Top EU scientist forced to quit, UK record deaths, Tui suspend holidays: COVID-19 daily bulletin
Updated 01:52, 09-Apr-2020
Aden-Jay Wood


- The European Union's top scientist, Mauro Ferrari, has been forced to resign by the European Research Council, after all 19 of the council's members voted for him to step down. 

- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in an intensive care unit after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened. He is 'responding to treatment' as he nears his fourth night in hospital.

- The UK had its largest daily increase in deaths, up by 938, as the toll rises to 7,097. Finance minister Rishi Sunak confirmed 14,682 tests were carried out on Tuesday.

- Germany's number of confirmed cases passes 100,000, with a rise of 4,000 new infections. The death rate remains remarkably low, with only 2,016 fatalities to date.

- Irish police have been given the power to arrest citizens traveling over the Easter weekend. 

- Global Trade could fall by up to a third this year, says the World Trade Organization.

- The UK's largest travel company, Tui, has canceled all of its beach holidays for the next five weeks. All of its cruises have also been suspended until at least June. 

- The European Parliament has pledged to give 1,000 free meals a day to homeless people and health workers in Brussels. 

- London's temporary NHS Nightingale hospital admits its first patients.

- The UK is "nowhere near lifting the lockdown," according to London's mayor, Sadiq Khan.

- Italy has its lowest day-to-day rise increase in new infections (604) since the introduction of stricter lockdown measures. 

- Confirmed cases in the Netherlands rose by 969 to 20,549, while deaths grew by 147 to 2,248.

- Confirmed cases in Russia rose by more than 1,000 for the second day running.

- Chemical manufacturer INEOS has said it will build a second hand sanitizer plant in France to help meet a Europe shortage. The plant will be built in 10 days.

- Italy closes its ports to migrant ships for the entirety of its national emergency.

- "The daily death toll in Italy and Spain is leveling off," says the WHO's Europe regional director. 


the UK's largest travel company, Tui has canceled all its package holidays for five weeks, citing COVID-19 fears. /AP

the UK's largest travel company, Tui has canceled all its package holidays for five weeks, citing COVID-19 fears. /AP



By Toni Waterman in Brussels

The EU

Another setback for European solidarity amid the coronavirus pandemic. After 16 hours of contentious debate, the Eurogroup once again failed to reach a consensus on how to finance the bloc's COVID-19 economic recovery. Finance Ministers remain at loggerheads over whether the recovery plan should be financed by jointly issued bonds and over conditions for tapping into the bloc's $450 billion bailout fund.

Despite the clashes, some progress appears to have been made. The Dutch finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra, tweeted that the group had "agreed on EIB support for our struggling companies and entrepreneurs." The European Investment Bank has proposed $220 billion worth of loan guarantees for firms struggling with the effects of COVID-19. EU governments would have to put $27 billion into the fund. 

Eurogroup President Mario Centeno suspended the meeting and it will resume on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Europe's top scientist has quit his post, blasting the bloc's response to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement to the Financial Times, Mauro Ferrari said his three-month tenure as the head of the European Research Council "crushed" his "idealistic dream of a United Europe" and said he was "disappointed" by Europe's uncoordinated response to COVID-19.

Ferrari said that as it became clear the pandemic would have profound health impacts, he proposed that the ERC set up a special program to combat COVID-19. That proposal, he said, was unanimously rejected by the ERC's governing body, the Scientific Council. 

He said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later reached out for his input on how the pandemic might be addressed, but that their interaction "created an internal political thunderstorm." Ferrari said this second proposal "disintegrated upon impact."



Traffic lights in Brussels are switching between green, yellow and red at a much faster pace these days. The city has shortened the light cycles at about 100 intersections as traffic flows dry up amid the coronavirus lockdown. There's upwards of 75 percent less traffic on the roads since Brussels, along with the rest of Belgium, entered a lockdown period more than three weeks ago. The minister of mobility, Elke Van den Brandt, said the change will also help ensure bikers maintain social distancing requirements.

"Cycling and walking are the best way to get around. To ensure that these categories, too, can keep a sufficient distance, we reprogrammed the lights," said Van den Brandt. "Cyclists and walkers will have the green light longer and more often, so there will be no traffic jams at the lights."

Crosswalks have also been put on an automatic timer so pedestrians will no longer need to push a button.



By Ross Cullen in Paris

The Bank of France says the country is now in recession after two consecutive quarters of negative growth. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the French economy contracted -0.1 percent and in the first three months of 2020, French GDP growth sunk to -6 percent, as the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors suffered major blows due to the pandemic.

The news comes on the day that the CGT union has called for a strike. While workers in shops that have remained open will not be able to gather for a traditional French street demonstration, they are being urged to stay at home. Union leaders say supermarket workers have died of COVID-19 and other staff are still being asked to work without proper protective gear. 

French businesses have pointed to plastic screens erected at the cashier points, masks for shop assistants to wear and alcohol-based gels at the doors, which are compulsory for all customers to use before shopping.


By Isobel Ewing in Budapest

The mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony and several other mayors who are not politically aligned with the ruling Fidesz Party, have asked the government that Hungary's lockdown be extended by a month.

The country's lockdown, which stipulates people cannot leave their houses unless they have "substantial reason" for doing so, ends on Saturday.

The country's prime minister, Viktor Orban, has made no indication yet whether the lockdown will be extended.

The definition of "substantial reason" was broadly defined by authorities, and included hairdressing appointments, nail appointments, vet visits and exercise and there has been some concern raised by police that the public isn't taking it seriously enough.

Hungary's officially confirmed cases continue to rise, with 895 recorded on Wednesday.

"Over time, we see that the number of behavioral violations related to curfew is increasing, so police are continuing the action," said Róbert Kiss, lieutenant colonel of the country's police force.

So far, 5,918 infringements have been dealt with, of which 4,008 were warnings, 857 were on-the-spot fines and 1,053 were reported. 

"Unfortunately, we see this trend not only nationally, but also in Budapest, the number of violations increased by 375 compared with Monday," Kiss said.

The mayor of Hungary's southwestern city Kaposvár, Károly Szita, attributed the warm spring weather to a relaxing of the public's discipline, as more people venture out of their homes to enjoy time in parks and gardens.

The government met with the mayors on Wednesday to discuss how to proceed with measures to flatten the infection curve.

The mayors said the meeting was constructive, and hoped the lockdown would be extended by a month, but the government has not indicated whether it will do so.





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