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Coronavirus digest: Germany reintroduces free tests amid soaring cases

The move is part of measures to hit the brakes on a wave of new COVID infections in Germany. Meanwhile, APEC leaders have agreed to cut tariffs on COVID vaccines. DW has the latest.

A COVID test center in Essen city

Germany had ended free coronavirus testing in October

Germany is reintroducing free COVID-19 tests from Saturday — just one month after the government stopped paying for them.

The decision comes as authorities are struggling to curb soaring infection rates

Figures from Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) public health authority showed that 45,081 new infections and 228 COVID-related deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours. 

The seven-day incidence rate rose to 277.4 per 100,000 people.

RKI called for far-reaching restrictions on public life to be imposed again as the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

It also issued an urgent call "for larger events to be canceled where possible or avoided, and for all other non-essential contacts to be reduced."

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has called for clear nationwide rules in the fight against the current virus wave.

Watch video 00:18

“I beg you, join in!” - German chancellor urges unvaccinated people to get the jab

 

Here's a look at the latest coronavirus-developments in other parts of the world:

Americas

In the United States, an appeals court upheld a decision to put on hold an order by President Joe Biden for companies with 100 workers or more to require COVID-19 vaccines, rejecting a challenge by his administration.

A three-member panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans affirmed its ruling despite the Biden administration's position that halting implementation of the vaccine mandate could lead to dozens, or even hundreds, of deaths.

Vaccine mandates are deeply controversial in the United States. Supporters say they are a must to put an end to the nearly two-year coronavirus pandemic, while opponents argue they violate the US Constitution and curb individual liberty.

Meanwhile, calls have been growing louder for making vaccination a requirement even for domestic travel.

Three dozen Democratic lawmakers urged Biden to require domestic airline passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or show a negative test result.

Watch video 12:00

COVID-19 Special: Are boosters necessary?

Asia-Pacific

Pacific Rim leaders have agreed to cut tariffs on COVID vaccines at a virtual summit.

The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit brought together leaders from 21 member economies, including US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, in a bid to chart a path to pandemic recovery.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the group discussed an economic "reset" in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

"APEC leaders are determined to work together to defeat COVID-19," she said.

Europe

In the Netherlands, Protesters took to the streets in The Hague after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Western Europe's first partial lockdown of the winter on Friday.

Police fired water cannons to disperse crowds, as hundreds gathered against new rules they considered too far-reaching. Among other restrictions, bars, restaurants, cafes and supermarkets will shut down at 8 p.m., instead of midnight, for the next three weeks beginning Saturday.

In Russia, the government published a draft proposal to require QR codes as proof of immunity to COVID-19 from air and railway travelers up to June 1.

The government will decide later on the date when the rule would be implemented, Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev said.

Russia is currently reporting the highest number of daily infections since the  pandemic hit the country and has the third-highest coronavirus death toll in the world after the United States and Brazil.

Global

A coronavirus expert from the World Health Organization urged countries with climbing cases to tighten up rules to curb the spread of the virus. Maria van Kerkhove said Friday that "the earlier actions can be implemented, potentially the less actions need to be taken."

rm, sri/fb (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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