Covid-19 Live Updates: Europe Faces a Resurgence of Virus Cases and Restrictions – The New York Times
The weekly number of new coronavirus cases in Europe is now at its highest point since the start of the pandemic, a top World Health Organization official said on Thursday, urging governments to impose tighter, targeted controls on social gatherings.
The number of confirmed cases in Europe rose by a million to seven million in just 10 days, Hans Kluge, the WH.O.’s director for Europe, told reporters, and the number of daily deaths had passed the level of 1,000 for the first time.
His warning came as Britain announced tightened restrictions on several areas, including London, where people from different households will be barred from meeting indoors starting after midnight on Friday. People will also be discouraged from using public transportation.
The new measures will also apply to the city of York, in northern England, as well as to parts of central and southeastern England.
On Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced that, starting on Saturday, the authorities would impose a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the Paris region and around eight other major cities. The curfews will run for at least four weeks.
The measure is part of a renewed state of emergency that allows the national government to restrict public gatherings and movement countrywide. It was first declared in the spring but had ended in July.
“We need this — and if we don’t want to take harsher measures in 15 days, or three weeks, or one month, we have to do it and comply with it,” Mr. Macron said.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors have also agreed to nationwide restrictions on social gatherings and domestic travel, in response to a rise in infections.
“I am convinced that what we do — and what we don’t do — in these coming days and weeks will be decisive in how we get through this pandemic,” Ms. Merkel at a news conference on Wednesday.
Taken alone, case counts are an imperfect measure of the pandemic’s severity, and it is difficult to compare the current numbers with earlier points in the U.S. outbreak when testing was less widespread. But other critical measures are showing a resurgence, too. And the continuing spread of cases to new areas of the country suggests the outbreak is far from over.
“We are headed in the wrong direction, and that’s reflected not only in the number of new cases but also in test positivity and the number of hospitalizations,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “Together, I think these three indicators give a very clear picture that we are seeing increased transmission in communities across the country.”
“We are starting from a much higher plateau than we were before the summer wave,” Dr. Rivers said. “It concerns me that we might see even more cases during the next peak than we did during the summer.”
On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, but hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident.
Tomas J. Philipson, a senior economic adviser to the president, told the group he could not yet estimate the effects of the virus on the American economy. To some in the group, the implication was that an outbreak could prove worse than Mr. Philipson and other Trump administration advisers were signaling in public at the time.
The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.
The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark.“What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”
The consultant’s assessment quickly spread through parts of the investment world. U.S. stocks were already spiraling because of a warning from a federal public health official that the virus was likely to spread, but traders spotted the immediate significance: The president’s aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Mr. Trump was publicly insisting that the threat was nonexistent.
Interviews with eight people who either received copies of the memo or were briefed on aspects of it as it spread among investors in New York and elsewhere provide a glimpse of how elite traders had access to information from the administration that helped them gain financial advantage during a chaotic three days when global markets were teetering.
To many of the investors who received or heard about the memo, it was the first significant sign of skepticism among Trump administration officials about their ability to contain the virus. It also provided a hint of the fallout that was to come, said one major investor who was briefed on it: the upending of daily life for the entire country.
“Short everything,” was the reaction of the investor, using the Wall Street term for betting on the idea that the stock prices of companies would soon fall.
President Trump might want to wait a bit before he puts on a Superman T-shirt.
But if Mr. Trump is in fact now immune to the virus, he may not remain so, scientists warn. That’s because the treatment he received may have prevented his body from making the antibodies necessary for long-term protection.
The experimental monoclonal antibodies Mr. Trump was given are synthetic, and they will most likely wane in a matter of weeks. Indeed, unless they are replenished, Mr. Trump may be left more susceptible to the virus than most patients who had Covid-19 and recovered, several experts warned.
There is another wrinkle for the president.
In addition to the monoclonal antibodies he was given, Mr. Trump also received steroid treatment. That suppresses the body’s natural immune response — including the production of antibodies of its own.
“He may be not protected the second time around, especially because he didn’t develop his own antibodies,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University.
Officials in Singapore and Hong Kong said Thursday that they had reached a preliminary agreement to establish a travel bubble between the two Asian financial centers, allowing travelers of all kinds to bypass quarantine.
Travelers from Singapore would be the first allowed to enter Hong Kong since the semiautonomous Chinese territory barred all nonresidents in March; residents returning to Hong Kong are required to quarantine for 14 days. Singapore currently requires travelers from Hong Kong to quarantine for seven days after arrival.
“Both our cities have low incidence of Covid-19 cases and have put in place robust mechanisms to manage and control Covid-19,” Singapore’s travel minister, Ong Ye Kung, said in a statement.
Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development, Edward Yau, called the agreement “a milestone in our efforts to resume normalcy while fighting against the long-drawn battle of Covid-19.”
Singapore and Hong Kong have both been reporting daily new cases in the single or double digits since late August.
Efforts to establish reciprocal travel bubbles in Asia and other parts of the world have been halting as case numbers fluctuate and new outbreaks emerge. Starting Friday, Australia will waive quarantine requirements for travelers from New Zealand, which recently stamped out the virus for a second time, though New Zealand will still require quarantine for travelers arriving from Australia.
Singapore has also lifted restrictions on general visitors from Brunei, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia except for the state of Victoria, the center of the outbreak there. But all four of those countries are still closed to almost all foreigners, and in the case of Brunei and Australia residents must apply for permission to leave the country as well.
In other global developments:
Two officials in Qingdao, China, have been fired amid a new virus outbreak there, the city government said on Thursday. The director of the health commission and the president of the Qingdao Chest Hospital are under investigation after six confirmed infections and six asymptomatic cases were linked to the hospital. The new cases, the first local transmissions China had reported in almost two months, prompted orders to test all of Qingdao’s 9.5 million residents over five days. Officials said Thursday that none of the test results had come back positive.
Seven months after screens went dark, cinemas reopened Thursday in much of India, The Associated Press reported, with mostly old titles on the marquee. September was a particularly bad month for India, which saw weeks averaging more than 90,000 cases a day. Cases seem to be slowing: the seven-day average is now more than 65,000 per day.
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain made her first engagement outside of palace grounds in seven months on Thursday, joining her grandson, Prince William, on a visit to a military research facility that helped investigate the 2018 nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy in Salisbury, England. Since March, the queen, 94, has carried out her official duties at her palace and royal residences or remotely via video call or telephone.
American employers continue to shed workers at a staggering rate as a resurgent coronavirus and the absence of new federal aid take a toll on economic growth.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 885,000 Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, an increase fromthe previous week. That figure is not adjusted for seasonal variations.
After dropping in late spring and early summer as pandemic-related lockdowns eased, new claims for state jobless benefits had been steadily totaling about 800,000 a week, far above the level in previous recessions.
“The numbers are extremely worrisome, in my opinion, and they point to a labor market that is struggling to make progress,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.
Over the past month, large employers including United Airlines, Disney and Allstate announced tens of thousands of layoffs, and more are expected as sectors like leisure and hospitality struggle. In some states, restaurants have salvaged some business by serving diners outside, but many will lose that option as temperatures fall.
Despite the widespread economic pain, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have been unable to agree on a new relief package, a failure that may cause the economy to slow further in the coming months. Federal benefits created in March to supplement state payments to the unemployed are set to expire by the end of the year.
A jump in coronavirus cases in the Midwest and Western states has stirred fears of renewed lockdowns even as layoffs by large employers batter the work force.
“The course of the virus determines the course of the economy,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. “You can’t fully reopen with the contagion so high.”
The police in France searched the homes and offices of several current and former officials on Thursday as part of an inquiry into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, French news outlets reported.
The searches included the homes and offices of France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, and Jérome Salomon, a top official at the country’s health ministry, as well as the homes of former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the former health minister Agnès Buzyn and a former government spokeswoman, Sibeth Ndiaye.
The inquiry was launched in July by the French Court of Justice, a special court that hears accusations of government mismanagement. For the past few months, more than 90 complaints had been filed, accusing several government officials of willfully failing to take appropriate action to combat the virus, endangering people’s lives.
The French Court of Justice examined all of the complaints but finally decided to accept only nine of them, with the charge of failing from fighting a disaster. This offense is punishable by two years of imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros.
The French government has been harshly criticized for its handling of the first wave of the virus, from March to May, which resulted in about 30,000 deaths. A critical shortage of masks and testing kits led to the virus’s rapid spread and prompted France to impose one of the world’s strictest nationwide lockdowns.
Barron Trump, the president’s youngest son, tested positive for the coronavirus at one point, Melania Trump, the first lady, revealed on Wednesday, adding that he has since tested negative.
The White House had previously said that Barron Trump, 14, had tested negative for the virus. But Mrs. Trump said in a statement Wednesday that “my fear came true when he was tested again and it came up positive.”
“Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms,” she said. She did not say when he tested positive, only that he has since tested negative.
President Trump, speaking briefly to reporters, said Wednesday that Barron Trump was doing “fine.”
Mrs. Trump said she had also tested negative for the virus, although she did not specify what test was used, and said she hoped “to resume my duties as soon as I can.”
Mr. Trump, who was hospitalized, has played down his symptoms, including a shortness of breath, and focused only on showing off that he has recovered. Mrs. Trump, on the other hand, described a “roller coaster” of symptoms.
“I experienced body aches, a cough and headaches, and felt extremely tired most of the time,” she said.
And unlike Mr. Trump, who has been promoting an experimental drug as a “cure” for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Mrs. Trump said she “chose to go a more natural route in terms of medicine, opting more for vitamins and healthy food.”
The Biden campaign has canceled Senator Kamala Harris’s campaign events through Sunday after two people involved with the campaign tested positive for the coronavirus, the campaign announced Thursday morning.
Ms. Harris’s communications director, Liz Allen, and a flight crew member tested positive, the campaign said. Ms. Harris herself tested negative on Wednesday.
“Senator Harris was not in close contact, as defined by the C.D.C., with either of these individuals during the two days prior to their positive tests; as such, there is no requirement for quarantine,” the Biden campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, said in a statement.
“Regardless, out of an abundance of caution and in line with our campaign’s commitment to the highest levels of precaution, we are canceling Senator Harris’s travel through Sunday, Oct. 18.”
Ms. Harris had been scheduled to campaign in North Carolina on Thursday. The campaign said it was also canceling travel on Thursday for Ms. Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff.