India eases lockdown restrictions outside known hot zones.
India eased lockdown restrictions on Friday in some parts of the country, allowing markets to reopen in rural areas and outside known hot zones, and alleviating financial stress for tens of millions of people.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown last month to contain the coronavirus, most businesses shuttered across the country, except for those selling food, medicine and other essential items.
In an announcement on Friday night, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs said it would allow shops in rural areas to reopen, except liquor stores and those in malls or other large complexes.
Neighborhood and stand-alone shops in urban areas could reopen if they were outside hot zones, but markets were to remain shut, the ministry said.
The economic toll of India’s lockdown, which is in place until at least May 3, has devastated the economy and forced millions of people to rely on government food handouts and other subsidies.
India has about 24,000 known cases of the coronavirus, and nearly 800 deaths.
As the drumbeat grows for transparency about the secretive group guiding Britain’s response to the coronavirus — the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or SAGE — the government acknowledged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, has listened in on the panel’s meetings.
But a spokesman for Downing Street said on Saturday that Mr. Cummings was not a member of the group and did not influence policy.
“No. 10 officials and officials from other departments attend/dial in to SAGE to listen to its discussions and occasionally ask questions, which is essential at a time the government is dealing with a global pandemic,” Downing Street said in a statement.
Opposition leaders have demanded more transparency from the group, whose members are largely anonymous and whose meetings are held in private. The British government says it is being “guided by the science” coming from the group, but critics say the science is unclear.
Jonathan Ashworth, who oversees the opposition the Labour Party’s health policy, called on the government to publish the minutes of the panel’s meetings. “We need to understand whether Mr. Cummings was contributing to the debate or influencing the debate,” he told Sky News on Saturday.
The developments came as leaked cabinet briefings to The Guardian newspaper indicated that ministers were warned last year that Britain risked facing an influenza-type outbreak and that the country needed a robust plan to deal with it. A possible pandemic was at the top of a confidential annual national security risk assessment signed off by the government’s chief scientific adviser.
With the number of confirmed coronavirus infections nearing three million worldwide, the death toll is creeping toward 200,000. And as Saturday dawned, much of 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 are starting to ease 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.
In other places, people were defying medical advice to stay home. In Pakistan, 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.
Global heads of state vowed to cooperate on vaccine research and treatments at a virtual meeting organized by the World Health Organization on Friday, but neither the United States nor China joined the initiative.
Although leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France were vague in their pledges, the absence of any U.S. representative at the meeting was the latest sign of a withdrawal of the world’s biggest economy in tackling the coronavirus on a global scale. For the first time in perhaps a century, the United States is not leading the response to a global crisis, analysts have noted.
Britain’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other notable figures attended the session.
Participants agreed to make innovations against the coronavirus accessible to all, including developing countries, among other pledges that were short on details. The main challenge, the organization said in a statement, will be to bring a vaccine or drugs to fight the virus to billions of people once scientists have found them.
In January, the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan, China, was at its peak: Sick patients filled hospital wards, and others lined 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 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 whether 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.”
“Composition VI,” an abstract painting by the Russian master Wassily Kandinsky, has now been restaged in the messy room of a Connecticut teenager.
People sheltering in place are seeking new ways to connection online, and amid the pandemic’s bleakness, some report a surge in creativity. Maybe this is why a Facebook group featuring lo-fi recreations of famous paintings has more than half a million members, just a few weeks after it was created.
The group — Izoizolyacia, combining the Russian words for “visual arts” and “isolation” — was started in Moscow by a project manager at a tech company. Its predominant language is Russian, but more than a third of its members live outside Russia.
The copying-artworks gag is not new, and several museums — including the Getty in Los Angeles and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam — are encouraging homebound art fans to send in photos of efforts to bring their favorite paintings to life. But in terms of Facebook followers, at least, Izoizolyacia’s audience appears to be the most engaged.
President Trump has promised in a tweet to provide ventilators to Indonesia, where a rising number of coronavirus cases threatens to overwhelm the country’s poorly equipped and understaffed health care system.
“Just spoke to my friend, President Joko Widodo of the Republic of Indonesia,” Mr. Trump wrote on Friday. “Asking for Ventilators, which we will provide. Great cooperation between us!”
In reply, Mr. Joko’s spokesman, Fadjroel Rachman, tweeted on Saturday, “Thank you very much for great cooperation between the USA and the Republic of Indonesia Mr. President.”
Indonesia, with a population of 270 million, is the world’s fourth largest country but has only about 8,400 ventilators to help patients with the coronavirus, which has spread to all 34 provinces.
Indonesia has reported 720 deaths from the coronavirus, the second highest toll in East Asia after China. But some officials say many more deaths have gone unreported.
Mr. Trump also said the United States would send ventilators to three Latin American countries — Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras — that are reeling from the pandemic. He did not say how many ventilators would be sent to any of the four countries or when they would arrive.
Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, has been especially hard hit. Hospitals and clinics have been so overwhelmed that they have been unable to treat some patients. Bodies have been found abandoned on sidewalks and slumped in wheelchairs.
The Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, also spoke with Mr. Trump and requested help with ventilators and testing. He said he had also asked for assistance in securing debt relief for poor countries and financial aid from international lenders.
In a tweet on Friday evening about his conversation with the Honduran president, Mr. Trump said, “We work closely together on the Southern Border. Will be helping him with his request for Ventilators and Testing.”
Adam Nossiter, The Times’s Paris bureau chief, moved to the city at age 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 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.
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, given over to luxury shops, is dead.
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 livestreamed 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.
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 that 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, clearly enjoying the sight. Comments on the cricket association’s Facebook page, where the livestream 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 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 that he had been “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 expected 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 ($1,236). 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 he set another record through a different charitable undertaking in 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 — that 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 Anton Troianovski, Kai Schultz, Dera Menra Sijabat, Richard C. Paddock, Tiffany May, Mike Ives, Elian Peltier, Adam Nossiter, Evan Easterling, Andrew LaVallee, Damien Cave, Jin Wu, Declan Walsh, Alexandra Stevenson, Nicholas Kulish and David Gelles. Wang Yiwei contributed research.