- More than 100,000 COVID-19 cases in Germany
- Boris Johnson spends second night in intensive care
- Trump has threatened to put a ”hold” on WHO funding
- Lufthansa to discontinue all Germanwings flights, expects ongoing disruption to air travel
- China lifts travel restrictions in city of Wuhan
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
09:19 The EU is “concerned” about the Polish parliament’s decision to carry out May’s presidential election by post.
“I followed this process very closely. I’m concerned about free and fair elections and the quality of voting, of the legality and constitutionality of such a vote,” EU Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova told Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
The Polish parliament pushed through special measures on Monday for the election to be conducted entirely by postal ballot, in an attempt to limit coronavirus transmission. Ruling Polish nationalist party, the Law and Justice party (PiS), backed the changes. However, critics and opposition fear that the change could unfairly boost the re-election chances of President Andrzej Duda — the PiS-backed candidate who is ahead in opinion polls. Under Duda, Poland has carried out controversial changes, including reforms to the judicial system and media. The date for the elections is set for May 10, leaving just over a month for the postal ballot to be organized.
“If I were a Polish citizen, I would like to know how exactly the voting will take place, because it will be taking place soon. Voting by correspondence is a significant change and this method will be used for the first time, people are not used to it,” added Jourova.
She pointed to recommendations from the Council of Europe for countries not to carry out “fundamental changes” to electoral rules in the year leading up to elections.
08:55 The German economy is headed for a deep recession, according to the country’s five leading economic institutes. The think tanks, including Ifo and DIW, or the German Institute for Economic Research, described the German economy as entering a state of “shock,” with a GDP that is set to shrink by over 4% this year, and by 10% in the second quarter.
“The corona pandemic will trigger a serious recession in Germany,” the report said.
The decline would be the sharpest ever recorded in Europe’s leading economic force since quarterly national accounts became available in 1970.
08:11 Thousands of Wuhan residents have flocked to airports, train and bus stations after the Chinese epicenter of the coronavirus ended its 76-day lockdown. More than 55,000 people were expected to leave the city by rail, with over 10,000 set to leave by air.
People celebrated their renewed freedom by waving flags and watching a light show projected onto skyscrapers.
Despite the lifting of the travel restrictions, however, schools remain closed and residents are required to keep a tracking application on their smartphones.
07:23 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in a stable condition after spending a second night in intensive care. He was admitted to a London hospital on Sunday suffering from COVID-19.
“I understand the prime minister is in a stable condition, he’s comfortable and in good spirits. He has in the past had some oxygen, but he’s not on ventilation,” junior Health Minister Edward Argar told Sky News.
The prime minister’s office released a statement concerning Johnson’s health on Tuesday. It says Johnson “remains in intensive care for close monitoring.”
Johnson, who is 55-years-old, was taken to St. Thomas’ hospital, London, on Sunday evening suffering from persistent coronavirus symptoms. His condition worsened and he was admitted to intensive care on Monday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is deputizing for Johnson in his absence.
Latest figures from Johns Hopkins university show the UK has over 55,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 6,159 deaths.
06:35 EU finance ministers have failed to agree on a fiscal plan to help EU member states that have been hard hit by the pandemic. ”After 16 hours of discussions, we came close to a deal but we are not there yet. I suspended the Eurogroup and (we will) continue tomorrow Thursday,” said Eurogroup chief Mario Centeno.
06:33 German politicians and an official have warned that right-wing extremists in the country are attempting to co-opt the coronavirus crisis for their own gain.
“Right-wing extremists are trying to capitalize on the crisis,” Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s office for the protection of the constitution, told German news outlet RND. “They criticize the government and the EU for apparent failures or claim that refugees have spread the virus. Others are asserting that the coronavirus serves as a means to set up a police state.”
Kramer also warned that some right-wing extremists were considering carrying out attacks to exacerbate the crisis. Others were attempting the opposite, offering assistance and carrying out community work. Georg Maier, Thuringia’s minister of interior and local government, agreed, telling RND that some right-wing extremists were trying to use the crisis as a conspiracy theory. “We are bearing that in mind,” said Maier.
Bavaria’s interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, also warned that members of the right wing-extremist party Der Dritte Weg (the Third Way) have been particularly active. Members have been offering assistance in everyday life or going shopping for people during the crisis, in order to win new supporters. They were using the crisis to present themselves as a social organization “that takes care of the of the problems of the ‘little’ people,” said Herrmann. He was answering a question posed by Bavarian parliament member Cemal Bozoglu.
05:21 Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has urged the German government to lift border controls on its borders with Luxembourg and France as soon as possible, according to a report from the German Editorial Network (RND).
“I am very concerned about the border controls. We seriously have to be careful,” said Asselborn. “When the Schengen area falls, the citizens’ Europe will fall. The Schengen Area is the EU’s greatest achievement.”
Asselborn also cited the country’s dependence on health care workers who commute across Luxembourg’s borders from Germany and France.
“This only brings trouble,” he said. “Every day people from Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate write to me complaining about the border controls.”
Temporary border controls have been in place at the borders with Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark since March 16.
05:13 The number of COVID-19 cases in Germany is now over 100,000, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The RKI reports 103,228 confirmed cases, an increase of over 3,000 cases from Tuesday. Germany’s death toll is 1,861, up by over 250 from the day prior.
RKI President Lothar Wieler, said that he was confident that the current restrictions in place are having a positive effect on curbing the spread of coronavirus, but believes that there is still a long way to go.
“We are still at the beginning of this pandemic,” Wieler said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. “We really must be very, very careful. However, the curve has leveled off a little bit, which is certainly a nice result.”
Regarding an exit plan, Wieler also rejected the idea of a total lifting of restrictions, saying that they cannot all be lifted at once.
“An exit might suggest that one simply abandons all measures and then lives as before this epidemic. I personally cannot imagine that at the moment,” he said. “I can imagine that step by step there will be certain changes.”
Johns Hopkins University (JHU), which combines data from the World Health Organization as well as local and national sources, the number of deaths in Germany exceeded 2,000 on Wednesday, while the country has 107,663 confirmed cases.
RKI figures are typically lower than JHU figures, as the institute only publishes figures that have been reported by official health authorities, who can take up to one business day to report their data.
03:23 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he was committing $1 billion in stock to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. He said he would transfer his equity in Square Inc, his financial payments startup, to his charity fund, Start Small LLC.
In a series of tweets, he said all donations to and from the fund will now be publicly accessible through a Google Doc spreadsheet.
“Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime,” he said.
The amount represents 28% of Dorsey’s net worth, which is estimated to be $3.3 billion, according to Forbes. He said he was pledging his stake in Square rather than Twitter because he owns a larger share of the payments processor.
03:15 US country-folk singer John Prine has died of complications from COVID-19. He was 73 years old.
Mr. Prine had twice undergone treatment for cancer. In 1998, he had surgery to remove a tumor in his neck, which had damaged his vocal cords, and in 2013 he had part of one lung removed to treat lung cancer.
Originally from Maywood, Illinois, a working-class suburb of Chicago, Prine began his artistic career in the 1970s. His album ”The Missing Years,” featuring Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and other artists, won a Grammy Award for best contemporary folk recording in 1992.
Last year, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was selected to receive a 2020 Grammy for lifetime achievement.
03:06 Here is the latest from the Americas
Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would continue to persuade the US not to block the export of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus. “We are going to continue to highlight to the American administration the point to which health care supplies and services go back and forth across that border,” Trudeau said. The prime minister said Canada was expecting the arrival of 500,000 N95 surgical masks on Wednesday from the firm 3Mwhich were part of a batch of 4 million that had been ordered by the province of Ontario. “We have had constructive and productive conversations that have assured that this particular shipment comes through, but we recognize there is still more work to do,” Trudeau said. Meanwhile, the premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, warned that the coronavirus outbreak looks set to cripple the province’s economy, which was already suffering from low oil prices before the lockdown there began. Kenney said that unemployment could increase to 25% from the current 7.2%. Latest figures: 17,897 infected, 375 deaths, 3,791 recovered.
Brazil: Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said the country was facing a “serious problem” getting enough ventilators to cope with the coronavirus epidemic. Mandetta added that Brazil had reached out to China to ensure it would be able to fill an order for face masks as coronavirus deaths accelerated. “We need to bring 40 million masks from China,” he said at a news conference. “We are having difficulties in the Chinese market to guarantee these purchases.” The announcement comes as Brazilian officials try to ease an earlier diplomatic spat with China, after the country’s education minister and President Jair Bolsonaro’s lawmaker son criticized Beijing for its handling of the crisis. Latin America’s largest country just registered a rise of more than 100 COVID-19 deaths in one day. Latest figures: 13,717 infected, 686 deaths, 127 recovered.
Ecuador: An emergency burial ground, donated by a private cemetery of the city of Guayaquil, is being built to cope with the rising number of deaths in Ecuador. The Andean country has been acutely affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Last week, the government had already begun storing the bodies of coronavirus victims in giant refrigerated containers until graves were prepared. But it now has to create more space to bury them. The COVID-19 outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals and emergency services, with some families keeping dead bodies in their homes for days. It has also led to a shortage of wooden coffins and some Ecuadorans have had to bury their relatives in cardboard boxes donated by cemeteries. President Lenin Moreno admitted this week that the number of coronavirus infections and its resulting deaths were likely far higher than official estimates. Latest figures: 3,747 infected, 191 deaths, 100 recovered.
Colombia: Businesses in Colombia have called on the government to expand measures to help companies ravaged by the consequences of the coronavirus lockdown, which President Ivan Duque extended to April 27. The top business sectors affected by the lockdown are restaurants, stores, tourism, airlines and factories that do not make food- or health-related items. Duque’s government has already promised credit guarantees of up to 12 trillion pesos (about $3 billion) for small and medium-sized companies. But businesses are worried about bankrupcies and widespread layoffs, saying more is needed. The government, meanwhile, has continued to use all tools in its disposal to make citizens comply with the lockdown measures, including the deployment of Colombia’s military. Police have issued warnings and fines people for flouting quarantine rules. Latest figures: 1,579 infected, 46 deaths, 88 recovered.
Mexico: Authorities in Mexico are speaking out publicly against a rise in harassment and attacks on health workers in the country. ”There have been cases, you could say isolated, but all outrageous,” the Mexican undersecretary of health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said. ”It’s even more outrageous when it concerns the health professionals that we all depend on in this moment, because they are on the front lines facing this epidemic,” he added. A hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, told its health workers to wear civilian clothes to and from work, instead of their scrubs or uniforms, because some public buses refused to allow them to board. This week an individual threw flammable liquid on the doors of a new hospital under construction in the northern border state of Nuevo Leon. Edith Mujica Chavez, president of Jalisco state’s Interinstitutional Commission of Nurses, also denounced attacks suffered by health workers, which included physical aggression, verbal harassment and even having bleach solutions thrown at nurses. Latest figures: 2,439 infected, 125 deaths, 633 recovered.
Venezuela: The government has quarantined thousands of migrant returnees in makeshift shelters along the border, officials and rights activists said. Venezuelans who had fled the country’s economic collapse have begun returning home as neighboring Colombia restricted economic activity due to the coronavirus epidemic, leaving many refugees without money to buy food or pay rent. More than 2,100 migrants returning from Colombia to Venezuela were ordered to remain in schools and unused government buildings near the border that lack sanitary conditions, opposition lawmakers said. Some 625 Venezuelans have also crossed into the country from Brazil, according to officials in the eastern border state of Bolivar, where they have been kept in makeshift shelters in local motels and government buildings. The influx now presents a threat to Venezuela’s medical system, which has severely decayed in the past six years. Medical experts warn that the crumbling health system could be quickly overwhelmed if COVID-19 spreads. Latest figures: 165 infected, 7 deaths, 65 recovered.
Peru: President Martin Vizcarra said he was coordinating with other South American countries to request a line of credit from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Vizcarra said the group would ask for at least $15 billion to combat the coronavirus. He held a videoconference with the presidents or foreign ministers of Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay to coordinate efforts. Brazil and Argentina were also invited, but did not participate, Vizcarra said. “This will require a lot of money from all the countries to meet the needs,” the Peruvian president told a virtual news conference carried on television. Vizcarra said leaders agreed to try to purchase scarce medical supplies together, in bulk. Though he cautioned that securing the essentials would not be easy, as competition intensifies. Latest figures: 2,954 infected, 107 deaths, 1,301 recovered.
02:40 Hong Kong has extended social distancing restrictions until April 23 as the number of coronavirus cases on the island rises by more than two-fold.
The restrictions include a ban on public gatherings of more than four people, and the closure of bars, pubs, gyms, cinemas, mahjong parlors, karaoke lounges and nightclubs.
The two-week closure of its airport for foreign arrivals has also been extended indefinitely.
With the extension of the restrictions, Hong Kong has stopped just short of a full lockdown, unlike other financial hubs like London and New York.
00:48 China’s National Health Commission reported 62 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the mainland, up from 32 a day earlier. The figures represent a rise in cases coming from abroad.
Mainland China’s imported cases stood at 1,042 as of Tuesday, up 59 from day earlier, according to official figures
The rise in COVID-19 cases comes as the central Chinese city of Wuhan reopened after it was sealed off on January 23 and remained under a strict lockdown for 76 days. Wuhan was the epicenter of the outbreak in China and is believed to be where the virus originated.
00:05 The EU’s science chief, Mauro Ferrari, has resigned at the height of the coronavirus crisis, an EU spokesman said. Ferrari had begun his tenure as president of the European Research Council on January 1.
”I can confirm that Professor Ferrari resigned,” EU Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said.
A statement by Ferrari, obtained by Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, stated he had ”been extremely disappointed by the European response” to the pandemic. Ferrari allegedly complained about running into institutional and political obstacles when he sought to swiftly set up a scientific program to combat the virus.
”I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union,” he wrote in the statement. ”I have lost faith in the system itself.”
Read more: World Health Day: What does the WHO do?
00:00 Catch up on all of Tuesday’s coronavirus developments here: Wuhan lockdown lifted