Monday, June 14, 2021

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    A Michelin-starred chef is helping to feed the destitute in India.

    Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
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    Vikas Khanna has cooked for the Obamas, hosted TV shows with Gordon Ramsay and crafted meals that cost nearly $40,000 each. Now his focus is feeding poor people across India who have suffered under coronavirus lockdowns.

    Mr. Khanna is a Michelin-starred chef who was born in India and came to New York City as an aspiring chef 20 years ago, initially working as a dishwasher and delivery man. As the pandemic hit his home country, he watched the news and grew despondent.

    “We’ve totally failed our people,” he said in an interview last week, referring to the millions of people in India who are unemployed and desperately hungry. “I wanted to show that solidarity still exists.”

    Mr. Khanna posted an emotional appeal on Twitter in early April, asking people to send him details of those who were desperate for food. Within hours, he was flooded with replies.

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    But it wasn’t as easy to reach the hungry. His first attempt to deliver food, to an elder-care home in southern India, fell apart when the deliverer disappeared with more than 2,000 pounds of rice and nearly 900 pounds of lentils.

    Asian nations try to strike a balance as they reopen.

    Credit…Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    As countries across the Asia-Pacific region gradually open up after months of lockdowns, officials are struggling to strike that elusive balance between getting people back to work and keeping the virus at bay.

    Economists and business leaders in China began warning in February that lockdowns and other stringent measures were hurting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people — all while contributing little to the containment effort. But when China eventually loosened its lockdowns, new pockets of infection cropped up, prompting the authorities in the northeastern province of Jilin to impose a Wuhan-style lockdown.

    Similar tensions, backsliding and calls for compromise are now playing out elsewhere in the region.

    In Indonesia, for example, which has 23,000 confirmed cases and counting, President Joko Widodo is concerned that the economic losses pose as much of a threat to the public as the virus. On Wednesday, he outlined plans for what he calls a “new normal” protocol meant to slow the coronavirus while reviving the economy. He called for deploying troops and police officers across hard-hit parts of the country to help enforce containment measures.

    In Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, the authorities have adopted a “suppress and lift” strategy to alternately tighten and relax measures as transmissions surge and wane. Civil servants, for instance, were ordered to work from home in March — for the second time — after the city saw a new wave of imported cases. They’re now back in the office.

    And the authorities in South Korea have been easing social-distancing restrictions and reopening schools after successfully reducing what had been one of the largest outbreaks outside China to a trickle.

    Still, the country reported 40 new cases on Wednesday, amid fears that an outbreak that started in nightclubs in Seoul early this month was infecting people elsewhere. The new patients in recent days include 11 cases linked to a duck restaurant in Seoul, and 36 linked to a home-delivery logistics center south of the city.

    France suspends the use of hydroxychloroquine in coronavirus trials.

    Credit…Diego Vara/Reuters

    France on Wednesday revoked the authorization allowing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19 patients, moving a day after halting the use of the malaria drug in clinical trials. Both steps come on the back of moves by the World Health Organization to temporarily remove the drug from global trials over safety concerns.

    In France, the drug was promoted as a miracle cure by a maverick infectious diseases specialist based in Marseille, Didier Raoult, who rose to prominence by conducting several questionable experiments that he said had proved the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in combating the virus.

    France had authorized limited use of the drug on patients in serious condition and had included it in several clinical trials. But now the country has joined the ranks of others moving away from the use of the drug, even after several prominent figures have promoted it. The president of El Salvador joined President Trump on Tuesday by saying that he, too, takes the drug in hopes of warding off the coronavirus.

    “I use it as a prophylaxis, President Trump uses it as a prophylaxis, most of the world’s leaders use it as a prophylaxis,” Reuters quoted the Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele, as saying on Tuesday. (In fact, few if any other world leaders have said they take the drug.)

    Mr. Trump has said he takes hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure, despite the lack of evidence that it works against Covid-19. Mr. Bukele told reporters on Tuesday that his government was no longer promoting the drug as a treatment, following the W.H.O.’s advice, but that patients could still take it as a preventive treatment. El Salvador has just over 2,000 confirmed cases of the virus.

    Mr. Trump and Mr. Bukele are not the only leaders promoting hydroxychloroquine in some way, despite the lack of evidence that it works against the virus. Last week, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil unveiled rules to expand the prescription of chloroquine, a predecessor of the drug.

    “There is still no scientific evidence, but it is being monitored and used in Brazil and worldwide,” Mr. Bolsonaro said on his official Facebook page, The Associated Press reported. “We are at war: ‘Worse than being defeated is the shame of not having fought.’”

    Brazil is now the nation with the second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, behind only the United States. Its caseload is now approaching 400,000.

    About a dozen U.S. states see an uptick in new cases.

    Credit…Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    About a dozen U.S. states are seeing an uptick in new virus cases, bucking the national trend of staying steady or seeing decreases. At least half of the states seeing more infections were part of an early wave of reopenings in late April and early May, among them Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

    New coronavirus cases have also continued to rise in North Carolina, where the Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held in August. President Trump threatened on Monday to move the convention unless Gov. Roy Cooper provided a “guarantee” that there would be no virus-related restrictions on the size of the event. Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, refused to do so on Tuesday.

    The new numbers could reflect increased testing capacity in some places, though they also indicate that the virus’s grip on the country is far from over.

    In other U.S. news:

    Why China is quickly forgetting its coronavirus outbreak.

    Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

    How quickly can a whole nation forget a catastrophe?

    In Chan Koonchung’s 2009 dystopian novel “The Fat Years,” China endures a huge, fictional crisis. Two years later, nobody seems to remember it.

    In reality, Mr. Chan realized, it took less than two months for many people in China to leave behind their anger and despair over the coronavirus crisis and the government’s bungled response. Today, they believe China triumphed over the outbreak.

    “It’s like nothing had happened,” Mr. Chan said in an interview. “I’m dumbfounded. How could they make a U-turn so fast?”

    Mr. Chan wrote “The Fat Years” as a cautionary tale. Today, it seems all too real. A disaster brings suffering and death. Collective amnesia sets in. The Communist Party emerges stronger than ever.

    How could people forget so easily? Of course, the Communist Party controls the media and history. As George Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

    China’s virus apps may outlast the outbreak, and that’s stirring privacy fears.

    Credit…Mojo Wang

    At the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak, officials made quick use of the fancy tracking devices in everybody’s pockets — their smartphones — to identify and isolate people who might be spreading the illness.

    Months later, China’s official statistics suggest that the worst of the epidemic has passed there, but the government’s monitoring apps are hardly fading into obsolescence. Instead, they are tiptoeing toward becoming a permanent fixture of everyday life, one with potential to be used in troubling and invasive ways.

    Zhou Jiangyong, the Communist Party secretary of the eastern tech hub of Hangzhou, said this month that the city’s app should be an “intimate health guardian” for residents, one that is used often and “loved so much that you cannot bear to part with it,” according to an official announcement.

    While the technology has doubtless helped many workers and employers get back to their lives, it has also prompted concern in China, where people are increasingly protective of their digital privacy. Companies and government agencies in China have a mixed record on keeping personal information safe from hacks and leaks. The authorities have also taken an expansive view of using high-tech surveillance tools in the name of public well-being.

    The government’s virus-tracking software has been collecting information, including location data, on people in hundreds of cities across China. But the authorities have set few limits on how that data can be used. And now, officials in some places are loading their apps with new features, hoping the software will live on as more than just an emergency measure.

    Britain proposes to delay international climate talks by a year.

    Credit…Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

    Like the Tokyo Olympics and other major events, international negotiations designed to address the threat of climate change will quite likely be delayed by a full year because of the pandemic.

    Britain, the host of the talks, which were initially scheduled for the end of this year in Glasgow, proposed on Tuesday that they be postponed until November 2021. A decision is to be made Thursday by countries that make up the rotating governing board of the United Nations agency that sponsors the talks.

    “Given the uneven spread of Covid-19, this date would present the lowest risk of further postponement and the best chance of delivering an inclusive and ambitious” conference, British officials said.

    The gathering is meant to rally world leaders to chart ways to avert the worst effects of climate change, including heat waves and flooded coastal cities.

    Delaying the talks by a full year could worsen the problems, some diplomats say. Countries and international financial institutions may now feel freer to enact economic recovery plans without paying much heed to their climate implications.

    More than 20 such conferences were held before countries agreed on the landmark 2015 Paris pact, under which they pledged to keep the increase in global average temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with preindustrial levels.

    ‘Appalling’: Canadian nursing home horrors are detailed in a new report.

    Credit…Carlos Osorio/Reuters

    Grandparents choking on food because they were fed lying down. Residents left in filthy beds and soiled diapers for hours, in rooms with “significant fecal contamination” and cockroaches. Residents screaming for help for more than two hours before anyone answered.

    Canadians knew the coronavirus had shred a deadly path through the country’s long-term-care homes, but a report drafted by the Canadian military adds new layers level of horror to the shocking tale.

    “It’s appalling, it’s disgusting,” Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, said on Tuesday as he released the confidential report to the public and demanded justice for families.

    While nursing homes have been pummeled by the pandemic in many countries, in Canada they seem to have suffered an especially severe blow. Earlier this month, more than 80 percent of the country’s coronavirus deaths were reported to have been tied to long-term-care homes. (That figure has now passed 6,500.)

    In the country’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, many centers were so badly hit and so understaffed that the federal government sent in the Canadian armed forces to help last month.

    The new report, which pertains to five homes in Ontario, is heart-wrenching.

    It cites not just a lack of infection control, but also burned-out employees who worked in a “culture of fear to use supplies because they cost money.” Essential items like wipes and linens were kept under “lock and key,” the report says.

    In one home, staff members reported that patients had not been bathed for weeks, and in others, residents were not fed regularly and food was left out of reach.

    Calling the report “deeply disturbing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “I had, obviously, a range of emotions of anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief.”

    “We need to take action as a country,” Mr. Trudeau said.

    Reporting contributed by Li Yuan, Constant Méheut, Shalini Venugopal Bhagat, Russell Goldman, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Elaine Yu, Choe Sang-Hun, Raymond Zhong, Richard C. Paddock, Dera Menra Sijabat, Ben Dooley, Makiko Inoue, Mike Ives, Jenny Gross, Catherine Porter, Somini Sengupta, Alexandra Stevenson and Keith Bradsher

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