This is a live blog from May 21, 2020.

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Short Facts

  • Unemployment in the USA continues to rise
  • Austria relies on tests for opening up tourism
  • Spain plans to expand tourism in July at the earliest
  • Kretschmer defends increase of household taxes
  • EU calls for mandatory masks in airplanes
  • Johns Hopkins: more than five million cases worldwide

16:34 Turkey has hotels checked by TÜV (Technical Inspection Agency)

TÜV Süd is to cooperate in the CoViD- 19 package of measures for the Turkish tourism industry in order to create trust among German holidaymakers. This was announced by the Turkish Government in a letter addressed to German citizens, which is to be published on the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the evening.

16:09 WWF warns against the loss of natural ecosystems

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned against further loss of natural ecosystems to mark tomorrow’s International Day for Biological Diversity. Biological diversity is a “defense against pandemics and a key factor for human health,” said Christoph Heinrich, Chairman of Nature Conservation at WWF Germany. “If we destroy biodiversity, we consequently endanger our health.” In the worst case, CoViD-19 is only a foretaste of what could threaten humanity.

The problem goes far beyond the illegal trade in wildlife. In a living ecosystem animal and plant species, but also viruses, parasites, or bacteria create a balance. “If individual parts are removed, the system will become unstable – pathogens have an easy time of it,” said the WWF representative.

3:35 Warning of "genocide" against indigenous peoples of Brazil

Brazilian photographer and environmental activist Sebastião Salgado has warned against the life-threatening effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the indigenous people of Brazil. If the Brazilian government does not do any more to protect people from infection with coronavirus, there will be  "genocide" against the indigenous people, Salgado said.

"The indigenous people have been let down," he criticized. "Gold miners, lumberjacks, farmers, and religious sects have intruded in their territories, there is a great risk that coronavirus will infect the indigenous population," Salgado said. If the virus reaches the forest, there is no means of help. The distances are huge and the resources are very limited.

The petition set up by the 76-yer-old photographer has been supported by famous people such as Brad Pitt, Paul McCartney, and Madonna. More than 261,000 signatures have been collected so far. Salgado called for Balsonaro to take “urgent measures“ to protect the indigenous Amazonian peoples in the petition.

According to the association of indigenous people of Brazil, the coronavirus has already reached 40 indigenous groups. More than 530 infections have been confirmed after this, around one hundred people have died of CoViD-19. According to estimates around 800,000 indigenous people in 300 ethnic groups live in Brazil.

15:29 Former Trump lawyer Cohen is released from imprisonment due to risk of infection

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, was released from detention. The background to this was that he could be infected with the coronavirus in prison, it was stated. The U.S. law enforcement agencies do not have the pathogen under control: more and more tests in prisons had recently revealed consistently dramatic results.

3:21 p.m. Further positive coronavirus tests in Lower Saxony meat factory

Authorities after running a second round of tests have again found coronavirus infections in 54 Eastern European employees at a meat factory in Dissen near Osnabrück, as reported by the  Osnabrück district. 38 of them were already in quarantine. 16 more also need to be isolated. A total of 126 employees were tested, who had negative test results in the first round of tests. This increased the number of infected persons in the cutting plant to 146. The authorities had detected the virus in 92 employees just a few days ago. The new cases of infection were expected by the health service, it was said. The state of Lower Saxony wants to test all the approximately 23,700 workers in 183 meat processing plants in the industry.

14:54 Woidke highlights the importance of the constitution in times of crisis

President of the Bundesrat and State Premier of Brandenburg Dietmar Woidke has praised the constitution as the "foundation and compass" of the democratic society in Germany at the same time warned of appropriating it. In light of the dramatic rifts in Germany's history in the 20th century, not only the documented, but also the real, individual basic and citizens' rights as well as the right of freedom constitute exceptionally valuable assets," the SPD politician emphasized.

In addition, Woidke pointed out that constitutions are particularly worthwhile in difficult times: "The coronavirus pandemic is an exceptional situation for all of us. Politicians must carefully evaluate which measures to protect the individual are necessary and reasonable. The constitution with its values and principles is and remains our guideline in this case as well."

The restrictions must be clearly limited and proportional. It's a good thing that many people are growing aware of their basic rights at this time. "This makes it all the more perfidious that a small minority is trying to use this phase to appropriate our constitution for conspiracy theories. They are using crude world views to discredit the state and democracy in our country," said Woidke.

The SPD politician made an appeal not to allow people's worries to be misused and individual articles to be highlighted to be prioritized over others in a one-sided way. "Only those who stand for the constitution as a whole are protecting our free, democratic coexistence," the President of the Bundesrat highlighted.

14:42 Unemployment in the USA continues to rise

The number of unemployed people in the USA continues to increase. In the week up until May 16, more than 2.4 million people filed an initial application for unemployment assistance, as the US government has reported. In the previous week, there had been almost three million new applications.

Since the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic in the USA in March, nearly 39 million people have already lost their job, at least temporarily - as many as never before in such a short time. The initial applications for unemployment assistance are seen as an indicator of the short-term development of the US labor market.

14:40 Italian Prime Minister Conte thanks the people for their discipline

Three months after the outbreak of the coronavirus wave in Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte praised his country's people for their discipline in the fight against the virus. "If the worst is behind us, then we owe this to the citizens who changed their lifestyle," said Conte in a speech in front of the parliament in Rome.

However, the challenges of the next few months will be even more difficult. Italy must revitalize the destitute economy and at the same time keep the rates of infection under control. Conte announced that Italy would soon start testing the planned anti-coronavirus app "Immuni". It will aim to help discover the contact persons of those infected more quickly.

The virus wave had come to light on February 20 due to cases of the disease discovered in northern Italy. Since then, the authorities have recorded a total of 227,364 infections and more than 32,000 coronavirus deaths up until May 20. Following curfews and contact restrictions, the number of new infections have been dropping for a long time.

14:13 Red Cross complains of disastrous situation in Syria

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) fears that the coronavirus pandemic will further exacerbate the dramatic humanitarian situation for millions of people in north-eastern Syria. "There is a danger that far-reaching crises that currently lie hidden will worsen while the world's attention is focused on the coronavirus," said the ICRC Regional Director for the Middle East, Fabrizio Carboni.

The humanitarian situation in the region has significantly worsened over the past few months. According to the ICRC, just one of the 16 local hospitals is fully functional, seven have completely shut down operations. Furthermore, the area is experiencing a water shortage.

Experts have long feared that the virus could also spread in overcrowded refugee camps. According to the ICRC, around 100,000 refugees live in tight spaces in the camps, two thirds of these are children.

14:09 ifo Institute: no higher mortality rate in Germany

According to the Munich-based ifo Institute, the mortality rate has barely increased in Germany despite coronavirus. The researchers from the ifo office in Dresden calculated the mortality probability on the basis of the figures of the Federal Statistical Office, taking into account coincidental fluctuations, as the institute reported.

Even the slight deviations in mortality rates observed in April were within the range that could be explained by random influences, said Anna Kremer from the ifo office in Dresden. Even in the particularly vulnerable higher age groups, a higher mortality rate has so far not been determined to date.

14:06 Wuhan: Once again more than 800,000 tests on one day

In Wuhan, the presumed place of origin of coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of tests were once again performed in one day. According to the authorities, 887,321 people were tested. Yesterday, 856,128 nucleic acid tests were performed.

In Wuhan, a study was launched in mid-May to investigate so-called asymmetric disease progressions - just a few days after the first new infection cluster since the official containment of the disease was discovered in the Chinese city with millions of inhabitants.

14:00 Protest against "hygiene demonstration" in Berlin

"Bündnis gegen Rechts", the "Alliance Against the Right" in Berlin has called for another protest against several "hygiene demonstrations" in the capital next Saturday. The participants of the events demonstrating against coronavirus regulations include right-wing groups, parties, and organizations, said the spokesman for "Bündnis gegen Rechts", David Kiefer. "We say a resounding 'no' to anti-semitism, racism, and conspiracy theories. In Berlin and everywhere."

Other protest participants apparently were not bothered by walking alongside "neo-Nazis and hooligans. "The basic tenor of 'as long as it's against the measures' seems to be more important than separating themselves from fascists, conspiracy theorists, and anti-Semites and excluding them from the protests," Kiefer criticized. Over the past weeks, "Bündnis gegen Rechts" has repeatedly warned that the "hygiene demonstrations" against coronavirus regulations are increasingly being taken over by  right-wing groups.

13:44 Opposition criticizes Lufthansa aid

The coronavirus crisis has hit Lufthansa hard. The state wants to help, the negotiations have nearly reached their conclusion. The opposition has criticized the expected billions of state support for the airline. "This looks like a very bad deal for taxpayers," said economic expert Katharina Dröge from the Green Party and her colleague Sven-Christian Kindler, who is responsible for budgetary policy.

Victor Perli, budget expert  from the party Die Linke, criticized that the federal government is "paying Lufthansa a lot of money for minimal influence and the risk of a loss in the billions." Apparently, the motto is to "give money, but shut up."

The FDP is worried about too much state influence at Lufthansa. The federal government's involvement due to the coronavirus consequences "may seem necessary, but the offer made involving direct participation must have the alarm bells ringing," the FDP deputy Michael Theurer said in a guest article in the "Handelsblatt".

13:06 Austria: Restarting tourism with comprehensive tests

As part of its plans to restart tourism on May 29, the Austrian government will provide coronavirus tests for as many employees in hotels and tourist accommodation as possible. "We, as the Republic of Austria, will invest a lot in order to have a high testing capacity," said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. By the beginning of July, 65,000 tests will be available every week. The federal government will cover the costs of the tests.

As soon as the Austrian tourism industry ramps up again, a requirement to wear face masks will apply. Groups of guests will be treated like people from a shared household and will not have to distance from one another. Buffets are allowed with special hygiene measures, the hotel's own wellness facilities may also be used.

Since the German-Austrian border group is to be opened without restrictions in mid-June, Germans will also be able to go on vacation in Austria this summer, according to the current information. German guests are the most important group of holidaymakers for Austrian tourism.

12:46 USA to invest a further billion in vaccine research

The USA is investing up to 1.2 billion dollars in the development of a coronavirus vaccine at the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. At the same time, the government in Washington is pre-ordering 300 million doses of the drug, according to Health Minister Alex Azar. He hopes that the first doses of the vaccine, which is being developed together with the University of Oxford, will be available by October.

AstraZeneca stressed that it is still uncertain whether the vaccine will work at all. The company is still waiting for results from an early-stage test in southern England before moving on to the late stage of testing.

US President Donald Trump recently stated that the United States is financially involved in 14 projects to develop a coronavirus vaccine. In view of the serious consequences of the pandemic, more than 100 projects are working under high pressure on a vaccine against the coronavirus, including in Germany. Many experts estimate that it could take 12 to 18 months before a safe and effective vaccine is available.

12:37 Wolfsburg: Car service for Ascension Day

Honk concert instead of bells ringing and pews with three-point seat belts: Around 200 Christians from Wolfsburg celebrated a car service on Ascension Day for the first time. Hundreds of people in their cars gathered at the car park of the Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg to watch the open-air celebration. A team of technicians transmitted sermons, songs, and intercessions to the participants' car radios via VHF. In view of the coronavirus pandemic, the responsible public order office decreed that the cars had to be parked at a safe distance from each other. Nobody was allowed to get out during the service. To ensure that everyone kept to this rule, around 20 volunteers with high-visibility vests and face masks were on duty in the car park.

12:35 DIHK: Trade with China gets back on track

German exporters' trade with China is slowly regaining momentum. "In China, the economic low point seems to have been passed," says Martin Wansleben, Managing Director of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). "70 to 80 percent of German companies in China are able to produce and deliver again."

The People's Republic was the first to be hit by the coronavirus. However, as the country has almost no new infections currently, the economy has be able to stabilize here earlier than elsewhere.

11:41 Nearly one forth of Germany's "Tafel" closed due to corona

In Germany nearly every fourth Tafel is currently closed, a media report states. According to Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, the total number is 211 out of 947 Tafel - that is about 23 percent. The data of the Tafel-Bundesverband was evaluated by Sabine Zimmermann, Member of the Left Party in the Bundestag.

Zimmermann said that the coronavirus pandemic had worsened the situation of the poor. "Many Tafel are closed, and at the same time, certain goods for daily use have become scarce or expensive." The left-wing politician demanded a pandemic surcharge of 200 euros per person on transfer payments.

According to the Tafel-Bundesverband, 1.6 million people used this service before the pandemic began, 30 percent of whom were children and young people and 26 percent senior citizens. The more than 940 Tafel charities collect surplus food and distribute it to people in need.

11:19 Laumann does not fear a migration of the meat industry

North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister of Labor, Karl-Josef Laumann, does not fear a shift of meat production abroad. "I do not believe that the planned occupational safety measures will lead to companies moving abroad", the CDU politician told the newspaper "Rheinische Post". "The slaughterhouses are where the animals are bred, and we have a strong and competitive animal production here in Germany."

After massive outbreaks of the coronavirus among workers in the meat industry, the federal government decided yesterday to introduce stricter rules on health and safety at work and to ban work contracts in the industry.

11:16 Scholz announces further crisis aid

As part of the economic stimulus package planned for the beginning of June, the German government wants to help industries that are continuing to experience major problems in the coronavirus crisis. In a video message on Twitter, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz mentioned restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, trade fair operators, and other organizers as well as the cultural sector as examples.

He also said that families whose incomes had been lost must be taken into consideration. In addition, he said, the state must use the economic stimulus package to promote digitalization and certain technologies such as artificial intelligence and hydrogen applications. Details on the volume of the measures have not yet been clarified, nor are the specific details. SPD politician Scholz did not explicitly mention the automobile industry.

11:13 WWF: Destruction of tropical forests increases during the crisis

The destruction of tropical forests has massively increased worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic. This is the result of a study by the environmental foundation WWF, for which it evaluated satellite data from the University of Maryland. "Everything points to the fact that we are dealing with an exponential increase of forest destruction due to a corona effect," says Christoph Heinrich, Director of Nature Conservation at WWF Germany.

The area of tropical forests in the 18 countries studied shrank in the "corona month" of March by 6500 square kilometres, which is about seven times the area of Berlin. According to the WWF analysis, this means an increase in forest destruction of an average of 150 percent compared to previous years.

According to the analysis, Indonesia, with more than 1300 square kilometers, Congo with 1000 square kilomters, and Brazil with 950 square kilometers were most affected in March. While the coronavirus crisis is restricting environmental officials in their work in Brazil and other countries, illegal loggers and looters of other resources are simply continuing their activities, the report says. In many places, according to the WWF, people are using the forest as a source of income, partly because jobs are disappearing.

11:05 Spain opens borders for tourists in July at the earliest

According to the authorities, Spain will probably not reopen the country to foreign tourists until July at the earliest. An early mass opening would be irresponsible, said Spanish Environment and Energy Minister Teresa Ribera. Rising virus outbreaks in China, South Korea, and Singapore have been linked to imported infections, she said to justify the decision.

Hoteliers and officials of Spanish islands and coastal regions popular with tourists have called on the central authorities to relax restrictions against the coronavirus. They could suffer from competition from other Mediterranean countries that are already re-opening their borders. Tourism accounts for twelve percent of Spain's gross domestic product.

10:57 Kretschmer in favor of raising the budget levy despite Corona

Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer has spoken out in favor of maintaining the increase in the budget levy to finance public broadcasting despite the coronavirus crisis. "The recommended fee increase from 17.50 to 18.36 euros is much more moderate than one might have expected," Kretschmer told the newspapers of the Funke media group.

"It is appropriate and should be passed as such." Kretschmer also stressed: "We need such islands of reliability as public broadcasting right now." He strongly advocated clarity and fee security. The stations are making a convincing effort to cut costs. "We have a long phase of fee stability behind us", said the Minister President.

In some federal states - including Saxony - there had recently been growing resistance to the planned fee increase in view of the burdens of the corona crisis.

10:53 School and kindergarten relaxation: Warning of "outbidding competition"

In the debate on the further opening of schools and kindergartens, Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek urges caution. "We all hope that kindergartens and schools will be able to fully reopen as soon as possible," the CDU politician told the newspapers of Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland. She warned against a "bidding contest" of such demands.

"Above all, people want reliability, and health protection must continue to be the top priority," Karliczek stressed. The federal states will make their decisions on this basis.

The Minister commented positively on a proposal by the Association of Primary Schools to also employ future teachers during the coronavirus crisis. "I think it is an interesting suggestion that student teachers support teaching in schools on a voluntary basis in these times", said Karliczek.

10:47 Authorities prohibit AfD demo in Stuttgart

A demonstration against the corona restrictions in Stuttgart planned for next Sunday by the AfD may not take place after all, according to the police. The meeting was banned by the city of Stuttgart, a spokesperson for the Stuttgart police said. Authorities referred, among other things, to the protection against infection in the coronavirus crisis. The AfD now intends to file an emergency motion against the ban. A meeting of about 500 participants was planned.

10:17 Grütters: Corona aid for culture to be doubled

The Corona cultural programme "Neustart" will be doubled. Minister of State for Culture Monika Grütters (CDU) decided this according to a newspaper report. "Our immediate program has hit the mark", Grütters told the newspaper "Rheinische Post". Within three weeks, she said, over a thousand applications were received. Now it will be "initially increased by another ten to 20 million".

According to the newspaper, the program is intended to make small and medium-sized cultural institutions ready for reopening after the shutdowns. Investments of between 10,000 and 50,000 euros will be subsidized to improve, for example, the installation of safety devices or the optimization of visitor control. "The program thus makes an important contribution to the revitalisation of the cultural infrastructure," Grütters emphasised.

10:14 Muslims end fasting with little celebration

Muslims in Germany are preparing themselves for the fact that they will not be able to celebrate the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan this year as usual. " The right Ramadan feeling could not develop this year," said the Chairman of the Islamic Council, Burhan Kesici.

Ramadan is usually "a time of community and family". At the beginning of the breaking of the fast, church services might be held again. However, due to the restrictions on contact, large gatherings and communal meals were cancelled.

Rules of hygiene were nevertheless very well received, stressed Kesici. "There is a lot of understanding. It's quite astonishing."

The Feast of Breaking the Fast is one of the highest Muslim holidays and begins on May 24th this year. It is comparable to Christian Christmas. Usually the time of fasting ends with a big family celebration and a meal together.

10:03 Johns Hopkins University: more than five million infected people worldwide

US scientists have reported that more than five million people worldwide have been proven to be infected with the coronavirus since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. This is according to data from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. According to this data, around 328,000 people have already died as a result of infection with the coronavirus. Nearly a third of all infections were reported in the USA.

The researchers' website is regularly updated with incoming data and therefore shows a higher level than the official figures of the World Health Organization (WHO). In some cases, however, the figures have recently been revised downwards again. Experts assume in any case that a high number of unreported cases has occurred.

09:59 EU calls for compulsory masks in aircraft

The EU has provided guidelines for air travel during the coronavirus pandemic. Passengers and flight crew are required to wear medical protective masks, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the EU Disease Control Centre (ECDC) said. In addition, distance rules must be observed "within the realm of possibility".

In concrete terms, the EU authorities recommend that all passengers and crew put on medical protective masks when entering the airport and do not take them off until they have reached their destination. The masks should be changed every four hours. In order to guarantee a distance of 1.5 meters between passengers, the EU wants one seat per row or every other row in the aircraft to be left free. Onboard service is to be reduced to the bare essentials.

The EU wants passengers to feel safe on their flights, said EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean. The air traffic industry could thus be helped to get the effects of the pandemic under control. Safe hygiene rules are a "crucial factor" for the resumption of commercial flights, said EASA chief Patrick Ky. He called on airlines and airports to implement the EU recommendations.

09:03 IOC could understand the cancellation of the Olympic Games

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, is in favour of cancelling the Olympic Games in Tokyo if they cannot be held in the summer of 2021. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear to him that next summer is "the last option". Moreover, the organizers have no plan for a backup.

"You can't keep 3,000 to 5,000 people on an organizing committee forever. You cannot allow the athletes to live in uncertainty," the IOC President told the English BBC Sport. On the option of holding games without spectators, Bach said, "That's not what we want." However, he is also not completely ruling out a "Ghost Olympics".

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institute reports 745 new cases of CoViD-19 (176,752 total) and 57 new deaths (8,147 total) due to the virus
  • 50% of Germans do not plan holidays
  • Armin Laschet advocates normal operation for Kitas
  • State of emergency in Spain extended until 6 June
  • WHO reports as many new infections as never before in a single day