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Your Friday Briefing

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As China reopens factories and eases travel restrictions in efforts to recover after the outbreak that shook Wuhan and spread across the country, some northern cities are reporting new cases of coronavirus.

Fresh clusters in places like Harbin, a northeastern city of 10 million people, reveal how complex getting life back to normal will be — not only in China, but in other countries, where similar flare-ups may become common until a vaccine or other preventive measures are discovered.

The dozens of new cases are being linked to Chinese citizens returning from Russia and the U.S., according to state media. In response, the authorities imposed limits in some northern regions, such as blocking outsiders from traveling to other neighborhoods and flagging high-risk areas locals should avoid.

Prominent clerics and leaders of religious parties in Pakistan have succeeded in getting the government to exempt mosques from lockdown orders and keep them open during Ramadan, which is expected to begin Friday.

But the government insisted that worshipers maintain a six-foot distance from one another, bring their own prayer mats and do their ablutions at home.

“We know the coronavirus pandemic is a global health issue, but religious duties cannot be abandoned,” one religious leader said. “Mosques depend largely on the donations collected during Ramadan,” he added.

Still, a group of prominent doctors is urging that mosques be ordered to limit attendance to five worshipers at a time.

Caseload: Officials say the virus has infected at least 10,100 in Pakistan and killed some 210 people. Experts say the true numbers are probably much higher.

Related: The Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam, will be closed to the public throughout Ramadan to stem the spread of the coronavirus. There will be a daily Facebook broadcast of Ramadan evening prayers as well as traditional Friday prayer.

Here are the latest updates on the pandemic, as well as updated maps:

  • A Chinese citizen journalist, Li Zehua, who disappeared in February after documenting the outbreak in Wuhan, said in a YouTube video that he had been released after a period of forced quarantine. He had not spoken publicly since Feb. 26, when he streamed footage of men entering his apartment.

  • The pandemic has stilled political protests in places like Hong Kong, Delhi and Beirut, bringing months of marches, rallies and riots to a sudden halt. Now, protest leaders face the question of what happens next.

  • Another 4.4 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, bringing the five-week total to more than 26 million. U.S. stocks were up as investors shrugged off the data.

  • U.S. lawmakers were set to give final approval on Thursday to a $484 billion package to shore up small businesses and provide additional funding for testing and hospitals.

  • European Union leaders were holding a teleconference on Thursday to try to bridge differences over a recovery plan to mitigate the crisis from the pandemic.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

For Europeans, the coronavirus crisis exposed two big weaknesses of the United States: erratic leadership that disdains science, and deep structural problems like a dysfunctional health care system and social safety net.

Around the world, there’s disbelief and sadness at the state of American leadership. “America has not done badly, it has done exceptionally badly,” a Paris-based political scientist said.

Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, noted that while China took authoritarian measures to fight the pandemic, the U.S. played down the crisis for a long time.

“These are two extremes, neither of which can be a model for Europe,” he said.

Related: In this interview with our magazine, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright makes the case for U.S. global engagement, not only with other nations like China to confront the pandemic but also with multilateral institutions like the United Nations.

The virus arrived in Afghanistan at a precarious moment. The government is negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, and American troops are starting to withdraw, even as insurgents continue to attack Afghan forces.

Our photographer takes you to the front lines of Afghanistan’s new war, in the province of Herat, where tens of thousands of Afghans have crossed the border from Iran, home to one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

The virus now serves as a test of the Afghan government’s competence without the U.S. as its benefactor.

South Korea: The mayor of the country’s second-largest city, Busan, resigned after admitting to sexual misconduct, the latest prominent South Korean to fall as the #MeToo movement has rippled though the male-dominated society.

Snapshot: Above, the marquee at the historic Alex Theater in Los Angeles. All of Hollywood’s vintage movie palaces have been closed for more than a month — along with cinemas in the rest of the country — with only guesses (June? July? August?) as to when they might flicker back to life.

Frog fossils: Scientists have found the first-ever frog fossil from Antarctica, dating from 40 million years ago. The team discovered the specimen on Seymour Island, roughly 700 miles south of Tierra Del Fuego on South America.

What we’re reading: Slate’s collection of the voices of people who survived Ebola, SARS, even the 1918 flu. “These remarkable reflections on past pandemics help us begin to see what it will be like to come out the other side of this one,” writes Elizabeth Dias, our national religion correspondent.

Cook: Namoura, a cake made from semolina flour, is soaked in syrup while it’s still warm. Perfect for iftar dinners during Ramadan.

We have more ideas for all kinds of interesting and helpful activities on our At Home page.

The National Football League’s games start in August, so it has mostly dodged the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic so far. But its most spectacular off-season event is getting underway now: the N.F.L. draft, when players learn if they’ll get million-dollar contracts.

Last month, the N.F.L. canceled plans to hold its draft at a Las Vegas event with tens of thousands of fans in attendance. Instead, the three-day event will be captured for a television audience only, with league officials on camera from their homes.

Our Times Insider colleague Terence McGinley chatted about the draft with Ken Belson, who has covered the N.F.L. for The Times since 2013. Here are excerpts from their exchange, edited for brevity.

Does it surprise you that the N.F.L. has proceeded with its off-season?

There were a handful of people who were calling on the N.F.L. to shut down in sympathy with the other leagues. There were teams that were nervous about the perception of newly minted millionaires at a time when people were hurting and unemployment was rising. Now, two teams told me how surprised they were at the positive reaction to N.F.L. free agency [when star players trade teams for big paydays] and the fact that they believe the fans have come to grips with that.

In this economy, with no new sports happening, the draft is going to be a ratings spectacle because there is little else to watch. And I think they believe it will be good for the country to have fresh content on TV. There are 32 new millionaires — it’s like a sports lottery. It’s a happy sports story when there’s a short supply of them.

The N.F.L.’s off-season programming, seems fortuitously positioned for this moment, right?

Over the years, it’s been deliberate and they have been strategic. The draft has been perhaps the most obvious: They started moving it around the country. It would have been in Las Vegas this year. With each move, it’s gotten more sponsors and more television coverage.

In a normal year, the draft speculation starts the minute the Super Bowl is over. It’s a cottage industry that fills hours and hours of TV time when there are no games. How good does that get, if you are in the business of providing content, you don’t have to put on a game and it will still fill hours of talk radio and TV?


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Carole

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. Sanam Yar helped compile this briefing. You can reach the team at [email protected].

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the release of thousands of prison inmates in the U.S. during the coronavirus outbreak.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Soft French cheese (four letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Three reporters for The New York Times were honored with awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists for their work in 2019: Matt Richtel, Andrew Jacobs and Donald G. McNeil Jr.


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