Coronavirus Live Coverage: British Official Won’t Apologize for Breaching Lockdown

A top adviser to Boris Johnson fends off calls to resign amid furor over his travel.

Facing a political firestorm over his breach of lockdown rules, a key adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain asked for public sympathy — but made no direct apology — at a highly unusual news conference in Downing Street on Monday.

Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s closest aide, admitted driving more than 250 miles from London to Durham, in northeast England, while the country was on lockdown. He made the journey with his wife, who was ill, and his 4-year-old son.

At the time, Britons were being told to self-isolate and not to leave their home if they believed they had the virus.

Mr. Cummings said that he had done so to ensure care for his young son with relatives in Durham should both he and his wife fall ill with Covid-19. Mr. Cummings added that because of his high profile, he had been “subject to threats and violence” at his home in London.

“I’m not surprised many people are very angry,” Mr. Cummings said, adding that he had not consulted Mr. Johnson, who has defended him, before leaving London. “I don’t regret what I did; I think what I did was reasonable in these circumstances.”

About an hour after Mr. Cummings spoke, Mr. Johnson tried to put the furor behind him by announcing new measures to ease the lockdown. Among other steps, outdoor markets and car dealerships will be allowed to open June 1; department stores and small shops will follow on June 15. Still, the prime minister said he regretted the anger that the Cummings episode had stirred up and noted that he had not known in advance about his plans.

“My conclusion is that he acted reasonably,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that “people will have to make their minds up.”

At least 18 lawmakers from Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party have now criticized Mr. Cummings, as have a number of Church of England bishops, opposition lawmakers and members of the public. Some scientists and opposition politicians have warned that the episode risks undermining the credibility of government public health messages on the pandemic.

The World Health Organization said on Monday that safety concerns had prompted it to temporarily remove the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — which Mr. Trump said he had taken in hopes of warding off the coronavirus, despite the lack of evidence that it works — from a global drug trial aimed at finding treatments for Covid-19.

Hydroxychloroquine had been one of several drugs and drug combinations that the W.H.O. was testing to evaluate whether it was effective against Covid-19. The test, called the Solidarity Trial, has enrolled nearly 3,500 patients so far from 17 countries, officials said.

Dr. Tedros noted that the concerns related to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, another malaria drug, stemmed from when they were used on Covid-19 patients. “I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria,” he said.

Mr. Trump, who has long promoted hydroxychloroquine despite the lack of evidence that it works for virus, made the startling announcement this month that he had taken it himself as a preventive measure, under the supervision of his doctor. The Food and Drug Administration had issued a safety warning in April noting that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm in virus patients. The F.D.A. said that they should be used only in clinical trials or hospitals where patients could be closely monitored.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the organization’s emergencies unit, warned at a press briefing Monday that if nations let up too quickly on the social distancing measures that they have put in place to curb the spread of the virus, it could rapidly bounce back and reach “a second peak.”

Amy Qin is a China correspondent for The New York Times covering the intersection of culture, politics and society.

The coronavirus has forced us all to rethink our everyday habits, including things we once took for granted like shaking hands or wearing shoes inside the house.

So when my editors recently asked me to look into a story about the Chinese government’s recent campaign to promote the use of serving chopsticks, it also prompted some self-reflection.

Growing up in a Chinese household in the United States, we almost always ate family-style, using our personal chopsticks to reach into dishes of food that had been placed in the middle of the table. Some of my most vivid memories from childhood involve my mom, in the well-established tradition of Chinese mothers, piling food onto my plate, urging me to “eat more, eat more.”

Sure, there were occasions when serving chopsticks and spoons were used — like potlucks, for example, or meals with strangers. But at home and between friends, sharing was caring. Eight years of living and eating out in China only served to reinforce the habit.

But then came the new coronavirus. Almost overnight, habits changed. For perhaps the first time, serving spoons and chopsticks appeared at our family’s Lunar New Year dinner. In Beijing in March, during one of my first meals out after the city’s restriction began to loosen, my friend and I asked for serving chopsticks for each of the dishes we ordered. It felt strange at first, but we quickly got used to it.

After the immediate threat of the virus fades, though, it remains to be seen whether or not these new habits will stick in China. As Liu Peng, 32, an education consultant from the coastal city of Qingdao, told me: “Maybe using serving chopsticks is more hygienic but eating is the time for us all to relax, and we don’t want to be bothered by all these little rules.”

Assailed by critics as an absentee leader at the start of the outbreak, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia re-emerged with a splash on state television last month to show that he cared and was taking charge.

He promised cash bonuses of up to $1,100 a month for each doctor, nurse and other front-line health workers involved in fighting the virus.

But for an all-powerful leader whose every word must be taken as a command, Mr. Putin has had a surprisingly hard time making his voice heard, Andrew Higgins reports from Moscow. More than a month after Mr. Putin spoke, the money has yet to materialize for many. Instead, some doctors have received visits from police investigators and prosecutors demanding to know why they complained publicly about not getting their bonuses.

A promise meant to showcase Mr. Putin’s proudest achievement — the revitalization of the Russian state after the chaos of the 1990s — has sunk into a swamp of recrimination, security service intimidation and bureaucratic buck-passing.

The Kremlin holds more than $500 billion in various rainy day funds, so Mr. Putin has all the money he needs to deliver on his promises. But in a system rife with corruption, many officials live in permanent fear of being criticized — or worse, investigated — for spending state money that was not included in their previously approved budgets.

So when it came to doling out the cash, they hesitated, took the liberty of making deductions for time health workers spent on nonvirus patients or perhaps skimmed some of the money.

In the southern region of Krasnodar, a widely respected head doctor at a hospital was fired after his staff staged a small protest. A doctor in the nearby town of Abinsk who helped organize public complaints over nonpayment of Mr. Putin’s bonus received a letter from the police warning that he faced prosecution for “carrying out extremist activities.”

Yulia Volkova, a Krasnodar doctor who leads the local branch of Doctors’ Alliance, an independent trade union, said in a telephone interview that medical workers had rejoiced at Mr. Putin’s promise of extra cash. Now, though, they are “terrified of being investigated” if they complained about the president’s orders falling on deaf ears, she said.

Most passenger planes today fly virtually empty, but when Virgin Atlantic flight VS251 landed at Heathrow Airport near London on a cloudy afternoon late last month, most of its 258 seats were occupied.

No one was violating social distancing recommendations, though. The seats, along with the plane’s belly, were loaded with medical supplies. That flight was one of nine that Virgin flew last month that used passenger planes — without any passengers — to transport ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical necessities between Shanghai and London.

It was one of the most vivid examples of how thoroughly the pandemic has muddled the economics of the industry. Airlines have long carried freight alongside passengers, but it never made sense to use their planes exclusively for cargo. That changed in March. As companies eliminated thousands of flights, cargo space became scarce and the price of sending goods by plane shot up, creating an economic case for repurposing idled passenger planes.

Reporting and research was contributed by Stephen Castle, Mark Landler, Andrew Higgins, Niraj Chokshi and Amy Qin.

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