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World notebook

UK’s Johnson nudges workers back to office as lockdown eases

A passenger wore a face mask aboard a London Underground train in London on Friday.
A passenger wore a face mask aboard a London Underground train in London on Friday. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

LONDON — Stadiums and concert venues in England may reopen in the fall, but nightclubs will remain closed. All schools will welcome students by September, but wedding receptions will be limited to 30 people. And while pubs and restaurants reopened in England earlier this month, the local authorities will be granted new powers to close them when coronavirus cases flare.

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain laid out a road map Friday to simultaneously ease lockdown restrictions and to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the coming months, the steps toward reopening came with a clear warning: There will not be a “significant return to normality” until November at the earliest, and “possibly in time for Christmas.”

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Britain has suffered more than any other European country from the pandemic, with more than 45,000 dead and nearly 300,000 infected, although it has succeeded in significantly reducing the number of casualties after they rose sharply in April and into May.

Still, the lockdown has delivered a brutal jolt to businesses large and small, with at least 650,000 jobs lost in the first months of the pandemic, and the country expected to register its largest decline in annual GDP in 300 years.

Now, as the country braces for a second wave of coronavirus infections, Johnson is walking something of a tightrope as he tries to restart the economy — people will no longer be encouraged to work from home starting next month — while also ensuring that the county’s health service is not overwhelmed.

“I know some will say this plan is too optimistic, that the risks are too great and that we won’t overcome the virus in time,” Johnson said at a news conference from Downing Street.

Britain should “hope for the best,” he added, but “plan for the worst.” The changes he announced Friday apply only to England, as Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have broad latitude to set their own guidelines in response to the pandemic.

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In discussing what will, and what won’t, be possible in the coming weeks and months, Johnson made clear that until a vaccine was widely available and there are no upticks of new cases, Britons should be prepared to bounce back and forth between eased restrictions and new shutdowns.

“The timetable I am about to set out is conditional,” Johnson said. “It is contingent on every one of us staying alert and acting responsibly.”

Any changes in the future, however, are likely to be localized, Johnson said, as England moves from “blanket, national measures,” to “targeted” action. The local authorities will be granted extended powers to cancel events or close public spaces if they face outbreaks, as was the case with Leicester, 100 miles north of London, where a second lockdown was imposed.

New York Times

India surpasses 1 million infections

NEW DELHI — India hit a milestone Friday morning that it had made great sacrifices to avoid: recording more than 1 million coronavirus infections.

The virus has been gnawing its way across this country of 1.3 billion people and gaining speed, fueled by high population density, an already beleaguered health care system and a calculation by the central government to lift a nationwide lockdown in hopes of getting the economy up and running, come what may.

But as India’s number of confirmed new infections keeps hitting record highs, many states and cities have been locking down again. In some areas, long lines of bodies snake out of cremation grounds. India is racking up about 30,000 new reported infections each day — more than any other country except the United States and Brazil, and it is catching up to Brazil.

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India now has the third-highest total cases — 1,003,832 cases and 25,602 deaths — after the United States and Brazil. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that by the end of next year, India will be the worst-hit country in the world.

“We have paid a price for laxity,” said K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, a nonprofit organization of public health experts and academics.

About 25,000 deaths have been officially attributed to COVID-19, but testing remains sparse, so the real figure could be significantly higher.

New York Times

2 US diplomats among 5 new cases

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Two US diplomats are among five new cases of coronavirus in Cambodia announced Friday by health officials.

All five cases involve people who had traveled from the United States. Three are Cambodians who arrived Wednesday via Taiwan, said a Health Ministry statement.

The statement described the two Americans as senior diplomats who had flown from the US via South Korea and also arrived Wednesday.

It said the two are being isolated at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh. An embassy spokesman declined to provide immediate comment or details.

Cambodia banned virtually all new arrivals in March but last month eased the rules, allowing the repatriation of more Cambodians and the tightly restricted entry of foreigners.

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Cambodia has had 171 confirmed coronavirus cases with no deaths.

Associated Press

Broad restrictions back in place in Israel

JERUSALEM — Israel has reimposed sweeping restrictions in response to a new surge in coronavirus cases, including weekend closures of many businesses and the limiting of all restaurants to takeout and delivery.

The government announced the restrictions early Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “interim steps” were needed to avoid another general lockdown.

All gyms and exercise studios will be closed except for use by competitive athletes. Restaurants will no longer be allowed to have on-site seating and beaches will be closed on weekends beginning later this month.

Stores, malls, barber shops, beauty salons, and tourist sites will also be closed on weekends. Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors or 20 outside.

By late May, Israel had largely contained its outbreak following a two-month lockdown. But cases have soared in the weeks since restrictions were lifted, with Israel reporting around 1,900 new cases on Thursday alone. At least 384 people have died since the outbreak began.

Associated Press

Infections show increase in Tokyo

TOKYO — Japan’s capital has recorded a single-day record number of new coronavirus cases for a second straight day, confirming 293 in Tokyo on Friday.

Virus cases in Tokyo were confirmed at 286 Thursday, setting off concerns the economy had reopened too quickly. Tokyo was taken off the area eligible for discounts, set to start next week, under the government “Go To Campaign” to encourage travel and tourism within Japan.

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Japan has never had a total lockdown but asked businesses to close and people to work from home in an “emergency,” starting in April. That has been gradually lifting.

Japan has so far avoided the massive cases of the hardest hit nations, at fewer than 24,000 confirmed cases and about 1,000 deaths.

Associated Press