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U.K. Extends Coronavirus Lockdown, and Putin Postpones Military Parade: Live Updates


Britain extends its lockdown by three weeks.

The British government announced on Thursday that it would prolong its lockdown by three weeks, amid signs that the country is nearing the peak of its coronavirus outbreak.

“The government has decided that the current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks,” Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said at a news conference. “The worst thing we can do right now is to ease up.”

Britain is following the lead of other European countries in keeping the restrictions in place, but officials have refused so far to discuss their strategy for starting to reopen the economy.

Mr. Raab has taken over many of the duties of Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recuperates from a serious case of the virus.

Mr. Raab had signaled for more than a week that Britain would not lift the lockdown on April 16, the date under which the government was mandated to review the measures adopted through emergency legislation.

On Thursday, he set out criteria to be met before the country could end its lockdown. They included a “sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates,” confidence that the health service could cope with demand, and more capacity for testing.

Medical experts agree that the most important prerequisite to lifting the lockdown is more extensive testing, and the government has set a goal of conducting 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. It is currently carrying out less than a fifth of that.

Britain’s decision comes as officials expressed hope that the toll from the virus would begin to diminish. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said that there was a “flattening” of the curve in the number of deaths, and that the contagion was “probably reaching the peak overall.”

The Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 861 hospital deaths from the virus in the previous day, bringing the official toll to 13,729.

Despite signs of progress, the government has been determined not to shift the public debate to what life after the lockdown might look like, and officials have resolutely stuck to their three-sentence mantra: “Stay Home. Protect the N.H.S. Save Lives.”

Some food sellers have signaled a gradual reopening. Under government guidelines, restaurants and pubs could stay open to prepare food for carryout or delivery. But many opted to close for the safety of their staff members and customers.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said on Thursday that he would declare a national emergency, calling for measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus before a weeklong holiday that is a popular travel period.

Mr. Abe had previously declared a state of emergency in seven of the country’s 47 prefectures, including its largest metropolitan areas, calling for an 80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact. Some areas were left off that list, despite having high caseloads, leading several governors to impose their own emergency measures.

The national declaration will give governors the authority to call on businesses to close and residents to stay inside. They will, however, have no power to enforce the requests.

Japanese lawmakers have so far declined to issue the kinds of mandatory lockdowns put in place in China, Europe and the United States, with some arguing that the country’s Constitution prohibits such measures. Instead, officials have been put in the position of pleading for voluntary compliance.

Experts warn that during the holiday period known as Golden Week, starting April 29, people could spread the pathogen to previously unaffected areas, overwhelming their medical systems.

“As a way to prevent the illness from becoming rampant, I am requesting that governors urge residents to absolutely avoid unnecessary visits to family, travel and movement across regional borders,” Mr. Abe said after meeting with a special advisory group.

He said that the nation would provide individuals with cash payments of 100,000 yen, nearly $1,000, to alleviate economic hardship.

In the last month, Japan has seen a sharp rise in confirmed infections, to more than 8,000. The numbers remain low compared with many countries, but health experts fear that failure to take timely precautions could lead to a sudden jump.

Mr. Abe has come under heavy criticism for his inconsistent approach, taking dramatic actions like calling for all schools to close without first consulting experts, then seemingly hanging back as the outbreak worsened.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, bowing before the accelerating advance of the coronavirus across the country, announced on Thursday that he had ordered the postponement of a military parade and flag-waving celebrations marking the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

In a somber address on state television, Mr. Putin said the Victory Day events, which had been scheduled for May 9, would have to be put off because the “risks associated with the epidemic, whose peak has not passed yet, are extremely high.”

The decision to delay the Red Square parade and other events is the second time that the pandemic has disrupted the Kremlin’s plans in a serious way. Mr. Putin last month postponed a referendum on constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in office until 2036.

Until Thursday, Mr. Putin had procrastinated on delaying the Red Square parade and other Victory Day festivities, including marches by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens in Moscow and cities across the country who lost relatives in World War II.

Russia has far fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than the United States and other hard-hit countries, but an ever-rising number of new infections each day dashed hopes that Victory Day, described by Mr. Putin as “our most sacred and main national celebration,” could perhaps proceed as planned.

The decision delays a centerpiece of Mr. Putin’s 20-year-rule: an enormous annual display of military might and patriotic pride intended to showcase both Russia’s past triumphs and its current revival as a great power.

In a replay of Soviet-style methods of preparing the public for bad news, Mr. Putin’s announcement followed a joint statement issued this week by veterans’ groups across the country asking the Kremlin to delay the parade, allowing Mr. Putin to cast the postponement as a response to the public will.

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages many countries, China’s success in curbing its own epidemic is giving rise to an increasingly strident blend of patriotism, nationalism and xenophobia, at a pitch many say has not been seen in decades.

A restaurant in northern China put up a banner celebrating the virus’s spread in the United States. A widely circulated cartoon showed foreigners being sorted into trash bins. In Beijing and Shanghai, foreigners have been barred from some shops and gyms.

Perhaps nowhere has xenophobia manifested itself more strongly than in the southern city of Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub with a large African population. After five Nigerians there tested positive for the virus, African residents reported being evicted from their homes and hotels.

They have also been ordered to undergo 14-day quarantines at their own expense, even if they have no recent travel history or have already tested negative. Images shared on social media showed black people forced to sleep on a sidewalk, and a sign banning black people from a McDonald’s.

Some of the uglier manifestations of nationalism have been fueled by government propaganda, which has pointed to China’s response to the virus as evidence of the governing Communist Party’s superiority.

Separately on Wednesday, China began a nationwide study of asymptomatic coronavirus carriers as numbers showed that many people who tested positive for the virus did not develop symptoms.

CCTV, the state broadcaster, also reported that a study of asymptomatic carriers was underway in 10 cities, including Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. “The aim of the blood tests is to determine whether there are antibodies for the virus inside the body,” Ding Gangqiang, an official at China’s Center for Disease Control, said on state television.

Like many nations trying to measure the toll of the coronavirus pandemic, Spain has been stymied by unreliable figures.

But in a politically fragmented society, the confusion has led to recrimination and sinister claims, with opposition politicians accusing the fragile coalition government of covering up the real numbers.

“Spaniards deserve a government that doesn’t lie to them,” said Pablo Casado, the leader of the opposition Popular Party.

Speaking in Parliament last week, Mr. Casado addressed a direct challenge to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez: “Tell us if it is true that the real number of victims could double the official figures.”

Officially, Spain’s death toll, which is among the world’s highest, is closing in on 20,000. But there is evidence that it could be far higher, with many deaths — especially those in nursing homes — not properly classified as stemming from the coronavirus.

Mr. Sánchez and other officials have rejected accusations that they intentionally underreported fatalities tied to the coronavirus, but the authorities have begun trying again to measure the losses.

Greece will move 2,380 of the most vulnerable asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Aegean Islands to less cramped facilities on the mainland to curb the risk of a coronavirus outbreak, the government said on Thursday.

The relocation of the migrants — notably those with chronic health problems and the elderly, along with their relatives — will begin immediately after Greek Orthodox Easter this weekend and is expected to take two weeks, the Migration Ministry said. Some will be moved to migrant centers on the mainland, while others will be kept at hotels and apartments.

“The aim of the measure is to further reduce the risk posed by the possible outbreak at a state reception facility,” the ministry said, referring to the Aegean Island camps that rights groups have long deplored as substandard and unsanitary.

There have been no reports of confirmed coronavirus infections in any of the island camps, which host around 40,000 of the nearly 100,000 migrants currently in Greece. Two reception facilities on the mainland have been quarantined after outbreaks there.

The transfer of some 1,600 unaccompanied refugee minors from camps in Greece to other European Union countries is already underway. Luxembourg received 12 children and Germany, which is to take in 58 on Saturday, has said it will host up to 500. France, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland, Croatia and Lithuania have also pledged to help.

There are 5,200 unaccompanied children from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and African countries living in Greek migrant camps.

On Wednesday, when he watched the first group board a flight to Luxembourg, George Koumoutsakos, deputy migration minister, said it was just “a beginning, a show of tangible solidarity.”

“It sets an example for other bigger, more powerful countries with bigger populations,” he said.

More than two dozen Kenyans held in quarantine on the Kenyatta University campus in the capital, Nairobi, have protested over being held for long periods even after testing negative for the coronavirus and finishing 14-day quarantines.

Some said they were presented with bills in order to be allowed to check out. On social media, those in quarantine posted about being threatened when they complained and about feeling hungry and experiencing anxiety attacks.

The protests at the university dormitory on Wednesday came days after more 30 people escaped another quarantine facility in the country’s northeast. Officials said police officers had colluded to sneak the individuals out of the facility.

Kenya’s government, facing criticism for mishandling quarantine measures, has yet to explain why people in quarantine were being asked to pay or were held in isolation for longer periods. The government has also been accused of charging poor workers staying in isolation units and holding individuals in conditions they say caused them mental anguish.

From the outset, many of those placed into mandatory quarantine complained of mismanagement, lack of information and the poor state of isolation centers.

Travelers who returned to the country in late March before the suspension of international flights were among those being held. Passengers who could pay at the time were taken to hotels, while those who couldn’t were ordered to university dormitories or government facilities.

The Health Ministry has reported 225 confirmed infections.

Singapore announced a record jump in coronavirus cases on Wednesday evening, with most of the 447 new confirmed cases coming from crowded dormitories for migrant laborers.

While Singapore has been lauded for its rigorous contact-tracing program, which quickly identified clusters of local transmission, the coronavirus spread quickly through residences for migrant laborers, where up to 20 people are crammed in each room with shared kitchens and bathrooms.

Nearly half of Singapore’s roughly 3,700 coronavirus cases are among low-wage migrant workers, who have built the gleaming, modern city-state. About 200,000 such workers, many from India and Bangladesh, have been quarantined to their dormitories, with healthy residents gradually being transferred to other housing to prevent community transmission.

After weeks of slow transmission, Singapore began recording a rapid rise in cases in March, as travelers from Europe and the United States brought the virus with them. But no imported cases have been recorded for nearly a week.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus among foreign laborer communities has prompted the Singaporean government to vow changes in the way migrants are treated, even if the dormitories met standards set by the International Labor Organization.

“In terms of living conditions for foreign workers, collectively many of us were blind to this, and this has to change,” said Teo Yik Ying, the dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore. “But in Singapore, it will change because we are committed to learning lessons from every epidemic.”

A Chilean bishop died after attending a large gathering of pastors.

An Evangelical bishop in Chile who attended a large gathering of clergymen in mid-March as stricter social distancing rules were about to be imposed died Tuesday of the coronavirus, his church said.

Bishop Mario Salfate Chacana, 67, a senior Pentecostal leader, had been hospitalized since March 23, when he tested positive for the virus. He was one of four preachers who tested positive for the virus after attending a gathering of 300 evangelical leaders on March 16 in Paine, a small city on the outskirts of Santiago.

Shortly before the service was held, Chile’s government shut down its borders and announced several measures to slow the spread of the virus. They included a ban on public gatherings of more than 200 people.

In a statement, Chile’s Methodist Pentecostal Church described Bishop Chacana as a “man of God” who served his congregation with “diligence.”

As of Thursday morning, Chile had 8,273 confirmed coronavirus cases and 94 deaths.

Some Evangelical pastors in Latin America have denounced lockdown measures that impede church services, calling them an infringement of religious freedom. In Chile, prosecutors opened an investigation after learning that an Evangelical pastor who tested positive for the virus held Mass on April 4.

As Britain claps for health care workers, an anti-xenophobia video resonates.

As Britain prepared on Thursday for its weekly applause session to show support for the National Health Service, a video of immigrant workers and others reciting an antiracist poem is circulating on social media as a powerful plea for tolerance.

The poem, titled “You Clap for Me Now” and written by Darren James Smith, begins by addressing xenophobia and nods to the Brexit campaign that tapped into some Britons’ fears of outsiders flooding the job market.

The threat, the poem reveals, is the coronavirus — not the immigrant workers who have become essential to treating patients and keeping the economy running during the pandemic.

“Don’t say go home. Don’t say not here. You know how it feels for home to be a prison. You know how it feels to live in fear,” workers recite.

Sachini Imbuldeniya, the video’s producer, told The Guardian on Wednesday that she knew immediately on reading the poem that its message had to be shared.

“We decided to turn it into a short and shareable video featuring a mixture of first-, second- and third-generation immigrants” living in Britain, she said.

The hashtag #YouClapForMeNow was trending on Twitter in Britain, and the video has been shared by thousands, including politicians, and viewed millions of times on social media.

“London would not be London without those who have chosen to make our city their home,” the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote on Twitter. “To everyone putting their lives on the line to keep us safe in the fight against COVID19: thank you.”

Even before the coronavirus arrived in Manila, a saying in the capital’s sprawling San Roque slum — “no one dies from a fever” — crystallized the many threats that its residents faced in their daily lives.

Drug-fueled petty crime. Food shortages. Overcrowding and poor sanitation. Fever, body aches and coughs were commonplace long before the virus came.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s lockdown of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island and home to Manila, is moving into its second month, plunging San Roque’s people even deeper into poverty as the virus continues to rage. Yet the restrictions have not stopped runny-nosed children from playing tag in the slum’s labyrinth of alleyways, as parents shout halfhearted admonitions to stay away from one another.

Home to roughly 6,000 families — conservatively, about 35,000 people — San Roque, in Manila’s northern suburb of Quezon, has for years been home to some of the poorest people on the fringes of Philippine society.

Frustration over the lockdown recently exploded into violence. An April 1 gathering in San Roque became an impromptu rally, with dozens taking to the streets demanding answers from the government about when they would receive promised relief.

Police officers in riot gear and fatigues responded with force, scuffling with protesters and sending 21 people to jail. Mr. Duterte accused Kadamay, a group that advocates for the poor, of inciting the violence, and warned that his government would not be lenient toward those who challenged it.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in San Roque. As of Wednesday, 349 people had died in the Philippines from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 5,453 infections had been confirmed. But that figure is likely to rise sharply, with the Philippine government having just begun mass testing this week.

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua has reappeared after an unexplained 34-day absence from public view, giving no explanation for his prolonged disappearance.

The president had not spoken publicly since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, leading many Nicaraguans and international observers to wonder whether he was ill and in quarantine.

But Mr. Ortega looked well during a live televised speech Wednesday night, wearing his usual baseball cap and windbreaker, and flanked by his wife and several other officials. Many people took his appearance as a bid to quell rumors.

Nicaragua, a country of 6.4 million people, has been widely criticized for its unusually casual approach to the pandemic, leaving schools open and allowing large public events to take place. The government claims that only three people currently have Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, and only one has died from it.

The World Health Organization has said that it is worried about Nicaragua’s lack of social distancing, its sparse testing for the virus and its lack of contact tracing.

Mr. Ortega said on Wednesday that the contagion is a message from God.

“I am convinced that this pandemic, this virus that has multiplied throughout the planet, that there is no force that can block it, there is no barrier that can block it, there is no wall that can block it,” he said.

Mr. Ortega, a socialist, used his speech to take aim at a familiar target, the United States, and its handling of the coronavirus.

“Nicaraguans who have been deported tell about how they were caged, with no attention to their health,” he said. That is no surprise, he added, when the United States, for all its might, does not have the capacity to give answers to its own citizens.”

Citizens of Liechtenstein, the tiny European nation nestled between Austria and Switzerland, will soon be offered biometric wristbands as part of a pilot program that will try to detect early symptoms of the coronavirus.

About 2,000 people in the country of 38,000 will be issued sensory bracelets that track skin temperature, heart rate, resting pulse rate, blood perfusion and breathing rate, a spokesman for Liechtenstein’s ministry for social affairs said on Thursday.

The data collected from the wristbands, which have been successfully used to monitor women’s fertility cycles, will be automatically sent to a lab to be analyzed for early symptoms of the coronavirus, including fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

The aim of the study is to have results available before a potential second wave of illness in the fall. If successful, the wristbands will be made available to all citizens.

“From a scientific point of view, it is vital that we get a better understanding of the new coronavirus as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Lorenz Risch, a leader of the study. “Only then will we be in a position to identify and implement the right clinical and health policy action to improve the health of those affected by Covid-19 and effectively contain the international health emergency.”

The overall results of the study will be shared with the government, but personal data will be kept confidential by the lab, the ministry’s spokesman said.

“As well as being in the national interest, this is also a matter of international solidarity,” said Mauro Pedrazzini, the minister for social affairs.

Australia will consider lifting some restrictions in four weeks if the number of new cases continues to drop and crucial public health benchmarks are met, officials said on Thursday.

Australia remains in “the suppression phase,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Before restrictions can ease, the country will need to extend surveillance measures, improve contact tracing and respond to local outbreaks faster, he said.

Research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine indicates that Australia has one of the best detection rates in the world, with 92 percent of all symptomatic cases identified, said Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer of Australia. The rate of new daily cases has dropped in the country, but he cautioned that it was too soon to relax.

As of Thursday, the country has 6,457 reported cases and 63 people have died, with 42 on ventilators. More than half of those who have contracted the virus have recovered, Mr. Morrison said.

Economically, Australians would also need to prepare for some “very sobering news” in the months ahead, he added. “It will be a different world on the other side of the virus.”

Australia had previously enjoyed the world’s longest economic boom, with nearly three decades without a recession. Now, with the employment rate expected to double to 10 percent by the end of June, the government has approved $200 billion in stimulus measures.

President Trump is set to issue new federal guidelines on distancing measures on Thursday in a bid to move the country closer to reopening for business, even as public health officials warned that it was far too early for any widespread return to public life.

Eager to relieve the economic pain of restrictions, Mr. Trump asserted that the epidemic in the United States was past its peak. More than 5.2 million workers joined the ranks of the unemployed last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, raising the four-week total to a staggering 22 million.

Public health experts are concerned that the country is still conducting far too little testing to track the coronavirus in a way that would let Americans return to work safely. And with supply shortages rampant, many tests are still restricted to people who meet specific criteria.

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

  • Some workers are starting to protest the movement restrictions. Thousands of demonstrators in cars jammed the streets around the Michigan State Capitol on Wednesday, and dozens of people in Frankfort, Ky., shouted through a window as Gov. Andy Beshear provided a virus update.

  • After an anonymous tip, the New Jersey police discovered 17 bodies inside a nursing home that has been hit hard by the virus.

  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that, starting Friday, New York would require people to cover their faces in public where they could not keep six feet from others, including settings like buses, subway trains, sidewalks and grocery stores. Those who violate the rule could face fines.

  • Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s eldest daughter and a senior White House adviser, has not followed the federal guidelines advising against discretionary travel, leaving Washington even as she has publicly thanked people for staying home. Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser, also traveled with their three children to a Trump golf club in New Jersey for the first night of Passover.

Residents of a village in northern India attacked medical workers and police officers who were carrying out health screenings, officials said on Thursday.

Saurabh Jorawal, a local official in the state of Bihar, where the attack occurred, said that villagers in East Champaran threw stones at workers on Wednesday, injuring at least five people, some of them seriously.

“We sent in more police, and they arrested 44 people from the village,” Mr. Jorawal said.

As fears of a rapid viral spread rise in India, health care workers have reported being assaulted, spat at and threatened with sexual violence for treating coronavirus patients.

India has reported more than 12,000 infections and 414 deaths.

Police officials said that people in the area were ignoring distancing guidelines and other government restrictions urging all 1.3 billion Indians to stay inside amid a nationwide lockdown that will last until at least May 3.

Officials have faced staggering challenges enforcing the lockdown, which has shut most businesses, leaving millions of Indians dependent on food subsidies and other government handouts to survive.

Reporting was contributed by Niki Kitsantonis, Frances Robles, Monika Pronczuk, Mark Landler, Constant Méheut, Andrew Higgins, Richard Pérez-Peña, Ceylan Yeginsu, Iliana Magra, Ben Dooley, Kai Schultz, Tiffany May, Hari Kumar, Vivian Wang, Amy Qin, Raphael Minder, Elaine Yu, Isabella Kwai, Su-Hyun Lee, Rod Nordland, Megan Specia, Abdi Latif Dahir, Hannah Beech, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Choe Sang-Hun, Andrew E. Kramer, Austin Ramzy, Stephen Castle, Jason Gutierrez, Yonette Joseph and Tariq Panja.


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