A cautious start to travel as countries, and businesses, navigate reopening.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the tourism industry, as countries sealed their borders, flights ground to a halt and billions of people sheltered at home.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of Germany said that together with Austria, France and Switzerland, his country would begin easing border restrictions beginning Saturday, with the aim of lifting them entirely by June 15.
And the European Commission on Wednesday recommended the reopening of borders closed in the pandemic — cross-border vacation travel had been expected to generate 1.3 billion euros, or $1.4 billion, in spending in 2020 before the lockdowns.
“We are helping European tourism get back on track while staying healthy and safe,” Thierry Breton, European commissioner for the internal market, said in a statement.
The Commission’s advice is not binding and a lack of coordination threatens to create a patchwork of measures. That could make it hard to plan trips and endanger public health.
Some countries, like the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have begun experimenting with “travel bubbles,” allowing movement within a group of specific nations. The leaders of New Zealand and Australia, which have seen relatively few cases, have also agreed to allow travel between their two countries.
Iceland, whose economy is hugely reliant on tourism, plans to open its borders on June 15. International travelers must decide on arrival whether they want to pay for a coronavirus test or spend 14 days in quarantine, according to a government plan presented on Tuesday.
The promise of travel was not enough for some companies that depend on it. TUI, the world’s largest travel company, said it would cut more than 8,000 jobs — over 10 percent of its work force. Still, the company, based in Hanover, Germany, said it would begin reopening some of its 400 hotels and resorts in coming days.
Amy Qin, a China correspondent for The Times, was based in Beijing for eight years before moving to Taiwan this month. In January, she raced to cover the outbreak in Wuhan with two shirts and a bag full of protective gear. From there, she stayed on the move, doing four stints of quarantine in four different cities as the pandemic spread. We asked her to share some thoughts about her experiences.
Before the pandemic, my friends called me “the empress,” a joking reference to my last name. But these days, they have begun referring to me by another, slightly less esteemed royal moniker: I am now the Quarantine Queen.
That’s because in the last three months, I have completed four rounds of quarantine on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
Like many others, I passed the time by dialing into Zoom calls and bingeing on reality television. But along the way, I also rode the wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Each city where I idled — San Diego, Beijing, Los Angeles and Taipei — offered a window into the different ways in which governments were grappling with the virus.
Some, as we now know all too well, were more successful than others.
Tap here to read more about Amy Qin’s experiences in quarantine.
The novel coronavirus spreading around the globe “may never go away,” becoming a long-term fact of life that must be managed, not an enemy that can be permanently eradicated, a top World Health Organization official said on Wednesday.
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Mike Ryan, head of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a news briefing. “H.I.V. has not gone away but we’ve come to terms with the virus and we have found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they did before.”
“There are no promises in this and there are no dates,” he said, tamping down expectations that the invention of a vaccine for the coronavirus will provide a quick and complete end to what has become a global health and economic calamity. A good vaccine might be developed, but there is no telling when, he added, calling it “a moon shot.”
If infected people become immune or resistant, then when enough people have had the virus, there will be fewer left who can catch it or spread it, making outbreaks more manageable. But no one knows how long that will take.
“The current number of people in our population who’ve been infected is actually relatively low,” Dr. Ryan said.
He also expressed cynicism about the prospects for eradication even with a vaccine, saying, “we have some perfectly effective vaccines on this planet that we have not used effectively for diseases we could have eradicated.” He cited the recent outbreaks of measles around the world.
The only human disease that has been eradicated is smallpox.
They were among the most vulnerable as the coronavirus roared through Italy: older or riddled with serious underlying medical conditions. A brush with the coronavirus within the confines of the place where they woke up each morning might seriously threaten their lives.
They were also maximum-security inmates, international drug traffickers and affiliates of Italy’s organized crime gangs, including three who were serving time under a harsh isolation protocol that is reserved for top Mafia bosses.
So when news broke last week that 376 inmates had been moved from high-security prison cells to house arrest because of coronavirus concerns — and that hundreds more were seeking to do the same — the backlash was almost immediate. Even as the coronavirus dominated the news cycle in Italy, the homecoming of convicted organized crime figures made the front page.
The outrage has been greatest over three men: Francesco Bonura, 78, a boss with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra; Vincenzino Iannazzo, 65, a leader of Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta; and Pasquale Zagaria, 60, a ranking member of the Neapolitan camorra. Prosecutors said that the return of the Mafiosi to their homes, where it would be more difficult to monitor their communication with the outside world, would be taken as an indication that Italy was relaxing its fight against organized crime.
The government scrambled to make amends, as critics said the mobsters were using the increased risk to their health from the pandemic as a get-out-of-jail card. They called for the resignation of the justice minister and announced a motion of no-confidence toward him.
Over the weekend, with the pandemic easing, the government issued a new decree that called on judges to review their earlier house-arrest decisions to see whether it was safe for the mobsters to return to prison, but only after consulting with regional health authorities to ensure that the inmates’ health would not be compromised.
Italian news outlets reported on Wednesday that the judicial authorities had revoked the house arrest of at least one Mafioso, Antonino Sacco, who had been sent home because of coronavirus concerns, and that the cases of other mobsters were under review.
Hong Kong reported two new locally transmitted infections on Wednesday after more than three weeks of no such cases and as social distancing measures began to relax, and a third case recorded on the same day was imported from Pakistan, bringing the total infections in the city to 1,051. The cases showed the challenges of eradicating a community outbreak.
A 66-year-old woman and her 5-year-old granddaughter, who live separately, were infected, health officials said on Wednesday. Neither had recently traveled, and it was unclear how they had contracted the virus, the officials added.
The locally transmitted cases indicate that there is still an “invisible transmission chain in the community,” a Department of Health spokeswoman told reporters.
The news came as Hong Kong, having seen no local transmissions for 23 days, began to cautiously restart some previously restricted activities. Since last week, civil servants and other office workers have returned to their workplaces, and public venues like museums and libraries have partially reopened. Schools are slated to reopen in stages.
Health officials said on Wednesday that there were currently no plans to bring back the stricter distancing measures and closures imposed more than a month ago.
After cautiously allowing some businesses to reopen and relaxing its nightly curfew, Lebanon ordered the country to lock down again for four days starting Wednesday night in an attempt to smother a spike in coronavirus cases.
The reversal illustrated the perilous path that many nations are walking as they move to ease lockdown measures, often in the face of pressure from protesters and businesses seeking relief from devastating financial damage.
Lebanon had been surprising public health experts with its low coronavirus case count: As of Tuesday, 870 cases were confirmed in a population of roughly five million. Over the past two weeks, pastry shops, manufacturers, hair salons, car dealerships and other businesses were given permission to reopen, and a nationwide curfew was pushed back to 9 p.m.
Some restaurants had begun to operate at 30 percent capacity, with temperature checks at the door and masks for employees. In the streets of Beirut, the capital, many people had begun walking without masks and jogging along the seaside promenade known as the Corniche.
But the authorities pulled back this week, citing an outbreak in the army and a wave of new infections among returning expatriates. A lockdown on commerce and movement was imposed from Wednesday night to Monday morning, with curfew at 7 p.m.
In a seeming contradiction, the government also said this week that restaurants could move to 50 percent capacity, leaving business owners confused and dismayed. It was unclear whether or when the country could proceed with its phased reopening, under which schools, beaches, bars, gyms and the airport were tentatively scheduled to reopen in early June.
If you think flour is hard to find in a pandemic, try getting a large, steady supply of bamboo. In Calgary.
The Calgary Zoo announced this week it plans to send its star attractions, a pair of pandas, back to China, rather than gamble on getting the plant that makes up 99 percent of their diet.
“It is too risky to keep them in Calgary,” said Clément Lanthier, the president and chief executive of the zoo. “We are very, very afraid. If there’s a second wave that will be even more complicated.”
The pandas, on loan from China, each consume more than 80 pounds of bamboo daily. Before the coronavirus struck, the bamboo reached western Canada on twice-a-week direct flights from Beijing.
When those flights stopped in late February, the zoo resorted to two-legged flights, first through Toronto to Calgary and then through Los Angeles to Calgary. As more flights were canceled, it tried trucking the bamboo from Los Angeles, but it wasn’t fresh on arrival.
Mr. Lanthier’s office found a grower on Canada’s west coast, but the notoriously picky bears didn’t like the taste.
“I prefer not to think about a day I have to say to my team, ‘Today, the animals will starve because the bamboo is only coming tomorrow or later this week,” he said.
The pandas were sent to Toronto in 2014 as part of a 10-year agreement, hailed in Canada as a sign of warming relations with China — relations that have gotten much chillier since then. They arrived in Calgary in 2018, after six years of planning and $21 million in preparations.
Mr. Lanthier said he had applied last month for permits from the Canadian and Chinese governments to ship the pandas home, but had not heard back. The zoo has been shuttered for almost two months and has laid off 60 percent of its staff.
Spain’s oldest woman recovers from the coronavirus.
At 113 years old, María Branyas is Spain’s oldest woman. Her longevity alone is impressive, but this week she added another astonishing feat: She has recovered from the coronavirus.
Ms. Branyas spent several weeks isolated in her room in her nursing home in Olot, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, after suffering mild symptoms consistent with Covid-19, and this week finally was given the all clear.
After overcoming her illness, a smiling Ms. Branyas said in a short clip broadcast on local Catalan television that she felt “very good,” and that she was grateful to be able to continue living “with very good people and in good company.”
“It’s a very big shame for everybody,” she said. “As to understanding where it came from, and how and why, it seems to me that very few people know that.”
Ms. Branyas was born in San Francisco in 1907. The family decided to return to Spain in 1915, after her father, a journalist, contracted tuberculosis. He died during the ocean crossing back to Europe, according to local news reports.
Her daughter, Rosa Moret, told local journalists that Ms. Branyas had never had a major illness, and said she could not remember her mother ever breaking a bone. She has been living in her nursing home for the past two decades.
Her relatives have not been allowed to see her since March 4, when they came to celebrate her birthday. They are now awaiting clearance to visit again.
Edgard Ziebart, 40, had traveled from Vietnam to India on March 18, planning to board a connecting flight to Ankara, Turkey. On landing at Indira Gandhi International Airport, he learned that his onward flight had been canceled.
Four days later, India shut its airspace and a nationwide lockdown followed a short time later to contain the coronavirus. With no way of getting a visa to enter India, and no way to leave, Mr. Ziebart was stranded at the airport.
Over the next few weeks, according to Saurabh Singh, an airport official, Mr. Ziebart refused to travel to Germany when the authorities tried to facilitate his return. The German government made a major effort to repatriate its stranded citizens, and it is unclear why Mr. Ziebart refused the offer.
Mr. Singh said airport employees had provided Mr. Ziebart with meals, a mosquito net and toothpaste. He slept on a thin mat at the airport, and immigration officials said he passed time by reading newspapers and traversing the empty terminal.
On an immigration form for international travelers, Mr. Ziebart listed the airport terminal as his home, according to local news outlets. The Indian authorities recently served him a “Leave India Notice.”
Some subway and bus routes across London appeared overcrowded early Wednesday, and some people reported heavier traffic, but many commuters making their first journeys to workplaces in months shared pictures of relatively empty train stations.
The number of passengers on the London subway increased 7.3 percent until 10 a.m., compared with the same time period last week, Transport for London said.
The London subway was packed on Monday, the morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that anyone who could not do their job from home was “actively encouraged” to return to work.
The government later clarified that the guidance would take effect on Wednesday and asked people who had to travel to consider alternatives to public transportation.
Grant Shapps, the British transport secretary, said in a statement on Saturday that even with public transportation reverting to full service, distancing requirements would leave capacity for only one in 10 passengers on many parts of the network.
“Getting Britain moving again, while not overcrowding our transport network, is going to require many of us to think carefully about how and when we travel,” he added.
Deaths from all causes doubled in Lima, Peru, and tripled in Manaus, Brazil. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, deaths reached five times the usual number for the time of year.
Brazilian cities are burying rows of stacked coffins in mass graves. Hundreds of Ecuadoreans are searching for the bodies of family members who went to hospitals and never returned.
The Times measured the impact of the pandemic by comparing total deaths in recent months to the averages of recent years. They include deaths from Covid-19 and other causes, including people who could not get treatment from overwhelmed health care systems — or were afraid to try.
And while no measure is perfect, the increase in overall deaths offers the most complete picture of the pandemic’s toll, demographers say.
Latin America has confronted the crisis with far fewer medical or economic resources than Europe or the United States. As jobs disappear, Peruvian highways have swelled with people fleeing the cities, and tens of thousands of Venezuelans in neighboring countries have been forced to walk back to their ravaged homeland.
“We weren’t prepared for this virus,” said Aguinilson Tikuna, an Indigenous leader in Manaus, a metropolis in the Brazilian Amazon. “When this disease hit us, we locked ourselves in, locked our homes, isolated ourselves, but no one had the resources to buy masks, medicine. We lacked food.”
Russian regulators said on Wednesday that they had banned the use of some Russian-made ventilators blamed for two deadly hospital fires, underlining the growing stress on a health care system struggling with one of the world’s largest coronavirus outbreaks.
The Aventa-M ventilators, made by a subsidiary of the state-owned manufacturing giant Rostec, are believed to have caught fire on Tuesday in the intensive care unit of a hospital in St. Petersburg, killing five patients. A similar event in Moscow on Saturday killed one person, according to Russian news reports. The operation of Aventa-M models manufactured after April 1 is to be suspended because their “use threatens the lives and health of citizens,” Russia’s federal health care watchdog said.
Kret, the Rostec subsidiary that manufactured the ventilators, declined to comment on the possible cause of the fires, the news agency Interfax reported. The Russian government said in March that it would spend about $100 million to buy 5,700 ventilators from the company.
The Aventa-M ventilators were part of a planeload of aid that Moscow sent to New York City in early April, a time when Russia seemed to have been spared the worst.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday that states that received the Russian ventilators had not used them and that they were being returned to FEMA “out of an abundance of caution.”
The butchers of Tomohon gather at Indonesia’s most notorious market six days a week, carving up bats, rats, snakes and lizards that were taken from the wilds of Sulawesi island.
For years, animal lovers and wildlife activists have urged officials to close the bazaar, boastfully known as the Tomohon Extreme Market. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is putting renewed pressure on officials to finally take action.
“The market is like a cafeteria for animal pathogens,” said the lead expert for Indonesia’s coronavirus task force, Wiku Adisasmito, who has urged the government to close the country’s wildlife markets. “Consuming wild animals is the same as playing with fire.”
The earliest cluster of coronavirus cases in the global outbreak was linked to a market in Wuhan, China, where live animals were kept close together, creating an opportunity for the virus to jump to humans. The SARS virus, which killed 800 people worldwide, is believed to have originated in bats before spreading to civets in a wildlife market in China, and ultimately infecting people in 2002.
Most of the wild animals at Tomohon are slaughtered before they reach the market.
“It is like a time bomb,” said Billy Gustafianto Lolowang, manager of the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center in the nearby town of Bitung. “We can only wait until we become the epicenter of a pandemic like Wuhan.”
New Zealand on Wednesday reported no new coronavirus infections for the second day in a row, and Thailand recorded no new cases in a day for the first time in more than two months.
New Zealand lifted its state of emergency on Wednesday, allowing schools, bars, restaurants, theaters and museums to reopen, with attendance limits. People can resume travel between regions and gather in groups of up to 10 people, but are still advised to observe social distancing.
“This move does not signal that New Zealanders should stop being vigilant in protecting themselves and others from the virus,” Peeni Henare, the civil defense minister, said in a statement.
After seven weeks under lockdown, just two Covid-19 patients in the country remain in hospitals.
Thailand has had just 3,017 confirmed infections and 56 deaths, remarkably low numbers for a country of 70 million people. It restricted foreign travel early on, and has done extensive contact tracing.
The biggest recent cluster of cases was in a detention center for foreign migrants — confined quarters where the pathogen can spread quickly. Dormitories for migrant laborers have proved to be Singapore’s weak spot.
Thailand began to ease its lockdown in early May, with everything from restaurants to pet salons allowed to resume operations with proper social distancing, and shopping malls are expected to open in the coming days. A ban on foreign visitors will remain in place at least through the end of May.
Germany’s 16 states have set their own timelines for easing the lockdown measures. Museums in Berlin were allowed to reopen on May 4, but many remain closed.
Governments in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Italy have all announced dates in May or June by which they hope to have museums open, with similar safety measures to those in Berlin.
Some museums in the Czech Republic, France, Spain and Switzerland reopened this week or are set to do so in the coming days. In France, some small, local museums were allowed to reopen on Monday, but the government has yet to announce dates for major institutions like the Louvre.
With tourism at a standstill, however, many museums are anticipating lower-than-usual visitor numbers. That is likely to help social distancing, but it also means that spaces that depend significantly on international guests face an uncertain financial future.
The Cannes Film Festival has been derailed only a handful of times since its inaugural gathering in 1946 — which, as it happens, was itself put off because of World War II.
For the most part, the show has gone on.
Not this year.
The 73rd iteration, which had been scheduled to start on Tuesday, is no more. Instead, in June, the festival will release a list of movies that had been chosen for this year, anointing them with the coveted Cannes label.
Our critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott and our awards season columnist, Kyle Buchanan, all festival veterans, won’t be hitting the red carpets this year. But it is not just a personal loss for a trio of film lovers deprived of attending what Scott calls “a cinematic universe in its own right.”
The writers discussed what the world has lost, too, and why it matters.
“If it’s hard for Americans to grasp the importance of Cannes to the rest of the world,” Dargis says, “it’s because our isolationism extends to culture.”
Reporting was contributed by Melissa Eddy, Richard Pérez-Peña, Mihir Zaveri, Catherine Porter, Claire Moses, Elisabetta Povoledo, Emma Bubola, Raphael Minder, Anton Troianovski, Vivian Yee, Ceylan Yeginsu, Christopher F. Schuetze, Richard C. Paddock, Dera Menra Sijabat, Monika Pronczuk, Elaine Yu, Amy Qin, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Megan Specia, Manuela Andreoni, Letícia Casado, Mitra Taj, Jeffrey Gettleman, Hari Kumar, Maria Abi-Habib, Hannah Beech, Thomas Rogers, Abdi Latif Dahir, Sameer Yasir, Kai Schultz, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Andrew Das.