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A police officer wearing a face mask is seen outside an entrance of the Xinfadi wholesale market,
Image: Reuters/

Coronavirus latest: Beijing outbreak 'extremely severe'

June 16, 2020

Beijing officials ordered the schools to close again and urged residents not to leave the city after a new, "severe" coronavirus outbreak. The resurgence has been traced back to a food market. Follow DW for the latest.

  • A new projection shows the United States could record over 200,000 COVID-19 deaths by October
  • Beijing closes schools, cuts travel links after a new outbreak
  • More than 1.7 billion people have an underlying medical condition putting them at risk of a severe COVID-19 infection

  • Many European countries, including Germany and France, have reopened their borders to non-essential travel for Europeans
  • There have been over 8 million confirmed cases worldwide, with over 435,000 deaths   

All times in GMT/UTC  

23:18 Health insurance companies in the US will be expected to cover a coronavirus vaccine without charging copays, US officials told a press briefing. Once a vaccine becomes available, it should be distributed to the most vulnerable people first, Trump administration officials said, adding that they have been talking with insurers about offering vaccines at no cost to the public.

The White House has launched a vaccine development initiative dubbed "Operation Warp Speed," aimed at having at least 300 million doses of a vaccine available by next year. Candidate vaccines are currently in early trials.

21:50 Brazil reported 34,918 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a record number of infections in a single day. With a total of 923,189 cases, Brazil is second to only the United States in the number of infections. The Latin American nation also registered 1,282 COVID-19 new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 45,241, the Health Ministry said.

21:07 The residence of Russia's Vladimir Putin outside Moscow now has a special disinfection tunnel to protect the president from possible infections. All visitors to the Novo-Ogarevo compound must pass through it, according to a report by the RIA Novosti news agency.

The footage of the tunnel, published by the agency, showed people passing through it while jets sprayed them with disinfectant from the ceiling and from the side.

While the 67-year-old Putin has so far managed to avoid the coronavirus, the infection hit other top-level officials, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and several government ministers.

20:34 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants to "design a better Italy" with the EU coronavirus recovery fund.

"I often say it's not a handout to benefit the current government, it's an investment we must make in Italy and in Europe for our children and grandchildren," he told the AFP news agency.

The EU has pledged a €750 billion ($845 million) recovery plan for its member states, including €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans. Italy, the bloc's third largest economy after Germany and France, is expected to receive the largest individual share of €172 billion.

Commenting on Germany's hesitation in granting the funds, Conte said there was an improvement compared to "very rigid stances" at the beginning of the crisis.

"Germany has understood that it would not be appropriate for it to either have a Europe, a single market, that is so divided and fragmented.

Conte also praised France's Emmanuel Macron as his ally in the battle for budget solidarity within the EU.

"We were among the protagonists of those who immediately called for a strong, solid and immediate European response," Conte said.

19:38 On average, one infected person in Germany now infects one other, according to the country's official Robert Koch Institute.

German scientists estimate the key R value has now dropped to 1.0, based on the latest available data on Tuesday. Governments around the world hope to keep the value below 1.0, as that would cause the number of infected to drop.

The R value stood at 1.19 on the previous day.

While the German public remains wary of the R value rising as the country cautiously reopens, scientists have warned that daily changes, with their limited sample size, are not the best criteria for tracking the infection risk.

The researchers at the Robert Koch Institute also updated their weekly R estimate, putting it at 0.86 based on the figures reported in the previous seven days.

19:05 Churches in Romania are set to open despite a growing number of infections. Centrist Prime Minister Ludovic Orban made the announcement following pressure from the opposition Social Democrats, who previously threatened to force the reopening in the parliament. 

The Romanian Orthodox Church, which wields a strong influence in the ex-Socialist country, welcomed the move. 

The country's daily infection rates seemed to level off in mid-March, dropping to as low as 125 new cases on June 8. However, the number of new infections has since grown, hitting 320 new cases on Sunday, with authorities recording 166 new infections on Monday and 250 on Tuesday. In total, the 19.4-million country has reported 22,415 infections and 1,437 deaths according to worldometers.info website.

18:47 Chile said a string of accounting errors led it to omit over 31,400 confirmed coronavirus infections from its official data. The latest changes, set to be officially entered on Wednesday, will raise the country's official caseload to close to 216,000 patients. 

The authorities said the mistakes were discovered during a review of health ministry databases.

"We have detected that there is a significant number of people who have not been notified or whose status has not been processed and continues to be 'pending'," said a member of the expert advisory committee, Dr. Rafael Araos.

The latest news from the South American country comes just days after the Chilean government pledged to include "probable deaths" into its coronavirus count. While the published data says less than 3,400 people died of COVID-19, a report published by investigative journalism organization CIPER on Saturday claimed Chile had reported over 5,000 deaths to the World Health Organization.

17:34 New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo said the US Open can go ahead this year, but spectators will not be allowed to attend. The premium tennis tournament is set to start on August 31 in the New York neighborhood of Queens. Cuomo said the United States Tennis Association (USTA) would take "extraordinary precautions" to ensure hygiene and minimize the risk of infection.

No professional tennis tournaments have been played since March. However, the world's No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic organized a charity competition involving Austrian Dominic Thiem and several other players, which ended on Sunday. Organizers said they were aiming to raise money for humanitarian projects across the Balkans, and help the athletes return to full fitness after major tournaments, such as the French Open and Wimbledon, were put on hold or canceled.

17:07 A protester tested positive for coronavirus after marching against racism alongside some 15,000 in Copenhagen, Danish authorities said. The rally took part on June 7.

The officials urged other participants, even those without coronavirus symptoms, to get tested. Denmark's lockdown measures limit the size of public gatherings to up to 50 participants, but political rallies are exempt from the rule. 

17:02 The US will keep restrictions on non-essential travel to Canada and Mexico until at least July 21, US officials have said. The three North American countries have a joint free trade agreement, but the borders have been closed since March 21 to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

"This extension protects Americans while keeping essential trade and travel flowing as we reopen the American economy," the US Department of Homeland Security said.

16:35 Beijing authorities urged residents not to leave the city after long distance bus services between the capital and other parts of China were suspended. Several residential areas were also placed under lockdown.

"Anyone leaving Beijing must have a negative reading on a nucleic acid test taken within seven days [prior to departure]," senior city official Chen Bei told reporters. Residents in areas believed to be under "medium or high-risk" of infection are not allowed to leave the city even with a negative test.

16:09 Health workers rallied across France asking for better pay and better working conditions amid the coronavirus crisis. In recent months, doctors and nurses repeatedly asked for a thorough overhaul of the country's health system and the abandonment of austerity.

While most of the Tuesday protests were peaceful, police fired tear gas at a black-clad group of protesters in Paris. Previously, the group set fire to a vehicle and pelted the police with objects, chanting "everybody hates the police."

"Violent groups are trying to escalate tensions at the peaceful demonstration held by healthcare workers," Paris police tweeted, adding that the "thugs" had nothing to do with healthcare workers.

15:38 Beijing authorities ordered schools to close once again after a new coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese capital. The city's education commission said all schools should go back to online teaching from tomorrow and that universities should also halt the return of students. The new measures come after weeks of educational facilities returning to normal following first cautious reopenings in late April.

15:23 A cheap, widely available steroid can be used to treat the most serious COVID-19 case, said researchers from the UK's Oxford University. A study shown that steroid dexamethasone prevented the deaths of over one-third of patients who required ventilators to breathe.

Oxford professor Peter Horby praised the results as a "major breakthrough."

"Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide," he said.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the authorities were working with the country's National Health Service (NHS) so that "the NHS standard treatment for COVID-19 will include dexamethasone from this afternoon."

He added that the UK had been stockpiling the drug since March and already had 200,000 dexamethasone courses "ready to go."

12:50 The German government has said it wants to introduce an obligation on pet owners to report their animals to authorities if they appear to have contracted coronavirus.

Berlin says the move is needed to help with research into the virus. 

Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said there was no obligation for people to have their pets tested under normal circumstances. However, she said it was necessary in certain situations such, for instance if a cat were living in a house with human COVID-19 cases and started to display symptoms.

Klöckner also stressed there was no evidence that pets could transmit the virus to humans. 

Certain animals, such as cats and ferrets, appear more susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus than others such as dogs. 

Germany has some 31 million pets for about 83 million people. Only one known case of an animal having the disease has been reported so far in the country.

11:38 Berlin has launched its new app to warn users when they might have been in close contact with COVID-19-infected individuals.

Helge Braun, chief of staff for Chancellor Angela Merkel, praised the "Corona-Warn-App" as the frontrunner in its field.

The app was, he said, "not the first warning app worldwide, that has been put forward, but I am quite convinced that it is the best."

"To download and use it is a small step for each one of us, but a huge step in the fight against the pandemic," he told a launch event for the app in Berlin.

Track-and-trace apps have been touted as a high-tech tool in the effort to track and control COVID-19 infections. Experts say finding new cases quickly is key to clamping down on fresh clusters as countries relax restrictions while seeking to avoid a second wave.

Read more: Germany launches 'best' coronavirus tracing app

10:03 An apartment block in the Berlin district of Neukölln has been locked down after 54 residents tested positive for COVID-19, a health official said.

No one is allowed in or out of the block in the German capital and further tests are being carried out on several hundred residents, health official Falko Liecke told public broadcaster RBB.

It is not yet known how the building became a hotspot for the virus but Liecke said authorities were looking into whether it may be connected to areas of the city that have also reported a higher than usual number of infections.

10:00 Beijing's coronavirus situation is "extremely severe," a city official has warned, as 27 new infections were reported in the Chinese capital in its daily update, bringing the total to 106 over the last five days.

The resurgence in cases — believed to have started at the capital's largest agricultural market, Xinfadi — has spread alarm across the country, but particularly in Beijing. China had largely brought its outbreak under control through mass testing and severe lockdowns imposed earlier in the year.

As a result of the recent surge in cases, authorities have shut down almost 30 communities across the city and tested tens of thousands of residents, as well as putting a stop to long-distance transport out of the Chinese capital.

09:18 The outlook for some of Europe's economies continues to look bleak as many begin to count the cost of the lasting impact of the outbreak.

The number of people in the UK claiming job-related benefits increased 23.3% in May, to 2.8 million, according to official figures.

"If the public health crisis is just starting to ease, today's figures show that the unemployment crisis is only just beginning," said Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.

Wilson added that unemployment is surging at a greater rate than even during the Great Depression of the 1930s and is set to surpass 3 million in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Switzerland's economy could lose some 100 billion Swiss francs ($105 billion, €93 billion) in output due to the pandemic, the government announced. The Swiss government expects 2020 GDP to be around 652 billion francs down from its December forecast.

The Dutch economy is also on course for an unprecedented fall in 2020. The eurozone's fifth largest economy is expected to be reduced by 6.4% this year, before recovering with a 3.3% growth in 2021, government policy adviser CPB said.

08:11 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged people to download an app that warns users if they have might have been in close contact with individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Fighting this virus and containing it is a team game," Spahn told German broadcaster ZDF. He said he would be happy if "many hundreds of thousands, ideally many millions" would download the app.

"This is a plus for everyone who downloads it, and for others," said Spahn.

The app does not find out where anyone is, which means no authorities can spy on the users. It recognizes only which other app users are currently in the vicinity. This works via Bluetooth, a wireless standard that enables devices to exchange data at close range.

Read more: German COVID-19 warning app wins on user privacy

The minister refused to say how many people would need to use the app for it to be considered a success. Spahn said the performance of the app also depended upon exactly who was downloading it.

It was particularly important to get people who regularly use public transport to use the app, the minister said. Their participation would make a "qualitative difference," Spahn said.

But, he added: "Everyone who downloads the app, everyone who interacts with friends and the environment, they are already making a difference."

Spahn also defended a delay in the introduction of the app, which has been a source of criticism for the government.

"There's a lot of work involved in it, so it just needed a few days longer. But we are within the cost and time plan," he said.

The German government insists users will have full control over their data, but concerns remain.

A recent poll by public broadcaster ARD found that slightly more Germans — 42% — said they would use the tracing app than the 39% who said they wouldn't. Others said they didn't have a smartphone or hadn't made up their mind.

07:01 Spain is considering implementing quarantine measures on visitors from the United Kingdom when it opens its borders next week, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on the BBC.

The move would be a reciprocal measure given the British government's decision to impose the same restrictions on those visiting the UK from abroad, including countries such as Spain.

"We will be checking what the UK will be doing and we will be in a dialogue with the UK to see whether or not we should be introducing reciprocity as they have different measures than the rest of the European Union," Gonzalez Laya said in an interview with the BBC.

07:00 The health minister for Delhi's state government has checked into hospital with a high fever and is being tested for coronavirus.

"Due to high-grade fever and a sudden drop of my oxygen levels last night I have been admitted," said the minister, Satyendar Jain.

Cases in India are rising at their fastest daily levels, just as the country starts to open up businesses, public transport and shopping malls to resuscitate its battered economy. India reported more than 10,500 new infections for the day, at a time when COVID-19 is threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

The total number of infections stood at 343,091, the world's fourth most after the United States, Brazil and Russia. At least 9,900 people have died. The major cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai remain the worst affected.

06:56 Thailand's government has given the green light to a domestic tourism package worth 22.4 billion baht ($722 million, €637 million) to boost a sector that has taken a significant hit due to the pandemic, an official said.

The stimulus fund will offer incentives for medical personnel and health volunteers, as well as the general public, to travel within Thailand, deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said.

05:18 Global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows are expected to plummet 40% this year, the UN has announced, citing the pandemic as the principle factor. FDI will shrink from its 2019 value of $1.54 trillion (€1.36 trillion) to less than $1 trillion for the first time since 2005, said the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

FDI, a measure of cross-border private sector investments, is expected to fall by an additional 5-10% next year and only start to bounce back in 2022, UNCTAD said in its annual World Investment Report.

"The global economy is in a direr situation than it was during the 2008 financial crisis," UNCTAD secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi told reporters. "The pandemic represents a supply, demand, and policy shock for FDI."

03:11 Germany has reported 378 new COVID-19 infections and nine deaths over the past 24 hours, according to the country's public health body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). A total of 186,839 COVID-19 cases have been recorded by the RKI in Germany with 8,800 deaths and 173,100 people having recovered.

02:44 New Zealand health authorities have reported two new COVID-19 cases, which are the first reported infections in over three weeks. Both of the cases are recent arrivals from the United Kingdom and are connected, the Health Ministry said.

Last week, New Zealand announced it had eliminated community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The country's borders are open only to returning citizens and their families, with everyone required to undergo a two-week quarantine.

02:02 Authorities in Beijing imposed new restrictions to stop a new COVID-19 outbreak in the Chinese capital after 27 new cases were reported, bringing the cumulative number of cases over the past five days to 106.

Outbound travel of high-risk people was banned as were some transportation services out of the city. All indoor sports and entertainment venues in the city were shut down on Monday, and some other cities across China said arrivals from Beijing would be quarantined.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the new cluster, China's most serious COVID-19 flare-up since February, was a cause for concern, given Beijing's size and connectivity.

Across the city, 29 residential communities have been put under "closed management," with all entry points guarded 24 hours a day and strict controls put in place on individuals leaving or entering.

01:27: Air travelers in the US who refuse to wear masks on planes could have their flying privileges revoked, according to the largest airline lobby in the US. Major US airlines can refuse boarding to anyone not wearing a mask, but once on board, flight attendants have little power to enforce mask requirements.

Under this new plan, airlines will clearly inform passengers of mask policies, and each carrier will determine the consequences of failure to comply, including errant passengers being placed on a no-fly list.

00:52 The total number of COVID-19 cases around the world has passed 8 million, as infections continue to rise in Latin America, the United States and South Asia. Over 3,800,000 people have recovered, and 435,619 have died, according to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University.

00:34 Around 1.7 billion people have at least one underlying health condition that could increase the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection, according to a new modelling study published in the global health journal the Lancet.

The share of the population at increased risk was highest in countries with older populations, African countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence, and small island nations with high diabetes prevalence, a summary of the study's findings said.

Age is a common risk factor. Usingdata from 188countries, the authorsestimate that 66% of people over 70 have a health condition, suchas diabetes or cardiovascular disease, which would make them vulnerable to a severe COVID-19 infection. In comparison, 10% of people aged 25, and 33% aged 50 or younger, have such a pre-existing medical condition.

Although the authors said the findings are uncertain and do not take into consideration other risk factors like ethnicity, socioeconomic deprivation, and obesity, they nevertheless provide a starting point for "a broader assessment of the health, social, and economic implications of shielding various groups."

00:14 The United States could record more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 through the beginning of October, according to a new forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a global health institute at the University of Washington in the western city of Seattle. 

The new projection in COVID-19 related deaths is a revised estimate that's up by 18% from169,890, and is mainly due to the lifting of lockdowns currently underway in dozens of states.

The IHME bases its projections on how well people adhere to social distancing and sanitary measures as mobility patterns return to normal. Although higher mobility does not "inherently equate to higher COVID-19 infections" if health and safety measures are followed, their "uptake and continuance" are "highly variable" across the US, the IHME said.

Florida would be one of the hardest-hit states, with a revised death toll projection of over 18,600, up from a previous estimate of 6,500. The projection for California is up by 72% to over 15,000 from8,800and Arizona's projection is up by 56% to over 7,400 fatalities from 4,700.

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

wmr/sri (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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