Global Coronavirus News: Live Coverage and Updates


Three more weeks of lockdown for Britain.

Britain confirmed on Thursday that it would prolong its coronavirus lockdown for at least three more weeks. But the government shed little light on how it might eventually relax restrictions without causing another surge in infections.

The widely expected extension was announced by Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary. Mr. Raab has assumed the duties of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is recuperating from the virus at his country residence, Chequers.

“We’re now at both a delicate and dangerous phase in this pandemic,” Mr. Raab said at a news conference. Lifting the lockdown, he said, would “risk all the progress we’ve made.”

“Now is not the moment to give the coronavirus a second chance,” he said.

Relaxing the restrictions would not only raise the risk of new outbreak, Mr. Raab said, it would also damage the economy. The government would then probably be forced to impose a second lockdown, he said, which might shatter confidence.

The restrictions will now last at least until the second week of May.

Mr. Raab set out five prerequisites for easing restrictions. They included a “sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates,” confidence that hospitals could cope with the flow of patients, more capacity for testing, more protective equipment, and a judgment, made with the advice of government health experts, that there would not be a second wave of infections.

With 861 new deaths announced on Thursday — 100 more than the day before — along with complaints about a lack of masks and gloves, and a major shortfall in testing, Britain appears far from meeting three of those prerequisites. Only the hospitals, with a small decline in the number of coronavirus patients and a growing number of beds, are a bright spot.

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil on Thursday fired his health minister after a disagreement over how tough lockdown measures should be.

Mr. Bolsonaro had repeatedly butted heads with the minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who pushed for strict social isolation guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who has played down the gravity of the pandemic, favors keeping older people at home while allowing younger Brazilians to continue to work and move around with relative ease. He has warned that severe restrictions could mean widespread job losses.

Mr. Bolsonaro and Mr. Mandetta also sparred over a malaria drug being studied as a treatment for some coronavirus patients. Mr. Bolsonaro has portrayed the drug as a reliable cure, but Mr. Mandetta has been far more cautious.

Their disagreements, which played out publicly in recent weeks, left Brazilians with conflicting messages from the federal government.

Most governors have sided with Mr. Mandetta. Starting in mid-March, they ordered business shutdowns, curtailed public transportation and urged people to stay at home to the extent possible. Those measures have also put Brazil on track to shed millions of jobs and enter into a deep recession.

“The medicine to treat the patient cannot have collateral effects that are more severe than the illness,” Mr. Bolsonaro said.

Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, called Mr. Mandetta’s dismissal an “incredibly irresponsible decision” and speculated that it was driven by the minister’s growing popularity as he publicly confronted his boss. “The president’s ego couldn’t handle it,” Mr. Bremmer wrote on Twitter.

In a televised address Thursday night, Mr. Bolsonaro called Mr. Mandetta’s departure a “consensual divorce.” As the president spoke, Brazilians in several cities took to their windows to bang pots in protest and cry, “Out with Bolsonaro!”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Brazil had recorded 1,924 coronavirus deaths and more than 30,400 diagnosed cases.

Mr. Mandetta, a center-right lawmaker, saw his popularity soar as he presided over daily press conferences. His steady style provided a sharp contrast to Mr. Bolsonaro’s tempestuous handling of the crisis. The president has spoken flippantly about the pandemic, saying that Brazilians would not catch he disease because they can be dunked in raw sewage “and don’t catch anything.”

Mr. Bolsonaro appointed a Rio de Janeiro oncologist, Nelson Teich, to head the health ministry. Appearing alongside Mr. Bolsonaro, the new minister said: “Health and the economy don’t compete against each other, they are complementary. Here everything will be handled in a technical and scientific way.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, bowing before the accelerating advance of the coronavirus across the country, announced on Thursday that he had ordered the postponement of a military parade and flag-waving celebrations marking the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

In a somber address on state television, Mr. Putin said the Victory Day events, which had been scheduled for May 9, would have to be put off because the “risks associated with the epidemic, whose peak has not passed yet, are extremely high.”

The decision to delay the Red Square parade and other events is the second time that the pandemic has disrupted the Kremlin’s plans in a serious way. Mr. Putin last month postponed a referendum on constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in office until 2036.

Until Thursday, Mr. Putin had procrastinated on delaying the Red Square parade and other Victory Day festivities, including marches by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens in Moscow and cities across the country who lost relatives in World War II.

Russia has far fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than the United States and other hard-hit countries, but an ever-rising number of new infections each day dashed hopes that Victory Day, described by Mr. Putin as “our most sacred and main national celebration,” could perhaps proceed as planned.

The decision delays a centerpiece of Mr. Putin’s 20-year-rule: an enormous annual display of military might and patriotic pride intended to showcase both Russia’s past triumphs and its current revival as a great power.

In a replay of Soviet-style methods of preparing the public for bad news, Mr. Putin’s announcement followed a joint statement issued this week by veterans’ groups across the country asking the Kremlin to delay the parade, allowing Mr. Putin to cast the postponement as a response to the public will.

The deaths of 31 people, at least five of whom had the coronavirus, in less than a month at a Canadian nursing home has emerged as the latest painful reminder that long-term care centers are among the places most vulnerable to the pandemic.

The deaths were discovered late last week at Résidence Herron, a private home for seniors in Montreal, after local health authorities, alarmed by staff shortages and the virus’s spread within the home, took control of the residence.

They found dehydrated residents lying listless in bed, unfed for days, with excrement seeping out of their diapers.

“I’d never seen anything like it in my 32-year nursing career,” said Loredana Mule, a nurse on the team. “It was horrific — there wasn’t enough food to feed people, the stench could’ve killed a horse.”

After she left the home, she said, she collapsed in her car and wept.

Ms. Mule said a skeleton staff of two nurses had been left to care for a private residence, which has nearly 150 beds. The remaining staff had fled amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, leaving patients, some paralyzed or with other chronic illnesses, to fend for themselves.

The Montreal police, Quebec’s health ministry and the provincial coroner’s office have begun investigations into the home.

No other Canadian province has been hit harder by the virus than Quebec, which has 15,857 cases and 630 people dead. Health officials say retirement homes account for roughly half the province’s death toll.

In the United States, 17 bodies were recently discovered at a long-term care facility in New Jersey. Among 68 recent deaths linked to the residence, 26 of the victims had tested positive for the virus.

The phenomenon has been seen across Europe, as well. In Spain, soldiers sent to disinfect nursing homes found people abandoned, or even dead, in their beds. Italy, Britain and France have acknowledged that their official statistics have overlooked many virus-related deaths in long-term care facilities.

But in a politically fragmented society, the confusion has led to recrimination and sinister claims, with opposition politicians accusing the fragile coalition government of covering up the real numbers.

“Spaniards deserve a government that doesn’t lie to them,” said Pablo Casado, the leader of the opposition Popular Party.

Speaking in Parliament last week, Mr. Casado addressed a direct challenge to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez: “Tell us if it is true that the real number of victims could double the official figures.”

Officially, Spain’s death toll, which is among the world’s highest, is closing in on 20,000. But there is evidence that it could be far higher, with many deaths — especially those in nursing homes — not properly classified as stemming from the coronavirus.

Mr. Sánchez and other officials have rejected accusations that they intentionally underreported fatalities tied to the coronavirus, but the authorities have begun trying again to measure the losses.

A late-night Twitter post by the United States ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, on Thursday trumpeted $5 million being provided “for Palestinian hospitals and households to meet immediate, lifesaving needs in combating Covid-19.”

It seemed, at first blush, like a possible reversal in the Trump administration’s longstanding policy of cutting off the spigot of cash to the Palestinians.

Since Mr. Trump took office, the U.S. has eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly aid to the United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees, sharply cut funding to the Palestinian Authority and killed a $25 million yearly grant to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network.

But any suggestion that the administration’s stance toward the Palestinians could be thawing was a misreading.

Palestinian officials said that their policy of having no contact with the Trump administration remained in force and that they expected the money would be doled out through nongovernmental organizations the Trump administration has not assailed. And a United States Embassy official said the aid would not “prejudge future decisions” about American assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Trump administration provided no detail on where exactly the money would end up or how, other than that it would be spent on the West Bank, not Gaza.

And the aid announced Thursday is also considerably less than the $75 million Congressional leaders agreed in December to allocate for civilian and humanitarian programs and institutions not linked to the Palestinian Authority.

Walid Nammour, chief executive of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which has been racing to build wards and acquire ventilators to treat a surge of coronavirus patients, said the $5 million amount was so paltry as to be “humiliating.”

“This is really lip service,” he said.

“We’ve missed $75 million over the past three years,” Mr. Nammour added, citing the annual American aid the hospitals network received from 2012 until Mr. Trump took office. “This is too little, too late.”

Behind on testing, Britain took a gamble — and lost.

Heavily criticized for its slow response to the coronavirus the British government attempted a leap forward last month, buying millions of unproven test kits at high prices.

They didn’t work.

The episode illustrates both the price Britain has paid for being less prepared than some of its peers, and the heated competition among nations to buy gear that is in short supply.

Britain, like the United States, was slow to test for the virus in large numbers, and still trails many of its peers; while Germany conducts 50,000 tests daily, Britain does fewer than 20,000.

By the time Britain began pushing hard to expand testing, it trailed in the competition to buy the limited supply of compounds, tubes and swabs needed for the tests.

So last month, Britain bought a different kind of test: not one for the virus, to tell who is currently infected, but a test for antibodies produced by the immune system, to tell who has been infected. They paid at least $20 million for 2 million kits from two Chinese companies, and paid similar prices for 1.5 million from other sources.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “it has the potential to be a total game changer.”

But tests at Oxford University showed the tests were unreliable, and most of them went unused.

There was no widely available antibody test, to identify those who had the virus and recovered, and, hopefully, were immune to the virus. Officials hoped it would be a crucial tool in determining who could safely return to work.

But an antibody test would not be very useful in meeting the most pressing need: identifying the infected who are spreading the virus. It takes several days or longer for the body to produce antibodies.

British officials said they are trying to get their money back.

But a review of the W.H.O.’s record shows that while it made mistakes, it has responded to the coronavirus better than it has to previous diseases, and better than many national governments.

Mr. Trump and some of his aides contend that China concealed the true extent of its initial outbreak, and that the W.H.O. accepted and repeated China’s descriptions, contributing to other countries’ being ill prepared.

Experts say there was some truth to that in the first weeks of the epidemic, and it contributed to a decision by the W.H.O., always reluctant to criticize a member country, to delay a declaration of global emergency by a week. But it had little to do with the lack of preparation in the West.

By late January, when China’s central government had swung into action, locking down tens of millions of people and accusing local officials of hiding the truth, there was no mistaking that there was a major crisis.

After China began its pivot, W.H.O. officials repeatedly warned the rest of the world to take the coronavirus seriously and prepare for social distancing, extensive testing, isolation of the sick and contact tracing — warnings that were heeded spottily, at best.

For weeks after China’s shift and the W.H.O.’s warnings, Mr. Trump continued to downplay the seriousness of the virus and the need for social distancing.

The most important preparedness gap in the United States was the long delay in developing, mass-producing and widely distributing coronavirus testing kits. That had nothing to do with the W.H.O., but instead stemmed from repeated American stumbles.

Greece will move 2,380 of the most vulnerable asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Aegean Islands to less cramped facilities on the mainland to curb the risk of a coronavirus outbreak, the government said on Thursday.

The relocation of the migrants — notably those with chronic health problems and the elderly, along with their relatives — will begin immediately after Greek Orthodox Easter this weekend and is expected to take two weeks, the Migration Ministry said. Some will be moved to migrant centers on the mainland, while others will be kept at hotels and apartments.

“The aim of the measure is to further reduce the risk posed by the possible outbreak at a state reception facility,” the ministry said, referring to the Aegean Island camps that rights groups have long deplored as substandard and unsanitary.

There have been no reports of confirmed coronavirus infections in any of the island camps, which host around 40,000 of the nearly 100,000 migrants currently in Greece. Two reception facilities on the mainland have been quarantined after outbreaks there.

The transfer of some 1,600 unaccompanied refugee minors from camps in Greece to other European Union countries is already underway. Luxembourg received 12 children and Germany, which is to take in 58 on Saturday, has said it will host up to 500. France, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland, Croatia and Lithuania have also pledged to help.

There are 5,200 unaccompanied children from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and African countries living in Greek migrant camps.

On Wednesday, when he watched the first group board a flight to Luxembourg, George Koumoutsakos, deputy migration minister, said it was just “a beginning, a show of tangible solidarity.”

“It sets an example for other bigger, more powerful countries with bigger populations,” he said.

Early research on underlying health conditions associated with the coronavirus has highlighted that obesity appears to be one of the most important predictors of severe illness, but asthma does not.

New studies point to obesity as the second-most significant risk factor, after only older age, for patients being hospitalized with Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. Young adults with obesity appear to be at particular risk, studies show.

The research is preliminary, and not peer reviewed, but it buttresses anecdotal reports from doctors who say they have been struck by how many seriously ill younger patients of theirs with obesity are otherwise healthy.

For people with asthma, the outbreak of a disease that can lead to respiratory failure was particularly worrisome. Many health organizations have cautioned that asthmatics are most likely at higher risk for severe illness if they get the virus.

But data released this month by New York State shows that only about five percent of Covid-19 deaths in New York were of people who were known to have asthma. Nearly eight percent of the U.S. population — close to 25 million people — has asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research into the effects of asthma at this early stage is minimal and not always consistent. A recent commentary published in Lancet by a group of European researchers called it “striking” that asthma appeared to be underrepresented as a secondary health problem associated with Covid-19, and anecdotal evidence supports that observation.

“We’re not seeing a lot of patients with asthma,” said Dr. Bushra Mina, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, which has treated more than 800 cases. The more common risk factors, he added, are “morbid obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease.”

Lines of cars stretch for miles to pick up groceries from a food pantry; jobless workers spend days trying to file for unemployment benefits; renters and homeowners plead with landlords and mortgage bankers for extensions; and outside hospitals, ill patients line up overnight to wait for virus testing.

In a United States economy that has been hailed for its record-shattering successes, the most basic necessities — food, shelter and medical care — are all suddenly at risk because of the pandemic.

The latest crisis has played out in sobering economic data and bleak headlines — most recently on Thursday, when the Labor Department said 5.2 million workers filed last week for unemployment benefits.

That brought the four-week total to 22 million, roughly the net number of jobs created in a nine-and-a-half-year stretch that ended with the pandemic’s arrival.

Well before the coronavirus established a foothold, the American economy had been playing out on a split screen.

On one were impressive achievements: the lowest jobless rate in half a century, a soaring stock market and the longest expansion on record.

On the other, a very different story of stinging economic weaknesses unfolded. Years of limp wage growth left workers struggling to afford essentials. Irregular work schedules caused weekly paychecks to surge and dip unpredictably. Job-based benefits were threadbare or nonexistent. In this economy, four of 10 adults don’t have the resources on hand to cover an unplanned $400 expense.

More than two dozen Kenyans held in quarantine on the Kenyatta University campus in the capital, Nairobi, have protested over being held for long periods even after testing negative for the coronavirus and finishing 14-day quarantines.

Some said they were presented with bills in order to be allowed to check out. On social media, those in quarantine posted about being threatened when they complained and about feeling hungry and experiencing anxiety attacks.

The protests at the university dormitory on Wednesday came days after more 30 people escaped another quarantine facility in the country’s northeast. Officials said police officers had colluded to sneak the individuals out of the facility.

Kenya’s government, facing criticism for mishandling quarantine measures, has yet to explain why people in quarantine were being asked to pay or were held in isolation for longer periods. The government has also been accused of charging poor workers staying in isolation units and holding individuals in conditions they say caused them mental anguish.

From the outset, many of those placed into mandatory quarantine complained of mismanagement, lack of information and the poor state of isolation centers.

Travelers who returned to the country in late March before the suspension of international flights were among those being held. Passengers who could pay at the time were taken to hotels, while those who couldn’t were ordered to university dormitories or government facilities.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said on Thursday that he would declare a national emergency, calling for measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus before a weeklong holiday that is a popular travel period.

Mr. Abe had previously declared a state of emergency in seven of the country’s 47 prefectures, including its largest metropolitan areas, calling for an 80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact. Some areas were left off that list, despite having high caseloads, leading several governors to impose their own emergency measures.

The national declaration will give governors the authority to call on businesses to close and residents to stay inside. They will, however, have no power to enforce the requests.

Japanese lawmakers have so far declined to issue the kinds of mandatory lockdowns put in place in China, Europe and the United States, with some arguing that the country’s Constitution prohibits such measures. Instead, officials have been put in the position of pleading for voluntary compliance.

Experts warn that during the holiday period known as Golden Week, starting April 29, people could spread the pathogen to previously unaffected areas, overwhelming their medical systems.

“As a way to prevent the illness from becoming rampant, I am requesting that governors urge residents to absolutely avoid unnecessary visits to family, travel and movement across regional borders,” Mr. Abe said after meeting with a special advisory group.

He said that the nation would provide individuals with cash payments of 100,000 yen, nearly $1,000, to alleviate economic hardship.

In the last month, Japan has seen a sharp rise in confirmed infections, to more than 8,000. The numbers remain low compared with many countries, but health experts fear that failure to take timely precautions could lead to a sudden jump.

Mr. Abe has come under heavy criticism for his inconsistent approach, taking dramatic actions like calling for all schools to close without first consulting experts, then seemingly hanging back as the outbreak worsened.

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages many countries, China’s success in curbing its own epidemic is giving rise to an increasingly strident blend of patriotism, nationalism and xenophobia, at a pitch many say has not been seen in decades.

A restaurant in northern China put up a banner celebrating the virus’s spread in the United States. A widely circulated cartoon showed foreigners being sorted into trash bins. In Beijing and Shanghai, foreigners have been barred from some shops and gyms.

Perhaps nowhere has xenophobia manifested itself more strongly than in the southern city of Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub with a large African population. After five Nigerians there tested positive for the virus, African residents reported being evicted from their homes and hotels.

They have also been ordered to undergo 14-day quarantines at their own expense, even if they have no recent travel history or have already tested negative. Images shared on social media showed black people forced to sleep on a sidewalk, and a sign banning black people from a McDonald’s.

Some of the uglier manifestations of nationalism have been fueled by government propaganda, which has pointed to China’s response to the virus as evidence of the governing Communist Party’s superiority.

Separately on Wednesday, China began a nationwide study of asymptomatic coronavirus carriers as numbers showed that many people who tested positive for the virus did not develop symptoms.

CCTV, the state broadcaster, also reported that a study of asymptomatic carriers was underway in 10 cities, including Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. “The aim of the blood tests is to determine whether there are antibodies for the virus inside the body,” Ding Gangqiang, an official at China’s Center for Disease Control, said on state television.

Singapore announced a record jump in coronavirus cases on Wednesday evening, with most of the 447 new confirmed cases coming from crowded dormitories for migrant laborers.

While Singapore has been lauded for its rigorous contact-tracing program, which quickly identified clusters of local transmission, the coronavirus spread quickly through residences for migrant laborers, where up to 20 people are crammed in each room with shared kitchens and bathrooms.

Nearly half of Singapore’s roughly 3,700 coronavirus cases are among low-wage migrant workers, who have built the gleaming, modern city-state. About 200,000 such workers, many from India and Bangladesh, have been quarantined to their dormitories, with healthy residents gradually being transferred to other housing to prevent community transmission.

After weeks of slow transmission, Singapore began recording a rapid rise in cases in March, as travelers from Europe and the United States brought the virus with them. But no imported cases have been recorded for nearly a week.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus among foreign laborer communities has prompted the Singaporean government to vow changes in the way migrants are treated, even if the dormitories met standards set by the International Labor Organization.

“In terms of living conditions for foreign workers, collectively many of us were blind to this, and this has to change,” said Teo Yik Ying, the dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore. “But in Singapore, it will change because we are committed to learning lessons from every epidemic.”

A Chilean bishop died after attending a large gathering of pastors.

An Evangelical bishop in Chile who attended a large gathering of clergymen in mid-March as stricter social distancing rules were about to be imposed died Tuesday of the coronavirus, his church said.

Bishop Mario Salfate Chacana, 67, a senior Pentecostal leader, had been hospitalized since March 23, when he tested positive for the virus. He was one of four preachers who tested positive for the virus after attending a gathering of 300 evangelical leaders on March 16 in Paine, a small city on the outskirts of Santiago.

Shortly before the service was held, Chile’s government shut down its borders and announced several measures to slow the spread of the virus. They included a ban on public gatherings of more than 200 people.

In a statement, Chile’s Methodist Pentecostal Church described Bishop Chacana as a “man of God” who served his congregation with “diligence.”

As of Thursday morning, Chile had 8,273 confirmed coronavirus cases and 94 deaths.

Some Evangelical pastors in Latin America have denounced lockdown measures that impede church services, calling them an infringement of religious freedom. In Chile, prosecutors opened an investigation after learning that an Evangelical pastor who tested positive for the virus held Mass on April 4.

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, extended a “heartfelt apology” to Italy on behalf of Europe for not supporting it enough at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ms. von der Leyen said that “too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand at the very beginning.” Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister, said Ms. von der Leyen’s apology was “an important act of truth.”

With almost 169,000 confirmed infections and more than 22,000 deaths, Italy has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. The European Union countries were slow in responding to a request for medical equipment issued by Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister. In addition, several countries initially blocked exports of medical and personal protective equipment until they could take stock of their supply, to avoid shortages of their own.

Ms. von der Leyen said that since then, Europe has changed its behavior and became “the world’s beating heart of solidarity,” pointing to joint efforts to share medical equipment and medical teams, including doctors from Romania working in Italy and ventilators from Germany being sent to Spain.

But Italy and Spain, the worst hit southern European countries, have repeatedly said that the lack of European solidarity extends to the financial response by the European Union, which is led by the northern wealthier nations and has rejected calls for the issuance of joint debt.

As Britain claps for health care workers, an anti-xenophobia video resonates.

As Britain prepared on Thursday for its weekly applause session to show support for the National Health Service, a video of immigrant workers and others reciting an antiracist poem is circulating on social media as a powerful plea for tolerance.

The poem, titled “You Clap for Me Now” and written by Darren James Smith, begins by addressing xenophobia and nods to the Brexit campaign that tapped into some Britons’ fears of outsiders flooding the job market.

The threat, the poem reveals, is the coronavirus — not the immigrant workers who have become essential to treating patients and keeping the economy running during the pandemic.

“Don’t say go home. Don’t say not here. You know how it feels for home to be a prison. You know how it feels to live in fear,” workers recite.

Sachini Imbuldeniya, the video’s producer, told The Guardian on Wednesday that she knew immediately on reading the poem that its message had to be shared.

“We decided to turn it into a short and shareable video featuring a mixture of first-, second- and third-generation immigrants” living in Britain, she said.

The hashtag #YouClapForMeNow was trending on Twitter in Britain, and the video has been shared by thousands, including politicians, and viewed millions of times on social media.

“London would not be London without those who have chosen to make our city their home,” the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote on Twitter. “To everyone putting their lives on the line to keep us safe in the fight against COVID19: thank you.”

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua has reappeared after an unexplained 34-day absence from public view, giving no explanation for his prolonged disappearance.

The president had not spoken publicly since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, leading many Nicaraguans and international observers to wonder whether he was ill and in quarantine.

But Mr. Ortega looked well during a live televised speech Wednesday night, wearing his usual baseball cap and windbreaker, and flanked by his wife and several other officials. Many people took his appearance as a bid to quell rumors.

Nicaragua, a country of 6.4 million people, has been widely criticized for its unusually casual approach to the pandemic, leaving schools open and allowing large public events to take place. The government claims that only three people currently have Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, and only one has died from it.

The World Health Organization has said that it is worried about Nicaragua’s lack of social distancing, its sparse testing for the virus and its lack of contact tracing.

Mr. Ortega said on Wednesday that the contagion is a message from God.

“I am convinced that this pandemic, this virus that has multiplied throughout the planet, that there is no force that can block it, there is no barrier that can block it, there is no wall that can block it,” he said.

Mr. Ortega, a socialist, used his speech to take aim at a familiar target, the United States, and its handling of the coronavirus.

“Nicaraguans who have been deported tell about how they were caged, with no attention to their health,” he said. That is no surprise, he added, when the United States, for all its might, does not have the capacity to give answers to its own citizens.”

Australia will consider lifting some restrictions in four weeks if the number of new cases continues to drop and crucial public health benchmarks are met, officials said on Thursday.

Australia remains in “the suppression phase,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Before restrictions can ease, the country will need to extend surveillance measures, improve contact tracing and respond to local outbreaks faster, he said.

Research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine indicates that Australia has one of the best detection rates in the world, with 92 percent of all symptomatic cases identified, said Brendan Murphy, the chief medical officer of Australia. The rate of new daily cases has dropped in the country, but he cautioned that it was too soon to relax.

As of Thursday, the country has 6,457 reported cases and 63 people have died, with 42 on ventilators. More than half of those who have contracted the virus have recovered, Mr. Morrison said.

Economically, Australians would also need to prepare for some “very sobering news” in the months ahead, he added. “It will be a different world on the other side of the virus.”

Australia had previously enjoyed the world’s longest economic boom, with nearly three decades without a recession. Now, with the employment rate expected to double to 10 percent by the end of June, the government has approved $200 billion in stimulus measures.

Residents of a village in northern India attacked medical workers and police officers who were carrying out health screenings, officials said on Thursday.

Saurabh Jorawal, a local official in the state of Bihar, where the attack occurred, said that villagers in East Champaran threw stones at workers on Wednesday, injuring at least five people, some of them seriously.

“We sent in more police, and they arrested 44 people from the village,” Mr. Jorawal said.

As fears of a rapid viral spread rise in India, health care workers have reported being assaulted, spat at and threatened with sexual violence for treating coronavirus patients.

India has reported more than 12,000 infections and 414 deaths.

Police officials said that people in the area were ignoring distancing guidelines and other government restrictions urging all 1.3 billion Indians to stay inside amid a nationwide lockdown that will last until at least May 3.

Officials have faced staggering challenges enforcing the lockdown, which has shut most businesses, leaving millions of Indians dependent on food subsidies and other government handouts to survive.

Reporting was contributed by Niki Kitsantonis, Frances Robles, Monika Pronczuk, Mark Landler, Constant Méheut, Andrew Higgins, Richard Pérez-Peña, Ceylan Yeginsu, Iliana Magra, Ben Dooley, Kai Schultz, Tiffany May, Hari Kumar, Vivian Wang, Amy Qin, Raphael Minder, Elaine Yu, Isabella Kwai, Su-Hyun Lee, Rod Nordland, Megan Specia, Abdi Latif Dahir, Hannah Beech, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Choe Sang-Hun, Andrew E. Kramer, Austin Ramzy, Stephen Castle, Jason Gutierrez, Yonette Joseph, Dan Bilefsky, David M. Halbfinger, Ernesto Londoño, Letícia Casado and Tariq Panja.





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