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Coronavirus: Red Cross slams US and Brazil response

July 1, 2020

The Red Cross has decried the politicization of the pandemic, warning that the "divisive" responses by leaders in countries such as Brazil and the United States was taking its toll. Follow DW for the latest.

Members of the Red Cross are seen at the Ciudad Bolivar neighborhood in Bogota, Colombia
Image: AFP/J. Barreto
  • The Red Cross says the Americas are paying "the highest price" for political divisions over the pandemic
  • Switzerland implements mandatory quarantine for travelers from high-risk regions
  • The UN estimates the COVID-19 crisis will cost the tourism industry at least $1.2 trillion
  • Germany announces restrictions to ease on travelers from up to 11 non-EU countries

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:40 New Zealand Health Minister David Clark has resigned over recent missteps in the government's response the pandemic as well as personal mistakes. 

"It has become increasingly clear to me that my continuation in the role is distracting for the government's overall response to COVID-19 and the global pandemic," Clark said in a news conference in parliament.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had accepted his resignation, he said. 

In June, New Zealand’s border controls allowed two arrivals from the UK out of quarantine early, despite one of them displaying symptoms of the virus. They both later tested positive for COVID-19, breaking New Zealand’s 24-day streak with no new infections.

23:25 Coronavirus fatalities in Brazil have topped 60,000 after the country recorded more than 1,000 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the latest Health Ministry figures. 

For the past week, Brazil has reported the largest number of daily coronavirus deaths globally. It is the second-worst affected nation after the US in total cases and fatalities. 

Over 46,000 new cases were reported in Brazil in the past day, bringing total infections to 1.44 million in the country of 212 million inhabitants. 

In Rio de Janeiro the coronavirus death rate of 584 per million inhabitants is over double the national average of 284.

21:35 Over a thousand food delivery employees on motorcycles gathered on Sao Paulo's main thoroughfare, blocking traffic in protest of working conditions set by Uber and other apps.

With their services in high demand due to the coronavirus lockdown in Brazil, the drivers demonstrated to demand increased pay and improved health measures. Similar protests took place in cities around the country.

Brazil is a coronavirus hot spot, second to only the United States in total coronavirus infections and fatalities.

Lockdown measures there have increased the demand for food delivery services, with the delivery app iFood telling Reuters news agency that orders had increased by 30% since the coronavirus crisis began. 

However, drivers say the apps are paying them less while requiring them to work more, threatening them with suspension if they do not comply. 

Customers and restaurants on social media also supported the drivers. Wednesday’s protest was not the first time Brazil’s delivery drivers have demonstrated against the apps they work for, but it appeared to be the largest gathering yet. 

The delivery apps classify drivers as freelance workers who retain the freedom to set their own hours. But drivers disagree. 

"An algorithm determines everything for them: the value of the work, the duration of their work, even the route they should take, and if you don't accept, there are penalties," said Tatiana Simonetti, a Brazilian labor prosecutor.

Uber declined to comment, instead pointing to a statement issued by a trade group representing several apps that said the firms had provided alternative income for people at a time when they needed it. 

According to recent government figures, over half of working-age Brazilians are out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

20:10 The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a worldwide ceasefire resolution in the wake of the pandemic.

After more than three months of impasse over a unified response to the crisis, the resolution supports UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' March 23 call for a ceasefire so that the world can concentrate on dealing with COVID-19.

The text, submitted by France and Tunisia, "demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities" in key conflicts, such as Syria, Libya and Yemen.

It also "calls upon all parties to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days" to enable the delivery of aid and medical evacuations.

"This is a sign for hope for all people currently living in conflict zones around the world," said Christoph Heusgen, Germany's ambassador to the UN, who assumed the council's rotating presidency for a month.

"The negotiations were not easy, but this resolution shows that differences can indeed be overcome, especially in the face of this pandemic," Heusgen added.

Efforts by the 15-member panel to approve a COVID-19 bill had been thwarted by a dispute between the United States and China over the role of the World Health Organization (WHO). China were keen for the UN's health arm to be mentioned in any resolution, while the US, given their skepticism over the WHO's role, did not.

The resolution does not directly mention the WHO, instead referring to "relevant parts of the United Nations system."

The United Nations flag at the UN headquarters in New York
The UN Security Council approved the resolution after months of impasseImage: Getty Images/AFP/N. Roberts

19:30 Germany's parliamentary budget committee has approved a second supplementary budget worth €217.8 billion ($245 billion) to finance a bumper package with the aim of stimulating its economy in the wake of the pandemic.

Europe's largest economy is facing its deepest recession since World War II and after minor alterations, record new debt is planned for this year.

The realignment is down to a reallocation of funding, rather than an overall reduction in the deal, which involves a temporary cut in sales tax, a child bonus and assistance for companies and municipalities.

"The record new debt of 217.8 billion euros does not make me happy, but it is essential in light of the severity of the
economic collapse caused by the corona pandemic," said Eckhardt Rehberg, budget spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

"We must reduce deficits again in coming years and return to the path of balanced budgets," Eckhardt added. The Bundestag lower house of parliament is expected to pass the bill on Thursday.

Coronavirus winners - pandemic boosts the bottom line

19:05 The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said there have now been a total of 2,624,873 cases in the United States, an increase of 43,644 from its previous count.

The CDC announced its updated death toll which is now 127,299, up 560 on yesterday's figures.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has revealed he supports another coronavirus stimulus bill but wants it to include incentives for citizens to return to work, a move likely to upset Democrats in Congress over jobless benefits.

"We want to create a very great incentive to work. So, we're working on that and I'm sure we'll all come together," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

18:00 As of today, Egypt restarted international flights and opened up its major tourist attractions.

The Great Pyramids of Giza and other famous historical sites welcomed visitors for the first time in over three months. The country closed its airports and shut tourist attractions in mid-March as the government sought ways of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Tourism and antiquities minister Khaled al-Anany said two chartered flights arrived Wednesday morning to airports in South Sinai and the Red Sea, bringing visitors from Ukraine.

These provinces by the Red Sea, as well as Marsa Matrouh by the Mediterranean, were allowed to open up once more as they had reported very few infections. Egypt has so far recorded 68,311 cases, from which 2,953 people have died from the novel virus.

Tourists ride a cart in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza after reopening for tourist visits
Tourists ride a cart in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza after reopening for tourist visitsImage: Reuters/M. Abd El Ghany

16:45 The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the Middle East is at a "critical threshold" in its fight against the coronavirus as cases continue to surge in the region, while lockdowns ease.

"We are at a critical threshold in our region," the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean director, Ahmed al-Mandhari, said in a virtual press conference.

There have been more than one million infections across the 22 countries that the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region covers, stretching from Morocco to Pakistan. Over 80% of all COVID-19 deaths in the region have occurred across five countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, according to the UN's health arm.

Mandhari said it was a "concerning milestone."

"The number of cases reported in June alone is higher than the total number of cases reported during the four months following the first reported case in the Region on 29 January," he said.

16:10 The Red Cross has criticized a number of countries, particularly the United States and Brazil, for their handling of the pandemic.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), warned that in the Americas especially, there were terrible consequences to the mixed and partisan rhetoric from politicians, often contradicting scientific advice.

"America as a continent is paying the highest price for this kind of division or not following the advice coming from the scientific community," he told a virtual briefing hosted by the UN correspondents' association in Geneva.

The United States is the worst-hit country in the world, with a quarter of global cases and deaths, followed by Brazil, which has suffered almost 60,000 fatalities and more than 1.4 million infections of the novel virus.

Rocca said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro "underestimated the consequences of COVID, and his country is living the consequences."

Bolsonaro has frequently ignored social distancing guidelines, while shaking hands and giving hugs at rallies, as well as hosting barbecues, all of which have been conducted with no sign of a face mask. The president also once compared the coronavirus to a "little flu."

Coronavirus hits the poorest hardest

15:00  The economic crisis brought about by the pandemic could cost global tourism and related sectors at least $1.2 trillion (€1.06 trillion) in lost revenue, the United Nations said, while adding the figure could wind up being as much as $3.3 trillion.

Lockdown restrictions have devastated the tourism industry, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said, and the sector is set to lose at least $1.2 trillion in the best-case scenario. In the most pessimistic scenario, UNCTAD projected losses of $3.3 trillion or 4.2% of global GDP.

14:10 UK opposition leader Keir Starmer has said the coronavirus hit city of Leicester had been denied crucial testing data, resulting in "a lost week while the virus was spreading," the Labour leader told parliament.

The mayor of Leicester, Peter Soulsby, joined the chorus of government disapproval as he took to Twitter to vent his frustration. "We should have had this data right from the start. Councils up and down the land are the ones at the front line, we need to know what is happening in our communities and the Government needs to tell us."

The city in the Midlands has 10% of all active cases in the UK, despite having a population of just 330,000. As a result of the spike, non-essential shops have been ordered to close again and pubs will not open as originally planned on July 4.

13:40 Switzerland will now require masks for individuals on public transport, as the country has seen a rise in coronavirus cases after it relaxed restrictions. Authorities registered a rise of 137 new cases in 24 hours.

Travelers returning to the country from high-risk regions will now face a mandatory quarantine.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health said it will update a list of high-risk countries, with Sweden being one of the countries that was already on the list.

11:15 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the European Union has treated Turkey unfairly over the coronavirus, accusing Brussels of taking a political stance. 

Erdogan said the EU had behaved in a restrictive way.

While he did not provide further details, his comments came after the EU excluded Turkey, along with the United States and other countries, from an initial "safe list" of countries from which the 27-member bloc will allow non-essential travel.

10:51 German carmaker Volkswagen is shelving plans to build a new factory in Turkey in response to a drop in demand for new cars during the coronavirus pandemic, according to DPA news agency.

Germany's largest automaker had been planning to open the factory in Manisa on the western coast of Turkey.

The €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) plant was to build the Volkswagen brand Passat and the Superb, a sedan from its subsidiary Skoda.

The project had been on hold since last year. It had faced opposition from German labor unions and Volkswagen faced further criticism after Turkey launched a military incursion into Syria last October.

10:37 China's aviation authority has said it will suspend Sichuan Airlines from operating the Cairo-Chengdu route for a week from July 6, after six arriving passengers tested positive for coronavirus.

China has largely been quick to act on suspending travel routes that have imported COVID-19 cases. For example, last month when a China Southern Airlines flight from Dhaka to Guangzhou was suspended for four weeks after imported infections.

Many of China's coronavirus cases over the course of the last month have been imported.

09:56 Germany announced it is easing restrictions on travelers from up to 11 non-European Union countries, excluding four countries on the full list recommended by the EU earlier this week.

The travel ban will be lifted for Australia, Georgia, Canada, Montenegro, New Zealand, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. In a further step, Japan, South Korea and China will only be included if those three countries allow people from Germany to enter.

The German Interior Ministry chose to exclude Algeria, Morocco, Rwanda and Serbia, although residents of these countries may be allowed into other nations in the visa-free Schengen area.

The new rules will apply from Thursday.

09:51 Austria has issued travel warnings for six Western Balkan countries because of an increase in coronavirus infections there. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the measure applied to Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

The "highest level" warning does not apply to European Union member Croatia.

Travel is still possible, but those returning will only be allowed entry with a negative coronavirus test or a commitment to spend 14 days in quarantine. Both Serbia and Montenegro have reintroduced some restrictions after a spike in recent infections in the western Balkans.

In parts of the region, the rise followed a rapid end to lockdown measures, allowing mass outdoor gatherings such as sporting events with no maximum limit on the number of people attending.

09:10 Health officials in Bavaria are racing to contain the further spread of a COVID-19 outbreak from a catering company. Tests are being conducted among the residents of refugee centers where many of the employees were living.

Officials said 45 cases of COVID-19 have already been identified by Tuesday evening among employees in the Upper Bavarian town of Gilching.

Further testing among those sharing accommodation with the workers was underway on Wednesday, along with a tracking operation for other contacts of those who were infected. 

Among the facilities refugee homes affected was one in nearby Hechendorf, where 10 of the employees who tested positive were living. That center and three others have been closed, and residents placed under a 14-day quarantine. 

"The important thing now is to break the chain of infection," a spokeswoman for the municipality of Starnberg told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Municipality leaders say a more general lockdown for the wider municipality is not imminent. 

Catering firm Apetito said it was investigating the cause of the outbreak.

The catering plant at Gilching supplies Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-University hospital with more than 6,000 meals per day for staff and patients.

Germany's first coronavirus cases nationwide were diagnosed in Starnberg in February after a visiting Chinese employee of the auto parts firm Webasto passed the virus on to a coworker.

08:45 Thailand has begun a fifth phase of relaxations on restrictions, allowing schools to reopen and foreign visitors to enter on a controlled basis. Pubs and massage parlors will also reopen.

The number of foreign visitors arriving in the country will be limited to 200 per day and most flights entering the country will prioritize Thai citizens. Social distancing regulations remain in place and a contact tracing app has been introduced.

Despite the relaxations in restrictions, Thailand has also extended its state of emergency through to the end of July.

08:20 German unemployment figures rose lower than expected in June, new data shows. The Labor Office said an additional 69,000 people were out of work in seasonally adjusted terms, pushing the unemployment rate to 6.4% compared to 6.3% in May.

This put the number of unemployed people in Germany at 2.943 million, hundreds of thousands fewer than many commentators and officials had predicted.

"The labor market remains under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic," Labor Office head Detlef Cheele said, but said that the use of short-time work had stabilized the job market during the pandemic. The new figures may allay fears that coronavirus would have a devastating effect on Germany's job market.

06:58 German Development Minister Gerd Müller has warned that Germany will see a new "wave of refugees" because of the coronavirus pandemic. He announced that Germany has earmarked €3 billion ($2.25 billion) for foreign aid to developing countries.

"We in Europe are beginning to get the virus under control, but in other parts of the world the virus is all-encompassing," Müller told German broadcaster RND. "I fear that the peak has not been reached yet in many developing countries."

Müller identified Yemen as a particularly worrying case, where civil war and famine have left the healthcare system in tatters and the virus is beginning to spread through the population.

05:58 Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have reopened with social distancing guidelines, following four months of closure. Visitors had to undergo body temperature tests as they arrived at the parks. They are also not allowed to shake hands with or hug Disney characters and masks are compulsory.

Tokyo Disneyland
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

"I was so looking forward to this day, it’s like a dream," a man in his 40s told local broadcaster NHK.

The Japanese government ended a state of emergency for Tokyo and four other prefectures in late May.

Later in the day, Tokyo confirmed 67 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily tally since the state of emergency was lifted.

Tokyo is the third Disney theme park to reopen, after Shanghai and Hong Kong. The site in Paris will reopen later in July while US parks have no set reopening date as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country. 

05:25 Australian authorities will lockdown around 300,000 people in the suburbs of the city of Melbourne for a month beginning immediately. The fresh lockdown is an attempt to control a new outbreak of the virus that has seen more than 70 new cases per day in the country’s second-most populous state of Victoria.

The new regulations will see 30 suburbs return to "stage-three" restrictions, meaning residents are confined to their homes except for shopping, health appointments, work and exercise. The measures will be accompanied by a testing blitz.

State Premier Daniel Andrews warned that fresh restrictions across the entire city were still a possibility.

"If we stick together these next four weeks, we can regain control of that community transmission," Andrews said. "Ultimately if I didn’t shut down these postcodes I’d be shutting down all postcodes."

03:53 South Korea is considering including religious facilities on a list of "high-risk" venues for the spread of COVID-19. It comes after a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a virus meeting on Wednesday that more than 40% of the country's newly confirmed infections over the previous three days have been traced back to places of worship.

He requested people to stay away from religious gatherings and criticized churches and other facilities for failing to implement proper preventive measures, such as requiring followers to wear masks and sit apart during services.

03:37 Coronavirus infections in Germany increased by 466 in the past 24 hours to 194,725, according to figures shared by the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The death toll rose by 12, bringing national fatalities to 8,985, the institute said. 

02:26 The US recorded 1,199 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the first time the national daily death toll has exceeded 1,000 since June 10, a Johns Hopkins University tally has shown. In total, over 127,322 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in the US. The US also registered 42,528 new infections in the past day.

The growing number of fatalities has caused several states to halt the process of relaxing coronavirus restriction measures. "Clearly we are not in total control right now," infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, a key member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, said on Tuesday.

Fauci said that new cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public don’t take steps to curb the outbreak. He called on Americans to cover their faces in public and to avoid crowds.

01:01 The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is making another attempt at a coronavirus ceasefire agreement in response to a drawn-out dispute between the US and China regarding the World Health Organization (WHO). France and China submitted a revised draft of the resolution on Tuesday. Results are expected Wednesday.

The resolution supports UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' March 23 call for global ceasefires in order to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It asks for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" in all conflicts on its agenda. This includes fighting in Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo. The resolution calls for at least 90 consecutive days of peace in order to provide safe delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations. 

Last Thursday, Guterres announced that nearly 180 countries and over 20 armed groups had endorsed his appeal. "The difficulty is to implement it," he said. Multiple attempts to pass the resolution have been blocked over a reference to the WHO. The US suspended funding to WHO in April after President Donald Trump accused the health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading after it first appeared in China. 

China, meanwhile, strongly supports the organization and insisted that its role in calling for global action against the virus be included in the resolution. The US, for its part, demanded a call for "transparency" and no reference to the WHO. The new draft does not mention either the WHO, a UN health agency, or transparency.

00:52 Mexico has reported 5,432 new coronavirus infections and 648 more fatalities in the past 24 hours. This brings total cases in the country to 226,089 and total deaths to 27,769, the Health Ministry said. The government has indicated that the real number of infections is likely significantly higher than the number of confirmed cases.

00:38 China has reported three new cases of coronavirus in the mainland, compared to 19 the day before. All three cases were in Beijing, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The mainland also reported three new asymptomatic cases, meaning the patients had tested positive for the virus but displayed no symptoms, down from four the day before. Mainland China had a total of 83,534 confirmed coronavirus infections as of June 30, the health commission said.   

00:05 Brazil is closing in on 60,000 deaths from the new coronavirus, according to the latest figures from the country's Health Ministry. With 1,280 new deaths from COVID-19 registered in the past 24 hours, 59,594 people in Brazil have so far died from the infection. Confirmed infections rose by 33,846 to 1,402,041. Brazil is suffering the second worst outbreak worldwide, behind only the US in terms of total deaths and infections.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday signed a decree that will extend emergency stipends to informal workers affected by the coronavirus crisis, as unemployment continues to grow. The monthly stipend of 600 reais ($110, €98) had been set to expire this month. But it has proved a lifeline for struggling Brazilians and has boosted the far-right president's popularity among poorer voters.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes cautioned, however, that the emergency spending cannot go on indefinitely and that the national debt may soon exceed gross domestic product (GDP). Tuesday figures showed that public debt in Brazil has risen to 81.9% of GDP.

Furthermore, Brazil's military on Tuesday delivered protective supplies and medicines by helicopter to indigenous communities of the Amazon bordering Venezuela. The military also conducted rapid finger-prick tests on the Yanomami and Yekuana tribes. The army airlifted supplies like face masks, alcohol, gloves, tests and 13,500 pills of chloroquine, a controversial anti-malaria drug that President Bolsonaro is championing to combat the coronavirus.

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

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

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

rs, kp/rs (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)