Coronavirus Live Updates: Easing Lockdowns Gives Nations a New Challenge

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Credit…Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times

Nations confront the possibility that reopening may be harder than locking down.

Experts across Europe had warned that closing down countries to contain the coronavirus pandemic would be far easier than opening them up again. More and more, that is looking to be true.

In countries hit hardest by the virus, protests have broken out and frustration has mounted over the way governments have handled, or mishandled, the easing of lockdowns.

In Italy, which has had the deadliest outbreak in Europe, vibrant and vocal protests from politicians, business leaders, mayors and others confused about the government’s plans have created a sense of impending chaos as the country prepares to enter a reopening phase on Monday.

Italy will allow restaurants to provide takeout service starting Monday, but trattorias, bars and coffee shops will not be allowed to seat customers for some weeks. Many entrepreneurs complain that they are going broke and that the state requirements will essentially make business impossible.

To draw attention to their plight, thousands of small-business owners have given their mayors the keys to their restaurants and cafes.

The protests have also extended to politics. Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party, led dozens of opposition members to spend the night in Parliament on Wednesday to protest the government’s measures. “We are sick of the denial of our freedoms,” Mr. Salvini said during a 1 a.m. video stream from the Senate.

Criticism also came from the left. Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, criticized the government’s vague instructions on who would be allowed to travel to visit family after May 4. In Italy, where the definition of family can be expansive, the government had to explain that it includes those with whom people had “stable relationships.”

Mr. Renzi told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Italy should not have any morality police deciding “if the person you are about to see is a stable or temporary girlfriend.” He added, “This is pure craziness.”

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has defended the plan and the government’s performance. “We did a well-articulated and well-structured plan,” he said on Tuesday before snapping at a reporter. “If one day you have the responsibility to run the government,” Mr. Conte said, “you write the decrees.”

In France, teachers have said plans to gradually reopen certain schools starting May 11 have created a climate of confusion. They said they were not sure which classes would open, how many students would be allowed in and whether any measures would ensure their safety.

And as Spain prepares to relax some lockdown rules this month, public pressure has forced the government to retreat on key steps. The government initially barred children from going outside, then allowed them to accompany their parents to go on errands. When the political opposition and parent groups protested, it allowed them to go for walks, too. On Saturday, adults and teenagers were allowed outside for exercise for the first time in seven weeks.

Why does the virus hit some nations hard but deal a glancing blow to others?

The coronavirus has killed so many people in Iran that the country has resorted to mass burials, but in neighboring Iraq, the body count is fewer than 100.

The Dominican Republic has reported nearly 7,600 cases of the virus. Just across the border, Haiti has recorded about 85.

In Indonesia, thousands are believed to have died of the coronavirus. In nearby Malaysia, a strict lockdown has kept fatalities to about 100.

The coronavirus has touched almost every country on earth, but its impact has seemed capricious. Global metropolises like New York, Paris and London have been devastated, while teeming cities like Bangkok, Baghdad, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, largely been spared.

The question of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively untouched is a puzzle that has spawned numerous theories and speculations but no definitive answers. That knowledge could have profound implications for how countries respond to the virus, for determining who is at risk and for knowing when it’s safe to go out again.

Doctors in Saudi Arabia are studying whether genetic differences may help explain varying levels of severity in Covid-19 cases among Saudi Arabs, while scientists in Brazil are looking into the relationship between genetics and Covid-19 complications. Teams in multiple countries are studying if common hypertension medications might worsen the disease’s severity and whether a particular tuberculosis vaccine might do the opposite.

One theory that is unproven but impossible to refute: maybe the virus just hasn’t gotten to those countries yet. Russia and Turkey appeared to be fine until, suddenly, they were not.

The Philippines suspends commercial air travel into the country.

The Philippines will suspend all commercial flights into the country beginning Sunday, joining several countries that have suspended most air travel in response to the pandemic.

The Manila International Airport Authority announced the move on its Facebook page. It did not give an end date for the suspension of commercial passenger flights, which began at 8 a.m. Sunday. Other air traffic, including cargo flights and those transporting medical supplies, will be allowed to continue, it said.

A handful of countries have similarly blocked almost all air travel in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus, moves that coincide with new restrictions on migration that have been imposed around the world.

India suspended international and domestic passenger flights in late March. On Saturday the country’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the restrictions will be extended until May 17. Thailand will continue to bar most flights to the country until May 31.

Last month, Myanmar extended its suspension of all flights to the country until May 15. And Nepal said it would extend a suspension of all domestic and international flights until May 15.

The United Arab Emirates has suspended flights until further notice, and Argentina has banned commercial flights until Sept. 1, one of the longest such restrictions.

The International Civil Aviation Organization says international air travel could drop between 44 percent and 80 percent over the course of 2020, compared with the previous year. The overall reduction in the number of passengers could reach 1.5 billion, it said.

‘We are dying’: Russia’s small businesses, shut because of the virus, are withering away.

Russia has a “rainy day fund” of more than $550 billion, accumulated from oil sales when prices were high, so it is likely to weather the economic storm created by the coronavirus better than many countries, even as it recorded its worst one-day rise in cases since the outbreak began.

But it risks losing much of a sector that President Vladimir V. Putin has for years promoted as key to Russia’s long-term economic success: small and midsize businesses. Unlike many Western governments, the Kremlin has provided little support to business.

The overall relief package in Russia has amounted to less than a quarter of what is being injected in Germany, and most of the support has been aimed at helping large corporations, many of them owned or closely entwined with the state. Only around $10 billion has been pledged to small businesses so far.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to advance through Russian cities at the end of March, Mr. Putin ordered businesses to both shut down and continue paying salaries. But he did not specify where owners were supposed to get the money. Entrepreneurs have largely been left to fend for themselves, and the mass failure of small and medium businesses would leave Russia’s economy even more dependent on the Kremlin.

In defiance of Mr. Putin’s orders, Aleksandr B. Zatulivetrov announced that he would reopen one of his two restaurants in the center of St. Petersburg unless the Kremlin declared a state of emergency, a legal provision that would allow him to stop payments to banks and landlords and force the government to offer compensation.

“Where are your voices? We all have tens of workers who need jobs!” Mr. Zatulivetrov, 48, wrote in a plea to other restaurant owners to join him. ‘We are dying!”

Russia on Sunday reported 10,633 new confirmed cases — the highest single-day total so far and almost double the daily number just four days earlier. The government also reported 58 new deaths, for an overall total of 1,280.

More than half the new cases were in Moscow, which also has about half of Russia’s total: 134,687 cases. The city government said the higher one-day case total was in part a result of increased testing. The number of new coronavirus patients admitted to the hospital has remained steady at 1,700 per day, the Moscow government said, suggesting that the authorities were increasingly identifying cases at early stages of the illness.

The race for a vaccine is trying to speed up a process that normally takes years.

Four months after the coronavirus began its deadly march around the globe, the search for a vaccine has taken on an intensity never before seen in medical research, with huge implications for public health, the world economy and politics.

With political leaders — not least President Trump — increasingly pressing for progress, and with big potential profits at stake for the industry, drug makers and researchers have signaled that they are moving ahead at unheard-of speeds.

But the whole enterprise remains dogged by uncertainty about whether any coronavirus vaccine will prove effective, how fast it could be made available to millions or billions of people, and whether the rush — compressing a process that can take 10 years into 10 months — will sacrifice safety.

“We are going to start ramping up production with the companies involved,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the federal government’s top expert on infectious diseases, said on NBC this week. “You don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing.”

Two of the leading entrants in the United States, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, have announced partnerships with manufacturing firms, with Johnson & Johnson promising a billion doses of an as-yet-undeveloped vaccine by the end of next year.

While scientists and doctors talk about finding a “global vaccine,” national leaders emphasize immunizing their own populations first. Mr. Trump said he was personally in charge of “Operation Warp Speed” to get 300 million doses into American arms by January. The most promising clinical trial in China is financed by the government. And in India, the chief executive of the Serum Institute of India — the world’s largest producer of vaccine doses — said that most of its vaccine “would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad.”

But George Q. Daley, the dean of Harvard Medical School, said thinking country by country rather than in global terms would be foolhardy since it “would involve squandering the early doses of vaccine on a large number of individuals at low risk, rather than covering as many high-risk individuals globally” — health care workers and older adults — “to stop the spread” around the world.

Curators around the world reimagine how, and if, we will gather for art.

The Prospect New Orleans art triennial in October has been postponed to next year. So has the Liverpool Biennial. São Paulo’s Bienal is delayed by at least a month. The Dakar Biennale has yet to set new dates. Front International, in Cleveland, has decided to skip 2021 altogether and return in 2022.

The coronavirus crisis has thrown into question the post-pandemic future of contemporary art biennials (and their cousins, triennials and quadrennials). Of an estimated such 43 exhibitions in 2020, some 20 have been postponed so far, according to a tally by the Biennial Foundation, with further changes near certain. The Biennale of Sydney opened in March for a three-month run — and had to close after 10 days.

The idea of the international art exhibition has flourished at least since the Venice Biennale was founded in 1895, but they have proliferated in the last two decades as the contemporary art field has gone global. Now their fate is linked to the big question of how culture industries, and cultural habits, will emerge from the pandemic. The crisis also threatens art fairs, which are driven by the market, itself facing great uncertainty, and the global ecosystem of workshops and residencies that have become vital to the careers of artists.

But the premise of a biennial is distinctly cosmopolitan and civic. The bet is that mingling artists, out-of-town visitors, and the local public — big biennials often draw a half-million attendees — around a theme that seeks to interpret the world, will benefit everyone involved, while helping cities boost their cultural profiles.

The lurking question is whether the biennial model still makes sense in a post-pandemic world.

U.S. roundup: Warm weather and confinement fatigue draw millions from their homes.

Warmer weekend temperatures and fatigue over weeks of confinement lured millions of Americans outside on Saturday, adding to the pressure on city and state officials to enforce, or loosen, restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the virus.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded with residents to resist the impulse to gather outdoors. In New Jersey, golf courses reopened, and Gov. Philip D. Murphy said that early anecdotal reports indicated people were maintaining social distance. In Texas, three movie theaters reopened in the San Antonio area, some of the first in the country to do so.

Former President George W. Bush is calling on Americans to put aside partisan differences, heed the guidance of medical professionals and show empathy for those stricken by the coronavirus and resulting economic impact.

In a three-minute video message, Mr. Bush struck a tone of unity that seemed to contrast with the more combative approach taken at times by President Trump, as the former president evoked the sense of national solidarity after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” Mr. Bush said in the professionally produced video, part of a series aired online called The Call to Unite that also featured Oprah Winfrey, Tim Shriver, Julia Roberts and others.

The researchers, Dr. Mette Kalager and Dr. Michael Bretthauer of the University of Oslo, proposed a test to compare similar districts in adjacent towns when one stays shut and the other is reopened. Students and teachers in both districts are tested at the start and end of a 10- to 14-day cycle, and restrictions are eased if virus transmissions don’t increase in the reopened school.

In the best-case scenario — no increased transmission — all schools could open after three to six weeks.

The lifting of stringent rules across the nation signaled a new phase in the country’s response to the virus and came even as confirmed cases nationally continue to grow.

“It’s clearly a life-or-death-sort-of-level decision,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University. “If you get this wrong, many more people will die.”

Reporting was contributed by Emma Bubola, Hannah Beech, Alissa J. Rubin, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Ruth Maclean, Ivan Nechepurenko, Anton Troianovski, Austin Ramzy, Anna Holland, Daniel Powell, Michael Levenson, Siddhartha Mitter, Gina Kolata, Peter Baker, David E. Sanger, David D. Kirkpatrick, Carl Zimmer, Katie Thomas and Sui-Lee Wee.

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