Here’s what you need to know:
- Argentina extends strict flight ban to September.
- Nigeria could ease lockdowns in Lagos and Abuja next week.
- States cautiously move ahead with plans to reopen.
- Some students return to school in China’s major cities.
- Trump’s disinfectant remarks echo pseudoscience.
- Bangladesh lets garment factories, a pillar of its economy, reopen, but workers fear infection.
- Recycling companies have closed, and the impact is hitting those who work the pile at a large landfill in Indonesia.
Argentina extends strict flight ban to September.
Argentina has banned all commercial flights until September 1, extending the current air travel prohibition put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure, which forbids the sale of all tickets for flights to, from and within Argentina, is one of the longest bans on air travel amid the pandemic. It also quickly led to complaints from the airline sector that said it would lead to serious economic damage.
The International Air Transport Association wrote to the Argentine government warning the move violates bilateral agreements and could lead to the loss of more than 300,000 jobs.
The Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association also expressed its concern, claiming “many companies in the sector will not be able to survive if this resolution is implemented.”
The decree, which was published on Monday, does not explain why September 1 was chosen as the end date for the ban, which forbids all flights except for those carrying cargo or repatriating passengers, from entering or leaving the country. With the measure, Argentina has extended its travel ban longer than any other country in the region, but the decree also leaves open the possibility that the restrictions could be lifted earlier.
Argentina implemented a strict national lockdown that has been in place since March 20, including the closing of borders, as a measure that the government says has helped slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Argentina has 4,033 confirmed cases and 197 deaths attributed to Covid-19.
Over the weekend President Alberto Fernández extended the national lockdown order through May 10.
Nigeria could ease lockdowns in Lagos and Abuja next week.
Nigeria plans to ease its coronavirus-related lockdowns in two major cities on May 4, the president announced Monday.
At a news conference, President Muhammadu Buhari said the country would begin a “phased and gradual easing” of the coronavirus lockdowns in Abuja, the capital, and two southwestern states: Lagos, home to the country’s most populous city of the same name, and Ogun.
“However, this will be followed strictly with aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors,” he said.
Mr. Buhari also introduced several nationwide measures, including mandatory face coverings, a ban on nonessential interstate travel and an 8 p.m. curfew.
The lockdowns, which went into effect on March 31, were originally scheduled to last two weeks. They were extended once in mid-April, and once more with Mr. Buhari’s announcement on Monday.
Mr. Buhari also announced “a total lockdown for a period of two weeks effective immediately” in Kano, a major business hub in the North.
An Italian contractor who flew into Nigeria from Milan became sub-Saharan Africa’s first confirmed coronavirus patient in February. Since then, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria has risen to 1,273, and 40 people have died. Among them was Abba Kyari, Mr. Buhari’s the chief of staff and one of the most powerful men in the country. He died on April 17 of complications of the new coronavirus, the Lagos state government said.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and its health system, which had gained a reputation for efficiently containing cases during the Ebola epidemic in 2014, responded quickly to the outbreak.
The lockdowns have “come at a very heavy economic cost,” Mr. Buhari said.
“Many of our citizens have lost their means of livelihood,” he added. “Many businesses have shut down. No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines.”
Three other sub-Saharan countries have been hit harder by the virus in terms of the number of confirmed cases: South Africa, an early epicenter for the continent which has had more than 4,700 cases; and Cameroon and Ghana, which have each recorded more than 1,500.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 2,984,000 people in at least 177 countries.
States cautiously move ahead with plans to reopen.
Governors across the United States uneasily forged ahead with plans to reopen their state economies on Monday, despite health experts’ warnings and a coronavirus toll that now rivals the nation’s dead in the Vietnam War.
The pandemic has claimed some 50,000 lives in the United States, which has more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country, according to a New York Times tally. Only about 1.6 percent of the U.S. population has been tested.
Pressured to ramp up that number, President Trump unveiled a plan to help states do more testing, but his proposal fell far short of what most public health experts say is needed. Democrats swiftly assailed it, with Senator Patty Murray of Washington calling it “nothing new.”
The governor of Texas announced that stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls would be allowed to reopen to a limited extent on Friday. Ohio’s governor unveiled a more incremental plan to reopen some offices and resume manufacturing next week.
Some states were more circumspect. In Arizona and Florida, where stay-at-home orders are due to expire Thursday, Sun Belt governors were vague about the specifics.
Low-wage black and Latino workers have the most to lose from a sustained shutdown, but also largely tend to have jobs that cannot be done from home and entail greater health risks.
Nevada and Colorado signed on to a Western pact with Oregon, Washington and California to coordinate their reopenings. And the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, criticized constituents who had flocked to beaches over the weekend. Addressing the public at his daily coronavirus briefing, Mr. Newsom reminded: “This virus doesn’t take the weekends off.”
But Mr. Trump kept up the pressure, urging governors to “start to think about school openings” before the academic year ends, while his attorney general asked federal prosecutors around the country to look for and fight emergency state or local orders issued to contain the pandemic that could also violate “constitutional rights and civil liberties.”
And despite a stay-at-home order from the mayor of Washington, D.C., congressional leaders announced the House and Senate would both return to session next week.
Some students return to school in China’s major cities.
Droves of students in China’s biggest cities returned to school on Monday after months of closures, cautiously coming back to campus where grueling exams and social distancing measures awaited.
Schools in Beijing welcomed back high school seniors in preparation for the gaokao, the notoriously difficult university entrance exams that have been postponed for a month to July.
In Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, students in their final year of middle and high school also returned to campus wearing masks and occasionally being greeted by staffers in protective suits who took their body temperatures. In Hubei, the central Chinese province hit hardest by the coronavirus, graduating high school students are set to return to classes on May 6.
Schools in the large Chinese cities have taken extra precautions as they emerged from the pandemic. A school in Shanghai installed glass dividers on students’ desks, while a teacher was seen disinfecting basketballs individually, the Shanghai Observer reported.
But for classmates who had not seen each other for months, opportunities to catch up were limited: one school in Guangzhou has asked students not to speak while they eat, and each table could only seat two students at one meter apart, Hong Kong media reported.
Masks were not the only things used to fight infections. At a primary school in Hangzhou, schoolchildren were recently pictured wearing hats with long extensions poking out from both sides, inspired by ancient headwear from the Song dynasty that in one telling were said to discourage private gossiping in the imperial courts.
Trump’s disinfectant remarks echo pseudoscience.
President Trump’s public statements about using disinfectants to potentially treat the coronavirus have put him in the company of pseudoscientists and purveyors of phony elixirs who promote and sell industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for autism, malaria and a long list of medical conditions.
But some scientists fear Mr. Trump’s remarks could breathe life into a fringe movement that embraces the medicinal powers of a powerful industrial bleach known as chlorine dioxide. Among its adherents are Alan Keyes, the conservative activist and former presidential candidate who has promoted a chlorine dioxide-based product called Miracle Mineral Solution on his online television show.
The impact of Trump’s words “is going to be huge, especially among people who are desperate,” said Myles Power, a British chemist who works to debunk quack medical remedies.
Mark Grenon, the self-described archbishop of a Florida church that sells Miracle Mineral Solution as “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body,” took credit for Mr. Trump’s comments in a Facebook post on Friday. In an online radio show earlier this month, he said that he and his supporters had sent letters to the president about the product he peddles.
Promoters of such solutions have seized on his remarks with vigor.
“Do you realize how freaking cheap and easy it would be to mass produce chlorine dioxide for 100,000’s of people?” Jordan Sather, a follower of the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, wrote on Twitter. “We could wipe out COVID quick!”
Bangladesh lets garment factories, a pillar of its economy, reopen, but workers fear infection.
Authorities in Bangladesh have given the green light to resume operations at garment factories, which make up a large part of the national economy, but some workers fear they might get the coronavirus by returning to cramped factory floors.
Around 1,800 of 7,620 garment and textile factories have reopened in recent days after a strict lockdown that shut most of the economy in an already poor country.
“We reopened industry partially and asked factory owners to follow health protocol and ensure health safety for workers,” said Mohammed Abdus Salam, a vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “Many factories have orders for next winter season starting in September. We have no other choice of starting work this time to complete the whole process of production.”
Nazma Akter, president of a garments workers’ union said, “I have received complaints from some workers of a few factories that physical distancing and other health safety measures have not been maintained properly.”
“The owners reopened factories hurriedly and arbitrarily,’’ she added. “If the virus spreads again among the workers, this won’t be a big problem only for the industry but also for the country.”
Farhad Hossain Khan, a superintendent of Industrial Police, said garment workers had protested on Sunday and Monday in industrial areas.
“Some workers protested, demanding their due wages, some workers protest demanding reopening of their factories. We solved problems through dialogue with workers and owners,” he said, adding that the police continued monitoring to ensure worker safety.
The Bangladesh government announced a countrywide shutdown from March 26 to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The authorities have asked people to stay home and suspended travel inside the country by air, road and train. The country recorded its first infections on March 8 and has reported around 6,000 infections and 150 deaths.
Recycling companies have closed, and the impact is hitting those who work the pile at a large landfill in Indonesia.
When the Bantar Gebang facility — one of the world’s largest landfills — is operating at full tilt, hundreds of scavengers swarm around the heavy equipment rumbling on the mountain of garbage. They typically earn from $2 to $10 a day, from the plastic, metal, wood and electronic waste they collect as they deal with workplace hazards like landslides. But the global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has reached this part of Indonesia, adding to the misery.
Most recycling companies that buy waste from the trash pickers, known as pemulung, have closed their doors, so fewer pemulung are working because they have no place to sell what they collect, said Resa Boenard, co-founder of Seeds of Bantar Gebang, a nonprofit helping the community.
New social distancing rules imposed by the provincial government took effect this month in Bantar Gebang, prompting even more trash pickers to stay off the pile.
No cases of the virus have been reported in the landfill’s villages, but no one has been tested there, either, said Asep Gunawan, the head of Bantar Gebang district, which includes the landfill. The trash pickers don’t qualify for government coronavirus aid because they are not registered as residents.
There is a widespread belief in Indonesia that living in unsanitary conditions helps people build immunity to diseases like the coronavirus — an unscientific view that will be put dangerously to the test in the landfill’s shantytowns, where thousands of people live.
Israel’s Memorial Day observance is even more somber than usual.
Civil-defense sirens sounded on Monday night to signal the start of Israel’s solemn Memorial Day observance, but unlike in ordinary years, when the moment halts traffic, the remembrance arrived with most of the country already on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin of Israel sought to console those who were mourning fallen soldiers or victims of terrorism alone, at home, rather than “wrapped in the embrace of those who love them.”
The virus-related restrictions were a boon, however, to an alternative ceremony that for 15 years has drawn together bereaved families from both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The live-streamed event reached its biggest audience yet, organizers said, with at least 170,000 viewers.
Hagai Yoel, an Israeli whose older brother was killed in 2002 on a military rescue mission in Jenin, said he couldn’t bear to imagine his 13-year-old son in uniform in five years. “I know that in order to resolve a conflict, both sides have to give up on something, because If I take it all, the other side will remain frustrated and despairing,” Mr. Yoel said.
And Yaqub al-Rabi, whose wife, Aisha, was killed in 2018 by Israeli settlers who stoned their car, said he wanted to “convey to Israeli society, and to the whole world, a message born from my bleeding wound.”
“We all lose victims to this conflict,” he said. “It doesn’t tell apart soldiers and civilians, women and men, children and adults. Or those taking part and bystanders. This conflict is man-made. And humans can end it.”
Mexico empties migrant detention centers to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Mexican government has almost entirely emptied its network of migrant detention centers, deporting the people in them, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among detainees, the authorities announced.
A detainee population that reached more than 3,700 last month is down to 106, with some of the system’s 65 centers now shut, officials said.
In the past seven weeks, as the pandemic worsened in Mexico, the authorities deported 3,653 migrants to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Mexican government cast its decision to clear out the system as a humanitarian act in response to recommendations from government health officials and national and international groups.
The United Nations as well as human rights groups and migrants’ advocates in Mexico and the United States have been pressuring the Mexican government to release detainees for fear that contagion could easily spread through the system.
In recent weeks, detainees in several centers launched protests, saying that overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate medical care were perfect conditions for an outbreak. Some of the protests turned violent, resulting in injuries and the death of a detainee.
Mexican officials said that so far, no migrant in the detention system has tested positive for Covid-19.
“A pandemic is not the time to have people in close proximity to one another,” said Christopher Gascon, chief of the Mexico office for the International Office for Migration, an intergovernmental group.
With the flow of migrants through Mexican territory at almost a standstill during the pandemic, the detention system will likely remain mostly empty for the foreseeable future. The Mexican government emphasized, however, that it was continuing to enforce migration laws in its territory.
Reporting was contributed by Elaine Yu, Daniel Politi, Shawn Hubler, Jacey Fortin, Mihir Zaveri, Adam Dean, Richard C. Paddock, Muktita Suhartono, Andrew Jacobs and Dera Menra Sijabat.