Europe’s tangled reopening: Travel bubbles, border deals, airline corridors.
If the reopening of offices, restaurants and other public places within countries amid the pandemic has seemed dizzying, the rules on travel between nations are shaping up to be bewildering.
Travel bubbles and airline corridors to allow free movement between certain cities or countries, quarantines and an assortment of other measures add up to a puzzle that even the most intrepid traveler will likely have trouble navigating.
Nowhere are the logistical challenges more daunting than in Europe, where optimistic pronouncements about easing restrictions in time for the summer travel season have run into the reality of a patchwork of policies.
For people living across the continent, the sudden closure of borders came as a shock, fundamentally reordering life for millions who came of age in an era defined by frictionless travel between the 26 countries that are part of the so-called Schengen zone.
“It would be great if all this could be compressed into something easy to understand, but it is a very complex picture,” said Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for home affairs, migration and citizenship at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union.
European officials are working on an interactive map with all the rules among member states in one place. Even when the platform is up and running, though, it will likely offer a confounding picture of closed and open borders, with individual member states reaching bilateral and multilateral agreements with neighbors.
For instance, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece are expected to open borders to each other on June 1. Greece, desperate to save its tourism industry, also released an expanded list on Friday of 29 countries from which it will allow travel starting June 15.
The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have already started implementing a similar arrangement.
France, Germany and other West European nations have talked about easing border controls to other E.U. member states on June 15. That is the day that the European Commission’s guidance calling for the suspension of all nonessential travel into the E.U. will expire.
The issues confronting bureaucrats regarding travel from outside the bloc is perhaps even more difficult than the issues within the zone.
If one country lets in travelers from outside the bloc — and borders between countries in the E.U. are fully open — then, in effect, every country has done so.
The European Commission, which can only offer guidance, is still discussing what posture to take before the June 15 deadline. But officials said that it would be hard to do anything short of either keeping the guidance in place as it stands or completely lifting it.
If they were to call for more targeted restrictions on countries based on criteria like virus caseloads, it could create a whole new set of scientific, diplomatic and political challenges.
If there is one bright spot for believers in a united Europe, it is that the value of open borders among its countries will likely not soon be taken for granted after this pandemic is over.
For Mr. Jahnz of the European Commission, the crisis has shown “just how essential borderless travel is to our economy and our way of life.”
Many of the most populous cities in the United States moved cautiously toward reopening key businesses on Friday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said he expected New York City, where more than 20,000 people have died from the virus, to meet several benchmarks that would allow retail stores to open for curbside or in-store pickup, as well as letting nonessential construction and manufacturing resume. The changes are part of an initial phase that could send as many as 400,000 people back to work.
Other major cities that have faced death and economic calamity from the pandemic, like Washington and Los Angeles, also announced plans to continue their reopenings by allowing restaurants, hair salons and barbershops to open their doors, as long as they follow new safety guidelines.
Mr. Cuomo joins many officials around the world in deciding that the benefits of reviving economies outweigh the risks of new infections. But as other countries are learning, those risks don’t vanish overnight:
In South Korea, which successfully brought an early outbreak to heel, more than 800 schools have either closed their doors to students or pushed back reopening days that were originally scheduled for this week. The government also closed museums, parks and many other public facilities in the Seoul area on Friday.
In Canada, a growing number of shop workers are back on the job after the easing of government orders that had closed most stores across the country, except in British Columbia. But the return to work is likely to be uneasy for many people, particularly those in hard-hit places like nursing homes and meatpacking plants.
In India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, a severe lockdown has been eased and may end entirely as soon as Sunday. But migrant workers are becoming infected at an alarmingly high rate, leading to fresh outbreaks in villages across the north, and hospitals in Mumbai are so overwhelmed that patients are sleeping on cardboard in the hallways.
In Iraq, all travel between provinces has been stopped for a second time, in response to the country’s mounting awareness of the spread of the virus. Baghdad was almost completely still on Friday, and stay-at-home orders were enforced by neighborhood blockades
In Israel, where schools reopened weeks ago, more than 100 new cases were reported on Friday, the level that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned would prompt the reinstatement of a strict lockdown.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. It was the court’s first attempt to balance the public health crisis against the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom. It also it expanded the court’s engagement with the consequences of the pandemic, after rulings on voting in Wisconsin and prisons in Texas and Ohio.
“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.
“Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” the chief justice wrote. “And the order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.”
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented.
“The church and its congregants simply want to be treated equally to comparable secular businesses,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. “California already trusts its residents and any number of businesses to adhere to proper social distancing and hygiene practices.”
“The state cannot,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote, quoting from an appeals court decision in a different case, “‘assume the worst when people go to worship but assume the best when people go to work or go about the rest of their daily lives in permitted social settings.’”
The case was brought by the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, which said Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy,” lawyers for the church wrote in their Supreme Court brief, “but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog of war’ to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights.”
After spending weeks accusing the World Health Organization of helping the Chinese government cover up the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in China, President Trump said on Friday that the United States would terminate its relationship with the agency.
“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” Mr. Trump said in a speech in the Rose Garden. “Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe.”
In his 10-minute address, Mr. Trump took no responsibility for the deaths of 100,000 Americans from the virus, instead saying that China had “instigated a global pandemic.”
There is no evidence that the W.H.O. or the government in Beijing hid the extent of the epidemic in China, and public health experts generally view Mr. Trump’s charges as a way to deflect attention from his administration’s own bungled response to the virus’s spread in the United States.
A spokeswoman for the W.H.O. in Geneva, where word of Mr. Trump’s announcement arrived around 9 p.m., said the agency would not have a response until Saturday.
Public health experts in the United States reacted with alarm.
The decision “will increase death rates around the world from Covid-19 and other diseases,” Dr. Keith Martin, the executive director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, said in a statement, adding that the world’s poor would be most affected.
“We helped create the W.H.O.,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has worked with the organization since its creation in 1948.
“We’re part of it — it is part of the world,” Dr. Frieden said. “Turning our back on the W.H.O. makes us and the world less safe.”
This should be the moment for Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most visible opposition leader.
Many Russians are enraged with the Kremlin over its botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating, at 59 percent, is at its lowest ebb since 1999, when he was a lowly prime minister.
At the same time, Mr. Navalny’s audience for his YouTube livestreaming channel tripled as the virus took hold. But whether Mr. Navalny can capitalize on the opportunity remains to be seen.
As Russia fights the coronavirus, the country’s beleaguered opposition, too, finds itself on the back foot. Its proven approach to effecting change — mass street protest — will not be viable for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Navalny and his colleagues are left working from home, pumping out video clips, petitions and social media posts to try to channel the anger of Russians who wonder why Mr. Putin has not done more to help them during the biggest domestic crisis of his tenure.
Mr. Navalny, a 43-year-old lawyer and anticorruption activist, has needled Mr. Putin as corrupt and incompetent for more than a decade, dubbing him the head of “a party of crooks and thieves.” He maintains a nationwide network of branch offices and has honed punchy, populist and sometimes nationalist rhetoric, which reaches millions of social-media followers well beyond the urban middle class.
Along the way, he has spent stints in jail and under house arrest, and the authorities have raided his offices and frozen his bank accounts. But the Kremlin has continued to let him operate, perhaps fearing that tougher action would only raise his popularity and standing.
Mr. Navalny says the Kremlin is losing the support of Russians who had backed Mr. Putin as their guarantor of order and stability. In confrontations over Ukraine and Syria, Mr. Putin cut the figure of a tough, determined leader.
But when a major crisis hit at home — the country’s total of 387,623 coronavirus infections is the third-highest in the world — Mr. Putin appeared to waffle. He issued confusing edicts, delegated key decisions to regional governors and struggled for weeks to get local officials to pay out bonuses he had promised to medical workers.
As countries begin rolling out plans to restart their economies after the brutal shock inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, the three biggest producers of planet-warming gases — the European Union, the United States and China — are writing scripts that push humanity in very different directions.
Europe this week laid out a vision of a green future, with a proposed recovery package worth more than $800 billion that would transition the bloc away from fossil fuels and put people to work making old buildings energy-efficient.
China has given a green light to building new coal plants, but it also declined to set specific economic growth targets for this year — a move that came as a relief to environmentalists, because it reduced the pressure to turn up the country’s industrial machine quickly.
What course these giant economies set is crucial if the world is to have a fighting chance to head off the blistering heat, droughts and wildfires that are the hallmarks of a fast-warming planet.
Just as their recovery plans are taking shape, though, the political pressure on world leaders switched off: On Thursday, the United Nations announced that the next round of global climate talks, which had been slated for Glasgow in November, would be delayed.
The virus-induced lockdowns around the world have resulted in a sharp drop in greenhouse gas emissions in recent months, but the decline was nowhere near enough to shake loose the thick blanket of gases that already wraps the planet. More important, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to go back up as countries reopen, especially if their recovery packages don’t pivot away from fossil fuels.
Trump administration officials will only testify before Congress if committee leaders agree to conduct the hearings in person, the White House informed Congress on Friday.
The decision amounted to a direct challenge to new House rules that allow committees and lawmakers to conduct their work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. But it was also symbolic of a growing partisan divide about how to conduct political business in an era of concerns about public health.
The new condition, outlined in a notice obtained by The New York Times, is in addition to a policy the administration instituted this spring, which bars administration and agency officials from testifying without the express permission of Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff.
“The Administration is willing to make accommodations, but only when Congress is similarly willing to make accommodations, including agreeing to appear in person,” the White House said, according to a notice sent to congressional staff members. The notice said exceptions could be made in instances in which a witness needed to be quarantined.
The policy comes as the House of Representatives plans to pull back from its usual activities. Democratic leaders announced on Friday that they expect to call the chamber into session for votes for only three weeks over the next three months — a substantially scaled-back summer schedule.
President Trump, in contrast, is ramping up his campaigning in the coming weeks. While he still has no mass rallies scheduled, he will resume in-person fund-raisers next month under new restrictions, according to Republican Party officials.
Mr. Trump will headline a June 11 fund-raiser at a private home in Dallas and a June 13 fund-raising event at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Only about 25 attendees are expected at each of the events, a nod to social distancing recommendations. But each attendee will have to submit to a virus test, complete a wellness questionnaire and pass a temperature screening.
A Sotheby’s auctioneer, Oliver Barker, will be in London, looking at screens showing associates in New York, Hong Kong and elsewhere, who will be on the phone with live bidders all over the world.
It’s a far cry from the buzzing salesroom in Manhattan, where hundreds of collectors, dealers, art advisers and spectators typically hobnob over champagne before sitting side by side to raise their paddles in nail-biting battles for great works of art.
But this digitally streamed live auction on June 29 will allow Sotheby’s to proceed with its big-ticket biannual art sale, which was supposed to take place in May but was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The auctions will be live-streamed in high-definition, each lot accompanied by an onscreen image. Bidders can participate by phone or online. Mr. Barker will take bids from Sotheby’s specialists on phone banks in New York, London and Hong Kong, with the results broadcast to screens in a control center studio setup.
When experts recommend wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others, washing your hands frequently and avoiding crowded spaces, what they’re really saying is: Try to minimize the amount of virus you encounter.
A few viral particles cannot make you sick — the immune system would vanquish the intruders before they could. But how much virus is needed for an infection to take root? What is the minimum effective dose?
A precise answer is impossible, because it’s difficult to capture the moment of infection. Scientists are studying ferrets, hamsters and mice for clues but, of course, it wouldn’t be ethical for scientists to expose people to different doses of the coronavirus, as they do with milder cold viruses.
Common respiratory viruses, like influenza and other coronaviruses, should offer some insight. But researchers have found little consistency.
For SARS, also a coronavirus, the estimated infective dose is just a few hundred particles. For MERS, it is much higher, on the order of thousands of particles.
The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is more similar to the SARS virus and, therefore, the infectious dose may be hundreds of particles, Dr. Rasmussen said.
But the virus has a history of defying predictions.
Generally, people who harbor high levels of pathogens — whether from influenza, H.I.V. or SARS — tend to have more severe symptoms and are more likely to pass on the pathogens to others.
But in the case of the new coronavirus, people who have no symptoms seem to have viral loads — that is, the amount of virus in their bodies — just as high as those who are seriously ill, according to some studies.
“Hey, who are those men?” my 4-year-old son, Luke, said on a video call with his nanny in Beijing, as he peered at masked movers carting boxes.
Our nanny was coordinating the packing of our furniture into storage because my family was stuck in Singapore, about 3,000 miles away.
Back story: In March, China banned all foreign residents from returning, leaving us stranded in Singapore. My husband, Tom, and I did not want to pay rent on two apartments, so we decided we would pack up the only home my two kids had ever known.
The only problem was that desperately homesick Luke did not know this yet.
“They’re helping us fix some stuff,” Tom explained to him.
“What? All the doors are broken?”
A week earlier, our nanny had done a walk-through of our apartment and sent several video clips of our possessions: the pink hand-me-down balance bike that Luke never rode, Liam’s crib, Luke’s fire-engine bunk bed. All of it felt frozen in time. Our Pompeii.
I couldn’t decide how to broach the topic with Luke. I had always told him about what was happening in the world (within reason), but Beijing was his world. and he still asked repeatedly: “Why are we staying in Singapore for SO LONG?”
So while I was giving him his bath, I dove in. “Hey, you know the men you saw on the video today? They were moving our stuff into a big storeroom.” Pause. “And maybe one day, we can go back and get them again.”
“Oh, okay,” Luke responded.
That’s it? I thought. It was a reminder not to foist my anxieties onto my children. The kids, hopefully, will be alright.
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Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Jenny Gross, Andrew Jacobs, Annie Karni, Adam Liptak, Richard C. Paddock, Robin Pogrebin, Apoorva Mandavilli, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Alissa J. Rubin, Marc Santora, Kai Schultz, Somini Sengupta, Daniel Slotnik, Anton Troianovski, Sameer Yasir, Vivian Wang and Sui-Lee Wee.