Millions who had risen out of poverty are pulled back in by the pandemic.
The gains the world was making in fighting poverty are at grave risk as the coronavirus brings countries to a grinding halt, forcing workers out of jobs they desperately need.
The World Bank says that for the first time since 1998, global poverty rates will rise. By the end of the year, 8 percent of the world’s population — half a billion people — could be pushed into destitution, largely because of the wave of unemployment brought by virus lockdowns, the United Nations estimates.
The developing world will be hardest hit. The World Bank estimates that sub-Saharan Africa will see its first recession in 25 years, with nearly half of all jobs lost across the continent. South Asia will probably experience its worst economic performance in 40 years.
Most at risk are people working in the informal sector, which employs two billion people who have no access to benefits like unemployment assistance or health care. In Bangladesh, one million garment workers — who make up 7 percent of the country’s work force — lost their jobs because of the lockdown.
One of them, Shahida Khatun, was laid off along with her husband in March as Bangladesh went under lockdown. Jobs at a factory had been their path out of poverty, but the loss of income has now thrust them back in, said Ms. Khatun, 22.
“My only dream was to ensure a proper education for my son,” she said. “That dream is now going to disappear.”
Russia’s prime minister, Mikhail V. Mishustin, said on Thursday that he was sick with Covid-19.
A fatigued-looking Mr. Mishustin, who is 54 and became prime minister in January, broke the news in a brief video conference with President Vladimir V. Putin that was broadcast on national television. He is the highest-ranking Russian official known to have been infected with the coronavirus.
“It just became known that my coronavirus tests had a positive result,” Mr. Mishustin told Mr. Putin in the televised meeting.
Later in the meeting, Mr. Mishustin addressed the general public: “I want to turn again to all the citizens of our country with the request that you take the coronavirus infection and its spread as seriously as possible.”
He told Mr. Putin he would self-isolate in accordance with the health authorities’ regulations.
Mr. Putin wished Mr. Mishustin good health and said he would accept the prime minister’s recommendation that Andrei R. Belousov, the first deputy prime minister, fill in for Mr. Mishustin temporarily.
“What is happening to you could happen to anyone,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Mishustin.
Mr. Mishustin is technically the second-most senior Russian official, but he is widely considered to be outside Mr. Putin’s inner circle. Before his surprise appointment by Mr. Putin as prime minister, Mr. Mishustin was the low-profile but technocratically proficient head of the Russian tax service.
Mr. Putin downplayed the pandemic in its early stages, but he has been forced to address it more seriously as the virus has spread fast through Russia.
While much of western Europe took steps toward lifting lockdown restrictions, Britain stood apart on Thursday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning against allowing a pandemic resurgence, and making no promises about when the country might reopen.
“It is vital that we do not now lose control and run slap into a second and even bigger mountain,” said Mr. Johnson, who recently recovered from his own, life-threatening bout of Covid-19.
He said the government would soon encourage people to wear face masks, saying they could help curb the contagion and give people confidence to return to work after the lockdown is lifted.
British officials offered some good news, saying that the country had passed a crucial threshold, with the reproductive rate of the infection falling below one. That means an infected person is spreading the virus to, on average, less than one other person, allowing the number of active infections to decline.
Mr. Johnson promised to lay out a road map next week for reopening the British economy, schools and offices, but he offered no timetable for putting it into effect. He listed a set of conditions that must be met, including solving problems in obtaining enough protective equipment.
With almost 27,000 coronavirus fatalities, Britain has nearly overtaken Italy as the country with the second-most confirmed deaths behind the United States.
Germany began easing its restrictions last week, allowing small shops to reopen, with social distancing rules still in place. Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that houses of worship, playgrounds, museums, zoos and botanical gardens can now reopen, but that no major decisions would be made about schools until after May 6.
In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday that the country would reopen in stages, with restrictions relaxed by region, depending on local conditions. Most of Italy’s governors signed a letter asking the central government to ease the lockdown, allowing economic activity to resume.
Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as Mr. Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.
Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.
Reporting for The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman investigate how scientists, spies and government officials have wrestled for months with varying theories about how the outbreak began. Many agree on the importance of determining the genesis of the pandemic. In government and academia, however, experts have ruled out the notion that it was concocted as a bioweapon. And they agree that the new pathogen began as a bat virus that evolved naturally, probably in another mammal, to become adept at infecting and killing humans.
A few veteran national security experts have pointed to a history of lab accidents infecting researchers to suggest it might have happened in this case, but many scientists have dismissed such theories.
The top relief official at the United Nations says it will probably take $90 billion in humanitarian aid to protect vulnerable populations from the economic devastation of the pandemic — about 90 times what the international organization has managed to raise so far.
While $90 billion may sound like a staggering figure, he said, it represents a tiny fraction of the roughly $8 trillion in economic stimulus money that governments around the world have pledged to counter the impact of the disease.
And providing aid sooner rather than later, he said, would mitigate the long-term and far costlier economic destruction that the most disadvantaged countries face from the pandemic.
“It’s a 1 percent investment — that’s a small thing to do,” he said. “It avoids a one-year problem becoming a 10-year problem.”
Mr. Lowcock offered his cost estimate as the United Nations is intensifying calls for humanitarian donations just to meet the most immediate needs raised by the pandemic.
Secretary General António Guterres said on Thursday that the organization’s $2 billion response plan for the most vulnerable populations, which he announced last month, is only half filled. “The plan must be fully funded,” he said.
Switzerland is letting its youngest residents do something they needed no permission for before the pandemic: hug their grandparents.
With older people considered at higher risk from the coronavirus, officials have spent weeks advising grandparents the world against coming into contact with their grandchildren.
The World Health Organization also chimed in on the debate, saying on Wednesday that it would explore whether such hugs were safe.
Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the W.H.O.’s emergencies program, acknowledged that grandparents were eager to hug their grandchildren, but cautioned that more research was required to better understand what role children play in the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is one of the living reviews we are currently working on,” she said at a news conference. “We are tracking all the studies evaluating this infection in children.”
As France prepares to begin lifting its weeks-old travel restrictions, the government is encouraging people to get on their bikes to avoid jam-packed public transportation — an effort to keep virus-wary commuters from turning to cars, instead.
Beginning May 11, the French will be free to roam up to 100 kilometers — about 62 miles — from their homes, and mask-wearing in subway stations and buses will be mandatory for at least three weeks.
But the French government, worried about a second wave of infections, wants people to continue to practice social distancing, while also keeping carbon emissions and air pollution in check.
Élisabeth Borne, the transportation minister, announced a package of measures on Thursday totaling 20 million euros — about $22 million — that are meant to make cycling easier. She emphasized that 60 percent of trips made in France were of less than five kilometers.
“It’s a boost for bikes during the deconfinement period, to encourage people to choose this mode of transportation,” Ms. Borne told the newspaper Le Parisien, adding that biking “can’t replace everything” but that it would ease pressure on public transit and make it easier to comply with social distancing guidelines.
The measures include a €50 subsidy for bicycle repairs at certain shops, funds to help cities create temporary bike lanes and parking, and free cycling training programs. The government will also speed up the implementation of a recent law that helps employers cover travel costs up to €400 for workers who commute by bike or other environment friendly means.
The S&P 500 was down less than 1 percent in early trading, and European markets fell about 2 percent after a rally in Asia.
But while Mr. Trump has escaped direct criticism from Beijing over the United States’ handling of the coronavirus, China has instead found an outlet for its fury in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
China’s state television network called Mr. Pompeo the “common enemy of mankind” on Monday and then drove home the point over the next two nights. One commentator said that never before had a secretary of state “lowered the prestige of the United States so dramatically.”
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has long presented himself as a man of action and power, taking his country into wars in places like Syria and Georgia, crushing political foes, flying in a fighter jet — even stalking wild tigers.
But facing the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Putin has been unusually subdued, even passive. He seems less like a conquering hero than a bored monarch cooped up in his palace, checking his watch during video conferences with his underlings, as his popularity dips.
This was supposed to be a time of triumph for Mr. Putin, a celebration of restoring Russia’s pride about its place in the world, capped by a military parade in Red Square on May 9, the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany. And he has been orchestrating a constitutional change to keep him in power until 2036.
But bowing to the inevitable, he called off the parade and a referendum on amending the Constitution.
The pandemic highlights Mr. Putin’s biggest vulnerability: intractable domestic problems that have never been his focus, like dilapidated hospitals, pockets of entrenched poverty and years of falling incomes.
He has staked much of his popularity on Russia’s revival as a great power, but the public is losing interest in foreign affairs, said Yekaterina Schulmann, a former member of the Kremlin’s advisory council for civil society and human rights — no longer willing to see the West “as an excuse for everything that has gone wrong at home.”
Mr. Putin was slow to acknowledge the viral threat, content to let other officials take the spotlight in handling it in February and March.
That has changed this month, when he has appeared almost daily on television, holding teleconferences from his country residence, but his heart does not seem to be in it.
“He gives an impression of being tired,” Ms. Schulmann said, “even bored.”
With social distancing and virus testing policies in place for months in several countries, a few governments are now reporting remarkable milestones: recording zero new domestically transmitted coronavirus cases, or no new cases at all.
South Korea on Thursday reported that for the first time since the virus’s Feb. 29 peak, it had no new domestic cases and just four cases among people who came in from outside the country. The development was a stark turnaround for a nation that was battered early on by the virus — with 909 cases on Feb. 29 alone — and quickly conducted widespread testing and contract tracing of new infections to halt the virus’s spread.
That progress has been mirrored in Hong Kong, which on Thursday reported that there had been no new cases in the semiautonomous Chinese territory for five straight days. The city has had more than 1,000 cases over all, and had a resurgence in infections in late March that prompted strict lockdowns on travel, including quarantining of foreign arrivals, social distancing measures and the widespread adoption of work-from-home policies.
Hong Kong residents overwhelmingly wear masks when going outside, even with the recent plunge in new cases.
Other countries are flirting with similar successes. Australia reported just nine new cases on Wednesday, and New Zealand had two days over the last week with just one new confirmed coronavirus infection.
Britain threw a 100th birthday on Thursday like no other for a World War II veteran who grabbed his walker and took laps around his garden to hold a record-smashing fund-raising campaign for medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britons flooded the one-man fund-raising juggernaut, Tom Moore, with more than 125,000 birthday cards, which were displayed at his grandson’s school. Members of the royal family sent congratulatory messages. The BBC sang him “Happy Birthday” as he was presented a cake topped with a model of a Spitfire warplane.
And Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday delivered a video message on Twitter to the veteran, calling him “a point of light in all our lives.”
He originally set out to raise £1,000 by walking 100 laps of his garden, taking 10 laps a day. By Thursday morning, his fund-raising page had notched more than £30 million in donations for the overwhelmed National Health Service workers caring for infected patients, often at their own peril.
“That sort of thing makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?” Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, said in a video released by Clarence House. Mr. Moore was promoted to the rank of honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College, a move approved by the queen.
Britain’s government has drawn criticism for its management of the pandemic, especially in relation to older people, who account for many fatalities. More than 4,300 deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in care homes across England from April 10 to April 24, according to the Office of National Statistics. Britain has had more than 165,000 confirmed infections and over 26,000 deaths.
Beijing’s major tourist sites are reopening just in time for China’s extended holiday weekend, the latest sign that life in China is slowly returning to normal amid the coronavirus epidemic.
The Forbidden City announced plans on Wednesday to partly reopen on May 1, China’s Labor Day. To encourage social distancing, museum authorities are staggering tour times and limiting the number of visitors to 5,000 per day, a sharp reduction from the 80,000 people who typically pass through the sprawling complex in the heart of China’s capital city. Several sections of the palace grounds will remain closed to visitors.
Tickets for the five-day holiday sold out within hours of the announcement.
He Handi, 26, was one of the many who tried unsuccessfully to get tickets to the Forbidden City. But after weeks of being cooped up inside, she was determined to soak up the sunshine, so she made plans with friends to go the Summer Palace and two other Beijing parks instead.
“It’s still spring,” said Ms. He, who works at an internet company. “I want to walk on the grass.”
The National Museum of China, just steps away from the Forbidden City, and Nanluoguxiang, a popular traditional alleyway lined with trinket and snack shops, have also announced plans to reopen by the weekend to a limited number of people. After partly reopening in March, the Great Wall of China said it would expand the number of areas accessible to visitors.
In what has become the new normal around the city, visitors at all tourist sites will be required to undergo a screening that includes showing a QR code connected to the person’s health status and travel history as well as a temperature check.
The announcements came on the same day that China said it would hold a long-delayed top political gathering in Beijing late next month. Since the outbreak began in January, Beijing — home to China’s political elite — has been subject to some of the strictest restrictions in the country outside Hubei, the province where the virus first emerged. Restrictions on mask-wearing in public places and travel to the city are also being loosened.
The neighboring nations of Spain and Portugal are a study in how two places that share a 750-mile border can diverge drastically in both their experience of the coronavirus and in the political consensus around plans to combat it.
As both Iberian nations appear to be emerging from the worst of their current outbreaks, Portugal’s government on Thursday will present a plan to ease its nationwide lockdown, broadly in line with that of neighboring Spain. But the reopening is likely to advance at a different pace given how different the nations’ outbreaks have been.
Portugal has registered far fewer confirmed infections and deaths from the virus than Spain, which has the highest number of confirmed cases in Europe. Portugal is nearing 1,000 confirmed deaths from the virus out of 10 million residents, while Spain, which is home to 47 million people, is closing in on 25,000 fatalities.
As Spain saw its hospitals and morgues overwhelmed, particularly in the Madrid region, Portugal’s outbreak progressed at a far slower rate.
There is no clear explanation for the contrast, but some experts have noted that Portugal’s extensive testing and early attempts to curtail the movement of people earlier in its outbreak may have helped. When Portugal went into lockdown in mid-March, it had registered only two deaths, compared with 120 when Spain took the same step.
And the political climate in the neighboring nations has been markedly different. Both countries have Socialist prime ministers who lead minority governments, but António Costa, Portugal’s leader, has received unwavering support from other political parties for his handling of the epidemic.
Mr. Costa has repeatedly warned against complacency. On Monday, he said that his government would not hesitate to reverse course if the country had a pickup in the infection rate in coming weeks. “If things start to go wrong, we have to take a step backward,” he told local reporters while visiting a clothing company that is producing face masks.
Portugal is expected to allow small shops, hairdressers and bookstores to reopen on Monday, while child care centers and big shopping malls will open on June 1, according to local news media reports.
A plan presented this week by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain to return the country to a “new normalcy” by the end of June has received strong criticism from opposition leaders.
Arthritis, leukemia and schizophrenia don’t have much in common with each other — or with Covid-19. But drugs used to treat those diseases are being considered as candidates to treat the new coronavirus.
In fact, scientists in many countries are examining thousands of drugs, developed for a dizzying array of other ailments, to see if they can also help with the current pandemic. Some are specifically antiviral drugs, but most are not; some are new, but many are decades old.
Researchers can make only rough guesses about which medicines are potential coronavirus treatments. An overwhelming majority will prove to be useless, but a handful are already showing promise.
“We don’t know a lot about why drugs do what they do,” said Matthew Frieman, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
After another deadly coronavirus disease, MERS, emerged in 2012, Dr. Frieman and others started testing established drugs against the new contagion. That work has given them a head start on finding contenders for Covid-19 treatments.
In other science news on the pandemic:
Gilead Sciences said on Thursday that it planned to give away the first 1.5 million doses of remdesivir, an antiviral drug, if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants emergency approval to use it as a coronavirus treatment. The drug, developed to treat Ebola, was ineffective for that purpose, but a current study shows that it may shorten the duration of Covid-19.
A new report adds to growing doubts about the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatments, though President Trump and conservative commentators have touted them repeatedly. The report from Harvard University researchers, posted on Thursday in a medical research journal, says that the research so far has found evidence that the drugs, used to treat malaria, can be harmful, and found no evidence that they help against the virus.
An important tool for people who get sick with Covid-19 is simply keeping track of their symptoms, particularly things like shortness of breath, fever and blood oxygen levels (assuming they can find thermometers and pulse oximeters, which are in high demand). In people who take a turn for the worse, it tends to happen in the second week of the illness, and doctors and patients need to know when problems began and how they have changed.
The European Central Bank said on Thursday it would effectively pay banks to lend money as it vowed to do whatever is necessary to counteract the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Christine Lagarde, the bank’s president, said at a news conference that the eurozone economy could shrink as much as 12 percent this year. The downturn is “unprecedented in peacetime,” she said.
Under certain conditions the central bank will allow commercial banks in the eurozone to borrow at a rate of minus 1 percent if the money is passed on to businesses and consumers. The negative interest rate means that banks do not need to pay back all of the money that they borrow.
The central bank also said it was prepared to increase its purchases of government and corporate bonds, a form of money printing that aims to keep market interest rates low and make it easier for businesses and individuals to get credit.
The central bank, which had previously earmarked more than 1 trillion euros, or $1.1 trillion, for asset purchases, said on Thursday that it was prepared to increase that “as much as necessary and for as long as needed.”
The British-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said on Thursday that it had reached an agreement to make and distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine. The drug, developed by scientists at Oxford, is now in human trials.
The Oxford researchers had already demonstrated the safety of similar potential inoculations for other viruses. That has enabled them to schedule human trials of their vaccine that will involve 6,000 people by the end of next month.
If those succeed, the scientists hope to distribute the first few million doses to front-line health care workers as early as September. The deal with AstraZeneca could help ensure that a potential vaccine is available in the United States and around the world.
The scientists previously reached agreements for companies in Europe and Asia to make the drug. But until now the team had not lined up a North American distributor, in part because pharmaceutical giants like AstraZeneca that dominate that market usually depend on profit from exclusive marketing rights.
Under the agreement, AstraZeneca, which is based in Cambridge and includes a large U.S. subsidiary, “would be responsible for development and worldwide, manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine,” the company said in a statement.
Mene Pangalos, the executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said in an interview that the company had acquired the worldwide exclusive license to sell the vaccine. If it works, he said, the organization would initially seek to produce as many doses as possible at a low cost, potentially in cooperation with the producers already lined up by the Oxford scientists.
But if the pandemic evolves into a recurring outbreak or seasonal flare-ups, the company could seek to profit from vaccine sales. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“What we are worrying about now is supply during the pandemic,” Mr. Pangalos said. “If this becomes like a flu vaccine, could we commercialize it? The answer is yes.”
The authorities in the port city of Aden announced a cluster of five cases and imposed a two-week lockdown that included the closing of shops and mosques.
Last month, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, appealed to Yemen’s warring parties to adopt an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to help stave off the threat from Covid-19.
Since then, the fighting has gotten worse.
A coronavirus outbreak, combined with a surge in fighting, could push the country to “the brink of a catastrophe,” warned Tamuna Sabadze, the Yemen director at the International Rescue Committee.
The virus has worsened conflicts around the world. In Libya, it has left some people wondering which fate might be worse: death by missile or death by pneumonia.
In the United States, concerns over the pandemic have forced the Defense Department to juggle two competing instincts: protecting troops from the virus and continuing its decades-old mission of patrolling the globe.
And in Yemen, the woes are multiplying as the threat of a pandemic looms. A recent spate of torrential rain has exacerbated a cholera outbreak there, and flash floods in the south of the country last week washed away the homes of hundreds of people.
In Lima, the capital, the bus terminals are so crowded with those waiting to escape that families are sleeping outside, side by side. Highways are lined with people on foot, laden with suitcases and children.
“We brought just a small suitcase,” said Wilson Granda, 28, an unemployed waiter, speaking from a bus terminal where his young family had been waiting for four days for a ride to his parents’ farm.
In all, at least 167,000 Peruvians in urban areas have registered with local governments, asking for help leaving cities.
Peru is emerging as one of the Latin American countries hardest hit by the pandemic, according to official counts. The country of about 30 million people is second only to Brazil, with about 30,000 confirmed cases, most of them in Lima.
Now, Peru is experiencing a reverse exodus of sorts.
For decades, rural families traveled from the countryside to Lima in search of work. That migration changed the face of the country, turning it into one of the more urbanized nations in the world.
The flow of people is part of larger virus-related migration patterns around the world that are raising alarm about the spread of contagion into rural areas, and worrying small-town officials who are ill-prepared to support large groups of new people.
Reporting and research were contributed by Maria Abi-Habib, Julian E. Barnes, Aurelien Breeden, Jack Ewing, Tess Felder, Claire Fu, Adam Goldman, Russell Goldman, Andrew Higgins, Yonette Joseph, David D. Kirkpatrick, Michael Levenson, Iliana Magra, Mark Mazzetti, Raphael Minder, Gerry Mullany, Steven Lee Myers, Amy Qin, Megan Specia, Anton Troianovski, Julie Turkewitz, Declan Walsh, Edward Wong, Rosa Chávez Yacila, and Ceylan Yeginsu.