Vaccines, U.S. Reopenings, Flour Frenzy: Your Thursday Briefing
Vaccines, U.S. Reopenings, Flour Frenzy: Your Thursday Briefing
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We’re covering progress toward a coronavirus vaccine on multiple fronts, a patchwork of reopenings in the U.S. and a run on flour in Britain.
More than 100 research teams around the world are taking aim at the virus. Companies like Inovio, Moderna and Pfizer have begun early tests in human subjects. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England, who are also testing vaccines in people, say they could have one ready for emergency use as soon as September.
So great is the urgency that researchers are combining trial phases and shortening a process that usually takes years, sometimes more than a decade. And they are using a range of techniques, some that are well established and some that have never been approved for medical use before.
Reopening, but on edge: Coronavirus infections have dropped sharply in Paris after a strict two-month lockdown and a growing contact tracing effort, health officials say. But the city’s reopening has been muted, in keeping with the national mood: fearful of what lies ahead and angry at the government.
Fifty U.S. states reopening, 50 approaches
The U.S. has crossed an uneasy threshold, with all 50 states beginning to reopen two months after the coronavirus thrust the country into lockdown. But there are vast variations in how states are opening up, with some forging far ahead of others.
Many states began to reopen despite not meeting White House guidelines for progress against the virus, and newly reported cases have been increasing in some states that are moving to lift lockdown measures.
In the long term: Federal Reserve officials worried that coronavirus-related lockdowns could spur bankruptcies and longer-term unemployment, potentially inflicting lasting damage on the economy, minutes from their late-April meeting showed.
If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it
Britain is in a baking frenzy
A family-owned flour mill in Oxfordshire has been operating 24/7 for the first time in its 125-year history to provide enough of one of the country’s hottest commodities. “Demand remains consistently obscene,” one of the owners said. Above, an employee of the Wessex Mill moving bags of flour.
The U.K. is not alone: In France, demand doubled in March. In Italy, it reached its highest level since World War II.
Here’s what else is happening
Cyclone Amphan: A dreaded storm tore through eastern India and Bangladesh, killing at least several people but apparently causing less devastation than initially feared. The combination of an enormous evacuation effort and the storm weakening over land seemed to have spared many lives.
Group of 7: President Trump said he might try to host the annual G7 summit at Camp David as was planned before the pandemic, saying it would be a sign of “normalization.” No world leaders immediately rejected the idea. A virtual meeting is scheduled for June 10-12.
China: President Xi Jinping is using the country’s success — and the criticism against it — to urge the party and the people to weather tough days ahead.
The Globe: Shakespeare’s theater warned that it was in danger of permanently closing if it did not receive emergency funding from the government to make up for lost revenue.
What we’re listening to: The podcast “Wind of Change,” which explores a rumor that the 1990 ballad in the title, by the German band Scorpions, was written by the C.I.A. to exert influence behind the Iron Curtain. Mike Wolgelenter, one of our editors in London, writes, “What’s not to love about a heavy metal-tinged deep dive into Cold War espionage?”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: A comforting one-pan tuna casserole is just what we need right now. It has creamy white beans and a crunchy potato chip topping.
And now for the Back Story on …
Coronavirus rejiggers Germany’s politics
Germany’s measures for containment and careful reopening have been viewed as a model of a science-led approach. Melina Delkic talked to Katrin Bennhold, our Berlin bureau chief, about how the coronavirus crisis has shifted the political landscape in Germany, with the far right sidelined.
Something seems to have shifted for the far-right AfD, or Alternative for Germany, party during this pandemic. Its approval rating has been down in some national polls. Can you explain?
The pandemic has marginalized the party. In February, the fallout from an inconclusive election in a small eastern state showed what a potent and disruptive force the AfD had become. It ultimately brought down Angela Merkel’s anointed successor. But when the pandemic hit, everything changed. Its narrative didn’t cut through anymore.
It struggled for three reasons: First, Merkel rose to the occasion. Her government basically managed to avoid the disaster that was unfolding in neighboring countries. Her approval rating surged — and this was a chancellor whose party had been tanking. So it became hard to attack her when about 80 percent of public opinion was behind her.
Second, AfD’s signature issues — especially migration — were no longer salient.
Third, the government was doing a lot of the things in the context of this health crisis that the AfD had been arguing for. Suddenly Merkel was closing borders — she became emblematic of a strong nation-state.
Will that last?
The reopening has given AfD a chance to step back into the national conversation. The party is trying to turn Merkel’s measures around and say, “Look, it’s possible to close the borders, and the nation-state is actually the relevant entity, not Europe, not the world.” It is trying to co-opt some of the corona protests that are currently playing out on the streets of Germany.
The ultimate test will be the country’s mood after the economic crisis that has only just begun. The far right is banking on a meltdown, and the government is throwing money at this. For example, a short-term work program allows employers to cut employee hours while the government makes up some of the difference.
What does Germany’s reopening actually look like, and why did the containment work so well?
Success in this pandemic is basically a combination of some things that were already in place, like a robust health care system, and then a science-led approach. Merkel consulted very early with scientists, got testing off the ground and then coordinated with state governors. There was a sense of unity.
The reopening is happening in phases, and Merkel handed it back to the states this month. First it was shops and some schools. Restaurants opened last week in Berlin, where I live. It felt like a big moment.