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German biotech firm denies Trump coronavirus vaccine offer

A German biotech firm has flatly denied newspaper reports that US president Donald Trump had offered to pay for exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine.

German biotech firm denies Trump coronavirus vaccine offer
Archive photo shows an employee at CureVac in Tübingen. Photo: DPA

Citing sources close to the German government, Die Welt newspaper had reported that Trump had offered “a billion dollars” to secure research into a vaccine by CureVac “only for the United States”.

The report sparked a furious response in Berlin – and a swift denial from the company on Monday.

“CureVac has not received from the US government or related entities an offer before, during and since the Task Force meeting in the White House on March 2nd,” the company tweeted.

“CureVac rejects all allegations from press.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel later weighed in, telling reporters the “subject is now resolved”, without elaborating.

She added that her government had “dealt with (the situation) very swiftly”.

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The Die Welt report was published shortly after CureVac announced CEO Daniel Menichella had been replaced by Ingmar Hoerr, just weeks after Menichella met with Trump and representatives of drug companies in Washington.

Scientists are scrambling to find a vaccine for the new coronavirus, which first emerged in China in December but has since ballooned across Asia, Europe and North America.

Cases in Africa and Latin America are mounting as well.

The virus has already infected more than 175,00 and killed over 7,000 globally, according to an AFP tally.

On Monday, the US National Institutes of Health opened the first human trial to evaluate a candidate vaccine against the virus, but it could take up to 18 months before it becomes available.

CureVac also said on its website: “Internal efforts are focused on the development of a coronavirus vaccine with the goal to reach, help and to protect people and patients worldwide.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus restrictions: What's closed (and what's open) in Germany?

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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