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Coronavirus: Germany's reproduction rate spikes

June 20, 2020

The rate at which an infected person passes the virus to others has climbed to 1.55. Meanwhile, Spain is preparing to lift its 14-week state of emergency at midnight. Here's what happened on Saturday.

Health workers in full protective gear
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K.D. Gabbert

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- US President Trump is to host his first campaign rally in Oklahoma since the pandemic began, ignoring health officials' advice

- An outbreak at a German slaughterhouse now tops 1,000 cases                   

- On World Refugee Day, Greece extends a lockdown on migrant camps for a further two weeks

- Globally, more than 8.6 million people have tested positive and roughly 460,000 people have died

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:34 Brazil has recorded more than 1,000 new deaths from coronavirus in a single day, bringing the total number of fatalities to just below 50,000. There were over 30,000 new infections reported. Brazil is the second worst-hit country in the world and total cases have passed 1 million. 

Across Latin America, countries have been ramping up testing efforts, leading to new record numbers of cases in several countries this week.

Chile has nearly doubled its official death toll  in a single day after changing the way it counted fatalities. By including deaths that were probably caused by COVID-19, Chile's death count jumped to over 7,000.

19:46 US President Donald Trump's campaign says six staff members who were helping to set up for his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Six members of the advance team tested positive out of hundreds of tests performed and quarantine procedures were immediately implemented," campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said. "No COVID-positive staffers or anyone in immediate contact will be at today’s rally or near attendees and elected officials." 

He added that all people attending the rally would be given face masks, hand sanitizer, and would have their temperature checked at the entrance.

Saturday's event, held at an arena that can accommodate 19,000 people, will likely be the first massive indoor gathering since the pandemic began.

Thousands of Trump supporters were expected to attend, sparking fears about a surge in new coronavirus cases in the area.

Visitors at Trump rally have no concerns about COVID-19

19:28 Spain says British tourists will be able to enter the country from Sunday without having to spend two weeks in quarantine

Spain ends its state of emergency on Sunday, the same day it is due to open its borders to travelers from EU and Schengen area countries.

Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told the BBC that the relaxed border controls would also apply to Britons, opening up one of Spain’s largest tourist markets. 

The arrangement isn’t reciprocal, though. All international arrivals still have to quarantine for 14 days if they want to go to the UK, although that policy is due to be reviewed on June 29. Gonzalez Laya said Madrid was in talks with the British government about whether the UK might also ease rules for Spaniards.

She said Spain had decided to open its borders "out of respect for the 400,000 British citizens who have second residences in Spain" and who are "dying to benefit" from them. More than a fifth of the 80 million tourists who visit Spain each year come from the UK.

Read more: Germans test coronavirus pandemic travel rules on Mallorca

19:25 Britain's coast guard says it has detained five cruise ships after concerns about the welfare of crew members stranded by the coronavirus pandemic, some of whom have been aboard for a year.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says it found "a number of expired and invalid Seafarers Employment Agreements, late payment of wages and crews who had been on board for over 12 months" when it inspected the ships.

Four of the vessels — the Astoria, Astor, Columbus and Vasco da Gama — are berthed at Tilbury Docks, east of London. The fifth, the Marco Polo, is at Avonmouth in southwest England. All five belong to Global Cruise Lines Ltd., which has its headquarters in Greece.

Coast guards say the ships will be detained until the labor breaches are resolved. Cruise lines stopped sailing in mid-March after several large coronavirus outbreaks at sea, and thousands of seafarers remain stranded.

The All India Seafarers Union wrote to the Indian government last week seeking help for Indian crew aboard the Astoria it said were "stuck in foreign waters.''

19:12 Chile's coronavirus death toll has doubled to more than 7,000 after the South American country changed its counting method to include probable fatalities from COVID-19. As a result, 3,069 new deaths were added to the tally on Saturday, the Health Ministry said.

The change was introduced after weeks of controversy over the government’s statistics, which Chilean media alleged were far lower than the real toll. 

The country began implementing restrictions to curb the virus in February, but infections there have continued to rise. It now has more than 235,000 cases, putting it in ninth place in the list of worst-affected countries, despite its relatively small population of fewer than 19 million people. 

Chile’s total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths currently stands at 4,075, but with suspected cases, it rises to 7,144.

18:42 The reproduction rate of the coronavirus in Germany has risen to 1.55, significantly higher than what is needed to contain the outbreak.

The reproduction rate, or 'R' value, estimates how many people an infected person passes the virus on to. Experts say that number needs to stay below one for the spread to remain low.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease reported that its average reproduction rate over the past seven days was 1.55, while the four-day average stood at 1.79. Both numbers are much higher than the rates published on Friday, which were 1.17 and 1.06 respectively.

The institute said the figures indicated the number of new cases was not declining further, mainly as a result of local outbreaks, such as the one affecting workers at a meat-processing plant in Gütersloh, western Germany.

However, it warned that 'R' values should be interpreted with caution, as they usually reflect the course of infection one to two weeks ago.

Expert on COVID-19 app

17:05 Residents angry at being kept under quarantine in a housing complex in the German city of Göttingen have attacked police, injuring several of them.

The disturbance broke out from midday, said a police spokesperson in the state of Lower Saxony. Several residents then attempted to break down the fence that had been erected by city authorities to isolate the block of flats.

Police who were responding to the incident then had objects thrown at them from people inside the complex

Around 700 residents of the housing block remain in quarantine. Many of the apartments are believed to be crowded, with large families living in cramped conditions, according to municipal officials.

16:14 Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has urged caution on the last day of the state of emergency imposed to contain the coronavirus. "The virus can return, and we could face a second wave of infections," Sanchez said in a televised speech. "We all need to follow health and hygiene regulations closely."

Spain, one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic, introduced a strict lockdown in mid-March to contain the virus, which has led to 28,000 deaths. From midnight the lockdown is to be lifted. The lockdown was highly unpopular, but Sanchez said it had prevented the death toll from rising to 450,000.

He thanked people for their efforts during this period, particularly by health-care staff, police and key workers. The PM also paid tribute to women, who make up the majority of health and retail workers, who stayed at home to take care of children and in some cases, faced domestic abuse.

Although politicians are divided, Sanchez called on the country to unite to rebuild the economy, and not to simply restore it but work towards greater sustainability and digitalization in the future. He also defended the European Union's plans for a recovery package to address the crisis unleashed by the pandemic, saying past lessons had been learned and that the "new Europe" was acting out of solidarity. 

Mallorca: The Germans are coming!

14:18 The US State Department says COVID-19 infections have been reported at its embassy in the Afghan capital and affected staff including diplomats, contractors and local staff.

The State Department did not say how many were affected. An official at the embassy in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said up to 20 people were infected, the majority of them Nepalese Gurkhas, who provide embassy security.

The infected staff are in isolation in the embassy while the remainder on the compound are being tested, said the embassy official. 

The State Department said a sanitization of the premises was being carried out to "prevent further outbreak."

Afghanistan has 28,424 confirmed coronavirus cases. International aid organizations monitoring the pandemic's spread in the country say the numbers are much higher because of a lack of testing capabilities as well as access to testing.

13:11 Most sports events in France can have a maximum of 5,000 spectators from July 11, the government said on Saturday. 

Authorities will decide next month whether a further easing of the coronavirus restrictions can take place in the second half of August.

The French Football League said recently that it wanted to start the new season on August 22 and 23. The 2019-20 season was scrapped at the end of April because of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the German, Spanish and English leagues have since restarted.

12:52 Pope Francis has met health workers from Lombardy, the Italian region worst hit by the coronavirus epidemic, and hailed their "heroic" work. During the health crisis, "we felt stronger than ever the gratitude for doctors, nurses and all medical staff, at the forefront of performing an arduous and sometimes heroic service," he said.

"They have been a heart-warming, visible sign of humanity. Many of them got sick and some, unfortunately, died in the exercise of their profession. We remember them in prayer and with much gratitude."

Francis said health workers acted as "angels" for Covid-19 patients, consoling them, supporting them and sometimes walking with them until death.

Out of around 34,500 nationwide deaths, almost half have been in Lombardy, home to Italy's business and fashion capital Milan.

Can we trust tracing apps?

12:26 More than a thousand workers at a meat processing plant in western Germany have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

Sven-Georg Adenauer, the district administrator of the Gütersloh district, told a news conference that 1,029 employees of the slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrück are now confirmed to have the virus. However, he emphasized that there had been no "significant spread of corona cases in the general population" as a result of the cluster.

The plant is owned by Tönnies, one of Germany's largest meat producers. Its slaughterhouses are mostly staffed by workers from eastern Europe, who are housed in crowded company-provided accommodation, which increases the risk of infection.

Schools and daycare centers in the area have been ordered to shut once again, and the plant has been closed.

Even though its management of the coronavirus crisis has been among the most successful in Europe, Germany has seen repeated outbreaks in slaughterhouses. Armin Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, has warned that the latest cluster has threatened a renewed lockdown for the whole region.

11:45 Zimbabwe’s health minister, Obadiah Moyo, is expected to appear in court on allegations of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for coronavirus testing kits, drugs and personal protective equipment to a questionable company.

The country’s anti-corruption agency arrested Moyo on Friday after it was found that he had allegedly chosen the company to sell medical supplies to the government at inflated prices that included face masks for $28 (€25) each. 

The government canceled the contracts following the outcry over the inflated prices, while one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sons issued a statement denying any links to the company, after photos showed a representative of the company spending time with Mnangagwa and his family at several events. 

The representative, Delish Nguwaya and top officials of the national drugs procurement agency are also facing criminal charges related to the scandal. He is accused of lying in saying that the company was a drug manufacturing company based in Switzerland, '' whereas it was merely a consulting company with no experience in the manufacture of drug and medical products,''  according to the charge sheet. 

Zimbabwe has recorded 479 cases, with a death toll of four.

Read more: COVID-19 places extra burden on African women

10:56 Kyrgyzstan shut down public transportation in the capital Bishkek, and routes between all provinces following a rise in the number of infections. 

The temporary shutdown is set to last until Monday, Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov said. "We must ensure the country's full readiness for a worsening of the epidemiological situation," he said. "We see daily growth in new COVID-19 cases." 

Officials reported 192 new cases, bringing the total in the former Soviet republic of 6.5 million people to 2,981. Kyrgyzstan has a COVID-19 death toll of 35.

The country ended a state of emergency, which entailed curfews and lockdowns, in May.

10:25 Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said that she wasn’t bothered by the damper that the coronavirus pandemic has put on the climate change protests that she began.

"A crisis is a crisis – and in a crisis, everyone needs to take a few steps back and act in the best interest of society and our fellow human beings," she told Swedish radio broadcaster P1.

She added that the response to the pandemic was appropriate, as emergency summits were called, economic recovery packages were created, and people changed their behavior to curb the spread of the virus, she said.

Global limits on gatherings made it difficult for supporters of the climate protest movement to gather in numbers as large as the months prior to the pandemic. 

Thunberg’s home country, Sweden, currently has 56,043 confirmed cases and a death toll of 5,053.

Read more: Greta Thunberg asks UN to back lawsuit against Germany and others

Sweden’s FM Linde: 'We managed to flatten the curve'

09:55 French demonstrators covered the Paris-based Health Ministry with red paint to demonstrate against poor working conditions for public health care workers, and to symbolize the blood of those who died from COVID-19

Protesters also set a large, medal-shaped banner that they called the "Medal of Contempt" on the steps of the building, to decry what they said was the government’s failure to listen to the concerns of health care workers.

France moved to award a €1,500 ($1,676) bonus to public sector health care workers for their work during the pandemic. However, many feel that the government still has not done enough. 

Health Ministry in Paris being sprayed with red paint
'The accounts of shame' reads the banner, the medal reads "Prize for contempt'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/R. Yaghobzadeh

"For years, health workers have been alerting us to the fact they don’t have enough resources with regards to staff, bed and equipment to be able to allow us to look after people decently," Aurelie Trouve, a spokeswoman for the 'Attac' activist group which organized the protest, told Reuters.

France was initially one of the countries hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, and has reported over 196,000 cases, with a death toll of 29,620. The country is slowly easing lockdown measures. Cafés and restaurant terraces reopened earlier this month, while cinemas and casinos will open their doors on Monday.

09:23 Japan and Vietnam have agreed to partially lift travel bans and ease restrictions as a way to reopen trade between the two Asian nations. 

Japanese Foreign Minister Tohimitsu Motegi told reporters on Friday that Vietnam is one of four countries that Japan has been negotiating a resumption of mutual visits with. Tokyo is also considering reopening travel with Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

The country had imposed entry bans to 111 nations under its coronavirus-related restrictions. 

Both Vietnam and Thailand have largely taken their coronavirus outbreaks under control. Japan currently has 17,700 confirmed cases and a death toll of 951, while Vietnam has reported 349 cases since the start of the pandemic, and no deaths.

09:05 Russia reported 7,889 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 576,952. Saturday’s count is consistent with the infection figures of the previous days; 7,952 infections were reported on Friday, while 7,790 were reported on Thursday. 

Health officials also reported 161 new deaths, bringing the total toll to 8,002.  On Thursday, Russia’s health watchdog said that 489 doctors had died from coronavirus, accounting for around 6% of all deaths.

06:25 Worldwide, Johns Hopkins University has recorded 8,663,270 million cases, with a global death toll of just over 460,000. The US has recorded the highest death toll — more than 119,000 people have died from COVID-19 there.

The US, Brazil and Russia have the highest number of cases, followed by India, the UK and Spain.

05:54 Pakistan has reported a new daily record of 153 COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 3,382. Officials also reported 6,604 new infections over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 6,604. 

Pakistan currently faces a shortage of medical equipment to treat COVID-19, with under 3,000 ICU beds for a population of 220 million. Despite the possibility of an even more deadly outbreak, Prime Minister Imran Khan has abstained from implementing a harsh lockdown, over fears that it would hurt the economy. 

The country’s poverty rate has increased from 30% to 40% in just three months.

05:18 Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier wants to hold slaughterhouses to account for abuses against workers, and maintain confidence in meat "made in Germany."

Slaughterhouses should improve accommodation and working conditions, as well as the quality of the contracts with Eastern European workers, he told Deutschlandfunk radio.

Altmaier’s comments follow a coronavirus outbreak at a meatpacking plant in the northwestern town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück, North Rhine-Westphalia, which saw over 800 people test positive for the disease. Schools and nurseries in the region have had to shut down again, and NRW's premier Armin Laschet has warned of a complete shutdown for the region.

03:35 German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil has called for better protection for workers in the meatpacking industry, following another large coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse, this time at a meat-processing plant run by Tönnies.

"We want to strengthen the rules even more before the new law on workplace safety in the meat industry is in place," Heil told German newspaper group RND. He said the new law will protect workers' rights within the meat industry.

Germany's "cheap meat industry" has come under scrutiny and attack as several coronavirus outbreaks have been reported at meatpacking facilities and slaughterhouses in recent months. In Germany, many meat industry workers come from eastern European countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.

Recent figures from the German government show that migrant workers can expect to earn several hundred euros less every month than their German counterparts, leading to renewed calls for reform to the industry.

Read more: How does Germany's meat industry work?

02:43 South Korea has seen its highest daily spike in three weeks, reporting 67 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday.

Since the easing of social distancing measures in May, the country has been seeing an upward trend in infections. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 31 cases came from overseas, while the rest were locally transmitted.

Most of the cases have been reported in the Seoul metropolitan area, which is densely populated. They have mainly originated in nightclubs, church services, an e-commerce warehouse, and door-to-door salespeople.

02:18 Germany logged 601 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths, the country’s health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has reported. The total number of cases stands at around 190,000 while nearly 9,000 people have died.

After rolling out its coronavirus tracing app on Monday, the RKI wrote on Twitter on Friday that 9.6 million people had downloaded it.

"It is important that as many people as possible join us," they wrote.

Read moreDay one of using Germany's coronavirus tracing app

02:15 French cinema halls are set to reopen at midnight on Sunday, as the country continues to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The annual midsummer Festival of Music is also scheduled to begin in several towns and cities, which will include several small and large-scale events.

The Accord Arena in Paris will only be able to host one-tenth of its capacity, due to social distancing norms.

Casinos will also reopen on Monday. Stadiums and racetracks are due to open on July 11, with a limit of 5,000 people.

France has already reopened terrace cafes and restaurants. While public gatherings of more than 10 people are still not allowed, the Culture Ministry said that police will permit outdoor jam sessions as long as social distancing protocols are followed.

Can we trust tracing apps?

02:06 China has reported 27 new cases of COVID-19, 21 in of which were in Beijing, as officials rush to contain a possible fresh spread of the virus. The capital city is struggling to manage a new outbreak at its largest agricultural market.

The new figures push the number of cases identified as part of the new Beijing cluster above 200. Interprovincial buses and flights from Beijing have largely been canceled and schools and universities have been closed.

01:57 The United States reported 705 new deaths from coronavirus on Friday. This marks the ninth day in a row that the daily toll has remained below 1,000, even as it remains the hardest-hit country in the world. Nearly 120,000 people have died and there are 2.2 million confirmed cases.

US Major League Baseball also saw its chances of returning to a normal season dampened after four teams closed training facilities amid outbreaks of coronavirus. Five players from the Philadelphia Phillies tested positive for coronavirus at their training camp in Florida and three other teams shut down nearby camps as well.

00:25 Deaths from coronavirus in Mexico surpassed 20,000 after the Health Ministry reported 647 new fatalities and 5,030 new cases. Total cases have surpassed 170,000.

The government has warned that the real number of cases may be far higher than the confirmed cases.

Earlier, Mexico City delayed reopening the economy by a week to give more time for cases to drop. Markets, restaurants, shopping malls, hotels and places of worship will remain closed for at least another week.

Mexico: Struggling amid rising infections

00:15 A senior official in Costa Rica has said the country will halt reopening the economy due to the increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

"These are not numbers to think that nothing is wrong and that we can continue with the reopening," said Health Minister Daniel Salas. The Central American country registered a record 119 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, with 12 new deaths.

00:10 Several US states, including Arizona and Florida, have seen record daily spikes in cases in the last 24 hours. The news comes as many states continue to reopen their economies, even though daily positivity rates are exceeding the WHO-mandated 5% in 16 states.

Read moreHow millions of America's temporary layoffs could be permanent

The US has also rejected Chinese airlines' requests for additional weekly flights between the two countries as their respective governments gradually ease travel restrictions. US authorities said the move was not meant to escalate tensions, but to maintain parity between the amount of US and Chinese flights. Eight weekly flights are currently allowed between the US and China.

00:05 Brazil's confirmed coronavirus case count has passed 1 million, with 48,954 deaths, according to data released by the country's Health Ministry.

Brazil is the second worst-hit country in the world, after the US.

Read moreAs coronavirus and deforestation soar in Brazil, groups take Bolsonaro to court

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

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.

ed,lc/ng (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)