With a major holiday ahead, Japan broadens state of emergency
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan declared a nationwide state of emergency as coronavirus cases in the country continued a monthlong sharp rise that pushed its total past 8,000.
The move expands the emergency he declared for seven prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka. It gives governors the authority to call on businesses to close and residents to stay inside, but no enforcement power.
Mr. Abe acted ahead of Golden Week, a popular travel period. Experts warn that when it begins on April 29, people could spread the virus to previously unaffected areas, which would overwhelm their health systems.
After President Trump suspended U.S. funding to the World Health Organization and accused it of mismanaging the crisis, our reporters looked at the agency’s response during the early days of the outbreak and found that it sounded the alarm early and often.
An additional 5.2 million U.S. workers have filed for unemployment benefits. In the last four weeks, the number of unemployment claims has reached 22 million — roughly the net number of jobs created since the end of the Great Recession nine and a half years ago.
Britain extended its lockdown by three weeks, amid signs that the country is nearing the peak of its coronavirus outbreak. More than 13,700 have died in the country. The Times has learned that Britain spent $20 million on unguaranteed test kits from two Chinese companies that did not work.
New York State, the epicenter of the global outbreak, will remain shut until May 15. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the extension even as he noted that the rate of hospitalizations and deaths had slowed. The state has more than 213,700 cases and more than 11,500 deaths, with New York City the hardest hit.
Nursing homes are among the places hardest-hit by the pandemic. Thirty-one people were found dead at a facility in Montreal over a month and 17 at a home in New Jersey.
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Lifted by virus response, South Korea’s governing party wins election
President Moon Jae-in’s governing party, credited with an effective response to the coronavirus outbreak, won a landslide victory in South Korea’s parliamentary elections.
Mr. Moon’s left-leaning Democratic Party won 163 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, and an allied party won 17 seats. It was the first time in 16 years that left-leaning parties have secured a parliamentary majority.
The president was initially accused of underestimating the threat from the virus, and his party was facing poor prospects less than two months ago. But that shifted once his government began large-scale testing in February to screen out infected people for isolation and treatment.
The outbreak: South Korea has gone from its early status as the world’s second-largest outbreak, with as many as 813 new cases a day, to reporting fewer than 40 new cases a day.
How big a drop for China’s economy?
China’s growth streak has lasted for decades, but it has been hit hard by the coronavirus. Most analysts say they expect the country’s first-quarter G.D.P. data, to be announced today, to show the first contraction of the Chinese economy in more than four decades.
The question is, how big will it be?
Caixin, the Chinese news organization, surveyed 18 Chinese and foreign institutions and found that the average outlook was for a drop of 6.6 percent for the first quarter. The highest forecast was for a decline of up to 11.5 percent.
Early indicator: The country’s national statistics office confirmed last month that industrial production, retail sales and investment all suffered double-digit drops in the first two months of this year compared with the same period of 2019.
Fuller picture: Along with the G.D.P. data, China will also issue numbers for March factory output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment.
If you have seven minutes, this is worth it
A ‘nightmare’ on Manila’s fringe
San Roque, on the northern edge of Manila, has long been home to some of the poorest people on the fringes of Philippine society. Now, as a regional coronavirus lockdown enters its second month, its residents are descending even deeper into poverty and violence. Police officers in riot gear and fatigues this month clashed with protesters demanding relief, sending 21 people to jail.
Our reporter and photographer gathered voices and images in the slum, where hunger inspires even more fear than the virus. “It is a nightmare for people like us,” said Susana Baldoza, a grandmother of four in San Roque who subsists on odd jobs.
Here’s what else is happening
Israeli politics: The Israeli president gave Parliament three weeks to form a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival, Benny Gantz, failed to reach a power-sharing deal. If Parliament fails, it will disperse on May 7 and call the fourth election in little over a year.
Climate change: A severe drought that has gripped the American Southwest since 2000 is as bad as long-lasting droughts in the region over the past 1,200 years, or worse, according to a new study published in Science. Climate change, the study says, helped create the situation, and increases the odds that it will continue.
Featured video: How does a New Yawker tawk? Have a look (and lis’en up!). The #BestNYAccent challenge on Instagram was initiated by Nicolas Heller, a short films director and an unofficial liaison to New York City’s ample pool of eccentrics, while he was sidelined with Covid-like symptoms.
What we’re reading: This Bon Appétit essay about learning to cook through crisis with the help of an Italian mother over FaceTime. “Until this, I hadn’t laughed once while reading about how people are coping with the pandemic,” writes Jenna Wortham, a staff writer for The Times Magazine and a host of our “Still Processing” podcast.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Adding a can of tuna to your puttanesca gives it body and heft. And you can make it in well under 30 minutes.
Cope: Here’s how to play board games over Zoom, as well as how to be conscientious about your online shopping. And you may need these eight simple ways to set boundaries between your work and your kids.
Our At Home page has many more ideas about things to watch, read, cook and do while we stay at home to keep everyone safe.
And now for the Back Story on …
Coronavirus in a war zone
This week, our video team took you inside Tripoli, Libya, where residents already facing the horrors of a war zone are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Shelling has forced more and more people into the crowded city center, and fresh attacks in residential areas mean they must choose between fleeing further, at the risk of exposure to the virus, or staying put, at the risk of getting hit by the shelling.
Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, circled back with one of the people interviewed in the video: Montaha Nattah, a 21-year-old student who has lived in Libya for most of her life. Here’s their text exchange on WhatsApp, lightly edited for space.
What’s your typical day like?
Most of my day is spent on writing papers, preparing projects, attending classes and studying for exams. Studying during quarantine is quite difficult — you barely have the energy to get tasks done, but studying while living in a war zone and being quarantined is an outrageous combination I would never want anyone to experience.
When I attend an online class and there’s shelling outside, I keep apologizing to everyone for the loud sounds as if it is my fault.
Libyans are used to leaving their houses whenever there is intense shelling nearby. Unfortunately, during the era of Covid-19, that is not the case.
How long have you lived in Tripoli?
My whole life until 2018, when I got to study at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. I visited Libya every summer and winter break, but during these extraordinary times and despite the ongoing conflict, I decided to go back home because I believe that home is a feeling, not only a place.
If this pandemic is going to be the end of the world, then I’d rather die in my hometown next to my family.
What are you seeing and hearing around you right now?
Living in Tripoli nowadays means hearing drones flying above your head most of the time. It means hearing projectiles falling around you. It means seeing and smelling smoke and polluted air when you open your window because of the places that get bombed.
And finally, it means putting your earphones on whenever there is intensive shelling, so you can forget about the reality a little.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
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