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Coronavirus: EU revises travel list

July 16, 2020

The two Balkan countries have not been included on the EU's revised travel list due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, Russian hackers have been accused of targeting vaccine research. Follow DW for the latest.

Travelers line up at the airport in Düsseldorf, Germany
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kusch
  • Citizens from Montenegro and Serbia will no longer be allowed to enter the EU, under revised travel rules
  • The UK accused Russian intelligence services of trying to steal data from virus vaccine researchers
  • German officials agreed new restrictive measures to avoid a second wave
  • Venezuela has announced a "radical quarantine" for the capital Caracas
  • A memorial ceremony for COVID-19 victims has been held in Madrid

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:59 We have now closed this article for live updates. For the latest developments on coronavirus, visit here.

22:30 Non-essential travel across US land borders with Canada and Mexico will continue to be prohibited until at least August 21, as COVID-19 cases in the US continue to surge.

Border crossings will be allowed for commercial traffic, people returning to their home country, commuters and people traveling for family care, educational or humanitarian reasons.

Travel for tourism and shopping is prohibited, which has had an economic impact on border communities.

Restrictions on cross-border traffic began in March and have been repeatedly extended in 30-day blocks.

20:00 The total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States rose to over 3.5 million, as the country struggles to contain the spread of the virus. The figure amounts to over 1% of the US population. It remains the country with the most confirmed infections.

The US state of Florida has broken another of its single-day records, after logging 156 new COVID-19 related deaths over the past 24 hours. That tally is according to the Florida Health Department, which also noted nearly 14,000 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus during that same period. There have been more than 311,000 confirmed cases in the southeastern state.

The state of Florida had 132 fatalities on Tuesday, beating the previous record of 120 deaths in one day last week. Along with Florida, Texas, Georgia and several other southern US states are seeing massive surges in coronavirus cases.


19:15 A UN report has found that the coronavirus pandemic could set back progress on tackling poverty by 10 years.

Before the outbreak, 65 out of 75 countries studied were in the process of significantly reducing their poverty levels, with China, India and Sierra Leone at the top of the list, according to data from the UN Development Program (UNDP).

Now projections based on reduced levels of education and increased malnourishment predict that it will be harder for countries to bring people out of poverty due to the effects of the pandemic.

"COVID-19 has changed everything. With its triple hit on health, education and income, and so many other aspects in people's lives, it threatens to reverse overall global human development," said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner.

18:45 Spain has reported its steepest 24-hour jump in COVID-19 infections since May, with 580 new cases reported Thursday, on top of 390 on Wednesday.

Most of the new infections are in the northeastern regions of Aragon and Catalonia. In localities in Lleida province in Catalonia, lockdown restrictions and home confinement measures have been re-imposed, affecting some 160,000 people.

Spain lifted its nationwide lockdown on June 21. Since then, over 170 localized COVID-19 outbreaks have popped up.

17:40 The European Union updated its list of countries that are exempt from pandemic travel restrictions on Thursday, with some countries removed due to rising COVID-19 infections.

Included in the latest round of countries are Canada, Australia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. However, Serbia and Montenegro, two of the EU's western neighbors and candidates for eventual EU membership, were removed.

In order to be included in the "safe" country list, a nation's 14-day number of new COVID-19 cases must be stable or dropping and be  lower than the EU average.

Serbia has experienced a sharp rise in cases after ending a lockdown and holding a national election. Massive protests have broken out recently in Belgrade, as demonstrators blame the government for mishandling the coronavirus response.

The travel list is compiled by the European Council and reviewed every two weeks. It is a recommendation and is not legally binding. EU member states decide for themselves under which conditions entry is allowed.

However, member states should not unilaterally lift travel restrictions for non-listed countries without coordinating with the EU.

16:30 Anti-Semitic incidents have gone up 40% in the first half of the year in the German state of Bavaria when compared to the same period last year, a watchdog has said, with nearly half of the incidents in 2020 found to be directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the 116 anti-Semitic incidents so far this year in Bavaria, the pandemic played a role in 51 cases, according to the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism (RIAS) on Wednesday.

For example, in Munich back in May, a football coach wearing a jacket of the Jewish sports club TSV Maccabi Munich was called a "Jewish scumbag" and told that Jews were responsible for the outbreak. 

Other reported incidents include deliberate property damage, threats, and other verbal or written abusive behavior.

16:00 French President Emmanuel Macron has accelerated plans to make wearing masks in indoor public spaces mandatory in the country.

The original plan was to make masks compulsory on August 1, but it has been moved up to next week after officials noticed an uptick in cases. Masks were already required on public transportation, but will be required to enter a shop or other indoor places.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told French public radio that "we are witnessing in certain hospitals in Paris weak signs of an epidemic resurgence, which is why I urge the French to remain particularly vigilant, active, against the virus."

Veran told the lower house of parliament that people should don masks immediately, without waiting for the official decree, calling masks a matter of social responsibility.

 Visitors, wearing protective masks, look out on Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower
Starting next week, masks will be required in France to enter shops and other indoor areasImage: picture-alliance/abaca/E. Blondet

14:50 Germany's states and the federal government have reached an agreement on "more targeted measures" to deal with localized COVID-19 outbreaks.

An important change to previous guidelines is that complete districts will no longer be required to lock down in the case of a localized outbreak, and quarantine and lockdown measures should be tightly limited to only target hotspots.

Localized travel bans could be enforced in cases where the number of infections continues to rise or when there is no certainty that a chain of infections is not continuing to spread.  

Several state ministers have rejected the idea of large-scale travel bans within Germany.

States should also take precautions to ensure that travelers arriving from areas with high infection rates are able to provide medical proof that they are not infected before they are allowed entry and accommodation.

13:30 Intelligence agencies from the US, UK and Canada have accused Russia-backed hackers of trying to steal information on COVID-19 vaccine research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions around the world.  

The UK's National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC) attributed the cyberattacks to a group known as APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, which it said was likely operating as part of Russian intelligence services. The group is said to use spear-phishing and custom malware to target research organizations in ongoing attacks.

The NCSC said it believes no confidential information has yet been compromised.

In May, the US and the UK said that hacking networks were carrying out campaigns targeting international organizations responding to pandemic, but this is the first time a group as been connected with Russia. In June, the US accused China-backed hackers of targeting US-based COVID-19 research.

"It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,'' said the UK's foreign secretary, Dominic Raab.

12:45 Lithuania will once more tighten travel restrictions for those from outside of Europe. Those traveling from most countries outside of the European economic area will have to be tested for coronavirus and must go into quarantine for 14 days.

The prime minister identified an incident where travelers from Uzbekistan were believed to have caused a minor outbreak in Lithuania. Around 20 people were infected.

"The case of the infected people from Uzbekistan in the city of Kaunas clearly shows that we have to improve the restrictions on people coming into Lithuania," Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis wrote on Facebook.

12:30 Ukrainians are "tired" of the coronavirus lockdown, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said, adding that the government should be cautious about extending the measures past August.

The country imposed strict lockdowns in March which were partially eased in May. Laws have been extended monthly.

The current set of regulations will run out in August, but Zelenskiy believes they should not last any longer as "everyone is getting tired of this quarantine."

"We need a clear framework for how we will continue it, so that people have the opportunity to live safely, so that business can function, so that the economy does not stand at a pause," Zelenskiy said.

11:59 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced a "radical quarantine" for Caracas and a neighboring state in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Venezuela had been one of the Latin American countries least affected by the pandemic, but in recent weeks the country has recorded a striking rise in infections and deaths.

It took 70 days for Venezuela to reach 1,000 cases, but only three to go from 7,000 to 8,000.

The country has now surpassed 10,000 infections, though some say that limited testing means the true number is much higher.

10:35 German industrial giant Siemens said it plans to allow more than 140,000 of its employees to continue to work from home for up to three days a week on a permanent basis.

The Munich-based company said the coronavirus crisis has "shown that working independently of a fixed location offers many advantages and is possible on a much wider scale than originally thought." Surveys of Siemens employees around the world showed a desire for greater flexibility.

Siemens operates in 125 locations in 43 countries and will take effect immediately.

10:25  Germany wants to contribute its national reserve of medical protective equipment to a European reserve, German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced.

It would make "more sense" create such a reserve "coordinated" among the 27 European Union countries than at a national level alone, Spahn said. His comments came ahead of an informal gathering of EU health ministers in Berlin.

"We Europeans have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to ward off threats, that we must be better prepared to keep ourselves safe, that we must act with more confidence to hold our own," he said. "Whether or not we have sufficient protective masks for our health care workers in Amsterdam, Berlin or Madrid should not be determined in China.

"This is why we want to develop structures that make us less dependent on the production of important drugs and medical products," he added.

10:10 Germany's largest slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant resumed production after a coronavirus outbreak among its workers caused a local lockdown for tens of thousands of local residents.

Production at the Tönnies facility in the town of Gütersloh in North Rhine-Westphalia was halted in mid-June after 1,400 employees of the plant tested positive for the virus. Regional lockdowns, like the one imposed around the plant, have been at the center of a heated debate among the 16 German states.

However, all 16 health ministers appear to have reached a consensus that such measures could be a "suitable method" for containing local outbreaks.

Read more: Brief reprieve for German pigs as COVID-19 shuts slaughterhouses

09:20 Spain's King Felipe has led a ceremony in Madrid to honor those who have died in the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The televised ceremony at an esplanade in Madrid's Royal Palace was attended by high-ranking EU and WHO officials, along with representatives from religious organizations and relatives of victims.

Spain has been one of the countries hit worst by the pandemic, with 28,413 confirmed deaths from the disease.

09:00 Israel has seen its highest number of infections in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced. Over 1,700 new cases were recorded. If the numbers continue to rise, a lockdown is expected to be put back in place in the next few days.

A rapid easing of restrictions from the end of May may have rapidly increased coronavirus numbers in the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a one-time payment of 750 shekels (€192, $218) for individuals, up to 3,000 shekels for families to alleviate financial stress caused by the pandemic on Wednesday. 

08:55 South Korea needs more public hospitals to prevent potential infectious disease outbreaks worse than coronavirus, a senior government official has said.

The country's early success in taming the coronavirus through aggressive contact tracing and testing has been much praised by disease experts worldwide as a gold standard for how to deal with the disease. But only 10% of hospital beds are found in public hospitals, which officials say would have been far too few if the virus had infected more people.

08:45 Pakistan has reported its lowest daily death rate from the coronavirus in about a month. It recorded 40 deaths in the past 24 hours on Thursday. The highest single-day death toll was 153 on June 19.

Authorities fear another spike if people ignore social distancing during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated on July 31.

07:45 Russia has reported 6,428 new cases and 167 deaths in the last 24 hours, a slight increase from the day before. This brings the total number of infections in the country to above 750,000.

Russia is the fourth-worst affected country in the world behind the US, Brazil and India.

07:38 The Indian states of Bihar and Goa have gone into lockdown. In northern Bihar, home to 125 million people, over 600 people died in the previous 24 hours. The Red Cross called the spread "alarming."

Eyewitness reports say traffic in the state capital of Patna was much at normal rates, with many pointing out the difficulty of policing a lockdown for so many people. The lockdown will last for 15 days.

A lack of coronavirus discipline in Goa caused the state to go back into lockdown for three days: the state premier said too many people were "stepping out to meet people at parties."

04:43 Despite some signs of recovery, the global economy still faces challenges ahead, the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said.

Activity "has started to gradually strengthen…But we are not out of the woods yet, "IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said in a message to G20 finance ministers ahead of a weekend summit in Saudi Arabia.

In June, the global crisis lender downgraded its growth forecasts, saying it now expects global GDP to fall by 4.9% in 2020. Coronavirus lockdown measures around the globe caused a deeper contraction than anticipated and only a "tepid recovery is expected for next year," Georgieva said.

Read more: Will coronavirus pandemic finally push emerging economies into crisis?

By providing $11 trillion (€9.6 trillion) in stimulus, G20 nations had helped to prevent an even worse outcome, but "these safety nets must be maintained as needed and, in some cases, expanded," Georgieva said in a blog post.

Such measures include paid sick leave for low-income families as well as access to health care and unemployment insurance, she said.

Georgieva acknowledged concern for rising debt levels, but said, "At this stage in the crisis, however, the costs of premature withdrawal are greater than continued support where it is needed."

The IMF chief drew attention to jobs that have been lost during the pandemic, possibly for good. Workers will need support and training to move into new sectors, she said.

"The bottom line is that the pandemic is likely to increase poverty and inequality," she said, adding that policymakers have "a once-in-a-century shot" at building a better, greener and more equitable world.

03:38 Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 534 to 200,260. Data released by the Robert Koch Institute, the country's official body for disease control, said that the death toll rose by seven on Wednesday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities to 9,078.

Read moreDanger of coronavirus second wave in Germany is real but avoidable, health minister says

03:26 China's GDP grew by 3.2% in the second quarter, after a major slump during the beginning of the year. As lockdown measures have ended, the government has provided a stimulus to revive the economy from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

The economy had contracted by 1.6% on a year-on-year basis compared to last year. The GDP jumped by 11.5% in April-June compared to the previous quarter, exceeding projections.

However, consumption and investment still remained low, suggesting that the government may have to ramp up its stimulus efforts.

A special flight to China

02:15 Ireland is putting on hold plans to end its lockdown because of a spike in new infections, Prime Minister Micheal Martin has announced.

Ireland had been set to enter the fourth and final phase of relaxing its restrictions this coming Monday but now this has been postponed for the foreseeable future. As a result, Irish citizens will have to wait for a full reopening of pubs and bars.

Read moreStale beer turned into animal feed and distance drinking: Irish pubs in the age of coronavirus

01:55 The Australian state of Victoria has revealed two men in their 80s died overnight from COVID-19.

The country's second-most populated state also reported a record daily increase in people infected with the virus.

Victoria registered 317 new daily infections, the highest since the coronavirus outbreak emerged. The previous high for the state that is home to some 6.5 million people was 288 new cases, which occurred last week.

Meanwhile, the Australian government plans to spend A$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion, €964 million) to help offset the crisis brought about by the pandemic. The funding will be used to extend a program to subsidize the wages of apprentices.

01:12 A lawmaker in Chile has sprinted through congress wearing a pink cape to celebrate the passing of a coronavirus emergency bill in the South American country's lower house.

While donning a face mask, caped crusader Pamela Jiles ran repeatedly past President Sebastian Pinera's Cabinet, who had opposed the bill.

Pamela Jiles sprints in front of senior ministers in Chile wearing a pink cape
Pamela Jiles brought fellow lawmakers to their feet with her caped performanceImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Agencia Uno/L. Rubilar

Jiles is a former journalist and a member of the far-left Broad Front coalition which represents a poor area of the Chilean capital, Santiago.

She has been a fervent supporter of the proposal to allow citizens hit hard by lockdown measures to withdraw up to 10% of privately held pension funds. The act will be voted on by senators next week.

00:55 The US set a daily record of 67,632 cases in less than 24 hours, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.  The world's worst-affected nation has seen a surge since June, especially in the southern and western parts of the country.

For the last 10 days, new cases have been within the range of 55,000 and 65,000 per day. More than 137,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US.

Meanwhile, the state of California reported its second-worst day in terms of cases and deaths on Wednesday, with more than 11,000 new infections and 140 fatalities. The number of tests and those testing positive has also risen in the state.

The positivity rate reached 7% for the last two weeks. Los Angeles County had a positivity rate of more than 10%

00:24 Many nations across the globe saw coronavirus cases rising on Wednesday, forcing them to reconsider plans of reopening. The number of cases has crossed 13.4 million and more than 579,000 have died worldwide.

Latin America, the world's second hardest-hit region topped 150,000 deaths on Wednesday. Venezuela announced localized restrictions just four days after ending lockdown. Ireland too had to halt reopening plans as cases surged.

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

In reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, unless otherwise specified, DW uses figures provided by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center in the United States. JHU updates figures in real-time, collating data from world health organizations, state and national governments, and other public official sources, all of whom have their own systems for compiling information.

Germany's national statistics are compiled by its public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). These figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from JHU.

 tg,jsi/sms  (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)