Coronavirus update: Germany bans groups of more than two, Emirates clips its wings, Chinese tycoon helps Africa
Germany has the world’s fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases and the strictest rules against associating.
Germany, battling the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases globally at 23,794, and having suffered 92 deaths, has issued a contact ban limiting interactions of more than two people, authorities say.
This story is being updated regularly throughout the day.
Monday’s key moments
Germany bans groups more than two, Merkel in quarantine
Germany’s federal and state authorities have issued a contact ban limiting interactions of more than two people, but families or those living in the same house will be exempt, reports the country’s press agency, DPA.
“The danger lies in the direct social interaction,” North Rhine-Westphalia premier Armin Laschet told reporters.
He also confirmed there would be fines of up to 25,000 euros ($46,450) for those in breach of the new rules, while the same fine will also be imposed for those in breach of a previous two-metre social distancing rule.
These new rules will remain in place until April 19 and will be enforced by police.
After announcing the new restrictions earlier on Sunday, German chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine.
Ms Merkel, 65, will continue her work from home and will submit to repeated tests over the next few days, her spokesman said in a statement, adding it was too soon for a conclusive test yet.
Ms Merkel had on Friday afternoon received a vaccine shot against pneumococcus, a pneumonia-causing bacteria, from a doctor who later tested positive for coronavirus, according to the statement.
Germany has the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases globally at 23,794, based on data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
The data also shows that 266 Germans have recovered from the virus, while 92 have died.
UK citizens warned of tougher measures
Britain may need to impose curfews and travel restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus if people do not heed the government’s advice on social distancing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday.
Pubs, clubs and gyms have already closed, but social media on Sunday was awash with pictures of people congregating in parks and food markets, apparently ignoring advice to stay 2m apart.
Parks in London are already closing down as authorities struggle to slow the advance of coronavirus through the population in the biggest public health crisis since the influenza pandemic of 1918.
Around 12 per cent of adult critical care beds in hospitals in England are occupied by patients with COVID-19.
“You’ve got to do this in line with the advice, you’ve got to follow the social distancing rule, keep two metres apart,” Mr Johnson said at a news conference at Downing Street.
“Otherwise … there is going to be no doubt that we will have to bring forward further measures and we are certainly keeping that under constant review.”
Mr Johnson said tougher measures like curfews needed to be timed right for maximum impact.
The latest official statistics show the UK’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 5,683 on Sunday, up from 5,018 on Saturday — suggesting they are now rising more rapidly in Britain than they did in either China or Italy at the same stage, according to a Sky News analysis.
Around 12 per cent of adult critical care beds in hospitals in England are occupied by patients with COVID-19, and that number is expected to rise drastically, said England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries.
Emirates grounds entire fleet, then doesn’t
Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, announced it would ground its entire passenger fleet this week and cut staff wages by as much as half because of the coronavirus and its impact on travel demand.
The state-owned Dubai carrier had already announced the suspension of nearly 70 per cent of its network, asked staff to go on unpaid leave and frozen recruitment as the industry faces one of its biggest ever challenges.
It initially said it would stop all passenger flights by Wednesday, not saying when they would resume, though cargo flights will continue.
However, a short time later the airline announced it would cancel only “most” international flights, with the exception of flights to Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, and USA.
Emirates Group, a state holding company that includes the airline among its assets, will enforce a temporary 25 to 50 per cent reduction in basic salary for the majority of employees.
The group had 100,000 employees, including more than 21,000 cabin crew and 4,000 pilots, at end-March 2019, the close of its last financial year.
Emirates President Tim Clark, who is due to step down in June, and Gary Chapman, president of the holding group’s airport and travel services company, will forgo their basic salaries for three months.
Billionaire bails out Africa
A cargo flight containing more than 6 million medical items from Jack Ma — China’s richest man — arrived in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa on Sunday.
Some 5.4 million face masks, 1.08 million testing kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields will be distributed to African countries in need of supplies to battle the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week pledged to distribute the supplies to other countries in Africa.
Mr Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has sent similar shipments of medical supplies to countries in Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America.
He is known for his flamboyant style, which includes throwing larger-than-life company events including lavish mass weddings — which he presides over — for his employees and their families.
The virus has been slow to reach Africa but has now spread to at least 43 of the continent’s 54 countries, with more than 1,100 cases confirmed.
Thailand posts its biggest daily case increase
Thailand has closed bars, karaoke parlours, cinemas, and boxing gyms to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Thailand has posted its biggest daily increase in confirmed cases.
On Sunday, it announced 188 new cases, bringing the country’s tally to 599.
Our South-East Asia Correspondent Amy Bainbridge says Bangkok is extremely quiet, with most businesses now shut down.
Five provinces surrounding Bangkok have followed measures introduced last week that were aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.
Supermarkets and pharmacies are open, and restaurants can offer take away food.
Authorities say most of the new infections are linked to a previous cluster of cases of people who attended a boxing stadium earlier this month.
Australia’s case numbers
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia is 1,354.
Here is a state-by-state breakdown of the cases:
- NSW: 533 (six deaths)
- Victoria: 296
- Queensland: 259
- WA: 120 (one death)
- SA: 100
- Tasmania: 22
- ACT: 19
- NT: 5
These figures come from state and territory databases of confirmed COVID-19 cases. The latest update was at 7.35pm AEDT on Sunday, March 22.