Coronavirus updates: Germany to scrap EU travel warnings by mid-June

  • Germany has unveiled plans to allow travel within Europe from June 15
  • More than 6.4 million people are now infected with COVID-19 globally and some 380,000 have died
  • Brazil’s Health Ministry reports a new record of 1,262 deaths in the previous 24 hours
  • China says it has had just a single new case over the last day

All times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

23:59 We are now closing coverage on these updates. Head over to Thursday’s coverage for the latest. 

22:57 Colombia is closing the Capitolio Nacional — which houses both chambers of Congress — after a legislator tested positive for coronavirus, local media reports say. 

Jose Luis Correa had been in contact with other lawmakers, many of whom reportedly did not wear masks. 

22:05 Former Ecuadorian president Abdala Bucaram has been detained after a raid at his home as part of a corruption probe into the purchase of hospital supplies during the corona crisis.

Read more: Ex-Ecuador president detained during COVID-19 graft probe

Authorities recovered nearly 5,000 masks and 2,000 coronavirus test kits, along with an unlicensed gun.

21:25 German Chancellor Angela Merkel said governing parties have agreed on a €130 billion ($146 billion) stimulus package to help the economy recover from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The measures include temporarily cutting value-added tax form 19% to 16%, providing families with an additional €300 per child and doubling a government-supported rebate on electric car purchases.

Read more: Germany unveils stimulus package to kickstart economy

The package also establishes a €50 billion fund for addressing climate change, innovation and digitization within the German economy.

The measures were agreed by Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and junior governing partner, the Social Democrats following marathon negotiations that lasted 21 hours.

21:08 The European Union and China have postponed a landmark summit due to take place in Germany in September because of the pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman has announced.

In a phone call between Merkel, European Council president Charles Michel and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the leaders agreed “that the meeting could not take place at the scheduled time in view of the overall pandemic situation, but that it should be postponed,” said spokesman Steffen Seibert.

The summit, where the EU was hoping to cement a common policy for the bloc’s ties with China, was supposed to take place in Leipzig.

19:00 Research carried out by the Netherlands’ National Institute for Health (RIVM) has revealed that children under the age of 12 play little role in transmitting the novel coronavirus.

The results published in medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde monitored the disease in 54 families, with 227 participants in total. “Yes, children can become infected, but transmission takes place primarily between adults of similar age, and from adults to children,” the study concluded.

“Transmission between children, or from children to adults, as is known in influenza, appears to be less common.”

18:40 Organizers of the famous Cannes Film Festival have announced an official program of 56 movies that will be screened online. The festival will take place virtually after the event, which usually takes place in May, was called off due to the pandemic. Cinema was “more alive than ever,” according to festival organizer Thierry Frémaux, presenting the list.

The crisis and delays in the post-production process had not impacted the number of movies submitted to the festival, added Fremaux. This year, the festival received 200 more entries than in 2019.

The star-studded event that takes place in the French city of Cannes has only been called off once, in 1939 – the year that WWII began. But this year, “cancellation was not an option” said Fremaux.

The Cannes film program for this year includes movies by US director Wes Anderson and UK director Steve McQueen.

18:20 The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum is appealing for financial support after the COVID-19 pandemic caused revenue from visitors to dry up. The site of Nazi Germany’s most notorious death camp usually attracts more than two million visitors from across the globe each year.

“The 2020 budget has collapsed,” said a statement on its official website. “We are calling for financial assistance from all those who consider it necessary to preserve memory,” the statement added.

The museum has received support from the Polish culture ministry and the Auschwitz-Birkenau International Foundation to help maintain jobs and continue maintenance work to preserve the site. However, the loss from ticket sales means there is no funding for the creation of new exhibitions, education and publishing.

The camp was built by the Germans in the southern town of Oswiecim in 1940, in what was then occupied Poland. Over 1.1 million people, most of whom were European Jews, were killed by the Nazis at the camp before it was liberated in 1945.

17: 30 Mosques in the Gaza Strip have reopened, following a 70-day closure due to the novel coronavirus.

Worshippers were told to wear facemasks while attending the mosques. The places of worship will also be disinfected regularly to minimize infection. Children and sick people were asked to remain at home.

Some mosques in the strip opened their doors 10 days ago for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but Wednesday marked a full reopening.

The densely populated strip has registered around 60 coronavirus cases and one death – all among returning Gazans, who were quarantined on arrival.

16:40 Italy is set to receive €20 billion ($22.47 billion) from a new European scheme that is aimed at softening the blow of the coronavirus economic crisis, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a news conference.

The country would also benefit from funds made available by the European Investment Bank, as part of a wider European Union package designed to boost the bloc’s economic recovery, added Conte.

Meanwhile, Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus rising by 71, up from 55 the day before, reported the country’s Civil Protection Agency. The number of new confirmed cases remained largely stable at 321, compared with 318 on Tuesday.

The total death toll since the outbreak was first recorded in the southern European country on February 21 now stands at 33,601, the agency said — the third highest in the world after those of the US and Britain.

The majority of the new cases were in the country’s northern Lombardy region, which has been hardest-hit by the virus in the country. The figures were reported as Italy lifted restrictions on regional travel and opened its borders to travelers from Europe.

16:02 Tottenham Hotspur have revealed that one person at their club has tested positive for the novel coronavirus after another round of testing among all 20 Premier League clubs ahead of the division’s restart.

The individual was the only positive outcome among 1,197 players and officials, from tests conducted on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Premier League.

Spurs said the individual was “asymptomatic and will now self-isolate for seven days, in line with Premier League protocol, before undergoing further testing.”

The Premier League is set to resume on June 17, while the Bundesliga has already returned to action, and Spain’s La Liga is set to get underway on June 12.

15:40 France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have forged an alliance to speed up the development and production of a vaccine against the new coronavirus “on European soil,” said the Dutch Health Ministry in a statement.

The countries, now part of the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance, are “convinced that a successful result requires a joint strategy and investments,” said the statement. The alliance is currently exploring initiatives and is in discussions with various pharmaceutical companies.

Earlier that day, German Development Minister Gerd Müller called for a future coronavirus vaccine to be available to everyone. “We do not yet know who will develop the successful vaccine, but one thing is clear: it must be available everywhere,” said Müller in a joint appeal with Seth Berkley, head of the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) in German news magazine Focus.

15:20 The UK’s death toll of people who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 rose by 359 to 39,728, the government said.  A total of 279,856 people have now tested positive for the virus in the country.

A separate tally of UK deaths using official data from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, compiled from death certificate data and including suspected cases — which excluded from official government death statistics — showed a total of more than 50,000 deaths.

15:02 Belgium will reopen its borders to travelers from the EU, the UK and members of Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel zone on June 15, said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes.

Bars and restaurants will reopen from June 8, she added. But cinemas and other cultural spaces will have to wait until July 1 to open, where they will be able to host a maximum of 200 people.

Wilmes’ announcement follows Germany’s announcement that day saying it plans to scrap EU travel warnings and quarantining for travelers from mid-June.

14:50 The German state of Hesse has launched the “Safe Kids” study, researching the role that children have in transmitting COVID-19, said Sandra Ciesek, Director of the Institute for Medical Virology at University Hospital Frankfurt.

A total of 60 kindergartens across the state will participate in the study. Researchers plan to test 25 children and their teachers in each preschool on a weekly basis. The research is set to begin next week and will last between eight to 12 weeks.

It remains unclear what role children play in transmitting the virus and how much risk the virus presents to children and staff in kindergartens.

14:20 The Czech Republic and Slovakia will lift travel restrictions between them from Thursday onwards, announced Slovakia’s new prime minister, Igor Matovic, during his inaugural visit to Prague.

Both countries shut the conjoining border from mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemics. Slovakians and Czechs were only allowed to visit the other country for up to 48 hours.

Matovic called the decision a “gift” and said the countries were restoring Czechoslovakia — the name of the state that split apart in 1993 to form the two separate countries.

Czechia also plans to allow tourists from other countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland to enter without having to present negative coronavirus test results from June 15, while Slovakia is remaining more cautious about easing its border restrictions.

13:01 Sweden’s chief epidemiologist has admitted that Sweden could have battled coronavirus better. The Scandinavian country’s response to the virus became controversial after becoming one of the few European countries that chose to not impose a lockdown. Sweden now has one of the highest deaths per capita in the world.

“I think there is potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden, quite clearly,” Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Public Health Agency said on the radio. He said that Sweden should have done “something between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done.”

The Swedish model was based around relying on citizens’ civic duty to slow the spread of the virus rather than imposing widespread restrictions. Gatherings of more than 50 people were banned, but schools, restaurants and bars remained open.

Neighboring Denmark, which will reopen to much of Europe this month, has postponed a decision on when to reopen the Swedish border.

12:33 Coronavirus deaths in the UK have exceeded 50,000, according to tallies by various news agencies. Johns Hopkins University, citing the official government statistics, puts the death toll at 39,452, but this does not take into account suspected cases or all hospital and care home deaths. The UK has the second-highest number of deaths in the world after the US.

Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the 14-day quarantine period that the UK will introduce on June 8. Johnson confirmed he will do all he can to support the beleaguered aviation and tourism sectors.

He also announced that all COVID-19 tests in the UK will expect to deliver results within 24 hours. Johnson’s Conservative government has been criticized for no longer publishing daily testing figures every day without apparent explanation.

With social distancing measures lifted, thousands of Londoners headed to Hyde Park to protest for the Black Lives Matter movement, with organizers urging supporters to keep their distance.

11:55 More than 600 nurses worldwide are known to have died from coronavirus, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has announced.

Coronavirus has infected an estimated 450,000 health care workers globally since the pandemic began.

“In the last two months, we have seen the number of deaths of nurses as a result of coronavirus around the world rise from 100 to now in excess of 600,” ICN Chief Howard Catton told Reuters.

“These are numbers that keep going up,” he added. Around 7% of COVID-19 infections are among health care workers.

11:25 The Dutch government has announced plans to cull the mink at farms where animals have been infected with the coronavirus, Dutch media reported.

Thousands of mink, which are bred for their fur, will be killed, although the Dutch government has not given details at this stage.

Coronavirus cases have been detected at eight mink farms in the Netherlands. The Agriculture Ministry has confirmed at least two cases where minks transmitted the virus to humans, the only animal-to-human transmission recorded since the virus was first recorded in China.

Mink farming was outlawed in the Netherlands in 2013, with farms told to close down by 2023.

10:55 Austria has announced that the entry checks at its borders will be scrapped on Thursday, with the exception of those on the Italian border.

The re-opening of borders applies to Austria’s neighbors of Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Neither quarantine periods nor required testing will be necessary to cross those borders.

 Opening the Italian border will only be possible “when the numbers have gone down,” said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

10:26 Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he does not plan to take part in an online summit on a possible coronavirus vaccine organized by the UK government.

Putin received his invitation to the online forum from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, a Kremlin spokesman said. The Global Vaccine Summit is scheduled for June 4 and is designed to mobilize resources needed to ensure universal availability of the vaccine against coronavirus.

09:05:  German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has unveiled Germany’s plan to lift travel restrictions on 29 European countries from June 15. Although the news will be welcomed by many, Maas warned Germans against rushing to travel.

“Details about travel are not necessarily an invitation to travel,” he said. “For example, we do not recommend travel to the UK while they have a 14-day quarantine period in place.”

 

The lifting of travel restrictions will depend on infection rates and domestic policies of the countries in question and could be changed or reviewed at any time. Some countries, like Spain and Norway, are not yet allowing tourists in.

Restrictions of travel outside of Germany were first announced in March. The German government will ease travel restrictions to the 26 EU nations as well as the UK, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Maas also confirmed there will be no further repatriation initiative this summer, after Germany chartered flights to return thousands of Germans to their home country from around the world during the spring. He said details for travel outside of the EU will depend on EU policies.

08:35 One person has been killed after a fire broke out in a St. Petersburg infectious diseases hospital, Russian media has reported. A fire at a different hospital last month was attributed to ventilators used to treat patients infected with coronavirus.

Russia has reported 8,536 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 432,277, the third-highest in the world.

The death toll has reached 5,215 with 178 new deaths recorded. Health experts have raised concern about Russia’s relatively low death count compared to the number of cases, saying that deaths may have been under-reported or attributed to other causes of deaths.

08:28 The number of jobless workers in Germany in May increased by 169,000 compared to April, according to new statistics. The Federal Employment Agency (BA) reported that there were 2.813 million registered unemployed people in Germany, 577,000 more compared with May 2019. The percentage of the population who are registered unemployed rose by 0.3% to 6.1%.

The labor force is under extreme pressure, BA chief Detlef Scheele said.

“The increase is not as high as in April, but unemployment and underemployment still rose sharply,” he said. Over 1 million Germans remained in “short-time work” during May owing to the pandemic.

Read more: Short-time work: A vital tool in Germany’s economic armory against coronavirus

07:13 A UK law firm has reported a 42% increase in requests for divorce since lockdown began, British media reported. Co-op Legal Services say the increase was compared to the same period of the year in 2019, according to UK daily The Telegraph.

Couples stuck together for long periods of time along with increased financial woes for many have put relationships under strain. Some weeks of the lockdown saw jumps of 75% compared to last year.

Read more: Japan looks for love online amid coronavirus crisis

06:20 German airline Lufthansa has posted a first-quarter net loss of €2.1 billion ($2.3 billion), as flight numbers were slashed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Global air traffic has come to a virtual standstill in recent months,” the group’s CEO Carsten Spohr said in a statement.

“In view of the very slow recovery in demand, we must now take far-reaching restructuring measures to counteract this,” he added, without going into more details.

Almost 700 of the airline’s 763 aircrafts remain grounded.

Read more: Lufthansa accepts terms of EU-Germany rescue deal

05:50 Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced that the country’s economy is heading for a recession for the first time in almost 30 years.

Output fell by 0.3% in the first quarter of the year from January to March, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the summer’s severe bushfires and droughts were also major contributors. Annual GDP growth dropped to only 1.4%.

“This was the slowest through-the-year-growth since September 2009 when Australia was in the middle of the global financial crisis and captures just the beginning of the expected economic effects of COVID-19,” said Bruce Hockman of the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Australia has seen no recession since 1991, defined by two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. The June quarter’s economic report is not expected until September, but the contraction is expected to be even more severe than in the first quarter.

05:45 Italy has reopened its borders to much of the rest of Europe, over two months after the country became one of the first in the world to introduce a strict lockdown. Tourists from the 26 EU nations, as well as the UK, Norway and Switzerland, will be able to visit without spending 14 days in quarantine, as was required before.

Italians will also be able to freely travel within the country’s 20 regions. Authorities are eager to encourage tourism, especially in hard-hit Lombardy in the north, but are concerned that people will be put off visiting a country where 33,000 people have died.

“Come to Calabria,” the southwest region’s premier Jole Santelli said. “There’s only one risk — you’ll get fat.”

Read more: Mediterranean tourist spots ease up on restrictions

05:09 India’s count of coronavirus infections has passed 200,000, its Health Ministry announced on Wednesday.

Cases jumped by 8,909 over the previous day, in one of the highest single-day spikes, bringing the total to 207,615 and making India the seventh hardest-hit country in the world.

Experts also say that the peak of the virus could still be weeks away. India’s death toll currently stands at 5,829.

03:50 The South Korean government has proposed its biggest stimulus package so far in a bid to cushion the blow to the economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

The 35.3 trillion won ($29 billion, €25.9 billion) package is the third coronavirus stimulus package announced by the Moon Jae-in government, after significant boosts in March and April.

Chances of the package being passed in the parliament are high as Moon’s Democratic party has an overall majority.

Between January and March, South Korea — the world’s 12th-largest economy — saw its biggest plunge in gross domestic product since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The stimulus is aimed at creating 550,000 jobs and providing business owners and small-to-medium sized companies with “emergency funds”.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the South Korean economy will shrink 1.2% this year.

03:36 South Korea has approved the import of remdesivir for coronavirus treatment. 

The country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety approved a request by the health authorities to import the antiviral drug produced by Gilead Sciences Inc. 

Last week, a government panel concluded that remdesivir had shown positive results.

Remdesivir was originally developed to treat Ebola infections, but it also showed effectiveness  against SARS and MERS coronaviruses in laboratory tests. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Remdesivir is no miracle cure

03:29 OECD Education Director Andreas Schleicher told German news agency DPA that coronavirus-related school closures would likely heighten social disparities in education systems.

A study published last year found that success in Germany’s public education system was largely contingent on social background. Schleicher said school closures would likely further engrain that into the German system.

“Children from disadvantaged social backgrounds usually only have one real chance in life: good teachers and efficient schools,” he said.

03:12 In Venezuela, the government and the opposition-led National Assembly have signed an agreement to work with the regional arm of the World Health Organization to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 

“COVID-19 does not respect or discriminate against gender, orientation or political party,” Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on state television.

“So this is good news, a good start, so that we can deepen our work together to combat COVID-19,” he added.

According to Rodriguez , Health Minister Carlos Alvarado, Dr Julio Castro, who heads the National Assembly’s commission on the coronavirus, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) signed the one-page agreement on June 1.

Under the agreement, the parties will seek funds to cover coronavirus response that includes improving testing, acquiring more protective gear and launching public health messaging campaigns.

03:12 Dubai authorities announced businesses could resume operations at full capacity as of Wednesday, marking an end to weeks of lockdown restrictions.

However, public health authorities said people must continue to adhere to social distancing measures and wear face masks in public.

In the Arab Gulf, many of the novel coronavirus outbreaks occurred in migrant labor camps. Some countries pledged to extend quality healthcare to those in need. Others offered to repatriate migrant laborers at the government’s expense.

Read more: Coronavirus deepens risks for migrant workers in the Gulf

03:00 Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported 342 new infections and 29 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.

According to the latest figures from RKI, the reproduction number, or R-value, has slipped below the critical level of 1.0 to 0.89. 

This means an infected person on average infects less than one other person. 

A total of 182,370 infections and 8,551 deaths have been reported in Germany since the crisis began.

02:52 The Iraqi Health Ministry announced its largest single-day spike in new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

Public health authorities reported 519 new cases, bringing Iraq’s total to more than 7,300. The increase is largely attributed to an increase in nationwide testing. At least 235 have died as a result of complications caused by the deadly pathogen.

In April, the Iraqi government refuted claims by Reuters news agency reporters, who said the government was under-reporting the number of positive cases in the country.

Since then, authorities have sought to expand testing. Public health experts have warned that Iraq’s healthcare system could suffer a fatal blow if the number of cases flared up.

Read more: Coronavirus: Arab uprisings struggle amid lockdowns

02:00 China has reported a single case of coronavirus, which was an imported one.

Four new asymptomatic cases were also recorded. China does not include asymptomatic patients in confirmed cases.

The mainland has recorded a total of 83,021 so far and with no new deaths reported, the death toll remains unchanged at 4,634.

01:30 Belgium has been criticized for its seemingly sky-high COVID-19 death toll, which currently has one of the highest death toll per capita rates in the world.

Belgium’s head of viral diseases told DW that the high numbers are actually the result of a radically transparent system. Even suspected COVID-19 cases are counted regardless whether the deceased person was tested.

For more on Belgium’s death rate controversy, check out the report here: Belgium’s coronavirus (over)counting controversy

01:05 Mexico has seen its highest number of daily infections till date with 3891 cases being reported in the last 24 hours.

The daily death toll was 470. 

The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 97,326 with 10,637 deaths, even as health authorities suspect that the number of unreported cases is significantly high.

00:30 British medical journal The Lancet has said it was concerned about the data behind a popular article that concluded hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients. 

The findings of the article, published in the journal on May 22,  had undermined scientific interest in the anti-malarial drug vigorously advocated by US President Donald Trump.

The drug, which has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, is at the centre of a highly politicized debate.  

It inhibited the coronavirus in laboratory experiments but has not been proven effective in humans, mainly in clinical trials that are randomized and placebo-controlled, as per the bar for data.

Last week, some 150 doctors questioned the findings of the article by signing an open letter to The Lancet. 

The study observed 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with hydroxychloroquine. 

In a note, editors of The Lancet said that serious scientific questions about the study were brought to their attention and they have commissioned an independent audit of the data.

00:05 The total number of coronavirus deaths in Brazil has now reached 31,199 since the start of the pandemic. 

The South American country reported 28,936 additional cases of coronavirus infections and a new record number of daily deaths with 1,262 deaths registered in the last 24 hours.

Brazil has now registered 555,383 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it the second-worst affected country behind the US.

Experts estimate the real number of infections could be up to 15 times higher than official figures, given relatively little testing across the vast country of 210 million.

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic: Is Brazil the new epicenter?

Across Latin America, many health care professionals are reporting that they have little or no access to personal protective equipment. They are carrying the heaviest burden in the fight against the coronavirus.

In Panama, trade unions came out on the streets to protest the government’s decision to reopen the country’s economy. The demonstrators claimed that it will lead to a surge in infections and deaths from the coronavirus. 

Panama is the worst-hit Central American country with 13,000 confirmed cases of infection and 350 deaths. The country’s construction industry and some mining operations resumed work on Monday after being closed as part of a nationwide lockdown.

00:00 Catch up on Tuesday’s developments here

ed,dvv/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

In reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, unless otherwise specified, DW uses figures provided by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center in the United States. JHU updates figures in real-time, collating data from world health organizations, state and national governments and other public official sources, all of whom have their own systems for compiling information.

Germany’s national statistics are compiled by its public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). These figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from JHU.

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. Sign up to receive it directly here.

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