France and Germany Propose $545 Billion Coronavirus Recovery Fund: Live Coverage

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Merkel and Macron pitch a ‘one-off’ borrowing plan to help Europe’s hardest-hit countries.

Faced with economic recession and deep strains in the European Union over the coronavirus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday agreed to what would amount to collective European debt to help those countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

Ms. Merkel joined with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to propose a 500 billion euro ($545 billion) recovery fund, financed by the European Union and repaid through the collective Brussels budget, to help European regions and economic sectors battered by the coronavirus.

The proposal must be agreed to by the other 25 member states of the bloc, some of which have also rejected collective indebtedness in the past.

Germany has always resisted collectively financing vulnerable member states, but in what she described as a “one-off effort,’’ Ms. Merkel agreed to a plan whereby the European Commission, using its excellent credit rating, would borrow money for the fund. The money would be paid back over time through the joint European Union budget, which is financed by a set formula by member states.

“We are experiencing the biggest crisis in our history,’’ Ms. Merkel said in a joint video news conference with Mr. Macron. “It is time to fight back. Germany and France are fighting together for the European idea.”

She added: “Because of the unusual nature of the crisis we are choosing an unusual path.’’

Mr. Macron called the proposal a “a profoundly unprecedented step,” although he acknowledged “there is still work to do.”

Details were scarce, but the leaders said that the money would be provided to sectors and regions most hard hit, including countries like Italy and Spain with shakier budgets.

China pledges $2 billion to fight the pandemic, while the U.S. criticizes the W.H.O.

Credit…Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the first meeting of the World Health Organization’s decision-making body amid the pandemic, China and the United States presented contrasting visions of the global response, with President Xi Jinping of China pledging $2 billion to fight the pandemic and calling on other nations to bolster the W.H.O. while a top U.S. official escalated sharp criticisms of the organization.

Mr. Xi’s comments were likely to ratchet up pressure on Mr. Trump, who last month announced that the United States would withhold its annual contribution of about $550 million to the W.H.O., accusing it of promoting disinformation from China about the outbreak. W.H.O. officials have denied the claims and China has insisted it was transparent and open.

The remarks were delivered during an extraordinary virtual meeting of heads of state and health experts.

Mr. Xi defended his country’s handling of the virus and appeared to brush aside calls for an independent investigation into its origins — a demand the United States has been promoting among its allies. He said such forensics should wait until the crisis had subsided.

Alex M. Azar II, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, shot back with a call for sweeping changes to the W.H.O. He charged that its handling of the outbreak in China led to unnecessary deaths and lambasted Beijing for withholding critical information about the virus as it was spreading through China.

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‘W.H.O. Must Change,’ Azar Says

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II said the World Health Organization’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in China led to unnecessary deaths. The organization has denied the claims.

We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control. There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed. And that failure cost many lives. The United States welcomes the assistance provided by our friends during this crisis, and we have been proud to allocate over $9 billion that will benefit the global Covid-19 response. W.H.O.’s operations must be transparent too. And we support an independent review of every aspect of W.H.O.’s response to the pandemic. We all must come together to ensure that W.H.O. fulfills its key mandate, and that member states comply with the International Health Regulations. We saw that W.H.O. failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again. The status quo is intolerable, W.H.O. must change, and it must become far more transparent and far more accountable. Although we are all focused on the immediate response, we need a more effective W.H.O. right now to help win this fight, and demonstrate to our citizens that we are working to prevent such catastrophes in the future.

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Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II said the World Health Organization’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in China led to unnecessary deaths. The organization has denied the claims.CreditCredit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons that this outbreak spun out of control,” Mr. Azar said. “There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”

Mr. Azar said the United States would continue to push for an independent examination of the health agency’s response to the pandemic.

The first coronavirus vaccine to be tested on people appears safe and effective, its maker says.

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The drugmaker Moderna said Monday that the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the virus.

The findings, which helped prompt a rally on Wall Street, are based on results from the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, starting in March.

Those people, healthy volunteers, made antibodies that were then tested in human cells in the lab, and were able to stop the virus from replicating — the key requirement for an effective vaccine. The levels of those so-called neutralizing antibodies matched the levels found in patients who had recovered after contracting the virus in the community.

Limited data from the early phase, however leaves much uncertainty around the vaccine’s potential success.

Dozens of companies in the United States, Europe and China are racing to produce vaccines, using different methods.

If those trials go well, a vaccine could become available for widespread use by the end of this year or early 2021, Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. How many doses might be ready is not clear, but Dr. Zaks said, “We’re doing our best to make it as many millions as possible.”

Rome’s famed trattorias reopen, but it’s not business as usual.

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Spain and Italy, two of the hardest-hit European countries, eased coronavirus restrictions by opening shops and restaurants with new social distancing measures.CreditCredit…Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After nearly 10 weeks of a surreal quiet, the familiar refrain of honking cars, buzzing scooters and lumbering buses sounded in Rome’s city center on Monday as many stores, bars and restaurants opened for the first time following a coronavirus lockdown.

But even as restaurateurs measured the distance between tables and shop owners mopped their stoops, the fallout from months of inactivity was evident in shuttered stores and “For Rent” signs.

In Rome, on tables in Trattoria Settimio, Maria Teresa Luciani displayed two laminated sheets: not menus, but a certification that the storied eatery had used cleaning products approved to disinfect against the coronavirus.

Earlier in the day, her husband, the owner, had measured out the mandatory spacing between tables. They hadn’t put down tablecloths yet, because they had no idea how many lunchtime clients would come. “It’s the first day. We have to get used to this,” Ms. Luciani said. “It’s a bit confusing, but slowly, slowly it’ll all work out.”

The cozy seating that was once part of the charm of Ditirambo, another downtown restaurant, has become a drawback amid the pandemic. The owner, Dado Micozzi, has been scrambling for outdoor seating alternatives.

On Monday he was overseeing a long list of protocols — including installing a traffic light system over the bathroom door — before reopening to the public later this week.

Efforts to reopen for delivery and takeout in recent weeks were not hugely successful, and without his main tourist clientele on the immediate horizon, Mr. Micozzi wasn’t sure how things would go. But he said he was determined to stay open.

“Now, we are working not for ourselves,” he said, “but for all those people who have helped us over the years.”

Dispatches from Wuhan: The lockdown ended, but fear, grief and hope endure.

Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Spring in Wuhan, China, is the start of crawfish season. Crawfish braised, crawfish fried, crawfish coated with chilies — and always devoured with family and friends.

But Hazel He doesn’t plan to have another feast like that until at least next year.

“Anywhere where there are crowds, there is still some degree of risk,” Ms. He, 33, said.

Avoiding risk shapes everything Ms. He does these days. Though residents are allowed to move around the city again, she still chats with her friends by video. Before going outside with her 6-year-old son, she peers out her window to make sure no one is around. She recently let him play on the swings near their apartment again, but they don’t leave the neighborhood.

The anxiety is not nearly as overwhelming as it had been in the early days of the outbreak, when Ms. He would cry while watching the news and her son would ask her what was wrong.

But, like others in Wuhan, she is still approaching normalcy tentatively, understanding how fragile the victory is. Last week, six new coronavirus cases were reported there, after more than a month of no new reported infections.

“Wuhan has sacrificed so much,” she said. “Taking care of ourselves is our responsibility to everyone else.”

Ms. He is unsure when her company will resume the face-to-face meetings that are core to her job as a recruiter, but she reminds herself that her mortgage is manageable. She will have to wait until at least July to register her son for elementary school. But for now she is content to practice arithmetic with him at home.

“It’s as if we were running a race, and I’m currently 50 meters behind,” she said. “But as long as I catch up later, it’s the same.”

Iran faces a new surge in cases after reopening, becoming a cautionary tale for the rest of the world.

Credit…Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times

When Iran began to reopen late last month, commuters packed subways and buses, young people lined up for takeout hamburgers and pizza, and traffic snarled highways. Shoppers crowded the traditional bazaars of Isfahan and Tehran. Worshipers resumed communal prayer at mosques during Ramadan evenings.

Three weeks later, the country has been hit by a new surge of coronavirus cases, according to health officials in some of the eight provinces where the numbers have spiked again. Health experts had predicted this would happen when the government made the call to ease restrictions in late April.

Iran, an epicenter of the outbreak in the Middle East, reopened without meeting the benchmarks recommended by health experts, such as ensuring that widespread testing and contact tracing was in place, and recording a steady drop in cases for at least several weeks.

Other countries have also seen their coronavirus numbers fall and rise again, but the rekindled crisis in Iran may offer an important lesson for other governments trying to get the balance right between guarding public health and restarting their economies.

“Other countries should look to Iran and not do what it did,” said Dr. Kamiar Alaei, an expert on Iran’s public health and president of Institute for International Health and Education in Albany, N.Y.

“They moved late to close off cities and they opened too early,” Dr. Alaei said. “What we feared is coming true.”

After a devastating outbreak in Ecuador, the authorities struggle to identify the dead.

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How Ecuador’s Port City Became a Coronavirus Epicenter

Ecuador took early aggressive measures to stop the coronavirus, but ended up becoming an epicenter of the pandemic in Latin America. How? We revisit the first confirmed case and what led to the disease’s spread.

Outside a hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a family seals the coffin of their father with plastic wrap. Many people in Guayaquil blame the government for failing to slow the spread of coronavirus, and to deal with the thousands of bodies that have piled up in the aftermath. Guayaquil has suffered arguably the worst Covid death toll in Latin America. The thing is, Ecuador had acted earlier than its neighbors to close borders and order strict quarantine. So what went wrong? From the start, the one-two punch of rapid contagion and the ensuing death toll caught local and national officials off guard. On Feb. 27, doctors in Guayaquil diagnosed the country’s first Covid-19 patient, Bella Lamilla, a 71-year-old retired teacher, otherwise known as “Patient Zero.” Dr. Esteban Ortiz-Prado is a medical investigator helping to advise the government on the pandemic. It took 13 days to diagnose Lamilla with coronavirus. And in that time, she infected many other people, including much of her family, pictured here in 2019. In all, three family members died, including Bella herself. After she arrived in Ecuador, Lamilla stayed in the home of her niece, Cassandra, in the town of Babahoyo. Bella Lamilla was certainly not the only case. There were at least six other flights from Madrid to Guayaquil between the time she arrived and when she was diagnosed. Other travelers later tested positive for Covid-19. Those lost weeks led to an out-of-control epidemic. Two and a half weeks after Bella Lamilla’s diagnosis, the country was on lockdown. Two weeks after that, Guayaquil was in the throes of the most aggressive outbreak in Latin America. “It is true that at the very beginning, it was a disaster. We are learning by mistake, by errors that we made.” This is Dr. Juan Carlos Zevallos. He was installed as Ecuador’s health minister in late March, after the former minister resigned. He admits the government should have tested and tracked patients. But he also blames residents for not following stay-at-home orders after Bella’s diagnosis. “Ecuador, as I said, was prepared. I mean, did all the measures in place and very early. Unfortunately, the people didn’t hear us. And they did not obey those restrictions.” Like a lot of cities in Latin America, a large segment of Guayaquil’s population lives day to day, working informal jobs. So to stay home means not eating. It was a perfect storm of factors that left Guayaquil’s hospitals and morgues overwhelmed. Now, the government of Ecuador has another dilemma: Just how to bury the thousands of bodies that have piled up in the weeks after Lamilla’s death? Ecuador’s official Covid death toll is several hundred. But forensic police have been working around the clock to collect and account for thousands more dead. And construction is now underway for various large burial sites around the city. Container trucks like this one transport corpses to one new site on the outskirts of Guayaquil, in the neighborhood of Pascuales. Local residents fearful of contamination are outraged. Officials in charge of handling the dead have promised that each body will have a separate resting place. We attempted to film drone footage of the new burial site. But Ecuadorean soldiers ordered our team to bring the drone down, and temporarily confiscated our footage. A human rights worker documented the incident. Since the first coronavirus diagnosis, distrust of the government’s handling of this crisis appears to have spread as fast as the contagion itself.

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Ecuador took early aggressive measures to stop the coronavirus, but ended up becoming an epicenter of the pandemic in Latin America. How? We revisit the first confirmed case and what led to the disease’s spread.CreditCredit…Ivan Castaneira for The New York Times

Six weeks after the devastating peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Ecuador, dozens of bodies remain unidentified as families continue searching for deceased relatives whose bodies were misplaced during the chaotic period.

The authorities are still trying to establish the identities of about 90 bodies that were collected from homes in the port city of Guayaquil, which suffered the worst of the pandemic, according to the president’s emergency envoy to the city, Jorge Wated.

The city used to see about 45 deaths a day, on average, but during the peak of the outbreak in early April, that number jumped to 600 daily deaths, he said. The number overwhelmed hospitals and morgues.

Overall, about 7,600 more people died in Ecuador from March 1 to April 15 than the average for that time period in recent years, according to an analysis of the official mortality data by The New York Times. Most of the excess deaths occurred in the city of Guayaquil, a bustling city of three million where the spike in mortality was comparable to what New York City experienced at the peak of the pandemic.

As bodies piled up, authorities in Guayaquil lost the ability to record deaths and bury the victims.

One Guayaquil man received the ashes of his dead mother and later discovered that her body was buried in a cemetery. And a local woman returned to her family, alive, after being pronounced dead by health officials.

Elizabeth Narváez has been looking for the body of her brother-in-law, Luis Fernando Yépez, a Guayaquil bus driver, since last seeing him at a hospital on March 30. He died the next day with coronavirus symptoms.

After scouring hospitals, cemeteries and the local forensics office, officials told her they found a body that appears to match Mr. Yépez, but it is now too decomposed to identify it by fingerprints. She now has to wait for the results of a DNA test, which could take weeks.

“It has been a real calvary,” said Ms. Narváez. “Not even animals are treated the way the government has treated the bodies.”

Belgian nurses turn their backs to the prime minister in protest.

When Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès of Belgium visited the Saint-Pierre hospital in Brussels this weekend, she was not met with praise. Instead, members of the hospital’s nursing staff lined the roadway and turned their backs on her approaching car in a silent protest over the government’s handling of the coronavirus.

The hospital has played a central role in Belgium’s response, taking in the most Covid-19 patients in the country, and it was Ms. Wilmès’s first visit to the hospital to thank the staff since the crisis began.

Arriving at the hospital grounds, Ms. Wilmès was greeted by a double row of nurses and other health workers with their backs turned to her, in what has been described as “guard of dishonor.”

“Nobody can ignore the distress of the nursing staff, which was already there before the crisis and was increased with the difficulties,” Ms Wilmès told RTBF, the public broadcaster, after visiting the hospital. “We need to reassess the nursing profession.”

The protesting workers were expressing disappointment with the government’s broader health care policy, which has involved budget cuts and staff shortages, and their actions during the pandemic, representatives said.

Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million, has had more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 9,000 deaths, making it one of the worst per capita death rates in Europe. Those figures include suspected cases and cases in care homes, which is not the case in some other countries.

“There is fatigue and a lot of anxiety,” Philippe Leroy, the hospital’s head, said of medical workers, though he said that the prime minister’s visit was appreciated. “I think they needed to express a lot of things.”

Japan’s economy is the largest to officially enter a recession.

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

The country — whose economy is the world’s third-largest after that of the United States and China — shrank by an annualized rate of 3.4 percent in the first three months of the year, Japan’s government said on Monday.

That makes it the largest economy to officially enter a recession, often defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Other major economies around the world are set to follow as efforts to contain the outbreak ripple around the globe.

Businesses had already been staggering before the coronavirus hit.

Consumer spending dropped after the Japanese government in October increased a tax on consumption to 10 percent from 8 percent, a move that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration said would help pay down the national debt — the highest among developed nations — and fund the growing demand for social services as the country’s workers age.

On the health front, the efforts seem to have paid off. The total number of deaths attributed to the outbreak was 756 as of Monday, far lower than in other major developed nations. But each of those decisions has had a profound economic impact.

In the absence of stadium fans, a South Korean soccer team used sex dolls.

Credit…Ryu Young-Suk/Yonhap, via Associated Press

As a handful of the world’s sports leagues come back to life, they have searched for ways to maintain the feeling of crowded stadiums, even in places devoid of spectators.

On social media, some noted the telltale signs, like the business logos for sex toy marketers on the dolls’ clothing and their physiques. Of the roughly two dozen dolls in the stands, nearly all were women.

“We had tried to add some fun in the no-spectator match,” the club said in a statement. “But we have not checked all the details, and that is clearly our fault.”

The incident was a blemish for the K League, the top professional soccer league in South Korea. After a weekslong delay, it resumed play on May 8, as the country has waged a successful fight against the coronavirus.

It won global attention as one of the first major soccer leagues to retake the field. A dozen broadcasters abroad have bought rights for the season, eager to show games to fans starved for sports.

On Monday, though, the spotlight was an uneasy one. The Instagram page of F.C. Seoul was filled with messages from fans outraged that the club had not noticed that the mannequins were “so obviously” sex dolls. Some derided the team’s management as clueless and lamented the global humiliation that ensued.

One way to thin out public transit: pop-up parking lots.

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Governments across the globe are in an unusual position of discouraging people from using public transit, an urban staple that has long been considered an essential tool in fighting congestion and climate change but is now a risk in the spread of the coronavirus.

Scenes of commuters packed elbow-to-elbow are now a major public health risk, as one cough or sneeze could expose dozens to infectious respiratory droplets. But governments have also acknowledged that many people, including medical workers, have no viable alternatives.

Officials have asked passengers to stay away if possible, leaving room for those who need it to safely practice social distancing, even if that means drying up some of the revenue that keeps the systems running.

In Australia, Sydney’s central business district will add bike lanes and pop-up parking lots to deal with an increase in automobile traffic. And in, London the subway’s capacity will be capped at around 13 to 15 percent so that passengers can stay six feet apart. Some may be asked to wait to enter a station until it empties out.

“If you can, please walk or cycle for all or part of your journey, including to complete your journey if traveling into central London,” Vernon Everitt, a managing director for the city’s transit network, said in an email to passengers on Sunday.

Reporting was contributed by Anatoly Kurmanaev, José Maria León, Andrew Jacobs, Farnaz Fassihi, Aurelien Breeden, Steven Erlanger, Denise Grady, Pam Belluck, Mihir Zaveri, Karen Zraick, Christopher Buckley, Ben Dooley, Melissa Eddy, Sheera Frenkel, Sandra E. Garcia, Abby Goodnough, Javier C. Hernandez, Makiko Inoue, Mike Isaac, Cecilia Kang, Raphael Minder, Steven Lee Myers, Sharon Otterman, Elisabetta Povoledo, Monika Pronczuk, Choe Sang-Hun, Eric Schmitt, Megan Specia, Daniel Victor and Neil Vigdor.

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