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Coronavirus Live Updates: Australia and New Zealand are Quietly Beating Their Outbreaks


Australia reported its first case on Jan. 25, New Zealand on Feb. 28. But compared with Mr. Trump and leaders in Europe, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand responded with more alacrity and with starker warnings.

Both nations are now reporting just a handful of new infections each day, down from hundreds in March, and they are converging toward an extraordinary goal: completely eliminating the virus from their island nations.

Whether they get to zero or not, what Australia and New Zealand have already accomplished is a remarkable cause for hope. Mr. Morrison, a conservative Christian, and Ms. Ardern, New Zealand’s darling of the left, are both succeeding with throwback democracy — in which partisanship recedes, experts lead, and quiet coordination matters more than firing up the base.

“It’s a case of politicians just not being in the way,” said Ian Mackay, an immunologist at the University of Queensland who has been involved in response planning for the pandemic. “It’s a mix of things, but I think it comes down to taking advice based on expertise.”

The prospect of a return to near normalcy in these two countries may end up being a mirage or temporary triumph: Other nations that had seemingly kept the virus at bay, like Singapore, have seen rebounds.

And yet, if there are any two countries that could pull off a clear if hermetically sealed victory — offering a model of recovery that elevates competence over ego and restores some confidence in democratic government — it may be these two Pacific neighbors with their sparsely populated islands and history of pragmatism.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has extended a lockdown in the capital, Manila, and threatened to impose martial law to quell Communist guerrillas that he accused of attacking aid deliveries.

In a meeting with his advisers on Thursday night, which was aired on television Friday morning, Mr. Duterte agreed to extend an “enhanced community quarantine” in greater Manila and some provinces until May 15.

Mr. Duterte imposed a lockdown on the island of Luzon, home to Manila and about 60 million people, in mid-March. It had been scheduled to end on April 15 and was later extended to the end of the month.

As of Thursday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines stood at almost 7,000, with total deaths nearing 500. Those tallies are among the highest in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Duterte had been falsely claiming that he was the first leader in Asia to impose a lockdown. In fact, he initially resisted the move, assuring Filipinos in February that there was nothing to be scared of.

At the meeting on Thursday, Mr. Duterte said that might impose martial law to quell communist guerrillas, whom he accused of preying on virus-related aid convoys. He did not mention a specific incident, but earlier this week, two soldiers who were distributing cash aid to a poor community on Luzon were killed in an attack.

“I am now warning everybody and putting the police and the A.F.P. on notice,” Mr. Duterte said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “I might declare martial law and there will be no turning back.”

The Philippine military blamed the recent attack on New People’s Army, a group that has been waging a communist insurgency since the 1960s. But the group did not claim responsibility.

The oil market’s collapse this week was another unanticipated blow for Iran, where the authorities have struggled to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East while keeping afloat an economy that has long relied on oil exports but has been hampered by American sanctions.

While Iranian leaders have significantly lessened their dependence on foreign purchases of Iran’s oil, it remains a basic industry for a country with the third-largest reserves among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The price collapse has further complicated efforts by Iranian leaders to reopen the economy after a series of halting and sometimes contradictory moves to shutter businesses and ban travel in hopes of slowing the coronavirus contagion. On Saturday, the authorities began lifting those restraints, reopening shopping malls and Tehran’s famed bazaar, among other things.

But Iranian health officials are worried, already seeing a surge in the number of people seeking hospital treatment for coronavirus symptoms. By official count, as of Thursday, more than 87,000 Iranians had been infected with the virus and 5,481 had died from Covid-19.

President Hassan Rouhani, who had argued that fighting the contagion and salvaging the economy go hand in hand, acknowledged on Wednesday that Iran would suffer from falling oil prices but played down the severity.

In March, during the height of the coronavirus crisis, one oil trader said, Iran’s oil sales had dropped from 300,000 barrels a day to 80,000.

State officials plead with Washington to help with payroll relief.

Governors and mayors from around the United States have been pleading with Washington for aid to help them keep workers on their payrolls. But Congress did not provide money for state governments in a $484 million relief package that the House passed on Thursday, setting up the next political battle over pandemic relief.

The package, which President Trump is expected to sign on Friday, replenishes a depleted small-business loan program. The Labor Department reported on Thursday that another 4.4 million people filed initial unemployment claims last week, bringing the five-week total to more than 26 million. Nearly one in six American workers has lost a job in recent weeks.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said that states should consider filing for bankruptcy rather than look for handouts. His aides threw fuel on the fire in a news release that said the Senate leader was opposed to “blue state bailouts,” suggesting it was Democratic-leaning states that were seeking the money to take care of problems caused by fiscal mismanagement.

Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:

  • Researchers say that hidden coronavirus outbreaks were creeping through cities like Chicago, New York, Seattle and Boston in January and February, weeks earlier than previously known.

  • One of every five New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to results from random testing of 3,000 people.

  • United Airlines said its flight attendants would be required to cover their faces while on duty, starting on Friday.

After the world chess championship qualifying match was halted because of the pandemic, the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, gathered top players for a virtual event beginning last Saturday.

It was simple. Grandmasters compete from the safety of their own homes, and chess aficionados around the world can watch.

The matches are speedy, with each player getting an initial 15 minutes to make his moves. That reduces all that less-than-telegenic “thinking time” and cuts way down on draws. The last world championship in 2018 consisted of 12 straight draws, with matches sometimes lasting four hours. Hardly riveting.

There is one concern, though: Players at home can easily cheat.

In recent years, computers have advanced far beyond humans in chess, so even grandmasters can often get better moves from a program on an iPad than they can themselves. Because top players normally meet face to face, such cheating is mostly a concern for more casual players playing online. But now a tournament with the best in the world must grapple with it.

Organizers of Carlsen’s online event have put in numerous safeguards. All players must train a webcam on themselves that would catch them grabbing a computer and seeking the best move. Two more cameras per player will also be running to capture any skulduggery. The computers the players use for their games may have no other software open at all. And after matches, anticheating software will look for any anomalies.

There are also some technical issues that live chess doesn’t face. One player, Alireza Firouzja, was in a winning position when he suddenly disconnected. The game was ruled a draw.

So far, Carlsen is proving just as skillful at quick online chess as he is at the slow, live format. He was leading his own event after play on Thursday. It runs through May 3.

Reporting was contributed by Vivian Lin, Thomas Fuller, Victor Mather and Adam Nossiter.

Reporting was contributed by Dan Levin, Andrew LaVallee, Jason Gutierrez, Farnaz Fassihi, Damien Cave and Victor Mather.


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