This is the live blog for April 20, 2020.

Head here for the latest news: https://wwww.lengoo.de/blog/05-26-2020-live-blog-for-covid-19-updates-in-germany-in-english/

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.

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Short Facts

  • Sick leave over the phone now possible again
  • Münster decides to make masks mandatory
  • Number of new corona deaths in Spain continues to fall
  • Business taxes plummet
  • Bavaria introduces compulsory masks
  • Upcoming high school graduates in Saxony back in school
  • Merkel criticizes "opening discussion spree"
  • RKI reports 1775 new infections in Germany

17:31: 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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17:09 NRW rejects obligation to wear face masks

Although North Rhine-Westphalia is among the federal states with the most coronavirus infections, its CDU and FDP coalition government does not want to introduce an obligation to wear face masks. Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said that his state is also waiving an obligation to wear mouth protection because a  universal supply of everyday masks from commerce cannot be guaranteed at the present. He, therefore, relies on the "responsibility of each individual", he stated in the "Rheinische Post". Bavaria, Saxony, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are obliging their citizens to wear mouth protection, for example, when shopping and in public transport. The Baden-Württemberg State Government is also striving to do this. As the media reports, the Cabinet of State Premier Winfried Kretschmann (Green Party) intends to consult about this Tuesday.


16:21 Brandenburg State Museums to open again

The Brandenburg State Art Museums in Cottbus and Frankfurt (Oder) will open at the beginning of May. Ulrike Kremeier, Director of the Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art, told the broadcaster rbbkultur. The diesel power station in Cottbus, as well as the town hall‘s hall and the Packhof in Frankfurt (Oder), could even open as early as April 22, according to the state of Brandenburg‘s new coronavirus rules. However, this is not possible for organizational reasons, according to Kremeier. All activities had been shut down during the crisis and it would take time before operations could be resumed.


16:01 Will playgrounds open again soon?

Family Minister Franziska Giffey called for a debate on reopening playgrounds, especially in cities, at least partially or subject to conditions. All children need exercise and free play, she said. One had to discuss to what extent a partial opening, for example with a limitation of the number of children, was possible.

Pediatricians and youth physicians also advise opening daycare centers, schools and playgrounds. In a statement by the German Academy for Child and Youth Medicine, it is said that there are fears of long-term effects on the health of the next generation if the restrictions in this severity continue for a long time".


15:36 Merkel: "Situation remains tricky"

Chancellor Merkel has urged for caution in the corona crisis. “The situation remains tricky,” she said. “The effects of relaxing restrictions will only become clear in 14 days – no earlier. That makes the situation so difficult. “I will continue to point out that we need to stay resolute and disciplined,” she said.


15:28 Austria: Requirements for Germans who come to enjoy their summer holidays

The Austrian government can imagine opening the borders for summer holidaymakers from Germany, under certain conditions. “There will certainly be discussions on this, but it will be a gradual process,” said Minister of the Economy Margarete Schramböck. Progresses in the tourist segment are dependent on the development of the corona pandemic in Germany and Austria. However, when exactly such a step can be realized, remains unclear. Austrian Minister of Tourism Elisabeth Köstinger said that there is a good chance on bilateral agreements if countries such as Germany are showing great progress in fighting the disease.


15:19 EU has already mobilised trillions of euros to weather the corona storm

According to the European Commission, the EU and its member states have already mobilised around 3.4 trillion euros to fight the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. At least another trillion is needed to rebuild the economy. The dpa news agency states that these figures have been mentioned by commission representatives.


15:05 Sick notes over the phone still possible

During the corona crisis, doctors can still provide sick notes for common colds over the phone, reports the chairman of the Joint Federal Committee on Health Care, Josef Hecken. The Federal Committee, which is composed of representatives of the doctors, hospitals, and statutory health insurers, will discuss the issue again over the course of the day and are "very likely" to extend the regulation until May 4th, 2020. Doctors would be able to continue to provide sick notes on the basis of a phone consultation “while waiting for this decision”.


14:47 First city in North Rhine-Westphalia imposes mask obligation

The city of Münster is the first large city in North Rhine-Westphalia to impose a face mask obligation. From next Monday onwards, it will apply in shops, markets, buses, and public areas of urban administrative buildings, according to a city spokesperson. The crisis committee has decided on the rule as more and more people are frequenting the city center with smaller shops once again opening. Instead of a face mask, one can also wear a scarf or cloth in front of the mouth and nose, specified the spokesperson. From next week, mask requirements wil apply in the states of Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Such a regulation is already in place in Saxony. Several cities of other federal states have also imposed a mask requirement.


14:46 Solution in the dispute over telephone prescriptions?

Doctors' associations, health policy makers, and consumer rights defenders have expressed criticism over the expiration of the special regulation for sick notes provided over the phone – a solution is now in the making. Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn has expressed confidence to the dpa news agency that the Joint Federal Committee on Health Care will "in light of the debate, find a good solution" to sick notes over the phone, after discussions with all stakeholders.


14:33 Baden-Wuerttemberg also considers mandatory masks

Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Minister of Health Manne Lucha (Green Party) has called for an obligation to wear masks. “I am in favor of an obligation to wear mouth and nose-covering protection when shopping, on public transport, and during breaks on school grounds once schools are reopened,” said Lucha. Mandatory masks are also being considered at the State Ministry. So far, an urgent recommendation has been made to wear masks in public. If we get the impression that this recommendation alone is not sufficient, it may be necessary to make masks mandatory in Saxony and Bavaria, said a government spokesman. Previously, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had also announced a requirement to wear masks.


14:29 Pegida demonstration to take place despite coronavirus crisis

The Dresden Order Enforcement Office has approved a demonstration organized by the Islamophobic and xenophobic during the coronavirus crisis. Even mayor Dirk Hilbert (FDP) was surprised by the decision. "I am currently examining whether this is legally binding," said Hilbert. In light of the widespread infections, he considers such a demonstration to be unacceptable in the current situation. A maximum of 80 participants are permitted to attend the stationary demonstration on Monday evening, the Dresden health department informed the news agency epd in response to a query. Furthermore, the event duration is limited to 30 minutes. According to the Saxon coronavirus protection regulations, gatherings are prohibited. However, exceptions can be granted.


14:22 Norwegian Airlines subsidiaries declare insolvency

Several subsidiaries of the airline Norwegian have filed for bankruptcy. As the airline reported on its website, these include companies in Denmark and Sweden who employ pilots and cabin staff. 1,571 pilots and 3,134 cabin staff are affected. Norwegian staff is therefore not affected by insolvency because the Norwegian state will cover salary-related costs due to the virus outbreak. “The impact of the coronavirus on the aviation industry is unprecedented. We have done everything we can to avoid this last-resort decision,” said CEO Jacob Schram.


14:16 pm Prince Philip commends the work of health workers

The husband of British Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, addressed the public in a rare statement. He wanted to pay tribute to the "important and urgent work" that so many have performed to combat the coronavirus pandemic, he said. He gave his statement on the occasion of World Immunization Week, which begins on Friday. Philip retired in 2017 and has withdrawn from his public duties. His message is seen as a sign of how seriously the royals are taking the crisis.


13:53 Machine manufacturers are suffering due to the coronavirus crisis

The situation has grown worse for German machine manufacturers. According to a survey conducted by the industry association VDMA, 89 percent of its member companies are now affected by the coronavirus crisis, as the VDMA reported. This includes declines in and cancellations of orders. "However, the supply chains are also under tremendous pressure,"  VDMA chief economist Ralph Wiechers explained. At the end of March, 84 percent of the companies reported problems.

The consequences of the worsening situation: "More and more companies are enforcing short-time work for their employees as well as halting production and cutting jobs - including some of the permanent workforce," said Wiechers. The export-oriented key industry in Germany employs more than one million people."


13:42 Oil price drops again

The price of oil has fallen dramatically once again - despite the reduction in production agreed on by the biggest oil-producing countries. As a result of the low demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, the price for a barrel of the US reference type WTI fell by about 19 percent to USD 14.90 - the lowest level in about two decades. In contrast, the price for the North Sea oil type Brent only dropped by 1.5 percent to USD 27.23.

About a week ago, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had agreed on the largest reduction in production in its history together with its partners to stop the decline in prices. Accordingly, production of oil is expected to drop by almost ten million barrels a day in May and June. One barrel holds 159 liters.


13:26 Number of new coronavirus deaths in Spain continues to decline

In Spain, the number of new coronavirus deaths has fallen again. Within 24 hours, 399 people died as a result of an infection, the Ministry of Health in Madrid reported. This is the lowest figure in four weeks. Yesterday, the number of deaths was 410, and during the peak of the wave of infections at the start of April, 950 deaths were registered in one day.
Counting the new deaths, the number of coronavirus deaths in Spain has risen to about 20,500. However, the official numbers of fatalities are disputed: in order to standardize the statistics of the different regions, the Ministry of Health only records the deaths of patients who have tested positive. Several regions have criticized the fact that thousands of deaths in did not appear in the national statistics with this method.


12:51 Tokyo: Tens of thousands of flowering tulips cut down

Tokyo city authorities have mowed tens of thousands of tulips in full bloom in a park. People had been gathering there to admire the flowers despite the imposed coronavirus emergency, making it difficult for them to keep their distance from each other. The tulips were cut between April 14 and 15, said city official Takahiro Kogo.
"Of course we want many people to see our flowers, but this is a situation where human lives are at stake now," Kogo said. "It was a heartbreaking decision, but we had to do it."


12:36 Hans warns against an "outbidding competition

Saarland's Minister President Tobias Hans is urging for a uniform approach by the federal states in discussions on relaxing coronavirus restrictions. "Our consistent and determined action has thus far prevented the worst. Therefore, I can only warn against weakening our joint action," said Hans after a video conference of the CDU presidium. "An outbidding competition in easing the restrictions, as is currently evident, lulls people into a false sense of security and leads to great uncertainty".


12:03 More than 200,000 people tested positive in Spain

The number of coronavirus infections in Spain has risen to over 200,000. The Ministry of Health reports an increase of 4266 to 200,210, which is the highest number of cases worldwide after the USA. The number of deaths increased by 399 within 24 hours to 20,852, again slightly less than the previous day. On Sunday, the increase in fatalities had decreased to 410 from 565 on Saturday.


11:58 Thousands queue up for free masks

Starting today, protective masks will be mandatory in Saxony. In Dresden, 20,000 protective masks were distributed free of charge. Thousands of people lined up in a several hundred meter long queue at Dresden's city hall to receive them. Each person was given one mask - another one could be taken for family members. Mayor Dirk Hilbert (FDP) ordered a total of around 200,000 masks, which will be distributed locally to residents of the city in the next few days. The protective masks were produced by Dresden companies.


11:45 Masks also compulsory in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

As of April 27, protective face masks will be compulsory in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This only applies, however, to local public transportation, a government spokesperson said. The use of masks in shops is strongly recommended.


11:42 Nearly ten million French workers on short-time work

According to the government, 9.6 million French people are on short-time work during the coronavirus crisis. Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud told RTL that this was an "unprecedented" situation. Almost every second employee in the private sector is affected. In France, affected employees receive 84 percent of their net salary. Most of the costs are borne by the state. In Germany, the government expects several million short-time workers to be affected, with some 725,000 applications recently.


11:14 Business taxes crash

The coronavirus crisis is causing billions of euros in losses for cities and municipalities in Germany. Revenues from business taxes slumped dramatically in March, according to figures from the Ministry of Finance, which were released to the German Press Agency. According to these figures, the cities of Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen collected 70 percent less business tax than a year ago. The states' income from the business tax levy fell by almost 60 percent.


10:44 Bavaria implements compulsory masks in shops and local transport

Beginning next week, all shops and public transport in Bavaria will require protective masks. Bavaria is thus the first state in western Germany to introduce this requirement to combat the further spread of the coronavirus, Minister President Markus Söder said in a government statement. The point is to cover the mouth and nose - "even a scarf is sufficient".
Söder said that his interim conclusion on the effectiveness of the measures taken so far against the spread of the coronavirus was "cautiously positive". Nevertheless, he said, we must not be impatient - "the development is fragile". We won't "be able to have a normal life so quickly".


10:16 More than 1400 new infections in Singapore

Singapore has reported 1426 new corona cases in one day - the highest number to date. Most of the infections occurred again in migrant workers living in dormitories, the Ministry of Health reported. This brings the total number of cases to 8014.


10:10 Upcoming high school graduates in Saxony back in school

After a compulsory break of several weeks due to the coronavirus crisis, the first students have returned to schools in Saxony. This morning, upcoming high school graduates began preparing for their exams in small groups. To protect students and teachers from infection, protective masks were distributed and disinfectants were provided. However, there are no regular classes for the time being. The focus is on preparation for the exit exams.


09:40 Merkel criticizes "opening discussion spree"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly criticized the discussions about further relaxation of restrictions in the fight against the corona virus. In a telephone conference of the CDU presidium, Merkel made it clear how frustrated she was that the message of cautious relaxation had led to "opening discussion sprees" in some countries, the German Press Agency reported.
This greatly increases the risk of a relapse. Merkel said that she was very concerned that the positive trend in coronavirus infections would be reversed as too few people would adhere to the contact restrictions. She said that the discussion about easing the restrictions was not helpful.


09:02 Czech President wants to keep borders closed for a year

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Czech President Milos Zeman has recommended to his citizens that they discover the beauty of their own country this summer. However, the country's borders should remain closed to foreign travellers for a full year, " to prevent a new wave of infection caused by travellers going to countries where the epidemic is not yet over," the head of state said in a radio interview on Sunday.
Travel agencies and other tourism companies had previously called for allowing travel during the summer at least to Slovakia and Croatia. These are particularly popular holiday destinations among Czechs and there are few coronavirus infections there. In mid-March, the Czech Republic imposed a widespread ban on entering and leaving the country to contain the coronavirus. Exceptions to the ban currently apply to commuters, truck drivers and, in essential cases, for example for medical treatment.


08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institut reports 141,972 infected and 4,404 deaths
  • Jens Spahn expects restrictions "over months"
  • Nearly 13,000 free intensive care beds in Germany
  • McKinsey expects unemployment in Europe to double