Politician’s funeral in Bangladesh draws 100,000, prompting fears of a new outbreak.
Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis ignored a nationwide lockdown on Saturday to attend the funeral of a Muslim political leader, prompting fears of a new outbreak in a country straining to contain the disease.
The Bangladeshi police said about 100,000 people had gathered in the town of Sarail without masks or other protective gear for the funeral of Maulana Jubayer Ahmed Ansari, a senior member of an Islamist party.
Alamgir Hossain, a police superintendent in the area, told the Dhaka Tribune that the authorities tried to get people to obey social distancing by blasting messages over loudspeakers, but that the situation soon became impossible to control.
The Bangladeshi police force suspended several senior officers in the district for failing to disperse the crowd.
Bangladesh imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 26 and banned more than five people from praying together in the country’s 300,000 mosques.
But enforcing the rules has been challenging in religious seminaries. Risks of a super spreader event are high in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated nations, with more than 160 million people.
The country’s Health Ministry said the number of infections had risen to about 2,200 on Saturday, with 84 deaths, though the number of people tested remains low.
A cross-platform global concert seeking to raise funds for Covid-19 response efforts featured performances by some of the biggest names in music on Saturday.
With eight hours of performances, the event, which was organized by the antipoverty organization Global Citizens, had a scheduled run time almost as long as its name (“One World: Together at Home Special to Celebrate Covid-19 Workers”).
“It is so important to think globally and support the World Health Organization to curb the pandemic and prevent future outbreaks,” Lady Gaga, who helped curate the all-star lineup, said at a news conference on Monday. “We want to highlight the gravity of this historical, unprecedented and cultural movement.”
The last two hours of the show, which featured Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel as hosts, aired on NBC, CBS and ABC.
Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, David Beckham, Idris Elba, John Legend, Celine Dion, Elton John, Lizzo, Keith Urban and more were scheduled to appear.
The lineup for the six-hour preshow, which tilted more heavily toward international acts, was scheduled to include performances by Angèle, Luis Fonsi, Jessie J, Juanes and others.
The event came together when the United Nations and the W.H.O. asked Global Citizen to support their Covid-19 response by bringing together the world through music and inspiring people to take action.
Contributions from corporate partners will go to the W.H.O.’s Solidarity Response Fund to support and equip health care workers across the globe. The W.H.O. had shipped two million pieces of personal protection equipment and supplies to 68 countries.
So far, the initiative had raised more than $35 million.
As medical workers in Britain worry about a shortage of personal protective gear, a flight from Turkey with 84 tons of equipment, including 400,000 protective gowns, was expected to land on Sunday.
Officials had previously said that medical workers should wear waterproof surgical gowns during high-risk procedures involving the coronavirus. But the British health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Saturday that he could not guarantee that hospitals would have the protective gear they needed over the weekend.
Workers were advised to wear plastic aprons on top of coveralls instead. After criticism about the shortages, the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, said at a news briefing on Saturday afternoon that the consignment from Turkey was on its way.
Here’s what else is happening around the world:
Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, urged Muslims worldwide to pray at home during the holy month of Ramadan if their countries require social distancing to combat the coronavirus, the state news agency SPA reported on Sunday. “Muslims shall avoid gatherings, because they are the main cause of the spread of infection,” the council said, adding: “Remember that preserving the lives of people is a great act that brings them closer to God.” Ramadan is expected to begin in many places on Thursday.
The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has said he would ask Parliament for another 15-day extension of the country’s lockdown, taking the restrictions up to May 9. Mr. Sánchez said on Saturday that he wanted to relax restrictions on children, who would be allowed to leave their homes after April 27, though that allowance would be “limited and subject to conditions to avoid contagion.” Spain’s strict lockdown began March 14, but this past week the country began opening up some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing. Most people are still confined to their houses except for essential outings.
With mortality rates relatively low but the unemployment rate at more than 26 percent, Israel is set to begin easing restrictions imposed to fight the coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday night.
“From tomorrow, we start opening up both the personal sphere and the economic sphere,” he said in a televised appearance.
Outdoor prayer will be permitted in spread-out groups of up to 10 people, he said, and exercise will be allowed for people in pairs up to 500 meters from their homes, up from 100 meters.
An eclectic list of retail establishments will be allowed to reopen, including electrical and office supply stores, laundries, bookstores, housewares dealers and opticians. But malls will remain locked, meaning only permitted businesses with their own storefronts will reopen. And shops will be limited to serving two customers at a time and required to install physical barriers between customers and cashiers.
Restaurants, hairdressers, clothing, shoe and toy stores all remain closed.
Other businesses will be allowed to bring up to 30 percent of their workforces back to their positions, up from 15 percent.
A new “purple seal” certification will allow employers to resume operations contingent on meeting conditions like requiring workers to wear face masks, have regular temperature checks and regularly disinfect surfaces; barring meetings of more than eight people; documenting who works where and when; and forcing the entire workplace to shut down if anyone there gets sick.
Mr. Netanyahu urged Israelis age 67 and older to stay home for the time being, and pleaded with Muslim citizens to avoid feasts and other gatherings during the monthlong celebration of Ramadan, which begins Thursday night.
U.S. doubles down in its condemnation of Hong Kong’s crackdown on democracy activists amid the pandemic.
The Trump administration on Saturday doubled down in its condemnation of a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and lawmakers in Hong Kong. The crackdown is widely seen as opportunistic given the city’s preoccupation with handling the coronavirus outbreak.
Attorney General William P. Barr conflated the arrests of the 14 Hong Kong democracy advocates — the biggest roundup since antigovernment protests began last year — with what he called “industrial espionage” by China’s ruling Communist Party against the United States.
“I condemn the latest assault on the rule of law and the liberty of the people of Hong Kong,” Mr. Barr said in a statement. “These events show how antithetical the values of the Chinese Communist Party are to those we share in Western liberal democracies. These actions — along with its malign influence activity and industrial espionage here in the United States — demonstrate once again that the Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted.”
Mr. Barr’s remarks echoed an earlier statement by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, who said Beijing had violated the agreements instituted in 1997 when the former British colony was returned to Chinese control with the promise that city would continue to “enjoy a high degree of autonomy.”
The high-profile arrests were made as Hong Kong battled to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which has helped quiet down the huge street protests but fueled further distrust of the authorities. The virus has halted protests around the world, forcing people to stay home and giving the authorities new laws for limiting public gatherings and detaining people with less fear of public blowback while many residents remained under lockdowns or with limits on their movement.
Human rights advocates are calling on Malaysia, which turned away at least two boats filled with Rohingya refugees, to reverse itself and start accepting the migrants.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement Saturday that Malaysia can be mindful of the coronavirus pandemic without endangering the lives of refugees as it responds to it.
On Thursday, the Malaysian navy intercepted a boat with 200 Rohingya refugees, and prevented it from entering Malaysian waters, according to The Associated Press. It’s unclear what happened to that boat.
The day before, the Bangladesh Coast Guard intercepted another boat with 382 refugees, who had been turned away from Malaysian waters weeks prior, survivors said. Although many of the refugees were removed from that boat, at least 30 people died before the rescue.
Malaysia’s National Security Council on Saturday defended its decision to turn away the boat over concerns the refugees would be exposed to the coronavirus. An official for the council said refugees were given food and fresh water before being turned away.
In March, Malaysia started banning the entry of foreign nationals to curb the outbreak in the country. Malaysia, a nation of more than 30 million people, has 5,251 confirmed cases with 86 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
“Malaysia’s claims to support the rights of the Rohingya mean shockingly little when they push desperate refugees back to sea,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
The pandemic has “intensified” the misery of the Rohingya, who are confined in Myanmar and in camps in Bangladesh, Mr. Robertson said, adding that the Malaysian government “can both protect against the spread of the virus and ensure that those risking their lives at sea are rescued and given a chance to seek asylum.”
The governors of New York and New Jersey, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, offered some encouraging statistics in their states’ battle against the coronavirus on Saturday, but they cautioned that they did not yet have the necessary resources to reopen their economies.
In both states, the curve of new infections seemed to be flattening or dropping. In New Jersey, the number of new cases and hospitalizations were leveling off, and New York reported its lowest daily death toll in more than two weeks, at 540.
But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York noted that 36 of those deaths had been at nursing homes, which he described as “the single biggest fear in all of this.” New Jersey’s health commissioner said 40 percent of the state’s 4,070 coronavirus-related deaths had occurred at long-term care facilities, which have struggled to combat the virus because of a lack of staffing, testing and protective equipment.
While Mr. Cuomo shied away from discussing his conflict with President Trump the previous day over federal aid to the state, he emphasized the need for federal help to implement the widespread testing necessary to reopen New York’s economy.
“I’m not asking the federal government to do more than they need to,” Mr. Cuomo said. “But we do need their coordination. We need their partnership.”
As Mr. Cuomo and other governors consider easing social distancing restrictions, new estimates by researchers at Harvard University suggest that the United States cannot safely reopen unless it conducts more than three times the number of coronavirus tests it is currently administering over the next month.
An average of 146,000 people per day have been tested for the coronavirus nationally so far this month, according to the Covid Tracking Project. To reopen the United States by mid-May, the number of daily tests performed between now and then should be 500,000 to 700,000, according to the Harvard estimates.
Also on Saturday, federal officials acknowledged that sloppy laboratory practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caused contamination that rendered the nation’s first coronavirus tests ineffective.
Two of the three C.D.C. laboratories in Atlanta that created the coronavirus test kits violated their own manufacturing standards, resulting in the agency sending tests that did not work properly to nearly all of the 100 state and local public health labs, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The top Covid-19 risk factors don’t include asthma.
Since the onset of the pandemic, those with asthma have been on high alert. Many health organizations have cautioned that asthmatics are at higher risk for severe illness it they are infected with coronavirus.
However, when New York state released data on the top 10 chronic health problems suffered by people who died from coronavirus, asthma was not listed. State officials said only about five percent of Covid-19 deaths in New York were of people who were known to also have asthma.
While research is still in the early stages, a recent commentary published in Lancet by a group of European researchers called it “striking” that asthma wasn’t represented in the “comorbidities reported for patients with Covid-19.” A Washington State study of 24 critically ill patients noted that three had asthma.
Dr. Bushra Mina, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said he was not seeing a lot of patients with asthma. The more common risk factors, he added, are “morbid obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease.”
The top Covid-19 comorbidities listed by New York, in order, are hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, dementia and atrial fibrillation, a heart condition. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ranked seventh while renal disease, cancer and congestive heart failure round out the list.
“It sucks us into another world, another dimension without war, misery and negativity,” said Dion Bakker, a founder of the YouTube channel Jelle’s Marble Runs.
It’s an international effort. The team behind the channel includes 15 people: Mr. Bakker and his brother Jelle in the Netherlands; Greg Woods, a commentator in the United States; a composer in Greece; a graphic designer in Belgium; a manager in Germany and others in charge of frame-by-frame analyses.
Mr. Woods said the races provide the same emotional experience as sports with human players. “There are still underdogs and upsets — something to cheer about,” he said.
The videos draw about 10 million views per month, Mr. Bakker said, nearly half from the United States.
The world of marble racing recently got a boost from a tweet featuring a video of marbles rebounding along an outdoor sand track. Celebrities such as Pete Wentz, bassist for the band Fall Out Boy, drew attention to the video, which has been viewed more than 35 million times.
While the high level of attention to competitive marble racing may be new, the videos of it are not. The Bakker brothers started their YouTube channel in 2006. Other YouTube channels, such as M&H Racing and Fubeca’s Marble Runs, also post racing content, each with hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
The marbles’ teams have home tracks. There are referees and a stadium of fans — all marbles. When the races begin, gravity pulls each glass ball, 16 millimeters wide, down a winding track to the soundtrack of a cheering crowd.
The main event, Marble League, formerly called MarbleLympics, was supposed to coincide with the summer Olympics in Tokyo. While the Olympics have been postponed, the Marble League will go ahead as planned.
Reporting was contributed by Kai Schultz, Benjamin Mueller, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Mariel Padilla, Rebecca Chao, Russell Goldman and Austin Ramzy.