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Fighting the virus brings unintended consequences, including a mental illness crisis.
The coronavirus is wreaking havoc on people’s health in ways that at first glance would seem to have little connection to the virus’s devastating primary effects.
The United Nations is warning of new risks to children and a subsequent plague of mental illness. And national governments are noting the unintended consequences of lockdowns and other restrictions, including a rise in domestic violence. In Mexico, a decision to ban alcohol sales was followed by scores of deaths after people drank tainted homemade alcohol.
Millions of children are at risk of dying, the United Nations said on Wednesday, not of Covid-19, but of preventable causes. Unable to get care at hospitals that are straining to fight the virus, more than a million children aged 5 or younger will die every six months, UNICEF said in a report.
And the World Health Organization, the health body that has been working to coordinate global efforts to combat the disease, warned on Thursday of a looming mental illness crisis, the result of “the isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil,” brought on by the pandemic.
Devora Kestel, the head of the W.H.O.’s mental health department, who presented the report, said the world could expect to see an surge in the severity of mental illness, notably in children and health care workers.
“The mental health and well-being of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” she said.
How the Chinese city of Wuhan plans to test 11 million people for the virus.
While some residents have been supportive, others are concerned or angry about being asked to join long lines outdoors and risk becoming infected. Even though the lockdown in Wuhan has lifted, many residents have still chosen to stay home as much as possible.
And at least one senior expert said it was unnecessary to test every resident in Wuhan, given the low number of cases in the city.
The testing drive, which is likely to require the mobilization of thousands of medical and other workers, shows the ruling Communist Party’s resolve to prevent a second wave of infections as it tries to restart China’s economy. The plan was announced this week after Wuhan reported six coronavirus cases, breaking a streak of more than a month without any new confirmed infections.
The city’s goal of testing every resident is unrivaled in scale and in the speed at which Wuhan apparently plans to carry it out.
Some countries, like South Korea and Germany, have aggressively tested and traced infections, albeit at much lower levels than Wuhan is trying. In the United States, the rate of testing is still far short of the three million to five million tests per week that experts say will be necessary to safely reopen the country.
Japan lifts a state of emergency on 39 regions, but not Tokyo and Osaka.
With the number of daily new coronavirus cases falling in Japan after four weeks of a nationwide state of emergency, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that he would lift restrictions in 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures.
But the state of emergency — which gives local governors the power to close schools, encourage people to stay indoors and request that businesses close temporarily — will remain in place for the country’s eight most populated areas, including Tokyo and Osaka. Kyoto and the northernmost island, Hokkaido, will also remain under the emergency declaration.
Mr. Abe declared a state of emergency in seven prefectures on April 7 and expanded it to the entire nation about a week later. He later extended the emergency period, originally scheduled to end May 7, through the end of this month.
Japan has reported a total of 16,079 infections and 687 deaths from the coronavirus. On Thursday, the health ministry reported 57 new cases for the nation and 19 deaths.
After a meeting with a group that included public health officials and an economic adviser, Mr. Abe decided to lift the declaration in prefectures with low coronavirus case numbers. He said he would review the state of emergency for the remaining prefectures next week to determine whether it could be lifted before the end of the month.
Mr. Abe urged residents not to let their guard down after the emergency declaration is lifted. He asked that people continue to wash hands, abide by social distancing guidelines and wear masks when going out. He also asked residents to avoid crowds in enclosed, poorly ventilated places and refrain from visiting places like nightclubs, karaoke parlors and live music halls.
“We will have to create a new model in daily life from now on, and today is the start of that,” he said. He added that if infections begin to rise significantly again, “unfortunately we might have to resort to a second declaration of a state of emergency.”
Millions of children could die of preventable diseases as health services are overtaxed.
About 1.2 million children in more than 100 countries are at risk of dying from preventable causes every six months because health services are overstressed or curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF said this week.
The figure is in addition to the 2.5 million children age 5 or younger who already die every six months in 118 low- and middle-income countries.
Put another way, the roughly 13,800 young children who die every day will be joined by more than 6,000 others whose lives could have been saved.
UNICEF said the estimate was based on a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Under a worst-case scenario, the global number of children dying before their fifth birthdays could increase for the first time in decades,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said in a statement.
The spillover effects of Covid-19 have also heightened the threat to expectant mothers in these countries. UNICEF said an additional 56,700 maternal deaths could occur within six months, in addition to the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same countries in that time period.
The 10 countries that could have the largest number of additional child deaths, according to the estimate, are Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania and Uganda.
U.S. roundup: Trump wants the military to distribute a vaccine, and a whistle-blower will testify in Congress.
President Trump said on Thursday that he planned to mobilize the military to distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available and that older Americans would be given priority.
“It’s a massive job to give this vaccine,” he told Fox Business Network. “Our military is now being mobilized, so at the end of the year we’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly.”
Mr. Trump also predicted that 2021 would be “one of the best economic years we’ve had” after the pandemic’s financial downturn, even as new data continues to show how deep the economic damage is.
Figures released by the Labor Department on Thursday pushed the total number of new U.S. jobless claims over the past two months to over 36 million. Those new numbers showed that nearly three million people in America joined the ballooning number of unemployed last week.
Also Thursday, the whistle-blower who was ousted as the head of a federal research agency will testify in front of Congress. Dr. Rick Bright was dismissed from his job as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency last month after objecting to the use of anti-malaria drugs to treat coronavirus patients, as promoted by Mr. Trump.
Dr. Bright’s complaint is being investigated by the Office of Special Counsel, which has recommended that he be reinstated for 45 days while it conducts its inquiry.
He will testify before a House subcommittee at 10 a.m. Eastern and is expected to warn that if the United States does not step up its response to the pandemic, Americans will suffer “unprecedented illness and fatalities,” and “2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history,” according to prepared remarks.
Manila’s top police officer faces charges over a birthday party amid a lockdown.
The authorities in the Philippines on Thursday ordered that charges be filed against Manila’s top police officer after pictures of him celebrating his birthday party appeared on social media despite restrictions on such gatherings.
The charges against the officer, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, came a day after the nation’s police ordered an internal investigation into the episode amid pressure from the public. General Sinas is the head of the National Capital Region Police Office, the group in charge of policing the Manila area.
Photos of General Sinas and several officers at a party circulated widely and were even shared by his office. One image showed him standing at a table surrounded by fellow police officers in what appeared to be a drinking session.
Harry Roque, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said a criminal case would be filed on Friday against General Sinas and other senior police officials who attended the gathering.
Mr. Sinas has defended himself and said he was surprised when his men threw the gathering for him. On Thursday, he apologized and said that some of the pictures were old social media posts that had been edited.
“It does not define the totality of what really had happened,” he said. “Nevertheless, I apologize for what transpired during my birthday that caused anxiety to the public.”
Why were there no memorials to the Spanish flu?
The flu pandemic that began in 1918 ravaged global civilization for nearly three years — on a scale that hadn’t been seen since the bubonic plague wiped out a third of Europe’s population in the late Middle Ages. About 675,000 Americans died, more than the U.S. casualties of all of the 20th century’s wars combined.
But for decades after the deaths subsided, the pandemic seemed to vanish from the public imagination. With rare exceptions, it didn’t crop up in novels, paintings, plays or movies. No significant memorials were built. Even scholars overlooked the subject. And scholars say that the mass amnesia helps explain the lack of preparation for Covid-19.
Geoffrey Rice, 73, a professor in New Zealand, has written several books about the devastating effects that the 1918 flu had on his country, leaving 9,100 dead out of a population of just over one million. Three years ago, he and an epidemiologist started agitating for a national influenza memorial.
In the United States, Brian Zecchinelli began wondering about the absence of a memorial. One of the dead was his grandfather Germinio, an Italian immigrant who had worked as a craftsman in a Vermont granite factory, one of many in a town that bills itself as “the granite capital of the world.”
Mr. Zecchinelli knew little about his grandfather’s life, which lasted just 35 years, so he spent months researching his death. He became fascinated not just by the flu, but by its near total disappearance from society’s collective memory.
“When I looked for memorials to the flu, I found nothing,” he said. “There was a plaque in Colorado and maybe something small in Australia, and that was it. I thought, ‘This is crazy. This flu changed America forever. It changed the world forever. I’ve got to do something.’”
On Nov. 6, 2019, a zinc plaque was unveiled in an herb garden beside a war memorial and a bell tower in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital.
Hospital radio stations, a British tradition, try to lift patients’ spirits.
Britain’s hospital radio stations are one of the lesser-known features of its health system. Yet there are more than 200 such stations — tiny operations, staffed by volunteers — according to the Hospital Broadcasting Association.
The stations exist mainly to play patient requests, which D.J.s collect by going around the wards, said David Hurford, the chairman of Radio B.G.M., a community broadcaster in Wales.
“It’s quite an old-fashioned concept, going in and speaking to people,” he said, “but you get such an instant response from patients who might not have seen a friendly face in days.”
When Britain went into lockdown in March, most hospitals barred visitors. Many D.J.s adapted by broadcasting from home or asking nurses to collect requests on their behalf, he said.
Steve Coulby, a D.J. for Nottingham Hospitals Radio, said that the experience had been challenging at times, and that there was no getting away from the fact that many people making the requests were dying.
“A few weeks ago, someone on the palliative care ward for Covid patients asked for Frank Sinatra, ‘My Way,’” he said. “If someone asks for that, you know exactly why they want it.”
As China gets back to business, anxiety and anger for one manufacturer.
“Well-equipped, air-conditioned workshop,” the for-sale notice reads. “Ready for immediate production upon takeover.”
The workshop’s owner, Zhou Wei, put up the notice last month, hoping that somebody — anybody — might help him get out of his garment business in southern China.
A few people have called. But their offers have been depressingly low.
“If the price is still so low after this week, I will have to sell to them regardless,” Mr. Zhou said.
China might be further along its coronavirus curve than the rest of the world, but its giant economy is still deep in the throes of pandemic-related disruption. Although factory owners and workers in most of China no longer face the restrictions that prevented them from going to work, in some industries the worldwide economic slump means that there are fewer jobs to get back to.
Mr. Zhou, who is in his early 30s, is from Hubei Province, the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak. He has spent years in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou producing women’s clothes.
He sells mostly within China, and February to April would normally be his busiest time of the year. But this year orders dried up almost completely after the virus began spreading rapidly in China in late January.
Soon, he couldn’t afford to keep paying his dozen or so workers, and he dismissed them last month. And so far, his landlord isn’t budging on the rent.
He considered selling his machines, but the amount of money he would get for them is also low, and he says the local government has not helped at all.
“No subsidies, nothing,” he said. “You can’t rely on the government.”
Now, Mr. Zhou is back with his family in his hometown, Pengchang, and contemplating his next moves. Back in Guangzhou, he said, he faced discrimination because he was from Hubei, where the outbreak began.
Pengchang, however, is an industrial cluster for nonwoven fabrics, which are often used in medical applications. For Mr. Zhou, one in particular looks promising: masks.
Europe’s call to save beloved industries: Eat more fries, cheese and beef.
It’s been a call to arms, or rather a call to forks and knives.
Across Western Europe, farmers and growers organizations are urging people to eat more of their landmark products to reduce surpluses that have accumulated during the pandemic.
People’s eating habits have changed during lockdowns, leaving a large surplus of some foods. In Belgium, hundreds of thousands of tons of potatoes have piled up in warehouses, with restaurants closed and festivals canceled.
In France, people have stockpiled dairy products like milk and butter, but have shunned smelly cheeses like Reblochon, Comté and Bleu, costing some producers up to 60 percent of their typical revenue. The main organization representing France’s milk sector has even devised a slogan to tackle the surplus: #Fromagissons, or “Let’s act for cheese.”
French wines and Belgian beers are also suffering, and people in both nations have been invited to buy beer coupons that they can use when bars reopen.
Clothing rules in South Africa’s lockdown perplex residents.
South Africa is now allowing shoppers to buy items like “closed-toe shoes” and “crop bottoms worn with boots and leggings” during a partial lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus — a highly specific list that has drawn public ridicule and political criticism.
“These new clothing regulations are frankly mad and seem more at place during the 1980s under the Soviet Union than they do in a democracy like South Africa,” said Dean Macpherson, the opposition’s policy leader on trade and industry.
“Fashion will be fine,” said Thula Sindi, a couture designer and ready-to-wear retailer. “What’s most important right now is human life.”
With that easing, malls around the country were flooded with customers, raising fears that efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus would be undone. South Africa has more than 12,000 reported coronavirus cases, the highest in Africa, and 219 deaths.
As the country heads into winter, the trade and industry department this week published the list of winter clothing, footwear and home textiles that are allowed to be sold, including “short-sleeved knit tops, where promoted and displayed as worn under cardigans and knitwear” to accommodate lower temperatures and close regulation loopholes.
At least 70 have died in Mexico since late April from tainted alcohol.
At least 70 people have died across Mexico since late April after drinking tainted alcohol, a rash of deaths that officials attribute to the imposition of dry laws meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Among the dead were at least 20 residents of a poor mountain town who had consumed a cheap popular moonshine.
The federal government has also declared breweries nonessential businesses, forcing them to shut down and leading to widespread beer shortages.
These restrictions, officials say, may have driven more people than usual to buy alcohol on the black market.
Mexico already had a robust illegal trade in alcoholic beverages that have been adulterated or produced under unregulated conditions, and in the past, Mexicans have been sickened and even killed by tainted alcohol.
But the surge of alcohol-related deaths in the past two weeks is unusually high.
A study finds evidence of a link between the virus and a new condition in children.
The condition, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has been reported in about 100 children in New York State, including three who died, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this week. Cases have been reported in other states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and California, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they would soon issue an alert asking doctors to report cases of children with symptoms of the syndrome.
In the new study, published on Wednesday in the journal Lancet, doctors in Italy compared a series of 10 cases of the illness with cases of a similar rare condition in children called Kawasaki disease.
The authors found that over the five years before the coronavirus pandemic, 19 children with Kawasaki disease were treated at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, which has an advanced pediatric department, in the country’s Bergamo Province.
But this year, from February 18 to April 20 alone, the hospital — which is at the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak — treated 10 children with similar hyper-inflammatory symptoms.
That suggests a cluster driven by the coronavirus pandemic, the authors said, especially since overall hospital admissions during this time were much lower than usual.
In China, an ‘OK Boomer’ moment over the nation’s future.
A commercial extolling Chinese youth, showed online and on state-run television, has provoked a nationwide backlash, writes the New York Times columnist Li Yuan.
Many of the younger generation looked at the commercial’s images of affluent, happy young people and didn’t recognize themselves. Many think that China’s biggest boom years are over and that China’s older generation, having amassed all of the money and power, is trying to co-opt them with flattery.
A Dutch nursing home brings families face to face again.
Tears have flowed freely this month at a nursing home in Wassenaar, a coastal community in the Netherlands. And — a rarity in the midst of a pandemic — they were tears of joy.
As the coronavirus takes a disastrous toll on nursing homes across the world, the Wassenaar residents had an opportunity to see their families in person, though separated by a pane of glass, thanks to the ingenuity of the center’s staff.
After nursing homes across the country were closed to visitors in March, Willem Holleman, the nursing home’s director, came up with the idea of installing a cabin in the yard where residents and their family members can meet without a risk of infection. That, he said, “has made all the difference.”
The cabin, divided by a glass wall, has two entrances. On one side, a nursing home resident walks in with a staff member’s help. On the other side, up to two family members can enter the cabin after disinfecting their hands. An intercom allows the family to communicate.
“The first visit in the cabin was very special,” Mr. Holleman said. “Two daughters came to see their mother for the first time after three weeks. All three of them sobbed.”
Over half of Europe’s coronavirus deaths have been in nursing homes, data suggests, and older people are especially vulnerable to the virus. Mr. Holleman said there had been no coronavirus cases at the Wassenaar home, where residents range in age from 75 to 101.
Mr. Holleman said he was amazed by how the idea had taken off and spread throughout the Netherlands to other nursing homes. For now, the facility allows four half-hour visits per day. All of the slots have been booked up through the end of this month.
“Of course we all prefer to hug each other and walk outside while holding hands,” Mr. Holleman said. “This is second best.”
Reporting and research were contributed by Pam Belluck, Niraj Chokshi, Lynsey Chutel, Rick Gladstone, Russell Goldman, Jason Gutierrez, Yonette Joseph, Alex Marshall, Claire Moses, Elian Peltier, Kirk Semple, Megan Specia, Vivian Wang, Sui-Lee Wee and Wang Yiwei.
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