This year’s Eid al-Fitr festivities will be muted.
Eid al-Fitr’s normally happy holiday begins this weekend – in a Muslim world where many governments have imposed restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. This means that the prayers, feasts and common holidays that usually mark the occasion are restricted or deleted.
In Indonesia, where the number of coronavirus cases has increased sharply in recent days, Islamic leaders have encouraged Muslims to celebrate the holiday, which ends the holy month of Ramadan, without coming together for traditional iftar dinners for break their fast Saturday night. And the country’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, plans to offer televised prayers on Sunday.
In Bangladesh, the government has banned the huge communal Eid prayers that normally take place in open fields, saying that worshipers must gather inside mosques. He also asked people not to shake hands or kiss each other after praying, and told children, the elderly, and anyone who is sick not to pray together.
As for the mosques themselves, the government said they should be disinfected before and after each Eid meeting, and that all worshipers should wear hand sanitizer and wear masks during prayer. Joynal Abedin, press secretary to President Abdul Hamid, told the New York Times that Mr. Hamid would perform his own prayers in a conference room in his offices.
Samima Akter, 36, who lives near the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, said she left home to shop for Eid earlier this month with a mask. But the experience was stressful, she added, as many people did not follow government advice on social distancing.
“This year is not a nice Eid at all, because this virus is a life and death problem for everyone in the country,” she said.
In neighboring India, imams and community leaders have urged people to stay home and follow the norms of social distancing. Many cities have maintained their curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
And in the Indian town of Lucknow, known for its kebabs, butcher shops are closed due to a restriction on meat sales that came into effect in March.
Mohammed Raees Qureshi, who owns two butcher shops in Lucknow, said he had hoped – in vain – that local authorities would allow him to open around Eid for at least a few days.
“If they gave us directions, we would make sure to follow them,” he said. “But right now there is only silence. “
As the U.S. continues to progress towards 100,000 coronavirus deaths, a dark step expected in the coming days, President Trump and members of his administration have begun to question the official death toll from coronavirus, suggesting that the numbers are swollen.
Trump said on Friday that he accepts the current death toll, but that the figures could be “lower” than the official tally, which is now over 95,000.
But the most statisticians and public health experts say the death toll is likely to be much higher than what is known to the public. People are dying at home and in retirement homes without being tested, they say, and the deaths earlier this year were probably misidentified as influenza or described only as pneumonia.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, has publicly stated that the American health care system incorporates a generous definition of death from Covid-19.
“There are other countries that, if you had a pre-existing condition, and say the virus made you go to intensive care and then have a heart or kidney problem – some countries record this as a heart or kidney problem not a death of Covid-19, “she said at a White House press conference last month.
In a brief interview Thursday, Dr. Birx noted that there had been no pressure to change the data. But concerns about official statistics are not limited to the number of dead or government officials.
Epidemiologists said they were amazed to learn that the C.D.C. combined data from tests that detect active infection with those that detect recovery from Covid-19 – a system that blurs the picture of the pandemic but increases the percentage of Americans tested like Mr. Trump boasts of tests.
Experts said the data from antibody tests and active virus tests should never be mixed.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida. “We are all really taken aback. “
Epidemiologists, public health officials and spokesperson for the C.D.C. says there was no bad intention; They attributed the faulty reporting system to confusion and fatigue in overworked local and local health services that typically follow infections – not tests – during epidemics.
China reported no new coronavirus deaths or symptomatic cases on Saturday, the first time the two counts were zero on any given day since the start of the epidemic in the country. But in the city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the epidemic, the virus is still present in the minds of residents.
Over the past two weeks, thousands of 11 million Wuhan residents have lined up in front of rows of tents in the alleys of the neighborhood. They were waiting to be rubbed in the nose and throat after the government announced an ambitious plan to test everyone in the city for the virus.
The said “A 10-day battle”, launched on May 14, is an incentive for the government to get a more accurate picture of the epidemic in Wuhan, especially those who have the virus but have no symptoms. Some public health experts are closely monitoring the campaign to see if it can serve as a model for other governments who want to bring their society back to a certain level of normalcy.
“If you can quickly establish that a particular area is disease free, it will give people more confidence to get out,” said Raina MacIntyre, who heads the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales at Sydney, Australia. .
In reality, the “10-day battle” of Wuhan is not as rigid as some reports suggest. The districts have postponed their start dates. Many residents seemed supportive of the tests, which are free. Others, however, refused, fearing they would be infected again while awaiting testing.
Between May 14 and May 20, about 3 million residents of Wuhan were tested, according to government data. Ninety-nine of them had no symptoms.
In some districts, local authorities went door to door to register residents and took them to nearby test stations. The organizers distributed flyers and made announcements on loudspeakers and on social networks to encourage residents to register.
The testing campaign mobilized thousands of health workers. A nurse, who had worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. without a lunch break, was filmed sobbing.
It was unclear what authority President Trump invoked on Friday when he entered the White House briefing room and called on states “to allow our churches and places of worship to open now.” He threatened to “override” all the governors who did not do so.
Declining places of worship are “essential” operations, Trump said they should be allowed to hold in-person services this weekend, regardless of state quarantine orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. who has killed almost 96,000 people in the United States.
“Governors must do the right thing and allow these very important and essential places of faith to open now for this weekend,” said Mr. Trump, reading prepared text before leaving after about a minute. without taking questions. “If they don’t, I will prevail over the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less. “
The White House could not explain what power the president actually has to override governors, and legal experts have said he does not have such authority, but he could sue states for charges reasons for religious freedom, which could take time. Attorney General William P. Barr, a staunch defender of religious rights, has already been threatens to sue California.
In California, more than 1,200 pastors have signed a declaration protesting state restrictions on in-person service and have pledged to reopen their churches by May 31, even if the restrictions are not lifted. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said on Friday that the state was working with religious leaders on guidelines to reopen “in a safe and responsible manner”, which he said would be released on Monday.
Thursday, Tobi Lütke, founder and CEO of Shopify in Ottawa, announced on Twitter that most of the 5,000 employees in his business had become permanent home workers.
It came on the same day as a similar Facebook announcement, and it followed the telework movements of Twitter and OpenText, a pillar of the Canadian technology industry, based in Waterloo, Ontario.
Shopify, the most valuable company on the Canadian stock exchange, provides products and services that allow small and medium-sized retailers to move online, a popular remedy for those closed by the pandemic.
In the post-pandemic world, the company’s Canadian offices will become “recruiting centers” and places where employees can meet in person if needed.
It seems beyond rude to anyone who still has a job to complain about where he performs his duties. But for many people, remote working is an undesirable novelty.
Pandemics are often described as communication crises, when leaders have to persuade entire populations to suspend their lives due to an invisible threat. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand excels in this area – clearing up the epidemiology with empathy and raising legal issues with mom’s jokes.
It’s incredibly effective.
Ardern helped convince the New Zealanders – “our team of five million,” she says – to accept a lock so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was prohibited. Now the country, despite some initial difficulties with contact tracing, has almost eliminated the virus, emerging from isolation with only 21 deaths and a few dozen active cases.
Halos can make heretics legitimate critics, including epidemiologists who argue that New Zealand’s lockdown has gone too far, that other countries have removed the virus with less damage to small businesses.
And Ms. Ardern’s canonization diminishes two powerful forces behind her success: her own hard work to connect with voters and the political culture of New Zealand, which in the 1990s reshuffled its vote, forging a system that forces political parties to work together.
“You need the whole context, the way the political system has evolved,” said Helen Clark, a former prime minister who hired Ms. Ardern as an advisor more than a decade ago. “It is not easily transferable. “
Elian Peltier covered the coronavirus pandemic in Spain before returning to his home country, France. We asked her to tell us about a visit to her grandparents.
When France was taken into custody in March, my mother was relieved. Her parents were in a nursing home, and with travel restrictions suddenly in place, she and her sister could no longer drive the 80 miles south of Paris every weekend to visit them.
At least at home, my grandparents received the care they needed.
Then the virus crept inside retirement homes and the relief turned into an alarm. Did a decision to protect my grandparents rather condemn them?
And so began a long wake of daily calls, weekly video chats, and personalized postcards created online.
When I spoke to my grandfather about the whistleblowing in Spain, I omitted to mention the bodies removed from apartment buildings in Barcelona and the health workers in protective suits against hazardous materials disinfecting homes nursing homes in isolated villages. It was better to make him aware of the uncertain fate of the European football leagues and to remember our practice of shooting on goal in his garden of Beaugency, where I spent my summers as a child.
The coronavirus has killed around 14,000 residents of retirement homes in France – half the number of deaths in the country. We are fortunate that to date none of these deaths have taken place in my grandparents’ home, where caregivers were alert to social estrangement.
While France started to loosen its lockout last week, we were finally able to visit, or rather sit outside the house, while my grandparents were sitting inside, a few meters away. To allow us to hear each other, the staff opened the door, but placed a table with a Plexiglas partition in the doorway.
We could only see my grandparents one by one because they are in different parts of the house that can no longer mix socially. My grandfather, a former stone mason, misses many things that we cannot yet deliver, such as shorts, due to the strict house rules. She’s missing my grandmother’s company the most.
My grandmother, once a wonderful cook known to her Basque chicken and cherry cakes, Alzheimer’s disease. When she had trouble recognizing me, I broke the rules and took off my mask for a second. A nurse gently stroked her hair while we talked. My mom and I were a little envious that the nurse could do what we couldn’t.
For now, I plan to finally read my grandfather’s newspapers about his military service in Chad when he was about my age. He gave them to me at Christmas; I thought I had a lot of time to read them. It was before he had a stroke and before the pandemic created a new normal.
The coronavirus follows a “different path” in Africa compared to its trajectory in other regions, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Mortality rates are lower in Africa than elsewhere, the W.H.O. said, theorizing that the continent’s young population could explain this.
The virus has reached 55 countries on the continent, which recently confirmed its 100,000th case, with 3,100 deaths. When the number of infections in Europe has reached this point, he recorded 4,900 deaths.
“So far Covid-19 has made landfall in Africa and the continent has been spared the high number of deaths that have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, regional director of the organization. for Africa.
Over 60% of Africans are under the age of 25 and Covid-19 hits older people particularly hard. In Europe, around 95% of deaths from viruses have occurred in people aged 60 and over.
Many health experts, however, have questioned WHO figures, claiming that the screening capacity of most African countries is extremely limited – in part because they have difficulty obtaining diagnostic equipment. they need – and that deaths from Covid-19 are under counted.
In some places, they say, the low official number of cases and deaths masks a much more serious reality.
The strong man from Chechnya, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, is hospitalized for possible symptoms of the coronavirus, according to public news agencies. A spokesperson suggests that he only stays discreet because he “thinks”.
The uncertainty over the health of the leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has broad implications, as the virus shakes the volatile and predominantly Muslim region of the Caucasus region of southern Russia.
Even the very status of Chechnya as a part of Russia – involved in two wars of the post-Soviet era – depends largely on the close ties between Mr. Kadyrov and Mr. Putin.
Official figures are still low – Chechnya has reported 1,046 cases of virus and 11 deaths – but signs are emerging every day that the toll across the Caucasus is much larger and growing.
The pandemic seems to hit the neighboring republic of Dagestan more severely. Mr. Putin held an unusual Televised video conference with Dagestan leaders this week, warning that the traditional celebrations marking the end of Ramadan this weekend were a threat.
A senior cleric, Mufti Akhmad Abdulayev, told Putin that more than 700 people had died there, including 50 doctors.
Overall, Russia has reported 326,448 cases of coronavirus, the second highest total in the world. The government emphasizes that its relatively low number of deaths – 3,249 – is correct, although the overall mortality figures suggest a higher total.
When India imposed a national lockdown on March 25, thousands and thousands of migrant workers, deprived of work, began long and dangerous journeys from Indian cities, often on foot.
But Mohan Paswan, a rickshaw driver from a lower echelon in the Indian caste system, was injured in a traffic accident in January and could barely walk. He and his 15-year-old daughter Jyoti Kumari had no transportation and almost no money as they sought to return from New Delhi to their village, halfway through India.
Their saving grace was a $ 20 purple bike bought with the last of their savings. As of May 8, Jyoti cycled 700 miles with his father behind him, delivering them both safely home last weekend.
Several days, they had little food. They slept in gas stations. They lived on the generosity of strangers. Cycling was not easy. His father is tall and he was carrying a bag. Sometimes people teased them, upsetting him.
The national press has taken over the story of Jyoti The heart of a lion”.
On Thursday, the Cycling Federation of India, which is looking for young talent and sends the best to international competitions, including the Olympic Games, found Jyoti through a journalist and invited her to New Delhi for a try. with the national team.
Contacted by telephone on Friday in his village of Sirhulli, in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, Jyoti said in a creaky and exhausted voice: “I’m delighted, I really want to go. “
How to have a safer Memorial Day weekend.
It’s Memorial Day weekend in the United States, when backcountry beaches and barbecues invite you. Although many places continue to reopen, you should still not be meeting as a group – but as many people will, here are some tips to reduce your risk of coronavirus.
The reports were provided by Ian Austen, Julfikar Ali Manik, Shalini Venugopal, Richard C. Paddock, Mike Ives, Anton Troianovski, Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Damien Cave, Peter Baker, Michael Cooper, Sui-Lee Wee, Louis Lucero, Jennifer Jett, Jin Wu, Elian Peltier, Maggie Haberman, Noah Weiland, Abby Goodnough, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sheila Kaplan and Sarah Mervosh.