Coronavirus World Updates – The New York Times


Chinese officials have quarantined 8,000 people in the country’s northeast.

Government officials have quarantined 8,000 people and imposed new travel restrictions in northeastern China after a rash of new infections were reported in Jilin Province, state news media reported on Sunday.

Residents of Jilin, the second-largest city in the province, have been mostly barred from leaving the city starting Sunday after a cluster of infections was reported there and in the neighboring city of Shulan. Officials in Shenyang, capital of the neighboring province of Liaoning, said on Saturday that anyone who had traveled there from the city of Jilin since April 22 would be quarantined in a hospital for three weeks.

He also said that local officials had misrepresented the number of cases when the virus began spreading in Wuhan in January.

Meanwhile, officials in Hong Kong are considering the use of electronic health certificates to facilitate movement between mainland China and the semiautonomous territory. Hong Kong’s border is currently closed to all nonresidents, but officials have raised the idea of creating a “travel bubble” as locally transmitted cases fall to almost zero and businesses continue to reopen.

With states scrambling to pay out unemployment claims to tens of millions of Americans, a vast attack flooding unemployment agencies with fraudulent claims appears to have already siphoned millions of dollars in payments.

Investigators from the Secret Service said that they had information implicating a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring and that stolen information like social security numbers had allowed the network to file claims on behalf of people who in many cases had not lost their jobs.

Most of the fraudulent claims have so far been concentrated in Washington State, but evidence also pointed to similar attacks in Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

The challenge of pre-empting fraudulent claims has increased as the pressure to get money into the hands of unemployed workers has grown. Unemployment offices accustomed to dealing with jobless claims in the thousands have been inundated with over a million claims during recent months in more populous states.

The attacks, which the Secret Service warned could conceivably target every state, could result in “potential losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to a memo obtained by The New York Times.

Every year, Swaminathan Vinayakram and his band leave their homes in the South India city of Chennai to play with musicians across the United States.

The band — 3G, which stands for three generations — includes his grandfather Vikku, a Grammy-nominated percussionist who plays the gatham, a clay pot. In early March, they landed in Houston and played to a crammed crowd of 400 that swayed to the music and threw back drinks.

Then the world seemed to stop.

The coronavirus outbreak meant that their shows from San Francisco to New York were canceled. So were their collaborations with American jazz musicians that would have fused saxophones and piano with the upbeat rhythms of South India’s Carnatic music and its centuries-old instruments.

On March 19, India gave its citizens abroad two days to return before shutting down all international travel. As a rush ensued among the 17.5 million Indians in the world’s largest diaspora, 3G managed to get only three tickets for its five-person band.

Mr. Vinayakram, 27, and his father stayed behind in Jersey City, N.J., and the confinement grated on them. So Mr. Vinayakram did something from the 1990s, when the internet was a thrilling innovation and globalism all the rage: He posted a call-out to musicians for collaborations.

Now, he has connected to a more diverse set of musicians than ever.

“Through Facebook I’m meeting musicians I’ve never heard of, or that I would never have dreamed of playing with,” he said in a telephone interview.

Dozens have sent him tracks of their improvisations, which he overlays with the kanjira, a South Indian frame drum with a pair of jingles.

But he is still eager for the pandemic to end. He misses the thrill of playing to a live audience.

“When I was a child, I used to dream about playing live to thousands of people,” Mr. Vinayakram said. “It now feels like a dream again.”

Thronged banks. Packed subway cars. Buses full of President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters, heading to rallies that call on Brazilians to brush aside local stay-at-home orders and instead follow the president’s directive to get back to work.

The crisis stands in stark contrast to Brazil’s track record for innovative and nimble responses to health care challenges that made it a model in the developing world in past decades.

After a surge in H.I.V. infections in the 1990s, Brazil offered free universal treatment and pushed the pharmaceutical industry to lower costs. It threatened to disregard a Swiss drugmaker’s patent for an H.I.V. drug in 2001, and did so in 2007, manufacturing its own generic version and greatly reducing H.I.V. in the country.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in the first address streamed online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

The speeches came as more than two-thirds of states have significantly relaxed restrictions, leaving the nation at a perilous moment. The United States already has the world’s largest outbreak, with more than 1.4 million cases and more than 88,000 deaths.

Dr. Shi, a prominent researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has rejected accusations that the virus emerged from her lab. The Trump administration has pushed American intelligence officials to hunt for evidence to support this unproven theory as it escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic. Intelligence agencies are skeptical that such evidence can be found and scientists say it most likely leapt from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting.

Dr. Shi has been called “the bat woman” by the Chinese news media because of her years of experience studying the links between bats and viruses. As the new coronavirus outbreak erupted, she helped establish that the new virus had most likely come from a bat. But she came under scrutiny both in China and abroad as people questioned whether the virus had come from her laboratory — either intentionally or accidentally.

The findings bolster the idea that the Chinese horseshoe bat is the natural host of coronaviruses like the ones that cause SARS and Covid-19, the paper said. “Continued surveillance of this group of viruses in bats is necessary for the prevention of the next SARS-like disease.”

Euphoric Greeks and French headed to reopened beaches, keeping their umbrellas apart. Players in Germany’s national soccer league competed in deserted stadiums. Italy offered its pulverized tourism industry a lifeline with plans to lift some travel restrictions.

On Saturday, many in Europe cautiously rejoiced after months of debilitating confinement as even countries hardest hit by the virus continued to gradually ease restrictions.

But relief that life was moving slowly toward some semblance of normalcy was tempered by continuing protests in Germany, where, for the fourth weekend in a row, small groups that added up to thousands took to the street across the country to protest measures imposed by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The protesters, who include conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists but also ordinary people concerned about their jobs, remain a small but noisy minority, as seven in 10 Germans back Ms. Merkel’s handling of the pandemic.

Italy’s shops, bars, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses are to reopen on Monday, with stringent social distancing and hygiene rules. Religious services will also be allowed to restart on Monday, and Mass can again be offered at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

Also on Monday, residents of Budapest, Hungary’s throbbing capital, will be able to enjoy outdoor terraces and shopping, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday. Much of the rest of the country has had such freedom for nearly two weeks.

The babies lie in cribs, sleeping, crying or smiling at nurses, swaddled in clean linens and apparently well cared for, but separated from their parents as an unintended consequence of coronavirus travel bans.

The authorities say that at least 100 babies are stranded already and that as many as 1,000 may be born before Ukraine’s travel ban for foreigners is lifted.

“We will do all we can to unite the children with their parents,” Albert Tochilovsky, director of BioTexCom, the largest provider of surrogacy services in Ukraine, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Tochilovsky said doctors and caregivers now live at a company-owned hotel in Kyiv together with the babies, feeding them formula, taking them for walks and showing them to parents in video calls, all while in quarantine to protect against infection.

Ukraine does not tally statistics on surrogacy, but it may lead the world in the number of surrogate births for foreign biological parents, Mr. Tochilovsky said.

A human rights official in the presidential administration, Nikolai Kuleba, has demanded an end to the practice. “Ukraine is just turning into an online store for little ones,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Tiffany May, Vivian Wang, Maria Abi-Habib, Mike Baker, Andrew E. Kramer, Motoko Rich, Hisako Ueno, Hikari Hida, Audra D.S. Birch, John Eligon, Michael D. Shear, Michael Levenson, Sheila Kaplan, Ernesto Londoño, Manuela Andreoni and Letícia Casado.



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