For some areas, a positive new milestone: a day with no new local cases.
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.
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.”
Early results of a federal trial showed that treatment with remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug, can speed recovery in infected patients.
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.”
The attacks appeared to signal an end to the rhetorical truce that Mr. Trump and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, reached at the beginning of April. That truce, tenuous at best, has unraveled as the coronavirus has ravaged the United States.
In a recent interview with Reuters, Mr. Trump suggested that China was trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. “China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” 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.
So when the Swiss authorities said on Wednesday that it was safe for children under 10 to hug their grandparents because scientists concluded that young children do not transmit the virus, the advice carried a caveat: Hugs should be brief.
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.”
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.
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 him congratulatory messages. The BBC sang him “Happy Birthday” as he was presented a cake with a copy of a Spitfire war plane on top.
And Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday delivered a personal message on his Twitter account to the veteran, calling him “a point of light in all our lives.”
Mr. Moore encapsulated all that Britain seemed to hold dear: veterans of war; fortitude (he originally set out to raise £1,000 by walking 100 laps of his garden and took 10 laps a day until he reached his mark); and heroism of a certain kind. By Thursday morning, his fund-raising page had notched more than £30 million in donations for the National Health Service, whose members have cared for the thousands of patients infected with the virus, including the prime minister, often at their own peril.
In recognition of his achievements, Mr. Moore was promoted to the rank of honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College, a move approved by the queen. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, lauded his fund-raising efforts in a video released by Clarence House, saying, “That sort of thing makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?”
The celebration came as Britain’s government has drawn criticism for its management of the pandemic, especially in relation to vulnerable older people. More than 4,300 deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in care homes across England from April 10 to April 24, according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics. Britain for the first time on Wednesday included fatalities in care homes in the national count, putting the country’s total at more than 165,000 cases and over 26,000 deaths.
It also came as Justice Minister Robert Buckland said on Thursday that Britain could miss its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April, the target set by the health minister. More than 52,400 tests were carried out on Wednesday.
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 differently 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.
The British-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said on Thursday that it had reached an agreement to make and distribute a leading potential coronavirus vaccines. 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.
“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.
The hunt for ventilators to keep alive people severely stricken by Covid-19 has taken a violent turn in Russia.
Russian law enforcement officers exchanged gunfire with a gang suspected of trafficking in the devices during a raid near Moscow, a Russian news outlet with close ties to the security services reported on Wednesday.
Life, an online journal, said that eight people had been detained, accused of trying to sell 100 ventilators for 70 million rubles, about $96,000. The official state news agency, Tass, also reported the raid but said the devices were all fake.
President Vladimir V. Putin and other officials have repeatedly warned against fraudsters trying to exploit the pandemic for profit.
The Moscow Times reported last month that wealthy Russians, wary of the health care offered by state hospitals, were buying ventilators for their homes in case family members fell ill with Covid-19.
Mr. Putin, seeking to calm fears of shortages, said in a televised address on Tuesday that Russia had ramped up domestic production of artificial breathing devices and now produces more than 800 a month. That is up from 60 to 70 at the start of the year.
Reporting and research were contributed by Raphael Minder, David D. Kirkpatrick, Ceylan Yeginsu, Gerry Mullany, Iliana Magra, Declan Walsh, Megan Specia, Andrew Higgins, Russell Goldman, Tess Felder, Steven Lee Myers, Claire Fu, Michael Levenson, Amy Qin, Rosa Chávez Yacila, Julie Turkewitz, Maria Abi-Habib and Yonette Joseph.