Some countries take tiptoe steps in easing restrictions.
At least 12 countries will begin easing restrictions on public life on Monday, as the world tentatively tries to figure out how to placate restless populations tired of being inside and reboot stalled economies without creating opportunities for the coronavirus to re-emerge.
Some of the measures include reopening schools and other public facilities, or allowing airports to begin domestic service.
Most of the countries are in Europe, including Italy, one of the places where the virus hit earliest and hardest, leaving more than 28,000 dead. The country plans to reopen some airports to passengers.
In Germany, where widespread testing has kept the pandemic under control, children will return to schools. Neighboring Austria also plans to restart its school system.
In Lebanon, bars and restaurants will reopen, while Poland plans to allow patrons to return to hotels, museums and shops.
In Asia, Japan is set to announce it will extend its state of emergency through the end of the month, while allowing some public facilities, such as museums and libraries, to reopen as long as they maintain social distancing controls. And India will loosen up some restrictions.
China and South Korea, both of which seem to have emerged from brutal, early encounters with the virus, have already begun limited reopenings. Restaurants and ]art galleries are returning to a semblance of normal operation, although the introduction of hand sanitizer and other preventive measures remain a constant reminder of how Covid-19 has changed the world.
Other countries planning to lift some of their restrictions beginning on Monday include Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Hungary, Monaco, Nigeria, Poland, and Portugal.
The U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, doubled down on President Trump’s assertions about the origins of the virus, saying on Sunday that “there’s enormous evidence” the coronavirus originated in a research laboratory in Wuhan, China, even while American intelligence agencies say they have reached no conclusion on the issue.
Mr. Pompeo was one of a number of administration officials and other public figures who appeared on Sunday morning news shows to discuss the coronavirus. A former C.I.A. chief and one of the administration’s most hawkish officials on China, he has repeatedly blamed China’s Communist Party for covering up evidence and denying American experts access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Times reported on Thursday that senior Trump administration officials were pushing spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support the theory that the outbreak emerged from a Wuhan lab, and that some intelligence analysts feared the pressure would distort assessments, and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China.
The same day, President Trump said he had a high degree of confidence that the laboratory was the source of the outbreak but when pressed for evidence said, “I’m not allowed to tell you that.”
Speaking during a virtual town hall meeting Sunday on Fox News, the president elaborated.
“Personally I think they made a horrible mistake,” he said. “They didn’t want to admit it. We wanted to go in but they didn’t want us there. World Health wanted to go in. They tried to cover it, they tried to put it out. It’s like trying to put out a fire.”
Mr. Trump also confirmed reports that his intelligence briefings addressed the virus even as he argued that it had not been presented in an alarming way that demanded immediate action.
“On Jan. 23 I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed the country to China. We had 23 people in the room and I was the only one in the room who wanted to close it down.”
Mr. Trump was referring to his decision on Jan. 30 to limit travel from China, where the outbreak had started, a move that in fact was recommended by some of his advisers and came only after major U.S. airlines had already canceled flights. Some public health advisers have said the travel limits helped slow the spread to the United States but complained that the Trump administration did not use the extra time to adequately prepare by ramping up testing and medical equipment.
The virus is still spreading in the United States, because efforts to contain it have been incomplete at best, public health experts warned on Sunday, saying that there were signs that the country may face a steady flow of new cases and deaths for many months to come.
Coronavirus case counts continue to rise in 20 states, including Illinois, Texas and Maryland, even as some states are beginning to relax restrictions, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
Throngs of Palestinian laborers traveled to their workplaces in Israel on Sunday even though Palestinian officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about them contracting the coronavirus there and carrying it back to the West Bank.
Ibrahim Milhim, a government spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said that thousands of workers crossed into Israel on Sunday and that thousands more would do so later in the week.
Last week, an Israeli Defense Ministry body charged with liaising with the P.A. said Palestinians with permits to work in construction, agriculture and other sectors in Israel would be allowed to cross into the country. It also said their employers would be asked to provide them with accommodations until Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the conclusion of Ramadan in about three weeks.
Rami Mehdawi, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Labor Ministry, said Palestinian officials remained concerned that infected workers could return to their homes and spread the virus, but he said the Palestinian authorities had worked with their Israeli counterparts to prevent such a scenario. Israel and the P.A. would closely coordinate the workers’ return to the West Bank, he said.
After Palestinian laborers were last permitted to travel to their jobs in Israel in late March, Palestinian officials accused Israeli authorities of abandoning some of them at checkpoints and allowing others to cross back to the West Bank through areas they don’t control.
The P.A. has said that more than 70 percent of the 336 known cases of the virus in the West Bank are linked to Palestinians employed in Israel.
Separately, for the first time since mid-March, schools opened for some grades in Israel on Sunday, but local authorities in several cities, including Tel Aviv, kept them closed, citing concerns about safety and preparedness.
In Beirut, it is both a cliché and a point of pride to say that the Lebanese partied straight through a civil war from 1975 to 1990, Times correspondent Vivian Yee writes. She shared some observations from the Lebanese capital.
The barhopping neighborhood of Mar Mikhaël in Beirut used to vibrate with the clip-clop of high heels and the car-stereo beat of Western and Arabic music almost every night.
But the bars and nightclubs have been shut down since early March; many had closed before that as the city was engulfed in an epochal economic crisis. The coronavirus could only conquer what remained, putting thousands more out of work.
Nightclub appearances by D.J.s who had flown in from Europe, hyped for weeks on social media and street posters, were abruptly canceled. Soon it was just restaurants and cafes, and then not even those.
Though Lebanon appears to have dodged a mass outbreak, allowing the government to announce a staggered reopening for businesses in the coming weeks, not all will come back. Now that the Lebanese pound buys less than half what it used to, imports and drinks alike cost more.
The government has proposed allowing clubs to reopen in early June, but Joe Mourani, the owner of Ballroom Blitz, a popular alternative electronic-music nightclub, doubts he will do so.
“Clubbing, it’s really all about proximity,” Mr. Mourani said. “It’s the opposite of social distancing.”
A local D.J., Priscilla Bakalian had a different view. She believes clubbers will return, if in smaller numbers.
“People are dying to go party,” she said. “It’s in our DNA.”
From the early days of the Trump administration, Stephen Miller, the president’s chief adviser on immigration, has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders.
The federal law on public health that Mr. Miller has long wanted to use grants power to the surgeon general and president to block people from entering the United States when it is necessary to avert a “serious danger” posed by the presence of a communicable disease in foreign countries.
When vast caravans of migrants surged toward the border in 2018, Mr. Miller looked for evidence that they carried illnesses. He asked for updates on American communities that received migrants to see if new disease was spreading there.
In 2018, dozens of migrants became seriously ill in federal custody, and two under the age of 10 died within three weeks of each other. While many viewed the incidents as resulting from negligence on the part of the border authorities, Mr. Miller instead argued that they supported his argument that President Trump should use his public health powers to justify sealing the borders.
On some occasions, Mr. Miller and the president, who also embraced these ideas, were talked down by cabinet secretaries and lawyers who argued that the public health situation at the time did not provide sufficient legal basis for such a proclamation.
That changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.
Within days of the confirmation of the first case in the United States, the White House shut American land borders to nonessential travel, closing the door to almost all migrants, including children and teenagers who arrived at the border with no parent or other adult guardian.
Reporting was contributed by Ben Dooley, John Branch, Adam Rasgon, Claire Moses, Caitlin Dickerson and Michael D. Shear.