Over 200,000 Coronavirus Cases Declared In Europe

 

More than 200,000 coronavirus cases have been declared in Europe, with Italy’s 63,927 infections and Spain’s 39,673 accounting for more than half of the total, according to an AFP tally on Tuesday.

With at least 200,009 cases, including 10,732 deaths, Europe is the continent worst hit by the pandemic, ahead of Asia with 98,748 cases and 3,570 deaths. The first outbreak was in China in December.

The official figures reflect only a fraction of the total cases as many countries only test for the disease when people are hospitalised.

AFP

 

Germany Bans Gatherings Of More Than Two Over Coronavirus

A couple walks past a sign directing the public to a new coronavirus COVID-19 testing/assessment centre at a hospital in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district on March 22, 2020. John MACDOUGALL / AFP.

 

Gatherings of more than two people will be banned in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday, as Europe’s biggest economy toughened restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Germany has already closed down schools, non-essential shops and urged people not to gather in groups but has not yet imposed blanket limits on group gatherings.

“Our own behaviour is the most effective way” of slowing the rate of infection, Merkel said of the unprecedented nationwide measures, which are initially slated to remain in force for two weeks.

The measures will be imposed by individual states, who will decide when to roll them out.

Some exceptions to the public gathering rule will be allowed, including for families living under the same roof and going out together for fresh air.

On top of the ban on gatherings, businesses like massage studios and hairdressers where people come into close contact will be shut.

And restaurants will be closed across Germany except for takeaway food.

READ ALSO: Merkel In Quarantine After Meeting Virus-infected Doctor

Merkel appealed to citizens’ “reason and empathy” in implementing the contact restrictions, saying she had been “very moved” by how closely people had stuck to less stringent measures implemented in recent days.

“That’s how we can save lives,” the chancellor recalled.

“It’s of vital, vital importance to obey the rule” to remain at least two metres away from other people, Merkel said, adding “at that distance the risk of infection is close to zero.”

Asked if she too was respecting the distancing requirements, Merkel said “my life has fundamentally changed and mostly consists of telephone and video conferences”.

Merkel spoke following a telephone conference with the premiers of Germany’s 16 federal states, who have been criticised in recent days for failing to agree on a nationwide set of rules for infection control.

But while several regional leaders said in their own press conferences they would stick to the new rules, news agency DPA reported Bavaria would impose its own, tougher restrictions allowing people to leave the house alone or with one relative.

AFP

COVID-19: Spain Emerges Second In Europe With 1,300 Deaths

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Spain on Saturday reported a 32 per cent spike in new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the country total to 1,326 fatalities, the second-highest in Europe after Italy.

The number of infections across the country also shot up to 24,926, the health ministry said in a statement.

The capital Madrid remains the hardest hit in the country, according to the tally reported by the ministry.

The new numbers follow a fresh spike in both deaths and infections on Friday.

Spain has issued lockdown orders for some 46 million people who are only permitted to leave their homes for essential work, food shopping, medical reasons or to walk the dog.

Italy is Europe’s worst affected country in terms of the death toll, followed by Spain and France.

AFP

Coronavirus: Netflix To Reduce Streaming Quality In Europe To Avoid Overload

Brussels, Belgium | AFP | Friday 3/20/2020 - 02:20 UTC+1 | 239 words Netflix will reduce the quality of its streaming in Europe to ease pressure on the internet, the firm said, as demand soars across the continent where millions are confined to their homes over coronavirus fears. The streaming giant will "begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members," the statement added. With wide-ranging lockdowns and quarantines, schools, shops and borders closed and gatherings banned, people across Europe are increasingly turning to the internet to stave off boredom. But the huge file sizes of high definition offerings from web giants like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO and Amazon are slowing the web, Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market and digital economy warned. "Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain," he said in a tweet Thursday, calling for online platforms to switch to streaming in standard definition instead of HD. Gamers breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the end of an hours-long network outage that affected Nintendo's online games and prompted despair from users. "Only a few days into the coronavirus self-isolation and Nintendo servers are already down... oh dear god," tweeted one.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 28, 2019 the Netflix logo is seen on the backdrop of Netflix’s “Stranger Things 3” premiere at Santa Monica high school Barnum Hall in Santa Monica, California. Chris Delmas / AFP

 

Netflix will reduce the quality of its streaming in Europe to ease pressure on the internet, the firm said, as demand soars across the continent where millions are confined to their homes over coronavirus fears.  

The streaming giant will “begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” the statement added.

With wide-ranging lockdowns and quarantines, schools, shops and borders closed and gatherings banned, people across Europe are increasingly turning to the internet to stave off boredom.

But the huge file sizes of high definition offerings from web giants like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO and Amazon are slowing the web, Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner for the internal market and digital economy warned.

“Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain,” he said in a tweet Thursday, calling for online platforms to switch to streaming in standard definition instead of HD.

Gamers breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the end of an hours-long network outage that affected Nintendo’s online games and prompted despair from users.

“Only a few days into the coronavirus self-isolation and Nintendo servers are already down… oh dear god,” tweeted one.

 

AFP

COVID-19: Latest Global Developments

A woman wearing face mask, amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, walks along a street in Hefei, China’s eastern Anhui province on March 9, 2020. NOEL CELIS / AFP.

 

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

– Europe ‘underestimated’ threat –

The president of the European Commission admits political leaders in the EU “underestimated” the magnitude of the danger posed by the coronavirus.

Ursula von der Leyen tells Germany’s Bild newspaper “it is clear that this is a virus that will keep us busy for a long time yet.”

EU leaders agree to impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days.

– Strict lockdown –

France follows Italy and Spain in imposing general lockdown for at least 15 days. Belgium orders its citizens to stay at home until at least April 5.

Germany orders its population to stay at home while Britain and Israel call on citizens to avoid all non-essential travel.

In Russia, where borders are closed to foreigners, schools will close from March 23 to April 12, and flights to Britain, the US and the United Arab Emirates will be suspended from March 20.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: More than 850 Million Students Shut Out of School – UNESCO 

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan says the country cannot afford the large-scale lockdowns undertaken in the West, fearing this could devastate the fragile economy.

– Economic concerns –

German carmaker BMW says it will close European and South African factories accounting for half its output for a month.

The Trump administration and the US Central Bank announce massive financial assistance to the most affected businesses and households.

– State of emergency –

Switzerland, Armenia, Moldova and Kazakhstan as well as two regions in Ukraine and one in Kyrgyzstan declare a state of emergency. Brazil’s two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, announce the same.

– Global toll tops 8,000 –

Since the virus first emerged in late December, 8,092 people have died around the world, with the global number of cases at 200,680, according to an AFP tally based on official sources as of 1300 GMT Wednesday.

The worst affected countries are mainland China, with 3,237 deaths, out of 80,894 cases, of whom 69,601 have been cured. Italy follows with 2,503 deaths, 31,506 cases, Iran 1,135 deaths, around 17,000 cases, Spain 558 deaths and 13,716 cases and France with 175 deaths and 7,730 cases.

Turkey, Bangladesh, Moldova and Burkina Faso report their first deaths.

– Britain’s nightmare scenario –

In Britain, scientists say infections and deaths will spiral and hundreds of thousands could die and the health system be swamped if there is only a focus on delaying and slowing infections.

The government’s scientific adviser says a reasonable estimate is 55,000 cases in the country.

Legislation will be introduced Thursday to allow arrests for public health reasons and to call back retired medical services staff.

– Cruise ship stranded –

More than 1,700 people are stranded on a cruise and a cargo ship off the coast of South Africa’s Cape Town over fears some are infected.

– Pope advises gestures of affection –

Pope Francis stresses the importance of families and friends making small gestures such as hugs and phone calls during times of isolation.

BMW To Shut Down European Factories Over Coronavirus

The BMW factory in Munich, Germany. A BMW employee in Munich has tested positive for the coronavirus. AFP

 

German carmaker BMW on Wednesday said it would close European and South African factories accounting for half its output for a month, matching other car giants stricken by coronavirus containment measures.

It also warned that profits this year would be significantly lower as a result of the crisis.

“From today, we will shut down our European car factories and the Rosslyn factory in South Africa,” chief executive Oliver Zipse said, adding that the interruption is expected for now to last “until April 19”.

BMW’s factories around Europe — in Bavaria, elsewhere in Germany and further afield — combined with the South Africa plant accounted for half the 2.56 million cars the group built-in 2019.

Around Europe, other manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, Volkswagen, Ford, Fiat and Peugeot have also moved to shut factory doors through the coronavirus crisis.

“As for many goods, demand for cars will sink sharply” because of the virus and associated containment measures, BMW CEO Zipse said.

Workers at the Munich-based group benefit from “highly flexible and effective working-time tools” that can help cushion the impact, he added.

The German government has already simplified rules governing compensation for workers whose hours are slashed during the crisis.

BMW finance director Nicolas Peter said the group now expects pre-tax profits this year to be  “significantly lower” than the 7.1 billion euros ($7.8 billion) reported in 2019.

“Measures related to the coronavirus will have a significant impact on the course of our business,” Peter said.

AFP

Algeria Suspends Travel To Europe Over Coronavirus

 

Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad announced Monday a suspension of all scheduled travel links with Europe in a bid to forestall the spread of coronavirus.

The measure, to take effect from Thursday, will hit all “air and sea travel to and from European countries”, the premier’s office said.

“This exceptional suspension… will be accompanied by a repatriation plan for our citizens currently in the countries concerned,” it said.

Algeria has already announced a suspension from Tuesday of all traffic links with France, which hosts a large Algerian community, following cuts with Spain and Italy.

Four people have died from coronavirus in Algeria, according to the health ministry.

AFP

US Extends Travel Ban To UK, Ireland; Reviews Domestic Curbs

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020, US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in New Delhi. US President Donald Trump announced a news conference from the White House on the coronavirus epidemic February, 26, 2020, with experts warning they expect it to spread in the United States. 
Mandel NGA / AFP

 

The United States said Saturday it was stepping up its fight against the coronavirus and extending a European travel ban to include the United Kingdom and Ireland, while acknowledging that some domestic travel curbs are also being considered.

President Donald Trump has decided to “suspend all travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland” effective midnight Monday EST (0400 GMT Tuesday), Vice President Mike Pence told a White House news conference.

“Americans in the UK or Ireland can come home. Legal residents can come home,” Pence said, adding that such people would be “funneled through specific airports and processed.”

Asked about possible travel restrictions within the US, Pence said the administration was considering “a broad range of measures, but no decisions have been made yet.”

“We’re going to continue to follow the facts,” he said. “We’re going to continue to listen to the experts.”

Anger In Europe

European officials have reacted angrily to Trump’s sweeping travel ban, calling on the US for cooperation to fight the pandemic.

The original 30-day US ban on travel from the 26 countries of Europe’s Schengen border-free zone took effect on Saturday, but notably excluded Britain and Ireland.

A senior administration official said Saturday of the new limit on travel from the UK and Ireland that “I do believe it will be the same duration as the Schengen Zone.”

The administration had hoped to stop anyone from the Continent using the UK and Ireland as transit points en route to the US, the official told reporters in a background briefing, “but that is proving operationally very difficult for us.”

The original move caused widespread consternation among travelers.

Britain’s death toll from the novel coronavirus nearly doubled on Saturday, to 21.

Official figures showed the country has 1,140 confirmed cases — an increase of 342 from the day before. But a senior health official has estimated that the number of infected people is more likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000.

The Republic of Ireland — which has taken strict steps to stem the spread of the coronavirus — so far has 70 confirmed cases and one death.

Coronavirus: Trump ‘May’ Add Britain To European Travel Ban

US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump said Friday he was considering adding Britain to a ban on travellers from mainland Europe as London warned the coronavirus outbreak may have infected up to 10,000 people there.

“We are looking at it based on the new numbers that are coming out and we may have to include them in the list of countries that we will, you could say ban, or whatever it is, during this period of time,” Trump told reporters.

READ ALSO: Why I May ‘Likely’ Take Coronavirus Test – Trump

The number of confirmed cases in Britain stands at around 800, with a string of events cancelled, from rugby matches to London’s annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

AFP

Europe Now ‘Epicentre’ Of COVID-19 Pandemic: WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquaters on March 11, 2020 in Geneva./ AFP

 

The World Health Organization said Friday that Europe was now the “epicentre” for the global coronavirus pandemic — and warned it was impossible to know when the outbreak would peak.

The continent had now “more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China”, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic,” he said.

READ ALSO: British Airways To Cut Jobs Over Coronavirus Outbreak

Tedros was speaking at a news conference held virtually to avoid any potential spread of the virus among journalists.

“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic,” he said, referring to the global numbers.

The virus, which first surfaced in China in December, has now killed more than 5,000 people, with cases around the world topping 134,000, according to an AFP tally.

The death toll passing 5,000 was “a tragic milestone”, said Tedros.

Maria Van Kerkhove, who heads the WHO’s emerging diseases unit, meanwhile warned it was “impossible for us to say when this will peak globally.”

“We hope that it is sooner rather than later.”

Their comments came as countries in Europe and beyond introduced dramatic measures to halt the spread of the virus, including closing schools and restricting public events.

Tedros said that while such so-called social distancing measures could help, countries needed to take “a comprehensive approach”.

“Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all,” he said.

‘Deadly Mistake’

“You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is,” said Tedros, calling on countries to “find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission.”

“Do not just let this fire burn,” he said.

“Any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks ‘that won’t happen to us’ is making a deadly mistake.”

Michael Ryan, who heads the WHO’s emergencies programme, stressed that measures like banning public gatherings “are not a panacea”.

“Social distancing measures are not going to stop this pandemic,” he said, though some could have “a positive impact”, he added.

The most important thing, he said, was to act.

“The greatest error is not to move. The greatest error is to be paralysed by the fear of failure,” he said.

The World Health Organization also announced the creation of a new fund, targeted at drawing donations from companies, organisations and individuals toward helping fight the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which will be run by the UN Foundation in the United States and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, kicked off Friday with a range of multi-million-dollar donations from Facebook, Google and others.

“We need all hands on deck,” UN Fund chief Elizabeth Cousens told reporters.

“It is not too late, so no matter where you live we need your help to fight this virus for all of our communities.”

The WHO initially estimated that efforts to rein in the virus would cost $750 million for the first three months alone.

Scott Pendergast, the WHO’s head of emergencies, strategy, programmes and partnerships, however, told reporters on Thursday that as the situation evolved, it was likely the true cost through the end of this year would require “at least a 10-fold increase in that ask”.

AFP

Iran Air Suspends Europe Flights Until Further Notice

Medical staff in protective gear wait for Iraqi passengers returning from Iran at Najaf International Airport on March 5, 2020. Iraqi health authorities announced the country’s first two deaths from the new coronavirus, one in the capital Baghdad and the other in the autonomous Kurdish region.
Haidar HAMDANI / AFP

 

Iran Air announced on Sunday the suspension of all its flights to Europe until further notice.

The national carrier said in a statement that the decision was taken due to “restrictions” imposed by European authorities for “unknown reasons”.

Read Also: Iran Reports 49 New Coronavirus Deaths, Highest Single-Day Toll

Sweden blocked Iran Air flights from landing in the country in recent days, citing concerns over the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the Islamic republic.

African Players In Europe: Sarr Sparkles As Watford Stun Liverpool

Watford’s Senegalese midfielder Ismaila Sarr (C) celebrates. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Ismaila Sarr overshadowed fellow Senegalese Sadio Mane by scoring twice as lowly Watford won 3-0 to end the 44-match unbeaten Premier League streak of runaway leaders Liverpool.

Mane has been among the key figures as the Reds march toward a first league title in three decades, but he had to take a back seat at Vicarage Road as Sarr blossomed.

His pace and trickery unsettled Liverpool and he was rewarded with two goals before setting up Troy Deeney for the third.

ENGLAND

ISMAILA SARR (Watford)

The Hornets’ record signing was up against his idol Mane and stabbed home the opener at the near post and then showed his pace and poise to chip Alisson Becker for Watford’s second. Sarr then turned provider for the third as he teed up Deeney to complete a famous win that lifted Watford out of the bottom three.

JORDAN AYEW (Crystal Palace)

Ayew scored the only goal as Palace got the better of rivals Brighton to ease any fear of being dragged into a relegation battle. The Ghanaian’s strike took his league tally for the season to seven — matching his best tally for a single campaign in England.

MBWANA SAMATTA (Aston Villa)

Samatta did Tanzania proud by scoring in the League Cup final against Manchester City, but his diving header at the near post just before half-time was merely a consolation for Villa as City won 2-1 to lift the trophy for a third straight season.

SPAIN

YOUSSEF EN-NESYRI (Sevilla)

En-Nesyri scored a 93rd-minute winner as Sevilla beat Osasuna 3-2 to move up to third in La Liga. The Moroccan striker, who joined Sevilla from Leganes in January, opened the scoring with a guided shot into the corner before Lucas Ocampos made it two on the stroke of half-time. Osasuna came back in the second half through goals from Aridane and Roberto Torres, only for En-Nesyri to snatch victory for Sevilla in injury-time with a close-range finish.

GERMANY

RAMY BENSEBAINI (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

Algerian Bensebaini scored a crucial early goal for Moenchengladbach as they beat Augsburg 3-2 to keep pace with the top of the Bundesliga table. Bensebaini, in his first start in 2020 after returning from injury, headed home a cross from Lars Stindl to put the visitors 1-0 up. When asked how it felt to be back in the Foals’ line-up after the match, he simply replied “it was fun”.

ACHRAF HAKIMI (Borussia Dortmund)

Having made his name as one of Dortmund’s best going forward this season, the Real Madrid loanee was called on to do more than his fair share of defending against a stubborn Freiburg side. Working on the edge of a four-man midfield, Hakimi’s pace was valuable during the 1-0 win as he snuffed out several Freiburg counter attacks. He did have a shot on goal deflected in the dying stages but was unable to add to his tally of two Bundesliga goals this season.

FRANCE

STEPHANE BAHOKEN (Angers)

The Cameroon striker was rewarded with a start for his team at Brest after coming off the bench against Montpellier last weekend and scoring the winner a minute later. He delivered again in Brest, although he needed a full 43 minutes to bag the only goal of the match this time.

MAX-ALAIN GRADEL (Toulouse)

Ivory Coast winger Gradel, 32, returned to the Toulouse starting line-up last weekend for the first time in a Ligue 1 game since early December following injury. He kept his place and wore the captain’s armband but could not prevent the division’s bottom side from going down 2-0 at home to Rennes. They have now taken just a single point from their last 17 league games and are heading fast towards relegation.

KARL TOKO-EKAMBI (Lyon)

Cameroon forward Toko-Ekambi, who joined Lyon on loan from Villarreal in January, came off the bench and contributed to their 2-0 win over derby rivals Saint-Etienne. Having earlier had a goal disallowed for offside, he won the late penalty which Moussa Dembele scored to seal the victory. Toko-Ekambi had started the 1-0 Champions League last-16, first leg win over Juventus in midweek and hit the bar in the first half against the Italians.

AFP