This is the live blog for April 18, 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 17:00 pm CEST

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Short facts

  • Almost 900 new deaths in the UK
  • Bavaria wants to continue allowing employees to report sick by phone
  • More than 150,000 corona deaths worldwide
  • Deutscher Städtetag not expecting a rush to the shops
  • Queen decides to forgo birthday celebrations

17:09 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 German cruise ship "Artania" is allowed to leave Australia

After more than three weeks of being stranded because of the coronavirus, the German cruise ship "Artania" sets sail for home. The ship, with eleven passengers and about 300 crew members still on board, has departed from Fremantle, as the Governor of Western Australia reported. First, the "Artania" will call at Indonesia is to let off crew members and passengers, before leaving for Europe.

About 800 of the mostly German passengers have already been flown home on March 27th. According to the Australian Ministry of Health, twelve "Artania" passengers have tested positive.

16:50 Portugal considers access restrictions for beaches

The Portuguese government considers restricting access to the beaches. "The virus does not sleep in the summer," says Prime Minister Antonio Costa to the "Expresso" newspaper. Cities should take measures to prevent beaches from overcrowding. So far, nearly 19,700 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Portugal with 687 related deaths registered – a much lower number than in the particularly heavily affected, larger neighbouring country of Spain.

16:11 Switzerland reports 1,111 coronavirus deaths

The number of coronavirus deaths in Switzerland has increased by 52 to 1,111. According to the health authorities, the number of positive tests has increased by 326 to 27,404 cases. On the previous day, 346 new cases had been reported.

16:07 Coronavirus infections in North Korea?

According to a radio report, there are also coronavirus infections in North Korea – contrary to the official reports by Pyongyang. Radio Free Asia reports that the authorities of the isolated country have spoken of confirmed cases in communications to certain organizations and groups of citizens. Since the end of March, infections have been known, Radio Free Asia reports, on the basis of two insiders. The number of patients was not known.

The official statement is that there hasn't been a single confirmed coronavirus infection in North Korea. Experts strongly doubt this.

15:49 Almost 900 new deaths in the UK

In the UK, once again nearly 900 people have died over the last 24 hours as a result of Covid-19. The Ministry of Health has reported an additional 888 deaths. In total, 15,464 people have now died in the UK.

However, this British Government statistic only includes those who have died in hospital. The number of new deaths has increased once again. On Friday, the Department of Health and Social Care reported 847 deaths within 24 hours, which was a slight decline.

There are many unregistered deaths in addition to the official number of Covid-19 deaths in British hospitals. According to estimates, several thousand people have died in British nursing homes alone.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, more than 5,500 new infections have been registered in 24 hours. The total now stands at about 114,000.

15:43 Hospital administration in Potsdam admits making mistakes

After the serious outbreak of corona infections with numerous deaths in the Potsdam Ernst von Bergmann Clinic, the management has for the first time acknowledged that mistakes were made. “In the period from March 13th to 26th, a critical development in the context of the corona pandemic had not been recognized to the fullest at the Ernst von Bergmann clinic,” stated the management after a non-public consultation with the Main Committee of the City Council.

“The actually established and registered infections of individual employees have not been substantively linked to each other and they have not been thoroughly analyzed,” the communication further states.

At the largest hospital in Potsdam, which also cares for people in the region, many coronavirus cases have been registered, with a high death toll – so far, according to the city, there have been 37 deaths.

15:32 Bavaria wants to continue allowing employees to report sick by phone

Bavaria insists on the exemption rule in place for employees to call in sick. State Minister of Health Melanie Huml (CSU) has criticized the fact that workers will need to visit a doctor again with mild respiratory symptoms. "This decision of the Joint Federal Committee is premature, when considering the risks posed by the corona pandemic," said Ms. Huml.

She has therefore called for an extension of the regulation that allows for doctors to provide sick notes for mild respiratory symptoms after a consultation over the phone. Otherwise, Covid-19 patients will also visit medical practices and might infect others.

15:24 Lack of protective gowns in British hospitals

In UK hospitals, a lack of protective equipment against the coronavirus is looming. Many intensive care stations are expected to already run out of long-sleeved, liquid-repellent, single-use gowns recommended for doctors and care staf this weekend.

Inventories are used up. The authorities have now also allowed the use of other gowns – a step that has resulted in strong criticism, including from trade unions. They fear that hospital staff run a higher risk of infection.

15:19 Amazon uses thermal cameras to scan for employees with fever

Amazon is using thermal imaging cameras to identify feverish staff in the US, according to Amazon employees. Relevant equipment has been installed at at least six warehouses of the online retailer around Los Angeles and Seattle, report employees. If the cameras detect a higher temperature, the employees in question are once again checked for fever using a forehead thermometer.

Amazon has confirmed the use of such cameras in some warehouses. It would help ensure occupational health and safety. Coronavirus cases have been reported in over 50 Amazon warehouses in the US, after which workers' representatives called for the closure of facilities.

15:02 Rail Passenger Association: Uphold minimum distance in local transport

The German Association of Railway Passengers demands that the principle of maintaining a minimum distance between people should also apply to local buses and trains. "If maintaining a minimum distance of 1.5 meters is the top priority, this should be implemented for all means of public transport," the Association explained. "This naturally includes construction measures on platforms and in cars." The association considers itself a lobby for railway passengers.

14:33 More than 20,000 deaths in Spain

Spain has now officially recorded more than 20,000 deaths. It is the world’s third worst affected country in terms of the number of deaths, after the USA and Italy. According to the health authorities, the number of infected people has increased to more than 190,000, and more than 74,000 have now recovered. The number of deaths is reported to have increased by 565 within 24 hours – and there have been 4,500 new infections.

13:57 Deutscher Städtetag not expecting a rush to the shops

The Deutscher Städtetag is expecting customers to remain cautious when smaller shops reopen on Monday. "We expect that the population will want to take advantage of this change," said the Chief Executive Officer of the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Helmut Dedy. "But we aren’t anticipating a huge rush: The businesses that are reopening now will be just as accessible in a week’s time." The cities are expecting these first easings to go hand in hand with continued caution.

13:35 Growing criticism of British government

Queen guitarist Brian May has accused the British government of serious shortcomings in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It was an “eternal shame” that even doctors and nurses in the clinics were not sufficiently protected while treating the infected, said the rock musician. The state’s health service, the National Health Service, or NHS for short, has been in a poor state for many years. “And that’s the price we have to pay now,” says May. The 72-year-old, who is also an astrophysicist, spoke of a “national tragedy”. In the UK, there is a shortage of protective equipment, tests, breathing apparatus, and personnel in hospitals.

13:15 Brazil: Missionary work in indigenous communities prohibited

Due to the risk of coronavirus infections, a Brazilian judge has forbidden Christian missionary attempts among isolated tribes in the Amazon region. The ruling of Judge Fabiano Verli prohibits evangelistic missionaries from making contact with tribes in the Javari Valley of the Amazon rainforest, reports the organization Survival International. A violation of the ruling could incur a fine of approximately 175 euro per day. The judge’s decision is mainly aimed at the evangelistic US group Ethnos 360, who had collected money to purchase a helicopter with the aim of undertaking missionary work among isolated tribes in the Amazon region of Brazil.
The decision was based on the particular vulnerability of isolated indigenous dwellers to external disease. Contact with outsiders would put them at serious risk. The Spanish invasion of South America in the 16th century killed almost 95 per cent of the indigenous population due to imported diseases. So far, there have been 23 confirmed coronavirus cases among Brazil’s indigenous population – three people have died.

13:01 France: Cruise ship not allowed to dock

French authorities have refused a cruise ship entry to the port of Marseille. The "Costa Deliziosa" has been at sea since the beginning of January and wanted to let 1,400 passengers disembark before reaching its destination in Italy. The Regional Administration of the Bouches-du-Rhône department referred to a nationwide ban on the docking of cruise ships as part of the measures to mitigate the coronavirus crisis. Passengers had wanted to disembark on Friday before the ship reached its destination port in Venice, the Regional Administration explained. In recent weeks, six other cruise ships received exemptions to allow French passengers to disembark. This time, permission was not granted. The "Costa Deliziosa" was on a trip around the globe.

12:58 Queen decides to forgo birthday celebrations

The British Queen Elizabeth II has decided to forgo any form of birthday celebrations this year. The royal household announced that the monarch deemed the traditional gun salutes to be inappropriate at a time when the country is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. It is the first time in her 68-year reign that Elizabeth has asked to forgo customary practices. She will be 94 years old on 21 April. Her birthday is normally celebrated in June.

11:50 France approves emergency budget worth billions

The French National Assembly has approved an emergency budget that takes into account 110 billion euros of government measures planned to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The budget includes bonuses for medical staff, support for workers and families affected by the effects of the crisis and aid for businesses, including strategically important sectors such as aeronautics and vehicle manufacturing. The bill will go to the Senate on Tuesday. According to forecasts by the government in Paris, the French economy could shrink by eight percent this year, plunging into the deepest recession since World War II.

11:48 Müller defends WHO against criticism

German Development Minister Gerd Müller calls for a strengthening of the World Health Organization. The CSU politician warned on Deutschlandfunk radio that the world must be better prepared against epidemics. The coronavirus pandemic will not be the last. The World Health Organization should therefore be expanded into a kind of world pandemic center to fight epidemics across borders.
The Minister criticized the policy of US President Donald Trump, who has suspended US support for the WHO. "There is certainly room for improvement in coordination," he said. The WHO, he said, must correct mistakes and build on its strengths as a globally active pandemic control organization. "But we must now move forward." The structures of the WHO are globally functional, he said. Müller suggested a different form of financing. The organization would possibly need more state support and should not be so heavily dependent on private donors.
The Minister expressed concern about coronavirus outbreaks in Africa. "If the virus spreads with the same danger and severity as in Italy, Spain or Germany, there will be hundreds of thousands of deaths, as there is simply no chance at all with the existing health structure to provide intensive care as we know it in Europe. The fact that the African population is, on average, much younger and that mobility is not so pronounced could have a positive effect. Nevertheless, he is concerned that the virus could destabilize entire societies.

11:13 Federal Constitutional Court grants emergency appeal against ban on demonstrations

The Federal Constitutional Court has granted an emergency appeal against the ban on a demonstration this afternoon in Stuttgart. According to the court, the city had not even sent a refusal notice to the applicant and his lawyer. An employee said by phone that no decisions on meetings are currently being made because their ban is directly derived from the Corona Ordinance for Baden-Wuerttemberg. The judges in Karlsruhe ruled that this procedure violated the plaintiff's basic right to freedom of assembly.
The man intended to demonstrate against the restriction of basic rights in the coronavirus crisis this afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 pm on the central Schlossplatz with a maximum of 50 people.  The resolution obliges the city of Stuttgart to make a new decision on the registration. If the city does not make a decision, the plaintiff may hold the demonstration as planned, it was said. The man was previously unsuccessful with rush applications to the administrative courts. The Federal Constitutional Court, on the other hand, considered it necessary to issue a temporary injunction. "A constitutional complaint would obviously be well-founded according to the current state of affairs," the decision stated.
The city had informed the court in a statement that it was not possible for it to impose conditions that would do justice to the current pandemic situation. This is far too generalised for the judges. It is true that the number of infections in Stuttgart in particular have risen sharply in recent weeks. However, this does not exempt them from "considering all possible protective measures in cooperation with the applicant and trying to find a solution in this way". The circumstances of the individual case must always be taken into account.

11:08 Russia: Number of coronavirus deaths increases

The number of deaths in Russia has risen from 40 to 313. The authorities reported 4785 new infections, the highest increase to date. 2649 of these and 21 deaths occurred in Moscow alone, the center of the outbreak in Russia. The total number of coronavirus infections in the country now totals 36,793.

11:07 Heil offers bonus to care givers for the elderly and nurses

The Federal Minister of Labour, Hubertus Heil, has promised imminent bonuses for not only care givers for the elderly, but also nursing staff in hospitals. As a first step, the trade union ver.di and the nursing employers' association BVAP have reached a collective agreement on a special payment of 1500 euros for geriatric nurses. "Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and I have also called together for other employers and players to move forward", Heil told the newspaper "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung". "The goal of our initiative: There should be a bonus for those who work in nursing care in the near future." Nursing staff deserves more than applause and warm words, and the expectation is high "that there will be an appropriate bonus". The 1500 euros would remain free of tax and social security contributions, the minister added, emphasising that he would like to see uniform regulations throughout Germany.

11:02 Mobile phones for prisoners in Hamburg

Prisoners in Hamburg are being given simple mobile phones for a limited time during the coronavirus crisis so that they can keep in contact with their relatives. The prepaid mobile phones do not have a camera and are not internet-capable, according to the judicial authorities. Due to the current situation, visits and easing of restrictions in the prisons are strongly restricted. This temporary technical solution also gives the prisoners the opportunity to continue to clarify important private matters. A total of about 470 cell phones are to be gradually distributed. Strict conditions of use apply, which have been drawn up by the institutions. The mobile phones may only be used in the prisoner's own room and may not be given to other prisoners. The devices can be checked, read, and confiscated in case of misuse at any time. Contact and call lists may not be deleted. When the prisoners are allowed more freedom again, the devices will be collected again, it was said.

10:19 Courts consider department store closures reasonable

Higher Administrative Courts in Berlin and Greifswald consider the official rulings on the closure of department stores due to the coronavirus crisis to be justifiable. The two courts each rejected urgent applications against them. According to the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg, the official rulings are "covered by the Infection Protection Act when reviewed summarily and are compatible with the Basic Law". "Department stores do not have to be treated in the same way as retail stores that serve the basic needs of the population and are therefore exempt from closure," it continued.
In a similar decision of the Higher Administrative Court of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, it was stated that the ruling "of the closure of all retail stores while at the same time stipulating expressly designated exceptional cases, proves to be even more proportionate, in particular necessary and appropriate interference with the applicants' rights, even in the specific individual case of the applicant". There were sufficient factual reasons for different treatment of different sectors and product ranges.
In particular, the department store group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is taking action against the closure of its stores by means of urgent applications in various federal states. The company had justified its legal action by stating that the closure of the branches of the already ailing group in order to contain the coronavirus pandemic was "a serious cut in the day-to-day business and all sales of the company".

10:09 EU Council President Michel no longer believes in Corona bonds

EU Council President Charles Michel says he no longer believes in the introduction of so-called corona bonds. "There are different sensitivities within the Council", Michel told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung". Such a decision would, however, require unanimity. Michel emphasised: "All 27 member states stand by mutual solidarity". The main thing now is to find the right instruments for this. "The budget, especially if expenditure is brought forward in the first two years of the financial period 2021 to 2027, would be ideal for this purpose". It could be used as a basis for developing new support instruments and financing investments. "We must be creative, constructive and innovative," said Michel.
Meanwhile, Spain once again urged raising the common European debt to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. "Nobody is expecting Germany to take over the debts of Spain or Italy," Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told the "FAZ" newspaper. She praised the EU's first crisis reaction, but described it as insufficient. A joint, temporary investment by the EU partners is now important for the period after the pandemic, she said: "If we do not act together, we run the risk of becoming an appendage to others rather than a force with political weight in the world," the Spanish Foreign Minister said about the EU. "We need leadership, especially from Germany, but also from the other EU members."

10:04 Medical Association President calls for new financing model for hospitals

Klaus Reinhardt, President of the German Medical Association, has called for a new financing model for hospitals in Germany for the period after the coronavirus crisis. "Hospitals are institutions of general interest and not industrial companies. Hospitals must serve the patient, not the profit. This must be etched in our collective memory", Reinhardt told the Bielefeld "New Westphalian". According to the general practitioner, locations can be merged. "But the capacities must remain. We see how important this is in times of crisis like these," explained the association president.

10:00 Braun advises living wills

Head of the Chancellery Helge Braun advises citizens to write a living will. "A living always makes sense, especially for the very old and very sick. And also in this coronavirus crisis", said Braun, who is a physician himself, to the Düsseldorf "Rheinische Post" and the Bonn "General-Anzeiger". Anyone who no longer wishes to be intubated or ventilated in the hospital, but would rather die surrounded by his family, could specify this in a living will. The CDU politician said that this could also prevent relatives from having to make decisions that would overwhelm them. "It is a help for everyone - the patient, the family and also the doctors - if the wish for treatment or non-treatment is laid down in writing." This is not always easy, he added. However, there are competent advisors who can help with the drafting of a living will.

09:46 Mexico releases migrants from detention camps

In Mexico, migrants and fugitives must be released from detention camps that are particularly susceptible to coronavirus infection. According to a media report, this was ordered by a federal judge. People over 60 years of age or with previous illnesses are to receive a temporary residence permit and thus access to health care and social services. More than 40 civil society organizations demanded this in a lawsuit. The court also ordered that authorities in the refugee camps provide effective sanitation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, measures would have to be taken to identify possible infected persons. Particular attention should now be paid to the care of unaccompanied children and young people fleeing poverty and violence. In view of the difficult sanitary situation and the overcrowding of the camps, there have recently been several riots. One person was killed in the riots.

09:40 Walmart hires thousands of new employees

The US supermarket group Walmart plans to hire another 50,000 employees to meet the increased demand for food and hygiene products during the coronavirus pandemic. The earlier goal of 150,000 new positions was reached six weeks ahead of schedule, announced Walmart. An average of 5000 new employees will be hired per day. Many of these people had previously worked in the restaurant or hotel industry. 85 percent of the new positions are temporary or part-time.

09:39 NBA pros forego salary

Basketball players from the North American professional league NBA will waive 25 percent of their salary starting May 15th. The league announced a corresponding agreement with the players' union. Games in the NBA have been suspended since March 11th. According to league boss Adam Silver, it is still unclear when the games could resume. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, there are already more than the seven known cases of basketball professionals who have tested positive for the virus, according to Silver.

09:09 Greece: religious zealots arrested

Police in Greece arrested 13 people who tried to enter a church in Piraeus where an Orthodox Good Friday mass was held, despite a ban on assembly. Riot police were called in due to violent right-wingers in the crowd, who threw stones at the officers, police sources said. The government in Athens, in cooperation with the leadership of the country's Orthodox Church, ordered that masses be held behind closed doors since mid-March.

09:00 Weil: "Ghost games are like undefrosted frozen food"

Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil is not a fan of ghost games in the Bundesliga. "It is obvious that this issue is of crucial economic importance for the clubs. But speaking as a fan, it's hard to get enthusiastic about matches without spectators. It's like enjoying undefrosted frozen food", the SPD politician told the newspaper "Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung". "But it's clear that we need to talk about this, as football is also a professional activity. Otherwise, an important part of competitive sports would collapse, and nobody wants that." Due to the coronavirus crisis, the German Football League is on hiatus until at least April 30th. With the help of ghost games, the clubs hope to finish the season by June 30 at the latest. Lower Saxony's Minister President, however, says he is mainly concerned about sports that do not benefit from TV rights, such as handball. If top teams have to split up because they currently have no income, that would be "a pity", Heil said

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institut reports 137,439 infected and 4,110 deaths
  • Bundeswehr holds 37,000 soldiers ready for Corona operation
  • RKI: Infection rate continues to be low
  • Altmaier: Restrictions on the economy are only to be relaxed carefully
  • Johns Hopkins University: More than 150,000 Corona deaths worldwide