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Coronavirus latest: Austria tightens regulations again

July 21, 2020

Austrians are again obliged to cover their faces in indoor spaces in public after an uptick in cases. Meanwhile, in Serbia, doctors have criticized the government's response in an open letter. Follow DW for the latest.

Shoppers in Vienna wearing face masks, photo from July 20.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Fohringer
  • EU leaders reach deal on a €750-billion coronavirus recovery fund and a €1-trillion EU budget
  • Hundreds of doctors issue an open letter slamming Serbia's response to the pandemic
  • Passengers on flights to China must now show evidence of a negative coronavirus test
  • Worldwide, more than 600,000 people have died from the coronavirus, with more than 14.5 million infections

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:30 We have now closed this live updates article. For the latest developments, see here: Coronavirus latest: Trump says pandemic will 'get worse before it gets better'

22:40 Major airlines are calling on the US and the European Union to consider a joint COVID-19 testing program as a way to restore transatlantic travel. 

The chief executives of United, American Airlines, IAG, and Lufthansa Group wrote a letter to US Vice-President Mike Pence and Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs, requesting "the safe and swift restoration of air travel between the United States and Europe." 

"We recognize that testing presents a number of challenges, however, we believe that a pilot testing program for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together and find ways to overcome obstacles and explore all solutions to protect the health, build confidence, and safely restore passenger travel between the US and Europe."

Read moreIs flying in India safe amid surge in coronavirus cases?

In June, the EU excluded the US from its initial "safe list" of countries from which the bloc will allow nonessential travel.

22:16 US President Donald Trump has warned that the coronavirus crisis in the United States is likely to "get worse before it gets better."

"Some areas of our country are doing very well," Trump said, speaking at his first formal White House virus briefing since April.

"Others are doing less well," the president said. "It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better — something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is."

There has been "a concerning rise in cases in many parts of our South," the president said. 

In an about-face, Trump also urged Americans to wear face masks to help slow the spread of the infection, which has left over 141,000 people dead in the US. 

"We are asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask," he said. "Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They will have an effect and we need everything we can get."

The president said he himself carries a mask and would use it gladly. The goal is "not merely to manage the pandemic but to end it," Trump said. "The vaccines are coming and they're coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible," he said.

21:23 Brazil has approved clinical trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine that was jointly developed by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, the third COVID-19 vaccine to be tested in the country.
With over 2.1 million cases, Brazil is second only to the US in total coronavirus infections. 

"We are proud to have Brazilian volunteers participating in this global effort, which could play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19," said Edson Moreira, who will be leading the trial, in a company statement.

Testing is to start in August.

Brazil's health regulator Anvisa has already approved trials for potential vaccines developed in the UK and China. 

Earlier Tuesday, doctors injected the first Brazilian volunteer with a possible vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech in Sao Paulo. Clinical trials on a vaccine developed in the UK began in June. 

Brazil has also made moves to secure access to possible vaccines, should they prove effective. Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the government had begun negotiations with US biotech firm Modern Inc to give Brazil priority access to a coronavirus vaccine currently in development. 

Pazuello said agreements are already in place that would see AstraZeneca delivering 30 million doses of its vaccine to Brazil, while Sinovac has agreed to deliver 60 million doses. Potential vaccines developed domestically in Brazil are still in the pre-clinical testing stage. 

20:07 US Vice President Mike Pence defended the Trump administration's efforts in urging states to reopen their economies amid the spread of the coronavirus.

"We really believed that was essential, that every American take these steps, and so that we would prevent our hospitals ... from being overwhelmed," Pence said of the administration's 45-day recommended social distancing guidelines.

"And the American people did their part. ... We flattened the curve," he added. The remarks were made at a visit to the state of South Carolina to discuss the reopening schools this fall.

South Carolina has registered 1,203 new infections, for a total of 73,101 since the pandemic began.

Pence said increase in cases across the southern US states was ''serious'' and pledged that the federal government would support governors as they crafted their own responses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci stands next to Donald Trump
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the US has to boost its coronavirus testing capacityImage: picture-alliance/abaca/G. Yuri

The US government's top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci has said that testing capacity in the country needs to be improved.

"Certainly we need to do better," Fauci said in a CNN interview. "As a whole, we need to improve (testing capacity)."

"When you get surges like you are seeing now it kind of overwhelms the system a bit," Fauci said in regards to the spike in new infections across southern states.

18:00 A curfew has been imposed in Zimbabwe, in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak. President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the new rule, adding that security forces would be tasked with enforcing it.

"As of tomorrow, Wednesday... all our security services must enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew set to come into force daily
between 1800 hours and 0600 hours," Mnangagwa said in a televised address.

The new measures require those without jobs to stay at home, except to seek food, water and medical help. Working hours have been limited to 8 AM to 3 PM, except for those of jobs deemed essential. Large gatherings for social, religious or political purposes have been banned.

Zimbabwe has registered 1,713 coronavirus and 26 deaths. Despite the low figures, the country was included in a list of African nations that are seeing alarmingly rising rates of COVID-19 infections.

But government critics and the opposition have accused authorities of imposing the curfew for political reasons, as anti-government protests had been planned for next week.

On Monday, Zimbabwean police arrested an opposition leader and a prominent journalist over allegations of inciting fellow citizens to "participate in public violence."

16:50 The annual December banquet to honor Nobel Prize winners has been canceled for this year, according to the Nobel Foundation, which manages the prestigious award.

"The Nobel week will not be as it usually is due to the current pandemic. This is a very special year when everyone needs to make sacrifices and adapt to completely new circumstances," Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation, said in a statement.

The banquet is traditionally the last event of a week-long honoring of each year’s winners. It takes place in Stockholm's City Hall, where the winners, together with the Swedish royal family and some 1,300 guests are treated to a multi-course dinner and entertainment.

Although the banquet has been scrapped, the award ceremonies will still be held in "new forms," the organization said.

The announcement marks the first time since 1956 that the banquet has been cancelled. In that occasion, the banquet was cancelled to avoid inviting the Soviet ambassador because of the repression of the Hungarian Revolution, the Nobel Foundation said.

The banquet was also cancelled during the two world wars, and prior to that in 1907 and 1924.

16:21 Two ministers in South Africa's cabinet have been hospitalized for coronavirus, the government confirmed. The country is being gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and has the highest infection rates on the African continent.

Minister of Labor Thulas Nxesi and Minister of Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe, had tested positive for the virus a week ago and had been recovering while in quarantine, prior to being admitted to the hospital.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa tightened the country's lockdown restrictions last week to tackle the epidemic, which included imposing a night-time curfew, making the wearing of masks mandatory and reintroducing an alcohol ban.

South Africa has nearly 374,000 confirmed cases and more than 5,100 deaths. WHO Health Emergencies Program chief Michael Ryan warned on Monday that South Africa's rapid rise could be a precursor to a wider outbreak in the rest of the continent.

13:45 Austria is reintroducing face mask requirements inside supermarkets, banks and post offices, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a press conference. Prior to Kurz's announcement, masks were required on Austrian public transport, when going to the doctor, and for certain personal service providers like hairdressers.

The chancellor stressed that wearing the masks was obligatory, not a recommendation, saying that they have a symbolic effect because the more they disappear from everyday life the more careless people become.

In addition, restrictions will be introduced for religious services in Austria and churches will be closed in the event of a positive case.

Kurz also said testing requirements would be tightened and quarantine monitored more closely for people arriving in the country from high risk areas. He noted the Balkans in particular, citing an increase in cases from that region. Travelers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test. 

Austria has reported nearly 20,000 cases of coronavirus, with 710 deaths.

12:43 Health officials in the Netherlands have warned of a recent uptick in coronavirus cases. The country reported 987 new infections over the past week, up from 534 the week before.

Last week, authorities in Amsterdam warned people not to visit the city's famous red-light district and closed off some of the historic area's narrow streets because they were too busy.

A popular tourist destination, Amsterdam has seen an influx of visitors as the Netherlands eased travel restrictions. The city told businesses on Friday that they had an extra responsibility to enforce 1.5 meters of distance between customers, as "many overseas visitors in the city center are not aware of Dutch coronavirus rules." The Netherlands has reported more than 52,000 total COVID-19 cases and 6,155 deaths.

11:45 Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed back his self-imposed deadline to halve poverty numbers in Russia, from 2024 to 2030, as the global economy looks set to take a heavy hit in 2020. In 2018 after winning another six-year term, Putin set the first deadline to half poverty, increase pensions and boost average life expectancy to 78 by 2024. However, authorities pushed that date back to 2030 due to "unfavorable world economic conditions that will slow the development of all countries without exception," according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

According to official statistics from 2019, more than 18 million Russians live below the poverty line, roughly 12.3% of the population. This is defined as having a monthly income of fewer than 10,890 rubles (€135, or $154).

10:50 Hundreds of doctors have issued an open letter sharply criticizing Serbia's response to the pandemic. "We are addressing the public because we see no other way out of the health catastrophe our country is in," said the letter, signed by 350 doctors in Serbia.

The letter accuses the government of President Aleksandar Vucic of easing coronavirus restrictions too quickly, resulting in a "loss of control of the epidemiological situation."

After imposing a strict lockdown in March, the government lifted restrictions at the beginning of May, allowing even large events such as football matches with 18,000 spectators to take place. The doctors also accused the government of publishing false figures and intimidating or threatening doctors critical of the government response.

"All this has shaken the health system to its core and undermined citizens' trust in health personnel," the letter said. The number of coronavirus infections in the Balkan country of 7 million has risen sharply in the past weeks. Between Sunday and Monday, authorities registered 359 new cases. Since the start of the pandemic, Serbia has recorded a total of 21,253 cases and 482 deaths.

10:30 Berlin's ISTAF athletics meet is set to take place in front of 3,500 fans in the German capital's Olympic Stadium in September. It will be one of the first large events in Germany with people in attendance since social distancing measures were enforced to curb the spread of COVID-19.

"We are very happy that we can at least allow several thousand fans to attend thanks to our comprehensive safety and hygiene concept," meet director Martin Seeber said in a statement on the ISTAF website. "Our planning is based on the safety and health of everyone."

The 3,500 fans will be joined by roughly 1,500 other personnel, including athletes and officials, when the meet begins on September 13. As many as 45,000 fans were expected to attend the event before the pandemic began. Seeber called the new plans "a first small step back to normality." The meet is one of several upcoming European athletics events due to be held in front of fans.  

Read moreNew Bundesliga season, German Cup to kick off in September

10:20 Iran has reported a record 229 deaths due to coronavirus over a 24-hour period, according to the country's Health Ministry. Iran was one of the worst-affected countries during the initial months of the pandemic, but the government began easing lockdown-related restrictions in mid-April.

It remains the hardest-hit country in the Middle East. The country has seen more than 275,000 infections and 14,400 fatalities.

Over the weekend, President Hassan Rouhani suggested that as many as 25 million people in Iran could have been infected with COVID-19. However, the Health Ministry has sought to downplay that figure, saying it was based on serological blood tests that measure exposure to coronavirus and cannot be relied upon to "diagnose the current state of the disease."

09:55 German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says he wants to see football fans return to stadiums in the fall for next season's Bundesliga. "I have long been of the opinion that spectators can be let into stadiums again if a strong hygiene concept is in place," Seehofer, whose portfolio includes sport, told the Münchner Merkur newspaper.

"It could start in autumn. Of course not with a sold-out arena but the numbers can rise step by step. The virus hits where the rules are not observed."

The German Football League (DFL), which oversees the Bundesliga, and the German Football Federation (DFB) put together detailed hygiene protocols that allowed football leagues in Germany to restart and finish their seasons without fans present.

The DFL has now submitted plans to clubs and state authorities that would see fans return to stadiums in a limited capacity, but the final word lies with health officials. The 2020-21 season is due to begin in mid-September.

Read moreBundesliga issues guidelines for return of fans, Health Ministry warns of 'great risk'

09:50 European Central Bank chief Christine Lagard praised EU leaders for the €1.8-trillion ($2 trillion) coronavirus recovery plan, saying that it shows that the bloc "steps up and comes together" in times of crisis. 

"Thank you for your resilience and determined action over the last days. We can only fight the economic consequences of COVID-19 by working together," Lagarde tweeted. "The deal shows that when most needed, the EU steps up and comes together to help the people of Europe."

The institution rolled out a €1.3-trillion pandemic emergency bond-buying scheme as well as offering ultra-low rates and cheap loans to banks to help keep credit flowing and encourage spending and investment.

However,  Lagarde has repeatedly urged governments to support the efforts with fiscal stimulus.

Read more:Coronavirus: EU leaders reach deal on recovery package 

09:20 Oxford University's potential vaccine for the coronavirus could be rolled out by the end of the year, the lead developer of the vaccine has announced.

The experimental vaccine, which has been licensed by AstraZeneca, produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials, sparking hopes it could be in use before the year is out.

"The end of the year target for getting vaccine rollout, it's a possibility but there's absolutely no certainty about that because we need three things to happen," the leader of the university's project, Sarah Gilbert, told BBC Radio.

Read more: Coronavirus — End-of-year rollout for vaccine 'a possibility'

Gilbert said that further evidence of its effectiveness was required, that there needed to be large quantities produced, and regulators had to agree quickly to license it for emergency use.

08:40 Some German politicians have slammed the coronavirus recovery package negotiations for reflecting national interests over European principles.

In an interview with German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, Christian Social Union (CSU) MEP Markus Ferber said the recovery package had emerged from a "hodgepodge of national self-interests."

He criticized the plan to reduce funding to research, health, education, and refugee policy. "This is not a sustainable Europe," he said, adding that the plan would have long-term catastrophic consequences.

Green Party politician Franziska Brantner echoed those thoughts, describing the summit negotiations as "unworthy haggling."

"The council agreement is at the expense of democracy, and is dedicated not to the next generation, but to old national patterns of thought," said Brantner. "Instead of common, solidarity in the crisis, we have seen much national selfishness."

However, Bundestag Budget Committee Chairman Otto Fricke praised the agreement, in an interview with ARD magazine. "It is a result that we can work with," said Fricke.

07:15 Australia is set to extend its record stimulus spending into the next year, the government announced. The spending includes multibillion-dollar measures to shield the labor market from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that supplements to unemployed people and businesses struggling to retain staff would continue until at least the end of the year. With Australia expected to fall into its first recession in almost 30 years, the government will increase spending on two-income support programs to around $A86 billion (€52 billion) ($60 billion).

The spending announcement came as Australia's treasurer said that the unemployment rate in the country has hit 11.3%.

"Now, the official unemployment rate stands at 7.4%. But the effective rate is at 11.3% when you take into account those who have left the workforce or those who are on zero-hours," said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in a press briefing in Sydney.  

"It's against the backdrop of that very difficult and challenging economic environment that we are announcing the extension of JobKeeper." The JobKeeper subsidy program is paid to 960,000 employers who pass on payment to around 3.5 million workers.

Australia has recorded over 12,000 cases and a death toll of 126.

06:35 Passengers on flights heading to China must provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test before boarding, the aviation authority said.

The nucleic acid tests must be completed five days before embarking, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

Meanwhile, the number of new cases in China's latest coronavirus outbreak has fallen, with just eight reported in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Another three infections came in from outside China, according to the National Health Commission, bringing the country's total number of cases to 83,693, with 4,634 dying from COVID-19.

06:07 Alcohol sales will be prohibited in Puerto Rico on Sundays while nearly all businesses will remain closed that day to help curb a surge in infections, Governor Wanda Vazquez has announced.

The order by Vazquez comes amid a spike in cases as more tourists visited the island.

"Things have gotten out of control on weekends," she said. "Many people are forgetting that we still face an emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Starting July 26, all non-essential businesses will have to close on Sundays. Pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants will be allowed to stay open. Vazquez also said that churches will be allowed to hold services.

04:45 EU leaders have agreed to an unprecedented €1.8 trillion ($2 trillion) aid and budget deal aimed at helping hard-hit bloc members recover from the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The package includes a €750-billion fund to be sent as loans and grants, as well as a seven-year €1 trillion EU budget. 

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted a brief message minutes after leaders adopted the plan: "Deal!"

"We did it. Europe is strong, Europe is united. This is a good deal, this is a strong deal and most importantly this is the right deal for Europe right now," Michel said. "I believe this agreement will be seen as a pivotal moment for Europe's journey."

Read more: EU leaders reach deal on recovery package

The breakthrough comes after more than four days of wrangling, with talks often stretching into the early hours. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for "steering" negotiations towards a European solution.

"Europe as a whole has now a big change to come out stronger from the crisis. Today we have taken a historic step that we can all be proud of," said von der Leyen. "Tonight is a big step toward recovery."

02:42 Germany has recorded 522 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total infection tally to 202,345. According to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, the death toll stands at 9,090 after four new fatalities in the last 24 hours. 

02:18 Brazil is set to begin advanced clinical testing of a Chinese-developed vaccine against the coronavirus on Tuesday, the AFP news agency quoted officials as saying.

Produced by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac, it is the third experimental vaccine in the world to move to large-scale human testing — the final step before regulatory approval. As part of the clinical trials, doses will be given to 900 volunteers.

"Trials of CoronaVac, one of the vaccines that has advanced furthest in testing in the world, will begin at the Clinical Hospital of Sao Paulo," the state's governor, Joao Doria, told a news conference. He added that the first results were expected in 90 days.

Brazil is also helping to carry out human trials of the experimental vaccine developed by Oxford University in Britain and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

01:28 The Australian state of Victoria is reporting three more deaths from the coronavirus and 374 new cases, up from 275 cases logged on Monday.

The state has recorded just under 6,300 cases in total — nearly half of the infections in the whole of Australia.

The surge in new cases has prompted Victoria's government to impose a six-week partial lockdown in the city of Melbourne, the state's capital. Residents there have been ordered to wear masks when leaving their homes or risk fines.

0:46 European Union leaders have entered a fifth day of talks on an unprecedented €1.82 trillion ($2.1 trillion) budget and a €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund which will be sent as loans and grants to countries hit hardest by the virus.

According to an EU diplomat, major issues have been dealt with and some member states are now working on getting some final small concessions in the seven-year budget, which could take hours. 

The budget comes at a time when the 27-nation bloc faces the worst recession in its history. "An extraordinary situation demands extraordinary efforts," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"There were extremely tense moments," said French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that "on content, things have moved forward."

00:33 Mexico has seen a 9.2% increase in the number of women murdered during the coronavirus pandemic, besides an overall rise in homicides, according to government data.

In the first half of this year, 17,982 people were murdered, a 1.9% increase over the 17,653 killings in the same period last year. 

Activists have attributed the rise in the killing of women to the increased confinement of families to their homes. This year, 489 women were killed in the first six months, compared to 448 in the first half of 2019.

The pandemic has also failed to curb the drug gang activity that is a major driver of violence in Mexico. A video surfaced online last week, showing about 75 heavily armed drug cartel gunmen in military-style fatigues with a dozen homemade armored pickup trucks. Mexico's department of defense said the video was authentic and showed "evidence of military-style training."

00:17 Israel's parliament has voted to allow the country's domestic intelligence agency to track the cellphones of those diagnosed with COVID-19 for the rest of the year. 

The law, cleared by the Knesset in a late-night session, allows the agency Shin Bet to track location data of those infected with the virus for the 14 days before they were diagnosed. The data would then be used for contact-tracing.   

The law also includes additional oversight, requiring the government to renew its request every three weeks. However, it has raised fears among privacy watchdog groups over dangers to individual liberty.  

The agency’s surveillance technology can only be used when the new daily cases exceed 200. The measure allows anyone ordered into self-quarantine to appeal if they believe the data is inaccurate. 

Israel, which has so far reported 415 deaths from the virus, registered about 1,500 new infections on Monday. 

Read moreIsrael's anti-government protests deepen Netanyahu's problems

00:09 Brazil's coronavirus death toll has surged past the 80,000-mark after 632 newly recorded deaths in the past 24 hours. The country's Health Ministry also confirmed 20,257 new infections. 

Brazil is the world's second-worst affected nation after the US, with over 2 million cases. 

Meanwhile, two more ministers in the Cabinet of President Jair Bolsonaro have tested positive for the virus. Onyx Lorenzoni, the minister of citizenship and Milton Ribeiro, the education minister, both announced their test results on Twitter. 

Ribeiro is the fifth high-ranking government official to have been infected so far, besides the president. 

00:00 Catch up on Monday'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.

lc,adj/nm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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