Covid-19 Live Updates: Europe Pivots Its Strategy, From All-Out War to Learning ‘How to Live With the Virus’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House would not leave for the November elections without acting on an additional round of aid. Pakistani high schools and universities reopened for the first time in nearly six months.

The S&P 500 added to its gains this week, rising nearly 1 percent in early trading on Tuesday and following global shares higher after some positive economic data out of China.

In the early days of the pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron exhorted the French to wage “war” against an invisible enemy. Today, his message is to “learn how to live with the virus.’’

Much of Europe has opted for a similar strategy as infections keep rising, summer recedes into a risk-filled autumn and the possibility of a second wave looms over the continent. Having abandoned hopes of eradicating the virus or developing a vaccine quickly, people have largely gone back to work and school, leading lives as normally as possible amid a pandemic that has already killed nearly 215,000 in Europe.

The approach contrasts sharply to the United States, where restrictions to protect against the virus have been politically divisive and where many regions have pushed ahead with reopening schools, shops and restaurants without having baseline protocols in place. The result has been nearly as many deaths as in Europe, though among a far smaller population.

Europeans, for the most part, are putting to use the hard-won lessons from the pandemic’s initial phase: the need to wear masks and practice social distancing, the importance of testing and tracing, the critical advantages of reacting nimbly and locally. All of those measures are intended to prevent the kind of national lockdowns that paralyzed the continent and crippled economies early this year.

“It’s not possible to stop the virus,” said Emmanuel André, a leading virologist in Belgium. “It’s about maintaining equilibrium.”

New infections have soared in recent weeks, especially in France, but the country’s death rate is a small fraction of what it was at its peak. That is because those infected now tend to be younger and health officials have learned how to treat Covid-19 better, said Dr. William Dab, an epidemiologist and a French former national health director.

In Germany, too, young people are overrepresented among the rising cases of infections, but they are not generally not becoming severely ill, spurring a debate over the relevance of infection rates in providing a snapshot of the pandemic.

Hendrik Streeck, head of virology at a research hospital in Bonn, cautioned that the pandemic should not be judged merely by infection numbers — health authorities are testing over a million people a week — but instead by deaths and hospitalizations.

“We’ve have reached a phase where the number of infections alone is no longer as meaningful,” Mr. Streeck said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Tuesday that the House would not leave for the November elections without acting on an additional round of stimulus to prop up the coronavirus-ravaged economy, responding to growing concern among rank-and-file lawmakers over the prospect of returning home to face voters without doing so.

“We have to stay here until we have a bill,” Ms. Pelosi privately told lawmakers on a conference call on Tuesday morning, according to two people familiar with the remarks who disclosed them on condition of anonymity.

Shortly afterward, Ms. Pelosi repeated the promise in an interview on CNBC, saying, “We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement that meets the needs of the American people.”

Her vow came just before a bipartisan group of 50 centrist lawmakers was planning to present a $1.5 trillion stimulus plan, making a last-ditch effort to revive stalled talks between top Democrats and the White House.

Members of the group — which calls itself the House Problem Solvers Caucus — concede privately that their framework stands little chance of becoming law. But the decision to offer it up publicly reflected the frustration among some lawmakers in both parties at the failure by their leaders to agree to another round of pandemic aid, and a reluctance to face constituents weeks before Election Day without cementing such help.

The proposal includes measures that enjoy bipartisan support, like reviving the popular Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and direct checks of $1,200 or more for American taxpayers, as well as more contentious ones like new legal rights and protections for workers and their employers.

But the bulk of its proposed spending would fall somewhere in the middle of what Republicans and Democrats have championed. The measure would reinstate lapsed federal jobless aid at $450 per week for eight weeks, then replace up to $600 weekly in lost wages for an additional five weeks. That is more than Republicans wanted, but less than the flat, $600-a-week benefit that lapsed at the end of July, which Democrats have insisted must be extended in full. And the proposal would send $500 billion to strapped state and local governments, less than the nearly $1 trillion Democrats included in their $3.4 trillion stimulus plan that passed the House in May, but roughly double what the White House has signaled it could support.

In unveiling the plan, the group was seeking to send a signal to Ms. Pelosi and the lead White House negotiators — Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary — that there was ample common ground to be found in talks that have been dormant for weeks.

On Monday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the fourth of its annual Goalkeeper reports, which track the slow but steady progress the world has made toward more than a dozen health-related goals set forth by the United Nations in 2015.

This year’s report, which Mr. Gates discussed in an interview with The New York Times, was unrelentingly grim. Not since 1870 have so many countries been in recession at once, it says.

Between 1990 and 2020, the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty, which is now defined as living on less than $2 a day, shrank to less than 7 percent from 37 percent. In just the past few months, 37 million people have fallen back below the line, the report estimated.

One of the starkest conclusions in the report is that nearly twice as many deaths could be prevented if Covid-19 vaccines were distributed to all countries based on their populations rather than to the 50 richest countries first.

The assessment comes as the United States, stung harder by the virus than any other country, is retreating from the global health stage and seems focused primarily on saving itself.

“It’s my disposition,” he said. “Plus, I’ve got to call these people up and make the pitch to them that this really makes sense — and I totally, totally believe it makes sense.”

By “these people,” he was referring to leading figures in the White House and Congress, whom he has personally lobbied to do “this”: namely, approve $4 billion so that poor countries can get Covid-19 vaccines. Funds to that end were included in the $1 trillion proposal Senate Republicans unveiled in July, but the package did not advance because of divisions within the Republican conference and objections from Democrats.

As he did in Silicon Valley while battling competitors and antitrust regulators, Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, can calculate his chances of success with a ruthless logic. That has rarely been as true as it is now, as a once-in-a-century pandemic devastates the impoverished countries where he focuses his giving.

The damage has been wrought less by the virus — so far it has killed much smaller percentages of the populations of Asia and Africa than of the Americas and Western Europe — than by the economic impact, which has been far greater in countries where people and governments “have no spare reserves to draw on,” Mr. Gates said.

Even as U.S. colleges and universities have become hot spots, forcing some schools to suspend or cancel in-person classes, a few — Brown, Clemson and Miami University of Ohio — are inviting more students back to campus.

“I want to kindly ask each and every one of our students, faculty and staff to do all they can to minimize the spread of this virus,” wrote James P. Clements, Clemson’s president, when announcing that about 7,000 students could move into on-campus housing, and that the South Carolina school would return to some in-person instruction on Monday.

He said the move did not suggest that the outbreak was over, adding that “we should expect to see more cases over the next few weeks.”

A New York Times tracker has identified at least 782 cases at Clemson since the pandemic began. A Clemson spokesman said the university believed it was safe for students to return.

“We delayed the return of our on-campus population,” he said, “as we worked with both internal and external medical experts and modelers and learned from peer institutions.”

At Miami University of Ohio, in Oxford, which has recorded at least 836 cases since the spring — and where students were cited by police last week for holding a house party despite being under quarantine — students are allowed to begin moving into residence halls on Monday, although it is limiting campus housing capacity to 40 percent.

Miami’s president, Gregory Crawford, warned students in his reopening message that they would “need to make a conscious commitment to live differently this term.” In-person classes will begin Sept. 21.

A spokeswoman said the university was testing every arriving on-campus student before allowing them to move in, and the positivity rate among them was less than 1 percent.

She said the decision to return to in-person instruction “was influenced by our students and their families, many of whom desire to have in-person and hybrid class options, and the fact that Covid-19 is with us indefinitely.”

Brown University is allowing the majority of undergraduates to move back to campus this weekend, and said some smaller classes would begin meeting in person on Oct. 5.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled on Monday that several restrictions ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to combat the pandemic were unconstitutional. The decision struck down stay-at-home orders and the closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, directives that were issued in March and have since been suspended.

The judge also declared that a current order limiting the size of gatherings — no more than 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors — violated “the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said the administration was seeking a stay of the decision and an appeal. William Shaw Stickman IV, the judge who ruled on the case, was nominated to the bench by President Trump in 2019.

As in other states, many Republican politicians in Pennsylvania have been steadfastly opposed to their state’s pandemic mitigation strategy, with some urging the governor’s impeachment. In July, the State Supreme Court rejected a suit filed by Republican legislators seeking to end Mr. Wolf’s emergency authority.

Some of the most vocal opponents of the governor, including Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican whose district is in western Pennsylvania, were among the plaintiffs in the suit that was decided on Monday.

“The court believes that defendants undertook their actions in a well-intentioned effort to protect Pennsylvanians from the virus,” Judge Stickman wrote. “However, good intentions toward laudable ends are not alone enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge. Indeed, the greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable, and the intent is good — especially in a time of emergency.”

In a statement, the governor’s spokeswoman said that “the actions taken by the administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved, and continue to save, lives in the absence of federal action.”

High schools and universities in Pakistan opened Tuesday after being closed for almost six months. Online classes were offered in most schools.

Students were divided into two groups, which attend classes on alternate days. Officials said that they would monitor the situation for a week and if things remain under control, classes for young children would begin in the coming weeks.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, the special assistant to the prime minister on health, said that school authorities would try to ensure that social distancing is maintained during classes.

“The most important role will be that of a mask,” Mr. Sultan said, stressing that parents should make sure that their children wear masks in schools.

Selected schools will undergo testing to keep a check on any possible spread of the virus. If security protocols are broken, local officials have the power to close or fine a school. The academic year is likely to be prolonged, officials said.

Pakistan has documented at least 300,000 cases of the virus and nearly 6,400 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

The Australian state of Victoria, the center of the country’s outbreak, on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus deaths for the first time in more than two months. The state’s capital, Melbourne, remains in lockdown, but restrictions have been loosened in the rest of the state as cases continue to fall.

Hong Kong on Tuesday reported no new cases of community transmission for the first time since a third wave of infections began in early July. Bars, nightclubs, karaoke parlors, theme parks and swimming pools will be allowed to reopen starting Friday, officials said. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, also praised a two-week mass testing program that ended on Monday but drew fewer participants than the government had hoped. Almost 1.8 million people, or about a quarter of the population, signed up for the testing, which uncovered 32 cases, or about two per 100,000 people tested.

In England, new lockdown measures went into effect on Tuesday in parts of the West Midlands, which includes Birmingham, the country’s second-largest city. Under the restrictions, people are barred from meeting others who are not part of their household, either indoors or outside. The measure comes after the British government lowered the limit on gatherings to six from 30.

A senior Chinese health official said a coronavirus vaccine could be available to the public in China as early as November, the state news media reported on Tuesday. Dr. Wu Guizhen, the chief expert for biosafety at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the state broadcaster CCTV that “ordinary people” in China could be given the vaccine in November or December. The state, however, has not shared data from late-stage trials that would demonstrate if the vaccine is safe and effective.

At least 17 members of India’s Parliament have tested positive for the virus, Reuters reported. The lawmakers were screened for the virus before Parliament opened on Monday. The number of confirmed cases in India is nearly 5 million, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and at least 80,000 people have died.

Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday agreed to allow international tourists to stay in the country with a special visa for up to nine months to bolster its economy. Starting as early as October, hundreds of visitors each month who agree to a 14-day quarantine would be allowed a 90-day visa that could be extended twice.

The United Nations is about to turn 75, but celebrations will be muted. World leaders are unable to gather in person — the pandemic has reduced the General Assembly beginning this week to virtual meetings — but the organization is also facing profound questions about its own effectiveness, and even its relevance.

Many hotel executives, including some who are friends of Mr. Trump, are in precarious financial positions.

Thomas J. Barrack Jr., the billionaire investor and major donor to Mr. Trump, has run into an unexpected patch of red ink thanks to the pandemic: He has struggled to keep up with payments on $1.97 billion in Wall Street debt he used to buy a collection of more than 160 hotels.

Monty Bennett, another big donor to Mr. Trump, recently halted payments owed on the $2.6 billion worth of Wall Street debt used to acquire his own hotel collection.

“Imminent monetary default” is the term a Wall Street research firm used this summer to describe more than $300 million in debt on a luxury hotel in Austin, controlled by Doug Manchester, whom Mr. Trump nominated to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas after Mr. Manchester and his wife donated more than $3 million to Mr. Trump’s political causes.

The situation has fueled an intense lobbying campaign aimed at persuading the Trump administration, the Federal Reserve and Congress to rescue hundreds of hotel industry players.

Industry executives and their lobbyists say a federal rescue will save thousands of jobs and help local economies, and are hoping their argument resonates with a president who is a hotelier himself. They are making the case that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has the power to extend existing coronavirus relief efforts to the commercial real estate sector, which so far has been cut off from most of the stimulus money.

But Congress prevented Mr. Mnuchin from tapping the main pot of $454 billion in coronavirus relief funds on his own, and doubts exist in the Treasury Department about the economic case for propping up a relatively small slice of the market that would primarily benefit wealthy investors who knowingly made high-risk bets.

One industry lobbyist involved in the negotiations said department officials remained concerned that some of the borrowers — which include hotels, shopping malls and other commercial real estate — may be “zombies” that are not going to survive, and taxpayer money sent to help them out would be lost.

Hundreds of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims seeking to enter Ukraine from Belarus in defiance of virus travel restrictions were stopped by border guards on Tuesday, as Ukraine mobilized additional guards to bolster its forces.

Ukraine closed its borders last month as cases in the country ticked up, partly to halt the yearly pilgrimage to the city of Uman, the site of the grave of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov branch of the Hasidic movement. The pilgrimage is timed to the Jewish New Year, which begins on Friday. Israeli health officials have supported Ukraine’s decision in light of the pandemic.

The pilgrims began arriving at a border crossing with Belarus on Monday afternoon, according to the Ukrainian border guard service. Authorities in Belarus let the group pass and they gathered on a road in the buffer area between the two border stations.

Through the night, hundreds of men and boys danced and sang songs. Their luggage was piled along fields on both sides of the road. The men tried to convince the border guards to let them through to celebrate the new year, the most important religious holiday for Hasidim. Little boys, looking bored and sleepy, stood by watching.

Some of the pilgrims had traveled to the Novi Yarylovychi border crossing believing it was open, which was not the case, Israel Public Broadcasting tweeted. Ukrainian authorities said the foreigners were warned about the border closure.

Three charter flights also brought about 600 pilgrims to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, according to a statement issued by the head of Ukraine’s State Border Service, Serhiy Deyneko. Belarusian media reported that about 1,500 pilgrims were at the border on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that the border closure will be enforced until it expires on Sept. 28. The country has reported nearly 20,000 new virus cases over the past week, bringing the total to more than 160,000, according to a Times database.

Britain’s unemployment rate, which held steady through the early months of the pandemic thanks to the government’s furlough program that keeps people in their jobs, has started to increase.

The rate rose to 4.1 percent for the May-to-July period, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday, up from about 3.9 percent. For months, the jobless rate had been held down by the furlough program and by grants for self-employed workers, which “shielded the labor market from the worst consequences of the pandemic,” the statistics agency said.

The ranks of the jobless were also low because many of the people who did lose jobs in the spring were more likely to choose not to look for new work while the economy was in a lockdown, and so were counted as economically inactive.

As the British economy emerged out of lockdown in June and July, some of those people have re-entered the labor market. Although some have found jobs, others have not, helping raise the unemployment rate.

Despite government support programs, in August there were 695,000 fewer payrolled employees than in March, a drop of 2.4 percent.

Young people under 25 have been particularly hard hit, continuing to record lower levels of employment as older age groups begin to recover.

Layoffs are rising. From May to July, there were 48,000 more redundancies than in the preceding three months, the biggest three-month jump since 2009. There are concerns that this is just the start of a wave of layoffs when the furlough program ends in October. The Institute for Employment Studies estimates there will be 650,000 redundancies in the second half of this year.

The persistently low unemployment rate in Britain stood in contrast to the United States, where the rate climbed above 14 percent in April as people were laid off during the height of state lockdowns and sought government help through unemployment benefits.

At a time when countries around the world are curtailing wedding ceremonies, Gibraltar, a tiny British territory nestled under a towering rock on the Iberian Peninsula, has welcomed couples of all nationalities, including Americans, who are determined to perform their nuptials despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic.

“It was vastly different from the dream,” said Je’nell Griffin, who flew into Gibraltar from Los Angeles, and had never heard of Gibraltar until it appeared at the top of a Google search for “the easiest place to get married in Europe.” “But in the end, the reality of being married to my person far outweighed any vision.”

Many of the marriages being celebrated in Gibraltar, like Ms. Griffin’s, involve an American citizen marrying a partner from another country, because of the numerous hurdles the Trump administration has placed on immigration and travel.

“We were just tired of constantly being disappointed by all the immigration restrictions that worked against us,” Ms. Griffin said, referring to the sweeping travel ban that prevented her British fiancé from visiting her in the United States. Now that they are married, he is exempt from the ban because he is a spouse.

Even before the pandemic, Gibraltar was a popular wedding destination because of the minimal bureaucracy involved in tying the knot there. Couples are required to present their passports and birth certificates, and stay in the territory overnight either before or after their wedding.

There is a history to Gibraltar weddings: John Lennon married Yoko Ono there, in 1969, after facing a series of setbacks in other countries.

“We chose Gibraltar because it is quiet, British and friendly,” Mr. Lennon is quoted as saying in the book “The History of British Rock and Roll.”

Reporting was contributed by Matt Apuzzo, Emma Bubola, Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Fandos, Antonella Francini, Rick Gladstone, Jennifer Jett, Anemona Hartocollis, Eric Lipton, Salman Masood, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Constant Méheut, Claire Moses, Eshe Nelson, Norimitsu Onishi, Gaia Pianigiani, Campbell Robertson, Christopher F. Schuetze, Michael D. Shear, Jeanna Smialek, Maria Varenikova, Sui-Lee Wee, Ceylan Yeginsu and Elaine Yu.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/15/world/covid-19-coronavirus.html

News – Covid-19 Live Updates: Europe Pivots Its Strategy, From All-Out War to Learning ‘How to Live With the Virus’