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Schools are reopening worldwide, but the pace varies by country and city.
Schools and universities around the world are struggling with how best to reopen. As students in some parts of Asia return to class, many of their peers in North America and Europe remain months away from being educated together.
Even in South Korea, where most universities opened this month, not all education officials were rushing to reopen secondary schools. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has said the reopening of schools is one of the last tests of the country’s ability to sustain a new kind of daily life under Covid-19.
In the city of Incheon, west of Seoul, for example, students from 66 high schools were turned away and told to go home on Wednesday after two seniors tested positive for the virus. They were believed to have contracted it at a karaoke parlor that had been visited by a recent patient linked to an outbreak in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district in Seoul.
But on the same day at Shinhyeon High School in Seoul, hundreds of seniors were among the nearly half-million high school students who returned to their classrooms nationwide after a monthslong absence.
Teachers at Shinhyeon greeted students by spraying their hands with sanitizer. Inside the classrooms, nonessential furniture had been removed to make space for social distancing.
“I am a bit scared because we have to return to school while the epidemic with no vaccine is still out there,” Lee Na-yeon, a Shinhyeon student, told the all-news cable channel YTN. “But it feels good to see the teachers and friends again after so long.”
Tom Moore, the 100-year-old veteran who raised millions for U.K. health workers, will be knighted.
Tom Moore, the 100-year-old former British army officer who raised $40 million for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps in his yard, is set to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, an honor that completes his transformation from media sensation into national hero.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recommended him for the knighthood, and the government is set to announce the honor on Wednesday.
“Colonel Tom’s fantastic fund-raising broke records, inspired the whole country and provided us all with a beacon of light through the fog of coronavirus,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. “On behalf of everyone who has been moved by his incredible story, I want to say a huge thank you.”
Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Mr. Moore said he was honored by the recognition.
“I certainly feel that I’ve been given a very outstanding honor by the queen and the prime minister,” he said. “And I thank them all very much. I am certainly delighted.”
He said he was looking forward to meeting the queen but added, “I hope she’s not very heavy handed with the sword. By then I might be rather a poor old weak soul.”
In a subsequent post on Twitter from his official account, Mr. Moore said he was “overwhelmed by the gratitude and love from the British public and beyond” and thanked the staff of the National Health Service for their work.
Mr. Moore’s campaign, which he began a few weeks before his 100th birthday, caught fire after it was posted on an online charity service. It became a hugely popular good-news story in a country especially hard-hit by the pandemic.
Mr. Moore, who served as a captain during the Burma campaign in World War II, has already received several awards for his achievement, including being named an honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College.
He said in an earlier interview that he wanted to recognize those on the front line, “just as we were backed up” during World War II.
One feature of Burundi’s presidential campaign? Stadium rallies.
The campaign to replace Burundi’s long-reigning president has been marred by arrests and alleged killings of political opponents. But during a time of a global pandemic, it has also featured rallies in packed stadiums.
Burundi’s citizens will on Wednesday elect a successor to President Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader who has ruled the country with impunity for the last 15 years, evading international efforts to call him to account for human rights abuses.
More than five million people were expected to vote at about 1,500 polling stations, and experts said that it could be the first competitive election since a civil war that began in 1993 and ended in 2005.
But the risk of contracting the coronavirus adds a critical dimension. From the outbreak’s onset, the authorities cited divine protection for keeping the country open and for holding large rallies.
And even after reporting 42 positive cases and one death, officials have continued to insist that the virus would not affect the country as severely as it has others worldwide.
“Aren’t you crowded here together? Do you have any problem with that?” Mr. Nkurunziza asked a gathering in Ngozi in early May. “Let us clap our hands for our God because he is with us.”
Experts say that Mr. Nkurunziza’s policies have also left open the possibility that election results could be manipulated.
After initially playing down the threat of the coronavirus, the government said this month that it would quarantine election observers from the East African Community for 14 days upon arrival to ensure they didn’t have Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. So the observers stayed home.
A cyclone bears down on India and Bangladesh, disrupting responses to the virus.
Cyclone Amphan, now the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane, is predicted to make landfall in India and Bangladesh on Wednesday around 4 p.m. local time with a maximum sustained wind speed of 77 miles per hour. It had registered winds of 165 miles an hour on Monday, making it the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal.
While the intensity of the storm has decreased, officials said, the cyclone still poses a threat to coastal regions in India and Bangladesh. “We are expecting large-scale damage,” said M. Mohapatra, an official at the India Meteorological Department.
More than three million people in India and Bangladesh are being evacuated to emergency cyclone shelters. Still, some of the shelters are only half full, because of concerns about social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
The people in the storm’s path include about one million Rohingya Muslims who live in refugee camps along the Bangladeshi coastline. And the recent confirmation of the first cases of Covid-19 in the camps has added another layer of anxiety and danger to relief efforts.
Snigdha Chakraborty, the Bangladesh director for Catholic Relief Services, said the coast’s limited health facilities and poor infrastructure suggested “a grim picture for the days ahead.”
“There are no evacuation shelters in the camps and we are worried about damage from flooding, wind and risk of Covid-19 as resources are stretched,” she said.
Taiwan’s president starts a new term, buoyed by high marks for her pandemic response.
Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in for a second term as president of Taiwan on Wednesday morning, riding a wave of international recognition for her government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Taiwan, which sits just 100 miles off China’s coast and has a population of more than 23 million, has recorded only 440 coronavirus cases and seven deaths. Its first case was reported on Jan. 21, the same day as the first American case.
In a statement, the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, praised Ms. Tsai for her leadership, including Taiwan’s response to the virus.
“Her courage and vision in leading Taiwan’s vibrant democracy is an inspiration to the region and the world,” he said, adding that the outbreak had “provided an opportunity for the international community to see why Taiwan’s pandemic-response model is worthy of emulation.”
The inauguration was swiftly met with condemnation from Beijing, which considers the island part of its territory and has accused Ms. Tsai’s party of seeking to use the pandemic as cover for a push for formal independence.
“Taiwan separatist forces and their actions are contrary to national justice and will surely be nailed to the column of shame in history,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement. The ministry warned that China would take “all necessary measures” to safeguard its sovereignty.
Unlike Ms. Tsai’s 2016 inauguration, which was attended by thousands, the ceremony on Wednesday was a small, private event on the lawn of the Taipei Guesthouse. Dozens of guests, mostly government officials, sat one meter apart from each other.
During her speech, Ms. Tsai praised the Taiwanese people and health officials, many of whom were in attendance, for successfully facing the pandemic.
“In recent months, Taiwan’s name has appeared in headlines around the world, thanks to our successful containment of the coronavirus outbreak,” she said.
“‘Taiwan’ is also emblazoned on the boxes of supplies we are sending abroad,” she said, referring to the masks and other equipment that Taiwan has donated to other countries, including millions of masks sent to the United States. “We will always offer help to the international community whenever we are able.”
Death and new life in a Spanish town struck by the outbreak.
In early April, Gerard Ninot could not bid farewell to his uncle as he lay dying of Covid-19 in the hospital of Igualada, a town in northeastern Spain, that was under one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. Covid-19 has officially killed 332 people in Igualada, a town of 42,000, with most of these deaths occurring early in the outbreak.
But three weeks later, on April 23, Mr. Ninot managed to make a visit to that hospital, this time as his wife, Mercè López, gave birth to their son, Kenji. Before being given special permission to join her in an isolated room, Mr. Ninot had to test negative for the coronavirus.
“I guess some people leave us and others thankfully arrive,” Mr. Ninot said thoughtfully, while speaking about how a death in the family was soon followed by new life.
Ms. Lopez, a doctor, did her best to prepare for giving birth during a lockdown, but had mixed feelings about being away from work. She went on maternity leave just before her fellow doctors and nurses were all reassigned to treat the sudden influx of Covid-19 patients.
“It was very hard for me, because I really wanted to help my colleagues during such a tough time for all those working in the hospital,” she said. “But at the same time I also had the big responsibility of having to stay as healthy as possible for the arrival of our son.”
The family went for a walk on Monday to enjoy the loosening of lockdown restrictions in Igualada. The Spanish government plans to gradually lift all restrictions on the movement of people, in line with whether they live in areas that have managed to contain the virus.
Mr. Ninot sounded very happy after the family outing, but also conflicted over whether to welcome the return of crowded streets and squares in Igualada. “I have to say that it left me feeling a bit insecure to see so many people out, because we all know that proximity can bring about another wave” of infections,” he said.
How the coronavirus pushed Germany to shift course.
In her time as chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has seen the European Union put to the test by Brexit, a wave of migration, the Greek debt crisis and populism, and still she held to a largely steadfast course.
Then came the coronavirus.
Faced with a tarnishing of her own legacy and a deep recession gutting her own country and its main trading partners, Ms. Merkel this week agreed to break with two longstanding taboos in German policy.
Along with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Ms. Merkel proposed a 500 billion euro fund to help the European Union member states most ravaged by the virus.
The proposal, which is hardly a done deal, departs from two central elements of German orthodoxy, said Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economist and former French government adviser.
It would allow the transfer of funds from richer countries to those more in need. And it would do so with money borrowed collectively by the European Union as a whole.
It will not be popular in Germany, and it may help populist opponents on the political extremes. But Ms. Merkel, in the twilight of her long political career, has put the interests of the 27-nation union — which embeds Germany into Europe as much as NATO does — before her domestic concerns.
Confronted with a pandemic that has cratered Europe’s economy, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron, who have often found themselves at odds over the years, dragged the rusty Franco-German motor out of the garage and got it running again.
As Indonesia’s biggest holiday approaches, social distancing is an afterthought.
Across Indonesia, malls and shopping streets are packed with people seemingly oblivious to the idea of social distancing.
Keeping with tradition, they have been shopping for new clothes to look their best on Indonesia’s most important holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which falls on Sunday. Many are wearing face masks, but others are not.
In Jakarta, the capital, crowds of shoppers swarmed the streets this week around the huge Tanah Abang market. The venue itself was closed to prevent the spread of the virus, and a banner read: “Stay home, Corona is destroyed. Leave home, Corona reigns.” But vendors had filled streets around it with stalls selling head scarves, long, flowing skirts and men’s shirts and trousers.
In the neighboring city of Bogor, where shopping streets were also crowded, officials complained that some shoppers were using government coronavirus aid to buy new holiday clothes, local news media reported.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country by population, is 90 percent Muslim.
As the country’s count of confirmed cases nears 20,000, its leaders are wrestling with how to rein in the pandemic while minimizing damage to the economy.
President Joko Widodo, who reluctantly imposed nationwide restrictions, including barring people from returning to their home villages for the holiday, has more recently called for learning to coexist with the virus.
But in Jakarta, which has a third of the nation’s cases, the governor, Anies Baswedan, extended pandemic restrictions from Friday until June 4. He urged the public to stay home and avoid large gatherings.
“The next 14 days will be a defining moment for us, whether the number will stagnate, rise or decline,” he said.
How will Europe reconcile requiring face masks while banning burqas?
While face coverings are fast becoming the norm to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the global politics that surround them are more complicated than ever — a reflection not just of this current crisis, but also of broader values and stereotypes.
This is especially true in the European Union, where the laws informally known as “burqa bans” that forbid full-face coverings, often on the basis of public safety, are being called into question.
“It’s a big contradiction,” said Alia Jafar, a British schoolteacher in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of the many face covering laws, which differ by country — especially because, to avoid charges of discrimination, the legal wording of most burqa bans is often framed more neutrally to apply to both men and women hiding their faces.
Ms. Jafar posted a picture on social media, which she shared with The New York Times, of two women in the street during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Both wore wide-brimmed hats, pulled low, with scarfs tied across their faces. Only their eyes peeked through. “It looks like the burqa,” Ms. Jafar said.
Yet this week France stood firm on its ban, which prohibits the wearing of clothing intended to hide the face in public spaces, despite the fact that masks are now being required on public transportation and in high schools. The French interior ministry confirmed to The Times that the face coverings rule of 2010 would stay in place.
The result is a Catch-22. Those who do not wear a mask can be fined, as can those who violate the face-covering law.
All 50 U.S. states have reopened to some degree. The rules still vary widely.
All 50 states have begun to reopen in at least some way, more than two months after the coronavirus thrust the country into lockdown. But there remain vast discrepancies in how states are deciding to open up, with some forging far ahead of others.
Connecticut was among the last states to take a plunge back to business on Wednesday, when its stay-at-home order lifts and stores, museums and offices are allowed to reopen. But not far away in New Jersey, the reopening has been more limited, with only curbside pickup at retail stores and allowances for certain industries.
The contrast illustrates a dynamic playing out across the country, as governors grapple with how to handle a pandemic that comes with no political playbook.
States in the Northeast and on the West Coast, as well as Democratic-led states in the Midwest, have moved the slowest toward reopening, with several governors taking a county-by-county approach. (In Washington, D.C., a stay-at-home order remains in effect until June.) By contrast, a number of states in the South opened earlier and more fully. Though social distancing requirements were put in place, restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses have been open in Georgia for several weeks.
Alaska went even further. On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that he would lift restrictions on businesses by the end of the week, allowing restaurants, bars, gyms and others to return to full capacity. Sports and recreational activities will be allowed. Yet even as it announced plans to ease restrictions on residents, the state said that it was maintaining its requirement that travelers arriving in the state stay quarantined for 14 days, and keeping visitor restrictions at senior centers and prisons.
‘It feels like we got the city back for ourselves.’
For the past two months, many of the world’s most popular destinations have been shuttered to visitors, leaving monuments, museums, shops, restaurants, bars and streets almost empty.
As the world reopens and residents step out, they are faced with the reality that life today is different than it was before Covid-19, and will likely remain this way for some time. One of the most significant differences — a bittersweet realization for most — is that there are currently no tourists to attend to or crowds to shuffle through.
We asked people in 11 of the most overtouristed places around the world what it’s like. In the Galápagos it feels like time has rewound to a previous era. In Prague it’s been a relief to admire a bridge that in recent years has become a popular spot for selfie-stick-wielding Instagrammers. In Venice, a city that has long been overwhelmed by tourists, Venetians, for once, aren’t outnumbered by visitors. In Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, as in Bali, fear of the loss of tourism has given way to a focus on family.
Although tourism is the lifeblood of the economies of these destinations, and the need for travel to resume may be dire, this moment of pause has allowed locals to experience something that only recently seemed impossible: having their homes to themselves.
Our correspondent examines Hong Kong, a city finding normalcy amid the abnormal.
Vivian Wang is a China correspondent whose reporting explores how China’s global rise is reshaping the lives of its people. She lives in Hong Kong, where she also covers the territory’s evolving relationship with the mainland.
Two blocks from my apartment on the western edge of Hong Kong Island, a Starbucks has been transformed into what looks like a construction zone, or maybe a strange art installation.
An armchair near the window was cordoned off for a time with masking tape, and more strips stretched over and around other chairs nearby, taut like tightropes over their neighboring tabletops. Rectangles of white cardboard are clipped to the sides of tables, which now look more like office cubicles than places to gather with friends.
But if the customers are fazed by the oddness of their surroundings, they don’t show it.
On a recent Tuesday night, a young couple huddled at one of the tape-free tables, laughing at something on the girl’s phone. A man hunched over his laptop, seemingly oblivious to the silos shielding him from his fellow patrons.
Hong Kong was one of the first places outside mainland China to be hit by the coronavirus, and immediately the landscape of the city changed.
There were temperature checks at every public building, and signs in elevators telling you how often the buttons were sanitized. A pharmacy chain handed out fistfuls of stickers with every purchase, featuring the chain’s mascot — a winking orange cat — and a reminder: “Wash your hands! Rub your hands! 20 seconds, Thx.”
Everywhere, there were reminders that these were not normal times.
Four months later, those signs are still around. But the city is humming back to life — not really in spite of those omnipresent reminders so much as alongside them.
Reporting was contributed by Abdi Latif Dahir, Raphael Minder, Megan Specia, Tariro Mzezewa, Mark Landler, Richard C. Paddock, Dera Menra Sijabat, Abdi Latif Dahir, Lou Stoppard, Choe Sang-Hun, Mike Ives, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Richard Pérez-Peña, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Sarah Mervosh, Mike Baker, Steven Erlanger, Chris Horton, Vivian Wang, Stephen Castle, Sameer Yasir and Jeffrey Gettleman. Claire Fu contributed research.
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