‘Now is the time to act,’ W.H.O. chief says, but many governments appear to lag.
As the global rate of infection surpassed 98,000 cases on Thursday, the world’s leading health official implored the international community to unleash the full power of their governments to combat the new coronavirus outbreak.
“This is not a drill,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization. “This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”
But around the world, governments have displayed signs of paralysis, obfuscation and a desire to protect their own interests, even as death tolls mounted and global capitals were so threatened by infection that politicians tested positive for the illness.
Instead of heeding Dr. Tedros’s advice that “now is the time to act,” countries pointed fingers at each other and complained about tit-for-tat travel restrictions. And citizens around the world, worried that their leaders were falling down on the job, took note and vented their anger.
In Japan, citizens have been outraged by the hands-off approach of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as cases of the virus have continued to climb, even as testing has proceeded at a snail’s pace, leaving many fearful that a large number of infections are going undetected.
In China, residents of Wuhan who have been confined to their homes for weeks minced few words when the vice prime minister visited on Thursday. As the central government has crowed about a reduction in new cases, the people at the center of the outbreak who have most borne the brunt of the government’s initial cover-up, literally shouted from their windows: “Fake! Everything is fake!”
Americans scrambled to make plans after schools were abruptly closed in Washington State and New York City and struggled to make sense of conflicting information from President Trump and members of his own cabinet. Vice President Mike Pence who previously vowed that “any American could be tested,” on Thursday conceded that “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”
By Friday morning, at least three states California, Maryland and Washington had declared emergencies.
In the meantime, the numbers have swelled, with the world on track to reach the grim milestone of 100,000 cases. By Thursday, officials reported more than 98,000 global cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and more than 3,280 deaths in at least 15 countries.
‘Everything is fake!’ Residents of a locked-down Chinese city vent their rage at politicians.
Residents in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the global outbreak, shouted complaints on Thursday from their balconies at visiting government officials, the latest sign of simmering anger in the locked-down city.
The rare rebuke of high-level officials was captured on video and circulated on social and state-run media. The visiting delegation included Sun Chunlan, a vice premier who is leading the central government’s response to the outbreak.
“Everything is fake!” shouted one resident, in a video clip that was shared on social media by People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper, which covered the government’s response to the heckling.
The videos taken on Thursday did not make clear the exact reason for residents’ dissatisfaction. People’s Daily said the accusations were aimed at local neighborhood officials who had “faked” deliveries of vegetables and meat to residents. Critics were skeptical of that explanation, seeing the response as an attempt by high-level officials to deflect blame for mishandling the crisis.
Wuhan and many other cities in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, have been under strict lockdown since January. As the outbreak has escalated, many residents have voiced frustration with provincial and central government officials in Hubei and Beijing. Unable to leave their homes, many residents have had to rely on their neighborhood committees to organize deliveries of groceries and other basic essentials — a process that has been unevenly implemented across the city, much to the frustration of local residents.
On Thursday evening, CCTV, the state-run broadcaster, said that Ms. Sun had ordered local provincial and city officials to conduct an “in-depth investigation” in response to the “difficulties and problems reported by the masses at the scene.”
A French lawmaker was sent to the I.C.U. after testing positive for the virus.
A member of the French Parliament was placed in intensive care after testing positive for the virus, Richard Ferrand, the president of the National Assembly, said in a statement on Thursday without naming the lawmaker.
An employee at Parliament’s refreshment bar also tested positive for the virus, while another who works at the members’ restaurant was awaiting test results, Mr. Ferrand said.
“All lawmakers and staff have been informed of the situation this evening as well as of the action to be taken,” Mr. Ferrand said.
The announcement came as the number of cases surged across Europe and after France saw its biggest one-day jump in infections. France has reported more than 420 total infections and at least seven deaths.
The disease caused by the virus has hit the highest ranks of the Iranian government. The roster of current or former senior officials sickened in the outbreak includes a vice president, the deputy health minister who had been leading the coronavirus response and 23 members of Parliament. An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a diplomat have died from the virus, according to reports.
India cancels holiday celebrations and closes schools.
The number of confirmed cases in India rose to 31 on Friday, hours after schools were ordered closed in the capital, Delhi, a city of 19 million.
Delhi’s first case was recorded on Tuesday after a resident who had recently traveled to Italy returned last week. Panic was sparked after it was revealed that he had thrown a large birthday party for his child after his return.
By Thursday, the Delhi government ordered all public and private primary schools to close until the end of the month, forcing some two million students to stay home.
The virus is forcing many Indians to miss out on one of the country’s most important festivals, Holi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter this week to urge citizens to cancel their Holi gatherings and to practice social isolation more generally.
The Holi festival is celebrated across much of India. Entire neighborhoods come together to mark the festival and host large public parties, in which they share food and decorate each other’s faces with colorful powders.
One family in Delhi sent their regrets as they canceled their Holi party on Wednesday.
“Heeding health and medical counsel, with regret we have decided to call off our Holi celebrations,” the message read, before signing off, “with our best wishes for Holi and your good health.”
In neighboring Bhutan, the government announced Friday that it was sealing off its borders to all tourists for at least two weeks after a visitor from India tested positive for coronavirus. The case is the tiny mountain kingdom’s first.
Japan and South Korea renew a rivalry. This time over how to best handle the virus.
South Korea voiced “strong regret” on Friday over Japan’s travel restrictions and warned of tit-for-tat retaliations, as tensions over the coronavirus threatened to aggravate already-fraught ties between Washington’s two key allies in Asia.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan imposed the restrictions on all visitors from South Korea and China, including a 14-day quarantine, on Friday as part of his government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. Japan on Friday also voided visas for 2.8 million Chinese visitors.
South Korea reported 518 new cases on Friday, bringing the total number of patients to 6,284, the largest outbreak outside of China.
“We cannot understand Japan’s decision to take this unfair step without consulting with us in advance,” South Korea’s National Security Council said in a statement. “Our government decided to consider countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity.”
The council criticized Japan’s “nontransparent and passive” way of fighting the coronavirus in contrast to South Korea’s “scientific and transparent” method of aggressively tracking and isolating infected people. It said Japan’s approach has spawned “mistrust in the international community.”
Although more than 90 countries have banned or restricted visitors from South Korea, Seoul became especially incensed by the move from Japan, a onetime rival.
Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said Japan’s travel restrictions were tantamount to “full entry ban on our people.”
“We demand the excessive and irrational measure to be immediately withdrawn,” he told a government meeting on Friday.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea summoned the Japanese ambassador, Koji Tomita, on Friday to protest Japan’s move and demand its withdrawal.
Here’s what to do if you think you are sick.
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday pledged the full resources of the federal government to Washington State, as the death toll in the hardest-hit American state continued to rise.
Washington’s death toll from the coronavirus reached 13 on Thursday, driven by an outbreak at a nursing home in the Seattle suburbs, and the state’s overall number of infections rose to 75.
Eleven of the deaths have come at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, near where the nursing home is. The state has had one other person die at a different hospital and another die at home.
“Washington State is on the front lines of the coronavirus,” Mr. Pence said. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, praised Mr. Pence for his work assisting the state.
As government leaders in the region have taken escalating action to contain the crisis, public spaces in the region have emptied out. Seattle’s notorious traffic all but vanished, and the few cars on the highways raced along unimpeded.
A new weapon in the fight against the coronavirus in China: Marxism.
In the fight against the new coronavirus, China has deployed armies of medical workers, drones, draconian travel restrictions and invasive software to track the movement of its citizens.
Now a new weapon is being applied: Marxism.
In a new academic paper, two professors of Communist Party doctrine in northeast China write that “Marxist faith” is the “intrinsic force” that can defeat the virus, and that by uniting under Marxism, the Chinese people can “crush the devil epidemic.”
The paper, which surfaced online last week but has since been deleted from academic databases in China, has been widely mocked.
“Work of the great masters,” one user wrote sarcastically on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media service. Some internet users enthusiastically endorsed a call to send the authors of the paper to the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan as punishment.
The two authors, Liu Guojing and Liu Yawen of the Tourism College of Changchun University, could not be reached for comment.
Under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the party has encouraged renewed devotion to the founding tenets of Communism, including Marxism. It was unclear why the paper was deleted from Chinese sites, though the authorities often move quickly to prevent criticism of the party and its ideology from spreading.
New York’s cases double; thousands are under quarantine.
The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in New York State doubled on Thursday to 22, with officials announcing two additional cases in New York City, eight new cases in Westchester County and one on Long Island.
The virus’s potential reach was underlined by a much larger number: As of Thursday morning, the city’s Department of Health was monitoring 2,773 New Yorkers currently in home isolation, most of them in self-quarantine.
Most of them had recently traveled to one of five countries where the outbreak has been most severe — China, Italy, Iran, South Korea or Japan — according to Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city health commissioner.
At least two New Yorkers — a health care worker who has tested positive after visiting Iran and her husband, who tested negative — are under mandatory quarantine in their Manhattan home.
The eight new Westchester cases were all connected with a man from New Rochelle who is hospitalized, adding to eight that were found the day before. The two new New York City patients — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s — and the Long Island case, a 42-year-old man in Nassau County — were hospitalized after testing positive.
Reporting was contributed by Russell Goldman, Amy Qin, Elaine Yu, Javier C. Hernández, Max Fisher, Ben Dooley, Mike Isaac, David Yaffe-Bellany and Karen Weise.