September 19, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Germany’s infection rate climbs again


Ast EU internal borders are set to reopen, Germany’s seven-day virus reproduction rate is on the rise. Meanwhile, fears are mounting over fresh virus clusters in China’s capital, Beijing.


  • Germany’s seven-day virus reproduction rate has risen to 1.09
  • Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged Germans  to be cautious when traveling abroad once travel warnings are lifted
  • President Emmanuel Macron says France has scored its “first victory” against the coronavirus
  • More than 7.8 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally, with more than 431,000 deaths

All times in GMT/UTC 

21:03 Britain on Sunday recorded the lowest daily coronavirus-related fatalities since March. The country reported 36 new deaths, taking the total toll to 41,698. 

Official statistics could, however, show a drop over the weekend because of delays in registering deaths.

The total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic is also likely to be higher than 50,000 if all deaths in which the virus is the suspected cause are included. 

The total number of infections rose by 1,514 to 295,889.

20:00 Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said the smartphone app to trace coronavirus infections is ready to be launched this week.

“It’s coming this week,” Spahn told ARD television, but declined to confirm German media reports that the app would be launched on Tuesday.

The app was delayed to ensure the Bluetooth technology would work at the correct distance.

The German government says the app will be useful to help avoid a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

The app can detect and contact people at risk of coronavirus infection and does not rely on a centralized database. Deutsche Telekom and software company SAP are involved in the app development.

Italy launched a similar app last week.

Spahn also urged Germans to be cautious when traveling abroad once travel warnings are lifted on Monday. He said that people need to be careful and should only travel if the trip is necessary.

Germany lifts its blanket travel warning for European Union nations and Britain on Monday.

“We need the right balance,” Spahn said, adding that the mass gatherings and church services have caused a spike in the coronavirus cases.

19:45 Turkey’s daily number of new coronavirus cases has risen above 1,500, following the easing of lockdown restrictions at the start of June.

On Sunday, Health minister Fahrettin Koca admitted that the country is ”moving away from the target.”

Koca tweeted that 1,562 new cases were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily figure since June 3.

Our number of recovered patients fell below the number of new cases. The need for intensive care and respiratory equipment is rising,” the minister said.

After the easing of restrictions, Turkey has seen the number of new infections outstrip recoveries

Turkey also reported 15 new deaths due to COVID-19, taking the total to 4,807 with 178,239 recorded coronavirus cases.

19:15 Bulgaria is set to relax coronavirus measures from Monday, despite a recent sharp increase in cases sparking fears of a second infection wave.

Wearing face masks in indoor public areas, such as shops, will no longer be obligatory in the Balkan country. Nightclubs will also be allowed to reopen. Conferences and congresses can go-ahead and indoor sporting and training events will be permitted.

Social-distancing and other hygiene measures should continue to be observed, said the government. Face masks will still have to be worn on public transport and in pharmacies and hospitals.

The roll-back of restrictions comes as Bulgaria set a new national record for the number of infections recorded in one week. Between June 8 and 14 there were 555 new cases registered – the most since the outbreak erupted.

The country is probably experiencing a second wave, reported German press agency dpa, citing Angel Kunchev, the country’s chief health inspector.

Latest figures show a total of 3,266 cases and 172 deaths in the country of almost 7 million people.

18:25 President Emmanuel Macron has urged French citizens to prepare for the risks of a possible return of COVID-19, as France enters the “Green Zone,” a lower state of alert starting Monday, meaning that cafes and restaurants in the French capital can open in full and not just on terraces.

The French president said the new stage will allow the country to accelerate the reopening of the economy, adding that France has scored its “first victory” against the coronavirus.

“The fight against the epidemic is not finished but I am happy about this first victory against the virus,” Macron said in an address to the nation.

Macron urged people to respect social distancing rules and learn how to live with the novel coronavirus, which has so far infected over 157,000 people and killed more than 29,000 people in France.

France must build a strong, independent, ecologically sound, and equitable economy, Macron said, adding that the French reconstruction plan will be conducted as part of a wider European rebuilding.

18:18 Egypt will reopen all its airports on July 1, the civil aviation minister has said, with tourism to be allowed again only in specific areas of the country.

Regular international flights were suspended in March in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Air traffic at all the airports in the republic will start back up “with countries that will reopen with us,” Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar Anba told a news conference.

International tourism would be limited to resorts in three coastal provinces, added Anba.

On Thursday, the government announced it would reopen Egypt’s main holiday resorts for international flights and foreign tourists from July 1.

17:34 Thousands of people have formed a socially-distanced human chain through Berlin, in a protest against racism, discrimination, and social inequality.

Organizers of the “Indivisible” demonstrate told participants to wear protective face masks and stand apart from each other.

A human chain usually sees participant linking hands or arms, but this time protesters forming the nine-kilometer (5 ½-mile) chain were linked by colored ribbons, forming what organizers called a “ribbon of solidarity”

People appeared to keep to the hygiene restrictions during the event, which lasted just over an hour.

Police put the number of participants at about 5,000, while organizers estimated it at over 20,000. There were smaller demonstrations in other German cities.


Berlin recently lifted coronavirus-related limits on the number of people who can attend demonstrations, though people are still required to keep at least 1.5 meters (five feet) apart in public.

16:54 A cluster of 112 coronavirus infections and one death have been traced to a church in the north German port city of Bremerhaven.

The 75-year-old congregation member died on Thursday at home, said the city in a statement. It was only established that he had the virus after his death. Authorities are currently tracing contact people.

The outbreak was linked to a Pentecost service that took place in early June. The Bremen health ministry announced the cluster of infections on Friday – at the time, the number of infections was reported at 44, but the number has risen since. Around 150 people are thought to have attended the church service.

The cluster of infections was reported as Germany’s 7-day virus reproduction rate, which measures the disease’s ability to spread, rose above the critical value of 1 to 1.09 on Sunday. Most lockdown measures in the country have been lifted ahead of Germany reopening its land borders to EU travelers from Monday.

The church congregation is largely made up of large Russian-German families. According to reports from the city, they lead a segregated life – in part, shaped by their experience of persecution as Christians and a national minority in the Soviet Union, reported German national broadcaster Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

The outbreak was linked to a Pentecost service in early June

When the infections broke out, health visitors met the families, urging them to get tested and follow quarantine regulations.

15:58 At least two Rohingya refugees who tested positive for COVID-19 have fled quarantine in overcrowded Bangladesh refugee camps, raising fears that the outbreak could spread there.

Testing rates also remain low, with refugees concerned that they will be sent to the isolated Bhashan Char island in the Bay of Bengal if they test positive for the virus.

Around a million Rohingya – most of whom fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 – are packed into camps along the Bangladesh border. Aid agencies have long warned that the virus could cause chaos in the camps, such as Cox’s Bazar because social distancing is virtually impossible.

So far only 29 infections have been detected, although 16,000 Rohingya are currently in quarantine zones within the camps. The first Rohingya fatality from the coronavirus was announced only Tuesday.

15:16 French President Emmanuel Macron is set to address the nation in a televised speech expected to center on the coronavirus and the gradual process of reopening.

He is expected to address the economic challenges ahead, and “strengths and weaknesses” in his government’s handling of the pandemic.

France is facing its worst economic crisis since WWII. The country also announced last week the loss of half a million jobs in the first quarter this year – mostly in the private sector.

Questions have also been raised and lawsuits filed over the government’s handling of the outbreak. So far, 29,401 have died from the virus in the country, along with 193,746 infections – despite the country having one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

14:27 Sri Lanka on Sunday conducted a mock election exercise to test its coronavirus measures ahead of a parliamentary vote in August.

The poll was scheduled for April 25 but was postponed indefinitely after the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The election commission said Wednesday the vote would now be held on August 5.

The virus has so far infected nearly 2,000 people and killed 11.

“Officials and polling agents will be behind clear plastic screens or wear face shields,” said election commission chairman Mahinda Deshapriya. “We have also ensured that voters will stand a meter apart when they queue up.”

Voters will also be required to bring their own pen or pencil to mark ballot papers.

A high testing rate coupled with an established healthcare and monitoring system has helped keep COVID-19 mortality in the island nation low.

14:12 The famous Mont Saint Michel abbey in France will open once more to tourists on Monday, following two months of closures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The UNESCO world heritage site is among one of France’s most visited tourist hotspots, usually receiving millions of visitors each year.

Tourists will be able to visit the site, which is built on a tidal island in the Normandy region of France, between 9.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., announced the abbey on its website. Cafes and shops in the area were already able to receive visitors from May 11.

Many other tourist attractions in France will be able to open on the same day as the abbey, including the Arc de Triomphe in capital city Paris, as France gradually exits from its coronavirus lockdown.

13:38 Bangladeshi police have arrested a university professor for allegedly mocking an ex-health minister, who died of coronavirus.

Sirajum Munira, 28, was arrested under the South Asian country’s controversial digital security laws over her social media post.

Munira, a lecturer at northern Begum Rokeya University, later apologized and deleted her Facebook comments.

Bangladeshi authorities have arrested at least 44 people since March under internet laws for allegedly spreading rumor and propaganda amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rights activists say internet laws in Bangladesh are being used to suppress dissent and target those who criticize the government’s handling of COVID-19.

As of Sunday, Bangladesh has reported nearly 90,000 coronavirus cases and around 1,200 related deaths.

13:00 Chinese authorities reported eight new COVID-19 cases in Beijing city in the first seven hours of June 14.

Health official Pang Xinghuo said at a second press conference on Sunday that all these eight cases were linked to the Xinfadi food wholesale market in the city’s southwestern Fengtai district.

Beijing recorded 43 new coronavirus cases in the previous three days – also linked to the food market.

There had been almost no new COVID-19 cases in Beijing city for almost two months until an infection was reported on June 12. Since then, the authorities have confirmed 51 cases there.

The dozens of new cases in recent days have raised concerns about a second wave of the disease, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

“Beijing has entered an extraordinary period,” city spokesman Xu Hejian told a news conference on Sunday.

Experts fear the Beijing outbreak could spread to other parts of the country, and subsequently to other countries. It has already spread to the neighboring northeastern province of Liaoning, where two new cases were confirmed on Sunday. Both infected people had been in close contact with confirmed cases in Beijing.

11:50 German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) plans to gradually increase its connections beyond Germany after the re-opening of EU borders, DB chief Michael Peterson has announced. 

The company has scheduled international long-distance routes to resume by the end of June including all trains to Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, France, Belgium, Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands. Some routes abroad had already resumed in the past few weeks.

In addition, a new connection between Berlin and the Austrian city of Innsbruck is planned from June 27 onwards, and a new direct connection from Berlin via Dresden, Prague and Vienna to Graz is planned from June 16.

As of midnight on Sunday, Germany will end its border controls introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Travelers will no longer have to prove a valid reason for entry. 

Germany had introduced controls at the borders with Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark, but restrictions have been reduced in the past few weeks

11:38 Britain says it is considering making changes to its newly introduced 14-day quarantine rule for international arrivals.

The policy has been heavily criticized since it was introduced last week, with airlines and others in the tourism sector saying it would have a damaging impact on demand and jobs.

 “We all want to see travel open again, of course we do, and like everything else we want to make sure we have the right measures at the right time informed by the science and everything else that we have to consider,” Finance
Minister Rishi Sunak told BBC television on Sunday.

“We are looking at all options to ensure that that is possible and people have got suggestions about how we might be able to open up some travel corridors over time and so the transport secretary is actively looking at all of those options.”

The minister added that the government was also looking into relaxing social distancing rules, such as reducing the 2-meter (6.5-foot) requirement that has prevented many pubs and other spaces from reopening. Sunak said the retail sector would largely reopen this coming week, with the hospitality sector expected to follow in early July.

Britain has the third-highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world behind the US and Brazil.

11:15 Iran has reported more than 100 new deaths from the coronavirus — the highest single-day toll it’s had in two months.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said there had been 107 fatalities confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 8,837. More than 185,000 people have been infected, and there is skepticism about the official figures, with critics saying the real toll could be higher. 

Iran, the worst-affected country in the Middle East, imposed strict measures in March, such as closing schools and mosques, to slow the spread of the virus. But since April, many of these restrictions have been eased.

On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani voiced his disappointment during a televised address after a report found that only 18 to 20 people were respecting social distancing measures.

10:13 Germany’s government plans to launch its coronavirus warning app on Tuesday, the DPA news agency reports.

The app is designed to be able to better trace chains of infection at a time when the easing of lockdown measures has sparked concerns about a second wave.  

The app is voluntary and uses Bluetooth to measure whether smartphone users come within a few meters of each other for a period of more than 15 minutes. Anonymous identification numbers are then generated and transferred by phones with the app. 

If a user tests positive for COVID-19 and that information is shared with the app, users who came near that infected person will be automatically notified. 

The app will be unveiled by Health Minister Jens Spahn, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Head of Chancellory Helge Braun in Berlin.

09:52 Spain will reopen its borders to tourists from countries in the EU’s Schengen zone on June 21, instead of on July 1 as previously announced, El Pais newspaper reports.

The plan does not apply to neighbor Portugal, where border restrictions will still remain in place until July 1.

Also excluded from the rule are some 10,000 German tourists who are set to travel to the Balearic Islands from Monday as part of a trial program. Mallorca and other islands off the Spanish coast rely heavily on tourism, especially from Germany and the UK, and have suffered from the travel restrictions.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain would also open its borders to other third countries from July 1, depending on reciprocity and the epidemiological situation.

The EU has recommended that member countries open their borders with each other on June 15. Some countries are planning to do just that, while others have made individual arrangements.

Germany, for example, already opened its borders to neighboring Austria, Switzerland, and France on May 16 under tightly controlled conditions. It will relax all inter-EU travel on June 15.

08:54 Germany says its “top priority” is to make sure the summer travel season doesn’t lead to a surge in new coronavirus infections

“If holidaymakers return from a hotspot to their homes all over Germany, and we’re not able to identify the chains of infection, we would quickly end up in a situation where we would have to implement nationwide measures,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung newspaper. 

He said a new coronavirus warning app, set to be unveiled in the next few days, was designed to help contain the spread. Those who sign up to the voluntary app will be automatically notified if another user in their vicinity has tested positive for COVID-19.

Braun’s comments come as Germany’s 7-day virus reproduction rate, which measures the disease’s ability to
spread, rose above the critical value of 1 to 1.09 on Sunday from 0.99 on Thursday and 0.86 on Wednesday.

08:25 A government minister in Bangladesh has died of Covid-19. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, 75, the state minister for religious affairs, died soon after being rushed to hospital in the capital Dhaka on Saturday night, his personal aide Nazmul Haque Shaikat said.

Ministry spokesman Anwar Hossain said the physicians collected a sample after Abdullah’s death and found he had “tested positive for the novel coronavirus.”

Abdullah is the first government minister to die of the virus in Bangladesh. Two other ministers of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet are undergoing treatment for Covid-19.

Bangladesh, which reported its first three cases of the deadly virus in March, has since reported more than 88,000 infections with more than 1,100 deaths as of Saturday.

08:11 Germany plans to allocate €500 million ($563 million) to safeguard apprenticeships amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fearing a slump in the country’s practical training programs for young people from the economic fallout of the crisis, the government wants to give training bonuses of €2,000 or €3,000 for small and medium-sized enterprises that have been affected “to a considerable extent.” 

“We must prevent the COVID-19 crisis from becoming a crisis for the professional future of young people and the securing of skilled workers,” a government report sighted by Reuters stated.

The country’s apprenticeship system is well-regarded as an alternative to fulltime tertiary education whereby young people learn through a mix of ‘on-the-job’ training (70%) as well as in the classroom (30%). Most apprenticeships take around three years and almost always lead to secure employment.

07:52 India’s coronavirus pandemic has exposed a deadly shortage of hospital beds in parts of the country.

Officials in the capital New Delhi have estimated that the city could need 80,000 beds by the end of July, and warned hotels and wedding venues that they are likely to be turned into hospitals. Currently, government hospitals have 8,505 designated pandemic beds while private hospitals have 1,441. 

Meanwhile, local media has been full of tragic stories of people dying after being turned away by hospitals. One pregnant woman died as she was being transferred between hospitals due to a lack of available space. A 78-year-old man petitioned the Delhi High Court for a ventilator bed but died before his case could be considered.

Twenty-year-old Kashish lost her father to the virus after she and her family pleaded several hospitals to take him in.
“They don’t care whether we live or die,” Kashish told the French news agency AFP. “The government is doing nothing. They are just playing with our feelings … I have lost my father, he was the world to me.”

Families say they are being forced to spend a small fortune for the few private beds that are available, prompting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to accuse private hospitals of lying about availability and promised tough action if they were found extorting money.

Meanwhile, mortuaries are overflowing with corpses while cemeteries and crematorium workers say they cannot keep up with the backlog of victims.

India has registered more than 300,000 coronavirus cases with nearly 9,000 fatalities. In Delhi alone, more than 1,200 people have died from the virus and more than 1,000 new cases are being reported each day.

07:04 European border agency Frontex recorded a sharp increase in migrants hoping to enter the EU last month, German media reported Sunday.

The spike comes after coronavirus lockdowns and widespread border closures cut the number of potential asylum-seekers able to reach Europe. As a result, traffic along the continent’s main migration routes reached record lows in April.  

In May, there were almost 4,300 illegal border crossings, newspapers from the Funke Media Group reported, citing figures from Frontex. That’s almost three times as many compared to the previous month.  

06:32 The Yemeni Embassy in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, is closing indefinitely due to a number of confirmed cases among staff. The embassy made the announcement on Twitter late Saturday, but did not specify how many people had contracted COVID-19.

Similarly, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh also announced that starting Sunday its office for labor affairs will close after six staffers tested positive for the disease. The office is being sterilized and employees were working remotely, according to the embassy.

Despite taking early and unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus, Saudi Arabia’s numbers continue to climb by more than 3,000 cases daily with more than 123,000 confirmed cases overall.

05:46 Beijing should expand the scope of nucleic acid testing for the virus following a new cluster of cases in the Chinese capital, a city government spokesman said on Sunday. 

He told a news conference that Beijing has entered an “extraordinary period” after the city reported a record 36 confirmed new cases of the virus on Sunday.

Of the 57 new coronavirus cases that were logged by Chinese authorities, 36 were domestic infections in the capital, Beijing, where a large wholesale food market at the center of the outbreak has been closed and nearby housing estates put under lockdown.

A temporary ban on inter-provincial travel has also been imposed and local schools and other markets have been closed.

05:15 A 70-year-old coronavirus patient from Seattle has been handed a $1.1 million (€980,000) medical bill after being discharged from hospital, the Seattle Times reports.

According to the newspaper, Michael Flor was admitted to a hospital in the northwestern US city on March 4 and stayed for 62 days. At one point his condition was so critical that nurses held up the phone so that his wife and children could say goodbye. But in the end, he made a full recovery and was sent home on May 4, after which he was given the 181-page hospital bill.

Health care in the US is notoriously expensive. But fortunately, Flor is covered by Medicare, the government insurance scheme for the elderly, which means he won’t pay the fee himself, according to the Times.

The newspaper quoted him as saying he felt guilty knowing taxpayers’ money would cover the cost: “It was a million bucks to save my life, and of course I’d say that’s money well-spent … But I also know I might be the only one saying that.”

04:46 Egypt has reported 1,677 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily increase in infections since the virus was first detected there in February. It now has almost 43,000 cases. 

The Health Ministry also confirmed 62 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 1,484.

Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, has had the highest death rate among Arab nations. It is also the third-worst-affected country in the Middle East behind Iran and Turkey.

04:36 In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen by 247 to 186,269, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

The death toll climbed to 8,787, with six new fatalities reported on Sunday. Around 300 more people were added to the list of 172,200 recovered patients, bringing the total number of patients who have overcome the virus to 172,200, according to the RKI.

The virus reproduction rate, which measures the disease’s ability to spread, rose above the critical value of 1, to 1.02 on Sunday, meaning each infected person is spreading the virus to around one other. The day before, it was 0.86.

Since the middle of May, the RKI has also been measuring a seven-day reproduction value, which is less subject to fluctuations. This number was 1.09 on Sunday, reflecting the rate of infection of the previous 8-16 days.

03:35 France has nearly 20 million unsold face masks after the coronavirus crisis. Earlier this year, hundreds of textile and luxury goods companies in the country had stepped in to churn out cloth masks to protect people from COVID-19 amid fears of a shortage.

However, within weeks the demand for these domestically produced masks decreased.

Both the government and the manufacturers said that many suppliers and consumers were still choosing cheaper, disposable face masks from Asia. The French companies are now asking the government to assist them in promoting and finding buyers for the unsold surplus.

01:30 The United States on Saturday reported 734 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours. The country, which has both the highest number of deaths and infections, is recording around 20,000 daily cases of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged the new rise in coronavirus cases in some states, but has stressed the economy will not be shut down if there is a second wave.

01:05 China on Sunday reported its biggest rise in new coronavirus infections since April. According to health authorities, 57 new cases were registered within 24 hours.

Thirty-six of these were domestic infections from a new cluster in Beijing.

00:30 Fears are growing in China of a resurgence in local transmissions as a lockdown was imposed in parts of Beijing to prevent the spread of a new COVID-19 cluster.

On Thursday, Beijing reported its first infection in two months. It then went on to announce 50 more infections, all traced back to a meat and vegetable market in the city.

China, believed to be the source of the coronavirus outbreak, had strict local and regional lockdown measures that had till now largely eliminated transmission within its borders.

The recent transmissions have fuelled fears of a resurgence in the country, where the curve of the outbreak has been months ahead of the rest of the world.

Authorities have announced mass testing and ordered residents in 11 residential estates to stay home. A “wartime mechanism” that saw hundreds of police officers deployed was also activated.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus updates here.

dvv/mm(AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)  (DW)