India’s coronavirus mystery
The country has around 125 confirmed cases, and it’s a bit of a puzzle how the world’s second-most-populous nation, with 1.3 billion people, has seemingly remained unscathed so far.
There could be many more cases in India than have been detected, because of the difficulties of getting tested. But it’s also possible that the country has actually managed to so far escape the worst — either because of quick and strict efforts right from the start, or another mix of factors.
The relative calm has fueled disbelief in some quarters that the virus is even a threat. Over the weekend in Lucknow, one of India’s bigger cities, young people packed into pubs. “I am not scared. I eat, party, sleep,” said Akshay Gupta, an accountant who was bar hopping on Saturday night. “The scare is overhyped.”
Elsewhere in Asia, countries have begun to impose strict measures, including lockdowns in the Philippines and Malaysia and the widespread closure of schools, businesses and entertainment venues in Thailand. Some nations face a worrisome rise in cases without health care systems that can deal with a major outbreak.
China bans American journalists from major outlets
Beijing announced that it would expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, and also ban them from reporting in territories like Hong Kong and Macau.
It also demanded that those outlets, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, provide the government with information about their operations. The full scope of the directive was not immediately clear.
The latest move in the tit-for-tat campaign between Washington and Beijing comes at a moment when reporting on the coronavirus is a global, 24-hour operation for most news outlets. Last month China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters from the country. President Trump responded this month by limiting the number of Chinese citizens who could work in the U.S. for five state-controlled Chinese news organizations.
Related: China has been cracking down on online anger toward the government for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. A new internet police force is knocking on doors of suspected critics, subjecting them to hours of interrogation and in some cases forcing them to sign loyalty pledges.
If you have 4 minutes, this is worth it
Why yoga is causing a stir in Nepal
Next month, the small Himalayan nation will become the first in the world to make yoga a required subject nationwide.
For many around the world in similar programs, it’s a healing and stress-reducing addition to a curriculum. But in a region where the exercises are increasingly intertwined with rising Hindu nationalism, some Muslims are worried.
Snapshot: A physicist is trying to disentangle the structural dynamics of bird nests using bamboo skewers, above. A nest is “a disordered stick bomb,” resilient in ways that humans have hardly begun to understand.
What we’re reading: This Harvard Business Review article about two new mothers who take very different paths going back to work in Sweden and the U.S. “Reading the two stories side by side shows just how dismally work-family policies in the U.S. measure up — if they’re there at all,” says Francesca Donner, the director of our Gender Initiative.
Now, a break from the news
Shows for social distancing: Looking for a few hours of distraction between vigorous hand-washings? Need a moment away from Twitter? A musical mockumentary, an addiction sitcom, two true-crime docs and a pottery competition are here to help.
Read: Was there a murder on the Mayflower? In her new novel, “Beheld,” TaraShea Nesbit uses a death on the pilgrim ship to examine what life was like for women in the Plymouth Colony.
Smarter Living: Here are some ways to help your community combat the coronavirus while still practicing social distancing. For starters, donate — ideally money, not old cans — to your local food bank.
And now for the Back Story on …
Covering an infected global economy
The pandemic is having a big impact on the world’s wallet. To understand the fallout, Times Insider spoke to Jeanna Smialek, who covers the Federal Reserve from Washington. Below is a condensed version of the conversation.
On Sunday, the Fed slashed interest rates to almost zero. How could that affect us going forward?
The move should help consumers borrow and spend. For example, it should make mortgages cheaper. But at the end of the day, nothing the Fed can do at this point is going to offset the full shock of coronavirus, because its tools are just not well suited to making up for lost work hours or helping employees who have missed out on paychecks.
Can nations work together to help the global economy rebound?
Central banks do not have the firefighting power that they had going into the 2008 financial crisis. Many central banks, like in Japan and in parts of Europe, already had very low or even negative interest rates. And so they just have less room to act to soften the economic blow.
What matters right now is what happens to the companies getting clobbered in the moment. Is this a short-term blip that is painful but not devastating? Or will this kill companies, thereby having greater repercussions for financial markets, and be much more long-lived in its pain?
If there’s one takeaway for readers on the global economy, what should it be?
It’s been said by every person on the planet at this point, but the single best thing for the global economy is for this virus to be contained. More than any fiscal or monetary package, the public health response here is most important.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
— Melina and Jonathan
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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