This is the live blog for April 17, 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

  • Altmaier: Proceed with caution in easing restrictions for businesses
  • Saxony: Masks must be worn in public trasnport and retail
  • Spahn: Virus outbreak more manageable
  • Government defends limited relaxations
  • Hospitals to return to regular operation step by step starting in May
  • Infection rate in Germany falls below important mark
  • China corrects figures from Wuhan significantly upwards

17:54 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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17:29 Brandenburg: Lessons to gradually take place from 27 April

Lessons are to be gradually resumed from 27 April onwards in Brandenburg schools. This was stated by Education Minister Britta Ernst on rbb Inforadio. According to the plan, those who are still learning for a school leaving certificate this year will be the first to return to school. One week later, on May 4, classes will be opened for those who want to graduate next year. It is planned in a third step to teach sixth graders again to prepare them for continuing studies. Ernst emphasized that lessons will be held under strict social distancing and hygiene standards. In addition, the minister has announced that daycare will be expanded starting 27 April, including for single parents who cannot have their children cared for elsewhere. Ernst said in regard to thoughts of catch up lessons in the summer holidays: "Holidays are holidays". She does not expect schools to be running normally by then.

17:24 Resuming religious services in Saxony

Saxony is the first federal state during the coronavirus crisis to allow church services again but only on a small scale. Up to 15 participants, as well as a pastor and a cantor, are permitted at religious gatherings, stated State Premier Michael Kretschmer in Dresden. The cabinet had previously passed a new coronavirus protection regulation. Saxon representatives of the two largest churches reacted with initial relief to the relaxation of the ban on worship. The state church is aware of the responsibility that this reopening brings, Saxony's Protestant state bishop Tobias Bilz told the Protestant press service. "I do not want the coronavirus to be transmitted by a service," he stressed. The churches in Germany had demanded a relaxation of the coronavirus regulations for religious services. So far there is no nationwide timetable for gradual reapproval of religious gatherings. The federal and state governments want to discuss the further management of the coronavirus restrictions on 30 April.

17:19 Heals examines the phase plan for the basic pension

The Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil is now reviewing a phased plan for the introduction of the basic pension next year. The supplement for low-earners for existing pensioners could, therefore, be paid retroactively with effect from January 2021. This was quoted in the "Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung" from a counter-statement by the Federal Government to the Federal Council. A phased implementation should, however, ensure that the supplement can be checked and paid out, at the least for new pensioners from January 2021. This can take into account the high cost of implementation for pension insurance.

17:06 More than 1000 cases of coronavirus on the aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle"

1081 crew members of the French aircraft carrier "Charles de Gaulle" and the escort ships have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. This was announced to parliament by Defence Minister Florence Parly. This is almost half the crew. Symptoms have been detected in 545 sailors. 24 have been treated in hospital. It is not clear at the present how the crew was infected.

16:52 EU Parliament approves billions of financial aid

The EU Parliament has released three billion euros from the EU budget for the fight against the coronavirus crisis. The money is for medical aids, such as masks and respiratory equipment, to be bought and distributed at EU level. Additionally, it is to fund cross-border transport of patients. The measure is part of an aid package approved by parliament members on Friday. The EU Parliament also voted for an amendment to the guidelines for the existing relief fund for particularly poor and disadvantaged people, including homeless people. The relief fund is thus able to access financial resources more quickly during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to direct aid to people, this will finance protective equipment for aid workers. Aid centers will also be able to issue electronic vouchers for example for food, to lower the risk of infection.

16:35 MDR (German broadcaster) data project: Jammed - how the coronavirus stops brings traffic to a standstill

Governments around the world have restricted their citizens‘ mobility to stop the coronavirus. Digital traffic data shows how life in European cities has changed, but also how and when the respective governments have reacted to coronavirus. The MDR broadcaster presented the data project.

16:09 Corona emergency aid fraud in several federal states

More and more federal states are reporting cases of fraud for state aid. Following North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, Berlin, Saxony, and Bremen have also reported cases. According to the North Rhine-Westphalia Minister for Economic Affairs Andreas Pinkwart, there are also suspicions of attempted fraud in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Fraudsters usually try to retrieve data for applications for emergency aid via counterfeit websites.

15:58 More than 5000 coronavirus deaths in Belgium

Belgium, in the meantime, has more than 5,000 people who have died as a consequence of coronavirus. As the Belgian health authorities have reported, 313 more people have died within 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 5,163. Belgium, with 11.5 million inhabitants, has one of the highest mortality rates in the whole of Europe. In total, more than 36,000 people are infected with the novel virus in the country. A little more than half of the deaths have been registered in senior residences, the other cases in hospitals. More than 1,100 infected people are still being treated in intensive care units – the authorities have reported that this is a decrease.

15:34 Altmaier: Proceed with caution in easing restrictions for businesses

Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier believes that the restrictions placed on business can be eased – but only gradually and cautiously. Any setbacks in public health must be avoided, as they would result in stores being forced to close again, said the CDU politician after consultations with 29 industry associations. There now is a chance to limit new infections sufficiently, to slowly ramp-up business activity again, "but only to a reasonable and responsible extent".

The upcoming opening of smaller stores with sales areas up to 800 square meters has been controversial, but a compromise. Mr. Altmaier added that he intends to soon make concrete proposals on how to further open up the economy without jeopardizing public health.

15:23 Concept for opening nurseries is being worked out

The Federal and State Governments want to work out a concept for reopening nursery schools after the third of May. The Federal Minister of Family Affairs Franziska Giffey (SPD) has stated that the guidelines should define which children should be prioritised. She specified that this should include children of single working parents, children with disabilities, and pre-school children. The hygiene and occupational safety of caretakers should also be regulated.

Until at least May 3rd, states can only extend emergency care, which has only been available to parents who work so-called system-relevant jobs. On Wednesday, the Federal and State governments had decided to extend the scope of eligibility.

The fact that nursery schools may not resume regular operations until the summer holidays is placing great pressure on working parents. The Green and Left parties have called for more support for severely suffering families. The Federal and State Governments and are aware of the difficulties faced by parents whose children are currently not cared for or who cannot go to school, said Ms. Giffey.

15:06 Saxony: Masks must be worn in public trasnport and retail

Saxony is the first federal state to impose an obligation to wear masks in public transport and retail. The regulation will apply from Monday, said Minister-President Michael Kretschmer (CDU). A simple cloth or scarf can also be used to cover one’s nose and mouth.

When allowing additional contact of people in so many areas, a mask requirement is the right solution, Kretschmer continued.

From Monday onwards, some corona restrictions will be eased in Saxony. It is a "reasonable instrument" to balance out the greater freedom that people in Saxony now have. Such protection is by now available in various ways and shapes, people can sew or buy one. "I think we are at a point where we can start imposing it," Kretschmer said.

14:49 Hugging trees in Iceland

The Icelandic Forestry Administration encourages people in need of physical closeness to seek comfort in the forest: "When you embrace a tree, you first feel it in your toes, then in your legs, in your chest, and finally in your head," a forester told Icelandic radio station RUV.
He recommends closing one’s eyes: "It gives such a wonderful feeling of relaxation. Afterwards, you feel clear to face a new day and new challenges." In the large forest of Hallormsstaður in the east of the country, forest workers have cleared the paths of snow to allow visitors can move freely without coming too close to others. They recommend looking for a tree deeper in the forest, to make sure it does not turn into a source of infection with many people hugging the same tree.
Icelanders are positive about the idea of the Forestry Administration. "We see that many are posting pictures of themselves hugging trees on social media."

14:38 90-year-old Scottish woman gains fame with fundraising campaign

90-year-old Margaret Payne from Scotland wants to collect donations for the British healthcare system. Payne, who has difficulty walking, plans to climb her staircase 282 times. This amounts to the height of a Scottish mountain she first climbed as a teenager. She plans to donate the money to the National Health Service (NHS) and a hospice which cared for her husband.

99-year-old Englishman Captain Tom Moore inspired her, the retiree said. Moore, who is turning 100 at the end of April, managed to walk 100 rounds around his garden with the aid of his walking frame - and has already collected more than GBP 18 million (about EUR 21 million) as of noon on Friday on a fundraising page.

Payne has set herself a goal of GBP 10,000 - but she had already collected more than eight times the amount by noon on Friday. She started her fundraising campaign on Easter Sunday and hopes to have completed it in about two months.

13:36 Court ruling: Restaurant cannot be simply be converted into a shop

According to a court ruling, a restaurant cannot simply be converted into a shop, even during the coronavirus crisis. This would require building approval, the administrative court in Cologne decided. It thereby rejected the emergency appeal by a restaurant owner from Bergisch Gladbach, who wanted to respond to a loss of revenue resulting from the coronavirus protection measures by converting his restaurant into a shop. The applicant is the owner of a restaurant that was forced to close because of the coronavirus restrictions.

Because he feared for his economic livelihood, he wanted to change his business model and sell toilet paper, kitchen roll, fruit and vegetables, beverages, as well as vouchers for online shops, among other things. He informed the city of Bergisch Gladbach of this – and added that he  did not have any legal concerns regarding his plans. The city replied by email, informing him that his intended use of his restaurant as a shop was not permitted. In response, the restaurant owner filed an emergency appeal. The judges have now decided that he requires building approval, as a restaurant comes with different requirements than a shop.

13:23 Doctor's visit required again for sick leave due to respiratory diseases

Starting next week, employees will need to visit a doctor again to obtain a certificate for sick leave if they have mild respiratory issues. An exemption introduced in light of the coronavirus epidemic, which allowed a certificate to be issued after a phone consultation with a doctor, will not be extended. This was decided by the Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) of doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies. In order to assess whether an insured person is unable to work and can receive a certificate for sick leave, they will need to undergo a physical examination again as of this Monday.

G-BA chairman Josef Hecken explained that the temporary exemption had served to relieve practices and reduce the spread of the virus in view of the dynamic coronavirus developments.  In the meantime, this dynamic development has been slowed through strict distancing and hygiene rules. The temporary regulation could therefore end on the originally scheduled date. This corresponds with the careful steps to ease restrictions which the federal government and the states have decided on.

13:07 Spain: Number of coronavirus deaths officially continuing to decline

In Spain, another 585 people have died of the lung disease CoViD-19 within 24 hours. This increases the official number of fatalities in the coronavirus crisis to 19,478, as reported by the Ministry of Health. The number of deaths is declining. The Spanish authorities assume that the country passed the peak of the pandemic at the beginning of April. At that time, 950 deaths were counted on one day.

However, the official numbers of victims in Spain have been disputed: in order to standardize the statistics of the different regions, the Ministry of Health is only recording the deaths of patients who have tested positive. Several regions criticized that thousands of deaths did not appear in the national statistics with this method. Particularly stringent restrictions are in force in Spain to curb the spread of coronavirus. A curfew has been in place since March 14.  However, the economy started reopening at the start of the week.

12:54 Government defends partial easing of restrictions against criticism from the business community

The German government has defended the initial limited easing of restrictions due to the coronavirus epidemic, for example for the retail industry. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that the restrictions on public life in recent weeks allow for cautious small steps of opening up.  At the same time he emphasized: "We are not on safe ground." There is no guarantee that the infection curve will continue to flatten out. Easing steps would be examined in 14-day intervals.

12:19 Gilead medicine raises some hope

There may be a ray of hope against the coronavirus. According to a report by the online platform for medical news, STAT, a drug from the US pharmaceutical company Gilead Science has shown success in the treatment of seriously ill coronavirus patients. In a study conducted at Chicago University Hospital, Remdesivir, originally developed for Ebola, led to a rapid reduction in fever and lung disease symptoms, allowing almost all patients to be discharged in less than a week. The study was conducted on 125 patients, 113 of whom had serious illnesses, but only two had died so far.  

However, Gilead explained that the data still needed to be analysed to draw conclusions. The University Hospital of Chicago pointed out in an e-mail that partial data from an ongoing study should not be used to derive results. Information from an internal forum for scientists had been published without permission. The pharmaceutical company expects to be able to announce first results from the ongoing phase III study at the end of this month.

12:07 Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof files suit for the opening of stores in NRW

The department store group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof opposes the closure of its stores due to the Corona Protection Ordinance of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. This was announced by the Higher Administrative Court for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. A decision is to be made next week.

12:04 Vaccine testing against the coronavirus in Germany expected soon

According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the first clinical trial of a vaccine candidate against the new coronavirus is expected to begin shortly in Germany. PEI President Klaus Cichutek said that he was sure that further trials would be carried out in Germany during the course of the year. He did not give any details about the start date. So far, four candidates are in the first clinical trials worldwide.

Cichutek was generally optimistic with regard to vaccines and medications against the virus: One does not dream, but works on "making this a reality", he said countering a virologist's statement that these are still dreams.

11:50 Government statement next Thursday

Chancellor Angela Merkel will make a government statement on the coronavirus crisis next Thursday. Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said that this would also cover the deliberations of EU heads of state and government, i.e. the European response to the pandemic.

11:48 Spahn: Germany ready for foreign coronavirus patients

According to Health Minister Spahn, Germany is prepared to accept more foreign coronavirus patients. He will discuss with foreign colleagues to what extent additional patients should be treated in Germany, said Spahn. He had previously stated that the approximately 10,000 free intensive care beds available, minus a reserve of 25 to 30 percent, could be made available for other uses.

11:15 Coronavirus app " more likely in four weeks than two "

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn expects a smartphone app for tracking the contacts of coronavirus-infected persons in the coming weeks. From today's standpoint, "it will be four weeks rather than two weeks" until a functional app is available that meets all requirements, says Spahn. The app must guarantee data security and protection as well as fulfil the epidemiological benefit.

11:13 Turkey plans to bring 25,000 people home for Ramadan

Despite the coronavirus crisis and the suspension of international flights, the Turkish government wants to bring around 25,000 people home for the fasting month of Ramadan. Vice President Fuat Oktay announced via Twitter that a "large-scale operation" had been launched together with the responsible provincial governors.

"Our goal is to ensure that our citizens, God willing, will be with their loved ones during the blessed month of Ramadan," he wrote. According to the report, it involves people from 59 countries. Oktay did not give any details about the repatriation and possible quarantine regulations for the travelers. Ramadan is expected to begin on April 24.

11:09 Russia reports new record number of new infections

Russia has again seen a record increase in new coronavirus cases, with 4069 new infections. This brings the total number of infections within 24 hours to 32,007, according to the Interfax news agency. The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began to rise sharply this month after the authorities registered far fewer infections in the early stages of the outbreak than many countries in Western Europe.

11:03 Patient protection: Politics is neglecting nursing homes

The Patient Protection Foundation has accused the federal and state governments of neglecting nursing and retirement homes in the coronavirus crisis. The resolutions passed on Wednesday are downright absurd, board member Eugen Brysch told "RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland".

The size of shops to be opened will be determined to the nearest square meter throughout Germany. However, no binding criteria will be established nationwide to protect nursing home residents in need of care", he criticized. Although the largest risk group lives there, the homes should handle their own problems.

He added that 750 billion euros had been spent on aid packages. The federal and state governments had also set concrete goals for hospital ventilation stations. "But they cannot manage to commit to providing basic protection for the 12,000 nursing homes in Germany. This would mean keeping a stock of protective equipment in the facilities for at least 14 days." This includes disinfectants, face masks, gloves, and goggles.

The latest major corona outbreak in a nursing home was reported by Bad Sachsa in the southern Harz Mountains. After a first suspected case just under two weeks ago, all 72 residents and 58 employees have now been tested for the coronavirus, Diakonie Wolfsburg, the institution's responsible body, announced on Thursday evening. All 19 test results from residents available so far are positive. Two people are in hospital. Seven positive results

10:53 Teachers' Association sees little point in shortening school holidays

The German Teachers' Association is against the idea of shortening school holidays at this time. "I believe that a debate on shortening summer holidays at this point in time is actually misguided," President Heinz-Peter Meidinger told Deutschlandfunk radio.

Meidinger expressed doubts about the effect of shortened holidays. Instead, he said, a good overall concept was needed in order to convey the learning material in the best possible way. He added that teaching cannot currently function if all students are in school at the same time. This would require twice as many classrooms and teachers in order to maintain the hygiene measures, which is not realistic. Instead, more emphasis needs to be placed on learning at home.

The debate on shortening the summer holidays had been initiated by Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble.

10:43 RKI head Wieler sees successful combat strategy

The President of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, sees clear successes in the German strategy to combat the coronavirus. With the help of the three pillars of containment, protection of the vulnerable, and the increase in treatment, he said, a "good interim result" has been achieved.

Overall, he added, several positive trends can be observed: According to Wieler, the number of cases is increasing at a significantly lower rate than in the previous week. The number of reproductions - i.e. the number of people infected by a sick person - has fallen to below one and is currently at 0.7.  In future, the RKI intends to use the virus tests "strategically better", according to Wieler. Currently, about nine percent of all tests are positive.

"In future, we will be able to test more frequently in nursing and retirement homes to prevent patients and nursing staff from becoming infected," he said. He added that it was still crucial to interrupt infection chains.

10:17 Spahn calls it a now " controllable outbreak"

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn believes Germany is on the right track in the fight against the coronavirus. He said that the infection rate has dropped below an important level, and since April 12th, the daily number of recoveries has exceeded that of new infections. In an international comparison, Germany is in a good position; it is modest, but not overconfident, Spahn said at the federal press conference.

The German health system has thus far not been overburdened. This also speaks for the fact that the system is in good shape, with its clinics and the close-knit network of general practitioners.

09:23 Veteran raises more millions for British healthcare system

The 99-year old war veteran Tom Moore, who the Brits have lovingly named Captain Tom, has raised additional millions for the country’s healthcare system, the NHS. Donations currently stand at 17.4 million.

Moore had started the initiative at the beginning of last week. As a goal, he set out to do 100 laps of his small garden using his walking frame to raise money for the NHS. By the time he achieved his goal on Sunday evening, donations had already amounted to 15 million pounds.

09:03 Minister of Culture refers to special assistance for self-employed

Culture Minister Monika Grütters has advised self-employed artists to take advantage of a social security package during the difficult times caused by the coronavirus crisis. It is aimed at those who are self-employed and individuals who have suddenly lost wages. The package is a highly simplified version of basic income support without means testing.

60,000 euros would be set aside per person, said Grütters on the ARD-Morgenmagazin. This would pay for rent and heating. Those with children would receive subsidies more easily. "This will end up being an amount that actually safeguards people’s lives – and it will apply for half a year."

Grütters also stated that, following the opening of bookshops, she was now hoping museums would reopen, too. There were ways of limiting visitor numbers, she added. The fact that such a solution had not been sought yet was because the aim had been to reduce visitor footfall in the cities.

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institut reports 133,830 infected and 3,868 deaths
  • Clinics are scheduled to return to regular operation in May
  • Reproduction rate in Germany has fallen below 1
  • China corrects figures from Wuhan significantly up by 1290 deaths
  • Wolfgang Schäuble proposes shortening of school holidays this summer