Coronavirus Live Updates: Italy Prepares to Ease Travel Restrictions

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Italy will lift some travel restrictions as it emerges from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.

Italy will lift travel restrictions beginning on June 3, under a decree adopted by the government on Saturday that will open the door to renewed tourism, one of the country’s hardest-hit sectors.

The measure, in a country that is emerging from one of Europe’s tightest coronavirus lockdowns, will permit freer movement by private and public transportation within the country’s regions.

If there are fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus, the government could reimpose restrictive measures, according to a statement. A 14-day quarantine will continue to be applied to people who have been in close contact with anyone infected by the virus.

On Monday, shops, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses will reopen, with stringent social distancing and hygiene rules. Regions are required to monitor their hospitals and the epidemiological situation on a daily basis, and group gatherings are still banned.

Religious services will also be allowed to restart on Monday, adhering to strict “protocols to prevent the risk of contagion,” the statement said. The easing of rules means that Mass will be again celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, which underwent a thorough cleaning with disinfectant on Friday.

The Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said on Thursday that those participating in religious functions at St. Peter’s and at Rome’s three other papal basilicas would be subject to temperature checks.

Italy has been among the hardest countries in Europe by the pandemic, with more than 220,000 confirmed cases and 31,600 deaths. The country’s tourism industry, which, along with cultural activities, accounts for an estimated 20 percent of the country’s economic output, has been effectively grounded during the lockdown, and the government allocated 5 billion euro (about $5.4 billion) toward these sectors.

China appears to confirm destroying lab samples.

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A Chinese health official has suggested that some labs destroyed coronavirus samples in the early days of the outbreak, saying that such steps were required for biosafety reasons.

The official, Liu Dengfeng, said at a news briefing on Friday that Chinese law required labs not equipped to handle highly contagious specimens to destroy them to “prevent secondary disasters caused by unknown pathogens.”

Health officials had quickly labeled the coronavirus as “highly pathogenic” after beginning to investigate it in December, said Mr. Liu, a member of China’s National Health Commission.

“Chinese laws have strict requirements for the storage, destruction and study of highly pathogenic samples,” he said. “For laboratories that do not meet the storage standards, the samples should be destroyed or transferred to a professional depository.”

Mr. Liu did not say how those labs would have acquired samples in the first place.

The virus is believed to have emerged in a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak was first detected. A research lab in the city has been the focus of unproven theories about the outbreak’s origins. Mr. Liu did not specify details of any labs that may have destroyed samples.

Several world leaders have questioned China’s transparency and willingness to participate in international inquiries into the virus’s origins. U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have accused China of destroying lab samples when the virus emerged in order to try to conceal the outbreak.

Mr. Pompeo has also backed President Trump’s assertion that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, though intelligence agencies say they have reached no conclusion on the issue.

Chinese officials have aggressively pushed back against the accusations. Mr. Liu said that U.S. officials’ remarks were “purely out of context” and “intended to confuse.”

Greece braces for crowds as hundreds of beaches reopen.

Credit…Costas Baltas/Reuters

Amid forecasts of record-breaking heat, Greece on Saturday opened hundreds of beaches, continuing the gradual lifting of restrictions imposed in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The move is “an important test that we must pass successfully,” a government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, said last week.

“The whole world is watching Greece, which has so far shown an exemplary response to the pandemic,” he said, referring to the country’s early imposition of restrictions. The country has recorded 2,810 coronavirus cases and 160 deaths.

The opening came as temperatures were forecast to hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in Athens and about 106 Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) in the southern Peloponnese peninsula and other parts of the mainland. That would make it the hottest mid-May in 150 years, according to Greek meteorologists.

Television coverage showed beaches around Greece dotted with people on Saturday, with numbers expected to grow as temperatures rise throughout the day. In Glyfada, a coastal Athens suburb that draws large crowds in summer, managers of one beach used drones to ensure that people practiced social distancing.

A distance of about 5 feet between sun loungers is required at the beaches, and alcohol and music are banned. Employees must wear masks and gloves, and disinfect sun loungers and tables between uses. Beach managers faces fines of up to 20,000 euros (about $21,600) for violations, and closure for a month.

As the authorities prepare to reopen Greece’s crucial tourism sector, a ban on travel to the country’s islands is being gradually lifted, starting with ferry connections to Crete on Monday. Domestic flights will gradually resume from Monday, though restrictions on international routes remain in place.

U.K. psychiatrists forecast a ‘tsunami’ of mental health troubles.

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

With nearly half of Britain’s population experiencing “high” levels of anxiety during the pandemic, psychiatrists say that they have seen an increase in first-time emergency cases during the lockdown, and that a sudden drop in routine appointments makes them fear for a “tsunami of mental health after the pandemic.”

In a survey of over 1,300 mental health doctors across Britain, the Royal College of Psychiatrists wrote on Friday that nearly half had seen a drop-off in routine care. In particular, one psychiatrist wrote: “In old-age psychiatry, our patients appear to have evaporated. I think people are too fearful to seek help.”

As many nations have eased confinement rules but retain some forms of lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said that “mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from” the pandemic.

Troubles include depression and various mental issues stemming from isolation and increased stress. The Center for Mental Health, a British independent charity, has forecast an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder. Britain has been one of the worst-hit European countries in the pandemic, with over 236,000 confirmed cases and nearly 34,000 deaths as of Saturday.

“If the economic impact is similar to that of the post-2008 recession, then we could expect 500,000 additional people experiencing mental health problems,” the charity wrote.

As India weathers the virus, Narendra Modi’s poll numbers soar.

Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

Just before the coronavirus arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced serious challenges, perhaps the biggest of his tenure.

Since then, as the world has been walloped by the coronavirus pandemic, many of these problems in India, especially the economic ones, have gotten worse. But once again, India has rallied around Mr. Modi, with recent opinion polls showing his already high approval ratings touching 80, even 90, percent.

Analysts say that Mr. Modi’s success may be durable.

His nationwide stay-at-home lockdown, which he dropped on the country with four hours’ notice, has been largely obeyed. He never played down the virus threat or said India had capabilities it did not. And unlike in the United States, where partisan politics has gummed up the response and created great discord, analysts say Mr. Modi has worked well with state-level officials across India, regardless of ideology.

It has not been a spotless performance, however. Mr. Modi’s government was caught off guard by an exodus of migrant workers pouring out of India’s cities, making desperate and sometimes fatal journeys hundreds of miles home. (On Saturday, more than 20 migrants were killed in a truck crash as they traveled home.)

And many economists believe that an $260 billion relief package that he announced this week will hardly be enough.

Soccer fans return in the Faroe Islands, while Germany’s league will play without spectators.

Credit…Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters

On Saturday, soccer fans in the Faroe Islands will live the dream of millions of global sports fans who have lived under weeks of lockdowns when they return to stadiums to watch a game.

The move comes after the self-governing archipelago, which is part of Denmark, quashed an outbreak of the coronavirus, prompting the local government to allow spectators to begin attending the national soccer league’s second round.

After the coronavirus arrived, the North Atlantic nation closed schools and put in place an expansive testing regime. Many tests were conducted in labs created 20 years ago to combat a flu that killed 90 percent of the islands’ salmon. The Faroe Islands have registered no new coronavirus cases since April 25.

In Germany, meanwhile, the nation’s soccer league is entering uncharted territory. It has been 65 days since the Bundesliga went into hibernation, and on Saturday, at 3:30 p.m. local time, it plans to return — though to stadiums empty of fans.

Many in Germany, including some fan groups, believe that the Bundesliga has hurried back with money as its only motivation. By returning, it has turned a problem into an opportunity, having long sought to end the primacy of England’s Premier League in soccer’s global landscape.

But the return is also down to a broader political reality.

“We can be the first to start again because of our health care system,” said Simon Rolfes, Leverkusen’s sporting director. “We are thankful to have the opportunity.”

In Japan, confinement underscores gender disparities over household work.

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

For working couples, Japan’s efforts to combat the coronavirus — encouraging teleworking and asking residents to stay inside — have highlighted disparities in the division of domestic work that are particularly pronounced in Japanese society.

Men in Japan do fewer hours of household chores and child care than in any other of the globe’s wealthiest nations. In a survey last year by Macromill, a market research firm, about half of Japanese working couples reported that men did 20 percent of the housework or less.

About half of working women in Japan are employed in part-time or contract jobs without benefits, according to government data, compared with close to one in five men. That has reinforced a sense among some men that their paid work takes priority over their wives’ jobs, leaving women to carry the bulk of household chores.

Men now at home during the pandemic are unlikely to share chores and child care equally, said Lully Miura, a political scientist who runs the Yamaneko Research Institute in Tokyo.

“Most of my friends on Facebook post the nice homemade dishes” made by their husbands, Ms. Miura said. “But this is not the majority of people.”

U.S. roundup: House passes a $3 trillion relief package that Trump and the Senate oppose.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Democratic leaders characterized the package, which President Trump has promised to veto, as their opening offer in future negotiations over coronavirus aid, even amid rifts within their own ranks.

With nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities and Native American populations, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans, the measure was an expansive sequel to the $2.2 trillion stimulus enacted in March.

The bill passed on a tight margin, 208-199, as some moderate Democrats from conservative-leaning districts rejected it as a costly overreach that included provisions unrelated to the pandemic.

Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:

  • Retail sales plunged 16.4 percent, according to government data reported Friday. That dive followed an 8.3 percent drop in March, producing by far the largest two-month decline on record.

  • A coronavirus testing program in the Seattle area — promoted by the billionaire Bill Gates and local public health officials as a way of conducting wider surveillance on the virus’s spread — has been ordered by the federal government to stop its work pending additional reviews.

After being laid off, people with foreign work visas must leave the U.S. unless they find a similar job.

Credit…Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

Like millions of American workers, an Indian software engineer, a British market researcher and an Iranian architect lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike Americans, they are not entitled to unemployment benefits, despite paying taxes, because they are on foreign work visas. And if they cannot find similar jobs soon, they must leave the country.

The lives of tens of thousands of foreign workers on skilled-worker visas, like H-1Bs, have been upended by the economic fallout from the pandemic. Many had been waiting for years to obtain permanent legal residency through their employer, and now face the prospect of deportation.

The Trump administration is also expected in the next few weeks to halt the issuance of new work visas like the H-1B, for high-skilled foreigners, and the H-2B, for seasonal employment. New measures under review would also eliminate a program that enables foreign graduates of American universities to remain in the country and work.

The tightening rules come as unemployment in the U.S. soared last month to 14.7 percent, the highest level on record, and as calls escalated in Congress for Americans to be given priority for jobs.

Nations led by women offer lessons in handling a crisis.

Credit…Michael Kappeler/DPA, via Associated Press

And like several other countries that have done well in handling the pandemic, they are led by women.

These successes may not prove anything intrinsic about women’s leadership, but experts say they could offer valuable lessons about crisis management.

For starters, the presence of a female leader can signal that a country has more inclusive political institutions and values. That bodes well for a handling a crisis: Taking information from diverse sources and having the humility to listen to outsiders are crucial for successful pandemic response, Devi Sridhar, the chair of global health at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, wrote in the British Medical Journal.

Whereas Ms. Merkel’s government considered epidemiological models, the input of medical providers and the success of South Korea’s efforts, governments in many countries with high death tolls have relied primarily on their own advisers, with few channels for dissent or outside views.

Women, however powerful, often have to avoid such behaviors or risk being “seen as unfeminine,” said Alice Evans, a sociologist at King’s College London.

Male leaders can overcome gendered expectations. But it may be less politically costly for women to adopt cautious, defensive policies because it does not violate perceived gender norms.

Brazil’s health minister stepped down after less than a month.

Credit…Adriano Machado/Reuters

Brazil’s health minister, Nelson Teich, said on Friday that he was stepping down less than a month after taking the job, after clashing with President Jair Bolsonaro over the president’s decision not to embrace social distancing and quarantines.

Last month, Mr. Bolsonaro fired the previous health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who had butted heads with the president over the same issues. Mr. Teich addressed a news conference on Friday but did not provide a reason for his resignation.

While governors and mayors in much of the country have urged Brazilians to stay home as much as possible, Mr. Bolsonaro has implored them to go out and work, arguing that an economic unraveling would be more damaging to the country than the virus is. This week he classified beauty salons and gyms as essential businesses that should remain open.

Brazil has more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and over 14,000 deaths. Those figures, among the highest in the world and rising sharply, still grossly underrepresent the extent of the epidemic, experts say, because Brazil has limited testing capacity.

Officially, the country is recording more than 800 coronavirus deaths per day, second only to the United States.

Our Southeast Asia bureau chief describes being a parent in the pandemic.

Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Hannah Beech, the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Times, is based in Bangkok and covers conflict and natural disasters in about a dozen countries. Among them is Myanmar, where she has reported on the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority. In the course of her reporting in the region, she has met children whose parents killed themselves as suicide bombers and others who watched as soldiers bayoneted their relatives.

I didn’t want to be that parent, the one who talks about how when I was a child I had to walk uphill both ways, in the snow, just to get to school.

For one thing, I spent some of my childhood in Bangkok, where I now live with my husband and two sons. There is no snow in Bangkok and not much uphill.

So when my boys, ages 10 and 12, ask me at dinner what I did on a reporting trip — “going away again,” as they call it — I often hesitate.

“Well, Mama interviewed women who were raped when they were trying to flee their homes,” doesn’t seem quite right for the dinner table. Or, “Well, Mama put Mentholatum under her nose because it makes death smell a little less bad.”

But I don’t want to coddle them either. My husband and I ensure that the kids eat what we eat, even if it’s okra. We make them read The Times.

I find myself, too often, comparing them, in their privileged bubble of international school and summer camp in Maine, to the boy I met in a refugee camp or the girl with the big eyes who lost her parents in one of Southeast Asia’s drumbeat of disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, landslides, floods, plane crashes, bombings.

There is, as my children have discovered, a lot of bad news out there. Tap here to read Hannah Beech’s full dispatch on parenting through the pandemic.

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Chris Buckley, Ben Casselman, Jeffrey Gettleman, Miriam Jordan, Niki Kitsantonis, Sapna Maheshwari, Steven Lee Myers, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Motoko Rich, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Rory Smith, Amanda Taub, Vivian Wang and Sameer Yasir.

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