2 Weeks, 6.5 Million Coronavirus Tests as Wuhan Nears Goal: Live Coverage

0
61
ImageA coronavirus testing station in Wuhan earlier this month.
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Here’s how Wuhan tested 6.5 million people for the coronavirus in days.

The Wuhan government is close to completing its citywide testing drive. Thousands of medical and other workers were mobilized in a feat that some health experts and residents had initially questioned.

But medical workers armed with coronavirus test swabs have scoured construction sites and markets to look for itinerant workers while others made house calls to reach older residents and people with disabilities. Officials aired announcements over loudspeakers urging people to sign up for their own good.

The unprecedented campaign to screen virtually all 11 million people in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic originated, began just two weeks ago. And the government is making progress toward that goal, with 6.5 million tested so far.

“Our community was checked in a day,” said Wang Yuan, a 32-year-old resident who lined up under red tents near her home and had her throat swabbed by medical workers wearing protective suits and face shields. She expected to get her results within two to four days.

While other governments have struggled to provide testing for their populations on a broad scale, China has embarked on a citywide campaign to prevent a resurgence of infections at all costs. It has succeeded, according to residents and Chinese news reports, by mobilizing thousands of medical and other workers and spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

The government, which is covering the cost of testing, sees the drive as key to the restoration of public confidence that is needed to help restart the economy and return to some level of normalcy. But public health experts disagree on whether such a resource-intensive push is necessary when infections are low.

The drive — which has reached more than 90 percent of the city after taking into account people who had been recently tested and children — has largely confirmed that Wuhan has tamed the outbreak. By Tuesday, only around 200 cases had been found, mostly people who showed no symptoms, though samples were still being processed.

In other China news:

  • Apps used to track Chinese citizens who might be spreading the virus are becoming a permanent fixture of everyday life, one with the potential to be used in troubling and invasive ways.

  • Young people are facing what might be the country’s toughest job market in the modern era. Finding work for them has become a major priority for Chinese leaders, who have promised a better life in exchange for a lack of political freedom.

As Latin America is declared an ‘epicenter,’ the U.S. travel ban with Brazil looms.

Image

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

United States travel restrictions aimed at Brazil were scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday night, as the South American country struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid relentless political turmoil and a plummeting economy.

The new restrictions prohibit the entry of foreigners, with some exceptions, who were in Brazil in the two weeks before their arrival at the American border.

Last week, Brazil became the nation with the second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, behind the United States.

As the virus has ebbed in the United States and Europe, Latin America has emerged as its new epicenter, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, said on Monday.

She noted that the region has “surpassed Europe and the United States in the daily number of reported coronavirus infections — numbers we suspect are even higher than we know,” because of a lack of a testing.

In Brazil, the government has appeared rudderless in the face of the pandemic, with President Jair Bolsonaro taking a cavalier attitude toward the virus, snubbing social-distancing protocols and urging Brazilians to effectively ignore local lockdown orders.

Political dysfunction has added to the crisis. The last two health ministers left office — one was fired, the other resigned — following clashes with Mr. Bolsonaro over the best strategies to deal with the pandemic.

The economic outlook for Brazil is grim, with analysts warning that the increasingly intertwined health and political crises could drive the nation into a deep recession. More than a million Brazilians have lost their jobs amid the pandemic, and the real, Brazil’s currency, has plunged more than 30 percent since January, making it the world’s worst-performing currency.

As Britain proposes delaying U.N. climate talks by a full year, some warn of consequences.

Image

Credit…Pool photo by Tolga Akmen

International negotiations designed to address the threat of climate change will quite likely be delayed by a full year because of the pandemic.

Britain, the host of the talks, which were initially scheduled to be held at the end of this year in Glasgow, proposed on Tuesday that they be postponed until November 2021. A decision is to be made Thursday by countries that make up the rotating governing board of the United Nations agency that sponsors the talks.

“Given the uneven spread of Covid-19, this date would present the lowest risk of further postponement and the best chance of delivering an inclusive and ambitious” conference, British officials said.

The gathering is meant to rally world leaders to chart ways to avert the worst effects of climate change, including heat waves and flooded coastal cities.

Delaying the talks by a full year could have worsen the problems, some diplomats say. Countries and international financial institutions may now feel freer to enact economic recovery plans without paying much heed to their climate implications.

Public opinion is turning against Boris Johnson over his aide’s flouting of travel restrictions.

Image

Credit…Frank Augstein/Associated Press

For more than two months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has floundered in his response to the coronavirus — abandoning widespread testing, dragging his feet on imposing a lockdown, leaving nursing homes unprotected, and muddling his message about how to reopen the British economy.

But it took a rogue 260-mile car trip by Mr. Johnson’s closest adviser to turn the tide of public opinion against him.

The outcry over Mr. Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, showed no signs of abating on Tuesday.

A junior minister in Mr. Johnson’s government resigned in protest and several lawmakers from his Conservative Party joined those calling on the prime minister to dismiss Mr. Cummings. And two new polls showed a sharp erosion of public support for Mr. Johnson and a wall of opposition to his aide.

The image of a powerful government official flouting the lockdown rules that Downing Street enforces on everyone else has struck a nerve in a way that Britain’s haphazard response to the virus has not.

“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government,” Douglas Ross, the under secretary of state for Scotland, said as he resigned.

“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”

Other world leaders have also come under scrutiny for their actions during lockdown. The Polish government had to apologize last week after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted photos of himself at a restaurant where critics said he was not observing social-distancing rules.

J.K. Rowling begins publishing ‘The Ickabog,’ for children in lockdown.

Image

Credit…Evan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press

The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has begun publishing installments of a new fairy tale, hoping to ease the burdens of lockdown on young readers.

The tale, titled “The Ickabog,” will be released in installments online, and available for free. It will be published as a book in November.

In an announcement on her website, Ms. Rowling said she had started working on the book years ago, while she was still writing Harry Potter, and originally intended to publish it after she finished the last book in the beloved series. But she ended up keeping “The Ickabog,” which isn’t related to Harry Potter or any of Ms. Rowling’s other work, in her family, reading it to her young children and then putting it away in her attic until recently.

She decided to release “The Ickabog” now, she wrote on Twitter, “so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”

Ms. Rowling said she would donate her royalties for the book to causes related to the pandemic.

A young doctor’s death ignites public outrage in Egypt.

Image

Credit…Yahya Diwer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For months, Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic. Now the strain is showing.

The death of a young doctor who was refused treatment for Covid-19 at an overwhelmed hospital has triggered a revolt by medical staff over the government’s failures to provide protective equipment and training for front-line workers.

Egypt’s health system is veering toward catastrophic collapse, the main doctors’ union warned, in a statement that accused the ministry of “criminal” negligence — strong words in a country where the authorities have strictly policed any criticism of their response to the virus.

With about 18,000 infections and 783 deaths from the coronavirus, Egypt has suffered far less than some other countries. But infections have risen steadily in recent weeks, as the government eased restrictions for the holy month of Ramadan.

At least 19 doctors have died and over 350 have been infected, doctors say, although since testing is limited the true figure may be higher.

Relatives of the doctor who died over the weekend, Walid Yehia, 32, issued pleas on Facebook for greater care, noting that he had been unable to gain access emergency treatment as his condition declined.

The swift admission of a prominent actress, Ragaa el-Gedawy, after she showed symptoms of the disease, further fueled public anger and perceptions that the care of elite Egyptians is prioritized.

Egypt’s health minister, Hala Zayed, said that the government was “following up to provide the best possible care” to its doctors, and that at least 20 beds in every hospital treating the virus would be reserved for sick medical staff.

Still, even as it tries to assuage doctors, the government has sought to silence them. On Monday, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper sought to discredit a doctor who had resigned on Facebook in protest at the death of his colleague, portraying the doctor as a supporter of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The doctor’s Facebook account has since been closed.

Covid-19 pushes Gucci to abandon the ‘worn-out ritual’ of fashion shows.

Image

Credit…Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Gucci wants to change show business. Or, rather, the business of shows.

The Italian brand has joined the chorus of brands and retailers calling for a permanent reset of the fashion system because of Covid-19, adding the weight of a giant global name to the movement.

On Monday, Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, held a video news conference to announce that the brand will reduce the number of shows it holds each year from five to two, effectively abandoning the idea of cruise shows — the far-flung midseason extravaganzas it has held at a Roman Necropolis in Arles and the Capitoline Museum in Rome (among other places). He also wants to do away with the distinction between men’s wear and women’s wear, and the traditional appellations of fall/winter and spring/summer.

“I will abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows,” Mr. Michele wrote.

Gucci is not the first brand to announce a change in its runway plans in response to the pandemic, which has brought the industry to an effective standstill, closing stores and decimating balance sheets.

Saint Laurent, also owned by Kering, the Gucci parent company, said it would drop out of the fashion show season and follow its own schedule for this year; Dries Van Noten said he would not have a show at all until 2021; and Giorgio Armani announced that his men’s and women’s shows would be combined in September, and his couture show held in January in Milan instead of Paris.

Gucci, however, is the first brand to commit to a permanent rethink.

A renowned virus hunter reflects on being brought down by a virus he underestimated.

Image

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Dr. Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is a legend in the battles against Ebola and AIDS. But Covid-19 almost killed him.

“I underestimated this one — how fast it would spread,” he told Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter specializing in plagues and pestilences.

In 1976, as a graduate student, Dr. Piot was part of the international team that investigated Ebola in Yambuku, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the 1980s, he was one of the scientists who proved that the wasting disease known as “slim” in Africa was caused by the same virus that was killing young gay men elsewhere. He later became the first director of the United Nations’ anti-HIV program.

That expertise made him keenly alert to the danger posed by the new coronavirus. And he became a living illustration of it.

He traveled to Singapore and Boston early in the year, answering questions about the emerging threat. Back home in London, he kept up his usual schedule of lectures and gatherings.

By late March, he had developed symptoms, and he was eventually hospitalized for more than a week as he battled pneumonia. Now he’s facing a lingering immune reaction in his lungs that may lead to permanent scarring.

“This is the revenge of the viruses,” he said. “I’ve made their lives difficult. Now they’re trying to get me.”

Nicaragua, still promoting mass events, offers a (lengthy) justification.

Image

Credit…Inti Ocon for The New York Times

Facing withering criticism over its cavalier response to the outbreak and claims that it is understating the toll of the pandemic, the government of Nicaragua released a 71-page rebuttal on Monday, arguing that a vast majority of Nicaraguans could not afford to lose work in a strict lockdown.

Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the hemisphere, has been widely criticized for continuing to allow mass events. It also is among a handful of nations worldwide that never closed its schools.

Nicaragua has reported 759 cases since the pandemic began, and just 35 deaths. But the Citizen Observatory, a group of doctors, activists and other volunteers who collect information from hospitals, said it has counted 2,323 cases and 404 deaths. In its new document, the government said those estimates are inflated with routine pneumonia deaths.

In the document, which was posted online, the government also claimed that critics were trying to undermine the government of President Daniel Ortega and compared the administration’s approach to that of Sweden, which never locked down its economy.

“Countries that have totally closed their economies are uncomfortable with the example of countries that do not apply a draconian closure and do not destroy their economies to face the pandemic,” the government said.

While Sweden has avoided devastating tolls like those in Italy or Britain, the outbreak there has been far deadlier than those of its Scandinavian neighbors.

Public health experts, doctors and other critics have blasted the document because it failed to say how many people had been tested for the disease or to offer an assessment of the nation’s hospitals.

The country is still reeling economically after a 2018 uprising threatened Mr. Ortega’s hold on power and cost Nicaragua more than 150,000 jobs. Mr. Ortega has since clamped down on dissent and the government is now saying its opponents want to use the pandemic for political ends.

Russia sets a new date for victory parades, even as infections rise.

Image

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Gambling that Russia can contain its coronavirus outbreak, President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday ordered that military parades to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany — originally scheduled for May 9 but canceled because of the pandemic — go ahead next month across the country.

Russia, with more than 360,000 confirmed infections, is the third hardest-hit country after the United States and Brazil, and is still struggling with nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases a day.

But it has slowed the outbreak slightly over the past week, a trend that Mr. Putin hopes will hold long enough to limit the risks of allowing tens of thousands of soldiers to march through Moscow’s Red Square and to take part in smaller parades in other cities.

Mr. Putin, in a video conference with his defense minister shown on state television, said the parades would now be held on June 24, the date chosen by the Soviet dictator Stalin for the Red Army’s first Red Square victory parade in 1945. Mr. Putin described that event as “a legendary historical parade of the victors” who “liberated Europe.”

Separate marches by millions of ordinary Russians whose relatives fought during World War II, a conflict known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, will be held a month later, Mr. Putin said. The delay until July 26 of the so-called Immortal Regiment marches, Mr. Putin said, was necessary to reduce the danger of having so many people on the streets at one time.

Even so, it is far from certain that Russia will have put the pandemic behind it by late June or even July, despite a flurry of reports on Kremlin-controlled media outlets in recent days trumpeting what they present as Russia’s victory over the virus. Official figures showing a remarkably low death toll compared with the United States and European countries have been hailed as evidence of a “Russian miracle.”

Mr. Putin has put celebration of Russia’s wartime sacrifice and victory at the center of a political program built around often strident patriotism and denunciation of his opponents as traitors. State television has been saturated for weeks with reports of wartime heroism and sometimes vicious attacks on anyone who challenges Russia’s status as Europe’s savior.

Citing safety concerns, the W.H.O. pauses tests of a drug Trump said he had taken.

Image

Credit…George Frey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The World Health Organization said on Monday that safety concerns had prompted it to temporarily remove the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — which Mr. Trump said he had taken in hopes of warding off the coronavirus, despite the lack of evidence that it works — from a global drug trial aimed at finding treatments for Covid-19.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general, said officials had decided on a “temporary pause” in testing the drug after The Lancet published an observational study last week that found that people who took the drug were more likely to die. Several earlier studies had also found no benefit — and possible harm — when the drug was used by Covid-19 patients. Dr. Tedros said his agency would review safety data.

Hydroxychloroquine had been one of several drugs and drug combinations that the World Health Organization was testing against Covid-19. The test, called the Solidarity Trial, has enrolled nearly 3,500 patients so far from 17 countries, officials said.

Dr. Tedros noted that the concerns related to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, another malaria drug, were specifically about their use by Covid-19 patients. “I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria,” he said.

Mr. Trump, who has long promoted hydroxychloroquine despite the lack of evidence that it works against the virus, made the startling announcement this month that he had taken it himself as a preventive measure.

Fearing the spread of disease, China zeros in on a ubiquitous utensil: chopsticks.

Image

Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

Amy Qin is a China correspondent for The New York Times covering the intersection of culture, politics and society.

The coronavirus has forced us all to rethink our everyday habits, including things we once took for granted like shaking hands or wearing shoes inside the house.

So when my editors recently asked me to look into a story about the Chinese government’s recent campaign to promote the use of serving chopsticks, it also prompted some self-reflection.

Growing up in a Chinese household in the United States, we almost always ate family-style, using our personal chopsticks to reach into dishes of food that had been placed in the middle of the table. Some of my most vivid memories from childhood involve my mom, in the well-established tradition of Chinese mothers, piling food onto my plate, urging me to “eat more, eat more.”

Sure, there were occasions when serving chopsticks and spoons were used — like potlucks, for example, or meals with strangers. But at home and between friends, sharing was caring. Eight years of living and eating out in China only served to reinforce the habit.

But then came the new coronavirus. Almost overnight, habits changed. For perhaps the first time, serving spoons and chopsticks appeared at our family’s Lunar New Year dinner. In Beijing in March, during one of my first meals out after the city’s restriction began to loosen, my friend and I asked for serving chopsticks for each of the dishes we ordered. It felt strange at first, but we quickly got used to it.

After the immediate threat of the virus fades, though, it remains to be seen whether or not these new habits will stick in China. As Liu Peng, 32, an education consultant from the coastal city of Qingdao, told me: “Maybe using serving chopsticks is more hygienic but eating is the time for us all to relax, and we don’t want to be bothered by all these little rules.”

Reporting and research were contributed by Donald G. McNeil Jr., Frances Robles, Kirk Semple, Manuela Andreoni, Natalie Kitroeff, Concepción de León, Mihir Zaveri, Karen Zraick, Andrew Higgins, Raphael Minder, Sui-Lee Wee, Vivian Wang, Declan Walsh, Thomas Erdbrink, Megan Specia, Ed O’Loughlin, Stephen Castle, Mark Landler, Andrew Higgins, Niraj Chokshi, Amy Qin, Liam Stack, Somini Sengupta and Vanessa Friedman.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here