The U.N. needs billions more than predicted to handle the global humanitarian disaster created by the virus.
The United Nations more than tripled the size of its humanitarian aid appeal on Thursday to help the most vulnerable countries threatened by the coronavirus pandemic, from $2 billion initially sought just six weeks ago to $6.7 billion now.
The enormous expansion of the appeal, announced by Mark Lowcock, the top humanitarian aid official at the United Nations, reflected what he described as an updated global plan that includes nine additional countries deemed especially vulnerable: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.
While the peak of the pandemic in the poorest countries is not expected until somewhere between three and six months from now, the United Nations said in a statement that “there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies failing and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals.”
Mr. Lowcock, who heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in the statement that “unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty. The specter of multiple famines loom.”
Even as the 193-member organization announced the new target for humanitarian fund-raising, it was still facing challenges in fulfilling the $2 billion goal set by Secretary General António Guterres on March 25. About $1 billion has been raised.
That money, the United Nations said, has gone to funding for hand-washing stations in vulnerable locations such as refugee camps, the distribution of gloves and masks, and the training of more than 1.7 million people, including health workers, on virus identification and protection measures.
Mr. Lowcock’s office projected recently that the long-term cost of protecting the most vulnerable 10 percent of people in the world from the worst impacts of the pandemic is approximately $90 billion. That amount is equivalent to about 1 percent of the current economic stimulus packages announced by the world’s most affluent countries.
Millions of Italians returned to work on Monday after nearly two months of being on lockdown because of the coronavirus. But many working parents are unsure about how to ease back into their professional lives when their young children still can’t go to school.
Italy, once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, was the first European country to impose national lockdown restrictions on March 10. When it lifted some of those restrictions this week, schools, nurseries, day cares and summer camps remained closed.
The Italian government has issued several measures to assist families juggling work and increased parental responsibilities during the epidemic. They include an additional 15 days of annual parental leave and a one-time voucher for 600 euros to go toward babysitting. Last week, the government announced it was evaluating a plan to reopen nurseries and day care centers by the summer. Schools, however, are only expected to reopen in September.
But families say the government hasn’t done enough and that the measures that have been introduced fall short.
Many parents — and especially mothers — fear they will be forced to choose between their jobs and their family as the country slowly crawls back to life, and have called on the government to step in and act.
Across the European Union, the women’s employment average is 67 percent, compared with 54 percent in Italy. And one study on gender inequality in the country showed that women already shoulder a disproportionate amount of child care duties.
An article published last month on Lavoce.info, an Italian website, showed that 72 percent of those expected to return to work on Monday would be men, as restrictions on construction sites and factories, where jobs are traditionally held by men, were among the first to be lifted.
The situation, the authors wrote, would “end up increasing the workload of women” at home, where they are already responsible for much of the child care.
Making the situation even harder, the Italian networks that normally support families — like church, after-school programs and sports centers — have also shut down.
U.S. military and Postal Service wrestle with the effects of the virus on key government institutions.
American institutions wrestled with the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, with the military temporarily barring those who have been hospitalized with the virus from joining the armed forces, and Amazon broadcasting its support of a weakened Postal Service.
Also on Wednesday, President Trump acknowledged that deaths could rise as a result of the reopening of the American economy, saying, “Hopefully that won’t be the case.”
Mr. Trump has demanded that the beleaguered Postal Service ratchet up its package delivery rates to avoid bankruptcy during the coronavirus crisis — a move that appears aimed at Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon and the owner of The Washington Post, a favorite target of the president.
But on Wednesday, Amazon and other online retailers began a seven-figure advertising campaign — starting on Fox News — to endorse a multibillion-dollar rescue package proposed by Democrats. The businesses could be disrupted significantly if the Postal Service increased its rates or went bankrupt.
The pandemic is already affecting the Defense Department, whose officials said that its new measure prohibiting the enlistment of some former coronavirus patients was “interim guidance,” and that it would most likely be updated as military officials learn more about Covid-19 and its long-term risks.
The military is struggling to figure out how to better manage and protect America’s 1.2 million active duty troops. As of Wednesday morning, there have been more than 7,000 coronavirus cases recorded among military personnel, contractors and Defense Department civilians.
All viruses mutate, and the coronavirus is no exception. But there is no compelling evidence yet that it is evolving in a way that has made it more contagious or more deadly.
A preprint study — posted online, but not published in a scientific journal and not yet peer-reviewed — has set the internet afire by suggesting otherwise.
On April 30, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico claimed to have found a mutation in the coronavirus that arose in Europe in February and then rapidly spread, becoming dominant as the virus was introduced into new countries.
The mutation, they wrote, “is of urgent concern,” because it made the coronavirus more transmissible. But experts in viral evolution are far from convinced.
Mutations are tiny changes to genetic material that occur as it is copied. Human cells have many so-called proofreading proteins that keep mutations rare. Viruses are far sloppier, producing many mutants every time they infect a cell. Natural selection can favor viruses carrying a beneficial mutation, leading it to spread more widely.
But it’s also possible for a neutral mutation to become more common simply by chance, a process known as genetic drift.
“I don’t think they provide evidence to claim transmissibility enhancement,” Sergei Pond, an evolutionary biologist at Temple University, said of the new report in an email.
In fact, Dr. Pond said, the mutation, known as D614G, has arisen not just once, but several times independently. On some of those occasions, viruses carrying the mutation didn’t take off in the population. Instead, the gene reverted to its original form, suggesting that D614G didn’t give the virus any special advantage.
No one has ruled out the possibility that a mutation could arise that would make the virus more transmissible. And it’s possible that D614G has provided some sort of edge.
But it will take much more evidence to rule out other explanations.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that it had no grounds to bar Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government, rejecting petitions that sought to disqualify him because he faces prosecution on corruption charges.
The court also declined to block an unusual power-sharing arrangement that Mr. Netanyahu struck with Benny Gantz, the former army chief who had fought him to a draw in three straight elections.
The rivals had ultimately joined forces, citing the emergency posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the desire to avoid a fourth campaign.
The court decision removed the last major obstacle to Mr. Netanyahu’s claiming a record fourth straight term as Israel’s leader, cementing his reputation as a survivor: Even after his opponents won a majority in the most recent election, Mr. Netanyahu ended up on top.
Mr. Netanyahu, 70, whose trial on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges is set to begin on May 24, announced that he would be sworn in on May 13. Mr. Gantz, 60, is to take office as deputy or alternate prime minister. The two agreed to swap roles after 18 months.
Their agreement calls for a narrow focus on issues related to the coronavirus at first, with one exception: their government may take up the annexation of land in the occupied West Bank, a long-sought goal of the Israeli right, as early as July.
Bina Wana, a 6-year-old orangutan that was rescued as a baby when his mother was killed, had been scheduled to be freed soon, as part of an ambitious program that has released more than 300 rescued Sumatran orangutans into the rainforest.
But as with so many of his human cousins, Bina Wana’s freedom has been put on hold by the coronavirus.
Scientists fear that the virus, which is thought to have originated in bats and jumped to humans, could just as easily jump to great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans — which share 97 to 99 percent of their DNA with people. All are highly endangered.
If the virus were to infect even one wild ape, experts fear it could spread unchecked and wipe out an entire population. There would be no way to stop it in the wild.
“We are worried about this and taking it very seriously,” said Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, which has been raising Bina Wana since his 2014 rescue. “If it happens, it will be a catastrophe.”
After being closed for more than three months, Shanghai Disneyland will greet visitors again on Monday, the first Disney park to reopen after the company closed them amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In China, where the park is a major attraction, many people saw the move as symbolic. “The reopening means the outbreak in China is truly controlled,” a user wrote on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform.
All, however, is not back to normal. Visitors will be required to register personal information online and show that their code is green on China’s health-tracking smartphone app, which authorities have used to rank people’s infection risk. Visitors will have their temperatures checked at the gates. They must wear masks. Crowd sizes will be controlled at restaurants, rides and other facilities. Pictures released by Disney show markings on the ground to help park-goers maintain social distancing.
“Finally, there won’t be a line at the Tron Lightcycle Power Run!” an excited Disney fan wrote, referencing a popular ride. Opened in 2016 as the first Disney park in mainland China, it is known for its hourslong lines.
Not everything will be open. Some attractions, like theater shows and the park’s colorful nighttime parade, will be canceled to limit guest contact.
Reporting and research was contributed by Rick Gladstone, Jason M. Bailey, David Halbfinger, Carl Zimmer, Richard C. Paddock, Lin Qiqing, Sophie Haigney, Elisabetta Povoledo, Elaine Glusac, Tariro Mzezewa, Mariel Padilla and Sara Firshein