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A cautious start to travel as countries, and businesses, navigate reopening.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the tourism industry, as countries sealed their borders, flights ground to a halt and billions of people sheltered at home.
Airlines have begun re-establishing routes halted weeks ago as coronavirus cases ballooned. Emirates Airlines said on Wednesday that it would restart limited passenger flights to nine destinations — including London and Frankfurt — from May 21, and other carriers have also begun reinstating routes.
But the promise of travel was not enough for some companies that depend on it. TUI, the world’s largest travel company, said it would cut more than 8,000 jobs — over 10 percent of its work force. Though the company, based in Hanover, Germany, said it would begin reopening some of its 400 hotels and resorts in coming days, but the pandemic has brought its operations nearly to a standstill.
Travel is not only big business on the continent, but free movement across borders is a core element of life in an interconnected Europe.
The European Commission on Wednesday, in a bid to resume travel and salvage the summer tourism season, announced its recommendation for travel across the European Union, saying countries with similar levels of coronavirus outbreaks should ease restrictions. It said this should ultimately lead to a complete restoration of free movement among its 27 member states.
The aim is to give Europeans the chance to get “some well-needed rest,” the Commission said. Tourism accounts for 10 percent of the European Union’s gross economic output.
But each member state is likely to create its own policies, as the Commission’s advice is not binding. The lack of meaningful coordination threatens to create a patchwork of measures, making it hard to plan trips and creating loopholes that could prove dangerous for public health.
Some countries have already begun plotting their own way forward. Three border checkpoints between Austria and Germany were opened Wednesday morning, a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria agreed to the measures that would institute free movement between the two nations.
Others have also begun experimenting with “travel bubbles,” allowing movement within a group of specific nations.
The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will allow travel among the three nations beginning Friday, though travelers from outside the region will be required to spend 14 days in quarantine.
The leaders of New Zealand and Australia, which have had relatively few cases compared to elsewhere in the world, have also agreed to allow travel between their two countries and have expressed interest in opening up to other nations where transmissions remain low.
Iceland, which has an economy hugely reliant on tourism, plans to open its borders on June 15. International travelers must decide on arrival whether they want to pay for a coronavirus test or spend 14 days in quarantine, according to one government plan presented on Tuesday.
Our correspondent looks back on her time in quarantine. Actually, her four times.
Amy Qin, a China correspondent for The Times, was based in Beijing for eight years before moving to Taiwan this month. In January, she raced to cover the outbreak in Wuhan with two shirts and a bag full of protective gear. From there, she stayed on the move, doing four stints of quarantine in four different cities as the pandemic spread. We asked her to share some thoughts about her experiences.
Before the pandemic, my friends called me “the empress,” a joking reference to my last name. But these days, they have begun referring to me by another, slightly less esteemed royal moniker: I am now the Quarantine Queen.
That’s because in the last three months, I have completed four rounds of quarantine on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
Like many others, I passed the time by dialing into Zoom calls and bingeing on reality television. But along the way, I also rode the wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Each city where I idled — San Diego, Beijing, Los Angeles and Taipei — offered a window into the different ways in which governments were grappling with the virus.
Some, as we now know all too well, were more successful than others.
Tap here to read more about Amy Qin’s experiences in quarantine.
Some fear the virus is a get-out-of-jail card for Mafiosi in Italy.
They were among the most vulnerable as the coronavirus roared through Italy: older or riddled with serious underlying medical conditions. A brush with the coronavirus within the confines of the place where they woke up each morning might seriously threaten their lives.
They were also maximum-security inmates, international drug traffickers and affiliates of Italy’s organized crime gangs, including three who were serving time under a harsh isolation protocol that is reserved for top Mafia bosses.
So when news broke last week that 376 inmates had been moved from high-security prison cells to house arrest because of coronavirus concerns — and that hundreds more were seeking to do the same — the backlash was almost immediate. Even as the coronavirus dominated the news cycle in Italy, the homecoming of convicted organized crime figures made the front page.
The outrage has been greatest over three men: Francesco Bonura, 78, a boss with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra; Vincenzino Iannazzo, 65, a leader of Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta; and Pasquale Zagaria, 60, a ranking member of the Neapolitan camorra. Prosecutors said that the return of the Mafiosi to their homes, where it would be more difficult to monitor their communication with the outside world, would be taken as an indication that Italy was relaxing its fight against organized crime.
The government scrambled to make amends, as critics said the mobsters were using the increased risk to their health from the pandemic as a get-out-of-jail card. They called for the resignation of the justice minister and announced a motion of no-confidence toward him.
To counter overcrowding in prisons, the government passed a decree on March 16 that allowed the authorities to shift into house arrest thousands of detainees who had less than 18 months to serve — but only until June 30. Opponents of the move denounced it as a disguised pardon.
But the coronavirus outbreak has forced the country to balance the rights of prisoners and the constitutional right to health, for the individual and as a collective interest, with fears that Italy was growing more tolerant of a longtime scourge.
Hong Kong records new local infections, breaking a 23-day streak.
Hong Kong reported two new locally transmitted infections on Wednesday after more than three weeks of no such cases and as social distancing measures began to relax, and a third case recorded on the same day was imported from Pakistan, bringing the total infections in the city to 1,051. The cases showed the challenges of eradicating a community outbreak.
A 66-year-old woman and her 5-year-old granddaughter, who live separately, were infected, health officials said on Wednesday. Neither had recently traveled, and it was unclear how they had contracted the virus, the officials added.
The locally transmitted cases indicate that there is still an “invisible transmission chain in the community,” a Department of Health spokeswoman told reporters.
The news came as Hong Kong, having seen no local transmissions for 23 days, began to cautiously restart some previously restricted activities. Since last week, civil servants and other office workers have returned to their workplaces, and public venues like museums and libraries have partially reopened. Schools are slated to reopen in stages.
Health officials said on Wednesday that there were currently no plans to bring back the stricter distancing measures and closures imposed more than a month ago.
Lebanon locks down, again, in an attempt to smother a spike in infections.
After cautiously allowing some businesses to reopen and relaxing its nightly curfew, Lebanon ordered the country to lock down again for four days starting Wednesday night in an attempt to smother a spike in coronavirus cases.
The reversal illustrated the perilous path that many nations are walking as they move to ease lockdown measures, often in the face of pressure from protesters and businesses seeking relief from devastating financial damage.
Lebanon had been surprising public health experts with its low coronavirus case count: As of Tuesday, 870 cases were confirmed in a population of roughly five million. Over the past two weeks, pastry shops, manufacturers, hair salons, car dealerships and other businesses were given permission to reopen, and a nationwide curfew was pushed back to 9 p.m.
Some restaurants had begun to operate at 30 percent capacity, with temperature checks at the door and masks for employees. In the streets of Beirut, the capital, many people had begun walking without masks and jogging along the seaside promenade known as the Corniche.
But the authorities pulled back this week, citing an outbreak in the army and a wave of new infections among returning expatriates. A lockdown on commerce and movement was imposed from Wednesday night to Monday morning, with curfew at 7 p.m.
In a seeming contradiction, the government also said this week that restaurants could move to 50 percent capacity, leaving business owners confused and dismayed. It was unclear whether or when the country could proceed with its phased reopening, under which schools, beaches, bars, gyms and the airport were tentatively scheduled to reopen in early June.
Spain’s oldest woman recovers from the coronavirus.
At 113 years old, María Branyas is Spain’s oldest woman. Her longevity alone is impressive, but this week she added another astonishing feat: She has recovered from the coronavirus.
Ms. Branyas spent several weeks isolated in her room in her nursing home in Olot, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, after suffering mild symptoms consistent with Covid-19, and this week finally was given the all clear.
After overcoming her illness, a smiling Ms. Branyas said in a short clip broadcast on local Catalan television that she felt “very good,” and that she was grateful to be able to continue living “with very good people and in good company.”
“It’s a very big shame for everybody,” she said. “As to understanding where it came from, and how and why, it seems to me that very few people know that.”
Ms. Branyas was born in San Francisco in 1907. The family decided to return to Spain in 1915, after her father, a journalist, contracted tuberculosis. He died during the ocean crossing back to Europe, according to local news reports.
Her daughter, Rosa Moret, told local journalists that Ms. Branyas had never had a major illness, and said she could not remember her mother ever breaking a bone. She has been living in her nursing home for the past two decades.
Her relatives have not been allowed to see her since March 4, when they came to celebrate her birthday. They are now awaiting clearance to visit again.
Heavier traffic and some crowded buses, but many stations are empty as restrictions lift in U.K.
Some subway and bus routes across London appeared overcrowded early Wednesday, and some people reported heavier traffic, but many commuters making their first journeys to workplaces in months shared pictures of relatively empty train stations.
The number of passengers on the London subway increased 7.3 percent until 10 a.m., compared with the same time period last week, Transport for London said.
The London subway was packed on Monday, the morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that anyone who could not do their job from home was “actively encouraged” to return to work.
The government later clarified that the guidance would take effect on Wednesday and asked people who had to travel to consider alternatives to public transportation.
Grant Shapps, the British transport secretary, said in a statement on Saturday that even with public transportation reverting to full service, distancing requirements would leave capacity for only one in 10 passengers on many parts of the network.
“Getting Britain moving again, while not overcrowding our transport network, is going to require many of us to think carefully about how and when we travel,” he added.
The devastation in Latin America is less visible, but compares to the worst in Europe or the U.S.
Deaths from all causes doubled in Lima, Peru, and tripled in Manaus, Brazil. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, deaths reached five times the usual number for the time of year.
Brazilian cities are burying rows of stacked coffins in mass graves. Hundreds of Ecuadoreans are searching for the bodies of family members who went to hospitals and never returned.
The Times measured the impact of the pandemic by comparing total deaths in recent months to the averages of recent years. They include deaths from Covid-19 and other causes, including people who could not get treatment from overwhelmed health care systems — or were afraid to try.
And while no measure is perfect, the increase in overall deaths offers the most complete picture of the pandemic’s toll, demographers say.
Latin America has confronted the crisis with far fewer medical or economic resources than Europe or the United States. As jobs disappear, Peruvian highways have swelled with people fleeing the cities, and tens of thousands of Venezuelans in neighboring countries have been forced to walk back to their ravaged homeland.
“We weren’t prepared for this virus,” said Aguinilson Tikuna, an Indigenous leader in Manaus, a metropolis in the Brazilian Amazon. “When this disease hit us, we locked ourselves in, locked our homes, isolated ourselves, but no one had the resources to buy masks, medicine. We lacked food.”
Russia bans ventilators believed to have sparked deadly fires at hospitals.
Russian regulators said on Wednesday that they had banned the use of some Russian-made ventilators blamed for two deadly hospital fires, underlining the growing stress on a health care system struggling with one of the world’s largest coronavirus outbreaks.
The Aventa-M ventilators, made by a subsidiary of the state-owned manufacturing giant Rostec, are believed to have caught fire on Tuesday in the intensive care unit of a hospital in St. Petersburg, killing five patients. A similar event in Moscow on Saturday killed one person, according to Russian news reports. The operation of Aventa-M models manufactured after April 1 is to be suspended because their “use threatens the lives and health of citizens,” Russia’s federal health care watchdog said.
Kret, the Rostec subsidiary that manufactured the ventilators, declined to comment on the possible cause of the fires, the news agency Interfax reported. The Russian government said in March that it would spend about $100 million to buy 5,700 ventilators from the company.
The Aventa-M ventilators were part of a planeload of aid that Moscow sent to New York City in early April, a time when Russia seemed to have been spared the worst.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday that states that received the Russian ventilators had not used them and that they were being returned to FEMA “out of an abundance of caution.”
Germany and Austria are among nations starting ‘travel bubbles’ as restrictions ease.
Three border checkpoints between Austria and the German state of Bavaria were opened Wednesday morning, a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria agreed to the measures. The first opened at 6 a.m., according to local reports.
The border is scheduled to be entirely opened on June 15, just in time for summer vacation. German holidaymakers are an important source of income for many Austrian tourist destinations.
Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, said on Wednesday that Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland had agreed to reopen borders by June 15, if infections remained low in the meantime, with the ultimate goal of re-establishing free travel in parts of Europe by mid-June.
“We want to see free travel in Europe again from mid-June onward, and we aim to achieve this,” Mr. Seehofer told reporters. The German border with Luxembourg is to be opened on Friday.
More announcements for other European border openings are expected in the coming days as the continent eases restrictions and looks to restart travel. For most European Union members and those in the Schengen zone, which has free movement across all states, borders have been closed to nearly all travel since mid-March, when coronavirus infections began to balloon across the region.
Germany and Austria are not the only countries to begin a cautious restart of movement between specific nations. Beginning Friday, residents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be allowed to travel freely among those Baltic states. The plan, announced by the leaders late last month, would still require travelers from outside the region to spend 14 days in quarantine.
Leaders of New Zealand and Australia have also agreed on a travel bubble between their two countries, which have seen relatively few cases compared to elsewhere in the world.
Bats are still available, if no longer the best seller at one Indonesian market.
The butchers of Tomohon gather at Indonesia’s most notorious market six days a week, carving up bats, rats, snakes and lizards that were taken from the wilds of Sulawesi island.
For years, animal lovers and wildlife activists have urged officials to close the bazaar, boastfully known as the Tomohon Extreme Market. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is putting renewed pressure on officials to finally take action.
“The market is like a cafeteria for animal pathogens,” said the lead expert for Indonesia’s coronavirus task force, Wiku Adisasmito, who has urged the government to close the country’s wildlife markets. “Consuming wild animals is the same as playing with fire.”
The earliest cluster of coronavirus cases in the global outbreak was linked to a market in Wuhan, China, where live animals were kept close together, creating an opportunity for the virus to jump to humans. The SARS virus, which killed 800 people worldwide, is believed to have originated in bats before spreading to civets in a wildlife market in China, and ultimately infecting people in 2002.
Most of the wild animals at Tomohon are slaughtered before they reach the market. It is mainly dogs that are kept alive in cages and killed on the spot for customers who say that they taste better when freshly killed.
“It is like a time bomb,” said Billy Gustafianto Lolowang, manager of the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center in the nearby town of Bitung. “We can only wait until we become the epicenter of a pandemic like Wuhan.”
New Zealand and Thailand record no new cases.
New Zealand, which has seen some of the lowest coronavirus case numbers in the world, lifted its state of emergency on Wednesday, as it reported no new infections for the second day in a row.
And Thailand, which halted international flights in early April, announced on Wednesday that it had recorded no new cases of the coronavirus for the first time since March 9.
New Zealand, which has moved toward eliminating the virus by enforcing stringent measures and locking down its borders, planned to relax restrictions on Wednesday night, allowing people to go to bars and restaurants, attend theaters and museums, return to schools, travel between regions and gather in groups of up to 10 people — all while practicing social distancing.
“This move does not signal that New Zealanders should stop being vigilant in protecting themselves and others from the virus,” Peeni Henare, the civil defense minister, said in a statement. “It is essential we all follow the alert level requirements to ensure we do not lose the gains we have made.”
The island nation has recorded 1,147 confirmed cases and 21 deaths. The rate of new infections has slowed to a dribble in the past month, and just two people who tested positive for the virus remain in hospitals.
Under the new guidelines, New Zealanders are still expected to remain one to two meters apart when possible. Borders will remain locked for now, the authorities said, though the country has considered opening a “travel bubble” including itself, Australia and other Pacific countries later in the year. Venues are also limited to 100 patrons, including staff.
The announcement came seven weeks after the country entered lockdown on March 25, and the new, relaxed guidelines will be reviewed again on May 25, the authorities said.
In Thailand, an influx of Chinese tourists in January kicked off local transmission of the virus in Bangkok, which is normally one of the world’s most-visited cities. The first reported case of the virus outside China was in Thailand in mid-January. A later wave of infections was traced to people arriving from Japan, Europe and the United States.
But the virus has so far failed to take widespread hold in Thailand, according to official data. As of Wednesday, the health authorities had confirmed 3,017 cases and 56 deaths. About 286,000 people have been tested in a country of roughly 70 million people, and 117 of those who tested positive are still hospitalized.
The biggest surge of cases this month came from an outbreak in a detention center for foreign migrants. Human rights groups have warned that disease spreads quickly in such confined quarters.
Thailand began to ease its lockdown in early May, with everything from restaurants to pet salons allowed to resume operations with proper social distancing. Shopping malls are expected to open in the coming days, but incoming flights will be banned for at least the rest of this month.
Europe’s museums begin reopening, cautiously, with new rules.
Germany’s 16 states have set their own timelines for easing the lockdown measures. Museums in Berlin were allowed to reopen on May 4, but many remain closed.
Governments in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Italy have all announced dates in May or June by which they hope to have museums open, with similar safety measures to those in Berlin.
Some museums in the Czech Republic, France, Spain and Switzerland reopened this week or are set to do so in the coming days. In France, some small, local museums were allowed to reopen on Monday, but the government has yet to announce dates for major institutions like the Louvre.
With tourism at a standstill, however, many museums are anticipating lower-than-usual visitor numbers. That is likely to help social distancing, but it also means that spaces that depend significantly on international guests face an uncertain financial future.
Infections in camps in South Sudan and Greece’s Aegean Islands raise fears of rapid spread.
Public health officials have long warned that camps for people who have fled war and privation are ideal settings for the virus to spread fast — they are crowded, and often lacking in food, sanitation and medical resources.
The United Nations said that two people tested positive on Monday in a camp in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where two camps house about 29,600 of the roughly 4 million people who have been displaced by a brutal civil war.
“This community is an extension of the communities around them in Juba city where we know that Covid-19 already exists,” said David Shearer, head of the United Nations mission there.
South Sudan is a poor nation with a fragile health care system, and even with help from the World Health Organization, the capacity to test for and treat the infection is very limited. Officially, the country has recorded 174 cases, but the real figure is thought to be far higher.
Mr. Shearer said on Tuesday that his group had doubled water supplies at the camps to boost handwashing, broadcast awareness messages in multiple languages and distributed more than two months worth of food to keep people from visiting local markets.
In Greece, Migration Ministry officials confirmed two cases of Covid-19 in migrants on Lesbos, one of five Aegean Islands where nearly 40,000 migrants live in camps. They arrived on Lesbos last week from Turkey, which has had a far worse outbreak than Greece.
Coronavirus infections have been found among migrants on the Greek mainland, where they live in less dire conditions.
U.S. roundup: Health officials warn of dire consequences of reopening too early.
Two of the federal government’s top health officials painted a grim picture of the months ahead on Tuesday, warning a Senate committee that the coronavirus pandemic was far from contained, just a day after President Trump declared that “we have met the moment and we have prevailed.”
The officials — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — predicted dire consequences if the nation reopened its economy too soon, noting that the United States still lacked critical testing capacity and the ability to trace the contacts of those infected.
If economic interests were allowed to override public health concerns, Dr. Fauci warned, “there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”
That could result not only in “some suffering and death that could be avoided,” he said, “but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”
Dr. Fauci’s remarks, along with those of Dr. Redfield, contradicted Mr. Trump’s growing insistence that the nation has put the coronavirus behind it.
The comments appeared to rattle the markets, driving the S&P 500 down as investors weighed the potential of a second wave of infections against Mr. Trump’s promises that the economy would bounce back once stay-at-home restrictions were lifted. Worrisome reports of spikes in infections in countries like China, South Korea and Germany, where lockdowns had been lifted, seemed to confirm the American officials’ fears.
The Cannes Festival that wasn’t, and what we’ve lost.
The Cannes Film Festival has been derailed only a handful of times since its inaugural gathering in 1946 — which, as it happens, was itself put off because of World War II.
For the most part, the show has gone on.
Not this year.
The 73rd iteration, which had been scheduled to start on Tuesday, is no more. Instead, in June, the festival will release a list of movies that had been chosen for this year, anointing them with the coveted Cannes label.
Our critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott and our awards season columnist, Kyle Buchanan, all festival veterans, won’t be hitting the red carpets this year. But it is not just a personal loss for a trio of film lovers deprived of attending what Scott calls “a cinematic universe in its own right.”
The writers discussed what the world has lost, too, and why it matters.
“If it’s hard for Americans to grasp the importance of Cannes to the rest of the world,” Dargis says, “it’s because our isolationism extends to culture.”
Reporting was contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo, Emma Bubola, Raphael Minder, Anton Troianovski, Vivian Yee, Ceylan Yeginsu, Christopher F. Schuetze, Richard C. Paddock, Dera Menra Sijabat, Monika Pronczuk, Elaine Yu, Amy Qin, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Megan Specia, Manuela Andreoni, Letícia Casado, Mitra Taj, Jeffrey Gettleman, Hari Kumar, Maria Abi-Habib, Hannah Beech, Thomas Rogers, Abdi Latif Dahir, Sameer Yasir, Kai Schultz, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Andrew Das.
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