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Coronavirus Live Updates: Virus Fears Over Global Protests

2020-06-06 12:58:15
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Fear of a coronavirus spike as crowds gather for anti-racism rallies around the world.

As cities around the world braced on Saturday for more demonstrations against racism and police violence, spurred by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, alarmed health officials warned that the crowds could speed the spread of the coronavirus.

In Australia, tens of thousands rallied on Saturday in major cities and small towns in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for an end to systemic racism and Aboriginal deaths in police custody. In Sydney, where a last-minute court ruling allowed a demonstration to go forward minutes before it started, anger mixed with resolve and a promise of persistence.

“We will not be silenced,” one organizer shouted to the crowd as helicopters buzzed overhead. “We will be coming to your streets until you get it right.”

Britain, too, was expecting huge throngs to turn out on Saturday in cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham after a week of rolling demonstrations, even as the country’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, urged people to avoid the weekend protests.

“I understand why people are deeply upset, but we are still facing a health crisis,” Mr. Hancock said at a news briefing on Friday. “Please, for the safety of your loved ones, do not attend large gatherings.”

In Paris, the authorities have barred people from gathering in front of the U.S. Embassy, but thousands are expected to protest there as well as near the Eiffel Tower on Saturday afternoon, echoing protests this week that drew nearly 20,000 people to remember Adama Traoré, a Frenchman who died in police custody in 2016.

Fury against racism and police brutality has also brought crowds into the streets of Belgium, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Zimbabwe. In other parts of the world:

  • Saudi Arabia reimposed a curfew in the Red Sea city of Jeddah from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks starting on Saturday, halted prayers in the city’s mosques and suspended work in offices because of a rise in the spread of the coronavirus, the state news agency SPA reported.

  • Russia on Saturday reported 8,855 new cases of the coronavirus, pushing the total number of infections to 458,689, and 197 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 5,725.

  • Spain will start opening its borders to foreign tourists from July 1, a government spokeswoman, Maria Jesus Montero, said on Friday.

When Illinois shut businesses in March and the state’s unemployment system jammed from the overload, Bridget Altenburg, chief executive of a Chicago-based nonprofit group, visited one of the organization’s work force centers. Two things stood out: the sheer number of people lined up to apply for unemployment benefits, and how few faces were white.

For years, Gildo Negri visited schools to share his stories about blowing up bridges and cutting electrical wires to sabotage Nazis and fascists during World War II. In January, the 89-year-old made another visit, leaving his nursing home outside Milan to help students plant trees in honor of Italians deported to concentration camps.

But at the end of February, as Europe’s first outbreak of the coronavirus spread through Mr. Negri’s nursing home, it fatally infected him, too.

The virus, which is so lethal to the old, has hastened the departure of these last witnesses and forced the cancellation of commemorations. It has also created an opportunity for rising political forces who seek to recast the history of the last century in order to play a greater role in remaking the present one.

Throughout Europe, radical right-wing parties with histories of Holocaust denial, Mussolini infatuation and fascist motifs have gained traction in recent years.

Now researchers say more targeted approaches — in New York and elsewhere — might have protected public health with less economic pain.

Businesses in New York City, where an initial phase of reopening is to begin on Monday, have been mostly shut down for 11 weeks. But a study has found that the economic cost could have been reduced by a third or more by strategically choosing neighborhoods to close, calibrating the risk of infection for local residents and workers with the impact on local jobs.

“It was an amazing effort, and it shows what you can do when you have the political will and a willingness to spend the money,” said Dominic Williamson, the executive director of strategy and policy for the British homeless charity St. Mungo’s.

Much of the attention to the toll Covid-19 has taken on older adults has rightly focused on long-term-care facilities. Their residents and employees account for almost 40 percent of the nation’s deaths, according to an updated New York Times analysis.

But far more Americans — nearly six million, by one estimate — rely on paid home care than live in nursing homes and assisted living combined. And both workers and clients have cause for worry.

Even more than nursing home employees, home care workers are poorly paid hourly workers and often lack health insurance; half rely on some form of public assistance. Not only do many home care workers serve several clients each week, but to piece together a living they may simultaneously work for several agencies or for nursing homes, or hold outside jobs.

Those conditions increase infection risks, and not only for their frail older clients. Almost a third of home care workers, a heavily female work force, are themselves over 55, and most are black or Hispanic, groups that have proved particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

Personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., has proved hard to acquire, however. With hospitals and nursing homes scrambling for supplies, “this was the forgotten sector,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at the University of Toronto.

“Home care workers are probably unknowingly involved in the transmission of Covid-19, especially when they’re not equipped with sufficient P.P.E.,” he added.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has enabled increased razing of the Amazon rainforest. The coronavirus has accelerated that destruction.

Illegal loggers, miners and land grabbers have cleared vast areas of the Amazon with impunity in recent months as law enforcement efforts were hobbled by the pandemic.

The fallout from the pandemic has exacerbated the ecological degradation set in motion by government policies under Mr. Bolsonaro, who favors expanding commercial development in the Amazon and views environmental regulations as a hindrance to economic growth. But some career civil servants are still working to enforce environmental protections.

Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Ceylan Yeginsu, Elian Peltier, Yonette Joseph, Eduardo Porter, Patricia Cohen, Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni, Leticia Casado, Ben Casselman and Paula Span.

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