September 23, 2020

GiuseppeLanzetta

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In Italy, a Sharp Drop in Coronavirus I.C.U. Patients; Germany Begins Broad Antibody Testing to Assess Spread: Live Coverage

In Italy, a Sharp Drop in Coronavirus I.C.U. Patients; Germany Begins Broad Antibody Testing to Assess Spread: Live Coverage


Italy’s lockdown leads to a drastic drop in I.C.U. coronavirus patients.

Two weeks ago, Italy’s intensive care units were bursting with more than 4,000 coronavirus patients, mostly in the northern regions, and at times doctors were put in the difficult position of choosing which people to treat.

By Friday, the number of I.C.U. patients had dropped to 2,812, and hospitalizations for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, had fallen from a high of 29,010 patients on April 4 to 25,786, reflecting a steady decline that is easing the burden on the country’s health care system.

With the coronavirus outbreak still raging within its borders, Iran on Saturday lifted the lockdown on its capital and called on government and private-sector employees to return to work.

The rest of Iran’s provinces had lifted a two-week lockdown and travel restrictions a week earlier. Schools and sporting events remain closed, and restaurants have been restricted to takeout.

President Hassan Rouhani has called his return-to-work policy a “smart distancing” strategy that will fight two enemies: the pandemic and the collapse of an economy that was already strained by international sanctions.

“Our message is the great people of Iran and all private and government entities, labor workers and engineers, despite fighting the coronavirus on one front, are also continuing the economic development of our country,” he said on Thursday.

More than 5,000 people with the virus have died in Iran, including some of the country’s top officials, and about 80,000 have been infected, according to government figures. But local experts and health officials say that many others who showed symptoms of the virus have died or fallen ill without being tested.

Health officials say that easing the restrictions too soon risks another surge in infections.

Iran’s military held annual parades on Friday in Tehran and other cities. The parade typically shows off military hardware, but this year soldiers marched in protective gear, and ambulances and medical equipment replaced missiles and drones

Germany, seeking a path out of lockdown, begins broad random testing for antibodies.

While other nations are still struggling to test for infections, Germany is doing that and more. It is aiming to sample the entire population for antibodies in coming months, hoping to gain valuable insight into how deeply the virus has penetrated the society at large, how deadly it really is, and whether immunity might be developing.

In Munich, residents of 3,000 households chosen at random are being asked to allow monthly blood tests for Covid-19 antibodies for a year. It’s an ambitious study whose central aim is to understand how many people — even those with no symptoms — have already had the virus, a key variable to make decisions about public life in a pandemic.

The Munich research is the largest of several regional studies being rolled out in various corners of the country, which has become a leader among Western nations figuring out how to control the contagion while returning to something resembling normal life.

The government hopes to use the findings to unravel a riddle that will allow Germany to move securely into the next phase of the pandemic: Which of the far-reaching social and economic restrictions that have slowed the virus are most effective and which can be safely lifted?

The same questions are being asked around the world. Other countries like Iceland and South Korea have tested broadly for infections, or combined testing with digital tracking to undercut the spread of the virus. But even the best laid plans can go awry; Singapore attempted to reopen only to have the virus re-emerge.

The antibody testing has its limits. Scientists caution that there is no proof yet that the detection of antibodies signals effective immunity. And even antibodies were proven to offer immunity, there is no clarity on how long it might last.

More than a dozen leading pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers in Hong Kong were arrested on Saturday in connection with the protests that raged in the city last year, the biggest roundup of prominent opposition figures in recent memory.

The high-profile arrests were made as Hong Kong battles to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which has helped quiet down the huge street protests but fueled further distrust of the authorities in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. The virus has halted protests around the world, forcing people to stay home and giving the authorities new power to limit public gatherings and detain people with little fear of public blowback.

Those arrested in Hong Kong included the veteran lawyers Martin Lee and Margaret Ng, the media tycoon Jimmy Lai and the former opposition legislators Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung, political parties and aides said. They were among 15 activists rounded up on suspicion of organizing, publicizing or taking part in unauthorized assemblies from August to October and will face prosecution, the police said on Saturday.

Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a powerful Beijing advisory group, said the arrests represented an early step toward a broader crackdown by Beijing on the Hong Kong opposition. They also reflect an assessment by Beijing that protests in Hong Kong over the past year pose such a threat to national security that it is worthwhile to defy American threats of retaliation if a crackdown takes place, he said.

“Now Beijing is calling the U.S.’s bluff and taking the initial steps against the Hong Kong opposition, and there will be more steps to shrink their space,” Mr. Lau said.

Dr. Bartlett said that while her mother’s care had initially been satisfactory, conditions at the residence deteriorated as the owners went on an aggressive cost-cutting spree and struggled to find qualified employees.

She said it was hard to fathom that the body bags leaving the residence amid the pandemic had not raised alarms sooner. “Why didn’t anyone scream at the top of their lungs?” she said.

“There are many people who have lost their incomes or are unemployed due to the mass closures of elementary, junior high and high schools to prevent infections, as well as the cancellation of events and shortening of business hours at retail stores,” the petition says. Given that business could be curtailed for an indefinite period, “more people may be in financial distress or may lose their homes.”

The petition also notes that some people effectively live in internet cafes, where customers can rent spaces and are allowed to spend the night.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Japan rose to 10,000 on Saturday, the public broadcaster NHK said. More than 200 people have died from the virus in Japan, and Tokyo remains the hardest-hit area, reporting 201 new infections on Friday, a record, and 181 new cases on Saturday, NHK reported.

Singapore records another daily high.

Singapore on Saturday announced a record rise in new coronavirus infections for the third time this week, with most of the 942 new cases coming from crowded dormitories for migrant laborers.

The sharp rise underscores the risks faced by low-wage migrants who have built the modern city-state. As more than 1,600 cases were linked to their residences from Wednesday to Friday, the government promised changes in how the migrants, many from India and Bangladesh, are treated.

Singapore has been praised for its rigorous contact-tracing program, which quickly identified clusters of local transmission. But the coronavirus has spread rapidly through foreign laborers’ dormitories, where up to 20 people are crammed in each room, with shared kitchens and bathrooms.

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 the health ministry said the number of new local cases had continued to drop, with 14 Singaporeans or permanent residents confirmed infected on Saturday.

A judge orders Mexico to extend coronavirus protections to migrants.

As several countries race to create a working vaccine against the coronavirus and several trials are underway, a new survey in Ireland offers a glimpse of the hurdles health officials will face to vaccinate people around the world in an effort to stem the outbreak.

The survey, released on Thursday, suggested that 65 percent of respondents would definitely be willing to take a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 9 percent would definitely not.

“Only 65 percent of people saying yes is staggeringly low, given what we are going through,” said Dr. Philip Hyland, an associate professor of psychology of Maynooth University, which carried out the survey in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin.

But he said there was room for optimism. “If the 26 percent of people who are saying maybe can be shifted to the yes category, then we would have over 90 percent uptake, which should be enough,” he said.

The survey sampled more than 1,000 people 19 days after Ireland imposed sweeping restrictions on movements. The report’s authors said that although the coronavirus’s spread was still poorly understood, a 60 percent vaccination rate might be enough to build “herd immunity” in the general population, although a higher figure would be desirable.

Dr. Frederique Vallieres, the director of Trinity College’s Center for Global Health, said that the 9 percent of people who opposed taking a vaccine included both ideological “anti-vaxxers” and people with underlying health conditions that would either prevent them from taking such vaccines or make them reluctant to do so.

She said that many of the undecided were concerned about the possible risks of any new vaccine and might be reassured by scientific evidence and public information campaigns when a vaccine emerged.

Artillery salute for Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday is canceled because of the pandemic.

Officials previously said that medical workers should wear waterproof surgical gowns during high-risk procedures involving the coronavirus. But Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said he could not guarantee that hospitals would have the protective gear they needed over the weekend.Workers were advised to wear plastic aprons on top of coveralls instead.

After criticism about the shortages, the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, said at a news briefing on Saturday afternoon that a consignment including 400,000 protective gowns and equipment was to arrive from Turkey on Sunday. “We’ve got to do more to get the P.P.E. that people need to the frontline,” Mr. Jenrick said.

Britain also remains far short of its goal of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, with 21,000 daily tests being completed as of Friday. Mr. Hancock said the country would return to trying to track down the contacts of people with symptoms of the virus, an effort that the government had halted last month.

Executives at budget airlines have been sparring this week over how to get customers back into their seats — or some of them, at least.

Johan Lundgren, the chief executive of easyJet, a British airline that grounded its fleet at the end of March, said on Thursday that planes were likely to operate with middle seats empty to reduce the threat of coronavirus transmission once people started flying again.

But Ryanair, an Irish carrier that is another icon of Europe’s cut-price flight boom, strongly disagreed. Its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, called the proposal “mad.”

He said that leaving some seats empty would not give passengers the recommended two meters of separation, and that they would still be forced into close quarters during other parts of the trip.

Analysts are predicting a yearslong slowdown in plane travel. That could prove especially difficult for budget carriers, which rely on filling more of their seats than pricier airlines.

But Mr. Lundgren of easyJet said that allowing more space onboard would encourage people to fly. “That is something that we will do, because I think that is something that the customers would like to see,” he said.

The Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air and an airline trade body also said they were preparing for planes to return to service at only two-thirds capacity in order to reduce virus transmission.

Mr. O’Leary suggested that carriers instead conduct temperature checks and mandate masks for passengers and crews.

From sugarcoating to brutal honesty, leaders navigate the crisis.

World leaders have spent the past several weeks grappling with the unexpected, as country after country has seen the coronavirus emerge within its borders.

With the virus endangering people’s health and lockdowns ravaging the global economy, heads of government have taken different approaches in televised addresses and news briefings as they have explained their plans for combating the threat.

“The main questions for these leaders,” said Jill Rutter, a senior fellow at the London-based Institute for Government, “is: Can they convey a clear message and give people the reassurance they need while admitting this is an incredibly fast-moving, difficult world of real unknowns?”

They also must “show that they understand that this is a massive human tragedy,” she added.

It’s “quite a difficult balancing act,” she said. ​

The chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Mallam Abba Kyari, has died from Covid-19, one of the highest-profile deaths from the pandemic in Africa.

Mr. Kyari, who was in his 70s, died on Friday after battling the virus for nearly a month, a spokesman for the president said Saturday on Twitter. Mr. Kyari, a lawyer, banker and journalist before he went into politics, had served Mr. Buhari since he took office in 2015, and many considered him the most powerful person in Nigeria after the president.

The chief of staff was one of several current and former government officials across Africa to have contracted the virus or died from it in recent weeks. The list includes Jean-Joseph Mukendi, a top aide to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who died of Covid-19 in late March.

In February, Nigeria became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to record a coronavirus case, after an Italian contractor who had been in Milan tested positive. The country of 200 million people has reported just 493 cases and 17 deaths, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

Here’s what’s happening in other parts of the world:

  • Germany recorded a fourth straight day of a spike in new infections on Saturday. Data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed that coronavirus cases rose by 3,609, for a total of 137,439. The death toll rose by 242, to 4,110.

  • Guatemala’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, said on Friday that a large number of the migrants on a deportation flight from the United States to Guatemala this week were infected with the coronavirus.

  • Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 565 on Saturday, down from a rise of 585 on Friday, the health ministry said, bringing the total to 20,043 deaths in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. Spain’s overall coronavirus cases rose to 191,726 on Saturday from 188,068 on Friday, the ministry said.

Even as the United States scrambles to stop the coronavirus, the Trump administration is charging forward with its aggressive immigration enforcement agenda, deporting thousands of people, including some who are infected with the virus.

Deportations have also risen sharply of children and teenagers traveling without their parents — a group that has historically been considered so vulnerable that they have rarely faced expeditious deportation.

While the Trump administration justified a border ban of unprecedented harshness last month by warning that migrants could bring in the coronavirus, with these moves the United States itself is exporting the virus abroad.

At least 30 Guatemalans who have been deported since March 26 tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after disembarking, according to the Guatemalan authorities. A team of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control traveled to Guatemala this week “to review and validate” the tests.

And 95 children and teenagers traveling without their parents were deported to Guatemala in March, up from 16 in January. Ninety-two such minors were deported to Guatemala during the first half of April.

Reporting was contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo, Benjamin Mueller, Motoko Rich, Hisako Ueno, Mark Landler, Dan Bilefsky, Ruth Maclean, Simon Marks, Abdi Latif Dahir, Elaine Yu, Andrew Jacobs, Nicholas Bogel-Burrough, Farnaz Fassihi, Tess Felder, Yonette Joseph, Abby Goodnough, Katie Thomas, Sheila Kaplan, Michael D. Shear, Sarah Mervosh, Steven Lee Myers, Ed O’Loughlin, Evan Easterling, Elian Peltier, Megan Specia, Katrin Bennhold, Caitlin Dickerson and Kirk Semple.





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