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Coronavirus: Hotspots flare in Europe and US

June 23, 2020

US travelers might soon be among those unable to travel to the EU, as the country struggles with its rising COVID-19 caseloads. Meanwhile, Germany has introduced lockdowns in two districts. Follow DW for the latest.

Coronavirus - Verl - Ausbruch bei Tönnies
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Inderlied
  • US disease expert Anthony Fauci says he is "really quite concerned" about rising community spread in some states
  • Germany has placed a second district under a new lockdown after an outbreak at a meat-processing plant
  • Over 9.05 million confirmed cases globally, with the death toll surpassing 470,000

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:20 Brazil has seen another spike in coronavirus cases, with close to 40,000 new confirmed cases, taking the total number of infections to 1,145,906. Brazil also recorded 1,374 deaths, taking the country’s toll to 52,645, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

21:02 The Maldives will reopen its tourist resorts from mid-July as it welcomes visitors to the country for the first time since March, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told reporters in the capital Male.

"The country will reopen its borders for international travel, and the government will allow resorts to welcome visitors from July 15," he said.

People will not be ordered to have virus tests or carry virus-free certificates to enter the archipelago of 1,190 tiny coral islets, but those showing symptoms of the coronavirus would be tested at the airport upon arrival.

20:45 France's coronavirus contact-tracing app is off to a rocky start, with only a handful of people receiving alerts about their risk of infection, the government said.

In the three weeks since its launch, 68 people have informed the app that they tested positive, Digital Affairs Minister Cedric O told a press conference, while 14 people have been notified that they may be at risk.

The StopCovid app was downloaded 1.9 million times, but almost a quarter of the users have since removed the app from their cellphones.

The minister defended the usefulness of the app, but admitted that the number of downloads in France pales in comparison to Germany where 10 million people downloaded it.

"It's probably more to do with our cultural differences and differing attitudes to the coronavirus," Cedric O said. "And potentially, it might be linked to a difference in perspective towards respective governments' behavior during the pandemic," he added.

The French government has said the app is vital in case new outbreaks occur, although critics have expressed concerns about data privacy. The country has logged over 29,600 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

19:04 European Union countries that are planning to open up to tourists from third nations are prepared to block Americans from entering, over the country's management of the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times reported, citing draft lists of acceptable travelers.

The United States, which has the most coronavirus cases in the world, is seeing a new spike in infections. According to the proposal, US travelers would be grouped in with those from Brazil and Russia. In March, when cases were rising in Europe, US President Donald Trump banned EU citizens from entering the country.

Earlier this month, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the list of countries with allowed visitors would be based on three criteria: countries should have COVID-19 under at least as much control as the EU average, have containment measures during travel and should also be willing to let in EU visitors.

18:52 Disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that the coming weeks will be critical in clamping down on coronavirus hot spots across the United States, and admitted "we've been hit badly," as cases in Florida, Arizona and Texas continue to surge.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was "really quite concerned" about rising community spread in some states, while adding "the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges."

Fauci and other senior health officials also said they have not been asked to ease up on testing for COVID-19 following President Donald Trump's comments relating to doing less testing as it was coming up with too many positive results.

"We will be doing more testing,'' Fauci, the US government's top immunologist, told a House committee.

The US has tested more than 27 million people, with some 2.3 million infections uncovered, and more than 120,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

Fauci returned to Capitol Hill to testify along with Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Robert Redfield, Federal Drug Administration chief Dr. Stephen Hahn and the head of the US Public Health Service, Adm. Brett Giroir.

18:12 A slaughterhouse in Wildeshausen, Lower Saxony, has revealed an outbreak of cases after 23 tested positive for the coronavirus, among 50 who were tested.

"This is a terrifying result. We are now determined and taking action to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible, "announced District Administrator Carsten Harings.

The plant in Wildeshausen, near Oldenburg
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Schuldt

As of Wednesday all 1100 employees of the slaughterhouse will be tested.

17:50 Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has been fined 300 levs ($174, €153) for not wearing a face mask during a church visit, the health ministry announced.

Health Minister Kiril Ananiev on Monday ordered people to resume wearing masks at all indoor public venues after Bulgaria last week registered its highest weekly jump in coronavirus cases.

"All persons who were without protective face masks in the church at the Rila Monastery during the prime minister's visit will be fined," the health ministry told news agency Reuters in an email.

In addition to the PM, numerous reporters and photographers who accompanied Borisov into the church without masks will also face financial penalties, the ministry added.

However, the ministry did not reveal whether clergy who failed to wear protective masks would also be fined.

16:25 A federal judge has ordered Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to comply with local rules and wear a face mask whenever he is on the streets of Brasilia, the country's capital city.

Bolsonaro has not worn a mask recently when joining throngs of people protesting against Brazil's Congress and Supreme Court. The president has frequently been seen visiting bakeries and outdoor food stalls, attracting crowds around him, while remaining unmasked.

However, Judge Renato Coelho Borelli said in his ruling that Bolsonaro "has exposed other people to the contagion of a disease that has caused national commotion."

Brazil's federal district requires people to don masks whenever they are in public. Failure to do so results in a possible daily fine of $390 (€345).

15:52 Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio has announced the easing of certain restrictions in the West African nation.

As with other poor countries in the region, restrictive measures have caused economic damage while protests have ensued across Sierra Leone. 

Bio said that travel would be permitted between regions from Wednesday while a nationwide anti-virus curfew will be shortened, effective immediately. The new curfew will last from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and commercial flights will resume "in the very short run", the president said.

15:00 German officials have placed another district under lockdown over last week's mass coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Just hours after reimposing the lockdown in Gütersloh, a district with some 360,000 people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the state officials now reintroduced restrictions in the nearby area of Warendorf and its 278,000 residents.

"In order to protect the population, we are now launching a further safety and security package to effectively combat the spread of the virus," said NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann.

State authorities are boosting testing to see if the virus is spreading among the general population after over 1,500 workers at a meat processing plant tested positive. The medical officials are planning to test patients and nurses in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as workers in supermarkets. The would also try to determine how many workers from other companies came into contact with the people working for the meat producer Tönnies.

Following reports of the Gütersloh lockdown, the German state of Bavaria announced its hotels would not be taking bookings from people in Gütersloh or other high-risk areas.

14:45 Egypt is set to partially reopen cafes, restaurants, places of worship, cinemas and sports clubs on Saturday, in a move to ease virus-related restrictions, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli announced in a live television address.

An evening curfew was imposed in late March, restricting movement from 8pm to 6am, but the curfew will now run from midnight to 4am, according to Madbouli.

"We have the ability to move past this pandemic with the best results at hand and the minimum number of losses," he said.

Cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and cinemas will first restart operations at a reduced capacity of 25%, but smoking shisha, or water-pipes, is still banned in order to curb the spread of the disease. Daily services in mosques and churches will also resume, but weekend services, which attract large crowds, remain suspended.  Beaches and public parks will also stay closed.

"We all have to live with the pandemic... We have been trying to balance between opening up the country and maintaining the necessary health measures," said Mabouli. Egypt has nearly 57,000 confirmed cases, and a death toll of 2,278.

13:48 The coronavirus is spreading at an enormous pace in Pakistan. Analysts say the government's inaction and mismanagement of the virus has worsened the outbreak.

As of June 23, there were around 187,000 cases of the coronavirus with over 3,700 deaths in Pakistan. The number of infections is expected to reach 300,000 by the end of the month and over a million by late July or early August.

Studies carried out by the Imperial College London and the University of Washington suggest that the actual number of cases in Pakistan could be anywhere between 3 to 10 times higher than those registered by the government.

Read more: How denial and conspiracy theories fuel coronavirus crisis in Pakistan

12:40 World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic says he has tested positive for coronavirus. The result makes him the sixth patient infected in an exhibition series he organized.

In a statement posted on his website on Tuesday, Djokovic said both he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19 infection.

Read more: Tennis star Novak Djokovic tests positive for coronavirus

He said he showed no symptoms and would self-isolate for 14 days.

The Serb is the fourth player to test positive for the virus after first playing in Belgrade and then again last weekend in Zadar, Croatia.

"The moment we arrived in Belgrade we went to be tested. My result is positive, just like Jelena's, while the results of our children are negative,"

Commenting on the Adria Tour, the controversial mini-tournament which saw Djokovic and several other top-level tennis players performed before packed stands in several Balkan cities, the star athlete said the competition was "meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion."

Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, Croatian athlete Borna Ćorić, and another Serbian tennis player, Viktor Troicki, have already tested positive after taking part in the competition organized by Djokovic. At least two of the coaches have also caught the virus.

11:45 Restrictions on public life in England will be eased on July 4, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced. The long-awaited changes will see the required physical distancing reduced from 2 meters to 1 meter, which should allow businesses to open more easily.

Restaurants, pubs, and hairdressers will also reopen for the first time in nearly four months. Recreation and sports will once more be allowed, as well as places of worship and other public services.

"Our principle is to trust the British public to use their common sense," Johnson said. Two households will be allowed to meet in any setting from July 4, although they were encouraged to only meet outside.

The new legislation does not apply to the other component parts of the UK — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — which are reopening economies at slightly different paces.

11:20 The German economy is set to shrink by 6.5% this year due to the pandemic, the government’s council of economic advisers have announced.

"The coronavirus pandemic is expected to cause the largest slump in the German economy since the founding of the Federal Republic," council head Lars Feld said. "But we expect the recovery to begin in summer."

They predicted that most of the losses, albeit not all, would be recouped in 2021, with a 4.9% rebound.

Full story from our business desk here: German GDP to drop by 6.5% in 2020

10:40 German shipping companies have raised concerns over restrictions at ports regarding crew changes on ships. Around 200,000 seafarers on board ships globally are currently awaiting relief, according to the Association of German Shipowners (VDR). At ports around the world, successful crew exchanges under restrictions have been few and far between.

“Unless the situation does not change, logistic chains will break down because ships simply cannot continue to operate,” said VDR President Alfred Hartman. Supplies of medication and other necessities may be compromised.

10:05 The Philippines has reported its biggest single-day increase in cases, with 1,150 new cases reported within 24 hours. Total cases have reached 31,825 while deaths increased by nine to 1,186. The spike in cases may be partly down to increased testing efforts.

The country's health ministry has come under fire in recent days and President Rodrigo Duterte was forced to take to state television to defend his health secretary against corruption allegations.

"I am very sure and place my reputation on Secretary [Francisco] Duque that he hasn’t stolen anything," Duterte said. "He cannot do that because Duque is already rich."

Duque is allegedly profiting from his department buying overpriced testing kits from the private sector and is accused of deliberately delaying procurement of personal protective equipment for health workers.

09:55 Saudi Arabian authorities have announced that the number of pilgrims attending hajj this year will be in the region of 1,000 locals, rather than the vast crowds from all over the world during more typical years. Pilgrims coming from overseas will be barred this year, and the hajj ministry will apply a strict health criteria to choose those who can attend. Those aged 65 and over will be excluded.

Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, which this year will take place at the end of July. Normally over 1 million overseas visitors flock to the holy city.

09:00 The German district of Gütersloh will be subject to a renewed lockdown until the end of June following an outbreak at a meat-processing plant, North Rhine-Westphalia's state premier has announced. The strict measures are in an effort to contain a fresh outbreak that originated in a Tönnies meat processing facility.

"The new regulations are comparable to what we saw [across the country] in March," state premier Armin Laschet said, saying that the roughly 360,000 inhabitants of the Gütersloh district can be tested for free for coronavirus.

This marks the first local lockdown since restrictions began to be eased in May. Laschet described the Gütersloh outbreak as the "largest occurrence of infection" within Germany; more than 1,500 workers at the Tönnes abattoir have tested positive for coronavirus. Cultural events will be canceled and gyms, cinemas and bars will once again close. All 7,000 Tönnies workers will go into home quarantine.

In international terms, Germany's lockdown was comparatively mild. People were urged to stay home as much as possible but were free to go outside as much as they wished. Meetings of more than two people from different households in public were prohibited, and private home visits were not permitted. 

(Editor's note: In the initial version of this entry, we said that the roughly 100,000 people living in Gütersloh proper would be affected. In fact, the limitation applies to the broader Gütersloh district, home to roughly 360,000 people.)

08:40 Germany’s reproduction rate remained high at 2.76, the country's disease control agency the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has said. Despite the high figure, the RKI stressed that in the last seven days the overall number of cases in the country had continued to decline and the high R number was largely due to isolated outbreaks.

The average age of the dead was 81 and the death rate among those confirmed to be infected in Germany stands at around 4%. Over 12 million people have now downloaded Germany's coronavirus track and trace app, one week after its launch. 

An RKI spokeswoman outlined preventative measures put in place to limit their spread of the recent outbreaks, for example building complexes placed under quarantine. Although the pandemic in Germany was heading in the right direction, she said that the virus was still widespread in the country.

"The pandemic is not over, not worldwide and certainly not in Germany," RKI President Lothar Wieler said.

08:00 New car sales in Europe this year will fall a record 25% due to the pandemic, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) has announced. Manufacturers are facing a "major economic crisis" across the continent.

Sales are expected to tumble from 12.8 million units in 2019 to 9.6 million this year, the ACEA said.

"The ACEA maintains hope that this dramatic scenario can be mitigated through fast and strong measures by the EU and national governments," group head Eric-Mark Huitema said in the statement. He called for "the necessary political and economic support."

05:25 China has approved the start of testing for a possible vaccine candidate developed by Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products, the company has confirmed. The potential vaccine received a certificate from the National Medical Products Administration to launch clinical trials.

In China there are at least six vaccines undergoing human trials; there are many more around the world. French drugmaker Sanofi SA has also announced early Tuesday it expected to get approval for the distribution of a potential vaccine by the first half of next year, faster than it had originally anticipated.

05:20 Australia has closed two primary schools in Melbourne after a fresh cluster of outbreaks were recorded in the area. State premier Daniel Andrews said there would be "significant community transmission" among the state’s 17 new cases.

Students at both schools are undergoing testing and extensive cleaning will take place in the school buildings before they are reopened. The suburb where the schools are located was identified by the government as one of six "hotspots" in the city.

Overall in Australia, there have been 102 deaths and more than 7,400 people have been infected. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he plans for the border to remain closed for a "very significant" amount of time, crediting Australia’s relatively low infection rate to the country being "an island sanctuary."

03:46 Germany has reported 503 new infections, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 190,862. With 10 deaths also reported, the death toll has risen to 8,895, according to data released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases on Tuesday.

03:30 The operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort has announced that parks will open to the public on July 1 — but the number of visitors will be limited as a precautionary measure.

Oriental Land said the visits will have to be booked in advance. Other measures, like temperature checks, spaced seating, and the wearing of masks, will also be enforced. 

Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea were closed to visitors towards the end of February as Tokyo and neighboring prefectures saw a rise in COVID-19 cases.

03:24 China reported 22 new infections on Tuesday. While nine were imported cases, 13 infections were reported in Beijing, which remains under lockdown over a resurgence of the virus.

The outbreak in Beijing was linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, the largest agricultural market in the city, amidst rising fears over a fresh wave. 

New cases had fallen into single digits on Monday and authorities had expected them to stay that way. However, a spike was registered on Tuesday.

01:16 UNESCO has found that over a quarter-billion children had no access to schooling in 2018 — and warned that the figures are likely to be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The UN body, in a report released on Tuesday, said, "258 million children and youth were entirely excluded from education, with poverty as the main obstacle to access."

"Lessons from the past — such as with Ebola — have shown that health crises can leave many behind, in particular the poorest girls, many of whom may never return to school," UNESCO's Director-General Audrey Azoulay wrote in a foreword.

01:02 The US passed the grim milestone of 120,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday when it tallied another 425 fatalities in 24 hours. 

The US leads the world in coronavirus infections and deaths, with 2,310,798 cases confirmed and 120,393 deaths. 

00:35 Mexico has reported 4,577 new confirmed cases, taking the total to 185,122 infections, the health ministry said on Monday. With 759 additional deaths reported, the death toll has risen to 22,584 deaths.

However, the government has said that the true number of infections may be significantly higher.

00:20 US President Donald Trump is to expand a ban on US work visas and extended it until the end of 2020, a senior White House official said Monday.

The visa categories that will be affected by the new order include H-1B visas for skilled workers, L-1 visas for workers being transferred within a company, most J visas for academics and researchers, the H-2B visas for seasonal workers.

Read more: Trump to extend US work visa ban until end of 2020

00:12 Brazil has crossed the 1 million threshold for coronavirus cases, a day after large crowds gathered at Rio de Janeiro beaches over the weekend. Many were seen without masks, as they ignored the World Health Organization's guidelines to maintain 1 meter of distance between people.

Brazil reported over 20,000 new confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the country's coronavirus tally to 1,106,470, according to the health ministry. The total number of deaths has risen to 51,271, from 50,617 a day earlier.

However, the WHO has warned that even more cases may be going uncounted.

A record increase in cases worldwide was attributed to the huge spike seen by Brazil, the US and India a day earlier. Brazil had recorded 54,771 new infections, followed by 36,617 in the US and over 15,400 cases in India.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus news 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.

see/stb (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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