- The German economy shrinks by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2020, pushing the country into recession
- WHO warns the virus could kill 150,000 in Africa over the next year unless “urgent action” is taken
- Baltic nations reopen borders with each other
- China marks one month without any new confirmed infections
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
10:52 Governments are offering financial help at an unprecedented peacetime level due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But many recipients face delays in receiving their cash, while needless bureaucracy leaves others with nothing.
10:41 Italy is set to allow free travel across the country from June 3, reported news agency Reuters citing a draft decree. It states all movement within separate regions would be allowed from May 18, with inter-regional travel bans due to be lifted on June 3. The draft decree is expected to be passed later on Friday but could still be changed ahead of time.
Italy was the first country in Europe to impose tight restrictions on travel after its north became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. But the country is slowly easing out of its lockdown — factories were allowed to start up on May 4 and shops are set to reopen on Monday.
10:30 Germany is planning to loosen restrictions for travelers from the EU, the Schengen passport-free zone and the UK, the Interior Ministry announced. A quarantine period will only be advised for those coming from places with high rates of infection. Details on how to regulate this still need to be worked out, but until then an imposed quarantine will only be for travelers outside of the EU bloc.
10:00 Some more bad news for the economy now, after Germany fell into recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic:
Portugal’s economy has contracted by 3.9% in the first quarter this year, according to official data. Its National Statistics Institute (INE) also estimated that gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.4% compared to the same period a year earlier. Prior to the pandemic, the country’s economy was growing and in the last quarter of 2019 achieved its first budget surplus in 45 years of its democratic history.
Coronavirus measures were also not entirely to blame for the poor economic statistics. “Even before [restrictive measures], there were disturbances to the normal functioning of some activities and demand, namely in restaurants and hotels, affecting economic activity since practically the beginning of March,” the INE statement said.
The pandemic has also negatively impacted the Asian economy. Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn — which manufactures gadgets and smart phones including Apple products — reported a huge first quarter on-year profit slump of nearly 89%, as a result of disrupted operations and dampened demand caused by the pandemic.
The group’s total work hours also dropped by over 20% due to the outbreak, causing estimated NT$10 billion ($334 million, €308 million) in additional costs, said chief financial officer David Huang.
09:30 China and the US should “continue to strengthen cooperation in combating the epidemic,” said Chinese officials, responding after US President Donald Trump said he was considering severing ties with China.
Maintaining stable China-US relations is in the interest of both countries and conducive to peace and stability, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Treating patients as well as restoring the economy and production “requires that the US and China move towards each other,” reported state-run tabloid Global Times, citing Zhao.
On Thursday, Trump said he could “cut off the whole relationship” with China, in comments to US broadcaster Fox News. Tensions have been simmering between the two countries for weeks over the origin of the virus.
09:00 Up to 5,000 people will be able to attend a rally taking place in the German city of Stuttgart on Saturday, said officials clarifying rules under which the event can go ahead. Demonstrators are protesting against coronavirus restrictions.
Further conditions state that 500 event stewards must wear a protective face mask as it is thought they will come into close contact with protesters. Access to and from the demonstration must also be organized so that contact between participants is minimized.
“It was about weighing up infection risks with the right to freedom of assembly,” said Martin Schairer, Mayor of Stuttgart.
Transport to and from the rally has also been considered — anyone travelling in buses and trains without a prescribed mask will be fined €300 ($324).
08:15 German economic output shrank by 2.2% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The contraction is “the worst since the financial crisis” in 2008, said federal statistics office Destatis. This is an early indication of the impact of the lockdown measures from mid-March, added the office, warning that the second quarter will likely show an even bigger downturn.
07:57 Chinese officials have claimed any resurgence from so-called “imported cases” is controllable. China has banned most foreigners from entering its borders since late March as the pandemic spread globally but has largely claimed that many of the new cases confirmed in the country are imported.
China reported four new coronavirus cases on the mainland on May 14 – all of them locally transmitted.
07:55 Russia has reported 10,598 new cases of COVID-19, taking its nationwide tally up to 262,843. The official death toll from the virus now stands at 2,418, after 113 people had died over the last 24 hours, according to the country’s pandemic taskforce.
07:45 Slovenia has become the first European country to proclaim an end to the coronavirus epidemic at home. The EU state has said the COVID-19 spread is under control and there is no longer a need for extraordinary health measures. EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a andatory 14-day quarantine.
07:30 Several countries are taking further steps to return to a new normal, after weeks of widespread restrictions on civil life. Here’s a summary:
After more than eight weeks, Austrian restaurants, pubs and bars have been allowed to open their doors. Guests and workers will have to abide by new social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state that includes the city of Sydney, allowed restaurants, cafes and bars to reopen, ending almost two months of coronavirus lockdown closures.
Several states in Germany have lifted further restrictions. Restaurants have opened again in 10 of Germany’s 16 federal states, with the rest set to follow next week.
The Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia opened their borders at midnight creating a “travel bubble” inside the EU where people will be able to travel freely. Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis described the bubble as an “opportunity for businesses to reopen, and a glimmer of hope for the people that life is getting back to normal.” Anyone entering from outside the bubble, even if they are EU citizens, will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days.
07:00 UK health officials have given US-based Abbott Laboratories the go-ahead to produce a COVID-19 antibody test, shortly after giving the same approval to Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding.
Abbott Laboratories said it “stood ready to ship 5 million tests to the UK each month with immediate effect,” reported London-based business newspaper the Financial Times.
Governments hope that mass antibody testing will assist a speedier reopening of economies, allowing for more tailored social distancing measures to be introduced.
06:37 Schools in Germany have not been able to contact all their students digitally to ensure they are keeping up with schoolwork during the coronavirus pandemic.
Just 36% of school staff said they had been able to reach all their pupils via online learning platforms, according to “school barometer” carried out by the Switzerland-based Institute for Education Management and the Education Economy. This was the lowest percentage, compared with neighboring German-speaking countries Austria and Switzerland.
Germany shut all schools in March but lessons were supposed to continue virtually. The country’s 16 states have been carrying out a staggered reopening of schools from May 4.
06:15 The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh. There are more than 1 million refugees living in camps in overcrowded conditions.
The person from the Rohingya community has been isolated, said Mahbub Alam Talukder, the country’s refugee commissioner. A local person who lives in the Cox’s Bazar — the same district as the camp — also tested positive and has been quarantined.
Health services are attempting to carry out contact tracing, as well as treating the individuals, according to Louise Donovan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency.
Aid workers have been warning that the COVID-19 virus could cause serious problems if it reaches the refugee camps. About 40,000 people are housed per 1 square kilometer (103,600 per square mile) — 40 times the average population density of Bangladesh. Housing quality is poor with up to 12 people living in shacks that measure barely 10 square meters (107 square feet).
05:39 EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called for an independent scientific investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus in a guest column in German national daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Borrell called on China, where the virus broke out in Wuhanin December, to act to protect the world from future pandemics. China should also play “its role and responsibilities according to its weight” in combating the coronavirus pandemic, finding vaccines and boosting the global economy.
China has increasingly come under fire from the EU and the US for lack of transparency about the coronavirus pandemic that originated in the country. There has been growing calls around the world for China to step up its contribution to the coronavirus relief effort.
05:30 A total of 2.4 million elective surgeries could be canceled or postponed worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery.
“Patients’ conditions may deteriorate, worsening their quality of life as they wait for rescheduled surgery,” said Aneel Bhangu, one of a group of doctors and academics across 11 countries who authored the report.
This could also have potentially life-threatening consequences for cancer patients, added Bhangu.
The study was prompted by the UK’s taxpayer-funded National Health System announcing in March that “non-urgent” surgeries would be canceled for a period of 12 weeks, in order for hospitals to have enough resources and space to cope with a surge in COVID-19 patients.
The researchers gathered data from 359 hospitals in 71 countries, examining the potential impact of three months of “peak disruption to hospital services.” They then scaled up their projections, examining the potential impact across almost 200 countries.
Almost three-quarters of all surgeries could be postponed, and it could take up to two years to clear the backlog, said the report. While orthopedic procedures are the most likely to be shelved, a further 2 million cancer operations could be affected by the redirection of resources to fighting the pandemic.
05:00 More than half of Germans want their country’s current coronavirus restrictions to remain in place, according to a poll.
A total of 56% of those responding to the “Deutschlandtrend” poll, which is run by public broadcaster ARD, said they did not support plans to lift the measures.
The country’s current coronavirus measures were introduced in mid-March. Initially they saw most non-essential businesses closed and limited group gatherings and non-essential activities. But in recent weeks, certain areas of public life have gradually reopened, leading to a small rise in coronavirus transmission rates.
Those who wanted to see the guidelines loosened tended to say they support Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) or the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The poll also found that a majority of those surveyed (56%) are also against resuming the Bundesliga football season at this time. Germany’s top flight is set to restart at the weekend.
04:32 Global economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic could reach up to $8.8 trillion (€8.1 trillion) or nearly 10% of gross domestic output (GDP), according to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).
This forecast was based on the economic impact of a long-containment period scenario of six months. It represents a greater economic impact than previous projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The ADB also modeled the impact of a short containment period of three months. In this scenario, the pandemic could wipe $5.8 trillion from the global economy, representing a 6.4% decline in GDP.
In the Asia-Pacific region alone, economic losses could range between $1.7 trillion under a three-month containment period and $2.5 trillion under a six-month scenario, the report said.
“These losses will be difficult to recoup,” the report said.
“Furthermore, we cannot discount the possibility of a financial crisis, if the pandemic could not be contained in time to prevent large defaults and bankruptcies.”
Policy interventions by governments around the world, such as fiscal and monetary easing, increased health spending and direct support to cover loses in incomes and revenues, could help soften the impact of the virus by as much as 30% to 40%, the report noted.
The ADB urged governments to double their stabilization packages, noting that “the current size of macroeconomic stimulus for some countries in the region is still small relative to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
03:36 A new WHO modelling study says the novel coronavirus could infect around 231 million people in Africa and kill 150,000 over the next year unless “urgent action” is taken. The study modeled likely rates of exposure to the virus in 47 African countries based on factors including population density and containment measures.
Although researchers said many African nations have swiftly taken containment measures, poor health systems could quickly be overwhelmed if containment fails. They called for countries to rapidly increase healthcare capacity, particularly in primary hospitals.
The impact of COVID-19 on health care systems is also exacerbated in developing countries by the prevalence of other major health issues like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition, the study said.
03:26 Germany has confirmed 913 new coronavirus cases, and 101 new deaths were reported, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The total number of cases is now at 173,152, and the death toll is 7,824.
This is how Friday’s figures compare to previous days:
03:09 Virologists and biochemists at Frankfurt’s Goethe University say they have identified a potential starting point for developing a drug to treat COVID-19.
In a study published in the international science journal Nature, the researchers said they were able to identify how SARS-CoV-2 infects cells. They also identified “small molecule inhibitors” that disrupt viral replication in cells by targeting cellular pathways the virus uses.
“Our results reveal the cellular infection profile of SARS-CoV-2 and led to the identification of drugs inhibiting viral replication,” said an abstract of the study.
Most of the substances tested in the study are parts of already existing drugs, and the researchers hope their work will expedite the search for viable medicines.
However, the efficacy of these substances in treating COVID-19 patients still needs to be determined in clinical trials.
02:51 China marks one month since it last reported a coronavirus death. The country’s National Health Commission reported four new cases on Friday. In total, China confirmed 82,933 cases and 4,633 deaths since the virus emerged in Wuhan. Only 91 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 in the country. While China has increasingly opened up its economy, authorities have maintained social distancing rules and a ban on foreigners entering the country.
02:12 COVID-19 patients who were given hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, did not get better significantly faster than those not treated with the drug, two new studies published in the medical journal BMJ found.
The drug had been touted by US President Donald Trump as a game-changer in its potential to cure COVID-19, which boosted demand for it in early April.
While the drug is still widely being used in the US, and in other countries as a potential treatment for the coronavirus disease, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned against its use outside of hospitals and clinical trials due to the risk of side effects, including heart problems.
01:53 Mexico has confirmed 2,409 new coronavirus cases, the country’s health ministry said, marking the biggest one-day rise since the pandemic began.
Mexico also reported 257 new deaths, taking the official tally to 42,595 infections and 4,477 fatalities. The latest figures come as the government appeared to push back by two weeks the date to reopen its auto industry after the lockdown.
00:39 The US added 1,754 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University, bringing the total to 85,813. The US is the hardest hit in terms of the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections.
The US has 1,416,528 confirmed cases.
00:02 US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida will partially reopen to members this weekend as the state slowly begins to ease the coronavirus lockdown. The resort’s Beach Club restaurant, its pool, and its whirlpool will reopen on Saturday after two months, the club said in an email sent to members. It also said that members will have to practice social distancing and lounge chairs will be set 6 feet apart.
Trump’s private residence and the resort’s main building, which includes hotel rooms, will remain closed.
00:01 Brazil’s health ministry announced 13,944 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — a new daily record for the second day in a row. On Wednesday, Brazil added over 11,000 cases in 24 hours. Brazil’s total number of cases is now at over 202,000. The death toll also rose by 844 to a total of 13,933.
Despite the skyrocketing number of cases, Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro is urging regional governments to open up the economy and remove movement restrictions, arguing a bankrupt economy will cost more lives than the virus.
“Many more will die if the economy continues to be destroyed,” Bolsonaro told Brazilian media, while warning of famine and “chaos” and saying lockdowns were “not the way.”
00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here: Coronavirus latest: Pandemic slowing in Europe, WHO says
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.
kmm, wmr/rt (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)
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