This is the live blog for March 31, 2020.

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Non-German native speakers have a hard time 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 live-translating between 09:00 am CEST and 17:30 pm CEST

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Short Facts

  • German football league pauses until 30 April
  • 470,000 companies have announced short-time work
  • Head of the Federal Employment Agency expects an extra 200,000 unemployed in the short term
  • According to the Johns Hopkins University there are now almost 67,000 infections and 645 deaths in Germany
  • Twelve-year-old dies in Belgium from CoViD-19

17:32 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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16:59 VW extends closure of plants until April 19th

Volkswagen is extending the closure of the German plants for its core brand by another ten days. Most recently, the closure was planned until April 9th, but production will now remain on hold until April 19th. VW has requested reduced hours for tens of thousands of employees.

16:44 Hardly any IC beds left in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the number of recorded deaths has risen to 1039, an increase of 175 over the previous day. The number of registered infections has risen by 845 to 12,595. However, the authorities expect the actual figures of those infected and the death toll to be higher. In the Netherlands, only the seriously ill are tested for the virus. There are almost no IC beds left available, explained the health authorities.

16:31 State of Brandenburg also extends restrictions

The State of Brandenburg also extends restrictions by two weeks and introduces fines for violations. The curfews, which were previously in effect until April 5th, "will unfortunately have to be continued until April 19th," said State Minister-President Dietmar Woidke. In addition, fines of up to 25,000 euro will be imposed for violations starting Thursday. Many people did observe the restrictions, said Woidke. However, there have been a number of violations as well.

The fines will start at 50 euro, said State Minister of the Interior Michael Stübgen. Those who organize illegal events can expect fines of up to 10,000 euro, with fines up to 500 euro for participating. Private Easter celebrations, with participants from larger circles outside of the household, will also be covered by the ban on gatherings, emphasized Stübgen: "We will not be able to celebrate Easter the way we know and want."

The states of Saxony, Bavaria, and Saarland have also extended the initial restrictions beyond Easter. Berlin, where the restrictions are limited until Sunday, is also planning an extension.

16:23 Nursing home in Wolfsburg: 18 have now died

Another resident of the Hanns-Lilje-Pflegeheim care home in Wolfsburg has died. The number of corona deaths has increased to 18. The facility for dementia patients has a total of 74 infected residents, with a total of 145 women and men living there. Together with the nursing home St. Nikolaus in Würzburg, the Wolfsburg facility is hit most heavily among all care homes for the elderly. So far, 16 people have died in Würzburg.

16:15 Russian doctor infected – contact with Putin

One of the most important corona doctors in Russia, who had recently had contact with President Vladimir Putin, has tested positive. The head of the Moscow Kommunarka Hospital, Denis Prozenko, has been infected, state media reported. Mr. Putin had visited the hospital, which is leading the Russian treatment of corona patients, a few days ago, and also spoke with Prozenko. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskow said there is no reason to worry: Mr. Putin is said to undergo regular tests.

15:49 Head of the Federal Employment Agency: Number of unemployed will increase significantly

The Federal Employment Agency (BA) expects a significant increase in unemployment in April as a result of the corona crisis. "We are currently assuming that the numbers have risen by 150,000 to 200,000 people," said the Head of the BA Detlef Scheele.

Usually, there is a decline in unemployment in April. The March figures of the BA not yet illustrate the effects of the crisis, with the reporting date of March 12th preceding the escalation of the crisis.

It is clear that unemployment is unavoidable, especially in gastronomy and tourism, says Mr. Scheele. Many companies did not build up sufficient reserves to keep their people employment.

15:35 DFL CEO: No regular football season until 2021/22

In view of the massive restrictions caused by the coronavirus epidemic, DFL CEO Christian Seifert expects significant changes to the soccer schedule for the coming season as well, apparently also considering weekend European Cup games an option. "Great flexibility and willingness to comprise" among the leagues and international associations is required for the upcoming games, said Seifert when asked whether Champions League matches can be expected on Saturday evenings, following Bundesliga matches.

"It will take until 2021/22 before we'll have a regular season again," said the CEO of the DFL. The pro clubs had previously decided to halt the Bundesliga matches until at least April 30th. Team training sessions have been postponed until at least April 5th.

15:26 Greece: Woman from refugee camp tested positively

A woman from a refugee camp in Greece has tested positive for the novel coronavirus after giving birth. The Ministry of Migration in Athens has stated that the woman lives in a refugee camp on Evia, an island north of Athens. She was tested after birth in a hospital in the capital.

It is currently unclear whether she has contracted the virus in the gynecological clinic or in the refugee camp. One of her fellow residents was reportedly tested negative.  There are great concerns that the coronavirus spreads to the completely overcrowded refugee camps in Greece.

15:23 National minute of silence and flags fly half-mast in Italy

Italy has commemorated those who have died of the coronavirus pandemic with a minute of silence. As of noon today, over 11,500 victims have been reported in Italy, the highest figure of any country worldwide. To honor them and their families, flags flew at half-mast throughout the country at noon.

15:08 Seehofer wants to secure supply of basic medical products by law

Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer wants to introduce a law on basic medical care, to make sure that sufficient protective clothing and equipment such as ventilators are available in Germany in the event of an epidemic. “It's senseless to depend on getting products from China,” said the CSU politician to “Bild” newspaper. Therefore, a law “to ensure the supply of medical products” is needed.

Seehofer also called on companies to take their responsibility in dealing with the corona crisis. “Businesses must now organize emergency care for the population.” Mr. Seehofer is not willing to adopt the path pursued by the US, forcing companies such as General Motors to produce ventilators.

14:49 German matches suspended until at least April 30th

Because of the corona epidemic, no Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga soccer matches will be played until at least April 30th. This has been decided by the 36 pro teams during a virtual members' meeting of the German Football League, on the recommendation of the DFL Committee.

The last Bundesliga game to date was held on March 11th – the season was originally scheduled to end on May 16th, which is now impossible.

14:35 Spahn: Almost half of all IC beds free for corona patients

According to Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, around 45 percent of the available IC beds in Germany are currently free to start treating coronavirus patients. Capacities have been freed up, for example, by postponing operations that can be scheduled later, according to the CDU politician.

Official reports specify that there are around 28,000 IC beds in Germany. The Federal Government and State Governments have reached an agreement to double these capacities in order to be better equipped to treat many severely ill patients with coronavirus.

14:33 Saxony extends curfews

Following the example of other federal states, Saxony has also extended the curfews – for now until April 20th. On Monday, Bavaria and Saarland had already extended their measures until April 19th and 20th, respectively. In other states, curfews had already been scheduled to last until after the Easter weekend from the beginning.

2:27 p.m. Mr. Heil: Reduced hours mainly in trade and hospitality

"The reduced hour scheme works," according to Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil. How many people will eventually receive compensation for reduced hours cannot yet be assessed. He expects that the number will be "significantly higher" than during the financial crisis ten years ago. In the spring of 2009, 1.4 million people worked reduced hours at the peak. According to Mr. Heil, there are currently a lot of applications for reduced hours, mainly from business in hospitality and trade.

14:17 470,000 businesses have applied for reduced hours

According to the Federal Employment Agency, around 470,000 businesses in Germany have applied for reduced hours to handle the corona crisis. By applying for reduced hours, the businesses start the formal procedure to ensure that their employees receive reduced hour compensation. Businesses from almost all industries have applied, said the Agency.

The Federal Employment Agency will only record how many workers this will affect in its statistics after they actually start working reduced hours. The Federal Government expects that over two million employees will be dependent on reduced hour compensation this year.

14:01 Death toll Spain amounts to almost 850 within 24 hours

Spain has posted a sad record: within 24 hours, the country reported 849 covid-19 deaths – the highest number yet in a single day. In total, almost 8,200 Spaniards have died of the disease. In Madrid, another building had to be converted into a morgue. The 1,800-square-meter rink of the Madrid Ice Hall has already been used to lay out the bodies for days, with funeral companies completely unable to handle demand.

13:51 Scholz announces production of coronavirus protective masks

The federal government wants to protect companies in Germany that are temporarily starting to produce protective masks due to the coronavirus crisis from financial risks. "We need our own production lines here in Germany, and we need to get them up and running, at least during this time," said Olaf Scholz, the Federal Minister of Finance. A number of manufacturers are ready to produce masks. "This can happen very quickly, and we are in the process of implementing this as soon as we can."

In return, the federal government would make "the financial commitments that are necessary to allow companies to take the risk of converting their production and manufacturing things that they may not produce forever," said Scholz. He has already discussed this with Minister of Health Jens Spahn. In addition, the federal government is collaborating with companies operating on a global scale to improve procurement.

13:32 Researchers develop method for higher testing capacities

A method developed by researchers in Frankfurt am Main aims to significantly increase the number of coronavirus tests. As a result, between  200,000 and 400,000 tests per day could be administered in Germany, the Hessian Ministry of Science reported - the current number lies at about 40,000 per day. The increase is not associated with a loss of quality.

The new method tests several samples for the virus at the same time. It was developed by a joint team from the German Red Cross' blood donation service and the Institute of Medical Virology at the University Hospital Frankfurt. This is a "great discovery that allows us to be optimistic and will help us test many more people," said Hesse's Minister of Science Angela Dorn.

13:05 Consumer advisors set conditions for anti-coronavirus app

Consumers consider the introduction of a smartphone app to combat the coronavirus pandemic to be sensible under certain conditions. An anti-coronavirus app must be "voluntary, suitable, necessary, proportionate, and available for a restricted time period," said Klaus Müller, Head of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations.  

Consumers should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to pass on their data. Furthermore, only necessary data should be collected and passed on, Müller said. Any transfer of data to companies or even a change to the purpose of use - for commercial purposes, for example - must be excluded. In addition, the data should be used "exclusively for health protection purposes." Data storage must also be restricted to a limited time period. "The coronavirus crisis must not serve as a gateway to give companies new access to private data," Müller warned.

12:25 Twelve-year-old dies in Belgium - youngest victim in Europe

In Belgium, a 12-year-old girl has died of Covid-19. "This is a very rare case, but it shocks us very much," said the spokesman for the authorities in Brussels responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. According to the report, the child had been feverish for three days previously. In Belgium, the number of officially confirmed infected persons rose to 12,775 according to official figures; more than 700 people have died of which more than 90 percent were over 65 years old.

12:21 China to change counting method following criticism

Critics of the government and international observers have long doubted the data on the number of coronavirus infected people in China. Now Beijing has announced that as of Wednesday asymptomatic cases will also be listed in the daily statistics of new infections. Until now, China had not counted those who were infected but did not show any symptoms of Covid-19 among the newly detected infections. According to the Health Commission, there are currently 1541 people under observation who tested positive for the coronavirus but show no symptoms. According to official information, there have been hardly any domestic infections in the China for weeks. However, the number of so-called "imported cases" is increasing. According to the official figures, 3305 people have died from the coronavirus in China so far. A total of 81,518 infected persons have been registered on the Chinese mainland, of whom more than 76,000 have recovered so far. However, the authorities do not give any information on how many people are tested daily. It also seems unclear to what extent the official statistics reflect the true situation and how high the number of unreported cases is. Doubts are also raised by the fact that China has already changed its counting method several times in recent months.

11:36 Coronavirus ends upswing in the German real estate market

According to a study, the long-standing real estate boom in Germany is coming to a temporary end due to the coronavirus crisis. "In view of the severity of the expected recession, we assume that the upswing in the German real estate market has come to an end," states the study by Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen (Helaba). "How things will then continue is very uncertain however, and depends on the timing of the pandemic and the measures taken to contain it." In view of the high level of uncertainty regarding employment and income prospects, many potential buyers are likely to postpone their planned home ownership or move into a new rented apartment, at least in the short term. "Especially in expensive locations in big cities, residential property prices could be expected to drop somewhat." Experts however, do not expect a sharp price correction. "In the past, the German real estate market in particular has proven to be less volatile by international standards," they emphasize, "so we expect only moderate declines in value this time as well."

11:22 Consumer advice centers warn against scammers

Consumer centers warn against scammers on the internet in view of the coronavirus pandemic. "Extreme situations reinforce good and bad behavior. On the one hand we are seeing impressive waves of solidarity in the coronavirus crisis. On the other hand, the crisis is also attracting swindlers and dubious merchants who want to exploit people's fears and worries for their own profit", Klaus Müller, Chairman of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, told the newspapers of the Funke media group. "We receive daily reports from consumers in connection with the coronavirus crisis." There are companies that want to cash in on false health promises. "Others have, for example, offered a pack of toilet paper for 20 euros or a liter of hand disinfectant for 199 euros on online platforms. In addition, we are also getting tips about suspected fake shops that offer items such as respirators and disinfectants. The articles are allegedly in stock. However, prepayment is required and the delivery never takes place. The operators of the shops cannot be reached and the buyers will not get their money paid back".

11:04  German tourists stranded in Peru

About 2000 Germans are still stranded in Peru. The South American country has imposed rigorous measures in the fight against the coronavirus.

10:39 Wieler: Illness must be taken seriously

The president of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, has once again called on citizens not to underestimate the coronavirus pandemic. "I would like to ask all people to take this disease seriously," Wieler said at a press conference. According to a study, only 41 percent of Germans considered the disease Covid-19 to be dangerous. Wieler pointed out that the strategy against the coronavirus was still in place: Containment, protection of those most at risk, and increased capacity. The pandemic is continuing and will continue for several weeks and months. He was generally optimistic that the measures would work. He assumes that "tangible figures" will be available by Easter, which will allow statements about a trend to be drawn up.

10:07 Airbnb allows free cancellation of accommodations until the end of May

The Airbnb brokerage platform continues to alter its policies to accommodate travelers affected by the coronavirus crisis: Accommodation booked until the end of May can be cancelled free of charge. The previous exception only applied until mid-April. At the same time, the San Francisco-based company announced that it is making 250 million dollars available to compensate landlords at least in part for their losses.

09:57 Amazon employees protest against lack of protection from Corona

In the USA, employees of the online trading giant Amazon have protested against inadequate protection against corona infections at work. Between 50 and 60 workers joined a rally outside an Amazon warehouse in New York on Monday. They demanded that the building be closed and disinfected after an employee there tested positive for the virus. Their organizer, Christian Smalls, was fired by Amazon after the protest. Smalls had posted on Twitter that thousands of Amazon employees were infected with the corona virus in the online giant's buildings. Amazon described the accusations as "misleading" and claimed that management had taken "extreme" measures to protect its employees from the pandemic. Amazon justified the dismissal of Smalls by citing his participation in the protest in New York, although his employer had ordered him to undergo domestic quarantine.

9:41 Zoos call for emergency aid

The Association of Zoological Gardens has called for an emergency aid program of 100 million euros for more than 50 zoos in Germany. In a letter, the head of the association, Jörg Junhold, himself a zoo director in Leipzig, also addressed Chancellor Angela Merkel and pointed out the need for immediate support. "Unlike other institutions, we cannot simply shut down our operations - our animals must continue to be fed and cared for." According to Junhold, zoos are currently operating without income but with the same high level of expenses. In the current crisis, an individual zoo is coping with a weekly loss of revenue of around half a million euros.

09:16 Poverty researcher calls for safety net for the "very poorest"

Poverty researcher Christoph Butterwegge has demanded higher Hartz IV rates and warned of "destitution" in certain parts of society. "The effects of the corporate rescue packages are not being felt on the bottom rungs of society," the political scientist from Cologne told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND). "The coronavirus crisis is “not only affecting those with a weak immune system, but also the low-income population. Food banks are closing and those on the streets can’t get anything because the streets are empty and everyone is afraid of infection. This is completely destroying the already fragile livelihoods of the poorest." Butterwegge emphasized: "If there is no safety net for the poorest, the homeless, those with drug-dependency issues, and interim benefit claimants, then we will see destitution among these groups that has not been seen since the end of the war."

08:54 Infections in second nursing home in Lower Saxony

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in nursing and care homes in Lower Saxony continues to rise. In a facility in Gadenstedt near Peine, 13 of the approximately 90 inhabitants and three care workers have become infected, a spokesperson for the district told the "Peiner Allgemeine Zeitung". Further tests are planned there. Twelve of the infected persons will be treated in isolation, and one person will be taken to hospital for treatment.

08:48 Lambrecht: Coronavirus app for voluntary use only

Federal Minister of Justice, Christine Lambrecht, believes that the use of a mobile app to trace coronavirus infections is viable. However, this should be based on voluntary use, the SPD politician said on the German radio. The good thing is that there is a great willingness among the population to do this for a certain time. However, it is important that the handling of the data be clearly defined. They should be anonymized and later deleted quickly. Then it would be possible to significantly increase the willingness to use such an app.

08:44 Criminologist warns of increase in gaming addiction

Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer fears that many children and young people are drifting into computer gaming due to the coronavirus crisis. "In Lower Saxony, every fourth male teenager plays for four and a half hours or more each day," the former director of the Crime Research Institute in Lower Saxony told the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung." "This is a problem that is now being exacerbated by coronavirus." According to Pfeiffer, the rate of intensive gamers is likely to grow considerably. Thus, there is a significant risk of addiction, the criminologist emphasized. There is every reason to worry that after a phase of intensive gaming in times of coronavirus, a considerable number of boys, in particular, will remain in this situation.

08:13 Jena plans to introduce mandatory face masks

The City of Jena has announced that it will be introducing mandatory face masks. "In one week, wearing face masks in Jena's retail outlets, on public transport, and in public buildings will be mandatory," the city said. The measure has been advised by the health service. The aim is to improve the safety of staff in customer-facing roles. In addition to masks, towels or scarves are also considered a means of protection when covering the nose and mouth.

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • Numbers for Germany: Johns Hopkins University reports 66,885 infections and 645 deaths
  • China reports 48 new cases, all of which have been imported  
  • Trump provides USD 100 Million in aid to highly affected countries, such as Italy and extends travel ban for Europeans
  • Germany continues discussions about making face masks compulsory