The Chinese city where the outbreak began is seeking to test all its 11 million residents, and the pandemic has forced the fashion industry to take a hard look in the mirror.
Published May 26, 2020Updated May 27, 2020
Here’s what you need to know:
- Here’s how Wuhan tested 6.5 million people for the coronavirus in days.
- As Latin America is declared an epicenter, the U.S. travel ban with Brazil looms.
- A proposal to delay climate talks by a full year, and a warning of consequences.
- Public opinion is turning against Boris Johnson over his aide’s flouting of travel restrictions.
- ‘Appalling.’ ‘Disgusting.’ Canadian nursing home horrors are detailed in a new report.
- A young doctor’s death ignites public outrage in Egypt.
- Covid-19 pushes Gucci to abandon the ‘worn-out ritual’ of fashion shows.
ImageA coronavirus testing station in Wuhan earlier this month.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Wuhan government is close to completing its citywide testing drive. Thousands of medical and other workers were mobilized in a feat that some health experts and residents had initially questioned.
But medical workers armed with coronavirus test swabs have scoured construction sites and markets to look for itinerant workers while others made house calls to reach older residents and people with disabilities. Officials aired announcements over loudspeakers urging people to sign up for their own good.
The unprecedented campaign to screen virtually all 11 million people in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic originated, began just two weeks ago. And the government is making progress toward that goal, with 6.5 million tested so far.
“Our community was checked in a day,” said Wang Yuan, a 32-year-old resident who lined up under red tents near her home and had her throat swabbed by medical workers wearing protective suits and face shields. She expected to get her results within two to four days.
While other governments have struggled to provide testing for their populations on a broad scale, China has embarked on a citywide campaign to prevent a resurgence of infections at all costs. It has succeeded, according to residents and Chinese news reports, by mobilizing thousands of medical and other workers and spending hundreds of millions of dollars.
The government, which is covering the cost of testing, sees the drive as key to the restoration of public confidence that is needed to help restart the economy and return to some level of normalcy. But public health experts disagree on whether such a resource-intensive push is necessary when infections are low.
The drive — which has reached more than 90 percent of the city after taking into account people who had been recently tested and children — has largely confirmed that Wuhan has tamed the outbreak. By Tuesday, only around 200 cases had been found, mostly people who showed no symptoms, though samples were still being processed.
In other China news:
Apps used to track Chinese citizens who might be spreading the virus are becoming a permanent fixture of everyday life, one with the potential to be used in troubling and invasive ways.
Young people are facing what might be the country’s toughest job market in the modern era. Finding work for them has become a major priority for Chinese leaders, who have promised a better life in exchange for a lack of political freedom.
Distributing aid in São Paulo this month.Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times
United States travel restrictions aimed at Brazil were scheduled to go into effect on Tuesday night, as the South American country struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid relentless political turmoil and a plummeting economy.
The new restrictions prohibit the entry of foreigners, with some exceptions, who were in Brazil in the two weeks before their arrival at the American border.
Last week, Brazil became the nation with the second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, behind the United States.
As the virus has ebbed in the United States and Europe, Latin America has emerged as its new epicenter, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, said on Monday.
She noted that the region has “surpassed Europe and the United States in the daily number of reported coronavirus infections — numbers we suspect are even higher than we know,” because of a lack of a testing.
In Brazil, the government has appeared rudderless in the face of the pandemic, with President Jair Bolsonaro taking a cavalier attitude toward the virus, snubbing social-distancing protocols and urging Brazilians to effectively ignore local lockdown orders.
Political dysfunction has added to the crisis. The last two health ministers left office — one was fired, the other resigned — following clashes with Mr. Bolsonaro over the best strategies to deal with the pandemic.
The economic outlook for Brazil is grim, with analysts warning that the increasingly intertwined health and political crises could drive the nation into a deep recession. More than a million Brazilians have lost their jobs amid the pandemic, and the real, Brazil’s currency, has plunged more than 30 percent since January, making it the world’s worst-performing currency.
Alok Sharma, the British cabinet secretary responsible for the Glasgow climate conference. Credit…Pool photo by Tolga Akmen
International negotiations designed to address the threat of climate change will quite likely be delayed by a full year because of the pandemic.
Britain, the host of the talks, which were initially scheduled to be held at the end of this year in Glasgow, proposed on Tuesday that they be postponed until November 2021. A decision is to be made Thursday by countries that make up the rotating governing board of the United Nations agency that sponsors the talks.
“Given the uneven spread of Covid-19, this date would present the lowest risk of further postponement and the best chance of delivering an inclusive and ambitious” conference, British officials said.
The gathering is meant to rally world leaders to chart ways to avert the worst effects of climate change, including heat waves and flooded coastal cities.
Delaying the talks by a full year could worsen the problems, some diplomats say. Countries and international financial institutions may now feel freer to enact economic recovery plans without paying much heed to their climate implications.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain showed no signs of abandoning his adviser Dominic Cummings.Credit…Frank Augstein/Associated Press
For more than two months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has floundered in his response to the coronavirus — abandoning widespread testing, dragging his feet on imposing a lockdown, leaving nursing homes unprotected, and muddling his message about how to reopen the British economy.
But it took a rogue 260-mile car trip by Mr. Johnson’s closest adviser to turn the tide of public opinion against him.
The outcry over Mr. Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, showed no signs of abating on Tuesday.
A junior minister in Mr. Johnson’s government resigned in protest and several lawmakers from his Conservative Party joined those calling on the prime minister to dismiss Mr. Cummings. And two new polls showed a sharp erosion of public support for Mr. Johnson and a wall of opposition to his aide.
The image of a powerful government official flouting the lockdown rules that Downing Street enforces on everyone else has struck a nerve in a way that Britain’s haphazard response to the virus has not.
“I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn’t visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of the government,” Douglas Ross, the under secretary of state for Scotland, said as he resigned.
“I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right.”
Other world leaders have also come under scrutiny for their actions during lockdown. The Polish government had to apologize last week after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted photos of himself at a restaurant where critics said he was not observing social-distancing rules.
Cleaners at a home singled out in the report on Tuesday.Credit…Carlos Osorio/Reuters
Grandparents choking on food because they were fed lying down. Residents left in filthy beds and soiled diapers for hours, in rooms with “significant fecal contamination” and cockroaches. Residents screaming for help for more than two hours before anyone answered.
Canadians knew the coronavirus had shred a deadly path through the country’s long-term-care homes, but a report drafted by the Canadian military adds new layers level of horror to the shocking tale.
“It’s appalling, it’s disgusting,” Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, said on Tuesday as he released the confidential report to the public and demanded justice for families.
While nursing homes have been pummeled by the pandemic in many countries, in Canada they seem to have taken an especially severe blow. Earlier this month, more than 80 percent of the country’s coronavirus deaths were reported tied to long-term-care homes. (That figure has now passed 6,500.)
In the country’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, many centers were so badly hit and so understaffed that the federal government sent in the Canadian armed forces to help last month.
The new report, which pertains to five homes in Ontario, is heart-wrenching.
It cites not just lack of infection control but also burned-out employees working in a “culture of fear to use supplies because they cost money.” Essential items like wipes and linens were kept under “lock and key,” the report says.
In one home, staff members reported that patients had not been bathed for weeks, and in others, residents were not fed regularly, and food was left out of reach.
Calling the report “deeply disturbing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “I had, obviously, a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief.”
“We need to take action as a country,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Caring for a coronavirus patient at a Cairo hospital last month.Credit…Yahya Diwer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
For months, Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic. Now the strain is showing.
The death of a young doctor who was refused treatment for Covid-19 at an overwhelmed hospital has triggered a revolt by medical staff over the government’s failures to provide protective equipment and training for front-line workers.
Egypt’s health system is veering toward catastrophic collapse, the main doctors’ union warned, in a statement that accused the ministry of “criminal” negligence — strong words in a country where the authorities have strictly policed any criticism of their response to the virus.
At least 19 doctors have died and over 350 have been infected, doctors say, although since testing is limited the true figure may be higher.
Relatives of the doctor who died over the weekend, Walid Yehia, 32, issued pleas on Facebook for greater care, noting that he had been unable to gain access emergency treatment as his condition declined.
The swift admission of a prominent actress, Ragaa el-Gedawy, after she showed symptoms of the disease, further fueled public anger and perceptions that the care of elite Egyptians is prioritized.
Egypt’s health minister, Hala Zayed, said that the government was “following up to provide the best possible care” to its doctors, and that at least 20 beds in every hospital treating the virus would be reserved for sick medical staff.
Still, even as it tries to assuage doctors, the government has sought to silence them. On Monday, the state-run Al Ahram newspaper sought to discredit a doctor who had resigned on Facebook in protest at the death of his colleague, portraying the doctor as a supporter of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
The doctor’s Facebook account has since been closed.
The Gucci ready-to-wear fashion show in Milan in February.Credit…Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times
Gucci wants to change show business. Or, rather, the business of shows.
The Italian brand has joined the chorus of brands and retailers calling for a permanent reset of the fashion system because of Covid-19, adding the weight of a giant global name to the movement.
On Monday, Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, held a video news conference to announce that the brand will reduce the number of shows it holds each year from five to two, effectively abandoning the idea of cruise shows — the far-flung midseason extravaganzas it has held at a Roman Necropolis in Arles and the Capitoline Museum in Rome (among other places). He also wants to do away with the distinction between men’s wear and women’s wear, and the traditional appellations of fall/winter and spring/summer.
“I will abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows,” Mr. Michele wrote.
Gucci is not the first brand to announce a change in its runway plans in response to the pandemic, which has brought the industry to an effective standstill, closing stores and decimating balance sheets.
Saint Laurent, also owned by Kering, the Gucci parent company, said it would drop out of the fashion show season and follow its own schedule for this year; Dries Van Noten said he would not have a show at all until 2021; and Giorgio Armani announced that his men’s and women’s shows would be combined in September, and his couture show held in January in Milan instead of Paris.
Gucci, however, is the first brand to commit to a permanent rethink.
Dr. Peter Piot and his wife, Dr. Heidi Larson, in their front garden in London. Some damage from his bout with Covid-19 might remain with him for the rest of his life.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Dr. Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is a legend in the battles against Ebola and AIDS. But Covid-19 almost killed him.
“I underestimated this one — how fast it would spread,” he told Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter specializing in plagues and pestilences.
In 1976, as a graduate student, Dr. Piot was part of the international team that investigated Ebola in Yambuku, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the 1980s, he was one of the scientists who proved that the wasting disease known as “slim” in Africa was caused by the same virus that was killing young gay men elsewhere. He later became the first director of the United Nations’ anti-HIV program.
That expertise made him keenly alert to the danger posed by the new coronavirus. And he became a living illustration of it.
He traveled to Singapore and Boston early in the year, answering questions about the emerging threat. Back home in London, he kept up his usual schedule of lectures and gatherings.
By late March, he had developed symptoms, and he was eventually hospitalized for more than a week as he battled pneumonia. Now he’s facing a lingering immune reaction in his lungs that may lead to permanent scarring.
“This is the revenge of the viruses,” he said. “I’ve made their lives difficult. Now they’re trying to get me.”
J.K. Rowling said that “The Ickabog” was a story about “truth and the abuse of power,” but added that the story “isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now.”Credit…Evan Agostini/Invision, via Associated Press
The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has begun publishing installments of a new fairy tale, hoping to ease the burdens of lockdown on young readers.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?
There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
How can I help?
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
The tale, titled “The Ickabog,” will be released in installments online, and available for free. It will be published as a book in November.
In an announcement on her website, Ms. Rowling said she had started working on the book years ago, while she was still writing Harry Potter, and originally intended to publish it after she finished the last book in the beloved series. But she ended up keeping “The Ickabog,” which isn’t related to Harry Potter or any of Ms. Rowling’s other work, in her family, reading it to her young children and then putting it away in her attic until recently.
She decided to release “The Ickabog” now, she wrote on Twitter, “so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”
Ms. Rowling said she would donate her royalties for the book to causes related to the pandemic.
Relatives of coronavirus patients waiting outside of the German-Nicaraguan Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua last week.Credit…Inti Ocon for The New York Times
Facing withering criticism over its cavalier response to the outbreak and claims that it is understating the toll of the pandemic, the government of Nicaragua released a 71-page rebuttal on Monday, arguing that a vast majority of Nicaraguans could not afford to lose work in a strict lockdown.
Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the hemisphere, has been widely criticized for continuing to allow mass events. It also is among a handful of nations worldwide that never closed its schools.
Nicaragua has reported 759 cases since the pandemic began, and just 35 deaths. But the Citizen Observatory, a group of doctors, activists and other volunteers who collect information from hospitals, said it has counted 2,323 cases and 404 deaths. In its new document, the government said those estimates are inflated with routine pneumonia deaths.
In the document, which was posted online, the government also claimed that critics were trying to undermine the government of President Daniel Ortega and compared the administration’s approach to that of Sweden, which never locked down its economy.
“Countries that have totally closed their economies are uncomfortable with the example of countries that do not apply a draconian closure and do not destroy their economies to face the pandemic,” the government said.
While Sweden has avoided devastating tolls like those in Italy or Britain, the outbreak there has been far deadlier than those of its Scandinavian neighbors.
Public health experts, doctors and other critics have blasted the document because it failed to say how many people had been tested for the disease or to offer an assessment of the nation’s hospitals.
The country is still reeling economically after a 2018 uprising threatened Mr. Ortega’s hold on power and cost Nicaragua more than 150,000 jobs. Mr. Ortega has since clamped down on dissent and the government is now saying its opponents want to use the pandemic for political ends.
Military planes flew over Moscow in early May, but the grand parades planned for Victory Day did not go ahead.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Gambling that Russia can contain its coronavirus outbreak, President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday ordered that military parades to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany — originally scheduled for May 9 but canceled because of the pandemic — go ahead next month across the country.
But it has slowed the outbreak slightly over the past week, a trend that Mr. Putin hopes will hold long enough to limit the risks of allowing tens of thousands of soldiers to march through Moscow’s Red Square and to take part in smaller parades in other cities.
Mr. Putin, in a video conference with his defense minister shown on state television, said the parades would now be held on June 24, the date chosen by the Soviet dictator Stalin for the Red Army’s first Red Square victory parade in 1945. Mr. Putin described that event as “a legendary historical parade of the victors” who “liberated Europe.”
Separate marches by millions of ordinary Russians whose relatives fought during World War II, a conflict known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, will be held a month later, Mr. Putin said. The delay until July 26 of the so-called Immortal Regiment marches, Mr. Putin said, was necessary to reduce the danger of having so many people on the streets at one time.
Even so, it is far from certain that Russia will have put the pandemic behind it by late June or even July, despite a flurry of reports on Kremlin-controlled media outlets in recent days trumpeting what they present as Russia’s victory over the virus. Official figures showing a remarkably low death toll compared with the United States and European countries have been hailed as evidence of a “Russian miracle.”
Mr. Putin has put celebration of Russia’s wartime sacrifice and victory at the center of a political program built around often strident patriotism and denunciation of his opponents as traitors. State television has been saturated for weeks with reports of wartime heroism and sometimes vicious attacks on anyone who challenges Russia’s status as Europe’s savior.
President Trump said last month that he had taken hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.Credit…George Frey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general, said officials had decided on a “temporary pause” in testing the drug after The Lancet published an observational study last week that found that people who took the drug were more likely to die. Several earlier studies had also found no benefit — and possible harm — when the drug was used by Covid-19 patients. Dr. Tedros said his agency would review safety data.
Hydroxychloroquine had been one of several drugs and drug combinations that the World Health Organization was testing against Covid-19. The test, called the Solidarity Trial, has enrolled nearly 3,500 patients so far from 17 countries, officials said.
Dr. Tedros noted that the concerns related to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, another malaria drug, were specifically about their use by Covid-19 patients. “I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria,” he said.
Serving chopsticks are a new addition to the table at Chilli Kitchen in Beijing.Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
Amy Qin is a China correspondent for The New York Times covering the intersection of culture, politics and society.
The coronavirus has forced us all to rethink our everyday habits, including things we once took for granted like shaking hands or wearing shoes inside the house.
Growing up in a Chinese household in the United States, we almost always ate family-style, using our personal chopsticks to reach into dishes of food that had been placed in the middle of the table. Some of my most vivid memories from childhood involve my mom, in the well-established tradition of Chinese mothers, piling food onto my plate, urging me to “eat more, eat more.”
Sure, there were occasions when serving chopsticks and spoons were used — like potlucks, for example, or meals with strangers. But at home and between friends, sharing was caring. Eight years of living and eating out in China only served to reinforce the habit.
But then came the new coronavirus. Almost overnight, habits changed. For perhaps the first time, serving spoons and chopsticks appeared at our family’s Lunar New Year dinner. In Beijing in March, during one of my first meals out after the city’s restriction began to loosen, my friend and I asked for serving chopsticks for each of the dishes we ordered. It felt strange at first, but we quickly got used to it.
After the immediate threat of the virus fades, though, it remains to be seen whether or not these new habits will stick in China. As Liu Peng, 32, an education consultant from the coastal city of Qingdao, told me: “Maybe using serving chopsticks is more hygienic but eating is the time for us all to relax, and we don’t want to be bothered by all these little rules.”
Reporting and research were contributed by Donald G. McNeil Jr., Frances Robles, Kirk Semple, Manuela Andreoni, Natalie Kitroeff, Concepción de León, Mihir Zaveri, Karen Zraick, Andrew Higgins, Raphael Minder, Sui-Lee Wee, Vivian Wang, Declan Walsh, Thomas Erdbrink, Megan Specia, Ed O’Loughlin, Stephen Castle, Mark Landler, Andrew Higgins, Niraj Chokshi, Amy Qin, Liam Stack, Somini Sengupta, Vanessa Friedman and Catherine Porter.