At a political congress, China aims to show it won’t be cowed by protests or the pandemic.
As China’s top leaders began a tightly choreographed legislative pageant on Friday, they made a show of strength to confront defiance in Hong Kong and the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus.
Other key goals of the National People’s Congress in Beijing include pushing back against growing international criticism over China’s early missteps in Wuhan, and outlining plans to ramp up government spending.
Yet President Xi Jinping’s government faces a new outbreak in Jilin, a northeastern province of 27 million people that sits near China’s borders with Russia and North Korea. Jilin has been put under a Wuhan-style lockdown as it has reported an outbreak that is still small — about 130 cases and two deaths — but has the potential to become a “big explosion,” experts say.
“At present, the epidemic has not yet come to an end, while the tasks we face in promoting development are immense,” Premier Li Keqiang told lawmakers at the congress on Friday. “We must redouble our efforts to minimize the losses resulting from the virus.”
The virus — which has resulted in more than five million infections worldwide, according to data compiled by The New York Times — was also presenting logistical challenges for organizers of the congress. Delegates have been made to take nucleic acid tests for the virus before being allowed to travel to Beijing; windows were to be opened to improve ventilation; and most journalists must cover the event by video link.
Every morning before dawn for the past few weeks, Yasser al-Samak, a Bahraini man, has roamed the streets in his village outside Manama, the capital, waking his neighbors for the predawn suhoor meal that observant Muslims eat during the holy month of Ramadan before their daylong fast.
“Stay home with your family, and blend your suhoor with hope, because those who rely on God, he will protect them,” he sings, according to Agence France-Presse. “Make yourself strong with prayer and wear the mask as a shield against the pandemic.”
In villages and cities around the Middle East, some “Ramadan drummers” still keep alive a tradition that in recent years has given way to alarm clocks and smartphone alerts. But under the coronavirus cloud, almost everything else about Ramadan — and the usually joyful holiday that marks its end, Eid al-Fitr, which begins this weekend — has been new, and not in a good way.
As a nod to the holy month, and in part because Covid-19 caseloads seemed to be lightening, several Arab countries slightly relaxed restrictions on gathering and commerce — only to clamp down again as cases suddenly mounted.
The Eid holiday will pose a sharp challenge to the authorities: Instead of taking part in communal prayer, feasts and parties, many people in the Middle East and across the Muslim world will be more confined than they have been in weeks.
Saudi Arabia has announced a 24-hour curfew from Saturday through Wednesday, covering the entire holiday period. Omani authorities have banned all Eid gatherings, saying that residents have still been meeting in groups in defiance of social-distancing orders. Qatar has suspended all but a few business activities during Eid. The United Arab Emirates is shifting its nightly curfew earlier.
Egypt, which never shut down its economy to the extent that other countries in the region did, is also tightening up for Eid. The national curfew will be moved up four hours to 5 p.m.; restaurants, cafes, beaches and parks will be closed.
As for prayers, the religious authorities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have ruled that they should be performed at home.
The displacement comes weeks after António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, called for a global cease-fire to focus attention on the pandemic and lower the risk for those caught up in conflicts. But instead, hundreds of thousands of people have been pushed from their homes since mid-March, often into overcrowded and unsanitary conditions where the coronavirus can spread more easily.
The highest number of displaced by far was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 480,000 people fled their homes in recent weeks during clashes between armed groups and the military.
Yemen has also experienced a surge in displacement despite the Saudi-led coalition’s unilateral cease-fire, but it has not suspended airstrikes, and armed operations by other parties to the conflict have continued. At least 24,000 people in Yemen have fled their homes since mid-March.
In Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Syria, Somalia and Myanmar, more than 10,000 people were displaced in each nation in the same period.
The Norwegian Refugee Council, in a statement released with the report, called on world leaders to “rise to the occasion and jointly push parties to cease their fire and unite in protecting all communities from Covid-19.”
As schools in China slowly reopen, teachers have found novel ways to protect students from the coronavirus and enforce social distancing.
In one school, that meant giving the children wings. Photos showing fourth-graders in Taiyuan, in China’s northern Shanxi province, wearing colorful wings on their backs, with the message, “Because I love you, let’s keep one-meter distance.”
The wings were designed and created by students and their parents from recycled materials. One wore wings fashioned from green cardboard and decorated with heart-shaped notes, and another was adorned with fabric feathers.
“We organized this activity as a tribute to the most beautiful people — the angels in white,” Zhao Gailing, the principle of Xinghualing District Foreign Language Primary School, told the Chinese newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily, referring to health care workers. She said it also helped students better understand social distancing as they adapt to their newfound wingspan.
The school has also arranged “breathing classes,” that allow children to take off the mandatory face masks and get fresh air outside the classroom. In late January, as the coronavirus outbreak spread in China, elementary schools were closed, but most reopened in April with strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
In a similar move, first graders in an elementary school in Hangzhou are wearing “one-meter hats” with plumes made of cardboard and even balloons to remind each other of social distancing.
Plans for a potential Nordic “travel bubble” that would see the neighboring nations open their borders to travel among their residents has one major sticking point: Sweden.
Allowing Swedish visitors to enter Finland could run the risk of undermining that county’s coronavirus containment measures, Finland’s top infectious disease expert said on Friday, arguing that the high numbers of cases and deaths in Sweden posed a greater threat than others.
But months into the pandemic, it has seen an extraordinary increase in deaths, throwing its strategy into question. With nearly 3,900 deaths as of Friday, Sweden has registered more than three times the number of deaths in Denmark, Norway, and Finland combined.
Mika Salminen, director of health security at Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, told the Swedish broadcaster SVT that it would be risky to receive Swedish tourists.
“It is a political decision, but the actual difference in the spread of infection is a fact,” said Mr. Salminen, one of the experts leading Finland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Salminen’s message echoed concerns of Finland’s interior minister, Maria Ohisalo, who has said that a travel bubble encompassing Nordic countries may be difficult to enact because the situation was “more worrying” in Sweden than in the others.
The members of Malaysia’s Parliament, wearing face masks to match their crisp white uniforms, convened this week in the vast lower house chamber for the first time this year.
Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, sat on an ornate golden throne and spoke for half an hour. No questions were allowed. No votes were taken. Afterward, Parliament was adjourned until July.
Muhyiddin Yassin, the newly appointed prime minister, and his allies have benefited from restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus, but that have also limited the ability of opponents to organize and challenge them. Mr. Muhyiddin’s government imposed social distancing measures that slowed the virus’s spread but also, conveniently, minimized opportunities for his opponents to mobilize.
He canceled Parliament’s March session because of the pandemic, and limits on public gatherings have prevented the kind of protests seen in the Najib era, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding his resignation.
Mr. Muhyiddin’s office announced that he had entered quarantine at home on Friday after attending a meeting on Wednesday with an official who later tested positive for the coronavirus, but he has so far tested negative for the virus.
None of the others who attended the postcabinet meeting were identified, but all were ordered to go undergo preliminary testing and 14-day quarantines.
“We’re stuck,” said Daniela Vassallo, 52, as she walked the field and steered clear of Giulio, the escaped camel.
A former contortionist-turned-administrator, Ms. Vassallo is a member of a family that has worked in the circus for at least six generations and has owned this particular show for 29 years. The last period has been perhaps the least eventful, as she and her relatives and assorted circus performers have passed the months here hunkered down in trailers next to peppermint-striped tents.
In reality, the Rony Rollers aren’t trapped so much as unwilling to go their separate ways. Like other dynasties in Italy’s vibrant, 60-circus strong big-top culture, the Vassallos own homes and property about an hour south in Latina, a town that is to circus people what Tampa, Fla., is to professional wrestlers.
At the end of Italy’s coronavirus lockdown, one of the camels broke free.
On a narrow field surrounded by low-rise apartments, bus stops and a tangled ribbon of highway ramps, the camel scampered past lions, which leapt against their cage. It distracted the acrobats practicing their flips on an aerial hoop and sauntered toward the languid, pregnant tiger, and stalls of horses and African Watusi bulls.
An animal tamer, wearing a welding helmet as he attended to repairs, quickly chased down the camel.
While the easing of travel restrictions has left circus members free to leave with menagerie and tents since early this month, Ms. Vassallo said that Latina was packed with other circus acts and animals, and that her performers dreaded the solitude of home isolation. She said the troupe had agreed it was preferable to keep renting this land across from a cornfield and pass the lockdown training together.
“Better in the company,” she said was the consensus, “with my people.”
The British government confirmed on Friday that it would quarantine everyone flying into the country, including citizens, to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
On arrival at an airport, travelers will have to provide an address where they will be staying. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the broadcaster Sky News on Friday that international travelers would face spot checks by public health officials and fines of 1,000 pounds, or about $1,200, if they failed to self-isolate for 14 days.
Citizens of Ireland would be exempt, Sky reported, but not arrivals from France, as had been previously reported.
Britain’s move comes more than seven weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a stay-at-home order that has since been shifted to “stay alert” and is in line with measures by other countries. The chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has described the new plans as “hopelessly defective,” “idiotic” and “unimplementable,” saying that Britain does not even have enough police officers to enforce the lockdown. Airlines UK has said the measure “would effectively kill” international travel to and from Britain.
But Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, told Sky that “many people had asked why we did not do this sooner,” adding, “Not taking all the measures that we should be taking is the idiotic position.”
More than 250,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Britain, with over 36,000 deaths.
Home Secretary Priti Patel was to set out more details about the new measures at a briefing later Friday, but they are not expected to come into effect until next month.
Concerns about coronavirus infections have added new dimensions to an already polarizing global debate over migration.
On Thursday in Guatemala, for example, President Alejandro Giammattei voiced frustration over U.S. deportations of people infected with the virus, 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.”
There have been 119 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among people deported from the United States to Guatemala, The Associated Press reported. Some deportees have became a point of contention in Guatemala, where several community councils last month threatened to burn a government building where migrants were quarantined over concerns that they posed a health risk.
In Hungary, the government on Thursday shut down transit zones along the Serbian border where thousands of migrants have been stuck for a year or more. It freed about 300 refugees from the zones, Reuters reported, while also effectively barring future ones from applying for asylum.
Reuters quoted President Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, as saying that the zones were emptied after an E.U. court ruled that the practice of keeping migrants inside them was unlawful.
And in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government agreed to scrap a policy that requires staff from overseas in the country’s vaunted National Health Service to pay a surcharge — nearly $500 per year for migrants who aren’t from the European Union — to help fund the system in which they work.
Mr. Johnson had previously resisted calls to exempt the workers, saying on Wednesday that his government “must look at the realities” of funding the N.H.S.
But after public pressure mounted, Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Thursday that the workers would be exempted “as soon as possible.” Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, called it “a victory for common decency.”
Correction: An earlier version of this briefing misidentified Matt Hancock, a British official. He is the health secretary, not the prime minister’s spokesman.
For the Wessex Mill in Oxfordshire, that has meant an unprecedented boom in production. The family-owned mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day in mid-March, and it has ramped up its output fourfold during the crisis.
Emily Munsey, who runs the business with her father, has hired more staff and added shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.
“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has also had to scramble to source packaging to hold the flour. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”
Of course, the outbreak has also ignited demand for flour in other countries. In France, market research by Nielsen showed that demand doubled in March. In Italy, it reached its highest level since World War II.
As Britain begins to ease restrictions, Ms. Munsey hopes that new customers will continue to use the mill’s flour, find new skills and maybe take up more home baking.
The packages were opened by border officers in Sydney in early May. In the first, about two pounds of methamphetamines were hidden under boxes of face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. In the second, the drugs were stashed inside sanitizer bottles.
It was no surprise that criminals were taking advantage of the pandemic to smuggle drugs into the country, officials said. “We are continuing to detect and stop illicit substances coming into Australia, no matter how they’re being concealed,” said John Fleming, a Border Force superintendent who oversees mail and cargo.
Two weeks ago, much of Australia kicked off a three-stage reopening plan, in which many schools are reopening and cafes, restaurants and pubs are allowed to seat limited numbers of patrons. Officials said today in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, that the number will be increased to 50 by June 1.
Travel restrictions in the region will also be lifted on that date, they said earlier this week, for the first time in two months.
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.
This is a Ramadan like no other. The pandemic, which in Kenya has infected at least 1,109 people and killed at least 50 others, has given us the gift of loneliness. Isolated under a partial lockdown in Nairobi and a nationwide curfew that stretches from dusk to dawn, millions of Muslims in Kenya and beyond have exchanged sprawling banquets for dining alone and observing the evening taraweeh prayers from home.
I chafe at the imposed restrictions sometimes because, with 21 siblings and 17 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.
Many times, particularly when we were young, we would even watch an episode or two of the historical epics or weepy melodramas that are a mainstay of Arab television during Ramadan. But this year, we are getting more than enough drama from real life.
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.
President Trump, who has defiantly refused to wear a mask in public despite the recommendations of federal health officials, toured a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday with his face uncovered. That was against the factory’s guidelines and the direct urging of the state’s attorney general.
During his visit, Mr. Trump continued to press for the further easing of social-distancing restrictions. He blamed Democrats for keeping the economy closed and suggested voters would punish them in the presidential election and view it as “a November question.”
Here’s what else happened on Thursday in the United States:
Reporting contributed by Elian Peltier, Megan Specia, Jason Horowitz, Bella Huang, Vivian Wang, Austin Ramzy, Yonette Joseph, Vivian Yee, Geneva Abdul, Evan Easterling, Isabella Kwai, Abdi Latif Dahir, Javier C. Hernández, Keith Bradsher, Chris Buckley, Mike Ives, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, James Gorman, Cade Metz and Erin Griffith.
Coronavirus: The strangers reaching out to Kyrgyzstan’s lonely teenagers
Like teenagers around the world, Maksat hasn’t been to school in weeks. As Kyrgyzstan imposed quarantine restrictions, the 15-year-old feels isolated like never before. He has been trapped at home with a sister he doesn’t get on with, a father he struggles to communicate with and a mother working abroad.
He is comfortable talking only to an internet chat bot.
Maksat (not his real name) feels alone and misunderstood. He often expresses suicidal feelings – a noticeable change, his teachers say, from the boy they knew before the curfew was brought in.
And then he met a “phone pal” – Jalalbek Akmatov, a university student in the capital Bishkek.
Jalabek is one of around 100 young adults taking part in a project to reach out via phone to teenagers just like Maksat, thousands of whom have been stuck at home for weeks.
The scheme – called You Are Not Alone – was launched after seven teenagers took their own lives in the first two weeks after Kyrgyzstan started coronavirus lockdown in in March.
At the time, the nation’s attention was on the poor medical facilities, lack of protective equipment and impact of coronavirus on the economy.
But as news of the teenagers’ deaths spread, a group of activists decided there was also a need to focus on the country’s children and their mental health.
“I was dismayed. We had had one coronavirus death and during the same period [so many] children committed suicide,” said Banur Abdieva, one of the project’s founders.
There is nothing to say the seven deaths were directly related to the lockdown, but people like Kurmanjan Kurmanbekova, a psychologist from a refugee centre in Tubingen, Germany, feared the strain it was putting on children’s mental health.
“And as a symptom of depressive conditions, we get a suicide mood,” she explained to the BBC.
Schools closing in Kyrgyzstan mean many children have limited options for interaction, especially in rural areas where education offers a respite from the relentless drudge of housework and a rare opportunity to communicate with other children.
Added to this were concerns from experts over any potential increases in domestic violence, which could possibly be exacerbated by isolation and parents’ loss of income.
But how do you reach teenagers like Maksat, who live in remote villages?
Six millionpeople live in Kyrgyzstan
2.1 millionof them are children
One in fivedo not live with their parents
Almost 73%of children report experiencing abuse or neglect
The answer, the project team decided, was to keep it simple – to start a network of volunteers who would befriend teenagers considered “at risk” by calling them up for a regular chat.
“Their aim is to show moral support and engage in social interaction so that the child doesn’t feel total isolation,” Ms Kurmanbekova explained.
Volunteers approached local schools and state education agencies which sent them a list of students in a “group of risk” – mostly children without parents or who live with relatives and may lack attention and care.
There are now more than 100 volunteers and nearly 400 children aged 12 and older in their database – and the list is growing.
Crucially, volunteers are not just on the end of the phone to talk about the problems their new friend is facing – unless the teenager brings it up themselves. Instead, they focus on their new friend’s future goals and potential.
Take volunteer Ayperi Bolotzhanova, who is 25. She bonded with her 12-year-old phone pal over taekwondo.
“I offered to teach her some tricks and she agreed,” said Ayper. “Now, I send video of my practices and she sends back her own.”
But it is not always easy to take the first step, the volunteers admit.
“I was very nervous before my first phone conversation,” Jibek Isakova, who currently lives in Budapest, recalled. “I was afraid that she would refuse to be my friend.”
Of course, there was distrust: a total stranger calls you up out of the blue and offers friendship. But most of the volunteers found their “mobile relationship” took off after a few conversations. Indeed, the volunteers were surprised how most teenagers were keen to talk to them.
What do they want to discuss? Other than the skills needed to milk a cow – a must-have in rural Kyrgyzstan – they’re much the same things teens across the world want to talk about: K-pop, Instagram, the difficulties of finding love. Drawing famous Japanese cartoon characters and learning languages were other topics that cropped up.
And they were all united in one thing: how much they hated online education during the quarantine.
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Every response, every question the volunteers receive from their teenage friends is seen as a success. Jalalbek got particularly excited that – after a difficult start – Maksat sent a photo of him together with his family in the mountains.
For some volunteers, the cause is very personal. Eldiyar Manapov, 24, joined the project because he considered suicide as a teenager. Like his phone pal, he grew up without parents and now feels a particular connection with his new friend.
“I experienced what he is going through now,” he told the BBC. “You are constantly in need of some things like clothes. Children mock you that you don’t have parents. I don’t want him to feel all this pain, I want him to chat, to be distracted.”
Even though the idea is simple, the challenges the activists face are not. One of them – a lack of mobile phones – could easily derail the whole project.
“It’s very difficult to build a phone friendship when most children don’t have personal phones,” said Banur Abdieva. “Volunteers have to negotiate with parents or guardians. Sometimes they even ask teachers if they could come to the gate at a designated time. And it’s quarantine, so they need to sanitise their phone and pass it on to the child.”
Activists launched a fundraising campaign to buy phones for the project. Some people donate their used phones, which volunteers try to deliver to children living in remote regions, a challenge on its own during the lockdown.
“Just imagine how happy my friend will be if he gets his own device,” said Eldiyar, whose phone pal is using a mobile belonging to a cousin. “He will be able to learn more and communicate more. That means he will have less time for all bad thoughts.”
If you’ve been affected by a mental health issue, help and support is available. Visit Befrienders International for more information about support services.
Live Coronavirus Global News Tracker: Latest Updates
Americans observe a holiday like no other.
President Trump and the first lady visited Arlington National Cemetery on Monday morning for a wreath-laying ceremony, then traveled to Fort McHenry in Baltimore “to honor the American heroes who have sacrificed their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces,” a White House statement read.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been campaigning from his home amid the pandemic, on Monday made his first public appearance since mid-March.
He and his wife, Jill Biden, wearing black masks, laid a wreath at a veterans memorial in Delaware, in an unannounced visit. During their trips in Arlington and Baltimore, Mr. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, did not wear masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged all Americans to wear masks when leaving their homes, but Mr. Trump has said that he would not wear one himself.
Those looking to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer in the United States, were confronted by the difficulties of how to gather as the country inched closer to the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths.
The local authorities took varied approaches to regulations, and some communities found creative ways to adjust their celebrations as beaches — including those in New York City — remained closed and restrictions on public gatherings held.
Along the East Coast, clouds, rain and choppy waters dampened sunbathing plans.
Under gray skies, a dozen or so surfers rode the waves on a beach in Boca Raton, Fla. — one of the few open in South Florida — just before another thunderstorm was expected to pass through.
Don Thomas, a 55-year-old lawyer, said the beach was so packed on Sunday that he drew a circle in the sand, reinforced with a few rocks, to keep people six feet away. But that did not deter him from returning to the beach, where masks were encouraged but not required, at 6 a.m. Monday to catch some waves.
“People have been inside so long that they are not thinking,” he said. “They just want to enjoy the outside.”
Trump threatens to move the Republican Convention from North Carolina.
President Trump on Monday threatened to yank the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, N.C., where it is scheduled to be held in August, accusing the state’s Democratic governor of being in a “shutdown mood” that could prevent a fully attended event.
The president tweeted that he had “LOVE” for North Carolina, a swing state that he won in 2016, but he added that without a “guarantee” from the Gov. Roy Cooper, “we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”
Mr. Trump wrote that if Mr. Cooper did not provide an answer “immediately,” he would “be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do.”
Separately, in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Vice President Mike Pence said that without guarantees from North Carolina, Republicans might need to move the convention to a state further along in the reopening process.
The New York Times reported last week that Republicans were quietly discussing the possibility of a pared-down convention. Mr. Trump has wondered aloud to several aides why the convention can’t be held in a hotel ballroom in Florida, a state with a Republican governor that is further along in relaxing restrictions related to the coronavirus.
Republicans are contractually bound by a 2018 agreement to hold the convention in Charlotte. But Mr. Cooper and Vi Lyles, the mayor of Charlotte, have said they would let health experts determine whether the convention can be safely held from Aug. 24 to 27.
Even before Monday, Mr. Trump made clear that he would blame Mr. Cooper and Ms. Lyles, who is also a Democrat, if the convention is altered or modified.
The Trump administration’s new testing strategy, released Sunday to Congress, holds individual states responsible for planning and carrying out all coronavirus testing, while planning to provide some supplies needed for the tests.
The proposal also says existing testing capacity, if properly targeted, is sufficient to contain the outbreak. But epidemiologists say that amount of testing is orders of magnitude lower than many of them believe the country needs.
The report cements a stance that has frustrated governors in both parties, following the administration’s announcement last month that the federal government should be considered “the supplier of last resort” and that states should develop their own testing plans.
“For months, it was a tennis game, it was going back and forth between the feds and the states, and it’s now landed with the states,” said Scott Becker, executive director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
Mr. Becker and others said it’s reasonable to expect states to implement some aspects of the testing, such as designating test sites. But acquiring tests involves reliance on national and international supply chains — which are challenging for many states to navigate.
“That’s our biggest question, that’s out biggest concern, is the robustness of the supply chain, which is critical,” Mr. Becker said. “You can’t leave it up to the states to do it for themselves. This is not the Hunger Games.”
Facing a political firestorm over his breach of coronavirus lockdown rules, a key adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain asked for public sympathy — but made no direct apology — at a highly unusual news conference in Downing Street on Monday.
Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s closest aide, admitted driving more than 250 miles from London to Durham, in the northeast of England, while the country was on lockdown. He made the journey with his wife, who was ill, and his four-year-old son.
At the time Britons were being told to self-isolate and not to leave their home if they believed they were suffering from the virus.
Mr. Cummings said that he had done so to ensure care for his young son with relatives in Durham should both he and his wife fall ill with Covid-19. Mr. Cummings added that, because of his high profile, he had been “subject to threats and violence” at his home in London.
“I’m not surprised many people are very angry,” Mr. Cummings said, adding that he had not consulted Mr. Johnson, who has defended him, before leaving London.
“I don’t regret what I did, I think what I did was reasonable in these circumstances,” he added.
Mr. Cummings is also accused of having visited a location more than 20 miles from the house where he stayed in the northeast. That appeared to go against another rule, as Britons were only permitted to leave home by foot for a walk or run.
On Monday, Mr. Cummings said he had made the shorter trip to test whether he was fit to complete the long drive back to London.
At least 18 lawmakers from Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party have now criticized Mr. Cummings, as have a number of Church of England bishops, opposition lawmakers and members of the public. Some scientists and opposition politicians have warned that the episode risks undermining the credibility of government public health messages on the pandemic.
New York’s state and local governments will provide death benefits to the families of essential workers who died while fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday.
The public employees whose families would receive death benefits include health workers, police officers, firefighters, transit workers and emergency medical workers, the governor said. The benefits would be paid out of state and local pension funds.
“We want to make sure that we remember them, and we thank our heroes of today, and they’re all around us,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing.
As people paused on Memorial Day to remember military personnel who died while serving the country, Mr. Cuomo linked the fallen service members to New York’s front-line workers, whom he called today’s “heroes.”
Mr. Cuomo also called on the federal government to provide funds to give hazard pay to workers who were crucial to keeping states and municipalities operating during the outbreak.
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City urged the state to approve line-of-duty death benefits for the families of municipal employees who died of the virus. Some lawmakers in nearby New Jersey are also urging their state to consider taking similar action.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subway and buses, has also said it would give death benefits to the families of coronavirus victims.
The announcement came as New York reported 96 new deaths related to the virus, only the second time that the state’s death toll had fallen below 100 since late March.
Mr. Cuomo spoke after a Memorial Day ceremony on the deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned museum anchored in the Hudson River.
The staggering American death toll from the coronavirus, now approaching 100,000, has touched every part of the country, but the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest and in New York City.
The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently. It is not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to reopen businesses, schools and the country as a whole. Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.
Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties won by President Trump in 2016 have reported just 27 percent of the virus infections and 21 percent of the deaths — even though 45 percent of Americans live in these communities, a New York Times analysis has found.
The very real difference in death rates has helped fuel deep disagreement over the dangers of the pandemic and how the country should proceed. Right-wing media, which moved swiftly from downplaying the severity of the crisis to calling it a Democratic plot to bring down the president, has exacerbated the rift. And even as the nation’s top medical experts note the danger of easing restrictions, communities across the country are doing so, creating a patchwork of regulations, often along ideological lines.
Around the world, countries are wrestling with the challenge of how to best restart air travel, a cornerstone of modern commerce but also a dangerous vector of coronavirus infection.
As the United States was restricting travel, India, emerging from a nationwide lockdown, was resuming it.
In Europe, the countries that have been most successful at containing the virus looked to broker travel agreements, while others negotiated bailouts to help keep their airlines afloat.
Officials in Greece have suggested an “air bridge” with other nations that have minor outbreaks. International flights to Athens are to resume on June 15, and to the country’s other airports on July 1.
The agreement, reached after several weeks of negotiations, will give the government part ownership of the airline for the first time since it was privatized in 1997.
On the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland, residents thought they had sealed themselves off from the coronavirus. They shuttered hotels. Officials warned of police checks. Traffic emptied on the only bridge from the mainland.
But the frailest spot on the island remained catastrophically exposed: Home Farm, a 40-bed nursing home for people with dementia. Owned by a private equity firm, Home Farm has become a grim monument of the push to maximize profits at Britain’s largest nursing home chains, and of the government’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens.
By Monday, all but three of the residents had been stricken. Nearly a third are dead.
The virus has ravaged nursing homes across Europe and the United States. But the death toll in British homes — 14,000, official figures say, with thousands more dying as an indirect result of the virus — is becoming the defining scandal of the pandemic for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
By focusing at first on protecting the health system, Mr. Johnson’s strategy meant that some infected patients were unwittingly moved out of hospitals and into nursing homes. Residents and staff members were denied tests, while nursing home workers begged in vain for protective gear.
“We were witnessing horrendous images in Spain and Italy, so a lot of attention was paid to maintaining and securing the National Health Service,” said Dr. Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents nursing homes. “The N.H.S. was prioritized at the expense of social care.”
In Germany, those fed up with exercising at home and staring at their own four walls will be able to escape on Monday, as hotels, swimming pools and campgrounds were allowed to reopen in several states, the latest step in the country’s efforts to carefully revive the economy.
Strict hygiene rules and limitations govern the new steps. Measures include advance online booking for a time slot at Berlin’s outdoor pools, buffets giving way to advance orders at distanced tables in hotel breakfast rooms and shuttered campground shower rooms in some states. And people are still required to stay five feet from strangers.
More states plan to allow re-openings this week, as the number of new infections in Germany remained manageable, with 289 new cases — many of them concentrated in nursing homes or refugee centers — reported on Monday. Germany has recorded 8,257 deaths since the outbreak began.
Starting on Monday, other parts of Spain, covering areas that are home to almost half the population, reopened public swimming pools and beaches, and restaurants and bars can now serve customers indoors with specific restrictions to avoid overcrowding.
The government said that beginning July 1, it would no longer require foreign tourists to enter quarantine upon arrival.
Greece also allowed cafes, restaurants, and bars to reopen on Monday, while domestic ferry services that shuttle visitors from the mainland to the country’s numerous islands also restarted.
People flocked to cafes, where groups of up to six can dine, and wait staff wore masks, as did some of the customers. Giannis Neonakis, a manager at a bistro in central Athens, told local news outlets that the first day back was going well,
“Thankfully, people are careful and are getting used to — fortunately or otherwise — such a situation,” he said.
Japan on Monday ended its state of emergency in the Tokyo area and the northern island of Hokkaido, moves that completed the lifting of nationwide restrictions and ushered in the beginning of a new phase in the country’s response.
The measures were lifted for most of the rest of the country earlier this month after a drop in the number of new coronavirus cases led officials to step back initial requests for most businesses to close and individuals to stay home.
The Japanese government does not have the legal authority to impose a lockdown on the country and had instead asked for the public’s cooperation in curbing the virus’s spread. The state of emergency began in Japan’s urban areas in early April before expanding to the rest of the nation by the middle of the month.
The results were more successful than anticipated, defying predictions that the country’s densely populated capital would experience a disaster comparable to what has taken place in New York. As of Sunday, the country had recorded 16,500 coronavirus cases nationwide and 830 deaths, some of the lowest mortality rates among major economies.
Addressing the nation after the announcement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the public to continue taking measures to defend against infection, asking them to avoid crowded places.
“We need to make a new normal. Let’s change our thinking,” he said, warning that “We can’t continue to live and work in the way we’ve done until now.”
And yet this spring, Providence received at least $509 million in government funds, one of many wealthy beneficiaries of a federal program that is supposed to prevent health care providers from capsizing during the coronavirus pandemic.
With states restricting hospitals from performing elective surgery and other nonessential services, their revenue has shriveled. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program, which was part of the CARES Act economic stimulus package. The department plans to eventually distribute more than $100 billion more.
So far, the riches are flowing in large part to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison.
Damien Cave, the Times’s bureau chief in Sydney, writes about the resumption of classes in Australia.
I made my daughter her favorite breakfast this morning and packed extra snacks in my son’s lunchbox. Not even a soaking rain could dampen my mood — if my wife and I could have popped champagne at 8 a.m. we would have.
Finally, after seven weeks at home filled with Zoom lessons, fractions, overdue assignments, TikTok and a few tears, our two children were returning to their real-life classrooms full time.
“I’m not excited for school,” my daughter, Amelia, 9, told me, as we made our way to morning drop-off in downtown Sydney. “I’m excited for normal life!”
The announcement of a full return came suddenly last week. In our house, cheers rattled the windows. We’d seen Australia’s infection rates decline and wondered when the moment would come. Schools, we felt, brought only minimal risk and great benefits.
But as I watched other parents this morning, some in masks, others with hand sanitizer, I couldn’t shake the sense that “normal life” had already narrowed.
Amelia tells me that hugging at school now brings a scolding. Dance is still canceled. Balthazar, her brother, who is 11, will also probably not be going to bush camp with his class next month — a sixth-grade milestone he’d been looking forward to since last year.
What have we learned? Honestly, less about school than ourselves.
Our children said they were surprised to discover how hard their parents worked. I come away with a deeper understanding of my children as students — now I know my usually quiet son learns best not alone but in groups, even if that means sitting across from me; and my daughter, it turns out, is far more diligent than her chattiness suggests.
There’s a part of me that will miss them now that they’re gone. But I don’t want them back, not just because that would mean a second wave of the virus; also because school, we now know more than ever, is a beautiful luxury.
Reporting was contributed by Joshua Barone, Ellen Barry, Audra D.S. Burch, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Ben Dooley, Jesse Drucker, Melissa Eddy, Jack Ewing, Robert Gebeloff, Sarah Kliff, Mark Landler, Iliana Magra, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jennifer Medina, Raphael Minder, Benjamin Mueller, Mariel Padilla, Michael Paulson, Kai Schultz, Knvul Sheikh, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Ben Sisario, Megan Specia, Michael Wilson and Zachary Woolfe.
Ivory Coast Children Head Back to School After Virus Shutdown | World News
ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Thousands of children in face masks flocked back to school in Ivory Coast on Monday after the country became one of the first in West Africa to restart lessons after a two-month coronavirus shutdown.
With a total of 2,376 cases and dozens of new infections each day, Ivory Coast has yet to contain the virus. But authorities are confident pupils can study together in safety after the introduction of extra hygiene measures.
In Abidjan’s Adjame neighbourhood, children in backpacks queued to wash their hands under a teacher’s watchful eye before entering their school, where they sat just one to a desk with bottles of sanitising gel within reach.
“At first we were a little scared. When we saw that the protective measures were being respected, the fear went away,” said 14-year-old Samira Cisse.
Nearby countries are likely to follow closely whether the Ivory Coast’s decision to reopen schools causes a spike in infection. With millions of children still at home, aid agency Save the Children says many could face serious setbacks due to limited options for distance learning in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Ivorian education ministry told Reuters it appreciated the seriousness of its decision.
“We also have an imperative duty to ensure that the children entrusted to us can complete their education,” said ministry official Assoumou Kabran.
Reopening classrooms also means thousands of pupils and their teachers must be ferried back to boarding schools outside Abidjan, epicentre of the epidemic.
French teacher Patrick Yobouet, 38, waited with hundreds of others in a sun-baked stadium to board buses out of the city.
“We’re a bit worried as we leave, because we don’t know if we have the coronavirus or not or if the children are contaminated or not,” he said.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Giles Elgood)
Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.
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