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Coronavirus latest: 'We've become negligent,' says RKI chief

July 28, 2020

The head of Germany's disease control agency has said negligence is to blame for a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in the country. Berlin is advising tourists not to travel to parts of Spain. Follow DW for the latest.

A tester gestures with to driver in a coronavirus COVID-19 car testing station for residents in Mamming
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Stache

  • The head of the Robert Koch Institute has said that negligence is to blame for an increase  in cases 
  • Germany is imposing mandatory tests on those returning from high-risk locations
  • The UN has said more than 10,000 children are dying per month from coronavirus-related hunger, and the long-term consequences for poverty-stricken regions could be catastrophic
  • Almost 16.4 million people have contracted the virus across the globe, resulting in more than 650,000 deaths

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:30 Over half of the slum population in Mumbai have contracted the new coronavirus, according to a city-commissioned study.

Blood tests on nearly 7,000 randomly selected people conducted by city authorities found that 57% of slum residents and 16% of non-slum inhabitants had virus antibodies. The results suggested asymptomatic infections were "likely to be a high proportion of all infections" and indicated the virus death rate was likely "very low."

Mumbai, where about 40% of the population live in slums, has reported over 110,000 coronavirus cases and more 6,000 deaths. 

India has recorded nearly 1.5 million cases, the third highest number of infections in the world behind the United States and Brazil.

Delhi's street children

21:52 The Bavarian high court has struck down a state ban on hotel guests from coronavirus hotspots.

Lawmakers in the southern German state passed a bill that prohibited hotels from accepting guests from counties or cities where new coronavirus infections exceeded 50 per 100,000 inhabitants "in the last seven days before the planned arrival" according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's health authority.

The measure followed concerns over regional outbreaks in Germany like the one at a slaughterhouse in Güttersloh, a district in North Rhine-Westphalia.

But Bavaria's high court ruled that automatically banning a guest from a county or city where the infection rate that exceeded the established threshold "was not proportionate." The ban also "does not take sufficient account of the publicity requirement resulting from the rule of law."

Bavaria has recorded the most coronavirus cases (50,589) and the most virus-related deaths (2,619) of Germany's 16 states since the pandemic began.

19:30 Health officials in the US state of Florida have reported more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day and a new daily high of 186 deaths, breaking the previous record of 173 reported last week.

Florida is among a handful of US states, including Texas, California and Arizona, which are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming hospitals and complicating plans to reopen economies and schools.

With a total of nearly 442,000 COVID-19 cases, Florida has the second-highest number cases in the US after the far more populous California. More than 6,100 people in Florida have died from COVID-19.

18:30 The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said global air travel will recovery more slowly than expected, predicting that it will take until 2024 for demand to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The IATA revised its recovery projection from 2023, attributing the slowdown to the continued spread of COVID-19 in the United States and developing countries, along with low consumer confidence and slashed travel budgets at struggling companies.

The IATA's chief economist, Brian Pierce, said that air travel has yet to rebound despite increased levels of business confidence in Europe, the US and China.

Pierce added that although air travel has slightly rebounded following a near complete shutdown in April, any increases are "barely visible."

Global air traffic in June 2020, was down more than 86% year-on-year, compared with a drop of 94% in April 2020, according to the IATA. Despite efforts to get some planes back in the sky and to encourage tourism, comparatively few people are venturing out on vacation as yet.

16:00 President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has said he contracted COVID-19 without any symptoms and has already recovered from it, Belarusian BelTA news agency reported.

"Today you are meeting a man who managed to survive the coronavirus on his feet. Doctors came to such a conclusion yesterday. Asymptomatic," Lukashenko said during a meeting with the military.

Lukashenko has been president of Belarus, a former Soviet republic, for a quarter of a century and is seeking a sixth consecutive term in upcoming elections on August 9.

"As I have said, 97% of our population are carrying this infection asymptomatically. Thank God that I have managed to get into this cohort of the asymptomatic," Lukashenko claimed, without supporting his assertion.

The 65-year-old president has resisted calls to impose lockdown measures or close the borders and has previously dismissed fears about the pandemic as a "psychosis." He's suggested vodka, saunas and ice hockey as potential remedies in the past.

Some, 67,366 cases of coronavirus have been registered in Belarus, a country of 9.5 million people, with 543 deaths, according to the country's health ministry.

15:00 Italian opera legend Andrea Bocelli has downplayed the seriousness of Italy's COVID-19 crisis, telling the Senate that he did not know anyone who had to go to intensive care during the "so-called pandemic."

"What was all this sense of gravity for?" said the 61-year-old tenor speaking without a mask Monday at a Senate panel organized by Italy's right-wing opposition party the League.

Bocelli, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March and had a mild case of the illness, said that lockdown measures made him feel "humiliated and offended," adding that he had violated lockdown orders because it "did not seem fair and healthy" to be forced to stay inside.

He also appeared to encourage Italians to flout rules for containing the virus.

"Let's refuse to follow this rule. Let's read books, move around, get to know each other, talk, dialogue," he said.

League leader Matteo Salvini, who introduced Bocelli at the panel, has rallied against the tough measures Italy's government has taken to combat the outbreak.

The panel was held ahead of a speech Tuesday by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, during which he was expected to lay out a case for extending Italy's state of emergency for the pandemic set to expire on July 31.

Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe by COVID-19, and the outbreak claimed over 35,000 lives.

At the height of Italy's lockdown in March and April, Italians could only leave home to go to essential jobs, walk dogs or buy food or medicine.

14:40 To avoid border controls and closures within the EU, every member state needs to take responsibility to fight and contain local COVID-19 outbreaks, senior German Christian Democrat (CDU) politician Ralph Brinkhaus told DW.

Brinkhaus also called on individual citizens to take responsibility for protecting their health by following prevention measures like wearing masks and maintaining distance in public places.

"If we do things wrong, then we will head into a second wave that will also have economic consequences. We need to remain cautious," Brinkhaus said.

In June, the EU reopened its internal borders, and popular vacation destinations like Spain began to allow tourists. However, health officials are concerned that tourism could contribute to further outbreaks.

Over the weekend, the UK issued a 14-day quarantine orders for anyone returning from Spain, and has advised against non-essential travel to the Balearic and Canary Islands as well as the mainland. However, it has since said it might alter this to a regional restriction, excluding the only mildly-affected islands. On Tuesday, Germany advised against travel to Spain's Aragon, Navarra, and Catalonia regions — including Barcelona and Costa Brava — due to the high level of infections.

Germany has also proposed offering COVID-19 tests at airports for travelers returning from risky areas, and the CDU's Brinkhaus told DW that anyone traveling to a high-risk area needs to be "especially cautious."

13:55 The UN says the coronavirus pandemic has cost the global tourism sector $320 billion (€272 billion) in lost earnings between January and May.

The hit is "more than three times the loss during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009," the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said.

The virus outbreak essentially shut down international travel, with the vast majority of flights grounded and many borders shut. That led to a 56% drop in tourism arrivals between January and May compared to the same period in 2019, the Madrid-based agency said.

"The latest data makes clear the importance of restarting tourism as soon as it is safe to do so," UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said in a statement. "The dramatic fall in international tourism places many millions of livelihoods at risk, including in developing countries."

13:20 US President Donald Trump again touted hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug he previously claimed he used himself to guard against coronavirus despite not having been infected.

Trump retweeted 14 tweets in 30 minutes that defended the use of the medication in treating the illness. He also shared a link to a podcast criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci rejected the claim that the medication would help while on US television early Tuesday morning. On ABC's "Good Morning America," Fauci said, "the overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease."

Fauci said he would continue on with his job "no matter what" because of the high stakes.

"I just will continue to do my job no matter what comes out because I think it's very important. We're in the middle of a crisis with regard to an epidemic, a pandemic. This is what I do. This is what I've been trained for my entire professional life and I'll continue to do it."

12:40  Fast food chain McDonald's had a rough second quarter, with a 68% drop in global profits compared to the same period in 2019. Revenues fell by 30%.

But the franchise giant noted a marked improvement during the course of the quarter as national and regional lockdowns were slowly lifted. Three in four of its restaurants were open at the start of the second quarter, compared to 96% on Tuesday.

McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski said the chain had been dependent on its options allowing customers to take food away or order for delivery. "Our strong drive-thru presence and the investments we've made in delivery and digital over the past few years have served us well through these uncertain times," said Kempczinski.

The restaurant said it would require diners to don masks when entering their US outlets starting August 1 while delaying the re-opening of its eat-in areas for another month.

12:05 Iran says it has recorded 235 new deaths from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours — a record single-day toll for the country.  

Almost 300,000 people have been infected and 16,147 have died since the pandemic began, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television. More than 2,600 new cases were registered on Tuesday, she added.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East. Infection rates and fatalities have risen sharply since restrictions to curb the virus were eased in mid-April.

President Hassan Rouhani has urged Iranians to observe health regulations and practise social distancing during upcoming Muslim festivities to mark the Eid al-Adha feast.

11:05 The head of Germany's disease control agency says negligence is to blame for the steady increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.

"The new developments in Germany make me very worried," Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, told reporters during his first press conference in weeks. "The rise has to do with the fact that we have become negligent."

"We must prevent the virus from once again spreading rapidly and uncontrollably." 

Over the last seven days, Germany has registered a daily average of 557, compared to around 350 in early June. The number of new infections nearly doubled to 633 on Tuesday, up from 340 on Monday. 

Wieler said the spike was due to increased social contact at parties and at the workplace and urged people to remain vigilant by sticking to preventative measures such as social distancing and regular hand washing. He also suggested people should wear face masks outdoors as well as indoors in situations where keeping the recommended 1.5-meter (5-foot) distance isn't possible.

"We don't know yet if this is the beginning of a second wave but of course it could be," Wieler said. "But I am optimistic that if we follow the hygiene rules we can prevent it, it's up to us."

10:10 At least eight Chinese airlines have offered "all you can fly" offers in an attempt to recover lost sales from the pandemic.

China Southern became the latest airline to offer a pass for customers. The country’s most popular airline started the “Fly Happily” deal which allows buyers to fly wherever they wish in the country between August 26 and January 6, 2021, for 3,699 yuan ($528, 451 euros)

As with other deals, passholders will have to pay a small tax of about 50 yuan per flight.

China Eastern Airlines has sold over 100,000 “Fly as You Wish” passes for 3,322 yuan, according to state media. Domestic routes have seen passenger loads jump to over 75% in recent weekends, according to aviation data provider Variflight.

The passes are only for domestic flights, with some airlines restricting flights to certain areas. The country’s aviation industry lost over 34 billion yuan in the second quarter this year, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The world aviation industry is keeping an eye on China for air travel recovery trends, as the country reopened its economy months earlier than other countries after mostly bringing the pandemic under the control, for now.

9:10 Germany is advising against tourist travel to some of Spain's most popular holiday spots after a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Foreign Ministry's updated advice said people should avoid nonessential travel to the regions of Aragon, Navarra, and Catalonia — including Barcelona and Costa Brava — due to "renewed high levels of infections and local lockdowns." 

The ministry stopped short of issuing a formal travel warning or adding the three regions to a list of high-risk areas. Germany lifted its travel warning for Spain on June 21, the same time Spain's government ended its state of emergency imposed due to the pandemic.

However, a rise in cases has prompted most Spanish regions to enforce rules for masks and, in some areas such as Barcelona, orders for people to stay home.

07:50 Police in Sydney have arrested the leader of an anti-racism protest and five others ahead of a gathering that was deemed illegal by courts due to the threat of spreading the coronavirus.

Organizer Paddy Gibson was among six people arrested in a park known as The Domain before the rally was supposed to begin at noon local time. 

New South Wales state Assistant Police Commissioner Mick Willing said Gibson and the other protesters were issued with fines of 1,000 Australian dollars ($710, €605) for breaking pandemic crowd restrictions. As Gibson was taken away by police, he told protesters to disperse to avoid arrest. The area was cleared just before the rally was scheduled to begin.

Read more: Australian police arrest Black Lives Matter organizer

According to the Johns Hopkins University, there have been 15,304 confirmed coronavirus cases and 167 deaths in Australia. There have been more than 7,000 new cases since July began.

The country on Monday reported its highest-ever daily increase in cases after a flare-up of infections in Victoria. New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, is also battling to contain several virus clusters.

06:25 The European Central Bank (ECB) urged banks to refrain from paying dividends or offering bonuses until 2021. The ECB wanted to ensure the banks had proper buffers to weather the economic volatility due to the virus.

The previous recommendation was to halt payments until at least October.In a statement released on Monday, the ECB said it would “engage in discussions with the relevant authorities of concerned Member States to determine whether it is appropriate that dividends are paid out to a parent institution, parent financial holding company or parent mixed financial holding company located in a Member State which is not a participating Member State.”

The ECB continued by stating “it is also appropriate that discretionary dividend distributions should also not be made by less significant credit institutions” and “further evaluate the economic situation and consider whether further suspension of dividends is advisable after 1 January 2021.”

05:41 The number of coronavirus infections linked to an outbreak at the popular Austrian holiday resort of Wolfgansee has risen to 62, according to Upper Austria's COVID-19 crisis response team.

A further 38 results are still expected, from a total of 1,183 tests carried out.

Read more: Austria: Coronavirus cases rise to 62 at resort

The outbreak is linked to hotels and bars as well as one shop in the town of St. Wolfgang, a guesthouse and a bathing area in Ried/St. Gilgen and a further guesthouse in the town of Strobl.

It is not yet known if the outbreak concerns visitors or staff at these places.

Following the outbreak in St. Wolfgang authorities carried out over a thousand COVID-19 tests. They think the infection outbreak may be traceable to trainees in the area who share bedrooms.

04:50 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity to reimagine urban areas.

"Cities are bearing the brunt of the crisis - many with strained health systems, inadequate water and sanitation services, and other challenges," Guterres said in a video message, adding that the crisis had "exposed deeply rooted inequalities."

"Now is the time to rethink and reshape the urban world ... And now is our chance to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities."

The UN chief launched a policy brief, which said the response to COVID-19 needed to tackle inequalities and safeguard social cohesion. It should also protect the homeless, guaranteeing them emergency housing, he said.

03:32 The number of confirmed coronavirus cases over a 24-hour period in Germany has almost doubled in comparison with yesterday's figure.

The number of infections has gone up by 633, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. Yesterday's daily total was 340.

Germany has reported 206,242 infections since the first case in the country was recorded on January 27 in the southern state of Bavaria. The latest reported death toll has risen by 4 over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities from the novel virus to 9,122.

03:12 Authorities in Pakistan are urging people to buy sacrificial animals online, or at least wear face masks when visiting cattle markets, as they are concerned that arrangements for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha could prompt a spike in infections.

Pakistan has reported over 270,000 coronavirus infections in total, resulting in nearly 6,000 fatalities. Daily cases are down to around the 1,200 mark from a peak of almost 7,000 last month.

"In the last four weeks there has been significant slowdown in the pandemic's spread, with an 80% decline in deaths," State Minister of Health Zafar Mirza said, three weeks after he himself tested positive for the novel virus.

Nevertheless, Mizra urged citizens to stick to the restrictive measures aimed at curbing the spread of infection, with the Muslim festival due to start on July 30. "People should take it very seriously and act responsibly. There is a chance that cases might go up again, like Spain."

02:43 Vietnam has announced the suspension of all flights to Danang for 15 days after 14 new cases of the virus were reported. All passenger trains and buses to and from the city have also been suspended.

Physical distancing measures have been imposed across the tourism hotspot after the first locally transmitted cases were reported in a period of over three months. The government is looking to evacuate nearly 80,000 people, mostly domestic tourists, from the area to prevent the spread of the virus.

Vietnam has kept its coronavirus caseload limited to 431 confirmed infections and no deaths with the help of strict quarantine measures and widespread testing.

02:06 New cases are still rising in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, with 57 infections confirmed in the area's latest update.

Beijing also reported its first case of domestic transmission in more than two weeks, while the northeastern province of Liaoning confirmed six new infections.

Another four coronavirus infections were discovered among Chinese travelers arriving from outside the country, bringing the daily total over a 24-hour period to 68 nationwide.

01:32 Bolivia's interim president, Jeanine Anez, has said she has recovered after testing positive for the coronavirus, thanked well-wishers, and is now back at work.

"Thank you with all my heart for the love and support during my coronavirus illness," Anez tweeted. "Bolivians are a great family. We will move forward."

Anez, 52, said on July 9 that she had tested positive for the virus and would go into quarantine at her presidential residence.

Several government officials, including the health minister, have also tested positive in the South American country. Bolivia has registered 69,429 infections, with 2,583 people dying as a result of contracting the coronavirus, according to the most recent government data.

01:20 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro removed his mask in public as he greeted supporters in Brasilia, just days after announcing he had recovered from COVID-19.

Bolsonaro tested positive for the virus earlier this month and went into quarantine as a result. However, on Saturday he revealed his latest test had come back negative.

"I didn't have any problems," Bolsonaro said during his public appearance in the Brazilian capital. "For people who have prior health problems and are of a certain age, anything can be dangerous."

Brazil has the highest number of infections in the world outside of the United States and Bolsonaro has been criticized for his lackadaisical approach to restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Standing outside the Alvorada Palace, the president's official residence, Bolsonaro took off his mask after supporters asked that he remove it so they could take pictures and selfies with him. Initially, Bolsonaro seemed reluctant, saying he would end up "on the frontpage of tomorrow's newspapers" if he did, before relenting to his supporters' demands.

Brasilien Jair Bolsonaro
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Peres

Earlier this month, The Brazilian Press Association filed a criminal complaint against the president because he removed his mask in the presence of reporters just as he announced he had tested positive for the novel virus. The group alleges Bolsonaro's actions put journalists at risk.

00:35 The Australian Open golf tournament has been postponed indefinitely, the sport's governing body announced on Tuesday. The 105th edition of the tournament will not be held until 2021, authorities said.

"These are very challenging times for all Australians and the uncertainty the global pandemic has caused makes it very difficult to be definitive in relation to future dates at this time," Golf Australia operations manager Simon Brookhouse said.

"Unfortunately, it is not a simple matter of whether or not we could co-ordinate any international stars to visit. The uncertainty of the quarantine requirements for any players coming from outside Australia needed to be considered."

The tournament was to be held in Melbourne, which has seen a spike in infections since June. The city is currently under lockdown.

00:05 COVID-19 and its ramifications are pushing children who already live in hunger to beyond breaking point, killing an estimated 10,000 more youngsters a month as meager farms have no way of delivering produce to markets, while villages are isolated from food and medical supplies, the United Nations has warned.      

Furthermore, more than 550,000 additional children each month are being struck by what is called wasting, which manifests in spindly limbs and distended bellies, according to the UN. 

In the call to action shared with news agency The Associated Press prior to its release, four UN bodies said that increasing malnutrition would have long-term consequences, with individual tragedies likely to turn into a generational catastrophe.

"The food security effects of the COVID crisis are going to reflect many years from now," said Francesco Branca, the World Health Organization's head of nutrition. "There is going to be a societal effect."

00:00 Catch up on Monday's coronavirus news here.

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

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

jsi/sri (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)