Reported Coronavirus Cases Top 5 Million Worldwide

The Four Percent


More than five million people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

That figure is just one measure of the pandemic’s global toll. Its persistent rise — the number passed four million less than two weeks ago — reflects not just pathogen’s pernicious spread but also increases in testing.

Even with the increases, the total numbers of infections and deaths, representing cases in at least 177 countries, are virtually certain to be undercounts because of flawed screenings, political denial and asymptomatic patients who can spread the virus.

Still, there is reason for guarded optimism in some regions. Conditions appear to be improving, or at least stabilizing, in parts of Western Europe and the United States, and some governments were cautiously easing lockdown restrictions.

Denmark, for instance, has taken steps toward normalcy and reported decreasing numbers of new cases. Some of the most devastated countries in Europe, including France, Italy and the United Kingdom, have also reported improving figures.

The deal with AstraZeneca is the fourth vaccine research agreement that the department has disclosed, and by far the largest. The money will pay for a clinical trial of the potential vaccine in the United States this summer with about 30,000 volunteers.

The H.H.S. statement said the agency and AstraZeneca “are collaborating to make available at least 300 million doses,” and projected that the first doses could be available as early as October.

Infectious disease experts also warn that many candidate vaccines take years to perfect, or fail, and in some cases cause such severe side effects that human trials are halted. Plus, billions of doses would be needed around the world.

AstraZeneca said it was also discussing deals for simultaneous production by other companies, including the giant Serum Institute of India, a major supplier of vaccines to the developing world.

The U.S. is distributing billions of dollars to companies to develop vaccines through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Scores of vaccine efforts are underway around the world, and several potential vaccines are now in at least small-scale clinical trials.

President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala on Thursday voiced frustration over U.S. deportations of people infected with the coronavirus, saying it was causing “serious problems” for his nation’s health system.

“Guatemala is an ally of the United States, but the United States is not Guatemala’s ally,” Mr. Giammattei said. “They don’t treat us like an ally.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that all passengers had been screened and that 15 migrants who tested positive had been withheld from the flight and sent to isolation sections of detention centers.

“The United States has helped other countries, including with ventilators, and to us nothing has come, not even chopped corn,” Mr. Giammattei said at an appearance with the Atlantic Council’s Latin America center.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman ruler of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, has been hospitalized in Moscow with a suspected coronavirus infection, Russian news agencies reported on Thursday.

An aide to Mr. Kadyrov told RIA that the leader continued to oversee the response to the virus in Chechnya, which has officially reported 1,026 cases and 11 deaths.

The latest outbreak is concentrated in Jilin, a northeastern province of 27 million people near China’s borders with Russia and North Korea. Jilin has reported a relatively small outbreak of about 130 cases and two deaths, and experts there have warned of a potential “big explosion.”

Mr. Xi has largely succeeded in rewriting the narrative in China, in part because the disarray in other countries, especially the United States, has given him a reprieve from domestic political pressure.

But keeping up that narrative may be challenging. He must continue to push his agenda while China faces a diplomatic and economic climate as daunting as any since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

“If you position yourself as a great helmsman uniquely capable of leading your country, that has a lot of domestic political risk if you fail to handle the job appropriately,” said Carl Minzner, a professor of Chinese law and politics at Fordham University.

In the end, an estimated three million people chose to leave their homes, though there were fewer shelters available to them than there ordinarily would be. Just weeks ago, hundred were converted into coronavirus quarantine centers.

But some declined to seek shelter, saying that given the pandemic, they might be safer in their homes, even with a cyclone bearing down.

The toll of the storm was still being assessed on Thursday. Officials said at least 80 people were dead.

In Bangladesh, many have been returning to their villages to assess the devastation.

Mohammed Salah Uddin, 42, said he and 10 others had returned to his village after crisscrossing uprooted trees and electricity wires on the streets.

He said that the cyclone shelter he had been in was overcrowded and that people did not maintain any social distance. Pictures from shelters in Bangladesh showed huge crowds of people packed in and few people wearing masks.

“It looked scary,” Mr. Uddin said. “It is better to live in destroyed home than catch the diseases.”

The call to prayer rang on a recent afternoon from Jamia Mosque, a landmark in downtown Nairobi with green and silver domes and multiple minarets. There should be worshipers converging there during this sacred month of Ramadan, but the mosque’s doors remained shut, its prayer halls empty since closing in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With no congregation to join, I sat in the car, rolled down the windows and listened to the muezzin’s voice, a mellifluous sound that instantly made me cry.

I chafe at the imposed restrictions sometimes because, with 21 siblings and 16 nephews and nieces, the iftar meal to break the daily fast has always for me been a bustling family affair. We would start with dates, then gorge on spicy samosas and chicken biryani, pass around my mother’s legendary camel meat, and share cakes and sweet chai.

And so we stay physically apart but find unity in the rituals of fasting and feasting. Things might be falling apart, but I have come to find comfort and continuity in the small things: the paneer samosas sent by a friend’s mom, the afternoon runs at a nearby, almost-empty forest, the messages from loved ones checking in from all over the world — and the sound of the azan, the call to prayer, broadcast from the tops of minarets.

The international aid confederation Oxfam will withdraw from 18 countries as a part of a reorganization effort that is being sped up as the pandemic leaves economies reeling.

In a statement this week, Oxfam said its finances had been “seriously impacted” and that its affiliates had been canceling fund-raising events, closing shops, ordering furloughs and curbing travel.

The changes, he said, will be “the foundation for our future over the coming decade as the longer-term effects of this devastating pandemic become clearer.”

Under the plan, Oxfam’s footprint will shrink to 48 countries. It plans to “exit its programs over time” in countries that include Afghanistan, Cuba, Haiti, Liberia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Rwanda and Thailand.

Nearly a third of its roughly 5,000 program staff members will be affected, along with about 700 partner groups.

President Trump, who has refused to wear a mask in public despite the recommendations of federal health officials, toured a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Thursday with his face uncovered. It was against the factory’s guidelines and the urging of Michigan’s attorney general, who had written him earlier that it was “the law of this state.”

Mr. Trump said he had worn a mask when he was asked to on a private portion of the tour. “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he said.

At one point during the tour, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” blared over the loudspeakers.

The president’s visit to Michigan, a key swing state where the virus has become a flash point, came just a day after he threatened to withhold federal funding from the state for taking steps to make it easier to vote by mail amid the pandemic.

The study, from the Milan Polyclinic Hospital, found that one in 20 adult blood donors in the area already had the virus’s antibodies at the time, just days after Italy’s first coronavirus diagnosis on Feb. 20.

In Italy, researchers conducted antibody tests on about 800 blood samples gathered in Milan from Feb. 24 to April 8. They found that 4.6 percent of asymptomatic people who donated their blood in the first week of that period — which coincided with the start of the outbreak — had coronavirus antibodies.

“Our impression,” said Luca Valenti, one of the researchers, “is that the infection started circulating by the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.”

The Palestinian Authority has rejected coronavirus aid from the United Arab Emirates that a government-owned Emirati airline flew from the Persian Gulf country to Israel on Tuesday, in what was believed to be the first direct commercial flight between the two countries.

Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, contended that neither the U.A.E. nor any other party coordinated with the Palestinians about the shipment.

“We can’t accept assistance in that way,” she told reporters on Thursday. “We are a sovereign authority here. There must be direct coordination with us.”

The Etihad Airways flight had appeared to be another indication of the increasing openness between Israel and the U.A.E., which do not maintain formal diplomatic relations, though both view Iran as a regional foe. At least three Israeli ministers have attended events in Emirati cities in the past two years, and Israel is slated to participate in a major world fair in Dubai next year.

The Palestinians have repeatedly expressed their opposition to Israel and the Arab world making moves toward normalizing relations before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership also has strained relations with the U.A.E., which has played host to Muhammad Dahlan, a top rival and vocal critic of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The aid included 10 ventilators as well as several tons of personal protective equipment, according to a United Nations office that helped arrange for it to be delivered from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv.

Downing Street changed its coronavirus campaign slogan last week from “stay at home” to “stay alert.” It also modified lockdown rules in England to allow unlimited outdoor exercise and gave people in Britain the green light to go to the beach.

Steps taken by officials elsewhere in Europe reflected concerns that an abundance of day-trippers could lead to increased transmissions of the virus. In France, the authorities in Brittany shut down beaches in five municipalities, citing “unacceptable behavior” and a failure to abide by social distancing rules, and Dutch towns near the border with Germany urged their neighbors not to come.

Likewise in seaside towns across England, local communities have asked people to stay away because they cannot cope with high volumes of visitors. But the warnings went unheeded in many areas.

Parks across London were also brimming with people who gathered for picnics, sunbathing and exercise. Hyde Park, in central London, looked like a regular warm day midweek, with many people ignoring social distancing measures. The only visible difference was that several people were wearing masks.

Carlotta Gall is The Times’s Istanbul bureau chief. She previously covered the aftershocks of the Arab Spring from Tunisia, reported from the Balkans during the war in Kosovo and Serbia, and covered Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Every weekend, for over a month now, Istanbul has been under a strict curfew because of the coronavirus. No one is allowed out, not for exercise or groceries, and the police impose fines. Sometimes, like last weekend and next, the street-emptying lockdown stretches for four days to take in public holidays.

Of course, Istanbul’s curfew could never be a total shutdown. Its residents have lived through multiple military coups, sieges, earthquakes, pestilence and other calamities, and know well that life must go on.

So bakers are exempt from the curfew, because fresh bread is so important for the Turkish table. They shout their wares on the empty street and sell bread from the back of their vans.

When Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, began last month, pastry shops also got an exemption. Turks, it seems, cannot do without their baklava, that heavenly, multilayered, flaky pastry, bound up with nuts and syrup, that is the nation’s favorite sweet.

Journalists were allowed out, too, so I went to visit Karakoy Gulluoglu, the most famous house of baklava, down near a ferry dock.

Murat Gullu, the general manager, whose great-grandfather founded the company in the 19th century, said he had asked the government to allow baklava makers to stay open.

“We eat baklava on all occasions,” he said, “especially in Ramadan, at celebrations and at funerals.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, who has been widely praised for her coronavirus response, may have scored even more points this week when she suggested that employees could have a four-day week in order to move around the country more and bolster the tourism industry.

She added that with many people working from home during the pandemic, the added productivity that can result had “encouraged people to think about, if they’re an employer and in a position to do so, to think about whether or not that is something that would work for their workplace.”

A top Japanese official who ignored the country’s voluntary lockdown to play mahjong with a group of reporters has resigned.

The official, Hiromu Kurokawa, headed Tokyo’s public prosecutor’s office and is believed to be a close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was already in the nation’s bad graces after Mr. Abe tried to force a change in the retirement age for the prosecutor’s office, a move that was widely seen as an attempt to keep Mr. Kurokawa in power.

Mr. Kurokawa’s lockdown transgression was first reported by the Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun.

While Japan has no legal mechanism for enforcing its lockdown, Mr. Kurokawa’s decision to ignore an national state of emergency provoked public anger. And it didn’t help that he and the reporters were playing mahjong for money — in a country where gambling is illegal.

Others in the region who have violated pandemic-related restrictions on movement:

But his latest menu may be the most shocking of them all: a pared-down selection of just two burgers.

The coronavirus lockdown caused the closure of Noma two months ago, and on Thursday it is reinventing itself as a burger joint in the first step in a gradual return to business.

At the old Noma, tables were sold out months in advance. But now the hungry and the curious can “come as you are — there are no reservations.” The usual Noma is due to return to business later this year.

Denmark has been inching back into daily life for a month, but officials said an expected rise in coronavirus-linked hospital admissions had not materialized.

And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than when most people started staying home, a vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.

“It’s a big, big difference,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia who led the research team. “That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths.”

The cost of waiting to take action reflects the unforgiving dynamics of an outbreak that swept through U.S. cities in early March. Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, the researchers found.

Reporting was contributed by David D. Kirkpatrick, Adam Rasgon, Anton Troianovski, Alan Blinder, Karen Zraick, Iliana Magra, Azam Ahmed, Lorraine Allen, Hannah Beech, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emma Bubola, Chris Buckley, Damien Cave, Ben Dooley, Carlotta Gall, Jeffrey Gettleman, Russell Goldman, Jenny Gross, Jason Gutierrez, Javier C. Hernández, Mike Ives, Hari Kumar, Claire Moses, Steven Lee Myers, Jin Qu, Austin Ramzy, Kai Schultz, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Megan Specia, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Jin Wu, Sameer Yasir, Ceylan Yeginsu and Elaine Yu.


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