Japan’s government is reluctant to shutter businesses, even under emergency declaration.
Even after Japan declared a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus pandemic in its largest population centers earlier this week, the central government is urging governors to wait two weeks to ask businesses to close for fear of damaging the economy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially announced the emergency declarations earlier this week for seven prefectures that include Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka and Yokohama and represent a population of 56.1 million people. The government does not have the legal power to issue stay-at-home orders or compel businesses to close, but governors can request that businesses suspend operations to help contain the spread of infection.
While some of the governors want to ask businesses to close now, the central government wants them to wait to see if individual citizens will flatten the curve of infections by refraining from going outside and working from home. On Thursday, the health ministry announced 511 newly confirmed cases — a 46 percent jump over a day earlier.
A special adviser to the prime minister, Yousuke Isozaki, said in a tweet on Thursday that the central government had “differences” with the governors. “Tokyo Metropolitan Government wants to make a request to close certain businesses,” he wrote. “Other prefectures are reluctant because they cannot compensate the businesses. The government’s stance is that they cannot compensate for business closure so we want to wait and see for two weeks.”
In announcing the state of emergency this week, Mr. Abe warned citizens to avoid closed spaces where crowds meet in close proximity — places like nightclubs, karaoke bars and live music halls.
One municipality is taking matters into its own hands. Gotemba, a city of about 88,000 in the foothills of Mount Fuji, is offering owners of businesses such as bars and nightclubs a maximum of 1 million yen (about $9,200) in compensation for closing between April 16 and 30.
U.S. says social distancing may be working in big cities.
The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator suggested on Wednesday that the strict measures being taken by Americans to stem the spread of the virus may be leveling new cases in large metropolitan areas like New York, Detroit, Chicago and Boston.
But the coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, also emphasized that “there is still a significant amount of disease.”
Here’s what else is happening in the United States:
New York State reported that another 779 people had died, its biggest single-day toll so far, bringing its death toll above 6,000. The state now has nearly 150,000 cases — more than any single country in the world outside of the U.S.
New research indicates that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that it was brought to the region mainly by travelers from Europe, not Asia.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report to the White House that the virus might not fade in summer, as many had hoped. Previous studies that linked high temperature and humidity to diminished transmission had limitations that made them less than conclusive, the report said.
W.H.O. chief says politicizing the virus would lead to “many more body bags.”
Replying to criticism from President Trump, the head of the World Health Organization made an impassioned plea for solidarity on Wednesday, warning that politicizing the coronavirus pandemic would result in “many more body bags.”
Mr. Trump unleashed a tirade against the organization on Tuesday, accusing it of acting too slowly to sound the alarm, and of treating the Chinese government too favorably. While the president, who threatened to withhold American funding for the W.H.O., spoke in unusually harsh terms, he was not alone in such criticism.
Critics say that the W.H.O. has been too trusting of the Chinese government, which initially tried to conceal the outbreak. Others have faulted the organization for not moving faster in declaring a global health emergency. But the agency’s defenders say that its powers over any individual government are limited.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s comments on Wednesday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. director-general, said, “We want to learn from our mistakes,” but added, “for now, the focus should be on fighting this virus.”
“Please don’t politicize this virus,” Dr. Tedros said. “If you want to be exploited and you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”
Dr. Tedros also singled out the Taiwanese government, which has been frozen out of the W.H.O. following pressure from Beijing, when he said for the first time that he had been targeted by racist comments and death threats that originated in the country.
“They didn’t disassociate themselves,” he said of Taiwanese officials. “They even started criticizing me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care.”
Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, hit back on Thursday. “Taiwan has always opposed all forms of discrimination,” she wrote on Facebook. “For years, we have been excluded from international organizations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated.”
Oil markets are badly shaken. Can world leaders save them?
Usually it’s the world’s major oil-producing countries that step in when a big drop in prices shakes the oil market. But these are not normal times.
On Friday, a day after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers led by Russia are set to hold their own meeting, representatives of the Group of 20 wealthy nations are expected to hold a virtual conference to try to stem the recent plunge in energy prices.
The volatile oil markets threaten to bankrupt energy companies across the world, causing enormous job losses and threatening financial institutions that have backed the industry.
The pandemic has played a critical role in this drama, but there is also a lot of jockeying among the three oil superpowers: Saudi Arabia and Russia, two longtime petro-rivals, and the United States, whose rising prominence as an oil exporter has disrupted the industry.
It is far from clear that the G20 meeting will calm volatile markets. The fact that the meeting is occurring, though, may signal the beginning of a very different approach.
“A lot of countries, including those with strong free-market beliefs and credentials, seem to be coming over to the view that the global oil business needs to be managed to an extent, at least from time to time,” said Bhushan Bahree, an executive director at IHS Markit, a research firm.
How to celebrate in coronavirus times.
Stay-at-home orders don’t have to put a damper on your special days. Here’s some ways to celebrate birthdays, weddings, and the upcoming spring holidays.
English Premier League clubs are under pressure to help fight the pandemic.
Somehow, as England’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has started to mount, the issue of whether the stars of the Premier League — the richest domestic soccer tournament on the planet and one of Britain’s proudest cultural exports — should take a pay cut has moved front and center.
How soccer — which was placed on indefinite hiatus in England on March 13 — has found itself cast as one of the villains of the crisis speaks volumes not only about the political reality of the game in England but also of the singular role it plays in the national psyche.
Now, clubs accustomed to being able to count on the unyielding loyalty of fans have managed to alienate even their most ardent followers. Players, who are used to being seen as heroes, have been accused not only of failing to help their teams stanch losses, but of the much more serious offense of not offering financial support to Britain’s overworked health service.
In the space of three weeks, a discussion that started with the question of how the richest domestic soccer league in the world will ride out the economic impact of the shutdown has ended with the competition’s stars starting their own initiative — independent of their clubs — to funnel part of their salaries straight to the National Health Service.
What you need to know about hydroxychloroquine.
With more than one million people worldwide ill from the coronavirus, there is an urgent search for any drug that might help.
While there is no proof that any drug can yet cure or prevent a coronavirus infection, one prescription medicine that has received significant attention is hydroxychloroquine, approved decades ago to treat malaria and also used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
President Trump has recommended it repeatedly, despite little evidence that it works against the coronavirus.
Here are some key facts on hydroxychloroquine:
A promising laboratory study found that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells, which it must do to replicate and cause illness. But drugs that vanquish viruses in petri dishes do not always work in the human body, and studies of hydroxychloroquine have found that it failed to prevent or treat other viral illnesses.
Still, many hospitals are giving hydroxychloroquine to patients infected with the coronavirus because there is no proven treatment, and they hope it will help. Clinical trials with control groups have begun across the world.
Overall, hydroxychloroquine is considered relatively safe for people who do not have underlying illnesses that the drug is known to worsen. But like every drug, it can have side effects and is not safe for people who have abnormalities in their heart rhythms, eye problems involving the retina, or liver or kidney disease. Do not use it without consulting a doctor who knows your medical history and what other medications you are taking.
Reporting was contributed by Kai Schultz, Elaine Yu, Motoko Rich, Hisako Ueno, Makiko Inoue, Rory Smith, Tariq Panja, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Carl Zimmer, James Gorman, Michael Levenson, Dan Barry, Ben Hubbard, Stanley Reed, Clifford Krauss, Andrew E. Kramer, Dionne Searcey, Ruth Maclean, Denise Grady, Katie Thomas and Patrick J. Lyons.