Abe can’t escape the coronavirus backlash
Critics are calling for the resignation of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for his handling of the country’s outbreak.
Last weekend, after he held his first news conference on the coronavirus crisis — a scripted affair with prearranged questions that left Japanese journalists shouting at him for answers — Twitter was flooded with over a million posts demanding his resignation.
Two days before, after weeks of inaction, Mr. Abe blindsided parents by asking the nation’s schools to close for a month, sending many scrambling to find child care.
Japan has struggled to roll out widespread testing for the virus, which has been limited to 900 patients per day while neighboring countries test up to 10,000 daily. His former health minister said the outbreak had been “so disastrous” because Mr. Abe “has stayed too long in power.”
Markets: U.S. stocks plunged on Thursday, falling more than 3 percent for the fourth time in the past two weeks. The impact on airlines was “almost without precedent,” the president of the International Air Transport Association said.
Sick while rich: The wealthy are ditching first class for private planes and consulting with concierge doctors and other V.I.P. health care services.
Italy reported 41 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, a big jump in the toll there (now 148 over all).
At sea: The Grand Princess, a cruise ship with thousands of people on board, is being held off the coast of California, after officials learned that a patient who died from the coronavirus had previously traveled on the vessel. About 20 people had symptoms.
New York’s cluster doubled in a day: two new cases in New York City, eight more in the Westchester suburbs, one in Fort Lee, N.J. Some were found by tracing the contacts of one patient from New Rochelle, N.Y., but others had no known links to that case.
If you have 12 minutes, this is worth it
Helping a generation come out of the closet
Blued, one of the biggest gay dating apps in the world, has had to navigate China’s ever-shifting L.G.B.T.Q. rules, bringing together a minority community without activism.
It requires a delicate dance — learning to read unpredictable tides of control and relaxation, and shutting down posts that would irk Beijing.
Here’s what else is happening
Afghanistan: The International Criminal Court ruled on Thursday that its chief prosecutor could open an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan including any that may have been committed by Americans.
U.S. presidential race: Senator Elizabeth Warren, once a front-runner, dropped out of the running, leaving essentially two contenders for the Democratic nomination: former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.
Philippines: The country’s national police chief survived a helicopter crash that injured him, three generals and four other people on board.
Reasons to cheers? Drinking alcohol moderately is associated with lower levels of a protein that forms Alzheimer’s brain plaques, according to a new study.
Snapshot: Above, antennas in Australia that are part of the Deep Space Network. The system, which lets spacecraft communicate with Earth, will be taken offline for almost a year starting Monday for upgrades and repairs.
What we’re listening to: This Reply All episode about a man searching for a song that seemed to vanish from the world. “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you will not be able to get the song out of your head,” says Tim Herrera, our Smarter Living editor. “My jaw literally dropped at the climax, and I’m still giggling just thinking about it.”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: The Times has a marvelous mini-documentary on YouTube about the Bronx chef and restaurateur Millie Peartree, who makes just about the best mac and cheese in the city. And of course we have the recipe.
Smarter Living: If you are worried about the coronavirus while flying, here are steps you can take to disinfect your seat on the plane.
And now for the Back Story on …
The virus and society
Max Fisher, who writes our Interpreter newsletter, got sick with pneumonia in December — an illness that bears many similarities to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. In his latest column, he used the experience to reflect on how a wider outbreak could affect society.
“It was super unpleasant!” he said. “I was confined to my couch for weeks and, for some stretches, had trouble breathing. But I was basically fine.”
While he was ill, family and friends helped him with personal obligations, and Times colleagues did the same for his work. He was able to see doctors and get prescriptions. All told, he said, the net toll of his illness was negligible.
“But! That toll was negligible because I’m just one person,” he said. “Society was prepared to absorb the consequences of my illness.”
“If a big fraction of my neighborhood in West London had all fallen sick at once, it would’ve been a different story,” he added. His local health office might not have been able to see him as quickly. Friends and family could have other sick people to help, or could be sick themselves.
“The risk from the virus’s impact on you individually is probably low,” he concluded. But its impact on society — particularly on low-wage workers who can’t afford child care or time off — could be profound.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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