W.H.O. declares a pandemic
The World Health Organization declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a pandemic, citing the need for global cooperation and calling attention to “the alarming levels of inaction” by some world leaders.
In Europe, Britain moved to give billions toward virus relief efforts without taking any radical measures to reduce crowds, while Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that ultimately two-thirds of Germans could become infected. Merkel’s stark prediction was a stark contrast to the reactions from other political leaders like President Trump, who has mostly played down the threat.
Though the W.H.O. has hailed draconian measures taken by China, which seem to have led to a dramatic reduction in new cases at the center of the outbreak, it is unclear what will happen when those controls are lifted. And in Italy, perhaps the West’s best case study in those methods, it is far too early to tell what is working. (Some Italians would rather take their chances.)
Around the world:
India banned most foreign travelers until April 15, and Guatemala banned Europeans from entering the country.
Italy’s confirmed cases reached 12,462, an increase of 2,076 since Tuesday. France and Spain each have well over 1,000 confirmed cases, and Belgium and Ireland reported their first deaths.
At least 1,032 people in the United States have tested positive for the virus, and at least 31 have died. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington banned gatherings of 250 or more people in the Seattle area.
Britain’s health minister confirmed she tested positive, two days after she attended a reception at the official residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Markets: Despite Britain’s relief efforts, European indexes fell; so did shares in Asia and on Wall Street. As for the bigger picture, should the U.S. be talking about government bailouts? Our DealBook writer, Andrew Ross Sorkin, argues that it’s smart to get ahead of the curve.
Inside Greece’s ‘black site’ for migrants
The Greek government is using a secret extrajudicial center to detain migrants before sending them to Turkey without due process.
In interviews with Times reporters, several migrants said they had been captured, beaten and kicked out of the country without the opportunity to claim asylum or speak to a lawyer. Experts say that hard-line approach violates international law.
Turkish officials also said at least three migrants trying to enter Greece were shot and killed in the past two weeks.
Context: There are already tens of thousands of impoverished migrants living in Greece. If more enter, the government fears being responsible for them for years, further roiling the country’s social tensions and straining its battered economy.
Behind the Russia-Saudi breakup
Russia and Saudi Arabia had a marriage of convenience built on high oil prices, but it’s all over now.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia had previously joined forces to extend their geopolitical influence. Just six months ago, the Saudi energy minister said the union was “until death do us part.”
Behind the scenes of the breakup — which led to a steep drop in global oil prices this week — was a clear victory for Igor Sechin, a close ally of Mr. Putin’s and the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft. It was also a coup for nationalist-minded Russian economists intent on punishing the United States and its shale oil producers, no matter the cost to Russia.
Who wins? With hundreds of billions of dollars salted away in rainy-day funds, Russia is well positioned to withstand falling oil prices. But the Kremlin has nonetheless been rattled by how quickly and aggressively Saudi Arabia has responded.
If you have 8 minutes, this is worth it
‘I think people do not want to see or know’
Seventy-five years ago, the American firebombing of Tokyo killed as many as 100,000 people — more than some estimates of the number killed the day of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. Yet it has largely been forgotten.
Katsumoto Saotome, above, who barely survived, has spent much of his life fighting to preserve this history. “I have nothing to describe the memory of that night,” he said. “It is difficult to talk about it, even now.”
Here’s what else is happening
U.S. presidential race: Former Vice President Joe Biden became the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination on Tuesday after beating Senator Bernie Sanders in primaries in four states, including Michigan. Both candidates canceled primary-night events over coronavirus fears.
Pakistan: The Air Force is investigating the death of a Pakistani pilot after his F-16 fighter jet crashed in Islamabad on Wednesday during training for a military parade, officials said.
Harvey Weinstein: The disgraced former producer was sentenced to 23 years in prison after his conviction on felony sex crimes, a major milestone in the #MeToo movement.
Snapshot: Above, a skull suspended in amber — from the smallest dinosaur ever discovered. Not even the size of a finger tip, the 99-million-year-old fossil was found in a Myanmar mine and raises questions about how birds evolved.
What we’re reading: This How I Get It Done column from “The Cut.” “Our colleague Parul Sehgal haunts me since she apparently can read a book in one sitting?” writes Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a writer for The Times Magazine.
Now, a break from the news
Smarter Living: Want to get on top of your to-do list? Try our seven-day productivity challenge.
And now for the Back Story on …
Flattening the Curve
An infographic showing two possible outcomes for the coronavirus pandemic — one dire, one less so — has quickly become a defining image of the crisis.
“This graph is changing minds, and by changing minds, it is saving lives,” tweeted Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington.
The first version of the graph was created at the end of February by the visual-data journalist Rosamund Pearce of The Economist, drawing from a C.D.C. paper titled “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza.”
It shows two curves for the epidemic over time: A steep peak, if no protective measures are taken, and a flatter slope if people wash their hands, limit travel and practice “social distancing” techniques.
A few days after seeing the Economist infographic, Dr. Harris added a crucial component: a dotted line indicating the capacity of the health care system to care for people with the virus. He posted it on Twitter and LinkedIn, where it quickly took off.
“Now I know what going viral means,” Dr. Harris told our colleague Siobhan Roberts.
Flattening the curve with mitigation “reduces the number of cases that are active at any given time, which in turn gives doctors, hospitals, police, schools and vaccine manufacturers time to prepare and respond, without becoming overwhelmed,” he said.
Dr. Harris added: “Some commentators have argued for getting the outbreak over with quickly. That is a recipe for panic, unnecessary suffering and death. Slowing and spreading out the tidal wave of cases will save lives. Flattening the curve keeps society going.”
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Adam Pasick, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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