The world is grappling with the unintended consequences of fighting the virus.
The coronavirus is wreaking havoc on people’s health in ways that at first glance would seem to have little connection to the virus’s devastating primary effects.
The United Nations is warning of new risks to children and a subsequent plague of mental illness. And national governments are noting the unintended consequences of lockdowns and other restrictions, including a rise in domestic violence. In Mexico, a decision to ban alcohol sales was followed by scores of deaths after people drank tainted homemade alcohol.
Millions of children are at risk of dying, the United Nations said on Wednesday, not of Covid-19, but of preventable causes. Unable to get care at hospitals that are straining to fight the virus, more than a million children aged 5 or younger will die every six months, UNICEF said in a report.
And the World Health Organization, the health body that has been working to coordinate global efforts to combat the disease, warned on Thursday of a looming mental illness crisis, the result of “the isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil,” brought on by the pandemic.
About 1.2 million children in more than 100 countries are at risk of dying from preventable causes every six months because health services are overstressed or curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF said this week.
The figure is in addition to the 2.5 million children age 5 or younger who already die every six months in 118 low- and middle-income countries.
Put another way, the roughly 13,800 young children who die every day will be joined by more than 6,000 others whose lives could have been saved.
UNICEF said the estimate was based on a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Under a worst-case scenario, the global number of children dying before their fifth birthdays could increase for the first time in decades,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said in a statement.
The spillover effects of Covid-19 have also heightened the threat to expectant mothers in these countries. UNICEF said an additional 56,700 maternal deaths could occur within six months, in addition to the 144,000 deaths that already take place in the same countries in that time period.
The 10 countries that could have the largest number of additional child deaths, according to the estimate, are Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania and Uganda.
Britain’s hospital radio stations are one of the lesser-known features of its health system. Yet there are more than 200 such stations — tiny operations, staffed by volunteers — according to the Hospital Broadcasting Association.
And some say they have found themselves more useful than ever during the pandemic, providing a human connection to patients who would otherwise be alone.
The stations exist mainly to play patient requests, which D.J.s collect by going around the wards, said David Hurford, the chairman of Radio B.G.M., a community broadcaster in Wales.
“It’s quite an old-fashioned concept, going in and speaking to people,” he said, “but you get such an instant response from patients who might not have seen a friendly face in days.”
When Britain went into lockdown in March, most hospitals barred visitors. Many D.J.s adapted by broadcasting from home or asking nurses to collect requests on their behalf, he said.
Steve Coulby, a D.J. for Nottingham Hospitals Radio, said that the experience had been challenging at times, and that there was no getting away from the fact that many people making the requests were dying.
“A few weeks ago, someone on the palliative care ward for Covid patients asked for Frank Sinatra, ‘My Way,’” he said. “If someone asks for that, you know exactly why they want it.”
“Well-equipped, air-conditioned workshop,” the for-sale notice reads. “Ready for immediate production upon takeover.”
The workshop’s owner, Zhou Wei, put up the notice last month, hoping that somebody — anybody — might help him get out of his garment business in southern China.
A few people have called. But their offers have been depressingly low.
“If the price is still so low after this week, I will have to sell to them regardless,” Mr. Zhou said.
China might be further along its coronavirus curve than the rest of the world, but its giant economy is still deep in the throes of pandemic-related disruption. Although factory owners and workers in most of China no longer face the restrictions that prevented them from going to work, in some industries the worldwide economic slump means that there are fewer jobs to get back to.
Mr. Zhou, who is in his early 30s, is from Hubei Province, the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak. He has spent years in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou producing women’s clothes.
He sells mostly within China, and February to April would normally be his busiest time of the year. But this year orders dried up almost completely after the virus began spreading rapidly in China in late January.
Soon, he couldn’t afford to keep paying his dozen or so workers, and he dismissed them last month. And so far, his landlord isn’t budging on the rent.
He considered selling his machines, but the amount of money he would get for them is also low, and he says the local government has not helped at all.
“No subsidies, nothing,” he said. “You can’t rely on the government.”
Now, Mr. Zhou is back with his family in his hometown, Pengchang, and contemplating his next moves. Back in Guangzhou, he said, he faced discrimination because he was from Hubei, where the outbreak began.
Pengchang, however, is an industrial cluster for nonwoven fabrics, which are often used in medical applications. For Mr. Zhou, one in particular looks promising: masks.
It’s been a call to arms, or rather a call to forks and knives.
Across Western Europe, farmers and growers organizations are urging people to eat more of their landmark products to reduce surpluses that have accumulated during the pandemic.
In France, there is a plea to eat more cheese. Belgium’s potato industry has urged people in the country to eat more fries. And Britons have been asked to organize “steak nights,” as cuts of meat usually served in restaurants have been left unsold.
People’s eating habits have changed during lockdowns, leaving a large surplus of some foods. In Belgium, hundreds of thousands of tons of potatoes have piled up in warehouses, with restaurants closed and festivals canceled.
In France, people have stockpiled dairy products like milk and butter, but have shunned smelly cheeses like Reblochon, Comté and Bleu, costing some producers up to 60 percent of their typical revenue. The main organization representing France’s milk sector has even devised a slogan to tackle the surplus: #Fromagissons, or “Let’s act for cheese.”
French wines and Belgian beers are also suffering, and people in both nations have been invited to buy beer coupons that they can use when bars reopen.
At least 70 people have died across Mexico since late April after drinking tainted alcohol, a rash of deaths that officials attribute to the imposition of dry laws meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Among the dead were at least 20 residents of a poor mountain town who had consumed a cheap popular moonshine.
As the coronavirus outbreak has worsened in Mexico, some local and state governments have banned the sale of alcohol to discourage people from gathering in groups or having parties.
The federal government has also declared breweries nonessential businesses, forcing them to shut down and leading to widespread beer shortages.
These restrictions, officials say, may have driven more people than usual to buy alcohol on the black market.
Mexico already had a robust illegal trade in alcoholic beverages that have been adulterated or produced under unregulated conditions, and in the past, Mexicans have been sickened and even killed by tainted alcohol.
But the surge of alcohol-related deaths in the past two weeks is unusually high.
The condition, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has been reported in about 100 children in New York State, including three who died, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this week. Cases have been reported in other states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and California, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they would soon issue an alert asking doctors to report cases of children with symptoms of the syndrome.
In the new study, published on Wednesday in the journal Lancet, doctors in Italy compared a series of 10 cases of the illness with cases of a similar rare condition in children called Kawasaki disease.
The authors found that over the five years before the coronavirus pandemic, 19 children with Kawasaki disease were treated at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, which has an advanced pediatric department, in the country’s Bergamo Province.
But this year, from February 18 to April 20 alone, the hospital — which is at the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak — treated 10 children with similar hyper-inflammatory symptoms.
That suggests a cluster driven by the coronavirus pandemic, the authors said, especially since overall hospital admissions during this time were much lower than usual.
A commercial extolling Chinese youth, showed online and on state-run television, has provoked a nationwide backlash, writes the New York Times columnist Li Yuan.
Many of the younger generation looked at the commercial’s images of affluent, happy young people and didn’t recognize themselves. Many think that China’s biggest boom years are over and that China’s older generation, having amassed all of the money and power, is trying to co-opt them with flattery.
The tears have flowed freely this month at a nursing home in Wassenaar, a coastal community in the Netherlands, and for a rare moment in the midst of a pandemic, they were tears of joy.
As the coronavirus continues to take a disastrous toll on nursing homes across the world, the residents of this home have had the rare opportunity to see their families in person, though still separated by a pane of glass, thanks to the ingenuity of staff.
After nursing homes across the country closed to visitors in March, Willem Holleman, the nursing home director came up with the idea of installing a cabin in the yard where residents and their family members can meet without the risk of infection. That, he said, “has made all the difference.”
The cabin is divided by a glass wall and has two entrances. On one side, an elderly nursing home resident walks in with the help of one of the staff. On the other side, a maximum of two family members can enter the cabin, after having disinfected their hands. An intercom makes it possible for the family to communicate clearly through the glass wall.
“The first visit in the cabin was very special,” Mr. Holleman said. “Two daughters came to see their mother for the first time after three weeks. All three of them sobbed.”
Over half of all coronavirus deaths in Europe have been in nursing home, data suggests, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the virus. There have been no coronavirus cases at the home, Mr. Holleman said, and residents there range in age from 75 to 101.
Mr. Holleman said he was amazed at how the idea took off, and spread throughout the Netherlands to other nursing homes. For now, the facility is allowing four half-hour visits per day. All the slots have been booked up through May.
“Of course we all prefer to hug each other, and walk outside while holding hands,” Mr. Holleman said. “This is second best.”
Reporting and research contributed by Elian Peltier, Alex Marshall, Russell Goldman, Rick Gladstone, Pam Belluck, Niraj Chokshi, Kirk Semple, Claire Moses and Wang Yiwei.