Germany has to build up its own production of protective wear as one consequence from the coronavirus crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says, announcing that a special unit will be set up in the Economy Ministry.
“It is important for us to learn, as one experience from this pandemic, that we need a certain sovereignty here or at least a pillar of self-production.
“That can be in Germany. But we will also try to coordinate it Europe-wide,” she said.
There has been some progress made on the supply of face masks, but not as much as would be desirable, the chancellor says.
“We have to work hard so that hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, facilities for the disabled, so that staff there really are adequately equipped with the appropriate protective gear and not living day to day,” she says.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Czech Republic lifts more restrictions, opens borders with Austria, Germany
The Czech Republic on Monday lifted more restrictions, including those on hotels, swimming pools, castles and chateaus, and the indoor sections of restaurants, in a bid to further reopen the economy.
Elementary school children are also allowed to return to school in small groups. Minister of Education Robert Plaga proposed that secondary school, vocational, and conservatory school students be able to return to classes on a voluntary basis beginning June 8.
A mandatory requirement for covering the nose and mouth in public has also been lifted. Wearing face mask is only required in enclosed spaces.
The Karvina region of the country will still undergo restrictive measures for at least another 14 days following a large outbreak of COVID-19 amongst workers in the Darkov Mine, according to Health Minister Adam Vojtech. A blanket test revealed that 212 miners and their close contacts tested positive for the disease.
“From Tuesday, we are opening all railway and road crossings with Germany and Austria, as well as the Hrensko river crossing, and we are abolishing comprehensive border controls. We negotiated with our German and Austrian colleagues so that the conditions would be similar for them as well,” said Interior Minister Jan Hamacek in a press release, adding that a proof for a negative COVID-19 test will still be mandatory and border checks will be random.
The country is also opening up international flights again at major airports on Tuesday.
Crossing borders in non-designated areas will still be prohibited until June 13, and the external borders of the Schengen area will be closed until at least June 15.
Germany’s top court rules against VW in diesel scandal compensation case
A top German court ruled on Monday that leading carmaker Volkswagen (VW) must pay compensation for a buyer of the VW vehicle fitted with cheat device for emissions tests.
The latest episode of so-called dieselgate scandal sets an important precedent for about 60,000 similar cases.
The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe said in a statement that the buyer of the vehicle is entitled to compensation claims against VW, but the refund will not be the full purchase price, with the car’s mileage being taken into account.
A VW litigation spokesperson said in a statement that the ruling clarifies how the top court assesses the essential basic questions in the proceedings for the majority of the currently pending 60,000 cases.
The company is endeavoring to end these proceedings promptly in agreement with the plaintiffs, seeking “a pragmatic and simple solution with one-off payments,” according to the statement.
Monday’s ruling from the top civil judges basically confirmed the previous buyer-friendly judgment by a regional court in Koblenz. The plaintiffs and the defendants both appealed after the Koblenz court ruling, with the buyer demanding a full refund and the company arguing not paying at all.
The scandal surrounding illegally manipulated exhaust emission levels in millions of diesel cars turned out by VW became public in 2015. The German car giant has so far paid more than 30 billion euros (33 billion U.S. dollars) in regulatory fines and settlements worldwide.
In February, VW and the Federation of German Consumer Organizations reached an agreement on the negotiated 830 million-euro compensation settlement in a landmark action lawsuit, which involved around 260,000 VW customers.
Germany’s Lufthansa says gov’t approves 9-bln-euro rescue package
German flag carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG said Monday that the Economic Stabilization Fund (WSF) set up by the federal government has approved a stabilization package of up to 9 billion euros (9.8 billion U.S. dollars) for the company.
Lufthansa said the WSF will make silent participation of up to 5.7 billion euros in total in the company’s assets, of which nearly 4.7 billion euros is classified as equity. The silent participation is unlimited in time and can be terminated by the company on a quarterly basis in whole or in part.
Two seats on the Supervisory Board are to be filled in agreement with the German government, one of which is to become a member of the Audit Committee, said the company.
While noting that the executive board supports the package, the company said the package still requires the final approval of the management board and the supervisory board. It is also subject to the approval of the European Commission, the company added. (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollars)
Germany reports more than 178,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19
New infections with COVID-19 in Germany remained under last week’s average as the number of confirmed cases increased by 289 within one day to 178,570, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Monday.
Over the course of last week, an average of 561 daily cases had been reported by the RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
According to the institute, the death toll from COVID-19 in Germany increased by 10 to 8,257 on Monday, resulting in a fatality rate of the confirmed cases of 4.6 percent.
The estimated number of people in Germany who had already recovered from COVID-19 increased by around 800 within one day to 161,200 on Monday, according to the RKI. So the number of people currently infected with COVID-19 in Germany decreased and stood at 17,370.
On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that relaxations had to preserve the proportionality of the restrictions. She was very pleased “that the current infection situation makes it possible to allow and make possible many things again that had only been there to a limited extent for a few weeks.”
Germany remains committed to Open Skies treaty: Kramp-Karrenbauer
German Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the German broadcaster n-tv on Friday that her country will make an effort to salvage the international Open Skies treaty.
The U.S. administration revealed on Thursday its intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, which allows its states-parties to conduct short-notice, unarmed reconnaissance flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities.
“I deeply regret the U.S.’s announcement on abandonment of the treaty,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, adding that in close coordination with Germany’s Foreign Office, “we will do everything we can to ensure that at the end of the day everyone will be able to stick with this contract.”
The Treaty on Open Skies, which aims at building confidence and familiarity among states-parties through their participation in the overflights, was concluded in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. Currently, 35 nations, including Russia, the United States, and some other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have signed it. Kyrgyzstan has signed but not ratified it yet.
Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that the treaty “contributes to transparency and confidence-building and the cooperative security” of all 34 participating states.
According to the Foreign Office, the treaty created the “only arms control regime that covers the entire territory of both the U.S. and Russia.” Since its entry into force, over 1,500 reconnaissance flights have been conducted under the Open Skies treaty.
On Thursday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also stressed that the treaty had contributed “to peace and security in almost all of the northern hemisphere,” and added that he understood that there had been difficulties. “However, from our point of view that does not justify withdrawing from the treaty.”
Together with its like-minded partners, Germany would use the remaining six months before the U.S. planned withdrawal to “encourage” the U.S. administration “to rethink its decision,” stressed Maas.
Germany’s most recent mortality figures down to 3 pct above average: Destatis
With around 18,000 deaths registered between April 20 and April 26, Germany’s most recent mortality figures were only three percent above the country’s average from past years, the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) said on Friday.
The data for the two previous weeks had still shown an excess mortality rate of nine percent and 13 percent, respectively. “Excess mortality” means that more people die at a specific time in the course of a year than would have been expected to die in view of the case numbers of previous years. Still, the current development of mortality would be “striking as this year’s influenza epidemic is deemed to be over since mid-March already,” Destatis noted.
“Usually, waves of influenza have an impact on mortality figures until mid-April,” Destatis noted. This would suggest that there was a “connection between the slight excess mortality currently observed and the coronavirus pandemic.”
However, the German ifo Institute for Economic Research pointed out that the number of people dying in Germany is currently at a level “similar to normal for this time of year” despite the coronavirus outbreak.
“Despite the slight upward trend in the mortality rates observed in April, the deviation still lies within a range that can be explained by random influences,” said Anna Kremer from the ifo Institute’s Dresden branch.
Even in older age groups that have been particularly at risk of COVID-19, “no higher mortality rates have been observed so far, the figures still fall within the range of statistical uncertainty,” the ifo Institute noted.
According to Destatis, excess mortality in Germany would be low compared with other European countries. Italy’s national statistical institute (Istat), for example, even reported 49 percent more deaths in March 2020 than in the years between 2015 and 2019.
Germany reports 460 new coronavirus cases, 27 new deaths
Germany reported 460 new cases of coronavirus infection in the past 24-hour period, raising the country’s tally to 177,212, according to Friday’s figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the government agency for disease control and prevention.
Over the course of last week, an average of 734 new cases per day had been reported by the RKI.
According to the RKI, Germany’s death toll from the new coronavirus increased by 27 to 8,174 on Friday, resulting in a case fatality rate of 4.6 percent.
The estimated number of people in Germany who had already recovered from COVID-19 increased by around 1,000 within one day to 159,000 on Friday, the RKI noted. The number of active COVID-19 cases in Germany thus dropped to around 18,100.
The 4-day average reproduction rate of COVID-19 in Germany increased slightly to 0.89, according to a daily situation report by the RKI for Thursday.
Germany’s COVID-19 cases rise by 460 to exceed 177,000 — RKI
Germany’s Condor eyes summer flight resumption to two thirds of destinations
At the beginning of the summer holiday season in Germany at the end of June, flight operations at Condor would be increased to more than two thirds of original destinations, the German airline announced on Wednesday.
With the ramp-up of operations, a total of 29 destinations in Europe would be accessible from eight German airports, with around 300 weekly connections, according to Condor.
“We can hardly wait to take off again with holidaymakers towards the sun as of the end of June,” said Condor CEO Ralf Teckentrup.
Condor was already offering flights from Frankfurt to Mallorca, Tenerife and Gran Canaria as part of its effort to ensure a basic infrastructure within Europe.
After the bankruptcy of its British parent company Thomas Cook in September 2019, Condor was restructured and entered a protective shielding procedure.
The German airline had to be rescued a second time with a government bridging loan after an already agreed takeover by Poland’s PGL was canceled because of the COVID-19 crisis.
As a result of worldwide restrictions on travel due to the crisis, air traffic in Germany has almost come to a standstill. Already in March, passenger traffic at German airports fell by around 63 percent compared to the same month in 2019, according to the Federal Statistical Office Destatis.
Germany’s emissions trading to start with higher CO2 price: ministry
Germany’s national emissions trading would now start with a fixed CO2 price of 25 euros (27 U.S. dollars) instead of 10 euros per ton in 2021, the Environment Ministry (BMU) announced on Wednesday.
“The higher CO2 price makes fossil fuels more expensive and brings us closer to our climate goals,” said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze.
The increased CO2 price corresponded to seven euro cents per liter of petrol, eight euro cents per liter of diesel and heating oil as well as 0.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of natural gas, according to BMU.
A fixed price increase to 55 euros was planned until 2025. According to BMU, the certificate price would then be determined by an auction model in a price corridor of 55 euros to 65 euros per ton of CO2.
The additional earnings from national emissions trading would be used in full to “reduce the burden on households and businesses via the electricity bill,” added Schulze.
With the new rule, the so-called EEG reallocation charge, a levy for the expansion of renewable energy in Germany, would be reduced, benefiting households and businesses, according to BMU.
Germany tightens meat industry regulations
From 2021 onwards, commercial slaughtering of animals and processing of meat in Germany would only be permitted to be carried out by the employees of the meatpacking plants themselves, Germany’s Ministry of Labor said on Wednesday.
The use of subcontractors as well as labor leasing models would be prohibited for German companies with the main business in slaughtering and meat processing, according to the ministry.
“Better employment protection in the meat industry is urgently needed,” said Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil. “The last few days have shown this once again.”
After an accumulation of coronavirus infections in German slaughterhouses, there was criticism of working conditions in the German meat industry, as well as the use of large group accommodation facilities for subcontractors.
German employers in the meat industry would further be obliged to inform the authorities of the place of residence and employment of workers from abroad, which would allow “more effective controls,” according to the ministry.
Fines for violations of working time regulations in Germany’s meat industry would be doubled from 15,000 euros to 30,000 euros (16,487 U.S. dollars to 32,974 U.S. dollars).
A digital system would also be introduced for logging and controlling working hours.
Germany’s COVID-19 cases rise by 797 to exceed 176,000
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany increased by 797 within one day to 176,007, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Wednesday.
The daily figure is slightly above last week’s average of 734, according to the RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
The number of COVID-19 deaths increased by 83 to 8,090 on Wednesday, while the estimated number of people who have recovered increased by around 1,200 within one day to 156,900, according to the RKI.
On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his colleagues from nine of Germany’s neighbors will discuss a further easing of travel restrictions between the countries.
On Monday, foreign ministers from Germany’s ten most important tourist travel destinations, such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta, had agreed on “a phased and coordinated” approach, according to Germany’s Foreign Office.
Germany’s COVID-19 cases rise by 797 to exceed 176,000 — RKI
Germany, Eastern Europe aim for gradual removal of border controls
The leaders of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia on Tuesday agreed to gradually dismantle border checks put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.
According to the spokesman to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Steffen Seibert, who participated in a video conference with its Eastern European counterparts from the Visegrad Group, no time frame was given for the easing of travel restrictions.
Seibert said Merkel held a bilateral call with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, in which cooperation on re-opening the two neighbours’ border was also discussed.
Merkel and Babis also discussed joint projects, including developing the train line that connects the capitals of Berlin and Prague.
The chancellor is also said to have explained central aspects of a Franco-German proposal for a 500-billion-euro (or 545-billion-dollar) European recovery fund in response to the coronavirus crisis.
However, it was not initially known the response of other leaders about the idea.
Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Salif Atojoko (NAN)
Germany’s COVID-19 cases rise to 175,210, death toll tops 8,000
New COVID-19 infections in Germany remained under last week’s average as the number of confirmed cases increased by 513 within one day to 175,210, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Tuesday.
Over the course of last week, an average of 734 daily cases had been reported by the RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
According to the RKI, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the country increased by 72 to 8,007 on Tuesday, resulting in a fatality rate of 4.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the estimated number of people who have recovered increased by around 1,100 within one day to 155,700.
The four-day average reproduction rate of COVID-19 in Germany decreased from 0.94 to 0.91, according to the daily situation report by the RKI for Monday.
However, the reproduction rate would be “sensitive” to short-term changes in case numbers, as may be caused by individual outbreaks, which could lead to “large fluctuations,” the report noted.
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during her video message at the World Health Assembly that the global coronavirus crisis would be overcome “faster and better” if the world worked together.
International Museum Day marked in Berlin, Germany
Two women are seen at the reception of the German Historical Museum in Berlin, capital of Germany, May 18, 2020, which marks the International Museum Day. According to the agreement of Germany’s federal and state governments on April 30, museums and galleries in Germany are accessible again but hygiene and distance rules must continue to be observed. (Photo by Binh Truong/Xinhua)
Roundup: France, Germany announce unprecedented 500-bln-euro EU recovery fund
France and Germany on Monday jointly proposed that the European Commission borrow money on capital markets in the European Union’s (EU) name and create a 500-billion-euro (546 billion U.S. dollars) recovery fund to help the coronavirus-battered European economies and regions.
Describing the proposal as “a major step forward,” French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint video press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that it was the first time France and Germany agreed to let the EU raise debt jointly.
The proposal is seen as unprecedented since it overcomes objections from Germany and several other rich EU countries to the concept of collective borrowing.
Merkel said the unusual nature of the COVID-19 crisis made the two countries choose an unusual way. “The goal is for Europe to emerge from this crisis stronger, more cohesive and in solidarity,” she said.
“The recovery fund will be endowed with 500 billion euros in EU budget spending for the most affected sectors and regions based on EU budget programs and in line with European priorities,” said the two countries in a joint statement.
“It will strengthen the resilience, convergence and competitiveness of European economies, and increase investment, in particular in ecological and digital transitions and in research and innovation,” it said.
Macron said the 500 billion euros “will be devoted to sectors that are not only technological. It is a strong economic response that will help fight unemployment in the most vulnerable regions,” he said.
“It will not consist of loans, it’s a budgetary expenditure, which would be attributed to the most affected sectors and regions. We are convinced that this measure is justified,” Merkel said.
“We must act in a European way so that we get out of the crisis well and strengthened,” she said. “When Germany and France take the initiative, then this encourages the opinion-making process in the EU.”
The European Commission is to present the details of the economic recovery program in Brussels on May 27. Paris and Berlin still have to convince other member states — The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, in particular — to follow them.
But “the fact that the Franco-German couple has agreed on the main lines of a recovery plan financed by a common debt of European states, issued by the Union and spent through the European budget, is in itself a revolution,” commented the French daily Le Monde.
“Berlin, which was upwind at the end of March against anything that, in one way or another, amounts to pooling the debt of Europeans, is today in agreement to embark on this path,” added the daily.
Paris and Berlin also agreed to raise research and development capacities in the field of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, set up joint strategic stocks of pharmaceutical and medical products, and increase the production capacities of these products in the EU.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the proposal.
“It acknowledges the scope and the size of the economic challenge that Europe faces, and rightly puts the emphasis on the need to work on a solution with the European budget at its core,” she said in a statement.
Germany to turn worldwide travel warning into country-specific advice in mid-June
The German government plans to lift its worldwide travel warning and turn it into country-specific travel advice on June 15, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced on Monday.
“We want to ensure and create the conditions for summer holidays to be possible, but under responsible circumstances,” said Maas after a telephone conference with his counterparts from several European countries, some of which are hot destinations for German travelers.
Mass ruled out a quick return to “business as usual,” pointing out that restrictions would apply “everywhere” — on beaches, in restaurants and in city centers.
A “coordinated and transparent approach” by the European countries was important with regard to entry regulations, quarantine rules and normalization of cross-border traffic, according to Maas.
Before the meeting, Maas told the German broadcaster ZDF “the holiday this year will not like the one you know from the past.”
Alleged fraudster who posed as doctor charged with murder in Germany
A woman accused of posing as a doctor in a German hospital has been charged with murder following several deaths, a prosecution official said on Monday.
The 49-year-old suspect is accused of five counts of murder and 11 counts of grievous bodily harm, according to a spokesman for the state prosecution service in Kassel, in central Germany.
The woman worked at the hospital in the town of Fritzlar from 2015 to 2018.
According to the indictment, she used forged documents to get a position there as an assistant doctor in anaesthesia, inspite of not having the necessary training.
Several patients were treated wrongly, for example being given the incorrect dose of anaesthetic.
Five people, two men aged 58 and 80, and three women aged 77, 81 and 86 are said to have died as a result.
Edited By: Halima Sheji/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)
Germany reports 342 more COVID-19 cases to 174,697
New infections with COVID-19 in Germany remained under last week’s average as the number of confirmed cases increased by 342 within one day to 174,697, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Monday.
Over the course of last week, an average of 734 daily cases had been reported by the RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
The estimated number of people in Germany who had already recovered from COVID-19 increased by around 1,100 within one day to 154,600 on Monday, according to the RKI.
The four-day average reproduction rate of COVID-19 in Germany increased to 0.94, according to the daily situation report by the RKI for Sunday.
However, the reproduction rate in Germany would be “sensitive” to short-term changes in case numbers, as may be caused by individual outbreaks, which could lead to “large fluctuations,” the daily situation report noted.
Therefore, the RKI was also providing a “more stable” seven-day reproduction rate which was less subject to daily fluctuations. The seven-day rate remained stable and stood at 0.87 on Sunday. The RKI stressed that both reproduction rates would only reflect the course of infection about one to two weeks ago.
The RKI and Chancellor Angela Merkel have repeatedly stated that restrictions could only be eased if the reproduction rate in Germany was well below one.
On Monday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is scheduled to discuss a gradual easing of travel restrictions and the possibility of summer holidays abroad with his colleagues from popular German holiday destinations such as Spain, Greece and Italy.
At the moment, the development of the number of confirmed cases was a “positive” one and a “foundation” had been created to talk about how to downgrade the worldwide travel warning, which is currently valid in Germany, into a “travel advisory,” Maas told the German broadcaster ZDF Monday.