This is a live blog from May 15, 2020.

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Short Facts

  • Stuttgart permits demonstrations with up to 5000 participants
  • Federal Council approves further Corona financial aid
  • Gross domestic product declines by 2.2 percent
  • More than 300,000 fatalities worldwide
  • Quarantine regulations before the out
  • Nearly 900 new infections throughout Germany

17:51 That's it for today. Join us tomorrow for more live updates!

From now on, please head over to Tagesschau to follow the updates (German only).

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17:27 Four million euros for partitions in taxis

The Federal Ministry of Transport promotes the installation of  partitions in taxis to protect drivers and passengers in the coronavirus crisis. The Ministry has announced that four million euros will be made available for this purpose, and if there is demand, the funds can be increased by an additional 500,000 euros. The programme is to start next week. Material and possible installation costs will be supported. An amount of up to 400 euros per vehicle will be available, companies could apply for support for up to 30 vehicles. The programme will run until the end of August 2020.

17:25 Yunus for patent-free coronavirus vaccine

The economic scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has called for the freedom from patents for a future coronavirus vaccine. The world community should not be taken hostage by a few large pharmaceutical companies, who decided at what price, when, and to whom the vaccines would be sold, he said in a video guest lecture at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. The 79-year-old scientist from Bangladesh explicitly criticized the announcement by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi of its preference to supply the USA with a coronavirus vaccine. Yunus called such an attitude “depressing”. It should not be the case that rich industrialized countries secured benefits in the development and distribution of future vaccines and medicines against CoViD-19.

17:14 German Football League lifts mask requirement for League trainers

The German Football League (DFL) has lifted the requirement for masks for trainers one day before the first games behind closed doors in the 1st and 2nd German Divisions. "Their activity as trainers would be significantly restricted by mouth and nose protection, including issuing instructions as well as for mimics and gestures. Therefore, we consider that the continuously maintaining social distancing during the game is sufficient as a protective measure for trainers," said DFL Director Ansgar Schwenken at "The Task Force prefers both measures – social distancing and a mouth and nose protection for all other people on the substitute bench." In the Task Force’s DFL concept before that, the trainers also had to use masks during the game and they could only take them off for instructions - if the safety gap of 1.5 meters to the next person was maintained. This safety gap still applies to the training zone.

17:11 Maas: Open questions about air traffic

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas still sees obstacles on the way back to scheduled air traffic in the coronavirus pandemic. Infection protection in the airplane is “one of the problems that have not yet been solved,” he said in the “Interview of the Week” at the German radio station. “I can understand that airlines that have lost a lot of money want to recover it as quickly as possible,” Maas said. “This should not be ”at the expense of the social distancing rules.” He named empty seats or built-in fixtures in the aircraft “as possible options.”  “This is currently the subject of many discussions with the airlines, which is a prerequisite for regular air traffic to return to ist normal scope.”

17:06 Orban wants to withdraw controversial coronavirus decrees

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to give up controversial full powers in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He expects that the special rights of the government will again be abolished this month, he said in Budapest. In March, the parliament had granted Orban the right to rule by decree, which had triggered harsh criticism from the opposition, EU governments, and non-governmental organizations. After a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Orban said that this would “give everyone who had unfairly criticized Hungary, the opportunity to apologize”. There is reason to admire Hungary for its fight against the virus. So far, the country has recorded 3417 coronavirus infections and 442 deaths.

16:54 Further study planned in the district of Heinsberg

According to North Rhine-Westphalia’s Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann, researchers at the Bonn Uniklinik (University Hospital Bonn) are planning a further study in the district of Heinsberg, which is particularly affected by the coronavirus. This is to clarify how long immunity in coronavirus patients lasts. The state government is currently examining whether it will support the study financially. There is a lot in favor of this, said Laumann. An initial study by researchers at the Uniklinik under the direction of virologist Hendrik Streeck had aroused interest but also criticism of the methodology and the support provided by a PR agency.

16:42 Death rates above average in mid-April

Death rates in Germany were also significantly higher in the third week of April than in previous years due to the coronavirus epidemic. At least 18,693 people died in the 16th calendar week from 13th to 19th April, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden. This was about eight percent higher than the average of the years 2016 to 2019. However, compared to the previous week, deaths in Germany fell by more than 1300. At least 20,036 people died in the 15th calendar week from 6th to 12th April. This was almost 2150 or 12 percent higher than the average of the previous four years. The difference to the previous years has so far been the greatest in the 15th calendar week. Significantly more people have died in Germany due to the coronavirus since the end of March according to the statistics. The trend points to extra mortality connected to the CoViD-19 pandemic because deaths normally decrease from week to week as the flu epidemic wanes. The extra mortality in Germany has so far been low in comparison to Europe.

16:17 US industrial production shrinks by 11.2 percent in April

U.S. industrial production fell by 11.2 percent in April. The decline in its index of industrial production reported by the Federal Central Bank (Fed) on Friday was the biggest ever recorded. Factories and mining suffered from the coronavirus pandemic. The manufacturing industry shrank by 13.7 percent. Production of cars, trucks, and vehicle parts collapsed by more than 70 percent.

16:12 Coronavirus contact restrictions easing  for  Coesfeld from Monday

The coronavirus contact restrictions will also be eased in the Coesfeld district of Munsterland on Monday, after one week of delay. North Rhine-Westphalia’s state health minister Karl-Josef Laumann informed us of this. After 1033 employees of the Westfleisch company were tested positive for the coronavirus recently, the district has registered only 16 new infections which had no contact with the meat industry. Laumann, therefore, spoke of a limited local outbreak at Westfleisch in Coesfeld. The number of new infections to 100,000 inhabitants is 67.3 with the Westfleisch cases. The value according to Laumann is only 7.3 without them. 50 cases is the number limit agreed by the federal government and states to make easing possible.

15:54 Scholz praises European response to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus

Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz has praised the rapid joint response of Europe to the economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus. Support has been set up in record time, the SPD politician said before a meeting of the Eurogroup: "Today is a good day for Europe".

He referred to the package of up to EUR 540 billion in aid for workers on reduced hours, businesses, and the euro states agreed in April. The loans of the ESM euro safety net will now be available, with the Sure short-time work programme on the way. The third element of the package, a European guarantee fund for enterprise loans from the European Investment Bank, also needs to be implemented quickly.

15:50 Coronavirus crisis aid for euro safety net finally approved

The euro countries can use coronavirus aid credit worth EUR 240 billion from the ESM safety net. The Governing Council of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in Luxembourg – the finance ministers of the eurozone – have finally approved the establishment of precautionary lines of credit for all euro states. Interested parties can now apply for support.

The ESM support forms part of a 500 billion-euro package agreed by the EU states in April. Following the agreement of the Eurogroup on the final details and approval of the Bundestag, the go-ahead from Luxembourg is now the final step.

Loans are available to all 19 euro states. The only condition is that the money flows, directly or indirectly, into health costs related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The scope of aid can amount to up to two percent of the relevant gross domestic product.

15:10 Coronavirus reaches Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh

In a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, the authorities have diagnosed the first coronavirus infection. In the camps and some villages in the Cox's Bazar district, 186 people with Covid-19 symptoms have been tested, as reported by the government's news agency BSS. Eleven locals and one Rohingya tested positive.

With 1202 new identified infections, Bangladesh has recorded the highest increase within 24 hours. On May 15th, the total number of cases had risen to over 20,000.

15:02 Norway looking to keep borders closed until August 20th

Norway is expected to extend the restrictions on foreign travel and domestic entry until August 20th. This was announced by the Head of Government Erna Solberg. The government is currently advising against all non-essential travel abroad.

Immigrants must self-quarantine for ten days. Foreigners without a residence or work permit are not allowed to enter the country.

14:43 Over 12,500 coronavirus deaths in British nursing homes

In the UK, thousands of residents of nursing homes have died as a result of a coronavirus infection in just two months. In total, 12,526 residents of nursing homes have died as a result of the Covid-19 lung disease in England and Wales region in March and April, according to the National Statistical Authority ONS in London.

Media reports state that the Equality Commission is studying allegations that hospitals have prematurely discharged sick nursing home residents. According to the statistical authority, two-thirds of nursing homes residents have died in their nursing facilities, with the other third dying in hospital. However, given the higher mortality rate over this period, the statisticians expect a high number of unidentified cases. The mortality in nursing homes was 23,000 higher during the first four months of this year than in the previous period last year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted in Parliament this week that the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 in care facilities was "too high". He denied allegations that his government was late in providing care facilities with important personal protective equipment: his government was set to release a further £600 million (€680 million) in support for care facilities, Mr. Johnson announced.

14:25 Aid organizations fear up to one billion may go hungry

Aid organizations warn against an increase in global hunger due to the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis could result in an increase from 820 million to one billion people, said the Secretary General of Welthungerhilfe (German for World Hunger Aid), Mathias Mogge, in Berlin.

The income opportunities of the poorest are lost immediately if day-laborers and migrant workers can no longer work as a result of the coronavirus restrictions from one day to the next. "For them, the risk of starving is more threatening than the virus itself," said Mr. Mogge.

14:09 Moscow starts mass testing for coronavirus antibodies

In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, new mass tests for antibodies are being carried out in Moscow. This will give Europe's largest metropolis a better overview of the course of the outbreak. According to the city government, since Friday, batches of 70,000 Muscovites have been invited "every few days" on a random basis for testing on antibodies against Sars-CoV-2. By the end of May, the tests are to be extended to up to 200,000 per day. Mayor Sergej Sobjanin called it a project of "unprecedented scale".

The results give an important indicator whether or not measures can be relaxed further in the Russian capital. Mr. Sobjanin is convinced that many have already been infected without knowing it. Certain antibodies in the blood are an indication that a person was already infected with the virus and is likely to be immune to a new infection for at least some time. However, the currently available antibody tests often pose the problem of also reacting to a previous infection with another coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the number of recorded infections in the country increased by about 10,600 within a single day, putting the total number of cases at around 262,800. Russia is the country with the second highest official number of infections.

13:59 Decision on quarantine depends on infection limit value

Whether or not people who enter Germany from EU and Schengen countries and from the United Kingdom have to self-quarantine will be guided by the reference limit for new coronavirus infections agreed between the Federal and State Governments. Only those travellers from countries and areas with increased rates of infection will have to quarantine, according to spokesman from the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The limit value corresponds to 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a single week. If this value is exceeded, more stringent precautions can be taken.

Yesterday, the Federal and State Governments had agreed to make changes to the quarantine obligation after easing border controls.

13:42 Greece considers ending quarantine requirements

The Greek government is open to abolishing the required quarantine for travellers arriving from certain countries. However, this would have to be done on the basis of bilateral talks. Athens wants to use the EU's proposal to ease travel restrictions between member states in which the number of infections is falling to about the same level as orientation.

"Tourism with quarantine cannot exist," said the Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas in a television interview.

As the German Press Agency reported, referring to information from government circles, Greece is currently conducting discussions with Cyprus, Austria, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and also with Israel in order to potentially lift travel restrictions and the obligation to quarantine.

From Monday onwards, domestic easing of travel restrictions will come into effect in Greece. Travelling to the mainland and to Crete will be possible again. From May 25, trips to the islands will also be permitted again.

13:31 Bundesliga launch with a signal effect?

Bayern Munich's coach Hansi Flick views the relaunch of the Bundesliga as an enormous task. "The whole world is watching Germany to see how we do it," he said at a press conference.

"This can have a signal effect on all leagues. It might lead to sports in general being resumed," said Flick. Therefore, it is important to consistently implement the strict conditions for holding ghost games without any spectators.

13:28 Qatar imposes horrendous penalties for breaching the requirement to wear masks

The emirate of Qatar is also introducing the requirement to wear a mask in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It will come into force on Sunday, the country's Ministry of the Interior announced. Currently, around 14,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Qatar.

Those who do not comply with the order will face incredibly severe penalties: violations will be punished with a fine of up to 51,000 euros or imprisonment for up to three years.

13:19 Von der Leyen: Plan for recovery fund by the end of May

In March, the EU member states agreed on a comprehensive coronavirus aid package. This included a so-called recovery fund to strengthen the economy of the EU states after the crisis.

The EU Commission is to develop the concept for the fund.  EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's spokesman Eric Mamer announced that the plan will be presented on May 27.

There are already several controversial points concerning the fund: how high should the amount be? How will it be funded? And what exactly will the money be spent on?

One thing that is clear is that billions will be allocated to reconstruction. The Fund is to become part of the next seven-year EU budget.

13:07 Corona test with a driving service

In Rhineland-Palatinate, members of the German Red Cross are travelling to  patients who, due to the restrictions, cannot visit a doctor's office to be tested for coronavirus there.

13:00 DEL makes salary waiver a condition for a licence

A voluntary waiver of players’ salaries will be a prerequisite in the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) for clubs to receive their licences in the upcoming season.

Due to the economic threat caused by the coronavirus crisis, the 14 clubs have agreed to reduce players’ salaries. “Existing contracts will be changed in such a way that 25 percent of the salary will be converted from a guaranteed payment to a variable. This condition will be added directly to new contracts,” DEL Managing Director Gernot Tripcke told the German Press Agency.

Even if the clubs could prove a balanced budget even without a reduction in salaries, their licence would be denied without the consent of the players.

12:57 Bundesrat approves voucher solution

The Bundesrat has agreed that tickets for cultural and sports events that had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic can be replaced by vouchers. The committee's decision is hereby in line with the vote of the Bundestag.

The regulations apply for tickets purchased before March 8 and are valid for festivals, concerts, theater performances, readings, lectures, as well as soccer games and other sports events. Vouchers may also be issued for season tickets for gyms or theaters.

Customers can insist on a refund of the ticket price if they are unable to redeem a voucher due to personal circumstances. Vouchers that are not redeemed must be refunded by the end of 2021 at the latest.

12:46 Bavaria: Dozens of apparent infections in slaughterhouse

At least 77 employees of a slaughterhouse in the Bavarian district of Straubing-Bogen have become infected with the coronavirus. This was reported by the German Press Agency, citing sources from the Bavarian Ministry of Health.

All of the approximately 1000 employees of the plant are to be tested. About 150 staff members are still to be tested. 18 infections were already known before the mass tests, and 59 more cases were detected during the test series.

In an interview with "Der Spiegel", Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) called for stricter rules for companies in the meat industry. "We are risking a second big wave of infection through the behavior of a few black sheep", Heil warned. On Monday, he intends to present proposals to the Corona Cabinet to change the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

12:11 Corona Distance App to be ready by mid-June

The German government expects the app for tracking corona contacts to be operational by mid-June. That is the approximate time frame, said government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Development is in full swing, he said. The introduction is to be accompanied by an advertising campaign to encourage as many people as possible to use the app voluntarily. The app is intended to inform and warn people who have had contact with an infected person.

12:00 Rhineland-Palatinate also lifts quarantine for EU citizens

Rhineland-Palatinate has also lifted the quarantine regulations for EU citizens. In an amendment to the state's Corona control regulation, it now states that only people entering Rhineland-Palatinate from a non-EU country, the European Free Trade Association, Great Britain, or Northern Ireland are required to go immediately to their own homes or other accommodation and stay there for 14 days in quarantine. The regulation with this provision came into force on Friday at 0.00 hours, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health in Mainz said.

In the next few days, the federal states want to lift their general quarantine rules for travellers from neighbouring states, which were introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Federal Ministry of the Interior is currently working on a new model regulation for the states, the ministry said on Friday. The states agreed to this on Thursday after consultation with the Chancellor's Office.

11:47  Ersze Youth Hostels to reopen

40 of the 450 youth hostels nationwide are scheduled to resume operations next week, said a spokesperson for the German Youth Hostel Association to the news agency dpa. The hostels had to close in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to rulings from the federal states. The ruling expires on Monday (May 18). Exactly which youth hostels will reopen has not yet been decided.

The regional associations still have to clarify open questions with the respective state governments. For example, it is still unclear to what extent guests may come. One of the open questions is whether the number of occupied rooms or beds must be reduced. From the hostels' point of view, there is also still a need for clarification regarding hygiene concepts for registration and in the kitchens.

11:42 Sports scientist sees higher risk of injury in Bundesliga

Sports scientist Jürgen Freiwald expects an increased risk of injury at the restart of the German Soccer League this weekend. "There will be physical strain in the game, for which the soccer players are currently unprepared for due to lack of team training", he told the newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung". Therefore, he said, there will be more absences.

Sprints and one-on-one matches, for example, could not have been properly trained at home. According to Freiwald, a preparation time of four weeks instead of two would have been better. "The teams are less prepared now than ever before." Clubs with a broad-based squad have an advantage because they can compensate for absences more easily. Regarding the intensity of the games after the restart, Freiwald sees two options.

Either the matches take place at a lower level and become slower. "Or you try to play the way you did before, are overstrained and tend to get more injuries."

11:38 Brazil: Former head of state Lula accuses successors of negligence

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has accused his successor Jair Bolsonaro of accepting "genocide" through the excessively weak measures against the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with the news agency AFP, Lula criticized Bolsonaro for turning anyone who was afraid of the virus into an enemy.

So far, almost 14,000 people have died in Brazil as a result of a coronavirus infection. Currently, more than 203,000 cases have been reported to the state authorities.

Bolsonaro had repeatedly downplayed the virus and warned against causing too much economic damage because of its spread.

11:30 Euro-zone records a sharp decline in economic output

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a massive collapse in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the 19 countries in the euro zone. In the first quarter it fell by 3.8 percent compared with the same period of the previous year.

In the 27 countries of the European Union, the slump in growth from January to March was 3.3 percent compared to the previous quarter. France was most affected, with a 5.8 percent drop in GDP. This was followed by Spain, which recorded an economic decline of 5.2 per cent in the same period.

11:17 Heil in favor of follow-up regulation for continued salary payments

Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has spoken out in parliament (Bundesrat) in favor of creating regulations regarding the continued payment of wages for parents who have to care for their children due to the closure of schools and kindergartens and are therefore able to work less, even in the current transition phase.

A spokesperson for his ministry told the newspaper "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" that the continued payment of wages should be phased out, as most kindergartens and schools will gradually reopen. For some parents, the payments would thus already end in mid-May.

Heil announced a meeting between union and employer representatives and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) for next Monday, where the topic will be discussed again.

11:07 Parliament debates humanitarian impact of the crisis

This morning, the members of the parliament discussed the worldwide humanitarian consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The coronavirus is not just a health crisis", stressed Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, adding that it was "increasingly developing into a humanitarian crisis". Germany must become even more involved in the fight against the pandemic, he said. Not until the virus is contained worldwide will everyone be safe, Maas continued.

The SPD politician also warned that several countries would use the measures against the pandemic "to restrict the rule of law". He added that precisely because the coronavirus restrictions restrict human rights, they must have legitimate purposes, be proportionate and above all temporary.

10:44 Federal Council approves further Corona aid

The parliament decided yesterday on additional financial support to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis. The Federal Council has now also agreed.

The new support includes, among other things, an increase in short-time work compensation: the current general level of 60 percent of lost net wages, it is to be increased to 70 percent from the fourth month and to 80 percent from the seventh month. For parents, benefits will initially rise to 77 percent and in a second step to 87 percent. This regulation applies until the end of the year.

In addition, the entitlement to unemployment benefits will be extended by three months if it expires between May 1 and December 31.

10:30 Stuttgart allows demonstration with thousands of participants

Up to 5000 people will be allowed to gather in Stuttgart tomorrow at a rally against corona restrictions.

" This was a balancing act between protection against infection and freedom of assembly," said Mayor of Stuttgart Martin Schairer (CDU), commenting on the city's decision. The public health department reminded participants to keep the minimum distances and to wear masks when travelling to and from the event on public transport. Violations of the mask requirement will be punished with a 300 euro fine, warned Schairer.

10:09 German economy decreased by 2.2 percent since the beginning of the year

The German economy slumped sharply in the first quarter due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, according to the Federal Statistical Office. The gross domestic product decreased by 2.2 percent compared to the same period of the previous year.

10:04 Pisa study to examine the effects of the coronavirus crisis

The Pisa study carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which compares the performance of schoolchildren in different countries, will also take into account the constraints imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The OECD education expert Andreas Schleicher stressed that social and emotional skills played an important role in everyday school life. Therefore, the effects of the coronavirus crisis on "the relationship between teachers, students, and school" should also be considered.

09:55 More than 10,000 new infections in Russia

The Russian health authorities have received reports of almost 10,600 additional coronavirus cases and 113 deaths in the past 24 hours. This brings the number of corona deaths in the country to around 2400, with more than 262,800 infections currently known.

09:42 US Drug Regulatory Agency doubts the validity of coronavirus test

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, among others, are tested daily for coronavirus infection using the Abbott Group's "ID Now" rapid coronavirus test. The FDA has now expressed doubts about the test on the basis of several studies.

The test involves a nasal swab to determine whether the person has been infected with the virus. Positive results of the test are reliable. However, according to the FDA, the negative results may not always be correct, so that those tested feel healthy even though they have been infected.

Abbott received FDA emergency approval for the rapid test in March.

09:26 Slovenia abolishes quarantine regulation

The Slovenian government has decided to allow EU citizens to enter the country without having to go into a seven-day quarantine afterwards, as was previously required.

Controls at the borders with Austria, Italy, and Hungary will continue, however. If persons show obvious symptoms of illness, they will continue to be banned from entry. Non-EU citizens are still affected by the entry ban.

Slovenia had declared a state of emergency in mid-March. Since then, the number of infections has dropped significantly. According to authorities, there were only 35 new cases in the past two weeks.

09:19 Summer holiday in Denmark?

During a television debate, the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that she was considering "in the next phase" of the relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions, allowing tourists to enter Denmark if they can present a rental contract for a holiday home.

09:03 Decline in gross domestic product expected

According to forecasts by economists, the coronavirus crisis may have already led to a decline in German economic output of up to 2.5 percent in the first quarter of the year. The Federal Statistical Office will announce concrete figures this morning.

The federal government is expecting a massive slump in its current economic forecast: For the year as a whole, it expects a decline of 6.3 percent of GDP - making this the worst recession in post-war history.

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institute reports 913 new cases of CoViD-19 (173,152 total) and 101 new deaths (7,824 total) due to the virus
  • Parliament approves social policy package II
  • Inflation rate at 0.9 percent
  • Tax estimates for the current and next year are likely to be gloomy
  • In Russia, the number of infected people exceeds 250,000