Daily Host Nation Stories for May 13, 2020
RKI reports 798 new infections in Germany
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rises by 798 to 171,306 within 24 hours, as data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases show. This means that the number of new infections is again slightly lower than the 933 the day before. According to official figures, the number of fatalities rose by 101 to 7,634. (Robert Koch Institute, May 13)
Calls for EU border controls to be stopped after 15 May
Leading European conservatives are calling on EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) to advocate an end to border controls in the European Union after May 15. Eighteen presidium members and heads of national delegations of the European People’s Party (EPP) have written a letter to their German party colleague calling for the quarantine regulations for EU citizens travelling to another EU country to be lifted. The letter, initiated by Daniel Caspary, Chairman of the CDU/CSU Group in the EPP Group in the European Parliament, has been submitted to the Editorial Network Germany and the German Press Agency. (NTV, May 12)
Austria wants to reopen border with Germany on June 15
The border between Germany and Austria, which was closed due to the corona pandemic, is to be reopened completely on 15 June, according to information from the Austrian news agency APA. The Chancellery in Vienna confirmed that as early as this Friday, only random checks will be carried out at the border. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had spoken to Chancellor Merkel on Tuesday. The federal government wants to discuss further steps at its meeting this Wednesday. As the Chancellor’s Office in Vienna further announced, Austria also aims at liberalizing the border regime with its other neighboring countries. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 13)
Germany loosens up on border controls – tourist travel not possible
The controls at the German border are to be gradually eased from this Saturday onwards. However, German citizens will continue to refrain from tourist travel abroad in the coming weeks. As the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced on Wednesday, the controls will initially end at the border with Luxembourg on the night of next Saturday.
At the German-Danish border, Germany is also prepared to end the controls “as soon as the Danish government has completed its ongoing consultations with its respective neighboring states,” On the borders with France, Austria and Switzerland, however, they are to continue until June 15.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the relief is a consequence of the positive development of the infection. However, if the number of new infections in neighboring regions rises sharply, more intensive controls will be carried out again. The German guideline value of more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days provides orientation.
The 14-day quarantine ordered by the federal states for everyone coming to Germany should in future only apply to people who have previously been in third countries, according to the ministry. For example, no longer for Germans entering from France or the Netherlands. However, the decision on the quarantine lies with the heads of government of the countries.
In the past few days, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had discussed the details of a gradual return from stationary controls to normal border surveillance in the 30-kilometre range with his counterparts in the neighboring states and with the Minister Presidents of the border federal states.
The controls at the borders to Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Austria and Switzerland had been introduced on 16 March in order to contain the incidence of infection in Germany. Since then, only those who have a valid reason for doing so – such as commuters, members of the medical professions or EU citizens on their way home – have been allowed to enter the country. Care for relatives and other family reasons could also be claimed in some cases. According to the Ministry of the Interior, further facilitations are now planned for journeys for “family and personal reasons.” The rule that only those who have a valid reason may enter the country, however, is to be maintained in principle for the time being.
The ministry also announced that all border crossings may be used again starting Saturday. In the past few weeks, only a few major traffic routes were open for border crossings. In many places this had led to traffic jams and detours for commuters. In the future, the federal police should only carry out “flexible and risk-based” controls, “not as systematically as before”.
On Wednesday the EU Commission also wanted to present a plan for a cautious opening of the internal borders in Europe. According to a draft submitted to the DPA, controls are to be gradually lifted throughout Europe. Seehofer endorsed the Commission’s recommendation to extend the restrictions on entries into the EU from third countries until June 15.
A worldwide travel warning issued by the Foreign Office is currently still in effect until June 14. According to this warning, Germans should generally refrain from holiday travel abroad – also because a return trip may become very difficult due to possible newly imposed corona measures.
“It is European to fight a dangerous virus together. It is not European to evade joint responsibility for uncomfortable measures,” Seehofer explained. He had come under pressure in the past few days after calls for an end to controls had been heard from the states near the border and from the opposition.
Politician Franziska Brantner called for “concepts for local lockdowns in order to react in a targeted manner if the number of infections increases again locally”. Otherwise, the temptation would be great to close the borders again each time, said the member of parliament. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 13)
Winfried Kretschmann is “highly disturbed” about demonstration
Minister President Winfried Kretschmann has expressed alarm in view of the danger of infection during protests against the corona measures. “I am highly concerned about these demonstrations,” the politician said in Stuttgart on Tuesday. On the basis of a written report by the Ministry of the Interior, there will be another discussion on how to deal with them.
Several thousand people had gathered in Stuttgart on Saturday to demonstrate against corona measures and contact restrictions. The police reported a peaceful course of events over the weekend. According to the police, the participants of the demonstration largely adhered to the rules of distance.
However, Kretschmann called the report of the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday “very, very worrying.” According to the report, many demonstrators had not adhered to the hygiene regulations, for example when entering and leaving the demonstration. Especially since there were cohorts among the demonstrators who thought the rules “were nonsense anyway,” Kretschmann said. It is not possible to enforce strict regulations such as distance rules throughout the country and then to create an infection hot spot at such a demonstration.
With regard to conspiracy theories, Kretschmann appealed to citizens not to be put off in the Corona debate by self-appointed experts or eternal know-it-alls. In science there is often no complete agreement. As a decision-maker, he adheres “to the mainstream of science and not to any dissidents.” (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 12)
Does the trend show a decrease?
Across Germany, there have recently been increasing signs of a possible new trend reversal in the development of corona infections. The positive trend with decreasing numbers of newly infected and deceased persons seems to have come to an end; recently the number of new infections stagnated. What is the situation in Baden-Württemberg?
In the southwest, the number of newly infected people has hardly decreased at all. The value seems to level off across the state with approximately 120 new infections per day. Are these values low enough for the public health authorities to be able to track all infection chains? Several thousand workers are already deployed nationwide for this mission.
Due to slow reporting chains and reporting failures at weekends, the trend of infections from the infections reported to the state health authorities can only be shown on a weekly basis. If these values are normalized for all districts and the entire country and thus made comparable, the following curve is obtained. Values above 1 indicate that the number of new infections has increased in a weekly comparison, values below 1 indicate decreasing numbers of infected persons. It becomes clear that the value throughout the country has recently moved clearly in the direction of 1, on Tuesday it was even above 1.
The development shown in the curves is also reflected in the reproduction number R. This indicates how many people an infected person infects. According to a calculation by the Robert Koch Institute, R in Baden-Württemberg and throughout Germany was most likely above 1. The calculation is based on current numbers of infected persons. According to this calculation, R has been on the rise again since the relaxation of anti-corona measures on 4th May – also in Baden-Württemberg.
It is definitely too early to deduce a clear trend reversal in corona infections from these curves. Overall, the figures are at a very low level compared to the figures from March and April – the big question is whether the hygiene regulations and contact restrictions are sufficient to keep them low.
As a kind of “early warning system”, the federal and state governments have decided to monitor the so-called 7-day incidence for all urban and rural districts. If more than 50 newly infected persons per 100,000 inhabitants are counted in a district within a week, strict measures against the corona virus must be taken there. At present, no district in Baden-Württemberg has a figure above this level. Pforzheim is currently the most affected. In a nearby meat factory, hundreds of employees have fallen ill with Covid-19.
Overall, the number of infected persons in the country continues to fall sharply. The State Health Office estimates that there are now eight times as many convalescents as there are currently still infected persons.
Older people are particularly at risk. Not only are they infected much more frequently, they are also more likely to die from the disease. 88 percent of all people who died in the country from and with Covid-19 were 70 years or older.
This article analyses data from the State Health Office. It does not include data on test intensity, for example, because this is not available at district level. It is also possible that more recent figures are available from the district health offices, which have not yet been reported to the state health office. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 12)
China locks down city with over a million inhabitants
In China, the authorities have again largely sealed off a metropolis because of the corona risk. The good four million inhabitants of Jilin in the northeast of the country may only leave the city if they can show a negative corona test and go into quarantine, as the administration explained. Bus and train connections in the industrial city a good thousand kilometers from Beijing have been suspended, and cinemas and gyms have also been forced to close. In a suburb of Jilin, a new source of infection had become known over the weekend, with 21 cases now reported. The city administration called the situation “very serious.” There was a high risk of infection. (NTV, May 13)
Dispute in Bad Cannstatt escalates- Victim knocked to the ground and kicked in the head
Police arrested a 37-year-old man on Monday in Bad Cannstatt, who allegedly attacked a 47-year-old man with fists during an argument and then kicked the man who was lying on the ground. The 37-year-old is now in custody, the police is looking for witnesses.
According to police reports, two groups of five people on a platform of the station were in dispute for unknown reasons. During the argument, the suspect is said to have struck the 47-year-old opponent. When he fell to the ground due to a punch, the 37-year-old attacker supposedly also kicked the back of the head of the person who was lying on the platform.
The 37-year-old was taken to prison. Although the heavily drunk suspect and his two friends fled the scene towards the city immediately after the crime, they were detained temporarily by state police officers and handed over to the federal police. As a result of the attack, the victim suffered several hematomas and a severe swelling of the back of the head. The 47 year old refused medical treatment.
The public prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart applied for an arrest warrant which was executed on Tuesday. Federal police subsequently transferred him to a prison. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 13)
Mallorca- No tourists on the island, hardly any locals on the streets
It sounds almost too good to be true: During the weeks of the strict curfew on Mallorca, videos of animals that are supposedly reclaiming their urban habitat are circulating on social networks. A family of ducks calmly crosses a zebra crossing in the island’s capital Palma, and a group of dolphins makes a lap near the shore. But are two months of minimal human activity enough to really bring about sustainable changes in nature? “No,” says Txema Brotons succinctly. The scientific director of the Mallorca-based marine mammal foundation Tursiops quickly puts the images taken with smartphones into perspective: “Many of the films are fakes that were not made during curfew or not on the islands. Moreover, there is only a changed perception and not necessarily more dolphins than before. “The only difference is that now people have the time to look at the ocean and see the animals as well.” (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 13)
Volkswagen has to reduce workloads
Due to the collapse in sales during the corona crisis, Volkswagen has already had to reduce work in some areas after the recent restart. Production of the small SUV Tiguan as well as the Touran and the Seat Tarraco at the main plant in Wolfsburg is soon to be completely suspended for four days. This applies to this Friday, May 15, as well as to May 20, 25 and 29, according to company sources. The new Golf 8 will also be affected, but for the time being only individual shifts will be cancelled on the days mentioned. In addition, the possibility of short-time working is to be extended at least to the period from May 18 to 31. This option has been announced to the employment agency until the end of June.
According to an interview with manager Arne Meiswinkel on the VW intranet, about one third of the approximately 80,000 employees for whom reduced working hours have been announced in Germany so far have not yet returned to work. The restart has indeed “worked out excellently”, said the manager responsible for personnel principles. “But, depending on the customers’ vehicle orders, we must continue to drive flexibly on sight.” It could happen that employees are “on site” at times and then have to work shorter hours. In Wolfsburg, 7700 production employees were on short-time working in May.
The Volkswagen Group started a cautious restart of production at the end of April, first in Zwickau, then at the Wolfsburg headquarters and at several other European locations. However, customers’ caution continues to be a problem for the entire industry. For a long time, not only production but also the car dealerships were closed – now the warehouses are full, while many consumers shy away from major spending. There have also been significant problems in the supply chains. (Focus, May 13)