This is the live blog for April 3, 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

  • Tax-free premiums for employees
  • Merkel back in the Chancellery
  • Seehofer wants more controls on entering the country
  • Corona death rate in Spain drops

17:33 That's it for today. Join us tomorrow for more live updates!

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

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17:15 Case against compulsory face masks in Jena dismissed

As of Monday, the city of Jena is allowed to introduce a requirement to wear masks at all sales points, in public transport, and in buildings open to the public. The administrative court in Gera rejected an urgent appeal against this decision made by the municipality, said press spokesman Bernd Amelung. The judges ruled that the measure is still reasonable, as no certified face masks are required and self-sewn masks, scarves, or shawls are allowed.

17:06 Passengers of the "Zaandam" are allowed on shore

The odyssey comes to an end: The first passengers of the cruise ship "Zaandam" are back on solid ground. They were allowed on shore in Florida. The ship with four dead and at least nine coronavirus cases on board docked in the port of the city of Fort Lauderdale. After lengthy discussions, the authorities had granted the "Zaandam" and its sister ship "Rotterdam" permission to dock. In total, there were about 1,250 passengers on board both ships and about the same number of crew members. 107 passengers and 143 crew members suffered from flu-like symptoms during the trip, several of them have now recovered. 14 sick passengers were brought to a hospital in Florida. The strictly regulated process of allowing the 2,500 passengers from both ships to disembark and arranging further transport could take several more hours.

16:45 Almost 200,000 Germans are back home

New Zealand, India, and South Africa: The German government continues to collect stuck holidaymakers from around the world during the coronavirus crisis and bring them home. A total of 194,000 German tourists have been returned, said Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas. Now they are dealing with complicated cases, for example those "in which someone is in the Colombian jungle or on an island in the Philippines where a curfew is in place, making it impossible to get away. We are also taking care of these cases." But there is no guarantee that every single case will be solved.

16:38 How do antibody tests work?

With thousands of blood tests, researchers in Munich want to uncover the dark figure of coronavirus infections. Starting Sunday, doctors and scientists will ask randomly selected people in Munich for blood samples for a large-scale study. Their blood will then be tested for antibodies. If a person has antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 in their blood, this means that they either are infected or have been in the past.

15:52 US unemployment rate rises significantly

The unemployment rate in the US has risen significantly as a result of the coronavirus crisis - from 3.5 percent in the previous month to 4.4 percent in March, according to the US government. The number of employees has dropped by 700,000. The effects of the epidemic were particularly noticeable in the hotel and hospitality industry, where 460,000 jobs were lost. However, due to a delay in updating the statistics, the new data give too rosy a picture. They only reflect the recent escalation in the labour market to a limited extent: Initial applications for unemployment benefits have soared to around 10 million since mid-March. Experts therefore believe that the unemployment rate could actually already be at ten percent or even higher.

15:40 Federal government plans further coronavirus aid

During the coronavirus crisis, the federal government is planning a huge additional program to prevent a wave of bankruptcies among small and medium-sized businesses. As the German Press Agency learned from government circles, the aim is to improve the duration and exemption from liability for loans. Talks are underway to secure loans for medium-sized companies for a limited period of time with 100 percent state liability. The maximum limit could be €500,000 per company. The state could provide guarantees for a total volume of up to €300 billion. The EU Commission would still have to approve.
There had been repeated complaints from the business community that money from the current KfW special loan program was not reaching companies. Credit checks by house banks were too costly and loans were not granted because companies were not creditworthy in the current crisis. The state-owned development bank KfW has so far borne up to 90 percent of the credit risk.  
Trade associations had demanded that the federal government should provide 100 percent security for the aid loans for a limited period of time.

15:34 The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK continues to rise

In the UK, 684 people have died of the disease CoViD-19 within a day. This increases the total number of deaths to 3,605. According to official figures, more than 38,000 people have contracted coronavirus - including the head of government Boris Johnson. Since he still has a fever, he currently remains in quarantine. Queen Elizabeth II announced that she will address the nation on Sunday night.

15:08 BVB stadium to become a coronavirus treatment center

From tomorrow, Germany's biggest football stadium will turn into a treatment center for coronavirus patients. According to the German Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians Westfalen-Lippe (KVWL), the northern stands of Signal-Iduna Park in Dortmund have been rebuilt accordingly. The center is open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.. Registration is not necessary. "Our stadium is the perfect place to actively help people who are potentially infected with coronavirus or complaining about relevant symptoms such as respiratory diseases and fever," Hans-Joachim Watzke and Carsten Cramer, Dortmund's Managing Directors, explained.

14:54 Singapore to close schools and companies after all

In the fight against coronavirus, Singapore is now also implementing more restrictive measures, initially having opposed taking such actions for a long time. All schools and non-essential shops and businesses should remain closed from next week, the head of government Lee Hsien Loong announced in a televised speech. He cited the recent increase in the number of infections as the reason for these measures.  
So far, Singapore’s handling of the pandemic was considered exemplary. The city state had immediately isolated the first infected people, meticulously traced infection chains, and put all points of contact under quarantine. Thus, despite its proximity to China, the country managed to keep the number of cases extremely low – even though schools and businesses initially remained open. However, in recent days there has been a marked increase in the number of infections.

14:44 The US redirect 400,000 respiratory masks headed for Berlin

At the airport in Bangkok, 400,000 respiratory masks destined for Berlin were redirected to the US. The newspaper "Tagesspiegel" had previously reported on this. According to information researched by rbb24, this had been an order placed by the Berlin police department. The order for the masks had been made with the company 3M. The US manufacturer also has its masks produced in China. 3M is one of the largest suppliers of respiratory masks for industry and health care. The delivery was to be reloaded in Bangkok and transported from there to Germany by air transport. In Bangkok, the delivery was then "redirected" to the US, the Berlin police department confirmed. At the General Customs Directorate in Bonn, which operates in the area of the federal government responsible for the centralized procurement of respiratory masks on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health, the authorities have not yet come across any evidence that the deliveries ordered for Germany have been redirected to the US by officials or intermediareies.

14:37 Ukraine imposes a curfew for seniors

Ukraine has strengthened measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus throughout the country by imposing a curfew for citizens over 60. From Monday, seniors will only be allowed to leave the house to run errands within a radius of two kilometres if they live alone, according to the orders implemented by the government in Kiev. Taking pets for a walk is also still allowed if there is nobody else available who can do this. In addition, all Ukrainians must wear face masks when leaving the house, and visits to the park as well as gatherings of more than two people are also prohibited. In the eastern European country, 942 people have been infected with the virus so far according to official figures. 23 have died of the lung disease CoViD-19.

14:28 Employees to receive tax-free coronavirus premiums

Employees who are receiving a premium from their employer due to the coronavirus crisis will not have to pay any taxes on this. This applies to special payments and contributions in kind up to €1,500, the Ministry of Finance has reported. The prerequisite is that the premiums must be paid between March 1 and December 31, 2020 on top of normal wages. This aid will also remain tax-free in terms of social security contributions. “Kind words at the cash register and applause for medical personnel are a wonderful expression of our unity in this difficult time. But we want to do more to honor these helpers in an appropriate way,” said Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz (SPD). Several employers had announced that they wanted to pay their employees a bonus – including the retailers Aldi, Real, and Lidl. However, for tax reasons, they only want to do this in the form of goods vouchers.

13:24 Scholz continues to oppose Eurobonds

According to a report published by the magazine "Spiegel", Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz continues to oppose European community bonds,  so-called "coronavirus bonds". From the federal government's point of view, the discussion should focus on the use of tools which offer a quick implementation of solutions," according to the magazine's quote from a paper from the financial department. This does not include Eurobonds or "coronavirus bonds", he said. The finance ministers of the Eurogroup want to discuss the state of the coronavirus crisis on Tuesday. According to "Spiegel", the Federal Ministry of Finance is continuing to focus on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

13:04 Worldwide record number of coronavirus fatalities within one day in the USA

Never before have as many people died of coronavirus in one country within a 24-hour period as in the United States: Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore recorded 1,169 new deaths from Wednesday to Thursday night. Before this, Italy held this sad record record with 969 coronavirus deaths on March 27. The number of confirmed infections in the United States is also continuing to increase. In total, Johns Hopkins University in the United States counted 5,926 deaths by Thursday night. According to the US government’s forecasts, a total of between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the United States could die of the lung disease CoViD-19, which is caused by coronavirus.

12:52 Economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis

The German automotive industry has experienced a slump in the past month. New car registrations fell by 38 percent to 215,100 vehicles, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry. This was mainly caused by the restrictions imposed on public life due to the spread of the virus, the shutdown of automobile trading, and the limited working capability of the registration offices. The production and export of cars have also decreased.  

From the point of view of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, the situation in the travel and hospitality industry is also growing worse: around 40 percent of the companies say they are facing an imminent threat of insolvency, as a survey conducted by the association has shown. Approximately two thirds of the companies currently cannot employ staff in the same way as before because of a lack of work.

12:31 Seehofer wants more controls on entering the country

According to reports in "Der Spiegel", Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is calling for an expansion of controls at the German borders and the introduction of an obligatory quarantine for all persons entering the country by air. Seehofer intends to present his ideas as a proposal to the other ministers in the coronavirus cabinet on Monday.

12:21 Coronavirus death rate in Spain drops

For the first time since March 26, the number of deaths per day in Spain from the coronavirus has dropped. The Spanish Ministry of Health reported that 932 people died in the past 24 hours whereas the day before it was 950. However, the infection rate continues to rise. Almost 118,000 people are infected with the coronavirus.

12:13 Short-time compensation in glass industry to be increased

The approximately 50,000 employees in the German glass industry are to receive increased short-time compensation during the coronavirus crisis. Instead of 60 or 67 (with children) percent of net wages, they will now receive 80 percent. This was agreed upon by the union IG BCE and the Federal Employers' Association for Glass and Solar. Such increases have thus far only been made on an individual basis on a regional or company level.

11:50 Merkel ends home office

As of today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is back in the chancellors office, according to a statement made by government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Her 14-day domestic quarantine due to a suspected coronavirus infection is now over. Her tests were all negative.

11:24 Researchers for gradual exit from restrictions

A group of renowned scientists advocates a gradual reduction of the restrictions introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the researchers led by Ifo President Clemens Fuest and Martin Lohse, President of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians, these restrictions must be differentiated and gradually reduced while continuously weighing the risks. According to the proposal of the 14 experts from German universities and research institutes, priority must be given to restrictions that cause high economic costs or lead to severe social and health problems.

The current restrictions make sense, but cannot be a long-term solution, the researchers said. What is needed is "a flexible strategy, graded according to risks". Regions with low infection rates and available capacity in their healthcare system, for example, could lead the way. Sectors with a low risk of infection - such as highly-automated factories and areas with less vulnerable people, such as schools and universities, could also begin.

11:10 Italian civil defence expects extension of coronavirus measures

Civil defence authorities in Italy expect the measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak to be extended beyond the beginning of May. We cannot imagine that the situation will have changed by May 1st, said Angelo Borrelli, head of the authorities, to the RAI channel. "We must be extremely strict." Only this week, the government extended the curfew and the closure of all non-essential businesses until April 13.

11:01 Government fears more right-wing violence as a result of the coronavirus crisis

The German government fears an increase in right-wing violence in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. According to the editorial network RND (Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland), the Federal Interior Ministry has informed the parliament of increased activities and plans of right-wing groups. According to the report, members of so-called "prepper groups" are preparing for an alleged Day X, when public order will collapse. In Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia, weapons and ammunition  have been taken from hiding places, so-called safehouses, according to the authorities. "Parts of the extreme right have prepared themselves for exactly such situations and could become active with attacks", left-wing interior expert Martina Renner told the RND. Extreme vigilance is called for.

10:54 Retail: Please do not panic-buy before Easter

German retailers are appealing to shoppers not to panic-buy food for the Easter holidays. "Go shopping with foresight. Think about what you need for the holidays now," said Stefan Genth, CEO of the industry association HDE. Due to distance regulations and access restrictions, grocery stores cannot currently serve as many customers per hour as usual. "If possible, go shopping alone and quickly," added the General Manager of the Food Retail Association, Franz-Martin Rausch.

10:47 Alliance demands more protection for migrant workers

An alliance of trade unions, labor, and human rights organizations demands protective measures for migrant workers in the coronavirus crisis. The alliance warned that migrants who work mainly in the meat industry, agriculture, logistics, construction, and care are particularly at risk of infection with the coronavirus. This is due to overcrowded group accommodation, group transport to work, and lack of protective distances at work.

Migrant workers are a high-risk group in the coronavirus pandemic because of their living and working conditions, said the Industrial Union Building-Agriculture-Environment (IG BAU). The coronavirus affects exhausted people who continue to go to work in spite of symptoms of illness. It is completely unclear what they can live on under quarantine. There must be an alternative for mass accommodation. In addition, the union Nahrung Genuss Gaststätten (NGG) also demanded protective distances and protective equipment for workers in the meat industry.

10:31 RKI hopes that the epidemic will subside in the coming days

The restrictions are working, says RKI boss Lothar Wieler. It has been possible to reduce the reproduction rate of infections to one. This means that an infected person only re-infects one person at a time. He hopes that the number will drop below one in the next few days. If this happens, the number of infections will also decrease over time.

Wieler also called for an increase in the frequency of public transport or for more wagons/buses to be used so that passengers on public transport can keep enough distance between them. Wieler once again pointed out that wearing makeshift masks would not protect against coronavirus infection. At best, such a mask can help to retain one's own droplets and thus protect others from infection, said Wieler. The most important point is that if someone shows symptoms, it is important that they stay at home.

10:29 Söder announces Corona study

A scientific study involving 3000 randomly selected households in Munich should provide insight into the spread of the pandemic in Germany. The research project is scheduled to run for one year and should provide initial findings in a few days' time, said Bavaria's Minister President Markus Söder. The study, which involves taking regular blood samples and conducting interviews, will begin on Sunday. The CSU politician also sees a slightly positive trend in the development of the pandemic. "The numbers are rising, therefore there is no reason to sound the all-clear. But there is a slightly positive trend visible today", Söder said. "It pays to persevere."

10:19 Google publishes anonymized movement data

Google has published an evaluation of anonymized movement data in the coronavirus crisis. This is intended to provide the authorities with additional information for understanding behavioral trends. In Germany, the analysis shows at the federal state level how the number of people in parks, shopping centers, and train stations, for example, has developed. Only a percentage change overall is shown, not the development in individual places.

The trends cover a period of several weeks; the most recent data are 48 to 72 hours old. The data are available for 131 countries. The data could possibly be used in the future to form assumptions about future developments. For its analysis, Google relies on anonymized data from users who have their locations recorded in their Google profiles.

09:50 Geisel: Restrictions could last all year

Berlin's Interior Senator Andreas Geisel assumes that the distance regulations could remain in force throughout the year due to the corona pandemic. Geisel said on Friday in the rbb that the aim was "to reduce the speed of infection in such a way that the health care system is not overloaded and to prevent conditions like those in Spain or Italy". The SPD politician said it was not legitimate to say that everything would be over by April 19th. One would certainly have to loosen the lockdown during April and May. "But the restrictions, distance regulations, the change in our habits - I am afraid that will accompany us throughout the year," said Geisel.

09:46 France struggles to get scarce medication

According to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, the French government is fighting against a shortage of essential drugs for the treatment of coronavirus patients. The worldwide use of essential drugs and disposable equipment such as ventilator mouthpieces in intensive care units "is exploding to unimaginable proportions," Philippe said. Demand is up by almost 2000 percent. France has sufficient stocks of some of the essential drugs, but "more limited" quantities of others, Philippe told TF1. This is a real concern for doctors. Together with French President Emmanuel Macron and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, he has called manufacturers to identify supply bottlenecks and to get more drugs.

09:43 Nursing care representative defends visitation bans in care facilities

Andreas Westerfellhaus, the federal government's representative for nursing care, has defended the strict ban on visiting retirement and nursing homes during the coronavirus crisis. He told Deutschlandfunk radio that a visitation ban was the best way to protect residents and staff from infection with the coronavirus, especially since the risk of transmission cannot be completely eliminated. At the same time he pleaded for a sense of proportion and humanity in the implementation of this ban. Dying people should not be left alone in the last hours of their lives. Relatives should therefore be given the opportunity to hold their hand and accompany them. In the past few days, several residents of several nursing and retirement homes, especially in Bavaria and Lower Saxony, have died from coronavirus infection.

09:38 Polish presidential election debate postponed

Voices in favour of postponing the presidential election debate scheduled for May 10 are growing louder within the Polish coalition government. The danger of the virus spreading during the vote is too great, the leader of the Porozumienie party, Jaroslaw Gowin, explained in a newspaper interview. However, he had not threatened to break up the coalition because of this. The leader of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) and leader of the governing coalition, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is keeping to the deadline, he said on the radio. He said that the lower house of the Polish parliament would decide on Friday whether the election should be carried out by postal vote. Without the junior coalition partner, the PiS coalition would no longer have a majority.

Officially the number of coronavirus cases in Poland are low. But physicians and activists believe the true number of cases to be much higher – partly because there is little testing.

09:27 Sharpest slump in US economy predicted since 1946

According to a forecast by the major bank Morgan Stanley, the US economy will this year experience a collapse as a result of the coronavirus crisis to a degree not seen since 1946. The analysts predict that gross domestic product will shrink by 5.5 percent. In the second quarter, which has just begun, there will be a slump of 38 percent, while the annualized decline in the first quarter is expected to be 3.4 percent. The unemployment rate is expected to peak in spring at 15.7 percent. Approximately 21 million jobs are to be cut.

09:14 10,000 ventilator beds available in German hospitals

The President of the German Hospital Federation (DKG), Gerald Gaß, considers capacities for the treatment of severely ill coronavirus patients in Germany to be sufficient for the next two weeks. "I am confident that we will manage for the next ten or 14 days, that we will succeed in providing every patient who needs one with a ventilator," Gaß told the news channel n-tv. Some ten thousand respiratory care beds are still available at the moment, said Gaß. Currently, 2,500 patients suffering from the lung disease Covid-19 are being treated on ventilators in Germany.  

"We are prepared for a significant increase in the number of patients arriving at hospitals in the coming days and weeks," said Gaß. He admitted that there are hospitals whose ventilation capacity is being fully utilized. "But there are still a number of nearby hospitals that can take patients."

09:04 "Dear Ursula": Conte makes renewed request for European bonds

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is insisting on a response from the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, regarding the use of common European bonds in the fight against coronavirus. He called for "European recovery bonds" in the newspaper "La Repubblica", where he used the English word "European recovery bonds" in his article – the term "corona bonds" did not fall. Germany and other northern European countries have so far rejected joint EU bonds. France, Spain, and Italy, however, have argued in favor of them.

The day before, Von der Leyen had admitted to the same newspaper that mistakes were made by the EU in dealing with the virus outbreak in Italy. Europe has since changed pace. The German President of the Commission has promised billions in aid for short-time workers.

In his article, which begins with "Dear Ursula", Conte thanks the EU for its proposals, in particular the short-time workers programme. But this is not enough, he argues. "If one is at war, one must support all the efforts that lead to victory and equip oneself with all the instruments necessary for the beginning of the recovery process," he wrote. Otherwise, Europe could be left behind by global competition after the crisis. He stressed once again that the bonds were not about sharing old debts.

09:00 More calls to family helpline

According to the Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Franziska Giffey, the German helpline "Nummer gegen Kummer" has reported an increase in calls of more than 20 percent. Many families have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and are increasingly seeking advice, Giffey told the "Zeit-Online" newspaper. An increase in the number of calls from both children and parents have been reported. Some of this could be due to the fact that this initiative has been widely advertised, said the Minister. The government-sponsored helpline is allegedly the largest free advice hotline for children, young people and parents in Germany.

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • Robert Koch Institute reports more than 79,696 cases and 1017 deaths in Germany
  • Compromise for harvest workers
  • Citizens shall forgo bigger day trips over the Easter holidays
  • Jens Spahn hopes for efficacy of malaria medication against Covid-19
  • UN expert fears great hunger crisis