India extends nationwide lockdown, ordering more than 1 billion people to remain at home.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India extended a nationwide lockdown on Tuesday for nearly three more weeks, preventing more than 1 billion from leaving their homes.
He lauded the country for acting aggressively against the coronavirus and urged Indians not to “let our guard down.”
In an address to the nation, Mr. Modi said extending the existing 21-day lockdown until May 3 was necessary to prevent a spike in cases and that tougher restrictions could follow. He applauded Indians for following the measures “like a dedicated soldier.”
“If you look at it only economically, it has been expensive,” Mr. Modi said of the lockdown. “But you can’t put a price on the lives of Indians.”
Mr. Modi said some relaxations to the lockdown could be implemented after April 20 in certain areas if they showed strict observance of the rules. But for now he urged all 1.3 billion Indians to wear masks, stay inside, respect health care workers and help older people.
India has a relatively low number of confirmed infections, with about 10,000 cases, 339 deaths and a doubling rate of about six days. But a rapid spread could be devastating. Health care facilities are poor, and hundreds of millions of Indians live in dense urban areas, making it difficult to follow social distancing.
Officials have faced staggering challenges to enforce the lockdown, which abruptly went into effect on March 25 with just four hours notice.
Thousands of migrant workers were initially trapped in big cities, far from their home villages. Some embarked on hundred-mile journeys by foot to reach their homes.
“If we have patience, we will defeat the coronavirus,” he said.
Confusing Chinese regulations are keeping face masks from being exported.
Chinese exports of much-needed N95 respirators, surgical masks and other personal protection equipment were delayed for a fourth day on Tuesday as China’s customs agency left unresolved a crucial regulatory issue.
Responding to complaints from Europe that some medical supplies had quality problems, the General Administration of Customs ordered two weeks ago that only factories with medical certification from the Chinese government could continue to export medical supplies.
The new order blocked exports from factories that previously made everything from cranes to cellphones but are now manufacturing medical supplies in response to the pandemic. Obtaining medical certification is typically a six-month process.
China is the world’s dominant producer and exporter of face masks and other personal protection equipment. The order also blocked exports by many of the country’s long-established medical supplies factories. These factories previously only made goods for foreign markets, so they had never bothered to obtain Chinese government certification.
The customs agency issued a new regulation on Friday that each shipment of medical supplies must be inspected for quality before it can be exported.
Customs offices have interpreted the new rule as requiring both factory certification and quality inspection. Few medical supplies meet both standards.
At a monthly news conference on Tuesday in Beijing to release China’s export and import data, the customs agency’s spokesman, Li Kuiwen, declined to say whether both rules applied.
“More interpretation of these regulations will be given by China Customs at relevant news conferences,” he said.
In the meantime, exports are stalling and foreign criticism is rising.
“Double-layering of regulations is excessive and is red tape,” said Omar Allam, a former Canadian trade official who is now the chief executive of a global trade consultancy. “The Chinese are really choking the export of personal protection equipment supplies to the countries that need it most.”
Turkey’s Parliament passes law to release tens of thousands of prisoners.
Turkey’s Parliament passed a law on Tuesday that would allow for the release of up to 90,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding and protect detainees from being infected by the coronavirus.
The new law is set to reduce sentences and give early release to 45,000 people in minimum-security prisons, and 45,000 from regular prisons, which amounts to nearly one third of the total prison population. Those released will be ordered to stay at home, as Turkey has been gradually restricting the movement of the population.
The releases will not include those convicted of terrorist related crimes, and so will exclude the vast majority of political prisoners and people imprisoned after an attempted coup in 2016.
The bill was supported by 279 lawmakers, while 51 voted against it, according to the Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-run news agency. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, the Justice and Development Party, proposed the bill. Its nationalist allies, the Nationalist Movement Party, has been pushing for the bill for months.
The law has been criticized by opposition parties for excluding journalists and political opponents of Mr. Erdogan who were imprisoned in the crackdown that followed the coup attempt.
Aside from those jailed on terrorism charges, prisoners detained for sex offenses, drug offenses and first-degree murder were also excluded.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul on Monday said there were 17 cases of the coronavirus in five prisons, and that three inmates had died from the virus. Turkey has recorded 56,956 coronavirus cases and 1,198 deaths.
In the United States and around the world, outbreaks have spread quickly in prisons, where social distancing is impossible. In response, some prisons have released inmates to contain outbreaks, though critics say officials have been too slow to act.
China has approved clinical trials for two experimental vaccines to treat the coronavirus, the official news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday, in a global race to fight the pandemic that has killed at least 118,000 people worldwide.
The two vaccines are being developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products under the state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group, and the Beijing-based research arm of Sinovac Biotech, a biopharmaceutical company.
There are currently no vaccines or drugs for the new coronavirus. China, Europe and the United States are all trying to become the first to produce a vaccine, bringing a nationalist element to the race that has sometimes undermined international cooperation.
About 1,000 Chinese scientists are now engaged in creating vaccines for the virus, with nine potential versions in development, according to the government. Last month, China had authorized military scientists to start another clinical trial.
Separately, 111 people from African countries have tested positive for the coronavirus in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, Xinhua also reported on Tuesday. China has faced criticism that people of African descent have been targeted with discriminatory measures, including forced quarantines and testing. More than 4,500 Africans in Guangzhou have been subject to nucleic acid testing since early April, the report said, citing the local authorities.
In Iraq, the fight against coronavirus means overcoming stigma.
The doctor paused before banging on the front gate, gesturing to his companions in hazmat suits and masks to stand back so they would not be the first thing the home’s occupants saw.
“This is very sensitive, very difficult for our society,” said Dr. Wissam Cona of the provincial Health Department in Najaf, Iraq. The father of the family at this home had begged him not to come with a retinue of health workers, saying he felt ashamed in front of his neighbors.
For Iraq, one of the biggest obstacles for officials fighting the coronavirus is the stigma associated with illness and quarantine. It runs so deep that people avoid being tested, prevent family members who want tests from having them and delay seeking medical help until they are catastrophically ill.
It may also help explain why the number of confirmed cases in Iraq is relatively low. Iraq had recorded only 1,352 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Monday. Iran, with roughly twice Iraq’s population, has more than 71,000.
“It is true we have cases that are hidden, and that is because people don’t want to come forward and they are afraid of the quarantine and isolation,” said Dr. Hazim al-Jumaili, a deputy health minister.
The stigma attached to illness and quarantine in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries largely reflects cultural and religious beliefs. But it also involves an ingrained distrust of the government, historical experience and the fear that given the ragged state of Iraq’s health care system, going to the hospital could be fatal.
“Some believe the virus means that God is displeased with them, or maybe it is a punishment for a sin so they don’t want others to see that they are sick,” said Dr. Emad Abdul Razzak, a consulting psychiatrist at Iraq’s Health Ministry.
As the coronavirus pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.
The House, the Senate and the nation’s intelligence agencies have typically focused on election meddling in their examinations of Mr. Putin’s long campaign. But the repercussions are wider. An investigation by The New York Times — involving scores of interviews as well as a review of scholarly papers, news reports, and Russian documents, tweets and TV shows — found that Mr. Putin has spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade.
His agents have repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists. The disinformers have also sought to undermine faith in the safety of vaccines, a triumph of public health that Mr. Putin himself promotes at home.
Moscow’s aim, experts say, is to portray American officials as playing down the health alarms and thus posing serious threats to public safety.
At first, Mr. Putin’s main disseminator of fake news was Russia Today, which he founded in 2005 in Moscow; in 2008 it was renamed RT, obscuring its Russian origins. As the Kremlin grew more confident, it began to simply recycle old narratives rather than wait for new epidemics to emerge.
The new brand of disinformation is subtler than the old. Darren L. Linvill, a Clemson University expert, and his colleague Patrick L. Warren have argued that Mr. Putin’s new methodology seeks less to create than to curate — to retweet and amplify the existing American cacophony, raising the level of confusion and partisan discord.
Beijing now appears to be borrowing from Mr. Putin’s playbook, at least the early drafts. It recently declared that the coronavirus was devised by Washington as a designer weapon meant to cripple China.
Hospitals in coronavirus hot spots in the United States are scrambling to address a shortage of medical professionals to help care for patients, as the number of cases continues to grow and as maintaining a full supply of health care workers, who are themselves falling ill, is challenging.
Foreign health workers have been lining up to take jobs at American hospitals, but many are running into roadblocks. Some are having difficulty securing appointments for visas at U.S. consulates overseas that are hobbled by skeletal staffing. Others are running into travel restrictions imposed in the midst of the pandemic.
Still others are already working in the United States, but under the terms of their visas cannot leave the states they are in to work in cities heavily affected by the coronavirus.
“The protective gear and ventilators are slowly but surely getting to the system. But if the number of cases goes up dramatically, we will have equipment and no one to operate it,” said Ron Hoppe, chief executive officer of WorldWide HealthStaff Solutions, which matches medical professionals with facilities across the United States.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, demand for registered nurses in the United States was projected to grow from 2.9 to 3.4 million between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The great supply and demand imbalance that existed before is being laid bare by the crisis,” Mr. Hoppe said.
While the world may see Japan as a futuristic land of humanoid robots and intelligent toilets, inside its offices, managers maintain a fierce devotion to paper files, fax machines, business card exchanges, face-to-face meetings and stamping official corporate seals on business contracts and government paperwork.
The stamps, known as hanko or inkan, are used in place of signatures on the stream of documents that fill Japan’s workplaces. They have become a symbol of a hidebound office culture that makes it difficult or impossible for many Japanese to work from home even as the country’s leaders say working remotely is essential to keeping Japan’s coronavirus epidemic from spiraling out of control.
Essential documents are not digitized, and computer systems are obsolete and tied to offices. Middle managers in Japan’s team-oriented workplaces are hesitant to allow employees to work from home, with some fearful that they will slack off or even drink on the job. And the workers who do have the option of teleworking fear harm to their careers.
Forced to balance the needs of the office and the risks to their own health, employees like Shuhei Aoyama, 26, say they are losing patience with the country’s work traditions. “It’s not so much our company’s culture as it is Japanese culture that’s causing the problems,” he said.
A survey last month by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism found that fewer than 13 percent of workers were able to work from home. Over 70 percent reported difficulties with telework.
The Japanese government, too, can be an obstacle, even as it pushes working from home: Companies applying for telework subsidies have reported needing to print out 100 or more pages of documents and deliver them in person.
For the many workers in Japan who believe they face a false choice between their jobs and their well-being, few things have exemplified the dilemma more than the distinctive red imprint of the venerable hanko.
“Why do we have to put each other at risk just for something trivial like a hanko?” Yoshitaka Hibi, a professor of Japanese literature at Nagoya University, wrote in a Twitter post that was liked more than 28,000 times.
“This is our chance. For the love of god, someone please destroy this custom,” he added.
Trump’s claim he has power to decide when to reopen the country signals possible clash with governors.
President Trump, who has repeatedly said it was up to governors to manage the response to the coronavirus pandemic, said on Monday that he would be the one deciding when to reopen the country. His remarks came as governors on each coast said they were working together to determine when and how to ease restrictions and reopen the economy.
Democratic governors expressed skepticism about Mr. Trump’s remarks, which raised constitutional questions and signaled the possibility of a major clash if the president tries to reopen businesses in states where governors still want things shut down.
The governors of California, Oregon and Washington are working on a regional approach, as are the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
While Mr. Trump has predicted that the economy will bounce back quickly once stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, evidence suggests that it will be a long and slow recovery because of people’s fears about the virus.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress are locked in a stalemate over what should be in an emergency aid package, with Democrats seeking more money for state and local governments, hospitals, food assistance and rapid testing. And the Census Bureau, facing difficulties because of the pandemic, said it was seeking a four-month delay in delivering to Congress the population data used to reapportion the House of Representatives.
Cities and states approached the arrival of the coronavirus with different levels of aggressiveness. Internal emails show that city officials in New Orleans believed there was only a very small chance that someone with the coronavirus would attend its Mardi Gras celebration in late February. They were wrong, and experts now think the festivities accelerated the spread of the virus in New Orleans, one of the country’s largest hot spots.
Millions of children are at risk for measles as coronavirus fears halt vaccines.
More than 100 million children could be at risk for measles because countries around the world are suspending national immunization programs in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, international public health leaders warned on Monday.
So far, 24 low- and middle-income countries, including Mexico, Nigeria and Cambodia, have paused or postponed such programs, according to the Measles and Rubella Initiative, a consortium whose members include UNICEF, the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unlike wealthier countries, where parents typically make appointments to follow a routine vaccine schedule at clinics or private pediatric offices, these countries inoculate large numbers of infants and children in communal settings, like marketplaces, schools, churches and mosques.
Dr. Robin Nandy, the chief of immunization for UNICEF, acknowledged that finding the balance between guarding against the spread of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and preventable diseases like measles was delicate and difficult.
Reporting was contributed by Keith Bradsher, Kai Schultz, Hari Kumar, Elaine Yu, Kate Taylor, Sebastian Modak, Alissa J. Rubin, William J. Broad, Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal, Ben Dooley and Makiko Inoue contributed reporting.