The roller-coaster ride of Boris Johnson
The British prime minister has seen a year of dizzying highs and lows: an election victory, a divorce, an engagement and a life-threatening illness — not to mention Brexit and the pandemic, which has killed more than 26,000 people in his country. Now Mr. Johnson is the proud father of a baby boy — his fifth, sixth or seventh child, depending on who’s counting.
But his government is facing hard questions about why Britain has failed to secure enough masks or gloves for doctors and nurses, seems likely to fall short of a promise to test 100,000 people a day by the end of this month, and has not offered a blueprint for lifting the lockdown imposed on March 23.
Deaths recalculated: The number of U.K. fatalities rose to 26,097, one of the highest totals in Europe, after the government included those who died in nursing homes or their own houses.
Pandemic shakes France’s faith in a cornerstone
Local governments in France are challenging the primacy of the centralized state, the foundation of French society, after it allowed supplies of virus-fighting masks and test kits to be depleted.
About a dozen complaints have been lodged by individuals and medical organizations with the French Court of Justice, and several officials have been accused of willfully failing to take appropriate measures to combat the virus, endangering people’s lives.
France has suffered 23,660 official deaths at last count, despite imposing one of the world’s strictest nationwide lockdowns, now in its seventh week.
Across the continent: As European companies cut back operations because of the pandemic, some seem to be targeting workers who are the easiest to fire or have the least bargaining power, despite strong unions and strict labor laws.
“The ones who were already weak, who already had worse working conditions, are now the ones that suffer,” said Mira Neumaier, head of the civil aviation team at the German service workers union Ver.di.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir, made by Gilead, had shown that treatment with it could modestly speed recovery in patients infected with the virus.
Though other scientists were more cautious, the Food and Drug Administration will probably at some point give emergency approval for remdesivir, a senior administration official told The Times. Another drug, hydrochloroquine, was granted such an approval, but results in patients have been disappointing.
Market bounce: The S&P 500 ended Wednesday with a 2.7 percent gain, despite data showing the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter of the year by 4.8 percent, the worst quarterly contraction since 2008. Financial markets across Asia rose on Thursday, carried by the optimism overnight on Wall Street. Follow our live briefing here.
If you have 10 minutes, this is worth it
Apps that track the virus, and maybe more
Smartphone apps can help to track the coronavirus, but they also provide an enticing cache of information for hackers or governments. Our technology writers looked at how China, Singapore, India, Norway and some American states took different approaches to designing and rolling out apps.
In Norway, pictured above, the app sends data from the phone’s GPS and Bluetooth to central servers that can be used by government health authorities. A new law says the information has to be deleted every 30 days.
Here’s what else is happening
Aerospace losses in Europe: The chief executive of Airbus called the pandemic “the gravest crisis” the industry has known as he reported the company had a net loss of 481 million euros (about $522 million) in the first quarter of 2020. Sixty of the company’s aircraft could not be delivered in that period.
… and in the U.S.: Airbus rival Boeing reported a net loss of $641 million in the quarter and said it would slash 16,000 jobs, about 10 percent of its staff. The company has said it does not expect air travel to recover to levels reached before the pandemic for three years.
Joe Biden: Frustration in the Democratic Party is mounting over the former vice president’s lack of response to a sexual assault allegation by a former aide. The Biden presidential campaign has said little publicly beyond noting that women deserve to be heard and insisting that the allegation is not true.
Global energy: An “unprecedented” fall in fossil fuel use, driven by the Covid-19 crisis, is likely to lead to a nearly 8 percent drop — the largest ever recorded — in emissions this year, the International Energy Agency said. But experts warned emissions could easily soar again when the pandemic subsides.
Academy Awards: Movies will be eligible for an Oscar at the 2021 ceremony even if they don’t appear in a theater because of the pandemic, the motion picture academy said. In a permanent change, it said all academy members — and not just a select committee — could vote in the international feature-film category.
Soccer disarray: League officials across Europe are warning about bankruptcies and financial carnage if TV contracts are unable to be fulfilled after France’s prime minister ended the French soccer season.
What we’re reading: This profile of Marie Kondo in Fast Company magazine. “There’s a lot more to her than just tidying up,” says Carole Landry, on the Briefings team.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Chicken stock is part of a productive kitchen’s ecosystem. Master this easy roast chicken, and you can be one of those cooks who always has stock on hand.
And now for the Back Story on …
Seeking real voices in China
Raymond Zhong, a Times technology reporter, is part of a group of American journalists who were recently expelled from China. Below is a condensed version of his Times Insider article on his two years of reporting in the country.
Getting access to regular people in China might be the part of foreign correspondents’ jobs there that the Chinese authorities find hardest to control, though they certainly try. With a dose of charm and persistence from a reporter, people do open up, despite the country’s rigid curbs on speech.
But even face to face with people in China, it could be tough to have real conversations. People ended interviews when they started to seem hazardous — too personal, too political. This is how the authoritarian system keeps a lid on criticism: It gives everyone reason to think that personal matters are political, that they can get in trouble just for talking about their own lives and opinions.
Often enough, though, I found people in China who were relieved that someone was finally listening: hog farmers pleading for aid from the local government after their herds were devastated by an incurable plague, truckers whose incomes had been gutted by new, Uber-like apps that brought Silicon Valley efficiency to their happily inefficient industry.
I’m leaving China more convinced than ever of how much ordinary people can teach us about a place — which might be one reason the government was so eager for us to leave.