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ImageWorkers disinfect a street in downtown Cairo last week.
Credit…Fadl AbuZaid/Picture Alliance, via Getty Images

The virus surges in regions where populist leaders thought they’d been spared.

For months, one enduring mystery of the coronavirus was why some countries with rickety health systems and crowded slums had managed to avoid the brunt of an outbreak that was hammering Europe and the United States.

But some of those countries are now tumbling into the pandemic’s maw.

As the pandemic’s global death toll approaches 400,000, known cases of the virus are growing faster than ever, at a rate of more than 100,000 a day. And the surge is concentrated in densely populated, low- and middle-income countries across the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and South Asia.

“In the early days, people were seeing patterns that were not really there,” said Ashish Jha, professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “They were saying that Africa would be spared. But this is a highly idiosyncratic virus, and over time the idiosyncrasy goes away. There is no natural immunity.”

The pandemic’s new direction — away from Western countries — is bad news for strongmen and populists who once reaped political points by vaunting low infection rates as evidence of the virtues of their leadership.

In Egypt, for example, where the rate of new confirmed infections doubled last week, the pandemic has created friction between President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and doctors who have revolted over a lack of protective equipment and training.

And in Brazil, the total death toll surpassed 32,000 on Thursday, with 1,349 deaths in a single day, dealing a further blow to President Jair Bolsonaro, who has continued to minimize the threat.

In other developments:

  • South Korea reported 39 new cases on Friday. Most were in and around Seoul, where a recent wave of infections has been traced to nightclubs and an e-commerce warehouse.

  • Thousands of people in Hong Kong flouted social distancing rules on Thursday as they gathered to memorialize the Tiananmen Square massacre.

  • The European Central Bank said it would step up its bond purchases by another 600 billion euros, to a total of 1.35 trillion euros.

  • Germany announced a package of tax cuts and other measures worth 130 billion euros.

  • Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, was suspended after a lawmaker said he had tested positive for the virus.

Two major Covid-19 studies are retracted after scientists sound alarms.

Credit…George Frey/Reuters

The studies, published in The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine in May, had produced astounding results and altered the course of research into the pandemic.

The Lancet paper reported dismal findings about the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients. It led to the suspension of some clinical trials of the medications, including by the World Health Organization. (Some have since resumed.)

President Trump has repeatedly promoted hydroxychloroquine despite the lack of evidence that it works against the virus. His endorsement had the effect of politicizing scientific questions that normally would have been left to dispassionate researchers.

The Lancet paper, which was purportedly based on data from a huge, privately held registry of patient records from hundreds of hospitals around the world, had concluded that the anti-malaria drugs were associated with dramatically higher rates of heart arrhythmias and deaths in Covid-19 patients. The database belonged to a company called Surgisphere, which is owned by Dr. Sapan Desai, one of the four co-authors.

The other three co-authors, including Dr. Mandeep R. Mehra, a professor at Harvard Medical School, retracted the article on Thursday after their attempts to verify the database’s veracity and authenticity were stymied by Dr. Desai.

Later on Thursday, The New England Journal of Medicine retracted a heart study that was published in May by the same authors, using data from the same registry. That study was said to analyze 8,910 Covid-19 patients hospitalized through mid-March at 169 medical centers in Asia, Europe and North America. The authors concluded that cardiovascular disease increased their risk of dying.

“Because all the authors were not granted access to the raw data and the raw data could not be made available to a third-party auditor, we are unable to validate the primary data sources underlying our article,” the authors wrote in the retraction of the study.

U.S. orders states to report demographic data on the virus.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The Trump administration on Thursday released new requirements for states to report coronavirus data based on race, ethnicity, age and sex of individuals tested for the virus, in an effort to respond to demands from lawmakers for a better picture of the pandemic.

All laboratories will be required to send demographic data to state or local public health departments based on the individual’s residence, according to details released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, faced a barrage of questions on Thursday from House lawmakers at a health subcommittee hearing about his agency’s often halting response to the pandemic, and what some members of Congress said was its failure to anticipate the pandemic’s effect on black and Hispanic communities.

“We didn’t have the data we needed to be able to answer that in a responsive way,” Dr. Redfield conceded.

Public health experts have criticized the Trump administration for failing to address the disproportionate effects of the virus on communities of color. The questioning came as large protests continued across the United States over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died last week in police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Here’s what else happened in the United States on Thursday:

  • Stocks on Wall Street inched lower, in a small retreat after days of back-to-back gains. The drop came after the U.S. government said the overall number of workers on state jobless rolls had increased last week, signaling continued strain on the economy even as some businesses reopen.

  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily suspended a trial judge’s rulings requiring the Trump administration to move more than 800 older or medically vulnerable inmates out of an Ohio prison where nine prisoners have died from the virus. An appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Friday.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that the city could begin a second phase of reopening “as early as the beginning of July,” in which offices, stores and personal-service businesses like barber shops could reopen with restrictions.

  • The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, told House lawmakers that the federal government and state health departments needed to dramatically increase the number of tracers working to identify who those infected by the coronavirus had come in contact with. He said that up to 100,000 would be needed by September.

  • A U.S. federal appeals court sided with Texas Republicans in their legal battle to restrict voting by mail during the pandemic, striking down a lower-court ruling that would have allowed voters who fear contracting the virus to cast ballots by mail instead of in person.

Overusing antibiotics early in the pandemic could spur resistance to lifesaving drugs.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The patients who deluged the emergency room at Detroit Medical Center in March and April exhibited telltale symptoms of the coronavirus: high fevers and infection-riddled lungs that left them gasping for air.

With few treatment options, doctors turned to a familiar intervention: broad-spectrum antibiotics, the shot-in-the dark medications often used against bacterial infections that cannot be immediately identified. They knew antibiotics were not effective against viruses, but they feared the patients could be vulnerable to life-threatening secondary bacterial infections.

“During the peak surge, our antibiotic use was off the charts,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the hospital’s director of epidemiology and antibiotic stewardship. She and other doctors across the United States who liberally dispensed antibiotics in the early weeks of the pandemic said they soon realized their mistake.

Now, doctors nationwide are seeking to draw lessons from their overuse of antibiotics, a practice that can spur resistance to lifesaving drugs as bacteria mutate and outsmart the drugs. Antimicrobial resistance is a mounting threat that claims 700,000 lives annually — a global health crisis that has been playing out in slow motion behind the scenes while the coronavirus took center stage.

In recent weeks, public health experts have been warning that the same government inaction that helped foster the rapid spread of the coronavirus could spur an even deadlier epidemic of drug-resistant infections. The United Nations warns such an epidemic could kill 10 million by 2050 if serious action is not taken.

The pipeline for new antimicrobial drugs has become perilously dry. Over the past year, three American antibiotic developers with promising drugs have gone out of business, and most of the world’s pharmaceutical giants have abandoned the field.

Legislation in Congress to address the broken antibiotics marketplace has failed to gain traction in recent years, but public health experts are hoping the coronavirus pandemic can help break the political logjam in Washington.

Thanks to a virus lockdown, elephants are roaming freely in a Thai national park.

Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Pandemic lockdowns have given nature a breather around the world, bringing animals to unexpected places. Cougars toured the deserted streets of Santiago, the Chilean capital. Wild boars have strolled through the lanes of Haifa, Israel. Fish catches off Vietnam are teeming again.

In Thailand, Khao Yai National Park, the country’s oldest, has been closed to human visitors for the first time since it opened in 1962. The upshot? Its 300 or so elephants have been able to roam freely, venturing onto paths once packed with humans.

With few cars around, the elephants, the park’s dominant species, stroll along roads, chomping on foliage without needing to retreat to dangerous corners of the forest where cliffs meet waterfalls. Rarely spotted animals, like the Asian black bear or the gaur, the world’s largest bovine, have emerged, too.

“The park has been able to restore itself,” said Chananya Kanchanasaka, a national park department veterinarian. “We are excited to see the animals are coming out.”

The reprieve is notable in part because Thailand is a country where the bond with nature has long been framed as one of domination — as the jungle consuming people or vice versa.

Beyond the pillaging of its own rainforests, Thailand is a key way station on global wildlife trafficking routes, with horns, tusks and scales from as far away as Africa making their way to China.

For the deaf, social distancing can mean social isolation.

Credit…Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Grace Cogan, who is deaf and lives in Jamesville, N.Y., experiences feelings of anxiety when shopping because masks prevent her from effectively communicating, leaving her to rely on eyes and the slant of eyebrows to understand others. So her boyfriend now does most of the shopping.

“This pandemic has really further divided the inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing community from the hearing world, or in other words, isolated us even more,” she said.

Sign language interpreters are among a growing group of essential workers, often called on to stand beside officials communicating vital information on television and in internet livestreams. But they are not everywhere.

Roberta J. Cordano, president of Gallaudet University, a liberal arts university for the deaf in Washington, said, “The ‘two adults, six feet apart’ standard carries its own inherent bias, assuming all those social distancing are the same: that they are hearing, seeing and without any need of support.”

Ashlea Hayes, who is deaf and blind and who works as the secretary of National Black Deaf Advocates, lives in Compton, Calif., where she usually does most of her food shopping herself. But lately she has become more reliant on delivery services, and, unable to visit with and touch friends and colleagues, she said her anxiety has been spiking.

“The sense of panic everywhere is overwhelming.” Ms. Hayes said.

If AstraZeneca’s vaccine is approved, an Indian manufacturer has agreed to make at least a billion doses.

Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Britain-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Thursday that it had struck a deal with a vaccine manufacturing giant, Serum Institute of India, to produce a billion doses of a potential virus vaccine for distribution to low and middle income countries.

The potential vaccine, devised in a laboratory at Oxford, is one of several candidates now in clinical trials and has not been proven effective. But governments and nonprofit foundations are risking hundreds of millions of dollars to arrange for the production of large volumes of several potential vaccines, including AstraZeneca’s, so that any that are approved can be rapidly distributed.

Should its vaccine be proven effective, AstraZeneca has now secured the capacity to manufacture as many as two billion doses by next year, the company said. If the current trials succeed, the vaccine might be approved for emergency use in the United States and elsewhere as soon as this fall.

AstraZeneca said that two nonprofit organizations had agreed to pay $750 million for the manufacturing and procurement of 300 million doses by the end of this year. They are the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, a relatively new Norway-based public-private partnership, and the older Geneva-based Gavi vaccine alliance. Both receive funding from several Western governments as well as from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay for the production of as many as 300 million doses, and Britain has agreed to pay for as many as 100 million.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said in a video conference that during the pandemic, the company would distribute the vaccine “at no profit” and allow governments and donors to audit its finances to ensure that it was not profiting off the vaccine.

“We don’t usually do this,” he added. “It is quite a unique process.”

As New York City plans its reopening, new clusters emerge across the U.S.

Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said on Thursday that the city could begin a second phase of reopening “as early as the beginning of July,” in which offices, stores and personal-service businesses like barber shops could reopen with restrictions, and restaurants could offer outdoor dining.

The city has yet to start reopening at all, but the mayor has reiterated that the city was on track to begin the first phase on Monday. Under state guidelines, regions in Phase 1 that continue to meet health-related benchmarks can enter Phase 2 after two weeks.

After seven days of crowded, mostly peaceful protests against racism and police brutality in New York City, the governor said that the state’s testing criteria were being expanded to include anyone who had participated in the protests and encouraged people to tested. The city announced universal testing earlier this week.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also said that demonstrators should inform others that they had been to a protest and to behave as if they had been exposed. Statewide, there were an additional 52 virus-related deaths, he said. Nine counties ringing the city are expected to enter Phase 2 next week, he said, and the state is allowing drive-in and drive-through graduations.

As more Americans return to offices and stores after months stuck indoors, new coronavirus clusters continue to emerge and the national caseload is approaching two million. Here’s a look around the country:

  • In Las Vegas several casinos reopened on Thursday, with the Bellagio reactivating its fountain and many welcoming gamblers back with social distancing and temperature screening measures put in place.

  • In northeastern Mississippi, a recent funeral spread the virus to at least nine people, some of whom were from other states. In Arkansas, at least 35 people at a factory that makes boots became ill. And in Kansas City, Mo., health officials announced a cluster this week of more than 200 employees at a facility that makes paper plates and cups.

  • Most of the largest case groupings remain in nursing homes, prisons and food processing facilities, all places where social distancing is difficult. But as more of the country reopens, and as testing and contact tracing capabilities expand, outbreaks are emerging in new settings.

  • At least 26 workers on a construction site in Augusta, Maine, tested positive, along with at least 24 people at a Walmart distribution center in Colorado and at least 16 at a convenience store in Kansas.

  • In New Jersey, breweries and wineries can resume offering outdoor tastings on June 15, the date that restaurants and bars had already been cleared to reopen for outdoor dining, the governor said.

The N.B.A. owners approve a plan to restart the season in July, a key step.

N.B.A. owners on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the league’s plan to restart the season with 22 teams at Walt Disney World in Florida in July, according to a person familiar with the voting results.

The single-site proposal was ratified by a vote of 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazers as the sole opposition, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the results publicly. According to league rules, 23 votes in favor from the 30 teams were required to pass the measure put forth by the N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver.

The N.B.A. would be among the largest and most-watched North American sports leagues to return, following announcements that the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League would resume play in the summer. The voting results were first reported by The Athletic.

The N.B.A.’s return-to-play plan, approved on what would have been the first day of the finals for this season, will next be reviewed by the National Basketball Players Association, which has scheduled a virtual meeting with its membership Friday afternoon, according to three people with knowledge of the timetable who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear whether the players would be asked to formally vote on the proposal, but the league is hopeful that the close working relationship Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul, the union president, maintains with Silver is indicative of the players’ eventual approval.

Despite the virus, hundreds jailed in N.Y.C. are held in cramped cells.

Video

transcript

‘The Protesters Have a Civic Duty,’ Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged protesters to get tested for coronavirus, saying the state will expand its testing facilities to meet the demand.

You have 30,000 people who’ve been protesting statewide. You look at the video as far — as well as I look at the video. Many of them wear masks. Thank God. But there’s no social distancing. You look at the encounters with the police. The police are right in their face. They’re right in the face of the police. Twenty thousand protesters in New York City, 1,000 protesters on Long Island. These are big numbers. And yes, they’re young people and they’re superheroes, and nothing can affect me. We’re going to open the testing facilities for all people who are at a protest. The protesters have a civic duty here also. Be responsible. Get a test. Go to the website. Find out the testing site nearest you. We have 700 in this state. You can get a test — get a test.

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged protesters to get tested for coronavirus, saying the state will expand its testing facilities to meet the demand.CreditCredit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Hundreds of people arrested in New York City since the police killing of George Floyd last week have been detained in cramped cells for more than 24 hours before seeing a judge, sometimes without masks, their health at risk in the midst of a pandemic, defense lawyers said.

The Legal Aid Society charged in a lawsuit this week that the prolonged detention of defendants — some arrested while looting, others while clashing with the police during largely peaceful demonstrations against racism and police brutality — violated state law and their constitutional rights.

Clarence Johnson, a 24-year-old chef from Harlem arrested on unlawful assembly charges at a protest in Manhattan on Monday, said he was held in a cell with about 30 people spaced only about two feet apart, a clogged toilet, no soap and no working sink.

Some detainees were coughing and others seemed sickly, he said. Mr. Johnson said that his brother, who was arrested with him, still had not seen a judge as of Wednesday evening.

Law enforcement authorities say they are trying to process people quickly but face logistical hurdles because of the virus shutdown and the number of arrests.

But public defenders say the police have clogged up the system by putting people through the courts who should have instead received summonses for minor offenses during the protests.

On Thursday, Justice James M. Burke of State Supreme Court in Manhattan denied Legal Aid’s demand that the city release people held for more than a day, noting the Police Department was coping with widespread civil unrest during a pandemic. “It is a crisis within a crisis,” Justice Burke said. “All writs are denied.”

Mr. Floyd himself had the virus in early April, nearly two months before his death, according to an official autopsy released in Minnesota on Wednesday. There is no indication that the virus played any role in his death, and the Hennepin County medical examiner said Mr. Floyd was likely asymptomatic at the time of his death.

Reporting was contributed by Rachel Abrams, Manuela Andreoni, Hannah Beech, Aurelien Breeden, Brian X. Chen, Michael Cooper, Maria Cramer, Melissa Eddy, Jack Ewing, Farnaz Fassihi, Jacey Fortin, Ellen Gabler, Rick Gladstone, David M. Halbfinger, Jack Healy, Tiffany Hsu, Mike Ives, Andrew Jacobs, Joshua Keller, Michael H. Keller, Tyler Kepner, David D. Kirkpatrick, Alyson Kreuger, José María León Cabrera, Adam Liptak, Anatol Magdziarz, Iliana Magra, Apoorva Mandavilli, Raphael Minder, Andy Newman, Elisabetta Povoledo, Roni Caryn Rabin, Jan Ransom, Adam Rasgon, Nada Rashwan, Luis Ferré Sadurní, Dagny Salas, Nelson D. Schwartz, Kaly Soto, Marc Stein, Eileen Sullivan, Mitra Taj, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Safak Timur, Declan Walsh, Noah Weiland and Karen Zraick.

Source: | Nytimes

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