Coronavirus Live Updates: Southeast Asia’s Lockdowns Lead to Safer Roads

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Southeast Asia’s dangerous roads are less deadly amid lockdowns.

Coronavirus lockdowns across Southeast Asia are reaping an unexpected benefit: safer roads in a region where road fatalities are a leading killer.

In Thailand, where road accidents last year killed more than 21,000 people, many on motorcycles, such deaths were down by roughly half in April, according to the Road Safety Commission.

During the first month of the lockdown in Malaysia, road accidents and deaths decreased by about two-thirds, according to the Traffic Enforcement and Investigation Department.

And in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, the roads are much safer now than they were pre-lockdown, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. Under a strict lockdown that is in place until at least the end of this month, only essential vehicles — ambulances, police cars and motorcycle delivery operators — are allowed on the streets.

Canceled festivities, such as curtailed New Year’s celebrations in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar in April, have also cut road deaths. Fewer people carousing and driving while drunk means safer roads.

Several countries in Southeast Asia have relatively low rates of confirmed coronavirus cases. In Thailand, road deaths remain a bigger killer than the pandemic, according to official data.

A typhoon is complicating the Philippines’ coronavirus battle.

Credit…Alren Beronio/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thousands of people fled to evacuation centers on Friday as Typhoon Vongfong barreled toward the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, dumping torrential rains and raising fears that the coronavirus could spread in packed evacuation centers.

In its morning advisory, PAGASA, the national meteorology service, said the typhoon, the first to hit the country this season, was “bringing destructive winds and heavy to intense rainfall” to the southern edge of the island.

Luzon, home to about 60 million people, has been on an extended lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But with evacuation centers now full of people, officials worry that they will become breeding grounds for the further spread of the virus.

The typhoon, packing the power of a category 3 hurricane, made landfall in the Philippines by slamming into the eastern island of Samar Thursday afternoon. By Friday morning, it was wreaking havoc over the island of Masbate and parts of Quezon Province on the southern tip of Luzon, home to the country’s capital, Manila.

The Office of Civil Defense in Manila warned residents living along coastal areas of storm surges of up to six feet along the Philippines’ eastern seaboard, particularly in the Quezon and Aurora provinces and the Bicol region.

While the typhoon was expected to weaken incrementally, it has so far maintained is strength, churning maximum winds of nearly 80 miles an hour.

China’s economy shows hints of recovery as virus threat recedes.

Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

China’s factories maintained a brisk pace last month, but Chinese consumers were slow to resume shopping, according to official statistics released on Friday.

Many countries have been watching China’s economic performance closely because it is several months ahead of the rest of the world in coping with the virus. The Chinese economy shrank in the first three months of this year for the first time since Mao Zedong died in 1976.

Factories caught up on orders that they had struggled to fill earlier this year, when the coronavirus pandemic raced across the country. The country’s industrial production was up 3.9 percent from April of last year, better than most economists expected. Production had been down 1.1 percent in March from a year earlier and had plunged in February, when the virus outbreak was at its worst in China.

But shopping and fixed asset investment stayed weak. Retail sales were down 7.5 percent in April compared to a year earlier, marginally worse than economists’ expectations.

“We should be aware that given the continuous spread of the epidemic abroad, the stability and recovery of the national economy is still faced with multiple challenges,” said Liu Aihua, the director general of the agency’s department of comprehensive statistics.

Strong exports kept factories busy last month. Many factories were catching up on orders placed while Chinese cities were locked down. But orders for further exports have stalled, according to surveys of purchasing managers.

Despite the progress, tens of millions of migrant workers are unemployed. Many white-collar workers have suffered pay cuts. Weak consumption has some economists wondering how long China can sustain an economic rebound.

U.S. roundup: The C.D.C. releases checklists for schools and businesses seeking to reopen.

Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released six flow charts meant to help schools, restaurants, transit systems and other businesses decide when to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency’s first release of such guidance after a more comprehensive draft was rejected by the White House.

The decision trees are mostly composed of basic tips that can serve as a checklist for businesses before they reopen.

The public release of the guidance on Thursday follows a tumultuous back-and-forth between the C.D.C. and the White House. Trump administration officials had sent back the C.D.C.’s initial recommendations, arguing that they were too prescriptive and rigid when the density of confirmed coronavirus cases can fluctuate widely from state to state, and even county to county. Some federal agencies also said the draft guidelines could harm businesses and the economy.

Notably absent from the six decision trees released on Thursday was any mention of houses of worship, which had been a particularly contentious point in the C.D.C. guidance that was rejected.

  • The virus has crippled revenues and raised expenses in most states. But laws requiring balanced budgets could make things tougher.

  • In some key election states like Wisconsin, reopening has deepened the political divide. In Michigan, hundreds of protesters, many of them armed, turned out at the State Capitol in a drenching rainstorm. In Pennsylvania, some Republican lawmakers urged defiance of the Democratic governor’s orders to keep nonessential businesses closed.

  • The White House threatened to veto a $3 trillion pandemic relief bill that Democrats planned to push through the House on Friday, as Republicans urged their members to reject a measure they said was a nonstarter.

World Trade Organization chief who clashed with Trump abruptly resigns.

Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The head of the organization charged with bringing a semblance of order to international trade relations resigned unexpectedly Thursday, adding another element of uncertainty to commerce in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and escalating trade conflicts.

Roberto Azevêdo, a career Brazilian diplomat, resigned as the director-general of the World Trade Organization effective Aug. 31, the Geneva-based organization said. His second four-year term was not scheduled to end until September 2021.

The W.T.O.’s operations have been crippled since late last year as a result of actions by the Trump administration, which has refused to approve nominees to fill vacancies on a crucial appeals panel that rules on trade disputes.

With Mr. Azevêdo’s departure, which caught officials in Geneva and Brussels by surprise, the organization will lose an advocate of open trade and international cooperation whose views clashed with President Trump’s preference for bilateral power politics.

His resignation also leaves a leadership vacuum at a perilous moment for the world economy.

Latest in science: Young patients and strokes; talking and droplets.

Neurologists around the United States have reported a flurry of unexplained strokes among Covid-19 patients, including among young and otherwise healthy people.

One of those patients was Ravi Sharma, a 27-year-old emergency medical technician in New York City who spent weeks ferrying sick, elderly patients from nursing homes to hospitals.

Credit…via Bina Yamin

He self-quarantined in mid-March when he developed a dry cough, knowing he was probably infected even though he wasn’t able to get a test. Then he had a sudden stroke that left him unable to speak or move the right side of his body.

He was rushed to the hospital, where he was sedated and placed on a ventilator. His family wasn’t sure if he would make it.

He is now recovering at a rehab facility, where he has learned to walk again. He’s trying to gain back some of the 50 pounds he lost during his illness.

“I’m 27, and if this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” Mr. Sharma said. “This is real and it’s scary. I want people to go out there and be cautious.”

The strokes appear to be related to a broader phenomenon that has emerged in critically ill Covid-19 patients: excessive blood clotting.

In other science news:

  • Respiratory droplets created during ordinary conversation can hang in the air for up to 14 minutes, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. That may help explain how asymptomatic people can infect others.

  • Another study, published in The Lancet, provides the strongest evidence yet that the mysterious inflammatory condition affecting children is linked to the coronavirus.

Yemen, buffeted by war, is now ravaged by the pandemic, too.

Credit…Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

It was just two weeks ago that war-ravaged Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, reported its first cluster of coronavirus cases. Since then infections appear to have exploded, realizing the worst fears of aid groups.

Save the Children, the global charity, reported Thursday that at least 385 people had died over the past week with Covid 19-like symptoms in the city of Aden, where the first cluster — five cases — surfaced at the end of April.

Several hospitals in Aden have closed, and some medical workers have refused to work because of a lack of protective equipment, Save the Children said. The two main public hospitals are providing only emergency services, and are not admitting patients, it reported.

“Our teams on the ground are seeing how people are being sent away from hospitals, breathing heavily or even collapsing,” Mohammed Alshamaa, Save the Children’s director of programs in Yemen, said in a statement. “People are dying because they can’t get treatment that would normally save their lives.”

Earlier Thursday, U.N. officialsalso sounded the alarm. “Humanitarian agencies have every reason to believe that community transmission is taking place across the country,” said Ramesh Rajasingham, the acting deputy emergency relief coordinator.

The five-year war in Yemen and the nine-year one in Syria have combined with the pandemic to create especially dire challenges for vulnerable civilian populations, who are often displaced and have limited or no access to food and medical care.

The World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations, said on Twitter on Thursday that a record 9.3 million people in Syria are “food insecure” — meaning they regularly don’t have enough to eat. Spiraling prices and the coronavirus have “pushed families beyond their limits,” the agency said.

Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Rick Gladstone, Jason Gutierrez, Knvul Sheikh, Keith Bradsher, Jacey Fortin, Jack Ewing and Roni Caryn Rabin.

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