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India to Extend Lockdown Against Coronavirus, While Spain Eases Work Rules


The coronavirus pandemic continued its global assault on Saturday, with more than 1.7 million known cases recorded worldwide and at least 107,000 deaths.

But even as some countries join the list of those with broad lockdown orders and others maintain or extend sweeping shutdowns, others have begun eyeing the benefits of reopening at least some parts of society.

In Iran, the hardest-hit country so far in its region, some government offices and shops, factories and other businesses began reopening on Saturday as the national lockdown is lifted in phases. President Hassan Rouhani had said last week that economic and government activity must continue. On Saturday, he said that people should still observe social distancing.

The lifting of restrictions came despite warnings from the country’s health ministry that the reopening could cause a new spike in cases and tens of thousands of additional deaths.

Some of the most grievously hit countries in Europe, while still recording hundreds of new deaths every day, say that the worst appears to be past. Their plans to ease some restrictions, they caution, will not bring normalcy, but instead a new phase of learning how to safely live with the pandemic.

Spain, with the world’s highest caseload after the United States, is preparing to allow some nonessential employees to return to work on Monday. The country has reported a falling death rate and a daily growth in new cases of about 3 percent, compared with 20 percent in mid-March.

But officials stressed the limits of that easing. “Spain continues in a state of lockdown,” Health Minister Salvador Illa warned on Friday. “We are not yet in a de-escalation phase.”

Italy, which follows Spain in cases but has the highest death toll after the United States, will allow some bookstores, children’s clothing shops and some forestry-related occupations to resume operations after the current restrictions expire on Tuesday.

Austria plans to reopen smaller shops after this weekend. The Czech Republic is opening small stores, and people can play tennis and go swimming. Denmark may reopen kindergartens and schools starting next week, Norway will allow pupils to attend kindergarten.

And China has ended its lockdown of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged.

For many countries, the question of whether to ease restrictions does not have a clear answer yet. In the United States, President Trump — and governors of each state — are balancing calls from medical experts to keep restrictions in place with pleas from bankers, corporate executives and industrialists to ease them.

India, on the other hand, appears set to extend a 21-day lockdown for all 1.3 billion citizens for two more weeks, carrying it to the end of April. During a meeting with top officials, Mr. Modi said the lockdown had helped blunt the outbreak but that “constant vigilance is paramount,” according to a statement from his office.

Some countries put in place new measures. Turkey on Friday ordered a two-day curfew for 31 provinces. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has ordered air traffic to the country halted after more than 70 people who arrived from Newark, N.J., on Saturday morning left Ben Gurion Airport without official verifications of their mandatory quarantine plans and checks of their temperatures.

Throughout January, as President Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.

Dozens of interviews and a review of emails and other records by The New York Times revealed many previously unreported details of the roots and extent of Mr. Trump’s halting response. Read the full investigation.

The country now has more than 515,000 confirmed cases, by far the world’s largest count, and more than 20,000 deaths, surpassing Italy’s as the world’s heaviest toll. More than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs.

Here’s what else is happening in the United States:

  • On Saturday, the U.S. surpassed Italy in the total number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus with 20,109. Government projections obtained by The New York Times found that without any mitigation, the death toll from the virus could have reached 300,000 — and that it could reach 200,000 if the Trump administration lifts 30-day stay-at-home orders. Read the latest updates for the United States.

  • Christians across the United States prepared to celebrate Easter by gathering virtually on Sunday, largely following stay-at-home orders and guidance from health officials. A handful of lone pastors in states like Louisiana and Mississippi plan to hold in-person services in defiance of restrictions on mass gatherings, citing their religious freedoms. President Trump said in a tweet that he will watch the online service of First Baptist Dallas, led by Robert Jeffress, one of his prominent supporters.

  • The largest states are split on when and how to reopen. The governors of Texas and Florida, both Republicans, have started talking about reopening businesses and schools, echoing signals from Mr. Trump. But the leaders of California and New York, both Democrats, are sounding more cautious notes.

  • Top officials in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak with more than 180,000 cases, appear to disagree over whether New York City schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Read the latest updates for the New York region.

  • Citing the virus, the Trump administration announced that it would issue visa penalties on countries that refuse to accept people the U.S. aims to deport.

  • With so many restaurants and schools closed and other sources of demand disrupted, many of the largest farms in the country are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they haven’t been able to sell or donate to food banks, which can only absorb so much perishable food.

As countries contend with escalating body counts from the pandemic, some are experiencing an unanticipated decline in a different form of death: murder.

Lockdowns have reduced opportunities for homicides and other crimes, and the virus has taken some criminals out of action as they hunker down in their homes. Some gangs have even led efforts to impose curfews in neighborhoods where they hold sway.

The drop in murders is especially notable in Latin America, the region with the highest homicide rates in the world outside of war.

In El Salvador, for example, there were just 65 homicides in March, down from 114 in February. Neighboring Honduras has also seen a falloff in killings in recent weeks, as has Colombia and the most populous state in Mexico.

The pandemic is “taking people off the streets,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico City. “The rule of thumb is: the stricter the lockdown, the bigger the effect on crimes committed against strangers on the street.”

Here are other developments in the pandemic around the world:

  • Italy’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the world’s deadliest, counting more than 152,000 cases and more than 19,450 deaths. Health care workers have been hard-hit, and so has another force on the front lines: The virus has killed nearly 100 priests.

  • France, which has the world’s fifth largest known outbreak, reported on Saturday that the total number of patients in intensive care fell for the third day in a row, to roughly 6,880. With nearly 94,000 cases, the country has logged more than 13,800 deaths.

  • Tokyo reported a record number of new cases on Saturday, at 197. The city has confirmed a total of 40 deaths from the virus. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan had not yet hit its target of reducing commuting by at least 70 percent, and asked all businesses to let employees work from home.

  • Chile will start handing out certificates to people who have recovered that will exempt them from quarantines and other restrictions.

  • The World Health Organization said that it was looking into reports of some recovering Covid-19 patients testing positive again after testing negative, a day after South Korean officials said that 91 previously cleared patients had tested positive again. Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a briefing that the virus might have been “reactivated” rather than the patients being reinfected.

The Chinese government has ordered that no more N95 respirators, ventilators, hospital gowns and other key medical supplies be exported until customs officials perform quality inspections on each shipment.

The new policy, announced by China’s General Administration of Customs on Friday, produced immediate delays to cargos on Saturday as manufacturers, freight agents and traders tried to understand how to comply. China is the world’s dominant producer of a wide range of medical supplies, and its manufacturing lead has widened in many sectors as it has engaged in a nationwide mobilization of medical supplies production since late January.

The Chinese customs agency said that it had previously checked whether medical supplies were accurately counted, whether they infringed foreign patents and other intellectual property, and whether they had fraudulent documents. But now the agency will also assess the quality of goods.

The agency gave no indication of how long the quality testing might take.

The policy comes after a series of complaints from Europe that medical supplies from China had problems. Chinese officials have countered that many of these supplies were industrial respirators that were not designed to meet medical standards and should not be expected to do so.

The new rules cover China’s exports in 11 categories: medical respirators and surgical masks, medical protective clothing, infrared thermometers, ventilators, surgical caps, medical goggles, medical gloves, medical shoe covers, patient monitors, medical disinfection towels and medical disinfectants.

The police in Montreal said on Saturday night that they had launched a criminal investigation into a private residence for the elderly after 31 people had died there since March 13, at least five of them from confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Quebec’s premier, François Legault, said that the government had learned of the deaths at the 150-bed Résidence Herron, in a suburb west of Montreal, on Friday, and that he believed they amounted to “gross negligence.”

“This is terrible what happened,” Mr. Legault said on Saturday, adding that when officials from the regional health authority had arrived at the residence on March 29 to investigate, “almost all the staff was gone.”

At that point, he said, the authority dispatched a team of health workers to care for the residents, and it has now taken over the running of the residence.

An investigation by Montreal Gazette, a local newspaper, said that residents had been discovered unfed and wearing clothing covered with feces.

Mr. Legault said that it was “unacceptable” how the elderly were being cared for in Quebec, and that staff shortages and insufficient salaries had been an ongoing issue at privately run residences. “I am not proud to see what is happening,” he said.

Résidence Herron is owned by a Quebec real estate company called Katasa, which owns six other retirement residences. The company was not immediately available for comment on Saturday. But it previously said it had been doing its best under challenging circumstances.

Quebec has been hit hard by the coronavirus. As of Saturday, it had 12,292 confirmed cases and 289 deaths. More than 90 percent of those who have died were 70 or older.

Officials said Saturday that after one resident at the Herron had tested positive for the virus, regional health authorities had reached out to the residence to learn more about the status of its residents, but were rebuffed. The authorities then obtained a court order to gain access to medical files, and learned of the number of deaths on Friday.

Quebec’s minister of health, Danielle McCann, ordered checks of private residences for the elderly across the province.

The global pandemic has forced countless people into isolation. In Vienna, for the sake of the entire city, 53 people volunteered.

They raised their hands to ensure that whatever else happens, the power plants that provide electricity to Austria’s capital and its 2 million people would keep running.

The 53 employees of the Wien Energie company have been holed up in four power plants since March 20, after volunteering to go into their own version of a lockdown until April 16. Depending on how things go, they could be asked to stay on longer.

The workers miss their families, but shrug off the idea that they are making a big sacrifice, pointing out that doctors, nurses and other health workers had it much tougher.

“We are just a cog in a much bigger wheel,” said Steven Sacher, 24, an engineer at the Flötzersteig plant.

Wien Energie turned conference rooms into dormitories, and outfitted the plants with washing machines, fitness equipment, wireless internet — and, crucially, board games and jigsaw puzzles.

“We have finished about 20 puzzles with 2,000 pieces,” Mr. Wallner said. “Everyone who has time stops and works on it a bit.”

Mr. Sacher said his team has been piecing together a puzzle showing the Brooklyn Bridge at night, which gives way to an evening ritual.

“Every night at 9 p.m. sharp, the four of us who aren’t working get together and play Parcheesi,” he said.

Last year, the Vatican’s police force estimated that 70,000 faithful crammed into St. Peter’s Square on Easter morning to hear the pope deliver his “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) message after the Easter Mass.

But on Sunday, Pope Francis won’t impart his Easter message and blessing from a window in the apostolic palace, from where he greets the faithful most Sundays. Instead, Francis will live-stream the Mass, followed by the message and a blessing, on the Vatican news website, starting at 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. Eastern).

People are prohibited from gathering in the square. And the Francis will celebrate Mass with just a few assistants inside the empty basilica.

The Vatican also live-streamed the Via Crucis, the traditional Good Friday procession that evokes the Stations of the Cross leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, in St. Peter’s Square instead of Rome’s Colosseum, where it is traditionally held. At the end of the procession, Francis prayed silently before a wooden crucifix that had been carried during Rome’s 16th-century plague.

Earlier Friday, Francis called an Italian state TV Good Friday special to say he felt close to the victims of the pandemic, and that he was thinking about the “doctors, nurses, nuns and priests who had died on the front lines as soldiers, giving their life for love.”

In this pandemic, many are resisting, in their communities, in hospitals, caring for the ill. “Even today people are crucified, and die for love,” Francis said.

As the coronavirus pandemic takes a disproportionate toll on older people around the world, several over the age of 100 have survived the brutal toll the disease takes on the body.

Cornelia Ras, 107, of the Netherlands is believed to be the oldest known survivor of the new coronavirus. She became ill last month after attending a church service on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee in the southwest part of the country.

Ms. Ras was given the all clear by her doctor on Monday.

“We did not expect her to survive this,” her niece Maaike de Groot told the Dutch newspaper AD. “She takes no medicines, still walks well and gets down on her knees every night to thank the Lord. From the looks of it, she will be able to continue to do so.”

Keith Watson, a 101-year-old man from western England, was in a hospital last month awaiting surgery when he developed a fever that prompted doctors to test him for the coronavirus, local health officials said.

But he pulled through, and on Thursday, he was discharged after recovering from the virus. “He’s amazing for his age,” his daughter-in-law Jo Watson told the BBC.

On March 9, Ada Zanusso, 103, was one of several residents of a nursing home in the town of Lessona, Italy, to become ill with the coronavirus. Twenty people had already died there, the newspaper La Repubblica reported.

“She was ill for a week, even with critical moments,” said Carla Furno Marchese, Mrs. Zanusso’s family doctor since 1986, who also works with the nursing home.

Then, “miraculously,” Dr. Furno Marchese said in an interview, Ms. Zanusso improved.

“She reacquired some strength, started eating again and then she got out of bed,” the doctor said. “Now she’s perfectly normal, like before. She’s doing great. She remembers everything.”

Her recovery has been embraced by many Italians still reeling from the toll the virus has taken on the country, which is enduring a lockdown. Ms. Zanusso had lived alone at home until four years ago, when she broke her femur and her children decided she would be better off in a care home. She had always been in good health, and has a deep faith.

“She accepts everything that happens to her,” the doctor said.

In one of the most far-ranging attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Apple and Google said they were building software into smartphones that would tell people if they were recently in contact with someone who was infected with it.

The technology giants, usually fierce rivals, said they aimed to release the tool within several months, building it into the operating systems of billions of iPhones and Android devices around the world.

Users would opt in and voluntarily report if they became infected, and the smartphones would log other devices they came near, enabling “contact tracing” of the disease, a measure that has proved effective, alongside mass testing in places like South Korea.

“It could be a useful tool, but it raises privacy issues,” said Dr. Mike Reid, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, who is helping San Francisco officials with contact tracing. “It’s not going to be the sole solution, but as part of a robust sophisticated response, it has a role to play.”

South Korea, which has used a government-issued tracking app to trace contacts and enforce quarantine, said on Saturday that it planned to strap tracking wristbands on those who violated self-quarantine orders.

Health officials worry that some of the 57,000 people who are under orders to stay home for two weeks have slipped out, leaving their smartphones behind.

Yoon Tae-ho, a senior disease-control official, told reporters on Saturday that the bands would be deployed within two weeks.

Officials admitted that they lacked a legal power to enforce wristband-wearing, but could consider lighter quarantine-breaking penalties to those who agreed to wear them.

South Korea has reported between 27 and 53 new cases per day this week compared with several hundred a day between late February and early March.

The British health secretary, Matt Hancock, has sparked anger among workers in the country’s National Health Service after he urged them not to waste personal protective equipment.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, warned on Saturday that supplies of personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., were dangerously low in London and part of northern England, and said that doctors were putting their lives at risk to treat patients with the coronavirus.

“It’s really important that people don’t overuse P.P.E.,” Mr. Hancock said in a BBC radio interview on Saturday. “It’s a precious resource.”

At a daily briefing on Friday, he said that masks and aprons did not have to be changed after treating each patient.

But the Royal College of Nursing’s general secretary, Donna Kinnair, told BBC’s “Breakfast” show: “I take offense, actually, that we are saying that health care workers are abusing or overusing P.P.E. I think what we know is, we don’t have enough supply.”

The opposition Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, also said on Twitter: “It is quite frankly insulting to imply frontline staff are wasting PPE. There are horrific stories of NHS staff and care workers not having the equipment they need to keep them safe.”

Mr. Hancock also said on Saturday that 19 health service workers had died so far in the outbreak. Britain reported a daily total of 917 deaths in hospitals on Saturday, after a high of 980 on Friday. The total death toll stood at 9,975 as of Saturday.

He said the outbreak had yet to peak, although there were signs of hospital admissions “starting to flatten.”

With temperatures expected to reach up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend, government officials have warned the British public to continue to abide by lockdown restrictions.

The condition of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has continued to improve, his office said in a statement on Friday, adding that he had “been able to do short walks, between periods of rest.” He left intensive care on Thursday after three nights but remains in a hospital.

After giving a rare televised address to the nation on Sunday, Queen Elizabeth II again delivered a message to Britons. She encouraged people to continue practicing social distancing and said that “Easter isn’t canceled.”

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,” she said. “As dark as death can be, particularly for those suffering with grief, light and life are greater.”

It’s been decades since utopian thinkers dreamed that cyberspace would miraculously fix societal woes. Yet the pandemic has prompted some to realize that social media — where we normally just promote ourselves — can be mobilized for building a sense of community.

In the United States, artists are singing opera, reading poetry and doing standup comedy on You-Tube and Instagram. These days, our reporter writes in The New York Times Magazine, online performances feel “as though they were really less about pure entertainment and more about serving a nation, a world even, that was suffering in isolation and fear.”

Healing practitioners have also made meditation sessions, yoga classes and other mental-health assistance available free online. And GoFundMe is a vehicle for distributing money to people hit hardest by the crisis, including sex workers and underinsured artists.

Reporting was contributed by Dan Bilefsky, Raphael Minder, Carlotta Gall, Abdi Latif Dahir, Keith Bradsher, Ceylan Yeginsu, David Halbfinger, Jason Horowitz, Elisabetta Povoledo, Yonette Joseph, Choe Sang-Hun, Kai Schultz, Motoko Rich, Jenna Wortham, Kirk Semple, Azam Ahmed, Ian Austen, Andrew Higgins, Elaine Yu, Jason M. Bailey, Dan Bilefsky, Melissa Eddy, Ana Swanson, Adam Nossiter, Stanley Reed, Jack Nicas and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Ian Austen, Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Aurelien Breeden and Farnaz Fassihi.


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