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Monday, 30 March 2020

Coronavirus latest: Recession in Germany 'inevitable,' government advisers say

The German government's economic advisers say a recession in the first half of 2020 is "unavoidable" due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the US extended coronavirus restrictions to April 30. Follow DW for the latest.

Car assembly line (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Gateau)

  • More than 720,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, with more than 34,000 deaths
  • German economists have forecast a recession in Germany for the first half of 2020
  • US President Donald Trump has extended social distancing guidelines to April 30, abandoning his previous Easter deadline
  • Spain's death toll reached a new peak as it recorded its highest ever daily figure
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
09:31 A recession in Germany in the first half of this year is "inevitable" due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s council of economic advisers. Output could shrink by up to 5.4% this year, while in the best-case scenario, gross domestic product (GDP) could drop by as little as 2.8%. That best-case scenario would be dependent on a short time frame for coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses, and a speedy economic recovery, the council said.
09:23 Slovenia banned citizens from traveling around the country and made mask use mandatory from Monday on. Under the new measures, people will not be able to leave their municipality of residence and will have to wear masks and gloves in most indoor public spaces. 
Interior Minister Ales Hojs warned that the fine for violating the new restrictions would be €400 ($444), and said the government "might impose even tougher restrictions if the epidemic continues to spread."
"The hardest phase of the fight against coronavirus is ahead of us," said Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Sunday. Slovenia currently has 730 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 recorded deaths.
09:08 Doctors in Germany called for a "massive expansion" of production of personal protective equipment on Monday. "Politicians and businesses must now address the lack of protective equipment by all available means," read a statement issued by the Marburger Bund, the largest doctors’ association in Europe. 
"A lack of adequate protective equipment must not put the health of people who want to help other people with all their might, at risk," said Dr. Susanna Johna, the chair of the group, which represents around 70% of hospital doctors in Germany. 
Johna added that the equipment deliveries made so far have been "far from sufficient" and that many companies still have capacity to produce more supplies, including protective masks, glasses, coats and suits. "We need pragmatic and unconventional solutions to deal with the crisis," the statement read.
08:46 More than one in 10 medium-sized companies are threatened with bankruptcy due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Eric Schweitzer, the president of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK). 
"What is worrying is not only the absolute number of feared bankruptcies, but also the rapidly rising concrete worries of insolvency within the last three weeks," said Schweitzer, referencing an unpublished survey involving a total of 15,000 companies. Additionally, 40% of medium-sized companies in the travel and hospitality industry are in acute danger of declaring bankruptcy, he said.
08:32 The number of coronavirus infections in Germany rose by 4,751 to 57,298, according to the Robert-Koch Institute, Germany’s public health and disease control authority. The number of deaths also increased by 66 to 455.
08:24 Prisoners rioted at a facility housing violent offenders in southern Iran, breaking cameras and causing other damage, state media reported. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Fars province’s Governor Enayatollah Rahimi as saying the unrest broke out at the Adel Abad Prison, the largest in the city of Shiraz. No one was wounded, and no one escaped.
On Friday, 70 prisoners escaped a prison in western Kurdistan province after reportedly beating guards. Several of the inmates later returned to the prison.
08:16 Moscow has entered its first day of a full lockdown, following an abrupt announcement of the new rules by the city’s mayor late on Sunday. Sergei Sobyanin announced the regulations after residents ignored official advice to self-quarantine over the weekend. 
Muscovites will be allowed to travel to and from jobs judged essential, travel for medical emergencies and to buy food or medicines. They will also be allowed to go outside to take out trash and walk their dogs within a 100-meter (330-foot) radius of their homes.
The isolation rules will be policed by a system of facial recognition cameras placed throughout Moscow. The lockdown also coincides with the start of a "non-working" week announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
07:48 A resumption of football matches behind closed doors could contribute to the well-being of the population, according to former top German football official, Andreas Rettig.
Rettig, the former managing director of the German Football League (DFL),  claimed in a column in Kicker magazine that politicians should give the sport a special status, as the games could be something that people "look forward to and talk about." 
"Since there is no foreseeable time at which normal life will begin again, if restrictions are reduced, playing what Germans call "ghost games" could contribute to the diversion and thus to the well-being of people," he wrote. German football is suspended at all levels until at least April 30, while matches aren’t expected to resume until June.
07:45 In Germany, asparagus might become a rare delicacy this year. The harvest relies on experienced eastern European teams of farm laborers. But border lockdowns and travel bans have starved German farms of labor just as the harvest is due. Watch DW's latest report here: 
07:14 Budget airline easyJet announced that it will ground all of its flights indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
"At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights. We will continuously evaluate the situation based on regulations and demand, and will update the market when we have a view," the statement read.
07:09 India does not plan to extend its 21-day lockdown, the government said on Monday.  The lockdown, which has left millions of its 1.3-billion population with no source of income, is set to last until April 15. 
The announcement follows struggles to maintain the flow of essential supplies, and to stop tens of thousands of people from fleeing big cities like Delhi and Mumbai for the countryside. India currently has 1,071 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 29 recorded deaths.
07:02 Toyota has announced it will stop production in Europe until at least April 20. Its European plants are in France, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey and Portugal. The automaker also stopped production in Russia, through Friday.  However, its plants in China resumed normal production on Monday, according to spokeswoman Kayo Doi.
07:00 An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tested positive for coronavirus, putting the health of the 70-year-old leader in question. Israeli media said the aide is currently in good condition.
06:57 Over a quarter of German companies are expected to implement short-time work, the temporary reduction of working hours, over the next three months, according to the Ifo Institute for Economic Research. 
The short-time work rate of 25.6% would mark a 10% increase from three months ago, and the highest level in Germany since 2010, when reduced work programs were introduced on a wide scale to curb the impact of the global financial crisis.
The automobile, mechanical engineering and electronics industries are set to be the most affected, with respective rates of 41%, 33% and 32%. Meanwhile, the chemicals and food industries are not expected to be heavily impacted. 
However, the full effect of the coronavirus pandemic may not be reflected in the study’s numbers, as the industry responses were received in mid-March, according to Klaus Wohlrabe, the head of the Ifo Business Survey.
06:25 Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index fell by 1.57%, or 304 points on Monday. That drop follows a near 4% rise on Friday and Tokyo’s announcement of more rigid travel bans. The broader Topix index dropped by 1.64%.
05:45 In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko is ignoring the coronavirus pandemic — the strongman has even encouraged people to continue business as usual, falsely claiming that working with tractors and in the fields has healing power for agricultural laborers. Watch DW's latest report here:
05:44 Meanwhile in Sweden, the government maintains that citizens can be trusted to act responsibly for the greater good and will stay home if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Watch DW's latest report here:
05:41 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced an A$130 billion (€72 billion) ($79.86 billion) package to save jobs and aid the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
The package includes an A$1,500 "job keeper" payment, to be made to employers every two weeks for each worker. "Our goal is to protect the lives and livelihoods," said Morrison. 
"We will pay employers to pay their employees and make sure they do, to keep them in the businesses that employ them and to ensure they can get ready together to bounce back on the other side."
05:17 Japan is set to ban the entry of foreigners traveling from the United States, South Korea and most of Europe, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on Monday. 
The country may also ban travel to and from some countries in southeast Asia and Africa, it said, citing government sources. Japan currently only bans the entry of people from some parts of South Korea, China, and some European nations.
05:12 South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that an "emergency disaster relief payment" of up to 1 million won (€737, $816) would be made to all households except the top 30% by income. 
"Citizens suffered from the coronavirus and they all deserve to be rewarded for their pain and participation in preventive efforts," Moon said. South Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy, and has largely managed to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, with under 100 new cases reported daily over the last three weeks.
04:38 Vietnam’s prime minister on Monday asked major cities to prepare for a possible lockdown, as the number of confirmed cases in the country reached nearly 200. 
"Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have to review and update plans to battle the virus, and have to stand ready for city lockdown scenarios," Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a statement. "Major cities have to speed up and take advantage of each hour and minute to carry out defined measures."
Vietnam took drastic measures early on in the pandemic, including implementing an aggressive contact-tracing program and quarantine measures. The country aims to keep the number of infections under 1,000.
04:00  Germany has taken in nearly 50 Italian coronavirus patients. Italy has been one of the world’s hardest-hit nations and Germany has received the patients after most of them were airlifted to hospitals in specially-equipped air force planes.
03:25 A newly set up police website in New Zealand to report incidents of lockdown transgressions has crashed due to the amount of traffic it has received. Since going live over the weekend, the website has crashed at least once due to high demand, and registered more than 4,000 incidents of bad behavior. Instances such as New Zealanders playing rugby or frisbee, and holding impromptu "corona parties" have all prompted the complaints.
Nevertheless, police commissioner Mike Bush told reporters the "vast majority" of people were complying with lockdown rules, but many were "passionate and determined" to make others toe the line as well.
03:00 Passengers on a virus-stricken cruise ship have entered the Panama Canal after they were told the cruise company was still looking for a port which will allow them to get off the ship.
The Panama Canal Authority said the Zaandam cruise liner had entered the canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Central American country, on Sunday afternoon, after transferring healthy passengers to another ship and restocking supplies.
Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford confessed they were still looking for somewhere to dock after the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, the ship's original destination, said the Florida city could not take the risk of accepting the passengers.
02:45 Some 4,000 nurses are set to go on strike in Papua New Guinea this week over concerns that the Pacific nation lacks the medical supplies and funding to deal with an outbreak. The potential strike comes in the wake of a sit-in by nearly 600 nurses in the capital of Port Moresby last Thursday over a lack of protective gear.
02:30 Argentina is extending a mandatory nationwide quarantine period until the middle of April. "We are going to extend the quarantine until the end of Easter. What do we aim to achieve? To keep the transmission of the virus under control," President Alberto Fernandez said. The country has logged 820 COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths, although the increase in cases has slowed in recent days.
02:15 Two tweets by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — in which he questioned quarantine measures aimed at combating the coronavirus — have been taken down by the social network for violating Twitter's rules. Bolsonaro had posted videos where he contravened his government's social distancing guidelines by mixing with supporters on the streets of the capital Brasilia and urging them to keep the economy going.
02:00 Mexico's Health Ministry has confirmed 145 new coronavirus cases and four new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 993 while the country's death toll stands at 20.
01:45 Grammy-winning singer and songwriter John Prine has been hospitalized for coronavirus and is in "critical" condition, his family said on Twitter. "After a sudden onset of Covid-19 symptoms, John was hospitalized on Thursday. He was intubated Saturday evening, and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical." 
01:30 Chinese President Xi Jinping has revealed the government will adjust support policies for small and medium-sized businesses, as the situation develops, to protect them from the negative effects of the outbreak, Chinese state television reported. As he visited a factory in the city of Ningbo, Xi said that Chinese companies should resume operation and production even as measures to curb the virus continue.
01:15 The World Health Organization (WHO) has dismissed suggestions that alcohol consumption can ward off the coronavirus. "Drinking alcohol DOES NOT protect you against #COVID19 and can be dangerous," the UN's health body tweeted. An estimated 300 people have died in Iran after drinking industrial alcohol that has been falsely touted as a remedy for the virus on social media.
00:55 Mainland China has reported 31 new coronavirus cases, including one locally-transmitted infection, the country's National Health Commission said. The newly reported figure is a drop on the previous day, when 45 cases were recorded. The commission said in a statement on Monday that four new deaths from the virus had occurred, putting the cumulative death toll at 3,304. Since the outbreak erupted in December, the country has logged 81,470 infections.
00:45 The death toll in the US state of New York has surpassed 1,000, less than a month after the virus was first detected in the state. The first known infection was discovered on March 1 in a health care worker who recently returned from Iran. Now, with 776 deaths coming from New York city alone, the US state accounts for almost 40% of all deaths recorded in the country.
00:30 Here is the latest on the status of the outbreak across Europe:
Germany: Nearly 60,000 cases have been reported in Germany, while the death rate of less than 1% remains one of the lowest in the world. Meanwhile, the first plane carrying German nationals — previously stuck on a cruise ship off Australia — has started its journey to Frankfurt. Dozens of coronavirus cases were confirmed on the the Artania cruise which was carrying over 800 passengers. Three more planes to evacuate passengers were expected to take off within hours.
UK: The lockdown in the United Kingdom could continue for up six months, a key government medical advisor has revealed, despite initial confinement measures set to end in two weeks. The deputy chief medical officer for England, Jenny Harries said that even if the UK manages to flatten the curve in two weeks, she cautioned that a full return to normal life "would be quite dangerous." The UK has reported almost 20,000 cases, with over 1,200 deaths.
France: France has performed its largest evacuation of COVID-19 patients to date from hospitals in the hard-hit east, stepping up efforts to free up intensive care units. Two specially equipped high-speed trains carried 36 patients from Mulhouse and Nancy toward hospitals along France's western coast, where the outbreak has been minimal until now. The movements came as Germany sent a military plane for the first time to Strasbourg to move two coronavirus patients to a hospital in the German city of Ulm. In total, some 80 French patients have been hospitalized in Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Italy: The Italian government has said the country is in for a "very long" lockdown which would only be lifted gradually. While the mortality rate was slowing following a record 919 deaths on Friday, the government's medical adviser Luca Richeldi said indications of the pandemic slowing down was "a reason for us to be even stricter." Italy ranks second in the world in terms of infections, with almost 100,000 cases recorded so far.
Spain: Spain neared 80,000 cases and will almost certainly overtake China to become the world’s third ranked country within hours. Spain reported 838 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours, more than any other country in the world.
Russia: Moscow has announced a city-wide lockdown beginning on Monday, confining residents of the city to their homes. Some 12 million citizens will only be allowed to leave their homes to seek medical care, to travel to work if they provide essential services, to go to the nearest store or chemist, or to walk pets, but no more than 100 meters from their abode.
Switzerland: The death toll in Switzerland from coronavirus has climbed to 235 while the total number of cases stands at 13,213. The Alpine country has the highest number of cases per capita in the world and is deploying army medical units at hospitals to help in regions like Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy, to help combat the outbreak.
The Netherlands: The number of reported cases in the Netherlands has passed the 10,000 mark as the country focuses on building up herd immunity, rather than a lockdown. A total of 771 people have so far died from the COVID-19 epidemic in the country and 10,866 have tested positive, the country's institute for public health and environment (RIVM) said.
00:15 Panama has reported seven new deaths because of the novel coronavirus while the total number of confirmed infections has risen to 989, the government said in a statement.
00:05 US President Donald Trump has extended the country's national "social distancing" guidelines to April 30 as the number of cases continues to rise in the country. The US leader said he expects the country "will be well on our way to recovery" by June 1 — abandoning his earlier goal of relaxing measures by Easter.
During a White House press conference, Trump said data indicates that the US death rate will likely peak in two weeks. He also remarked that limiting the number of deaths to 100,000 or 200,000 would constitute a "good job," and that his administration has lowered the number of potential deaths from earlier estimates of more than 2 million.

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