government still has a 15.9% stake in.

18:25 German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said that the Bundeswehr has already provided medical or logistical assistance in almost 200 cases during the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany’s armed forces had to date received 450 requests for help, the minister said in an interview with German public broadcaster SWR. Kramp-Karrenbauer said that many requested protective equipment and medical personnel support. 

The minister said that the Bundeswehr, in addition to the support it offers to medical institutions, has also begun helping to support nursing homes, refugee accommodation centers. One of the tasks it’s assisting with in these venues is tracing coronavirus infection chains during the pandemic.

The Bundeswehr is also helping with the international transfers of patients, and is expecting to receive tons of relief supplies from China next week. Meanwhile, defense units are helping to distribute disinfectant. 

The armed forces is considering whether to deploy more than 32 000 soldiers to support communities throughout Germany during the coronavirus crisis.

17:10 The Eredivisie top-flight football league in the Netherlands has become the first in Europe to cancel the remainder of its season, bosses announced. They also declared that no champion would be declared this season, with Ajax only a whisker ahead in the standings when the coronavirus stopped play last month.

Ajax had been tied on points with second-place AZ Alkmaar, but ahead on goal difference. The Dutch soccer federation, the KVNB, has said it will award its Champions League and Europa League slots for next season based on the current standings.

Earlier in the week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had said that large gatherings, including soccer matches, would be banned until September 1.

Neighboring Belgium has also nixed the rest of its season, but that decision has not yet been ratified.

16:50 The press secretary for US President Donald Trump has said that his comments on Thursday about bleach and household cleaners was taken “out of context” by the pundits, journalists, and scientists who were flabbergasted by it during a press briefing.

Trump himself later said that the comments were intended to be “sarcastic.”

Trump said he had “seen disinfectant, where it knocks [the virus] out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.”

While making the comments, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Deborah Brix could be seen to recoil in horror, and the strange remark made the rounds on social media, late night comedy shows, and prompted experts and the makers of household cleaners to issue statements telling people not to inject these products.

On Friday, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the disinfectant headlines ridiculous, saying Trump has always told Americans to “consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment.”

“Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context,” she said. 

16:15 New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, typically at odds with President Trump, has said that maybe the president was correct in criticizing the initial response of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the coronavirus outbreak, and that WHO did move too slowly at first to help countries around the world prepare for the virus.

By focusing on China, Cuomo said, the US had “shut the front door” to China, but “left the back door open,” to visitors from other countries. This was especially relevant for hard-hit New York, the governor said, because it was now clear that the virus had entered the state from Europe and not from Asia.

However, by the time world political and health leaders had made the severity of the situation clear, Cuomo said that the “horse had already left the barn” in his state, which has become the worst-hit in the US.

New York, a major hub of US business, will likely see its revenue fall by $13.3 billion due to the pandemic, he said. He added that deaths had decreased slightly in the state at 422 on Friday, following 438 fatalities on Thursday.

15:30 Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has said that the German airline is likely to shed 10,000 jobs due to the reduction in travel and flights caused by the pandemic. He also said the company’s flight of aircraft would shrink by about 100 planes.

Spohr said it would take until 2023 for the company to reach equilibrium again.

Before the crisis, Europe’s largest airline had about 130,000 employees and 760 planes. On Thursday, the firm announced a 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) operating loss for the first quarter of 2020 and said it was seeking government funds from Germany, as well as Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland, where its subsidiaries are headquartered.

15:10  The US Navy destroyer Kidd has been hit by an outbreak of COVID-19 on board, US officials have told news agency Reuters.

Over a dozen sailors tested positive for the virus, according to the report. The vessel is currently on a mission to combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean.

This follows weeks after another Navy vessel, US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosvelt, reported an outbreak onboard. The captain of Theodore Roosvelt, Brett Crozier, was fired after his appeal for more help from his superiors leaked to the public.

More recently, French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was forced to return to port with hundreds of sailors testing positive for the virus.

15:00 German icebreaker Polarstern is to suspend its drift around Arctic ice and rendezvous with two other German research ships in May due to the pandemic.

For several months, the research vessel has been drifting with an ice floe around the North Pole. The year-long mission started in September 2019 and fresh crews were set to be taken aboard every two months.

The ship’s mission was called MOSAiC, meaning Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate

With the COVID-19 pandemic grounding planes across the globe, however, the replacement team could not reach the ship in April.

Instead, Sonne and Maria S Meria will transport the 100-member team to the rendezvous spot at the ice edge in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Polarstern is then set to return to the ice and continue its research after a three-week hiatus.

The ship is part of the MOSAiC misison, which stands for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate.

14:40 Another 684 people died of COVID-19 in UK hospitals, putting the total death toll at 19,506, according to the latest daily update. The latest daily jump is larger that the 616 deaths reported on Thursday, but remains below 759 fatalities reported on Wednesday, when Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country “reached the peak” of the wave.

The country also confirmed 5,386 new cases, bringing the infection tally to 143,464.

Addressing the public on Friday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the pandemic was “the biggest global threat the world has faced in a generation.”

13:45 One of two entities in Bosnia & Herzegovina declared it would loosen some of its lockdown measures after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that citizens’ rights were being violated.

Citizens older than 65 will be allowed to go outside at certain times on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, after the government in the Bosniak-Croat federation previously banned them from leaving their homes altogether.

Youths under 18, subjected to similar restrictions, can now move in public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during their own time window.

The entity government also lifted a general nighttime curfew and mandatory quarantine for people traveling from abroad.

However, officials warned that social distancing measures would stay in place.

The Balkan country is sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines. The movement ban on people over 65 and the nighttime curfew remain in effect in its other entity, Republika Srpska.

12:40 Lysol has become the latest disinfectant manufacturer to discredit US President Donald Trump’s speculation that injecting disinfectant into the bloodstream could help fight coronavirus.

Trump wondered aloud on Thursday whether the injection of disinfectants would have an adverse effect on the coronavirus. “It would be interesting to check that,” he said at a White House briefing.

Health experts were quick to refute and mock the idea. The maker of Lysol and Dettol issued a statement to combat “recent speculation” on the issue.

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),'” said the statement from Reckitt Benckiser.

12:00 Greek prosecutor has launched an investigation into whether criminal charges should be pressed against the management of two private clinics in Athens after a number of patients and staff at the facilities were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Health authorities are still taking samples at the clinics and fear many more cases will be confirmed.

“The virus is very easily transmitted, especially in health facilities,” said Health Ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras.

“I’m sorry to say that careless behavior leads to new outbreaks. If we continue like this, we will have no rest,” he added.

Greece reported a new spike in cases on Thursday with 55 new cases, 28 from one of the clinics.

The total number of those infected is 2,463 and 127 people have died in the country.

11:55 The German state of Bavaria will introduce a fine of up to €5,000 ($5,400) for violation of mask rules, according to Germany’s dpa news agency.

The highest penalty will be faced by shop owners who do not ensure that their employees cover their noses and mouths. People in shops or on public transport with no face masks can face fines of up to €150.

Bavaria is Germany’s worst-hit state, with nearly 40,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,500 deaths.

All 16 of Germany’s states will make face coverings in public places mandatory, starting on Monday.

11:25 The UK government’s new coronavirus testing website has been overwhelmed by demand in its first hours online.

The website should allow essential workers to directly book a coronavirus test, after criticism that the UK government has been making it difficult for front-line workers to be tested.

However, hours after it was launched at 6 a.m. on Friday, the website showed an error message: “You can’t currently register for a Covid-19 test. Please check back here later.”

The Department of Health and Social Care wrote on Twitter: “There has been significant demand for booking tests today. We apologise for any inconvenience. We are continuing to rapidly increase availability. More tests will be available tomorrow.”

11:15 The death toll in Switzerland has reached 1,309, seeing a relatively small rise in new deaths from 1,268 the day before. The number of positive tests increased from 28,496 to 28,677.

Switzerland will begin relaxing lockdown restrictions on April 27 with the reopening of some businesses. Switzerland is also launching a nationwide study into COVID-19 immunity, to try to see how much of the population has antibodies to coronavirus.

11:10 The UN human rights chief has criticized countries that have used the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to arrest journalists and restrict the flow of information.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, lamented that some countries were using the pandemic as a “pretext to restrict information and stifle criticism.

“This is no time to blame the messenger,” she said.

“A free media is always essential, but we have never depended on it more than we do during the pandemic when so many people are isolated and fearing for their health and livelihoods,” she added.

More than 130 alleged media violations have been reported since the outbreak began, and more than 40 journalists have been arrested or charged for criticizing countries’ pandemic response plans. Bachelet warned the real number is probably much higher.

10:27 Spain has recorded 367 new deaths in the last 24 hours from COVID-19, its lowest daily toll in a month.

The total number of fatalities in Spain now stands at 22,524, the Health Ministry said in its daily briefing. The overall number of coronavirus cases rose to 219,764 from 213,024 the day before.

The number of those who have recovered in the last 24 hours has exceeded that of newly infected individuals for the first time since the start of the crisis. Spain continues in its efforts to flatten the infection curve through strict lockdown measures. There were 3,105 who recovered from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours compared to 2,796 people who contracted the virus.

09:30 The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany needs to fall to a few hundred a day before the country can consider easing lockdown restrictions any further, an official from Germany’s public health agency said.

Lars Schaade, vice-president of the Robert Koch Institute, described the paradoxical situation in Germany. He said the country is coping well with the pandemic, in comparison to other countries, and that has people questioning the necessity of restrictions public life.

“We cannot become negligent,” said Schaade. “This cannot lead to a landslide of further relaxations of restrictions.”

Germans should not expect that the current relaxations in restrictions will lead to an immediate “landslide” of further reopenings, the institute warned. Officials at the Robert Koch Institute also said that any reopening of the German football league the Bundesliga would not be “sensible” any time soon.

The Robert Koch Institute is responsible for compiling figures on cases and deaths.

Germany recorded 2,337 new cases on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 150,383. The death toll rose by 227 to 5,321.

08:50 Some 55% of Germans approve the measures taken by regional authorities to gradually lift coronavirus lockdown measures, the recent Politbarometer poll by public broadcaster ZDF showed. While 13% said they wanted to see more efforts in reopening, 30% felt that “too much” was being loosened. 

Public opinion on the reopening of schools mirrored that figure. Some 53% approved the upcoming partial reopening of schools, 12% wanted them fully reopened, while 32% felt that all schools should currently be closed.

But a vast majority of 94% agreed with banning large events until August and more than two-thirds, 68%, felt it was too soon to reopen restaurants and bars. Some 60% also agreed that church services with crowds should not be allowed just yet.

Germans are also worried about the economy, with 73% saying they expect an economic downturn to follow.

08:33 The feeling among companies in Germany has become “extraordinarily dire,” according to the ifo Institute at the University of Munich.

Germany’s Business Climate Index has crashed like “never before” since the country first began recording cases earlier this year. The economic downturn went up a notch when lockdown and social distancing measures were introduced in March, grinding German business to a halt.

The financial crash caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak saw the index rating suffer an unprecedented collapse from 96.0 points in February to 86.1 points in March.

An official statement from the ifo Institute said: “This is the steepest fall ever recorded since German reunification and the lowest value since July 2009. Companies’ expectations, in particular, have darkened as never before. Assessments of the current situation have also worsened considerably. The German economy is in shock.”

Adding to the bad news, German unemployment is set to rise by around 520,000 and exceed 3 million this year, the IAB labor market research institute said.

In a research paper published on Friday, the institute said it expected Germany’s economic output to shrink by 8.4% in 2020 as a result of the effects of the coronavirus, making it the worst recession since World War 2.

07:55 Indonesia has suspended domestic air and sea travel for more than a month in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The ban came into force to coincide with the beginning of Ramadan in the Muslim-majority country. Authorities were concerned about increased travel for the “homecoming” festival Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Last year, around 15 million Indonesians traveled to their hometowns from the capital of Jakarta.

Travel within Jakarta, which has a population of 30 million, will still be allowed, with strict social distancing measures.

International flights will still operate for foreigners who are returning to their countries, while domestic passenger flights will stop operating after Friday.

07:25 European Commissioner for Industry Thierry Breton has announced the EU is heading this year towards a 5%-10% economic contraction.

The Frenchman painted the gloomy outlook for the 27-member bloc in an interview with France 2 television. He said: “As of today, in the European Union, we’re on course for a 5% to 10% (recession), meaning it’s about 7.5%. But that is today, and if things don’t improve and if we have a second peak (of the outbreak), things could get worse.”

07:05 The Alpine ski resort at the center of Austria’s biggest cluster of coronavirus cases has revealed it wants to move away from “party tourism” as life slowly begins to return to normal after living under quarantine measures for over a month.

The ski resort of Ischgl, which lies near the borders of both Italy and Switzerland, has described itself as the “Ibiza of the Alps.” It is now clear that in excess of 800 cases in Austria can be traced back to Ischgl and the surrounding Paznaun Valley. In February and early March, the virus found a breeding ground in crowded après-ski bars. Hundreds of foreign visitors were also infected in Ischgl and then unwittingly took the virus back home.

“We will question developments of the past years and, where necessary, make corrections,” Ischgl Mayor Werner Kurz said in a statement issued by the tourism authority for his town and the Paznaun Valley, which on Thursday emerged from a quarantine that began on March 13.

Kurz said the town’s image was not fair as it is far more than just a party destination, but he said he would collaborate with local businesses to work on the new transformations.

“That means more quality and less party tourism, prioritizing skiers and fewer day-trippers on buses who only come to party,” the tourism authority said. “We are also thinking with all businesses about what an upmarket après-ski culture can look like.”

06:50 In New Zealand, a judge has dismissed a second man’s case that the country’s coronavirus lockdown is keeping him unlawfully detained.

The man was the second to sue Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Civil Defense controller Sarah Stewart-Black over the lockdown. The pair, in cases that Judge Mary Peters described as “virtually identical,” asked for a writ of habeas corpus, which seeks to determine the legality of an imprisonment.

Peters said the man was not subject to detention in the eyes of the law, and pointed out that even if she were wrong, “the detention is lawful.”

06:35 A spike in reported infections in the Indian state of Maharashtra has thrust the country to a record 24-hour high on the eve of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

Health authorities announced Friday that Maharashtra recorded 778 new cases on Thursday, bringing India’s total number of confirmed cases to 22,930.

The country home to 1.3 billion people registered 1,680 new cases on Thursday, its biggest single-day jump since April 19, a day before India relaxed some restrictions on industry that were initially put in place on March 24.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke up for the Indian people who are bravely fighting the outbreak with limited resources, but warned the country has to be self-sufficient for meeting its needs.

Speaking to India’s village council heads via video conferencing, Modi said the country cannot afford to look outward to meet a crisis of this dimension in the future and that self-reliance is the biggest lesson to be learned from the epidemic. India has been importing a lot of critical medical supplies from China since it recorded its first case at the end of January.

India’s strict nationwide lockdown that began on March 25 is set to come to an end on May 3.

06:30 South Korea has announced it will begin to start strapping electronic wristbands on people who ignore orders to quarantine at home.

Deputy Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said those who refuse to wear the bands after breaking quarantine will be sent to special shelters to quarantine, where they will have to pay for their accommodation.

Around 46,300 people in South Korea are currently in self-quarantine. The government began enforcing a 14-day quarantine on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1. Quarantined individuals were previously forced to download a tracker app, but some had evaded prosecution by simply leaving their phones at home.

The new wristband will alert authorities if people leave their home or attempt to remove the bands.

Wristbands like these have been used in Hong Kong for over a month to track those arriving from overseas. Contact tracing through surveillance of cell phone data and apps has been used in Singapore and Taiwan to make sure people stick to quarantine. Western countries like the United States are considering trialing technological solutions to enforce quarantine for contact tracing.

06:18 China has not registered any new COVID-19 deaths for the ninth day in a row while reporting just six new cases of the deadly virus that first became apparent at the turn of the year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Two of the new cases were brought from outside China, with three domestic infections in Heilongjiang on the Russian border and one in the south of the country, in Guangdong.

Hospitals are still treating 915 people with COVID-19, 57 of whom are believed to be in a serious condition.  Some 999 citizens are being isolated and monitored as either suspected cases or for having tested positive despite not showing any symptoms. The coronavirus death toll in China remains at 4,632 among 82,804 cases.

06:05 Hungary plans to replace lockdown measures currently in place with an alternative version that is more focused on the elderly rather than a blanket curfew as is currently being imposed on residents at the moment.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban revealed the plans on state radio, saying the new rules, which will come into effect in early May, will focus on the elderly, the sick and those living in big cities, as those people are exposed to a disproportionate measure of risk to the virus.

The Hungarian prime minister also predicted a “fast recovery” for the country’s economy, that has been in slowdown since the outbreak began, while emphasizing “work is everything.”

05:20 The Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE) said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed poor cooking skills among Germans.

“We’ve known for years that cooking competence has drastically declined in Germany,” BVE General Manager Christoph Minhoff said.

But with social distancing closing restaurants and keeping residents off the streets, Germans have flocked to grocery stores and gotten back in the kitchen.

“People are rather dramatically forced to rely on their own culinary skills now that the offerings of fast food restaurants, French fries stands and the Italian restaurant around the corner are not an option,” said Minhoff. 

“Now people stand in supermarkets and ask themselves, ‘OK, how do I make a burger myself?'” Minhoff added. He said this phenomenon helped explain the shortage of certain products in supermarkets in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis.

The BVE chief argued that many people have gotten accustomed to eating pre-prepared food, from fast-food restaurants, canteens or bakeries, due to Germany’s work-intensive society.

05:00 Germany‘s registered a rise of 2,337 new coronavirus cases, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. It was a slight decrease in a tally that had been rising for three straight days. 

The new figures bring the overall total of COVID-19 cases to 150,383. Meanwhile, the death toll in Germany rose by 227 to a total of 5,321.

RKI figures rely on data from state and local health officials and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from other published statistics, such as those from the Johns Hopkins University.

04.00 Here’s a roundup of the latest from North and South America:

The US Congress on Thursday passed a $484 billion spending package that expands federal loans to small and medium-sized businesses closed by coronavirus, allowing them to continue paying workers. The package also provides funding for hospitals to expand testing.

New York state survey announced Thursday tested 3,000 people and revealed that nearly 14% had developed coronavirus antibodies. If these numbers indicate the true percentage of infection within the population, it would mean that 2.6 million people in New York state have already come in contact with the virus, which is a much larger number than the 250,000 confirmed cases.

Brazil has recorded 407 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours, the country’s highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. Latin America’s most populous country now has 3,313 deaths and nearly 49,500 cases, the country’s health ministry said.  Despite the increasing death toll, right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro continues to express opposition to movement restrictions and social distancing measures imposed by state governors.

Mexico’s health ministry said Thursday that more than 1,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the first case was reported in the country in late February. Over 11,600 people have tested positive for the virus.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday criticized harassment faced by the transgender community in Panama over a gender-based quarantine protocol. According to the guidelines, women and men are permitted to leave the house to buy essential goods on different days of the week. In a letter to Panama’s government, HRW said that transgender people were being harassed by authorities as their gender identity didn’t “conform” to the quarantine schedule.

Ecuador added 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections from a backlog of testing, which is twice as high as previously confirmed. The new number of infections is now more than 22,000. Health officials had previously reported just under 12,000 cases and 560 deaths. It was also revealed that more than 1,000 additional people who weren’t tested likely died from the virus.

Venezuela has experienced two days violent protests in several parts of the country over food and gas shortages that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, a human rights group reported a 29-year-old man was shot and killed during riots in the town of Upata.

02:45 William Bryan, science and technology advisor to the US Department of Homeland Security told a press briefing Thursday that “emerging results” from experiments conducted at a government biocontainment lab in Maryland showed that sunlight could possibly kill SARS-CoV-2. on surfaces and in the air. 

“We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus,” said Bryan. 
But as the research has not yet been released for peer review, it will be difficult for independent experts to back up the claims. The intensity of UV light used in the experiment, and how closely the wavelengths resemble natural light from the sun are two important questions. 

“I’m here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good, and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned,” said US President Donald Trump.

00:00 The US Congress on Thursday passed a $484 billion spending package that expands federal loans to small and medium-sized businesses closed by coronavirus, allowing them to continue paying workers. The package also provides funding for hospitals to expand testing.Catch up on Thursday’s coronavirus news here. 

Following a European Council video summit on Thursday dealing with the bloc’s response to the social and economic impact of the coronavirus, leaders from the EU’s 27 member states have agreed that a large recovery fund will be necessary, but did not reach a conclusion on specifics like the size of the fund or how it will be financed.

Member States asked the EU Commission to “analyze the exact needs and to urgently come up with a proposal” for the recovery fund, which would be of “a sufficient magnitude,” said the head of the European Council, Charles Michel.

Michel said the bloc signed off on a “Joint Roadmap for Recovery,” which calls for an “unprecedented investment effort,” Member states also endorsed a previous deal on a shorter-term €540 billion package and called for it to be operational by the beginning of June.

After the video summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will need to pay more into the EU budget after the coronavirus crisis subsides.

Italy is leading a charge for so-called coronabonds, which would allow poorer EU countries to take out cheap loans with the richer ones providing necessary guarantees. Germany is opposed to the joint-borrowing scheme.

In New York, a sample test of 3,000 people revealed that nearly 14% had developed coronavirus antibodies, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

If these numbers indicate the true percentage of infection within the population, it would mean that 2.6 million people in New York state have already been infected, which is a much larger number than the 250,000 confirmed cases.

“If the infection rate is 13.9%, then it changes the theories of what the death rate is if you get infected,” Cuomo said, adding that determining immunity rates in populations is critical for reopening the state’s economy.

(DW)