Global Tracker: Denmark, India, France, Spain Virus News


Germany’s infection rate falls, a sign that it is getting the virus under control.

As Germany moves to ease restrictions under the pandemic, its public health institute said the country’s rate of coronavirus spread had dropped below a crucial threshold, a sign that the contagion was coming under control.

On average, each infected person is spreading the virus to 0.7 other people, officials said. That means that fewer people are catching the virus than are getting over it.

As long as the figure stays below one, the number of active cases is declining, and the burden on the health care system is easing.

“Since April 12, we have recorded more recoveries than new infections,” Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, said at a news conference on Friday. “That is an important and encouraging development.”

Scientists around the world have estimated that without social distancing, quarantines of the ill and other precautions, each person with the new virus would give it to about two others — a formula for exponential growth.

This week, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the first steps to ease restrictions, allowing some stores to reopen on Monday and high school students to return to classrooms to prepare for or take exams. The eastern state of Saxony is requiring people who go out in public to cover their noses and mouths either with masks or a shawl.

The lower infection rate does not mean that Germans can return to their pre-coronavirus lifestyles, said Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, the government’s public health and epidemiology center.

He cautioned that in some parts of Germany, the infection rate remained much higher, and stressed that the rate is only one point in a range of data being continually assessed to make decisions on regulation of public life.

“This virus is in our country, and it will remain in our country,” Dr. Wieler said. And the situation, he said, “can change at any time.”

While children have been largely spared the worst of the Covid-19 illness, the United Nations has warned that the social and economic fallout of the pandemic “risk being catastrophic and amongst the most lasting consequences” for the young.

In addition, with children at home and families under increasing stress, he said, “children are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse.”

The tweets contrasted with his message on Thursday, when he told governors “you’re going to call your own shots,” and said that reopening would proceed “one careful step at a time.”

After saying repeatedly that there was plenty of testing — a claim many governors, like health experts, have refuted — Mr. Trump tweeted, “the States have to step up their TESTING!”

Mr. Trump also took aim at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat.

During a televised briefing in which the governor once again appealed for more federal help, the president tweeted that Mr. Cuomo “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’”

Asked to comment, Mr. Cuomo said, “If he’s sitting at home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work.”

This year’s celebration of Canada Day in Ottawa will — like so many occasions derailed by the coronavirus — take place as an online-only affair, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced on Friday.

Often referred to as the nation’s birthday, Canada Day, July 1, is one of the country’s major national holidays, and ordinarily draws crowds from across the country to Ottawa, the capital.

A concert stage is built in front of the Parliament buildings for performances by musicians, actors and comedians throughout the day and evening, and the program culminates in a fireworks show. Other events are held elsewhere in the city and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec.

This year, the main stage was to be in a park because of construction work in front of the Parliament buildings.

Steven Guilbeault, the minister of Canadian Heritage, said on Friday that the government will work with artists and performers to come up with a virtual approximation of the celebrations.

“Together, we are meeting one of the greatest challenges in our history, and this year more than ever, Canada Day will highlight the strength that unites us,” Mr. Guilbeault said.

Mr. Trudeau has repeatedly suggested that restrictions on public gatherings would remain in place for at least several more weeks and perhaps months.

Summer is a key time for celebrations and festivals in Canada where the season is relatively brief. Quebec, effectively canceled summer last week by announcing that all indoor and outdoor festivals, cultural events and most sports events would be canceled until the end of August.

Canada Day marks the date in 1867 when three British provinces were united as a largely independent Dominion of Canada, with its own Parliament.

Julie Price, an American living in India, was trying to buy food. But when she reached a grocery store in the city of Hyderabad late last month, a guard blocked her from entering. A bystander took her picture, said that foreigners were not allowed in and threatened to call the police.

A crowd had gathered, and she rushed home.

“I was so scared that I did not leave my apartment for 20 days,” said Ms. Price, a Tennessee native who arrived in India in January for a long work trip. Her experience is not unusual.

In recent weeks, Americans and Europeans in India have been evicted from hotels and apartments, aggressively questioned on the streets and forced to ration food in remote beach towns amid what appears to be a rise in xenophobic incidents during the pandemic. Many of India’s initial cases emerged from foreign travelers, and some South Asians believe that Westerners carry the coronavirus.

After India declared a nationwide lockdown on March 24, shutting most shops and halting international flights, Ms. Price, who runs a branch of her graphic design business from Hyderabad, hunkered down in a rented apartment.

Nearly half of the roughly 2,300 sailors from France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier group have tested positive for the coronavirus, the French defense minister said on Friday, amid growing questions over the military’s handling of the outbreak.

“It’s an issue that keeps me up at night,” the minister, Florence Parly, told a video hearing of the defense committee of France’s lower house of Parliament.

The Charles de Gaulle, France’s flagship nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, returned to its Mediterranean home port of Toulon on Sunday, after the outbreak emerged. There were 1,760 sailors aboard the carrier itself, Ms. Parly said, and several hundred more on support vessels, including a frigate and a refueling ship.

Almost all the sailors have been tested, Ms. Parly, with 1,081 testing positive and results pending for another 929. Nearly 550 sailors are symptomatic, she said, and 24 are hospitalized in Toulon, one in intensive care.

The carrier’s outbreak recalls the one on the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which became a debacle for the U.S. Navy.

“We hear the doubts, we hear the questions, there are many on the origin of the contamination,” Ms. Parly acknowledged at the hearing. She said that medical and military investigations were seeking to determine how the outbreak started and whether it was adequately handled, and that the conclusions would be made public.

One hypothesis, Ms. Parly said, is that the outbreak was tied to a mid-March stop in Brest, on France’s Atlantic coast. Traditional family visits to the ship were canceled, she said, but sailors were allowed to disembark.

Ms. Parly forcefully denied media reports earlier this week suggesting that the defense ministry had denied a request by the carrier’s commander to end the mission on the stopover in Brest, which lasted from March 13 to 16, just before France went on lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

Recent experience in Asia shows that comprehensive tracing of infection chains, along with aggressive testing, has proved critical to fighting the pandemic. And the situation is calling into question a host of Western assumptions, including about the use of digital tracking and the wearing of face masks.

Those in France who argue in favor of allowing the app’s intrusiveness say that it is fair to infringe on people who are infected rather than inhibit the freedom of society as a whole. But there are concerns that the app, relying mainly on a sense of civic duty, will be so watered down in France that it will prove ineffective.

On Wednesday, 350 pupils returned to classes at the Logumkloster District School for the first time in a month, as Denmark became the first country in the Western world to reopen its elementary schools since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The move has turned the Danish education system into a laboratory for whether and how schools can function in an age of contagion.

“It is a new world,” said Tanja Linnet, the school’s head teacher, as pupils arrived on Thursday morning. “We used to make plans for if there was a terrorist attack here, but never this kind of attack.”

To stop the spread of infection, parents were not allowed inside. Teachers were not allowed to gather in the staff room. The children each had their own desks, two yards away from their nearest neighbor. During recess, they could play only in small groups. And by the time the school shut at 2 p.m., they had all washed their hands at least once an hour.

Coroners in some areas are overwhelmed. Funeral homes in virus hot spots can barely keep up. Newspaper obituary pages in hard-hit areas go on and on. Covid-19 is on track to kill far more people this year in some countries, including the United States, than the seasonal flu.

In response to President Trump’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization, Ireland said on Thursday that it would quadruple its annual contribution to the public health agency.

Simon Coveney, the country’s foreign minister, said that Ireland “strongly supports” the organization’s effort to lead the global response to the coronavirus and would contribute 9.5 million euros, about $10.2 million, this year toward that mission.

“So many countries rely on United Nations expertise and capacity to save lives,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that the United States would freeze funding to the health organization while his administration reviewed its handling of the crisis, accusing it of promoting disinformation about the scale of the disease’s threat.

Critics say the Trump administration was slow to take the pandemic seriously and lagged on facilitating wide-scale testing to help fight the outbreak.

The United States is the largest funder to the W.H.O., and last year contributed about $553 million of the agency’s $6 billion budget.

The decision to suspend funding provoked criticism from other countries, with officials warning that pulling support from an already underfunded agency could have severe consequences. And nations declared their continued support.

Britain also said it would continue to fund the organization, which it says has an important role in the response to the outbreak. “It is a global challenge, and it’s essential that countries work together to tackle this shared threat,” a Downing Street spokesman said on Wednesday.

The coronavirus outbreak has brought China’s extraordinary, nearly half-century-long run of growth to an end — a stark reminder of the enormous task ahead for world leaders trying to restart the global economy.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday that the country’s economic output shrank 6.8 percent from January through March compared with the same period last year. It is the first economic shrinkage acknowledged in official statistics since 1976, when the country was in the final days of the Cultural Revolution, a national spasm of urban violence and torture.

The numbers reflect China’s dramatic efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, which included shutting down most factories and offices in January and February as the outbreak sickened tens of thousands of people.

China is now trying to restart its vast, $14 trillion economy, an effort that could give the rest of the world a much-needed shot in the arm. But the spread of the virus to Europe and the United States has sharply cut the world’s appetite for China’s goods. That could lead to factory shutdowns and worker furloughs.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics confirmed last month that domestic industrial production, retail sales and investment all suffered record double-digit drops in the first two months of this year compared with the same period of 2019.

“This year is difficult — some have lost their jobs, some cannot find work to do,” said Liu Xia, a fruit vendor from a village on the outskirts of Beijing. “Those who do go to work and those who are still in business are greatly affected.”

Beijing’s options for dealing with the crisis are limited. Its economy has become too big and complex to easily restart as it did in 2008 when it unveiled a plan to spend more than half a trillion dollars. And years of easy lending have left local governments and state-run companies mired in debt.

The latest fake cure for the coronavirus making the rounds: drinking Cognac. This week, Mike Mbuvi Sonko, the governor of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, included small bottles of the alcoholic drink as part of care packages delivered to the city’s poor.

Mr. Sonko, who is known for his flamboyant lifestyle and was arrested last year over a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal, falsely argued that research by the World Health Organization had shown that alcohol played a “very major role” in killing the coronavirus.

Cognac, which he said would be distributed only to adults, “should act as a throat sanitizer. It kills the virus,” he said in a video while wearing sunglasses, a mask, a cap and a shield.

The local operation of Hennessy, the French Cognac distiller, rebutted Mr. Sonko’s claim in a statement, saying that its alcoholic beverages do not protect against the virus. The company urged people to wash their hands, practice social distancing and stay at home.

As with other regions, myths and fake news about the virus and how to fight it have been circulating across Africa, with many shared widely through social media and applications like WhatsApp. The purported treatments have included drinking black tea with no sugar in Kenya, shaving beards in Nigeria and boiling and drinking aidan fruits in Ghana. The authorities in Burundi have cited divine intervention to explain the delayed arrival of the virus in the continent. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has declined to close churches during the pandemic, saying that the coronavirus “cannot survive in the body of Christ; it will burn.”

As of Thursday, there were 17,247 cases and 910 deaths from the coronavirus across Africa, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reporting was contributed by Norimitsu Onishi, Constant Méheut, S.M. Bilal, Kai Schultz, Melissa Eddy, Ceylan Yeginsu, Patrick Kingsley, David Halbfinger, Andrew Jacobs, Steven Lee Myers, Marc Santora, Aurelien Breeden, Abdi Latif Dahir, Elian Peltier, Megan Specia, Yonette Joseph, Tess Felder, Daniel Victor, Amy Qin, Paul Mozur, Rick Gladstone, David Halbfinger, Elaine Yu, Keith Bradsher, Kate Taylor and Ernesto Londoño.





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