Britain, Antibodies, Bundesliga: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering racial discrepancies in virus deaths in Britain, reopening experiments across Europe and scientific advances in the coronavirus fight.

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ImageAn ambulance crew member responding to an emergency call near Portsmouth, England.
Credit…Leon Neal/Getty Images

‘This pandemic has not been the great leveler’

Black people in England and Wales are twice as likely to die from the coronavirus as white people, according to official figures that lay bare an extraordinary gap in the toll of the coronavirus.

The analysis, conducted by Britain’s Office of National Statistics, found that longstanding differences in wealth, education, living arrangements and medical history could explain a portion of the outsize impact of the virus on racial and ethnic minorities, but not all of it.

“This pandemic has not been the great leveler. It’s been the great magnifier, as it were,” said Dr. Riyaz Patel, an associate professor of cardiology at University College London.

U.K. tracking app: The National Health Service is moving forward with an app to track the spread of the virus despite questions about the technology’s effectiveness, privacy safeguards and compatibility with key smartphone features.

Economic forecast: Britain’s economy is expected to contract by 30 percent in the April-June quarter, the Bank of England said. For the full year, it said, the decline would most likely be 14 percent — the worst decline for the British economy since 1706.

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


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Credit…Emile Ducke for The New York Times

Trial and error, with lives in the balance

The first wave of reopenings in Europe and Asia suggests that we may be entering a period of experimentation that could last a year or two — “experiments with whole societies serving as guinea pigs,” writes our Interpreter columnist.

Does being outdoors limit transmission? Lithuanian officials say it does, and they are closing streets to allow restaurants and bars to offer outdoor-only service. So are leaders in Sydney, Australia, which is allowing surfing and swimming but not socializing at beaches. Bangkok is reopening parks but forbidding most social activities.

Germany is letting older children go back to school, reasoning that they will better comply with rules on masks and distancing. Denmark is doing the opposite: permitting younger children to return in hopes that they are less at risk.

Spain: A strike at Nissan’s main assembly plant in Spain two days after it reopened highlights what may be the next major concern of organized labor: protecting workers in a post-pandemic economy.

Russia: Oligarchs, with millions of employees and dozens of Russian cities reliant on their enterprises, have become central figures in the national response to the pandemic as local health systems buckle.

Poland: Europe’s first presidential election since the outbreak of coronavirus was postponed, despite a chaotic push by the governing party in Poland to press ahead with an all-mail ballot.


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Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

Progress on antibodies, and other scientific advances

A new study offers a glimmer of hope in the grim fight against the coronavirus: Nearly everyone who has had the disease makes antibodies to the virus, although it is unclear how long that protection might last.

The new study is the largest of several that suggests people who have had Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, would gain some immunity for some period of time. Health officials in several countries have hung their hopes on tests that identify antibodies to decide who is immune and can go back to work.

The study, which relied on a test developed at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, has not yet been reviewed by experts. In this video, we go behind the scenes at a California lab to see out how antibody testing works.

In other medical and scientific developments:

  • Moderna, one of the first biotech companies to begin human trials of an experimental vaccine for the coronavirus, is ready to move onto the next phase of testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared its application to proceed to a clinical trial involving about 600 people.

  • Some scientists hope a decades-old technology — indoor ultraviolet light — could zap pathogens out of the air in stores, restaurants and classrooms, potentially playing a key role in containing further spread of the infection.

  • Sexual transmission of the virus still seems very unlikely, but researchers in China have found that the coronavirus, or bits of it, may linger in semen. It was not clear whether the scientists had found infectious virus or inert fragments.

If you have 7 minutes, this is worth it

A new enemy for the Israeli military

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Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

In Israel, Brig. Gen. Dani Gold is known as the father of the Iron Dome antimissile system. Now he is leading the charge at the Israeli Defense Ministry’s research arm against Covid-19.

It is a national undertaking that for the first time links up major hospitals and research institutes with Israel’s vaunted high-tech sector and its military-industrial behemoths.

“In Israel, if there is a mission that has to be done, it’s like a war,” General Gold said. “Everybody drops what they’re doing.”

Here’s what else is happening

Carlos Ghosn: Prosecutors in Turkey charged four pilots, an airline company official and two flight attendants for their suspected roles in the former Nissan chairman’s escape from Japan to Turkey and then to Beirut, Lebanon.

Michael Flynn: The U.S. Justice Department dropped a case against President Trump’s former national security adviser, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to F.B.I. agents about his conversations with a Russian diplomat.

India gas leak: Investigators were looking into a gas leak at a chemical plant in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam that killed at least 11 people and sickened hundreds early Thursday. The leak sent out a cloud of styrene vapor, which can be deadly at high concentrations, over the outskirts of the city.

U.S.-Iran: The U.S. Senate failed to overturn President Trump’s veto of a resolution seeking to block him from taking further military action against Iran without explicit approval from Congress.

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Credit…Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters

Snapshot: Above, the FC Cologne player Kingsley Ehizibue arriving in Cologne, Germany, with his teammates. The club will go into quarantine before the first round of Bundesliga games resumes a week from Saturday, the first of soccer’s major leagues to try a comeback from the coronavirus-induced global sporting stoppage.

Musicians, in memoriam: Dave Greenfield, the keyboardist of the Stranglers, a band that rose to prominence in Britain’s 1970s punk rock scene, died at age 71. He had tested positive for the coronavirus. Florian Schneider, one of the founders of Kraftwerk, the German band that revolutionized pop music with synthesizers and electronic beats, died of cancer. He was 73.

What we’re looking at: Room Rater, a Twitter account that rates the design of rooms in the backgrounds of Skype and Zoom calls. For the nosy among us who are bored of staring at people’s bookshelves.

Now, a break from the news

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Credit…Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times

Cook: Chepa vepudu, a simple, spicy, crisp fish fry from southeastern India. Sam Sifton, our Food editor, has more ideas about fish recipes in his latest newsletter.

Watch: Netflix’s documentary on Michelle Obama. Our critic Lovia Gyarkye thinks it’s a little stagy in parts, but still worthy of streaming. And our 15 hair-metal videos might make you appreciate your growing locks.

Cope: Learn how to draw during your downtime. Or get your children off the couch. And share our shout-out to the analog clock.

Browse our At Home section to find ideas about what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

The human pain of job losses

Neil Irwin, a senior economics reporter for The Upshot, has been writing about the U.S. monthly jobs reports for 13 years. “Most of the time, it’s fun,” he wrote. But not now. Here’s an excerpt from his article about April’s labor market report, which is due Friday:

The last time the economy was in free fall, I wrote this: “The economy is unraveling so fast as to defy analysis through the usual statistical models. Among the phrases found in normally sober reports from the nation’s top economic forecasters yesterday: ‘god-awful,’ ‘wholesale capitulation,’ ‘shockingly weak’ and ‘indescribably terrible.’”

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Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

That jobs report, from November 2008, indicated that employers had cut 533,000 jobs. Analysts expect the April 2020 losses to be 41 times worse — 22 million jobs.

There will be nothing fun about Friday’s report. It’s hard to even fathom what we’re going to learn, or what kinds of words can capture the human pain beneath the eye-popping numbers.

I and the rest of the jobs report nerds will dutifully analyze and do our best to find insight in the thick stack of numbers issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning. But it will be with none of the giddy enthusiasm of trying to solve a puzzle; rather, it’s a moment for sorrow at what has been lost.


That’s it for this briefing. I’ll be trying to make some chocolate chip cookies this weekend. See you next time.

— Victoria


Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Coffee sweetener (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times announced its largest quarter for subscriptions ever.

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