European Coronavirus Lockdowns Expected to Last Into May: Live Coverage

European Coronavirus Lockdowns Expected to Last Into May: Live Coverage

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.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia offered his bleakest comments yet on his country’s handling of the pandemic, warning officials on Monday that the number of severely ill patients was rising and that medical workers faced shortages of protective equipment.

“We have a lot of problems, and we don’t have much to brag about, nor reason to, and we certainly can’t relax,” Mr. Putin told senior officials in a televised videoconference that he conducted from his residence outside Moscow. “We are not past the peak of the epidemic, not even in Moscow.”

Russia’s total number of confirmed cases reached 18,328, double the level of five days earlier, with roughly two-thirds of them in Moscow. The number of deaths stood at 148 nationwide.

Moscow’s health system in particular was under growing strain, and state television reported hours-long lines of ambulances waiting to admit suspected coronavirus patients into hospitals. The authorities tightened their lockdown on the city of 13 million people, directing residents to apply online for permission to leave their homes.

Mr. Putin’s dour tone Monday was part of a sharp shift in Russia’s official rhetoric on the crisis, with hope fading that the country might escape being hit hard by the pandemic. He directed officials to remedy shortages in medical workers’ protective equipment and to share ventilators and medicine across Russia’s far-flung regions to respond to geographic differences in demand.

“All scenarios of how the situation could develop must be taken into account, including the most difficult and extraordinary ones,” Mr. Putin said.

France’s lockdown, which severely restricts movement and gatherings, will continue for at least four more weeks, until May 11, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced on Monday.

“The epidemic is not yet under control,” Mr. Macron said in a televised address.

May 11 will mark a major turning point in the fight against the coronavirus, he said, when schools will reopen and many people will be able to return to work.

But even as some restrictions are lifted or loosened, he warned, others will stay in place. Many businesses — like cafes, restaurants, museums or hotels — will remain closed, Mr. Macron said, and the most vulnerable citizens, like the elderly or the disabled, will remain confined, “at least initially.”

He said that beginning a “new stage” in the epidemic next month will be made by possible by widespread testing and isolation, as France’s response grows steadily more robust. From May 11 onward, anyone with symptoms will get access to testing, Mr. Macron promised, and positive cases will be quarantined and followed by a doctor.

Mr. Macron also vowed that after that date, all French people would be able to procure so-called “general public” masks, which are less protective than those for health workers.

He also said that travel from countries outside the European Union would remain prohibited “until further notice.”

Monday was supposed to be the day when Britain might have started to lift its lockdown, but with no sign yet that the epidemic there is abating, the government is expected to leave the restrictions in place until well into next month.

The country reported 717 new deaths from the virus, bringing its total to 11,329. It has 88,621 confirmed cases, surpassing the reported total in China.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the lockdown on March 23, he said the government would review it on April 13. But officials have signaled it is too soon to ease the measures.

“We have come too far, lost too many loved ones and sacrificed too much to ease up,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday at a news conference.

The latest death figure was smaller than those reported late last week, but numbers are typically lower on the weekend because of a lag in reporting.

China’s number of confirmed cases is widely suspected to be understated, though medical experts said the number of infected people in Britain was also likely higher because of a lack of widespread testing.

Britons were cheered on Sunday after Mr. Johnson was released from the hospital following his own serious bout with the virus. But now, as he convalesces at his country residence, Chequers, attention is shifting back to the broader trajectory of the outbreak, which is increasingly worrisome.

The number of known infections and fatalities is rising faster in Britain than anywhere else in Europe, putting it on track to reach the death totals in Italy and Spain.

Jeremy Farrar, a leading British medical researcher who is director of the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC on Sunday that Britain is “likely to be one of the worst, if not the worst, affected countries in Europe.”

Millions of migrant workers in Persian Gulf countries have found themselves locked down, laid off and stranded, with no place to turn for help amid the coronavirus outbreak. Qatar alone has locked down tens of thousands of migrant workers in a crowded neighborhood, raising fears of a rampant spread of the virus there.

Companies in Saudi Arabia have told foreign laborers to stay home — then stopped paying them. In Kuwait, an actress said on television that migrants should be thrown out “into the desert.”

The oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf have long relied on armies of low-paid migrant workers from Asia, Africa and elsewhere to do the heavy lifting in their economies, and have faced criticism from rights groups for treating those laborers poorly.

Now, the coronavirus has made matters worse, as migrants in Gulf States are locked down in cramped, unsanitary dorms, deprived of income and unable to return home because of travel restrictions.

Some are running out of food and money, and fear that they have no place to turn in societies that often treat them like an expendable underclass.

“Nobody called us,” said Mohamed al-Sayid, an Egyptian restaurant worker who lives with seven friends in a one-room apartment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — and all are now unemployed. “Nobody checked on us at all. I’m not afraid of corona. I’m afraid we’ll die from hunger.”

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.

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.

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.”

“This is at least a temporary relief for the energy industry and for the global economy,” said Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis for Rystad Energy, a Norwegian consultancy. “The industry is too big to be let to fail.”

Reporting was contributed by Anatoly Kurmanaev, Richard Pérez-Peña, Karen Zraick, Anton Troianovski, Li Yuan, Elisabetta Povoledo, Raphael Minder, Aurelien Breeden, Constant Méheut, Megan Specia, Motoko Rich, Carlotta Gall, Mark Landler, Steven Lee Myers, Claire Fu, Ronen Bergman, Niraj Chokshi, Clifford Krauss and Ruth Maclean.

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