Coronavirus, Boris Johnson, Wuhan: Your Wednesday Briefing

Coronavirus, Boris Johnson, Wuhan: Your Wednesday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the end of Wuhan’s lockdown, a leadership test in Britain and two pandas having a good time.

Credit…Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After over 10 weeks of lockdown, residents of Wuhan, China, can now leave that city if they present to the authorities a government-sanctioned phone app that measures their contagion risk. Shops are reopening, parks are filling and life is slowly creeping back.

The reopening on Wednesday came a day after China reported no new deaths for the first time since January, though doubts remained about the country’s statistics.

Within the city of 11 million, tough rules are still in place to prevent the coronavirus from resurging. Officials are telling everyone to stay home as much as possible, and schools remain closed.

The experience has left a “profoundly damaged” city, our correspondents write. “Sickness and death have touched hundreds of thousands of lives, imprinting them with trauma that could linger for decades.”

Watch: It doesn’t take long for mild symptoms to become serious. Our video explains how the virus invades the lungs.

Here are the latest updates and maps of where the virus has spread.

Markets: American and European market futures suggested mixed openings as Asian stocks fell on Wednesday. Follow live updates here.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain remained in the intensive care unit of a London hospital on Tuesday battling coronavirus symptoms. He is receiving “standard oxygen treatment” but has not been put on a ventilator.

It has thrown Britain, which does not have a codified order of succession, into uncharted territory. The nation’s current stand-in is Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, who will become the government’s de facto leader if Mr. Johnson is unable to carry out his duties.

Still, there’s good news; more than 750,000 volunteers have signed up to health service and community groups to help take care of Britain’s most vulnerable people during the country’s lockdown.

Read an interview with our London correspondent in our Back Story below.

In other developments:

  • Paris has banned outdoor sports, including running, during much of the day as France became the fourth country in the world to pass the grim milestone of 10,000 deaths.

  • The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, on Tuesday extended for another two weeks a lockdown on the country’s main island, encompassing about 60 million people.

  • Turkey has ordered its citizens to wear masks in crowded public places, saying it will deliver them free of charge to every family. The country has over 34,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, a number that is rising.

  • Denmark, one of the first countries in Europe to shut down, is reopening day care centers and primary schools on April 15.

  • Canada’s public health officers have inspired ballads, street art, recipes, T-shirts. One official for British Columbia even has a fan club.

Spain has the second highest number of cases in the world, with over 14,000 reported deaths.

The epidemic has forced Spaniards to confront the kind of struggle harkening back to the 1930s Spanish Civil War.

Health care unions, with more members infected than anywhere else in the world, are now taking the authorities to court for not protecting them. About 15 percent of Spain’s population is estimated to have been infected. Critics have blamed Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for not locking down the country earlier, and for not stockpiling medical equipment.

Spain’s crisis is a painful example of one government’s tendency to initially dismiss the virus’s toll on countries struck earlier during the pandemic — though the country is not alone.

Japan: Medical experts are wondering whether Japan’s declaration of a state emergency on Tuesday is too little, too late.

United States: President Trump threatened to cut funding to the World Health Organization on Tuesday, criticizing its handling of the outbreak. He also denied seeing a memo from a top adviser warning in January that the pandemic could kill or sicken millions of Americans.

Opinion: Nearly a month into lockdown, the self-employed and seasonal workers of Italy are having the toughest time as the economy heads for a contraction, write two translators in the country.

Guyana, once one of South America’s poorest countries, is speeding toward a future as an oil-producing giant.

Many are welcoming that change. Others, though, wonder if the new wealth will change life for a majority or for just a select few. Ethnic tensions are intensifying, and environmentalists worry about the toll of fossil fuel production on a nation where nine out of 10 people live below sea level.

Afghanistan: Taliban leaders ordered negotiators to pull out of talks over a prisoner swap with the Afghan government on Tuesday, threatening a fragile peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S.

Vanuatu cyclone: A Category 5 storm ripped through the Pacific island nation for the second day, causing scenes of sweeping devastation. No deaths have been reported.

U.S. Navy: The acting secretary, Thomas Modly, resigned after his bungled response to a virus outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier engulfed the Navy in a public relations disaster.

Dark Matter: Elena Aprile was leading one of the world’s largest investigations into dark matter, set under an Italian mountain, when she became stranded in New York’s lockdown. Here’s how her team finished the experiment.

Easter bunny stays: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reassured the children of New Zealand that the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy are essential workers during the lockdown.

Snapshot: Above, Ying Ying and Le Le, two giant pandas who finally got into the mood after 13 years of living together in a Hong Kong zoo. The two members of the famously low-libido species successfully mated on Monday, a cause for celebration in the animal conservation world.

New Music: How the English pop star Dua Lipa released one of the year’s biggest pop records from her couch.

What we’re reading: This GQ feature that goes inside Eliud Kipchoge’s Kenyan training ground. “Come for the photos of the fastest marathoner in history, wearing couture,” says Talya Minsberg, a Sports editor. “Stay for the words by Knox Robinson and wisdom shared by Kipchoge.”

Cook: A big bowl of garlicky, soupy greens may just be a welcome break from all the poundcake and cookies you’ve been baking.

Read: This collection of letters of recommendation from The Times Magazine is deeply soothing. And there are so many good, bizarre, animal-adjacent true-crime books and novels out there to read, particularly if you’ve binge-watched “Tiger King” on Netflix.

Do: A lot of people are shopping for tiny desks. And many are wondering how to celebrate Passover and Easter in isolation.

Stephen Castle, the Times’s London correspondent, has been covering Britain’s coronavirus outbreak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s personal experience with Covid-19. Melina Delkic, from the Briefings Team, spoke to him about what he’s seeing on the ground.

Walk us through Boris Johnson’s condition and how his case has progressed.

We heard on Tuesday that he was stable overnight and was still in intensive care. Critically, they said he had gotten some oxygen but had not been on a ventilator or required invasive treatment.

His girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, tweeted about feeling symptoms, but we have no suggestion that she has suffered anything as serious as Boris Johnson.

What’s the mood right now in Britain?

There was quite a lot of surprise and a certain amount of shock in the announcement this week.

Really until Thursday, and even into Friday, the plan was for him to come out of self-isolation on Friday, which would have been seven days from when he was diagnosed. Then he himself did a sort of rather shaky at-home video explaining his situation, in which he didn’t look terrible, but he didn’t look great either. That was as far as we knew.

What are the big questions about leadership in this time of crisis?

It has caused something of a power vacuum. We’re in a rather unpredictable position where we’re slightly unclear how the government is being run. As you know, there is no written constitution.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, is deputizing for the prime minister, but there does seem to be this feeling at the moment that everything is kind of going wrong for the government at an incredibly critical time for the country.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Isabella

Thank you
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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