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Coronavirus World Updates

2020-05-16 09:16:26

Italy will lift some travel restrictions as it emerges from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.

Italy will lift travel restrictions beginning on June 3, under a decree adopted by the government on Saturday that will open the door to renewed tourism, one of the country’s hardest-hit sectors.

The measure, in a country that is emerging from one of Europe’s tightest coronavirus lockdowns, will permit freer movement by private and public transportation within the country’s regions.

If there are fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus, the government could reimpose restrictive measures, according to a statement. A 14-day quarantine will continue to be applied to people who have been in close contact with anyone infected by the virus.

On Monday, shops, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses will reopen, with stringent social distancing and hygiene rules. Regions are required to monitor their hospitals and the epidemiological situation on a daily basis, and group gatherings are still banned.

Religious services will also be allowed to restart on Monday, adhering to strict “protocols to prevent the risk of contagion,” the statement said. The easing of rules means that Mass will be again celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, which underwent a thorough cleaning with disinfectant on Friday.

The Vatican’s spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said on Thursday that those participating in religious functions at St. Peter’s and at Rome’s three other papal basilicas would be subject to temperature checks.

Italy has been among the hardest countries in Europe by the pandemic, with more than 220,000 confirmed cases and 31,600 deaths. The country’s tourism industry, which, along with cultural activities, accounts for an estimated 20 percent of the country’s economic output, has been effectively grounded during the lockdown, and the government allocated 5 billion euro (about $5.4 billion) toward these sectors.

Just before the coronavirus arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced serious challenges, perhaps the biggest of his tenure.

Since then, as the world has been walloped by the coronavirus pandemic, many of these problems in India, especially the economic ones, have gotten worse. But once again, India has rallied around Mr. Modi, with recent opinion polls showing his already high approval ratings touching 80, even 90, percent.

Analysts say that Mr. Modi’s success may be durable.

His nationwide stay-at-home lockdown, which he dropped on the country with four hours’ notice, has been largely obeyed. He never played down the virus threat or said India had capabilities it did not. And unlike in the United States, where partisan politics has gummed up the response and created great discord, analysts say Mr. Modi has worked well with state-level officials across India, regardless of ideology.

It has not been a spotless performance, however. Mr. Modi’s government was caught off guard by an exodus of migrant workers pouring out of India’s cities, making desperate and sometimes fatal journeys hundreds of miles home. (On Saturday, more than 20 migrants were killed in a truck crash as they traveled home.)

And many economists believe that an $260 billion relief package that he announced this week will hardly be enough.

With nearly half of Britain’s population experiencing “high” levels of anxiety during the pandemic, psychiatrists say that they have seen an increase in first-time emergency cases during the lockdown, and that a sudden drop in routine appointments makes them fear for a “tsunami of mental health after the pandemic.”

In a survey of over 1,300 mental health doctors across Britain, the Royal College of Psychiatrists wrote on Friday that nearly half had seen a drop-off in routine care. In particular, one psychiatrist wrote: “In old-age psychiatry, our patients appear to have evaporated. I think people are too fearful to seek help.”

As many nations have eased confinement rules but retain some forms of lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said that “mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from” the pandemic.

Troubles include depression and various mental issues stemming from isolation and increased stress. The Center for Mental Health, a British independent charity, has forecast an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder. Britain has been one of the worst-hit European countries in the pandemic, with over 236,000 confirmed cases and nearly 34,000 deaths as of Saturday.

“If the economic impact is similar to that of the post-2008 recession, then we could expect 500,000 additional people experiencing mental health problems,” the charity wrote.

Each morning, when Bayer Leverkusen’s players wake up in the hotel requisitioned for their weeklong quarantine, they have a list of six questions to answer. They must tell the club how they slept, how they are feeling and whether any of the telltale symptoms of the coronavirus have set in overnight. That’s just the first item on a list of instructions they have been following.

For all of the players, as it is for everyone involved in the reopening of the Bundesliga this weekend, this is uncharted territory. It is 65 days since the Bundesliga went into hibernation, along with every other major sports league on the planet. On Saturday, at 3:30 p.m. local time, it plans to return.

There are plenty, including many of Germany’s organized fan groups, who believe the Bundesliga has hurried back with money as its only motivation. By returning first, it has turned a problem into an opportunity, having long sought to end the primacy of England’s Premier League in soccer’s global landscape.

But the Bundesliga’s return is not so much proof of German soccer’s greed or its smooth running as it is a testament to a broader political reality.

“We can be the first to start again because of our health care system,” said Simon Rolfes, Leverkusen’s sporting director. “We are thankful to have the opportunity.”

Democratic leaders characterized the package, which President Trump has promised to veto, as their opening offer in future negotiations over coronavirus aid, even amid rifts within their own ranks.

With nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities and Native American populations, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans, the measure was an expansive sequel to the $2.2 trillion stimulus enacted in March.

The bill passed on a tight margin, 208-199, as some moderate Democrats from conservative-leaning districts rejected it as a costly overreach that included provisions unrelated to the pandemic.

“Evil.” “Lunacy.” “Shameless.” “Sick and twisted.” China has hit back at American criticism of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic with an outpouring of vitriol as acrid as anything seen in decades.

Around the same time, China, citing the urgency of the pandemic, demanded that the United States promptly pay its outstanding United Nations assessments, which by some calculations exceed $2 billion. China, the second-biggest financial contributor to the U.N. budget behind the United States, fully paid on May 1.

The United States responded by saying that it customarily pays assessments at year’s end and that China was “eager to distract attention from its cover-up and mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis.”

The tit-for-tat is solidifying longstanding suspicions in Beijing that the United States and its allies are bent on stifling China’s rise as a global power. It is also fanning broader tensions on trade, espionage and other fronts — disputes that could intensify as President Trump makes his contest with Beijing a theme of his re-election campaign.

Like millions of American workers, an Indian software engineer, a British market researcher and an Iranian architect lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike Americans, they are not entitled to unemployment benefits, despite paying taxes, because they are on foreign work visas. And if they cannot find similar jobs soon, they must leave the country.

The lives of tens of thousands of foreign workers on skilled-worker visas, like H-1Bs, have been upended by the economic fallout from the pandemic. Many had been waiting for years to obtain permanent legal residency through their employer, and now face the prospect of deportation.

The Trump administration is also expected in the next few weeks to halt the issuance of new work visas like the H-1B, for high-skilled foreigners, and the H-2B, for seasonal employment. New measures under review would also eliminate a program that enables foreign graduates of American universities to remain in the country and work.

The tightening rules come as unemployment in the U.S. soared last month to 14.7 percent, the highest level on record, and as calls escalated in Congress for Americans to be given priority for jobs.

And like several other countries that have done well in handling the pandemic, they are led by women.

These successes may not prove anything intrinsic about women’s leadership, but experts say they could offer valuable lessons about crisis management.

Whereas Ms. Merkel’s government considered epidemiological models, the input of medical providers and the success of South Korea’s efforts, governments in many countries with high death tolls have relied primarily on their own advisers, with few channels for dissent or outside views.

Women, however powerful, often have to avoid such behaviors or risk being “seen as unfeminine,” said Alice Evans, a sociologist at King’s College London.

Male leaders can overcome gendered expectations. But it may be less politically costly for women to adopt cautious, defensive policies because it does not violate perceived gender norms.

Brazil’s health minister, Nelson Teich, said on Friday that he was stepping down less than a month after taking the job, after clashing with President Jair Bolsonaro over the president’s decision not to embrace social distancing and quarantines.

While governors and mayors in much of the country have urged Brazilians to stay home as much as possible, Mr. Bolsonaro has implored them to go out and work, arguing that an economic unraveling would be more damaging to the country than the virus is. This week he classified beauty salons and gyms as essential businesses that should remain open.

Brazil has more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and over 14,000 deaths. Those figures, among the highest in the world and rising sharply, still grossly underrepresent the extent of the epidemic, experts say, because Brazil has limited testing capacity.

Officially, the country is recording more than 800 coronavirus deaths per day, second only to the United States.

Hannah Beech, the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Times, is based in Bangkok and covers conflict and natural disasters in about a dozen countries. Among them is Myanmar, where she has reported on the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority. In the course of her reporting in the region, she has met children whose parents killed themselves as suicide bombers and others who watched as soldiers bayoneted their relatives.

I didn’t want to be that parent, the one who talks about how when I was a child I had to walk uphill both ways, in the snow, just to get to school.

For one thing, I spent some of my childhood in Bangkok, where I now live with my husband and two sons. There is no snow in Bangkok and not much uphill.

So when my boys, ages 10 and 12, ask me at dinner what I did on a reporting trip — “going away again,” as they call it — I often hesitate.

“Well, Mama interviewed women who were raped when they were trying to flee their homes,” doesn’t seem quite right for the dinner table. Or, “Well, Mama put Mentholatum under her nose because it makes death smell a little less bad.”

But I don’t want to coddle them either. My husband and I ensure that the kids eat what we eat, even if it’s okra. We make them read The Times.

I find myself, too often, comparing them, in their privileged bubble of international school and summer camp in Maine, to the boy I met in a refugee camp or the girl with the big eyes who lost her parents in one of Southeast Asia’s drumbeat of disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, landslides, floods, plane crashes, bombings.


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