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Coronavirus: EU wants bloc's borders sealed until June 15

May 8, 2020

The European Commission has recommended keeping the EU's external borders closed to non-EU citizens in an effort to prevent a second wave of the novel coronavirus. Follow DW for the latest.

Österreich Brenner-Autobahn | Coronavirus | Zufallskontrollen
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Joensson

- The global death toll from COVID-19 has risen to over 272,000, while more than 3.8 million people are known to have been infected

- The European Commission has recommended keeping the external borders of the EU closed until at least June 15

- US unemployment rate surges to 14.7%, Canada's to 13% and Ireland's to over 28%

- China says it supports a WHO-led review of the global response to the crisis

- German exports suffered the worst month-on-month drop since 1990 due to the pandemic

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:13 Brazil on Friday reported 10,222 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a record 751 deaths.

The last highest single-day tally of deaths was 615 on Wednesday.

The country, Latin America's hardest-hit in the coronavirus crisis, now has a total of 145,328 confirmed cases with 9,897 deaths.

23:00 Researchers in Hong Kong have found that a three-drug antiviral cocktail could help coronavirus patients suffering from mild symptoms recover within a significantly shorter time frame, if treated soon after symptoms appear.  

The study, published in The Lancet and conducted using 127 subjects, described the findings as "early but important." Researchers found that patients given the drug combination recovered within seven days on average as opposed to the standard recovery time of 12 days. 

"Our trial demonstrates that early treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 with a triple combination of antiviral drugs may rapidly suppress the amount of virus in a patient's body," said Kwok-Yung Yuen, professor at the University of Hong Kong, who led the research. 

He added that the treatment, which appeared safe in patients, was shown to "relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk to health-care workers by reducing the duration and quantity of viral shedding [when the virus is detectable and potentially transmissible]."

Read moreCoronavirus vaccine: where profit and public health collide

A cure for COVID-19: What's in the pipeline?

22:16 At least 500 people working at a Ghana industrial facility have tested positive for COVID-19, the country's health service reported on Friday.

The total number of cases in Ghana have risen by nearly 30% in one day. The new figure stands at 4,012, making it the highest case total in West Africa.

Ghana has recorded 18 deaths so far. The country has thus far conducted the most tests in the region.

Read moreCOVID-19: Africa's health workers at risk

Ghanaian traders fear to run out of stock

21:18 Scores of Pakistani nationals repatriated from the Middle East to the southern province of Sindh have tested positive for COVID-19.

Authorities on Friday reported that at least 500 of the 2,069 nationals who returned to Sindh had contracted the virus.

In the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at least 200 of the 1,600 nationals repatriated had earlier tested positive for coronavirus.

Around 20,000 Pakistanis have thus far been brought home, including a significant number of unskilled laborers working in the Gulf.

Many Pakistanis had lost their jobs in the Middle East following the coronavirus lockdown and were living in crowded work dormitories. 

With commercial flights grounded, Pakistan is sending chartered planes to bring its nationals home. 

The country has reported more than 26,000 cases of COVID-19 so far. The official death toll in the nation of nearly 215 million people has been relatively low at roughly 600.

Read morePakistan's fight against COVID-19 threatens polio, measles vaccine programs

Pakistan's online food orders to beat virus

21:10 A short "strike to breathe" was staged by Electrolux workers in Italy irritated by facial masks causing short windedness and sweating, Italian media reported.

Electrolux itself said only 28 percent of workers at its plant in Susegnana in the Veneto region, north of Venice, had protested during Friday's first shift.

The newspaper Il Corriere della Sera said workers left the assembly line after Electrolux rejected their requests to use simpler masks and take more breaks.

A spokeswoman for Electrolux said workers at four other factories in Italy had not complained about face coverings required by the concern.

It was matter of "finding a balance between health protection, quality of working life and labor law," said Enrico Botter, general secretary of the trade union FIOM CGIL.

Early in April, Elextrolux had praised "hundreds of volunteers" who had turned donated vacuum filters into 60,000 face masks for American health care workers.

Tight-fitting masks are deemed essential for protecting service workers close to persons, including patients, with the potentially fatal COVID-19 infection.

21:00 The US is making plans to send 8,000 ventilators to foreign countries by the end of July to assist them in their fight against coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.

"We have nine factories that are throwing out ventilators at numbers that nobody can believe,'' President Donald Trump said Friday.  

"Countries know that we have tremendous amounts, tremendous volume. We have many countries, I'd say 12, 14 countries that called,'' Trump said earlier this week.

Mexico received a shipment of ventilators this week, and on Thursday, Trump said he would be sending ventilators to Russia.

At the beginning of the outbreak in the US, there were concerns that surging cases would overwhelm hospitals, and there would not enough of the breathing machines to treat severe COVID-19 cases.

The ventilators that will be sent abroad do not come from the national stockpile of around 12,000 that are set aside for deployment to US states.

20:42 Here's a summary of the latest events in Europe on Friday:

European Union: The European Commission recommended the EU's external borders remain closed to nonessential travel from non-EU countries until June 15, saying "the situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide." EU officials said member states needed to prioritize frictionless travel within the bloc before allowing nonessential travel at its external borders. In March, EU countries agreed to close their external borders to non-EU nationals in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Eurozone: Eurozone finance ministers agreed to using the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — the monetary union's bailout fund — to help countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, such as Italy and Spain. Plans to ease economic reform conditions that come with access to the ESM were initially held up by the Netherlands. However, Dutch concerns were largely placated in the latest round of negotiations. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz described the agreement as "a strong signal of solidarity."

United Kingdom: British Environment Minister George Eustice said the government was unlikely to ease lockdown restrictions in the near future as the UK's number of coronavirus-related deaths topped 31,000. "We have to be realistic that there isn't going to be any dramatic overnight change," he said. "We will be very, very cautious as we loosen the restrictions we have, as the data that we're outlining on a daily basis shows we are not out of the woods."

Italy: Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala warned that "a handful of crazy people" were risking the economic recovery of Italy's financial capital. Earlier on Friday, images circulating on social media showed youths gathering along Milan's trendy Navigli canals. "There are moments when it is time to get pissed off. And this is one of those moments," Sala said. "We are not just in a health crisis — and we see how the pandemic has touched this city — but we are in a deep socioeconomic crisis." Milan is located in the hard-hit Lombardy region, which has accounted for the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in Italy.

20:27 Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, accusing the new government of corruption and excessive restrictions of freedom through its coronavirus response measures.

Protesters accuse Slovenia's new prime minister, Janez Jansa, of using the coronavirus crisis as a reason to crack down on anyone who criticizes the government's actions.

Last month, Slovenian media reported on allegations of government corruption in purchasing face masks and ventilators. Since then, there have been reports of Slovenian journalists facing harassment for their critical reporting.

Read moreEU condemns attacks on press freedom during COVID-19 crisis

A few weeks after taking over the government, Jansa's coalition imposed a month-long lockdown, closed borders and banned travel in response to COVID-19. Slovenia, which borders Italy, has recorded 1,450 coronavirus cases and 100 deaths.

19:49 Russia reported more than 10,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus for the sixth consecutive day. Russian authorities reported 10,669 cases on Friday, down from 11,231 the day before.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said "Russia is probably experiencing a delayed epidemic" as other European countries have passed the peak of their outbreaks.

Russia has surpassed France and Germany to become the country with the fifth-highest number of confirmed infections. Russian authorities have reported more than 187,000 cases and 1,723 deaths, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University.

19:20 The United States prevented a vote on a United Nations resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in all conflicts in order to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic, diplomats told the AFP news agency.

Washington was against the implicit mention of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has spearheaded global efforts to end the pandemic, according to the diplomats.

US officials have criticized the WHO for what they view as "a string of mismanaged pandemic responses" and "public kowtowing to the Chinese Community Party regime." The United States — once the single largest contributor to the WHO — has suspended funding for the UN health agency.

Many countries, including Germany, have heavily criticized the Trump administration for cutting funding during a pandemic.

The resolution was led by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who had been working on efforts for a global ceasefire since March. It is unclear whether the resolution will receive an opportunity for a vote without concessions to White House demands.

19:05 IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the global economy would suffer more from the novel coronavirus pandemic than initial forecasts. Last month, the IMF projected the world economy would shrink by about 3% as a result of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly pathogen.

"Incoming economic data for many countries is below our already pessimistic assessment for 2020," said Georgieva. "With no immediate medical solutions, more adverse scenarios might, unfortunately, materialize for some economies."

The global economy is on track to see the biggest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the IMF said last month. However, if the outbreak eases towards the end of the year, the world economy could rebound by nearly 6% in 2010.

"The unknown behavior of the virus is clouding the horizon for projections," she said. "Assuming that we will have treatments and vaccines by early 2021 at the latest, then we can expect a recovery."

19:00 Health officials in France announced 243 new COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the total to 26,230. The number is an increase from Thursday but, overall, the death rate in France has been steadily dropping. The number of patients in intensive care is also decreasing steadily and is half of what it was during the peak in April when over 7,000 people were in intensive care.

France is due to start emerging from a strict two-month lockdown on Monday.

18:45 The World Health Organization (WHO) needs an additional $1.3 billion in funding to meet the $1.7 billion required to fund its global COVID-19 response effort, organization head Tedros Ghebreyesus said Friday.

US President Donald Trump's announced last month that his country would suspend its funding to the WHO over the international organization's response to the pandemic and for acting as a "public relations agency" for China. The WHO depends on donations and contributions from member states, and it is conducting an assessment of how the loss of US funding will affect its operations. The US has been, by far, the largest contributor to the WHO's budget. In the 2018-2019 funding cycle, the US provided over $890 million to the organization.

Ghebreyesus also said the WHO's strategic plan for the COVID-19 pandemic includes providing technical and logistical support for all countries, especially those with weak health care systems.

17:40 Eurozone finance ministers agreed to ease conditions for hard-hit countries, such as Italy and Spain, to access financial assistance through the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

"Eurozone countries have sent a strong signal of solidarity," said German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. "With the agreement on the structure of the ESM credit line, we have created the preconditions for rapidly activating the rescue package."

Last month, consensus on the use of the ESM to assist eurozone countries impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic was held up by the Netherlands, which wanted to maintain the bailout funds strict economic reform conditions.

The agreement now requires parliamentary support from some countries, including Germany, before the funds are accessible.

19:30 As Spain emerges from a strict two-month lockdown, the country's military said it expects two more "waves" of COVID-19 outbreaks and predicts Spain will take " between a year and a year-and-a-half to return to normality.''

In a document published in a Spanish newspaper and verified by the Associated Press, Spain's military said the second wave would come in autumn or winter, and could possibly be less serious than the first outbreak due to immunity in the population.

Global health officials have warned that it is probable COVID-19 cases will re-emerge until there is a vaccine. The Spanish army report said implementing a contact tracing method using apps is "extremely important."

17:20 Residents in the Indian city of Ahmedabad clashed with police and paramilitary groups after authorities imposed stricter lockdown measures.

"Some people got agitated, and started pelting stones on the forces," Ahmedabad police commissioner Ashish Bhatia told Reuters news agency. "The police fired teargas shells to disperse the crowd. The situation is under control now."

Local authorities had ordered all shops to close until May 15, except for stores selling medicine and milk. The measures were viewed as tougher than nationwide restrictions.

India has reported more than 57,000 confirmed cases of the deadly pathogen along with nearly 1,900 deaths.

17:00 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale of the first saliva-based COVID-19 tests for at-home use.

The test was developed by researchers at Rutgers University in the US state of New Jersey. The test must be ordered by a doctor and will be available through a network of hospitals and testing sites affiliated with the university. A single test will cost around $100 (€90).

Regulators hope increasing testing will allow better containment of COVID-19 and allow schools and businesses to reopen safely.

16:30 COVID-19 deaths in Italy passed 30,000 on Friday after health authorities reported 243 new fatalities. Only the United States and Britain have recorded more deaths from the virus.

The Civil Protection Agency said 274 people died of the virus in Italy on Thursday. The daily number of new infections dropped slightly to 1,327 from 1,401. Although new cases continue to appear, the overall trajectory is pointing downward. Italian health authorities said the day-on-day number of active cases has dropped to 87,961 from 89,624.

Italy has recorded the world's third-highest instance of COVID-19 cases with the current number at 217,185.

US companies adapt to help during Covid-19 crisis

16:25 The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that it does not recommend shutting down live animal markets globally, although a market selling live animals in the Chinese city of Wuhan is thought to have played a significant role in the emergence of SARS-Cov-2.

WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek told a virtual press conference that live animal markets are necessary in providing food and livelihoods to millions of people around the world, and improving hygiene and food safety standards to reduce disease would be a better plan than outlawing them.

The outbreak of deadly viruses, including SARS and Ebola, has been linked to animal markets

"Food safety in these environments is rather difficult and therefore it's not surprising that sometimes we also have these events happening within markets,'' Embarek said, adding investigations are continuing in China to determine if and how the novel coronavirus jumped from an animal source to humans.

15:45 The European Commission recommended keeping the EU's external borders closed until June 15 in order to prevent a second wave of novel coronavirus infections.

In March, EU member states agreed to close their borders to non-EU visitors in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly pathogen. Efforts were spearheaded by the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, in the hopes that controls along internal borders would remain minimal.

"We need a phased and coordinated approach," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson. "Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel."

Read more: EU closes borders to foreigners to halt coronavirus spread: What to know

Quiet city: Berlin during the coronavirus pandemic

15:15 China's State Council — considered the country's top decision-making body — approved the opening of sports facilities, entertainment venues and cinemas, marking a confident step towards normality for the government.

The guidelines require establishments to ensure visitors wear masks and comply with social distancing measures. They also allow for the resumption of operations for hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and supermarkets.

Patient zero of the pandemic was discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Although various theories have arisen since the onset of the pandemic, it is unclear how the virus was initially contracted.

As countries around the globe struggle with curbing the outbreak, mainland China has reported five consecutive days without fresh cases. As such, it has designated all of its counties as "low risk."

14:45 The head of a UN lab warned that "critical" shortages of materials required to conduct tests for the novel coronavirus are hampering efforts to fight the pandemic.

"There is, indeed, on the global market, a shortage of some items, particularly reagents, because there are demands from all over the world," Giovanni Cattoli, who leads the Animal Production and Health Laboratory on the outskirts of Vienna, told the AFP news agency. "The situation is still critical."

He said public health authorities should learn from the crisis "that we need not rely on a single type of test but to have a portfolio of tests and a portfolio of reagents in order to be prepared to have a plan B and possibly a plan C in order to respond effectively and rapidly."

His lab is jointly operated by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization and remains the only one of its kind run the by UN. Cattoli said so far, the IAEA has received requests from nearly 120 countries for more test equipment.

"Some laboratories in some areas of the world don't have the necessary equipment," Cattoli said. "They don't have the necessary reagents and procedures to rapidly detect the virus."

14:25 Following a COVID-19 outbreak at a meat processing plant in the town of Coesfeld near the western German city of Münster, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has activated an "emergency mechanism" and delayed the loosening of lockdown restrictions in the county of Coesfeld until May 18.

The emergency mechanism was announced Wednesday, and it is triggered if 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants are detected in a county or city. NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said that the number of new infections in Coesfeld is now at 61 per 100,000.

The spike comes after a test of 200 employees at the meat processing plant owned by Westfleisch revealed at least 129 were positive for COVID-19. Thirteen have been hospitalized.  All of the company's 1,200 employees will now be tested and the plant will be closed until further notice.

TB vaccine against COVID-19?

14:20 The Swiss government said it is planning to ease restrictions on migration from within Europe while it considers opening the border with its neighbors, including Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Liechtenstein.

"The controls at the border will continue," the government said. "Border crossings will be opened in consultation with the domestic and foreign partner authorities and communicated accordingly."

Switzerland has reported more than 30,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. However, it has managed to keep the death toll relatively low compared to its neighbors, with just over 1,800 deaths caused by COVID-19.14:00 Saudi Arabia reported more than 35,000 positives cases of the novel coronavirus as it struggles to bring down the number of daily infections. Over the past week, the kingdom has averaged about 1,500 new infections per day.

However, on Friday, it reported 1,701 new infections, bringing the total to more than 35,400. Despite the high number of confirmed cases, Saudi authorities have managed to keep the death toll relatively low at 229.

Saudi Arabia has formed a special police unit to crack down on violations of nationwide restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly pathogen. The unit is allowed to fine violators up to 100,000 Saudi riyals ($27,000, €25,000).

The time of year is especially difficult for Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Muslim country, as the faithful participate in Islam's holiest month, Ramadan.

During the month of Ramadan, believers fast during the day and break their fast, usually in large gatherings with friends and family. However, Saudi authorities have limited gatherings to no more than five people along with restrictions on accessing mosques.

13:45 Many worshippers in Iran were allowed to attend Friday prayers for the first time in more than two months. Mosques in about 30% of the country's counties — places where the risk of infection was deemed low — were allowed to reopen. Mosques in Tehran remain closed.

The authority in charge of organizing the prayers said 180 locations would host prayers, describing it as a "great honor."

Mohsen Alviri, an academic and theologian from Qom, the Shiite holy city that was the epicenter of Iran's coronavirus outbreak, stressed the importance of Friday prayers.

"Friday prayers are an opportunity to create interaction between the government and the masses," he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

The government of the hard-hit nation is urging citizens to follow social distancing restrictions, after it announced more than 1,500 new cases.

13:35 German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said eurozone finance ministers will likely agree on the final details concerning the use of credit lines from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to support the post-pandemic recovery.

However, some eurozone countries, including Germany, would like to see financial and economic reform conditions eased in order to provide much-needed assistance to the hardest-hit European countries, such as Italy and Spain.

"We've had very intense and constructive negotiations and I'm very confident that today the eurogroup will make a final decision about the criteria for each country … to get a credit line work up to 2% of its gross domestic product," said Scholz.

Germany has supported loans for nations struggling with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic rather than the shared-debt mechanisms, such as eurobonds or coronabonds, preferred by other EU members.

The ESM is a bailout fund long considered the last line of defense for the 19-nation single monetary union.

13:00 Ireland's unemployment rate has surged to 28.2%. This is the highest rate on record and an increase from just 4.8% two months ago, according to the national statistics office. The figure includes those receiving emergency jobless benefits due to the pandemic.

"If all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment were classified as unemployed, this COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment indicates a rate of 30.0% for males and 26.1% for females. Breaking the results down by broad age group, the new COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment indicates a rate of 52.8% for those aged 15 to 24 years and 24.8% for those aged 25 to 74 years," the office said in a statement.

If those people on the emergency payment are excluded, then the figures are 5.4%, up from 5.3% in March.

12:50  The US unemployment rate hit its highest point since at least 1948, the country's Labor Department has reported. In April, the unemployment rate increased by 10.3 percentage points to 14.7%. 

"This is the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series," it said in a statement.

The economic repercussions from the pandemic wiped out more than 20.5 million jobs in April alone.

US President Donald Trump downplayed the figures, saying they were not a surprise.

"It's fully expected, there's no surprise. Somebody said, 'Oh look at this,'" he told Fox News shortly after the announcement. "I'll bring it back." 

The figure was not as high as feared by analysts, prompting a rise in US stock index futures and bond yields. Investors had been bracing for a 16% figure.

Canada is also reporting its biggest lost of jobs ever due to pandemic, with unemployment hitting 13%, the highest it has been since 1982 when it was 13.1%.

12:35 German national carrier Lufthansa has announced that it will start flying 80 more jets in June to meet growing demand. "We sense a great desire and longing among people to travel again. Hotels and restaurants are slowly opening, and visits to friends and family are in some cases being allowed again," executive board member Harry Hohmeister said.

It will bring the total number of planes operated by the Lufthansa Group, which includes Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines, up to 160. This compares to 763 aircraft in operation at the end of 2019.

Lufthansa is currently negotiating a €9 billion ($9.71 billion) bailout with Germany's economic stabilization fund to ensure its future.

The head of Scandinavian airline SAS said it doesn't expect normal demand to return until 2022.

"Even though no one can foresee exactly how passenger demand will evolve in the coming months and years, it is clear that it will take a much longer time than previously anticipated," chief executive Rickard Gustafson said.

11:56 A delegation from Tanzania has arrived in Madagascar to pick up a "herbal remedy" for coronavirus they previously ordered. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that there is no proof that it works.

The island nation’s President Andry Rajoelina launched the self-proclaimed cure at a news conference last month, claiming that the amber liquid had already cured two people.

The tonic is being made by a company called "COVID-19 Organics." Guinea Bissau and Liberia are among the other African nations that have put in large orders for the liquid. The WHO has expressed concern that people who drink the liquid may believe they are immune to coronavirus and take part in risky behavior.

Madagascar has 193 confirmed cases of coronavirus and no deaths, while Tanzania has reported 480 cases with 16 deaths.

Read more: The race towards a coronavirus vaccine: What's the latest?

11:24 Beaches in Barcelona reopened for four hours this morning, after being closed for over a month. Spain is debating what pace it should reopen public life, but it seems likely that Madrid and Catalonia, where Barcelona is, will remain in at least partial lockdown.

People were allowed to swim and jog between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Police supervised those who went into the water.

Spain, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, is eager to avoid a second wave of the virus. The daily death toll rose to 229 on Friday, up from 213 the day before. Officials figures show overall that 221,447 people have died and 26,070 have died.

10:55 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the world must learn from history and unite to beat the pandemic. The comments came during a speech to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe

"For us Germans, 'never again' means 'never again alone'," Steinmeier said at a ceremony in Berlin. "If we don't hold Europe together, including during and after this pandemic, then we are not living up to May 8," he said.

"We want more, not less cooperation in the world — also in the fight against the pandemic."

"If Europe fails, the 'never again' will fail too," he said.

The somber occasion was greatly reduced in scale due to coronavirus restrictions, with wider events canceled. Steinmeier said the pandemic forces Germany to "commemorate alone — separately from those who are important to us and to whom we are grateful."

"Perhaps this aloneness takes us back once again to May 8, 1945: for at that time, the Germans were indeed alone."

His speech focused on recognizing the enduring historical responsibility of Germany and said it was a day to liberate themselves from nationalism and focus on international unity.

WWII started with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. As many as 85 million people died in the conflict, including 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. 

10:41 Five soccer players across Spain’s top two divisions have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Catalonian public radio station RAC1.

The tests were conducted on Thursday and identified thee first division and two second division players. The three first division players are said to come from three different clubs while the two second division players come from the same club.

Spanish soccer is hoping to resume on June 20 and to do so is conducting widespread testing.

10:38 France is reportedly calling on the European Commission to issue bonds to finance a recovery fund for the European Union worth 1-2% of gross national income (GNI) per year. That would amount to €150-300 billion euros ($163-325 billion) in 2021-23. The proposal was seen by Reuters news agency. 

"The size should be at least 1% to 2% of EU GNI per year over the next three years, which would provide the EU budget a top-up of 150 to 300 billion euros each year between 2021 and 2023," the French discussion document reportedly says.

"Loans to member states could help closing the gap, but need to remain a top-up to grants. To ensure maximum added value, such loans should have a grace period, very long maturity and low interest rate ... It is also essential that this fund be set-up as soon as possible, possibly before the entry into force of the next MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework — the EU's budget plan)."

The EU is debating how to kickstart growth, with the Commission expected to make a formal proposal later this month. The commission is drafting the recovery plan after member states failed to agree on the size and financing of a fund expected to be worth at least €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion).

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting today, but are not expected to make any progress on the contentious recovery fund. They will more likely finalize a scheme for member states to access loans after EU leaders agreed last month to a credit line facility to help member states cover direct and indirect health care costs.

10:01 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said up to 1 million COVID-19 tests per week were currently being conducted across the country.

Spahn said the health care system was not being exhausted but that the battle was far from over. "We have to keep an eye on each other, keep our distance, observe hygiene rules and wear everyday masks. It all depends on each and every one of us," Spain said in a press conference.

The health minister also asked for European coordination if borders are to be relaxed and considerations, such as the infection rate in the neighboring countries, must be taken into account.

Earlier this week, some German politicians, as well as Luxembourg’s foreign minister, called for a relaxation of border controls.

09:58 A majority of Germans favor the loosening of restrictions in the country, a poll has shown. Public broadcaster ZDF's Politbarometer found that 47% agreed with the decisions of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers.

Another 11% said they should have been done sooner, while 38% say they are premature.  A separate survey — the Deutschlandtrend — found that two-thirds of people give the government a positive assessment for its handling of the coronavirus crisis. 

Under new regulations, shops will reopen with compulsory mask-wearing and physical distancing, football will resume behind closed doors, schools will gradually reopen, religious services will resume, small protests will be allowed, care home residents can receive visitors, people from two separate households may meet in public while maintaining a distance, and children's sports can resume.

09:42 Estonia has reopened travel between islands in the Baltic Sea and the mainland after weeks of travel restrictions, including one nicknamed "corona island" because of the amount of cases recorded there.

Saareemaa, an island with a population of around 30,000, has so far recorded around half of all cases in the country of 1.3 million. The first recording of coronavirus on the island came after an Italian volleyball team visited there in March.

The decision was made on the basis that the number of daily cases on the island and mainland has been shrinking for many days. Until now, the island had essentially been under quarantine.

The EU country of Estonia has recorded 1,720 confirmed cases and 56 people have died.

09:23 China has declared its support for the creation of a review into the global response to the pandemic, after facing pressure from some members of the World Health Organization (WHO) to have an inquiry.

The analysis should be conducted in an "open, transparent and inclusive manner" at an "appropriate time after the pandemic is over," under the leadership of WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

09:10 At least 14 migrant workers were killed in India Friday while walking back to their villages after being left destitute during the country’s strict lockdown. The laborers were hit by a goods train in the western state of Maharashtra, according to authorities.

Hours after the incident, the Ministry of Railways in India said it would hold an "independent inquiry."

The return home has proved deadly for numerous migrant workers ever since the lockdown began in March. A study conducted by the non-profit SaveLIFE Foundation said at least 42 migrant workers had perished traveling home since India introduced the lockdown measures.

09:04 Australia's Northern Territory (NT) is importing 175,000 (46,230 gallons) of beer as it prepares to open pubs, bars and clubs next Friday. The chief minister of the remote, federally administered region said it was facilitating a "keg convoy" to stock hospitality venues ahead of an anticipated party. 

"This is the first truck of many on the way to the Northern Territory. There is a keg convoy rolling up the Stuart Highway — 175,000 litres of the good stuff — but what excites me most is the jobs that are coming back online," Michael Gunner was quoted as saying by The Australian as he inspected the first shipment to arrive in state capital Darwin.

Patrons will be limited to just two hours in a venue and alcohol must be accompanied by food. 

Colorful local paper NT News has been counting down the days to when pubs reopen with gleeful optimism.

Australia has enjoyed considerable success in its efforts to contain the coronavirus. Thanks to state border closures, some states are almost clear of new cases. The NT has had just two new cases reported in the past two weeks. The most-populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, have had minor, isolated flair-ups in recent days, but case numbers and deaths remain low.

09:00 Greece's former health minister and prominent cardiologist Dimitris Kremastinos has died of COVID-19, Greek officials have confirmed.

The 78-year-old Kremastinos was widely-respected in Greece and first came to public attention as the private physician to the prime minister in the 1990s. He was serving a term as parliament’s vice-president as a member of the center-left KINAL party.

Kremastinos had been in intensive care for over a month. Current Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias tweeted his condolences, writing that Kremastinos "served the field of health with dignity and a sense of responsibility."

08:56 Simon Gronowski escaped deportation to Auschwitz when Belgian resistance fighters stopped the train he and his mother were on. Now in Brussels, the 88-year-old Holocaust survivor is tapping into his talents to spread joy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Belgium: Music to beat the crisis

08:46 Indonesia is considering plans for a phased resumption of businesses from June 1, with the easing of restrictions.

Medical experts have criticized the Asian country for its slow response to the pandemic. Indonesia has the highest death toll in Asia outside of China.

The move comes amid mounting concerns over the deepening economic impact of the restrictions on the daily lives of many. At least 2 million residents have lost their jobs and poverty is increasing.

The government is now considering a five-phase reopening with strict health protocols. The plan would see schools and shopping malls reopen in June.

According to the official statistics, 930 people have died and 12,776 people have been infected.

08:30 Germany's economically-critical small and medium-sized companies, known as the Mittelstand, are more pessimistic about the future than ever before. Sentiment is even lower than during the 2009 Global Financial Crisis, according to the KfW state development bank.

Mittelstand are defined as businesses, usually family-owned, with annual revenues up to €50 million ($54 million) with up to 499 employees. They form the backbone of the German economy.

Sentiment dropped 26 points to -45.4, compared to -37.6 in March 2009, according to the barometer run by the KfW and the Ifo institute. The gauge already dropped 20 points in March 2020.

08:01 Belarus will proceed with presidential elections on August 9, despite the pandemic, BelTA state news agency reported.  President for the past 25 years, Alexander Lukashenko, is running for reelection. The 65-year-old, often dubbed Europe's last dictator, is widely expected to win. However, Belarus' fractured opposition intend to run a single candidate against him. Belarussian elections have failed to meet international standards since 1996.

Read more: Millions take part in Belarus civic labor day amid coronavirus

Lukashenko has largely ignored the pandemic, allowing public life to run unimpeded. More than 20,000 official cases have been recorded in the country with 116 official deaths.   

Neighboring Poland recently delayed its elections due to the pandemic.

07:49 Denmark will enter its third stage of loosening restrictions on June 8, the government has announced after striking a deal in parliament. Museums, amusement parks and cinemas will reopen then. And groups of up to 50 people will be able to meet in public, up from 10 people right now. However this will only take place if the number of infected people and people hospitalized does not rise "more than expected."

As part of the second stage, shopping malls, schools for the oldest students and restaurants will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks. Night clubs, music venues and gyms will remain shut until the fourth stage, which is not expected until the beginning of August. Denmark was one of the first countries to impose restrictions in Europe and is now one of the first to open up again.

07:42 The number of new coronavirus cases in Russia rose by over 10,000 for the sixth day in a row over the last 24 hours.

With 10,699 new cases, Friday saw a slight decrease from Thursday’s peak, when 11,231 people were diagnosed.

Officials also confirmed 98 new fatalities, bringing the total death count in Russia to 1,723. There have been 187,859 confirmed cases overall.

07:30 There has been a boom in both the online and construction sectors in Germany in recent weeks.

Over 50% more online transactions were carried out last week, in comparison with the same seven-day period last year, the Federal Statistics Office has announced, citing lockdown measures as a contributory factor.

The construction industry, meanwhile, has seen a 10% monthly increase in turnover through the month of February, according to the statistical bureau based in Wiesbaden. There was also an 11% hike in revenue for the first two months of 2020 in the sector, compared with January and February last year.

06:10 Germany's exports went down 7.9% for the month of March, compared to the same month last year, according to the Federal Statistics Office. The month-on-month fall was 11.9% compared to February, the worst drop since reunification in 1990. The collapse has been attributed to the global pandemic. There was also a 4.5% drop on imports in March.

The European Commission has forecast a 6.5% drop in Germany's Gross Domestic Product for 2020, representing its deepest recession since World War II.

05:47 Madrid's top health official has stepped down from her role. While she gave no official reason, Spanish media reported that Yolanda Fuentes disagreed with the Spanish government’s decision to start easing lockdown restrictions.

Fuentes was responsible for advising the local authority in Madrid, where she coordinated one of the most elaborate and strict lockdowns in Europe.

The Spanish capital wants to begin opening hotels and outdoor areas of restaurants next Monday, and they want to allow gatherings of up to 10 people.

Around one third of those affected in Spain live in Madrid, making it one of the worst-hit cities in Europe. The city went into lockdown on March 14, with some restrictions lifted last week.

Madrid's regional government has not commented on Fuentes' resignation, but has already appointed a new official to coordinate the lockdown. Madrid is led by the right-wing opposition Popular Party, vocal critics of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's handing of the crisis.

Spain has had the second-most confirmed cases in the world, at 221,447, and over 26,000 people have died.

05:15 Thailand has reported eight new coronavirus cases but no deaths, continuing a low daily count.

Five of the eight new cases relate to migrants who were detained at an immigrations detention center. The country has been aggressively testing the population because of high infection rates.

Thailand has allowed some businesses to reopen this week after weeks of lockdown and is keen to reopen the economy.

Overall Thailand has 3,000 confirmed cases and 55 people have died.

05:05 South Korean authorities linked 13 new cases of coronavirus to infections spread in nightclubs in the Seoul metropolitan area.

After being identified as an good global example, having acted quickly to flatten the curve and managed to keep the death count relatively low, South Korea began easing social distancing regulations in the last few weeks.

Health officials have now linked at least 13 new cases, all linked to a 29-year-old patient who visited three nightclubs in Seoul last weekend and later tested positive for COVID-19.

This marks the first time in five days that the number of new cases within 24 hours rose above 10. Officials are eager to avoid a second wave of infections.

Read more: Coronavirus: How major sports are returning in South Korea

South Korea has had 10,822 confirmed cases and 256 people have died.

04:25 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an "all out effort" to end the "tsunami of hate and xenophobia" in the wake of the pandemic.

"Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets," Guterres said in a statement. "Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred."

Guterres said that migrants and refugees have been "vilified as a source of the virus — and denied access to medical treatment." He also denounced "contemptible memes" that suggest old people are "expendable."

The UN chief called for "an all-out effort to end hate speech globally."

03:30 Australia will be easing social distancing restrictions in a three-step process, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday. The country has seen a drastic slowdown in the number of new COVID-19 cases. States and territories will have the freedom to decide when to begin implementing each stage.

The country had shut down its borders, but is considering opening trans-Tasman transport with New Zealand. Morrison said he did not see international travel returning in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said that more prefectures were reporting zero new cases on a daily basis. He added that the state of emergency could soon be lifted for those regions.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump spoke on Friday, agreeing to cooperate on measures to prevent coronavirus.

"Two leaders exchanged views on each country's COVID-19 situation, steps to prevent further spread of the virus, development of medicine and vaccines and measures for reopening the economies," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Read moreCoronavirus crisis changing Japan's work culture

02:40 Germany reported 1,209 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, bringing its total to 167,300, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute. The country's death toll rose by 147 to 7,266.

01:45 Germany's constitutional and administrative courts are being flooded with cases against the country's COVID-19 restrictions, the Funke Media Group reported on Friday.

Over 1,000 emergency appeals have been filed in Germany against coronavirus restrictions, the German Association of Judges told the newspaper group. Over 60 cases have been registered so far in Berlin alone — with new ones coming in every day.

Most of the cases target measures limiting travel, protests and religious services as well as mask requirements and rules for reopening shops.

"This indicates that the general acceptance for wide-reaching coronavirus restrictions is dwindling and the desire for relaxing measures is growing," judges' association head Sven Rebehn said.

Back in the classroom

00:57 The United States recorded 2,448 new coronavirus deaths over the the past 24 hours, bringing its total number of fatalities to 75,543, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins University. 

The US is the world's hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 1.2 million confirmed cases.

00:44 Brazil Economy Minister Paulo Guedes warned that the pandemic might cause food shortages and broader production problems if lockdown measures continued. "Within about 30 days, there may start to be shortages on [store] shelves and production may become disorganized, leading to a system of economic collapse, of social disorder," he said.  

Guedes had joined a protest organized by business leaders against the Supreme Court decision to overturn President Jair Bolsonaro's efforts to halt measures taken by some states to implement social distancing. Bolsonaro himself participated in separate protests in the capital, Brasilia.

The biggest economy in Latin America, Brazil is also the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the region. Brazil's Health Ministry said the country has 135,106 confirmed cases, with 9,146 deaths. Experts believe that the rate of testing is low, and the true numbers could be much higher.

00:06 Between 83,000 and 190,000 people in Africa could die from the novel coronavirus if measures to curb the pandemic are not put in place, according to a new study from The World Health Organization (WHO). 

The research by WHO Africa is based on modeling in 47 countries covering a total population of 1 billion people, the UN health agency said in a statement. 

Africa's weak health infrastructure, high poverty rate and conflict instability makes it particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. The virus has thus far been slow to take hold on the continent, but the WHO warned that the region could see a slower, prolonged outbreak.

WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti told reporters that "while COVID-19 likely won't spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smolder in transmission hotspots."

"COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region," she added.

Read moreCOVID-19: A threat to peace efforts in Africa

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus news: 'We communicate with Germany,' Trump says

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. 

aw, jsi, tg/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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