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Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times


Southeast Asia’s dangerous roads are less deadly amid lockdowns.

Coronavirus lockdowns across Southeast Asia are reaping an unexpected benefit: safer roads in a region where road fatalities are a leading killer.

In Thailand, where road accidents last year killed more than 21,000 people, many on motorcycles, such deaths were down by roughly half in April, according to the Road Safety Commission.

During the first month of the lockdown in Malaysia, road accidents and deaths decreased by about two-thirds, according to the Traffic Enforcement and Investigation Department.

And in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, the roads are much safer now than they were pre-lockdown, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. Under a strict lockdown that is in place until at least the end of this month, only essential vehicles — ambulances, police cars and motorcycle delivery operators — are allowed on the streets.

Canceled festivities, such as curtailed New Year’s celebrations in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar in April, have also cut road deaths. Fewer people carousing and driving while drunk means safer roads.

Several countries in Southeast Asia have relatively low rates of confirmed coronavirus cases. In Thailand, road deaths remain a bigger killer than the pandemic, according to official data.

Sweden’s coronavirus outbreak has been far deadlier than those of its neighbors, but the country is still better off than many others that enforced strict lockdowns.

By late March, nearly every country in Europe had closed schools and businesses, restricted travel, and ordered citizens to stay home. But one stood out for its decision to stay open: Sweden.

The New York Times measured the impact of the pandemic in Sweden by comparing the total number of people who have died in recent months to the average over the past several years. The totals include deaths from Covid-19, as well as those from other causes, including people who could not be treated or decided not to seek treatment.

In Stockholm, where the virus spread through migrant communities, more than twice the usual number of people died last month. That increase far surpasses the rise in deaths in American cities like Boston and Chicago, and approaches the increase seen in Paris.

Across Sweden, almost 30 percent more people died during the epidemic than is normal this time of year, an increase similar to that of the United States and far higher than the small increases seen in its neighboring countries. While Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia, all have strong public health care systems and low health inequality across the population.

“It’s not a very flattering comparison for Sweden, which has such a great public health system,” said Andrew Noymer, a demographer at the University of California at Irvine. “There’s no reason Sweden should be doing worse than Norway, Denmark and Finland.”

Australians flocked to cafes and bars in much of the country on Friday, as new easing of lockdown measures came into play, a major step toward reopening the economy and a sign of confidence that their country has controlled its outbreak.

The shift was welcomed in Australian, where cafe and pub culture are an integral part of the national identity. In Sydney, for the first time in almost two months, patrons — separated by empty tables — could be seen socializing over coffee and food in restaurants.

Some smaller restaurants said, however, that the restrictions have limited them from fully restarting services. Beaches in the country also partly opened last month for exercise purposes, although sunbathing and lounging remain prohibited.

The effort was part of the government’s three-step plan to revive the nation’s economy by July, with individual states and territories determining their own timelines for reopening.

“Together with Australians, we have been flattening the curve very successfully,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday. With states and territories overwhelmingly adopting the first step, he added, “It is a welcome sign that we are on the road back.”

Much of the country enacted the first stage on Friday, which allows bars and cafes to reopen for dining-in services, with a limit of 10 patrons. Up to five people will be allowed to visit households and up to 10 can gather in public spaces. Schools, outdoor gyms and playgrounds also reopened. Limited regional travel was allowed in some states, but stronger restrictions still remain in Victoria, including the city of Melbourne.

Australia is now looking ahead to the second stage of the reopening, which will allow larger numbers at bars, cafes and other facilities. The country has so far been spared the worst of the pandemic, registering small numbers of cases compared with major outbreaks elsewhere.

The country has confirmed 7017 cases of the coronavirus, Australia’s chief medical officer said on Friday, with an increase of about 20 cases per day recently. As of Friday, 98 people nationally had died from the coronavirus.

China’s factories maintained a brisk pace last month, but Chinese consumers were slow to resume shopping, according to official statistics released on Friday.

Many countries have been watching China’s economic performance closely because it is several months ahead of the rest of the world in coping with the virus. The Chinese economy shrank in the first three months of this year for the first time since Mao Zedong died in 1976.

Factories caught up on orders that they had struggled to fill earlier this year, when the coronavirus pandemic raced across the country. The country’s industrial production was up 3.9 percent from April of last year, better than most economists expected. Production had been down 1.1 percent in March from a year earlier and had plunged in February, when the virus outbreak was at its worst in China.

But shopping and fixed asset investment stayed weak. Retail sales were down 7.5 percent in April compared to a year earlier, marginally worse than economists’ expectations.

“We should be aware that given the continuous spread of the epidemic abroad, the stability and recovery of the national economy is still faced with multiple challenges,” said Liu Aihua, the director general of the agency’s department of comprehensive statistics.

Strong exports kept factories busy last month. Many factories were catching up on orders placed while Chinese cities were locked down. But orders for further exports have stalled, according to surveys of purchasing managers.

Despite the progress, tens of millions of migrant workers are unemployed. Many white-collar workers have suffered pay cuts. Weak consumption has some economists wondering how long China can sustain an economic rebound.

Through earthquakes and typhoons, floods and political turmoil, Fe Repalde knew she could count on one constant: Her tiny, flickering television was always tuned to ABS-CBN, one of the most influential networks in the Philippines.

But on May 5, amid the coronavirus lockdown that has kept slum dwellers bound to their shacks, Ms. Repalde’s television went dark as President Rodrigo Duterte effectively shut down the broadcasting giant.

Gone were basketball highlights and juicy soap operas. Most of all, the newscasters and reporters of the news program “TV Patrol” had been silenced, just when a pandemic has made information an essential commodity.

Mr. Duterte’s government has ascribed the closing of ABS-CBN to anomalies in licensing renewals. But his critics say the move is yet more evidence of an increasingly domineering government using a crisis to crack down on dissent.

Human Rights Watch said the closing “reeks of a political vendetta.”

Morgan Ortagus, the spokeswoman for the State Department, said Washington was “concerned by the situation regarding ABS-CBN.”

“An independent media also helps keep our society safe and healthy, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic we currently face,” she said.

The blackout is the first time that ABS-CBN has gone off the air since 1986, when a popular revolt toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Eugenio Lopez Jr., ABS-CBN’s former chairman, was jailed by Marcos, but he eventually escaped and fled to the United States, where he galvanized other exiled activists to campaign for a return to democracy in the Philippines.

Selda, a group of activists who were tortured during Marcos’s martial law era, said Mr. Duterte, a self-confessed admirer of the dictator, was following the same playbook.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released six flow charts meant to help schools, restaurants, transit systems and other businesses decide when to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency’s first release of such guidance after a more comprehensive draft was rejected by the White House.

The decision trees are mostly composed of basic tips that can serve as a checklist for businesses before they reopen.

The public release of the guidance on Thursday follows a tumultuous back-and-forth between the C.D.C. and the White House. Trump administration officials had sent back the C.D.C.’s initial recommendations, arguing that they were too prescriptive and rigid when the density of confirmed coronavirus cases can fluctuate widely from state to state, and even county to county. Some federal agencies also said the draft guidelines could harm businesses and the economy.

Notably absent from the six decision trees released on Thursday was any mention of houses of worship, which had been a particularly contentious point in the C.D.C. guidance that was rejected.

  • The virus has crippled revenues and raised expenses in most states. But laws requiring balanced budgets could make things tougher.

  • In some key election states like Wisconsin, reopening has deepened the political divide. In Michigan, hundreds of protesters, many of them armed, turned out at the State Capitol in a drenching rainstorm. In Pennsylvania, some Republican lawmakers urged defiance of the Democratic governor’s orders to keep nonessential businesses closed.

  • The White House threatened to veto a $3 trillion pandemic relief bill that Democrats planned to push through the House on Friday, as Republicans urged their members to reject a measure they said was a nonstarter.

The head of the organization charged with bringing a semblance of order to international trade relations resigned unexpectedly Thursday, adding another element of uncertainty to commerce in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and escalating trade conflicts.

Roberto Azevêdo, a career Brazilian diplomat, resigned as the director-general of the World Trade Organization effective Aug. 31, the Geneva-based organization said. His second four-year term was not scheduled to end until September 2021.

The W.T.O.’s operations have been crippled since late last year as a result of actions by the Trump administration, which has refused to approve nominees to fill vacancies on a crucial appeals panel that rules on trade disputes.

With Mr. Azevêdo’s departure, which caught officials in Geneva and Brussels by surprise, the organization will lose an advocate of open trade and international cooperation whose views clashed with President Trump’s preference for bilateral power politics.

His resignation also leaves a leadership vacuum at a perilous moment for the world economy.

Latest in science: Young patients and strokes; talking and droplets.

Neurologists around the United States have reported a flurry of unexplained strokes among Covid-19 patients, including among young and otherwise healthy people.

One of those patients was Ravi Sharma, a 27-year-old emergency medical technician in New York City who spent weeks ferrying sick, elderly patients from nursing homes to hospitals.

He self-quarantined in mid-March when he developed a dry cough, knowing he was probably infected even though he wasn’t able to get a test. Then he had a sudden stroke that left him unable to speak or move the right side of his body.

He was rushed to the hospital, where he was sedated and placed on a ventilator. His family wasn’t sure if he would make it.

He is now recovering at a rehab facility, where he has learned to walk again. He’s trying to gain back some of the 50 pounds he lost during his illness.

“I’m 27, and if this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” Mr. Sharma said. “This is real and it’s scary. I want people to go out there and be cautious.”

The strokes appear to be related to a broader phenomenon that has emerged in critically ill Covid-19 patients: excessive blood clotting.

It was just two weeks ago that war-ravaged Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, reported its first cluster of coronavirus cases. Since then infections appear to have exploded, realizing the worst fears of aid groups.

Save the Children, the global charity, reported Thursday that at least 385 people had died over the past week with Covid 19-like symptoms in the city of Aden, where the first cluster — five cases — surfaced at the end of April.

Several hospitals in Aden have closed, and some medical workers have refused to work because of a lack of protective equipment, Save the Children said. The two main public hospitals are providing only emergency services, and are not admitting patients, it reported.

“Our teams on the ground are seeing how people are being sent away from hospitals, breathing heavily or even collapsing,” Mohammed Alshamaa, Save the Children’s director of programs in Yemen, said in a statement. “People are dying because they can’t get treatment that would normally save their lives.”

Earlier Thursday, U.N. officialsalso sounded the alarm. “Humanitarian agencies have every reason to believe that community transmission is taking place across the country,” said Ramesh Rajasingham, the acting deputy emergency relief coordinator.

The five-year war in Yemen and the nine-year one in Syria have combined with the pandemic to create especially dire challenges for vulnerable civilian populations, who are often displaced and have limited or no access to food and medical care.

The World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations, said on Twitter on Thursday that a record 9.3 million people in Syria are “food insecure” — meaning they regularly don’t have enough to eat. Spiraling prices and the coronavirus have “pushed families beyond their limits,” the agency said.

Reporting was contributed by Allison McCann, Lauren Leatherby, Isabella Kwai, Hannah Beech, Rick Gladstone, Jason Gutierrez, Knvul Sheikh, Keith Bradsher, Jacey Fortin, Jack Ewing and Roni Caryn Rabin.





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