Coronavirus Live Updates: 8,000 Quarantined in China Amid New Infections

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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.

How France was left defenseless in the face of a pandemic.

Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

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.”

Nigerian fraud ring is implicated in a vast attack on U.S. unemployment agencies.

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With states scrambling to pay out unemployment claims to tens of millions of Americans, a vast attack flooding unemployment agencies with fraudulent claims appears to have already siphoned millions of dollars in payments.

Investigators from the Secret Service said that they had information implicating a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring and that stolen information like social security numbers had allowed the network to file claims on behalf of people who in many cases had not lost their jobs.

Most of the fraudulent claims have so far been concentrated in Washington State, but evidence also pointed to similar attacks in Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

The challenge of pre-empting fraudulent claims has increased as the pressure to get money into the hands of unemployed workers has grown. Unemployment offices accustomed to dealing with jobless claims in the thousands have been inundated with over a million claims during recent months in more populous states.

The attacks, which the Secret Service warned could conceivably target every state, could result in “potential losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

The discovery has added to concerns that jury-rigged efforts to rapidly dispense economic relief could be easily exploited by fraudsters. The I.R.S. last month documented losses of at least $16.9 billion because of identity theft as it raced to dole out trillions of dollars in economic stimulus checks.

From a New Jersey hotel room, an Indian musician plays with artists from around the world.

Every year, Swaminathan Vinayakram and his band leave their homes in the South India city of Chennai to play with musicians across the United States.

The band — 3G, which stands for three generations — includes his grandfather Vikku, a Grammy-nominated percussionist who plays the gatham, a clay pot. In early March, they landed in Houston and played to a crammed crowd of 400 that swayed to the music and threw back drinks.

Then the world seemed to stop.

The coronavirus outbreak meant that their shows from San Francisco to New York were canceled. So were their collaborations with American jazz musicians that would have fused saxophones and piano with the upbeat rhythms of South India’s Carnatic music and its centuries-old instruments.

On March 19, India gave its citizens abroad two days to return before shutting down all international travel. As a rush ensued among the 17.5 million Indians in the world’s largest diaspora, 3G managed to get only three tickets for its five-person band.

Mr. Vinayakram, 27, and his father stayed behind in Jersey City, N.J., and the confinement grated on them. So Mr. Vinayakram did something from the 1990s, when the internet was a thrilling innovation and globalism all the rage: He posted a call-out to musicians for collaborations.

Now, he has connected to a more diverse set of musicians than ever.

“Through Facebook I’m meeting musicians I’ve never heard of, or that I would never have dreamed of playing with,” he said in a telephone interview.

Dozens have sent him tracks of their improvisations, which he overlays with the kanjira, a South Indian frame drum with a pair of jingles.

But he is still eager for the pandemic to end. He misses the thrill of playing to a live audience.

“When I was a child, I used to dream about playing live to thousands of people,” Mr. Vinayakram said. “It now feels like a dream again.”

In Brazil, national confusion helped fuel the virus’s spread.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

Thronged banks. Packed subway cars. Buses full of President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters, heading to rallies that call on Brazilians to brush aside local stay-at-home orders and instead follow the president’s directive to get back to work.

Scenes like these reflect Brazil’s contradictory response to the pandemic, a factor on glaring display on Friday as the health minister resigned — weeks after his predecessor was fired following clashes with Mr. Bolsonaro. And the confusion has contributed to making Brazil an emerging center of the pandemic, with a daily death rate second only to that of the United States.

The crisis stands in stark contrast to Brazil’s track record for innovative and nimble responses to health care challenges that made it a model in the developing world in past decades.

After a surge in H.I.V. infections in the 1990s, Brazil offered free universal treatment and pushed the pharmaceutical industry to lower costs. It threatened to disregard a Swiss drugmaker’s patent for an H.I.V. drug in 2001, and did so in 2007, manufacturing its own generic version and greatly reducing H.I.V. in the country.

In 2013, Brazil vastly expanded access to preventive health care in poorer areas by hiring thousands of foreign doctors, most of them Cuban. And to combat a Zika outbreak in 2014, Brazil created genetically modified mosquitoes that helped decrease the insect’s population, a tactic soon to be deployed in Florida and Texas.

U.S. roundup: Barack Obama criticized the virus response in two virtual commencement speeches.

Credit…Bing Guan/Reuters

“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.

Wuhan’s ‘bat woman,’ the target of an unproven theory, re-emerges with new virology research.

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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.”

Many in Europe celebrate easing lockdowns, but Germany sees pockets of protest.

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Euphoric Greeks and French headed to reopened beaches, keeping their umbrellas apart. Players in Germany’s national soccer league competed in deserted stadiums. Italy offered its pulverized tourism industry a lifeline with plans to lift some travel restrictions.

On Saturday, many in Europe cautiously rejoiced after months of debilitating confinement as even countries hardest hit by the virus continued to gradually ease restrictions.

But relief that life was moving slowly toward some semblance of normalcy was tempered by continuing protests in Germany, where, for the fourth weekend in a row, small groups that added up to thousands took to the street across the country to protest measures imposed by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The protesters, who include conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists but also ordinary people concerned about their jobs, remain a small but noisy minority, as seven in 10 Germans back Ms. Merkel’s handling of the pandemic.

The coronavirus, which has sickened more than 4.5 million people around the world and killed at least 310,000, has plunged Europe into an economic downturn not seen since the end of World War II. It has also forced European leaders to find a delicate balance between opening up their countries without inviting new waves of infections.

Italy began easing its restrictions on May 4, and announced on Saturday that it would lift travel restrictions beginning June 3 to open the door to renewed tourism. If there are fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus, the government warned, restrictive measures could return. The country has clawed itself out of one of Europe worst outbreaks, and its latest daily death toll was 153, the lowest since it went under a strict lockdown on March 9.

Italy’s shops, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses are to reopen on Monday, with stringent social distancing and hygiene rules. Religious services will also be allowed to restart on Monday, and Mass can again be offered at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

Also on Monday, residents of Budapest, Hungary’s throbbing capital, will be able to enjoy outdoor terraces and shopping, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday. Much of the rest of the country has had such freedom for nearly two weeks.

As many as 1,000 babies may become stranded in Ukraine after surrogate births.

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The babies lie in cribs, sleeping, crying or smiling at nurses, swaddled in clean linens and apparently well cared for, but separated from their parents as an unintended consequence of coronavirus travel bans.

Dozens of babies born into Ukraine’s booming surrogate motherhood business have become marooned in the country as their biological parents in the United States and other countries cannot travel to retrieve them after birth. For now, the agencies that arranged the surrogate births care for the babies.

The authorities say that at least 100 babies are stranded already and that as many as 1,000 may be born before Ukraine’s travel ban for foreigners is lifted.

“We will do all we can to unite the children with their parents,” Albert Tochilovsky, director of BioTexCom, the largest provider of surrogacy services in Ukraine, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Tochilovsky said doctors and caregivers now live at a company-owned hotel in Kyiv together with the babies, feeding them formula, taking them for walks and showing them to parents in video calls, all while in quarantine to protect against infection.

Ukraine does not tally statistics on surrogacy, but it may lead the world in the number of surrogate births for foreign biological parents, Mr. Tochilovsky said.

A human rights official in the presidential administration, Nikolai Kuleba, has demanded an end to the practice. “Ukraine is just turning into an online store for little ones,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Norimitsu Onishi, Constant Méheut, Tiffany May, Vivian Wang, Maria Abi-Habib, 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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