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

Here’s what you need to know:

Image
Credit…Pool photo by Andreas Gora

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 at a W.H.O. meeting.

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

In a pointed challenge to President Trump, President Xi Jinping of China on Monday offered to provide $2 billion in the fight against the pandemic and called on other nations to increase their contributions to the World Health Organization at a time when the United States has withdrawn its funding from the global health network.

Mr. Xi’s remarks, delivered during an extraordinary virtual meeting of heads of state and health experts from around the world, are 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 organization, accusing it of promoting disinformation from China about the coronavirus outbreak. W.H.O. officials have denied the claims and China has insisted it was transparent and open.

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

The $2 billion would be a vast increase in China’s contribution to the W.H.O., which last year totaled $43 million. In April, after the United States announced it would cut funding to the organization, Beijing said it would provide an additional $30 million to the W.H.O.

Mr. Xi’s speech, delivered by videoconference during the opening session of the World Health Assembly, its first meeting amid the pandemic, sought to position China as a leader in the organization. He also announced increased support to African nations struggling to contain the virus with financial assistance, Chinese doctors and what he described as a “global humanitarian response depot and hub in China to ensure the operation of anti-epidemic supply chains.”

In a sharp critique, Alex M. Azar II, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, charged that the W.H.O.’s 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.

“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.

Credit…Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

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.

Video

Video player loading
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.”

German refugee center reports dozens of coronavirus cases.

Credit…Sascha Steinbach/EPA, via Shutterstock

Germany is facing the first major coronavirus outbreak in a refugee center near Cologne, where the authorities said that more than 70 residents had tested positive for the virus and been placed in isolation. Another 60 residents tested negative and were moved to a different center.

Hundreds of migrants who arrived in Germany in the months before its borders were closed in mid-March live in refugee centers that lack the space needed for effective social distancing and where they often share bathrooms and kitchens.

Rights groups and opposition politicians have long warned that the crowded centers posed a health risk and urged local health authorities to carry out regular tests to prevent an outbreak of the virus. Members of the opposition Greens have criticized the government for inaction.

The center where the outbreak arose was home to 489 people from dozens of countries. After one resident tested positive for the virus on Thursday, others were given protective masks and disinfectant as tests were carried out on everyone else at the facility.

Germany has recorded 174,697 coronavirus cases and 7,935 fatalities since the outbreak began. Several of the worst outbreaks have been in nursing homes, hospitals and among migrant workers in meatpacking facilities.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

Pressed for an inquiry into the virus’s origin, China floats its own theories.

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

Fighting foreign pressure to account for the initial spread of the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party deflected in one of its leading journals, saying in effect that the virus could have come from anywhere.

The article, published in the party’s magazine Qiushi over the weekend, is China’s latest effort to push back against demands on multiple fronts for a fuller accounting of where the virus came from and especially how it spread from Wuhan.

Last week, Xinhua, China’s main state-run news agency, issued a long question-and-answer article disputing that the virus had leaked from a lab in that city and that China had failed to act quickly to stop its spread.

Such calls are discomfiting for the Chinese government, which has been eager to set aside evidence that officials played down the outbreak and restricted reporting, delaying a response from the central government.

The Qiushi article argues that questions of the coronavirus’s origins are best left to scientists free of political interference. But it uses highly tendentious descriptions of the research to suggest that the coronavirus may not have first spread from China.

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Chinese Lab Theory

Is Beijing keeping a secret? Or are the exact origins of the coronavirus still a mystery?

0:00/22:42

transcript

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Chinese Lab Theory

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Alexandra Leigh Young, Erik Krupke and Neena Pathak, with help from Sydney Harper; and edited by Lisa Tobin

Is Beijing keeping a secret? Or are the exact origins of the coronavirus still a mystery?

julian barnes

In the world of intelligence, there’s this old adage that there are secrets and mysteries. Secrets are something that one government hides from another. Mysteries are things that your intelligence community can’t answer for you.

[music]

The difference matters to an intelligence agency like the C.I.A. because if something’s a secret, then it’s information they can go out and find or steal. But if something’s a mystery, there is no information to get. And this adage has come up a lot in recent weeks. It is really a crucial question as intelligence agencies are looking at where this coronavirus came from. Did it come from a lab in China? And does the Chinese government know it? Is that a secret that’s being kept, or is it a mystery that nobody knows?

[theme music]
michael barbaro

From the New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”

In the absence of a clear explanation for how the coronavirus started, several theories have circulated. Today, Julian Barnes on the Chinese Lab Theory.

It’s Thursday May 7.

Julian, tell me about this theory that I know has taken hold, pretty much across the United States, about the origins of this virus.

julian barnes

Well it’s kind of a vague theory when you hear people talk about it. There’s all kinds of different versions.

[music]
archived recording

Did it come from that infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology? And if so, how will we find out?

julian barnes

There’s versions of an animal slipping out of a lab in Wuhan.

archived recording

I know we’ve been saying that perhaps the virus got out of that virology lab by accident. Was it really an accident?

julian barnes

Or a worker having it on their clothing and taking it out.

archived recording

— that because of lax safety protocols, an intern was infected who later infected her boyfriend, and then went to the wet market in Wuhan where it began to spread.

julian barnes

There’s a version that talks about infected animals being disposed improperly.

archived recording

Early research suggests humans picked up the coronavirus from animals, possibly bats, but it’s not clear how the virus made that jump.

julian barnes

And all this has sort of swirled, almost like gossip, but all pointing to a lab in Wuhan. And you can understand why that theory gained traction. Because there is a level four lab studying coronaviruses, the very strain of coronaviruses that unleash this global pandemic.

michael barbaro

So that much is true. There actually is a lab that studies the coronavirus in Wuhan, where this outbreak began.

julian barnes

Yeah, that’s right. It’s not a bioweapon lab. It’s not for a nefarious purpose. In fact it’s for a public health purpose. They study coronaviruses for the hopes of protecting people from them. But the fact of the matter is there are deadly strains of coronavirus inside this lab. So these theories that we’re all talking about, they made it to the White House. They made it to the White House pretty early, back in January. Back in January, Matthew Pottinger, who is the deputy national security advisor, started asking questions about where this came from. Was it accidentally created in a lab?

michael barbaro

Mm-hm. And what is the response to this question that this senior official is asking?

julian barnes

Well, about this time, as the White House starts pushing for this information, the C.I.A. is concluding that China is not being honest about the numbers in Wuhan Province.

archived recording

The death toll in China has risen to 56 people. That’s 15 more deaths in the past 36 hours.

julian barnes

They started briefing the White House that China is misstating — understating the numbers.

archived recording

Nearly 2,000 people are infected.

michael barbaro

And why is that important?

julian barnes

I was speaking to a European intelligence official who said, you know, when the numbers first came out of Wuhan, they were making estimates of how dangerous this disease was based on that. But then, in February —

archived recording 1

Covered head to toe in protective gear, doctors work around the clock and compare the situation to a war zone.

archived recording 2

Your health system, no matter how good, how efficient, how modern it is, sooner or later will collapse because the number of patients is too high for the resources we have.

julian barnes

The virus hits Italy. And the mortality numbers there were way worse than what was reported in Wuhan.

archived recording

And Italy has the highest mortality rate anywhere in the world, with 3,000 —

julian barnes

And it started to look, to some people, like the Chinese government was trying to keep a secret.

archived recording

So if that is the case, what else has China been lying about? That’s the question —

michael barbaro

Right. And if China has lied about mortality rates in Wuhan, then they could be lying about everything.

julian barnes

Right. In the minds of intelligence officials, if China is lying about their numbers, lying about their mortality statistics, they could also be lying about the origin of the virus, the origin of the pandemic. They could be lying about the lab, about what they know about the lab. So this idea that China is not sharing all that it knows, that China may be misleading, convinces policymakers in the White House that there are secrets out there. And people like Pottinger, who have been predisposed to distrust China, it gives them ammunition to argue, throughout the government, that this is worse than you think. China is at fault. And then —

archived recording

President Donald Trump announces Richard Grenell will become acting director of national intelligence. Grenell will be in charge of the nation’s 17 spy agencies.

julian barnes

— the intelligence agencies get a new director of national intelligence.

archived recording

A former spokesman turned Fox News talking head turned ambassador with very little — actually no — intelligence experience.

julian barnes

Now, Rick Grenell is an interesting figure. He does not come from the world of intelligence. Rick Grenell is a partisan defender of the president. He is one of the most effective people at pushing the president’s agenda. He is the ambassador to Germany. So he deals with intelligence, he receives intelligence, but he’s never been a collector of intelligence. But he does know what the president wants. He does know what the president is interested in. And he sort of has an intuitive understanding that the origin of this outbreak is going to be a piece of information that’s very important to Donald Trump.

michael barbaro

So what happens with Rick Grenell in this role?

julian barnes

Well, what happens next is there’s some intelligence that comes in on March 30, some new intelligence that Chinese officials have discussed the possibility that the virus came from the lab.

michael barbaro

Wow.

julian barnes

Yeah. So this piece of intelligence changes some minds of the people who have seen it. Some people who were skeptical of the lab theory start to see it as a real possibility. The president is really intrigued. Grenell convenes a review. He brings together the various intelligence agencies to discuss what they know. They actually conclude that they can’t make a conclusion. They don’t know where it came from. There are open-source science articles. There are questions about the safety of the lab. There is this very idea that we were talking about, about the coincidence. But there’s no smoking gun. All the intelligence agencies agree there’s just not one hard piece of evidence that says, there, this shows that it came from a lab.

michael barbaro

Hm. Julian, you just said that the fact that China is looking into this same question that American intelligence officials are seemed to add credibility to the American theory. But as I’m thinking about it, it occurs to me, doesn’t that suggest that the origin story here is a mystery, perhaps, rather than a secret? And what I mean by that is, if the Chinese government is looking into this question, wouldn’t that mean that they don’t know the answer, and that they’re not trying to cover it up. They’re just trying to figure it out for themselves.

julian barnes

That’s right. And that’s how some people in the intelligence world look at it. They say, you know, China is struggling for this answer too. This answer is not out there. Others who are more skeptical believe that China is covering it up from its own people, and that the number of people who would know about this is very small, and China is very good at keeping its secrets.

[music]

You can have a situation where the central government doesn’t know something, but officials at a lower level do know the answer, but they’re afraid to tell it. They could put their own lives in danger to spread a piece of bad information. So finding something out in a country with an authoritarian system like that makes it much more difficult.

michael barbaro

Because it might not be a dichotomy. It might be both a secret and a mystery.

julian barnes

That’s right. It might be a secret and a mystery.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So at this point in our story, Julian, what is the state of this theory?

julian barnes

Well, this theory starts to really be picked up by conservative media.

archived recording (rush limbaugh)

I have been asked by a tremendous number of people if I believe that the Chi-Com government did this on purpose.

julian barnes

Rush Limbaugh is talking about the Wuhan lab.

archived recording

Now we’ve basically confirmed this. The belief is that the virus escaped from that high-security virology lab.

julian barnes

It is frequently discussed on Fox News.

archived recording

Joining me right now is Senator Tom Cotton himself. He sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

julian barnes

Senator Tom Cotton has made multiple appearances to sort of ask questions.

archived recording (tom cotton)

So we don’t know where it originated, but we do know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level four super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.

julian barnes

And there’s this increasing focus, on the right, about the lab theory, as part of an effort to hold China responsible.

archived recording

For more, let’s bring in the secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

julian barnes

And into this comes Mike Pompeo. He begins to really run with the lab theory.

archived recording

And Mr. Secretary, have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?

julian barnes

In one interview, Pompeo says there’s significant evidence to support the theory —

archived recording (mike pompeo)

There is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.

julian barnes

— to convince people that the lab theory is the leading theory, the foremost theory.

archived recording (mike pompeo)

I think the whole world is united, understanding that China brought this virus to the world.

archived recording

Thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Secretary. We appreciate your time.

archived recording (mike pompeo)

Thank you, Martha.

michael barbaro

And is Pompeo right? I mean, is he seeing something that you haven’t? Because from everything you’ve said so far, there is not significant intelligence that this originated in a lab in China.

julian barnes

No, there isn’t significant evidence. The intelligence agencies haven’t been able to say that the lab theory takes precedence from whether the virus was naturally created outside a lab just by a natural transmission between an animal and a human. And in fact, scientists are pretty skeptical that this came from the Wuhan lab. They believe there had to be an intermediate step from the bat viruses that were studied in the lab to another animal. And so the growing body of scientific voices is pushing against what Pompeo is saying right now.

michael barbaro

And Julian, especially given the lack of evidence, is there a risk to the United States going after China on this front, accusing them of starting it in a lab?

julian barnes

Oh, absolutely. I mean, China controls a lot of the pharmaceutical supply chain. They are the country that makes masks and protective gear. Picking a fight with China could cause them to slow the flow of that desperately-needed equipment. And there’s also a race for a vaccine. I mean, China may get a vaccine for this coronavirus before the United States or Europe does. And what if Beijing is so angry at the Trump administration for its blaming of China that they withhold that vaccine? There is absolutely a risk in this strategy.

michael barbaro

Well, then, so why would Republicans and the conservative media want to pick this fight?

julian barnes

Well, remember where we are. We are in April. Tens of thousands of people are dying. The lockdown and public health measures have frozen everything. And people are blaming Trump. And his best case for re-election, a strong economy, has disappeared. So it is a way to deflect the blame from Washington and put it on China.

michael barbaro

But why isn’t it enough just to know it came from China? Why do they want to pin it to a lab in such a precise way?

julian barnes

Because if it came from an accident in a lab, then there was a misstep. It’s just not dumb luck. Somebody did something wrong, and the Chinese have something to account for. And for President Trump, this is an important idea. It would pin responsibility on China. And this idea that his critics say his inaction made the situation worse in the United States, well, President Trump could argue, no, what could I have done? China unleashed this on the world through their negligence.

michael barbaro

But it feels like there’s one immovable obstacle to all of this, and it’s that the intelligence agencies, which you cover, they are not giving the president, they’re not giving the secretary of state, any of the evidence that would be required to make this public case. It’s just not happening.

julian barnes

Yeah, that’s right. This would be a much easier case for President Trump to make, for Secretary Pompeo to make, if the statement from the intelligence community was, Yes, we see this evidence. But that’s not what they’ve said. They’ve said they’re looking into this. They can’t conclude what the leading theory is. They cannot pin it on the lab.

michael barbaro

But as long as the intelligence agencies say they are looking into this, this idea is going to hold a lot of power in people’s minds, and it’s going to be part of our civic and political discourse. So do we know whether they’re ever going to be able to answer the question?

julian barnes

Intelligence officials say, to answer your question, they need access to that lab. They would have to be able to look at the samples there. They would have to be able to talk to the workers. And without access to the lab, that smoking gun is not something that they can get. They can’t get at the secret.

[music]

They say, Only once you get into that lab can you know, was there a secret they were hiding or were they as blind as we were? Was it in fact a mystery?

michael barbaro

Julian, thank you very much.

julian barnes

Thank you.

michael barbaro

On Wednesday, China fired back at the Trump administration over its suggestion that the virus had originated in a lab there, calling it, quote, “blame-shifting” that should be ignored by the American public. Hours later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took questions from reporters about his role in promoting the theory.

archived recording

You said, in multiple interviews, on May 1, April 30, and other days, some version of “we don’t know if the virus came from inside the lab in Wuhan.” And then, on Sunday, you said there’s enormous evidence the virus came from inside the lab.

archived recording (mike pompeo)

Those are both true. Listen, I’ve now answered this question, I think it’s the 13th time. Happy to try to answer it again. I’m not sure what it is that — about the grammar that you can’t get. We don’t have certainty about whether it began in the lab or whether it began someplace else. There’s an easy way to find out the answer to that: transparency, openness. The kinds of things that nations do when they really want to be part of solving a global pandemic, when they really want to participate —

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

[music]

Here’s what else you need to know today. On Wednesday, President Trump reversed course on his plan to shut down the coronavirus task force, and said that instead it would continue on indefinitely.

archived recording (donald trump)

I think it is a change a little bit. I thought we could wind it down sooner.

michael barbaro

During an appearance in the Oval Office, the president acknowledged that he had changed his mind after receiving negative feedback to his original plan.

archived recording (donald trump)

I had no idea how popular the task force is until, actually, yesterday. When I started talking about winding it down, I get calls from very respected people saying, “I think it would be better to keep it going. It’s done such a good job.” It’s a respected task force.

michael barbaro

And several states in Brazil began lockdowns on Wednesday after the death toll in that country reached a daily peak of 633 people. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus, compared it to a, quote, “measly cold,” and attended a rally against lockdowns.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

U.S. roundup: Governors wrestle with reopening.

Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

“This is really the most crucial time, and the most dangerous time,” Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, said Sunday on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

Pressure is building for officials to revive commerce and chart a path for states to edge toward a semblance of normalcy, and some are discussing plans for starting school in the fall.

On Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat, filed an emergency rule allowing for the owners of restaurants, bars and other establishments that open prematurely to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, said on CNN that he understood the stress and anxiety that the pandemic and associated restrictions are causing. “The question is,” he added, “how do you toggle back and make meaningful modifications to the stay-at-home order?”

In New York, state and city officials are calling on many more residents to get tested to help the state reopen. To underscore this point, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York was tested during his live news briefing on Sunday. He also announced a new website that would help New Yorkers identify testing sites near where they live.

And President Trump continued to express eagerness to see a resumption of some activities. In phone comments during a golf broadcast on Sunday, he said he missed sports and wanted “big, big stadiums loaded with people.”

Reporting was contributed by 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.

View original article here Source

Related Posts