Coronavirus Live World Updates: Spain, Israel, W.H.O., Moscow


At a protest near Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong last week, some demonstrators tried to obey virus-related rules that ban public gatherings of more than eight people — by marching in bands of eight. One of them, the pro-democracy district councilor Lo Kin-hei, said on Twitter that he had been fined by the police anyway.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government has extended the ban on large gatherings until June 4, the day an annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989 is usually held at a local park. Protest organizers, who say that the timing is no coincidence, have called on residents to light candles across the city instead of gathering.

The Spanish government approved an emergency aid package that will provide about 850,000 households with what it calls a minimum income guarantee, seeking to soften the economic blow caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

The anti-poverty package, which will cost Spain about €3 billion, or $3.3 billion, a year, allows eligible households to receive an amount ranging from €462 to €1015 a month, about $515 to $1,130, that will be essential for many families if the country’s economy is pushed into a recession, as expected.

The aid was fast-tracked by the left-wing coalition government, but it is in line with the anti-poverty plans outlined by the administration of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who pledged to redistribute the tax burden when he took office in January.

“There is no freedom if people must dedicate all their energy to surviving rather than living,” Pablo Iglesias, Spain’s deputy prime minister, told a news conference on Friday.

Lines at Spain’s main food banks and welfare handout centers have been building up since mid-March, when Spain went into lockdown.

Raúl Flores, the technical director of the Foessa foundation, which is part of the Cáritas relief agency, said that about six million of the 47 million people living in Spain were walking “a tight rope.”

The minimum income guarantee is the first such nationwide scheme in Spain, where most of the welfare programs have been handled by regional administrations.

The program will be rolled out starting next month and is expected to reach about 2.3 million people, according to the government. Recipients must be below 65 years old, the age when Spaniards stop paying into the pension system, and their eligibility will be determined by examining recent tax returns, as well as other assets.

Weeks after reopening the schools and days after letting restaurants get back to business, Israel reported more than 100 new cases on Friday, the level that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned would prompt the reinstatement of a strict lockdown.

New cases had averaged about 20 a day for several weeks, but a surge on Thursday and Friday, with positive tests at 31 schools scattered across the country, prompted a top health official to scold the public for its “euphoria and complacency” and “laxness of attitude” about masks, hygiene and social-distancing rules.

Two hours later, a ministry spokesman said the day’s new cases had reached 101. When Mr. Netanyahu announced the end of Israel’s lockdown on May 4, he said that 100 new cases in a single day would be the trigger to restart it.

“Unfortunately, the illness is still here,” Mr. Bar-Siman-Tov said at his news conference.

Trump says the U.S. will end its relationship with the World Health Organization.

President Trump said on Friday that the United States would be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, after weeks of accusing the organization of being too credulous regarding China’s information about the start of the pandemic.

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

Mr. Trump offered little to address the deaths of 100,000 Americans who have died of the coronavirus, focusing on blaming China for “instigating a global pandemic.”

The world’s pre-eminent global health organization, the W.H.O. has been targeted by the Trump administration for its handling of global data as the virus spread. As he has repeatedly faced questions about his own handling of the pandemic, Mr. Trump continued to take aim at the W.H.O., threatening in a letter this month to pull funding if it did not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days.”

Other member nations of the W.H.O. had rebuffed the president’s demands, instead deciding to conduct an “impartial, independent” examination of the W.H.O.’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The W.H.O.’s budget for 2020 and 2021 is about $2.4 billion a year. In 2018 and 2019, the United States, the W.H.O.’s single largest donor, contributed about 20 percent of the organization’s budget.

Russian officials have said the country’s coronavirus death toll is so low that it is a “miracle.” But after weeks of scrutiny, Moscow health authorities now say they have “improved” their count and found that more than twice as many people died in the Russian capital in April as they initially reported.

Under the new revision, health officials said 1,561 people died in the capital with coronavirus in April, more than twice the previous number of 639. The new counting methodology includes fatal diseases accelerated by the coronavirus as a “catalyst” but not necessarily directly caused by it, the statement said.

The health department said that even with the new numbers, far fewer people have died of coronavirus in Moscow as a proportion of known cases than in other countries, a measure known as the case-fatality rate. Moscow’s case-fatality rate in April was still “undeniably lower” than London’s or New York City’s, it said.

But the case-fatality rate is a flawed way to compare cities, researchers say, because it is highly dependent on the level of testing. As more cases are confirmed, the rate shrinks. Russia has tested more aggressively than many other countries, performing 10 million tests nationwide.

The April data gives an incomplete picture, as the outbreak hit Moscow hard only in the middle of the month. Mortality figures for May will provide a clearer view of Russia’s status. Moscow health officials warned this week that deaths could rise sharply this month.

On Friday, Baghdad was almost completely still. Traffic had been halted throughout the city and stay-at-home orders were enforced by neighborhood blockades. All travel between Iraqi provinces was stopped for a second time in response to the country’s mounting awareness of the spread of the coronavirus.

But even before the latest news, the country was starting to close down again. On Thursday, the order came to shut Sadr City — the poorest and most crowded area of Baghdad, and the one with the most coronavirus infections — to traffic. Soon after that, the police and the army stopped almost all movement in the rest of the city.

Stay-at-home orders and blockades have hit poorer communities the hardest. In Sadr City, the desperation was palpable. Motley collections of vehicles that power the slum’s economy converged on one intersection after another, trying to find a way out. But the army and the police were unyielding.

Tuk-tuks, cars, trucks piled high with watermelon, and horse-drawn carts loaded with cooking gas canisters were turned around. Inside homes, where extended families often live in two small rooms and no one wears masks or gloves, there was a feeling of despair.

One resident, Um Teeba, said she and her husband believed that their faith would keep them safe, but she is a nurse at Sadr City Hospital, where there is only limited personal protective equipment for the staff.

She looked uneasily at her 10-year-old daughter, who ran into the courtyard to sneeze.

“It seems we are being shut in with people who are sick,” she said. “So then of course we will get sick too.”

The experts who wrote the Lancet also criticized the study’s methodology and the authors’ refusal to disclose information on the hospitals that contributed their data, or even to name the countries where they were located. The company that owns the database is Surgisphere.

“Data from Africa indicate that nearly 25 percent of all Covid-19 cases and 40 percent of all deaths in the continent occurred in Surgisphere-associated hospitals which had sophisticated electronic patient data recording,” the scientists wrote. “Both the numbers of cases and deaths, and the detailed data collection, seem unlikely.”

A spokeswoman for The Lancet, Emily Head, said in an email that the journal had received numerous inquiries about the paper, and had referred the questions to the authors. “We will provide further updates as necessary,” she said.

Dr. Sapan S. Desai, the owner of Surgisphere and one of the paper’s authors, said in a statement that the database was an aggregation of the anonymous electronic health records of hospitals around the world. He also said that contractual agreements with the hospitals bar the sharing of patient-level data, though it is available to qualified scientists for research purposes.

“Our strong privacy standards are a major reason that hospitals trust Surgisphere and we have been able to collect data from over 1,200 institutions across 46 countries,” the statement said.

Pinuccia Ciancalloni, 59, who was taking her daily walk through the park on Tuesday, pointed at the group with dread. To her, the expressions of young love and healthy sociability amounted to a profound threat.

“The problem is with young people,” she said.

Italy, which has the highest median age among its population in Europe, has long agonized over its relative shortage of young people and the energy they bring. (Around 23 percent of the population is above 65, and about 16 percent is between 15 and 30.)

To some, the young are being scapegoated. They say that the vast majority have respected the social-distancing rules.

“Young people are not today’s plague spreaders,” Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the governing Democratic Party, wrote on Facebook.

Clad in masks, the waiters were nervous. How would the diners see their smiles?

The sommelier wondered: How would he smell the wine?

The head chef worried: How ready was the new menu? Was the cold pea soup too salty? The ice cream too sweet?

But they were anxious as well as excited. The authorities’ sudden decision to allow restaurants to reopen had left them with only 24 hours to perfect a radical revision of their working practice.

And amid a profound economic crisis, there was also a more existential question: With no tourists in the city, was there still a market for Michelin-starred gastronomy?

“It’s a completely different style,” said the restaurant’s longest-serving waiter, Michael Winterstein, who joined at its founding in 2012.

“And we have to make that work,” added Mr. Winterstein, once a professional composer, “without it looking like a medical station in a hospital.”

Yet even as the pace of new infections quickens — with nearly 700,000 new known cases reported in the last week after the pathogen found greater footholds in Latin America and the Gulf States — many countries are sputtering into reopenings at what experts fear may be the worst time.

Still, the Indonesian government has said that national coronavirus restrictions, already a scattershot effort, must be relaxed to save the economy.

But other countries are already seeing their gradual reopenings as successful. Christian Drosten, Germany’s top virologist, said he believed the country might escape a second wave of coronavirus infections, with cases continuing to diminish even as the lockdown lifts.

When asked how long, he noted that the virus was not permanently banished, but said that Germany “might be able to avoid a second shutdown.”

Improvisation and the ability to draw on their environment define the music made by Bolivia’s Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos, or Experimental Orchestra of Native Instruments.

Those skills have also helped the musicians navigate 80 days in unexpected lockdown on the grounds of the 18th-century Rheinsberg palace north of Berlin. Days after their arrival for a five-day concert tour in mid-March, international flights were grounded and Bolivia shut its borders.

With luck, they may be returning home on Monday, said Timo Kreuser, a German composer and artistic director who has been looking after the orchestra. Awaiting them at home is a 14-day quarantine in hotels they have to pay for, after three months without work — and a much higher profile.

Thailand could lose as many as 8.4 million jobs this year, many of them in the hard-hit tourism industry, officials said on Thursday, reflecting how much the pandemic has hurt a country that received nearly 40 million visitors last year.

The government hopes to stimulate employment through government spending, including a plan to boost domestic travel starting in July. But it has banned all foreign visitors until at least July because of the coronavirus, and the number of tourists in 2020 is expected to fall dramatically.

The plan to increase domestic tourism in the third quarter could include hotel room subsidies, according to local news reports. “Tourism should be a fast economic stimulator,” the head of the National Economic and Social Development Council, Thosaporn Sirisumphand, told reporters earlier this week. “If the situation improves, we may open for tourists to come in.”

Thailand, the first country outside China to report a case of the virus, has handled the pandemic better than most with measures such as closing schools, limiting business activity and imposing a nighttime curfew. It had 3,065 infections as of Thursday, including 57 deaths, and most new cases are Thais returning from abroad.

But before the virus struck, travel and tourism accounted for more than 20 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product and employed nearly 16 percent of its work force. The nation’s flagship airline, Thai Airways, which was already suffering financially before it halted international flights in March, is now seeking rehabilitation in bankruptcy court.

Reporting was contributed by David M. Halbfinger, Melissa Eddy, Alissa J. Rubin, Raphael Minder, Andrew Higgins, Josh Keller, Allison McCann, Emma Bubola, Christopher F. Schuetze, Mike Ives, Elaine Yu, Sarah Mervosh, Megan Specia, Patrick Kingsley, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Kai Schultz, Sameer Yasir, Vivian Wang, Richard C. Paddock, Roni Caryn Rabin, Jason Gutierrez, Choe Sang-Hun, Jin Wu, Alex Marshall and Jenny Gross.



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