From sugarcoating to brutal honesty, world leaders navigate the coronavirus crisis.
World leaders have spent the past several weeks grappling with the unexpected, as country after country has seen the coronavirus arrive at its borders.
With the virus endangering citizens’ health and lockdowns ravaging the global economy, heads of government have taken different approaches in televised addresses and news briefings as they have explained their plans for combating the threat.
“The main questions for these leaders,” said Jill Rutter, a senior fellow at the London-based Institute for Government, “is, can they convey a clear message and give people the reassurance they need while admitting this is an incredibly fast-moving, difficult world of real unknowns?”
They also must “show that they understand that this is a massive human tragedy,” she added.
It’s “quite a difficult balancing act,” she said.
With the coronavirus outbreak still raging within its borders, Iran on Saturday lifted the lockdown on its capital and called on government and private-sector employees to return to work.
The rest of Iran’s provinces had lifted a two-week lockdown and travel restrictions a week earlier. Schools and sporting events remain closed, and restaurants have been restricted to takeout.
President Hassan Rouhani has called his return-to-work policy a “smart distancing” strategy that will fight two enemies: the pandemic and the collapse of an economy already strained by international sanctions.
“Our message is the great people of Iran and all private and government entities, labor workers and engineers, despite fighting the coronavirus on one front, are also continuing the economic development of our country,” he said on Thursday.
About 5,000 people with the virus have died in Iran, including some of the country’s top officials, and about 80,000 have been infected, according to government figures. But local experts and health officials say that many others who showed symptoms of the virus have died or fallen ill without being tested.
Health officials warn that easing the restrictions too soon risks another surge in infections.
Iran’s military held annual parades on Friday in Tehran and other cities. The parade typically shows off military hardware. But this year soldiers marched in protective gear, and ambulances and medical equipment replaced missiles and drones.
A judge orders Mexico to extend coronavirus protections to migrants.
The Mexican government was ordered to extend its coronavirus protections to migrants in a ruling made public on Friday.
The ruling said health care should be guaranteed to detainees and that temporary residency should be given to people found to be particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Reuters reported.
The order also said the government would have to identify symptomatic detainees, report the number of migrants who were detained and release members of vulnerable populations. Migrants were also to have access to information on ways to protect themselves.
Mexico, which has reported more than 6,200 cases and nearly 500 deaths from the virus, first declared a health emergency on March 30 — after initial resistance. The ruling came after advocacy groups claimed the government had not been adequately protecting migrants and asylum seekers. Last year, Mexico had more than twice the number of asylum requests that it had in 2018.
With businesses closed to slow the spread of the virus, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Friday that $2.5 billion would be distributed next month to support the economy. He did not specify how the money would be sent, but said there would be three million loans to small businesses.
Any effort by states to begin easing restrictions requires an expanded testing capacity to give people a sense of security, health experts say, and the United States is far behind in conducting enough tests to responsibly inform those decisions.
But Vice President Mike Pence asserted on Friday that the country now has the testing capacity to allow all states to move to begin the first phase of the White House’s guidelines for reopening their economies. And several top U.S. public health officials said the scale of the nation’s testing capacity — 3.7 million tests have been conducted so far — was underappreciated.
Also on Friday, President Trump openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in some states with stay-at-home orders, a day after he announced guidelines for how the nation’s governors should carry out an orderly reopening of their states on their own timetables.
In a series of all-caps tweets that started two minutes after a Fox News report on the protests, the president declared, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed strict social distancing restrictions. He also lashed out at Virginia, where the Democratic governor and legislature have pushed for strict gun control measures, saying: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
His stark departure from the more bipartisan tone of his announcement on Thursday night suggested Mr. Trump was ceding any semblance of national leadership on the pandemic, choosing instead to divide the country by playing to his political base.
Mr. Trump’s call for “liberation” from social distancing rules followed protests around the country, as demonstrators — many wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats — congregated in packed groups around state capitols to demand that restrictions be immediately lifted, and to demonize their Democratic governors.
The Kurdish-led administration that governs northeastern Syria announced on Friday the first death in that region from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. As it turns out, the World Health Organization knew about the case for more than 11 days before informing the local authorities, a W.H.O. official said.
The W.H.O. official and the Kurdish administration, which oversees about one-third of Syria’s territory along the Turkish and Iraqi borders, said a 53-year-old man was admitted to a hospital on March 27. Doctors ran a test for the coronavirus and sent it to the Syrian capital, Damascus, for analysis.
The man died on April 2, the same day that his test came back positive. The authorities in Damascus, which has a hostile relationship with the Kurds, did not pass along that information.
The W.H.O. official, Rick Brennan, the regional emergency director for the eastern Mediterranean, said in an interview that the Syrian authorities informed the organization of the case on April 5, but because of “internal procedural problems and miscommunication,” it did not get word to the Kurds about it until Thursday — 11 days later.
The case illustrates how the political divisions left by Syria’s long civil war could hinder a response if a major outbreak occurs. The government of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus controls most of the country, but has hostile relations with both the Kurdish-led administration that governs the northeast and the leaders of a rebel-held enclave in Idlib Province in the northwest.
Syria has reported only 38 cases of coronavirus and two deaths, but aid groups have warned that the virus could do great damage. Millions of Syrians have been displaced and impoverished through nine years of war, and much of the country’s health infrastructure has been badly damaged.
In a statement Friday, the Kurdish-led administration said it would hold the W.H.O. responsible if the virus spread in its area.
Mr. Brennan said that the man who died had no travel history and no known contact with other infected people — indicating that there are almost certainly other, undiagnosed cases in the area.
This year’s celebration of Canada Day in Ottawa will — like so many occasions derailed by the coronavirus — take place as an online-only affair, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced on Friday.
Often referred to as the nation’s birthday, Canada Day, July 1, is one of the country’s major national holidays, and ordinarily draws crowds from across the country to Ottawa, the capital.
A concert stage is built in front of the Parliament buildings for performances by musicians, actors and comedians throughout the day and evening, and the program culminates in a fireworks show. Other events are held elsewhere in the city and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec.
This year, the main stage was to be in a park because of construction work in front of the Parliament buildings.
Steven Guilbeault, the minister of Canadian Heritage, said on Friday that the government would work with artists and performers to come up with a virtual approximation of the celebrations.
“Together, we are meeting one of the greatest challenges in our history, and this year more than ever, Canada Day will highlight the strength that unites us,” Mr. Guilbeault said.
Canada Day marks the date in 1867 when three British provinces were united as a largely independent Dominion of Canada, with its own Parliament.
Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Farnaz Fassihi, Abby Goodnough, Katie Thomas, Sheila Kaplan, Michael D. Shear, Sarah Mervosh, Steven Lee Myers, Evan Easterling and Megan Specia.