Coronavirus, E.C.B., Chinese Lab: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering Europe’s “unprecedented” downturn, some progress in fighting the virus and a U.S. search for virus links to a Wuhan lab.

Europe is in the midst of an economic downturn not seen since the end of World War II, and the worst is yet to come, Europe’s top central banker said.

Her stark assessment came after officials estimated that economic output in the eurozone fell 3.8 percent in the first three months of the year, the region’s worst performance since the common currency was introduced in 1999.

The French economy declined by 5.8 percent, Spain’s by 5.2 percent and Italy’s by 4.7 percent, their steepest downturns in the postwar period. Under a new stimulus plan, the E.C.B. will pay banks to lend money.

In the U.S.: An additional 3.8 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the six-week total to 30 million, not counting those who were stymied in applying or didn’t even try because the process was too formidable.

Yet even in the face of crushing economic data, the S&P 500 closed April with its best monthly gain since 1987 — 13 percent. The rally highlights investors’ confidence that business will return to normal sooner than they once thought. Follow our live briefing here.

Some countries are reporting remarkable milestones: no new coronavirus cases.

Among them are South Korea, which has reported no new domestic cases since Feb. 29, and Hong Kong, with no new cases for five straight days. Australia and New Zealand are on similar paths.

Even as some countries show progress, Britain is not ready to lift its lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. He promised to lay out a road map next week of what Britain’s reopening would look like.

Senior Trump administration officials have pushed U.S. spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support a theory that the coronavirus outbreak started in a lab in Wuhan, China.

The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic. Some analysts are worried that the pressure from senior officials could distort assessments about the coronavirus.

Scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say 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.

The report, released late last week, described Chinese and Russian efforts to spread falsehoods about the pandemic. But The Times reported that the language had been toned down amid criticism from China.

“The ability to generate activities by yourself for yourself, that is a real asset,” said Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University.

Israel: The attorney general said that neither the criminal charges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing nor the terms of the coalition deal he struck with a former rival should disqualify him from forming a new government.

Tech earnings: Apple said its sales rose in the three months that ended in March despite the pandemic, and it signaled confidence by announcing a big stock buyback. Amazon’s sales also climbed, but profit fell because it cost more to meet the demand. Analysts expect the current quarter to be much uglier.

Snapshot: New satellite data is providing the most precise picture yet of where Antarctica’s ice, above, is accumulating most quickly and disappearing at the fastest rate. The resolution is so high that it can detect rifts and other small features of the ice surface, scientists said.

What we’re listening to: “Oh, Hello: the P’dcast,” in which two comedians portray elderly New Yorkers whose many peculiarities include their diction. “These podcasts are bringing a lot of joy into our household,” writes Sam Dolnick, an assistant managing editor. “So good. We are now mispronouncing so many words.”

Cook: The lasagna from the cookbook author Samin Nosrat is made with delicate homemade pasta, rich béchamel and savory tomato sauce. If you’re out of mozzarella, Sam Sifton, our Food editor, has ideas about substitutions in his latest newsletter.

Happy hours on Zoom are serving as a break from isolation and a consolation prize for canceled plans.

“During a crisis, you know, cocktail hour can be almost any hour!” chirped Ina Garten, author of “The Barefoot Contessa” cookbooks, while mixing what appeared to be a bucket-size cosmopolitan in a video posted to Instagram.

At a time when boundaries have all but disappeared — home is the office! school time is work time! pajamas are work clothes! — the clink of ice cubes in a glass or the crack of a can may seem like one of the few ways left to distinguish evening from day or weekend from week.

But as the months in quarantine pile up, what started out as a way to unwind may start to feel like an unexpectedly stubborn habit for some people. Alcohol sales in the U.S. were up 55 percent in the week ended March 21 compared with the year before.

For those in recovery from alcoholism, the combination of stress and social distancing can make maintaining sobriety all the more challenging.

Drinking in moderation is not inherently harmful for most people. The threshold is higher for men — women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently. Nature is sexist like that.

There’s a short-term fix doctors prescribe when alcohol or other recreational substances feel as if they’re taking more than they offer: Stop for a little while and see how you feel.

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