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New clusters emerge in countries praised for successful coronavirus fights.
As the world confronts the pandemic, several nations in Asia have been hailed for curbing the spread within their borders. But in the face of the coronavirus, victory can be elusive and fleeting.
And as several countries make moves to lift measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, officials from the World Health Organization are urging governments and the public to maintain “extreme vigilance” to avoid a new wave of infections.
The new cluster of cases, the first recorded there since April, were linked to a man who fell sick in March but was not tested. He recovered, then fell ill again last month.
In the north of China, the city of Shulan near the Russian border has been declared “high-risk” after 15 people were infected, cases that were traced to a 45-year-old woman. But how she caught the virus is still unclear.
On Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the W.H.O., warned that only a “slow, steady lifting of lockdowns” could ease economic pressure while keeping infections at bay.
“Until there’s a vaccine, a comprehensive package of measures is our most effective set of tools against the virus,” he said.
But the public health body struck a slightly more hopeful tone in a Tuesday briefing when it noted that some treatments appear to be limiting the severity or length of Covid-19. The W.H.O. will now focusing on learning more about the most promising treatments to combat the disease.
“We do have some treatments that seem to be in very early studies limiting the severity or the length of the illness,” spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, according to Reuters news agency. “But we do not have anything that can kill or stop the virus.”
“We do have potentially positive data coming out but we need to see more data to be 100 percent confident that we can say this treatment over that one,” she added
Kremlin’s chief spokesman hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus.
The Kremlin’s chief spokesman, a close aide of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, has been hospitalized with coronavirus, a state-controlled news agency reported on Tuesday.
RIA-Novosti said the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, had tested positive for the coronavirus and was now in a hospital “ill with Covid-19.”
Mr. Peskov joins a growing list of senior officials and others around Mr. Putin who have caught the virus. These included his prime minister, Mikhail V. Mishustin, and the head of Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital, Denis Protsenko, who tested positive in late March shortly after escorting Mr. Putin around his wards.
The president himself has spent more than a month mostly holed up at his country residence outside Moscow, holding meetings with officials by video rather than in person. Tass news agency reported that Mr. Peskov, the sick spokesman, had not had any direct contact with Mr. Putin “for more than a month.”
Mr. Putin emerged in public briefly on Saturday, the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany, to lay a bouquet of red roses on the tomb of the unknown soldier next to the Kremlin. On Tuesday, he met in person at his country house with Igor Sechin, the head of the state-controlled oil company Rosneft.
News of the Kremlin spokesman’s hospitalization broke just a day after Mr. Putin, in a televised address citing progress against the pandemic, declared the end of a “non-working period” instituted in late March. While warning that “we have a complicated and long journey ahead,” he said that Russia was now ready to start returning slowly to normal.
But the country continued to report more new daily cases than any other except the United States on Tuesday as the easing measures came into effect.
Hospitals have also been overwhelmed by the crisis, with tragic results. Five patients died in a fire in an intensive care unit at a St. Petersburg hospital Tuesday morning, Russian news agencies reported, the second deadly fire at a hospital in the country treating coronavirus patients.
The preliminary cause: an overloaded ventilator. A coronavirus hospital also caught fire in Moscow on Saturday, killing one of the patients.
German scientists try to squash fears as reproduction rate hovers above key threshold.
Health officials in Germany are attempting to tamp down concern over the rate of coronavirus spread in the country, after the public measure of it pushed above a crucial threshold for three days running, coinciding with a second major phase of reopening.
But officials from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s primary disease control agency, stressed on Tuesday that the number indicating the rate of viral spread — known as the reproduction or R factor — is an estimate that will vary from day to day, but is cause for concern only if it remains elevated for an extended period of time.
The institute held a news conference on Tuesday in an effort to dispel fears that Germany was at risk of gambling away its progress in managing the spread of the virus.
Epidemiologists carefully watch how many people, on average, an infected person spreads the virus to, but that number is highly variable, experts say.
“The number will always fluctuate and as long as it remains around 1.0, that is considered a stagnation and not an increase,” Lars Schaade, the vice president of the institute, said in a news conference on Tuesday.
If the figure is below 1.0, it suggests the number of active cases is declining; a number above 1.0 indicates cases are increasing. But the number must also be viewed in context of additional parameters, Dr. Schaade said. These include the number of and severity of cases, the availability of beds in intensive care wards and outbreaks in facilities such as nursing homes or meatpacking plants that can cause the figure to rise despite an overall decline at the national level.
Germany’s overall number of cases had been dropping steadily, but outbreaks in several facilities have caused them to go up in recent days to 170,508. Against the backdrop of lower numbers, such spikes will have a greater influence on the reproduction number, he said.
Stores across Germany were allowed to open their doors on Monday, regardless of their size, more children returned to classrooms, museums began welcoming visitors and restaurants began preparing to reopen their terraces and in some cases their doors — all under restrictions, but based on low new infections and a reproduction factor that had dropped to 0.7.
Dr. Schaade said that given how the institute calculated the reproduction number, it was too early to draw a direct correlation between the reopenings and the increase, but reminded Germans that they were still living with the virus.
“Do your part to help keep the virus under control,” Dr. Schaade said. “Stay at home as much as possible, limit contact to others and continue to stay at a distance.”
Under lockdown, India’s carbon emissions fell for the first time in decades.
India’s carbon dioxide emissions have dropped for the first time in four decades, reflecting the impact of an economic slowdown from the coronavirus lockdown and a broader weakening of demand for fossil fuels on the subcontinent, experts say.
Researchers at Carbon Brief, an environmental website that tracks climate and energy policy, found that the emissions fell around 15 percent in March and likely dropped another 30 percent in April.
Lower electricity consumption during a nationwide lockdown, which started in March, along with a surge in competition among renewable energy sources, has cut demand for thermal power.
Coal-fired power generation, which is linked with higher air pollution, fell 31 percent in the first three weeks of April, according to government data compiled by Carbon Brief.
The supply of energy from renewables remained relatively stable during the lockdown, rising about 6 percent in March and dropping only slightly in April.
India is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet. Just five years ago, the country built a series of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and drawing ire from climate activists.
But as the cost of solar power fell, the country canceled many coal projects, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledging that 40 percent of India’s electricity capacity would come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
To track nightclub outbreak, South Korea has to fight bigotry, too.
South Korean epidemiologists face a hurdle in their efforts to identify and test nearly 2,000 people who may have visited nightclubs that are the nexus of a new coronavirus outbreak. Many of the people are believed to be gay men who fear being outed in a society where prejudices against sexual and other minorities remain widespread.
A 29-year-old man tested positive for the virus last Wednesday. While investigating his potential contacts, officials learned that on May 2 he had visited three nightclubs frequented by gay people in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul. That triggered a frantic campaign to trace and test Itaewon nightclub visitors. So far, 7,000 people have been tested, with 102 cases found among club visitors and their contacts.
The daily caseload has not exploded, as some feared it might. But it has climbed from three a week ago to 34 on Sunday, 35 on Monday and 27 on Tuesday.
Seoul’s mayor, Park Won-soon, this week offered free and anonymous tests to address the concerns that gay people might be outed. Under that policy, people can get tested by submitting their telephone numbers, but not their names. The number of people tested jumped from 3,500 on Sunday to 6,500 on Monday, Mr. Park said.
Officials collected the names and telephone numbers of 5,500 people who had visited five Itaewon nightclubs between late April and early this month. Under Covid-19 preventive measures, nightclub visitors are asked to write down their names and cellphone numbers before entering.
But nearly 2,000 people on the nightclubs’ rosters could not be reached, said Yoon Tae-ho, a senior disease-control official, on Tuesday. Officials feared that many of the names and telephone numbers might be fake. They were using credit card transaction records and cellphone location data to try to trace people who may have been in the nightclubs.
South Korea has reported a total of 10,936 Covid-19 cases, including 258 deaths.
W.H.O. asks for ‘extreme vigilance’ as countries lift lockdowns.
As several countries in Europe and Asia lift some measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, officials from the World Health Organization are urging governments and the public to maintain “extreme vigilance” to avoid a new wave of infections.
On Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the U.N. agency’s director general, warned that only a “slow, steady lifting of lockdowns” could ease economic pressure while keeping new waves of infections at bay.
Dr. Tedros, during a daily news conference from the W.H.O. headquarters in Geneva, warned that the restrictions that countries around the world imposed earlier this year were the best weapons against the virus, at least for now.
“Until there’s a vaccine, a comprehensive package of measures is our most effective set of tools against the virus,” he said.
In France, drinking alcohol was banned on Paris canals and riverbanks on Monday, after throngs of people were seen drinking along the Canal Saint-Martin, a popular spot, as the country eased strict confinement rules. Germany, despite an aggressive policy of testing and tracing infections, has seen an increase in cases since measures were eased last week.
Coronavirus renews pride in U.K.’s health service.
With its offer of free health care to all, based on need, Britain’s National Health Service embodies qualities that the British like to think represent the best of their nation. Even before the virus struck, the health service, though struggling, was probably still Britain’s most respected institution.
Premier League soccer players have organized a fund for donations, the street artist Banksy hung artwork at a hospital in Southampton, and a 100-year-old World War II veteran, Capt. Tom Moore, raised more than 30 million pounds (about $37 million) with a charity walk.
Britons have trusted in the N.H.S. since 1948, when it was created by a Labour government after World War II to forge a country that would eradicate the “five evils”: want, disease, squalor, ignorance and idleness.
Paid for through general taxation and payroll deductions, treatment is delivered to all without money changing hands, with a few exceptions such as dentistry and small charges for some medication. With about 1.5 million employees, the N.H.S. is the world’s fifth biggest employer by one account.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, expenditure was squeezed during years of austerity, leaving the N.H.S. ill-prepared for the current pandemic, scrambling to expand its intensive care capacity and even to secure supplies of basic equipment like gowns and masks.
As a small number of new cases emerge in Wuhan, the city orders tests for all residents.
The city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, has ordered that all residents be tested in the next 10 days after six new cases were reported in one neighborhood, according to a state media report.
Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, has already tested large numbers of residents. Many employers required that their workers be tested before returning to their jobs last month. The new round of testing reinforces fears that the outbreak can re-emerge from hidden cases.
An 89-year-old man was confirmed to be infected on Saturday, the first new confirmed case in the city since early April. He was tested last week after feeling unwell. Five other cases were announced on Monday, including the man’s wife, 81, and four others who live in their neighborhood. The five are all asymptomatic.
Wuhan imposed a lockdown on Jan. 23 and only lifted it on April 8.
More than 3,800 people have died in the city, according to the official tally. China has faced questions about the accuracy of its coronavirus numbers and whether it has divulged the true extent of its outbreak.
The head of the street committee for the area with the new cluster was removed from office for poor management after the cases were reported, the state-run Xinhua news service reported.
And on Sunday, Shulan in Jilin Province declared that it was at “high risk” from the epidemic after a rash of at least 15 infections around the area that started with a woman who was reported to have no history of contact with known cases.
An Australian soap opera returns, with added distance (and no kissing).
“Neighbours,” a long-running Australian soap opera, returned to production in late April under coronavirus restrictions and became one of the first TV shows in the world to have its cast and crew return to set, if at a distance.
Now, they stand five feet apart, cannot hold hands, kiss or simulate a brawl, but still hope to convey the same heightened conflict, intimacy and drama that the show’s fans have come to love.
But as Australia charges toward its goal of totally eliminating the virus within its borders, “Neighbours” is likely to be one of the first scripted series in the English-speaking world, at least, to return to the set after being halted because of coronavirus restrictions.
In Australia, the coronavirus shutdown has cost the country’s film and television industry more than $325 million, according to the interest group Screen Producers Australia.
China marks the anniversary of a disaster with echoes in the present.
The central government appears to be keeping the coronavirus outbreak largely under control within China’s borders. But it has deflected or downplayed questions about its initial response to the virus, in a pattern that seems much unchanged since the 2008 quake, China’s deadliest in decades.
Twelve years ago, nearly 70,000 people died after the earthquake wrecked buildings and roads in Sichuan and sent boulders careening down mountains and hillsides. A large number of the victims were schoolchildren, raising questions about building standards and corruption in the area.
The government eventually acknowledged that a rush to build schools probably led to shoddy construction. Still, officials tried to stifle unapproved commemorations that could have rekindled uncomfortable questions about why so many people died. Official memorial ceremonies, by contrast, focused on the heroism of the rescue effort and the speed of the reconstruction.
China’s coronavirus back-to-work strategy offers lessons on masks and vigilance.
Three months after the authorities virtually shut down China to stop the coronavirus outbreak, its workers have returned to their jobs with the aim of restarting the country’s vast growth machine without igniting another outbreak. If Chinese factories and offices can successfully restart without major infections, they could serve as a model for President Trump and other leaders who want to get their economies back on track.
Many of the new rules are obvious: Use disinfectants and masks and keep your distance from colleagues. But some call for tracking and nudging employees in ways that workers in other countries may find unacceptable, including use of government-sanctioned health tracking apps. At the same time, local authorities have set up a confusing patchwork of rules that differ from city to city.
Everyone agrees on one thing: There is no going back to life before the pandemic.
“Life will not become like it was before,” said Johann Wieland, the chief executive officer of BMW’s joint venture in China, which employs 20,500 people. “This is what we have to learn.”
Major companies are asking workers to change personal habits. Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant that makes iPhone and other Western-branded gear in vast Chinese factories, has advised employees to avoid public transportation.
Shifting rules from place to place have snarled logistics and supply chains, however. While restrictions have eased since China sharply limited movement around the country earlier in the outbreak, local authorities, especially where sporadic infections have emerged, still sometimes erect temporary barriers.
To stay safe, many employers have embraced government-endorsed and newly built-in health code functions in some of China’s most popular smartphone apps like Alipay and WeChat. One of the first services built to gauge a person’s infection risk, the health code function tracks travel to see whether the user has been to areas with high infections, though the creators and the Chinese government have not disclosed full details about how it works. When prompted by health workers, police officers or security personnel, a person would display a code colored red, yellow or green.
Latest in science: A second wave of the virus in the United States may come sooner than expected.
As businesses open and restrictions ease in parts of the United States, scientists say a much-feared “second wave” of infection may not wait until fall and instead may become a series of wavelets breaking unpredictably across the country.
Most states that are reopening have not met even minimal criteria set by public health experts for doing so safely, and in some, coronavirus cases are rising. A resurgence in infections may not become apparent for two or three weeks, when some people would need hospitalization.
The question now, scientists say, is whether the nation can minimize the damage.
Evidence is mounting that masks — if worn in public places, by everyone — are far more effective at stopping transmission than was previously realized. While testing remains inadequate, home-use nasal swabs and saliva tests are on the way and may provide a clearer picture of where the virus is.
And scientists are also learning more about the virus.
A new study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics paints the most detailed picture yet of American children who were treated in intensive care units as the pandemic was taking hold.
The study looked at 48 cases from 14 hospitals in patients under 21, in late March and early April. Two patients died. Eighteen were placed on ventilators and two remain on the breathing machines more than a month later, said Dr. Lara S. Shekerdemian, chief of critical care at Texas Children’s Hospital, and an author of the study.
The study both reinforces the evidence that only a small percentage of children will be severely affected by the virus, but they can become devastatingly ill.
U.S. news: Trump abruptly ends his news conference after being pressed by a pair of female reporters.
President Trump abruptly ended his Rose Garden news conference on Monday shortly after a Chinese-American reporter pressed him on why he suggested she “go ask China” in response to her question on virus death rates.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump seemed to defend the action when he posted the message “Fake Journalists!” on Twitter in response to a post from one of his lawyers praising his actions.
Weijia Jiang, a White House correspondent for CBS News, asked Mr. Trump why he had created a “global competition” by claiming that the United States had done far better than any other country on testing its citizens for the virus.
“Well,” Mr. Trump responded, “they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China.”
Ms. Jiang, who had been leaning into a contact-free microphone to ask her question, lowered her face mask and paused for a couple seconds before asking, “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically?”
In a recent interview, Mr. Trump complained that Ms. Jiang and another reporter were not behaving like Donna Reed, an actress famous for her portrayals as a consummate housewife. Mr. Trump has targeted Ms. Jiang in recent days for her tough line of questioning in news briefings, including gruffly telling her to “keep your voice down” in past exchanges.
The next reporter he called on, Kaitlan Collins of CNN, has engaged in similar back-and-forth exchanges with Mr. Trump. Ms. Collins tried to ask Mr. Trump a question after briefly ceding her turn at the microphone to let Ms. Jiang follow up, but Mr. Trump tried to move on to another reporter.
After Ms. Collins remained at the microphone and twice tried to ask her question, Mr. Trump abruptly ended his news conference and left the Rose Garden.
Reporting and research was contributed by Andrew Higgins, Kai Schultz, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Anton Troianovski, Alexandra Stevenson, Cao Li, Keith Bradsher, Elian Peltier, Megan Specia, Choe Sang-Hun, Clifford Krauss, Raymond Zhong, Wang Yiwei, Melissa Eddy, Dan Bilefsky, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Neil Vigdor, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Austin Ramzy and Stephen Castle.
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