Coronavirus Live Updates: Olympics Postponed; New York City Braces for a Deluge of Patients

 Coronavirus Live Updates: Olympics Postponed; New York City Braces for a Deluge of Patients


The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed a year until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan asked Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, for the postponement and he agreed “100 percent,” Mr. Abe told reporters.

The decision on Tuesday came after months of internal discussion and mounting pressure from nations and athletes across the world who had urged that the Games, the world’s largest sporting event, be postponed. Government lockdowns to control the pandemic had shut down qualifying tournaments, closed training facilities and kept athletes sequestered at home.

The International Olympic Committee, however, had insisted on pressing forward with the event, only on Sunday announcing that within four weeks it would make a decision on the Games, raising questions across the Olympic movement over why it was further delaying a decision.

The postponement came after Olympics officials in the United States, which sends the largest delegations of athletes to the Games, urged a postponement and Canada said it would not send its athletes. Several other national Olympic committees, including in Brazil and Australia, also sided with postponing the event. Surveys of athletes by sports federations overwhelmingly favored postponing the Games because of the restrictions they were facing in preparing.

Japan has invested more than $10 billion to prepare for the Games. The Olympics have previously been not held only because of war. The 1916 Summer Olympics were canceled as a result of World War I and the Summer and Winter Games were canceled in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II.

With more states across America ordering millions to stay home, and Britain joining the rest of Europe in shuttering nonessential businesses and placing its population under what one newspaper called “house arrest,” voices of disquiet over the economic cost of such measures grew louder, even as public health experts warned that relaxing restrictions could significantly increase the death toll.

Only one week after the White House released guidelines for all Americans to keep their distance, President Trump said it could soon be time to consider a more targeted approach.

“Life is fragile and economies are fragile,” the president said on Monday.

Millions have already lost their jobs and the foundations of the global economy have been shaken.

Mortgage markets showed signs of crumbling, companies struggled to sell debt and stresses plagued the entire financial system.

The Federal Reserve promised to buy as much government-backed debt as needed to bolster the markets on Monday, but stocks on Wall Street still fell.

There were hopeful signs on Tuesday, however, as Asian markets rebounded smartly. Lawmakers in Washington expressed optimism that they would reach a deal on a nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill, although those efforts have until now fallen victim to partisan wrangling.

Public health officials continued to warn of impending disaster in the absence of stronger restrictions on movement, saying the uncontrolled spread of the virus could overwhelm health care systems around the world.

In New York, where 157 people have died and 2,600 remain hospitalized, officials raced to prepare for a coming tsunami of patients.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the “attack rate” — the percentage of the population infected with the virus — was nearly one in 1,000 in the New York area, five times higher than in other parts of the country.

“To all of my friends and colleagues in New York, this is the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self-isolate at this time,” she said.

Across the Atlantic, even as the crisis grew in Spain and France and Britain prepared for worse days to come, health officials could point to the first glimpses of hope.

Two weeks after Italy was completely locked down, its number of new cases and deaths declined for two days in a row.

The number of patients in the hospitals in Lombardy, the region that is by far the hardest hit in Italy, fell as well, to 9,266 from 9,439.

“We can say that today is the first positive day,” said Giulio Gallera, Lombardy’s leading health official. “It’s not the moment to sing victory, but we finally see light at the end of the tunnel.”

New York City has about a third of the nation’s confirmed coronavirus cases, making it the new epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

And hospitals across the region reported increasing numbers of cases as workers warned about shortages in protective equipment.

Mr. Cuomo announced plans to send hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves and gowns to health care facilities, and said the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan would be repurposed as four “emergency hospitals.”

New York’s population density may help explain why the infection rate is so high.

New York is far more crowded than any other major city in the United States. It has 28,000 residents per square mile, while San Francisco, the next densest city, has 17,000, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

All of those people, in such a small space, appear to have helped the virus spread rapidly through packed subway trains, busy playgrounds and apartment buildings, forming ever-widening circles of infections. The city now has more coronavirus cases per capita than even Italy.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York is requiring hospitals to increase capacity by at least 50 percent. New York State saw a one-day increase of nearly 5,000 cases, putting the total at 21,689 as of Monday night.

With the epidemic in New York exploding, other states rushed to protect themselves.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said he was planning to sign an executive order requiring anyone flying to the state from New York or New Jersey to enter quarantine for 14 days.

Many cases in places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have been tied to New York, and a recent uptick in travel from the region suggested New Yorkers were flying to Florida to flee shelter-in-place orders.

“Hopefully that will be a deterrent for people if you’re just trying to escape here,” Mr. DeSantis said. The quarantine will not apply to people arriving by car.

The government will be “forceful” in its response to those who abandon older people, Margarita Robles, Spain’s defense minister, said Monday in an interview with Telecinco, a Spanish television channel. Officials did not say how many had died or whether residents had succumbed to coronavirus-related illness or a lack of care.

Ms. Robles said that emergency military units dispatched to disinfect nursing homes had found there some residents “absolutely abandoned, if not dead in their beds.”

The defense ministry said that dead bodies had been found in multiple nursing homes that had discharged large number of employees in the wake of the outbreaks, but did not provide further details, El País, a daily broadsheet, reported.

Workers at nursing homes have been calling for protective equipment as residents and fellow employees became infected with the coronavirus, leaving them short-handed and at personal risk in their workplaces. Representatives of the industry have called on the government to support them, rather than criticize them.

José Manuel Ramírez, the president of a Spanish association of directors of social services, said that it was “shameful” for the Spanish defense minister to vilify nursing home employees, and that the government should instead take a close look at its own failure to protect these “heroes,” who have often been forced to leave their work after themselves contracting the coronavirus.

“Those in the field are working themselves to the bone without resources, without health support, without protective equipment,” he said, according to the newspaper El País.

Spanish prosecutors began investigating reports of nursing home residents living in poor sanitation conditions last week after at least 19 people died in the Monte Hermoso nursing home in Madrid.

Last weekend, the Spanish government announced that it would extend the country’s lockdown until at least April 11. Spain, with almost 2,700 deaths, remains the country hardest hit by the coronavirus in Europe after Italy.

The Senate’s top Democrat and the treasury secretary said on Monday night that they were close to a deal on a nearly $2 trillion economic stabilization package to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came hours after Democrats voted for the second time to block action until they had secured more worker protections and restrictions on bailed-out companies.

“We expect to have an agreement in the morning,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, told reporters just before midnight, as he wrapped up a final meeting with Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary. “There are still a few little differences,” he said.

Mr. Mnuchin said the two sides were very close to a compromise, though both sides cautioned there was no final agreement and the negotiations remained fluid. The two men called President Trump just before they broke for the night.

Mr. Schumer said the president’s response had been “very positive,” despite a tweet just minutes before in which Mr. Trump accused Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of sabotaging the package and wanting “the virus to win.”

The apparent progress came after Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Schumer spent hours haggling behind closed doors. Among other areas of contention, Democrats had demanded restrictions and oversight requirements over a proposed $500 billion fund to bail out distressed companies.

Democrats voted against moving forward with the plan Monday afternoon, sending markets plummeting. But after more discussion, late Monday night Mr. Schumer said he was hopeful that both sides could now come together quickly, with a vote possible by Tuesday evening.

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global outbreak started, said on Tuesday that public transportation would resume within 24 hours and residents would be allowed to leave the city beginning April 8 as infections appeared to be dwindling after a weekslong lockdown.

Even as local infections across China appeared to approach zero, the Wuhan government on Tuesday said a hospital doctor had tested positive, adding to evidence that Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, has not beaten the virus.

In Wuhan, the authorities continue to turn up cases of people with the virus but without symptoms, fueling growing fears among the Chinese public that the government has failed to disclose or discover a much larger number of infections than the 81,171 cases that have been reported.

In China, officials only count patients with both symptoms and a positive test in the official tally of confirmed cases. The World Health Organization says that all people who test positive are confirmed to be infected, even if they show no symptoms.

China’s approach to counting raises questions about how many people with the virus are circulating freely. There is evidence that asymptomatic people can infect others.

The number of “silent carriers” — people who are infected but show delayed or no symptoms — could be as high as a third of those who test positive, the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, reported on Sunday, citing classified Chinese government data.

After social media accounts circulated over the weekend that China was suppressing the numbers by failing to acknowledge these “silent carriers,” authorities in Wuhan said a patient in the city had tested positive despite not having symptoms.

The Wuhan health commission also stated that infected patients with no symptoms still need to be isolated for 14 days and that “a small number may progress to confirmed cases.”

Last week, China reported no new local infections for the first time since the outbreak began three months ago. But it is now struggling with imported cases, which continue to rise.

But for many public health experts, these developments add to doubts that the virus will be fully eradicated in China in the near term.

President Trump, in a nearly two-hour coronavirus briefing, hinted on Monday that the economic shutdown meant to halt the spread of the virus across the country would not be extended.

“America will again and soon be open for business,” the president said, without providing a timeline for when he believes normal economic activity could resume. He later added, “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now.”

“If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s shut down the entire world,” Mr. Trump said. “This could create a much bigger problem than the problem that you started out with.”

Mr. Trump also suggested that he would soon re-evaluate the federal guidance urging social distancing. More states moved on Monday to impose their own sweeping stay-at-home orders, which will soon cover more than 158 million Americans in 16 states.

Washington, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Oregon became the latest states to announce sweeping directives to keep more people home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Mr. Trump sent mixed signals from the White House podium, agreeing at one point with his surgeon general and saying, “It’s going to be bad,” then suggesting that the response to the virus may have been overblown.

“This is going away,” Mr. Trump said, citing jobs, “anxiety and depression” and suicide as arguments for restoring the U.S. economy.

He compared deaths from the novel coronavirus so far to deaths from other causes — influenza and car accidents — suggesting that the scale of those preventable deaths means economic restrictions may not be appropriate.

While it is true that those causes of death outnumber deaths from the virus to date, projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that deaths from Covid-19 could range from 200,000 to 1.7 million people. Estimates from other scientists place the potential deaths in a range from several hundred thousand to several million deaths, substantially more than annual deaths from car accidents and flu combined.

On Britain’s first day of lockdown, streets in the capital were noticeably quieter. Shops were shuttered. And those out and about tended to walk alone.

But it was clear there were still gaps in adherence and that confusion remained over the measures. The London Underground, which was operating a significantly reduced service on Tuesday, was once again packed with commuters.

A video taken at a tube station in southeastern London on Tuesday morning showed carriages crammed with people, most without masks or gloves. Richard Gray, the tube operator who posted the video on Twitter, said it made him “furious.”

Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, responded on Twitter to calls to increase the number of trains or introduce authenticating measures for essential workers to use the underground, saying that increasing trains was impossible as many transportation staff were “sick or self-isolating.” He urged those who had to go to work to not travel at rush hour in order to keep contact to a minimum.

A countrywide text message began to hit phones on Tuesday alerting people about the measures and urging them to abide by the rules for the sake of Britain’s National Health Service, which risks being overwhelmed if cases continue to rise.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that for at least three weeks Britain would be under a virtual lockdown enforced by the police, banning meetings of more than two people and trips outside the home except to buy food or medicine.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said construction workers should still go to work while practicing social distancing, and plumbers, electricians and trades people could attend to emergencies.

In an appearance on Sky News, he also issued a stark warning: “Unless you stay at home, the people you love most may die.”

African states have ramped up efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, with South Africa announcing on Monday that it would begin a three-week lockdown starting on Thursday, and curfews and closures across the continent.

While the virus was slow to arrive in Africa, the number of confirmed cases and deaths have gradually increased in recent days, raising fears about the continent’s readiness to deal with a pandemic.

In a televised address, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said new measures were necessary to “avoid a human catastrophe,” adding that people would not be allowed to leave their homes except to buy food or seek medical care. In just over a week, the number of confirmed cases in the country have jumped to 554.

To date, 43 African states have reported a total of 1,788 positive cases and 58 deaths from the coronavirus, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The coronavirus has also claimed the lives of the Congolese music legend Aurlus Mabele and the prominent Cameroonian jazz musician Manu Dibango, who died almost a week apart in Paris.

The spike has pushed countries to undertake increasingly strict measures, including closing schools in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, suspending travel between cities and rural areas in Rwanda, restricting visitors from high-risk countries in Uganda, imposing overnight curfews in Senegal and Egypt and suspending all international flights in and out of Kenya by March 25.

Officials are now worried about the lasting effects of Covid-19 on African economies. On Tuesday, Ethiopia’s prime minister said the virus “poses an existential threat” to the economies of African states, and asked G20 leaders to provide $150 billion in emergency funding.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has been granted sweeping emergency powers to combat coronavirus, triggering fears in a nation that spent the 1970s and ’80s under brutal martial law.

Mr. Duterte, who has drawn international rebuke for his bloody and ruthless war on drugs, said he needed the powers granted to him in the legislation to address the crisis and unlock some $5.4 billion.

An earlier version of the bill would have allowed Mr. Duterte’s government to take over privately owned businesses. While the version that passed Tuesday was scaled back, some legislators have worried that Mr. Duterte will abuse the public funds.

“This limitless grant of emergency powers is tantamount to autocracy,” Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties, an association of rights lawyers, said in a statement. The group, which includes some of the Philippines’ top legal minds, pointed out that in the past Mr. Duterte had likened the constitution to a “scrap of toilet paper.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand declared a state of emergency, effective on Thursday, to combat the coronavirus, raising similar concerns about a potential abuse of power. Mr. Prayuth, a retired general who led an army coup in 2014, gave himself the authority to impose curfews, censor the media and prevent people from leaving their homes.

Mr. Prayuth, who announced the state of emergency while wearing a loose facial mask made of Thai silk, said that people should be careful when using social media, lest they spread rumors. So far the virus has killed four people and infected more than 820 people in the country.

Four members of the American-led NATO military coalition in Afghanistan tested positive for coronavirus, the coalition said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We have taken the necessary precaution to identify and quarantine any personnel these four service members may have been in contact with,” the military coalition said in a statement, without identifying the nationalities.

The NATO coalition also said 38 other service members remained in isolation because they had shown “flulike symptoms” and that 1,500 service members and civilians working for the mission were living in “screening facilities out of an abundance of caution.” Officials are also concerned that tens of thousands of Afghan forces are extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus amid a raging war with the Taliban.

Although the number of positive cases in Afghanistan still remains in double digits, something attributed to extremely limited testing so far, Afghanistan remains highly vulnerable to the virus because of a porous border with Iran and a weak government that can’t implement preventive measures. On Tuesday, the country’s health minister, based on World Health Organization estimates, said as much as 80 percent of Afghanistan’s population could end up being infected by the virus.

Reporting and research were contributed by Motoko Rich, Mujib Mashal, Fahim Abed, Declan Walsh, Hannah Beech, Abdi Latif Dahir, Jason Gutierrez, Raphael Minder, Megan Specia, Marc Santora, Iliana Magra, Melissa Eddy, Jason Gutierrez, Hannah Beech, Tiffany May, Sui-Lee Wee, Nick Fandos, Sabrina Tavernise, Thomas Fuller, Tim Arango and Jo Becker





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