Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times

Some countries take tiptoe steps in easing restrictions.

At least 12 countries began easing restrictions on public life on Monday, as the world tries to figure out how to placate restless populations tired of being inside and reboot stalled economies without creating opportunities for the coronavirus to spread.

The measures, which included reopening schools and allowing airports to begin domestic service, offer a preview of how areas that have managed to blunt the toll of the coronavirus might work toward resuming pre-pandemic life. They also serve as test cases for whether the countries can maintain positive momentum through the reopenings, or whether a desire for normalcy could put more people at risk.

Most of the countries easing their restrictions are in Europe — including Italy, one of the places where the virus hit earliest and hardest, leaving more than 28,000 dead as of Monday. The country plans to reopen some airports to passengers.

In Germany, where widespread testing has helped keep the pandemic under control, children will return to schools. Neighboring Austria also plans to restart its school system.

In Lebanon, bars and restaurants will reopen, while Poland plans to allow patrons to return to hotels, museums and shops.

India allowed businesses, local transportation and activities like weddings to resume in areas with few or no known infections. Wedding ceremonies with fewer than 50 guests will be permitted, and self-employed workers like maids and plumbers can return to work.

Japan is set to announce an extension of its state of emergency through the end of this month while allowing public facilities like museums and libraries to reopen if they maintain social distancing controls.

China and South Korea, both of which appear to have emerged from brutal early encounters with the virus, have begun limited reopenings. Restaurants and art galleries are returning to a semblance of normal operation, although the introduction of hand sanitizer and other preventive measures remains a constant reminder of how Covid-19 has changed much of the world.

Other countries planning to lift some restrictions beginning on Monday include Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Hungary, Monaco, Nigeria, Poland and Portugal.

As Italy began its gradual reopening on Monday after the longest lockdown in Europe, success seemed to depend upon how relative the meaning of the word “relative” is.

In preparing for the easing of the restrictions last month, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, not known for plain speaking, said that Italians could visit their congiunti, a word that could be translated as relatives, but is also broader. In an attempted clarification, things got muddier when he said it meant a person of “stable affection.”

A national semantics debate ensued and this weekend, hours before the lockdown lifted, the government tried to settle the issue.

Just friends just didn’t cut it.

Spouses, partners in civil unions and people who had moved in together — but found themselves separated by the lockdown — could see one another again. But so could people with a “stable affectionate connection.” Also, Italian privacy laws mean that the police cannot force anyone to reveal the identity of the object, or destination, of their affection.

Even despite the confusion, many Italians expect things to be very different in the country starting today.

Donatella Mugnano, a 45-year-old lawyer, sat in a small piazza next to Rome’s Coliseum on Saturday watching her daughter play with friends. She said she felt “serene” to do so, because she knew the other family well and trusted that they had followed the restrictions.

“People can’t wait to get out,” she said, adding that already over the weekend “there are a lot more people out on the street.” She said that at the beginning of the lockdown, people looked at one another as if everyone on the street were “an enemy.”

But she also worried that Italians would take advantage of the liberty allotted them and act in a way that set off another lockdown.

“There is this tendency to question every rule, to say that it is explained badly and so there is no need to follow it. The feeling,” she said was, “It’s over, enough.”

President Trump said on Sunday night that the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States might reach as high as 100,000 — far higher than he forecast just weeks ago — even as he pressed states to begin reopening shuttered businesses.

Mr. Trump, who last month said that 60,000 lives could be lost in the country, acknowledged that the virus has proved more devastating than he had expected. He nonetheless said he believed that parks and beaches should begin reopening and that schools should resume classes in person by the fall.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” he said in a virtual town hall meeting on Fox News. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.”

During the two-hour broadcast, he acknowledged that he had been warned about the coronavirus in his regular intelligence briefing on Jan. 23, but said that the information had been characterized as if “it was not a big deal.”

“On Jan. 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation, and it was only on Jan. 23.”

His comments come as warmer weather and fatigue over weeks of confinement lured millions of Americans outside this weekend, adding to pressure on city and state officials to enforce, or loosen, restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters pressing for the loosening of restrictions gathered in the capitals of Kentucky; Florida, where the governor has announced a relaxing of restrictions; Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown has extended a state of emergency through July 6; and Michigan, where protesters pressed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reopen the state completely.

The website made its debut last week after Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Los Angeles would become the first major U.S. city to offer all residents tests for the coronavirus, which health officials said on Sunday had caused 1,229 deaths in Los Angeles County.

Throngs of Palestinian laborers traveled to their workplaces in Israel on Sunday even though Palestinian officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about them contracting the coronavirus there and carrying it back to the West Bank.

Ibrahim Milhim, a government spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said that thousands of workers crossed into Israel on Sunday and that thousands more would do so later in the week.

Last week, an Israeli Defense Ministry body charged with liaising with the P.A. said Palestinians with permits to work in construction, agriculture and other sectors in Israel would be allowed to cross into the country. It also said their employers would be asked to provide them with accommodations until Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the conclusion of Ramadan in about three weeks.

Rami Mehdawi, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Labor Ministry, said Palestinian officials remained concerned that infected workers could return to their homes and spread the virus, but he said the Palestinian authorities had worked with their Israeli counterparts to prevent such a scenario. Israel and the P.A. would closely coordinate the workers’ return to the West Bank, he said.

After Palestinian laborers were last permitted to travel to their jobs in Israel in late March, Palestinian officials accused Israeli authorities of abandoning some of them at checkpoints and allowing others to cross back to the West Bank through areas they don’t control.

The P.A. has said that more than 70 percent of the 336 known cases of the virus in the West Bank are linked to Palestinians employed in Israel.

Separately, for the first time since mid-March, schools opened for some grades in Israel on Sunday, but local authorities in several cities, including Tel Aviv, kept them closed, citing concerns about safety and preparedness.

Up and down Britain, local newspapers are struggling. Hundreds of journalists have been put on leave. More than 50 small and regional publications have temporarily suspended producing their print or online products. For those still printing, some communities are depending on volunteers to deliver newspapers.

For many, cash has all but stopped coming in. With most retailers shuttered, advertising revenues have dwindled to near zero for many publications, leaving the print copies a skeleton of what they used to be.

And in Britain, where home delivery subscriptions are less common than in the United States, newspapers rely more heavily on street sales — and many newsstands and other stores are closed. Hardly anyone is commuting to work, so there’s no need to grab a paper on the way.

There is no doubt that readers are hungry for local news during the pandemic — traffic to the newspapers’ websites is higher than normal — but relatively few have paywalls to collect digital subscriptions.

The crisis has accelerated trends — the gradual loss of advertising and the migration of readers online — that have challenged the industry for decades. But now they are hitting Britain’s small and regional papers especially hard, some experts said.

The economic calamity facing publishers has not gone unnoticed by the government.

On Thursday, the government announced it would scrap a tax on e-books and e-newspapers in an effort to help both publishers and readers. And it recently announced a three-month advertising campaign to support the National Health Service that will inject up to 35 million pounds (more than $43 million) into publishers across the country.

But the government’s ad money is failing to reach many small, independent, hyperlocal news organizations, many of them online.

While experts and publishers say the advertising campaign is a welcome influx of revenue, few expect it to save the industry.

In Beirut, it is both a cliché and a point of pride to say that the Lebanese partied straight through a civil war from 1975 to 1990, Times correspondent Vivian Yee writes. She shared some observations from the Lebanese capital.

The barhopping neighborhood of Mar Mikhaël in Beirut used to vibrate with the clip-clop of high heels and the car-stereo beat of Western and Arabic music almost every night.

But the bars and nightclubs have been shut down since early March; many had closed before that as the city was engulfed in an epochal economic crisis. The coronavirus could only conquer what remained, putting thousands more out of work.

Nightclub appearances by D.J.s who had flown in from Europe, hyped for weeks on social media and street posters, were abruptly canceled. Soon it was just restaurants and cafes, and then not even those.

Though Lebanon appears to have dodged a mass outbreak, allowing the government to announce a staggered reopening for businesses in the coming weeks, not all will come back. Now that the Lebanese pound buys less than half what it used to, imports and drinks alike cost more.

The government has proposed allowing clubs to reopen in early June, but Joe Mourani, the owner of Ballroom Blitz, a popular alternative electronic-music nightclub, doubts he will do so.

“Clubbing, it’s really all about proximity,” Mr. Mourani said. “It’s the opposite of social distancing.”

A local D.J., Priscilla Bakalian had a different view. She believes clubbers will return, if in smaller numbers.

“People are dying to go party,” she said. “It’s in our DNA.”

From the early days of the Trump administration, Stephen Miller, the president’s chief adviser on immigration, has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders.

The federal law on public health that Mr. Miller has long wanted to use grants power to the surgeon general and president to block people from entering the United States when it is necessary to avert a “serious danger” posed by the presence of a communicable disease in foreign countries.

Mr. Miller pushed for invoking the president’s broad public health powers in 2019, when an outbreak of mumps spread through immigration detention facilities in six states. He tried again that year when Border Patrol stations were hit with the flu.

When vast caravans of migrants surged toward the border in 2018, Mr. Miller looked for evidence that they carried illnesses. He asked for updates on American communities that received migrants to see if new disease was spreading there.

In 2018, dozens of migrants became seriously ill in federal custody, and two under the age of 10 died within three weeks of each other. While many viewed the incidents as resulting from negligence on the part of the border authorities, Mr. Miller instead argued that they supported his argument that President Trump should use his public health powers to justify sealing the borders.

On some occasions, Mr. Miller and the president, who also embraced these ideas, were talked down by cabinet secretaries and lawyers who argued that the public health situation at the time did not provide sufficient legal basis for such a proclamation.

That changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.

Within days of the confirmation of the first case in the United States, the White House shut American land borders to nonessential travel, closing the door to almost all migrants, including children and teenagers who arrived at the border with no parent or other adult guardian.

Reporting was contributed by Ben Dooley, John Branch, Adam Rasgon, Peter Baker, Neil Vigdor, Michael Levenson, Claire Moses, Caitlin Dickerson and Michael D. Shear.




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