September 24, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Trump to ‘suspend immigration into US’

President Donald Trump has said he will sign an executive order to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States,” linking the move with the coronavirus pandemic.

Things you need to know today

  • US President Trump pledged to halt immigration into the US over “the attack from the Invisible Enemy”
  • US oil prices rebounded after plummeting below zero for the first time in history
  • All UN members jointly urged “equitable” access to any COVID-19 vaccine in a new resolution
  • Oktoberfest has been canceled
  • UK death rate up to 40% higher than reported
  • Global coronavirus cases exceed 2.5m

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

21:21 The US Senate passed a new stimulus bill worth over $480 billion (€442 billion) to prop up the US economy.  The bill is aimed at helping small businesses and hospitals, as well as boosting coronavirus testing. It follows a separate $2.2 trillion stimulus package.
The measure will now go to the House of Representatives, where lawmakers are expected to vote on it before the end of the week.

21:10 The US-based streaming company Netflix gained 15.8 million new subscribers in the first three months of the year, its representatives reported on Tuesday.

The boost comes as billions of people are forced to spend more time at home due to the pandemic. Almost 183 million people are now subscribed to the world’s biggest streaming service, according to the latest figures.

19:46 A global recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic could trigger or exacerbate famines in vulnerable regions, the United Nations has said.

The warning comes as global deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 170,000, with governments desperately seeking a path out of the unprecedented global health and economic emergency.

And the economic shock could cause a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the number of people suffering from acute hunger expected to almost double to 265 million this year, the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said.

“We are on the brink of a hunger pandemic,” WFP director David Beasley told the UN Security Council. “Millions of civilians living in conflict-scarred nations, including many women and children, face being pushed to the brink of starvation, with the specter of famine a very real and dangerous possibility,” Beasley said during a video conference.

19:08 Global coronavirus cases exceed 2.5m

There have now been more than 2.5 million coronavirus infections worldwide.
The current figure stands at 2,501,156, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US.
The death toll currently stands at 171,810.

19:02 The World Health Organization (WHO) has said evidence indicates the coronavirus is of animal origin, dismissing reports it was produced in a Chinese laboratory.

Last week US President Donald Trump said his administration was looking into unsubstantiated claims that coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan.

Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province, saw the first cases of Covid-19 late last year.

On Tuesday, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said all evidence suggested the virus was “not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else”.

“It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin,” she told a WHO media briefing in Geneva.

How the virus was transmitted from animals to humans is not yet clear, she added.

“It most likely has its ecological reservoir in bats – but how the virus came from bats to humans is still to be seen and discovered,” she said.

19:01 The latest from Europe

Austria plans to reopen bars and restaurants in mid-May, while Italy’s prime minister urges “maximum caution” in easing its lockdown. Here’s the latest from Europe:

  • Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he would announce a plan by the end of this week to slowly exit lockdown starting from 4 May, but urged “maximum caution”. Latest figures on Tuesday show deaths rose by 534 in the last 24 hours, but the country registered its second daily decline in the number of people currently confirmed to have the virus
  • Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says bars and restaurants will be able to reopen from 15 May – although staff will probably have to wear face masks, and there will be rules on group sizes and closing times. Religious services could also resume then. But if infection rates rise again, the government will reimpose tighter restrictions
  • Children have not been allowed outside at all under Spain’s lockdown rules. But as of Monday, children under 14 can accompany their parents to the pharmacy and on grocery trips – though they still won’t be able to go out and play. The government has extended the nationwide lockdown until 9 May
  • In France, the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care fell for the 13th consecutive day, dropping from 5,683 to 5,433 in the past 24 hours. Deaths continued to rise, however, increasing by 531 to 20,796 in total on Tuesday
  • And a six-year-old in Italy has won a competition to redesign his club’s football kit. Pescara launched the competition in a bid to ease the boredom for kids stuck inside

18:30 Two British-funded trials for potential vaccines for coronavirus are set to begin on Thursday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the UK would provide financial aid to the ”promising projects” at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London

The government will also invest in manufacturing the vaccines in the event that either or both work. The project at Imperial will receive £22.5 million (€25.4 million or $28 million), while Oxford will be granted £20 million. Both projects are beginning their second phase, meaning that the vaccines will be tested on humans. 

Hancock warned against excessive optimism, however, saying that the process of vaccine development was one of ”trial and error and trial again.”

18:20 The EU has released its “roadmap to recovery” for its member states to discuss in a meeting this coming Thursday.

The European Council President Charles Michel took to Twitter and said: “Leaders will discuss joint action to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. Our roadmap for recovery focuses on the EU single market, unprecedented investment efforts and better governance.”

15:50 Students in the Netherlands have submitted a petition to halt the use of monitoring software during online examinations, which they say invades their privacy. 

The petition, which was started by a student at Tilburg University in southern Netherlands and posted on the website, calls on institutions to stop using the software, which they say monitors and analyzes their “entire screen, searches, eye movement and microphone.”

 “Furthermore, we have to provide a thorough room scan, by uploading a video/webcam recording of our bedroom/studyroom/whatever room we will be taking the exam in,” the petition reads.

“We have a lot of worries about our privacy and they don’t provide us with an alternative,” first-year psychology student Naomi Lang told Reuters news agency. 

The petition also suggests using alternative examination methods, such as open-book exams, time-limited exams and assigned essays to evaluate students’ knowledge. 

The university said it understood the concerns, but that it needed to assess 130,000 exams before the start of the new academic year to avoid delays in people’s studies. 

So far, over 3,600 people have signed the online petition.

15:02 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said shops, restaurants and schools would start opening in May now that the number of daily new cases has stayed under 100 for several consecutive days. 

Kurz said some restrictions on mobility would be eased on May 1. Religious services, catering businesses and other commercial activities could resume as of May 15, although certain limitations, such as the mandatory use of masks, would be in place. 

“You made it possible that Austria is in a better position than other countries,” Kurz said, referring to Austrian citizens. The easing of measures would be reviewed in two-week intervals, he added.

However, he warned Austrian nationals against “prematurely” expecting frictionless travel across Europe and abroad in the summer months. Kurz said he would take his summer vacation in Austria and “can only recommend that fellow Austrians do the same.”

14:44 Along with schools and small shops, German states are also making plans to open up another community fixture – churches. 

The eastern state of Saxony became the first to allow public church services again on Monday, but under the condition that no more than 15 people gathered at once. In addition to the provision to allow general church services, the state took steps to loosen restrictions on baptisms, weddings and funerals. 

Berlin is also set to allow church services of up to 50 people starting from May 4, according to the city’s culture minister. 

Some more unusual religious events remain off the table, however. Germany’s biggest motorcycle service, which involves bikers descending on Hamburg’s St. Michael’s Church, is cancelled this year. The event, also known as “Mogo”, typically draws thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts who choose to express their faith while riding through the city streets. 

This is not the time to hold a biker festival without any worries, Mogo pastor Lars Lemke told the Protestant Press Service. Mogo organizers are not planning to hold another event in its place, Lemke added.

13:58 New talks in Berlin’s local government mean this year’s Berlin Marathon will not be able to take place, German news agency DPA reported. Authorities have reportedly enacted a ban on events with more than 5,000 participants until October. The event was scheduled to take place on September 27, its website is yet to indicate any potential problems.

Last year, more than 47,000 people participated in the event. The Berlin Marathon is considered one of the fastest circuits in the world. 

In 2018, Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge made the world record in Berlin, completing the marathon in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds. Last year, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele fell short of that record by 2 seconds.

12:40 Spanish authorities canceled the renowned San Fermin bull-running festival in the northern city of Pamplona slated for July.

“The fight against COVID-19 has become a global priority and there is no other possible option for such massive festivities,” said the municipal council of Pamplona. 

The event involves participants running away from bulls in the streets of the Spanish city. It was scheduled to take place from July 6 to 14. 

Spain is one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, with more than 21,000 deaths and over 200,000 positive cases, according to Johns Hopkins figures.

12:13 People in the northern German city of Hamburg will have to wear a face mask in shops, markets or on public transport from next week, according to the German Press Agency dpa. Mayor Peter Tschentscher said making nose and face coverings compulsory would have more of an effect than issuing recommendations to the public.

The decision on Tuesday came after similar rules were announced in a number of states, including Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

11:20 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says taking a summer vacation won’t be an option this year.

“A normal holiday season with full beach bars and full mountain huts this summer won’t be possible,” the minister said. “That would be irresponsible.”

“International aviation is grounded, many countries have entry and exit bans,” Maas said. “These are not conditions under which one can have a relaxing vacation.” The minister added that although the goal was to open borders in Europe as soon as possible, it was difficult to predict when such restrictions could safely be lifted. He said the government would discuss the issue at the end of April.

10:34 The vice president of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is appealing to the public to take the coronavirus threat seriously, warning that the pandemic is far from over.

“We have achieved a lot over the past few weeks,” RKI Vice President Lars Schaade said in Berlin. “But the situation is still serious.”

“There is no end to the epidemic in sight. The number of cases may rise again.”

Schaade said despite the easing of some measures in Germany, people should continue to stay home and practice good hygiene and social distancing to keep the number of cases as low as possible. 

“The number of cases has to remain at a level that the health system can cope with,” he said. “If we pretend we have overcome the problem, we will have another outbreak— that is certain.”

10:10 Spain has reported 430 new deaths from the novel coronavirus over the past 24 hours, marking a slight increase in the daily toll after Monday’s four-week low of 399 deaths. The Health Ministry said there were also nearly 4,000 new infections, continuing a 2% daily increase seen over the past four days.

A total of 21,282 people have died of COVID-19 in Spain, which has the third highest number of fatalities behind the US and Italy. More than 204,000 people are infected, the ministry said.

The country is expected to start easing its lockdown next week by allowing children to go outside for short stints.

09:49 The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) is warning that the number of people suffering acute hunger could almost double this year to 265 million due to the pandemic. The WFP said the outbreak’s economic impact, including the drop in tourism revenues and falling remittances, could the leave 130 million people acutely hungry, on top of the 135 million already experiencing catastrophic food insecurity.

WFP senior economist Arif Husain said COVID-19 “is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs … We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.”

09:13 Data from the UK’s statistics office suggest that the true extent of the coronavirus death toll in England and Wales up to April 10 was more than 40% higher than the fatalities reported by the government.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday that 13,121 people had died by April 10, compared to the government’s count of 9,288 deaths in hospitals.

The ONS said the main reason for the difference was that its figures “include all deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, even if only suspected, and we include deaths that happened in hospital and the community.”

The institute said COVID-19 was a factor in a third of deaths registered in England and Wales — and more than half of all deaths in London — in the week ending April 10.

09:05 The European Union‘s industry head Thierry Breton says it could take €1.3 trillion ($1.4 trillion) to help Europe’s economy recover from the toll of the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak has prompted lockdowns in many European countries, essentially bringing business activity and public life to a halt.

Breton told French BFM TV that he wanted all the bloc’s member states to have equal access to financing and credit. He also said he expected the visa-free Schengen Zone to stay closed over summer due to the crisis, and that a Marshall Plan was needed to get the bloc’s tourist industry get back on its feet.

09:00 Indonesia is banning the traditional mass homecoming that marks the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in a bid to curb coronavirus infections. The festival, celebrated at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in May, normally involves millions of people traveling from big cities back to their villages.

Health experts had warned the exodus could speed up the rate of infection in Muslim-majority Indonesia, which has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in East Asia behind China.

“I would like to announce that mass travel will be banned entirely,” President Joko Widodo said at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, reversing an initial government plan to allow people to make the journey if they self isolate. 

Indonesia currently has 6,760 coronavirus cases, with 590 confirmed deaths.

07:34 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns that the coronavirus pandemic is “highlighting and amplifying” threats to press freedom around the world.

In its annual index, released Tuesday, the Paris-based watchdog said some authoritarian regimes have exploited the outbreak to impose extraordinary measures. It also accused China and Iran of censoring information about the virus.

“The coronavirus outbreak has revealed the most important teaching of this crisis, which is censorship in China doesn’t only concern the Chinese people. It is also a threat to anyone on earth,” RSF’s East Asia chief Cedric Alviani told DW correspondent William Yang.

“There is certainly a tight relationship between the regime and censorship, and the fact that they tried to do nothing but hide all information about the epidemic during the first month is the best proof.”

07:20 European stocks have tumbled on opening due to the oil price crash and poor first-quarter earnings. 

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 1.1% immediately after opening, dragged down by oil companies and miners. All major European country indexes have slipped. 

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 1.4%, Frankfurt’s DAX dropped 1.7% and the Paris CAC 40 shed 1.4%.

07:14 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says the government will unveil its plan before the end of the week for the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions due to start on May 4.

Italy imposed strict restrictions in early March that shut down businesses and barred people from leaving their homes unless they had a significant reason. This week, the number of people with the virus dropped for the first time since February, while the number of those receiving intensive care treatment fell to its lowest level in a month.

“I wish I could say: let’s reopen everything. Immediately. We start tomorrow morning … But such a decision would be irresponsible. It would make the contagion curve go up in an uncontrolled way and would nullify all the efforts we have made so far,” Conte wrote in a Facebook post. “We must act on the basis of a national (reopening) plan, which however takes into account the territorial peculiarities.”

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Italy particularly hard. It has more than 24,000 confirmed deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University — more than any other country in Europe.

07:09 Bavarian authorities have canceled Munich’s Oktoberfest. The world’s largest beer festival, which attracts about 6 million people every year, had been scheduled to run from September 19 to October 4. 

07:00 Armenia has reported 62 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 1,401.

05:22 Corona virus cases in Germany have risen by 1,785, bringing the total number of infections to 143,457, the Robert Koch Institute reported. The death toll currently stands at 4,598 after a further 194 people died from COVID-19.

The institute — Germany’s disease prevention and control research agency — also records some 3,700 more people as having recovered compared with the previous day. 

RKI figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from Johns Hopkins University numbers.

The number of new infections and deaths is slightly higher than those reported on Monday.

Officials in Germany are watching the situation closely after the first shops were allowed to open their doors.

Social distancing measures in Germany helped lower the rate of infection from five to below one last week — meaning that each person who tested positive for COVID-19 was contaminating less than one person.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged state premiers not to lift restrictions too quickly, and stressed that the effect of Monday’s partial reopening on the number of infections can only be realistically assessed after 14 days.

05:01 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there should be an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

“It’s important for public health globally that there is a transparency in the way you can get access to this important information early,” he told a press conference. “I think it’s important that all countries cooperate with that regardless of who they are, and we would certainly be pursuing something along those lines.” 

Morrison also said Australia has already reached the turning point for the coronavirus, and that lockdown restrictions would be eased if the transmission rate remained below one — that means that every infected individual passes the virus on to no more than one other person.

Australia has about 6,300 coronavirus cases, and the growth in new infections has slowed dramatically from more than 25% in mid-March to less than 1% a day. Seventy-one people have died.

Morrison said a ban on elective surgery that was imposed to keep hospital beds free would be relaxed from next week. Students in the most populous state of New South Wales, where the most COVID-19 cases have been recorded, are to start returning to school on a staggered basis from May 11, the state government said.

03:54 The lifting of coronavirus restrictions must happen gradually, the WHO said, adding that there would be another spike of infections if the lockdown was removed too soon.
People need to be ready to deal with a new way of living in order to keep society moving, said WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai. He also said that lockdown measures have proved their value and that adaption would have to become new normal until a vaccine is ready. Multiple countries, including Germany, have started removing some restrictions on public life after health officials reported positive signals on the COVID-19 outbreak. Previously, Germany’s Merkel warned to reopening the country too quickly would be a “mistake.”

03:41 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is turning 94 today, but many of the usual events accompanying the celebration have been canceled due to the pandemic.  The royal family previously said that an annual military parade of horses and gun carriages, and a gun salute would not take place.
The queen and her husband, 98-year-old Prince Philip left London for their summer residence in Windsor as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, had been infected by the virus. While the queen’s actual birthday is on April 21, she also has another official birthday in June, accompanied by a much larger celebration. The traditions allow British monarchs to hold a large parade marking their birthdays in summertime, with the best chances of sunny weather.

02:48 US President Donald Trump referred to the “Invisible Enemy,” a phrase occasionally used to describe the new coronavirus, as a reason for suspending immigration into the US.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” he said in an unexpected announcement on Twitter.

Trump did not provide details on when the ban would go into force or what the scope or effects would be.

02:18 US oil prices rebounded after going below zero for the first time in history. On Tuesday, traders could buy a barrel for $1.1 (€1.01) for May delivery.

Previously, the coronavirus pandemic halted travel and transport across the globe and brought prices so low that sellers were paying their buyers to get rid of excess oil. On Monday, the price of a barrel of the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark hit  -$37,63 at the end of the trading day in New York.

Prices also slightly rose for oil set to be delivered in June, from $20.43 per barrel to over $21.

02:14 Nissan Motor Co announced Tuesday that it was temporarily shuttering some facilities in Japan and at its global headquarters to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Japanese automaker said the measure will affect 15,000 employees

The facilities will be shut for about 16 days starting April 25. Nissan said it would continue its “business-essential” operations with minimum employees and manage these employees’ safety and health. Nissan’s measures come a month before its announcement on the company’s recovery plan.

01:21 Mexican cartels are giving out aid packages — but they are also still committing violent crimes amid the pandemic, said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,

“We are taking care of the coronavirus, but unfortunately we still have the problem with the murders,” he said. 

The country’s government is exhausted by years of war against powerful drug smugglers. A recent online video showed one of the daughters of imprisoned cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman handing out rice, pasta, cooking oil and toilet paper.  The boxes were marked with Guzman’s image.

Talking to reporters on Monday, President Lopez Obrador said that such events “cannot be avoided.” He added that it would be “better to stop the violence.”

Mexico has so far seen 8,772 coronavirus infections and 712 deaths.

01:09 All UN member states called for “equitable” access to any future vaccine for COVID-19. The resolution was drafted by Mexico and supported by all 193 members of the UN General Assembly, including the US. The initiative called for more “scientific international cooperation necessary to combat COVID-19” and better coordination with the private sector.

The document also emphasized the “crucial leading role” of the World Health Organization, the UN health agency repeatedly blasted by US President Donald Trump, who accuses WHO of being biased in favor of China.

Last month, Germany responded with outrage to reports that US officials approached medical company CureVas and offered the German firm money to provide a vaccine exclusively for the US.

00:32 The US was looking into buying up to 75 million barrels of oil or renting storage space to sellers, President Donald Trump told reporters, after the pandemic drove the price below zero.

“We are filling up our national petroleum reserves… You know, the strategic reserves,” he told reporters.
He later added he would wait for Congress approval and funding for the buyout. The announcement came hours after the price of oil went negative for the first time in history, with sellers forced to offer money to have buyers take excess oil. The demand for oil crashed due to travel and transport restrictions worldwide.

00:02: The Chilean town of Zapallar is using a drone to deliver essential items such as medications, masks and sanitizers to the population’s most vulnerable. The four-propeller drone is used to transport items to remote areas of the city.

The drone is controlled by municipal workers and was previously used to support the city for work like fighting forest fires and finding lost people. The mayor of Zapallar said that the “pilot drone program” would help the elderly and the poor. He added that the move will help the people get their medications “without exposing a public worker or a member of the family of the person in quarantine”.

Chile currently has over 10,000 cases, the third-highest in Latin America. Zapallar is yet to report a confirmed case of COVID-19. 

00:00 US President Donald Trump said the UN’s health agency, WHO, “tried to cover up for China” at the White House press briefing, without providing evidence to back the claim.

He also slammed top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who spearheaded Trump’s impeachment trial, saying she should have been looking into the early stages of COVID-19 instead.

“They could have been looking into China, they should have been looking into China,” Trump said. “A lot of people are blaming the Democrats for wasting all that time because… it was during that period of time it was fomenting,” he added.

dj/stb (DW, Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)