Global Coronavirus Cases Pass 1.5 Million and Deaths Near 100,000: Live Updates

Global Coronavirus Cases Pass 1.5 Million and Deaths Near 100,000: Live Updates

A surge in coronavirus cases has pushed Moscow’s health care system to its limit long before the outbreak’s peak, the city’s authorities warned on Friday.

The number of people hospitalized in Moscow with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, more than doubled in the past week, a deputy mayor said. Two-thirds of the country’s 12,000 reported infection are in Moscow, but experts say the government is hiding the true extent of the outbreak.

Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said the virus was “gaining momentum.”

The virus has also started to wreak havoc in Russia’s vast hinterland. In Ufa, 700 miles east of Moscow, medical personnel and more than a thousand patients have been ordered not to leave a hospital after 170 people there tested positive. Farther north, several hospitals in the Komi region have also been quarantined.

Anastasia Vasilieva, who leads an independent doctors’ union, was detained last week after accusing officials of deliberately misclassifying Covid-19 cases as pneumonia.

The health minister, Mikhail Murashko, came close to conceding her point on state television, saying that hospitals would begin to treat pneumonia patients as coronavirus patients.

A letter to Moscow hospitals from the city government, which was leaked online, acknowledged that figures based on testing were compromised by a “very high number of false results.”

Moscow last week ordered residents not to go out except to buy food or medicine, or walk their dogs near home. However, eager to avoid economic disruption, they have done little to enforce the restrictions.

President Vladimir V. Putin, who usually takes the lead with great fanfare in times of crisis, has mostly stayed in the background, retreating to his country residence and leaving Mr. Sobyanin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to address the epidemic publicly.

Violence erupts over the distribution of food in Kenya.

A planned distribution of food turned into a bloody melee on Friday in a poor area of Nairobi, Kenya, where many people’s incomes have evaporated in the epidemic.

A crowd of people tried to force through the gate at the distribution site in Kibera, a crowded slum where many people live without basic amenities like running water. They were driven back by security forces.

Photos and video footage showed residents lined up back to back as they waited for the food aid outside a district office. According to news reports, thousands were in the crowd, and as they tried to push their way in, the police fired tear gas and injured several people.

Images on social media showed people with bruises and blood trickling down their faces, and some lying on the ground, apparently hurt. Men trying to hold back the crowd hit them with sticks and shouted “go back” in Swahili.

Health officials have in recent days identified Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, as one of the key hot spots for coronavirus. Many residents of the Kibera area work in the informal economy, eking out a living day to day with no savings. Many have been bereft of work as Kenya takes measures to contain the virus.

As of Friday afternoon, Kenya had 189 confirmed coronavirus and seven deaths, the health ministry reported, though epidemiologists fear the outbreak is much larger.

Schools have closed, all international flights have been canceled and unnecessary travel in and out of Nairobi has been banned.

Global cases surge past 1.5 million, as deaths inch toward a grim milestone.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has surged past 1.5 million, according to data collected by The New York Times and Johns Hopkins University, and the death toll looked set to pass a grim milestone. As of Friday morning, at least 95,000 people had died worldwide, moving steadily closer to 100,000 fatalities, with the virus detected in at least 177 countries.

The most recent addition is war-torn Yemen, which reported its first coronavirus case on Friday.

The death toll in the United States has surpassed that of Spain, with more than 16,600 fatalities from the virus reported by Friday morning. Only Italy has reported more deaths.

Although some governments are considering easing restrictions, lockdowns are being extended across much of the world heading into the Easter weekend, and policing measures stepped up.

Tokyo’s governor parted ways with Japan’s national government by requesting the closure of a range of businesses — including nightclubs, karaoke bars, gyms and movie theaters — during a state of emergency declared this week.

Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, went into a partial lockdown amid fears that the country’s underfunded and understaffed health care system could easily be overwhelmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was moved out of intensive care on Thursday, and his office said Friday afternoon that he was doing well but remained in the hospital. The government was still deciding on a plan to extend lockdown measures, possibly by weeks.

The French interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said this week that local officials could implement more stringent confinement measures if they detected “signs of slackness” over the Easter weekend.

“The virus doesn’t know holidays,” Mr. Castaner said last week.

Pakistan has more than 4,600 confirmed cases and 68 deaths, but little testing has been done and the real number is likely higher.

For the third consecutive week, worshippers across the country turned up in droves for the observances, gathering outside the gates of shuttered mosques or being ushered inside by radical clerics who promised to defy the rules.

Last week several provincial governments imposed a three-hour curfew during Friday afternoon prayers, and anyone who stepped outside risked arrest or a beating from the police. In scenes once unthinkable, clerics were arrested and their mosques sealed for violating the lockdown.

The heavy hand of the security forces — which have empowered and used radical Islamists as domestic and foreign policy tools — only appeared to invoke further ire among the faithful this week. Some turned up on Friday looking for a fight.

“The government should not intervene in people’s religious affairs,” said Khalil Swati, who defied the lockdown in Karachi. “By stopping the worshippers from the Friday Prayers, the government will further invite God’s wrath.”

Coronavirus lockdowns have exposed class divides across the world, and the issue of Friday Prayer in Pakistan offers another example. Mosques in more affluent neighborhoods in Karachi mostly abided by the orders to stay closed on Friday, but in the slums, the devout and some clerics defied the lockdown and clashed with the police.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris celebrated a message of hope on Good Friday, one week shy of the anniversary of the devastating fire that nearly destroyed last year.

With only a handful of people present, Roman Catholic officials, including the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, held a ceremony to venerate one of the precious relics that survived the fire: the crown of thorns, which is honored as having been worn by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.

A violinist played Bach and two other artists sang chants and read religious texts, all of them wearing full, white bodysuits to protect themselves from the lead dust that was scattered by the fire.

The cathedral itself is still structurally fragile and remains closed to the public, but the ceremony was broadcast live on French television. Public processions and Easter masses have been canceled because of France’s lockdown measures.

The roof and spire of Notre-Dame, which burned and crashed down in the blaze, punctured holes in the cathedral’s vault. Workers had barely started to carefully cut down the welded mass of scaffolding atop the cathedral — a remnant of renovation work prior to the fire — when the construction site was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the Vatican, Easter Mass on Sunday will be celebrated at 11 a.m. local time inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis is expected to preside without the presence of the faithful, who will be able to attend via radio, television and the Vatican News website. At the end of the Mass, the pope is expected to deliver his “Urbi e Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) message and give his Easter blessing.

As South Korea pressed ahead with its first election since the coronavirus pandemic began, masked voters showed up on Friday at the country’s 3,500 balloting stations.

They were required to stand at three-foot intervals, rub their hands with liquid sanitizer and put on disposable plastic gloves that​ officials were distributing outside voting booths.

The pandemic is disrupting political calendars around the world, causing delays in primaries​ in the United States and inciting electoral chaos and voter ire in places like Wisconsin, where many absentee ballots failed to arrive and voters were afraid to put their health at risk by going to polling places.

But South Korea has assured its 44 million eligible voters that it’s safe to leave their homes and vote, even as it has urged them to ​avoid large gatherings and ​maintain social distancing​.

Early signs showed that the vote was proceeding rather seamlessly.

To prepare, South Korea mobilized armies of public servants, including young men doing civic duty in lieu of mandatory military service. For weeks, they have disinfected balloting stations across the country, marking lines at three-foot intervals so voters could avoid standing too close.

Officially, the election for South Korea’s 300-member National Assembly takes place on Wednesday. But millions of voters were allowed cast ballots on Friday and Saturday, in advance voting that served as a kind of dress rehearsal.

Through two world wars, Britain’s pubs stayed open. But now, for the first time in the country’s history, every single pub is closed.

“I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary. We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said when he announced the closures of all pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes on March 20.

Even the 20th century wars did not close down the pubs.

“During the two world wars, sometimes there was a shortage of beer and the pubs had to close for that reason,” said Paul Jennings, a historian and author of several books about pub culture and alcohol consumption in Britain. He added that some pubs, particularly those in London, may have closed during The Great Plague of 1665, but that “there is no real precedent for closing all of them like this.”

Historically, pubs were open 24 hours a day, but that started to change in the early 19th century, when they would briefly close on Sundays for church services. Everything changed during World War I, Mr. Jennings explained, as the government at the time claimed that drunkenness was undermining the war effort. (“It probably wasn’t,” Mr. Jennings said.)

Pubs were then ordered to stay closed until at least late morning, then to briefly close again in the afternoon and to close for the night around 9 p.m. The days of grabbing a 6 a.m. pint on the way to work ended with the war, too.

Those general opening hours largely stayed the same through World War II. “Churchill was keen to make sure they still had a beer supply,” Mr. Jennings said. “It was seen as good for morale.”

As an extended Easter weekend in much of Europe threatened to derail efforts to maintain social distancing measures, police departments across the continent stepped up enforcement efforts.

In France, where sunny weather is expected over the weekend, the police were increasing checks to dissuade people from flouting the restrictions on movement.

With the uncharacteristically warm weather, a growing number of places, like the city of Saint-Etienne, are following Paris’s lead in banning or limiting physical activity like jogging or running during the day. In the coastal region of Bouches-du-Rhône, about 1,200 officers will be patrolling streets, highways, hiking trails and the Mediterranean coastline.

Britain, which is expecting sunshine throughout much of the weekend, ramped up efforts to halt travel, with police forces warning potential visitors to stay away.

The Devon and Cornwall police service, in southwestern England, said that the area was closed to outsiders looking to spend a long weekend in the country.

“Please do not visit us now,” the department wrote on Twitter. “You will be welcomed back when the time is right.”

The police in Spain have taken similar measures, halting drivers at checkpoints on roads leading out of Madrid and other major cities to prevent people from traveling to vacation homes. Those who violate the lockdown measures face fines of thousands of euros.

In Calanda, a village known for a Good Friday celebration — called La Rompida de la Hora — in which thousands of people typically gather on the village plaza to beat drums in unison, instead saw residents take part from their balconies. Military officers guarded the streets in pickup trucks, as a helicopter flew over the village.

With fatalities in the country at the lowest daily toll in 17 days, with 605 deaths, Spain may be past the peak of its crisis, but public health experts have warned against lifting restrictions too soon.Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany cautioned people not to give in to the temptation to roam outside and congregate. “We can’t be reckless,” she said at a news conference on Thursday. “We can’t allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security.”

As they battle a coronavirus pandemic that has no regard for borders, leaders from some of the world’s largest countries are fighting for supremacy over products that may determine who lives and who dies.

The United States, an unrivaled scientific power, is led by a president who openly scoffs at international cooperation while pursuing a global trade war. India, which produces staggering amounts of drugs, is ruled by a Hindu nationalist who has ratcheted up confrontation with neighbors. China, a dominant source of protective gear and medicines, is bent on a mission to restore its former imperial glory.

Zero-sum approaches to the crisis are now undermining collective efforts to tame the contagion — at the very moment when the world needs scientists to work across borders to create vaccines, and for manufacturers to coordinate deliveries of critical supplies.

At least 69 countries have banned or restricted the export of protective equipment, medical devices or medicines, according to the Global Trade Alert project at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. The World Health Organization is warning that protectionism could limit the global availability of vaccines.

“The parties with the deepest pockets will secure these vaccines and medicines, and essentially, much of the developing world will be entirely out of the picture,” said Simon J. Evenett, an expert on international trade. “We will have rationing by price. It will be brutal.”

Yemen, where five years of civil war have caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, reported its first coronavirus case on Friday.

The person infected is a Yemeni worker in the southern port city of al-Shihir in Hadramout Province, according to a local health official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. The case was later confirmed in a tweet by Yemen’s supreme national emergency committee.

The health official said the worker was a heavy smoker in his 60s who most likely caught the virus from foreign sailors at the port. He is being treated at a hospital, but had contact with at least 20 people before he was isolated, the official said.

The authorities have locked down the town and deployed soldiers to keep residents at home.

Aid organizations have been sounding the alarm about the threat the coronavirus could pose to Yemen, whose economy and health infrastructure have been ravaged by five years of war during which Saudi Arabia and its allies have fought to push back the Houthi rebel group and restore the government.

Saudi Arabia declared a unilateral cease-fire that started on Thursday, saying it wanted to create space for peace talks and allow everyone to focus on the coronavirus threat. But the Houthis have yet to sign on to the truce, and analysts say its success faces many barriers.

The coronavirus first spread through tourists, worshipers, conference attendees and other international travelers.

But hundreds of millions of migrant workers travel across national borders or within their own countries, too. And as the coronavirus spreads, they’re not only victims, but vectors who are bringing the epidemic to villages that are ill-equipped to deal with a health crisis.

“When the virus attacks people who are vulnerable like me, I feel like there is no help for us,” said Ko Zaw Win Tun, a migrant worker from Myanmar who tested positive after returning to his country when he lost his job in Bangkok.

A similar story is unfolding in Afghanistan, where thousands of laborers have streamed home from Iran; in India, where internal migrants scrambled to return home after their jobs evaporated overnight; and in the Philippines, where most returning migrants were not screened for the virus.

One common thread: Migrants live and work in crowded conditions that serve as breeding grounds for contagion. Even the communities that they support through remittances have greeted those who return with suspicion.

At least 50 crew members on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have tested positive for Covid-19, officials confirmed on Friday, as the ship headed toward its home port.

The French Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the cases were confirmed by testing after a medical team came onboard, but that none of the crew members were in a “worsening” health state. Wearing masks is now mandatory on the ship, the ministry added.

Three sailors were evacuated by helicopter to Lisbon and then taken by plane to be hospitalized in France as a precautionary measure, the ministry said.

When the ministry first announced the suspected cases this week, it said that the ship, which can carry up to 2,000 sailors, would be returning to Toulon, its home base on the Mediterranean coast, earlier than scheduled.

France has reported more than 86,000 infections and over 12,200 deaths since the outbreak began, but the total number of patients in intensive care fell this week for the first time, a sign authorities have cautiously called encouraging.

And there were other hopeful signs for a country in crisis. Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, held a service for Good Friday, the first since it was scarred by a devastating fire nearly one year ago.

A few Roman Catholic officials, including Michel Aupetit, the archbishop of Paris, held a small ceremony to venerate a crown of thorns, one of the relics that survived the fire.

In a ceremony broadcast live on French television, a violinist played Bach and two artists sang chants and read religious texts. All of them wore white bodysuits to protect themselves from the lead dust that was scattered by the fire.

The Greek authorities have put a Roma settlement in Larissa, in central Greece, under lockdown after several people there tested positive for the coronavirus.

The camp of around 3,000 people was placed under quarantine late Thursday after a 32-year-old man tested positive for the virus. Since then, 20 more infections have been confirmed, according to state television, though the government did not immediately report the total number of positive cases.

The movements of camp residents have been restricted, with the police cordoning off several blocks and officers patrolling the streets. The authorities will deliver food, medicine and other necessities until April 22, when the lockdown will be reviewed.

Greece’s Roma population, estimated at between 100,000 and 350,000, has long been marginalized. The Roma often face discrimination, and those in temporary camps across the country do not always receive state support.

Successive governments have made efforts to integrate Roma into broader society, primarily through education and health care programs, but efforts have been inconsistent, rights groups say. Giorgos Kaminis, a former mayor of Athens, said on Thursday that he had asked the Greek government to explain what measures had been taken to protect Roma communities but received no response.

“Unfortunately a few hours later, the first case of coronavirus was recorded,” he said, referring to the outbreak in Larissa.

Greece, a nation of 10.7 million, had 1,855 confirmed coronavirus infections and 86 deaths as of Thursday, a sign that the country may have effectively managed to contain the spread of the virus compared to European countries with similar populations. Portugal’s death toll is just over 400, while Belgium has reported more than 2,000 fatalities.

European Union finance ministers agreed Thursday night to a plan calling for new measures worth more than a half-trillion euros to buttress their economies against the onslaught of the coronavirus.

But the ministers dealt a blow to the bloc’s worst-hit members, Italy and Spain, by sidestepping their pleas to issue joint debt.

Even in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis caused by a virus that has killed more than 50,000 E.U. citizens, wealthier northern countries were reluctant to subsidize cheap debt for the badly hit south.

And while Germany, the Netherlands and others showed greater generosity than they had in previous crises, the details of the measures showed they had gone to great lengths to limit and control the way the funding is used.

The programs the finance ministers agreed to recommend to their countries’ leaders for final approval included a €100 billion loan plan for unemployment benefits, €200 billion in loans for smaller businesses, and access to €240 billion in loans for eurozone countries to draw on from the eurozone bailout fund. (€1 is about $1.09.)

But the ministers were not able to reach an agreement on issuing joint bonds, known as corona-bonds, after staunch resistance from Germany, the Netherlands and others.

The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, parted ways with Japan’s central government on Friday by requesting the closure of a range of businesses — including nightclubs, gyms and movie theaters — under a state of emergency declared earlier this week.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration had urged governors to wait two weeks to ask businesses to close for fear of damaging the economy. The government does not have the legal power to compel businesses to close, but governors can request that businesses suspend operations to help contain the spread of coronavirus infection.

In announcing the state of emergency, which applies to seven prefectures representing Japan’s largest population centers, Mr. Abe asked citizens to avoid nonessential outings and avoid businesses like nightclubs and music halls where crowds meet in proximity and either talk or sing at close range.

Ms. Koike argued that the only way to truly cut down on the virus’s spread would be to request that such businesses close. Among the businesses she asked to close effective midnight on Saturday include pachinko gambling parlors, strip clubs, museums and swimming pools.

“We’ve been receiving information that the Tokyo medical system is in a critical state every day,” she told reporters on Friday. “We cannot possibly wait.”

Ms. Koike also requested that restaurants and bars close by 8 p.m. and stop serving alcohol by 7 p.m. Although she only has the power to request the closures, the name of any business that does not comply can be publicized. Coronavirus cases have been steadily rising in Tokyo, with positive cases doubling over the last six days.

As Poland struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak, the conservative governing Law and Justice party will once again bring up for a vote in Parliament a sweeping abortion ban and legislation to criminalize sex education.

Far-right officials have proposed such measures several times in recent years, but the attempts have been squashed by street protests drawing tens of thousands of women and men.

The governing party said that since both bills were citizens’ initiatives, they had to be reconsidered by Parliament by May. President Andrzej Duda has already declared his support for the measures.

But with mass gatherings banned in Poland and much of the rest of the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will be almost impossible to stage public protests. Parliament is expected to vote on the bills on Wednesday, and women’s rights organizations have expressed outrage at the move.

“It seems like an attempt at distracting everyone from this government’s inadequate attempts at managing the pandemic,” said Barbara Nowacka, the leader of the leftist Polish Initiative party.

Poland’s existing abortion law is already one of the most restrictive in Europe, but the proposed legislation, written by an organization called Stop Abortion, would criminalize all terminations. Women, doctors and anyone who assisted with the procedure could face up to five years in prison.

Another bill would also effectively wipe sex education from the curriculums of Polish schools, where it is already almost nonexistent.

Nigerian officials have appealed for intervention from the Chinese authorities after reports that Nigerian citizens were subjected to unfair measures in China amid a rising tide of xenophobia fueled by the coronavirus.

Geoffrey Onyeama, the Nigerian foreign minister, said on Twitter on Friday that he had summoned the Chinese ambassador to communicate his government’s “extreme concern at allegations of maltreatment of Nigerians in Guangzhou,” a southern Chinese city, and called for action from the Chinese government.

The appeal followed reports this week that Africans in Guangzhou had been evicted or rejected by hotels and were living in the streets after several Nigerians who had visited a restaurant in the city tested positive for the coronavirus.

The infections fueled rumors online that the virus was spreading among the city’s African communities, which the local government has since debunked.

While racist attacks against Asians have surged in the West, foreigners in China have faced growing hostility and discrimination as the country saw fewer local transmissions and shifted gears to contain imported infections.

Jakarta bans religious gatherings and restricts motorbike taxis to slow the virus.

With Indonesia’s death toll rising rapidly, the governor of Jakarta imposed a partial shutdown on the capital city on Friday that includes a restriction on a popular mode of travel: motorcycle taxis.

New social-distancing rules that take effect on Friday also ban religious, social and cultural gatherings for two weeks.

But the central government has decided against ordering residents not to leave Jakarta despite fears that millions of people could spread the virus nationwide as they return to their home villages.

Indonesia has reported 280 deaths, more than any Asian country except China. On Thursday, it recorded a new single-day high of 40 fatalities.

Jakarta, a densely packed city of about 11 million, has more than half of Indonesia’s 3,293 confirmed cases, based on limited testing. Health experts fear that the country’s underfunded and understaffed health care system could easily be overwhelmed.

Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, is among those who have questioned official figures, noting that about four times as many bodies are being buried in Jakarta using the Covid-19 protocol as the official death toll reported for the city. Many of the deceased were suspected of having the virus but died before their test results came back.

Mr. Anies previously ordered the closing of schools, parks and entertainment venues in Jakarta, while encouraging people to work from home.

Under the new restrictions, highly popular app-based motorcycle taxis will be prohibited from carrying passengers, although they will still be allowed to deliver food and other goods.

Public transportation, including buses, trains and the city’s new subway, will be limited to half its normal capacity and operate only half the day.

Iceland, the Nordic island country with a population of 360,000, has set out a goal of testing as many people as possible for exposure to the new coronavirus. But critics inside the country have called this rosy picture misleading.

Detractors says Iceland has not done enough to suppress new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Throughout the country, primary schools, day-care centers and some restaurants remain open. Tourists are still allowed to arrive and travel without quarantine. Initially, gatherings were limited to 100 people, but were scaled down to 20, after other countries began imposing greater social isolation.

Iceland is facing some logistical hurdles in reaching their goal of testing everyone. The country does not have enough medical personnel, supplies or time to test hundreds of thousands of people in a few weeks or months. Critics have warned of false optimism that will ultimately lead to more infections and death.

Kjartan Hreinn Njalsson, the assistant to Iceland’s director of health, said more people are now getting better than getting infected. Mr. Njalsson said government officials believe cases may have peaked.

The country is also well stocked with testing swabs and other necessary materials, Mr. Njalsson said.

So far, Iceland has been steadily testing people with and without symptoms and has one of the highest proportion of tests performed by any country for the coronavirus, according to government officials.

As of Wednesday, at least 30,000 samples had been tested, officials said, and the country had at last 1,600 confirmed Covid-19 cases. Six people have died.

Reporting was contributed by Joanna Berendt, Andrew Higgins, Abdi Latif Dahir, Maria Abi-Habiba, Zia ur-Rehman, Aurelien Breeden, Elisabetta Povoledo, Niki Kitsantonis, Raphael Minder, Megan Specia, Yonette Joseph, Elian Peltier, Ben Hubbard, Mike Ives, Allison McCann, Choe Sang-Hun, Motoko Rich, Jin Wu, Elaine Yu, Raymond Zhong, Richard C. Paddock, Muktita Suhartono, Rick Gladstone, Michael Levenson, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Norimitsu Onishi, Constant Méheut, Heather Murphy, K.K. Rebecca Lai and Aimee Ortiz.




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