- Protests have been held in Munich, Berlin and Stuttgart against the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Nearly 310,000 people worldwide have died due to COVID-19, while over 4.5 million cases have been registered
- Spain’s prime minister wants a further 4-week extension to the state of emergency
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
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.
Many protesters complained that the lockdown measures were disproportionate and undemocratic
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
This beach in Varkiza saw a large turnout for the reopening, despite the social distance measures
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.
The city of Budapest has made face masks mandatory while shopping and on public transport
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
rm,tg/stb (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)
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