Live World Updates on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Live World Updates on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Europe’s tangled reopening: Travel bubbles, border deals, airline corridors.

If the reopening of offices, restaurants and other public places has seemed dizzying, the rules on travel between nations are shaping up to be bewildering.

Travel bubbles and airline corridors to allow free movement between certain cities or countries, quarantines and an assortment of other measures add up to a puzzle for even the most intrepid traveler.

Nowhere are the logistical challenges more daunting than in Europe, where the pandemic brought a sudden return of borders between the 26 countries that are part of the so-called Schengen zone. Optimistic pronouncements about easing restrictions for summer travelers have run into the reality of a patchwork of policies.

“It would be great if all this could be compressed into something easy to understand, but it is a very complex picture,” said Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for home affairs, migration and citizenship at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union.

European officials are working on an interactive map explaining all the rules among member states. But it will offer a confounding picture of closed and open borders, with individual member states reaching bilateral and multilateral agreements with neighbors.

For instance, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece are expected to open borders to each other on June 1. Greece, desperate to save its tourism industry, also released an expanded list on Friday of 29 countries from which it will allow travel starting June 15.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have started implementing a similar arrangement.

France, Germany and other West European nations have talked about easing border controls to other E.U. member states on June 15, the day the European Commission’s guidance calling for the suspension of nonessential travel into the E.U. will expire.

Travel from outside the bloc may prove an even more difficult question.

If the European border-free zone is restored, then when one country lets in travelers from outside, it means that every country has effectively done so.

The European Commission, which can only offer guidance, is still discussing what posture to take. But officials said that a middle position — more targeted restrictions on countries based on criteria like virus caseloads — was unlikely to be attractive, because it would create a whole set of scientific, diplomatic and political challenges.

Countries elsewhere are also reviewing travel restrictions. Hong Kong says it will allow airline passengers to transit through its airport from Monday, after suspending the service on March 25. But all passengers connecting to other flights through Hong Kong International Airport will be subject to coronavirus screening, including temperature checks, and they risk being placed into a 14-day government quarantine if they show a high temperature and test positive for Covid-19.

Many of the most populous cities in the United States moved cautiously toward reopening key businesses on Friday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said he expected New York City, where more than 20,000 people have died from the virus, to meet several benchmarks that would allow retail stores to open for curbside or in-store pickup, as well as restarting nonessential construction and manufacturing. As many as 400,000 people could go back to work in that initial phase.

Other major cities that have faced death and economic calamity, like Washington and Los Angeles, also announced plans to continue their reopenings by allowing restaurants, hair salons and barbershops to open their doors, with new safety guidelines.

Mr. Cuomo joins many officials around the world in deciding that the benefits of reviving economies outweigh the risks of new infections. But as the global coronavirus caseload approaches six million, other countries are learning that the risks don’t vanish overnight:

  • In India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, a severe lockdown has been eased and may end entirely as soon as Sunday. But migrant workers are becoming infected at an alarmingly high rate, leading to fresh outbreaks in villages across the north, and hospitals in Mumbai are overwhelmed.

  • In Iraq, all travel between provinces has been stopped for a second time. Baghdad was almost completely still on Friday, and stay-at-home orders were enforced by neighborhood blockades

  • In Israel, where schools reopened weeks ago, more than 100 new cases were reported on Friday, the level that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned would prompt the reinstatement of a strict lockdown.

After spending weeks accusing the World Health Organization of helping the Chinese government cover up the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in China, President Trump said on Friday that the United States would terminate its relationship with the agency.

“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” Mr. Trump said in a speech in the Rose Garden. “Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe.”

There is no evidence that the W.H.O. or the government in Beijing hid the extent of the epidemic in China, and public health experts generally view Mr. Trump’s charges as a way to deflect attention from his administration’s own bungled response to the virus’s spread in the United States.

A spokeswoman for the W.H.O. in Geneva, where word of Mr. Trump’s announcement arrived around 9 p.m., said the agency would not have a response until Saturday.

Public health experts in the United States reacted with alarm.

“We helped create the W.H.O.,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has worked with the organization since its creation in 1948. “Turning our back on the W.H.O. makes us and the world less safe,” he added.

In another move symbolic of a growing partisan divide over how to handle the virus, the White House informed Congress on Friday that Trump administration officials will only testify before Congress if committee leaders agree to conduct the hearings in person.

The decision amounted to a direct challenge to new House rules that allow committees and lawmakers to conduct their work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our Berlin-based reporter Patrick Kingsley and Laetitia Vancon, a Times photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles around Europe to document changes on a continent emerging from coronavirus lockdowns. Here is the latest dispatch, from Geneva. Read them all.

The first people arrived before 2 a.m.

By 4 a.m., more than 100 people stood waiting in the darkness outside the ice-hockey stadium.

By 7 a.m., the line stretched for more than a mile, and by early afternoon last Saturday nearly 3,000 residents of Geneva, one of the world’s richest cities, had filtered through the stadium to receive a food parcel worth about $25.

In medical terms, Geneva has not been as gripped by the coronavirus crisis as other areas of Western Europe. But the crisis has been ruinous for the undocumented and underpaid workers often forgotten about in a city better known for its bankers, watchmakers and U.N. officials — and most of those on lower incomes have had to rely on charity to survive.

Ultimately, that demand led volunteers and city officials to set up a weekly food bank at the ice-hockey stadium near the river.

Among those lining up last weekend was Sukhee Shinendorj, a 38-year-old from Mongolia, who was living on the cusp of poverty even before the pandemic. He had woken up at 1 a.m. and walked two miles to the stadium to try to beat the line. But several people were already there waiting.

“Catastrophe,” he said of his situation. “It’s a catastrophe.”

Behind him in the darkness, a giant Rolex logo shone from the watchmaker’s headquarters across the street — a stark juxtaposition in a city that is being forced to recognize its profound social inequalities.

A Cambodian major general has died of the coronavirus while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, Cambodian officials said Saturday, the second such death among peacekeepers stationed around the world.

Maj. Gen. Sor Savy, 63, who died on Friday, was deployed to the troubled African nation in April last year. Before the pandemic hit, forcing the United Nations to delay troop rotations, he and his team had been scheduled to return home last month.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that Covid-19 had claimed its first two victims among the peacekeepers but did not identify them by name. A peacekeeper from El Salvador died of the illness on Thursday.

Mr. Guterres said the pandemic had changed how peacekeeping troops operate but had not altered their “service, sacrifice and selflessness.”

More than 95,000 men and women serve in 13 U.N. missions around the world. U.N. officials say there are 137 confirmed cases of the virus among peacekeepers, most of them in Mali.

Cambodia contributes about 800 troops to the U.N. missions, including 300 in Mali. Two other Cambodian peacekeepers stationed there tested positive, Cambodian officials said.

“Sor Savy’s death is a huge sacrifice of a Cambodian soldier in a humanitarian mission under the U.N. umbrella and the loss of a bright Cambodian soldier,” a spokesman for Cambodia’s Defense Ministry, Chhum Socheat, said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

Medical experts worried that would blind the country to the spread of infection, allowing cases to explode and swamping hospitals. But instead Japan — the grayest country in the world, and a popular tourist destination with large, crowded cities — has one of the lowest mortality rates from Covid-19 among major nations.

Japan’s medical system has not been overwhelmed, and its government never forced businesses to close, although many chose to. This week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared Japan’s battle against the outbreak a resounding success and took the country off a sort of “lockdown lite” that had lasted only a month and a half.

“By doing things in a uniquely Japanese way, we were able to almost completely end this wave of infection,” Mr. Abe said, adding that what he called the “Japan model” offered a path out of the global pandemic.

It’s still unclear, though, exactly what accounts for Japan’s achievement and what other countries can learn from it. Critics say Japan undercounted coronavirus deaths. And some warn that further waves of infection could undermine the government’s self-congratulatory pronouncements.

The Premier League’s 665-page handbook lays out how club must be run, what players must wear while performing off-field duties and other finer points surrounding the operations of the world’s most popular domestic sports league.

But two months after its season was suspended, the Premier League has finally resisted the temptation to pretend that it never happened. There is already a 50-page appendix to the handbook governing how teams should safely return to training. And, with a raft of potential caveats, matches will return on June 17.

“The arrival of an aggressive pathogen is, after all, not the only thing that might have caused the cessation of soccer,” Rory writes. “War has done it in the past, civil unrest has done it elsewhere, and player strikes have managed it in other sports.”

As countries begin rolling out plans to restart their economies after the brutal shock and sharp drop in greenhouse gas emissions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the three biggest producers of planet-warming gases — the European Union, the United States and China — are writing scripts that push humanity in very different directions.

Europe this week laid out a vision of a green future, with a proposed recovery package worth more than $800 billion that would transition the bloc away from fossil fuels and put people to work making old buildings energy-efficient.

China has given a green light to building new coal plants, but it also declined to set specific economic growth targets for this year — a move that came as a relief to environmentalists.

Just as their recovery plans are taking shape, though, the political pressure on world leaders switched off: On Thursday, the United Nations announced that the next round of global climate talks, which had been slated for Glasgow this November, would be delayed for a full year.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. It was the court’s first attempt to balance the public health crisis against the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. It also it expanded the court’s engagement with the consequences of the pandemic, after rulings on voting in Wisconsin and prisons in Texas and Ohio.

“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.

“Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” the chief justice wrote. “And the order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented.

“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. “California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.”

“The state cannot,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote, quoting from an appeals court decision in a different case, “‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.’”

The case was brought by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, which said Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy,” lawyers for the church wrote in their Supreme Court brief, “but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog of war’ to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”

Monkeys in India escaped with Covid-19 blood samples.

A troop of monkeys has attacked a lab technician in a town near India’s capital, snatching blood samples of three coronavirus patients who were being treated at a university hospital.

The technician in Meerut, outside New Delhi, was carrying the samples for routine tests at Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College on Tuesday when the monkeys struck.

“Monkeys have been a big menace here,” said Dr. S.K. Garg, the college’s principal. “Earlier, patients themselves would feed them, and now it seems they are short of food and getting desperate.”

Video footage appeared to show a monkey chewing at the samples while perched atop a tree, then dropping part of the booty to the ground below.

Dr. Dheeraj Raj, a senior administrator at the college, said that the hospital planned to suspend the technician because he had shot videos of the monkeys instead of returning to work.

“These are sensitive times,” he said.

This should be the moment for Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most visible opposition leader.

Many Russians are enraged with the Kremlin over its botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating, at 59 percent, is at its lowest ebb since 1999, when he was a lowly prime minister.

At the same time, Mr. Navalny’s audience for his YouTube livestreaming channel tripled as the virus took hold. But whether Mr. Navalny can capitalize on the opportunity remains to be seen.

As Russia fights the coronavirus, the country’s beleaguered opposition, too, finds itself on the back foot. Its proven approach to effecting change — mass street protest — will not be viable for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Navalny and his colleagues are left working from home, pumping out video clips, petitions and social media posts to try to channel the anger of Russians who wonder why Mr. Putin has not done more to help them during the biggest domestic crisis of his tenure.

Mr. Navalny, a 43-year-old lawyer and anticorruption activist, has needled Mr. Putin as corrupt and incompetent for more than a decade, dubbing him the head of “a party of crooks and thieves.” He maintains a nationwide network of branch offices and has honed punchy, populist and sometimes nationalist rhetoric, which reaches millions of social-media followers well beyond the urban middle class.

Along the way, he has spent stints in jail and under house arrest, and the authorities have raided his offices and frozen his bank accounts. But the Kremlin has continued to let him operate, perhaps fearing that tougher action would only raise his popularity and standing.

Mr. Navalny says the Kremlin is losing the support of Russians who had backed Mr. Putin as their guarantor of order and stability. In confrontations over Ukraine and Syria, Mr. Putin cut the figure of a tough, determined leader.

But when a major crisis hit at home — the country’s total of 387,623 coronavirus infections is the third-highest in the world — Mr. Putin appeared to waffle. He issued confusing edicts, delegated key decisions to regional governors and struggled for weeks to get local officials to pay out bonuses he had promised to medical workers.

When experts recommend wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others, washing your hands frequently and avoiding crowded spaces, what they’re really saying is: Try to minimize the amount of virus you encounter.

The immune system can see off a few viral particles without making you sick. But how much is needed for an infection to take root?

It wouldn’t be ethical for scientists to expose people to different doses of the coronavirus, as they do with milder cold viruses. Common respiratory viruses, like influenza and other coronaviruses, should offer some insight. But researchers have found little consistency.

For SARS, also a coronavirus, the estimated infective dose is just a few hundred particles. For MERS, it is much higher, on the order of thousands.

The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is more similar to SARS and, therefore, the infectious dose may be hundreds of particles, Dr. Rasmussen said.

But the virus has a history of defying predictions.

Generally, people who harbor high levels of pathogens — whether from influenza, H.I.V. or SARS — tend to have more severe symptoms and are more likely to pass on the infection.

Sui-Lee Wee is a New York Times correspondent who until recently was based in Beijing, where she covered gender, health care and other issues in China. This is her story of moving back to Singapore.

“Hey, who are those men?” my 4-year-old son, Luke, said on a video call with his nanny in Beijing, as he peered at masked movers carting boxes.

Our nanny was coordinating the packing of our furniture into storage because my family was stuck in Singapore, about 3,000 miles away.

Back story: In March, China banned all foreign residents from returning, leaving us stranded in Singapore. My husband, Tom, and I did not want to pay rent on two apartments, so we decided we would pack up the only home my two kids had ever known.

The only problem was that desperately homesick Luke did not know this yet.

“They’re helping us fix some stuff,” Tom explained to him.

“What? All the doors are broken?”

“Yep.”

A week earlier, our nanny had done a walk-through of our apartment and sent several video clips of our possessions: the pink hand-me-down balance bike that Luke never rode, Liam’s crib, Luke’s fire-engine bunk bed. All of it felt frozen in time. Our Pompeii.

I couldn’t decide how to broach the topic with Luke. I had always told him about what was happening in the world (within reason), but Beijing was his world. and he still asked repeatedly: “Why are we staying in Singapore for SO LONG?”

So while I was giving him his bath, I dove in. “Hey, you know the men you saw on the video today? They were moving our stuff into a big storeroom.” Pause. “And maybe one day, we can go back and get them again.”

“Oh, OK,” Luke responded.

That’s it? I thought. It was a reminder not to foist my anxieties onto my children. The kids, hopefully, will be all right.

Here’s how to become a better reader.

Are you finding it difficult to sit down and read? You’re not alone. Here are a few strategies that can help you get more out of your next book.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Ben Dooley, Jenny Gross, Makiko Inoue, Andrew Jacobs, Annie Karni, Adam Liptak, Richard C. Paddock, Robin Pogrebin, Apoorva Mandavilli, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Alissa J. Rubin, Marc Santora, Kai Schultz, Somini Sengupta, Daniel Slotnik, Rory Smith, Sun Narin, Suhasini Raj, Anton Troianovski, Sameer Yasir, Vivian Wang and Sui-Lee Wee.





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