Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times


As India weathers the virus, Narendra Modi’s poll numbers soar.

Just before the coronavirus arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced serious challenges, perhaps the biggest of his tenure.

Since then, as the world has been walloped by the coronavirus pandemic, many of these problems in India, especially the economic ones, have only gotten worse. But once again, India has rallied around Mr. Modi, with recent opinion polls showing Mr. Modi’s already high approval ratings touching 80, even 90, percent.

Mr. Modi’s success, analysts say, may be quite durable. He’s widely seen as a mobilizer, not a despot, which may explain why his nationwide stay-at-home lockdown, which he dropped on the country with four hours’ notice, has been largely obeyed. He never downplayed the virus threat or said India had capabilities it didn’t. And unlike the United States where partisan politics has gummed up the response and created great discord and even chaos, analysts say Mr. Modi has worked well with state-level officials across India, regardless of ideology.

Still, it has not been a spotless performance. Mr. Modi’s government was caught off guard by the epic exodus of migrant workers pouring out of India’s cities, making desperate and sometimes fatal journeys hundreds of miles home. (On Saturday, more than 20 migrants were killed in a truck crash as they traveled home.) And many economists believe that the $260 billion relief package that he triumphantly announced this week, as he urged Indians to become more self-reliant, will hardly be enough.

Every morning, when Bayer Leverkusen’s players wake up in the hotel requisitioned for their weeklong quarantine, they have a list of six questions to answer. They must tell the club how they slept, how they are feeling, whether any of the telltale symptoms of the coronavirus have set in overnight. That’s just the first item on a list of instructions they have been following.

For all of the players, as it is for everyone involved in the reopening of the Bundesliga this weekend, this is uncharted territory. It is 65 days since the Bundesliga went into hibernation, along with every other major sports league on the planet. On Saturday, at 3:30 p.m. local time, it plans to return.

There are plenty, including many of Germany’s organized fan groups, who believe the Bundesliga has hurried back with money as its only motivation. By returning first, it has turned a problem into an opportunity. The Bundesliga has, for many years, sought to end the primacy of England’s Premier League in soccer’s global landscape.

But most important, the return of the Bundesliga is not so much proof of German soccer’s greed or its smooth running as it is a testament to a broader political reality. “We can be the first to start again because of our health care system,” said Simon Rolfes, Leverkusen’s sporting director. “We are thankful to have the opportunity.”

Democratic leaders characterized the package, which President Trump has promised to veto, as their opening offer in future negotiations over the next round of coronavirus aid, forging ahead in passing it even amid rifts within their own ranks.

With nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities and Native American tribes, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans, the measure was an expansive sequel to the $2.2 trillion stimulus enacted in March, reflecting Democrats’ desire to push for a quick and aggressive new round of help.

The bill passed on a tight margin, 208-199, as some moderate Democrats from conservative-leaning districts rejected it as a costly overreach that included provisions unrelated to the pandemic.

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

  • Retail sales plunged a record 16.4 percent, according to government data reported Friday. That dive followed an 8.3 percent drop in March, producing by far the largest two-month decline on record.

  • An innovative coronavirus testing program in the Seattle area — promoted by billionaire Bill Gates and local public health officials as a way of conducting wider surveillance on the invisible spread of the virus — has been ordered by the federal government to stop its work pending additional reviews. The delay is the latest evidence of how a splintered U.S. effort to develop, distribute and ramp up testing has left federal regulators struggling to keep up.

On May 1, a visibly relieved Matt Hancock announced that the British government had exceeded its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day. As health secretary, Mr. Hancock had set the goal after enduring intense criticism for the country’s lagging coronavirus testing program.

He called the milestone “an incredible achievement.”

But leaked documents and interviews with doctors, lab directors and other experts show that the push to hit the April 30 deadline — and arguably salvage Mr. Hancock’s career — placed a huge strain on public laboratories and exposed other problems that are now slowing efforts to further expand coronavirus testing.

Days before the deadline, some hospitals in England were given 48 hours to rapidly expand testing to thousands of health care workers and patients, even though they were not exhibiting any symptoms of the virus, the documents show.

At the same time, public labs across the country raced through limited supplies of the chemical reagents needed to carry out a flood of tests after the government promised to replenish their supplies. Two weeks later, some labs still haven’t received the stocks they need, forcing some to reduce the number of new tests they can process, several lab managers said.

Britain has recorded the most coronavirus deaths of any country in Europe, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative government have come under mounting criticism for an often-inconsistent response to the pandemic, especially on testing.

“Evil.” “Lunacy.” “Shameless.” “Sick and twisted.” China has hit back at American criticism of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic with an outpouring of vitriol as acrid as anything seen in decades.

The bitter recriminations have plunged relations between China and the United States to a nadir, with warnings in both countries that the bad blood threatens to draw them into a new kind of Cold War.

At about the same time, China, citing the urgency of the pandemic, demanded that the United States promptly pay its delinquent United Nations assessments, which by some calculations now exceed $2 billion. China, the second-biggest financial contributor to the U.N. budget behind the United States, fully paid on May 1. The United States responded by saying it customarily pays assessments at year’s end and that China was “eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.”

The cycle of tit-for-tat statements and actions is solidifying longstanding suspicions in Beijing that the United States and its allies are bent on stifling China’s rise as a global economic, diplomatic and military power.

Hard-liners are calling on Beijing to be more defiant, emboldened by the Trump administration’s efforts to blame China for the rising death toll in the United States. Moderates are warning that Beijing’s strident responses could backfire, isolating the country when it most needs export markets and diplomatic partners to revive its economy and regain international credibility.

Now, the clash with the United States over the pandemic is fanning broader tensions on trade, espionage and other fronts — disputes that could intensify as President Trump makes his contest with Beijing a theme of his re-election campaign.

And like several other countries that have done well in handling the pandemic, they are led by women.

These successes may not prove anything intrinsic about women’s leadership, but could, experts say, offer valuable lessons about crisis management.

For starters, the presence of a female leader can signal that a country has more inclusive political institutions and values. That bodes well for a handling a crisis: Taking information from diverse sources and having the humility to listen to outsiders are crucial for successful pandemic response, Devi Sridhar, the Chair of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, wrote in the British Medical Journal.

Ms. Merkel’s government, for example, considered epidemiological models, the input of medical providers and the success of South Korea’s efforts. By contrast, governments in many countries with high death tolls have relied primarily on their own advisers, with few channels for dissent or outside views.

President Trump’s refusal to wear a mask aligns with a common view that a strong leader exhibits a swaggering notion of masculinity — projecting power, acting aggressively and showing no fear.

Women, however powerful, often have to avoid such behaviors or risk being “seen as unfeminine,” said Alice Evans, a sociologist at King’s College London.

Male leaders can overcome gendered expectations. But it may be less politically costly for women to adopt cautious, defensive policies because it does not violate perceived gender norms.

Ms. Ardern, after imposing a strict lockdown, addressed New Zealand via a casual Facebook Live from her home. She expressed empathy for the anxious and offering rueful apologies to those startled by the emergency cellphone alert that announced the lockdown order.

Brazil’s health minister, Nelson Teich, announced on Friday that he was stepping down less than a month after taking the job, after clashing with President Jair Bolsonaro over the president’s refusal to embrace social distancing and quarantines.

While governors and mayors in much of the country have urged Brazilians to stay home as much as possible, Mr. Bolsonaro has implored them to go out and work, arguing that an economic unraveling would be more damaging to the country than the virus. This week he classified beauty salons and gyms as essential businesses that should remain open.

Brazil has recorded more than 200,000 confirmed infections and over 14,000 deaths, and those figures, among the highest in the world, are rising sharply. Experts say the numbers grossly undercount the toll extent of the epidemic because Brazil has limited testing capacity.

Officially, Brazil is recording more than 800 deaths per day, second only to the United States.

During a news conference Friday afternoon, Mr. Teich did not provide a reason for his resignation.

“Life is made up of choices, and today I chose to leave,” he said. “I didn’t accept the job for the position itself. I accepted it because I thought I could help the country and its people.”

A replacement had not been announced as of Friday afternoon. It was unclear whether Mr. Bolsonaro intended to appoint a new minister with medical expertise. The second-highest ranking official at the ministry, Eduardo Pazuello, is an active-duty Army general who has been in the job a few weeks.

Hannah Beech, the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Times, is based in Bangkok and covers conflict and natural disasters in about a dozen countries. Among them is Myanmar, where she has reported on the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority. In the course of her reporting in the region, she has met children whose parents killed themselves as suicide bombers and others who watched as soldiers bayoneted their relatives.

I didn’t want to be that parent, the one who talks about how when I was a child I had to walk uphill both ways, in the snow, just to get to school.

For one thing, I spent some of my childhood in Bangkok, where I now live with my husband and two sons. There is no snow in Bangkok and not much uphill.

So when my boys, ages 10 and 12, ask me at dinner what I did on a reporting trip — “going away again,” as they call it — I often hesitate.

“Well, Mama interviewed women who were raped when they were trying to flee their homes,” doesn’t seem quite right for the dinner table. Or, “Well, Mama put Mentholatum under her nose because it makes death smell a little less bad.”

But I don’t want to coddle them either. My husband and I ensure that the kids eat what we eat, even if it’s okra. We make them read The Times.

I find myself, too often, comparing them, in their privileged bubble of international school and summer camp in Maine, to the boy I met in a refugee camp or the girl with the big eyes who lost her parents in one of Southeast Asia’s drumbeat of disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, landslides, floods, plane crashes, bombings.



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