Coronavirus latest: 200,000 Italian companies ask to reopen

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European countries have extended restrictions on major public events until autumn. As countries prepare to conduct immunity tests, public health experts have warned it may not help. 

  • 200,000 Italian companies ask to resume operations
  • European countries extend restrictions on major events until autumn
  • Immunity tests in question over lack of evidence against reinfection

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

01:46 Veteran lawmaker Wolfgang Schäuble, president of Germany’s lower house Bundestag, warned against subordinating everything to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

In comments to the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel, Schäuble said that even though Germany’s Basic Law is founded on the fundamental dignity of humans, “it does not exclude that we have to die.”

“To simply shut everything down for two years would also have terrible consequences,” including adverse social, economic and psychological effects, he said.

Although Germany has the fifth-highest number of confirmed cases in the world, it has managed to ensure continuity of healthcare without overloading its system. Schäuble, however, warned that many variables of the crisis were still in flux.

“None of us know what the effects of our actions will be, but politicians still have to act,” he said.

Germany has recorded nearly 6,000 deaths and more than 156,000 positive cases of the novel pathogen. German states, which are responsible for imposing restrictions, have decided to ease measures in a bid to cautiously return to public life.

00:41 Germany will promote decentralizing the software architecture for virus tracing apps, German Health Minister Jens Spahn and chancellery chief Helge Braun told the Sunday edition of Die Welt newspaper.

Berlin would like an app that can be offered on popular mobile operating systems, such as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, while “at the same time integrating epidemiological quality assurance in the best possible way,” the senior officials said.

A major debate around privacy and the potential for data abuse emerged in Europe when governments announced plans to develop contact tracing apps. An open letter signed by some 300 experts urged governments to rethink plans to store such data on centralized servers.

Instead, the experts called for a decentralized approach in which data is processed locally on smartphones. Spahn and Braun said they supported such an approach and one that would allow people to “voluntarily transmit data” to authorities.

00:33 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would not rely on “immunity passports” to open up the country, repeating concerns from the WHO that such measures could undermine efforts to contain the outbreak.

“I don’t think there are any plans that hinge on certain people or individuals being immune or having immunity to COVID-19,” Trudeau said during a press briefing.

As countries across the globe ramp up so-called immunity tests to single out people who contain antibodies, the WHO cautioned against issuing “immunity passports.” There is currently no evidence to suggest that exposure to the virus would prevent reinfection, the UN health organization said.

Read more: The immune system’s fight against the coronavirus

Who is immune and for how long?

00:23 Norwegian Culture Minister Abid Raja said the government is formally extending a ban on all events with more than 500 people until September.

“We cannot have big events that can contribute to more infections that will affect life and health,” said Raja. “There is now a ban on major sporting events, festivals and concerts until June 15. That ban is now extended until September 1.”

Norway has managed to avert a healthcare crisis by adopting precautionary measures to curb the outbreak early on. The Scandinavian country has reported more than 200 deaths and over 7,400 positive cases.

00:01 Nearly 200,000 companies have asked Italian authorities for permission to operate during a nationwide lockdown. The companies have argued that they fall under exemptions by either contributing to essential businesses or for being a strategic component of the national economy.

The Italian Interior Ministry said it has streamlined the procedure to allow companies to resume commercial activities, saying it “trusts the sense of responsibility of individual business persons.”

Only a tiny fraction of companies have failed to enact appropriate social distancing measures, the ministry said, citing audits by local authorities.

Italy is the hardest hit country in Europe with more than 26,000 deaths and nearly 200,000 confirmed cases. The southern European country was the first within the EU to enact nationwide lockdown measures, which were eventually adopted by other member states and tailored to their circumstances.

12:00 Welcome to Sunday’s live updates article on the coronavirus pandemic. Read yesterday’s updates here: Coronavirus latest: Global deaths cross 200,000 mark

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