The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office has said the spread of the coronavirus across Europe is slowing, but he added there was “no room for complacency.” Follow DW for the latest.
- The WHO says easing of restrictions must be “phased and gradual” and all countries should remain on high alert
- More than 4.3 million cases have been registered worldwide, resulting in over 297,000 deaths
- Germany will begin relaxing border control measures on Saturday, while unrestricted access for several neighboring countries is expected by June 15
- The UN says the pandemic has caused mental stress around the world
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
14:20 Some 2,000 supporters of a nationalist, pro-Russia party have staged a march in Bulgaria, accusing the government of imposing confusing restrictions to combat coronavirus, Reuters news agency reported.
Protesters waved party flags and yelled slogans aimed at Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who has extended regulations until June 14.
The protest was largely peaceful, though some people were detained for trying to break into Sofia’s parliament building. This marks the first protest in the country since a state of emergency was announced in March.
“We do not think we should be slaves,” one protester said, referring to the ongoing lockdown.
The EU member state has had 2,100 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 99 people have died.
13:50 Burundi’s Foreign Ministry expelled WHO experts, accusing them of “unacceptable interference in [Burundi’s] management of the coronavirus,” the AFP news agency reported, citing an anonymous government source.
Burundi is preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections next week. The public health experts had criticized the government’s decision to dismiss social distancing recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of “coronavirus during the electoral campaign.”
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi said it “deeply regretted the recent decision by the government to declare persona non grata the country representative of WHO and three of its experts.”
13:38 The United States government said there were 2.98 million claims for unemployment benefits over the last week.
Though the number is about 200,000 less than last week’s tally, the number of jobless claims in the US has surpassed 36 million since economic shutdowns began in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The report from the US Department of Labor comes a day after the head of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, warned that the US risked long-term economic damage if lawmakers don’t do more to prevent joblessness.
According to The New York Times, more than half of those applying for unemployment benefits in recent weeks have been unsuccessful. The American newspaper also said 13 states have yet to fully install a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that Congress passed in March to help workers not normally eligible for state jobless benefits.
The US has recorded nearly 1.4 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, accounting for nearly a third of all global cases. More than 84,000 Americans have died from the disease.
13:35 Hans Kluge, who leads theWHO’s Europe office, said data has shown “an overall slowing of the pandemic” in the European region. However, he warned that authorities should “remain vigilant.”
“The lesson here is: it is no time for celebration but time for preparation,” said Kluge. “Even if we have had few cases, we have seen the strongest health systems can be overwhelmed in a couple of weeks.”
Europe is one of the hardest-hit continents so far with several EU member states, including Italy, Spain and Germany, among the 10 countries with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths.
Even as restrictions are eased across Europe, several EU countries, including Germany, have warned that signs of a second wave of infections could trigger renewed lockdown measures.
13:20 Tax income collected in Germany will drop by €81.5 billion ($88 billion) in 2020 because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has announced. This is the first time since the 2009 financial crisis that the amount of money flowing into Germany’s tax coffers is expected to decrease.
This dramatic decline in tax income means Germany will have €98.6 billion less to spend this year than was predicted in November 2019, on a federal, state and local level.
Scholz said the effects of the lowered income will be felt in federal budgets until at least fall 2024.
13:10 The Spanish Health Ministry reported an increase in daily deaths, warning that the country is at-risk of suffering a second wave of infections. The death toll over a 24-hour period ending on Thursday rose to 217, up from the previous day’s 184.
More than half of the cases were reported in the region of Catalonia, said the ministry’s head of health emergencies, Fernando Simon.
“We are now working with the region to identify the date of the deaths and evaluate whether these are new fatalities or if there was a delay in the update,” Simon said.
Spain is one of the hardest-hit EU countries with more than 228,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 27,100 related deaths.
12:47 The French government announced a package of measures worth €18 billion ($19 billion) to ease the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic for France’s tourism sector.
“Tourism is facing what is probably its worst challenge in modern history,” said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. “Because this is one of the crown jewels of the French economy, rescuing it is a national priority.”
With foreign tourism making up 8% of France’s gross domestic product, France is hoping to soften the blow of the pandemic’s economic fallout as European governments push forward with lifting restrictions before the summer holiday season.
However, roughly 95% of the country’s hotels remain closed under nationwide restrictions on gatherings and mobility aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly pathogen.
France is one of the hardest-hit countries in the EU, with more than 178,000 confirmed cases and just over 27,000 deaths.
Read more: Which European Union countries are open for summer tourism?
11:48 Germany’s Bundestag has approved a second package of measures to help fight the effects of the pandemic. The headline act grants a €1,000 cash bonus for carers of the elderly both in outpatient and inpatient capacities.
State governments and employers are encouraged to increase this sum to €1,500. It also commits an extra €50 million to the country’s 375 branches of health care authorities for better equipment and more up-to-date technology.
Other measures include a heavily expanded testing regime, obligations for health insurance companies, and vaccination rules.
11:21 French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has backtracked on comments today, after a sharp rebuke from France (see 07:00 update).
It said it would make its hopeful COVID-19 vaccine available in all countries, when it’s ready, after earlier saying the US would get priority access.
“We have always been committed in these unprecedented circumstances to make our vaccine accessible to everyone,” the company said in a statement. It said its cooperation with US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — which funded the development — allows it “to initiate production as early as possible.”
The European Union earlier joined France in criticizing the prioritisation of the US, saying that any vaccine must be available fairly to all countries.
“The vaccine against COVID-19 should be a global public good and its access needs to be equitable and universal,” European Commission spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker told reporters.
The EU organized the global fundraising of $8 billion (€7.4 billion) to fund vaccine research, despite the US refusing to take part.
“For us in one word it is very important that, as the virus is a global virus, that we work on this globally,” Keersmaecker said.
The European Medicines Agency said earlier today that a vaccine may, in an “optimistic” scenario, be ready in a year’s time.
10:35 The European Union’s Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has warned that COVID-19 contact-tracing apps should not be abused.
“Apps cannot be used for mass surveillance. Individuals will keep control on their data,” Reynders told EU lawmakers in a plenary sitting.
“Apps should be only used during the crisis and be deactivated at the latest when the pandemic is over,” Reynders said. He told lawmakers that app de-activation should occur even if users forget to uninstall them.
09:47 Marco Cavaleri, who heads the the EU Medicines Agency’s vaccine division, said the development of a coronavirus vaccine within a year amounts to the “best-case scenario.”
“We can see the possibility if everything goes as planned that some of them (vaccines) could be ready for approval in a year from now, so beginning of 2021,” said Cavaleri.
However, he warned that delays could sidetrack the endeavor and that the development of a vaccine could simply be unfeasible.
“We know not all vaccines that come into development may not make it to authorization and disappear,” he said.
EU countries have pledge billions of euros towards development a vaccine, which is widely seen as the best possibility to end the devastating pandemic.
09:40 People from ethnic minorities in the UK face a significantly higher risk from COVID-19. For example, black people are four times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white people. Among health care workers, too, there’s a significantly higher fatality rate for people of color.
DW’s Charlotte Potts reports on the disproportionate COVID-19 fatality rate for people of color in the UK.
09:10 Japan will lift the state of emergency in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures. Emergency measures will remain in place in the rest, including Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, where the risk is still deemed high.
The plan was approved by experts on the country’s coronavirus task force. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is addressing the nation on what this will mean.
Abe first declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other areas on April 7, and later expanded it to the whole country. It was initially scheduled to run until May 31.
Read more: Coronavirus crisis changing Japan’s work culture
There are more than 16,000 confirmed cases across the country, with about 680 deaths.
Abe warned that if the situation deteriorates, measures may be reimposed. He said he would aim to lift the remaining sanctions before the end of month, if possible. He also asked people to avoid traveling between prefectures in May.
08:30 Across Germany, lockdown restrictions are being gradually lifted. Some schools are carefully opening up, and a lot of shops and businesses are up and running again under social distancing rules. As a country that has done well in the crisis, could Germany be risking the progress made so far by reopening prematurely?
08:15 The outlook for global oil prices has marginally improved, according to the International Energy Agency. The easing of lockdown measures, coupled with a massive reduction in oil output have helped keep the market somewhat steady after a monumental drop in oil prices known as “Black April.”
“Since then, the outlook has improved somewhat and prices, while still far below where they were before the start of the COVID-19 crisis, have rebounded from their April lows,” it said in its latest monthly report.
It expects demand for oil to fall by 8.6 million barrels per day.
Read more: Why global oil prices are going topsy-turvy
07:36 The pandemic will cost the global insurance industry about $203 billion (€188 billion), Lloyd’s of London has predicted. Lloyd’s alone is expecting to pay up to $4.3 billion on coronavirus claims. This puts the crisis on the same level as the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, it said in a statement.
“The estimated 2020 underwriting losses covered by the industry as a result of COVID-19 are approximately $107 billion, on par with some of the biggest major claims years for the industry,” it said. “In addition, unlike other events, the industry will also experience falls in investment portfolios of an estimated $96 billion, bringing the total projected loss to the insurance industry to $203 billion.”
Insurance group Zurich said a second wave could seriously jeopardise the global economy.
“If we do have a second wave and lockdowns, that’s almost the worst outcome from an economic perspective,” said Guy Miller, chief market strategist at Zurich Insurance Company.
A second wave would “postpone business investment indefinitely” and see consumers retrench as hopes for a quick economic recovery are dashed. He said the next two weeks are pivotal in demonstrating how businesses and consumers respond to loosening lockdowns.
The Swiss insurance giant is predicting payouts of $750 million this year, due to the pandemic, having already paid out $280 million.
07:00 Just 4.4% of the French population have been infected by the coronavirus, according to a new study. A Pasteur Institute report found that 2.8 million people have been infected. The figure is much higher than the official count, but far too low for “herd immunity” to become a reality.
The worst hit regions — in the east and in the Paris region — infection rates stand between 9% and 10% on average.
“Around 65% of the population should be immune if we want to control the pandemic by the sole means of immunity,” the study says.
“As of a consequence, our results show that, without a vaccine, the herd immunity alone will not be enough to avoid a second wave at the end of the lockdown. Efficient control measures must thus be upheld after May 11,” researchers say.
France has been cautiously reopening the country. The country’s 40,000 dentists are now able to open practises. The group has been identified as one of the most-at-risk medical professions.
Also today, the French government rebuked pharmaceutical giant Sanofi after it said it would prioritize the US market once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
“For us, it would be unacceptable for there to be privileged access to such and such a country for financial reasons,” deputy finance minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio.
05:55 The head of Dubai Airport has outlined a possible future for international air travel. Chief Executive Paul Griffiths told Reuters news agency that temperature screening and face masks will become common sights at airports across the world and that physical distancing could make flying more expensive.
“We are going to have to take whatever measures are necessary to protect the traveling public and our staff,” he said. “We will not be able to operate at anything close to our original design capacity if we had to maintain social distancing,” he said.
If airlines are forced to impose physical distancing, then they will have to increase airfares to account for empty seats. Such distancing will need to be enforced until there is a vaccine, he said.
05:27 The Robert Koch Institute has released the latest infection numbers for Germany. The number of confirmed cases rose by 933 to a total of 172,239. And 89 people died, bringing the total death toll to 7,723.
This is how it compares to previous days:
Wednesday May 13: 798 new cases; 101 new deaths
Tuesday May 12: 933 new cases; 116 new deaths
Monday May 11: 357 new cases; 22 new deaths
Sunday May 10: 667 new cases; 13 new deaths
Saturday May 9: 1,251 new cases; 147 new deaths
05:00 Germany will continue to tolerate protesters who fail to respect social distancing regulations, German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said.
Germany has seen an increasing number of anti-lockdown protests, mostly with legitimate business, freedom and ethical concerns. Some highly-vocal and visible protests have been led by conspiracy theorists.
“Demonstrations are part of democratic normality. And in view of the debate we are having, they are a matter of course,” Spahn told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. “The following applies to all large crowds: if you do not observe the rules of distance, you endanger yourself and others, because that is precisely where the virus is spreading.”
“Should we therefore break up a peaceful demonstration? I have great doubts as to whether that would be proportionate. After all, a fundamental right is being exercised there. In the long term, we cannot control the virus by force. It will only succeed if citizens want to participate, if they want to protect each other, if they want to look after each other. The vast majority still want that. That is my firm belief.”
However, he called for a distinction to be made between legitimate protesters and those who spread conspiracy theories.
04:45 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has defended the country’s move away from so-called immunity certificates. In theory, the concept would allow those who have tested positive for the coronavirus antibodies to be exempted from restrictions on their activities and travel. However, Germany has temporarily shelved the idea as an ethics council deliberates on the issues surrounding them.
“I think it is right to remove the proposal from the current emergency legislation. There has been understandable criticism, which shows me that, as a society, we need more time to debate this issue. That is why I have also asked the Ethics Council for an opinion,” he told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
“The question of which restrictions are permissible for whom and when will become increasingly contentious for us.
“Other countries are already planning to make entry dependent on such proof of immunity in the future. This already exists for other contagious diseases, such as yellow fever. We will therefore have to continue to work on this issue. After all, the solution cannot be that our citizens can no longer travel to countries that are planning such arrangements.”
Read more: Germany mulls mass testing for coronavirus immunity: report
04:02 The Japanese government’s plan to end the state of emergency in 39 prefectures has been accepted by a panel of experts, the country’s economy minister said. The state of emergency will remain in eight other regions, including the capital Tokyo, and Osaka. Another review is scheduled for May 21. The decision to lift the measure comes after infections saw a sharp decline.
03:52 German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer sees the upcoming behind-closed-doors matches as an ideal chance for players to flourish, particularly those wracked with nerves when playing in front of large audiences.
“I have seen a lot of players who shone on the training pitch and whose nerves fluttered on Saturdays in the full stadium,” the 74-year-old told German newspaper Bild.
The Bundesliga is due to return this weekend after a two month hiatus due to the outbreak. No fans will be allowed in or near the stadiums due to restrictions on large public gatherings.
03:47 The United Nations has warned of a major global mental health crisis due to the outbreak, calling for urgent action to address the psychological impact of the pandemic.
The pandemic has placed mental stress on people fearing they or their loved ones will be infected or die from the virus, the UN said. It has also left a psychological impact on people who have lost their loved ones, according to the report.
The crisis has also impacted those who have lost or are at risk of losing their livelihood, as well as those who have suffered due to the drastic lockdown measures. Medical workers operating under stress, children kept out of school, women at risk of domestic abuse, and the elderly with pre-existing conditions are among the host of groups that face particular psychological challenges brought on by the crisis.
“Even when the pandemic is brought under control, grief, anxiety, and depression will continue to affect people and communities,” UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres said in a video message.
03:26 Germany has registered an additional 933 cases over the last 24 hours, according to the Robert Koch Institute, taking its total number of infections to 172,239. Its death toll went up by 89 over the same period, bringing the total number of fatalities from COVID-19 to 7,723.
The number of infections is up from yesterday’s daily figure of 798, while the number of fatalities fell slightly over the last 24 hours, from yesterday’s 101 reported deaths.
Read more: What is Germany’s Robert Koch Institute?
03:19 Australians must brace themselves for more “hard news,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after unemployment figures shot up to a five-year high, largely due to the pandemic.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a record 594,300 job losses were lost in April, and the jobless rate stood at 6.2%, the highest since September 2015.
“This is a tough day for Australia, a very tough day,” Morrison said at a press briefing. “Terribly shocking, although not unexpected.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that while the job losses were “heartbreaking”, he warned that the situation would get worse before it got better, even as the country begins to gradually ease certain restrictive measures.
03:15 German Health Minister Jens Spahn is asking all German states to support a bonus payment plan for nursing home staff.
In an interview with Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), Spahn said care workers deserve “financial recognition” for their hard work during the “difficult conditions” in inpatient and outpatient care brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The bonus plan will be decided on by the German Parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday. It would provide care workers a bonus of up to €1,000 paid out of nursing care insurance. The insurance companies would then be reimbursed by the government.
02:46 New Zealand has unveiled a NZ$50 billion (€27.64 billion, $30 billion) plan in its annual budget to combat the economic damages caused by the pandemic. The government warned that despite the spending boost, there would still be thousands of job losses and business closures.
The fund will be used over a four-year period, and about NZ$30 billion have been already allocated this year.
“It’s the most significant financial commitment by a government in New Zealand’s history,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.
New Zealand’s economy, which is dependent on trade and tourism, is set to contract 4.6% in 2020.
Despite the grim outlook, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is up for reelection in September, has garnered international praise for her handling of the crisis. So far, New Zealand has registered 21 deaths due to the virus.
02:15 Mexico has confirmed 1,862 new cases and 294 additional deaths over the past 24 hours, the country’s health ministry reported, taking the total number of infections to 40,186, and the number of deaths up to 4,220.
The number of fatalities is a slight fall on the previous day’s tally, when Mexico reported its highest daily death toll of 353.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced a plan to ease restrictions and revive certain sectors, including the automotive industry, starting May 18.
01:53 China’s National Health Commission reported three new COVID-19 cases for May 13, down from seven cases the day prior. Officials said the cases were locally transmitted in the northeastern Liaoning and Jilin provinces. China’s official case count is currently at 82,929.
In Wuhan, the city in China where the coronavirus pandemic originated, Chinese media reported that authorities are planning to test all of the city’s 11 million residents in the next 10 days, following the discovery last weekend of an infection cluster of six people in a residential complex.
However, no official announcement has been made, and it remains unclear how Wuhan authorities plan to test more than 1 million people per day.
01:19 The president of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, Germany’s official medical regulatory body, said he is confident that at least three potential corornavirus vaccines will be tested in Germany before the end of the year.
“If all of these clinical trials turn out positive, then we’ll talk about how to start approval by the end of this year or early next year,” Klaus Cichutek told the newspaper Mannheimer Morgen, adding he is confident a vaccine will eventually be developed.
In the meantime, Cichutek said it is necessary to develop therapies to treat COVID-19, such as antibody treatment using blood plasma from recovered patients.
01:03 Small saliva droplets generated by loud speech can linger in the air in an enclosed space for more than 10 minutes, a study showed, highlighting its role in the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Scientists at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in the US conducted a study where a person loudly repeats the phrase “Stay healthy” inside a box for 25 seconds.
A laser light projected into the box illuminated thousands of minuscule saliva droplets, which could potentially carry virus particles. The droplets stayed in the air for 12 minutes, the study showed.
The researchers estimate that each minute of loud speech by an infected person can generate 1,000 virus-containing droplets that remain airborne for about eight minutes or more in a confined space.
Many countries recommend wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19.
00:53 The United States has registered a further 1,813 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 84,059, according to the latest tally from the Johns Hopkins University.
The US has now confirmed a total of 1,389,935 cases, the Baltimore-based institution reported.
00:05 US President Donald Trump has said he considers warnings about a hasty reopening from the country’s top infectious disease expert and key coronavirus task force member, Anthony Fauci, to be “not acceptable,” especially when it comes to schools.
“We’re opening our country, people want it open,the schools are going to be open,” Trump said.
Previously, Fauci told the US Senate that cities and states could see more COVID-19 deaths and economic damage if stay-at-home orders are lifted without having proper response capabilities in place. “My concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” said Fauci.
There is a growing rift between Trump and US disease experts who are warning that easing social distancing and reopening businesses without capacity to track new COVID-19 cases will lead to greater calamity in the months ahead.
Trump has placed a priority on restarting the US economy, which is currently saddled with record unemployment as businesses are shut during lockdowns. Trump said he was optimistic the growth would pick up again. “I think we are going to have a phenomenal next year.”
Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Joe Biden has mocked Trump, and come out in support of Fauci. He tweeted: “I would trust the guy who’s one of our nation’s top public health experts, not the one who pondered injecting disinfectant into the body and looked directly at a solar eclipse.”
00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: WHO warns of easing lockdowns too soon
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.
wmr, adi/jsi (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Every evening, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.