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Germany’s biggest airport gets coronavirus testing centre

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Germany’s biggest airport, in the financial hub of Frankfurt, on Monday got kitted with a coronavirus testing station, potentially allowing some passengers to avoid quarantine at their destination.

The project was inaugurated by German Biotech Company, Centogene, in conjunction with Fraport, which runs Frankfurt Airport and Lufthansa.

The plan is to offer testing to both arriving and departing Lufthansa passengers until the end of July 2021, at a walk-in centre close to the terminal building.

Centogene refered to the programme as a blueprint to opening international borders, hoping the testing would assist travelers get regulations at their destination.

Many countries require a negative test result within the past 72 hours to allow direct entry.

According to Centogene Chief Executive Arndt Rolfs, testing can be carried out either the day before departure, or in a fast-track process on the day of traveling, with results sent through a digital platform linking them with flyer’s ticket.

Lufthansa Group’s Bjoern Becker, said by opening the test centre, the company was offering its guests a comfortable opportunity to test themselves for flights abroad or a stay in Germany to avoid quarantine.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Nyisom Fiyigon Dore (NAN)

Yahaya Isah: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

Pandemic caused postponement of 50,000 cancer operations in Germany

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Around 50,000 operations to treat cancer were not carried out in Germany during the coronavirus pandemic up to mid-June, the head of the German Cancer Aid organisation said on Monday.

This represented around a quarter of the operations that would otherwise have been performed over the period, German Cancer Aid President Gerd Nettekoven told the Monday edition of the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

“Support measures for cancer patients, from psychosocial to palliative care, were cut back in the hospitals, sometimes radically,” Nettekoven said.

In addition, hospitals and doctors’ practices had postponed therapeutic and diagnostic measures.

“This could at some point lead to life-threatening situations for cancer patients,” Nettekoven added.

He rejected suggestions that the decline in care was due to patients staying home out of fear of infection with the coronavirus. “If 50,000 cancer operations were cancelled, that has nothing to do with patients not attending hospital,” he said.

While the situation had eased to some extent, conditions were still tight. “This also affects early cancer diagnosis. We fear that over the coming period we will be confronted with patients who were diagnosed very late,” Nettekoven said.

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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General news

EU secures potential COVID-19 drugs from Roche, Germany’s Merck — Source

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The European Commission has struck deals with drug makers Roche (ROG.S) and Merck KGaA (MRCG.DE) to secure supplies of experimental treatments for COVID-19, a Commission source told Reuters on Wednesday.

The deals cover Roche’s arthritis medicine RoActemra and Merck’s multiple sclerosis drug Rebif, both seen as potential treatments for COVID-19, and will secure supplies to any of the 27 EU member states willing to buy them, the source said.

The source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic did not disclose the terms of the deals.

Roche, Merck and a Commission spokeswoman were not immediately available for comment.

The deals follow requests from EU states in May to acquire the two drugs and come as governments around the world jostle for access to potential therapies and vaccines against COVID-19, even before their efficacy is proved.

Roche is doing a late-stage, 330-patient trial of Actemra, known as RoActemra in some markets, in COVID-19 patents after the anti-inflammatory drug used against rheumatoid arthritis was deployed in China in patients suffering from a severe immune system reaction.

The medicine has also been tested on COVID-19 patients in combination with Gilead’s (GILD.O) antiviral remdesivir, the only drug so far authorised by the EU for use against COVID-19.

In early June, an Italian trial of Actemra in patients with early-stage COVID-19 showed it failed to help them.

Rebif was developed by Swiss biotech firm Serono before Merck bought the company.

Both drugs target proteins in the body associated with inflammation, and there is some hope they may help severely ill COVID-19 patients suffering from a so-called cytokine storm, an immune system reaction that in can lead to organ failure.

The companies said in letters to the Commission that they could meet demand from EU countries, the source said, declining to name the EU states that had expressed interest in the drugs.

EU countries will now have to agree with the companies on the supplies needed, the source added.

Brussels is also in talks with Gilead to obtain doses of remdesivir for member states and boost its production capacity.

It also wants to reserve supplies of vaccines being developed by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Sanofi (SASY.PA).

In June, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands said they had secured 400 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Britain’s AstraZeneca (AZN.L).

Concerns over remdesivir’s availability were ignited after Gilead pledged almost all its output to the United States

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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Germany takes over EU presidency in “difficult time” marked by pandemic

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Germany took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) from Croatia for the next six months in a “difficult time” determined by COVID-19, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a speech to the Bundestag (parliament) in Berlin on Wednesday.

“Of course, our presidency will be marked by the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to contain it and to deal with its consequences,” said Merkel, stressing that the European Council had agreed that “special solutions are needed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic “affects us all,” said Merkel when presenting the program for Germany’s EU presidency in June.

Merkel warned that the positions of the member states of the EU were still “widely divergent.” Besides the COVID-19 crisis, the EU Council is looking at a number of serious challenges including Brexit, immigration as well as climate protection.

In her speech, Merkel stressed that there were other issues besides the coronavirus crisis. “Over the next six months, we not only want to press ahead with crisis management, but also work intensively on how we can shape the key issues of climate protection, digital sovereignty and Europe’s role in the world in the future.”

Already in May, the European Commission has proposed a 750-billion-euro (844 billion United States dollars) aid package for Europe’s economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis. In this “decisive moment,” investments must be made “in a way that will benefit the next generation tomorrow,” said President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Merkel said that economic aid had to secure young people’s opportunities and promised to campaign for every young person to have the opportunity to find work. “It is particularly important to me that the economic recovery benefits everyone and that we not only secure employment and business, but also and especially strengthen social cohesion in Europe.”

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) warned on Wednesday that demands by many member states were so high that Germany could “hardly do them justice.” The next six months could become a “negotiation and voting nightmare in the face of unrealistic expectations,” said BDI President Dieter Kempf.

With regard to the future relationships between the EU and the United Kingdom (UK), Merkel noted that progress in the negotiations was “very limited, to put it mildly.”

A recent survey conducted jointly by BDI and Deloitte showed that almost one in three German companies expected the UK to leave the EU without a negotiated deal.

“We have agreed with Great Britain to speed up the negotiations now in order to reach an agreement in autumn,” Merkel said. She stressed to “continue to fight for a good solution” but advised to take precautions in the EU and also in Germany in case an agreement was not reached.

With the Brexit deadline getting closer and the international cry for financial aid getting louder as Europe’s economies struggle with the effects of COVID-19, Merkel emphasized that “only with the support of the national parliaments of all member states will we be able to meet this major challenges.”

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Germany entering recovery stage in COVID-19 downturn, analysts say

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Analyst

Berlin, July 1, 2020 The German economy is set to return to growth in the remaining half of 2020 after the COVID-19 crisis dragged Europe’s biggest economy into recession, the ifo research institute said on Wednesday.

The Munich-based researchers said Germany’s economic output shrank by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter and a hefty 11.9 per cent in the second.

Meanwhile, forecasting growth of 6.9 per cent and 3.8 per cent in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

“Things will gradually start to pick up again now,’’ Timo Wollmershaeuser, head of forecasts at ifo, said.

The outlook, however, came with a warning based on assumptions about the further course of the epidemic and the political responses to it, adding that it came with a high degree of uncertainty.

According to the ifo forecasts, the German economy will decline by 6.7 per cent this year, before returning to growth of 6.4 per cent by 2021, putting economic output back on a par with levels seen at the end of 2019.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Foreign

Germany takes over pandemic-era EU presidency as China tests unity

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Presidency

Brussels, July 1, 2020  Hours after Germany assumed the European Union’s (EU’s) rotating presidency, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that China’s treatment of Hong Kong could become the bloc’s first test under Berlin’s watch.

Maas called developments in Hong Kong “exceptionally worrying” and said China had gone against its word by passing a national security law widely seen as an affront on the territory’s high degree of autonomy.

“With regards to China, the important thing is that we act as Europeans rather than everyone going their own way,” Maas said in an interview with the ZDF public broadcaster early on Wednesday.

“This is one of the examples that shows that … we only have a chance to assert our interests and our values if we do this as Europeans,” he said.

Individual responses from countries would not be strong enough, Germany’s top diplomat added.

China “will potentially pose the first test” as Germany seeks a unified EU approach to global power struggles, Maas said.

Germany will head the European Council for six months as of Wednesday.

It also took over the one-month rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on the same day.

While Germany had initially planned to focus on EU border security, relations with China and climate change during its EU presidency, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the trade giant to pivot toward measures to contain the virus and ensure the EU’s economic recovery.

According to a Munich Security Conference report, the pandemic has made clear that Germany has to push for a more integrated approach within the EU.

“The sheer magnitude of (the pandemic’s) economic and political repercussions means that European leaders cannot simply resort to their usual mode of piecemeal and technocratic crisis management,” the body said.

One of first challenges of Germany’s EU presidency will be to oversee the passing of the bloc’s seven-year financial framework.

EU diplomats hope for this to happen in July, but disagreements on what this should look like run deep in the trade bloc, and negotiations look set to continue being difficult.

In his comments to ZDF, Maas said it was essential to act quickly to allow funds to start flowing to support struggling economies.

“It is important that countries such as Italy or Spain, which were hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis, can now get this money quickly,” he said.

Holding the EU presidency does not carry any formal power, but it is of political importance, as it will allow Germany to shape the bloc’s agenda for the coming months.

Taking over from Croatia, Germany will organise and preside over meetings between EU heads of governments and ministers under the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery.”

On Jan. 1, Portugal will take over from Germany.

Germany will also have a decisive role in the post-Brexit trade negotiations with Britain, with the EU’s trade rules ceasing to apply to the departed member state on Jan. 1, 2021.

For Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU and UN presidencies give her the chance for a final flourish in international politics before she retires from politics at the end of her fourth term next year.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Germany’s Bavaria approves free COVID-19 tests for all citizens

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German federal state Bavaria announced Tuesday that it has approved free COVID-19 tests for all citizens, the first state in Germany to do so.

Residents of Bavaria could get a COVID-19 test “voluntarily” even without symptoms. The test costs, which were not covered by the statutory health insurer, would be covered by the state of Bavaria, according to the state government.

“Testing means prevention,” Bavaria Minister-President Markus Soeder said after a cabinet meeting in Munich. Soeder announced plans to increase the capacity from the current 20,000 tests to 30,000 tests per day.

Bavaria would make 200 million euros (224.6 million United States dollars) available over the course of the year to provide its over 13 million residents with free COVID-19 tests, according to Soeder.

According to the statistics issued on Monday night by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany had recorded 194,259 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Flight services from Germany to resume 60 pct of operations by July

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While German airlines only served about 30 percent of their original route network due to the COVID-19 crisis in June, the number is set to rise to 60 percent by July, according to an analysis published by the German Aviation Association (BDL) on Tuesday.

In July, passengers would be able to fly to 239 destinations in 69 countries from German airports, according to the BDL.

However, many originally scheduled connections would still be served with reduced frequency, therefore the total number of flights would be significantly lower, according to the analysis.

The total number of flights from German airports in July would only reach 27 percent compared with the same month last year, according to the BDL.

The focus of the restarted air traffic was on destinations within Europe, especially the “classic holiday regions,” the BDL noted.

The top destination would be Palma de Mallorca of Spain with 326 departures from Germany in the second week of July, it said.

Air traffic in Germany dropped rapidly due to travel restrictions in March and the lowest mark was reached in April.

According to the BDL, in the week from April 20, only 4 percent of flights compared to 2019 had been operated.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Senators move to limit United States troop withdrawal from Germany

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A bipartisan group of United States senators announced a move to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to withdraw troops from Germany by restricting taxpayer dollars.

The six senators, including influential Republicans Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, announced an amendment to the national defence spending legislation (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 that would limit the use of funds for reducing troops in Germany.

The amendment would prevent funds from being used for reducing troops until the Defence Secretary submits a report “certifying” that a withdrawal would not undermine United States security and United States allies.

The senators also demand verification that a withdrawal will not harm NATO, United States military operations or military families and will not cause “signficant” additional costs for redeploying forces.

The NDAA, which typically receives large bipartisan support, must pass both the House and Senate before being sent to the White House.

Trump announced earlier this month that the United States will draw down its deployment in Germany to 25,000 troops, accusing Berlin of being “delinquent” in payments to NATO.

The president later said he will move some troops from Germany to Poland, as he bashed Berlin for failing to meet a NATO defence-spending target and for buying energy from Russia.

“At a time when the United States and our European allies must continue to stand hand in hand in deterring malign influences, it is in our national security interest, as well as in the interest of our allies and partners, to continue our presence in Germany,” Senator Rubio said.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

Germany eyes financial compliance reform after Wirecard debacle

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Reform

The German government plans to reform legislation on financial compliance following the demise of Wirecard, which failed to account for 1.9 billion euros (2.1 billion dollars) in assets.

A “competent, effective and efficient financial reporting procedure” is important in order to ensure a functioning and transparent capital market, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry is working together with the Finance Ministry in order to assess the scope of the necessary reform, he added.

Wirecard began insolvency proceedings after the massive hole in its accounts emerged, sending its share price into free-fall.

The funds were meant to have been held in accounts in South-East Asia, but it is now thought that these accounts never existed.

The German Financial Reporting Enforcement Panel (DPR), organised under private law, conducts financial compliance checks on behalf of the state.

Deutsche Boerse, which runs the DAX stock market that lists Germany’s 30 top companies, has also promised regulatory reforms in response to the scandal.

“Trust in the capital market has obviously suffered in the past few days. As a marketplace operator, it is also our task to strengthen confidence in the capital market,” the operator said on Monday, promising “an in-depth review and revision” of its rules and regulations.

Wirecard, which provides digital payment and e-commerce services, joined the DAX top league in September 2018.

The composition of the index is reviewed quarterly, with the next review set for September.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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