Coronavirus World Updates: Missouri Sues China Over Outbreak


Missouri files a lawsuit against China, blaming the country for the virus and seeking billions in damages.

The State of Missouri filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, claiming that China’s response led to a global pandemic and unleashed economic devastation in the state.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court by the state’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, accuses the Chinese authorities of engaging in an “appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance and inaction” to cover up the dangers of the virus, and says those authorities were “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world,” including billions of dollars in economic losses for Missouri residents.

Earlier, China rejected any calls for compensation after President Trump said China should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic.

“The virus is a common enemy to all mankind and may strike anytime, anywhere,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Monday. “Like other countries, China is also a victim, not a perpetrator, even less an accomplice of Covid-19.”

Missouri is the first state in the nation to file a lawsuit against China over its actions regarding the coronavirus, but its claim has virtually no chance of succeeding. American law grants foreign governments broad immunity from the civil jurisdiction of American courts.

Given that the suit is unlikely to succeed it appears to be motivated at least partly by the politics of Mr. Schmitt, a Republican.

With few exceptions, a long-held legal doctrine known as sovereign immunity, which is based on the principle that nations are sovereign equals, prevents lawsuits from bogging down countries in each other’s courts, according to Chimène Keitner, an international law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

“U.S. courts can’t adjudicate claims against foreign governments for their bad policy decisions, even if those bad policy decisions have catastrophic consequences,” said Ms. Keitner, the author of a recent blog post titled “Don’t Bother Suing China for Coronavirus.”

Truck by truck, border post by border post, a power struggle is unfolding between Iraq and Iran over when to reopen the frontier between the two countries, which Iraq closed five weeks ago to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Iran, which has been hit hard by the virus but needs trade with Iraq to help stabilize its economy, wants it reopened immediately.

Iraq, which fears opening the border to the region’s most heavily infected country, is resisting.

The dispute comes at a time of mounting pressure in Iraq to reduce Iran’s influence, which has been an increasingly powerful force in Iraqi affairs since the United States and its allies overthrew the government of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The coronavirus first arrived in Iraq from Iran, and only through strenuous efforts has Iraq kept its caseload relatively low, with only 82 deaths attributed to the virus as of Monday.

Iran is one of the world’s coronavirus hot spots, with more than 75,000 cases and 5,200 deaths reported, and some 1,400 new cases a day.

Without trade and movement between Iran and Iraq, however, Tehran will be hard put to get some of its non-oil industries fully functional again.

When the pandemic froze Lebanon in place last month, it also dispersed the last crowds of antigovernment protesters who had filled the country’s streets for months, chanting against what they call the country’s corrupt and incompetent political elite.

Over the last week, however, small demonstrations have flared once again in Beirut, the capital, and Tripoli, a northern city where many lived hand-to-mouth even before the lockdown made their daily wages disappear. The shutdown to slow the virus’s spread has magnified the poverty and joblessness that drove many of the protesters to the streets in the first place.

Videos posted on social media over the last week showed protesters crowding roads in Tripoli, none wearing masks, shouting, “Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!”

Other protesters respected the rules of social distancing by coming up with a new way to make their voices heard. On Tuesday, convoys of cars in Beirut drove in honking protest past the building where Lebanon’s Parliament was meeting. (The Parliament met under circumstances dictated by the coronavirus, convening in a large auditorium instead of the usual government building so lawmakers could sit far apart.)

With the value of the Lebanese lira plummeting, banks continuing to withhold depositors’ savings and prospects of an international bailout uncertain at best, the government’s economic recovery plan has drawn widespread skepticism. Its distributions of food aid during the lockdown have also been criticized as falling far short of the need.

Beginning in mid-October, the protest movement had drawn at least a million people — a quarter of the population — to daily demonstrations, which tailed off by early this year. As the virus spread, some of the remaining demonstrators donned surgical masks. But soon after the lockdown began in March, security forces moved to dismantle protesters’ tents in downtown Beirut. But neither that nor the virus stopped the protests.

The United States Senate on Tuesday passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that would replenish a depleted loan program for distressed small businesses and provide funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing, approving yet another huge infusion of federal money to address the public health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

The measure was the product of an intense round of bipartisan negotiations that unfolded as a small business loan program quickly ran out of its initial $349 billion in funding.

The program ran dry before many companies were able to have their applications approved, collapsing under a glut of appeals from businesses struggling to stay afloat. And despite the federal aid, more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks.

Also on Tuesday, President Trump said he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States but backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups complained about losing access to foreign labor.

Although a few Southern states are beginning to reopen their economies, some Georgia mayors have urged residents to ignore the governor’s announcement and stay at home. Georgia is allowing some businesses, including gyms and nail salons, to open on Friday, and dine-in restaurants and theaters will be allowed to resume operations next week.

Tuesday was the first full day of reopening in South Carolina, which has allowed many businesses and public beaches to resume operations, but places that typically bustle remained quiet.

Sixteen humanitarian groups, including Oxfam and Save the Children, called for a cease-fire throughout Myanmar after a driver for the World Health Organization was shot and killed while transporting coronavirus test samples in troubled Rakhine State.

The driver, Pyae Sone Win Maung, and a Myanmar health ministry official were taking the samples to Yangon in a marked United Nations vehicle Monday evening when they were attacked in an area where the Myanmar military has been battling the Arakan Army, a rebel group that is seeking autonomy.

The unidentified health ministry official was wounded, the authorities said.

Both the national military and rebels denied responsibility for the shooting.

Myanmar, a country of 54 million that shares a 1,300-mile-long border with China, has reported just 121 cases of coronavirus and five deaths. But it has conducted only 5,198 tests and taken few steps to halt the spread of the virus.

Health experts fear that the disease is already widespread and that the country’s inadequate health care system could easily be overwhelmed. The health ministry director, Dr. Than Naing Soe, said the country has only 250 ventilators.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Monday’s attack and called for a complete and transparent investigation. The humanitarian groups said the attack “demonstrates the urgent need for armed actors in Myanmar to lay down their weapons.”

However, the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, issued a statement after the attack praising the military for protecting civilians by fighting the rebels. The military has rejected calls for a halt in fighting so that the country can address the pandemic.

Ecuador took early, aggressive measures to stop the coronavirus, but it could not prevent its largest city, Guayaquil, from becoming the site of Latin America’s worst outbreak. A failure to track and test people who arrived in Ecuador from Europe contributed to the spread of the virus in February.

It took 13 days to diagnose an Ecuadorean woman, labeled Patient 0 by the government, who had been living in Spain and returned home. In that time, she infected at least 17 other people, including much of her family, according to a medical investigator. As the authorities grapple with the scale of a crisis that has caused hospitals and morgues to collapse, they believe Ecuador’s toll is probably many times larger than the official figure of 520 deaths.

It would have been a routine gig, playing electronic dance music in a sports stadium filled with 40,000 fans at a festival in Chengdu, China, last weekend.

Martin Garrix, described as the world’s No. 2 D.J., performs at around 150 such events a year. But now, because of the coronavirus, electronic dance music parties and festivals across the world are over. That is true even in Mr. Garrix’s home country, the Netherlands, where they are an important export product, an $8 billion industry employing around 100,000 people, according to Event Makers, an industry group.

As of Tuesday, all shows and festivals have been canceled until at least Sept. 1. Such is the prominence of the business in the Netherlands that the cancellation was announced by the prime minister, Mark Rutte, in a news conference.

Dutch D.J.’s, who normally roam the globe in private jets, now sit home wondering if this is the end of their profession. Dutch festival goers not only face a dance-less summer but now have $1 billion in advance tickets and no guarantee of refunds.

The dance festivals have become a fixture of modern life in the Netherlands, where there are more of them per capita than anywhere in the world, said Mark van Bergen, a lecturer in the dance industry at Fontys University of Applied Sciences at Tilburg and a writer on electronic dance music. All told, the country had 422 festivals in 2018, he said.

The Polish milk bar is remarkably well suited to the coronavirus lockdown.

At these traditional restaurants, diners can pick up orders of ready-made pierogi or get home delivery of the familiar comfort of a barszcz beet soup and stuffed cabbage, to warm in the oven. Much of the menu comes at spectacularly low prices, thanks to the government subsidies that the milk bars receive.

Even before the lockdown, milk bars — so called because they were historically vegetarian — straddled a strange divide in Polish society. Somewhere between a diner and a soup kitchen, they are both hip and vital. They offer both Communist nostalgia and Communist-era prices; even the most eyes-bigger-than-stomach customer will struggle to run a bill of more than $5.

“They are especially needed right now,” said Jan Binczycki, a librarian at the Malopolska Public Library in Krakow. “We have a lot of problems with things like gentrification and social stratification. Milk bars are at the front lines of the fight between old and new.”

Under Communism, they were a forced staple, among the only places to eat out. But in the years after the old order fell in 1989, international chain restaurants arrived en masse. Poles flocked to try McDonald’s cheeseburgers, kebabs and Vietnamese food, while milk bars came to be seen as a grim reminder of a past pockmarked with scarcity and oppression. Today, there are only a few hundred left, down from thousands in their heyday.

But in the past decade, milk bars have grown popular again, as people seek out familiar food as a way to connect with the past and fashion a contemporary Polish identity.

The coronavirus pandemic unfolded very differently in China from the way it has in the rest of the world — at least, if one believes state-run Chinese media. Chinese news outlets used words like “purgatory” and “apocalypse” to describe the tragic hospital scenes in Italy and Spain. They have run photos of British and American medical workers wearing garbage bags as protective gear.

A lot of the same miseries happened in China, but those reports were called “rumors” and censored.

For the Communist Party, keeping up a positive image for the Chinese public has long been an important part of maintaining its legitimacy. That facade was broken during the outbreak in late January and February, as dying patients flooded hospitals and medical workers begged for protective gear on social media. Some people started asking why the government suppressed information early on and who should be held accountable.

Then the United States and other countries bungled their own responses, and China’s propaganda machine saw an opportunity.

Using the West’s transparency and free flow of information, state media outlets chronicled how badly others have managed the crisis. Their message: Those countries should copy China’s model. For good measure, the propaganda machine revved up its attacks on anybody who dared to question the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Sheltering in place with cockroaches, spiders and turtles.

Last month, the coronavirus pandemic prompted universities and museums around the world to dial down their operations, leaving scientists to make difficult decisions about the animals they work with. While some released or culled their specimens — or set up a visitation schedule — others decided to take theirs home, embarking on a different sort of relationship. We checked in with half a dozen scientists about how they’re making it work with their new roommates in this time of social distancing.

Dr. Clifton wanted to take the roaches home so she could continue working with them. (Plus, her supervisor has a cat with a taste for bugs.) But like many young academics, she shares housing, and her housemates were “a little hesitant,” she said. So she promised she would keep them in her bedroom.

She plans to take advantage of the situation by collecting data on the roaches when they are most active. She said the experience has made her realize that the human bias toward daytime lab work does not always “align with the animal’s normal working hours.”

Jason M. Bailey, Richard C. Paddock, Saw Nang, Thomas Erdbrink, Amelia Nierenberg, Alissa J. Rubin, Falih Hassan, Cara Giaimo, Li Yuan and Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting.

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