Here’s what you need to know:
An outbreak in Nigeria is just one of Africa’s alarming hot spots.
The coronavirus has been relatively slow to take hold in Africa, but blazing hot spots are beginning to emerge on the continent.
In Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, officials say that burials have tripled. In Tanzania, after cases suddenly rose and the U.S. Embassy issued a health alert, the government abruptly stopped releasing its data two weeks ago.
The worst may be in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, where government inaction allowed an unchecked outbreak. Dozens of doctors are infected. Gravediggers are overwhelmed.
Officially, Kano, with an estimated population of five million, has reported 753 infections and 33 related deaths, but those numbers do not reflect what health workers and residents say they are seeing on the ground.
Kano’s state government, until recently, claimed a spate of unusual deaths was caused not by the coronavirus, but by hypertension, diabetes, meningitis or acute malaria. There is little social distancing, and few people are being tested.
“The leadership is in denial,” said Usman Yusuf, a hematology-oncology professor and the former head of Nigeria’s national health insurance agency. “It’s almost like saying there is no Covid in New York.”
Kano’s location, population and connectivity to the rest of the region mean the consequences of an uncontrolled outbreak could be severe.
Already there are reports of hundreds more people dying what some officials call “mysterious deaths” in Nigeria’s northern states of Jigawa, Yobe, Sokoto and Katsina.
“If Kano falls, the whole of northern Nigeria falls. The whole of Nigeria falls,” Dr. Yusuf said. “It spreads into the whole of West Africa and the whole of Africa.”
Chinese officials have quarantined 8,000 people in the country’s northeast.
Officials concerned about a virus resurgence have quarantined 8,000 people and reintroduced lockdown measures in northeastern China, even as other parts of the country further relax restrictions.
Residents of Jilin, the second-largest city in Jilin Province, have been mostly barred from leaving the city, state news media reported, after a cluster of infections was reported there and in Shulan, another city under its administration. Shenyang, capital of the neighboring province of Liaoning, said on Saturday that anyone who had traveled there from the city of Jilin since April 22 would be quarantined in a hospital for three weeks.
Jilin has traced nearly 700 contacts of coronavirus patients for testing and quarantine, while officials in Liaoning Province have found more than 1,000 contacts and about 6,500 people at high risk for infection.
China reported five new confirmed infections on Saturday, three of them locally transmitted in Jilin Province and two from overseas. The country has reported more than 89,000 total cases and 4,634 deaths.
Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert and adviser to the Chinese government, said in an interview with CNN on Saturday that although China had a relatively low number of infections it still faced a “big challenge” because most of the population had not been exposed to the coronavirus and was still susceptible to infection. “It’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment,” he said.
Elsewhere in China, the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control said on Sunday that it was no longer necessary to wear masks outdoors. The capital, which has reported no new infections for 30 days, is preparing for the annual session of the National People’s Congress, a major gathering that had been postponed for more than two months.
And in southern China, the governments of Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong Province are discussing the creation of a “travel bubble” that would allow qualified residents to travel around the region without being required to quarantine.
India is extending its lockdown through the end of the month.
India on Sunday extended a nationwide lockdown until the end of the month, keeping in place many but not all of the strict rules of the world’s largest lockdown, which has been credited with helping curb a bigger outbreak.
The lockdown was set to expire on Sunday. But India’s home ministry said restaurants, malls, schools and religious centers would stay closed until at least May 31, along with domestic and international travel. Officials relaxed rules on barbershops and interstate bus service, except in certain hot spots.
The new rules came about two weeks after India started loosening its strict lockdown, which was imposed in late March. Small wedding ceremonies were permitted earlier this month, and many businesses have reopened, including liquor stores, pet shops and electrical stores.
India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has reported more than 90,000 cases and more than 2,800 deaths.
Testing remains largely restricted to symptomatic cases, but there is some evidence that the lockdown has helped flatten India’s coronavirus growth curve. In late March, it took just three days for the number of identified cases to double. Now, it is taking almost two weeks.
But Indian officials have treaded carefully in recent days, responding to a surge of cases in places like Mumbai, India’s most densely populated city. Health care workers have reported a rise in cases in slum areas like Dharavi, where many families live eight to a room and social distancing is nearly impossible.
In a television address earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for patience with the lockdown measures and announced a relief package of more than $260 billion to try to rescue India’s devastated economy.
Wuhan’s ‘bat woman,’ the target of an unproven theory, re-emerges with new virology research.
Shi Zhengli, the Chinese virologist whose research made her a target of unsubstantiated theories that the coronavirus escaped from a government lab in the city of Wuhan, has published new findings after weeks of largely staying out of the public eye.
Dr. Shi, a prominent researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has rejected accusations that the virus emerged from her lab. The Trump administration has pushed American intelligence officials to hunt for evidence to support this unproven theory as it escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic. Intelligence agencies are skeptical that such evidence can be found and scientists say it most likely leapt from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting.
Dr. Shi has been called “the bat woman” by the Chinese news media because of her years of experience studying the links between bats and viruses. As the new coronavirus outbreak erupted, she helped establish that the new virus had most likely come from a bat. But she came under scrutiny both in China and abroad as people questioned whether the virus had come from her laboratory — either intentionally or accidentally.
In an interview with Scientific American in March, Dr. Shi said she had searched her lab’s records and found that the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus did not match any that the facility had previously studied. She has otherwise mostly kept a low profile, surfacing once on social media this month to debunk rumors that she had defected from China.
Dr. Shi’s latest research was published on Thursday on the website Biorxiv.org as a preprint, or a scientific paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed. It explores the “evolutionary arms race” between viruses and their hosts, which Dr. Shi and her colleagues say encourages genetic diversity in viruses. The publication of the new paper was first reported by The South China Morning Post.
The findings bolster the idea that the Chinese horseshoe bat is the natural host of coronaviruses like the ones that cause SARS and Covid-19, the paper said. “Continued surveillance of this group of viruses in bats is necessary for the prevention of the next SARS-like disease.”
France was left defenseless in the face of a pandemic.
When President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly declared “war” on the coronavirus in March, he solemnly promised that France would support “front-line” health workers with “the means, the protection.”
The reality was that France was nearly defenseless.
The government’s flip-flopping policies on past pandemics had left a once formidable national stockpile of face masks nearly depleted. Officials had also outsourced the manufacturing capacity to replenish that stockpile to suppliers overseas, despite warnings since the early 2000s about the rising risks of pandemics.
That has left France — unlike Germany, its rival for European leadership — dependent on foreign factories and painfully unable to ramp up domestic production of face masks, test kits, ventilators and even the thermometers and over-the-counter fever-reducing medicines to soothe the sick.
Today, as it has begun loosening one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, France has become a case study in how some countries are now reconsidering their dependence on global supply chains built during the past two decades on the mantra of low costs and quick delivery. Even now, France has no guarantees that it can secure enough supplies in the coming weeks to protect against a potential second wave of the virus.
Louis Gautier, the former director of the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security, a powerful inter-ministerial unit inside the prime minister’s office that coordinates the response to large-scale crises, said: “The issue of strategic stocks and secure supplies has to be reconsidered. A new model has to be invented.”
Will Cirque du Soleil rise again?
For the past 50 days, however, the 26-year-old has been stuck in a cramped cabin off the Italian coast, doing a handstand and splits while conducting WhatsApp video calls and wondering when the storied circus will perform again.
“Luckily, I’m used to contorting my body into small spaces,” she said from the ship where she has been grounded since her show shut down in March. “I can’t wait to get back to Cirque, but we have no idea when the world will be ready to go see live shows again.”
From Broadway to sporting arenas, the pandemic has paralyzed the world of live entertainment, including Cirque du Soleil, the famed Quebec circus.
In the space of weeks, it was forced to close 44 shows in dozens of cities, from Las Vegas to Hangzhou, China, and has temporarily laid off nearly 5,000 employees — 95 percent of its work force — and stopped payments to dozens of show creators.
Even before the pandemic, the sprawling company was struggling with bloat and creative fatigue after a consortium led by an American private equity firm acquired it in 2015, and accelerated a debt-fueled global expansion.
Now, with no certainty on the timing of a coronavirus vaccine or when cities will allow large public gatherings again, some are asking whether Cirque can survive.
“No one had ever modeled what we would do if we lost 100 percent of our revenue,” said Mitch Garber, Cirque’s chairman, comparing the pandemic to the Great Depression for the live entertainment industry. “We can’t function without fans.”
A New Zealand cafe breaks the coronavirus rules for no one (not even the prime minister).
In New Zealand, nobody is exempt from the strict measures the country has taken to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Not even the country’s revered prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Ms. Ardern and her fiancé were initially turned away from a cafe in Wellington on Saturday, even though New Zealanders are allowed once again to eat in restaurants. But there were no seats available at the cafe, Olive.
A Twitter user named Joey posted the news about the couple’s attempted visit on social media, writing: “Omg Jacinda Ardern just tried to come into Olive and was rejected cause it’s full.” Other social media users rejoiced at how the situation played out. “Egalitarian New Zealand is real and it’s wonderful,” Jaq Tweedi said.
But the couple were eventually allowed to dine, and Joey posted a photograph of them paying their bill.
Ms. Ardern’s fiancé, Clarke Gayford, with whom she shares a daughter, replied in a tweet on Saturday to the post saying: “I have to take responsibility for this, I didn’t get organized and book anywhere.” He added that they were chased down by the cafe “when a spot freed up.”
The New Zealand Herald reported that Olive’s owner, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the staff had not felt pressured when Ms. Ardern showed up and that they had been following “every one of the rules,” which include keeping a distance of one meter — just over three feet — between diners in restaurants.
New Zealand’s leader has been lauded for her deft handling of the pandemic, locking down the country early in the outbreak and banning international travel. There have been 21 coronavirus-related deaths in New Zealand, and the country moved to a Level 2 alert on Wednesday — meaning schools are allowed to reopen and residents can once again visit stores and restaurants, and travel within regions.
U.S. roundup: Barack Obama criticized the virus response in two virtual commencement speeches.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in the first address streamed online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
The speeches came as more than two-thirds of states have significantly relaxed restrictions, leaving the nation at a perilous moment. The United States already has the world’s largest outbreak, with more than 1.4 million cases and more than 88,000 deaths.
As experts continue to warn that testing needs to be more widely available, the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted emergency clearance for a coronavirus testing kit that will enable individuals to take a nasal sample at home and send it to a laboratory. It was the second such approval the F.D.A. had made.
A Barcelona hotel has just one occupant, and he’s hard at work prepping for its post-pandemic reality.
Every five days, Daniel Ordoñez opens 1,400 pipe taps in a waterfront hotel in Barcelona, Spain, that locals call “The Sail” because of its shape.
Each tap has to run for about five minutes, so the task takes him a full day. “It’s probably the most boring part of my job, but it’s needed,” he said, to avoid a form of pneumonia that can be spread by bacteria in the water: Legionnaires’ disease.
Mr. Ordoñez, who is in charge of maintenance at the hotel, has been its sole continuous occupant for the past two months, wandering its ghostly halls because of another illness that has ravaged the country and the globe: Covid-19.
He now lives alone on the 24th floor, which gives him an unrivaled view of the city, its beaches and the Mediterranean. “At the start, I thought I would be here for about two weeks,” said Mr. Ordoñez, who is single. “But now it’s been eight, with no clear end in sight.”
Coronavirus radically changes Norway’s Constitution Day celebrations.
Every year on May 17, Norway throws a nationwide celebration in honor of the 1814 signing of the Constitution, with parades in every town and village, outdoor games, and festive gatherings of families and friends — not unlike the Fourth of July in the United States. But this year, the coronavirus has radically upended the festivities.
With crowds capped at 50 people to avoid the spread of the virus, nearly every major public event that could draw people on Constitution Day was canceled, including the children’s parade in Oslo, the capital, which normally features a marching band that snakes down the street in front of the Royal Palace in the presence of the royal family.
The palace square was closed to the public, and most shows have been replaced with marching bands and speeches streamed online. Some bands still marched around communities — but without spectators. Instead, boats will parade on the fjords and vehicles filled with people — in some places even tractors and horse carriages — will parade on the streets. On the southwestern coast, 1,000 Norwegian flags were planted in the sand, with equal distance between them to symbolize the social distancing citizens must follow.
At 1 p.m., Norwegians took part in a nationwide synchronized singing of the traditional May 17 song from their balconies, gardens and homes, or in small choirs. The king, queen and other royals appeared on their balcony to join the singing. Afterward, several members of the family took a previously unannounced car ride through the streets of Oslo.
The president of the Parliament, Tone Troen, displayed the original Constitution, which is held inside Parliament, to two students and the leader of the Oslo parade in an online event. The May 17 events may be quiet and contemplative this year, but they are not less valuable, Ms. Troen said.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg posted a special greeting on Sunday on Facebook, with a surprise video greeting from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former California governor. Speaking in a shaky Norwegian, he said, “Children parades will be back,” echoing his famous movie line, and reminded everyone to wash their hands.
Reporting was contributed by Ruth Maclean, Abdi Latif Dahir, Simon Marks, Kai Schultz, Iliana Magra, Raphael Minder, Dan Bilefsky, Norimitsu Onishi, Constant Méheut, Tiffany May, Vivian Wang, Maria Abi-Habib, Henrik Pryser Libell, Mike Baker, Andrew E. Kramer, Motoko Rich, Hisako Ueno, Hikari Hida, Audra D.S. Birch, John Eligon, Michael D. Shear, Michael Levenson, Sheila Kaplan, Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni and Letícia Casado.
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