This is the live blog for March 23, 2020.

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Many non-German native speakers are facing quite a challenge to stay on top of the news concerning the development of the situation of CoViD-19 specifically in Germany. Because of that, we curate a live blog in English for all people living in Germany. The information published on this site is translated from German and based on the live blog of Tagesschau.

We are using the combination of custom-trained machine translation models and expert linguists to provide these translations.

We are publishing translations between 09:00 am CET and 17:30 pm CET

Short Facts

  • Cabinet approves aid package worth billions
  • RKI reports 22,672 COVID-19 cases
  • IFO Institute: crisis could cost Germany hundreds of billions
  • Merkel’s first test for corona virus is negative

19:00 That's it for today!  Join us tomorrow for more live updates!

You can follow additional live updates on Tagesschau (German only).

18:28 World Bank prepares 150 billion dollars in crisis aid

The World Bank says it is ready to support the developing countries in the virus crisis with 150 billion dollars in the next 15 months. World Bank President David Malpass also called on the G20 countries to allow the world's poorest countries to suspend all intergovernmental debt payments.

18:25 UN Secretary-General calls for a global ceasefire

In a dramatic appeal, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has called on all warring parties worldwide to call an immediate ceasefire. Mankind must fight united against the corona pandemic, Guterres demanded. "Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19," he stressed. "Put an end to the disease of war and fight the plague that is devastating our world," said Guterres. It is the "fight of our lives".

18:22 EU Parliament calls for clearing of refugee camps

The European Parliament has called for the evacuation of refugee camps on the Greek islands due to the imminent threat of the coronavirus. In the overcrowded camps, there is neither the chance to maintain social distance nor adequate hygiene conditions, writes the chairman of the Committee on Internal Affairs, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, in a letter to the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic. In order to prevent a rapid spread of Covid-19, the camps must be cleared as quickly as possible as a precautionary measure.

According to the Greek Ministry of Citizens' Protection, there are currently more than 40,700 migrants living on Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios - although the capacity is actually around 7,000 places. About 1500 of them are unaccompanied minors, according to the EU Commission.

18:09 Czechia closes borders for commuters

Czechia is now also closing its borders to daily commuters who travel to work in the neighboring countries. They could either stay at home or find accommodation in Germany for several weeks, said Interior Minister Jan Hamacek. In the latter case, they would have to go into a two-week domestic quarantine after their return to Czechia. According to estimates, more than 37,000 Czech border crossers are employed in Germany and another 12,000 in Austria, mainly in the health care system and in gastronomy.

17:49 Factions agree on new Bundestag rules

The legal policy spokespersons of the Bundestag factions have agreed on new rules to maintain the quorum of the Bundestag, reports "Spiegel". According to the report, in the future, the parliament will have a quorum if more than a quarter of its members are present. The rules of procedure are to be changed accordingly. Currently, the rules state that the Bundestag has a quorum if more than half of its members are present in the session hall. The new rule, which will also apply to committees, will expire, according to the agreement, no later than 30 September.

17:36 Guterres calls for a worldwide ceasefire

In the view of the corona crisis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an "immediate global ceasefire". Civilians in conflict areas should be protected from the devastating effects of the pandemic, Guterres said in a speech at the UN headquarters in New York. "The severity of the virus" illustrates how "nonsensical" wars are, Guterres said.

17:25 Eurowings continues to cut flights

The low-cost brand of Lufthansa, Eurowings, is cutting further flights in response to the corona crisis. From March 25th, capacity will be reduced to around 10 percent of the current schedule, the company informed. During the cuts, the Lufthansa group is temporarily suspending operations of two of its airlines. The subsidiaries Germanwings and Eurowings Europe, which fly for Eurowings, will ground all their planes. Eurowings Germany also makes massive cuts to its flight schedule and will focus on repatriation flights as well basic services to large German locations.

16:38 Merkel’s first test is negative

The first test of Chancellor Angela Merkel has turned out negative for coronavirus, according to government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Further tests are to be taken over the next few days.

16:32 The number of infected and death toll continues to rise

Despite ramping up of efforts to combat the Covid-19 lung disease, the number of infected persons and death toll continue to rise. According to the Johns Hopkins University, more than 350,000 people have been infected worldwide and around 15,000 have died from the virus, 100,000 are considered recovered. In Italy, the number of infected persons is approaching the 60,000 mark. In the US, more than 35,000 cases have been registered, in Spain there are 33,9000 and in Germany 27,000 cases. Italy has the highest recorded number of deaths, at around 5,500 – already far exceeding the number in China (about 3,100 deaths). These countries are followed by Spain, with a death toll of 2,200. In Germany, 86 persons have succumbed to the disease until now.

16:03 Denmark extends all restrictions

Denmark extends all its measures in the fight against the spread of coronavirus until after Easter. All initiatives currently in place will remain valid until Easter Monday, April 13th, said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. In Denmark, among other facilities, schools, kindergartens, restaurants, cafes, theatres, and other places of leisure such as fitness studios and tanning salons have been closed. A ban on gatherings of more than 10 people is in place.

15:41 Repatriation mostly completed

According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the repatriation of German citizens from important holiday regions due to the corona crisis, has by and large been completed. The government has repatriated 120,000 travelers – now, focus has shifted to German citizens in distant countries such as Chile, Gambia, and New Zealand.

15:36 ADAC criticizes speeders on empty streets

The German Automotive Association ADAC is disgruntled with illegal races on quiet roads. Some people are abusing the current traffic situation, with streets empty as a result of the corona crisis, said ADAC President Gerhard Hillebrand to the newspapers of the Funke media group – this is "unacceptable and in no way understandable". Nobody should provoke unnecessary risks – the rescue services are already at capacity.

15:23 Agreement on special rights for medical crisis situations

Together with additional aid for clinics, the Cabinet has also passed decision on comprehensive special arrangements for future emergencies. Patients, as well as travelers, can be forced to provide information, and the Federal Government may impose restrictions on transportation across borders for health reasons. The Federal Government can furthermore order seizures and ban exports of medicines and protective equipment. According to Health Minister Spahn, however, the Federal Government is not yet making use of the option of forcing doctors as well as students to assist in the current situation.

15:10 Merkel lets herself be tested on coronavirus

Chancellor Merkel underwent a test for coronavirus in Berlin, after becoming aware yesterday that she had been in contact with a doctor infected with the virus. Government spokesperson Seibert stressed that the Chancellor is doing well and is now waiting for the result of the test. She headed today’s Cabinet meeting by telephone and is temporarily working from home.

15:01 Government allows online general assemblies

Because of the corona crisis, the Federal Government for the first time allows general assemblies to be held exclusively online. This will safeguard the assembly’s capacity to pass decisions in spite of restrictions in place on the right of assembly. The Presidium of the Bundestag can also allow online participation in the general assembly without a separate statutory authorization. Additionally, general assemblies are made possible without physical presence, for the first time as well.

14:41 Strong demand for weapons in Hungary

In Hungary, arms sales have increased sharply – apparently out of fear of an armed conflict. The news agency AFP quotes a Budapest arms dealer, who states that current demand is currently five times as high as usual. A similar response can be seen in the United States – with arms sales increased sharply since the outbreak of the corona crisis.

14:16 Money and extra beds for German hospitals

German hospitals are to receive billions of euros in aid to handle the extra strain imposed by the corona crisis. This is specified in draft legislation of Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, initiated by the Cabinet. For example, there will be a per diem compensation of 560 euros for each bed that the hospitals keep free. For each new intensive care unit with artificial respiration, hospitals will receive a bonus of 50,000 euros. To cover additional costs, such as those for personal protective equipment, the hospitals will receive an initial bonus of 50 euros per patient, for the period ranging from April to the end of June.
The plans are drafted to allow hospitals to postpone their scheduled operations and new admissions for the time being, if medically justifiable. This is intended to free up capacity in preparation for the many corona patients with more severe forms of the disease. The number of intensive care beds, currently 28,000, will be doubled. The aid is intended to cushion financial blows and avoid shortfalls in hospitals. The Federal Government expects the possible additional expenditures to amount to 2.8 billion euros in compensating for the postponement of scheduled surgeries alone.

13:55 EU changes decision-making process

To combat the corona crisis, the EU states have adopted exceptional rules for decision-making by video conference. The EU Council announced that governments have relaxed the rules for decisions passed by written procedure for a month.

To date, legally binding decisions cannot be taken over video conference. However, due to the spread of the coronavirus, the ministers of the member states are currently unable to hold meetings in Brussels, where EU decisions are normally taken. They have resorted to video conferences instead. Their decisions are then subsequently made binding using written decision-making procedures between the European governments. However, a unanimous decision by the 27 member states is usually required to initiate these procedures in the first place – even if the actual decisions can be passed with a majority vote. This gives countries that oppose a particular procedure a de-facto veto right.

The amendment now specifies that written procedures can be initiated with the same majority as is required for passing the decision itself. The exception is initially valid for one month, explains the EU Council. However, it might be extended “if this is justified by the continuation of the current exceptional circumstances”.

13:42 Corona death toll in Spain exceeds 2,000

In Spain, the death toll from the novel coronavirus has risen to 2,128. In the past 24 hours, 462 more people have died of the covid-19 lung disease caused by the coronavirus, reports the Ministry of Health. This corresponds to an increase of 27 percent over the previous day. According to the Ministry of Health, the number of determined infections has risen to more than 33,000. Since March 14th, far-reaching curfews have been in place in Spain. The 46 million inhabitants are only allowed to leave their homes to get to work, do groceries, pick up medicines, or walk their dogs.

13:39 Gewandhausorchester symphony orchestra to post concerts online

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra will publish concert recordings on its website, every Wednesday and Thursday starting this week. The concert hall will continue to bring culture to the public, in spite of the corona crisis, said Gewandhaus Director Andreas Schulz to the dpa press agency on Monday. "We cannot forecast, nor quantify, the damage at the moment," he said regarding the cancellation of 80 events until April 20th.

13:26 Scholz takes over for Merkel

With Chancellor Angela Merkel in self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus, Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz will take over speaking duties in the Bundestag on Wednesday. Merkel asked him to jump in for her, Scholz said after the Cabinet meeting in Berlin. Merkel joined the meeting via videoconference while staying in her private apartment in Berlin. The Bundestag is expected to pass numerous laws related to the corona crisis on Wednesday. Merkel originally wanted to open the debate on how to deal with the pandemic herself.

12:56 Scholz: "Corona pandemic changes our lives"

Around 135 billion euros in missed tax revenues, loss of income for citizens, and less overall spending: Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz has explained why the supplementary budget is necessary. A budget with a volume of 156 billion euros had never been necessary before, but the step was "right and necessary," said Scholz at a joint press conference with Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier. In spite of massive challenges, "public health, workspaces, and economic processes" will be protected. "The Corona pandemic changes all aspects of our lives," according to the SPD politician. He confirms a package with an overall volume of around 750 billion euro.
Altmaier said that because the government had adhered to the black zero guideline (a commitment to zero euros deficit spending) over the past few years, Germany now has the means to shoulder the additional burden. "The aid for businesses was unprecedented," continuing to emphasize the government's determination to support companies through the situation, also with a look to future takeover attempts, for example by hedge funds.
Altmaier announced that immediate aide for small companies will be paid out soon. Small companies with up to five employees are to receive 9,000 euros for three months, paid out in a single installment. Companies with up to ten employees will be given immediate aide of 15,000 euros.

12:40 Scholz and Altmaier speak about emergency package

This year the federal government intends to take on debt with the record sum of around 156 billion euros. In addition, tenants will be relieved, Hartz IV applications will be simplified and hospitals will be supported. Finance Minister Scholz and Minister of Economy Altmaier are now talking about the corona emergency package approved by the cabinet.

12:34 Saarlanders stick to curfew

The curfew adopted in Saarland is apparently largely respected. On the weekend there were "some violations", said a spokesman for the Saarbrücken State Police Office. But: "The majority of the population has understood what it means and sticks to it."

12:24 Formula 1 race postponed

Official note: The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be postponed. The Formula 1 race was supposed to take place on 7 June in Baku. The decision was made after "extensive discussions" with the Formula 1 officials, the World Automobile Association and the Government of Azerbaijan, the organizer confirmed.

12:13 Dax is going down

The Dax is on the decline again. The two-day stabilisation attempt before the weekend has thus been stopped again. Until noon, it dropped by 2.99 percent to 8,661.76 points.

12:06 Stay at home - or in the 'dacha'

Strict rules for senior citizens in Moscow: Mayor Sobjanin has ordered all citizens over the age of 65 to stay at home or go to the dacha in the country side because of the coronavirus pandemic. The rules apply from Thursday until 14 April. Only food shopping and going to the pharmacy is allowed.

11:59 India stops trains

India has stopped train traffic. Long-distance connections as well as public transport in large cities have been stopped and only goods are still being transported. The interruption is expected to last until 31 March.

11:52 Cabinet decides on aid package

The German Government has decided on a huge package of economic aid to limit the consequences of the corona crisis. A supplementary budget of 156 billion euros is planned. Among other things, this is intended to provide aid to small businesses. In addition, guarantees and liquidity aid as well as funds for possible state participation in the crisis will be provided. The Federal Parliament (Bundestag) will approve the package on Wednesday, the Federal Council (Bundesrat) on Friday.

11:41 Cruise ship passengers departed from South Africa

All of the 1,240 passengers stuck on the cruise ship "AidaMira" in Cape Town are now finally on their way home. The last machine has taken off, said an Aida Cruises spokesman. "All passengers have left the ship and are on their way home." The ship with the passengers and 486 crew members had been in the port of the South African tourist metropolis for a week. People were not allowed to leave the ship because six people had previously been in contact with a suspected CoViD-19 case. Their tests were negative and everyone on board stayed symptom-free until the departure.

11:35 Macron: "European solidarity saves life"

French President Emmanuel Macron thanked other countries for their cross-border support in the fight against the coronavirus. "Thank you very much to our European neighbours," he tweeted with regard to the admission offers for French emergency patients from the Grand Est region of the Federal States of Baden-Württemberg, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate as well as from Switzerland and Luxembourg.

11:11 Austrian Airlines grounded until April 19

Lufthansa’s subsidiary Austrian Airlines is grounding its aircrafts longer than previously announced.  The flight operation will stop until 19 April as the worldwide entry stops due to the coronavirus have not eased and consequently there was little demand for flights, the Austrian airline informed. All 7,000 employees are on short-time work until 19 April.

11:03 Hong Kong continues to close down

The Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) prohibits all people who do not live in Hong Kong from entering the city. The entry ban comes into force on Tuesday at midnight and will last for at least two weeks, said Hong Kong’s head of government Carrie Lam. The city’s airport, which is one of the busiest in the world, will ban transit passengers.

11:03 Greenpeace calls for ecological modernisation

The environmental organisation Greenpeace calls for planned economic stimulus packages to be used to modernise Germany ecologically. "Germany needs a new, green Marshall plan," said Greenpeace climate expert Tobias Austrup. Specifically, the organisation calls for the lifting of the subsidy cap for the expansion of solar energy and to support private investments in building energy efficiency. The currently low oil price should be used to "reduce climate-damaging subsidies such as the diesel privilege and thus secure funding to combat the crisis ." Experience with working in home office should be also used to "reduce the number of business trips and commuting" in the long term.

10:36 Military in the UK supplies protective clothing

In the UK, the military takes over the delivery of protective equipment for medical personnel. Day and night, the army’s trucks are now being used to distribute millions of items such as respiratory masks, Health Minister Matt Hancock announced. Previously, over 6,000 doctors had appealed in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase the supply of protective materials. Without it, they said they would risk their lives and feel like “canon fodder”.

10:31 Big regional differences in infections

RKI President Lothar Wieler has given new figures on the corona pandemic: globally more than 283,000 people have fallen ill and thus almost 31,000 more than the day before. The pandemic is developing with varying dynamics worldwide but also within Germany. Particularly affected are Italy with more than 53,000 infected and Spain with around 24,600 confirmed cases. In Germany, Hamburg with 51 cases per 100,000 residents, is severely affected. The average age of infected persons in Germany is 45 years, the one of the deceased 82 years. The exponential growth curve is flattening out a little. This could be the sign of a first trend, possibly due to the protective measures already introduced. In addition to the rising numbers of infected persons, the RKI is also registering an increase in the number of the cured. At least 2809 of the confirmed cases have been healed," says Wieler.

09:59 Job distribution portal for harvest workers starts

"The country helps": Today at 12:00pm the Federal Ministry of Agriculture opens a job portal that is supposed to provide jobs in agriculture. Agriculture is particularly affected by the corona crisis, as many workers from Eastern Europe are not allowed to enter the country due to closed borders.

09:51 3611 Infected in Austria

According to the Ministry of Health, 3611 people in Austria have been infected with the coronavirus. Compared to Sunday afternoon, the number of people infected has increased by 367. The number of deaths is at the beginning of the week at 16. Nine people have already recovered. Most positive test results are found in Upper Austria with 696, followed by 676 in Tyrol. In the capital city of Vienna, 451 cases have been counted.

09:35 DAX is falling again with the beginning of the week

The German stock market remains in crisis mode. The leading index fell by 4.84 percent to 8498.38 points at the start of trading.

09:31 Maas wants to better coordinate the return of citizens in the EU

According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the EU countries should coordinate return flights for holidaymakers stranded abroad more closely during the corona crisis. "This could be coordinated in such a way that if there is room, the flights could be also opened for the nationals of other European countries," said the SPD politician before a meeting of the EU foreign ministers in the morning magazine of ARD and ZDF. This is now to be done, for example through a register in which each country could enter the flights. So far, this has been agreed upon bilaterally.

09:28 No new infections in China

China has again not registered any new infections with the novel coronavirus within the country. However, 39 new infections have been detected in people who entered the country from abroad, the National Health Commission reported. Ten cases each have been reported from Beijing and Shanghai. Nine more infected people have died in China – all in Wuhan, where the pandemic began in December. Since then, more than 81,000 people have been infected in mainland China, and 3,270 have died. Following drastic control measures, the number of new infections in China has declined massively.

09:09 Formula-1 in the waiting loop

Hope for the start of the Formula 1 season in early June also seems to be fading. According to media reports, the Grand Prix in Azerbaijan is facing postponement. The Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in Baku on June 7. Those responsible in Azerbaijan are said to have spoken out in favour of the postponement in a crisis meeting. It is not possible to set up the city race on time due to the corona crisis. Thus, the earliest start of the season would be on June 14 with the Grand Prix of Canada in Montreal. The motorsport premier class had already had to cancel the races in Australia, Bahrain, China, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Spain and Monaco until the end of May.

09:01 Ifo Institute: Crisis could cost up to 729 billion euros

According to the Munich Ifo Institute, the virus crisis will cause production losses of hundreds of billions of euros in Germany and place a considerable burden on the labour market as well as the national budget. "The costs are expected to exceed everything known from economic crises or natural disasters in Germany over the past decades," said Ifo President Clemens Fuest. Depending on the scenario, the economy will shrink by 7.2 to 20.6 percentage points. This is expected to cost Germany between 255 billion and 729 billion euros. Up to 1.8 million jobs which are currently subject to social security contribution could be reduced and more than six million people could be affected by short-term work.

08:33 Söder defends Bavaria's approach

"Bayern's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) defended his measures  to combat the Coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, within Germany, "the concern is also very different," said Söder in the morning magazine of ARD and ZDF. Therefore, it is only natural that bordering federal states such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony and the Saarland had previously taken protective measures. Overall, it can be seen that the Corona crisis "is the biggest challenge since the Second World War," said Söder. "

08:30 RKI reports 22,672 corona cases

According to the current figures of the Robert Koch Institute, there are now 22,672 CoViD-19 cases in Germany. The RKI has created its own map tool, which provides an overview of the number of infected in the federal states. (As of 23.03.2020 00:00hrs) As off Sunday midnight, there had been 18,610 confirmed infections. According to this, 86 people died of CoViD-19 nationwide.

08:00 Summary of last night

500 Thai soldiers disinfected the streets of Bangkok. India expects a dramatic spike in cases over the next days, fears the poorest of the poor will be hit the hardest. Welthungerhilfe, one of the largest private aid organizations in Germany, expects many deaths due to coronavirus in Africa, and South Korea reports a slowing infection rate. New Zealand has issued a curfews lasting 4 weeks, Syria reports first case of CoViD-19, and Singapore Airlines grounds 96% of their planes.