- Germany will provide €500 million in total this year to the WHO, says health minster
- German President Frank Walter Steinmeier warns the country is “on very thin ice”
- Testing in Pakistan has dropped by around third, despite warnings
- More than 9.3 million confirmed cases globally, with over 481,000 deaths recorded
- CDC believes over 20 million Americans infected
All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
23:20 As new coronavirus cases spiral in Texas, the southern US state announced it will pause further reopening measures.
“As we experience an increase in both positive Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Businesses that had already reopened will be allowed to remain open, the Republican leader added. He also ordered a halt to elective surgeries in some Texas hospitals in a bid to free-up beds. Although wearing masks is strongly encouraged, state leaders have not mandated that residents wear them.
Texas was one of the first states to loosen restrictions in the US and has since logged a startling rise in cases. On Wednesday, new daily cases reached an all-time high on Wednesday, with over 5,500 new cases reported.
22:30 US officials erroneously sent nearly 1.1. million virus aid payments to dead people, Congress’ auditing body said in a report.
The payments to deceased taxpayers amounted to around $1.4 billion (€1.2 billion), the Government Accountability Office said.
Although the US government has asked the descendants of the deceased taxpayers to send the money back, it’s not sure if they’re legally obligated to. The issue is particularly fraught, as many of the recipients may have died from COVID-19 this year.
The individual $1,200 checks were sent out to over 130 million US taxpayers as part of the government’s $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief package that was enacted in March.
21:50 Mexico’s Finance Minister, Arturo Herrera, has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the country’s highest-ranking Cabinet member to be infected with the virus.
Herrera said that he is only exhibiting “minor” symptoms and that he will continue to work from home while self-isolating.
It was not immediately clear when he last had contact with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who refuses to wear a mask despite resuming public tours across Mexico. Lopez Obrador is due to travel next month to Washington and meet with US President Donald Trump.
Mexico is one of the hardest-hit countries in Latin America, with over 198,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 24,300 deaths. Experts fear the actual caseload could be higher as testing rates in Mexico are low.
“While urgency has always marked the fight against human trafficking, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have magnified the need for all stakeholders to work together in the fight more than ever,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The remarks come as the US officially added Afghanistan, Algeria, Lesotho and Nicaragua to it blacklist on human trafficking in its annual report on the illegal practice.
“We know that human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable and look for opportunities to exploit them,” Pompeo said.
“Instability and lack of access to critical services caused by the pandemic mean that the number ofpeople vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers is rapidly growing,” he added.
20:55 Police have urged people to avoid the British coastal town of Bournemouth after declaring a major incident when thousands of people gathered there and contravened social distancing guidelines.
On what was the UK’s hottest day of the year so far, officials declared the emergency in the hopes of stopping off more visitors arriving at the already congested coastline, as well as giving additional powers to emergency services.
Local authorities said services were “completely overstretched” as citizens sought the sanctuary of the seaside on a day meteorologists confirmed as the hottest of the year so far.
Additional police officers were put on duty and extra security implemented to protect waste collectors who the council said had received “widespread abuse and intimidation” as they dealt with overflowing bins.
Council leader Vikki Slade said she was “absolutely appalled” at the sight of so many people, tightly packed on the south coast’s beaches.
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that a number of the country’s restrictions would be relaxed from July 4, including the reopening of pubs and restaurants, in the hopes of boosting an ailing economy. He also announced that the two-meter (6.5-foot) social distancing rule will be halved from the same date.
19:53 The Portuguese government has ordered several areas of Greater Lisbon to go on lockdown next week, in response to a rise of coronavirus infections on the city’s outskirts.
Residents of a total of 19 civil parishes will have to stay home and will only be allowed to outside to buy essential goods such as food or medication, and to travel to and from work. Downtown Lisbon was not included in the list.
In the lockdown areas, there will be a limit of five people for gatherings, compared to 10 in parts of Lisbon that were not included and 20 for the rest of the nation.
“The only effective way to control the pandemic is to stay home whenever possible, keep physical distance at all times and always maintain protection and hygiene standards,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.
Portugal has reported a total of 40,415 cases and 1,549 deaths from the coronavirus, and had began lifting its lockdown on May 4.
19:52 Football governing body FIFA agreed to a $1.5 billion (€1.3 billion) relief package to help the global game weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FIFA will dip into its reserves to provide national federations with grants and interest-free loans to cope with budget hits.
“Both grants and loans can be directed by member associations to the wider football community in their respective territories, including clubs, players, leagues, or others that have been affected by COVID,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
A “universal solidarity grant” of $1 million dollars will be given to all national associations, with an additional $500,000 allocated specifically for women’s football, while each regional confederation will receive a grant of $2 million.
FA’s will be able to apply for loans, amounting to up to 35% of their audited, annual revenues up to a maximum of $5 million with confederations able to request up to $4 million.
16:59 China took very strong measures to contain the virus when it was identified in Wuhan, said the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He added that Beijing does not deserve the criticism of being late to warn the world.
Amid financial pressure from Washington, Ghebreyesus praised France and Germany after they pledged hundreds of millions in financial support.
“We are proud to have partners like Germany, standing side by side with us in the fight against COVID19,” Ghebreyesus said on Twitter.
17:05 Experts with the US Centers for Disease Control say over 20 million US citizens may have contracted the virus. Currently, the US has close to 2.4 million confirmed infections.
However, government experts base their estimate on the tests that measure the presence of antibodies, indicating presence of the coronavirus. Such tests have discovered that roughly one out of 10 people show the required antibodies.
“If you multiply the cases by that ration, that’s where you get that 20 million figure,” one official was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.
Many patients, especially among young people, show no symptoms despite carrying the virus. Officials have urged young people to get tested proactively if they are in contact with vulnerable populations.
17:02 Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia that only one infected person was found among some 2000 people tested the district of Gütersloh.
The community has been at the center of the coronavirus uptick in Germany when some 1,500 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in meat processing plant, prompting NRW authoritiesto put Gütersloh and the neighboring Warendorf district under lockdown.
Together, the two districts are home to around 628,000 people.
Laumann was surprised by the early results of the mass testing. Final results are said to be posted on Sunday and by then it may be possible to get a bigger picture of the outbreak, which would determine how long the lockdown should last.
Residents in Gütersloh and Warendorf flocked to testing sites, which the NRW government has made free of charge at test stations or through individuals family doctor.
In the state of Lower Saxony, whose border with NRW is close to the affected communities, some 45 employees of a meat plant tested positive for COVID-19. The company Wiesenhof said the results were part of a screening of some 1115 employees that was triggered after 23 workers were found to have thedisease .
14:32 Norway is set to lift travel restrictions on European countries it considers relatively safe in relation to the pandemic, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said. The measures would be loosened on July 15.
However, Solberg said she was not encouraging Norwegian citizens to travel abroad. She warned that a list of safe countries would be established and updated ever 14 days, meaning that restrictions could be reinstated.
Also, after blocking visitors from mainland Sweden, Norway has now expanded the restrictive measure to include the Swedish island of Gotland.
Norway had introduced some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe in the early stages of the pandemic. It has since seen less than 8,800 cases and 249 deaths with its population at some 5.4 million.
13:43 The manager of Austrian tennis player Dominic Thiem has joined the chorus of disapproval aimed at Novak Djokovic after his Adria Tour resulted in a host of players becoming infected with coronavirus.
Serbian Djokovic arranged a series of matches across the Balkans, including his homeland, in front of thousands of spectators earlier this month, with little evidence of social-distancing in sight. Thiem also took part in the event, though he has since tested negative.
“I have to give Djokovic the main guilt,” Thiem’s manager, Herwig Straka, told the Austrian newspaper Standard. “Okay, the others joined in but he was really behind it. Originally out of good motives, there were charitable thoughts at the center. But it went in a completely wrong direction and was misused as a publicity event. That’s on Djokovic.”
Thiem himself expressed his regret over the role he played in the tour. “I was shocked when I got the news from the Adria Tour,” he wrote on social media. “We trusted the Serbian government’s coronavirus rules, but we have been too optimistic.”
The world number three added: “Our behavior was a mistake, we acted too euphorically. I am extremely sorry.”
“I’ve been tested five times in the past 10 days and each time and the result was always negative,” Thiem revealed.
World number one Djokovic organized the mini-tour through various Balkan cities but he, and others, including Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, Croatian athlete Borna Coric, and another Serbian tennis player, Viktor Troicki, all became infected. Djokovic’s father has since blamed Dimitrov for the spread of the novel virus.
13:41 A new study shows that over 40% of the inhabitants of the Austrian skiing town of Ischgl have antibodies which indicate they have likely had the coronavirus. The Alpine town in the state of Tyrol, which hosts one of Europe’s largest and most popular skiing resorts, was an early hotspot of the virus with thousands of cases from across Europe traced to visitors during the skiing season in February and March.
Tests by the Medical University of Innsbrück now show that 42.4% of the town’s population have had COVID-19 at some point. This is the highest percentage of people with the relevant antibodies seen in a single study in the world so far, scientists say.
In comparison, antibody tests among the population of the Heinsberg district in western Germany, which saw one of the first and largest outbreaks in the country, suggest that around 15% of the population had the virus.
The vast majority of those who were infected in Ischgl had either very mild or no symptoms, and most were not aware that they have had the virus.
12:37 The European Medicines Agency has conditionally approved the drug remdesivir for use in COVID-19 patients. This would make it the first medication approved for authorization in the European Union.
Remdesivir, marketed as Veklury, can be used to treat patients with pneumonia caused by coronavirus who need supplemental oxygen. Studies so far showed that patients with mild symptoms on remdesivir recovered on average within 11 days compared to 15 days with a placebo.
The European Commission will fast-track the decision-making process on whether the drug can be marketed or not.
Earlier on Thursday a US drug pricing research group suggested that the same drug distributed by Gilead Sciences Inc could be priced at up to $5,080 (€4,535) per course.
12:00 Iran’s death toll has crossed 10,000. The grim milestone was reached after the country announced 134 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The Islamic republic has struggled to contain the spread of the virus since it reported its first cases in the Shiite holy city of Qom in late February.
Official figures have shown a rising trajectory of new infections since early May, but official deny the upward trend amounts to a second wave.
Hospital admissions were highest in the provinces of Bushehr, Hormozgan, Kermanshah, Khuzestan and Kurdistan, while they were increasing in Tehran and Fars, said health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari.
11:45 Thousands of people in the UK who were transferred onto its test-and-trace system after receiving a positive result could not be reached, the country’s Department of Health announced.
Of 6,923 people who had their case transferred to the contact tracing system in its third week of operation, 1,791 of them could not be reached. There were no contact details provided for a further 263 people.
Those who test positive are contacted and asked to self-isolate.
11:15 Germany will provide the World Health Organization with €500 million ($560 million) in total this year, said German Health Minister Jens Spahn, during a visit to Geneva, Switzerland.
“This is the highest contribution that Germany has given the WHO in any one year,” said Spahn.
The contribution should be seen as a strong symbol of international solidarity, added Spahn.
Germany plans to give an extra €200 million to the WHO to help it combat the coronavirus pandemic. This is on top of the €110 million already pledged by Germany. This additional sum still needs to obtain parliamentary approval, yet Spahn is confident this would pass.
A further €41 million will go towards the main goals of the WHO. Germany will also provide masks and medical equipment, such as ventilators, for WHO use.
France is providing €90 million to a WHO research center in the city of Lyon, as well as an additional €50 million.
“I truly believe the world needs, more than ever, a multilateral organisation,” French Health Minister Olivier Veran said at the news conference. “I believe the world cannot get rid of partners. We need a global answer [to COVID-19] and only the WHO can provide that answer.”
10:30 Germany is still on “very, very thin ice” when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, warned German President Frank Walter Steinmeier during an event at Bellevue castle in Berlin.
This has been shown in the recent development of new virus hotspots, said Steinmeier.
Authorities are working to contain an outbreak stemming from an meat processing plant in the town of Gütersloh, where around 1,300 people have been infected.
“The coronavirus pandemic is not yet over,” added Steinmeier, cautioning against reckless behavior.
10:05 Indonesia’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 50,000, after it reported 1,178 new cases.
The country’s testing campaign has contributed to the spike in figures, said Achmad Yurianto, the spokesman for the National COVID-19 Task Force. Testing capacity in the country has averaged close to the government’s daily target of 20,000 over the past week said Yurianto.
Experts remain skeptical over the government’s ability to conduct enough tests to determine the true scope of the virus. The Southeast Asian nation is home to more than 270 million people living on thousands of islands.
09:45 The US secret service has quarantined dozens of its employees who were sent to US Presidents Donald Trump’s controversial Tulsa rally, as a precaution, reported US media outlets.
The mass quarantine has led to the decision that secret service agents involved in presidential trips must be tested in the upcoming weeks, said US broadcaster CNN, citing an email sent to agency personnel.
The secret service has not provided the number in order to shield its “operative security,” reported US national newspaper the Washington Post.
Around 19,200 people attended the rally, down from the turnout of nearly million predicted by organizers.
09:18 Budget airline easyJet will resume flights on international routes between Paris, Milan and Barcelona from Britain on July 1.
The airline began operating a small number of mainly domestic flights last week. It is aiming to resume flying on 75% of its routes by August, at lower frequencies than usual and with extra safety measures in place.
09:00 France is offering tests to nearly 1.3 million people to root out virus clusters in the Paris region, Health Minister Olivier Veran told French newspaper Le Monde.
“The aim is to identify any sleeping clusters, that’s to say invisible concentrations of asymptomatic people,” said Veran.
Health authorities will send out coupons that people can exchange for a test.
France is re-stocking medical supplies in anticipation of a second infection wave. Authorities are making plans to be able to treat 30,000 people in intensive care if necessary, added Veran.
So far, the outbreak has killed more than 30,000 people in the country. At its peak, there were more than 7,000 people at once in intensive care in France — this is now down to around 700.
08:50 Testing in Pakistan has dropped by around a third, even as the World Health Organization (WHO) urged its government to step up its testing program.
The 21,835 tests conducted in the last 24 hours until Thursday morning was down nearly 10,000 from a high of more than 31,000 tests — just less than one week ago.
As a result of reduced testing, the country is reporting lower daily infection numbers.
In a letter to the government earlier this month, the WHO said Pakistan should increase its testing to 50,000 daily, while urging the government to tighten its lockdown.
08:25 World-famous landmark the Eiffel Tower has reopened for the first time since France imposed its coronavirus lockdown in March.
Tourists hoping to visit will have to make the steep climb up the tower by stairs, as elevators will remain closed to ensure social distancing guidelines are met. Only the first two levels have reopened with the top level due to reopen later this summer.
08:15 Thousands of migrants are suing German migration authorities for pressing pause on the asylum claims time-limit during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the so-called Dublin rule, asylum claims must be handled by the country where migrants first entered the EU. However asylum seekers can no longer be sent back to the country of first entry once they have spent six months in another EU country.
Germany suspended these transfers in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and only resumed them in mid-June. The country also suspended the six-month deadline.
But the European Commission made clear in April that the six-month asylum claim period would still apply during the pandemic.
In early June, 9,300 lawsuits against the BAMF decision to pause asylum time limits were still pending.
Luise Amtsberg, Green party spokeswoman for refugee policy, sharply criticized the actions of the Interior Ministry.
It was “bureaucratic madness” that people must take legal action regarding their own transfers.
07:32 The European Commission’s competition authorities have approved the German government’s Lufthansa-rescue package. The approval comes with the condition that Germany’s largest airline company ensures there is no unfair competition, said Brussels authorities.
Europe’s second-largest airlines has experienced severe financial fallout from travel bans put in place around the globe to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Around 95% of Lufthansa’s fleet is currently grounded.
In May, the airline group agreed with the German government a bailout worth €9 billion ($9.9 billion) in exchange for giving the government a 20% stake in the company.
07:15 Between 120,000 and 130,000 jobs have been lost in Hungary due to the virus-imposed lockdown, according to government statistics.
The damage to the job market was not as bad as feared, said Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyas.
06.50 Measures introduced to stem the coronavirus pandemic pose a threat to human and political rights, Nobel laureates and other prominent figures and groups are warning in an open letter.
“Democracy is under threat,” the authors of the letter wrote, adding that “even some democratically elected governments” were using emergency powers that restrict human rights and enhance mass surveillance.
A total of 13 Nobel laureates, including 1983 peace prize laureate Lech Walesa of Poland, and Belarusian author and investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich, who was awarded the 2015 Nobel literature prize, are among the letter’s 500 signatories.
Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong also added his name.
The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) initiated the letter with the aim of raising awareness and mobilizing citizens.
06:15 Russian business leaders have requested the EU relax its coronavirus travel restrictions for Russian business people.
“It is now time that Germany and the EU resume issuing visas to Russian business people,” said head of the Russian-German chamber of commerce (AHK), Matthias Schepp. He called on Russia to do the same for Europeans.
Journeys could be possible with quarantines and testing programs in place, suggested Schepp.
Permitting business travel would have the effect of acting like a second stimulus package to help economies battered by coronavirus lockdowns, added the AHK chief.
EU officials began talks on Wednesday about lifting coronavirus travel bans for non-EU nations.
The discussions are set to continue on Friday.
05:40 Officials in New Delhi say they are planning to carry out a mass door-to-door testing.
The city, with over 20 million inhabitants, is causing particular concern among authorities with over 70,000 out of the country’s 473,105 total cases.
Officials say they hope to complete the testing program by July 6.
New Delhi’s government has projected that cases in the capital area alone could expand to more than half a million by late July. It is considering taking over luxury hotels and stadiums to convert into field hospitals.
India has reported another daily virus case record, registering 16,922 new cases in the past 24 hours.
The health ministry said it has ramped up testing to more than 200,000 per day across the country.
05:15 The Australian state of Victoria has deployed ambulances and mobile test centers in a coronavirus testing “blitz” across the state’s 10 most effected suburbs.
“We have ambulances and other vans that will literally be at the end of people’s streets,” said Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews.
The state hopes to carry out around 100,000 tests over the next 10 days.
The tests will be free and Andrews urged residents to take them as a civic duty.
While numbers in Australia have been comparatively small on a global scale, Victoria has the largest number of cases in the country — accounting for 200 out of a country total of 270.
Victoria has reported 33 new cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number in more than two months.
04:45 China has confirmed 19 new cases of the coronavirus amid mass testing in Beijing.
The majority of the cases were in Beijing, with one case attributed to neighboring Hubei province, and five cases brought in by Chinese travelers from overseas, said the National Health Commission.
An outbreak in the capital this month saw 249 people infected, most of them with links to the city’s biggest wholesale market. Responding to the outbreak, authorities locked down some parts of the city and took 3 million test samples from citizens.
04:15 Germany reported 630 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases says. The death toll rose by 13, bringing the country’s total to 8,927.
Here’s a look at how the virus has developed in Germany this week:
- Saturday: 687 new cases, unclear new fatalities data
- Sunday: 537 new cases, 3 new fatalities
- Monday: 503 new cases, 10 new fatalities
- Tuesday: 587 new cases, 19 new fatalities
03:32 Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, appear to have soften their position on COVID-19 immunity certificates.
People would be entitled to such a certificate if they had been tested, Bärbel Bas, the deputy head of the SPD’s parliamentary faction, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper. It is crucial, though that the certificates do not lead to a “two-tier society of people with immunity and those without,” she said.
Bas emphasized that COVID-19 immunity has not yet been proven, that it’s not certain whether those who have recovered from the virus can catch it again. Immunity certificates cannot, therefore, yet be issued. But she left open the possibility for them in the future.
Until now, the SPD has stanchly opposed immunity certificates or immunity passports. Their opposition prompted Health Minister Jens Spahn to shelve his immunity certificate plans, and deferred to the German Ethics Council.
The Council is set to discuss the issue for the first time on Thursday, although a final decision isn’t expected for some time.
02:42 Mexico has logged its second-highest daily virus death toll, with 947 new deaths recorded.
The highest death toll occurred on June 3 with 1,092 deaths.
The country’s new caseload has risen by around 5,000 per day for the past two weeks. Wednesday was no exception, with over 5,400 new cases recorded.
The actual number of COVID-19 cases is believed be much higher, considering Mexico’s low rate of testing.
Researchers predict that the coronavirus death toll in Latin America will rise to over 388,000 by October, with Mexico and hard-hit Brazil expected to account for two-thirds of fatalities.
02:15 As Germany grapples with outbreaks at slaughterhouses, and other European countries are pushing for more local food solutions, calls are growing for a re-think on the way we approach farming.
DW’s Environment team breaks down how the pandemic could usher in radical changes in the global food chain, from curbs on factory farming to a rise in urban gardening.
01:30 Peru’s government threatened to temporarily take over the country’s private healthcare clinics amid a dispute over fees for treating COVID-19 patients.
President Martín Vizcarra said the government “cannot wait indefinitely,” giving private clinics 48 hours to reach a deal or be taken over until the end of the pandemic. The haggling over a fair rate for coronavirus care came after several reports found private clinics were overcharging patients who needed ventilators and intensive care.
Over 264,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Peru since the outbreak emerged, while over 8,500 people have died.
00:50 Australia’s military will send 1,000 troops to Melbourne in an unprecedented move to contain the country’s only major coronavirus outbreak.
Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said that the troops would be sent “in the coming days” to the state of Victoria where Melbourne is located. Some 850 troops will help monitor international travelers being held in quarantine at hotels. Another 200 will provide medical and logistical support to COVID-19 testing facilities
The state recorded nearly 150 new coronavirus cases in the past week, with clusters emerging in Melbourne. The case numbers are low compared to other countries, but Australian officials are keen to avoid a second wave.
As the pandemic continues to hammer the global airline industry, Australian airline Qantas Airways announced it will cut at least 6,000 jobs out of its 29,000 employees. Another 15,000 staff will continue to be temporarily on hold until more flights resume.
0:05 The United States recorded more than 34,700 new COVID-19 cases, making it the country’s worst single-day jump in cases since April.
The US, currently the world’s worst-hit country, saw new cases peak in late April with some 36,400 in one day.
Cases are spiking in the states of Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas. The situation is particularly fraught in Florida, which broke its own record for new daily cases on Wednesday, logging over 5,500 new infections.
Hospital administrators and health care experts warned that hospitals in certain areas could soon be overwhelmed by the surge in cases. In the Texan city of Houston, intensive care unit beds are almost full.
rs,see/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa) (DW)