Coronavirus World Updates: Empty Icons Return to Life With Lockdowns Easing


A faint hope emerges as people return to public places.

The world is far from open again, but people are slowly being allowed to return to some of the places they once filled before the pandemic forced so many indoors. Places that seemed eerie and alien when empty — beaches, theme parks and railway lines — are now being cautiously revisited.

And in Australia, popular beaches that sat empty are open again for exercise. Children across Sydney returned to school on Monday, donning uniforms that had been folded in drawers for weeks, in a staggered return to class as part of a broader opening that will play out over the coming week.

The virus is still spreading in many countries, and a vaccine has yet to be developed. But in places that appear to have controlled their outbreaks, and in others that have grown willing to take a risk, cautious openings have begun.

The government converted some 20,000 train carriages into isolation wards, bracing for a wave of coronavirus infections that many predicted would overwhelm hospitals. That disaster has largely failed to materialize, although some cities have fared worse than others, with entire hospitals shut in as staff members became infected.

The railways ministry said on Sunday that some trains would run from New Delhi to cities across the country, but that passengers would have to wear masks and undergo health screenings before being allowed to depart. New routes will also be introduced, the ministry said.

For the first time in nearly two months, the French are free to leave their homes without filling out special release forms — a necessity over the past eight weeks to authorize a handful of permitted outings like grocery shopping, medical appointments or brief bouts of exercise.

France began lifting its strict lockdown on Monday. The pace varies by region, but some schools reopened, some shops lifted their shutters and some hair salons were fully booked.

The measures are among several taking effect across Europe on Monday as nations plot a path forward. Germany and Spain also introduced new freedoms as part of a gradual return to public life.

But, for most Europeans, life approaching is not yet approaching normal. Although the ability to leave release forms behind was a major change for Paris residents, there were no early risers sipping coffee on Monday in cafes, which, like restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters, will remain closed until further notice. Masks were mandatory, and social distancing was the norm on public transportation.

On the Paris metro, one of every two seats was blocked off, and large stickers on the ground showed where people could stand to remain at a safe distance from fellow travelers. Though the new system was not without its issues — one of the busiest lines had jam-packed carriage of mask-wearing commuters Monday morning, according to a clip from the local news outlet BFM TV. The crowding did not last long, but it showed the challenges of the distancing guidelines.

“We are going to have to live with the virus for some time, and the lifting of the confinement is not a return to life as it used to be,” Olivier Véran, the French health minister, told BFM TV on Monday.

But the changes take effect only in parts Spain. The rest of the country — including the two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona — will for now be kept under tighter controls. The health ministry said last week that the risk infection was not yet low enough to move to the next phase of reopening.

Salvador Illa, the Spanish health minister, insisted on Friday that regions should not try to fast-track their way out of the lockdown at the risk of provoking a spike in coronavirus cases.

“This is not a race,” he said.

Not even the West Wing is impermeable from the spread of the coronavirus.

Among those who will be sequestered for two weeks is Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. So will Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

“It is scary to go to work,” Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to the president, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

The National Medical Association, the country’s largest professional organization representing black doctors, is calling on federal health agencies to study the role bias may have played in the testing and treatment of African-Americans for Covid-19.

“The whole place is sick now,” said Mitchell Haber, whose 91-year-old father, Arnold Haber, an Army veteran, died last month at the home, which is about 12 miles northwest of New York City.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that the jobs figures would get worse before they got better. He said the real unemployment rate — including people who are underemployed as well as those entirely without work — could soon approach 25 percent.

“There are very, very large numbers,” Mr. Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.”

A draft of the forthcoming public warning, which officials say is likely to be issued in the days to come, says China is seeking “valuable intellectual property and public health data through illicit means related to vaccines, treatments and testing.”

It focuses on cybertheft and action by “nontraditional actors,” a euphemism for researchers and students the Trump administration says are being activated to steal data from inside academic and private laboratories.

The efforts are part of a surge in cybertheft and attacks by nations seeking advantage in the pandemic.

More than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations’ virus responses. Even American allies like South Korea and nations that do not typically stand out for their cyberabilities, like Vietnam, have suddenly redirected their state-run hackers to focus on virus-related information, according to private security firms.

The decision to issue a specific accusation against China’s state-run hacking teams, current and former officials said, is part of a broader deterrent strategy that also involves United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency. Under legal authorities that President Trump issued nearly two years ago, they have the power to bore deeply into Chinese and other networks to mount proportional counterattacks.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry denied the hacking allegations on Monday.

At a routine news briefing on Monday in Beijing, the ministry’s spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said China had long “resolutely opposed” all forms of hacking.

“China is at the forefront of the world in research and treatment of novel coronavirus vaccines,” Mr. Zhao said. “It is unethical for anyone to slander and falsely concoct rumors if they can’t provide evidence.”

The Australian state of Victoria, which has moved extremely cautiously in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, will now allow visits of up to five people between homes and gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors, the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said on Monday morning.

In New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern favored an especially severe lockdown that has lasted for nearly two months, restrictions are set to ease on Thursday to an even greater degree than in Australia.

Ms. Ardern said that restaurants can have a maximum of 100 customers, with bookings limited to groups of 10. Retail stores, malls, cinemas and other public spaces can reopen, while enforcing physical distancing requirements. Home visits of up to 10 people will also be allowed while schools are set to return to normal classes starting on May 18. If no outbreaks alter the timetable, Ms. Ardern said, bars will reopen on May 21.

“Our team of 5 million has united to beat the virus and must keep doing so — and now we must unite to keep rebuilding our economy,” Ms. Ardern told reporters Monday.

The announcements come as pressure to reopen and revive the economies of both countries has intensified. Small protests broke out on Sunday in Melbourne and Sydney, led by those who claimed that the measures to stop the spread of the virus had gone too far.

The self-administered coronavirus tests being distributed at the high school in Neustrelitz, a small town in northern Germany, is one of the more intriguing efforts in Europe as countries embark on a giant experiment in how to reopen schools, which are being radically transformed by strict hygiene and distancing rules.

Restarting schools is at the core of any plan to restart economies globally. If schools do not reopen, parents cannot go back to work. So how Germany and other countries that have led the way on many fronts handle this stage in the pandemic will provide an essential lesson for the rest of the world.

For now, Europe is a patchwork of approaches and timetables — a vast laboratory for how to safely operate an institution that is central to any meaningful resumption of public life.

An even greater blind spot is transmission. Children often do not have symptoms, making it less likely that they are tested and harder to see whether or how they spread the virus.

Temperature checks are conducted on ticket holders upon arrival. All guests must wear face masks. Parades are suspended. No theater shows or fireworks. Purple social-distancing mats prevent bunching while waiting in line. Rows of seats are left empty on rides.

“It has been an emotional morning,” Joe Schott, president and general manager of the Shanghai Disney Resort, said in a phone interview. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

A Chinese city is on high alert after a rash of new cases.

The small city of Shulan in northeast China has gone onto high alert against the coronavirus after a rash of at least 15 infections around the area that started with a woman who was reported to have no history of contact with known cases.

The spike in infections may be small by international measures, but it has become a worrisome case of how even limited outbreaks could hold back China’s efforts to restart something like a normal life after the monthslong crisis.

One reason for the heightened anxiety is that it remains unclear who infected the washerwoman, who had not been traveling or in contact with known cases.

In response, Shulan has announced a sweeping shutdown, similar to the measures that fell in place in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the epidemic began late last year.

Residential compounds have been closed off to visits, and transport has been heavily restricted. Residents are only allowed out of their homes for essential needs, with one member per household designated to shop for food and other basic needs. Public spaces, such as movie theaters, bars and government service offices, have been closed, after gradually reopening in recent weeks. Schools have canceled all classes, reversing measures to allow some students back.

As the coronavirus has hopscotched the world, a paradox has emerged: Rich nations are not necessarily better at fighting the crisis than poorer ones.

Those countries could draw on deep reservoirs of resilience born of relatively recent hardship. Compared to what their people had been through not long ago, the stringent lockdowns seemed less arduous, apparently prompting a larger social buy-in.

Ive Morovic, a 45-year-old barber in Zadar, Croatia, believes the focused way in which Croats have responded to the pandemic harks back to wartime and the legacy of communism.

“People today are afraid, and the discipline we all learned helps us get in line and creates some sort of forced unity,” he said.

Normally, the mosque, one of England’s largest, would be filled with thousands of worshipers during the holy month of Ramadan. Now it is mostly empty, except for stacks of coffins.

“I’ve lost count of the bodies that have come in and out of here,” said Javid Akhtar, the mosque’s funeral director. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Everyone in the community knows someone who has died or is sick,” said Tariq Mahmood, a 24-year-old volunteer.

Reporting was contributed by Aurelien Breeden, Raphael Minder, Melissa Eddy, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Damien Cave, Chris Buckley, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Iliana Magra, Ceylan Yeginsu, Katrin Bennhold, Abdi Latif Dahir, Austin Ramzy, David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, Maria Abi-Habib, Neil Vigdor, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, John Eligon, Audra D.S. Burch, Tracey Tully and Jim Tankersley.





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