The number of daily new cases is higher than ever, but the rate of new deaths is decreasing.
As the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases inches steadily closer toward five million, the average number of daily new cases worldwide over the past week — more than 91,000 — is higher than it has ever been, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
In Italy, new research shows that the outbreak there probably took hold weeks before the first confirmed cases, meaning that by the time the country imposed a nationwide lockdown in March, the virus might have already been widespread.
And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than when most people started staying home, about 83 percent of the nation’s deaths would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.
As hindsight offers a clearer picture of the start of the outbreak, nations are taking steps to loosen restrictions and reinvigorate their economies.
But the restart is a balancing act, as new outbreaks in China attest. The authorities there have had to confront scattered outbreaks in the northeast and are resorting to the strict lockdown measures used in the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began last year.
The measures take effect as China prepares for the biggest event on its political calendar, the annual session of the National People’s Congress — a tightly choreographed legislative pageant aimed at conveying the strength of the ruling Communist Party.
The latest outbreak is concentrated in Jilin, a northeastern province of 27 million people near China’s borders with Russia and North Korea. Jilin has reported a relatively small outbreak of about 130 cases and two deaths, and experts there have warned of a potential “big explosion.”
The response reflects fears among China’s leaders over the potential for a fresh wave of infections as factories, schools and restaurants reopen across much of the country.
President Xi Jinping has seized on the pandemic as a chance to redeem the party after early mistakes let infections slip out of control and to rally national pride in the face of international ire over those missteps. That theme is likely to underpin the National People’s Congress, an annual legislative meeting that opens on Friday after a monthslong delay.
Mr. Xi has largely succeeded in rewriting the narrative in China, in part because the disarray in other countries, especially the United States, has given him a reprieve from domestic political pressure.
But keeping up that narrative may be challenging. He must continue to push his agenda while China faces a diplomatic and economic climate as daunting as any since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. And the country faces growing criticism around the world for its early attempts to conceal the outbreak in Wuhan.
“If you position yourself as a great helmsman uniquely capable of leading your country, that has a lot of domestic political risk if you fail to handle the job appropriately,” said Carl Minzner, a professor of Chinese law and politics at Fordham University.
More than three million people were whisked from their homes, but many were apprehensive about rushing into packed emergency shelters, where they feared catching the virus. And hundreds of shelters were unavailable because they had been converted into quarantine centers.
Yet even as the cyclone, Amphan, threatened to be one of the most dangerous storms in decades and hit amid a pandemic, the combination of a large evacuation effort and the storm weakening as it swirled onto land appears to have spared many lives.
In Bangladesh, where over two million people had been safely evacuated, many were returning to their villages to assess the devastation caused by the winds.
Mohammed Salah Uddin, 42, said he and 10 others had returned to his village after crisscrossing uprooted trees and electricity wires on the streets. He said the cyclone shelter he was in was overcrowded and that people did not maintain any social distance. Pictures from other shelters in Bangladesh showed huge crowds of people packed in and few people wearing masks.
“It looked scary,” Mr. Uddin said. “It is better to live in destroyed home than catch the diseases.”
The study, from the Milan Polyclinic Hospital, found that one in 20 healthy adult blood donors in the area already had the virus’s antibodies at the time, just days after Italy’s first coronavirus diagnosis on Feb. 20.
In Italy, researchers conducted antibody tests on about 800 blood samples gathered in Milan from Feb. 24 to April 8. They found that 4.6 percent of asymptomatic people who donated their blood in the first week of that period — which coincided with the start of the outbreak — had coronavirus antibodies.
“Our impression,” said Luca Valenti, one of the researchers, “is that the infection started circulating by the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.”
In a new study from Miguel Hernández University that examined the psychological effects of the confinement on children in Spain and Italy, about 90 percent of 431 Spanish parents surveyed described emotional and behavioral changes in their children, including difficulty concentrating, irritability and anxiety.
“I was really hopeful going outside would help things, but the first time we left our house, she was very nervous about being stopped by police,” one woman in Valencia said of her 7-year-old daughter. “Since then, she hasn’t been very interested in going outside.”
Experts worry about the pandemic’s potential long-term effects on children not just in Spain, but across the world, said Richard Meiser-Stedman, a trauma expert and professor of clinical psychology at the University of East Anglia in England.
India will resume domestic flights on Monday, two months after all passenger flights in the country were grounded to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
Under the new rules, each passenger must wear a surgical mask and a face shield.
Hardeep Singh Puri, the minister for civil aviation, announced the decision in a tweet on Wednesday. It surprised the domestic airline industry, which had been bracing for delays until at least May 31.
William Boulter, the chief commercial officer at the airline IndiGo, said that flights would initially resume at about a third of normal summer capacity.
“We’ve been talking with the authorities and the airports on how to maintain social distancing, and we look forward to providing an environment which will be safe for all our customers,” he said.
Before the lockdowns started, India had one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets. In 2018, over 204 million passengers flew in and out of the country’s airports, mostly on domestic flights.
A top Japanese official who ignored the country’s voluntary lockdown to play mahjong with a group of reporters has resigned.
The official, Hiromu Kurokawa, headed Tokyo’s public prosecutor’s office and is believed to be a close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He was already in the nation’s bad graces after Mr. Abe tried to force a change in the retirement age for the prosecutor’s office, a move that was widely seen as an attempt to keep Mr. Kurokawa in power.
Mr. Kurokawa’s lockdown transgression was first reported by the Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun.
While Japan has no legal mechanism for enforcing its lockdown, Mr. Kurokawa’s decision to ignore an national state of emergency has provoked public outrage. And it doesn’t help that he and the reporters were playing mahjong for money — in a country where gambling is illegal.
Others in the region who have violated virus-related restrictions on movement:
State-run Chinese newspapers have ramped up their rhetoric against Hong Kong’s antigovernment protesters, calling violent tactics and the notion of independence “tumors” that must be eradicated ahead of an annual gathering of China’s top officials.
People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, on Thursday said in a commentary that the “malignant tumor” of violence must be rooted out and that the Hong Kong police must “not give the rioters any breathing room.”
The official state news agency, Xinhua, had on Thursday called Hong Kong independence a “tumor on the body of the country” that must be “eradicated completely with determination.”
The anti-protester language mirrors that used by Chinese officials in internal documents to justify the mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, which included words like “virus,” “infected” and “eradicate.” A top police official in Hong Kong has also compared protest violence to “cancer cells” spreading across the city’s universities.
“Fight against the virus and violence, save Hong Kong from total annihilation,” an influential pro-Beijing political party said in a recent advertisement, referring to the pandemic and the protests.
When the annual parliamentary meetings begin on Friday, Beijing is expected to discuss proposed national security legislation for Hong Kong. If enacted, the law would further accelerate the erosion of the territory’s civil liberties.
While some activists in the former British colony openly support Hong Kong independence, it has not emerged as a demand in protests that began last June calling for greater democracy and police accountability.
Denmark’s top chef, René Redzepi, made new Nordic cooking an international sensation, and for nearly two decades has caused surprise, outrage and, of course, delight with his rules-breaking kitchen at Noma in Copenhagen.
But his latest menu may be the most shocking of them all: a pared down selection of just two burgers.
The coronavirus lockdown caused the closure of Noma two months ago, but on Thursday it will reinvent itself as a burger joint in the first step in a gradual return to business.
The new menu will be less hummingbird, more hands on and the shortest in the restaurant’s history with just the two $18 burger options served in the restaurant’s garden. They come with a promise of lot’s of umami and “a little bit of magic from our fermentation cellar” the restaurant said in a statement.
At the old Noma, tables were sold out months in advance. But from tomorrow at 1 p.m., the hungry and the curious can “come as you are, there are no reservations.” The usual Noma will return to business later this year, with the same ambitions as before.
“I still want to be the best,” Mr. Redzepi, told the Politiken daily. But he said, “I also want to be with people. I miss that atmosphere of community.”
And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than when most people started staying home, a vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.
“It’s a big, big difference,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia and the leader of the research team. “That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths.”
The enormous cost of waiting to take action reflects the unforgiving dynamics of the outbreak that swept through American cities in early March. Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, the researchers found.
The government of Mexico City has acknowledged that its count of deaths related to the coronavirus is higher than federal data show, and it has named a special commission to review all fatalities in the capital connected to Covid-19.
“This team will evaluate, based on each death certificate and medical report, how many confirmed Covid deaths there are, how many suspicious Covid deaths and how many probable Covid deaths there are,” said Mexico City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum.
The New York Times first reported a discrepancy between city and federal data on May 8, citing a private database maintained by local officials that showed the death toll in the capital was more than three times higher than what the federal government reported to the public.
That data, which city officials gather by placing calls to every public hospital in the city on a daily basis, includes both confirmed Covid deaths and those where doctors determine the virus was the most likely cause.
The federal data counts only confirmed cases. That number is exceptionally low, however, because Mexico has conducted fewer tests than almost any other developed nation.
The federal government declined to comment on The Times’s story, but after publication released a video claiming the article, along with others by The Wall Street Journal and El País that also questioned official data, was “unethical.”
Federal officials did not, however, deny the existence of the database or the veracity of the numbers published by The Times. Instead, officials claimed that coordination between the city and federal government was excellent.
Several days later, government officials announced the creation of the new commission to review Covid-related deaths in Mexico City. And shortly after, Ms. Sheinbaum, the mayor, acknowledged the death toll tabulated by city officials was higher than that published by the federal government.
After six tries, reams of paperwork and repeated rejections, a New Zealand woman will be reunited with her dying sister in Australia, receiving a rare exemption to strict travel bans.
Gail Baker, who lives north of Sydney, was diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer in late March, when travel bans locked down borders all over the world. She and her sister, Christine Archer, a nurse in New Zealand, have been trying to reconnect ever since.
“I just want to spend every minute I can with her,” Ms Archer told ABC News of Australia.
Both countries have been easing restrictions in recent weeks, but not on international travel.
“It’s just been such a huge job, it really has,” she said. “I am sure there are so many other people in the same position as I have been in and maybe now it will open the door for others to see their loved ones, sooner rather than later.”
Hannah Beech is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The Times. She lives in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.
I wandered past the shop selling premium salmon skin with salted egg yolk, past vials of perfumes I could not sniff because of my mask, past the Japanese soufflé pancake place where, I must admit, I bought a box full of pillowy deliciousness.
After 30 minutes of meandering through Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok’s many malls that have reopened since the city’s coronavirus lockdown began to ease, I finally found my quarry.
Just past Cartier and not quite to Bottega Veneta, the robot was wheeling its way past a gaggle of Thais in floral-patterned masks. I stepped in front of it and the robot politely veered to my left.
In front of Louis Vuitton, the robot, about the size of a leprechaun, came upon a foreign woman in short shorts and a mouth painted with lipstick.
The robot’s camera whirred. Something inside clicked. “Please wear masks,” the robot said in both Thai and English.
If robots could look admonishing, this machine was delivering a very stern gaze.
The woman giggled, then looked a bit nervous. Security guards in black suits and face shields showed her the exit.
After weeks of recording few new coronavirus cases, Thailand is opening up again. But the deluge of shoppers — one Ikea was overwhelmed by a line of hundreds of people — has public health experts worried. Incoming commercial flights have been banned until at least the end of June.
To get into Siam Paragon, I snapped a QR code with my phone, stepped through a mist of disinfectant and waited for my temperature to be taken.
The reading appeared to indicate that I was a lizard. The guard waved me through anyway.
Reporting was contributed by Emma Bubola, Megan Specia, Elaine Yu, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Jin Wu, Azam Ahmed, Javier C. Hernández, Lorraine Allen, Austin Ramzy, Ben Dooley, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Damien Cave, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Steven Lee Myers, Chris Buckley, Russell Goldman, Jeffrey Gettleman, Sameer Yasir, Kai Schultz, Hari Kumar, Jin Qu, Mike Ives, Jason Gutierrez, Hannah Beech, Lorraine Allen, Jenny Gross and Claire Moses.