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In Britain, a call to end weekly clapping for health care workers.
The woman credited with starting the weekly applause for health care workers fighting the coronavirus in Britain has suggested that the “Clap for Carers” should end on Thursday, the 10th week after it started.
Her logic? The public has shown its appreciation enough and it is now up to the government to reward doctors and nurses, often called heroes for their work on the front lines. Many have died during the outbreak, and they have cared for patients while short on protective equipment like masks, gloves and visors.
The woman, Annemarie Plas, told BBC Radio 2 that the clapping could be replaced by an annual remembrance. “Next week will be 10 times,” she said. “I think that would be beautiful, to be the end of the series.”
While the British government has been accused of mishandling the pandemic — such as announcing only on Friday, months after a lockdown began, that international travelers to the country would be required to self-isolate for 14 days — its National Health Service has been seen as a rallying point.
Britons started clapping at 8 p.m. on March 26, weeks after Italy, France, Spain and other countries in Europe had begun showing support in a similar fashion. New Yorkers also step out to applaud daily at 7 p.m.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that his government was considering how to reward health care professionals — weeks after other governments in Europe announced bonuses. Under pressure, he also ordered the end to the extra medical fee that non-British workers at the N.H.S. must pay to use the service.
The moves come as pressure is growing for Mr. Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, to resign after news outlets reported that he had visited his parents at their home in March while he had coronavirus symptoms.
According to The Guardian and The Mirror newspapers, Mr. Cummings traveled to Durham, 270 miles north of his home in London, a week after he had begun to self-isolate, flouting guidance from Mr. Johnson for people to stay home to help curb the virus’s spread.
White House questions the death toll and challenges governors over churches.
As the United States approaches 100,000 coronavirus deaths, President Trump and members of his administration have been questioning the official death toll.
On Friday, Mr. Trump told reporters that he accepted the current death toll but that the figures could be “lower than” the official count, which is now above 95,000. Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, has said that America has taken “a very liberal approach” to what counts as a Covid-19 death.
The president escalated another dispute on Friday by demanding that states “allow our churches and places of worship to open right now.” He threatened to “override” any governors who did not.
Legal experts said he did not have such authority, but he could take states to court on religious freedom grounds.
Attorney General William P. Barr, a strong advocate of religious rights, has been threatening legal action against California, where more than 1,200 pastors have signed a declaration that they will reopen their churches by May 31 even if the restrictions are not lifted. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said Friday that the state was working with faith leaders on guidelines to reopen in “a safe and responsible manner.”
Other governors rejected the president’s threat. “While we have read the president’s comments,” the office of Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said in a statement, “there is no order and we think he understands at this point that he can’t dictate what states can or cannot open.”
China reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases.
China on Saturday reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases, the first time that both tallies were zero on a given day since the country’s outbreak began.
The authorities reported 28 asymptomatic cases, two of which were imported.
The announcements came as the authorities in Wuhan, where the global outbreak began, are aiming to test all of the city’s 11 million residents. In what is knows as a “10-day battle,” begun on May 14, the government initiative aims to obtain a truer picture of the epidemic in the city — most crucially of people who have the virus but show no symptoms.
Some public health experts are watching the campaign to see whether it can serve as a model for other governments that want to return their societies to some level of normalcy.
And while China’s Hong Kong security laws are attracting wide attention outside the country, its domestic news media outlets are keeping the focus on President Xi Jinping. He is using China’s biggest political event of the year, the annual session of the National People’s Congress, to project strength at a time when external criticism of his government’s handling of the pandemic is growing.
Will the coronavirus kill what’s left of Americans’ faith in Washington?
Long before the coronavirus crisis, another one was brewing: a drop in how many Americans trust the federal government.
It has been declining for decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations. And last year it reached one of the lowest points since the measure began: Just 17 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing “just about always” or “most of the time,” according to the Pew Research Center.
That doesn’t necessarily mean people want no government at all. Polls consistently show much more faith in local government, and some governors are getting high marks for their handling of the pandemic.
But in a week of more than 20 interviews, Americans said that the government in Washington was not rising to meet the challenge.
Many noted that corporations seemed to be getting the lion’s share of federal relief money while small businesses suffered. They expressed bafflement that people had been asked to stay home but were not given enough financial support to do so. Some said it made no sense for entire states to be locked down when some places within were affected far more than others.
And while answers did follow a partisan pattern — Democrats tended to be more skeptical of Washington because they disapprove of President Trump — Americans also expressed a dissatisfaction that has been building for years.
“I don’t trust these people, I don’t believe them,” said Curtis Devlin, 42, an Iraq War veteran who lives in California, referring to national political leaders of both parties. “The people whose interests they represent are donors, power brokers, the parties.
How to sell a lockdown in New Zealand: straight talk and mom jokes.
Pandemics are often described as crises of communication, when leaders must persuade people to suspend their lives because of an invisible threat. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand excels at that — by brightening epidemiology with empathy, and leavening legal matters with mom jokes.
It’s been strikingly effective.
Ms. Ardern helped coax New Zealanders — “our team of five million,” she says — to buy into a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was banned. Now the country, despite some early struggles with contact tracing, has nearly stamped out the virus.
Still, at a time when Ms. Ardern, a 39-year-old global progressive icon, is being widely celebrated, some epidemiologists say that New Zealand’s lockdown went too far and that other countries suppressed the virus with less harm to small businesses.
But behind Ms. Ardern’s success are two powerful forces: her own hard work at making connections with constituents, and the political culture of New Zealand, which in the 1990s overhauled how it votes, forging a system that forces political parties to work together.
“You need the whole context, the way the political system has evolved,” said Helen Clark, a former prime minister who hired Ms. Ardern as an adviser more than a decade ago. “It’s not easily transferable.”
How to have a safer Memorial Day weekend.
It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, when beaches and backyard barbecues beckon. As many places continue to reopen, here is guidance on lowering the coronavirus risk.
This year’s Eid al-Fitr festivities will be muted.
The normally joyful Eid al-Fitr holiday begins this weekend, at a time when many governments have imposed restrictions to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. That means the communal Muslim prayers, feasts and parties that usually mark the occasion are being restricted or scrapped.
In Indonesia, where the number of coronavirus cases has risen sharply in recent days, Islamic leaders have encouraged Muslims to celebrate the holiday, which ends the holy month of Ramadan, without gathering for traditional iftar dinners to break their fast on Saturday evening. And the country’s largest mosque, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, plans to offer televised prayers on Sunday.
In Bangladesh, the government has banned the huge communal Eid prayers that normally take place in open fields, saying that worshipers must gather inside mosques. It also asked people not to shake hands or hug one another after praying, and advised that children, older people and anyone who is ill stay away from communal prayers.
As for mosques themselves, the government has said that they must be disinfected before and after each Eid gathering, and that all worshipers must carry hand sanitizer and wear masks while praying.
In neighboring India, imams and community leaders have urged people to stay home and follow social distancing norms. Many cities have maintained their 7 p.m.-to-7 a.m. curfews.
In the Indian city of Lucknow, which is known for its kebabs, butcher shops are closed amid a restriction on meat sales that took effect in March. Mohammed Raees Qureshi, who owns two butcher shops in Lucknow, said he had hoped — to no avail — that local officials would allow him to open for at least a couple of days around Eid.
“If they would give us some guidelines, we would make sure to follow them,” he said. “But right now there is only silence.”
A British utility will pay its customers to keep the lights on.
The pandemic has played havoc with energy markets. Last month, the price of benchmark American crude oil fell below zero as the economy shut down and demand plunged.
And this weekend, a British utility will pay some of its residential consumers to use electricity — to plug in appliances and run them full blast.
These negative electricity prices usually show up in wholesale power markets, when a big electricity user like a factory or a water treatment plant is paid to consume more power. Having too much power on the line could lead to damaged equipment or even blackouts.
Negative prices were once relatively rare, but during the pandemic they have become almost routine in Britain, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The reason is similar to what caused the price of oil to plunge: oversupply meeting a collapse in demand.
In Britain, Octopus Energy is offering to pay some customers 2 pence to 5 pence per kilowatt-hour for electricity that they consume in periods of slack demand, such as are expected on Sunday.
“This needs to become the normal,” said Greg Jackson, the company’s and chief executive, who said the pandemic was offering a preview of “what the future is going to look like.”
In recent weeks, renewable energy sources have played an increasingly large role in the European power system, and the burning of coal has decreased.
Some coronavirus patients in Portugal recognized their doctor from the soccer field.
He swapped his blazer and tie for personal protective equipment and left the boardroom for the emergency room at Lisbon’s military hospital.
There, as a doctor pressed into service in the pandemic, he faced feverish, coughing patients and helped line up their care. But some of them had a curious question. “From just looking at my eyes,” he said, “they would say, ‘Hey, are you not the Sporting president? Can I have a selfie?’”
Frederico Varandas is the president of Sporting Clube de Portugal, one of the country’s biggest soccer teams. He is also Dr. Frederico Varandas, a reserve military physician who completed a tour in Afghanistan a decade ago before switching his career.
Dr. Varandas, 40, was recently on call at the hospital for about six weeks, treating military staff members and their families. His main task was to test and evaluate patients as they arrived, before handing off the more serious ones to his colleagues in the intensive care unit.
He is not the only sports figure pressed into medical service in the pandemic. In Canada, Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in hockey turned medical student, has been gathering protective equipment for workers and helping with efforts to track the spread of the coronavirus.
In Dr. Varandas’s case, he said, “Sports had stopped in Portugal, and I thought that I am more important to the country working as a doctor.”
South Korea is closing bars and karaoke parlors after new infections.
The authorities in South Korea’s major cities have shuttered thousands of bars, nightclubs and karaoke parlors after identifying them as new sources of infection.
The measures are a response to a new coronavirus cluster — 215 cases as of Friday — traced to nightlife facilities this month. The outbreak is believed to have started in Itaewon, a popular nightclub district in Seoul.
Anyone who visits the venues, as well as the owners who accept them, can face fines, and the government can also sue them for damages amid an outbreak. And unlike other patients, those who contract the virus in these facilities while they are barred must pay their own coronavirus-related medical bills.
South Korea is not the only the place in the region to crack down on nightlife in the pandemic.
Hong Kong closed its night clubs and karaoke establishments in April after a “bar and band” cluster was identified in a popular nightlife district. They are scheduled to reopen next week.
And in Japan, an association representing entertainment workers issued guidelines on Friday that cover nightclubs and hostess bars. The guidelines suggest that hostesses tie up their hair and avoid sitting directly in front of customers.
The association, Nihon Mizushobai Kyokai, also said that microphones in karaoke parlors should be disinfected regularly and that customers should keep their masks on while singing.
Separated by Plexiglas: A correspondent on what it’s like to visit a nursing home in France.
Elian Peltier covered the pandemic in Spain before returning to his home country, France. We asked him to tell us about a visit to his grandparents.
When France went under lockdown in March, my mother was relieved. Her parents were in a nursing home, and with travel restrictions in place, she and her sister could no longer drive the 80 miles south of Paris every weekend to visit them.
At least in the home, my grandparents would get the care they needed. Then the virus slipped inside nursing homes, and relief turned to alarm.
So began a long vigil of daily calls, weekly video chats and customized postcards created online.
When I told my grandfather about reporting in Spain, I didn’t mention the bodies taken out of apartment buildings in Barcelona and the health care workers in hazmat suits disinfecting nursing homes in isolated villages. It felt better to update him on European soccer leagues and reminisce about our penalty-kick practices in his garden in Beaugency, where I spent my summers as a child.
The coronavirus has killed about 14,000 residents of France’s nursing homes — half of the country’s death toll. We are lucky that, so far, none of those deaths occurred at my grandparents’ home, where the caregivers were vigilant about social distancing.
As France began easing its lockdown last week, we were finally able to visit, or rather sit outside the home, as my grandparents sat inside, a few feet away. To allow us to hear each other, the staff opened the door, but placed a table with a Plexiglas partition in the doorway.
We could see my grandparents only one at a time, since they are in different parts of the home that can no longer socially mix. My grandfather, a former stone mason, misses many things that we cannot yet deliver, like shorts, because of the home’s strict rules. It is my grandmother’s company he misses most.
My grandmother, once a wonderful cook known for her poulet basquaise and cherry cakes, has Alzheimer’s. When she struggled to recognize me, I broke the rules and took down my mask for a second. A nurse gently caressed her hair as we spoke. My mother and I were a little envious that the nurse could do what we could not.
For now, I plan to finally read my grandfather’s journals of his military service in Chad when he was around my age. He gave them to me at Christmas; I thought I had plenty of time to read them. That was before he had a stroke, and before the pandemic created a new normal.
The virus’s ‘different pathway’ in Africa may be a function of the continent’s younger population.
The coronavirus is taking a “different pathway” in Africa compared with its trajectory in other regions, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Mortality rates are lower in Africa than elsewhere, the W.H.O. said, theorizing that the continent’s young population could account for that.
The virus has reached all 55 countries on the continent, which recently confirmed its 100,000th case, with 3,100 deaths. When Europe’s infection count reached that point, it had registered 4,900 deaths.
“For now, Covid-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the organization’s regional director for Africa.
More than 60 percent of people in Africa are under 25, and Covid-19 hits older populations particularly hard. In Europe, around 95 percent of virus deaths have been among those 60 and older.
Many health experts have cast doubt on the W.H.O.’s numbers, however, saying that most African countries’ testing capability is extremely limited — partly because they struggle to obtain the diagnostic equipment they need — and that deaths as a result of Covid-19 are undercounted.
In some places, they say, low official numbers for cases and deaths mask a much graver reality.
In Kano, a busy commercial hub in northern Nigeria, the official number of confirmed cases is low, but so is the number of samples it can test. Gravediggers report that they are burying many more bodies than usual, and doctors say the deaths are almost certainly caused by Covid-19, but few of them are tested before burial.
“Most of the people who are dying are in their 60s and above, and most of them have other conditions,” such as hypertension or diabetes, said Prof. Yusuf Adamu, a medical geographer in Kano. He said that many residents seemed to have mild symptoms, but often avoided testing.
As virus spreads in Russia’s Caucasus, rumors swirl over a strongman’s health.
The strongman leader of Chechnya, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, is hospitalized with possible symptoms of the coronavirus, state-run news agencies say. A spokesman suggests he is just keeping a low profile because he is “thinking.”
Uncertainty over the health of the leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has broad implications, coming just as the virus is shaking the volatile and predominantly Muslim Caucasus region of southern Russia.
Even Chechnya’s very status as part of Russia — at issue in two wars in the post-Soviet era — revolves in no small part on the close ties between Mr. Kadyrov and Mr. Putin.
Official numbers are still low — Chechnya has reported 1,046 cases of the virus and 11 deaths — but signs are emerging daily that the toll across the Caucasus is far greater, and growing.
The pandemic appears to be hitting the neighboring republic of Dagestan harder. Mr. Putin held an unusual televised video conference with Dagestani leaders this week, warning that traditional festivities marking the end of Ramadan this weekend posed a threat.
A top cleric, Mufti Akhmad Abdulayev, told Mr. Putin on the call that more than 700 people had died there, including 50 medical workers.
Reporting was contributed by Elian Peltier, Sabrina Tavernise, Elaine Yu, Choe Sang-Hun, Hisako Ueno, Tariq Panja, Stanley Reed, Ian Austen, Julfikar Ali Manik, Shalini Venugopal, Richard C. Paddock, Mike Ives, Anton Troianovski, Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Damien Cave, Peter Baker, Michael Cooper, Sui-Lee Wee, Louis Lucero, Jennifer Jett, Jin Wu, Maggie Haberman, Noah Weiland, Abby Goodnough, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sheila Kaplan and Sarah Mervosh.
Orignially published in NYT.