The world is learning to live with a deadly pandemic
China is testing restaurant workers and delivery drivers block by block. South Korea tells people to carry two types of masks for differing risky social situations. Britain is targeting local outbreaks in what Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls “Whac-A-Mole.”
As mass infections strike even in places that had seemed to tame the coronavirus, officials are adjusting to the reality that the disease is here to stay. They are turning to targeted and fast-but-flexible approaches to stop third or fourth waves.
While the details differ, the strategies call for giving governments flexibility to tighten or ease as needed. They require some mix of intensive tracking, lightning-fast response times, border management and constant reminders to their citizens.
Quotable: “It’s always going to be with us,” said Simon James Thornley, an epidemiologist from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “I don’t think we can eliminate the virus long term. We are going to need to learn to live with the virus.”
North Korea’s backtracking is part of a playbook
Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, has suspended plans to deploy more troops and resume military exercises along the world’s most heavily armed border.
His decision on Wednesday came fewer than 10 days after the North blew up the joint inter-Korean liaison office — one of the actions that threatened to reverse the fragile easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
If the flip-flop and de-escalation seem disorienting, remember that it’s long been part of the North’s playbook, our correspondent writes.
The strategy: “When the move is toward peace, the change of tack is so dramatic that North Korea’s external enemies often take the shift itself as progress,” Choe Sang-Hun writes, “even though there is no evidence that the country has decided to abandon its nuclear weapons.”
Young, patriotic and stranded abroad, China’s ‘little pinks’ rethink their country
Chinese students and workers abroad often post online in the country’s defense — in the wake of the Hong Kong protests, China’s handling of the pandemic and more. They are part of one of the most Communist-red, nationalistic generations in decades. Some refer to them disparagingly as “little pinks.”
But during the pandemic, some of them discovered that the government wanted them to stay overseas, leaving them stranded and without answers. Their flights back home were canceled again and again, as they watched other nations’ leaders arrange pickups for citizens. They are, according to our New New World columnist, Li Yuan, questioning for the first time one of their country’s bedrock political principles: National interests come first.
As they mature, she writes, many will become leaders in business, academia and other institutions, and their shifting views could shape China’s relationship with the world.
Numbers: More than 1.4 million Chinese students were living in other countries as of April 2, with nearly one-third in the U.S. It is not clear how many of them have been stranded.
Quotable: “My feelings are increasingly complicated,” a Chinese student at a Midwestern U.S. university wrote on Weibo in mid-May. “The country I loved doesn’t want me back.”
If you have some time, this is worth it
What is owed
The masses who have taken to U.S. streets to protest against racism and police violence are multiracial and multigenerational, helping make this uprising feel different, writes Nikole Hannah-Jones in The Times Magazine. But the support for reform on its own, she says, cannot bring justice to America.
If black lives are to matter, the nation must pay reparations to black Americans, she writes, to balance the assets that have accrued to white people over generations: “Wealth, not income, is the means to security in America.”
Here’s what else is happening
Pakistan crash: The pilots of a Pakistani airliner that crashed last month in Karachi were busy talking about the coronavirus and repeatedly ignored directions from air traffic controllers before their plane went down, killing 98 people, Pakistan’s aviation minister said Wednesday.
U.S. presidential election: Former Vice President Joe Biden has a 14-point lead on President Trump in the 2020 race, according to a new poll of national voters by The New York Times and Siena College that showed broad dissatisfaction with Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic and racial-justice protests.
Botched art restoration: Spain’s art restoration experts are calling for tighter regulation of their work after a copy of a 17th-century painting of the Virgin Mary by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was disfigured in a cleaning by a furniture restorer.
Snapshot: Above, the annual celebration of Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany. Veterans in their 80s and 90s were among the tens of thousands of people who turned out in Moscow, most without face masks, even as their country is suffering from one of the world’s largest outbreaks.
What we’re listening to: This episode of the podcast “Reply All.” Sanam Yar, on the newsletters team, writes: “This episode digs into the trend of black people across the U.S. receiving random, unsolicited Venmo payments from white acquaintances as a bizarre form of reparations.”
Now, a break from the news
Do: Spending some of this season outside? We have apps to help with maps, trails, pit stops and pizza. Try a Duchenne smile, one that lights up the face, now that masks hide our mouths. And for kids in need of outdoor time, even a little goes a long way.
At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
A Russian scientist family’s work
Years ago, a married pair of Russian virologists tested the polio vaccine on their children, who all grew up to be virologists. A side effect they found is now sparking hope for a defense against coronavirus. Andrew Kramer, a correspondent in our Moscow bureau, talked to us about his reporting.
What did you learn from the Chumakov family?
When I talked to one of the brothers, Alexei, he mentioned that another brother was now experimenting with polio vaccine on himself as a potential protective measure against coronavirus. I had read about the tuberculosis vaccine that’s being tried as a so-called repurposed vaccine approach to the coronavirus. I started looking into the polio vaccine in that context, and it turns out there are also some very serious, established researchers in the United States who are also backing this approach.
That convinced me that it was a serious scientific idea, and it was very tightly tangled up with the story of this family.
How would the polio vaccine work as treatment for coronavirus?
The idea is that a viral infection causes a reaction in the body and a release of something called “interferons” that interfere with viral replication. Before the immune system develops a specific antibody, there’s this innate immune system, researchers told me. If you have an active viral infection in your intestinal system, like polio virus, it would release all these interferons that interfere with the replication of other viruses.
Some viruses can have a beneficial effect on immunity, similar to the way that microbes in your gut are part of your natural healthy state.
Why did the Chumakov brothers decide to go into virology?
Peter said when he was growing up, everyone around him was a scientist. He thought all adults were scientists. The story is a little window into a part of the Soviet Union that not a lot of people see: There was a large repressive police state, but there was also a lot of emphasis on science. Epidemiology and vaccine science were valued.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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