This is a live blog from May 18, 2020.

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17:35 That's it for today. Join us tomorrow for more live updates!

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Short Facts

  • Bundesbank expects slow economic recovery
  • Bavaria changes quarantine rules for travelers
  • Merkel encourages WHO members to fight the pandemic together
  • WHO: Europe has to prepare for second wave of corona
  • Daycare centers for children in Saxony and Thuringia start limited regular operation
  • Spain lowers hopes for an early opening of the border
  • Left-wing leaders distance themselves from so-called hygiene demos

17:23 Berlin and Paris propose 500 billion euro reconstruction plan

Germany and France jointly propose a European economic recovery program of 500 billion euro in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. This is specified in a German–French statement available to the dpa news agency. The EU will take out the massive sum in credit and use it as aid to crisis states as part of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework.

According to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German–French initiative for a European recovery fund is intended to ensure cohesion within the EU. “The aim is to strengthen Europe and to recover from this crisis with solidarity,” Ms. Merkel said after a video conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. As the coronavirus impacts the European countries differently, this threatens the cohesion within the Union. Ms. Merkel was therefore in favor of an "exceptional, unique effort", which Germany and France are ready to take.

Such a program would have to be approved unanimously by all 27 EU states and the increase to the budgetary framework must also be ratified in all EU states; in Germany by the Bundestag.

17:06 Live: Merkel and Macron hold press conference

Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will present the results of a joint video conference. The afternoon conference addressed issues such as the economic impact the coronavirus crisis has on Europe.

16:32 Corona vaccine tests to start in September

According to the University of Marburg, a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus will be tested in humans during a first clinical trial, already this year. “The design of the vaccine has been completed. Now, the vaccine for clinical tests needs to be produced,” said Marburg-based virologist Stephan Becker from the German Center for Infection Research. The clinical trial will be headed by virologist Marylyn Addo from the University Hospital of Hamburg- Eppendorf. Ms. Addo already made significant contributions to the development of the vaccines against Ebola and Mers.

The vaccine is currently being produced for the first clinical phase in Dessau, the University of Marburg furthermore informed. Production is expected to be completed in three months, to allow clinical tests to start in September. Nevertheless, no vaccine will be available this year. The development of a vaccine is "a lengthy, laborious process," Mr. Becker explained. The vaccine, which is now being used in this first clinical phase, has been developed under the direction of virologist Gerd Sutter from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

16:15 Poland to open restaurants, beauty salons, and sports halls

In Poland, to Germany's east, restaurants and beauty salons have reopened after weeks of restrictions. Strict security measures are in place. A minimum distance of two meters must be observed between tables in restaurants and cafes. Each customer has four square meters available. Sports halls will also reopen, with restrictions.

In a next phase, schools will reopen, at least in part, depending on the development of the pandemic. In addition, Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski has stated that the requirement to wear face masks will be relaxed. This will probably be decided in the next 14 days, Mr. Szumowski said.

15:58 US Laboratory: "Positive intermediate results" in clinical vaccine tests

The US biotech company Moderna has reported "positive intermediate results" in the first phase of clinical tests of a possible vaccine against the novel coronavirus. The vaccine mRNA-1273, developed together with the US Health Authority NIH, triggered an immune reaction in eight out of 45 participants, the company reported, similar to the reaction rates of infected people to the virus. However, the full results of the first phase of clinical tests are not yet known. The US government has invested nearly half a billion dollars in the research project.

15:51 Kindergartens in Saxony-Anhalt will reopen for all children after Pentecost

"From June 2nd onwards, all children in Saxony-Anhalt will be able to visit their daycare centers and kindergartens again. Minister of Social Affairs Petra Grimm-Benne (SPD) spoke of a "great step in relaxing measures, towards normality" in Magdeburg. The low number of coronavirus infections in Saxony-Anhalt had made the step possible. No outbreaks have yet been reported in daycare facilities. The Cabinet is expected to decide on the new regulation next week.

In March, kindergartens closed their doors to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The right to emergency care has been extended several times since then. Currently, 29.11 percent of registered children are cared for in daycare facilities.

15:47 Back to school in 22 EU countries

Schools and other educational facilities have started reopening in 22 of 27 EU countries. Most countries have started opening kindergartens and teaching some classes of primary schools, according to Croatian Minister of Education Blazenka Divjak after a video conference with her EU colleagues. Moreover, other schools have reopened for graduation classes, as well as vocational schools.

She has not yet heard of any Member State in which the entire school system has reopened, said Ms. Divjak, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency. Most countries follow a "more cautious" approach, even if there are no reports of infection rates increasing because schools open again . It would "probably be too early" to evaluate this.

15:31 London: changes to the sense of smell recognized as a symptom

The British health authorities have added the loss or change to the sense of taste or smell to the list of symptoms of COVID-19 disease. Data and information on COVID-19 have been closely monitored, “and after careful consideration we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure,” as statement said.

Experts had previously warned that certain cases of infection could be overlooked on the basis of the existing list of symptoms, which includes fever and a persistent cough. Government representatives have stated that people with anosmia – loss or change in the sense of smell – should be placed in quarantine. The sense of taste may also be affected, as both are closely linked.

14:59 Maas: Decision on travel warning to be made on June 15th

The Foreign Ministers of some European countries with many tourists have set June 15th as the date on which they will decided whether to lift the global travel warning and replace it by travel instructions for individual countries.

After a video conference with his colleagues from Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, and Cyprus, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas said that we need a "controlled return to European tourism". Rapid bilateral solutions do not correspond to the European spirit; a coordinated and transparent approach is needed. Health issues, and not economic interests, must take center stage.

14:44 Police in Paris no longer allowed to monitor coronavirus rules with drones

The Parisian police have been forced to stop the surveillance of people with drones in the fight against coronavirus for the time being. Their use was said to violate data protection guidelines and had to be stopped "immediately", said the state council as the supreme administrative court. The state council objected to the fact that the drones theoretically enable the identification of persons - however, the use of drones in itself is legitimate. The state council was called by the French Human Rights League and a civil rights organization.

The police in Paris used the drones to find prohibited assemblies with too many people. Authorities across France have used drones to monitor compliance with the curfew.

14:34 Head of the party Die Linke distances itself from so-called hygiene demonstrations

The head of the party Die Linke is clearly distancing itself from the so-called hygiene demonstrations against the coronavirus measures. The trivialization or denial of coronavirus is "inconsiderate towards minorities and the socially weak," said party leader Katja Kipping. The trivialization of the pandemic leads to an inconsiderate climate for the particularly vulnerable members of the population. Individuals in a socially weak position are particularly prone to become severely ill or die.

Following Kipping's statement, the party executive also clearly distanced itself from the hygiene demonstrations - and thereby probably also from the Linke party deputy Andrej Hunko who, according to reports by the Berlin newspaper "Tagesspiegel", among others, had participated in a controversial rally in Aachen - which had been criticized.

14:20 Bavaria also changes quarantine rules for arrivals

Following several other federal states, Bavaria has also changed the quarantine rules for those arriving in the state. From the weekend, anyone entering the state from EU and Schengen countries as well as from the UK will no longer need to quarantine at home, as a spokesman for the Ministry of Health stated in Munich. "Bavaria has changed its regulations in accordance with the agreement between the federal states and the government."

Previously, people who had entered Bavaria from a neighboring European country had to quarantine for 14 days. This was supposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, in consultation with the federal chancellery, the federal states had agreed to ease the rules. Some had already lifted the quarantine rules.

14:11 EU could soon approve the medication Remdesivir for coronavirus patients

The European Medicines Agency EMA apparently intends to approve the antiviral medication Remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients in Europe in the near future. “It may be that conditional market approval will be granted in the coming days,” said the head of the EMA, Guido Rasi, at a hearing in the European Parliament. Preliminary studies have shown that the medicine originally developed against Ebola by the US corporation Gilead could shorten the recovery period of coronavirus patients.

The conditional market approval depends on whether the experts have classified the existing study data for the medication as “robust enough”, Rasi said in the EU Parliament's health committee. But it could come "very soon".

Remdesivir penetrates viruses and thereby prevents them from multiplying. At the start of May, the US drug authority FDA had issued emergency approval to use the drug to treat the lung disease CoViD-19.

13:57 All adults in Denmark can now be tested for coronavirus

All adults in Denmark will have the option of being tested for the novel coronavirus. Given the Danish strategy to massively increase the number of Danes to be tested, all adult citizens will be able to arrange an appointment for a coronavirus test over the course of the week. Even if there is a slight suspicion that they may have been infected, they should get tested, said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke. Shortly thereafter, tens of thousands of Danes were already on the waitlist on the relevant website to book a test. Here, initially 18- to 25-year-olds were to register before this option will also open up to older adults in the coming days.

About 400,000 people have been tested for CoViD-19 in Denmark so far. Approximately 11,000 persons were confirmed to have an infection, while more than 9,200 have already recovered.

13:52 China wants to make potential coronavirus vaccine available worldwide

China has announced that, in the event of the successful development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, it will make this vaccine available worldwide. If China develops a vaccine against the virus, Beijing will make sure it becomes a “worldwide asset for the general public,” President Xi Jinping said in a video message at the beginning of the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA). This would mean that the vaccine would also be available to and affordable for developing countries. Clinical tests with five possible coronavirus vaccines are currently underway in China. Further potential vaccines are still waiting for approval to be tested on humans. Many other countries are also working on the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

13:46 Tourism industry: Lifting travel warning is an "important step" for Europe

The German travel industry welcomed the prospect of lifting the travel warning for destinations in Europe, as envisaged by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD). "Returning to a specific examination of the situation in the respective countries is a very good approach," the President of the German Travel Association (DRV), Norbert Fiebig, said after a video conference with Maas. This was "an important step in the right direction in order to give holidaymakers and the travel industry a prospect of resuming travel." Today, Maas is discussing the possibility of a summer holiday with his colleagues from popular European travel countries.

13:35 Heil presses for new regulations in the meat industry

In line with the wishes of Minister for Employment Hubertus Heil (SPD), on Wednesday the federal cabinet will decide on measures to improve the protection of workers in the meat industry. After discussions with the coronavirus cabinet, Heil said that his proposals are on the table, but had not yet been decided because the coalition partner Union still needed to discuss these. “It is time to clean up and take drastic measures this area,” Heil said. At the moment, coronavirus outbreaks are increasing in the meat industry. The infected employees are mostly workers from eastern Europe who work for subcontractors and are housed in shared accommodation.

13:30 Federal government warns citizens of false information

The federal government has warned of false information related to coronavirus. For example, there are no plans to implement compulsory vaccinations coronavirus in Germany, said government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer. Citizens should have a close look at information and, above all, use reliable sources. Fake information could cost lives.

13:27 Merkel promises to fully support WHO

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) promised to fully support the World Health Organization (WHO) at the start of the World Health Assembly. “The World Health Organization is the legitimized organization for the area of health,” Merkel said in a video message. Therefore, the work and funding of the WHO must be ensured. Merkel also reminded participants of the need for a joint response to the coronavirus crisis. No country can solve this problem alone. The more the global community cooperates, the faster the pandemic can be overcome.

13:16 Guterres: World is paying a "high price" for conflicting strategies

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has strongly criticized the inconsistent response of the global community to the coronavirus pandemic. “Different countries have followed different and sometimes contradictory strategies, and we are all paying a high price for this,” he said in a video message at the beginning of the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly.

Guterres also reasserted his demand for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. But now is not the right time. Now the world must cooperate in solidarity to stop the virus. “Either we get through this pandemic together or we fail,” he said. The Chinese head of state Xi Jinping said his country had "always" been transparent the way it dealt with the pandemic. China supports an investigation of the global response to the virus as soon as the pandemic has been curbed. The country plans to provide two billion dollars for the continued global fight against CoViD-19.

12:46 Federal Bank expects slow economic recovery

According to the Federal Bank, the German economy will recover slowly from the deep slump resulting from the coronavirus crisis. "There is currently strong evidence that overall economic development will pick up again during the second quarter as a result of the easing measures and that a recovery phase will begin," wrote the central bank in its May monthly report. "However, there is a very high degree of uncertainty about further economic development." According to initial calculations by the Federal Statistical Office, gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2020 shrank by 2.2 percent compared with the previous quarter. Despite the easing measures that have been introduced, social and economic life in Germany is still very far from what was previously considered normal, wrote the Federal Bank economists. " Available economic indicators paint a correspondingly gloomy picture." According to the Federal Bank, economic output in the second quarter is likely to be "considerably lower" again than in the first quarter. Various forecasts in the market assume a slump in German GDP of up to 14 percent.

12:34 Söder also in favor of extending the pay for parents

The CSU also supports the plan to provide longer and stronger support for families in the coronavirus crisis. Following CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CSU leader Markus Söder also supports the SPD's plan to extend the entitlement to sick pay. The news agency dpa learned that he was in favor of this from participants in a CSU executive committee meeting. So far, those who cannot work during the coronavirus crisis because they are caring for small children, receive 67 percent of their net income for six weeks. Previously, Social Minister Hubertus Heil and Family Minister Franziska Giffey (both SPD), as well as SPD leader Saskia Esken, had advocated a follow-up regulation.

12:27 Restaurants facing problems despite easing restrictions

Restaurants in additional federal states can welcome guests again today: Signs and disinfectants at the entrance however already indicate that it will not be the same as before the pandemic. Full restaurants are not expected. Many establishments may only serve fewer guests than usual because of the distance rules. Some have chosen to not open at all as the the business is not worthwhile due to the regulations.

12:13 WHO: Europe must prepare for second wave of coronavirus

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), European countries should begin preparing for a second deadly wave of coronavirus infections right now. It is "time for preparation, not celebration," the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, told The Telegraph newspaper in the UK. This was in response to the relaxation of pandemic preparedness measures in several countries. The WHO Regional Director expressed particular concern about the possibility of a "double wave". "This means we could have a second wave of the Covid infection as well as seasonal influenza or measles." Many children are not vaccinated against measles, warned Kluge. Countries must now use the time to strengthen their health care systems and expand hospital capacities, for example.

12:03 Federal Bank supports Scholz's plan

Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is getting support from the Federal Bank of Germany for his plan to provide massive support to the municipalities. "There is a lot to be said for shielding the municipalities from financial burdens caused by the pandemic," the central bank said in its monthly report. "This is primarily a task for the federal states." Such support could also be combined with a fundamental reform of municipal financing. "Current developments show the need for action once again." Thus, it is obvious that "the municipal tax revenues should be significantly stabilised while maintaining municipal tax autonomy".

11:41 Spain dampens hope for early opening of the border

Spain's government has dampened hopes that the border will soon be opened for tourists. "I hope that we can resume tourist activities at the end of June," said Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos. "We cannot allow the entry of foreigners while we are still subjecting the Spanish population to a curfew," he said. Hopes were raised when another hard-hit coronavirus area, Italy, announced that their borders would be opened to tourists from June 3.

11:34 Criticism of deplorable conditions in the meat industry

The working conditions in meat companies have been the subject of criticism for quite some time - mainly because of the employment contracts. Markus Grill explains what is so problematic about this model.

11:25 Russian authorities: Spread of the virus slowed somewhat

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in Russia has slowed down slightly according to official information. For the first time since the beginning of the month, there were less than 9000 new coronavirus infections reported in one day, the authorities announced. A total of about 290,700 people in Russia have been infected, 2722 have died so far according to official reports. Recent foreign media reports stated that the official figures were embellished and many deaths in connection with the virus did not appear in the statistics. Russia's state leadership vehemently denied this and is now taking action against such reports.

11:21 Few or no new coronavirus infections in most districts.

The majority of districts and cities in Germany have reported very few or no new coronavirus infections during the past week. This is the result of an overview by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). However, the RKI expressly points out that the figures may differ from the actual local figures due to transmission delays. According to the overview, no new infections have been reported in some 50 districts within seven days. In about 220 districts there were five or less new infections per 100,000 inhabitants. However, some districts also reached or exceeded the threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week established by politicians. In total, the RKI records data from just over 400 districts and district-free cities.

11:16 Saxony's Prime Minister defends demonstration visit without mask

Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer defended his visit to a demonstration against the coronavirus restrictions without a protective mask. He tried to keep the minimum distance, and deliberately sought contact with people "who explicitly refuse to wear a face mask", he told news radio MDR Aktuell. In the end, one has to decide whether one wants to speak or not, Kretschmer explained. In terms of potential infiltration of the protests by right-wing extremists, Kretschmer said that where many people gather, there is also an attraction for extremists "who are trying to dominate the whole situation". This must then be opposed, he stressed. But one must not put all protesters "into the same pot". Kretschmer attended an unannounced demonstration against the coronavirus restrictions in Dresden on Saturday.

11:08 Parents in Saxony to decide whether their children will attend primary school

Starting today, parents in Saxony may decide whether their primary school child will go to school or study at home. According to the state government's plan, Saxony's primary schools should have reopened for all children this week. On Saturday, however, the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs temporarily suspended compulsory school attendance for grades one to four. Although compulsory school attendance is still in place, parents can decide for themselves whether their children attend school or not. The decision was in response to a ruling by the Leipzig Administrative Court on Friday. In summary proceedings, the court ruled in favour of the parents of a seven-year-old boy who had opposed the opening of primary schools without adhering to the minimum distance of 1.5 meters. The decision of the Ministry of Education is valid until June 5. The ministry intends to challenge the decision of the Leipzig Administrative Court.

10:52 Merkel and Macron plan initiative to revive Europe's economy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and French President Emmanuel Macron are planning a Franco-German initiative for Europe's economic recovery. Merkel and Macron plan to meet in the afternoon via video conference and present the plan to the public later in a joint video press conference, announced the Federal Press Office. The plan is to focus on reviving the economy in Europe, which is suffering severely from the coronavirus crisis.

10:44 130 Infected in refugee home near Bonn

According to current test results, 130 people in a refugee home in St. Augustin near Bonn have been infected with the coronavirus. A spokeswoman for the district government of Cologne stated that the facility has a total of 300 residents, all of whom are being tested. Those who tested negative and those who tested positive are being housed separately. It was reported on Sunday that 70 people had been tested positive, but further tests are still pending. Similar incidents have already occurred in North Rhine-Westphalia in refugee homes in Euskirchen and Mettmann.

10:32 Söder calls for incentives for "holiday at home"

CSU leader Markus Söder has called for financial incentives for a holiday in Germany. He could easily imagine holiday vouchers or tax deductibility of expenses for a holiday in Germany this year, "preferably for holidays in Bavaria", the CSU leader said before a meeting of the party leaders. Söder said that, unlike Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD), he was "very reserved" in his expectations as to what kind of holidays would be possible in European countries such as Spain, Italy, or France. In order to rescue the travel companies currently particularly affected by the coronairus crisis, there are therefore two possibilities - either direct support of the companies or incentives for holidays.

10:26 Increasing number of new infections in India

The number of people in India who tested positive for the coronavirus increased by 5242 to more than 96,000 within 24 hours. This is the highest daily increase in infections to date, according to the authorities. The number of deaths rose by 157. The reason for the increase is thought to be due to migrant workers returning to their home villages. India relaxed its restrictions on May 4 after weeks of curfew and allowed migrant workers to return home, resulting in millions of people travelling in the past two weeks. Further easing came into force today.

10:04 Kramp-Karrenbauer does not want to raise taxes

CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has ruled out tax increases to finance the coronavirus crisis follow-up costs. "I don't see how tax increases would help businesses invest and people spend money", Kramp-Karrenbauer told the newspaper "Saarbruecker Zeitung", as both are essential to get the economy moving again. Coalition partner SPD is considering financing corona  crisis expenditures through higher taxes. Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has expressed his willingness to impose a tax on the wealthy. SPD leader Saskia Esken spoke out in favor of a wealth tax.

09:50 Before meeting Merkel: Industry and Verdi demand further aid

Business and trade unions are calling for further help prior to Chancellor Angela Merkel's (CDU) meeting with representatives of the social partners. The Federation of German Industry (BDI) is demanding an immediate program from the federal government to limit the recession. BDI President Dieter Kempf told the newspaper "Handelsblatt" that the focus must be on tax relief for companies. Frank Werneke, head of the service industry union Ver.di, called for an "economic stimulus package in the range of three to four percent of the gross domestic product - that is, approximately 100 to 150 billion euros". Now is also the time to talk about consumer cheques. According to Ver.di, these could be 500 euros for low and middle income earners, and could stop at higher earnings.

09:46 Corona Cabinet apparently postpones discussions about the situation in slaughterhouses

The so-called Corona Cabinet of the Federal Government has postponed the discussions on the consequences of the coronavirus outbreaks in German slaughterhouses until this Wednesday. The news agency dpa learned from government circles that there is still a need for consultation.

The focus of the discussion will be on how to deal with seasonal workers from abroad. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has called for stricter conditions. Actually, he had intended to present proposals to change the labor protection law at today's meeting on Monday. On Sunday, the district of Osnabrueck had announced that 92 employees of a slaughterhouse in Dissen, Lower Saxony, were tested positive".

09:38 Klein: Corona protests are a gathering place for anti-semites

The anti-Semitism commissioner of the federal government, Felix Klein, warns against the drift of the protests against the anti-Corona measures into the right-wing scene. The current protests are "quite obviously a melting pot for conspiracy myths, holocaust deniers and other anti-semites", Klein told the newspapers of Funke Mediengruppe. "This fear-driven aggression is highly dangerous. The attacks in Halle and Hanau have shown how quickly abstruse thoughts can turn into deadly terrorist attacks."

FDP General Secretary Linda Teuteberg expressed understanding for the protests - but not for violence and conspiracy theories. She said to the "Passauer Neue Presse" newspaper that she considers it fundamentally "legitimate to ask about the proportionality of the Corona restrictions". Demonstrators must, however, exercise their freedoms responsibly and considerately and observe rules of distance and hygiene."I have no sympathy for violence and conspiracy theories," Teuteberg explained.

09:15 Daycare centres in Saxony and Thuringia to start limited operation

Work, childcare, household - the week-long triple burden for many parents has come to an end, at least in Saxony and Thuringia. As of today, all children are allowed to go to daycare again, regardless of whether the parents work in systemically important occupations or are single parents. However, many daycare centres only open during limited opening hours.

In Baden-Württemberg, too, daycare centres are to reopen for a maximum of 50 percent of children.

08:49 Ryanair expects greater loss during the crisis

Europe's largest low-cost carrier, Ryanair, is getting into even greater difficulty during the pandemic and will be reporting higher losses in the first quarter than expected. Between April and June, the company expects to incur a loss of more than 200 million euros, the company announced. Ryanair had previously expected a loss of more than 100 million euros. The Irish company expects less than 80 million passengers this fiscal year - and thus only half of the originally targeted 154 million passengers. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary expects the company to remain in the red between July and September, the peak of the travel season, during the summer. However, these should not be quite as bad as in the first quarter.

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institute reports 342 new cases of CoViD-19 (174,697 total) and 21 new deaths (7,935 total) due to the virus
  • Rules for the hospitality industry further relaxed
  • CDU party leader wants ten weeks continuation of payment for parents
  • Fed predicts weak quarter for US economy
  • More than 16,000 deaths in Brazil