Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

As coronavirus cases dwindle in China, after its sprawling effort to get a seemingly unstoppable outbreak under control, the country is turning its attention to others around the world — giving Beijing a chance to reposition itself as the global leader in a time of crisis.

From Japan to Iraq, Spain to Peru, it has sent medical assistance and donated money. Leaders like Serbia’s president are looking to China, and sometimes not their own neighbors, for guidance and help.

It’s a remarkable turn for a country that just weeks ago was accepting donations of masks and supplies, and is still facing online criticism for its initial response. But now, China has stepped into a role once dominated by the U.S., showcasing its model after failures in European and American responses.

“China is now trying to repair its severely damaged international image due to its mishandling of the outbreak in Wuhan in early January,” a government professor in California said.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the outbreak.

In other developments:

  • President Trump announced that the border between Canada and the U.S., the world’s longest, was closing to all but essential traffic, and that hospital ships would head to New York and the West Coast.

  • Doctors in Britain fear hospitals are ill-equipped to cope with an imminent surge in coronavirus cases. The limited supply of ventilators (a problem the U.S. faces as well) puts doctors in the position of deciding which patients to treat and which ones to let die.

  • Belgium began a lockdown at noon Wednesday, and a 30-day European Union ban on all nonessential travel to its territory went into effect, causing chaos.

  • The U.S. commander in Afghanistan is stopping most U.S. and allied troops from entering and leaving the country for the next month to protect them from the coronavirus, which has spread there in recent days.

  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is invoking the coronavirus crisis to shut down courts and to order the government to monitor cellphones, leading some to question whether he’s endangering the country’s democracy.

Markets: Global markets fell sharply on Wednesday, and U.S. stocks plunged so much that they set off an automatic halt in trading — the fourth in two weeks. Here’s the latest.

What to know: If you’re quarantined, here are some ways to help your furry, four-legged roommates.

Also, The Times is providing free access to much of our coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

Beijing defended its decision this week to expel journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal as part of an effort to fight a U.S. campaign to impose foreign values on China.

Around a dozen reporters will be required to leave China — a move Beijing said was tit-for-tat after the U.S. forced out about 60 Chinese reporters this month.

“The United States cannot proceed from ideological prejudice, use its own standards and likes and dislikes to judge the media of other countries, let alone suppress the Chinese media unreasonably,” said Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

“If the United States insists on taking its own course, compounding mistakes, China will be forced to take further countermeasures,” Mr. Geng said.

Analysis: The expulsion order “represented the Chinese Communist Party’s harshest attack on the foreign media in the modern era,” writes our New New World columnist Li Yuan. It also signals that Beijing feels it no longer needs foreign media organizations to reach the world.

Manuel Liñán’s show “Viva!” represents something new to mainstream flamenco audiences: a frank and joyful expression of gay identity. This flamenco, originating from the centuries-old music and dance that developed out of the collision of cultures in southern Spain, is performed entirely in drag.

As he put it, “my dancers and I are dancing ourselves.”

U.S. presidential race: Former Vice President Joe Biden swept Arizona, Florida and Illinois in this week’s primaries, leaving Senator Bernie Sanders with no realistic path to a comeback.

Snapshot: Above, a 25,000-year-old, 40-foot-wide circle of woolly mammoth bones, on the steppes of what is now Russia. The purpose of the structure remains a mystery to archaeologists, who reported on the 2014 discovery this week.

What we’re looking at: This Twitter feed from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which follows the adventures of Edward and Annie, a bonded pair of rockhopper penguins who were allowed to explore the empty aquarium. “The pitter-patter of their feet wandering around the exhibits is just the break from the news I needed,” says Remy Tumin, on the Briefings team. (Other zoos are also reaching out on social media.)

Watch: Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington face off in the new Hulu drama “Little Fires Everywhere,” based on Celeste Ng’s best-selling 2017 novel. Read our review.

Read: In “Sick Souls, Healthy Minds,” the writer John Kaag copes with a turbulent period in his personal life by reading William James, a 19th-century philosopher and psychologist who suffered from anxiety and depression.

Smarter Living: Can I go to the supermarket? (Yes.) Can I eat out at a restaurant? (Please don’t.) Can my friends and family come to visit me? (Maybe.) We answered your questions about social distancing.

Melina talked to Thomas Fuller, a Times correspondent who has been covering the coronavirus outbreak in the Bay Area, and who previously covered epidemics in South Asia, where he was based for 16 years.

Why is the Bay Area the first place in the U.S. with such tight restrictions on movement?

Well, the Bay Area chose the Bay Area. The health officers here got together, because they saw the cases accelerating. I think there was a real fear that if they didn’t do this now, they would miss any opportunity to mitigate the severity of the outbreak.

What exactly does “shelter in place” mean?

It’s a lot more sweeping than the California restrictions before, which were guidelines by the governor allowing schools to be open, to be decided at a local level. They had closed bars, nightclubs and wineries, but not restaurants. And they didn’t close businesses or offices.

This restriction means: Everyone stay home, unless you’re doing something essential.

You used to be based in Southeast Asia. How does this compare with controls there?

The U.S. is a very individualistic society, built on the idea of these individual rights. So, this is a big test not only for the San Francisco Bay Area, but for America — the question being: Will people in America sacrifice their own individual liberty for the greater good of the community?

Asian societies are more based on the community, the group, the collective. Which is why these kinds of measures are more accepted there.

There is a growing sense that these restrictions are necessary, but also a sense of unease about what they mean for our lives. Aside from being unable to pay bills, what are people most immediately afraid of?

People are afraid of isolation. That’s another difference between Asia and the U.S. — many people in the U.S. live alone, you leave the nest when you’re 18 years old. Whereas in Asia you’re more likely to be in a multigenerational household. And despite the presence of the virus here, most people do not yet have a friend or relative infected, so they might not feel the immediacy.

I think the reaction has been slower here because we’re not used to it.

How is California taking care of its homeless populations?

The homeless have a horrible double vulnerability. There’s a study out of Washington State that found that 30 percent of homeless people have lung disease before any discussion of coronavirus, so they’re very vulnerable. Second, we’ve reported that at some shelters on the West Coast, beds are less than two feet apart. Experts have recommended being six feet away from people.

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

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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