Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times


Britain is developing an app that will track coronavirus cases in a centralized database.

Britain’s National Health Service is moving forward with an app to track the spread of the virus despite questions about the technology’s effectiveness, privacy safeguards and compatibility with key iPhone and Android features.

Officials are counting on the technology, which is designed to alert anyone who may have come into contact with an infected person, to help ease lockdown orders. But a dispute over privacy — and over how much data the authorities can collect — has hampered the rollout and pitted the government against Apple and Google, which are pushing a competing design for exposure tracing.

The British government may be overmatched by the Silicon Valley titans, which control the software that runs on nearly every smartphone on the planet. Unless Britain changes course, the companies are refusing to provide access to a Bluetooth signal on iPhones and Android phones.

The debate is about balancing public health and individual privacy. British officials say that more can be learned about the virus by collecting information in a centralized database. Apple and Google, supported by academics and privacy groups, are promoting a decentralized approach that would protect against invasions of privacy.

In Australia, an app similar to the British one has been criticized for technical problems. Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland are developing apps that support the Apple-Google specifications.

Tehran earthquake sends thousands of residents into the streets.

An earthquake with the magnitude of 5.1 shook Tehran around 1 a.m. on Friday, with at least 20 aftershocks sending thousands of panicked residents into the streets.

Tehran residents have been struggling to manage the threat of the coronavirus pandemic for over two months, and Friday’s quake saw people crowding together fearfully in the aftermath.

There were no casualties reported in Tehran but in Damavand, the epicenter of the quake about 6.2 miles northeast of Tehran, a 60-year-old man died and eight others were injured. There were no immediate reports of buildings or hospitals being damaged, said Tehran’s governor, Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey.

The government’s management of the pandemic has drawn criticism from Iranians who are anxious over the lack of a strict lockdown order. Health officials said this week that the pandemic is still spreading, with a steady increase in numbers in at least 15 provinces.

The quake hit when most people were at home sleeping or watching television. Videos shared on social media showed the moment when walls began rattling and people ran for their doors.

Eyewitnesses in Tehran said streets were packed with people standing around on sidewalks, huddled in parks and camping outside for the night. Some people wore masks but many did not observe social distancing in the chaos of trying to take shelter outdoors.

“There are thousands of people outside, it’s even more crowded than daylight here,” Pooriya Asteraky, a resident of Tehran, said in a telephone interview.

Around Tehran, people were sleeping in their parked cars along the sides of roads, fearful of going back inside.

“People should be on high alert and observe health protocols related to the coronavirus when they come out of the house,” Mr. Mohseni-Bandpey said in a TV broadcast.

A Russian steel magnate had his company supply respirator masks for the police, ventilators for hospitals, housing for people in isolation, software for quarantine compliance and workers for lockdown patrols.

The fantastically rich oligarchs who own Russia’s biggest businesses have become central figures in the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With local health systems buckling, some oligarchs are deploying millions of dollars of their own cash, along with their companies’ logistics and procurement capacity, while urging slow-moving regional authorities to act with more resolve.

Under President Vladimir V. Putin, oligarchs have depended on the Kremlin’s benevolence, and the pandemic illustrates how much Mr. Putin’s system of governance relies on informal alliances with business tycoons.

The battle against the coronavirus is also revealing the weaknesses of the Russian state, which has neglected investment in health care and other social services, and at first did not respond aggressively to the pandemic.

So people like the steel magnate, Alexei A. Mordashov, have stepped in. He helped persuade regional governors to shut down the cities where he operates, and provided resources to make it happen.

For a fertilizer tycoon, Andrei A. Guryev, closing off the isolated Siberian region around one of his operations was simpler — his company owns the local airport and the ski resort.

The drop in airline travel caused by the pandemic has sharply reduced the amount of atmospheric data routinely gathered by commercial airliners, the World Meteorological Organization has said.

The agency said Thursday that it was “concerned about the increasing impact” on forecasts worldwide.

Data on temperature, wind and humidity, collected by sensors on the planes and transmitted in real time to forecasting organizations around the world, has been cut by nearly 90 percent in some regions, the meteorological organization said.

The organization, an arm of the United Nations that coordinates a global observing system for 193 member nations, said surface-based weather observations had also been affected in some parts of the world, including Africa and Central and South America. Many weather instruments there are not automated and must be visited regularly to obtain readings.

National weather agencies “are facing increasingly severe challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in developing countries,” the agency’s director-general, Petteri Taalas, said, in a statement.

“As we approach the Atlantic hurricane season, the Covid-19 pandemic poses an additional challenge, and may exacerbate multi-hazard risks at a single country level,” he said.

A few events were canceled outright, including the Tour of Switzerland. But most of the races originally planned for March through July have been crammed into the new schedule, somehow, someway.

Many multiday races overlap, most notably two of the Grand Tours, in Spain and Italy. The Giro d’Italia will start on Oct. 3 but not end until Oct. 25. The Vuelta d’Espana will start on Oct. 20, before the Giro ends. As recently as 2008, Alberto Contador won both races in the same year. That will be impossible in 2020.

The Tour de France, which is to be held in September instead of June and July, usually has little major competition for attention. But this year it will be held simultaneously with an important weeklong Italian race, the Tirreno-Adriatico, which has been won in recent years by Tour champions Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans.

Reporting was contributed by Adam Satariano, Farnaz Fassihi, Anton Troianovski, Henry Fountain and Victor Mather.



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