Coronavirus, Russia, Dominic Cummings: Your Tuesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering an unkept promise to Russian medical workers, the furor over a top aide to Britain’s leader and a feared deluge of litigation in Spain.

In an unusual news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s closest aide, Dominic Cummings, sought the public’s sympathy but did not apologize for breaking Britain’s lockdown rules by driving hundreds of miles outside London with his son and ailing wife in March.

Mr. Cummings defended his actions as “reasonable under the circumstances,” saying he went to his parents’ home in Durham to ensure his son would receive care should he and his wife both fall ill.

The scandal has consumed the British news media for days, and most prime ministers might have cut Mr. Cummings loose by now. But Mr. Johnson is still supporting him, illustrating what analysts see as his deep reliance on the mercurial adviser.

Mr. Johnson announced on Monday the relaxing of more restrictions, with outdoor markets and car dealerships to reopen on June 1, and department stores and small shops on June 15.

President Vladimir Putin’s promise of cash bonuses for the doctors and nurses leading Russia’s battle with the coronavirus has turned into a bureaucratic mess, with some health workers getting visits from the police instead of money.

The promise of up to $1,100 a month for each doctor was meant to showcase Mr. Putin’s proudest achievement, the revitalization of the Russian state after the chaos of the 1990s.

But fewer than half of medical workers nationwide have gotten the money, Mr. Putin recently said, accusing officials in 29 regions of ignoring his order. And some medical workers who went public about it were questioned by the authorities.

Quotable: “The diagnosis is obvious,” Dmitri Drize, a Moscow-based human rights lawyer, said. “Officials have forgotten how to make decisions on their own. And this disease is worse than the coronavirus.”

Background: Russia has over 350,000 cases, more than any other country except the United States and Brazil. Mr. Putin’s approval rating has taken a beating over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

But as restrictions ease, other problems await. Spain is known for its litigiousness, and lawyers and judges are bracing for an onslaught of new court cases stemming from the virus, expected to overwhelm a judicial system that was already bogged down.

Details: One judge expects as many as 150,000 people to file for bankruptcy, compared with a few thousand last year. And some Spaniards who lost loved ones to the virus have filed a lawsuit accusing the government of negligent homicide.

As Australia’s infection rates decline, a milestone came on Monday, as children went back to school in parts of the country. Damien Cave, our Sydney bureau chief, wrote about the joy of packing his kids’ lunches again after seven weeks.

“What have we learned? Honestly, less about school than ourselves,” he wrote. “Our children said they were surprised to discover how hard their parents worked. I come away with a deeper understanding of my children as students.”

U.S. presidential race: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, made his first public appearance since mid-March on Monday, in a mask. President Trump went mask-less at Memorial Day events.

New Zealand quake: A magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck Monday while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was giving a live television interview, but it did not cause major damage — nor did it disrupt Ms. Ardern’s calm demeanor.

In Memoriam: Marcus Ospel, who turned the Swiss bank UBS into a global banking power that nearly toppled during the 2008 financial crisis, died at 70 in Switzerland.

Snapshot: How will we remember the pandemic? Museums are already searching for artifacts to capture how Americans navigated life amid the coronavirus. Above, a photo by Russ Rowland submitted to the Museum of the City of New York.

What we’re looking at: The poppy field cams on the California Department of Parks and Recreation website and virtual tours of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden — for when you “long for the outside world,” says Jenna Wortham, a Times Magazine staff writer.

Watch: The Cannes Film Festival was canceled this year because of the pandemic, but our critics have singled out highlights from its past (and a few less-than-stellar prizewinners).

Do: Travel-themed board games are about more than winning. Here’s a list of all sorts of travel games inspired by landmarks, train rides and hotels.

There are many more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home in our At Home section.

The U.S. government’s annual Atlantic hurricane forecast came out on Thursday, and it’s worrisome. A typical hurricane season has 12 named storms. This year’s season — which could start any day now — is likely to have between 13 and 19, according to the forecast.

Christopher Flavelle, a Times reporter who covers the climate, recently called Samantha Montano, a professor of emergency management at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and asked her what was making local officials nervous as hurricane season approached. Her answer: a shortage of volunteers, caused by the coronavirus.

The U.S. disaster response system relies heavily on volunteers, most of whom are older people at higher risk from the virus. Many of them won’t be able to fly to disaster zones.

“Volunteers do everything,” Dr. Montano said — handing out donations, moving debris off the roads, repairing houses, helping survivors navigate state and federal aid programs. “Every single task we do in emergency management involves volunteers,” she said.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Isabella

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the story of the biggest earthquake ever recorded in North America.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: The “m” of E = mc2 (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Times journalists and guests will discuss 100 years of change since women in the U.S. achieved a landmark victory: the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave them the right to vote. You can R.S.V.P. for the event held Tuesday at 4 p.m. E.T. (9 p.m. Tuesday in London).

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