E.U. officials agreed to spend heavily to shore up economies, but only to a point.
European Union finance ministers agreed Thursday night to a plan calling for more than half a trillion euros worth of new measures to buttress their economies against the onslaught of the coronavirus.
But the ministers dealt a blow to the bloc’s worst-hit members, Italy and Spain, by sidestepping their pleas to issue joint debt.
Even in the face of an unprecedented economic crisis caused by a virus that has killed more than 50,000 E.U. citizens, wealthier northern European countries were reluctant to subsidize cheap debt for the badly hit south.
And while Germany, the Netherlands and others showed greater generosity than they had in previous crises, the details of the measures announced showed they had gone to great lengths to limit and control the way the funding is used.
The programs the finance ministers agreed to recommend to their countries’ leaders for final approval included a €100 billion loan plan for unemployment benefits, €200 billion in loans for smaller businesses, and access to €240 billion in loans for euro-area countries to draw on from the eurozone bailout fund. One euro is equal to about $1.09.
But the ministers were not able to reach an agreement on issuing joint bonds, known as “corona-bonds,” despite pleas from the leaders of Italy and Spain, which are bearing the brunt of the crisis, after staunch resistance from Germany, the Netherlands and others.
For the first time since the coronavirus began spreading around the world more than three months ago, the United Nations Security Council held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the pandemic, amid rising alarm that it could lead to social unrest and political instability.
The meeting of the 15-member council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, was held via videoconference link and was not publicly shown on the organization’s website. But diplomats who participated said just the convening of the meeting represented progress compared with a week ago, when disputes among its five permanent members — mainly between the United States and China — prevented the council from even discussing the pandemic.
Inaction by the council to combat Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, has led to criticism that it has become increasingly irrelevant in dealing with threats to peace and security.
Secretary General António Guterres, who has called the pandemic the greatest threat in the 75-year history of the United Nations, warned the council that it could lead to “an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to find the disease,” according to his office. “This is the fight of a generation,” he said.
Diplomats said the meeting, which lasted three hours, was less tense than some had feared and that the representatives from China and the United States did not confront each other with arguments over the origins of the virus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. The worst outbreaks have since shifted to Europe and the United States.
China has reclassified dogs as pets instead of livestock for the first time, as part of a clampdown on animal trade and consumption that was spurred by the pandemic.
Dogs have evolved from “traditional livestock to companion animals” as part of the “progress of human civilization and the public’s concern and love toward animal protection,” the Agriculture Ministry said in guidelines that it posted on Wednesday for public consultation.
The emergence of the novel coronavirus has been linked to a seafood and meat market in Wuhan, China, where live animals were slaughtered and sold as food. In February, China banned the multibillion-dollar wildlife trade after researchers identified horseshoe bats as the likely source of the contagion.
Experts have said there is no evidence that companion animals like dogs and cats can spread the virus, and warned against measures that may compromise their welfare.
But last week, Shenzhen became the first Chinese city to explicitly ban the sale of cats and dogs for consumption, along with that of other wild animals. The measure takes effect next month.
Dog meat is increasingly shunned across much of China, but remains a delicacy in some regions.
With Indonesia’s death toll rising rapidly, the governor of Jakarta imposed a partial shutdown on the capital city on Friday that includes a restriction on a popular mode of travel: motorcycle taxis.
New social-distancing rules that take effect on Friday also ban religious, social and cultural gatherings for two weeks.
But the central government has decided against ordering residents not to leave Jakarta despite fears that millions of people could spread the virus nationwide as they return to their home villages.
Indonesia has reported 280 deaths, more than any Asian country except China. On Thursday, it recorded a new single-day high of 40 fatalities.
Jakarta, a densely packed city of about 11 million, has more than half of Indonesia’s 3,293 confirmed cases, based on limited testing. Health experts fear that the country’s underfunded and understaffed health care system could easily be overwhelmed.
Jakarta’s governor, Anies Baswedan, is among those who have questioned official figures, noting that about four times as many bodies are being buried in Jakarta using the Covid-19 protocol as the official death toll reported for the city. Many of the deceased were suspected of having the virus but died before their test results came back.
Mr. Anies previously ordered the closing of schools, parks and entertainment venues in Jakarta, while encouraging people to work from home.
Under the new restrictions, highly popular app-based motorcycle taxis will be prohibited from carrying passengers, although they will still be allowed to deliver food and other goods.
Public transportation, including buses, trains and the city’s new subway, will be limited to half its normal capacity and operate only half the day.
As the coronavirus shuts businesses across the United States, fresh evidence of the economic devastation came from a government report on Thursday that showed that 6.6 million more workers had lost their jobs.
The Labor Department report pushed to more than 16 million the number of workers who have lost their jobs over the past three weeks, which is more job losses than the most recent recession produced over two years.
Yet efforts to pass $250 billion in small-business loans stalled in the Senate after Republicans and Democrats clashed over what to include.
Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:
New York State reported that the number of patients hospitalized with the virus rose by only 200, the smallest one-day increase since a statewide lockdown. But the daily death toll remained grim: 799, bringing the total to 7,067.
Pennsylvania reported the largest single-day jump in cases, with 1,989 new cases for a total of 18,228.
Across the South, where the virus is spreading quickly, public health experts were concerned about the toll it might take on an already vulnerable population.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California defended his decision to send hundreds of ventilators to other states, despite concerns from some local officials that the state might be left with a shortage.
East Asia’s surges show how hard it is to control the pandemic.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, which were remarkably successful at limiting the epidemic in its early stages, have had a surge in cases in the last two weeks, showing how hard it is to keep out a contagion that continues to spread worldwide.
The main culprit is international travel, though all three places were among the earliest to impose restrictions on travel, first from Hubei Province in China, then from other hot spots and, by late March, from anywhere in the world.
In Hong Kong and Taiwan, officials say new infections acquired abroad have far outnumbered those picked up locally. At first, the same was true in Singapore, but then it had a sharp spike in “community transmission” — particularly in dormitories for migrant workers.
The travel-related cases have primarily been among long-term residents returning from Britain and the United States. Hundreds were students going to school abroad.
The three places have been among the most vigilant in enforcing social distancing, monitoring people who test positive and tracing their contacts. Despite the recent increases, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have far lower rates of infection than many developed countries.
In Europe, wearing masks in public is no longer ‘alien.’
Not long ago, the only medical masks seen on European streets were worn by Asian tourists, who sometimes encountered a Western cultural bias against them. No longer.
On March 18, the Czech Republic became the first nation in Europe to make public mask-wearing mandatory, followed by Slovakia on March 25 and Turkey last Friday.
On Sunday, officials in stricken Lombardy, in northern Italy, required masks. The next day, Austria made them obligatory in supermarkets and drugstores, and that will apply to public transportation users next week.
It is a “big adjustment,” said Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, because “masks are alien to our culture.”
Acceptance of masks is even taking hold, haltingly, in France, which in 2011 became the first European nation to ban public face coverings, largely in reaction to Muslim women wearing veils.
On Wednesday, Sceaux, a small city near Paris, became the first French municipality to require masks in public. The southern city of Nice will make them mandatory next week. The mayor of Paris said on Tuesday that two million reusable cloth masks would be distributed there.
France’s Academy of Medicine has recommended that masks be required nationwide. The government has not gone that far, but it has urged people to wear them, just as the U.S. government has.
That is quite a turnabout. A few weeks ago, the French government was discouraging the use of masks, insisting that it served no purpose.
Early in the epidemic, some experts advised that there was little benefit to healthy people wearing masks, but that view has shifted as the virus has spread.
Masks are commonly worn in public across much of Asia, and the discussion of them in Europe often turns on differences in how cultures balance individual rights against the collective good.
Books on the pandemic rush to publication in Italy.
In Italy, which has been in a nationwide lockdown since March 9, the coronavirus has already become a book genre.
“How Contagion Works,” by the award-winning writer Paolo Giordano, was published there last month and is set for release in the United States next week. It has been translated into more than 20 languages and released in Britain.
On March 10, Roberto Burioni, a celebrity doctor and author, came out with “Virus. The Great Challenge,” an examination of how epidemics work, shaping and sometimes outsmarting civilizations. In an interview, he said the book was already in progress and scheduled to go on sale in the fall when he learned about the outbreak in China. He asked his publisher to release it as soon as possible, with two quickly written chapters on coronavirus.
“This book was needed now, not in October,” Burioni said.
Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s former finance minister, updated a book he wrote on globalization and its weaknesses in light of the pandemic. A major publishing house, Garzanti, this week published an anthology of 26 quarantine short stories and essays by writers including Jhumpa Lahiri, an American novelist who also writes in Italian, and the best-selling children’s author Elisabetta Gnone.
“Italy is a laboratory. Think of the singalongs from the balconies or the celebrities’ concerts on Zooms — they started here and spread to other countries,” said Andrea Minuz, a film and book critic at the newspaper Il Foglio. “We were the first to have coronavirus books and will export that, too.”
Reporting was contributed by Elaine Yu, Raymond Zhong, Richard C. Paddock, Muktita Suhartono, Aurelien Breeden, Rick Gladstone, Michael Levenson, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Norimitsu Onishi, Constant Méheut, Heather Murphy, K.K. Rebecca Lai and Aimee Ortiz.