New cluster in China highlights the challenge of controlling infections as countries open up.
The health authorities in northeastern China have reported a new cluster of cases in a town near the Russian border, a flare-up that shows the continuing difficulties in stopping the coronavirus even for countries that have been largely successful in curbing infections.
China has begun to reopen after a widespread lockdown put in place to control the coronavirus, which first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year. But small outbreaks have persisted. Parts of northeastern China increased controls last month after a spate of new cases traced to people returning from Russia.
China reported 14 new cases in total on Saturday, including one in Wuhan, the first new case in the city since early April. It was the first double-digit increase in new cases since May 1, when 12 were recorded.
South Korea, which has also managed to all but halt its outbreak, has also ramped up controls after new cases were discovered. On Saturday, bars and nightclubs in Seoul were ordered closed after dozens of new infections were reported among people who visited nightspots and their close contacts. The country reported 34 new cases on Sunday.
The country had recently begun to implement a new phase of its coronavirus response, encouraging people to cautiously resume their daily lives while keeping guard against new cases.
Eight Sundays after going into lockdown, many German churches have reopened their doors to parishioners under strict social distancing guidelines, an important sign that life is gradually returning to normal for the country’s faithful.
In Berlin, 50 selected worshipers gathered for the first Sunday services in the capital’s main cathedral, which suspended them in mid-March when the country went into lockdown.
“We are happy to be able to celebrate church services together for the first time in many weeks, even if it is in a small circle,” said Thomas C. Müller, the cathedral’s preacher.
But this service was different.
Mr. Müller directed the attendees not to sing, to prevent infection. Parishioners were seated safe distances apart, in a church with many empty seats. For those who were not assigned a place in the Neo-Renaissance cathedral, which before the pandemic had seated as many as 1,390, Bible TV broadcast a live feed.
Located in the heart of Berlin, the cathedral first opened in 1750 and was rebuilt after being damaged in World War II by aerial bombardment. The cathedral hosted an ecumenical service on Friday to observe 75 years of the country’s liberation.
While nearly 47 million Germans are registered as Christian, less than 10 percent attend regular church services, a number that includes a disproportionate number of older residents, who are especially vulnerable to the ravages of the virus.
Physical religious services could not be forbidden outright even during the pandemic, the country’s constitutional court ruled in April, although strict distancing and hygiene rules had to be followed. But the court’s decision did not change reality on the ground. Churches, temples, mosques and synagogues remained closed for everything other than quiet and individual prayer.
During the lockdown, which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government significantly loosened last week, many of the faithful continued to celebrate Mass online. In some parts of the country, parishioners even flocked to drive-in movie theaters for church services. Last Sunday, Rhineland Palatinate state allowed its churches to hold services again, as long as all social distancing and hygiene rules were observed. Cologne Cathedral also held Sunday Mass last weekend for 122 prescreened worshipers wearing masks and sitting apart in pews.
There have been 169,218 registered cases of the coronavirus in Germany and 7,395 deaths. The Robert Koch Institute, the German equivalent of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates that 144,400 people have recovered.
On Saturday, the institute said the country’s R0, or “R-naught,” which represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case, had risen slightly, from .7 to 1.1. But the institute cautioned against reading too much into the number, which is highly variable, especially when the overall number of infections is low.
A few hundred protesters in Hong Kong chanted antigovernment slogans in at least three malls on Sunday afternoon, prompting riot police officers to fire pepper balls and cordon off sections of the mall as they stopped and searched people.
Hundreds of police officers stormed into the malls on Sunday, saying that they had received complaints of illicit public gatherings. Groups of more than eight people are banned, and the police say that protesters are violating social distancing regulations, even if they arrived individually or in groups of fewer than eight people.
“It is infuriating that ill-intentioned parties, using different excuses, are inciting others to wreak havoc, ruin the holiday mood and endanger public safety,” the police said in a statement on Saturday, referring to online calls for antigovernment singalongs on Sunday, Mother’s Day.
Later in the evening Roy Kwong, a pro-democracy lawmaker, was arrested as the police confronted demonstrators in the Mong Kok district.
Critics of the police force say that officers have been selectively detaining and fining antigovernment protesters over social distancing violations, while turning a blind eye to counterprotesters or revelers rubbing shoulders in nightlife districts after bars reopened on Friday.
The demonstrations, occurring simultaneously in multiple districts, came after a brawl broke out in Hong Kong’s legislature on Friday between opposing groups of lawmakers over the leadership of a core policy committee. The pro-democracy camp accused opponents of illegitimately seizing control of the committee, which for the past months has been led by Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker.
Chinese officials and pro-Beijing officials accused Mr. Kwok of filibustering and creating a backlog of new legislation, including one that would criminalize disrespect for China’s national anthem, and a pro-Beijing lawmaker took Mr. Kwok’s seat on Friday. The hours of chaos that resulted led to the hospitalization of two pro-democracy lawmakers who were dragged on the floor by pro-Beijing lawmakers.
A government spokesperson backed the pro-Beijing camp’s move, describing it in a statement Saturday night as a “successful handling.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain is expected to formally announce a shift in messaging to fight the pandemic, launch an alert system in England to track the coronavirus and lay out a road map for easing the lockdown in an address Sunday night.
Mr. Johnson unveiled a new slogan on Twitter on Sunday: “Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.” But the message drew criticism from opposition leaders and others who called it vague and said it could undermine the sacrifices made after seven weeks of living under lockdown.
Jonathan Ashworth, who speaks for the opposition on health policy, told the BBC that the government must clarify what the new slogan means. “When you’re dealing with a public health crisis of this nature you need absolute clarity from government about what the advice is,” he said on Sunday. He added, “The problem with the new message is that many people will be puzzled by it.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, said Scotland would stick with the original message to “stay home.” “The Sunday papers is the first I’ve seen of the PM’s new slogan,” she said on Twitter. “It is of course for him to decide what’s most appropriate for England, but given the critical point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage.”
Ian Blackford, the leader of Scottish National Party lawmakers in the British Parliament, said: “What kind of buffoon thinks of this kind of nonsense? It is an invisible threat. Staying alert is not the answer.”
The coronavirus alert system is expected to range from Level 1 (green) to Level 5 (red), similar to the one used to warn the public about the terrorism threat level, the BBC reported.
The government plan is also expected to include a 14-day quarantine on travelers flying into Britain. A spokesman for Airlines UK, the trade body for airlines registered in Britain like easyJet and Ryanair, confirmed by email on Sunday that the group had been told about the proposal, but said it was waiting for details.
Local news reports said travelers from the Channel Islands, Ireland and the Isle of Man would be exempt, as would truckers. But some said the proposal could have a disastrous effect on the travel industry. Karen Dee, the chief executive of Airport Operators Association, told Sky News on Saturday, “The government “should be under no illusion — that this will have a really dramatic impact on our sector.”
As Britain prepares to ease the lockdown, the government on Saturday announced an investment plan worth 2 billion pounds, or nearly $2.5 billion, to promote cycling and walking as ways to travel, amid concerns that residents would flood back onto public transport and prompt a spike in virus cases. As of Saturday, 31,587 people in Britain have died of the coronavirus, with a total of 211,364 confirmed cases.
Several cities in Afghanistan ended weeks of lockdown on Sunday even as the spread of the coronavirus intensified across the country, with officials saying that the dire economic reality had worsened to such a level that they could no longer keep shops closed and people at home.
The major cities of Mazar e Sharif and Kunduz in the north and Jalalabad and Mehtar Lam in the east were among those that officially ended the lockdown. Other cities such as the capital, Kabul, and Herat technically remained under lockdown, but the police appeared to be no longer enforcing it. Movement increased on the streets and in the markets of Kabul, while in Herat, near-normal activity returned to the roads.
The Afghan government has registered about 4,400 coronavirus cases nationwide, but officials say many more infections are likely because testing is limited. They point to the high percentage of positive cases among the tests conducted — some days, nearly half have turned up positive. On Sunday, 361 of the 995 samples tested in the previous 24 hours were positive, said Wahid Majrooh, the deputy health minister.
Some provincial officials have said that lifting the lockdown could be temporary, in order to breathe some life into local economies by allowing shopping before Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic festival celebrated at the end of Ramadan. In a sign of concern that the economic shock could bring widespread starvation, the government has begun distributing bread in several cities and plans to expand the effort to 28 urban centers.
“When I went to the city today, I saw all the shops were open — it was so crowded as if there is no coronavirus; it felt like people had been let out of cages,” said Dr. Shams Samadi, who works at a private clinic in Kunduz.
“There were no masks; people were shaking hands,” he said. “It pains me, because I know what the virus can do and how it spreads.”
Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.
With no money to pay for college in post-World War II Scotland, 16-year-old June Almeida took an entry-level job in the histology department of a Glasgow hospital, where she learned to examine tissue under a microscope for signs of disease. It was a fortuitous move, for her and for science.
In 1966, nearly two decades later, she used a powerful electron microscope to capture an image of a mysterious pathogen — the first coronavirus known to cause human disease.
Almeida had just been recruited to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where she received a virus known as B814 from British scientists who were studying the common cold. The scientists, led by David Tyrrell, knew there was something different about the virus. Though volunteers infected with B814 didn’t get the sore throats typical of most head colds, they experienced unusual feelings of malaise. And the virus was neutralized by fat solvents, which meant that unlike the average cold virus, B814 had a lipid coating.
Still, without an image of the virus, the scientists could learn only so much.
Hearing about Almeida’s expertise from a colleague, Mr. Tyrrell shipped specimens to her that had been infected with B814, as well as well-known flu and herpes viruses, which would serve as controls.
Though he had been told she was “seemingly extending the range of the electron microscope to new limits,” Mr. Tyrrell wasn’t optimistic. Almeida, however, was confident about her technique.
The results, Mr. Tyrrell later recounted, “exceeded all our hopes. She recognized all the known viruses, and her pictures revealed the structures beautifully. But, more important, she saw virus particles in the B814 specimens!”
The only remaining problem was figuring out what to call the new virus. Influenza-like sounded a bit feeble, Mr. Tyrrell wrote. The images of B814 revealed that the virus was surrounded by a kind of halo, like a solar corona. Thus, the coronavirus was born. Read the full obituary here.
In this Bangkok Dispatch, our reporter Hannah Beech chronicles her dog’s trip to a pet grooming salon, one type of business allowed to reopen in Thailand with social distancing guidelines.
When the coronavirus lockdown in Bangkok eased a bit after six weeks, the first appointment my family made was not for a medical checkup or a walk in a park.
Instead, we called the pet salon. Caper, our 9-month-old miniature schnauzer, was desperate for a trim.
Thailand remains under a state of emergency through at least the end of May, with almost no international flights in or out. But because of the country’s low confirmed caseload of virus infections — about 3,000 cases and 56 deaths, as of Saturday — certain businesses have been allowed to reopen under strict social distancing and hygiene limits. Yes, that’s right, pet salons are important enough an industry in Thailand to merit their own category, alongside parks and restaurants.
Bangkok is crazy for purebred dogs. All over town, you will see Labradors and Weimaraners, Pomeranians and pugs. There are too many Yorkshire terriers. Some wear nail polish, and many wear clothes.
A puppy hair cut might seem frivolous, but let me explain. It is the hot season in Thailand, when temperatures hover around 100 degrees. The schnauzer’s natural coat, thick and woolly, is more suited to the Black Forest of its native Germany than a tropical metropolis like Bangkok.
I tried trimming her, as my husband held her down, a project that went as well as you might expect when two journalists with zero expertise attempt animal topiary. (In my defense, I am left-handed and was using right-handed scissors.)
When Caper and my husband arrived at the Tender Loving Care Pet Wellness Center, there was a cancan line of chow chows awaiting their treatments. A bulldog idled, too.
An employee was hosing off the driveway. My husband had his temperature taken and filled in a health form. Caper, after six weeks spent with only my family, was overwhelmed by the bustle and promptly urinated on the floor. Read the rest of Hannah Beech’s dispatch here.
In the latest sign of worry that the coronavirus could be spreading through the senior ranks of the Trump administration, three top public health officials have begun partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive.
Representatives for Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, confirmed the precautions on Saturday.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed a CNN report that he had begun a “modified quarantine” after what he called a “low risk” contact.
The actions came as Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago and its closest suburbs, added more cases of the virus than any other county in the United States on some recent days. On Friday, Cook County added more new cases than the five boroughs of New York City combined.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Saturday that three young children had died of a mysterious, toxic-shock-like inflammation syndrome with links to the virus. Mr. Cuomo has asked parents to be vigilant in looking for symptoms such as prolonged fever, severe abdominal pain, change in skin color, racing heart and chest pain.
In a development that promised to expand the nation’s testing capacity, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first antigen test that can rapidly detect whether a person has been infected. Unlike commonly available coronavirus tests that use polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., antigen diagnostics work by quickly detecting fragments of the virus in a sample. The tests can provide results “in minutes,” the F.D.A. said, adding that it expected to grant emergency clearance for more antigen tests in the near future.
The widely watched return to professional soccer after Germany went into lockdown has hit a hurdle before it has even started, after two players from the club Dynamo Dresden tested positive for the virus, forcing its entire roster into quarantine for 14 days.
Sports leagues around the world are closely watching the return of German soccer as they try to forge their own plans to restart games. More than the integrity of a completed season is at stake. Officials have painted a grim financial picture for the sport, warning that if the season does not restart soon, as many as one-third of the teams in the top two divisions are at risk of insolvency, estimating losses of around 750 million euros, or more than $800 million.
The setback in Germany came as La Liga in Spain said on Sunday that five players in the top two divisions had tested positive for the coronavirus after a wave of tests that are a prerequisite for a return to training. The players, who were not identified, have been isolated and will not be allowed to return to practice until they test negative two times in a row, according to the league’s protocol. The league requires government approval before games are allowed to resume.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany cleared the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga 2 to resume operations after the league created a 51-page safety protocol to resume play. The games, like much of the rest of the world, were stopped in March in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Dynamo said it would not be able to participate in the first two rounds of scheduled matches, including the team’s first game on May 15 against Hannover 96. “The fact is that we can neither train nor participate in the game in the next 14 days,” said Dynamo’s sports director, Ralf Minge.
When the games resume, they are likely to be nearly unrecognizable: Players will be quarantined in a hotel and tested frequently, and the matches will take place in empty stadiums — “ghost games,” as they are called in German.
The players from home teams will drive themselves to the stadiums in their own cars, and representatives from visiting teams will be split into small groups to travel in designated vehicles that will be disinfected after each use. Players will dress in several different locker rooms, shower separately, and will be kept apart from substitutes.
That was why it let go almost half of its 1,274 workers in late March, the factory’s managing director said in response to protesters who arrived at the factory’s doors to denounce the dismissals.
Three fired sewing operators, however, said the factory was taking an opportunity to punish workers engaged in union activity. In an interview, the operators — Maung Moe, Ye Yint and Ohnmar Myint — said that of the 571 who had been dismissed, 520 had belonged to the factory’s union, one of 20 that make up the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar. About 700 workers who did not belong to the union kept their jobs, they said.
Myan Mode’s South Korea-based owner did not respond to requests for comment, and did not provide details about the firings.
Mr. Moe, 27, was the factory union’s president and had organized several strikes. Mr. Yint, 30, was the union’s secretary, while Ms. Myint, 34, had been a union member since its founding in June 2018.
“The bosses used Covid as an opportunity to get rid of us because they hated our union,” Mr. Moe said. He said he and other union members had been in discussions with the factory managers before the firings, demanding personal protective equipment and that workers be farther apart on the factory floor. “They thought we caused them constant headaches by fighting for our rights and those of our fellow workers.”
Union-busting — practices undertaken to prevent or disrupt the formation of trade unions or attempts to expand membership — has been a serious problem across the fashion supply chain for decades. And with the global spread of Covid-19 placing fresh pressures on the industry, it is a particular issue in South Asia, where about 40 million garment workers have long grappled with poor working conditions and wages.
Hong Kong’s live music scene was all but silenced by the coronavirus. Some infections were linked to what the government called a “bar and band” cluster in nightclubs. Music venues, including bars, were ordered shut as part of a broad package of restrictions. On Friday, bars were allowed to reopen, but they still aren’t allowed to host live music.
That has meant unemployment for the singers, guitarists, pianists, drummers and bassists who power the live music scene — many of whom come from the Philippines.
One musician, Charles Tidal, said he typically sent about $1,300 back to the Philippines each month to support his five children. His gigs dried up in February, and a new part-time job as a clerk isn’t making up the difference.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I owe money to lots of people right now to survive and feed my kids.”
Musicians from the Philippines have been performing across Asia for decades, known for playing covers of Western pop songs. Filipino cover bands in Hong Kong have wide repertoires, spanning rock, reggae, R&B and much else. A case in point is Icebox, the main house band at Amazonia in the Wan Chai district, which covers everything from Frank Sinatra to Iron Maiden.
“Everything’s there, and it’s cool,” said its frontman, Spike Cazcarro, 52, explaining how the band got its name.
Reporting was contributed by Mihir Zaveri, Karen Zraick, Ezra Cheung, Mujib Mashal, Najim Rahim, Fatima Faizi, Tiffany May, Iliana Magra, Hannah Beech, Melissa Eddy, Christopher F. Schuetze, Tariq Panja, Austin Ramzy, Michael Levenson, Michael Crowley, Vivian Wang, Edward Wong, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Denise Gellene, Mitch Smith, Andrew Jacobs, Edgar Sandoval, Elisabetta Povoledo, Mike Ives, Elizabeth Paton and Nick Cumming-Bruce.