W.H.O., Cyclone Amphan, Huawei: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the wrap-up of the World Health Organization’s annual meeting, worries that Cyclone Amphan could increase coronavirus risk and signs of life and normalcy in Italy’s hair salons.

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ImageTedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, at the agency’s annual meeting on Tuesday. 
Credit…Christopher Black/WHO, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

W.H.O. approves coronavirus inquiry

The World Health Organization agreed to begin an inquiry into the global response to the pandemic, at the end of a rocky annual meeting that saw the U.S. and China taking swipes at each other.

The resolution calls for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the outbreak. But it fell short of promising what the U.S. wanted, which was a thorough review of the Chinese origins of the virus and the W.H.O.’s actions in response.

President Trump threatened to permanently end U.S. funding for the W.H.O unless it committed to “substantive improvements within the next 30 days” and declared that “China has been anything but transparent” in its response.

The resolution, brought by the European Union on behalf of more than 100 countries, gained momentum after Australia worked to form a coalition of countries demanding an inquiry.

Analysis: Over all, the meeting ended in confusion over the way forward, amid escalating tensions between the two superpowers.

Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.

In other developments:

  • Just a week after many schools were reopened in France, the discovery of 70 coronavirus cases in classrooms across the country forced the authorities to shutter some preschools and elementary schools.

  • Yu Lihua, a writer whose portraits of Chinese students and intellectuals in America captured the identity crisis felt by many in the Chinese diaspora, died at her home in the U.S. from Covid-19.

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned of “permanent damage” to the U.S. economy if lockdowns are extended for months. The Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said a full recovery will not come until the health crisis is resolved.

  • More than 70 percent of coronavirus samples tested in Israel in a new study had originated in the U.S., calling into question the government’s decision to allow entry to American travelers until March 9, while some European visitors had been barred earlier.

  • In a relief to Japan’s many 7-Eleven franchise owners, the company has loosened its strict commitment to a 24-7 operation at all of its stores. Some franchisees hoped the change of heart would outlast the pandemic.

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…District Administration of Bhola, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

India and Bangladesh brace for super cyclone

Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from coastal areas before Cyclone Amphan, one of the most powerful storms in decades, makes landfall as expected on Wednesday afternoon.

The authorities have fewer shelters to work with, because many of them have been turned into quarantine centers for coronavirus patients. Humanitarian workers are worried that by packing people into shelters, coronavirus infections could spread.

As if coping with a cyclone during a pandemic weren’t enough, officials in Bangladesh are worried that the storm could bring rains and floods to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where about a million Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar live in wooden shacks.

Many people in Bangladesh, apparently, are not heeding the calls to evacuate and move into emergency shelters.

The storm: Indian meteorologists say Amphan is a Category 5 hurricane that could unleash 165-mile-an-hour winds and massive floods. Barreling up the Bay of Bengal, the cyclone is expected to make landfall near the border between India and Bangladesh.

Quotable: “Our lives have always been filled with fear,” said Arjun Mohanty, a teacher in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. “First it was coronavirus, now the storm wants to kill us.”


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Credit…Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Taiwan becomes a pressure point in tech fight

The battle over the tech industry between the U.S. and China is escalating, with the Trump administration taking a pair of actions that threatens to touch on China’s contentious relationship with Taiwan and force Huawei to reorient its operations.

The actions: One of the world’s leading computer chip makers, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or T.S.M.C., said last week that it would build a factory in Arizona — which U.S. officials say is a first step toward putting a vital supply chain in the U.S.

The next day, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced a rule change that could get in the way of business between Huawei, the Chinese tech giant, and T.S.M.C., as well as other global chip manufacturers.

What it means: The administration has been trying to isolate Huawei as it works to bring 5G networks to countries around the world. But challenging Chinese companies’ access to Taiwan’s high-tech supply chain also touches on another source of tension between Washington and Beijing: China’s claim over Taiwan.

Quotable: The administration seems intent on “hitting at targets that are both economically and politically sensitive for Beijing,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University.

If you have 4 minutes, this is worth it

In Hong Kong, life goes on

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Hong Kong was one of the first places outside mainland China to be hit by the coronavirus, and immediately the landscape of the city changed: Temperature checks, sanitizing and reminders to stay vigilant cropped up everywhere.

Four months later, those signs are still around. But the city is humming back to life — not really in spite of those reminders so much as alongside them, writes our correspondent. Hong Kongers, who have been scarred by the SARS outbreak 17 years ago, have accepted masks and social distancing as part of life.

Here’s what else is happening

Myanmar drug raids: Crime syndicates are starting to make fentanyl, the killer drug at the center of the U.S. opioid crisis. The Myanmar police and the military have seized fentanyl, opium and other drugs worth $200 million during raids on the remote Shan State region, now a major outpost for much of the world’s synthetic drug trade.

Afghanistan: In a day of intensifying violence across the country, security forces bombed a clinic in Kunduz on Tuesday to thwart a coordinated run by the Taliban on the provincial capital that the militants continue to besiege. The conflict is back into full-fledged bloodletting after a brief period of hope.

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Credit…Claudio Furlan/LaPresse, via Associated Press

Snapshot: Above, a hair salon in Milan that reopened on Monday. Italians flooded salons for months-delayed hair cuts, eyebrow threading, waxing and more — and a chance for the Great Beautification, our Rome bureau chief writes.

What we’re reading: This article in The Cut about how much wellness right now has to do with wealth. It’s a fascinating look at the increasing divide in what health means for different sectors of the population.

Now, a break from the news

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Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

Cook: This baked tofu with peanut sauce and coconut-lime rice from Yewande Komolafe is simply the best tofu recipe, says Sam Sifton, our Food editor.

Watch: “Schitt’s Creek” and “The Great British Baking Show” are some of the TV shows available for streaming that are comforting in these stressful times. Laugh at Fred Willard’s funniest moments. The comedian passed away last week.

Do: Sore back? Here are six simple ways to work more comfortably from home. Maintaining motivation can be a challenge when you’re slogging through life curtailed by the pandemic.

Listen: In 2020, having gone platinum 10 times, Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP” hits differently. But it’s still a vivid snapshot of the late culture wars. Listen to the songs that came first, and the ones he inspired.

Some lockdowns are easing, but if you’re staying safe at home, we have a lot more ideas about what to read, cook, do and watch.

And now for the Back Story on …

Voices from overtouristed cities

You’ve seen the pictures of iconic places now emptied out. Our Travel desk asked locals in some of the world’s most-visited cities about the bittersweet experience of having their cities back. Below are excerpts from two of their stories.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

DARKO PEROJEVIC, 41, is the chef and owner of the restaurant Azur. He has lived in Dubrovnik most of his life.

The Old Town of Dubrovnik, where I’ve lived most of my life, hasn’t been empty like this since the war and the eight-month shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991 and ’92. We all have had some lingering sadness because the emptiness of the city is a reminder of that time.

The situation here is bittersweet, really. Bitter because I’m the chef and owner of a restaurant in Old Town — called Azur — that relies on a lot of tourists for business. But it’s sweet because walking the empty streets on a sunny day feels great.

Kids are playing on the streets just like I did when I was a kid. For a moment it feels like we got the city back for ourselves.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

LIND NGUYEN, 29, along with her husband, Trung, own the Wander Station restaurant.

On May 1, it was the [Labor Day] holiday and it’s supposed to be busy everywhere, but then we are empty, we have no customers, so I decided to close and have a look around. Everywhere was empty, the road, the stores, the walking street, everything. Like a scary movie.

In normal life there’s supposed to be hundreds of boats cruising in the bay, music playing — pum, pum, pum — and people having beer outside and walking around. But now no more.

I’m sad and worried. How long does it take to get back to the normal life? I just want tourists back here, meeting up, chatting and having fun.


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina and Carole


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 on President Trump’s purging of watchdogs at U.S. federal agencies.
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• The Times is commemorating the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the U.S. with a digital events series.

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