BERLIN: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany has risen to 67,366 and 732 people have died of the disease, official statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday (Apr 1).

Cases rose by 5,453 compared with the previous day while the death toll climbed by 149, the tally showed.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 30,000 people in Europe with more than three-quarters of the deaths registered in Italy and Spain, according to an AFP tally at 7am GMT on Wednesday using official figures.

A total of 30,063 deaths have been recorded in Europe out of a total 458,601 cases, making it the continent that has been hit hardest by COVID-19.

The most deaths were recorded in Italy, with about 12,428 fatalities, followed by Spain with 8,189 and France with 3,523.

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BORDER RESTRICTIONS DISRUPT SUPPLIES

Germany’s decision to close borders and restrict travel to curb the spread of COVID-19 means many thousands of seasonal workers, mainly from east Europe, cannot start planting and harvesting vegetables and fruit, the head of the country’s farming association DBV said in a newspaper report.

This may cause fruit and vegetable prices to rise, DBV president Joachim Rukwied told the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung on Wednesday.

European Union countries should allow the hundreds of thousands of seasonal migrant workers who plant or harvest crops to cross borders despite national measures to contain the coronavirus, the EU Commission said on Monday.

Countries across the EU have set up border controls to stem the virus outbreak, which have also resulted in delayed food and medical supplies.

READ: Coronavirus the worst global crisis since WW II, says UN chief​​​​​​​

“We reckon that we will face overall reduced supplies of fruits and vegetables,” Rukwied told the newspaper. Some farmers were considering cancelling orders for seeds and plants because of the lack of workers, he added.

German agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said she is seeking agreement with the country’s interior ministry on the issue as “we cannot do without extra seasonal farm workers”.

Germany needs to find a balance between the need to prevent the coronavirus spreading and the need for seasonal workers to help on farms, she said on German television ARD.

“We must find an answer, we cannot leave farmers hanging on this,” Kloeckner said.

German producers warned that the lack of workers meant vegetables may not get harvested, even though the country’s government has announced certain measures, including a new website for people seeking work on farms.

It may not be possible to compensate for smaller German fruit and vegetable harvests with imports as other EU producing countries are suffering the same problems, Rukwied said.

Proposals by the German government to allow laid-off workers and unemployed to work on farms without loss of state benefits was not enough, he added.

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