Coronavirus: IMF appeals for billions in aid to Africa during pandemic | News | DW | 17.04.2020

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Coronavirus: IMF appeals for billions in aid to Africa during pandemic

The IMF says Africa does not have the resources to tackle the coronavirus crisis and needs international support. Two German states ask citizens to wear face masks in public. Follow DW for the latest.

  • After the health minister said Germany has the pandemic "under control," two German states institute face mask requirements for public transit after federal government recommended it 
  • Africa needs at least $114 billion (€105 billion) to mitigate medical and economic impacts of COVID-19, IMF warns 
  • Only a quarter of Germans fear serious health consequences if infected with COVID-19, a new poll shows

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:55 US President Donald Trump has announced a financial package to benefit US farmers worth $19 billion (€17 billion) in response to the steep economic downturn brought about by measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In a daily press briefing, the president said the government "will be implementing a $19 billion relief program for our great farmers and ranchers as they cope with the fallout of the global pandemic."

"The program will include direct payments to farmers as well as mass purchases of dairy, meat and agricultural produce to get that food to the people in need," he added.

Some $16 billion in direct payments will be made to farmers while the US Department of Agriculture will purchase $3 billion in goods, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.

Congress already allocated money for the rescue package in previous aid legislation.

22:50 In Mexico, a federal judge has ordered authorities to release some of the migrants detained in immigration stations across the country.

The judge ruled that migrants and asylum-seekers, as people who are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, be granted residence permits and access to health care.

Other vulnerable groups include people over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions.

Thousands of migrants, mostly from Central America, have been detained at immigration centers in Mexico, waiting for deportation or for their asylum applications to be processed.

22:45 Germany is not ruling out the possibility of providing more financial aid on top of the billions of euros it has already allocated as a response to the coronavirus outbreak, the head of the Federal Chancellery, Helge Braun, said.

"We're looking very closely at our aid programs," Braun told German dailies the Rheinische Post and the Bonn General-Anzeiger on Saturday. Many branches and businesses have been heavily hit by the coronavirus, she said. 

No further aid packages are expected from the German parliament this week, "but we can’t rule out that we’ll need to adjust with further aid initiatives at a later point," Braun said.

21:50 In the US state of Florida, a man threatened a mass shooting at his local supermarket because he thought not enough people were wearing face masks.

The man was arrested after he posted on Facebook that he would "empty every clip I own."

"Trust me the virus is not the only thing that may cause your demise," he reportedly said.

The police, in a Facebook post, said that while these are stressful times: "There is no excuse for making threats like this. It's not a joke. It's not just a bad day. It's a crime. We will ALWAYS take them seriously and you will go to jail."

21:45 The US state of New Jersey, the state hardest hit by coronavirus after its neighbor New York, will begin issuing temporary emergency permits to foreign-licensed physicians.

"We're now the FIRST state to begin fully tapping the tremendous wealth of international knowledge and experience to help us on our own front lines," Governor Phil Murphy tweeted in making the announcement.

Murphy did not provide details on when the permits would be issued New Jersey, a state of about 9 million people has recorded more than 3,800 deaths and more than 78,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

New York and New Jersey became the epicenter of the global pandemic a number of local leaders appealed for health care worker reinforcements.

The state of New York, by far the hardest hit hotspot in the United States, called for volunteers nationwide, urging retired medical personnel and just-graduating students to join the front lines.

20:40 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defended his decision to restart economic activity in the midst of the pandemic, after firing his health minister over differences in how to combat COVID-19.

Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the health minister who was sacked on Thursday, had been advocating social distancing in line with World Health Organization recommendations. But Brazil's president has argued that the measures would have a disastrous effect on the South American country's economy, causing greater long-term risks to public health.

"This struggle to start opening up for business is a risk that I will take," Bolsonaro said, as he announced the installation of his new health minister, Nelson Teich. If the epidemic "gets worse, that will be on me. But I think, and lots of people are coming to realize this, that we have to open up," the president added.

However, the governors of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have ignored the president's advice and extending partial quarantines in their states. Furthermore, the governors are only allowing key economic activities to go on.

Bolsonaro dismissed Mandetta after a series of public disputes. "Mandetta's vision was that of health, of life. Mine is more than life, it includes the economy and jobs," Bolsonaro said.

20:15 The COVID-19 death toll pushed past 150,000 deaths worldwide on Friday, according to the tally provided by the US-based Johns Hopkins Institute.

The new coronavirus, which originated in China in late 2019, has so infected at least 2,214,861 people worldwide. Over 564,000 have recovered.

According to the medical institute, the US leads the globe on confirmed cases, with 683,785 confirmed cases as of Friday evening. Italy has seen the most deaths — 22,745,

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.

20:00 Here is a recap of some of the day's bigger stories across Europe:

The EU: Almost 100,000 European Union citizens are still stranded abroad as a result of travel restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the European Commission.

Germany: The German state of Saxony has insisted upon the covering of citizens' noses and mouths when shopping or using transport, with Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania following suit soon after in the case of public transport. Latest figures: 138,369 infections, 4,193 deaths.

Finland: The Finnish government, president and 16 organizations, including the country’s Red Cross, have launched an initiative to encourage people to persevere and pull together. "For many of us, concerns about our own and our loved ones' health, wellbeing, livelihoods and ability to cope, are a constant presence in our everyday lives," Prime Minister Sanna Marin said. Latest figures: 3,489 infections, 82 deaths.

Switzerland: Drugmaker Roche aims next month to be able to offer blood tests to identify those who have already had the new coronavirus. The Swiss firm wants to encourage a worldwide push to inform locked-down countries about who might have some immunity and be in a position to go back to work. Latest figures: 27,078 infections, 1,325 deaths.

Denmark: Hairdressers, dentists, physiotherapists and driving schools are to return to work on Monday after a month in shutdown, the Danish government announced. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's minority government of Social Democrats declared the loosening of working restrictions after speaking with other parties overnight. Latest figures: 7,268 infections, 336 deaths.

Italy: Almost 17,000 health workers have contracted the new coronavirus, with more than two-thirds of them women, Italy's public health institute revealed. The figure accounts for 10% of the officially registered cases. Latest figures: 168,941 infections, 22,745 deaths.

Czech Republic: Religious services will recommence on April 27 as the Czech Republic continues to ease restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic. Health Care Minister Adam Vojtech said the religious gatherings in churches will restart with a maximum of 15 people. But the individuals will have to keep a distance from one another.  Latest figures: 6,437 infections, 173 deaths.

19:42 UK officials announced 847 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, putting the death toll at 14,576. The latest daily rise is slightly lower than the one reported yesterday, but still among the highest in the world.

The total death toll also places Britain in the top five heaviest-hit countries in the world, behind the US, Italy, Spain, and France. The UK has seen 108,692 confirmed infections.

A government taskforce, created to find a vaccine and develop treatments, was "up and running" Business Secretary Alok Sharma told reporters. At the same time, Sharma warned the public they should be "under no illusions" about its results.

"There are no guarantees, but the government is backing our scientists, betting big to maximize the chance of success," he said.

19:33 Dubai has extended its round-the-clock sterilization program by a week, the Emirate's government announced on Twitter. The 24-hour-a-day curfew was imposed as part of a bid to control the spread of COVID-19.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has had a nationwide nightly curfew in place since March 26 as part of the disinfection campaign, but Dubai, the business hub of the UAE, expanded it on April 4 to a 24-hour lockdown for two weeks.

The UAE, with a population just shy of 10 million, announced 477 new cases and two more deaths in its daily update, meaning a total of 6,302 people have contracted the new coronavirus. The death toll now stands at 37.

19:23 Taylor Swift is canceling all of her performances and appearances for the remainder of 2020 due to the pandemic.

"With many events throughout the world already canceled, and upon direction from health officials in an effort to keep fans safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19, sadly the decision has been made to cancel all Taylor Swift live appearances and performances this year," Swift's representative said in a statement.

19:10 In France, health officials reported 761 new deaths in the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 18,681.

At the same time, the number of hospitalized patients dropped for the third day in the row while the number of people requiring intensive care continued to drop for the ninth day in a row. There were now 6,027 ICU patients in France, the lowest number since April 1.

"The lockdown is starting to bear fruit," Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, told reporters. 

The country has seen 109,252 confirmed coronavirus infections.

Separately, the French Navy said over 1,080 sailors aboard its flagship, aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and the two escort vessels, had tested positive so far. The battle group has a crew of 2,300 people.

18:42 Welsh cyclist Geraint Thomas, the winner of Tour de France in 2018, raised just over £300,000 ($374,600, €344,600) for the UK's National Health Service (NHS) by riding three 12-hour-stints on a special stationary bicycle in his garage.

"Fair play, one last final push," he said in a video posted on Twitter less than half an hour before finishing the last stint. "I can't sit down."

He also thanked thousands of donors who contributed money and to people who used Zwift, an electronic platform to simulate bike races outdoors, to "ride along" on their own stationary bikes.

The 33-year-old athlete was aiming to raise £100,000 when he started the event on Wednesday.

18:15 Africa would need at least $114 billion (€105 billion) to mitigate the medical and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva.

Georgieva said the continent did not have enough resources to tackle the crisis and needed rapid international support, adding that the pandemic threatened to "damage prospects for years to come."

The IMF has received aid requests from 40 African countries, she said, pledging that her organization would make over $18 billion available in 2020.

18:05 The German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will require individuals using public transit, such as trams or buses and taxis, to wear face coverings to protect against coronavirus. State Premier Manuela Schwesig said the measure was needed as some stores begin to reopen, causing an increase in people moving around. 

Residents are required to cover their mouth and nose with either surgical masks or items made of cloth. 

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is the second German state to require the wearing of masks outside, after Saxony implemented the measure earlier on Friday for those shopping and using public transit. The national government recommends their use but does not insist upon it.

17:55  Serbia delivered 1,000 coronavirus test kits to its former province of Kosovo on Friday, following a video conference involving health ministers in Belgrade and Pristina. At the time, Kosovo Health Minister Arben Vitia reported that his government was struggling to provide enough tests, a source in the Serbian government told Kosovo-online news site. The official said Belgrade had no conditions attached to the shipment.

A Health Ministry spokesman for the state of 1.8 million people confirmed Serbia's donation. Kosovo has seen 449 COVID-19 infections and 11 deaths, while Serbia, with a population of roughly 7 million people, reports 5,690 confirmed cases and 110 deaths.

Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo an armed rebellion and a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999. While Kosovo declared independence in 2008, Serbia has rejected the move and kept it from joining the UN and other key international groups. Tensions between Belgrade and Pristina remain high, with both governments regularly drudging up the conflict for propaganda purposes.

17:28 New York state governor Andrew Cuomo also noted that the hospitalization rate was dropping slightly, but added his state was still seeing "about 2,000 COVID hospitalizations per day."

"If people tell you the pandemic is 'over' — they're wrong," he wrote on Twitter.

Cuomo said his state would boost testing together with private companies and the federal State Department of Health, saying that the state of New York needed "the federal government to act."

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump fired back at Cuomo in a series of tweets, telling him: "Get out there and get the job done."

16:45 New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo said he needed federal funding to boost coronavirus testing and restart the state's economy. With Donald Trump's White House announcing guidelines for restarting economic activity on Thursday, Cuomo said there was no funding provided for it.

"That is passing the buck without passing the bucks," Cuomo said at the daily briefing.

In another swipe at the US president, Cuomo commented on Trump's criticism of state requests for federal aid.

"If he is sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work," he said. 

The state reported 630 coronavirus deaths on Friday, compared to 606 registered on the day before. The latest update brings the official death toll to 12,822 in the heavily-hit state. Nearly 30,000 have been killed by COVID-19 across the US.

Cuomo also said Trump should pay as much attention to the states as to "your big business and your airlines."

16:06 Germany "can afford" to help Europe through the coronavirus recession, said Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute of Economic Research.

Speaking to DW, Fratzscher rejected the row about the so-called "coronabonds" that would allow poorer countries to take cheap loans with the richer ones underwriting those loan, saying that the exact name or methodology was less important than the core aim of any such program.

"We should not have an ideological argument about how exactly to finance it — will it be eurobonds or not," he said. "What's important is the goal: the money must flow from richer countries to weaker countries."

"Because we need to understand that we are a joint European economy, and this economy is as strong as its weakest link, and the weakest link in this moment are countries like Italy and Spain," Fratzscher said.

The German Institute of Economic Research, also known as DIW, is one of the top analytical bodies in the country.

15:55 Swedish health officials said the daily loss of life due to the coronavirus was slowing down after reporting 67 new deaths on Friday.

"We are seeing a downward trend," said Karin Tehmark Wissel from the country's public health agency. She acknowledged the daily death toll was still high but noted it was "slowing" compared to previous days.

Sweden reported 150 deaths on Wednesday and 130 on Thursday, according to the website. The country's health officials had registered a total of some 13,200 confirmed infections and 1,400 fatalities by Friday.

The Swedish death toll is much higher compared to other Nordic countries. Notably, the government has refused to close down schools and impose a mandatory lockdown like nearly all other European countries.

However, gatherings of over 50 people are banned, people are encouraged to stay at home and guests in restaurants need to be seated at safe distance.

"It is a myth that life goes on as normal in Sweden," Foreign Minister Ann Linde said.

15:29 Only about a quarter of Germans are afraid of serious health consequences if they do catch COVID-19, a new poll showed.

A week ago, some 40% of participants believed a coronavirus infection would have "large" or "very large" impact on their health. This week, only 26% agree with this claim.

"Young people in particular no longer consider the health impacts to be ... large," said BfR chief Andreas Hensel.

Earlier this week, Germany announced plans to gradually lift public restrictions. These restrictions remained universally popular, albeit by less overwhelming margins that one week earlier. Support for shop closures, for instance, had dipped from 72% to 64%.

The representative poll with around 500 participants also looks into people's attitudes towards the media coverage of the crisis. According to the latest results, 62% believe that the coverage was "appropriate", 35% see it as "exaggerated", while 3% believed the media was "downplaying" the crisis.

Additionally, 26% of responders said they had taken "no measures" to protect themselves or their family from the coronavirus.

14:50 In a phone call between Russia's Vladimir Putin and France's Emmanuel Macron, the two presidents discussed holding a videoconference of UN Security Council's permanent members. The five permanent members of the UN top body are the US, Russia, China, the UK, and France. All of them have the power of veto — stopping any UN resolution unilaterally, even if it has majority support. Macron also thanked Putin for Russia's cooperation in returning French nationals home and for providing conditions to transport medical material to France through Russia, the Kremlin said in a statement.

14:20 The UK reported 847 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, bringing the death toll for hospitalized patients to 14,676. The latest daily jump is slightly lower than the 861 reported yesterday, but still higher compared to earlier this week, when it stayed below 800. The country has 108,692  confirmed infections.

Oxford University scientists are already preparing a million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, aiming to have them ready by September, the team said on Friday. The product is only entering the testing stage, but by starting large-scale production early, researchers hope to be ready with a large quantity of doses once it is approved.

"We can never be certain these things are going to work," Oxford professor of vaccinology Sarah Gilbert told reporters. "My view is that I think this one has a very strong chance of working."

14:00 At least 4.5 billion people are currently in some kind of lockdown across the globe, according to a tally by the AFP news agency. Some 110 countries or territories have issued orders to keep their population indoors and curb the spread of the new coronavirus.  With the UN estimating the global population at 7.79 billion, the lockdown measures are therefore now affecting around 58% of humanity. Around a month ago, only 500 million people were under lockdown, according to the report.

13:19 After declaring face masks would be mandatory starting Monday, the German state of Saxony said it would allow small religious gatherings of up to 15 worshipers with a preacher and an aide.

"It is important for worshipers to make religious life possible as well," said the head of the state government, Michael Kretschmer.

Despite talks between federal officials and representatives of religious communities in Germany, there is still no definitive timetable for lifting restrictions on religious services nationwide.

13:00 The German state of Saxony ordered residents to cover their nose and mouth while shopping or using public transport. It is the first state to make face protection mandatory after the national government "urgently recommended" wearing masks two days ago.

Citizens would not be required to wear medical masks — a scarf or a similar item covering the nose and mouth would be sufficient, Saxony's state premier Michael Kretschmer said on Friday.

The order is set to go into force on Monday.

12:55 In Austria, museums and libraries will be allowed to open from mid-May, the government said on Friday. The EU country was among the first to announce gradual lifting of lockdown measures, and its smaller shops, garden centers, and DIY stores have been opened since Tuesday. Meanwhile, neighboring Slovenia said some small shops would be allowed to open from next week, including hardware stores, vehicle repair shops and dry cleaners. Retailers of up to 400 square meters (4,300 square feet), hairdressers and cosmetic shops are to open on May 4.

12:45 Here is the latest from across Asia:

China: The official death toll in Wuhan has been raised about 50% to almost 4,000 due to late reports and deaths at home. Case numbers rose slightly. China also recorded its worst financial results since the 1970s, with the gross domestic product receding 6.8% over the quarter. Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian has also accused the US administration of trying to shift the focus away from its own defects by promoting a theory that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese laboratory. Latest figures: 83,760 infections, 4,636 deaths, 77,551 recovered.

India: Political activist Arundhati Roy told DW that the situation in India is approaching a genocide for the Muslim population. "Under the cover of COVID, the government is moving to arrest young students, to fight cases against lawyers, against senior editors, against activists and intellectuals," she said. Latest figures: 13,495 infected, 448 deaths, 1,777 recovered.

Indonesia: The country now has the most confirmed infections in South East Asia, surpassing the Philippines. It reported 407 new cases. The Health Ministry says it has performed 42,000 tests across the country. There is a partial lockdown in the Greater Jakarta area banning gatherings of more than five people and restricting travel. Latest figures: 5,923 infected, 520 deaths, 607 recovered. 

Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a forceful appeal to the nation to stay indoors after new cases hit a daily record in Tokyo. He also announced a cash payment of 100,000 yen ($930, €856) for every resident to boost the economy. Residents also started receiving the reusable cloth face masks dubbed "Abenomasks," in mockery of the "Abenomics" nickname applied to the prime minister's economic policies on taking office. Households will receive just two masks, which are significantly smaller than normal masks. Governors have called on the central government to compensate for business closures by providing 1 trillion yen in special subsidies for local governments. Abe also expressed support for the World Health Organization after the US suspended its funding for the agency. Latest figures: 9,231 infected, 190 deaths, 935 recovered.

Malaysia: Authorities have recorded the lowest daily increase in cases since curbs on movement and business were imposed on March 18. Travel restrictions may be extended beyond April 28, though more sectors will probably be allowed to operate, the government said. And a boat carrying about 200 Muslim Rohingya refugees has been turned away over coronavirus fears. Latest figures: 5,251 cases, 86 deaths, 2,967 recovered.

Pakistan: The IMF has approved nearly $1.4 billion (€1.3 billion) in emergency aid to help Pakistan weather the pandemic. There has been no sweeping lockdown, but provinces have shuttered schools and companies, putting an already weak economy under extra strain. The money is being provided under a so-called rapid financing instrument, which does not subject a country to a fully-fledged reform program. Latest figures: 7,025 infected, 135 deaths, 1,765 recovered.

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to impose martial-law-like conditions to enforce the monthlong lockdown in the main northern region. He said the military and police would strictly enforce social distancing and curfews unless compliance improves. Police have found 120,000 violations, including cockfighting and drinking. Eighteen prisoners and guards have tested positive, and another 30 inmates showed symptoms, raising fears of further spread through the correctional system and prompting calls for mass releases. And the Economic Planning Secretary Ernerso Pernia has resigned, citing personal reasons and "differences" with some cabinet officials. Latest  figures: 5,878 infected, 387 deaths, 487 recovered.

Singapore: There has been a surge in cases after testing was increased among foreign workers, with clusters reported in crowded dormitories. Authorities are assessing whether they might be safer if rehoused on anchored cruise ships. Latest figures: 4,427 cases, 10 deaths, 683 recovered.

South Korea: Authorities say a rising number of patients are testing positive for a second time, having already recovered from the first infection. About 2% of recovered people have tested positive again, however the cases do not appear to be as serious, nor are they as infectious. Authorities say it is likely that the virus is being reactivated, rather than patients being reinfected. New figures show that nearly 200,000 people have lost their job, the largest monthly total since the global financial crisis. Latest figures: 10,635 infected, 230 deaths, 7,829 recovered.

Taiwan: For the third time this week, zero new cases have been reported. However, the health minister says there are no plans to lift any restrictions. Latest figures: 395 infected, 6 deaths, 166 recovered.

12:35 Ramadan prayers can be done at home amid the pandemic, Saudi Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh told the country's Okaz newspaper.

The religious rituals during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting set to start next week, and the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast, are usually performed at Muslim places of worship.

However, Saudi authorities have stopped daily prayers in mosques since mid-March.

"Ramadan's Taraweeh [evening] prayer can be performed at home if it cannot be performed at mosques due to the preventive measures taken to fight the spread of coronavirus," Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh told the paper, adding that the same applied for the Eid prayers.

12:05 Russia has recorded a record daily increase in the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus of 4,070. The total number of infections for the country has risen to more than 32,000, officials in Moscow said. More than half of the new cases reported were in the greater Moscow region. The capital’s deputy mayor, Anastasia Rakova, has told the population to be prepared for "difficult weeks" ahead.

12:00 German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has said that while there is no vaccine, society must reorganize itself so that control of infection is compatible with a good economic and social life.  "We have to develop a new normal that we can take with us for several months and probably into the new year," said Scholz.

11:15 Spain's daily death toll from coronavirus has risen to 585, up from 551 on Thursday. While an increase, the figure is still far short of the more than 900 deaths registered during the peak of the outbreak in early April.  Spanish officials on Friday also said they had revised the counting mechanism, making the figures hard to compare to previous daily tolls. The number of overall coronavirus cases rose to 188,068 on Friday from 182,816 on Thursday, a 2.9% increase.

10:50 The SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people in Belgium. The grim statistic confirms the country’s high per-capita mortality ratio compared to most other European countries. A further 313 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours alone in the country of 11.5 million inhabitants, pushing the overall toll to 5,163. Half of fatalities were from old-age care homes, health authorities said in a daily news conference, and the other half from hospitals.

In the neighboring Netherlands, deaths overall in the week of April 6-12 were around 2,000 higher than they would be on average. About 5,000 people in the Netherlands died that week, the national statistics agency said, up from 2,900 a year earlier. The National Institute for Public Health attributed 971 deaths to COVID-19 that week.

10:30 Norman Hunter, a former England footballer who was part of the country’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad, has died as a result of infection with the novel coronavirus. The former Leeds United defender, who earned the nickname "Bites Yer Legs'' because of his tough tackling, was admitted to the hospital last week and died early Friday, his former club said.

10:15 Germany’s Interior Ministry says there are no plans at this stage to loosen restrictions on religious gatherings and services. 

After a meeting involving representatives of various religions, a spokesman for the ministry said that the issue would likely be addressed at the end of this month. Representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths were present for the talks with Deputy Interior Minister Markus Kerber.

Talks between the federal government and Germany’s states, to reexamine coronavirus measures, are due to be held on April 30.

Religious gatherings are, for the time being, banned until May 4.

10:00 Austria is set to allow museums and some other cultural spaces to reopen from mid-May as part of the country's step-by-step loosening of coronavirus restrictions. 

Austrian Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler told a press conference that no specific date had yet been set. He added that large events involving many people in close proximity, such as festivals, would remain banned until August 31.

09:45 It's been more than a month since the last match was played in the Bundesliga, and with the season still suspended indefinitely, football fans are missing their beloved sport. But many are tapping into their team spirit to help others who are struggling under the coronavirus lockdown.

Watch video 01:33

Football fans helping out in coronavirus crisis

09:30 The president of the Paul-Ehrlich Institute, Germany’s federal institute for vaccines and biomedicines, has announced that the clinical trial of a vaccine will soon be underway in the country. According to Klaus Cichutek, four clinical tests have already been started internationally, but the envisioned trial would be a first for Germany.  

While the process of approval for a vaccine did not need to take a long time, Cichutek said, the development of a version that was effective and physically tolerable was often a lengthy procedure.

09:15 Spahn also confirmed that, from May, hospitals in Germany will start to make a "step-by-step and cautious" return to normality, reiterating comments made earlier to public broadcaster ARD.

From May onwards, Spahn said, some 25 to 30% of intensive care beds with ventilators would be kept free for COVID-19 patients, with more beds dedicated to non-COVID-19 medical care. "We will not be able to keep the large number of free beds, 10,000 intensive care beds, free in the long term," said Spahn.

In mid-March, the minister demanded that all planned treatments and operations should be postponed to keep some 10,000 intensive care beds free for patients infected with the novel SARS-Cov-2 virus. Spahn said he understood that concern about postponed procedures was a major burden, both physically and psychologically, for many patients.

"Six out of seven Covid-19 patients have mild cases and can be treated on an outpatient basis," he said Spahn. This meant that hospitals could concentrate their resources the on more serious cases.

09:00 More from Jens Spahn, who has said he is open to the possibility of more foreign COVID-19 patients being brought to Germany for treatment. Spahn said he would be talking to European counterparts about the scope of such assistance.

Speaking alongside the health minister, the president of the government's agency for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute, likewise spoke of a "really good interim result." However, Lothar Wieler also warned that this week has seen the largest increase in the number of deaths to date.

08:40 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has given a positive assessment of Germany’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Spahn has told reporters in Berlin that the increase in COVID-19 cases wasn't exponential anymore, but linear. He said the progress of the disease in Germany had been brought under control. 

Figures released earlier on Friday by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control center, show that the number of people infected by every person with COVID-19 has fallen to 0.7, from over 1 just a few days ago. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that this so-called reproduction rate was a key indicator for the government to decide on relaxing the lockdown.

The healthcare system had "at no time been overwhelmed so far," Spahn said.

Since April 12, Spahn noted, the country has also had more people recovered from COVID-19 than active cases. 

Experts say early and widespread testing has helped Germany to limit the outbreak. Spahn said the country has so far carried out 1.7 million tests and was able to conduct 700,000 a week if necessary.

08:30 The German government will put on hold a decision on the amount Germans who were brought home on repatriation flights as the coronavirus lockdown began should be required to pay. While there was a regulation that such individuals should pay an amount equating to the cost of a normal economy ticker, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the paperwork would have to wait. 

"We have put it on hold for now because we have no time at all to deal with such administrative issues," Maas said. "We will make a decision at some point on how we deal with the costs and whether people who used the repatriation flights will be required to contribute."

Flight operations returning travelers home to Germany are still taking place from South Africa and New Zealand.

08:00 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened a martial law-style crackdown on those who violate quarantine restrictions in the main northern region of the country.

Duterte said he would order the military and police to strictly enforce social distancing and curfews if compliance did not improve. Police said they have accosted some 120,000 individuals for breaking the rules, including people who engaged in cockfighting and drinking sprees.

"You choose. I don't like it,'' Duterte said, adding that he would be forced to take such measures "if the country gets compromised and you won't show discipline.''

07:45 China's foreign ministry has said there was "never any cover up" following the news earlier that the death toll in Wuhan was much higher than initially reported. (see 04:30 entries). Back in February, DW spoke to Chinese historian Zhang Lifan. He told us the pandemic had exposed some critical flaws in China’s governance system, which he says "remains totalitarian and hierarchical," preventing the outbreak from being contained.

Read the full interview here

DW also looked at whether China's authoritarian leadership actually helped increase the spread of the virus, with official infection numbers kept low initially.

07:40 German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is speaking to representatives of some 29 industry associations with a view to quickly starting up the economy when it becomes possible. Altmaier said the discussions would cover government aid packages for business, as well as a loosening of restrictions on trade.

07:10 Britain's Prince William has praised the 99-year-old World War II who has raised more than 17 million pounds ($21.1 million, €19.6 million) for the National Health Service by walking laps of his garden as "an absolute legend." 

Captain Tom Moore originally aimed to raise a modest 1,000 pounds amid the coronavirus crisis by completing the challenge of walking 100 laps ahead of his 100th birthday. However, thanks to social media, the effort garnered national attention.

"It's wonderful that everyone has been inspired by his story and his determination," said the prince.

07:00 Muslims in India are facing attacks and boycotts amid the coronavirus crisis. DW's Nimisha Jaiswal traveled to the northern city of Meerut to find out why Muslims are being blamed for what some locals are calling "corona jihad." 

Watch video 02:47

India: COVID-19 crisis used to fuel religious hatred

06:45 A contact-tracing app to track the spread of coronavirus will be ready for Germans to download and use on their smartphones in three to four weeks, Health Minister Jens Spahn says.

German federal and state government leaders have said they will support voluntary use of such an app, when available, so smartphone users can quickly learn if and when they had been exposed to an infected person.

Developers are working hard to ensure data protection standards are "as perfect as possible," Spahn told public broadcaster ARD.

"For it to be really good, it needs more like three to four weeks rather than two weeks," Spahn said.

Germany has the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 cases behind the United States, Spain, Italy and France at nearly 134,000 but it has kept fatalities down to a relatively low 3,868, thanks in part to early and extensive testing.

However, Germany has been more cautious than some Asian countries in using digital technology to fight the spread of COVID-19, restrained by Europe's strict data privacy laws. Spahn said the country had coped well with the first wave of its coronavirus outbreak thanks to the social distancing measures that were taken.

The healthcare system would still need just under a third of its total intensive care and respiration beds to cope with COVID-19 patients, he said. However, a rebalancing of clinical provision — allowing postponed treatments and operations to be resumed — would be possible from the start of May.

06:15 European car sales dropped by 55% in the last month as lockdown measures went into effect in most nations, the industry's trade association said Friday.

"All 27 EU markets contracted in March, but Italy took the biggest hit, with registrations falling by 85.4% to 28,326 new cars," the European Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

05:30 The Central Council of Muslims in Germany has appealed to communities to continue to adhere to social distancing measures imposed as a result of the coronavirus. 

"As it is difficult for us to keep our mosques closed during the holy month of Ramadan, it is our religious and civil responsibility to do just that at this time," said council chairman Aiman Mazyek. 

The protection of health and human life had to be of the highest priority during the pandemic, Mazyek said. Meanwhile, Germany's Deputy Interior Minister Markus Kerber praised the commitment of Muslim communities to the fight against coronavirus. They had shown "a high degree of responsibility and solidarity with our society," he said. "This renews and strengthens cohesion in our society."

Kerber was set to meet religious and community leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths later on Friday to discuss how to proceed when it comes to church, temple and mosque services in future.

05:20 Denmark is set to relax social distancing restrictions from Monday, allowing certain small businesses, such as hairdressers, beauty salons and driving schools to reopen. 

Such enterprises were shuttered last month as part of a lockdown to rein in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

04:58 The number of reported infections in Germany has risen by 3,380 to 133,830, according to the country’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The number of deaths as a result of infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 rose by 299 within 24 hours, to 3,868. Some 81,800 patients were reported as having recovered, around 4,700 more than the previous day. 

Figures compiled by the RKI depend on data being transmitted from state and local levels to a national one, meaning they can differ to those published in real time by the Johns Hopkins University.

04:45 In light of those revised Wuhan figures, catch up here on a DW report from the streets of the city just a few days ago.

Read more: What is life like in post-lockdown Wuhan?

04:30 In China, the city of Wuhan — the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — has revised the number of virus-related deaths up by 1,290 to 3,869, local authorities said. That represents an increase of 50% on earlier figures.

The government of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, said in a statement that the number of casualties had been revised up due to late reports from medical institutions. In addition, some coronavirus patients died at home while hospitals were overloaded in the early stages.

The overall accuracy of China's coronavirus data has been questioned both abroad and by the country’s own citizens.

03:30 US flights deporting migrants from Guatemala have been temporarily suspended after a recent flight carried migrants who tested positive for the coronavirus. Out of the 76 people on the Monday flight, 44 were reported to have tested positive.

"Guatemala is working with US authorities to evaluate the health status of Guatemalans returned in recent days," a spokesman for the Guatemalan presidency said.

02:30 Close to two-thirds of Americans think that President Trump's actions to deal with the threat of coronavirus were too slow, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. The survey was conducted between April 7 and April 12, using a sample of 4,917 American adults.

While 65% felt that the initial response was too slow, 52% felt that his comments on the pandemic are aimed at making it look better than it really is. Close to 40% felt that his representation of the crisis is accurate and 8% said that Trump is making the situation seem worse than it is.

Trump gestures during a press conference

Most Americans said they believe Trump reacted to the coronavirus crisis too slowly

02:10 China's economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, official data showed on Friday. It was the first such decline since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.

The historic contraction, the first since China began publishing quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) data in 1992, in the world's second-largest economy comes following widespread closures caused by the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China late last year and shut down factories, transport and shopping malls.

Over the course of 2020, lockdowns have spread around the world putting a major damper on global trade. 

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, China's GDP fell 9.8% in the first three months of the year, the National Bureau of Statistics said, which compared with expectations for a 9.9% contraction and 1.5% growth in the previous quarter.

02:05 Hundreds of garment workers in Bangladesh took to the streets to demand unpaid wages after factories suspended operations over coronavirus-related lockdowns across the world. Protests were staged in parts of Dhaka while workers also blocked a highway outside the Bangladeshi capital.

Many protesters blame international brands like Wal-Mart, H&M and Marks & Spencer for canceling orders worth $3.2 billion, which directly affect the 2.26 million workers in the industry.

Notably, the textile industry accounts for close to 85% of Bangladesh’s $40 billion in annual exports.

01:45 In a bid to control the spread of the virus, Mexico will restrict movement between places that have been severely affected by the coronavirus, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced. This is mostly restricted to large cities, prompting authorities to cordon off many towns that have not been affected by the virus.

Mexico has reported 450 new cases and 37 new deaths, bringing the country's total tally to 6,297 cases and 486 deaths.

01:05 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic could remain in place for a year. He said the issue was largely due to uncertainty about the development of a vaccine or new ways to treat COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"Social distancing is something we should get very used to," Morrison told local radio station 3AW. "It could be a year, but I'm not speculating about that." Social distancing measures will remain in place for at least another four weeks, he added.

00:20 US President Donald Trump announced plans to begin rolling back social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Under an action plan dubbed "Opening Up America Again," the White House said state governors could lift the measures in three phases. Under phase one of the plan, churches and sporting venues could open "under strict physical distancing protocols." However, group outings should not exceed more than 10 people.

The pandemic has triggered widespread economic fallout, triggering historic levels of unemployment in the US. Trump is hoping to kick the US economy back into action before the presidential election slated for November.

Statistics from Johns Hopkins University show over 32,900 coronavirus deaths in the United States and nearly 630,000 confirmed infections.

Watch video 12:23

Does coronavirus have long-term health effects?

Catch up with Thursday's coronavirus news here: US unveils plan to reopen businesses

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.

dj, rc, see, ls/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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