While Europe has remained in the epicenter of the global COVID-19 outbreak, the row between Germany and the U.S. has grown with Berlin saying the rights to recent coronavirus vaccine research are not for sale to President Donald Trump, accusing him of monopolizing the access to the vaccine.
“Germany is not for sale,” German economy minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster ARD, while reacting to a front-page report in Welt am Sonntag newspaper headlined “Trump vs Berlin."
On Sunday, the newspaper reported that the U.S. had offered CureVac, a private firm based in Tuebingen, 30 kilometers south of Stuttgart, a billion dollars for exclusive rights to a vaccine that it is developing, citing government sources in Berlin.
"We know this company, (and) we are in touch with this company," Altmaier said in the podcast interview, which was conducted in German.
Other German government ministers were quick to comment on the report. "German researchers are leaders in the development of medicines and vaccines, in global collaborations. We cannot allow others to exclusively acquire their research results," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the newspapers of the Funke media group. "We will only defeat this virus together, not against each other," Maas asserted.
As scientists raced to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, more than 50,000 people across Europe were infected with the virus, mostly in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, according to the figures released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. A total of 2,316 people have died as of Monday, the overwhelming majority in Italy.
Global infections outstrip China cases
The coronavirus outbreak marked a distinct shift in focus Monday, with reported infections in the rest of the world overtaking those in China.
The pandemic has infected more than 169,000 people and killed more than 6,500 globally. Around the globe, societies inched toward a shutdown of much of public life — bars, restaurants, school and work. China, where the virus was first detected in December, now accounts for less than half of the world's 169,000 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
A shutdown of public gatherings and a quarantine of the hardest-hit central region has steadied China's caseload as the virus spreads rapidly elsewhere. In the latest tally, China's National Health Commission reported 16 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours. Twelve of them were imported from overseas. China now has 80,860 confirmed cases. The health commission said 67,749 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Fourteen more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the toll to 3,213.
Spain has become the fourth most virus-infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea with a sharp curve of contagion, and closing its borders is a “real possibility” being considered. Coronavirus cases in Spain rose by roughly 1,000 cases in 24 hours to 8,744 on Monday, and the number of fatalities reached 297.
In the U.K., British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government's decision to keep schools open has faced backlash with angry parents keeping their children at home and complaining that other countries were doing more to stop the spread of coronavirus. Britain has reported 1,372 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 35 deaths, fewer than in Italy, Spain and France, where schools have been shut, though the British numbers are expected to rise. Johnson's spokesman said the scientific advice was that school closures were not a step the government should be taking at this time, but a growing number of parents are refusing to send their children to school.