Countries around the world are weighing the costs and benefits of reopening society.
The coronavirus pandemic continued its global assault on Sunday, with more than 1.7 million known cases recorded worldwide and at least 108,000 deaths.
But even as some countries join the list of those with broad lockdown orders and others maintain or extend sweeping shutdowns, others have begun eyeing the benefits of reopening at least some parts of society.
In Iran, the hardest-hit country so far in its region, some government offices and shops, factories and other businesses began reopening on Saturday as the national lockdown is lifted in phases. President Hassan Rouhani had said last week that economic and government activity must continue. On Saturday, he said that people should still observe social distancing.
The lifting of restrictions came despite warnings from the country’s health ministry that the reopening could cause a new spike in cases and tens of thousands of additional deaths.
Some of the most grievously hit countries in Europe, while still recording hundreds of new deaths every day, say that the worst appears to be past. Their plans to ease some restrictions, they caution, will not bring normalcy, but instead a new phase of learning how to safely live with the pandemic.
Spain, with the world’s highest caseload after the United States, is preparing to allow some nonessential employees to return to work on Monday. The country has reported a falling death rate and a daily growth in new cases of about 3 percent, compared with 20 percent in mid-March.
Italy, which follows Spain in cases but has the highest death toll after the United States, will allow some bookstores, children’s clothing shops and some forestry-related occupations to resume operations after the current restrictions expire on Tuesday.
Austria plans to reopen smaller shops after this weekend. The Czech Republic is opening small stores, and people can play tennis and go swimming. Denmark may reopen kindergartens and schools starting next week, Norway will allow pupils to attend kindergarten.
And China has ended its lockdown of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged.
For many countries, the question of whether to ease restrictions does not have a clear answer yet. In the United States, President Trump — and governors of each state — are balancing calls from medical experts to keep restrictions in place with pleas from bankers, corporate executives and industrialists to ease them.
India, on the other hand, appears set to extend a 21-day lockdown for all 1.3 billion citizens for two more weeks, carrying it to the end of April.
Some countries put in place new measures. Turkey on Friday ordered a two-day curfew for 31 provinces. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has ordered air traffic to the country halted after more than 70 people who arrived from Newark, N.J., on Saturday morning left Ben Gurion Airport without official verifications of their mandatory quarantine plans and checks of their temperatures.
Throughout January, as President Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.
Dozens of interviews and a review of emails and other records by The New York Times revealed many previously unreported details of the roots and extent of Mr. Trump’s halting response. Read the full investigation.
The country now has more than 515,000 confirmed cases, by far the world’s largest count, and more than 20,000 deaths, surpassing Italy’s as the world’s heaviest toll. More than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs.
Here’s what else is happening in the United States:
On Saturday, the U.S. surpassed Italy in the total number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus with 20,109. Government projections obtained by The New York Times found that without any mitigation, the death toll from the virus could have reached 300,000 — and that it could reach 200,000 if the Trump administration lifts 30-day stay-at-home orders. Read the latest updates for the United States.
Christians across the United States prepared to celebrate Easter by gathering virtually on Sunday, largely following stay-at-home orders and guidance from health officials. A handful of lone pastors in states like Louisiana and Mississippi plan to hold in-person services in defiance of restrictions on mass gatherings, citing their religious freedoms. President Trump said in a tweet that he will watch the online service of First Baptist Dallas, led by Robert Jeffress, one of his prominent supporters.
The largest states are split on when and how to reopen. The governors of Texas and Florida, both Republicans, have started talking about reopening businesses and schools, echoing signals from Mr. Trump. But the leaders of California and New York, both Democrats, are sounding more cautious notes.
Top officials in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak with more than 180,000 cases, appear to disagree over whether New York City schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Read the latest updates for the New York region.
Citing the virus, the Trump administration announced that it would issue visa penalties on countries that refuse to accept people the U.S. aims to deport.
With so many restaurants and schools closed and other sources of demand disrupted, many of the largest farms in the country are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they haven’t been able to sell or donate to food banks, which can only absorb so much perishable food.
Last year, the Vatican’s police force estimated that 70,000 faithful crammed into St. Peter’s Square on Easter morning to hear the pope deliver his “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) message after the Easter Mass.
But on Sunday, Pope Francis won’t impart his Easter message and blessing from a window in the apostolic palace, from where he greets the faithful most Sundays. Instead, Francis will live-stream the Mass, followed by the message and a blessing, on the Vatican news website, starting at 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. Eastern).
People are prohibited from gathering in the square. And the Francis will celebrate Mass with just a few assistants inside the empty basilica.
The Vatican also live-streamed the Via Crucis, the traditional Good Friday procession that evokes the Stations of the Cross leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, in St. Peter’s Square instead of Rome’s Colosseum, where it is traditionally held. At the end of the procession, Francis prayed silently before a wooden crucifix that had been carried during Rome’s 16th-century plague.
Earlier Friday, Francis called an Italian state TV Good Friday special to say he felt close to the victims of the pandemic, and that he was thinking about the “doctors, nurses, nuns and priests who had died on the front lines as soldiers, giving their life for love.”
In this pandemic, many are resisting, in their communities, in hospitals, caring for the ill. “Even today people are crucified, and die for love,” Francis said.
The police in Montreal said on Saturday night that they had launched a criminal investigation into a private residence for the elderly after 31 people had died there since March 13, at least five of them from confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Quebec’s premier, François Legault, said that the government had learned of the deaths at the 150-bed Résidence Herron, in a suburb west of Montreal, on Friday, and that he believed they amounted to “gross negligence.”
“This is terrible what happened,” Mr. Legault said on Saturday, adding that when officials from the regional health authority had arrived at the residence on March 29 to investigate, “almost all the staff was gone.”
At that point, he said, the authority dispatched a team of health workers to care for the residents, and it has now taken over the running of the residence.
An investigation by Montreal Gazette, a local newspaper, said that residents had been discovered unfed and wearing clothing covered with feces.
Mr. Legault said that it was “unacceptable” how the elderly were being cared for in Quebec, and that staff shortages and insufficient salaries had been an ongoing issue at privately run residences. “I am not proud to see what is happening,” he said.
Résidence Herron is owned by a Quebec real estate company called Katasa, which owns six other retirement residences. The company was not immediately available for comment on Saturday. But it previously said it had been doing its best under challenging circumstances.
Quebec has been hit hard by the coronavirus. As of Saturday, it had 12,292 confirmed cases and 289 deaths. More than 90 percent of those who have died were 70 or older.
Officials said Saturday that after one resident at the Herron had tested positive for the virus, regional health authorities had reached out to the residence to learn more about the status of its residents, but were rebuffed. The authorities then obtained a court order to gain access to medical files, and learned of the number of deaths on Friday.
Quebec’s minister of health, Danielle McCann, ordered checks of private residences for the elderly across the province.
Australians are eager to dress up and take out the trash.
In Australia, where coronavirus infections have risen past 6,000 and large states are on lockdown and enduring an unprecedented economic crisis, residents have found joy in simply taking out the trash.
Bin Isolation Outing, a public Facebook group, which started last month and has grown to over 600,000 members, encourages Australians to get creative with their garbage disposal.
“So basically the bin goes out more than us so let’s dress up for the occasion,” a description of the group said. “Fancy dress, makeup, tutu … be creative!”
Thousands of photos have been uploaded. There’s no shortage of Easter bunnies, dinosaurs and other recognizable faces like Snow White and Peppa Pig, all taking out the trash. Even some pets have been added to the mix.
India appears set to extend a nationwide lockdown for all 1.3 billion citizens, government officials said on Saturday.
A statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said the chief ministers of India’s states had reached a consensus to extend the existing 21-day lockdown for two weeks when it ends on April 15.
During a meeting with top officials, Mr. Modi said the lockdown had helped stunt the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and that “constant vigilance is paramount,” according to the statement.
The statement did not make clear Mr. Modi’s final decision, but some states have already extended the restrictions to the end of the month.
“PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown,” Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, wrote on Twitter, without elaborating. “If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost.”
Indian officials have faced staggering challenges in enforcing the lockdown, which went into effect on March 25 with four hours’ notice. It shut down almost all businesses and transportation in a country of 1.3 billion people.
Supply chain disruptions have complicated the distribution of food to Indians who rely on subsidies. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers living hand-to-mouth found themselves trapped in big cities. Some embarked on hundred-mile journeys on foot to reach their villages.
India has a relatively low number of confirmed cases — about 7,500 — but testing is extremely limited, and large numbers of cases would be disastrous. Health care across the country is poor, and millions of people live in packed urban areas, making social distancing nearly impossible.
Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government continues to draw criticism that it is curtailing press freedom.
Reporting was contributed by Dan Bilefsky, Kai Schultz, Derrick Taylor, Courtney Mabeus and Amie Tsang.