Coronavirus, Britain, China: Your Friday Briefing

Coronavirus, Britain, China: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the extension of the U.K.’s lockdown, a political fight in Spain over the number of coronavirus deaths, the staggering U.S. jobless claims and the end of China’s growth streak.

Britain confirmed it would prolong its lockdown for at least three more weeks as part of its efforts to keep smothering the spread of the coronavirus.

No country is really certain how many people it has lost to the pandemic. But in Spain, the count has become caustically political.

Spain’s official death toll, which remains among the world’s highest, is closing in on 20,000. But there is evidence that it could be far higher, with many deaths — especially those in nursing homes — not properly classified as stemming from the coronavirus.

The confusion has led to recrimination and sinister claims, with opposition politicians accusing the fragile coalition government of covering up the real numbers.

Russia: President Vladimir Putin postponed the military parade and flag-waving celebrations of Victory Day on May 9, marking the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Italy: The country, which was the center of the pandemic last month, is now emerging from its worst days. Here’s how the number of new known cases and deaths are growing across the provinces.

The country’s first-quarter gross domestic product shrank by 6.8 percent, the first contraction of the Chinese economy in more than four decades, the government reported. The pandemic and attempts to contain it have sharply cut the world’s appetite for China’s goods

The country’s national statistics office already confirmed this week that industrial production, retail sales and investment all had double-digit drops in the first two months of this year compared with the same period of 2019.

Signs of life: Before he was expelled from the country, one Times reporter visited Hefei, a middle-class city in central China, to chronicle the country’s emergence from its battle against the coronavirus. But police officers who interfered with his interviews made it difficult to document the many signs of renewal there.

Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan declared a nationwide state of emergency as coronavirus cases in the country continued a monthlong sharp rise that pushed its total past 8,000.

The island of Anjouan, part of the nation of the Comoros off the East African coast, receives more annual rainfall than most of Europe. But a combination of deforestation and climate change has caused at least half of its permanent rivers to stop flowing in the dry season.

When forests were cleared to make way for farmland, a delicate ecosystem was disrupted. The consequences offer lessons for other parts of the developing world.

Yemen: Antagonists in the nation’s five-year war have not stopped attacks a week after the Saudi-led unilateral cease-fire was announced, United Nations officials said, adding that aid money is running out.

Israel: After a year of political deadlock, lawmakers have just 21 days to come up with a formula for a majority government. Failing that, Parliament will automatically disperse on May 7 and, for the fourth time in little over a year, send Israelis back to the ballot box.

Switzerland: Nora Illi, a Swiss convert to Islam who publicly challenged bans against full-body veils for Muslim women, died in Bern, Switzerland, from breast cancer. She was 35.

Wine: Vintners in France have approved an official, though voluntary, way to certify so-called natural wines. But our wine critic, Eric Asimov, believes natural wine is as much defined by the intention of the producer as it is by adherence to a set of rules.

What we’re reading: This Bon Appétit essay about learning to cook through crisis with the help of an Italian mother over FaceTime. “Until this, I hadn’t laughed once while reading about how people are coping with the pandemic,” writes Jenna Wortham, a staff writer for The Times Magazine and a host of our “Still Processing” podcast.

Our At Home page has many more ideas about what to watch, read, cook and do while we stay at home to keep everyone safe.

This week, our video team took you inside Tripoli, Libya, where residents already facing the horrors of a war zone are grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Shelling has prompted more people to flee into the city center, and fresh attacks in residential areas mean they must choose between fleeing further, at the risk of exposure to the virus, or staying put, at the risk of being struck by shells.

Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, spoke with one of the people interviewed in the video: Montaha Nattah, a 21-year-old student who has lived in Libya for most of her life. Here’s their text exchange on WhatsApp, lightly edited for space.

What’s your typical day like?

Most of my day is spent writing papers, preparing projects, attending classes and studying for exams. Studying during quarantine is quite difficult — you barely have the energy to get tasks done — but studying while living in a war zone and being quarantined is an outrageous combination I would never want anyone to experience.

Libyans are used to leaving their houses whenever there is intense shelling nearby. Unfortunately, during the era of Covid-19, that is not the case.

How long have you lived in Tripoli?

My whole life until 2018, when I got to study at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. I visited Libya every summer and winter break, but during these extraordinary times and despite the ongoing conflict, I decided to go back home because I believe that home is a feeling, not only a place.

If this pandemic is going to be the end of the world, then I’d rather die in my hometown next to my family.

What are you seeing and hearing around you right now?

Living in Tripoli nowadays means hearing drones flying above your head most of the time. It means hearing projectiles falling around you. It means seeing and smelling smoke and polluted air when you open your window because of the places that get bombed.

And finally, it means putting your earphones on whenever there is intensive shelling, so you can forget about the reality a little.

That’s it for this briefing. Try not to be “corona-shamed.” See you next time.

— Victoria

Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about a Times journalist who was recently expelled from China.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Team building? (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
Apoorva Mandavilli, who has master’s degrees in journalism and biochemistry and has been helping The Times cover the coronavirus pandemic, is joining The Times full-time as a science writer.

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