This is the live blog for April 21, 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.

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Short Facts

  • Berlin allows church services in a small circle
  • Trial over 2006 World Cup affair further suspended
  • Handball Bundesliga season ends
  • RKI questions coronavirus tests on footballers for ghost games
  • Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Maas: No "normal summer holidays"
  • Italy announces gradual relaxation
  • Oktoberfest will not take place this year

17:05 NRW expands rescue package for public infrastructure

North Rhine-Westphalia is expanding its rescue package to combat the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The state is providing loan guarantees totaling ten billion Euros for public and social infrastructure such as airports, public transport companies, and hospitals. This was decided by the state cabinet.

The guarantees are also intended to secure the liquidity of the municipalities, said North Rhine-Westphalian Finance Minister Lutz Lienenkämper. This had been a gap in the existing aid.

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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17:14 Norway cancels final exams for pupils

The Norwegian government has canceled all written and oral final examinations for pupils in upper secondary school classes because of the coronavirus outbreak. Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby said in a press conference that the pupils' certificates would be issued based on their previous grades. Distance learning would continue until the summer holidays. The exams for so-called private pupils - i.e. pupils who prepare for a final exam without attending school - were not canceled.

After closing all schools in March, the first four classes can go back to school from Monday. Homeschooling will continue for the older pupils.

17:02 UN warns of consequences of the pandemic on food security

The UN organizations responsible for food and agriculture have issued a warning about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on global food security. The pandemic is already affecting the entire system and has an impact on the production, supply, and availability of food, stated the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome. The rich industrialized countries must ensure that markets remain stable, according to a statement by the G20 agriculture ministers, which was also co-published by the World Bank.

Restrictions on movement due to the pandemic threaten food logistics, supply chains and the availability of food, warn the UN organizations. People in the poorest countries are particularly affected by the consequences.

16:53 Turkey plans to ease restrictions from mid-May

The Turkish government wants to start relaxing the measures,  if possible after Ramadan in the second half of May. "In terms of its economic consequences, this pandemic is the biggest crisis since the Second World War," as Anadolu; the state news agency quoted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 100,000 infections and 2140 deaths have been recorded recently in Turkey.

16:47 UEFA advises associations to end the season

The European Football Union has once again strongly recommended its 55 member associations to end the currently suspended season. However, according to a statement, the umbrella association is preparing guidelines that should clarify the question of the European Cup qualification in the event of a season being abandoned. The associations had been presented with different versions of the schedule during a telephone conference, "which cover both national team and club tournaments".

All UEFA tournaments: including the Champions League and Europa League are currently suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. UEFA had given priority to the national leagues. The European Championship 2020 has already been postponed until the summer of 2021. It is, however, still completely open when it will be possible to play again in each country.

16:41 Trump announces aid for US oil sector

Given the historic fall in the price of oil, US President Donald Trump has promised aid for the industry in the USA. "We will never let the great US oil and gas industry down," Trump wrote on Twitter. He has asked the Department of Energy and the Treasury to formulate a plan to provide funds for the industry.

16:25 Association demands help for discos and nightclubs

Many operators of clubs and discotheques are threatened with permanent closure because of closing due to the coronavirus, warns the industry association BDT. The association is demanding prompt and unbureaucratic support from the state. "Otherwise two-thirds of all clubs and discos will not survive the coronavirus crisis", stated BDT President Hans-Bernd Pikkemaat. The turnover lost since the beginning of March can not be made up. "And the slump is still long."

In order to obtain urgently needed liquidity and thus avoid many insolvencies in the summer, the BDT is demanding compensation for the losses in turnover suffered from March onwards. "For each month closed, the VAT set and paid for the same period last year could be retrospectively refunded."

16:15 Berlin: Divine services allowed again from 4 May

Berlin wants to allow divine services with up to 50 participants again from 4 May. Senator for Culture Klaus Lederer stated this after the Senate session on the coronavirus crisis. Even smaller demonstrations are allowed again from this date, according to the Berlin Senate. Open-air meetings with up to 20 participants in principle do not require authorization if the regulations on social distancing and hygiene are complied with, said Lederer.

15:59 Greece: Dozens of refugees infected with coronavirus

More than 150 refugees in a hotel on the Greek peninsula Peloponnese have tested positive for coronavirus. This was stated by the Greek Deputy Minister responsible for civil protection and crisis management, Nikos Chardalias, in Athens. The hotel with about 470 refugees, which serves as temporary accommodation for migrants, had already been placed under quarantine due to the coronavirus the day before. The refugees were being taken care of by the authorities, he added. Chardalias also announced that a curfew would be imposed for the next 14 days in the Kranidi region and the surrounding villages. Residents are not allowed to go out on the streets between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

15:51 Mützenich calls for further emergency aid for catering businesses

Head of the SPD faction Rolf Mützenich calls for further emergency aid for catering businesses. He says a VAT reduction barely helps business owners with sales plummeting. The "additional aid for this bridging period", proposed by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, would be an effective measure.

15:37 Lebanon: Drive-in protest

For the first time in weeks, demonstrators in Lebanon took to the street to protest the government and the dramatic economic situation. To prevent coronavirus contamination, hundreds of people drove through the streets of the capital Beirut in a convoy of cars.

In October 2019, mass protests against the political elite began in the small Mediterranean country. Protesters among other things accuse the political elite of corruption. Lebanon is going through one of the strongest economic and financial crises in the history of the country.

15:29 Berlin Marathon in September canceled

This year's Berlin Marathon will be canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. According to information from the dpa Press Agency, the City Senate has decided to ban major events with more than 5,000 participants until October 24th. The Marathon was scheduled to take place on September 27th; last year, 47,000 participants appeared at the start line.

15:13 Hubei: Economic collapse of almost 40 percent

The Chinese province of Hubei is seen as the epicenter of the corona pandemic – its economy has collapsed as a result of the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of viruses. Gross domestic product fell by 39.2 percent in the first quarter, compared to the same period previous year, reports the local statistical office.

In the provincial capital of Wuhan, the first coronavirus infections were found at the end of 2019. The central government in Beijing sealed off Hubei for many weeks at the end of January, with particularly severe effects on the economy.

15:03 Premier Johnson recovering from corona infection

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is gradually returning to business while recovering from his Covid 19 illness. Mr. Johnson is not formally engaging in any government activities yet, but he will still have a call with US President Donald Trump during the day, according to a spokesman.

A meeting with Queen Elizabeth II is also scheduled for the end of the week. It would be the first meeting of this kind in the last three weeks. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab continues to run government affairs as Mr. Johnson's deputy.

15:00 Switzerland: Suspension of 2006 World Cup proceedings extended

The 2006 Football World Cup proceedings in Switzerland will be suspended until at least next Monday as a result of the Corona crisis. This day marks the limitation of fraud charges in connection with a dubious payment of EUR 6.7 million from 2005. Therefore, the proceedings against former DFB Presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach and former DFB Secretary General Horst R. Schmidt and former FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi will probably end without a judgment before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona.

Zwanziger (74), Schmidt (78), and Linsi (70) are accused of fraud, Niersbach (69) for assisting in fraud. The case revolves around a bank transfer of EUR 6.7 million made by the German Football Federation to the now deceased entrepreneur Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via the
FIFA, in April 2005. The money was allegedly a contribution to a World Cup 2006 gala, which never took place.

In 2002, then Head of Organization of the World Cup, Franz Beckenbauer, had received a loan to the same amount from Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, which eventually disappeared on accounts of the then FIFA Chief Financial Officer Mohamed bin Hammam

14:28 Crisis among holiday home operators

A warning from the German Tourism Association: Operators renting out apartments and holiday homes may soon be out of business. In an online survey, almost 54 percent of the more than 9,000 respondents reported that they would no longer be able to continue their business as of the end of June. For this reason, the association is asking for further state support.

14:21 Everyday masks for students in Rhineland-Palatinate

The state government of Rhineland-Palatinate wants to give all students in the state a reusable everyday mask as schools gradually open from May 4. "This is an important contribution to greater hygienic safety at schools," said State Premier Malu Dreyer in Mainz.

The schools are also expected to receive 70,000 liters of disinfectant from the state as well as another 430,000 simple protective masks for emergencies. The costs amount to EUR 2.5 million.

14:16 Thuringia: Emergency care extended to single parents

In Thuringia, working single parents will be entitled to emergency care places for their kindergarten-aged children in the future. This was announced by the state's Minister of Education Helmut Holter after a switch in the Cabinet.

Up until now, the free state rather strict regulations in place and only granted emergency care places to children whose parents worked in so-called critical infrastructure sectors.

14:01 Austria announces further relaxations

In Austria, restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen from mid-May. Restaurant staff will need to wear face masks, and the number of guests will be capped, said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. In addition, bars will have to close by 11 p.m. at the latest. Furthermore, church services are likely to be allowed again from mid-May - subject to maintaining social distancing.

Service providers such as hairdressers and cosmeticians will be able to reopen from early May. In addition, the government is aiming to have schools gradually resume their lessons from 15 May onwards. For graduating students and apprentices, preparation for final examinations is set to begin on May 4.

13:55 Church services in Baden-Wuerttemberg to start again in early May

According to State Premier Winfried Kretschmann, churches in Baden-Wuerttemberg will be able to hold church services from the beginning of May, subject to certain conditions. "We can say with certainty that we will start opening up in 14 days," said the Green Party politician. The state government is currently talking to the churches about the restrictions.

Church services are "a particularly problematic area," said the head of the government. Many elderly people go the church, there is a lot of singing, and worshippers spend a long time together. "Singing leads to strong exposure to droplets." For many weeks, churches have resorted to broadcasting church services online or on TV.

13:31 WHO: Virus most likely developed naturally

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the novel coronavirus most likely developed naturally. All available information indicates that it was not manipulated or constructed in a laboratory or elsewhere," said a spokesperson in Geneva. "It is very likely that the virus originated through animals." Everything indicates that it originated in bats in China at the end of last year.

13:22 UN issues warning about an increase in famines

The United Nations have warned that the number of undernourished people could almost double worldwide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. Up to 265 million people could be affected this year, according to a report by the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Last year, the number of people suffering from an acute shortage of sufficient food was around 135 million worldwide.

13:09 Ministry of the Interior opposed to setting a date for the first Bundesliga games

The Federal Ministry of the Interior is strongly opposed to already setting a date to resume Bundesliga soccer games. This was indicated in a letter from Parliamentary State Secretary Stephan Mayer to the Chairwoman of the Sports Minister's Conference, Bremen Senator Anja Stahmann, the German Press Agency reports. The letter states that the measures agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel with the heads of government of the federal states to curb the spread of the virus, initially until May 3, apply "without restriction", including for sports.

In view of the still difficult pandemic situation, a "concrete date" for opening or relaxing measures for sports activities should not be put forward at this time. Before a decision on holding so-called "ghost games" is made, we "must observe the further developments of the pandemic in Germany and wait for the concepts of the Deutscher Fußball-Bund e. V.  (German Soccer Association, DFB) and the Deutsche Fußball Liga (German Soccer League, DFL).

13:04 Ikea wants to open in North Rhine-Westphalia from Wednesday

The furniture chain Ikea wants to open its stores in North Rhine-Westphalia from Wednesday. The company says it has developed a comprehensive safety and hygiene concept for the reopening. Furniture stores with a sales area of more than 800 square meters have been allowed to open in NRW since yesterday. However, Ikea first wanted to make arrangements to ensure health protection. Other furniture stores in NRW already opened yesterday. The Swedish chain operates eleven stores in the most populous federal state.

13:00 All students in the northeast to pass this year

In light of the corona crisis, all students in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will move up to the next grade this school year, regardless of their grades. However, it will be possible to repeat the school year on a voluntary basis, according to Minister of Education Bettina Martin. Especially students who are at risk of having to repeat the year do not have a decent opportunity to improve their performance during this school year, given the current circumstances. All school principals have been informed about this regulation in a letter.

Due to coronavirus, schools in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have been closed since mid-March. On April 27, the graduating classes will be the first to return, followed by other individual grades on May 4.

12:43 Handball Bundesliga season cancelled

The season for the 1st and 2nd Handball Bundesliga has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was decided by a large majority of the 36 clubs. THW Kiel was declared the German champion.

12:29 RKI questions coronavirus tests on footballers for ghost games

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) wants to limit coronavirus tests to medical cases, thereby questioning a restart of the German football league. RKI vice president Lars Schaade said he did not see why certain population groups - even if they were of social interest - should be routinely tested.
There are currently discussions about resuming the interrupted Bundesliga season without spectators in May. The state premiers Markus Söder of Bavaria and Armin Laschet of North Rhine-Westphalia, among others, had spoken out in favour of this. For this to be feasible, at least the players and referees would have to be tested regularly in order to rule out the risk of infection. Thousands of tests would be necessary for this purpose alone. It is debatable whether these resources should be used for this purpose.

12:12 Maas: No summer holiday without restrictions

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has abandoned hope for a normal summer holiday without restrictions. "A normal holiday season with full beach bars and full mountain chalets will not be possible this summer. That would be unacceptable", he said after a video conference with his colleagues from Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. Maas did not rule out, however, that the borders for tourists would be reopened before the summer and that holiday travel would become possible with certain restrictions. This is very difficult to predict, he said.
Maas once again spoke out in favour of a European vote on how to proceed. In Germany, a worldwide travel warning for tourists is in effect until May 3. At the end of April it will be decided how to proceed, said the Foreign Minister.

12:03 Species protection as a means of fighting viruses

According to environmentalists, species protection can prevent the spread of viruses. "There are scientific studies on this", said Holger Buschmann, the state chairman of the Nature Conservation Association of Lower Saxony, to the Bremen "Weser-Kurier". These studies have shown that the development of viruses, and the possibility of transmission to humans, increased when the diversity of species decreased and when ecosystems no longer functioned.
"If I reduce and standardize the existing functioning habitats bit by bit, then I will only have a few organisms left which can spread widely," said Buschmann. A damaged ecosystem can then no longer keep up with the fight against viruses: "The probability that we will have more of these pandemics in the future will increase if we continue as we have done up to now.

12:00 Spain in favor of special EU funds for corona crisis states

Spain wants to give impetus to the dispute over a European anti-crisis program in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with a new proposal. The plan provides for a special EU fund of up to 1.5 billion euros for member states that are particularly affected. According to media reports, the fund would be financed by " long-term EU debts". Prime Minister Sánchez plans to present the proposal to EU leaders in a video conference on Thursday.
EU Commission Vice-President Timmermans called on all states to "study the Spanish initiative carefully to see if it can be the basis for a compromise".

11:45 Austria: Billions lost due to early ski season end

According to an initial estimate, the early end of the winter season due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused a loss in turnover of 1.8 billion euros for tourism in Austria. The abrupt end of the season in mid-March brought 8.1 million fewer guests to Austria's ski resorts than in previous years, according to a survey conducted by a market research institute on behalf of a trade association of the Austrian Economic Chamber. The decline in the number of guests led to a loss of 7.4 million overnight stays.
The cable car industry also recorded an heavy losses. The Tyrol was the region most affected, as this is where about half of all Austrian cable car sales are generated and some ski areas are normally open after Easter. In Austria, due to the coronavirus pandemic, ski operations were terminated about one month before the end of the season.

11:01 RKI: No return to normality without vaccine

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) sees no reason to significantly relax contact restrictions. "We have achieved a lot in the past weeks," said RKI Vice President Lars Schaade in Berlin. "But the situation is still serious. There is no end to the epidemic in sight, the number of cases may rise again." As long as there is no vaccine, there will have to be restrictions. Even if there are no new cases in Germany, the virus could come back into the country from outside.

10:44 Tax revenues decline slightly

The coronavirus crisis has had a negative impact on tax revenues in Germany: According to the Ministry of Finance, revenues in March fell by 1.8 percent compared to the same month last year, to almost 70 billion euros. Minister Olaf Scholz's department assumes that the crisis due to tax law will only have a massive impact after a delay. "The economic effects of the shutdown that began in Germany in mid-March will therefore not affect tax revenues until the following months," the ministry's monthly report states.

10:14 Italy to begin easing restrictions on May 4

Italy plans to start a gradual relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions on May 4th. The government will present its plan for this measure this week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced.
"I wish I could say we're reopening everything. Immediately", Conte wrote. "But such a decision would be irresponsible", he warned. "It would cause the virus' infection curve to rise again in an uncontrolled way, undoing all the work we've done so far." What is needed is a structured, scientifically-backed master plan.

10:01 WHO warns against premature easing of restrictions

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against the premature relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. If the restrictions are relaxed too soon, the infection wave is likely to be revived. "Until a vaccine or a very effective treatment is found, this will be our new normality," said Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, with regard to the restrictions.

09:32 Elizabeth II celebrates 94th birthday

The British Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 94th birthday today – however, because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will only be a small number of people present and the traditional gun salutes will not take place. "Given the current circumstances," the Queen does not consider the salutes "appropriate" this year, a statement from Buckingham Palace informed in advance.
The Queen's official birthday celebration is traditionally held in June. However, it is questionable whether major events in the United Kingdom will be possible again by that point, given there are approximately 125,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

09:05 Oktoberfest cancelled

Now confirmed: This year’s Oktoberfest has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It pains us. It’s a real shame,” said Bavaria's Prime Minister Söder in Munich. However, an international event of this size, held under current conditions, posed too great a risk.
The biggest fair in the world was due to take place from September 19 to October 4. It attracts around six million visitors annually.

08:00 Here's what happened last night

  • Angela Merkel calls for persistence (Read the full transcrpit of yesterday's press conferene here:
  • CoViD-19 numbers for Germany: Robert Koch Institut reports 1,785 new infected (143,457  total) and 194 deaths (4,598 total)
  • There is growing evidence for a cancellation of Oktoberfest
  • Trump wants to suspend immigration to the U.S.