The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
BERLIN — Germany’s government says it plans to lift a travel warning for European countries on June 15 — but it may still advise against travel in some cases, for example to Britain if quarantine rules there remain in place.
Germany issued a warning against all nonessential foreign travel in March. The aim is to change that for Germany’s 26 European Union partners, other countries outside the EU that are part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel area and Britain.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that the warning would be replaced with more conventional travel advice “so long as there are no longer entry bans and no large-scale confinement” in the countries concerned. He said all countries except Norway and Spain, where entry restrictions are expected to last longer, now fulfill those conditions.
Maas said that the new travel advice won’t amount to “an invitation to travel,” and in some cases may advise against trips – “for instance to Britain, so long as there is still an obligatory 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving there.”
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Wuhan has finished a mass testing effort of nearly all its 11 million people, resulting in 300 being put in isolation.
— Pandemic pushes Australia’s economy into 1st recession in 29 years.
— Concerns are mounting about studies in two influential medical journals on drugs used in people with coronavirus.
— The US Senate confirms a new inspector general to oversee money distributed as part of the $2 trillion economic rescue law.
— Virus resurgence in South Korea continues as schools reopen to more students.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic and Slovakia are fully opening their common border for travelers, fully lifting restrictions that have been adopted to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The prime minister of the two countries, Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic and Igor Matovic of Slovakia, announced the move that becomes effective on Thursday at the start of their meeting in Prague.
The Czechs and Slovaks together with Hungarians have been allowed to travel to their three countries without showing a negative test on the coronavirus or be quarantined if they return home from the trip in 48 hours.
The two countries have not been hit by the pandemic as hard as some other European countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Britain.
GENEVA — The World Economic Forum says its next meeting in January will be held under the headline “The Great Reset,” reflecting the impact that the coronavirus crisis has had on economies and societies around the world and the ongoing need to tackle climate change.
Organizers of the annual meeting of government and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, said Wednesday that they plan to hold a “twin summit” comprising both “in-person and virtual dialogues.” These will link elites to young people in more than 400 cities around the world.
Forum founder Klaus Schwab said that “the global health crisis has laid bare the unsustainability of our old system in terms of social cohesion, the lack of equal opportunities and inclusiveness.”
He warned that “climate change could be the next global disaster with even more dramatic consequences for humankind.”
ISLAMABAD — Health officials say one more Pakistani lawmaker has died at a hospital in Islamabad after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Mian Jamshed Kakakhel, who was a member of a provincial assembly in the northwest, died Wednesday. His death comes a day after two lawmakers died at different hospitals after testing positive for the coronavirus.
So far, four Pakistani lawmakers have died because of the coronavirus in the country, which recorded its highest single-day increase in infections with 4,131 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours.
Pakistan on Wednesday reported 67 deaths in the past 24 hours from the outbreak.
Critics blame Prime Minister Imran Khan for an increase in deaths and infections. They accuse him of easing restrictions last month at a time when there was a need to enforce a stricter lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
Pakistan has recorded a total of 80,463 confirmed cases and 1,688 deaths since February.
BRUSSELS — Environmental group Greenpeace says the EU’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the investment of several billion euros in polluting fossil fuels industries.
According to a Greenpeace analysis released Wednesday, the European Central Bank has purchased corporate bonds worth about 30 billion euros ($33.7 billion) between mid-March and mid-May 2020. Among that investment, 7.6 billion euros ($8.5 billion) were injected into fossil fuels industries, Greenpeace said.
“With the purchase of bonds from just seven big polluters, the ECB contributed an estimated 11.2 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, which is more than the entire annual emissions of Luxembourg,” Greenpeace said.
Last week, the European Commission pledged to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the mid-century.
JOHANNESBURG — Tanzania is entering its sixth week without an update on its coronavirus cases as African health authorities worry and the U.S. issues a new statement of concern.
The East African nation’s data has been frozen at just over 500 cases since the end of April as the government of President John Magufuli claims the virus has been defeated. The opposition, however, has alleged that Tanzania’s cases could be in the tens of thousands.
The latest U.S. Embassy alert, posted Tuesday, says “there have been instances during the COVID-19 outbreak when hospitals in Dar es Salaam reached full capacity due to the high volume of COVID-19 cases” and that “the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains high.”
The alert recommends that U.S. government personnel stay at home except for essential activities.
Tanzania, unlike many African nations, has lifted its ban on international flights. Cases across the African continent are now above 157,000.
BERLIN — A city in central Germany has closed its schools for the rest of the week and is testing hundreds of people in a residential complex after 80 coronavirus infections were linked to private events marking the end of Ramadan.
Goettingen Mayor Rolf-Georg Koehler said on Tuesday that all residents of the complex at the center of the outbreak will be tested – up to 700 people. Officials said that 230 people in and around Goettingen and another 140 further afield are in quarantine after the infections were detected.
They say a hookah lounge in Goettingen where various people apparently used the same mouthpiece played a significant role. News agency dpa reported that, since the infected include 24 children, the city is closing its schools this week and will require the wearing of masks for the two following weeks.
Germany started easing coronavirus restrictions in late April and is continuing to do so despite some concern over various local outbreaks.
BEIJING — The central Chinese city of Wuhan has tested nearly every one of its 11 million people for the coronavirus in a mass effort that resulted in the isolation of 300 people, authorities said Wednesday.
The pandemic is believed to have originated last year in the industrial city that went under lockdown for 76 days to try to stop the outbreak. Wuhan still accounts for the bulk of China’s 83,021 cases and 4,634 deaths from the disease.
The testing effort carried out in the second half of May targeted every resident not already tested and excluded only children under age 6.
“This is extraordinarily rare anywhere in the world,“ National Health Commission expert Li Lanjuan told reporters. “It not only shows confidence and determination in the fight against the epidemic in Wuhan, but has also provided reference to other cities for their prevention.”
No new cases of COVID-19 were found, although 300 people who tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms were placed in isolation.
The executive deputy mayor, Hu Yabo, said the city spent 900 million yuan ($126 million) on the tests, a “totally worthwhile” expenditure as Wuhan looks to reassure residents and people elsewhere in China and get the city’s local economy humming again, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying.
CANBERRA, Australia — The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Australia’s economy into recession for the first time in 29 years.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday the current June quarter will be the second in a row in which the Australian economy has shrunk. A recession is defined as at least two successive quarters of contraction.
Data released on Wednesday for the March quarter show a 0.3% contraction since the three months through December due to destructive wildfires and the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown.
Frydenberg said the Treasury Department had advised the June quarter result will be worse.
“In response to this once-in-100-year global event, we put in place a series of health measures that have hit the economy hard,” Frydenberg said.
Australia has recorded 7,221 coronavirus cases with 26 people still in hospitals on Wednesday. There have been 102 fatalities.
NEW YORK — The true number of COVID-19 infections among inmates at Manhattan’s federal lockup was likely about seven times what the Bureau of Prisons has publicly reported, a government lawyer conceded Tuesday.
The bureau’s website says five inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center have had the virus. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean-David Barnea, representing the MCC’s warden at a court hearing, said at least 34 inmates had been quarantined with symptoms because they were believed to have it.
Barnea made the revelation at a federal court hearing for a lawsuit that seeks court oversight over conditions for the nearly 800 inmates at the MCC. Despite conceding the number of virus cases was probably much higher than five, Barnea fought claims that the caseload could’ve been more than a few dozen.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea reported 49 new cases of COVID-19, continuing a resurgence as millions of children are returning to school.
The figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday brought national totals to 11,590 cases and 273 deaths. All but one of the new cases were reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where hundreds of infections have been linked to entertainment venues, church gatherings and a massive e-commerce warehouse.
Mayors and governors in the greater capital area have shut thousands of nightclubs, hostess bars, karaoke rooms, churches and wedding halls to slow the spread of the virus.
But despite the spike in transmissions, the government has been pushing ahead with a phased reopening of schools, which began with high-school seniors on May 20. Nearly 1.8 million more students were to return Wednesday.
But South Korea’s education minister says 519 schools so far have been forced to go back to remote learning because of virus concerns.
UNITED NATIONS — The president of the U.N. Economic and Social Council is calling for urgent action to help the growing number of countries already facing or at risk of “debt distress” because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norway’s U.N. Ambassador Mona Juul, head of the 54-nation U.N. body, told a meeting Tuesday on financing for the coronavirus crisis and recovery that the decision by the world’s 20 major economic powers to freeze debt service payments for the world’s poorest countries through the end of the year isn’t enough.
She said the Group of 20’s suspension will free about $11 billion until the end of the year, but it’s estimated that eligible countries have an additional $20 billion in multilateral and commercial debt combined coming due this year.
Juul said that means even if the moratorium is extended to 2021, “many countries will have to make difficult choices between servicing their debt, fighting the pandemic, and investing in recovery.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The wife of singer-songwriter John Prine, who died from complications of COVID-19, is urging lawmakers in Tennessee to expand absentee voting so people will not to risk their health exercising their right to vote.
Fiona Whelan Prine also contracted the coronavirus but recovered. She told a state Senate panel Tuesday that allowing more people to cast absentee ballots is critical to ensuring voters remain safe and healthy during the election.
Whelan Prine spoke over a video livestream and did not attend in person. In her words: “This is not or should not be a partisan issue. This is a serious health issue. And you, as our representatives, must advocate for our health, our safety and our right to participate in our Americana political process.”
Her husband was revered for songs such as “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone” and “Hello in There.”
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s lockdown regulations have been declared invalid by a court after a civic organization challenged them as unconstitutional.
The High Court of Gauteng Province on Tuesday gave the government 14 days to change the regulations to not infringe on people’s rights.
South Africa’s lockdown began on March 27 and has been gradually relaxed, but it still bans the sale of cigarettes and prevents most businesses and factories from operating at full capacity. The regulations also prohibit large public gatherings and restrict funerals to no more than 50 people.
The government said it would respond once it has studied the ruling.
South Africa has the highest number of virus cases in Africa with more than 34,000, including 705 deaths.