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Coronavirus latest: Germany imposes fresh quarantines

June 18, 2020

New clusters of cases in Berlin and Göttingen have seen housing complexes placed under complete quarantine. Hundreds were also infected at a slaughterhouse, the latest of several. Follow DW for the latest.

People in protective clothing walk away from a home in Magdeburg, another part of Germany struggling with some new cases. June 18, 2020.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K.D. Gabbert
  • Two housing complexes have been placed under quarantine in Germany while hundreds of workers at a slaughterhouse were infected
  • NATO says they have prepared a contingency plan for a potential second wave
  • Beijing says it has brought its latest outbreak "under control"
  • The number of cases worldwide stands at 8.4 million with almost 450,000 deaths

All times in GMT/UTC

23:40 Schools in England will be provided extra funds to help them cope with the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on students. The government announced a package worth 1 billion pounds ($1.24 billion, €1.11 billion) over the 2020-21 academic year. 

650 million pounds will be allocated to state primary and secondary schools, to allow them to put in place small group tuitions and other measures to assist pupils. The remaining 350 million pounds will go to national tutoring programs aimed at increasing access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged groups. 

Schools have been shut since March as part of the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. While some students have started returning to school this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government will try to get all children back to classrooms from September.

22:27 The United Nations has said it will resume resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March. Departures were delayed for 10,000 refugees owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Resettlement remains a life-saving tool for many refugees and we look forward to working with our partners in host and resettlement countries to resume movements in a safe manner," said the UN's refugee agency in a statement.

With many global travel restrictions still in place, the UN will see unique challenges in resettling thousands of refugees.

21:59 Canada has seen the confirmed number of cases pass 100,000. Although the rise in cases has significantly slowed, and the country is slowly reopening its economy, officials say there are still challenges.

"We haven't done brilliantly, we've done acceptably," said University of Toronto epidemiologist Camille Lemieux. Care homes in Canada were especially badly hit, with over 80% of deaths occurring there. Canada has seen over 8,000 deaths.

20:52 Iran is approaching 10,000 deaths from coronavirus, official Ministry of Health figures reveal. Nearly 200,000 people have been infected in the country that was one of the first hotspots outside of mainland China.

After numbers receded, deaths spiked again in the last week, topping 100 last Sunday for the first time in two months. After gradually relaxing the lockdown, Iran has made five provinces into red "no-go" zones where infections are on the rise.

"The statistics show that in recent days every 12 to 15 minutes an Iranian lost their life because of corona," the Iranian judiciary announced Thursday.

20:20 The US state of California will require people to wear masks in most indoor settings when physical distancing is impossible, a new statewide order says.

California has broadly reopened its economy: most shops, restaurants and other services are once more open. Cases are increasing, but the state has said that is expected because testing is also increasing.

"Together — we can slow the spread. Do your part. Wear a mask," California's governor, Gavin Newsom, wrote on Twitter.

18:55 The World Health Organization has condemned "reckless" celebrations on the streets of Naples in Italy after Napoli won the football tournament the Coppa Italia. Large crowds gathered in the street, ignoring social distancing rules.

Napoli fans celebrate after winning the Coppa Italia in Naples, Napoli v Juventus - Naples, Italy - June 17, 2020.
Napoli fans hit the streets to celebrate the club's first major trophy since 2014Image: Reuters/C. de Luca

The Italian premier league Serie A only recently began to play again after being shut down. The game was played behind closed doors with crowds instead watching on televisions.

18:20 Hong Kong Disneyland has reopened after the territory saw a major drop in cases of coronavirus. Advance reservations are required and attendance will be limited to comply with social distancing regulations. Cleaning and disinfecting will also become more frequent. Visitors will also be required to have their temperatures checked at the entrance and will have to wear masks inside the park, except when eating or drinking.

Employees wave to visitors at the Disneyland theme park after it reopened following a shutdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2020.
Staff and visitors alike wore protective masks; the Mickey Mouse-style gloves, however, are not to facilitate safe handshakesImage: Reuters/T. Siu

Disney plans to reopen its parks in the US and Florida next month.

17:19 NATO's defense ministers agreed on a plan in the event of a second wave of COVID-19, they have announced. The military alliance will set up a stockpile of medical equipment and a crisis fund to the tune of several million dollars to spend on medical supplies.

"NATO is preparing for a possible second wave of COVID-19. Our defense minister have agreed on a new operation plan, a stockpile of medical equipment, and a fund to acquire critical medical supplies," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

NATO's "core task" in the pandemic is to ensure "that this health crisis does not become a security crisis," Stoltenberg said on Thursday, as defense ministers ended two days of talks. 

Read more:  US military in Germany: What you need to know

16:10 Denmark has announced it will allow entry to inhabitants of European nations with a low number of coronavirus cases starting from June 27, two months earlier than originally planned. The Nordic country will welcome visitors from all EU and Schengen countries along with the UK, with the exception of Portugal and parts of hard-hit neighbor Sweden.

Official guidelines place the restrictions on countries which have less than 20 new cases per 100,000 people.

"We will be open for travelers from European countries with low infection rates and thorough testing regimes," the foreign office wrote on Twitter.

Around 2 million people from the south of Sweden will be allowed into Denmark, while near Stockholm infection rates remain too high. When Denmark and Norway reopened borders earlier in the month they excluded Sweden, a move that Sweden described as politically motivated.

15:50 The German city of Göttingen has placed an entire housing complex under quarantine, two weeks after a new cluster of coronavirus cases threatened a new lockdown for the city. Around 700 people are affected by the quarantine measures, which sees the housing complex placed under quarantine for one week to begin with.

Authorities say they are implementing the extreme conditions in order to avoid a more widespread lockdown. Around 100 people in the housing complex have tested positive for COVID-19.

Several schools in the city in Lower Saxony were closed and hundreds of contact people of those infected have also been placed in quarantine. German federal authorities, largely positive after a steady decrease in national infections, will continue to cast a worried eye at progress in the city of 120,000 people.

Read more:  Coronavirus in Germany: Göttingen residents feeling like prisoners

15:35 Around 1.5 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits in the United States last week, a slight decline on the week before.

The economy is slowly reopening the US, with applications for unemployment benefit having slowly declined for 11 weeks since they peaked at nearly 7 million in March.

However, last week’s decline was much less than hoped, falling just 58,000. Analysts say the figures for June will be very hard to predict. Government loan schemes have encouraged employers to rehire employees.

15:00 The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it knows of continuing trials of the drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential preventative measure against COVID-19, despite the fact that the drug does not help in hospitalized cases.

The WHO announced on Wednesday that it would halt its own trials of the drug.

"What is clear now is hydroxychloroquine does not have - we know for sure now — does not have an impact on the disease in mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients," said WHO scientist Soumya Swamainathan. "Where there is still a gap is: Does it have any role at all in prevention, or in minimizing the severity in early infection? We don't know that yet."

The WHO confirmed on Twitter that the ongoing trials largely concerned early prevention and non-hospitalized patients.

The drug, primarily used to combat malaria, has been controversial after being hailed by some as a coronavirus treatment. US President Donald Trump in May said he had been taking the drug to prevent being infected, despite a lack of hard evidence.

14:25 Montenegro has recorded nine new infections some two weeks after declaring itself free of the virus, with the majority of the cases having attended a football match in neighboring Serbia.

Authorities in the small Balkan state announced on June 2 that the country had no active cases of COVID-19, with no new cases discovered since May 5.

Jevto Erakovic, director of the Clinical Center of Montenegro, said the new cases had been imported from outside the country and blamed the "behavior of some irresponsible individuals."

Seven of the cases were Montenegrin citizens who had attended a soccer match in Belgrade, between the city's derby rivals Partizan and Red Star.

The match, a semifinal of the Serbian Cup, was played before 16,000 spectators. Serbian authorities have allowed an unlimited number of people to gather at outdoor events since the country ended its lockdown.

"It is clear that our citizens traveling to the derby played in Belgrade has caused the situation that we have at the moment," said Erakovic, who said he expected "a higher number of new cases in the course of the coming days."

The country of some 620,000 people imposed strict lockdown measures during the outbreak. Montenegro has recently started to reopen in the hope of attracting tourists to the Adriatic coast.

14:15 Sweden's hopes of gravitating towards a type of herd immunity have received a fresh blow after a new study shows fewer people than anticipated have developed antibodies. Sweden has received criticism during the pandemic for refusing to go into lockdown or close off public events as much of the rest of the world did.

A new study by the Swedish health agency showed that 6.1% of Swedes had developed antibodies indicating an immunity to the virus. Officials stressed that herd immunity was not the goal of Sweden' strategy, but have admitted that they hoped more off the population would have developed immunity.

"The spread is lower than we have thought but not a lot lower," Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters. "We have different levels of immunity on different parts of the population at this stage, from 4 to 5% to 20 to 25%," he added.

Just over 56,000 people have had coronavirus in Sweden according to official figures, representing around 0.5% of Sweden’s population of 10.23 million. So the proportion of those with antibodies is far higher than the known caseload.

Sweden has seen over 5,000 deaths from coronavirus, significantly more per capita than many other European countries, but lower than several countries that implemented strict lockdowns like the UK and Italy.

13:36 Almost 8 million people in Germany have downloaded the new official coronavirus tracing app, after it was launched this week. Germany has around 57 million smartphone users.

"Every user of the Corona-Warn-App is making an important contribution to containing the pandemic," tweeted the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency for disease control. The app uses Bluetooth to connect with other people who have the app to track possible infections.

Social media users have criticized the app, which requires relatively up-to-date processing software and does not appear to be available in the app store outside of Germany. However, surveys have shown that the majority of people in Germany — a country that tends to be particularly concerned about online privacy — support the use of an app to track and trace coronavirus cases.

13:00 Italy has revealed plans to give out a "holiday bonus" to low-income households — with the government effectively covering the cost of stays in domestic hotels worth up to €500 ($560), valid between July 1 and December 31.

The government said it was setting aside €2.4 billion for the scheme, available to households earning less than €40,000 a year, which seeks to help boost the country's ailing tourism sector.

Italy's tax authority said the financial incentive would be €150 for single households, €300 for couples and €500 for families of three or more.

Successful applicants will get an 80% discount on the price of a hotel room, bed-and-breakfast or self-catering accommodation, while being able to claim the other 20% against tax.

Italy reopened its borders to tourists from many European countries on June 3.

12:00 Iran has registered an additional 87 new fatalities as authorities moved to tighten measures in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus in some of the country's worst-hit provinces.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said the death toll in Iran now stands at 9,272, while adding that another 2,596 people had contracted the virus. Iran has recorded a total of 197,647 infections since the outbreak first emerged almost four months ago.

Five of Iran's 31 provinces, Bushehr, East Azerbaijan, Hormozgan, Kermanshah and Khuzestan, were currently on "red" alert, the highest level on the country's risk scale.

11:38 Five foreign nationals who participated in demonstrations against the Nepalese government's pandemic response will be deported as soon as international flights resume, the country's top immigration official has announced.

The five, which were made up of three Chinese, one American and one Australian, were not being detained but do have to report to officials on a regular basis, immigration chief Ramesh Kumar KC said.

They were also fined for attending Saturday's protests and will not be allowed back in to Nepal for two years.

10:46 Beijing has brought its latest outbreak "under control," a Chinese medical expert said.

The city has recorded 158 infections over the last week, confirming its worst outbreak since early February. The cluster of cases has been traced to the sprawling food market of Xinfadi.

The Chinese capital has since moved to a level two alert, the second highest in a four-tier system, leading to new restrictions on residents' movements.

"The epidemic in Beijing has been brought under control," said Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of China's Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, before adding that he believed the peak was reached on June 13.

"When I say that it's under control, that doesn't mean the number of cases will turn zero tomorrow or the day after," he cautioned. "The trend will persist for a period of time, but the number of cases will decrease, just like the trend that we saw (in Beijing) in January and February."

10:12 In an interview with DW, Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde has been defending the country's coronavirus strategy saying "We had the same goals as most other governments. That is to save life. And actually, we managed to flatten the curve."

Sweden has been under-fire for its relaxed attitude towards the virus, having less restrictions in comparison with its Scandinavian neighbors, while having far more infections, as well as fatalities. Sweden's death toll is almost five times that of Denmark, Norway and Finland combined.

Read the full interview here

Sweden’s FM Linde: 'We managed to flatten the curve'

09:52 The Czech Republic has announced it will begin further loosening its coronavirus restrictions, such as those regarding large gatherings and the wearing of face masks in regions where the number of cases is low.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech said the country, which has kept the daily rise in cases to below 100 for the last two months, was moving towards a more localized approach to tackling the virus. But he warned: "The virus is still here, it has not disappeared anywhere."

The government gave permission for shops, restaurants, cinemas and theaters to reopen last month while it opened up its borders to visitors from most other European Union countries this week.

From this coming Monday, gatherings up to 1,000 will be allowed. Trade fairs with up to 5,000 people will also be permitted. Pools, zoos, museums and castles and chateaus can also return to normal, with limits on visitors no longer applicable.

Vojtech said face masks inside should no longer be mandatory from July 1 but the rule will still be applied in hot spots like Prague and the Karvina mining region in the east.

09:29 African nations will participate in a high-level conference on vaccines next week to "position ourselves to not be left behind" regarding access, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

John Nkengasong said the World Health Organization director-general will also take part in the discussion that will look at ways of producing "a vaccine ourselves." He said countries such as Senegal, Egypt and South Africa already have vaccine manufacturing capabilities.

The number of infections has now surpassed 260,000, with about 30% of those occurring in South Africa alone.

More than 3.7 million tests have been carried out in across the continent of 1.3 billion people, and the WHO has said the outbreak is "accelerating." 

Furthermore, just 10 African nations account for about 80% of all testing conducted, while the rest are "still struggling," Nkengasong said.

09:14 Russia has registered 7,790 new cases, its lowest daily rise in six weeks, taking the nationwide total to 561,091. Russia's coronavirus crisis response center said 182 people had died over the last 24 hours. The official death toll now stands at 7,660.

08:30 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been speaking about her fears for the European Union in the wake of the pandemic but also says hope remains for the bloc as "no country can overcome the crisis alone and in isolation."

"The pandemic has revealed how fragile the European project still is," Merkel told German lawmakers. "Europe has shown itself to be vulnerable. Cohesion and solidarity have never been as important as they are today."

Merkel also said the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to reform the EU institutions.

For more on Merkel's comments, click here

07:49 It is now mandatory to wear face masks in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Bursa, the cities' governors have announced, following an uptick in cases since the country began to ease lockdown restrictions.

Masks are now obligatory in 47 out of 81 provinces and must be worn in all public spaces.

Turkey has seen an upward trend in cases following the government's decision at the start of June to allow the reopening of cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums. It also lifted inter-city travel restrictions while easing stay-at-home orders.

Turkey has 182,727 confirmed infections and a death toll of 4,861.

07:30 Kazakhstan's former president, Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, 79, has tested positive for the novel virus, according his office.

Nazarbayev, who stepped down as president last year after nearly three decades in power, is self-isolating.

His spokesman, Aidos Ukibay, tweeted: "There is no reason for concern," referring to the health of Nazarbayev, who still has sweeping powers as Yelbasy, or national leader, and chair of the oil-rich nation's security council.

07:11 Sales in the German travel industry fell by 23% in the first quarter of 2020, the January-March period compared to the last three months of 2019, Germany's statistics office has announced

The sector came to a virtual halt in March due to shutdowns and border closures and the figures revealed today show Germany's largest drop since the financial crisis in 2008, the office added.

06:34 The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 580 to 187,764, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The death toll, meanwhile, has risen by 26 to 8,856.

Thursday's figures show an increase in infections in Germany, from yesterday's number of 345, while deaths dropped slightly after 30 were recorded on Wednesday.

06:11 India registered its highest one-day spike of 12,281 cases, bringing its total number of infections to 366,946, as the government ruled out reimposing a countrywide lockdown.

India's death toll now stands at 12,237 after an increase of 334 in the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.

Read more: India could have 'several coronavirus peaks'

India has the fourth highest tally of cases in the world, after the United States, Brazil and Russia but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rejected the notion of reimposing a nationwide lockdown, saying that India has to think about further unlocking.

The March 25 lockdown is now only evident in high-risk areas. The worst-hit states are Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi.

Delhi faces health care crisis

05:57 According to a new Gallup and West Health poll, more than half of Americans (57%) reckon the US government's response to the pandemic has been fair or poor, despite Vice President Mike Pence claiming measures taken have been "a cause for celebration."

The numbers amount to a warning for President Donald Trump and his administration, keen to change the narrative with the election coming up in November. Indeed, recent projections suggest roughly 200,000 people will lose their life because of the virus by October 1, a far cry from Trump's suggestions that "we have it totally under control. It’s going to be just fine" on January 22, the day after the US' first case was announced.

From taking a malaria drug as a preventative measure to encouraging states to reopen prematurely, Trump has received widespread criticism for his response to the outbreak. All of which have led to the lackluster reviews.

Argentina's long lockdown

05:30 The UN refugee agency has announced it is "very worried" about how COVID-19 is having an impact on the refugee crisis in Latin America.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said many people who flee their own country heavily depend on the "informal economy," which means working in jobs most at risk from lockdowns imposed by governments across the continent.

"Of course, it is good that countries are taking these measures of prudence" against the coronavirus, Grandi said.

"Unfortunately, COVID has been able to cause the entire world to grind to a halt [but] has not been able to stop wars, conflicts, violence, discrimination."

"People are still fleeing their countries to seek refuge, to seek protection. This needs to be considered," he added.

The impact on roughly 3.7 million Venezuelans abroad, the world's second-largest diaspora of refugees after the 6.6 million Syrians displaced by war, was of particular concern to the UN.

"One region about which we're very worried is, of course, Latin America and South America and in particular where countries host many millions of Venezuelans,'' Grandi said. "They are particularly hit by COVID."

04:05 Australia's unemployment rate jumped to its highest level in about two decades in May, according to official data. Nearly a quarter of a million people lost their jobs last month due to the coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment rate rose to 7.1% with 227,700 job losses, in addition to the record slump of 600,000 in April, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the data "devastating," adding that the government is "working with some of the biggest economic challenges this country has ever faced."

03:15 Pakistan will begin repatriating its citizens stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan. All international flights will be able to resume operations at 25% capacity, with physical distancing measures in place, he said. 

About 40,000-45,000 nationals will be brought back each week starting June 20. Pakistanis returning to the country in the coming weeks will be required to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. 

01:38 Beijing confirmed 21 new cases of coronavirus, down from 31 a day earlier. The total number of infections in the city has risen to 158 over the past week. Officials reported 28 new cases nationwide, four of which were brought by Chinese travelers from outside the country.

Beijing's latest outbreak, the worst since February, has been traced to the city's largest wholesale market. Authorities in the Chinese capital have since moved to restrict travel in and out of the city and suspended classes.

01:15 Australia's Qantas Airways said it has canceled most international flights until late October. "We will still have some flights scheduled across the Tasman in the coming months with the expected travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand," the airline said in a statement. "Should travel between Australia and other countries open up and demand return, we can add more flights back into our schedule." 

The airline's decision comes after the Australian government indicated it was unlikely to reopen its borders to international travelers until 2021. The government said it may relax rules for foreign students, and other long-term visitors in the coming months.

Air travel during the pandemic

00:30 New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) recorded its largest fall in 29 years, as the country reels under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand's economy shrank by 0.2% in the year ended March. Its GDP declined by 1.6% in first three months of this year, Stats New Zealand said. 

Read more: Coronavirus: 5 things New Zealand got right

00:20 Mexico added 4,930 new coronavirus cases and 770 new deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the country's total count to 159,793 infections and 19,080 fatalities, the Health Ministry said. The government has said the actual number of cases in Mexico are likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

00:10 The Eiffel Tower is set to open next week after three months of shutdown, the longest closure since World War II. 

The opening on June 25, however, comes with certain restrictions on visitors. Elevators will be off-limits, as the confined space poses a risk of disease transmission. Also, visitors will not be allowed to go higher than the second level of the tower.

All visitors over the age of 11 will be required to wear masks, and there will be a one-way traffic system in place on the staircases. 

Managers said they hope full operations will resume sometime in late summer. 

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

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

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

jsi, adi/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)