The pandemic is realigning global dynamics.
With the coronavirus reaching into nearly every country in the world, the spread of the disease isn’t just threatening public health, it’s also realigning international power dynamics and shaking the foundations of geopolitics.
The pandemic is also shaking bedrock assumptions about American exceptionalism.
“America has not done badly — it has done exceptionally badly,” said Dominique Moïsi, a political scientist and senior adviser at the Institut Montaigne, a think tank in Paris.
As America’s global leadership has waned and as the virus has spread around the world, other nations have step in.
While the Chinese announcement may be more symbolic than substantive, as U.S. donations to the organization have historically outstripped China’s by hundreds of millions, it is the latest sign of another global power stepping into a gap left by the United States.
China is also responding to a new outbreaks in the country’s north, taking new epidemic prevention measures this week in an effort to stamp out a flare-up of the virus. While the numbers there remain modest, it’s a sign that the fight against the outbreak for much of the world could be a long one.
European leaders are meeting on Thursday to debate a collective response to the looming economic disaster that coronavirus lockdowns are bringing to the continent, but details of a proposed fund, including its size and timing, have remained contentious. And the European Union is split between countries in the south hit especially hard by the outbreak, like Spain and Italy, and those in the north.
But while there are divisions across Europe, nations are also split internally, with debates about plans to reopen the economy raging.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday warned the governors of the country’s 16 states not to loosen restrictions on public life too quickly, saying that doing so could jeopardize the nation’s ability to keep the spread of coronavirus under control.
“Let us not squander what we have achieved,” she said in an address to Parliament.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday warned the governors of the country’s 16 states against loosening restrictions on public life too quickly, saying that it could jeopardize the nation’s ability to keep the spread of coronavirus under control.
“Let us not squander what we have achieved,” she said in an address to Parliament.
Germany has slowed the pandemic’s spread since residents were ordered to largely remain in their homes starting in mid-March. The country, which has reported more than 148,000 infections and over 5,000 fatalities, has had a steady decline in the number of new cases since April.
But virologists have expressed concern that the loosening could result in a surge in the rate of spreading and strain the health system, which has so far been able to cope with the outbreak. Ms. Merkel said that she stood by her decisions to impose restrictions, and to allow them to be slowly eased, but cautioned against creating a false sense of security among the population by rescinding them too swiftly.
“Nobody wants to hear this, but the truth is that we are not living in the final phase of this pandemic, but at the beginning,” she said. “We are going to have to live with it for a long time.”
But the chancellor also noted that the outbreak and subsequent lockdown was proving challenging.
“This pandemic is an imposition on our democracy, because it restricts our existential rights and needs,” she said.
“When people see these pictures of New York City they say, ‘How can this happen? How is this possible?’” said Henrik Enderlein, the president of the Berlin-based Hertie School, a public policy institute. “We are all stunned. Look at the jobless lines: twenty-two million.”
“I feel a desperate sadness,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford University, and a lifelong and ardent Atlanticist who spends part of the year at Stanford University.
The pandemic has done more than take lives and livelihoods from New Delhi to New York. It is also shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism — the unique role that the United States played for decades after World War II as the reach of its values and power made it a global leader and example to the world.
As the calamity unfolds, President Trump and state governors are arguing not only over what to do, but also over who has the authority to do it. Mr. Trump has fomented protests against the safety measures urged by scientific advisers, misrepresented facts about the virus and the government response nearly daily, and this week used the virus to cut off the issuing of green cards to people seeking to immigrate to the United States.
“America has not done badly — it has done exceptionally badly,” said Dominique Moïsi, a senior adviser at the Institut Montaigne, a Paris think tank.
China said on Thursday that it would donate an additional $30 million to the World Health Organization after President Trump’s order this month to suspend American funding to the agency as he accused it of promoting “China’s misinformation” and “severely mismanaging” the spread of the coronavirus.
The new Chinese donation was announced on Twitter by Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “At this crucial moment, supporting W.H.O. is supporting Multilateralism and Global Solidarity,” she wrote.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said on Wednesday that he recognized the importance of American funding both for the W.H.O. and in his native Ethiopia, where he had served as health minister.
He said that the money was important not only for global health, but also for the safety of the United States, and that he hoped Mr. Trump would restore the funding.
“I hope the freezing of the funding will be reconsidered and the U.S. will once again support W.H.O.’s work and continue to save lives,” Dr. Tedros said.
The scale of new cases appears modest: The Chinese state news media tallied dozens of new infections, all of which experts said were linked to the return of Chinese from Russia and the United States. Still, it is not clear that the spread has been entirely contained, and local governments put limits on travel and issued bulletins to increase vigilance.
For China, the new rules and the prospect of further spread are a reminder of this past winter, when a vast portion of the country’s cities were locked down. And for the rest of the world, it underscores how challenging it can be to control the contagion — even after the worst seems to be over.
Kenya has vowed to arrest and isolate about 50 people who escaped from a coronavirus quarantine center in Nairobi, highlighting the challenges the authorities are facing in curbing the spread of the disease.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said in an interview with several radio stations that the police were searching for a group that fled the Kenya Medical Training College in the capital, where they were in quarantine.
“We know you and we will find you and we will take you back where you were,” he said.
The announcement came after videos surfaced showing several people scaling a wall and leaving the facility with backpacks. Mr. Kenyatta also lamented that many Kenyans were not taking the disease seriously and were putting their loved ones at risk.
But the president has also reiterated a health ministry directive that those found guilty of flouting social distancing rules and curfews be placed into quarantine centers instead of being detained at police stations.
The authorities in Kenya have faced accusations of mishandling the confinement measures, filling quarantine centers to capacity and charging poor workers to stay in isolation units. Last week, more than two dozen people isolated at a university campus in Nairobi protested, saying that they were being held even after they had tested negative for the coronavirus and finished their quarantine.
How long the pandemic lasts, and how governments and activists respond, will determine whether the pause represents a moment of metamorphosis or an unceremonious end for some of the most widespread mass mobilizations in recent history.
The challenges to protesters, in places as different as Hong Kong and Lebanon, are apparent. Millions of demonstrators are hunkered down at home, hemmed in by sweeping quarantines and health concerns. The daily burden of acquiring face masks or food often overshadows debates about corruption and abuse of power.
But the pandemic’s economic toll, as well as the crises of trust it has inspired in many governments, could fuel fresh outrage. People across the world — from Peru to France to the United States — have defied lockdown measures that they say threaten their jobs, housing and food supplies.
“It is a rest time,” said Isaac Cheng, a student leader of Demosisto, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy group, “but it’s definitely not the end of the movement.”
With the number of reported coronavirus deaths in Italy surpassing 25,000 — the highest death toll in Europe — there is a growing call in the country to hold someone accountable, with some prosecutors considering manslaughter charges against directors of a nursing home where residents died of the coronavirus.
Prosecutors are investigating whether errors by the authorities contributed to or caused some of Italy’s deadliest clusters. Liberal members of Parliament have accused the conservative government in the Lombardy region of exacerbating the outbreak.
About 45,000 relatives of coronavirus victims have joined a Facebook group called “NOI denunceremo” (We Will Denounce You), composed of people who believe that not enough was done to save their family members.
But when another doctor at the Ponte San Pietro Hospital told her that the choice to sedate her father had been motivated by a need to make room for younger patients, Ms. Capelli joined the Facebook group.
“I have the impression they are trying to silence everything,” Ms. Capelli, 48, said on Thursday. “Now it’s a moment of common pain, but for the future, I want justice.”
Prosecutors are investigating what they call an “involuntary epidemic” at the Alzano hospital, near Bergamo, where the virus spread through the medical wards. They are also considering manslaughter charges against the directors of retirement homes where hundreds of residents died and where the full death toll may have been hidden.
Yet many in the country continute to honor health care workers, and not everyone is backing the prosecutorial shift. A 24-year-old nurse wrote a letter in La Repubblica newspaper in response to the criticism heaped on the authorities in Lombardy. She said that in the months she spent in a Covid-19 ward, she had learned the value of sacrifice, of waiting and of forgiving.
European Union leaders meeting on Thursday via teleconference to debate a joint response to the economic disaster that the coronavirus is bringing to the continent are set to hand the European Commission the task of drafting a proposal for a recovery fund.
But details of that fund — its size, its timing, the types of measures it will support — are contentious, and the meeting is unlikely to yield agreement, senior European Union officials and member-state diplomats said.
Just as the bloc seems set to lose as much as 10 percent of its economic output this year in the worst recession outside war time, Thursday’s meeting will also make clear that leaders are differ widely on how to tackle the crisis.
Southern European countries led by Italy and Spain, which have been worst hit by the virus, are calling for a fund of more than one trillion euros ($1.08 trillion) that will be able to extend grants rather than interest-bearing loans for nations’ recovery efforts.
But the idea of grants, seen as free money, does not appeal to wealthier northern European countries that have both more money to spend on their own recoveries and fewer deaths to contend with at home.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday supported the idea of using the European Union budget as a framework for a recovery fund, and said that her country, the continent’s wealthiest, was prepared to increase its contribution to bolster the recovery effort.
Instead, the meeting will at best give the European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, a mandate to draft a proposal on how to use the bloc’s seven-year budget to create a pot of money for recovery efforts.
Critics say this will still be too little too late. The bloc’s budget has long been seen as an unambitious and limited instrument, amounting to 1 percent of the member nations’ collective economic output.
A nurse who cared for Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain while he was in intensive care for the coronavirus at a London hospital said that she wasn’t fazed by looking after the country’s leader and that he did not get special treatment.
Mr. Johnson was “just another patient,” the nurse, Jenny McGee, told Television New Zealand on Thursday, adding that she had not expected to be singled out by him on national television.
“My first reaction was that it was a joke,” said Ms. McGee, a New Zealand native. “It was totally out of the blue.”
Ms. McGee said the prime minister “absolutely needed to be” in intensive care because of the seriousness of his illness. Mr. Johnson is recuperating at Chequers, the official country house of Britain’s prime ministers.
As the country weighs when and how to ease its lockdown, Prof. Chris Whitty, the senior medical adviser to the government, said on Wednesday that restrictions could be in place for a year. He said social distancing measures would have to remain in place until a vaccine or effective drugs to treat the coronavirus and keep people from dying were available.
“The probability of having those anytime in the next calendar year,” he said, is “incredibly small.”
On Thursday, scientists in Britain began human trials to find a working vaccine.
At least 18,100 people have died in the country after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to official figures.
A mentally troubled former soldier was gunned down at a quarantine checkpoint as the Philippines struggles to control the spread of the coronavirus, officials said on Thursday.
The man, identified as Army veteran Winston Ragos, 34, was shot and killed on Tuesday afternoon in suburban Quezon City north of Manila after an altercation with the police.
Video of the episode, widely circulated in the Philippines, showed five police officers rushing to a store where Mr. Ragos was, and one of them subsequently shooting him twice.
The Philippine National Police said in a report about the incident that Mr. Ragos had a sling bag containing a handgun. His relatives disputed that account and said he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome because of his work.
An infantry spokesman, Col. Ramon Zagala, said on Thursday that the military was saddened by the incident. He said the army had ordered an investigation “in order that justice be given to the death of Ragos.”
“The victim was mentally troubled, and while he is no longer with the force, people need to realize that he may be battling a lifelong and silent battle with his own demons,” Colonel Zagala said.
He said Mr. Ragos had been given disability discharge in 2017 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The national police chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa, said the officers involved in the shooting had been placed under investigation.
The incident came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police officers at quarantine checkpoints to shoot dead any civilians who fought back and ignored their warnings.
The rights group Karapatan denounced Mr. Ragos’s killing as an “alarming and deplorable act of state violence that should be strongly condemned,” adding in a statement that militarist policies “do nothing to curb the onslaught of the pandemic.”
Most clerics complied with the government’s announcement of a lockdown late last month, keeping people at home to avoid spreading the coronavirus. But some of the most influential imams called on worshipers to attend Friday Prayer in even greater numbers. Devotees attacked police officers who tried to get in their way.
As Ramadan draws closer, dozens of well-known clerics and leaders of religious parties — including some who initially obeyed the lockdown orders — have signed a letter demanding that the government exempt mosques from the shutdown during the holy month or invite the wrath of God and the faithful.
On Saturday, the government gave in, signing an agreement that let mosques stay open for Ramadan as long as they followed 20 rules, including forcing congregants to maintain a six-foot distance, bring their own prayer mats and perform their ablutions at home. Prime Minister Imran Khan met on Monday with the clerics, who vowed to abide by the deal.
“It is very difficult for the state to implement what’s best for the public good,” said Husnul Amin, an Islamabad-based scholar on Islam and politics. “The larger public interest is always up against the clerics. It’s completely undemocratic.”
Even the country’s security forces, which empowered the clerical establishment in the 1980s in an effort to churn out jihadists to fight the Soviet military next door in Afghanistan, seemed unable to counter the imams.
In Karachi, the largest city, scenes emerged of worshipers chasing the police through narrow alleyways, pelting them with rocks and sending several officers to the hospital.
“The military has created a monster they can no longer control,” Mr. Amin said.
While clerics acknowledge that their mosques are perfect vectors for the coronavirus’s spread, some said they had to protect their bottom line.
“We know the coronavirus pandemic is a global health issue, but religious duties cannot be abandoned,” said Maulana Ataullah Hazravi, a Karachi-based cleric. Besides, he added, “mosques depend largely on the donations collected during Ramadan.”
A citizen journalist who disappeared in February after documenting the outbreak in Wuhan, China, said in a YouTube video that he had been released after a period of forced quarantine.
The journalist, Li Zehua, spent weeks interviewing stranded migrant workers and overburdened crematory employees — an attempt to show the toll that the outbreak was taking on the city where it began.
But until his latest video surfaced on Wednesday evening, he had not spoken publicly since Feb. 26, when he streamed footage of men entering his apartment.
In the video, Mr. Li, 25, described being chased by a white S.U.V. that night and hiding in his apartment in the dark. He said that men who identified themselves as security officials eventually took him to a police station for interrogation.
The authorities later said that they had decided not to investigate him, but that he needed to be quarantined because he had visited “sensitive areas,” Mr. Li said in the video.
Mr. Li, who became a citizen journalist after a brief career as a host on state-run television, said he was quarantined from late February until mid-March at a Wuhan hotel. He was given regular meals and allowed to watch state-run television, he said, then driven to his hometown and ordered to quarantine for another two weeks.
In previous videos, Mr. Li had urged other Chinese young people to “stand up” and said he was no longer willing to “shut my eyes.” But in his latest one, he did not criticize the government.
Calmly, and almost without emotion, he said that the police had treated him well.
Mr. Li’s disappearance followed those of two other citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, who had also filmed scenes of illness and death in Wuhan. Neither has reappeared.
“I think it’s too soon,” he said at a White House briefing.
Mr. Trump also said that the coronavirus “won’t be coming back in the form that it was” this fall or winter, then mused that it might not come back at all. But the government scientists flanking him at the White House news briefing explicitly disagreed with his predictions.
“There will be coronavirus in the fall,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert.
Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:
California’s quest to retrace the early steps of the coronavirus entered a new phase Wednesday after officials linked the death of a 57-year-old woman in early February to the virus, placing it weeks before any other known death in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Covid-19 could wreak havoc on the country anew this winter, with another wave coinciding with seasonal flu.
Rick Bright, the doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, said that he had been removed from his post. Dr. Bright, who had pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by Mr. Trump as a coronavirus treatment, accused the administration of putting “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”
Mr. Trump signed an executive order imposing a 60-day halt in issuing green cards with numerous exemptions, including those for overseas spouses, guest workers and young children of American citizens.
The Education Department will prohibit colleges from granting emergency assistance to undocumented students, even those under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
Sightings of the actor Matt Damon have become common in recent weeks in Dalkey, a seaside resort town southeast of Dublin, where his presence has added a surreal layer to life under lockdown.
Mr. Damon’s new admirers are apparently also his protectors. That was clear to a New York Times reporter who requested anecdotes via the town’s unofficial Facebook page.
“Leave him be!” was a common theme, presented around 100 different ways.
“Love love the fact that everybody is looking to protect him like our own,” Cjhelle Griffiths wrote in one post.
Last week, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe said that factories would reopen at reduced capacity, a rare bit of encouraging news for a nation that has been lashed by deadly hurricanes, a cholera outbreak and a horrific earthquake in just the past decade.
But with Haitian workers returning from the neighboring Dominican Republic — which has been hit hard by Covid-19 — the odds are stacked against the country and its weak health care system.
Most Haitians lack access to clean water, let alone soap, and many live in tightly packed slums where social distancing is impossible. The nation’s health care system is so threadbare that Haitians regularly die of easily treatable ailments like diarrhea.
Doctors estimate that the country will need 6,000 beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients. But the plan, which requires trained staff, personal protective equipment, as well as oxygen, is costly.
More than half of the population in Haiti lives hand-to-mouth, earning less than $2.41 per day, according to the World Bank. Experts say Haiti’s current low number of infections partly reflects the country’s dysfunction. Kidnappings have become so chronic that the United States issued a “do not travel” warning in early March.
But over recent weeks, thousands of Haitians have flooded back home each day from the Dominican Republic. Doctors have been screening at four official border checkpoints, but not at dozens of illegal crossings.
Watching the virus spread in the Dominican Republic, doctors worry that an outbreak in Haiti would become comparable to the cholera epidemic that, starting in 2010, ripped through Haiti’s slums and tent camps, infecting more than 820,000.
Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.
“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”
Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials. The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several officials said they had not seen before.
That has spurred agencies to look at new ways in which China, Russia and other nations are using a range of platforms to spread disinformation during the pandemic, they said.
Joseph Feingold, a Holocaust survivor who found unexpected fame late in life as the co-star of “Joe’s Violin,” an Oscar-nominated short documentary, died on April 15 in New York City of coronavirus complications. He was 97.
Born in Warsaw in 1923, Joseph Feingold was 17 when the Nazis invaded Poland. He and his father, a shoemaker, were caught by the Russian army while fleeing to Poland’s Russian-occupied east, and sent to separate labor camps in Siberia. His mother and a younger brother both stayed behind and died in concentration camps.
While he was at a displaced person’s camp near Frankfurt, Germany, Mr. Feingold spotted a violin at a flea market and traded cigarettes for it. He later brought it with him when he emigrated to New York.
Here are four others the world has lost to Covid-19:
Ketty Herawati Sultana, 60, a senior doctor at Medistra Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, who treated anyone without regard for her own welfare.
Luis Sepúlveda, 70, a Chilean writer who was jailed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and became famous for his novel “The Old Man Who Read Love Stories.”
Liu Ouqing, 78, a former party secretary of the Wuhan Grain Bureau, who helped ensure that the Chinese city had enough to eat.
Heherson Alvarez, 80, an activist who helped lead a campaign against the brutal regime of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and went on to serve in the national Legislature.
Reporting was contributed by Abdi Latif Dahir, Emma Bubola, Katrin Bennhold, Austin Ramzy, Melissa Eddy, Megan Specia, Iliana Magra, Jason Gutierrez, Paul Mozur, Heather Murphy, Maria Abi-Habib, Vivian Yee, Jason Gutierrez, Raphael Minder, Steven Kurutz, Edward Wong, Matthew Rosenberg, Julian E. Barnes, Dan Levin, Vivian Wang, Ron DePasquale, Katrin Bennhold, Steven Kurutz, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Stanley Reed, Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono. Albee Zhang and Wang Yiwei contributed research.