Germany warns against travel to ski regions in Austria, Switzerland, Italy

By Kirsti Knolle

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has issued travel warnings for popular ski regions in Austria, Italy and Switzerland, scrambling to contain the spread of the coronavirus as new infection numbers rose above 10,000 a day for the first time.

While infection rates in Germany are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating, with a daily rise of 11,287 cases bringing the total to 392,049. Germany’s death toll stands at 9,905.

“The situation has become very serious overall,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, said.

“We still have a chance to slow the spread of the pandemic,” he said. But he said people must stick to the rules and that Germany must prepare for an uncontrolled spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn became the latest prominent politician to test positive for the virus. His spokesman said he had symptoms of a cold but no fever. Government sources said he was fit for work.

Berlin issued new travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and some Italian regions including the popular skiing region of South Tyrol.

Britain, except the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the overseas territories, is also seen as a high risk area.

Under the warnings, which take effect from Saturday, travellers returning to Germany must quarantine for 10 days. Quarantine can be lifted early, if a test taken after five days comes back negative.

The surge in Germany also prompted the Danish government to warn its citizens against travel to and from Germany, except for the border state of Schleswig Holstein.

Germany’s move could significantly impact the Alpine countries’ ski season. Especially Austria, which reported a record 2,435 new daily infections on Thursday, is a popular destination for Germans.

Switzerland Tourism’s spokesman Markus Berger said the news from Germany was obviously not good. The industry hoped that the situation would improve over the next one or two months.

“We assume that the winter season can go ahead,” he said.

However, there was positive news for Spain’s Canary Islands as the RKI removed it from its risk list, lifting hopes there for German tourists over Christmas and New Year.

(Additional reporting by Inti Landauro, Silke Koltrowitz and Andreas Rinke and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; editing by Maria Sheahan and Angus MacSwan)

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Germany readies for coronavirus vaccine before end of year: Bild

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is making preparations to start vaccinations against the coronavirus before the end of the year, Bild daily reported on Friday.

The health ministry plans to create 60 special vaccination centres to ensure the vaccines can be stored at the proper temperature and has asked the country’s 16 federal states to provide addresses for them by Nov. 10, Bild reported without citing its sources.

At a video conference earlier this week, Health Minister Jens Spahn, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, said Germany’s BioNTech was close to getting a vaccine approved, Bild cited participants as saying.

Asked when he expected the first vaccinations, Spahn replied: “That could happen before the end of the year,” participants told Bild.

BioNTech is developing its vaccine in partnership with Pfizer Inc.

Last month, Germany awarded $745 million in funding to biotech firms BioNTech and CureVac to speed up work on COVID-19 vaccines and expand German production capacity.

On Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the start in Japan of combined Phase I and Phase II clinical trials of their mRNA-based vaccine candidate against the coronavirus.

Their U.S. vaccine trial could yield initial results as soon as later this month.

Germany’s infection rates have been accelerating. Data released on Thursday showed the number of confirmed cases rose by more than 10,000 in a single day for the first time.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Germany Issues Travel Warnings as COVID Surges in Europe | World News

By Kirsti Knolle and Inti Landauro

BERLIN/MADRID (Reuters) – Germany warned on Thursday against travel to neighbouring countries, Belgium’s foreign minister went into intensive care and Spain said COVID-19 was “out of control” in many areas, as governments across Europe took action to fight the pandemic.

As German authorities reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time, Berlin issued travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and many Italian regions, including the capital Rome.

“The situation overall has become very serious,” Lothar Wieler, of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s infectious diseases agency, said in Berlin, adding: “We still have a chance to slow a further spread of the virus.”

After Europe appeared to have gained a measure of control over the epidemic following the dramatic lockdowns of March and April, a surge in cases over recent weeks has put the continent back at the heart of the crisis.

Hospitalisations and deaths across most of Europe have not yet reached the levels of the initial wave early this year, but authorities in many countries worry the situation could rapidly get worse.

More than 5.3 million people in Europe have contracted the disease and over 204,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

India has had more than 7.7 million cases – the world’s highest tally after the United States with 8.3 million. But elsewhere in Asia, from China to South Korea or New Zealand, draconian lockdowns and rigorous contact tracing have helped contain the disease.

Grappling with the enormous costs of the coronavirus, Europe’s leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the blanket lockdowns that shut down their economies in the spring.

But as cases have surged, and health services have come under increasing pressure, they have been forced to impose and expand local restrictions aimed at reducing public gatherings to ever wider areas.

Underlining the reach of the disease, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes went into intensive care on Thursday. German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive a day earlier.

“The second wave is a reality,” Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Thursday. “In many areas of our country, the epidemic is out of control.”

A number of Spanish regions are calling for localised curfews such as those implemented in France and Italy, where Lazio, the region around Rome, has joined Lombardy and Campania around Milan and Naples in imposing overnight curfews.

Amid the growing public alarm, Germany’s statistics office noted that sales of toilet paper rose almost 90% last week from pre-crisis levels with almost equally sharp jumps in sales of disinfectants and soap.

Only Sweden, a European outlier which has relied largely on voluntary measures to promote social distancing, was an exception, declaring senior citizens no longer need to isolate themselves given lower COVID infection rates than in spring.

As the crisis has intensified, much of the public goodwill seen in the first phase of lockdowns has evaporated and central governments have engaged in angry spats

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Ireland In Second Lockdown As Germany Faces Record Virus Surge

Businesses closed across Ireland on Thursday for a second national coronavirus lockdown, as record infection surges in Germany and Italy helped to spread gloom across the continent.

Most European governments have been reluctant to reimpose national stay-at-home orders, after previous restrictions led to deep recessions and widespread bitterness.

Ireland's five million people have been ordered to stay at home for six weeks, with non-essential businesses told to shut up shop, among other rules Ireland’s five million people have been ordered to stay at home for six weeks, with non-essential businesses told to shut up shop, among other rules Photo: AFP / Paul Faith

But Ireland’s five million people have been ordered to stay at home for six weeks, with non-essential businesses told to shut up shop, among other rules.

“It’s devastating to see us locked down again… during our busiest line-up for the Christmas period,” Dublin antique jeweller John Farrington told AFP this week.

German diners have been finding novel ways to socialise in a time of severe restrictions German diners have been finding novel ways to socialise in a time of severe restrictions Photo: AFP / STEFANIE LOOS

Germany and Italy are both facing record surges, registering their highest one-day tallies since the pandemic began.

While German health experts said it was still possible to combat the outbreak by observing recently-toughened rules on distancing and gatherings, Italy ordered curfews in regions that cover the capital Rome and business hub Milan.

As Europe suffers, China — where the virus first emerged at the end of last year — continues to make strides back to normality, announcing it would allow 10,000 fans to watch the final of its Super League football competition.

Essential workers, members of the clergy, parents and activists participate in a 'die-in' and memorial service to honor those who have died of Covid-19 in Los Angeles Essential workers, members of the clergy, parents and activists participate in a ‘die-in’ and memorial service to honor those who have died of Covid-19 in Los Angeles Photo: AFP / Frederic J. BROWN

“It’d be that kind of ceiling because it’s a big game for sure,” Chinese Football Association secretary-general Liu Yi told AFP.

The virus has killed more than 1.1 million people and prompted a catastrophic economic downturn — the International Monetary Fund predicting a 4.4 percent drop in global output for 2020.

Graphic highlighting the countries with the largest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past week. Graphic highlighting the countries with the largest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past week. Photo: AFP / John SAEKI

In the City of Love, masks and curfews have put a damper on romance, as dating and flirting gives way to a fear of contamination. In the City of Love, masks and curfews have put a damper on romance, as dating and flirting gives way to a fear of contamination. Photo: AFPTV / Guillaume BONNET

Germany, along with most European countries, has already banned large gatherings and made face masks compulsory in certain areas.

“The overall situation has become very serious,” said Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre, adding that it was still possible to bring the virus under control through “systematic compliance with restrictive measures”.

In a symbol of Germany’s woes, Health Minister Jens Spahn — widely praised for his calm stewardship during the pandemic — tested positive and went into home isolation.

In Israel, people were enjoying their freedom after the government raised the second lockdown In Israel, people were enjoying their freedom after the government raised the second lockdown Photo: AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA

In Belgium, which has one of the worst records of virus infections per person, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes is being

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