As virus death toll nears 200,000, much of the world is still under lockdown.
With the number of confirmed coronavirus infections nearing three million worldwide, the death toll is creeping toward 200,000. And as Saturday dawned in Asia, much of the region, and the world, was still under some form of lockdown.
As Ramadan — the holy month of fasting, celebration and prayer for many of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims — got underway, many mosques across the Middle East were shuttered.
And in Australia and New Zealand, the crowds that usually turn out for dawn services on Anzac Day were notably absent. The holiday commemorates the 1915 landing at Gallipoli, and the deaths of roughly 75,000 people from the two countries who fought and died during World War I.
Still, many governments around the world are gingerly easing restrictions — or planning to. On Friday, the Czech government lifted a ban on travel, and Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès of Belgium said her country would begin a gradual easing of lockdown measures in May.
And in other places, people were defying medical advice to stay home. In Pakistan, for example, the government bowed to pressure from clerics and allowed mosques to remain open during Ramadan. And a women’s cricket league in the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu was holding its season final — a rare exception to a near-total shutdown of global sports.
In January, the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan, China, was at its peak: As Sick patients filled hospital wards, and others were lining up outside, in the cold, for treatment.
Four hundred miles away in Shanghai, Sakura Chan, a 29-year-old fashion designer, was struck by images from Wuhan: the hands of medical workers, chapped from dehydrating sanitizers and soap, and the impressions and facial blisters left by goggles and N-95 masks.
“We looked at the photos and tried to guess what they would need,” Ms. Chan said. When she couldn’t find masks to donate, she and a team of volunteers sent sanitary pads to medics in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei Province that had been placed under lockdown.
“No one was really talking about the supplies used in daily life,” Ms. Chan said.
Hospital employees initially rebuffed the group’s offers, and Ms. Chan wondered privately if they were hesitant to accept unsolicited donations after their public calls for protective gear had been shut down by local officials.
Over time, they relented, and volunteers in Wuhan reached out to help coordinate the deliveries.
Still, it was a challenge to organize deliveries during a lockdown that had banned most ground transportation. And some detractors accused Ms. Chan’s group of helping only women, or criticized it for donating hygiene products rather than medical supplies.
“At first, no one cared about women’s needs. We were a small Band-Aid, addressing a small part of the population,” Ms. Chan said. “Then suddenly we were a topic of discussion.”
Adam Nossiter, The Times’s Paris bureau chief, moved to the city at the age of 3 when his father was assigned to cover the European economy for The Washington Post. He moved back in 1983, in 1999 and then in 2015 when The Times posted him there. We asked him to share his thoughts on a Paris transformed by the pandemic.
Before Paris became a theme park for the global affluent, there was an older Paris I knew as a child, where sculpted horse heads announced butcher shops and you were likelier to find céleri rémoulade at the corner than $30,000 handbags aimed at tourists.
Echoes of that Paris have come back to me over the last month as the coronavirus stalked the city. It’s a paradox that the empty streets have made it easier to imagine Paris as a place where people actually live, and not just a polyglot destination for shopping and playing.
Thousands of affluent Parisians have left the city. Up to a quarter of the people who were in the city at the time of confinement have left, according to some estimates. The Paris of the 1960s, far more economically diverse, seems to be back. Around Montmartre, where working people still live, Parisians perch at their windows, greeting each other and just looking out; my neighborhood around Madeleine, on the other hand, given over to luxury shops, is dead.
France has recorded more than 21,856 virus deaths, far more than Germany, but fewer than Italy or Spain; French officials intervened earlier than the Italians but had far fewer emergency beds and tests ready than the Germans. The good news, at least for now, is that the number of patients in French hospitals has been slowly dropping.
For those willing to brave police checks, this is a remarkable chance to rediscover Paris. In recent days, I saw for the first time — in a relationship with France that is nearly 60 years old — an epicenter of mass tourism, the beguiling Place du Tertre at the top of Montmartre. The little village square was nearly empty, and a worried Parisian stopped to ask if I wasn’t taking a chance by being out on my bike.
But it is all an illusion. Paris is no more Paris without its smart young people chattering outside at now closed cafes than New York is New York without skyscrapers. Paris reduced to its architectural essence is grandiose but cold, an unreal postcard.
Vanuatu, a Pacific island nation of 300,000 people, gave sports fans worldwide what they’d been craving on Saturday: something to watch, live, with the outcome unknown.
Cricket may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Vanuatu Cricket Association live-streamed its Women’s Super League final, inviting sports fans everywhere to take a break from the recorded footage that many have had to settle for during the pandemic.
“We thought it’s our duty to provide the world with some live sport,” said Shane Deitz, the chief executive of the Vanuatu Cricket Association and a former player for the Australian national team. “It’s one of the only live sports around the world at the moment. We can showcase a bit of cricket for everyone who is in lockdown.”
Vanuatu, like many other small Pacific nations, has managed to keep the coronavirus from spreading, or even arriving, if official figures are correct. It has zero confirmed cases of infection.
The country went into lockdown late last month as a precaution. After it was hit by a major cyclone on April 6, the lockdown was lifted so people could recover and rebuild.
During the match on Saturday, small crowds of fans could be seen surrounding the pitch, standing or sitting a few feet apart from each other, clearly enjoying the sight. Comments on the cricket association’s Facebook page, where the live stream was shown, thanked Vanuatu for sharing.
President Trump’s suggestion that an injection of disinfectant could help combat the coronavirus prompted warnings on Friday from health officials across the country, as well as the makers of Clorox and Lysol and even several Fox News personalities.
Injecting bleach or highly concentrated rubbing alcohol “causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst,” Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, said in an interview. “It can definitely be a fatal event.”
The White House spent much of the day trying to walk back Mr. Trump’s remarks, which he made at Thursday’s press briefing. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines,” said Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary.
But the president later undermined her argument when he told journalists he “was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.” Now, Mr. Trump’s advisers are encouraging him to skip the daily briefings or field fewer questions from the reporters.
Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:
The president on Friday signed the $484 billion relief bill into law, replenishing a fund for small businesses and providing money for hospitals and testing. The Congressional Budget Office said it expects the federal budget deficit to hit $3.7 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, which would be its largest size as a share of the economy since World War II.
Georgia, Alaska and Oklahoma began reopening businesses on Friday, though the relaxed rules varied. Georgia recommended that salon owners perform temperature checks. Alaska allowed limited in-store shopping, while Oklahoma reopened its state parks.
Reopening the country will require antibody testing, which is now being subjected to its own tests. Scientists compared 14 of them, and the news wasn’t good. Only one test delivered no false positives — and just two others did well 99 percent of the time.
Desperate for gear, Americans turn to China’s elite for help.
An ad hoc network of companies, wealthy individuals, academics and former diplomats has emerged to help the United States get the Chinese-made goods it needs to save coronavirus patients and protect front-line workers — and, perhaps, to help polish China’s dented image along the way.
The United States faces a desperate shortage of medical gear, including masks and ventilators, and Chinese factories are able to produce them. But a snarled supply chain and complicated politics stand between production and delivery, and people with stakes in keeping the U.S.-China relationship alive are stepping in to help.
The group includes business leaders like Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai, the founders of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant; Marc Benioff, a co-founder of Salesforce, who struck a pact with Alibaba last year to sell its services in China; and Yichen Zhang, the chairman of Citic Capital, a major Chinese investment firm affiliated with a state-run conglomerate.
Responding to calls for help from doctors, Mr. Zhang saw a chance to help one of Citic Capital’s portfolio companies, which got into the business of making protective gear for China during its own outbreak, and Yale University, which his daughter attends. He sent 10,000 masks and 40 protective gowns to Yale’s health clinic.
“It’s a business opportunity and a social responsibility,” said Henry Yin, Mr. Zhang’s assistant.
When Tom Moore, a British World War II veteran, set out to raise money for charities benefiting the National Health Service, he had a goal of 1,000 pounds. He exceeded it by far.
Completing laps around his garden, Captain Moore, 99, has raised more than £28 million, about $35 million, setting a Guinness world record for the most money raised by an individual through a charity walk. And on Friday, Captain Moore set another record through a different charitable undertaking during the coronavirus pandemic.
A rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — the Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune popularized by a Gerry and the Pacemakers cover in 1963 — he recorded topped the singles chart on Friday, making Captain Moore the oldest person to go No. 1 on Britain’s Official Singles Chart, less than a week before his 100th birthday.
The song — recorded with the N.H.S. Voices of Care Choir and the British actor and singer Michael Ball — had 82,000 combined chart sales, according to the Official Charts Company, with proceeds benefiting N.H.S. Charities Together.
“I think it’s amazing that this would happen to me,” he said in an interview on BBC Radio 1.
“I think we’ve got to accept that what is going on at the moment is very serious,” he added. “But I think we must also remember that things will get better.”
Reporting was contributed by Tiffany May, Mike Ives, Adam Nossiter, Evan Easterling, Andrew LaVallee, Damien Cave, Jin Wu, Declan Walsh, Alexandra Stevenson, Nicholas Kulish and David Gelles. Wang Yiwei contributed research.