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Coronavirus latest: Germany implements non-EU travel ban

March 17, 2020

Chancellor Merkel said she and other EU leaders had agreed on an immediate ban on travel into the bloc, as the COVID-19 virus spreads. The German foreign ministry says it is bringing thousands of stranded citizens home.

Hamburg's mostly empty airport
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Marks
  • EU leaders agree to implement a 30-day travel ban on those traveling from outside the EU, with a limited number of exceptions.
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced an "airlift" for thousands of German citizens stranded abroad.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered a nationwide lockdown and closed France's borders.
  • Australia declared a "biosecurity" emergency and told its citizens "do not travel abroad, do not go overseas."
  • G20 member states will hold a virtual meeting next week to discuss a response to the pandemic

Read moreCoronavirus: Germany brings in unprecedented restrictions on public life

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

00:00 This concludes our live updates on the coronavirus outbreak for the moment. More information on the outbreak is available on our page and on DW TV. Thank you for joining us.

23:26 Denmark is banning all gatherings of more than 10 people from midday on Wednesday. The ban also applies to private gatherings. "This is not the time to invite people to birthday parties" said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

23:22 Facebook said it is planning to give $100 million (€90 million) in aid through loads and advertising to small businesses to help them through the outbreak. The program aims to reach "up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where we operate" said Facebook in a statement, adding that it will begin taking applications in the coming weeks. 

23:20 Saudi Arabia suspended work in private sectors except health and food services for 15 days, state news agency reported.

23:05 The German state-owned KfW business development bank could make emergency finance available from next Monday, according to a report in Germany's Bild newspaper. Currently, German high-street banks such as Sparkassen and Volksbanken are waiting for application forms to be issued by KfW. "Realistically, the first money will flow in about two to three weeks," said a KfW spokesperson to Bild.

22:40 The US Federal Reserve announced a financial mechanism allowing funding for up to 90 days to major financial institutions. The mechanism is to ensure the availability of credit to US homes and businesses.

Firms such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank Securities, BNP Paribas Securities and Nomura Securities will be to use debt holdings as collateral for credit from the Federal Reserve. The program will be in place for at least six months.

22:27 All US states now have confirmed cases of coronavirus. West Virginia was the last coronavirus-free state, but it has reported a positive case.

22:20 Australia's government declared a "biosecurity emergency." It has raised its travel warning to level 4 across the whole world, advising citizens not to travel overseas. The advisory also said Australians who are abroad but want to return home should do so as soon as possible.

"This is a once-in-100-year type event," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a press conference in Canberra.

22:00 Kosovo's government have 24 hours to vote on a request by President Hashim Thaci to declare a state of emergency in the country. "As a president I never thought that it would come to this moment," Thaci said at a press conference after meeting with the country’s security council.

The measures would include putting soldiers on the streets.

21:30 The UN and nine countries including Germany called "on all parties in the Libya conflict to declare an immediate, humanitarian cessation of hostilities" to allow for health authorities to battle coronavirus instead.The statement said the ending of hostilities "would also enable combatants to return home to provide care for relatives who may be at higher risk."

21:22 Turkey confirmed its first death from the novel coronavirus. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the victim was an 89-year-old.

21:15 The head of G20 states will hold a virtual meeting next week to discuss a response to the pandemic. Saudi Arabia, which is due to virtually host the next meeting, said that politicians would discuss measures to protect their citizens and help the economy.

21:05 DW's political correspondent Melinda Crane says leaders in the teleconference discussed a fund of €37 billion ($40.7 billion) to support health systems, workers and small and medium-sized enterprises. There were also plans to relax rules on state support for businesses.

20:25 US President Trump is reportedly attempting to entice a German lab to develop a vaccine exclusively for the US. The company, however, later rejected claims of a sale of the firm or its technology.

Belgien Grand Place Zentrum of Brussels
Belgium has declared a three-week lovkdown to stop people leaving their homesImage: DW/B. Riegert

19:45 Belgium has decided on a three-week lockdown to stop people leaving their homes. Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said there would be some exceptions to the restrictions which will last until April 5.

The only residents allowed outside would be those heading for essential supplies, medical attention, solo exercise, or for work in businesses deemed essential such as food markets and pharmacies.

Wilmes was only mandated to form a government on Monday, after King Philippe handed her special powers to deal with the crisis until the end of the summer. Seven minority parties had agreed to back her minority administration 10 months after an inconclusive election resulted in poor prospects for the formation of a coalition.  

19:35 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has told a news conference that it is for individual European countries to implement the closure of their frontiers to citizens from third countries.

"The enemy is the virus and now we have to do our utmost to protect our people and to protect our economies," she said. "We are ready to do everything that is required. We will not hesitate to take additional measures as the situation evolves."

19:10 German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that, in a teleconference with other EU leaders, it had been agreed that the bloc-wide ban should be enacted on travel from outside the EU. The chancellor said there would be relatively few exceptions but that European Free Trade Area countries, as well as the United Kingdom, would not be included.

The ban is due to remain in place for a period of 30 days. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen had proposed on Monday that the bloc's Schengen passport-free zone impose the drastic and unprecedented measure and that fellow EU states should follow suit.

It does not affect Europeans returning home and cross-border professionals. Britain is exempted from the travel ban because it is currently in a transition period following its exit from the EU.

18:35 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tells DW  that a giant repatriation operation is underway, with several tens of thousands of Germans looking to return home as hotels close and airlines cancel flights.

18:25 Britain has unveiled 330 billion pounds, (€362 billion, $399 billion) of loan guarantees, the biggest British rescue plan since the 2008 financial crisis. The intention is to provide a lifeline to businesses affected by the outbreak.

18:20 The Israeli ambassador in Berlin, Jeremy Issacharoff, has tested positive for coronavirus along with a member of his diplomatic staff. 

The Israeli Foreign Ministry says the two contracted the disease after meeting with a German lawmaker who also has the virus, the DPA news agency reported. Both are now in self-isolation. The Israeli embassy in Berlin is now closed, with all staff to continue working at home.  

18:10 Iran has issued its most dire warning so far about the outbreak, suggesting "millions'' in the Islamic Republic could die if people keep traveling and ignoring health guidance.

The death toll in Iran saw another 13% increase on Tuesday, with Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour saying the virus has killed 135 more people to raise the total to 988 amid over 16,000 cases

17:55 In these strange times, supermarkets have become more than places to buy food in for many Germans. They are now beacons of normality. Read more about it here.

17:30 The UK government's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance says there has been progress on vaccines and that the first tests might start in April.

17:20 German authorities have said they plan to double the number of intensive care places it has available so that patients suffering the effects of the novel coronavirus can be treated. German media reported that a decision was agreed between states and the federal government that rehabilitation centers, hotels and large halls could be adapted to meet clinical demand.

Meanwhile, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, popular among many Germans for its seaside destinations, has said it will close its doors to tourists from Wednesday.

17:00 Here's an interactive map from the Johns Hopkins University with live data on the coronavirus pandemic.

16:50 Shops and restaurants have been closed in France, Germany and Spain, with countries imposing strict controls along their borders checks on borders. Lines of traffic have been seen at the Polish border after the country effectively closed its frontiers to foreigners. Lithuania has sent military airplanes and special trains to Germany to help hundreds of travelers stuck at the border with Poland. 

 The World Health Organization has called for the "boldest actions" against the pandemic in Europe, the epicenter of the outbreak.

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said citizens could leave their homes only to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own.

16:35 German auto builder Daimler has said it will cease most of its production in Europe this week due to the spread of the coronavirus.

16:20 The Israeli security agency Shin Bet has been authorized by the government us its technological capabilities to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The intelligence service will be allowed to track phone records of infected individuals to see who they were in contact with before being diagnosed. In addition, checks could be made on whether people have violated the rules of home quarantine.

16:09 The French Open has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The French Tennis Federation says the clay-court event will run from September 20 to October 4. It is the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The competition was supposed to start in Paris on May 24.

15:50 Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is leaving London and heading to Windsor Castle as a precautionary measure, Buckingham Palace says. The 93-year-old monarch is set to move to the castle on Thursday, a week earlier than she usually does for Easter. 

15:45 The Confederation of African Football has said it is postponing the African Nations Championship indefinitely as a result of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

15: 25 US blood transfusion association the AABB has said it expects the country will face blood shortages in only about two weeks time, with about half of blood centers reporting low inventories.

15:18 Carmaker Ford has said all its plants across Europe will be closed for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Nissan says production has been suspended at the UK's Sunderland factory as the company examines supply chain disruption and a sudden drop in market demand as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

15:09 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced a package of measures worth a total 200 billion euros ($219 billion) to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy. It includes loans, credit guarantees, benefits and direct aid.

14:55 The UK government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, says officials hope measures Britain has taken to tackle coronavirus mean the country will have fewer than 20,000 deaths from the outbreak.

14:50 The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the UK rose to 1,950 by Tuesday, up from 1,543 the day before. Britain's National Health Service is set to cancel all routine surgery for three months and send home as many patients as possible to free up beds for COVID-19 patients. 

14:40 German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has said that supermarkets will remain open and that food security is assured. She criticized the practice of panic buying in response to the coronavirus crisis. "There is enough there for everyone," Klöckner said."Panic buying is not only unnecessary, it is also harmful."

14:25 The governing body of European football has officially announced the postponement of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament. The decision followed a video conference of presidents and general secretaries of national associations. Proposed new dates have been suggested for the tournament in June and July next year, a statement said.

"The health of fans, staff and players has to be our number one priority and in that spirit, UEFA tabled a range of options so that competitions can finish this season safely and I am proud of the response of my colleagues across European football," said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin. The idea of staging games behind closed doors had been ruled out, he said.

"Football is an uplifting and powerful force in society. The thought of celebrating a pan-European festival of football in empty stadia, with deserted fan zones while the continent sits at home in isolation, is a joyless one and one we could not accept to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition."

14:20 Berlin authorities are planning a special hospital for 1,000 COVID-19 patients in the city. The facility is to be on the site of the Messe Berlin Exhibition grounds in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. At present the, the German capital has 332 confirmed cases of the virus but that number is expected to rise sharply.

14:10 Here's an interactive map from the Johns Hopkins University with live data on the coronavirus pandemic.

13:50 The Swiss government has said the rate of increase in the number of COVID-19 cases is so high that it is struggling to keep pace of accurate numbers. Health authorities there say that 2,650 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 19 people have died.  

13:35 Germany's Friedrich Merz, who is among the most likely candidates to take over as leader Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), has tested positive for coronavirus.

13:28 Dublin is largely deserted on Saint Patrick's Day as the Irish capital allows the annual festival to pass by uncelebrated. "It's like a ghost town. It's like Armageddon," one 49-year-old told told the AFP news agency. The Irish government last week canceled St Patrick's parades nationwide. It asked pubs to close and stop gatherings of more than 100 individuals until March 29.

A passer by goes by a closed pub on St. Patrick's Day in Dublin
Two people have died of Coronavirus in Ireland, where social distancing measures meant St. Patrick's Day wasn't celebratedImage: picture-alliance/dpa/PA Wire/N. Carson

12:43 European football's governing body, UEFA, is set to postpone the Euro 2020 tournament until 2021, according to the Norwegian Football Association. 

12:02 Spanish health officials confirmed nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with the total number of cases now topping 11,000. The total number of fatalities is currently at 491, and Spain has ordered a nationwide lockdown to stop the virus from spreading further. 

11:29 Vietnam said it will introduce mandatory quarantine for people arriving from the US, Europe and ASEAN countries and suspend the issue of all new visas. 

11:13 Iran's health ministry said Tuesday that 135 more people have died from COVID-19, which raises the country's official death toll to over 980. With over 16,000 confirmed cases, Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with experts warning the actual number could be higher.

11:00 A nationwide lockdown began in France at noon local time on Tuesday, requiring people to remain in their homes and only go out for the "bare essentials" like groceries, medicine and going to work.

There were reports of many Parisians crowding train stations attempting to leave the French capital for the countryside before the noon deadline. There were also reports of long lines of people outside supermarkets buying supplies in preparation for the lockdown. 

The government said tens of thousands of police would patrol French cities, and anyone caught without a written declaration to justify their reason for being out could be punished with a fine of up to €135 ($150), according to Agence France Presse.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech Monday that the lockdown would be in place for at least 15 days. "We are at war" with coronavirus, said Macron. France currently has over 6,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 148 deaths.

10:10 The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a German public health institution, adjusted its coronavirus threat risk for Germany from "moderate" to "high" on Tuesday.

RKI chief Lothar Wieler said the risk adjustment is based on the continual increase in new infections, along with warning signs from public health facilities. Germany currently has over 7,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections. 

09:45 The Robert Koch Institute said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic could last two years, as pandemics tend to run their course in waves.

RKI chief Wieler said it is possible in an "extreme situation" that some of the restrictions enacted by countries would have to stay in place for this duration. 

Read moreAre German hospitals unprepared for coronavirus outbreak?

Wieler added that the duration of the pandemic depends on the speed of vaccine development, along with how many people become infected, recover, and develop immunity to coronavirus (SARS CoV 2), the virus that causes COVID-19. 

A graph comparing the rise in COVID-19 cases in China and elsewhere.

09:21 Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it will start bringing home more than 3,600 Turkish citizens stranded in nine European countries. All of the returnees are expected to be transported home Tuesday on board more than 30 Turkish Airlines flights and will be quarantined after arrival for 14 days. 

09:09 Pakistan confirmed its first fatality from a COVID-19 infection, Reuters reported. The death comes as the South Asian country saw a spike in cases Tuesday, with the current total at 187. 

08:10 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany has made up to €50 million ($55.6 million) available to bring home "thousands" of German citizens stuck abroad. 

Read moreCoronavirus: Germany initiates emergency plan to fly back stranded tourists

Maas said Tuesday Germany will do "everything possible" to repatriate German citizens stuck in countries heavily affected by the coronavirus, including the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Morocco and Egypt. The foreign minister also advised against all tourist travel to any country. 

"Stay at home. Help yourself and others," tweeted Maas. 

08:00 German carmaker Volkswagen announced it would stop production at the vast majority of its factories in Germany and the rest of Europe starting Friday. Work is expected to be halted for up to three weeks.

07:46 German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he expects Germany will have to "deal with the consequences" of the coronavirus outbreak until at least the end of May.

"I wouldn't advise anyone to bank on this being over in eight days," Altmaier told German broadcaster RTL on Tuesday.

07:14 US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech announced they would immediately begin working together to develop a vaccine.

06:31 Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, were released from an Australian hospital Tuesday five days after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. The couple will now self-isolate in a rented house, according to media reports. 

05:55 Kyrgyzstan has banned entry to all foreigners to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The central Asian country currently has no cases of COVID-19. Neighboring Kazakhstan reported an increase in cases from 14 to 27 on Tuesday.

05:43 India has closed the Taj Mahal, the country's top tourist site. The Indian financial hub of Mumbai ordered businesses providing non-essential services to keep half of staff home. 

05:30 Japanese authorities will ask all travelers coming from Europe, including Japanese citizens, to self-quarantine for two weeks after arrival in Japan, according to Japanese media reports. 

Japan will also begin refusing entry to foreigners who have been in certain areas of Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Ireland. 

05:23 Malaysia said it will bar border crossings with Singapore for two weeks starting Wednesday. There were reports of people in Singapore rushing to stock up on food, as Malaysia is a source of many staple items. Singapore's government said there would be no food shortages. 

Berlin in coronavirus mode

04:14 Facebook said it would send home all contract workers who review content until further notice. The company said this could impact response times and there may be more mistakes. The contract staff will continue to be paid.

Content reviewing cannot be be done at home due to "due to safety, privacy and legal reasons."

03:35 Here's a round-up of recent measures set to be implemented by European countries to stem the spread of coronavirus (SARS CoV 2):

In Germany, residents will wake up to bans on religious gatherings and ceremonies with closures of playgrounds and non-essential stores. Local and regional train services will be reduced. The country closed its borders Monday to France, Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Switzerland.

Read moreOpinion: Europe's steep coronavirus learning curve

The French government put its citizens on partial lockdown — from Tuesday at noon people will only be able to leave their homes for grocery shopping, work or to take a walk. The measures will remain in place for 15 days.

In Finland, school and universities will be replaced with distance learning from Wednesday for four weeks. Kindergartens will stay open with advice that children should stay home where possible. Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people.

Switzerland ordered a state of emergency ordering shops, restaurants, bars, leisure and other facilities to shut down until April 19. The measures do not include healthcare operations as well as supermarkets.

The UK issued coronavirus guidelines, saying people should practice social distancing, but schools will not be closed for the moment.  

Read moreCoronavirus: How are Germany's biggest airports coping?

03:00 The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange, becoming the first country to do so over coronavirus fears.

02:20 Hundreds of prisoners escaped from four prisons in Brazil just a day before day-release privileges were set to be suspended, reported Sao Paulo state prison authorities.

The suspension of privileges was necessary because those returning to jail and "would have a high potential to install and propagate the coronavirus in a vulnerable population, generating health risks for servers and custodians" said authorities.

Law enforcement was dealing with the situation.

02:10 From midnight on Thursday all people entering Hong Kong will be quarantined for 14 days.

02:00 The UN security council has canceled all meetings that were due to go ahead this week. 

01:52 Thieves took 50,000 protective facemasks from a warehouse for hospital supplies in the German city of Cologne. "We're talking about items that normally worth pennies, but there is obviously a market for them now," said a spokeswoman for the city's hospitals. 

01:35 New Zealand announced a NZ$12.1 billion ($7.3 billion, €6.26 billion) stimulus package to help its economy. Finance Minister Grant Robertson conceded "recession is almost certain" but the package would help soften the economic blow.

01:25 Online retail giant Amazon is benefiting from the virus, hiring 100,000 staff. 

01:17  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a nationwide quarantine. He also called on world leaders to "wake up to this pandemic and take drastic measures in time." The number of cases in Venezuela has risen to 33.

01:10 South Korea reports 84 new cases, bringing the total up to 8,320.

01:00 Colombia will close all land, sea and river borders from midnight until the end of May. President Ivan Duque announced the measures on Twitter. Chile and Peru announced a total closure of their borders on Monday. 

00:50 Mongolia reported three new coronavirus cases among citizens repatriated from virus-hit South Korea and Germany.

00:40 There could be up to 1,500 coronavirus patients hospitalized by the end of the week, said President of the German Hospital Society (DKG) Gerald Gass to German media outlet Funke Mediengruppe. Gass said that German hospitals are well prepared for such an increase in patients.

00:30 Ukraine became the latest European country to announce shutdowns of bars, restaurants and shopping malls. The measures to fight the virus came as President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to act "harshly and urgently."

The government introduced restrictions on public transport, including closing the country's three metro systems in Kiev, Kharkiv and Dnipro until April 3.

00:20 China had 13 deaths and 21 new infections Monday, reported its National Health Commission, up from 16 new infections on Sunday.

00:10 Here's a summary of global figures: 

  • 181,546 confirmed cases
  • 7,126 global deaths
  • 78,088 recovered

00:05 Follow yesterday's developments here: Coronavirus latest: French President Macron says 'we are at war' as he orders lockdown

rc,wmr,kmm/ng (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, 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.

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