Coronavirus World News: China Pledges Additional $30 Million to W.H.O.

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Credit…Desiree Rios for The New York Times

The pandemic is realigning global dynamics.

With the coronavirus reaching into nearly every country in the world, the spread of the disease isn’t just threatening public health, it’s also realigning international power dynamics and shaking the foundations of geopolitics.

The pandemic is also shaking bedrock assumptions about American exceptionalism.

“America has not done badly — it has done exceptionally badly,” said Dominique Moïsi, a political scientist and senior adviser at the Institut Montaigne, a think tank in Paris.

As America’s global leadership has waned and as the virus has spread around the world, other nations have step in.

While the Chinese announcement may be more symbolic than substantive, as U.S. donations to the organization have historically outstripped China’s by hundreds of millions, it is the latest sign of another global power stepping into a gap left by the United States.

China is also responding to a new outbreaks in the country’s north, taking new epidemic prevention measures this week in an effort to stamp out a flare-up of the virus. While the numbers there remain modest, it’s a sign that the fight against the outbreak for much of the world could be a long one.

European leaders are meeting on Thursday to debate a collective response to the looming economic disaster that coronavirus lockdowns are bringing to the continent, but details of a proposed fund, including its size and timing, have remained contentious. And the European Union is split between countries in the south hit especially hard by the outbreak, like Spain and Italy, and those in the north.

But while there are divisions across Europe, nations are also split internally, with debates about plans to reopen the economy raging.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday warned the governors of the country’s 16 states not to loosen restrictions on public life too quickly, saying that doing so could jeopardize the nation’s ability to keep the spread of coronavirus under control.

“Let us not squander what we have achieved,” she said in an address to Parliament.

Merkel: ‘Let us not squander what we have achieved.’

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday warned the governors of the country’s 16 states against loosening restrictions on public life too quickly, saying that it could jeopardize the nation’s ability to keep the spread of coronavirus under control.

“Let us not squander what we have achieved,” she said in an address to Parliament.

Germany has slowed the pandemic’s spread since residents were ordered to largely remain in their homes starting in mid-March. The country, which has reported more than 148,000 infections and over 5,000 fatalities, has had a steady decline in the number of new cases since April.

But virologists have expressed concern that the loosening could result in a surge in the rate of spreading and strain the health system, which has so far been able to cope with the outbreak. Ms. Merkel said that she stood by her decisions to impose restrictions, and to allow them to be slowly eased, but cautioned against creating a false sense of security among the population by rescinding them too swiftly.

“Nobody wants to hear this, but the truth is that we are not living in the final phase of this pandemic, but at the beginning,” she said. “We are going to have to live with it for a long time.”

The pandemic is shaking beliefs about American exceptionalism.

As images of America’s overwhelmed hospital wards and snaking unemployment lines have flickered across the world, Europe is looking across the Atlantic at the richest and most powerful nation in the world with disbelief.

“When people see these pictures of New York City they say, ‘How can this happen? How is this possible?’” said Henrik Enderlein, the president of the Berlin-based Hertie School, a public policy institute. “We are all stunned. Look at the jobless lines: twenty-two million.”

“I feel a desperate sadness,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford University, and a lifelong and ardent Atlanticist who spends part of the year at Stanford University.

The pandemic has done more than take lives and livelihoods from New Delhi to New York. It is also shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism — the unique role that the United States played for decades after World War II as the reach of its values and power made it a global leader and example to the world.

As the calamity unfolds, President Trump and state governors are arguing not only over what to do, but also over who has the authority to do it. Mr. Trump has fomented protests against the safety measures urged by scientific advisers, misrepresented facts about the virus and the government response nearly daily, and this week used the virus to cut off the issuing of green cards to people seeking to immigrate to the United States.

“America has not done badly — it has done exceptionally badly,” said Dominique Moïsi, a senior adviser at the Institut Montaigne, a Paris think tank.

China to give millions more to the W.H.O. after the U.S. halts funding.

China said on Thursday that it would donate an additional $30 million to the World Health Organization after President Trump’s order this month to suspend American funding to the agency as he accused it of promoting “China’s misinformation” and “severely mismanaging” the spread of the coronavirus.

The new Chinese donation was announced on Twitter by Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “At this crucial moment, supporting W.H.O. is supporting Multilateralism and Global Solidarity,” she wrote.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said on Wednesday that he recognized the importance of American funding both for the W.H.O. and in his native Ethiopia, where he had served as health minister.

He said that the money was important not only for global health, but also for the safety of the United States, and that he hoped Mr. Trump would restore the funding.

“I hope the freezing of the funding will be reconsidered and the U.S. will once again support W.H.O.’s work and continue to save lives,” Dr. Tedros said.

The virus has silenced protest movements, at least for now.

How long the pandemic lasts, and how governments and activists respond, will determine whether the pause represents a moment of metamorphosis or an unceremonious end for some of the most widespread mass mobilizations in recent history.

The challenges to protesters, in places as different as Hong Kong and Lebanon, are apparent. Millions of demonstrators are hunkered down at home, hemmed in by sweeping quarantines and health concerns. The daily burden of acquiring face masks or food often overshadows debates about corruption and abuse of power.

Also, almost every government has restricted mass gatherings, ostensibly protecting public health but potentially also constraining future mobilization. Some have even used the outbreak to consolidate power or arrest opponents.

But the pandemic’s economic toll, as well as the crises of trust it has inspired in many governments, could fuel fresh outrage. People across the world — from Peru to France to the United States — have defied lockdown measures that they say threaten their jobs, housing and food supplies.

Some protesters are also finding new ways to express their discontent. Chilean activists have projected images of crowds onto empty streets. And in Hong Kong, a union of medical workers, itself born out of the pro-democracy protests, went on strike to criticize the government’s outbreak response.

“It is a rest time,” said Isaac Cheng, a student leader of Demosisto, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy group, “but it’s definitely not the end of the movement.”

E.U. leaders set a low bar for recovery fund meeting.

European Union leaders meeting on Thursday via teleconference to debate a joint response to the economic disaster that the coronavirus is bringing to the continent are set to hand the European Commission the task of drafting a proposal for a recovery fund.

But details of that fund — its size, its timing, the types of measures it will support — are contentious, and the meeting is unlikely to yield agreement, senior European Union officials and member-state diplomats said.

Just as the bloc seems set to lose as much as 10 percent of its economic output this year in the worst recession outside war time, Thursday’s meeting will also make clear that leaders are differ widely on how to tackle the crisis.

Southern European countries led by Italy and Spain, which have been worst hit by the virus, are calling for a fund of more than one trillion euros ($1.08 trillion) that will be able to extend grants rather than interest-bearing loans for nations’ recovery efforts.

But the idea of grants, seen as free money, does not appeal to wealthier northern European countries that have both more money to spend on their own recoveries and fewer deaths to contend with at home.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday supported the idea of using the European Union budget as a framework for a recovery fund, and said that her country, the continent’s wealthiest, was prepared to increase its contribution to bolster the recovery effort.

Instead, the meeting will at best give the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, a mandate to draft a proposal on how to use the bloc’s seven-year budget to create a pot of money for recovery efforts.

Critics say this will still be too little too late. The bloc’s budget has long been seen as an unambitious and limited instrument, amounting to 1 percent of the member nations’ collective economic output.

Boris Johnson was ‘just another patient’ in the I.C.U., a nurse says.

A nurse who cared for Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain while he was in intensive care for the coronavirus at a London hospital said that she wasn’t fazed by looking after the country’s leader and that he did not get special treatment.

Mr. Johnson was “just another patient,” the nurse, Jenny McGee, told Television New Zealand on Thursday, adding that she had not expected to be singled out by him on national television.

“My first reaction was that it was a joke,” said Ms. McGee, a New Zealand native. “It was totally out of the blue.”

Ms. McGee said the prime minister “absolutely needed to be” in intensive care because of the seriousness of his illness. Mr. Johnson is recuperating at Chequers, the official country house of Britain’s prime ministers.

As the country weighs when and how to ease its lockdown, Prof. Chris Whitty, the senior medical adviser to the government, said on Wednesday that restrictions could be in place for a year. He said social distancing measures would have to remain in place until a vaccine or effective drugs to treat the coronavirus and keep people from dying were available.

“The probability of having those anytime in the next calendar year,” he said, is “incredibly small.”

On Thursday, scientists in Britain began human trials to find a working vaccine.

At least 18,100 people have died in the country after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to official figures.

Troubled ex-soldier is gunned down at a quarantine checkpoint in the Philippines.

A mentally troubled former soldier was gunned down at a quarantine checkpoint as the Philippines struggles to control the spread of the coronavirus, officials said on Thursday.

The man, identified as Army veteran Winston Ragos, 34, was shot and killed on Tuesday afternoon in suburban Quezon City north of Manila after an altercation with the police.

Video of the episode, widely circulated in the Philippines, showed five police officers rushing to a store where Mr. Ragos was, and one of them subsequently shooting him twice.

The Philippine National Police said in a report about the incident that Mr. Ragos had a sling bag containing a handgun. His relatives disputed that account and said he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome because of his work.

An infantry spokesman, Col. Ramon Zagala, said on Thursday that the military was saddened by the incident. He said the army had ordered an investigation “in order that justice be given to the death of Ragos.”

“The victim was mentally troubled, and while he is no longer with the force, people need to realize that he may be battling a lifelong and silent battle with his own demons,” Colonel Zagala said.

He said Mr. Ragos had been given disability discharge in 2017 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The national police chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, said the officers involved in the shooting had been placed under investigation.

The incident came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police officers at quarantine checkpoints to shoot dead any civilians who fought back and ignored their warnings.

The rights group Karapatan denounced Mr. Ragos’s killing as an “alarming and deplorable act of state violence that should be strongly condemned,” adding in a statement that militarist policies “do nothing to curb the onslaught of the pandemic.”

In time for Ramadan, Pakistani clerics override a nationwide lockdown.

Most clerics complied with the government’s announcement of a lockdown late last month, keeping people at home to avoid spreading the coronavirus. But some of the most influential imams called on worshipers to attend Friday Prayer in even greater numbers. Devotees attacked police officers who tried to get in their way.

As Ramadan draws closer, dozens of well-known clerics and leaders of religious parties — including some who initially obeyed the lockdown orders — have signed a letter demanding that the government exempt mosques from the shutdown during the holy month or invite the wrath of God and the faithful.

On Saturday, the government gave in, signing an agreement that let mosques stay open for Ramadan as long as they followed 20 rules, including forcing congregants to maintain a six-foot distance, bring their own prayer mats and perform their ablutions at home. Prime Minister Imran Khan met on Monday with the clerics, who vowed to abide by the deal.

“It is very difficult for the state to implement what’s best for the public good,” said Husnul Amin, an Islamabad-based scholar on Islam and politics. “The larger public interest is always up against the clerics. It’s completely undemocratic.”

Even the country’s security forces, which empowered the clerical establishment in the 1980s in an effort to churn out jihadists to fight the Soviet military next door in Afghanistan, seemed unable to counter the imams.

In Karachi, the largest city, scenes emerged of worshipers chasing the police through narrow alleyways, pelting them with rocks and sending several officers to the hospital.

“The military has created a monster they can no longer control,” Mr. Amin said.

While clerics acknowledge that their mosques are perfect vectors for the coronavirus’s spread, some said they had to protect their bottom line.

“We know the coronavirus pandemic is a global health issue, but religious duties cannot be abandoned,” said Maulana Ataullah Hazravi, a Karachi-based cleric. Besides, he added, “mosques depend largely on the donations collected during Ramadan.”

Restrictions in northern China hint at a new normal.

Several cities in China’s north have taken new epidemic prevention measures this week in an effort to stamp out a flare-up of the coronavirus.

The scale of new cases appears modest: Chinese state media tallied dozens of new infections, all of which experts said were linked to the return of Chinese from Russia and the United States. Still, it isn’t clear that the spread has been entirely contained, and local governments put limits on travel and issued bulletins to increase vigilance.

Officials have stopped short of cutting off Harbin, a city of 10 million where the outbreak has been most severe, but the city said this week that neighborhoods should ban outsiders from entering communities. Nearby Qiqihar also barred outsiders from visiting neighborhoods and warned residents against traveling to at-risk areas, including Harbin.

Another city, Hulunbuir, said on Monday that it had confirmed a case related to the spread in Harbin. One hotel in the city took matters into its own hands, posting in an online advertisement that it would not accept guests from neighboring Heilongjiang Province, of which Harbin is the capital.

For China, the new rules and the prospect of further spread are a reminder of this past winter, when a vast portion of the country’s cities were locked down. And for the rest of the world, it underscores how challenging it can be to control the contagion — even after the worst seems to be over.

It also augurs poorly for hopes of quickly restarting economies. Instead, the new normal appears to be sporadic outbreaks followed by a scramble to bring things under control, with testing and strict social distancing rules.

Will the pandemic doom North Sea oil?

For decades, the oil rigs rising out of the North Sea off Scotland provided Britain with hundreds of thousands of jobs in a thriving industry and billions in tax revenue.

Much of that now seems a memory. The collapse in oil prices from the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with infections aboard the drilling rigs, are imperiling the vast industry that sprawls across the waters off Scotland and Norway.

Oil companies are shelving investments worth billions of dollars. Staffing on the rigs has been cut, both to reduce costs and to provide some degree of social distancing on the often crowded platforms. At least two offshore workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We have gone through commodity swings and cycles of that nature, but this one is different,” said Jim House, the chief executive of Neptune Energy, a private-equity-backed oil and gas firm with production in British and Norwegian waters. “We have never seen a world completely shut down,” he said.

More important, though, may be the impact on the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry. Its health depends on finding new undersea fields and bringing them into production, but if prices remain low, as some analysts think likely, that won’t happen anytime soon.

The price of Brent crude, which was named for a North Sea oil field, has fallen about 70 percent this year to just over $20 a barrel. Another type of crude, West Texas intermediate, fell into a negative price this week.

A Chinese citizen journalist who documented Wuhan’s outbreak has reappeared.

A citizen journalist who disappeared in February after documenting the outbreak in Wuhan, China, said in a YouTube video that he had been released after a period of forced quarantine.

The journalist, Li Zehua, spent weeks interviewing stranded migrant workers and overburdened crematory employees — an attempt to show the toll that the outbreak was taking on the city where it began.

But until his latest video surfaced on Wednesday evening, he had not spoken publicly since Feb. 26, when he streamed footage of men entering his apartment.

In the video, Mr. Li, 25, described being chased by a white S.U.V. that night and hiding in his apartment in the dark. He said that men who identified themselves as security officials eventually took him to a police station for interrogation.

The authorities later said that they had decided not to investigate him, but that he needed to be quarantined because he had visited “sensitive areas,” Mr. Li said in the video.

Mr. Li, who became a citizen journalist after a brief career as a host on state-run television, said he was quarantined from late February until mid-March at a Wuhan hotel. He was given regular meals and allowed to watch state-run television, he said, then driven to his hometown and ordered to quarantine for another two weeks.

In previous videos, Mr. Li had urged other Chinese young people to “stand up” and said he was no longer willing to “shut my eyes.” But in his latest one, he did not criticize the government.

Calmly, and almost without emotion, he said that the police had treated him well.

Mr. Li’s disappearance followed those of two other citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, who had also filmed scenes of illness and death in Wuhan. Neither has reappeared.

Trump spars with another governor and ignores his own scientists.

“I think it’s too soon,” he said at a White House briefing.

Mr. Trump also said that the coronavirus “won’t be coming back in the form that it was” this fall or winter, then mused that it might not come back at all. But the government scientists flanking him at the White House news briefing explicitly disagreed with his predictions.

“There will be coronavirus in the fall,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert.

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

  • California’s quest to retrace the early steps of the coronavirus entered a new phase Wednesday after officials linked the death of a 57-year-old woman in early February to the virus, placing it weeks before any other known death in the United States.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Covid-19 could wreak havoc on the country anew this winter, with another wave coinciding with seasonal flu.

  • Rick Bright, the doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, said that he had been removed from his post. Dr. Bright, who had pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by Mr. Trump as a coronavirus treatment, accused the administration of putting “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”

  • Mr. Trump signed an executive order imposing a 60-day halt in issuing green cards with numerous exemptions, including those for overseas spouses, guest workers and young children of American citizens.

  • The Education Department will prohibit colleges from granting emergency assistance to undocumented students, even those under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

For Matt Damon, who’s under lockdown in Ireland, life is imitating art.

Credit…Courtesy of Mary Caviston

Sightings of the actor Matt Damon have become common in recent weeks in Dalkey, a seaside resort town southeast of Dublin, where his presence has added a surreal layer to life under lockdown.

It’s not just that one of the world’s biggest stars and his family must stay within two kilometers (about 1.2 miles) of home. It’s that the actor — who played a father trying to protect his family amid a sprawling pandemic in the movie “Contagion” — is now living through an eerily similar reality.

Mr. Damon arrived in Dalkey in mid-March to shoot a film with the director Ridley Scott. Production has since been suspended, and a photo of him at the beach — with a bag from a grocery store — led to delighted memes and glowing articles in the Irish press.

Mr. Damon’s new admirers are apparently also his protectors. That was clear to a New York Times reporter who requested anecdotes via the town’s unofficial Facebook page.

“Leave him be!” was a common theme, presented around 100 different ways.

“Love love the fact that everybody is looking to protect him like our own,” Cjhelle Griffiths wrote in one post.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening in Asia.

  • The governor of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, said that social distancing rules would remain in place for another month. The restrictions fall during the holy month of Ramadan, meaning that Muslims will be required to pray at home.

  • A top Japanese official said that dozens of crew members from an Italian-owned cruise ship undergoing repairs in the city of Nagasaki had been confirmed to have the coronavirus. The ship, with 623 crew members and no passengers, has been in Nagasaki since January. Health officials are trying to determine the origin of the infections.

  • The prime minister of Vietnam, where the rate of infections has eased, said the country would begin to relax social distancing measures, the state news media reported. Vietnam moved quickly to fight the spread of the disease, closing schools in January and barring flights from China in early February. It has recorded 268 cases and no deaths.

The virus trickles into Haiti, as workers return from the Dominican Republic.

Last week, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe said that factories would reopen at reduced capacity, a rare bit of encouraging news for a nation that has been lashed by deadly hurricanes, a cholera outbreak and a horrific earthquake in just the past decade.

But with Haitian workers returning from the neighboring Dominican Republic — which has been hit hard by Covid-19 — the odds are stacked against the country and its weak health care system.

Most Haitians lack access to clean water, let alone soap, and many live in tightly packed slums where social distancing is impossible. The nation’s health care system is so threadbare that Haitians regularly die of easily treatable ailments like diarrhea.

Doctors estimate that the country will need 6,000 beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients. But the plan, which requires trained staff, personal protective equipment, as well as oxygen, is costly.

More than half of the population in Haiti lives hand-to-mouth, earning less than $2.41 per day, according to the World Bank. Experts say Haiti’s current low number of infections partly reflects the country’s dysfunction. Kidnappings have become so chronic that the United States issued a “do not travel” warning in early March.

But over recent weeks, thousands of Haitians have flooded back home each day from the Dominican Republic. Doctors have been screening at four official border checkpoints, but not at dozens of illegal crossings.

Watching the virus spread in the Dominican Republic, doctors worry that an outbreak in Haiti would become comparable to the cholera epidemic that, starting in 2010, ripped through Haiti’s slums and tent camps, infecting more than 820,000.

Fake text messages said Trump was locking down America. Officials blame Chinese agents.

Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.

“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”

Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials. The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several officials said they had not seen before.

That has spurred agencies to look at new ways in which China, Russia and other nations are using a range of platforms to spread disinformation during the pandemic, they said.

The pandemic offers Taiwan a chance to push back against China.

Officials in Taiwan are trying to turn their success in battling the coronavirus at home into a geopolitical win, sending millions of masks emblazoned with the words “made in Taiwan” to countries hit hard by the crisis and launching a diplomatic and public relations campaign.

Taiwan is competing with China on pandemic aid diplomacy in defiance of Beijing’s efforts to isolate the self-ruled democratic island that it claims as its own. The island is promoting itself as a model of democracy to try to undercut China’s own campaign to use the crisis to tout the strength of its authoritarian system.

And the world is responding. American and European officials have praised Taiwan’s donations of more than 10 million masks. Politicians, business leaders and celebrities, including Bill Gates and Barbra Streisand, have hailed the island as exemplary in its fight against the coronavirus.

“We can see that this is a good opportunity for us to let people know that Taiwan is a good global citizen,” Taiwan’s vice president, Chen Chien-jen, said this week in an interview in Taipei. “We have to fight for our participation.”

But the moves are drawing fire from Beijing, which has dismissed the effort as an attempt to “seek independence under the pretext of the pandemic.”

Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, had reported 426 cases of coronavirus and six deaths as of Thursday, far fewer than many countries.

Remembering those we’ve lost.

Joseph Feingold, a Holocaust survivor who found unexpected fame late in life as the co-star of “Joe’s Violin,” an Oscar-nominated short documentary, died on April 15 in New York City of coronavirus complications. He was 97.

Born in Warsaw in 1923, Joseph Feingold was 17 when the Nazis invaded Poland. He and his father, a shoemaker, were caught by the Russian army while fleeing to Poland’s Russian-occupied east, and sent to separate labor camps in Siberia. His mother and a younger brother both stayed behind and died in concentration camps.

While he was at a displaced person’s camp near Frankfurt, Germany, Mr. Feingold spotted a violin at a flea market and traded cigarettes for it. He later brought it with him when he emigrated to New York.

Here are four others the world has lost to Covid-19:

  • Ketty Herawati Sultana, 60, a senior doctor at Medistra Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, who treated anyone without regard for her own welfare.

  • Luis Sepúlveda, 70, a Chilean writer who was jailed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and became famous for his novel “The Old Man Who Read Love Stories.”

  • Liu Ouqing, 78, a former party secretary of the Wuhan Grain Bureau, who helped ensure that the Chinese city had enough to eat.

  • Heherson Alvarez, 80, an activist who helped lead a campaign against the brutal regime of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and went on to serve in the national Legislature.

Reporting was contributed by Katrin Bennhold, Austin Ramzy, Melissa Eddy, Megan Specia, Iliana Magra, Jason Gutierrez, Paul Mozur, Heather Murphy, Maria Abi-Habib, Vivian Yee, Jason Gutierrez, Raphael Minder, Steven Kurutz, Edward Wong, Matthew Rosenberg, Julian E. Barnes, Dan Levin, Vivian Wang, Ron DePasquale, Katrin Bennhold, Steven Kurutz, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Stanley Reed, Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono. Albee Zhang and Wang Yiwei contributed research.

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