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Sodiers of Italian Army wearing face masks supply food to the assistance center
Image: picture-alliance/Kontrolab/IPA/S. Laporta

Coronavirus latest: Italy outlines loosening of lockdown

May 16, 2020

Italy's prime minister has outlined a further loosening of one of the world's most rigid coronavirus lockdowns. In several European countries, there were protests and arrests. Follow DW for the latest.


  • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has outlined a further loosening of one of the world's most rigid coronavirus lockdowns
  • Protests have been held in Munich, Berlin and Stuttgart against the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Elsewhere in Europe arrests were made and tear gas used to disperse demonstrators
  • Nearly 310,000 people worldwide have died due to COVID-19, while over 4.5 million cases have been registered

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:59 We're about to closed this live update article. Read the latest events here.

23:55 Brazil reported 14,919 new cases, as well as 816 more deaths related to coronavirus on Saturday. The death toll has now risen above 15,000, even though experts believe the numbers to be much higher.

Brazil now has the fourth highest number of infections in the world, at 233,142. President Jair Bolsonaro has attacked lockdown measures taken by some local authorities to control the virus. He tweeted on Saturday, "Unemployment, hunger and misery will be the future of those who support the tyranny of total isolation."

22:15 Germany's Federal Criminal Police (BKA) warned that right-wing extremists are using anti-lockdown protests to push their own agenda.

Although authorities have not yet identified evidence of "coordinated infiltration," right-wing extremist groups are clearly trying to "instrumentalize the situation for propaganda purposes," a BKA spokeswoman told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

The paper also reported that right-wing extremist parties in Germany are encouraging their supporters to join the demonstrations, including the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

The German government has previously voiced concerns about the potential of radicalization at the anti-COVID-19 measures.

21:49 After the real finale was called off due to the pandemic, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) aired a substitute show with a message to unite countries despite the crisis.

A two-hour special called "Eurovision: Europe Shines A Light" was broadcast in dozens of countries around the world. The program featured the original song entries from the 41 countries that take part in the contest in a non-competitive format.

In Germany, viewers could still cast votes for the song that "won the hearts" of the audience. Lithuanian band The Roop was declared the winner at the event which was held in front of empty seats at Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie hall.

Several other countries also held their own alternative ESC contests, including the "Free European Song Contest" in Germany and the UK's "Eurovision" Come Together."

The finale was originally scheduled to take place in Rotterdam from May 12 – 16, but was called of due to measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Free Eurovision Song Contest Pro Sieben
Conchita Wurst and Steven Gätjen present the show "Free European Song Contest"Image: picture alliance/dpa/ProSieben/W. Weber

21:34 Some 300 people were attempting to hold a protest against coronavirus restrictions in the Swiss city of Bern, but the rally was dispersed by the police, according to the SDA news agency. Around a dozen people were detained. Police also intervened in Zurich and Basel. Under the lockdown rules, no groups larger than five are allowed in public.

Read more: Protesters rally against coronavirus measures across Europe

20:42: Poland's government has eased strictures on medical and nursing working abroad, for example, in the adjacent German states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.

When returning to Poland they no longer had to spend 14 days in quarantine, reported Germany's news agency Saturday.

That was "excellent news" for Polish as doctors and nurses provided dedicated care in Germany, said Patrick Dahlemann, parliamentary secretary for West-Pomerania, the Baltic Sea coastal region adjacent to Poland that forms part of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.

Until pandemic closures in March, border areas east of Berlin were essentially an open space, where doctors, nurses, engineers and other essential workers commuted back and forth, thanks to Poland joining the EU alongside Germany 16 years ago.

20:00 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has outlined a further loosening of movement restrictions to roll back one of the world's most rigid coronavirus lockdowns.

Shops, bars and restaurants are due to reopen from Monday, and the government has said people will no longer need to justify travel within their own region. They will also be able to meet friends as well as family.

"People will be able to go wherever they want - to a shop, to the mountains, to a lake or the seaside," Conte said.

The announcements came as coronavirus deaths in Italy, the third-highest in the world, fell to 153, the lowest figure since March 9.

A ban on travel between regions and abroad will stay until after Italy's June 2 Republic Day holiday, to prevent any mass travel over the country’s long holiday weekend.

Press conference of the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on reopening after the lockdow
The Italian prime minister said people would no longer need to justify travel within their own regionImage: picture-alliance/Zuma

All travel curbs will be lifted from June 3 and people from European Union countries will be able to enter without going into quarantine. The move offers some hope to Italy’s vital tourism sector going into the summer.

Conte said the decision to lift restrictions was a “calculate risk." But, he added: "We're facing this risk and we have to accept it because otherwise we will never get started again."

Italy has had some 31,800 COVID-19 deaths since the disease first emerged in the northern region of Lombardy on Feb. 21, the highest total in the world after the United States and Britain.

Gyms, swimming pools and sports centres will reopen on May 25, while theatres and cinemas can reopen from June 15.

The country’s economy facing severe recession and public debt expected to spiral to more than 150% of its annual economic output. 

19:53 Hundreds of Czechs have taken part in no-touch border encounters with family and friends in an initiative organized via social media after not seeing each other for two months.

Saturday's waving and talking took place at 12 crossings with Germany, one with Austria and one with Poland.
The Czech Republic, which has recorded 300 pandemic deaths started easing anti-viral measures late last month but has kept most border crossings closed. 

People returning from abroad must now submit a negative coronavirus test.

Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said Prague would next week discuss with other European countries plans to open borders.

19:39 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state's new confirmed COVID-19 cases are predominantly coming from those who are shopping, exercising or socializing as a result of the easing of lockdown measures. During his daily news conference on the coronavirus, he said his previous theory that essential workers were responsible for new cases was wrong.

"The infection rate among essential workers is lower than the general population and those new cases are coming predominantly from people who are not working and they are at home," Cuomo told reporters.

New York has just begun the contact tracing of those who tested positive for the virus, which is expected to involve hundreds of recruits.

19:00 France has reported 96 new coronavirus deaths, a lower figure than in previous days, as its overall toll from the pandemic reached 27,625. Several other recent positive trends continued as well, with 71 fewer people in intensive care, the Health Ministry said. 

French residents enjoyed the sixth day of the partial easing of a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 17 to battle the virus. Hundreds of beaches reopened with restrictions, including no sunbathing and no groups of more than 10 people.

Read more: In lockdown: Migrants in France up against pandemic, police abuse

France: A Quarantine Diary

18:10 Pakistan has reopened its two key border crossings with Afghanistan to allow for trade and movement of people between the two countries.

The announcement comes about six weeks after the government shut the frontier with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. So far, no decision has been to reopen the border with Iran, which has been hard hit by the virus.

The government says those traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan must follow social distancing guidelines. Pakistan reported 31 more deaths from the coronavirus Saturday, raising virus-related deaths to 834. Pakistan has nearly 39,000 confirmed cases.

17:52 More than 5,000 people have rallied through the German city of Stuttgart in anger at restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus. At one point, police had to direct arriving participants to another open space to maintain social distancing measures.

Another 1,000 people turned out for a similar protest in Munich, on the site of the now-canceled Oktoberfest beer festival. More than a thousand police were deployed in Berlin in anticipation of large protests, which eventually saw several dozen people rally to loud music in a taped-off demonstration area. Several dozen counter-protesters held their own event, denouncing conspiracy theories and supporting the rights of migrants.

Police in London said 19 people were arrested at an anti-lockdown rally in the UK capital for breaking social distancing rules. Poland also saw several arrests and police used tear gas at one point to break up demonstrators who gathered in Warsaw's Old Town.

Protesters in Stuttgart
Many protesters complained that the lockdown measures were disproportionate and undemocraticImage: Getty Images/T. Lohnes

17:19 Erling Haaland scored the Bundesliga's first goal in more than two months and then celebrated. Alone. The 19-year-old's Borussia Dortmund teammates stayed away, mindful of the strict hygiene measures — including not spitting and no handshakes or hugging — as Germany's soccer season resumed in unprecedented conditions on Saturday.

Dortmund defeated Schalke 4-0 in the first Ruhr regional derby to be played in an empty stadium. Calls and shouts from coaching staff and players, and the thud of the sanitized ball being kicked, reverberated around the mainly deserted stands.

16:44 The daily toll in Italy has fallen to 153, its lowest since March 9, against 242 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said. The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on February 21 now stands at 31,763, the third-highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

There were 775 people in intensive care on Saturday, down from 808 on Friday, maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 122,810 have been declared recovered.

16:40 Greece has opened all 515 of its public beaches just has temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius. Even so, authorities have imposed strict measures, with only 40 people per 1,000 square meters (1,976 square feet) allowed to enter. They also have to keep a distance of at least 4 meters (13 feet).

In addition, beach bars can only sell packaged food and no alcohol. Operators of bathing areas could face up to €20,000 ($21,640) fines and have their beach closed if they violate the rules.

Hundreds of beaches in France also reopened with restrictions on Saturday, including no sunbathing.

Local authorities will decide which beaches would reopen after the French government gave the green light as part of its staggered plan to end a strict two-month lockdown that began March.

Beachgoers can take a dip but cannot lay in the sun or picnic in the sand. Social distancing rules must be maintained and groups must be limited to no more than 10 people

Beachgoers in Greece's Alimos
This beach in Varkiza saw a large turnout for the reopening, despite the social distance measuresImage: Getty Images/M. Bicanski

16:02 The head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has spoken out against compulsory vaccination against the coronavirus. "We have no reason to think about compulsory vaccination," said the president of the public health institute, Lothar Wieler, in the northern German city of Schwerin on Saturday. 

Citizens would definitely be smart enough to know when there was a safe vaccine that would promote their health, he said. 

A working group was founded at the RKI a few weeks ago to focus on the subject of a vaccine. Once there is a vaccine, this group would deal with which population groups could be vaccinated, and how.

Amid some opposition about the ongoing work to discover a vaccine, mostly as a result of conspiracy theories, some politicians have called for the drug to be made compulsory.

15:33 A parcel hub that distributes millions of packages daily across western Germany has been closed after 42 workers tested positive. The depot lies in Heinsberg county, home to one of the country's worst outbreaks. 

Four hundred workers, including warehouse personnel and deliverers, have been quarantined since Friday "in consultation" with the public health office in the district of Heinsberg, said Peter Rey, spokesman for DPD, one of 5 largest parcel delivery services in Germany.

Heinsberg county, between Düsseldorf and Germany's border with the Netherlands, emerged in March as being Germany's large infection cluster. 

At Gangelt, a Heinsberg county township near the Dutch border, researchers led by Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck, interviewed and tested 919 residents in 405 households to trace infection since a Carnival gathering in mid-February.

The results of the "Heinsberg study" commissioned by NRW's state government, prompted Streeck early this month to speculate that across Germany, as many as 1.8 million people had been infected by the coronavirus.

14:45 The Hungarian capital of Budapest will ease its coronavirus restrictions on Monday, two weeks after the authorities lifted the lockdown across most of the rest of the country. 

"It has become clear that we have managed to curb the epidemic in Budapest as well," Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban said in an online video, adding that the easing would be done "cautiously."

Outside Budapest, restaurants and non-essential shops have been allowed to reopen. Open-air swimming pools are also welcoming visitors. Shoppers and passengers on public transport are obliged to wear masks. 

Schools are still closed across the country and will remain so at least until the end of May. Hungary has reported 448 coronavirus deaths as of Saturday, with 3,473 confirmed infections, nearly half of which were in Budapest.

A woman hands out face masks
The city of Budapest has made face masks mandatory while shopping and on public transportImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Z. Balogh

14:12 The UK daily death rate has climbed to 468 over the past 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry, bring the country's death toll to over 40,000, including those deaths due to suspected cases.

Britain reported 3,451 new cases on Saturday, meaning a total of 240,161 people have been infected since the crisis began.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to face opposition to his plan to ease the lockdown. Teachers' unions, who fear a possible contagion in the classroom, have hit out at a proposal to reopen primary schools in phases on June 1.

13:54 Turkey is reportedly planning to reopen its health tourism industry to foreign clients from 31 countries from Wednesday in a bid to boost its languishing economy.
According to Turkey's state news agency Anadolu, the Health Ministry has prepared guidelines for entry and exit to the country, as well as discharge criteria, for patients and their attendants. 

Germany, Russia and Britain are among the 31 countries on the ministry's list. Prospective patients will have to register with the International Health Services Inc (USHAS) ahead of their arrival in Turkey, and will have to undergo testing for COVID-19 at the border gates, the Anadolu report said.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a heavy toll on Turkey's lucrative health tourism sector, which offers a wide range of treatments from eye surgery to organ transplants. The country started relaxing restrictions this week, and the government has said it hopes to return to a "new normal" at some point in July.

13:30 Bundesliga is back in Germany with the kickoff in the derby match between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke just starting, along with five other matches due to be played today. League leaders Bayern Munich visit Union Berlin on Sunday.

After the coronavirus pandemic prompted a two-month suspension, Germany's top teams are allowed to compete once again, albeit with no fans present and with special distancing rules imposed on the players. For example, they are not allowed to celebrate goals by hugging or to spit on the ground during games.

The Bundesliga is the first major football league in the world to resume operations. Some countries, including France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, have canceled their football seasons altogether to minimize infection risk.

Several second division matches were played earlier on Saturday.

Bundesliga set to kick off play

13:25 US President Donald Trump says his administration is considering various possibilities for how it might contribute to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the future. Under one of those proposals, "we would pay 10% of what we have been paying over many years, matching much lower China payments," Trump wrote on Twitter.

He added that Washington's WHO funds remained frozen, and that no final decision had yet been made.

The US used to be the WHO's biggest donor, but Trump suspended contributions on April 14, accusing the global health body of promoting "disinformation" from China about the coronavirus outbreak. WHO officials have denied the claims.

US: Hoarding guns for the corona crisis

13:11 Austria has decided to reopen its borders with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary from June 15, the Interior Ministry said Saturday.

The announcement came after the country reached a similar agreement to remove restrictions on travel with its western neighbors Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. However, border controls still remain in place for transit from Italy.

"Our goal is to have as much freedom as possible and as few restrictions as necessary," the country's interior, foreign and Europe ministers said in a joint statement. "These easings create a bit more normality for people in the border region and make it easier for commuters to lead a smoother everyday life."

While the EU has welcomed relaxing border controls between the bloc’s member states, it has recommended Europe’s external borders remain closed to most external travel until at least mid-June.

12:55 Spain's government is planning to extend its state of emergency by another month as the country completes its transition out of lockdown. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he would ask parliament to approve the measure next week, adding that it would likely be the final time. 

"For that reason... instead of being a 15-day (extension) it will be for about a month," he said in a televised address.

Spain's state of emergency has been extended every two weeks since it was first imposed on March 14 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The country reported 102 new deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday — the lowest 24-hour increase since mid-March. 

12:00 The coronavirus is proving an increasing threat to indigenous peoples in Brazil, where 38 groups have already been affected by the virus. The association of indigenous people Apib on Friday warned that the virus is reaching all areas where such groups live at an "alarming rate." Imported diseases have proven a significant threat to indigenous populations in the past. 

According to the association, over 440 people belonging to indigenous groups have been infected with COVID-19, resulting in 92 deaths. Groups in the Brazilian state of Amazonas have been particularly affected, including the group Parque das Tribos, whose leader Messias Kokama was killed by the virus. Tribes in the south of Brazil have also been hit. 

According to the NGO Survival International, the outbreak has resulted in illegal loggers and gold miners increasingly penetrating areas inhabited by indigenous tribes. 

Coronavirus fatalities in Brazil are mounting swiftly. Over 14,000 deaths have been reported, but some researchers believe the number could be 15 times higher. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his lack of response and for downplaying the significance of the outbreak.

11:25 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has praised the reopening of Germany’s border with Luxembourg as an "important sign" that travel in Europe is returning to normal. Maas spoke standing alongside Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn — both wearing facemasks — on the Moselle bridge, which connects the two countries, after traveling there this morning. 

The opening of the border with Luxembourg marks the beginning of the easing of extraordinary border controls imposed by Germany in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The goal is "that in the end, Europe is again what it once was," Maas said of the border openings. The future will depend on how the pandemic develops, he said. 

"If things get worse, we may have to row back again," Maas said. 

German Interior Ministry: 'It's very important that we lift these restrictions'

10:45 Germany’s finance minister wants to allocate €57 billion ($62 billion) for German municipalities suffering due to the fallout from the coronavirus, according to German daily the Rheinische Post.

Referring to a paper from the finance ministry laying out the plan, the newspaper reported that the financial support would consist of two components, namely a financial aid package to make up for the loss in business tax revenue brought about by the coronavirus as well as a debt relief program for highly indebted cities and communities. 

"This relief package shouldn’t only help cities and communities make it through the current difficult situation," Scholz told the Rheinische Post. "It should also position them to better fulfill their obligations in the longterm."

According to recent estimations, municipalities have lost nearly €12 billion in business tax revenue. 

"For this reason, all affected communities will have the chance to receive a lump sum to make up for their tax revenue," Scholz said. "The federal government and the responsible state government will each take on half of the resulting cost."

The debt relief portion of the plan would require a change to the constitution. Scholz plans to take up the matter with the relevant ministries in June with the aim of preparing a cabinet decision before their summer vacation. 

10:25 The coronavirus death toll in Russia hit a record high on Saturday, coinciding with a two-week national low in new infections. 

The country is second to only the US in total coronavirus infections, with 272,043 registered cases. Health officials reported 9,200 new infections as of Saturday, the lowest number since May 2.

Russia also announced 119 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest daily figure yet. This brought the total number of confirmed deaths to 2,537. Russia's fatality figures are lower than those seen in many countries with fewer overall cases, a fact that has caused critics to question the veracity of the Russian figures. 

Russian authorities say the low mortality rate is due to the fact that only deaths directly caused by the virus are included in the numbers. They've also said that the virus reached Russia at a later point, allowing the country more time to prepare health and restriction measures.

Read more: Russia eases lockdown at the height of its coronavirus crisis

09:51 Dozens of restaurant owners in Milan have protested outside of the city’s main train station against requirements they must follow in order to reopen on Monday. 

Protesters in Italy's financial capital said that the government-issued rules are unclear and that the entire food sector is suffering. They called for more concrete help and for taxes to be abolished.

The government on Saturday had announced rules for reopening, which included requiring a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) between diners and a recommendation that restaurants use disposable menus or electronic ones that could be read on personal devices. 

It also recommended that restaurants take the diners’ temperatures when they arrive. Some 3,400 restaurants plan to reopen in Milan on Monday. 

09:05 Slovakia has lifted a quarantine on the last of five Roma settlements that had been closed off to contain a coronavirus outbreak, a member of the European Parliament and the country’s crisis committee has confirmed. 

"I would like to thank you for enduring this and for being patient and responsible. Stay careful," European MP Peter Pollak, who is himself a Roma, told inhabitants of the settlements in a Facebook video. 

Residents of the Zehra settlement in eastern Slovakia were in quarantine for 37 days. Their quarantine was lifted on Friday, Pollak said after all inhabitants had been tested for COVID-19. The crisis committee moved 16 infected people and their families to temporary quarantine housing, where 26 people and their relatives were already staying. 

Quarantines in the other four settlements came to an end on April 25 and May 1. 

Roma communities in eastern Europe are impoverished and often the target of discrimination. The coronavirus outbreak is yet another hurdle for the ethnic minority. 

Slovakia has reported 1,480 confirmed coronavirus infections, resulting in 27 deaths. The government instituted strict coronavirus lockdown measures relatively early on in the outbreak. The country has one of the lowest coronavirus death tolls per capita in Europe.

Read more: Coronavirus: Europe's forgotten Roma at risk

08:31 After 10 weeks of no business travel due to coronavirus restrictions, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is on his way to Germany’s recently reopened border with Luxembourg. The foreign minister is scheduled to meet his Luxembourgish counterpart Jean Asselborn for a ceremony at the Moselle River, where they will celebrate the reopening.

Read more: Germany aims to reopen borders - what you need to know

07:59 Brazil’s new health minister has resigned after just 27 days in the position.

"Life is made up of decisions, and today I have chosen to go," Brazilian Health Minister Nelson Teich announced in the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo

The health minister did not say why he was leaving his post. However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had recently instructed Teich to introduce the use of the malaria drug chloroquine as a treatment for the new coronavirus, a controversial measure that Teich, who is a doctor, had said he was against. 

Teich’s predecessor Luiz Henrique Mandetta in April was let go from the post following his own public disagreement with Bolsonaro. The president had called the coronavirus a "little flu" and said it was a creation of the media that would weaken the economy. 

Over 14,500 people have died due to the coronavirus in Brazil, where more 212,000 infections have been recorded.

06:53 Thousands of protesters are again expected to hit the streets in Germany on Saturday for country-wide demonstrations against coronavirus restriction measures. 

Public protests have been announced in Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart, and several other cities. In Stuttgart, 5,000 people are expected to participate. This is the maximum number that the state of Baden-Württemberg, where Stuttgart is located, is currently willing to allow.

Anti-lockdown demonstrations already took place around Germany last weekend. Thousands of people gathered in cities around the country, rightwing populists, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaccination activists among them. Many demonstrators ignored social distancing rules and did not wear face masks. Altercations with police occurred and some journalists were assaulted. 

Leftwing counter-demonstrations have been announced in Stuttgart and Berlin. Police presence and security measures have been increased this weekend in several locations. 

State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet expressed understanding for the demonstrators. "It’s legitimate and actually not unusual that people are demonstrating. We’re talking about the most serious restrictions to fundamental rights since the beginning of the German federal republic," he said ahead of the protests. "We have to remain vigilant in the face of the propagandists from the extreme right and left." 

German states have recently lifted many of the restrictions it had placed on public life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Bars and restaurants in five more German states were allowed to reopen on Friday.

Read more: How are Germany's coronavirus protests different?

05:45 India has surpassed China in the total number of coronavirus cases. The South Asian country reported 85,940 infections on Saturday, overshooting cases in China, where the virus originated, though strict lockdown measures in place since late March have slowed the rate of contagion. 

Many Indians have called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ease restrictions and reopen the struggling economy. But the government is expected to extend the lockdown, albeit a lighter version, currently due to expire Sunday. 

In terms of coronavirus deaths, India has fared far better than China. Health ministry data showed 2,752 fatalities in India, versus China’s 4,600 and well behind hard-hit countries like the US, the UK, and Italy.  

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said he was encouraged by the fact that it now takes 11 days for the number of infections to double. Prior to the lockdown, cases doubled every 3.5 days. 

"Clearly the situation has improved due to lockdown. We have utilized this period of lockdown to accelerate public health measures such as case detection, contact tracing, isolation and management of cases," he said. 

In terms of new infections, however, experts have said India is still in its growth phase, and public officials have expressed concern over the country’s low testing relative to its large population. After weeks of concerted effort, this week India was able to conduct 100,000 tests. But with a population of 1.3 billion, its per capita testing rate is far behind other major countries.

A large outbreak has been traced back to the nigthclubs of Korea's foreign-friendly Itaewon district
Image: Reuters/Cha Sangmi

04:45 Officials in South Korea have tied 162 cases of coronavirus to people who went out in a Seoul neighborhood popular for its nightlife. However, the Asian country is optimistic that it has put the worst of the outbreak behind it. 

Health Ministry official Son Young-rae on Saturday said that the daily increase in new infections had remained below 30 despite an increase in testing. Authorities conducted some 46,000 tests after a cluster of new infections were linked to bars and clubs the capital’s Itaewon district. 

Son said it was significant that new transmissions had not been detected in other locations frequented by virus carriers, such as gyms and churches. This means that social distancing measures are paying off, he said, a crucial development as the country searches for a sustainable way to return to public life. 

South Korea has since increased so-called "anonymous testing," which allows people to leave only a phone number and not a name when being tested for COVID-19. Local media have reported that the clubs linked to the new outbreak cater to foreigners and sexual minorities. Some people are concerned those infected could otherwise be discouraged from getting tested over fears of a public backlash.

02:57 Germany reopened its border with Luxembourg on Friday night after closing road crossings for two months as part of an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Some 12 crossings along the border have been reopened to traffic and drivers will no longer have to pass through strict border controls, federal police in the western German city of Trier said.

Frustrations over the closures and border controls sparked tensions on both sides of the border, with Luxembourg's government expressing relief at the move.

"It's time it was over," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told news agency DPA.

Restrictions were also lifted at midnight on Germany's borders with Switzerland and Austria. Until now, only essential travel had been permitted, including truck drivers or people traveling for work. Now personal trips to visit relatives and partners are once again permitted.

02:55 The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 620 to 173,772, the Robert Koch Institute said on Saturday. The death toll rose by 57 to 7,881.

Germany has started reopening its economy, with restaurants being allowed to serve customers. The country is currently in recession, as the economy shrunk by 2.2% during the first quarter of 2020.

01:56 The US House of Representatives has passed a $3 trillion economic aid package. Democrats in the House narrowly passed the Heroes Act in a 208-199 vote, aimed at redressing the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would be the largest-ever US economic rescue package.

Funds will go toward aiding state governments, hospitals and healthcare workers, and American families affected by the virus. The bill must pass in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans who have vowed to block the package. 

01:23 Air Canada has said it will lay off at least 20,000 employees, effective June 7. Canada’s biggest airline has had to reduce 95% of its scheduled flights due to the pandemic.

Air Canada had announced in March that it would lay off half of its workforce. They had then rehired 16,500 employees. The company has suffered a loss of US$748 million in the first quarter this year.

01:18 Italy will allow travel to and from the country starting on June 3 as the government looks to reboot its tourism industry. Under a new decree approved on Saturday, inter-regional and foreign travel will once again be allowed in early June including the independent states of Vatican City and San Marino.

The current curbs will stay in place until after Italy's Republic Day holiday on June 2 to prevent mass travel over the holiday weekend.

The move is a major step for Italy, which has the third-highest death toll in the world after the US and the UK. Over 31,600 people in Italy have died due to COVID-19 since the outbreak emerged in the country in late February.

Read more: Italy to allow unrestricted travel starting June 3

01:01 The US House of Representatives will now allow lawmakers to temporarily vote by "proxy" from remote locations. The House voted 217-189 for the rule proposed by Democrats, for the measure that will remain in effect during the coronavirus crisis.

The House is also expected to vote on an estimated $3 million emergency aid package, in addition to an already enacted $3 trillion coronavirus aid fund.

00:51 NFL teams in the US will be allowed to reopen their facilities as early as Tuesday if state and local governments allow it. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the move in a memo to teams sent on Friday, stressing that clubs must comply with local health regulations as well as safety protocols outlined by the league.

No players or coaches will be allowed to enter the facilities during the first reopening phase, except for players currently undergoing rehab or medical treatment.

"Clubs unable to meet these criteria on May 19 may reopen their facilities on the earliest date thereafter on which they are able to meet the criteria,'' Goodell added.

The NFL's 32 teams are due to start their season as planned in September, although contingency plans are being prepared in case the season needs to be shortened or if games need to be played in empty stadiums.

00:02 Researchers at the University of Oxford found that income levels are a key factor in coronavirus cases, with lower-earners four times more likely to contract the COVID-19.

"We found an association between increasing deprivation and increased odds of a positive test, independent of household size, urban location, and smoking," said the authors of the study, which was published on Saturday.

The study looked at over 3,600 COVID-19 test results from across the UK and found that deprivation, chronic liver disease and age all increased the likelihood of testing positive for the virus.

Out of the sample, 29.5% of people living in deprived areas tested positive compared to just 7.7% in richer areas. In terms of age, people aged 40 – 64 were found to be at the highest risk with 18.5% of that age group testing positive compared to 4.6% in people under 17-years-old.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus news here: Coronavirus latest: Germany to relax quarantine restrictions on EU travelers

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.

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rm,tg/stb (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)


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