Live Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times

The Four Percent


Go out, socialize and have fun, South Korea’s government told its people, declaring the start of “a new daily life with Covid-19” — while keeping a vigilant eye out for any sign of backsliding, any need for restrictions to snap back into place.

South Korea initially attacked the pandemic with such success that it became a model cited worldwide, all but halting a large outbreak without choking off nearly as much of its economy as other nations have. Now it is attempting something just as difficult: moving gradually, safely closer to something resembling everyday life.

Government officials, health workers and much of the public know full well that until there is a vaccine, relaxing restrictions will lead to more infections, and possibly more deaths. The trick will be to do it without allowing the contagion to come roaring back.

After a 29-year-old man tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, epidemiologists quickly learned that he had visited three nightclubs in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul, on May 2. By Saturday evening, they said they were tracking down 7,200 people who had visited five Itaewon nightclubs where the virus might have ben spread.

So far, 27 cases have been found among the club-goers and people who had close contact with them, Kwon Jun-wok, a senior disease-control official, said during a news briefing on Saturday.

The mayor, Park Won-soon, cited a higher figure, saying that at least 40 infections had been linked to the nightclubs. As he closed the clubs, he scolded patrons who had failed to practice safeguards like wearing masks, accusing them of putting the entire nation’s health at risk.

The coronavirus pandemic has spotlighted the lopsided way many societies work.

In the Middle East’s wealthiest societies, the machinery of daily life depends on migrant laborers from Asia, Africa and poorer Arab countries — millions of “tea boys,” housemaids, doctors, construction workers, deliverymen, chefs, garbagemen, guards, hairdressers, hoteliers and more, who often outnumber the native population.

The fallout is bleakly straightforward for their foreign workers — more than a tenth of the world’s migrants — who sent more than $124 billion to their home countries in 2017. Lockdowns have cost tens of thousands of them jobs, leaving them to ration dwindling food supplies while their families struggle without their remittances. Coronavirus has torn through meager, crowded dormitory-style worker housing. And xenophobia is escalating.

Like migrants in Latin America, Eastern Europe, India and beyond, some are heading home empty-handed.

At the same time, oil-dependent countries with many middle-class or poor citizens, like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, can no longer guarantee the high living standards and subsidies that their citizens take for granted.

There have been at least 50 cases of the rare illness reported in European countries, including Britain, France, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, and a handful of cases in other U.S. states.

Symptoms can include fever, rash, reddish eyes, swollen lymph nodes and sharp abdominal pain — but usually not two common hallmarks of Covid-19: cough and shortness of breath. The children, however, do test positive either for the virus or for the antibodies infection prompts.

Treatments have included steroids, intravenous immunoglobulin, high-dose aspirin and antibiotics and supportive oxygen, and in the most serious cases, a ventilator.

Separately, in a new study published in The Lancet, researchers in Hong Kong reported that patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 appear to improve more rapidly if they were treated with a cocktail of antiviral drugs, compared with a group receiving a mix containing fewer drugs.

The more successful combination used lopinavir-ritonavir (two drugs marketed in one medication under the brand name Kaletra); ribavirin, which is used to treat hepatitis C; and interferon beta-1b, which regulates inflammation and suppresses viral growth and helps treat multiple sclerosis.

Patients given the broader cocktail tested negative within seven days, on average, compared with an average 12 days among those treated only with lopinavir-ritonavir. The cocktail also cut the duration of Covid-19 symptoms in half, to four days from eight days.

Experts said the approval of an antigen test for Covid-19 would bolster testing efforts by giving medical workers and health authorities an inexpensive tool for mass rapid testing. Further developed, antigen tests also hold potential for use at home, in the manner of a home pregnancy kit.

Starting before dawn, more than 1,500 people joined a food line that stretched half a mile or more through Geneva on Saturday, marking the hardship inflicted on poor workers and migrants by measures to control the coronavirus in one of the world’s richest and most expensive cities.

“They had to wait several hours to get a bag with about $20 worth of food in it, that’s a sign of the state people are in,” said Djann Jutzler, a spokesman for the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which supported the distribution organized by a local charity.

With the number of virus cases decreasing, Switzerland will continue easing its lockdown on Monday, allowing primary schools, shops, restaurants and bars to open and public transport to restart.

More than 30,000 Swiss have contracted Covid-19 and more than 1,500 have died of it, but officials recorded only 43 new cases of infection on Friday, marking a steady downturn.

Demonstrations against the lockdown in Bern, the capital, and other cities on Saturday showed mounting public frustration; and Geneva’s food lines attest to the growing hardship.

Saturday’s food handouts in Geneva were the second in a week organized by Geneva Caravan, a local charity that looks after the homeless and poor, and attracted far bigger crowds than the first. A survey of several hundred people at that event found many with no legal status and more than half without medical insurance.

The lines may have raised awareness of the mounting needs. Organizers, which have relied entirely on donations for the handouts of rice, pasta, vegetable oil and other basic commodities, are seeing a swelling public response. “People are getting more and more generous,” Mr. Jutzler said.

Mr. Musk initially resisted orders to close in March, which he has characterized as “fascist,” and said that the coronavirus is “no worse than the common cold.”

Chinese officials allowed Tesla to reopen a relatively new second factory in Shanghai in February. But on Friday, health officials from Alameda County told Tesla it was not yet allowed to revive operations in Fremont because of fears that the coronavirus will spread among its workers. The Fremont factory makes most of Tesla’s electric cars.

“Frankly, this is the final straw,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will depend on how Tesla is treated in the future.”

He also said in a separate post that he plans to sue Alameda County writing that “The unelected & ignorant ‘interim Health Officer’ of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense.”

Tesla operates the only major car assembly plant in California and is planning to make vehicles in Germany next year. Other automakers are planning to restart production soon elsewhere in the United States.

By now we know — contrary to false predictions — that the novel coronavirus will be with us for a rather long time.

“Exactly how long remains to be seen,” said Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s going to be a matter of managing it over months to a couple of years. It’s not a matter of getting past the peak, as some people seem to believe.”

The second study, from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, projected a similarly wavy future characterized by peaks and valleys. Social distancing is turned “on” when the number of Covid-19 cases reaches a certain prevalence in the population, so as not to overwhelm the health care system, and turned “off” when cases drop to a lower threshold, perhaps 5 cases per 10,000.

What is clear overall is that a one-time social distancing effort will not be sufficient to control the epidemic in the long term, and that it will take a long time to reach herd immunity. Lacking a vaccine, our pandemic state of mind may persist well into 2021 or 2022 — which surprised even the experts.

“We anticipated a prolonged period of social distancing would be necessary, but didn’t initially realize that it could be this long,” Stephen Kissler, a postdoctoral fellow who worked on the Harvard study, said.

Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

With no money to pay for college in post-World War II Scotland, 16-year-old June Almeida took an entry-level job in the histology department of a Glasgow hospital, where she learned to examine tissue under a microscope for signs of disease. It was a fortuitous move, for her and for science.

In 1966, nearly two decades later, she used a powerful electron microscope to capture an image of a mysterious pathogen — the first coronavirus known to cause human disease.

Almeida had just been recruited to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where she received a virus known as B814 from British scientists who were studying the common cold. The scientists, led by David Tyrrell, knew there was something different about the virus. Though volunteers infected with B814 didn’t get the sore throats typical of most head colds, they experienced unusual feelings of malaise. And the virus was neutralized by fat solvents, which meant that unlike the average cold virus, B814 had a lipid coating.

Still, without an image of the virus, the scientists could learn only so much.

Hearing about Almeida’s expertise from a colleague, Mr. Tyrrell shipped specimens to her that had been infected with B814, as well as well-known flu and herpes viruses, which would serve as controls.

Though he had been told she was “seemingly extending the range of the electron microscope to new limits,” Mr. Tyrrell wasn’t optimistic. Almeida, however, was confident about her technique.

The results, Mr. Tyrrell later recounted, “exceeded all our hopes. She recognized all the known viruses, and her pictures revealed the structures beautifully. But, more important, she saw virus particles in the B814 specimens!”

That was why it let go almost half of its 1,274 workers in late March, the factory’s managing director said in response to protesters who arrived at the factory’s doors to denounce the dismissals.

Three fired sewing operators, however, said the factory was taking an opportunity to punish workers engaged in union activity. In an interview, the operators — Maung Moe, Ye Yint and Ohnmar Myint — said that of the 571 who had been dismissed, 520 had belonged to the factory’s union, one of 20 that make up the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar. About 700 workers who did not belong to the union kept their jobs, they said.

Myan Mode’s South Korea-based owner did not respond to requests for comment, and did not provide details about the firings.

Mr. Moe, 27, was the factory union’s president and had organized several strikes. Mr. Yint, 30, was the union’s secretary, while Ms. Myint, 34, had been a union member since its founding in June 2018.

“The bosses used Covid as an opportunity to get rid of us because they hated our union,” Mr. Moe said. He said he and other union members had been in discussions with the factory managers before the firings, demanding personal protective equipment and that workers be farther apart on the factory floor. “They thought we caused them constant headaches by fighting for our rights and those of our fellow workers.”

Union-busting — practices undertaken to prevent or disrupt the formation of trade unions or attempts to expand membership — has been serious problem across the fashion supply chain for decades. But with the global spread of Covid-19 placing fresh pressures on the industry, it is a particular issue in South Asia, where about 40 million garment workers have long grappled with poor working conditions and wages.

Its doors have been closed since Feb. 23, when Italy’s coronavirus lockdown went into effect in parts of the Lombardy region. But now anyone can take a virtual tour of La Scala, one of the world’s most famous opera theaters, and even poke around the backstage areas and workshops usually closed to visitors.

“It’s a positive message in this moment, communicating to the entire world,” said Dominique Meyer, La Scala’s general director, at a virtual presentation of the project Thursday. “We can all agree that opera has to take place in a theater, but these are moments where no one can go to the theater. So these theaters speak to the entire world,” he added.

“The real danger is that you can spend entire nights navigating these sites,” said Mr. Meyer, who admitted that he had gotten lost in the “secret corridors” of La Scala theater “to learn things we didn’t know before.”

“The virtual doors of La Scala will remain open to the world until the real doors can,” said Filippo del Corno, the Milan city councilor responsible for culture.

Ignoring health warnings and its powerful neighbor Russia, the former Soviet nation of Belarus staged a military parade on Saturday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany, parading soldiers and tanks through the center of its capital, Minsk, as crowds of spectators, mostly without masks, gathered to watch.

While Russia canceled its parade in Red Square because of the coronavirus and settled for a military flyby over Moscow’s mostly empty streets, Belarus went ahead with Victory Day celebrations after its authoritarian leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, called the coronavirus pandemic a “psychosis.”

Over two million people died in Belarus during World War II, and Mr. Lukashenko said this week that the government “simply cannot cancel the parade,” despite growing concerns that the virus is spreading fast across the country. He invited foreign leaders to attend. None showed up. Russia said it would send its ambassador.

With a population of 9.5 million, Belarus has reported just 21,000 infections, far fewer than the nearly 200,000 reported by more populous Russia, a close but increasingly irritated ally.

In Russia, which remains under lockdown, President Vladimir V. Putin left his country residence for the first time in weeks to attend a low-key ceremony in the rain outside the Kremlin, laying a bouquet of red roses on the tomb of the unknown soldier.

In a brief speech marking what he called “our most important and most cherished holiday,” Mr. Putin said, “We pay tribute and endlessly honor the monumental and selfless heroism of the Soviet people.”

Chinese journalists in the United States who try to do independent journalism privately expressed worries about the future of their work, and said they did not want to be caught in the middle of such a conflict. American journalists in China have voiced similar concerns.

The new rules in the United States also apply to the handful of Chinese citizens working for non-Chinese foreign outlets. The new American rule goes into effect on Monday.

The relationship between China and the United States had already frayed under President Trump and President Xi Jinping. In 2018, Mr. Trump started a protracted trade war. But the pandemic has unleashed a new level of vitriol and recrimination.

Mr. Trump and his aides have repeatedly emphasized China’s early attempts to cover up the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, which emerged in the city of Wuhan, and have cast doubt on the veracity of China’s reported death toll.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is back, becoming the first major North American sport to return from an industrywide shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic and standing alone in a landscape that would usually include the N.H.L. and N.B.A. playoffs.

The event is going forward even though one of the U.F.C.’s 24 fighters, Ronaldo Souza, and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus Friday in the run-up to the fight. U.F.C. officials have been guarded about their measures to keep fighters safe during three events planned — including two next week — but they insist they can minimize the risks associated with large gatherings.

Souza, who was not showing symptoms, told the promotion company when he arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday that one of his relatives might have had the virus, a U.F.C. executive told ESPN, which is airing the preliminary bouts and selling the pay-per-view card.

The headline fight is between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, an interim lightweight title bout that pits two combatants who have a history of exciting knockouts. The pay-per-view portion of the card starts at 10 p.m., and the main event will most likely start until after midnight.

With the global paralysis induced by the coronavirus, levels of pollution and carbon emission are dropping — leaving bluer skies, visible mountains, splendid wildflowers. Even Venice’s famously murky canals are running clear.

The European Union began the year promoting a plan for a rapid transformation of the economy toward a carbon-neutral future — “the Green Deal” — which Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the bloc’s executive arm, has declared should be “the motor for the recovery.” She has important support from President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe were already worried about the pain of a green transition, however. And poorer countries of the south fear a new inequality as bigger, richer countries like Germany and France can subsidize their industries far more lavishly.

The shape of those subsidies will be a battleground, too. Mr. Macron has tied new funding for the airline Air France-KLM to carbon reduction. But a former European official, Stefan Lehne, sees “a huge conflict” between “saving the jobs of companies on edge of bankruptcy and investing in new jobs.”

“There will be a lot of pressure to go back to the status quo ante as much as possible,” he said.

In the latest sign of worry that the coronavirus could be spreading through the senior ranks of the Trump administration, three top public health officials have begun partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:

  • Trump’s support among American seniors appears to be declining as the pandemic becomes more political. Republicans and Mr. Trump have relied on older Americans, the United States’s largest voting bloc, to offset Democrats’ advantage with younger voters. However, seniors are also the most vulnerable to the outbreak. The Trump campaign’s internal poll show his support among voters over age 64 softening, people familiar with the numbers said.

  • Many states are taking steps to reopen in the next week and will serve as laboratories for the hoped-for economic recovery in the face of a pandemic that has touched nearly every aspect of American life. California will allow a range of retailers to resume selling via curbside pickup. Michigan cautiously enacted plans to allow construction and factory workers to return to work sites.

  • Sioux tribal leaders have rejected a request from Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota to remove travel checkpoints they established on state and federal highways, saying they were necessary to stop the spread of the virus on tribal land. Ms. Noem threatened legal actions if they did not remove the checkpoints within 48 hours. The episode underscores the particular challenges facing hard-hit tribal nations as they seek to respond to the pandemic.

Spain will be split in two as of Monday, after the government selected areas of the country with a low risk of coronavirus infection to move to the next phase of easing the lockdown. The country’s two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, are in regions that will have to maintain restrictions on the movement of people until their coronavirus numbers improve.

The provinces that passed the safety requirements hold 51 percent of Spain’s population, the government said on Friday. The new rules allow gatherings of up to 10 people, as well as the reopening of bars and restaurants for outdoor dining. Small shops and businesses like hairdressers can also take clients without a booking, while outdoor markets can reopen.

Ahead of the government’s decision, 15 of the 17 regions of Spain had applied to be fast-tracked to reopen under the next phase of the government’s plan, which it said it hoped would bring the country into a “new normalcy” by late June.

Spain’s daily death toll from the coronavirus fell to 179 on Saturday, down from 229 on the previous day, the Health Ministry reported, bringing the overall total to 26,478.

A protest demanding more assistance for the poor as Afghanistan grapples with the spread of Covid-19 turned deadly on Saturday, with at least six people dead after security forces opened fire.

About 100 people, mostly day laborers who have lost any economic prospect after lockdowns went into effect, had gathered outside the provincial governor’s office in Ghor Province, in the west of the country, seeking aid and food, officials said. The security forces fired when the numbers grew and the protesters tried to make their way into the compound.

At least four civilians, including an employee of a local media organization, were killed and 12 others wounded, the provincial police chief, Mohamed Amin Ahmadzai, said. He added that the protest had been infiltrated by armed men who opened fire and pelted rocks at security forces; he said two police officers were also killed and 10 others wounded.

“This wasn’t a protest — this was an evil conspiracy of the enemy,” Mr. Ahmadzai said.

Mohammad Aref Aber, the governor’s spokesman, said: “The protesters were in front of the provincial governor’s building asking for help, and we do not have anything to help them with.”

Afghanistan has recorded 4,333 cases of Covid-19 so far and 115 deaths. But officials warn that the actual spread is most likely much wider and undetected because of extremely limited testing capacity.

The major cities have gone under some extent of lockdown, hurting an economy where about 80 percent of the population was already near the poverty line, living on $1.25 a day.

Covid-19 has upended daily life in much of the world for so long that the idea of traveling to another country or state seems like the stuff of dreams. But in the last week or so, as the idea of opening up to travelers has gained traction, some countries are taking concrete steps.

Like many world leaders, Taiwan’s vice president, Chen Chien-jin, is fighting to keep the coronavirus at bay. He is tracking infections, pushing for vaccines and testing kits and reminding the public to wash their hands.

But unlike most officials, Mr. Chen, who is in the final weeks of his term, is a Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist and an expert in viruses.

As a top health official during the SARS crisis in 2003, Mr. Chen pushed to prepare for the next outbreak by building isolation wards and research laboratories.

“Evidence is more important than playing politics,” he said in a recent interview.

But Mr. Chen is also at the center of a global battle over the narrative about how the virus spread worldwide. He says Taiwan tried to warn the World Health Organization — where it is pushing for membership — in late December about the potential for the virus to spread from person to person but was ignored. The W.H.O. has rejected the accusation.

Mr. Chen’s prominence has made him a frequent target of criticism by mainland Chinese commentators, who have accused the government of using the pandemic to seek independence for Taiwan, which China’s government considers part of its territory.

“He needs to drastically change course or must be the next to go,” The Lancet said of Mr. Bolsonaro in the editorial, calling the recent ouster of two ministers “a deadly distraction in the middle of a public health emergency.”

But Mr. Bolsonaro has interacted with supporters without wearing masks, and has called the virus that has killed nearly 275,000 people worldwide a “little flu.” He has also regularly clashed with state governors who have imposed lockdowns to try to protect their populations.

When asked by journalists last month about the rapid spread of the virus in the country, Mr. Bolsonaro replied: “So what? What do you want me to do?”

In neighboring Paraguay, President Mario Abdo Benítez has said that the efforts to contain the spread of the virus could be hampered by Brazil’s outbreak, calling it “a great threat for our country.” Half of the Paraguay’s 563 confirmed cases have been of people coming from Brazil, Mr. Benítez said.

A vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a halt to all armed conflicts because of the pandemic was blocked on Friday by the United States, apparently because it contained language indicating support for the World Health Organization.

President Trump has accused the W.H.O., an arm of the United Nations, of a bias toward China and a failure to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, which was first seen in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Mr. Trump suspended American funding of the W.H.O. last month, a significant financial blow to the organization.

Diplomats said the Security Council resolution, which underwent several revisions aimed partly at satisfying U.S. objections, had nearly reached the stage where it could be put to a vote. But the United States delegation informed other council members in an email on Friday that it still could not support the measure.

Tensions between China and the United States over the coronavirus have paralyzed any possible action to fight the pandemic by the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations. Its resolutions have the force of international law.

Even though the cease-fire resolution would probably have done little to halt armed conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and other trouble spots, it was seen as an important expression of backing for Secretary General António Guterres, who has been calling for such a cease-fire since March.

In the midst of an aggressive campaign by Kenya’s government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the country was hit by a blackout that affected neighboring Uganda on Saturday. The countries’ power grids are interconnected.

By the evening, both companies issued statements saying that power had been restored.

Uganda has recorded 98 coronavirus cases but no deaths. The International Monetary Fund said this week that the country would receive an emergency loan worth $491.5 million to help cushion its economy from the impact of the outbreak as key sectors of the East African economy, including tourism, have taken a heavy blow from the crisis.

The government has also been accused of going to extreme measures to contain the virus: In the first 10 days of a national curfew, police officers killed at least six people while trying to enforce the lockdown, according to Human Rights Watch.

It was 6:30 p.m., and over 8,000 miles away in Nashik, India, when his opponent, Vidit Gujrathi, responded from his home, just seconds after Caruana’s opening: pawn to E5.

And so began the Online Nations Cup, an unprecedented international team chess tournament borne of the coronavirus pandemic.

This past week, the Online Nations Cup brought 36 of the world’s top players together in their homes across multiple time zones, from Brooklyn to Beijing. They have been moving pieces on their laptop chessboards in a competition that, at its core, is the same game they would contest under normal conditions.

The tournament can be seen on multiple platforms, has a record purse of $180,000 and is being broadcast in a dozen languages.

The organizers of an already truncated version of the Vuelta a España, one of the sport’s three grand tours along with the Tour de France, said on Saturday that they had abandoned parts of two stages to be held in neighboring Portugal. The race was unable to satisfy safety requirements of three cities: Oporto, Matosinhos and Viseu.

“We have to be flexible and understand these kinds of decisions and changes,” Javier Guillén, the race director said in a statement.

It is unclear how race organizers can stop large crowds from gathering along public roads. The sport also involves hundreds of cyclists riding in closer proximity than is allowed under most physical distancing rules.

The Amaury Sport Organization, which owns the Tour de France and is a major shareholder in the Vuelta, has repeatedly pushed for some kind of season to be salvaged. Cycling team owners have been more mixed in their reaction. Some have forecast ruin without racing, while others have suggested that they won’t enter their riders if the virus remains a threat.

With all public and private gatherings banned in Singapore and people trying to cope by exercising outside, the authorities have found a human-free way to patrol a park and gently remind visitors to observe social-distancing measures.

“Let’s keep Singapore healthy,” Spot said Friday while sauntering down a path at a local park. “For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”

If Spot manages to last through a two-week trial, more robots could be deployed to patrol parks in Singapore, where a relentless surge in infections linked to migrant worker dormitories has shown no sign of stopping. The city-state has had more than 22,000 infections, with 753 recorded on Saturday.

Reporting was contributed by Elizabeth Paton, Vivian Wang, Edward Wong, Morgan Campbell, Kevin Draper, Choe Sang-Hun, Vivian Yee, Steven Erlanger, Siobhan Roberts, Raphael Minder, Andrew Higgins, Javier C. Hernández, Chris Horton, Elian Peltier, Elaine Yu, Adbi Latif Dahir, Mujib Mashal, Asadullah Timory, Nick Cumming-Bruce, David Waldstein, Peter Robins, Pam Belluck, Roni Caryn Rabin, Neal E. Boudette, Ian Austen, Yonette Joseph, Rick Gladstone, Daniel Politi, Lauren Sloss, Robert D. McFadden, Peter Baker, Michael Crowley, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Annie Karni, Maggie Haberman, Matthew Rosenberg, Jim Rutenberg and Victor Mather.


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