Coronavirus Updates: Erdogan Refuses Resignation of Minister Who Led Botched Lockdown in Turkey

Almost 100 new cases in China were linked to people returning from Russia. A study of a drug, related to the one President Trump has promoted, was halted after patients developed heartbeat irregularities.

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As France prepares to extend its lockdown, the head of President Emmanuel Macron’s party says its eventual lifting “will not be a return to our prior lives.”


Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Across the globe, countries weigh easing restrictions, even as new clusters emerge.

As the number of people around the globe confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus passes 1.8 million, countries are finding themselves at various stages of their own outbreaks and struggling to balance the medical benefits of keeping restrictions in place and the risks that come with getting their economies moving again.

The preventive measures in many countries have taken the form of lockdowns. And while some places try to mimic the policies of nations that have curbed their outbreaks and others introduce their own measures, there is no clear path for the next steps.

Italy, the center of the pandemic last month, is emerging from the throes of its worst days, with experts saying that a fall in hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks is a “trustworthy” trend. A handful of businesses will reopen there beginning on Tuesday, though the country’s broader lockdown will remain until at least May 3.

Spain has also started to ease its restrictions, with some construction workers and others set to head back to work this week after a two-week shutdown that touched nearly every industry. The number of deaths rose slightly over the weekend, however, and the decision about whether to pull back to help get the economy moving again will fuel the debate about whether the government is taking too much risk too soon.

The crisis seems to be easing in parts of Europe, but cases continue to mount elsewhere, including in the United States, which is now squarely at the center of the global outbreak with more than 555,000 confirmed cases and 22,000 deaths.

Even as new infections and hospitalizations in New York and other hard-hit areas have stabilized in recent days, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said that any future measures to ease lockdowns should be part of a slow and considered process.

Britain’s lockdown, which is set to expire on Monday, will continue until the government decides on parameters for formally lengthening restrictions. That decision is expected to come later in the week.

The country’s death toll surpassed 10,600 this weekend. And while officials warned that Britain was still days away from a peak of new cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from the hospital on Sunday after being treated for the virus.

President Emmanuel Macron of France is expected to announce an extension of his country’s lockdown in a televised address on Monday, as the country approaches 100,000 total cases and 15,000 deaths.

In China, where the number of cases has eased in recent weeks, a surge in new infections has been linked to a return of Chinese citizens from Russia, a country that is now experiencing its own uptick.

Some areas of Japan that are experiencing a new wave of infections have declared a state of emergency for a second time, an example of how initial successes from social distancing and restrictions on movement can fade once they are relaxed.

An unexpected new source of cases in China: Russia.

A surge of Chinese people returning from Russia, which is now experiencing its own spike in infections, has fueled the largest increase in reported new cases in China in more than a month.

Chinese officials said on Monday that 98 new infections were reported among people who recently arrived in China. Most of those were Chinese citizens who had apparently scrambled to return to their homeland after China limited flights in and out of the country.

Previously, an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Shanghai on April 10 carried 60 people who ultimately tested positive for the coronavirus. The passengers were all quarantined.

That flight arrived just days after China said that it would close, effective Monday, its last overland crossing at Suifenhe, a small city across the border from Russia’s Far East.

Many Chinese people seeking to leave Russia have flown from Moscow to Vladivostok in hopes of completing the last leg by land. The Chinese Consulate in Vladivostok said in a statement on Sunday that 243 Chinese citizens infected with the coronavirus had already crossed the border.

So many cases have emerged in the borderlands that the local government has opened a temporary hospital to deal with the caseload.

Russia closed its borders with China in January, hoping to staunch the spread of the pandemic, only to find itself facing a belated spike in cases. By Monday, Russia had nearly 16,000 cases and at least 130 deaths.

Macron to address the nation as France’s cases appear to plateau.

President Emmanuel Macron is expected to extend France’s lockdown in a televised address on Monday evening, as the country nears 100,000 total cases and 15,000 deaths.

His office has confirmed that the national lockdown, currently in its fourth week, will be extended past its April 15 deadline. But officials have not given details on its new duration or any potential new limitations.

A weekslong extension — or even another month of lockdown — is widely expected, putting further stress on the French economy and society as patience grows thin around the country, from poor urban suburbs to disgruntled countryside communities.

The toll of the virus in France appears to have reached a plateau. With the number of patients in intensive care continuing to decrease below 7,000, one top health official said it was a “pale ray of sun” amid the gloom. The number of deaths has also been rising at a slower pace.

But the authorities say it is too early to know whether the unprecedented strain on France’s vaunted health system is easing. And the outbreak may be far from over.

The Charles de Gaulle, France’s flagship aircraft carrier, berthed in Toulon, its home port on the Mediterranean coast, on Sunday after 50 crew members onboard tested positive for Covid-19. The French Navy now plans to disembark and test nearly 2,000 sailors and isolate them for two weeks. It is unclear how the ship’s outbreak started.

A Japanese island declared a state of emergency for a second time.

In an example of how initial successes of a social distancing campaign can fade once restrictions are relaxed, Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, declared a state of emergency for a second time on Sunday and called on residents to stay at home for all but the most essential outings.

Hokkaido’s governor said the government was taking action because of a second wave of infections. Long before Japan’s central government issued a state of emergency for the country’s seven largest prefectures last week, Hokkaido called for a soft lockdown of the region on Feb. 28. As cases appeared to come under control, the prefecture lifted the state of emergency two weeks later and slowly allowed schools to reopen.

Overall case numbers remain low in Hokkaido, but the government is concerned about how quickly they are multiplying. Four new cases were confirmed on April 7, and that figure tripled within five days.

On Sunday, Hokkaido and Sapporo, the provincial capital, asked residents to refrain from going out, cease traveling and avoid restaurants — particularly for “business entertainment.”

In Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, the governor urged on Monday that businesses like night clubs, internet cafes, karaoke venues, pachinko parlors, movie theaters, gyms, museums and libraries close until May 6. The move followed similar requests in Tokyo.

Under the law authorizing the state of emergency, governors have the power only to request that businesses close. Those who do not comply can be publicized, but not officially punished.

Japan’s health ministry reported 530 new cases and four deaths on Sunday, taking Japan’s total to 7,255 cases and 102 deaths. Tokyo reported 166 new cases on Sunday, more than half of which were concentrated in one hospital — the latest of several recent clusters at the country’s hospitals.

Italy’s downward trend is now ‘trustworthy,’ experts say.

Italian officials reported just 431 new coronavirus-linked deaths on Sunday — the lowest increase in fatalities in two weeks and a significant drop from the peak of the country’s crisis late last month.

And even as the total number of fatalities inched toward 20,000, officials and public health experts in the country said the reductions of new cases and fatalities were evidence of a hopeful turn.

“The trend is now trustworthy,” Luca Richeldi, a pulmonologist who is on the scientific committee that is advising the government, said at a news conference. “Putting together the drop of people being hospitalized, patients in I.C.U. and the number of people dying, we can say that the measures that were adopted and extended are having an impact on this virus.”

Officials also said that for the ninth day in a row, fewer people were being hospitalized in intensive care.

The drop in numbers has considerably relieved the pressure on Italy’s national health system, Dr. Richeldi said, which had been strained by an influx of patients last month.

More than 156,000 people in Italy have tested positive for the coronavirus, surpassed in Europe only by Spain — an increase that Dr. Richeldi attributed in part to an uptick in testing.

Angelo Borrelli, the head of the Civil Protection Department, said that the group of experts who are managing the next phase of the government’s response had met with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over the weekend. The committee is working on an “inventory of solutions and proposals,” Mr. Borrelli said.

While the government has extended lockdown measures until May 3, businesses like children’s clothing stores and stationery and book shops will reopen on Tuesday.

Small numbers of Spanish workers return to work, but some fear it’s too soon.

At bus stops and subway stations in Madrid on Monday, transit workers and police officers handed out face masks to commuters who showed papers indicating that they were returning to work. A partial loosening of restrictions, the government’s first step in easing a national lockdown, comes amid political feuding over whether the move will reignite an outbreak.

The reopening of construction sites and factories begins on Monday in half of Spain’s 17 regions, with others following on Tuesday. Other companies have been allowed to recall some employees.

The director of a Michelin factory in Valladolid told Spanish national television that workers would return gradually. And Alu Ibérica, an aluminum company, resumed its recycling activities on Monday with a third of its work force.

The government also issued recommendations for workers, including washing clothes at high temperatures after returning home and using their own water bottles rather than drinking from water fountains.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Sunday that the general lockdown was still in place. “The only thing that has ended is the extreme measure of hibernation” of the economy, he said.

On Monday, Spain reported a decline in the daily casualty rate — with 517 dead overnight, brining the overall tally to nearly 17,500, the second highest in Europe.

Some regional leaders, opposition politicians and labor unions said they feared that the partial return to work would set off a new wave of infections.

“Companies must have the means to protect us,” Pepe Álvarez, the secretary general of the UGT union, told Spanish television. “Nobody can make us choose between working safely or facing difficulties to maintain our job.”

Erdogan rejected the resignation of the minister who oversaw Turkey’s lockdown.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declined on Sunday to accept the resignation of Turkey’s interior minister, who offered it after taking responsibility for an abruptly announced curfew over the weekend that set off panic buying.

The minister, Sulyeman Soylu, announced his resignation late Sunday on Twitter. Within an hour, the president’s director of communications said that Mr. Erdogan had refused to accept his resignation.

Mr. Soylu is one of the most powerful ministers of Mr. Erdogan’s cabinet, and his attempted resignation, after the removal of another minister two weeks ago, underscores the political fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Confirmed cases have risen to more than 56,000 in Turkey’s population of 80 million, and deaths are at 1,198.

The lockdown for 31 provinces was announced two hours before it went into force at midnight on Friday, sending thousands of people rushing to late-night stores to buy provisions.

At the time, Mr. Soylu said the lockdown was ordered by the president, but on Sunday he said that the responsibility for “implementing the weekend curfew decision, which was aimed at preventing the epidemic, belongs entirely to me.”

Mr. Erdogan has introduced gradual restrictions while keeping some businesses working. The country was suffering double-digit unemployment and inflation even before the pandemic began.

Mr. Erdogan has sought to reassure people that the government will manage the health and financial fallout of the pandemic, but complaints are rising that a government compensation plan is inadequate. Many casual laborers are without income, and thousands of workers are being laid off.

A drug study ends in Brazil over concerns of fatal heart complications.

A small study of chloroquine, which is closely related to the hydroxychloroquine drug that President Trump has promoted, was halted in Brazil after coronavirus patients taking a higher dose developed irregular heart rates that increased their risk of a potentially fatal arrhythmia.

The study, which involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, was sponsored by the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Roughly half the participants were prescribed 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed 600 milligrams for 10 days.

Within three days, researchers started noticing heart arrhythmias in patients taking the higher dose. By the sixth day of treatment, 11 patients had died, leading to an immediate end to the high-dose segment of the trial.

“To me, this study conveys one useful piece of information, which is that chloroquine causes a dose-dependent increase in an abnormality in the E.C.G. that could predispose people to sudden cardiac death,” said Dr. David Juurlink, an internist and the head of the division of clinical pharmacology at the University of Toronto, referring to an electrocardiogram, which reads the heart’s electrical activity.

The researchers said the study did not have enough patients in the lower-dose trial to conclude whether chloroquine was effective in patients with severe cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Patients in the trial were also given the antibiotic azithromycin, which carries the same heart risk. Hospitals in the United States are using azithromycin to treat coronavirus patients, often in combination with hydroxychloroquine.

President Trump has promoted them as a potential treatment for the coronavirus despite little evidence that they work, and despite concerns from health officials. Companies that manufacture both drugs are ramping up production.

The Israeli spy service has helped the country obtain medical supplies.

Israel’s powerful spy service has been deeply involved in the country’s fight against the coronavirus, and has been one of its most valuable assets in acquiring medical equipment and manufacturing technology abroad, according to Israeli medical and security officials.

As countries around the world compete for limited supplies during the pandemic, they are turning to any help available, and flexing their muscles unapologetically.

And with the Mossad having determined that Iran — which is struggling with its own coronavirus crisis — no longer represents an immediate security threat, the agency could afford to immerse itself in the health emergency, according to multiple people knowledgeable about its operations.

In early March, a command and control center was set up to handle the distribution of medical gear across the country, with Yossi Cohen, the Mossad chief, at its head and headquartered at Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s biggest hospital.

Professor Yitshak Kreiss, Sheba’s director general, said the Mossad had been pivotal in helping Sheba secure vital medical equipment and expertise from abroad.

Britain surpasses 10,000 deaths, and Boris Johnson is released from the hospital.

In Britain, where the total number of reported coronavirus deaths surpassed 10,600 this weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from the hospital on Sunday.

It was a major step forward in his recovery from the coronavirus in a nation whose political leadership has been harder hit by the contagion than that of any other Western country.

In a video posted on Twitter, he credited the National Health Service with saving his life, calling it “the beating heart of this country.”

“It’s hard to find words to express my debt,” he said, looking wan but speaking with his usual vigor.

He thanked Britons for adhering to social distancing measures and said they were helping to slow the spread of the virus.

Mr. Johnson, who spent three nights in intensive care at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, will convalesce at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house, the government said in a statement. But he will soon be able to sign off on major decisions, including when to ease the country’s lockdown.

His release came a day after Queen Elizabeth II released a recorded Easter message in which she said that the holiday was a time of “light overcoming darkness.”

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,” the queen said. “As dark as death can be, particularly for those suffering with grief, light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.”

The total number of confirmed cases in the country is nearly 79,000.

Flight attendants and pilots question whether they should still be working.

Airlines have canceled a staggering number of flights, but thousands still take off every day, leaving many in the industry reckoning with whether to continue working and how to stay safe if they do.

Hundreds of flight attendants and pilots have fallen ill, and at least five have died from the coronavirus, according to to the labor unions that represent them.

Tens of thousands of airline employees have taken unpaid leave, staying home out of necessity or concern, or to free up slots for colleagues who may need the income more. But some have continued to show up, either because they need the money or fear losing their jobs once the crisis has ebbed.

Flight attendants and pilots at several major airlines said they had had to take their own gloves and masks to work. Even when airlines have committed to providing protective equipment, many have run into the same supply problems that have plagued hospitals.

Air travel has fallen to new lows: For the first time since its formation, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration screened fewer than 100,000 people per day at its checkpoints on at least three occasions this month. It screened more than two million people per day at this time last year.

And even though the industry secured $25 billion from the U.S. government to pay employees through September, many airlines are likely to emerge from the crisis with fewer employees.

Saudi Arabia, Russia and others agree to slash oil production as lockdowns stifle demand.

Saudi Arabia, Russia and other oil-producing nations completed an agreement to slash production, aiming to bolster prices that collapsed when global demand cratered amid the pandemic.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia had reached a tentative agreement on Thursday. The final agreement will cut 9.7 million barrels a day.

The plan was delayed after the lone holdout, Mexico, stood firm on its position to cut 100,000 barrels a day and not the 400,000 barrels that Saudi Arabia had pushed for. The United States, Brazil and Canada promised to make up the 300,000-barrel-a-day difference.

The collapse in economic activity caused by the virus reduced demand by an estimated 30 million to 35 million barrels a day, according to international energy agencies and oil consultants. Analysts expect oil prices, which soared above $100 a barrel six years ago, to remain below $40 for the foreseeable future.

Russia and Saudi Arabia — which only a month ago hoped to undercut American producers — have retreated from threats to pump more oil into a saturated market. President Trump had lobbied both countries to lower production.

Reporting was contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo, Raphael Minder, Aurelien Breeden, Megan Specia, Motoko Rich, Carlotta Gall, Mark Landler, Steven Lee Myers, Claire Fu, Ronen Bergman, Niraj Chokshi, Clifford Krauss and Ruth Maclean.

  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

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