Coronavirus Live Updates: U.N. Warns of Global Instability and Conflict

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Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times

The United Nations warned on Wednesday that the unfolding battle against the coronavirus would lead to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”

As Americans steeled themselves for what President Trump said would be a “very, very painful two weeks,” the scale of the economic, political and societal fallout around the world came into ever greater focus.

“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering and upending people’s lives,” the United Nations declared in a report calling for global solidarity in the fight.

“This is much more than a health crisis,” the report added. “The coronavirus is attacking societies at their core.”

With more than 30,000 dead across Europe and the virus still spreading ferociously, millions across the continent resigned themselves to hunkering down for weeks more, and possibly months.

Britain, France and Spain all experienced their highest death tolls on Tuesday.

At the White House, the scientists charged with leading the battle against the virus made it clear that there were two distinctly different campaigns underway in the United States.

One was taking place in the New York metropolitan region, where more than half of the nation’s cases have been detected — the death toll in New York City alone surged past 1,000. More than 2,000 nurses, 500 paramedics and emergency medical technicians, as well as 250 ambulances from across the country, were converging on the city, joining the Navy and the National Guard in assisting the region’s front-line medical workers.

Adding to the warlike atmosphere, the home of the U.S. Open tennis championship in Queens was being turned into a triage center, and hospital tents were being set up in Central Park.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the nation’s coronavirus response, pointed to the exponential growth of cases in New York and parts of New Jersey as just the thing that national officials were trying to prevent in other parts of the country.

The charts — with multicolor lines representing the virus in each of the 50 states — looked like the maps used to track hurricanes. And as with the weather, there is a good deal of uncertainty in the predictions.

Dr. Birx said that there had been worrying outbreaks in other metropolitan regions, including Detroit and Miami, but that the second broad campaign at the moment was to keep the lines tracking the virus in the rest of the country from looking like those in New York and New Jersey.

The best tool at the government’s disposal, she said, remained strict adherence to social distancing guidelines.

Even if those guidelines are followed perfectly, officials said, the estimated death toll in the United States is 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.

Five weeks ago, when there were 60 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, President Trump expressed little alarm. “This is a flu,” he said. “This is like a flu.” He was still likening it to an ordinary flu as late as Friday.

By Tuesday, however, with more than 187,000 recorded cases in the United States and more Americans having been killed by the virus than by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the president’s assessment had rather drastically changed. “It’s not the flu,” he said. “It’s vicious.”

The grim-faced president who appeared in the White House briefing room for more than two hours on Tuesday evening beside charts showing death projections of hellacious proportions was coming to grips with a reality he had long refused to accept. At a minimum, the charts predicted that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would die — and only if the nation abided by stringent social restrictions that would choke the economy and impoverish millions.

A crisis that Mr. Trump had repeatedly asserted was “under control” and hoped would “miraculously” disappear has come to consume his presidency, presenting him with a challenge that he seems only now to be seeing more clearly.

The numbers publicly outlined on Tuesday had forced him over the weekend to reverse his plan to reopen the country by Easter, but they were hardly new or surprising. Experts have been warning of a possibility like this for weeks. But more than ever before, Mr. Trump seemed to acknowledge them.

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” the president said, the starkest such effort he has made to prepare the country for the expected wave of disease and death. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”

A chorus of governors from across the political spectrum publicly challenged the Trump administration’s assertion that the United States is well stocked and well prepared to test people for the coronavirus and care for the sickest patients.

In many cases, the governors said, the country’s patchwork approach had left them bidding against one another for supplies.

Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said on Tuesday that his state was “flying blind” in the fight against the coronavirus because officials did not have enough tests. When asked during an NPR interview about President Trump’s comments suggesting that a chronic lack of test kits was no longer a problem in the United States, Mr. Hogan did not mince words: “Yeah, that’s just not true.”

Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, a Democrat, said on Tuesday that it was “disturbing” to learn that a national stockpile of medical supplies was running empty.

“We are on our own,” he said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York — whose younger brother, Chris Cuomo, a CNN anchor, has tested positive for the virus — likened the conflicts to “being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator.”

The crisis has gripped the state with stunning speed. Thirty days ago, there was one detected case in New York City. By April 1, there were more than 40,000 infections, and 1,096 deaths from the virus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the numbers of cases and hospitalizations were expected to continue rising rapidly. The city’s need for equipment and medical workers remained vast and immediate, he said.

“This coming Sunday, April 5, is a demarcation line,” Mr. de Blasio said, zeroing in again on what he has called a critical date. “This is the point at which we must be prepared for next week when we expect a huge increase in the number of cases.”

The International Monetary Fund has declared that the world economy has now entered a recession and recovery is unlikely until 2021. As many as 25 million jobs could simply disappear and the world could lose some $3.4 trillion in labor income. More than 1.5 billion students are currently out of school or university, representing 87 percent of the world’s children and young people, and about 60 million teachers are no longer in the classroom.

That is just a sampling of the radical ways the virus and the fight to slow its spread are reshaping the world, according to a United Nations report.

“Covid-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, said on Wednesday.

The report stated, “This is the moment to dismantle trade barriers, maintain open trade, and re-establish supply chains.”

“Tariff and nontariff measures, as well as export bans, especially those imposed on medicinal and related products, would slow countries’ action to contain the virus,” the study added. “Import taxes or restrictions on medical supplies need to be waived.”

The report called for “a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global G.D.P.”

As the virus swept around the world, the first reaction of many nations was to retreat within their own borders, institute travel restrictions and nationalize the fight against the virus.

But the United Nations said that in this global fight, a global approach was needed.

And it is essential that developed countries immediately assist those less developed to bolster their health systems, the report found. Otherwise, the world faces the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the Global South, according to the report, with “millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed.

Global stock markets fell broadly on Wednesday as investors digested a steady drip of worrying news about the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

London and Paris stocks were trading 2 percent to 4 percent lower, following similar drops in Asia. Futures markets predicted that Wall Street would open lower on Wednesday. And Bank stocks in Britain fell after several large lenders announced that they would cancel dividends.

While the panic of recent weeks appeared to have subsided, numerous signs pointed to glum prospects for a quick solution to the coronavirus outbreak. After Wall Street’s close on Tuesday, President Trump said at a news conference that the United States would face a “very, very painful two weeks,” and American government scientists projected that the outbreak could kill up to 240,000 people in the country.

Global desperation to protect front-line medical workers battling the coronavirus epidemic has spurred a mad international scramble for masks and other protective gear. Governments, hospital chains, clinics and entrepreneurs are scouring the world for personal protection equipment they can buy or sell — and a new type of trader has sprung up to make that happen.

The market has become a series of hasty deals in bars, sudden calls to corporate jet pilots and fast-moving wire transfers among bank accounts in Hong Kong, the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.

The stakes are high, and so are the prices. Wholesale costs for N95 respirators, a crucial type of mask for protecting medical workers, have quintupled. Trans-Pacific airfreight charges have tripled.

“It’s a global free-for-all, trying to get capacity,” said Eric Jantzen, the vice president for North America at Vertis Aviation, an aircraft and air cargo brokerage based in Zurich. “And the prices reflect that.”

The hurdles keep rising. On Tuesday, after complaints from Europe about shoddy Chinese masks and ineffective test kits, China’s Ministry of Commerce ordered manufacturers to provide further assurances that their products met standards.

World leaders are moving to get supplies, but they are still grappling with the vast scope of the problem.

China vacuumed up a big share of global supplies after the outbreak emerged in January. It imported two billion masks in a five-week period starting then. Now, China has become a major part of the solution. Already a giant in mask manufacturing, it has ramped up production to nearly 12 times its earlier level of 10 million a day.

A month ago, a cough was just a cough. Now, in the anxious era of coronavirus, a cough can be a crime.

Coughing that is directed at others is increasingly being treated as a type of assault in Europe and the United States. And in some cases, like when health workers or emergency medical workers are targeted, it can now be classified in some places as an act of terrorism.

George Falcone, a 50-year-old New Jersey man, was charged with making a terroristic threat after he intentionally coughed near a supermarket employee and told her he had the coronavirus. Margaret Cirko, 35, was arrested in Hanover, Pa., when she intentionally coughed and spat at a supermarket’s fresh produce after she said she was sick — the charges against her included two counts of terrorist threats and one count of threatening to use a “biological agent,” the Hanover Township Police Department said in a statement last week.

The police in Spain have in the past weeks arrested people for coughing at supermarket workers and at members of the public, and the authorities in Greece have taken similar steps against people accused of spitting at police officers, according to local media reports. In Britain, common assault charges have been leveled against people accused of coughing intentionally at others.

The Crown Prosecution Service in Britain said that those found guilty of coughing to threaten emergency workers, specifically while claiming to have Covid-19, could face 12 months in prison.

Greater Manchester Police, a force servicing an area in northwestern England, charged a 33-year-old man with assault after he coughed at a police officer last week, and the force said it had also charged a 14-year-old boy with assault after he coughed and shouted “coronavirus” at a 66-year-old woman on March 17.

Warrington Police, another force in northwestern England, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that a group of teenagers who had coughed at health workers would be prosecuted, as would their parents.

Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions in Britain, said in a statement last week that he was “appalled” by reports of people claiming to have coronavirus and intentionally coughing on emergency and other key workers.

“Let me be very clear: This is a crime and needs to stop,” he said.

While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all research, other than anything related to coronavirus, has ground to a halt.

Normal imperatives like academic credit have been set aside. Online repositories make studies available months ahead of journals. Researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences. More than 200 clinical trials have been started, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.

On a recent morning, for example, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh discovered that a ferret exposed to Covid-19 particles had developed a high fever — a potential advance toward animal vaccine testing. Under ordinary circumstances, they would have started work on an academic journal article.

“But you know what? There is going to be plenty of time to get papers published,” said Paul Duprex, a virologist leading the university’s vaccine research. Within two hours, he said, he had shared the findings with scientists around the world on a World Health Organization conference call. “It is pretty cool, right? You cut the crap, for lack of a better word, and you get to be part of a global enterprise.”

Dr. Duprex’s lab in Pittsburgh is collaborating with the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the Austrian drug company Themis Bioscience. The consortium has received funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, a Norway-based organization financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a group of governments, and is in talks with the Serum Institute of India, one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world.

Laundry, grocery shopping, even walking the dog is fraught with challenges these days. The key to accomplish any essential task is a little preparation, levelheaded thinking and a lot of hand washing before and after. (A few anti-bacterial wipes can’t hurt either.)

Nellie Bowles, who covers tech and internet culture from San Francisco for The New York Times, wrote about her losing battle with screens.

Before the coronavirus, there was something I used to worry about. It was called screen time. Perhaps you remember it.

I thought about it. I wrote about it. A lot. I would try different digital detoxes as if they were fad diets, each working for a week or two before I’d be back on that smooth glowing glass.

Now I have thrown off the shackles of screen-time guilt. My television is on. My computer is open. My phone is unlocked, glittering. I want to be covered in screens. If I had a virtual reality headset nearby, I would strap it on.

The screen is my only contact with my parents, whom I miss but can’t visit because I don’t want to accidentally kill them with the virus. It brings me into happy hours with my high school friends and gives me photos of people cooking on Facebook. Was there a time I thought Facebook was bad? An artery of dangerous propaganda flooding the country’s body politic? Maybe. I can’t remember. That was a different time.

A lot of people are coming around.

Walt Mossberg, my former boss and a longtime influential tech product reviewer, deactivated his Facebook and Instagram accounts in 2018 to protest Facebook’s policies and negligence around fake news. Now, for the duration of the pandemic, he is back.

“I haven’t changed my mind about the company’s policies and actions,” Mr. Mossberg wrote on Twitter last week. “I just want to stay in touch with as many friends as possible.”

On a day when the toll in Spain rose by yet another record amount, with 864 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the nation’s overwhelmed health care system has received a much-needed influx of emergency equipment as the authorities began distributing seven million sets of individual protection equipment to medical professionals.

The Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa, said his country had also received a new shipment of test sets, after 640,000 kits that proved substandard had to be sent back to China.

But even as the authorities scrambled to fill a shortage of protective equipment that has hobbled Spain’s hospitals — drawing outrage from medical professionals on the front lines — countless private initiatives have sprung up to help fill the gap, often financed by wealthy donors and grass-roots associations.

With more than 9,000 fatalities, Spain is No. 2 in deaths linked to the coronavirus. Only Italy has recorded a worse toll so far.

In Barcelona, homeless shelters and migrant collectives have volunteered to sew masks and medical suits, a local initiative that has been met by praise from health workers.

“I don’t know when the masks or the ventilators will come from China, and we need the equipment now,” Merce Guarro, a health professional at the Granollers hospital in Barcelona, said after she picked up 200 hazmat suits from the group last week. “It might be a drop in the ocean, but if they end up making 500 suits, that’s tremendously helpful.”

The actors Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, perhaps Spain’s most famous couple, sent 100,000 gloves and 20,000 masks to La Paz hospital in Madrid, using one of the cargo planes of Inditex, the clothing giant that has helped deliver several shipments of emergency gear to Spain. The Spanish Formula One champion Fernando Alonso announced on Tuesday a donation to fund 4,000 sets of protective equipment and 300,000 masks.

Japan announced on Wednesday that it was extending a ban on entry to foreign travelers from 49 additional countries, including the Australia, China and the United States, to protect against the risk of imported infections of the coronavirus.

“With the explosive expansion of infection seen mainly in Europe and America, we decided to take stronger border measures,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said during a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force.

The island nation had previously banned entry to travelers from much of Europe as well as parts of China and South Korea. With Wednesday’s announcement, Japan will now ban travelers from 73 countries, about a third of the world. The new border controls go into effect at midnight on April 3.

Japan’s move aligns with a growing number of Asian countries and cities that are tightening their borders and imposing stricter containment measures to guard against a new wave of infections. Japanese citizens returning from any foreign country will be asked to quarantine themselves for two weeks after arrival.

The Health Ministry of Japan reported 225 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, including five detected at airports, bringing the country’s total to 2,187 cases. The Tokyo Metropolitan Education board also announced that it would close all middle and high schools citywide through May 6 and asked cities and towns across the region to close elementary and middle schools for the same period.

Reporting was contributed by Motoko Rich, Peter Baker, Sarah Mervosh, Katie Rogers, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Iliana Magra, Austin Ramzy, Keith Bradsher, Andrew Das, Michael D. Shear, Elian Peltier, Raphael Minder, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly, Peter Eavis, Mujib Mashal, Matt Apuzzo and Chris Horton.

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