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Coronavirus World Updates: Iraq Resists Iran’s Call to Quickly Open Border


Iraq resists Iranian pressure to reopen their border.

Truck by truck, border post by border post, a power struggle is unfolding between Iraq and Iran over when to reopen the frontier between the two countries, which Iraq closed five weeks ago to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Iran, which has been hit hard by the virus but needs trade with Iraq to help stabilize its economy, wants it reopened immediately.

Iraq, which fears opening the border to the region’s most heavily infected country, is resisting.

The dispute comes at a time of mounting pressure in Iraq to reduce Iran’s influence, which has been an increasingly powerful force in Iraqi affairs since the United States and its allies overthrew the government of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The coronavirus first arrived in Iraq from Iran, and only through strenuous efforts has Iraq kept its caseload relatively low, with only 82 deaths attributed to the virus as of Monday.

Iran is one of the world’s coronavirus hot spots, with more than 75,000 cases and 5,200 deaths reported, and some 1,400 new cases a day.

Without trade and movement between Iran and Iraq, however, Tehran will be hard put to get some of its non-oil industries fully functional again.

When the pandemic froze Lebanon in place last month, it also dispersed the last crowds of antigovernment protesters who had filled the country’s streets for months, chanting against what they call the country’s corrupt and incompetent political elite.

Over the last week, however, small demonstrations have flared once again in Beirut, the capital, and Tripoli, a northern city where many lived hand-to-mouth even before the lockdown made their daily wages disappear. The shutdown to slow the virus’s spread has magnified the poverty and joblessness that drove many of the protesters to the streets in the first place.

Videos posted on social media over the last week showed protesters crowding roads in Tripoli, none wearing masks, shouting, “Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!”

Other protesters respected the rules of social distancing by coming up with a new way to make their voices heard. On Tuesday, convoys of cars in Beirut drove in honking protest past the building where Lebanon’s Parliament was meeting. (The Parliament met under circumstances dictated by the coronavirus, convening in a large auditorium instead of the usual government building so lawmakers could sit far apart.)

With the value of the Lebanese lira plummeting, banks continuing to withhold depositors’ savings and prospects of an international bailout uncertain at best, the government’s economic recovery plan has drawn widespread skepticism. Its distributions of food aid during the lockdown have also been criticized as falling far short of the need.

Beginning in mid-October, the protest movement had drawn at least a million people — a quarter of the population — to daily demonstrations, which tailed off by early this year. As the virus spread, some of the remaining demonstrators donned surgical masks. But soon after the lockdown began in March, security forces moved to dismantle protesters’ tents in downtown Beirut. But neither that nor the virus stopped the protests.

Ecuador took early, aggressive measures to stop the coronavirus, but it could not prevent its largest city, Guayaquil, from becoming the site of Latin America’s worst outbreak. A failure to track and test people who arrived in Ecuador from Europe contributed to the spread of the virus in February.

It took 13 days to diagnose an Ecuadorean woman, labeled Patient 0 by the government, who had been living in Spain and returned home. In that time, she infected at least 17 other people, including much of her family, according to a medical investigator. As the authorities grapple with the scale of a crisis that has caused hospitals and morgues to collapse, they believe Ecuador’s toll is probably many times larger than the official figure of 520 deaths.

It would have been a routine gig, playing electronic dance music in a sports stadium filled with 40,000 fans at a festival in Chengdu, China, last weekend.

Martin Garrix, described as the world’s No. 2 D.J., performs at around 150 such events a year. But now, because of the coronavirus, electronic dance music parties and festivals across the world are over. That is true even in Mr. Garrix’s home country, the Netherlands, where they are an important export product, an $8 billion industry employing around 100,000 people, according to Event Makers, an industry group.

As of Tuesday, all shows and festivals have been canceled until at least Sept. 1. Such is the prominence of the business in the Netherlands that the cancellation was announced by the prime minister, Mark Rutte, in a news conference.

Dutch D.J.’s, who normally roam the globe in private jets, now sit home wondering if this is the end of their profession. Dutch festival goers not only face a dance-less summer but now have $1 billion in advance tickets and no guarantee of refunds.

The dance festivals have become a fixture of modern life in the Netherlands, where there are more of them per capita than anywhere in the world, said Mark van Bergen, a lecturer in the dance industry at Fontys University of Applied Sciences at Tilburg and a writer on electronic dance music. All told, the country had 422 festivals in 2018, he said.

The Polish milk bar is remarkably well suited to the coronavirus lockdown.

At these traditional restaurants, diners can pick up orders of ready-made pierogi or get home delivery of the familiar comfort of a barszcz beet soup and stuffed cabbage, to warm in the oven. Much of the menu comes at spectacularly low prices, thanks to the government subsidies that the milk bars receive.

Even before the lockdown, milk bars — so called because they were historically vegetarian — straddled a strange divide in Polish society. Somewhere between a diner and a soup kitchen, they are both hip and vital. They offer both Communist nostalgia and Communist-era prices; even the most eyes-bigger-than-stomach customer will struggle to run a bill of more than $5.

“They are especially needed right now,” said Jan Binczycki, a librarian at the Malopolska Public Library in Krakow. “We have a lot of problems with things like gentrification and social stratification. Milk bars are at the front lines of the fight between old and new.”

Under Communism, they were a forced staple, among the only places to eat out. But in the years after the old order fell in 1989, international chain restaurants arrived en masse. Poles flocked to try McDonald’s cheeseburgers, kebabs and Vietnamese food, while milk bars came to be seen as a grim reminder of a past pockmarked with scarcity and oppression. Today, there are only a few hundred left, down from thousands in their heyday.

But in the past decade, milk bars have grown popular again, as people seek out familiar food as a way to connect with the past and fashion a contemporary Polish identity.

Sheltering in place with cockroaches, spiders and turtles.

Last month, the coronavirus pandemic prompted universities and museums around the world to dial down their operations, leaving scientists to make difficult decisions about the animals they work with. While some released or culled their specimens — or set up a visitation schedule — others decided to take theirs home, embarking on a different sort of relationship. We checked in with half a dozen scientists about how they’re making it work with their new roommates in this time of social distancing.

Dr. Clifton wanted to take the roaches home so she could continue working with them. (Plus, her supervisor has a cat with a taste for bugs.) But like many young academics, she shares housing, and her housemates were “a little hesitant,” she said. So she promised she would keep them in her bedroom.

She plans to take advantage of the situation by collecting data on the roaches when they are most active. She said the experience has made her realize that the human bias toward daytime lab work does not always “align with the animal’s normal working hours.”

Thomas Erdbrink, Amelia Nierenberg, Alissa J. Rubin, Falih Hassan, Cara Giaimo and Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting.


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