Coronavirus World Updates: Spain Grapples with Reopening, as Death Toll Rises


Combination of virus and oil glut yields chaos worldwide.

From Iraq to Venezuela, nations reliant on oil sales have seen the combination of the price collapse and the coronavirus pandemic create new threats of poverty and political instability.

Countries with economies that are heavily reliant on oil production are finding themselves in a dual crisis, and others have been forced to change policies that no longer make economic sense.

While Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States — the biggest oil producers — have large financial cushions, the steep drop in demand the world was put under lockdown has upended everything. It was a possibility even veteran industry experts did not foresee.

“No one imagined a crisis of this scope,” said Daniel Yergin, an expert on global energy and vice chairman of IHS Markit, a research firm. “This was in no scenario.”

“The idea that we are energy dominant or independent is a fallacy,” said Jason Bordoff, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and founding director of its Center on Global Energy Policy. The global market’s effect on the United States, he said, has “revealed that when oil prices rise, we feel the pain, and when oil prices collapse, we need to call Moscow and Riyadh to do something about it.”

As the number of new coronavirus cases in Spain has slowed in recent weeks, the government has been trying to figure out how and when to ease its lockdown.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told Parliament on Wednesday that the lockdown would be only partly eased in the second half of May, saying a “slow and gradual” approach was necessary “precisely because it needs to be safe.”

But with the largest outbreak in Europe, Spain still has hundreds of deaths a day. The country reported an uptick in its daily death toll on Wednesday, with 435 people dying overnight.

Health officials say the death toll remains troubling, even as the infection rate and the number of hospital recoveries have improved this month. About 33,000 health care workers in Spain have tested positive for the virus, one of the highest numbers in the world.

Mr. Sánchez, who heads a minority coalition government, is asking lawmakers to approve an extension of the nationwide state of emergency until May 9.

Mr. Sánchez raised expectations over the weekend by promising that Spanish children would soon be allowed to leave the house. But on Tuesday, the government’s spokeswoman disappointed many by saying that children would be limited to accompanying an adult on an essential trip, such as going to the supermarket or the pharmacy.

“Nobody is measuring with a stopwatch how long it takes a person to buy bread,” the government spokeswoman, María Jesús Montero, said in response to many questions from journalists about why children would need to get their fresh air in a supermarket.

After an avalanche of criticism from politicians on all sides, health specialists and citizens who took to their balconies in Madrid to bang pots in protest, the government reversed its decision.

In another news conference, Salvador Illa, the health minister, said that, starting Sunday, children under 14 would be allowed to go for a short stroll, keeping a safe distance from others.

A British Royal Air Force plane carrying a delayed consignment of medical supplies from Turkey for the National Health Service finally landed early Wednesday, the Ministry of Defense said.

The aircraft was expected to deliver 84 tons of personal protective equipment, including 400,000 surgical gowns, from a commercial supplier in Turkey on Sunday, but it was not clear how much of that consignment was on the jet that touched down at the Brize Norton air base.

The equipment was delayed because the Turkish company was short on stock, Turkish officials said.

Britain’s supplies of protective gear are critically low, and front-line health workers have been advised by the government to reuse the equipment worn while treating coronavirus patients. Health workers say that advice puts them at risk.

The government has also been criticized for not taking part in a European Union program to buy bulk medical equipment, including ventilators, protective equipment and testing kits.

Only 50 of the Parliament’s 650 elected members will be allowed to enter the chamber; 120 members of the House of Commons will join them via video link.

Earlier, China rejected any calls for compensation after President Trump said China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic.

“The virus is a common enemy to all mankind and may strike anytime, anywhere,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Monday. “Like other countries, China is also a victim, not a perpetrator, even less an accomplice of Covid-19.”

Missouri is the first state in the nation to file a lawsuit against China over its actions regarding the coronavirus, but its claim has virtually no chance of succeeding. American law grants foreign governments broad immunity from the civil jurisdiction of American courts.

With few exceptions, a long-held legal doctrine known as sovereign immunity, which is based on the principle that nations are sovereign equals, prevents lawsuits from bogging down countries in each other’s courts, according to Chimène Keitner, an international law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

An Indonesian village that is home to a large Islamic boarding school has been placed under quarantine after 43 Malaysian students who returned to their home country were found to have the coronavirus, officials said.

But the move could be too little too late. About 30,000 students and villagers live in the quarantine zone in East Java, but health officials said at least 15,000 had already left for their hometowns before the area was locked down on Monday.

The quarantine covers Temboro Village and the Al-Fatah Islamic Boarding School, which has eight campuses in town. The school is part of the Islamist movement Tablighi Jamaat, which has been linked to other outbreaks in the region.

The head of the administration that governs the village said he had ordered students sent home early for Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. His order came just as Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, banned such travel for government workers. The president extended the ban nationwide on Tuesday.

One case of coronavirus was discovered in Temboro about two weeks ago. Health officials checked the temperatures of 10,500 students as they departed but were unaware that any were ill until Malaysian officials notified them on Sunday.

Truck by truck, border post by border post, a power struggle is unfolding between Iraq and Iran over when to reopen the frontier between the two countries, which Iraq closed five weeks ago to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Iran, which has been hit hard by the virus but needs trade with Iraq to help stabilize its economy, wants it reopened immediately.

The coronavirus first arrived in Iraq from Iran, and only through strenuous efforts has Iraq kept its caseload relatively low, with only 82 deaths attributed to the virus as of Monday.

Iran is one of the world’s coronavirus hot spots, with more than 75,000 cases and 5,200 deaths reported, and some 1,400 new cases a day.

Without trade and movement between Iran and Iraq, however, Tehran will be hard put to get some of its non-oil industries fully functional again.

Videos posted on social media over the last week showed protesters crowding roads in Tripoli, none wearing masks, shouting, “Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!”

Other protesters respected the rules of social distancing by coming up with a new way to make their voices heard. On Tuesday, convoys of cars in Beirut drove in honking protest past the building where Lebanon’s Parliament was meeting. (The Parliament met under circumstances dictated by the coronavirus, convening in a large auditorium instead of the usual government building so lawmakers could sit far apart.)

With the value of the Lebanese lira plummeting, banks continuing to withhold depositors’ savings and prospects of an international bailout uncertain at best, the government’s economic recovery plan has drawn widespread skepticism. Its distributions of food aid during the lockdown have also been criticized as falling far short of the need.

Beginning in mid-October, the protest movement had drawn at least a million people — a quarter of the population — to daily demonstrations, which tailed off by early this year. As the virus spread, some of the remaining demonstrators donned surgical masks. But soon after the lockdown began in March, security forces moved to dismantle protesters’ tents in downtown Beirut. But neither that nor the virus stopped the protests.

The program ran dry before many companies were able to have their applications approved, collapsing under a glut of appeals from businesses struggling to stay afloat. And despite the federal aid, more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks.

The outbreak started with a woman flying from the United States into the region in mid-March, state media reported. It has now spread to nearby Liaoning and Inner Mongolia and prompted the closure of a hospital in Harbin. A new outbreak could be particularly dangerous in China, where life has mostly gone back to normal, with people crowding on to subways and filling restaurants.

Zeng Guang, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s chief epidemiologist, said a Wuhan-style lockdown is not necessary, in part because the Chinese New Year had passed and widespread travel was unlikely, state media reported.

Sixteen humanitarian groups, including Oxfam and Save the Children, called for a cease-fire throughout Myanmar after a driver for the World Health Organization was shot and killed while transporting coronavirus test samples in troubled Rakhine State.

The driver, Pyae Sone Win Maung, and a Myanmar health ministry official were taking the samples to Yangon in a marked United Nations vehicle Monday evening when they were attacked in an area where the Myanmar military has been battling the Arakan Army, a rebel group that is seeking autonomy.

The unidentified health ministry official was wounded, the authorities said.

Both the national military and rebels denied responsibility for the shooting.

Health experts fear that the disease is already widespread and that the country’s inadequate health care system could easily be overwhelmed. The health ministry director, Dr. Than Naing Soe, said the country has only 250 ventilators.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Monday’s attack and called for a complete and transparent investigation. The humanitarian groups said the attack “demonstrates the urgent need for armed actors in Myanmar to lay down their weapons.”

However, the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, issued a statement after the attack praising the military for protecting civilians by fighting the rebels. The military has rejected calls for a halt in fighting so that the country can address the pandemic.

It took 13 days to diagnose an Ecuadorean woman, labeled Patient 0 by the government, who had been living in Spain and returned home. In that time, she infected at least 17 other people, including much of her family, according to a medical investigator. As the authorities grapple with the scale of a crisis that has caused hospitals and morgues to collapse, they believe Ecuador’s toll is probably many times larger than the official figure of 520 deaths.

She drives from the Danish side, in her Toyota Yaris.

He cycles from the German side, on his electric bike.

She brings the coffee and the table, he the chairs and the schnapps.

Then they sit down on either side of the border, a yard or two apart.

And that is how two octogenarian lovers have kept their romance alive despite the closure of the border that falls between his home in the very north of Germany and hers in the very south of Denmark.

“We’re here because of love,” said Mr. Tüchsen Hansen. “Love is the best thing in the world.”

Then he poured another glass of schnapps.

As of Tuesday, all shows and festivals have been canceled until at least Sept. 1. Such is the prominence of the business in the Netherlands that the cancellation was announced by the prime minister, Mark Rutte, in a news conference.

Dutch D.J.’s, who normally roam the globe in private jets, now sit home wondering if this is the end of their profession. Dutch festival goers not only face a dance-less summer but now have $1 billion in advance tickets and no guarantee of refunds.

The dance festivals have become a fixture of modern life in the Netherlands, where there are more of them per capita than anywhere in the world, said Mark van Bergen, a lecturer in the dance industry at Fontys University of Applied Sciences at Tilburg and a writer on electronic dance music. All told, the country had 422 festivals in 2018, he said.

A lot of the same miseries happened in China, but those reports were called “rumors” and censored.

For the Communist Party, keeping up a positive image for the Chinese public has long been an important part of maintaining its legitimacy. That facade was broken during the outbreak in late January and February, as dying patients flooded hospitals and medical workers begged for protective gear on social media. Some people started asking why the government suppressed information early on and who should be held accountable.

Then the United States and other countries bungled their own responses, and China’s propaganda machine saw an opportunity.

Using the West’s transparency and free flow of information, state media outlets chronicled how badly others have managed the crisis. Their message: Those countries should copy China’s model. For good measure, the propaganda machine revved up its attacks on anybody who dared to question the government’s handling of the pandemic.

As professional sports leagues try to figure out how to restart their games, they have to consider a factor that isn’t getting a lot of attention in the United States at the moment: Canada.

Reporting was contributed by Ceylan Yeginsu, Raphael Minder, Rick Gladstone, Austin Ramzy, Richard C. Paddock, Dera Menra Sijabat, Matthew Futterman, Paul Mozur, Lin Qiqing, Jason M. Bailey, Richard C. Paddock, Saw Nang, Thomas Erdbrink, Amelia Nierenberg, Alissa J. Rubin, Falih Hassan, Cara Giaimo, Li Yuan and Patrick Kingsley.



Source link