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Coronavirus latest: Boris Johnson moved out of intensive care

The UK prime minister is still in hospital after needing intensive care treatment for COVID-19. The UN Security Council is set to hold its first meeting devoted to the coronavirus pandemic. Follow DW for the latest.

  • British PM Boris Johnson leaves intensive care, remains in hospital
  • Angela Merkel says that lifting social distancing measures is liable to take time
  • The United Nations Security Council is set to hold its first meeting devoted to discussing the pandemic
  • Global confirmed cases have passed 1.5 million and over 87,000 people have died
  • Eurozone finance ministers agree to make €500 billion available "immediately" to stimulate the EU economy

23:59 We will be closing this live updates now. For all the very latest developments, head over to Friday's rolling coverage.

23:40 Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-diseases expert, said the need for hospitalization of COVID-19 cases in the country has seen a sharp decline. 

"At the same time as we're seeing the increase in deaths, we're seeing a rather dramatic decrease in the need for hospitalizations," Fauci said. "What we are doing is working."

22:20 In the United States, nearly 17 million Americans have lost their jobs since mid-March as a result of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

About 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, data released by the US Labor Department showed. This is in addition to the more than 10 million in the weeks before that. 

Meanwhile, Universal Studios which shutdown its US theme parks in mid-March when the virus took hold in the country, has extended the closures until May 31.

22:15 EU finance ministers have made a major breakthrough in their coronavirus economic response, following marathon talks that lasted late into Thursday night.

Representatives of 19 eurozone countries agreed to make €500 billion ($547 billion) available "immediately" to stimulate the EU economy as it struggles with the economic fallout of the ongoing pandemic.

Read more here: EU ministers make breakthrough on coronavirus economic response

22:04 South Africa is extending lockdown measures by a further 14 days on Thursday. The initial lockdown lasted 21 days.

South Africa has the most cases in Africa, at 1,934, and 18 people have died.

20:45 In Belgium, police have set up a new checkpoint in the center of Brussels, to prevent "unnecessary" trips. Police are checking drivers for documents and asking them the purpose of their journey.

DW’s Georg Matthes reports:

Belgium entered lockdown on March 18. The country has so far reported 24,983 cases of COVID-19, with 2,523 fatalities.

20:06 The United Nations Security Council is set to hold its first meeting devoted to discussing the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will brief the council in a closed video session, and is expected to discuss the COVID-19’s impact on peacekeeping operations, special political missions and humanitarian responses. 

The meeting follows heavy criticisms on the part of rights groups, and calls for increased Security Council involvement in managing the global pandemic. 

However, there are still concerns over the closed nature of the meeting. The UN's most powerful body "has been missing in action on #COVID19 crisis so far… Bizarrely, Bizarrely, this meeting is set to be private, inaccessible to world's public," Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, tweeted.

19:41 BMW's Italy division is set to donate 50,000 masks to hospitals within the country. The Italian healthcare system has been plagued by a shortage of personal protective equipment including masks and gloves.

Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, with over 18,000 COVID-19-related deaths and almost 144,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Several carmakers and some racing teams have been re-purposing often-dormant production lines to churn out equipment that can be used to help deal with the pandemic. One such initiative, called Project Pitlane, brought together seven different British-based Formula 1 teams to work on respiratory devices for the UK's National Health Service.

18:28 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has moved out of intensive care but is still in hospital, a spokesman said on Thursday. 

"The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery," the spokesman said, adding that the PM was in "extremely good spirits."

Johnson was admitted to hospital on Sunday following "persistent" coronavirus symptoms, and was sent to the intensive care unit on Monday after his symptoms worsened. He had received oxygen but had not required assistance from a ventilator. 

18:19 The Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh, home to over a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, has been placed under "complete lockdown," authorities reported on Thursday. 

Health officials have expressed fears that the virus could prove to be highly deadly and spread rapidly throughout the camps, where most people are housed in shacks. 

The area "will be put under complete lockdown — no entry, no exit — until the situation improves," the statement said.

Watch video 02:46

Coronavirus fears hit Rohingya refugee camps

18:08 Uganda's 75-year-old president Yoweri Museveni released a home workout video to help citizens keep in shape during the coronavirus lockdown.

The former soldier jogged around his office wearing a gray tracksuit and then did a set of 30 press-ups. The video was released on the president's Twitter account.

"You do not have to go outdoors to exercise," he said in the post. "Here is my demonstration of how you can exercise indoors and stay safe."

18:00 The United States' economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis will be an indicator of the rest of the world's path to recovery, Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute of Economic Research told DW.

"If the US isn't recovering, the world won't recover," he said. "We're probably two or three months behind China, so this will mean that until the US economy is recovering markedly, the world economy will be in a difficult situation."

An economic downturn could also create a sovereign debt crisis in emerging markets, triggered by a combination of falling commodity prices and dependence on foreign investment, he added. "That's the big risk we're facing," Fratzscher said.

17:27 The number of doctors killed by COVID-19 in hard-hit Italy reached 100 on Thursday, following the death of a family practitioner in Venice province. 

The 62-year-old woman was the 100th doctor to fall victim to the disease, the doctor’s association Fnomceo reported. Fnomceo later announced five more deaths, bringing the total to 105. 

Health care workers in Italy have struggled with a lack of personal protective equipment, putting them at increased risk of contracting the virus. 

Other medical staff, in addition to doctors, have also become victims of COVID-19. On Saturday, doctors' trade union Anaao Assomed reported that 40 nurses, paramedics and care workers had also died.

Italy has recorded the most deaths from the novel coronavirus to date, with a reported death toll of 17,669. The southern European nation, with a population of just over 60 million, currently has over 139,000 reported cases.

17:21 Pope Francis has opened Easter festivities in an empty St. Peter's Basilica amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Around a dozen nuns, clerics and laypeople joined the pope for the service. Francis celebrated with the Mass of the Lord's supper, but scrapped the traditional washing of the feet of the faithful over concerns of infection.

The Vatican broadcast the ceremony in the west wing of the basilica online. Catholic television stations also showed the mass.

A general view shows Pope Francis (Rear L) celebrate the In Coena Domini Mass of the Lord's Supper of Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples and inaugurating the Easter triduum, on April 9, 2020 behind closed doors at St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Getty Images/AFP/A. Di Meo)

Thursday's event was by no means the first vastly pared-down service held in the Vatican during the coronavirus outbreak

17:05 Moscow will be closing its cemeteries for visitors, except for the people organizing funerals and the people attending them, the city's mayor Sergey Sobyanin said on his website.

The move comes a week before the Easter holidays in Russia. Orthodox Christians in Russia and several other countries follow a special calendar for religious holidays, with this year's Easter falling on 19 April.

In previous years, around 1 million people would go to visit the graves of their friends on Palm Sunday, Easter, and other holidays in April, Sobyanin said.

"Unfortunately, this would not be possible this spring," he said in a stOk, I'llement. "The risk of infection with the new coronavirus is very high, and we cannot jeopardize Muscovites, especially the elderly ones, who make up the majority of cemetery visitors."

The restrictions will stay in place until other lockdown measures are lifted, Sobyanin added.

16:50 More than 1.6 million people in France may have been infected with coronavirus, according to the general practitioners' union MG France.

The union based its projection on responses to an online survey, submitted by 2,048 of its members.

Based on an extrapolation of the total number of patients with coronavirus symptoms that the doctors reported seeing, experts estimate that 1.67 million people, or roughly 2.5% of the population, could have been infected with the virus between March 17 and April 3. 

France currently has just over 83,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and a death toll of almost 11,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

16:13 A German court has overruled a coronavirus lockdown measure and allowed residents of the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to visit the Baltic Sea islands, the coast and the local lake district.

In an unexpected decision on Thursday, the Greifswald court temporarily struck down the ban until a full ruling could be reached. The measure was previously issued by the state government in a bid to prevent the residents of making day trips to the popular sites during the Easter holidays this weekend.

The government has also imposed other strict measures, such as checking cars at the state's borders to other parts of Germany, in a bid to prevent tourists from visiting the state.

15:55 Foreigners stuck in Germany on expired visas due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions will not have to fear fines, said Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. That period without fines will extend from Friday until June 30, but the Ministry of the Interior could also decide later to extend the scheme beyond that date, he said. Visas for travel to Germany are so-called Schengen Visas, valid in more normal times for the entire open-border area within Europe.

15:06 Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced lockdown measures in the country would be prolonged in an online video on Thursday. He did not specify an end date.

"We are extending them indefinitely," Orban said in the video. "We will reconsider the restrictions on a weekly basis." 

14:42 The novel coronavirus could kill up to 22,000 people in Canada, according to government estimates. It said the country could see anywhere between 934,000 and almost 2 million cases of the disease, even if Canadians follow strict social distancing guidelines. 

So far, the country has registered 436 deaths, with just over 19,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

14:14 Possible relaxation of the current measures in Germany will only occur slowly and over a period of time because "we have to be very, very careful," Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

"I would really love to be the one, and I would be the first, to tell you that everything is as it was and we can get going once again, but it's just not like that," Merkel said at a press briefing in Berlin.

She added that the country's exit strategy had to be taken "in small steps" to avoid overwhelming Germany’s health system. Merkel warned that the biggest mistake the government could make at this point would be to roll back restrictions in haste, only to have to reintroduce them, or introduce tougher measures still, at a later date. 

"That would be the toughest decision of all. And that's why we will need patience," the chancellor said. She also raised the specter of different approaches across German states in some areas, if there are continued regional discrepancies in case numbers and so forth.

14:02 The German army is donating 60 mobile ventilators to Britain as the UK's National Health Service scrambles to get obtain sufficient life-saving equipment.

A spokesperson for the Bundeswehr said it would be transferring the equipment from its own depot at the earliest available opportunity.

The German Defense Ministry confirmed the service would be free of charge.

13:30 Tour de France champion Egan Bernal is auctioning a bike and several jerseys for a children's charity in Colombia that will help the South American country's youngsters who are suffering in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bernal announced on Twitter that he will be auctioning yellow jerseys, a Pinarello bike, and a white jersey he earned as best young rider at the 2019 Tour de France.

"We're currently facing an enormous problem, here in Colombia and across the world, and I want to make a proposition. Together with Fundacion Exito, we're going to run a big auction with some great things that will hopefully see many of you participate," Bernal said in a video message.

All proceeds will go to the Fundacion Exito, which provides food and supplies to children in his homeland.

Meanwhile, another cycling legend, Alberto Contador, is auctioning the bike he rode in the 2011 Tour of Italy and the Tour de France the same year to raise money in the fight against the pandemic. 

"The fight against this COVID-19 continues, and I wanted to make an extra effort. I'm going to auction this bike, used during the Giro and Tour 2011, which means a lot to me. The funds raised will go to the Red Cross. I'm doing it on eBay," the 37-year-old Spanish rider said.

Contador won the 2011 Giro d'Italia and finished fifth overall in the Tour de France that year, but was later disqualified from both for doping.

13:10 Britain has increased its overdraft with the Bank of England, colloquially known as its "ways and means facility" but effectively a way to ask the central bank to print money for the government, in order to help offset the economic hit caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The government's "ways and means facility" is being used to temporarily help finance spending on emergency measures, the Treasury and central bank revealed in a joint statement.

The £370 million ($455 million, €420 million) facility has been extended by an undisclosed amount, while the government has pledged to pump in billions of pounds to breathe life into an ailing economy. The government is continuing to issue bonds to raise funds as well, with the emergency funding only a part of its response.

12:55 Japan's capital Tokyo reported a spike of 181 new coronavirus cases, another daily increase record. 

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has urged companies to shift quickly to remote work and adhere to the city's stay-at-home request.  

The rise in cases comes on the heels of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recently declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures. Abe has urged people to reduce human interactions by as much as 80%, the level recommended by experts to help curb the outbreak in roughly a month. 

As of yesterday, Japan tallied 4,768 confirmed cases and 96 deaths.

12:28 The number of registered cases in the Netherlands has increased by 1,213, bringing the total number of infections to 21,762, health authorities said. There have been 148 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the Netherlands' Institute for Public Health (RIVM) revealed in its daily update. In total, 2,396 are known to have died in the country.

The RIVM said the real figures are almost certainly higher, as not all cases or deaths in the Netherlands are confirmed by testing.

11:48 The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the release of a storybook to help children deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted: "Previous humanitarian emergencies have shown us how vital it is to address the fears & anxieties of young people when life as they know it gets turned upside down. We just launched a storybook to help children understand & come to terms with COVID-19."

The book has been produced by a collaboration of more than 50 organizations working in the humanitarian sector, including the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Save the Children.

11:43 The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) halted emergency payments meant to help freelancers and small businesses through the coronavirus crisis, after discovering fraudsters were using fake websites to trick applicants.

NRW's Ministry for Economic Affairs said it filed a complaint with the police on Tuesday after fake websites appeared "prominently" in online search results. The payments were stopped on Wednesday afternoon, in agreement with the state criminal office (LKA).

In a practice known as "phishing," the operators created fake sites that mimicked the official government site, but have a slightly altered URL. They then collected personal data entered into application forms on the fake sites, including their name, address, and tax and bank account numbers. The operators took the data "presumably for criminal purposes," said investigators, reported German news outlet RND.

"We ask those applicants who are currently waiting for their money transfer for understanding and patience," said the ministry. The LKA has set up an inquiry and it will "continue its investigations to identify fraudulent applications," the ministry added.

The payments of between €9000 and €15,000 ($9,800 and $16,000) are available to businesses that employ up to 10 people. The payments are part of a financial rescue package by the German government aimed at assisting companies and workers from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

11:38 The World Health Organization (WHO) has been under scrutiny ever since the first cases began to emerge in China at the turn of the year. However, that attention intensified earlier this week when US President Donald Trump criticized the WHO's initial response to the crisis, calling it "China-centric." 

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, though, has sprung to the organization’s defense, describing Trump's attack on the WHO as "unwise" in an interview with DW. Bildt told DW: "There will be a debate in due time. Now we have to fight the crisis that we are in. And the WHO is the body that we have in the world in order to help us. And it does need money."

Bildt is a member of a group of 165 global leaders who have written an open letter to G20 governments calling for an immediate and coordinated response to the crisis. The letter calls for $8 billion (€7.35 billion) in emergency funding, as well as measures to protect the global economy.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also came out in support of the WHO. Guterres released a statement saying: "It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19."

10:32 A study conducted in Heinsberg — a district near the German-Dutch border that was particularly hard hit by the pandemic — found that 15% of those examined tested positive, thus developing immunity to COVID-19.

Hendrik Streeck, a virologist at the University of Bonn, and a team of researchers spent the past week conducting the first "COVID-19 case cluster study."

Streeck said the fatality rate in the area had turned out to be considerably lower than what is currently registered for the country as a whole. In the district of Heinsberg, only 0.37% of people who contracted the virus had died. This figure is five times less than the national average, which currently stands at 1.98%, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Stephan Pusch (CDU), District Administrator of Heinsberg, said that the restrictive protective measures were having an effect. The curve of infection numbers is flattening and "Heinsberg has avoided a huge disaster."

Heinsberg is home to some 42,000 people and has reported 1,442 infections, with 43 people dying, more than any other administrative district in Germany. Some of the national media has started to refer to it as "Germany’s Wuhan."

10:30 There has been a sharp rise in the number of businesses in Germany applying for the short-term work scheme, said the Federal Employment Agency (BA). The increase is the result of government measures that forced many businesses to shut in a bid to stem the coronavirus outbreak. Around 650,000 businesses had applied for the scheme by April 6, up from 470,000 at the end of March. This represents an increase of 40% in a week.

Under the short-term work scheme, known in German as "Kurzarbeit," official employment agencies pay a percentage of the wages that workers lose due to temporary work shortages. It aims to allow employers to keep their workers employed during shortages. 

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Germany revamped the scheme to make it easier for companies to apply for the scheme with the aim of preventing job losses. Under the changes, 10% of a company’s employees have to be affected by work shortages to apply to the scheme— instead of the usual 33%.

The BA said it doesn't yet know how many people the scheme will apply to. "We will only be able to know exactly, once short-time working has been paid," said the head of the BA, Detlef Scheele. German authorities are estimating that the number of people impacted could be as high as 2.1 million people — "significantly" higher than the 1.4 million recorded after the financial crisis in 2009, reported AFP news agency.

09:10 EU finance ministers are due to meet again on Thursday as the group attempt to thrash out a deal to combat the economic ramifications of the pandemic, after failing to overcome their differences in protracted talks earlier this week.

Up for discussion are three proposed measures that come to around €500 billion ($540 billion). The economic package consists of a precautionary credit line from the eurozone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM); a guarantee fund from the European Investment Bank for business liquidity; and EU support for the salaries of workers who would otherwise be laid off.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stressed the importance of these talks as he said the EU’s future was on the line. "We need an economic and social response at the European level," Conte told the BBC. "It's a big challenge to the existence of Europe. If Europe fails to come up with a monetary and financial policy adequate for the biggest challenge since World War II, not only Italians but European citizens will be deeply disappointed."

Read more: EU fails to agree on coronavirus recovery deal 

08:50 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent a third night in intensive care after being admitted to a London hospital with coronavirus on Sunday. "He's stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff," Culture Minister Oliver Dowden told public service broadcaster BBC. "I think things are getting better for him."

Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas' hospital on Sunday evening suffering from persistent symptoms of COVID-19. He was taken to intensive care on Monday where he received oxygen support but has not been put on a ventilator. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is standing in for Johnson during his absence.

"The prime minister continues to make steady progress. He remains in intensive care," said the prime minister's office on Wednesday – its most recent update.

Number of coronavirus cases in the country stands at 61,474, according to latest figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over 7,000 people have died in the country so far. The death toll is expected to continue to rise over the Easter weekend.

The government's emergency response meeting, known as COBR, will on Thursday discuss how it should deal with a review on lockdown measures. Raab is expected to chair the meeting.

08:45 Eastern European seasonal workers have been arriving in Germany to help with spring harvests, in spite of travel restrictions relating to the pandemic. Berlin and Düsseldorf airports are set to receive farmworkers from Romania, Poland and Bulgaria as two Eurowings flights are due to land in Düsseldorf on Thursday and one in Berlin. A flight with more workers is due in Karlsruhe in southern Germany on Friday.

Romania is allowing seasonal workers to leave the country, despite the pandemic, and the German government agreed last week to accept 80,000 temporary workers under strict conditions.

So far 20,000 harvest workers have been registered, a Eurowings spokeswoman confirmed. The seasonal workers are expected to help with the spring harvesting of white asparagus, a particular favorite among Germans, as well as a number of other crops.

Read more: Germany drafts Romanian farm labor for coronavirus pandemic

08:03 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has expressed optimism about his country’s fight against the outbreak following "encouraging" signs.

"The fire starts to come under control," he told parliament before a vote on the extension of a state of emergency by another two weeks until April 26. Nevertheless, it is important to remain vigilant he cautioned. "The last thing we should allow would be a slip because more than a setback, it would mean a relapse."

Therefore the prime minister is urging parliament to back him in his calls to extend the state of emergency beyond its current end date as he said it "is an essential measure to protect the life and health of citizens." There is "unquestionable evidence" that the state of alarm is working, Sanchez said, and he stressed that the data is beginning to show "encouraging" signs that "we are bending the curve."

In terms of an exit strategy, Sanchez said a relaxing of the country’s strict lockdown measures would be "staggered and very cautious."

07:46 Police in Australia have seized the black box from the Ruby Princess cruise ship. The vessel is at the center of a criminal investigation after thousands of passengers — many of whom were demonstrably infected — were given permission to disembark in March, spreading the coronavirus.

The ship has become the country's biggest source of the coronavirus. Over 600 cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths are linked the to the ship.

"Ships have a black box very similar to that of international planes, and that and other evidence has been seized for further investigation," said New South Wales (NSW) state Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.

Investigators also spoke to the captain of the ship, who was "extremely helpful." The vessel was boarded by investigators at an industrial port south of Sydney.  About 1,000 crew of various nationalities remain on board the ship. A total of 18 crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 and a further 200 are showing symptoms.

Three-quarters of them want to remain on the ship, said Fuller. "They feel safe on the ship and I think that's a good outcome." Australia on Thursday recorded its lowest increase in coronavirus cases in more than three weeks. Authorities reported 96 new cases, the first time there have been fewer than 100 a day since March 17.

06:41 Fujifilm has announced it will start phase two of clinical trials of anti-flu drug Avigan for coronavirus sufferers in the US. About 50 COVID-19 patients will take part in the trials. The tests will be carried out in collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, reported Reuters news agency. In Japan, Fujifilm began the third phase of clinical trials with the drug Avigan for COVID-19 patients at the end of March.

06:29 The number of confirmed cases in Germany rose by 4,974 over the previous 24 hours to 108,202, climbing for the third straight day after four previous days of drops, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The Koch Institute reported the current death toll stands at 2,107 following 246 more fatalities.

Germany has received global recognition for its rigorous testing but the latest figures suggest the country’s social distancing measures may well remain in place beyond the current deadline of April 19.

06:27 A report commissioned by Oxfam has cautioned that the coronavirus pandemic could push as many as half a billion people into poverty worldwide. A recession could cause as much as a 20% contraction of income, the report found. Under this scenario, 548 million people would be pushed under the $5.50 (€5.07) a day World Bank poverty threshold. The report was released ahead of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank spring meetings set to go ahead next week.

"The devastating economic fallout of the pandemic is being felt across the globe. But for poor people in poor countries who are already struggling to survive there are almost no safety nets to stop them falling into poverty" said Jose Maria Vera, Oxfam's international interim executive director, in a statement on the company website.

Oxfam called for cash grants to be issued, more support to be offered for small businesses and for the cancellation of $1 trillion (€922 billion) in debt for developing nations. The World Bank has various poverty lines. It defines extreme poverty as living on $1.90 (€1.75) a day or less, and a higher poverty line of living on less than $5.50.

05:29 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has outlined the conditions under which German companies can resume normal operations. Germany ordered non-essential businesses to shut in mid-March as the coronavirus outbreak spread. 

One condition outlined by Spahn is "that the factory or business can be organized safely for employees and customers," he told German business newspaper Handelsblatt. Businesses or sectors that can ensure that they are implementing hygiene and social distancing rules will be able to return to normal more easily, said Spahn. Anywhere where people come into closer contact privately, such as major events or clubs, will need a longer time "until things return to normal." 

The first steps out of the coronavirus-standstill could be possible after Easter, Spahn told Handelsblatt. He said Germany was seeing "a very positive trend" in infection figures, but it must continue. If it does, "we will be able to talk to the state premiers about a gradual return to normality after the Easter holidays."

Economic institutes predicted on Wednesday that the gross domestic product (GDP) in Germany would fall by 4.2% this year due to the virus-induced lockdown.

03:30 As the state of New York faced up to nearly 150,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the single highest death rate within a day, medical professionals are turning to unlikely ways of tackling the virus. Military personnel have arrived to help the medical effort and some hotels being converted into medical facilities.

"Spent the day with the talented team of NYC Health System retrofitting certain hotels in NYC for the surge of COVID patients," Dr Syra Madad of New York City Health System wrote on Twitter.

Doctors and nurses in New York have expressed "astonishment" at the speed of the spread of the virus in the state, where almost 5,000 people have died.

"Every number is a face," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday, vowing to fly the state flag at half-mast to commemorate the victims. 

"This virus has attacked the vulnerable and attacked the weak, and it is our job as a society to protect the weak and vulnerable."

03:00 South Korea has reported its smallest daily jump in confirmed coronavirus cases in over six weeks, since February 20.

In late February and early March, South Korea was one of the worst affected countries in the world after China and was facing daily deaths numbering in the hundreds.

However, on Thursday the Korea Centers for Disease Control say that 39 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, further evidence of the slowdown. Fatalities rose by four, bringing the total number of deaths to 204.

New cases on Tuesday and Wednesday were 47 and 53.

There are still concerns in the country about a steady rise in infections caused by international arrivals, as the country eases restriction measures. Many of the new cases were reported in the capital of Seoul, where many international flights arrive.

01:40 The United States reported more than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, for the second day in a row. There are over 400,000 nationally and nearly 15,000 people have died.

The state of New York has almost one-third of all deaths in the US and has welcomed military aid in hospitals across the state.

Watch video 03:35

COVID-19: Why flattening the curve is so important

President Donald Trump renewed his attack on the World Health Organization, saying that the US contributed far more than its fair share of funding to the UN agency and would "re-evaluate" its contribution.

New statistics show that COVID-19 is having a disproportionately bad effect on African-Americans. Around 42% of deaths reported so far have been of black US citizens; they make up roughly 21% of the country’s population.

US researchers have begun another safety test on a new experimental COVID-19 vaccine. They will carry out an extensive safety test of the shot, which only requires a skin-deep jab.

Although cases are continuing to rise, President Trump also has announced that his government is beginning to consider how they will handle an exit strategy from the lockdown. He said he wants the US economy to reopen with a "big bang."

00:45: Here is a roundup of the latest from the Americas:

Canada: Many of the over 16,000 Air Canada employees who were laid off because of the coronavirus have been rehired, the company has confirmed. The airline is able to do this because of a government relief package for businesses.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the package will now be available for businesses that have dropped 15% of their revenues, rather than the previously-announced 30%.

Trudeau also warned for the country to brace for "painful" unemployment figures to be released on Thursday as the economy continues to suffer. "It's going to be a hard day for our country," he said in his daily press conference.

Canada has over 18,000 confirmed cases and 407 people have died.

Brazil: Health Minister Luis Henrique Mandetta has said that Brazil's attempts to source ventilators from China are failing and instead the government is turning to Brazilian companies.

Concerns are also rising about the impact an outbreak would have among Brazil’s indigenous populations in the Amazon after the first case was reported among the Yanomani people in the country’s largest reservation. The government has shared plans to build a field hospital for indigenous communities.

President Jair Bolsonaro also announced that Brazil was sourcing the drug hydroxychloroquine from India to help produce medication.

Brazil has almost 16,000 confirmed cases and 819 people have died.

Ecuador: The Andean country is struggling to cope with the large numbers of dead. The government is preparing an emergency burial ground while there have been reports of some bodies being lost before burial was possible.

Following reports from the largest city of Guayaquil, President Lenin Moreno has called for an investigation into how the bodies are being dealt with.

Local media also reported that the country was urgently hiring over 600 new medical professionals to help tackle the crisis.

Ecuador has 4,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 242 people have died.

Venezuela: A UN plane carrying 90 tons of health, water and sanitation aid arrived in Venezuela to help them tackle the pandemic. The shipment includes 28,000 protective equipment kits for health workers.

Venezuela is in the middle of an economic crisis that has led to mass migration and nationwide food shortages. Quarantine and social distancing measures may spell worse news for those in economic hardship.

"This is the first United Nations humanitarian shipment in support of the Venezuelan COVID-19 outbreak," said Peter Grohmann, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Venezuela.

Venezuela has 166 confirmed cases and nine people have died. The relatively low numbers may be due to a deficiency in widespread testing.

Mexico: The Mexican government is launching an investigation into "home delivery" sex services, including table dances and strip acts. Night clubs are reportedly advertising the services after they were forced to close in social distancing measures.

Mexico has also reported over 100 deaths of Mexican citizens in the US. Concerns are rising about the outbreak’s possible effect on the US’s illegal Mexican population. Around 11 million Mexicans live in the US, 4 million illegally. The Mexican government has admitted the numbers of cases in the population may be high as the only cases they know about are those reported to consulates.

Around 20 healthcare professionals in a hospital outside of Mexico City have tested positive, marking the second major outbreak among medical practitioners in the country.

There are 2,785 confirmed cases in Mexico and 141 people have died.

00:00 Welcome to DW's coverage of the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic. Catch up on all of Wednesday's developments here: Swiss look to easing lockdown

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.

kmm,jsi,ed/aw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa, EFE)

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