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The C.D.C. cites health reasons for stopping evictions.
The Trump administration announced an order on Tuesday to bar evictions for most renters for the rest of the year as the nation grapples with the pandemic.
The order, put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the action was needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to avoid having renters wind up in shelters or other crowded living conditions, compounding the crisis.
The moratorium would go further than the eviction ban under the pandemic CARES Act, which covered as many as 12.3 million renters in apartment complexes or single-family homes financed with federally backed mortgages. That provision expired in July, though landlords could not begin eviction proceedings for 30 days.
To apply for the new moratorium, tenants will have to attest to a substantial loss of household income, the inability to pay full rent and best efforts to pay partial rent. Tenants must also stipulate that eviction would be likely to leave them homeless or force them to live with others at close quarters. Forms will be available on the C.D.C. website once the order is published in the Federal Register.
The order provides for criminal penalties for violations, but it does not relieve tenants of their ultimate obligation to pay rent. It applies to those who expect to earn no more than $99,000 this year or who meet other income limits.
Tenant advocacy groups have said millions could face eviction in the coming months without government intervention.
The National Multifamily Housing Council, which represents landlords, denounced the moratorium. It said the move failed to address the financial needs of renters and landlords and would be particularly harmful to small landlords. In the first 10 days of August, landlords reported taking in 29 percent less in rent than during the same period in March, according to Rentec Direct, a property management information and tenant screening firm.
Until now, the C.D.C.’s public health emergency powers have tended to involve quarantines to prevent the spread of diseases.
Your smartphone may soon let you know you’ve been exposed.
Several state governments in the United States may soon send residents an alert to their smartphones asking them to turn on “exposure notifications.” Here’s why.
On Tuesday, Apple and Google said they would make it easier for states to use their new technology, which detects phones that come close to one another and can notify people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
States that sign on will be able to send a notice directly to iPhones and Android devices asking residents to opt in to the technology. Previous versions of the technology had required people to seek out a state health agency’s app.
The new approach could mark a turning point in spurring the popularity of such virus alert technology in the United States. It significantly lowers the bar for states to adopt the technology, and makes it far easier for the public to enroll.
Maryland, Virginia, Nevada and Washington, D.C., already plan to use the new system, Apple and Google said, and about 25 other states were exploring using the earlier app version.
In April, Apple and Google announced they were developing the technology, which uses Bluetooth signals to enable iPhones and Android devices to detect other nearby phones. If someone using the technology tests positive for the virus, they can enter the positive result into the system using a unique authentication code; an automatic notification would then go to other phones that had been in close contact. (The health agencies do not get any information on who actually used the code on the app.)
As the pandemic took hold this spring, countries around the world raced to deploy virus apps to help track and quarantine people. But many of the apps were mandatory and invasive, sending users’ locations and health details to their governments. Many apps were also rife with security flaws.
The Apple-Google technology, by contrast, does not ask users for personal health information or track their locations. To use their technology, state public-health authorities simply need to provide certain parameters to the companies, such as how close people need to be to trigger an exposure notification and recommendations for those with possible exposures.
Google would then create an app for the state, while Apple would enable the technology on the iPhone software. The system relies on approximate location data to send an alert to residents’ phones in that state, asking if they would like to enroll. On iPhones, enrolling requires tapping a button, while Android users are prompted to download the state’s app.
Still, some security researchers have warned that the technology could also be misused to send false alerts, spreading unnecessary alarm. While they acknowledged the companies’ desire to help stem the pandemic, a few said they were troubled by Apple and Google’s power to set global standards for public health agencies.
An N.I.H. panel says there is a lack of data to support the efficacy of using plasma to treat coronavirus patients.
A panel of medical experts charged by the National Institutes of Health with developing coronavirus treatment guidelines cast doubts on Tuesday over the use of antibody-rich plasma to help hospitalized patients — a position that was at odds with a recent regulatory approval fast-tracked at the urging of President Trump.
The treatment, known as convalescent plasma therapy, uses antibodies from the blood of people who have recovered from the virus to help newly infected patients build immunity.
But the N.I.H. coronavirus guidelines panel said in a formal statement that there was a dearth of evidence to support the efficacy of the treatment, one that Mr. Trump extolled as a breakthrough.
“There are currently no data from well controlled, adequately powered randomized clinical trials that demonstrate the efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma for the treatment of Covid-19,” the panel said.
The panel said that there was “no difference in the seven-day survival” of patients who received higher concentrations of antibodies in plasma and those who received lower concentrations in a Mayo Clinic program.
The panel’s skepticism echoed the concerns of medical experts over the vetting of the plasma therapy by the Food and Drug Administration, which granted an emergency authorization to expand its use on Aug. 23 — the eve of the Republican convention. The F.D.A. stopped short of saying that the plasma should be part of standard care.
Australia falls into its first recession in almost 30 years.
After nearly three decades of economic growth, Australia officially fell into recession after its economy shrank 7 percent in the second quarter, the government said on Wednesday.
The drop in quarterly G.D.P. is the largest since record-keeping began in 1959, Michael Smedes, head of national accounts at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, said in a statement.
Restrictions that were imposed in March during the virus’s first surge greatly reduced domestic spending on transportation, hotels and restaurants, while border bans hit the tourism and education industries.
Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, remains under lockdown as it fights a surge that was driven by returning travelers. Officials on Wednesday extended Victoria’s state of emergency for six months, a designation that gives them broad powers to enact virus-related restrictions as needed.
In the end, more than $150 billion in stimulus packages could not ward off a recession.
“Today’s devastating numbers confirm what every Australian knows: that Covid-19 has wrecked havoc on our economy and our lives like nothing we have ever experienced before,” Josh Frydenberg, the country’s treasurer, said on Wednesday.
Mr. Frydenberg added that Australia was better positioned than many countries to handle the crisis and that fears of a 20 percent drop in G.D.P. had proved unfounded. He said officials’ next priority would be to reopen the economy while containing Victoria’s outbreak.
Still, the new data marked a sobering end to what had once seemed an endless boom driven by immigration, rising trade with Asia and careful monetary policy. More than a million Australians were unemployed in July, and the unemployment rate of 7.5 percent was the worst in 22 years.
“The road ahead will be long,” Mr. Frydenberg said. “The road ahead will be hard. The road ahead will be bumpy.”
Australia has recorded 663 coronavirus deaths and more than 25,000 cases, according to a New York Times database.
Florida severs ties with Quest for taking too long to report 75,000 test results.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced on Tuesday that he was directing state agencies to sever ties with Quest Diagnostics, effective immediately, for delays in providing the state’s health department with nearly 75,000 coronavirus test results that date back to April. According to state health officials, the delay did not drastically distort the extent of the pandemic in the state, which saw an overwhelming number of new virus cases over the summer.
Without the data, the state on Monday reported a positivity rate of 5.9 percent. When including the missing Quest data, the positivity rate is 6.8 percent. The World Health Organization has said that — with comprehensive testing — the positivity rate should be less than 5 percent to indicate that a community has contained the spread of the virus. As of Tuesday, the number of daily tests being conducted in Florida is only 24 percent of the level considered necessary by the Harvard Global Health Institute to mitigate the spread of the virus, according to a New York Times analysis.
Quest on Tuesday released a statement saying that the delay was the result of a data reporting issue and that it had been resolved.
“We apologize for this matter and regret the challenge it poses for public health authorities in Florida,” the statement said. Adding, “Importantly, the issue did not affect or delay reporting of test results to providers and patients.”
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, took issue with the assurance from the state that such an oversight was limited to a data problem, and not something that could have shaped the spread of the disease. “It’s beyond shocking,” he said of the state’s announcement.
“I think it could have materially affected the spread of the infection in Florida,” he said.
Delays in reporting test results have hindered contact tracing efforts across the country. Quest Diagnostics is one of the major commercial laboratories that processes these samples, and it was not immediately clear if other states faced similar delays.
“I believe that Quest has abdicated their ability to perform a testing function in Florida that the people can be confident in,” Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, said in a statement released Tuesday. On Monday, his office learned that test results as old as five months would be added to the state’s virus monitoring system.
More than 44,020 new cases and more than 1,090 new deaths were reported in the United States on Tuesday, according to a Times database.
In other news from around the country:
New York City is delaying the start of its school year by 10 days, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday, as part of a deal to avert a teachers’ strike and calm principals and parents anxious about the readiness for in-person classes. The city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren will now start both remote and in-person classes on Sept. 21. Its school district, the nation’s largest, is the only one in a major U.S. city that is planning to reopen its schools in-person this month.
Florida on Tuesday reopened nursing homes to visitors, who had been mostly barred from seeing family members and friends since mid-March, the governor announced. Visits will be by appointment only and nursing home residents will be limited to two guests at a time. Each must a wear mask and pass a health screening that includes temperature checks. Visitation will be suspended at nursing homes where a resident or staff member has tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days.
The White House on Tuesday announced that public tours of the presidential mansion would resume on Sept. 12. Tours will be limited to two days a week and masks will be required for everyone 2 and older, among other precautions.
In Virginia, James Madison University announced on Tuesday that it was suspending in-person classes and shifting to online learning through at least the end of September. The university cited a rise in infections: there were 513 active cases, according to the school’s website.
The governors of New York and Connecticut said Tuesday that they would require travelers from Alaska and Montana to be in quarantine for 14 days, an addition to arrivals from a list of 28 other states as well as three territories. Travelers to New Jersey from those places are also subject to a 14-day quarantine, though compliance is voluntary.
Hawaii has begun requiring visitors and residents to register online before arrival. Starting Tuesday, visitors were asked to provide their health status and destination to to help officials determine who requires additional airport screening.
The University of Dayton has seen a sharp uptick in cases that it is connecting to large, unauthorized gatherings where students failed to wear masks or socially distance. The school said it has recorded 905 cases since Aug. 10, a figure that jumped sharply from the six cases reported before then. The university said it has gone to online-only classes until at least Sept. 14.
The University of South Carolina suspended 15 students on Monday and charged six fraternities and sororities with student conduct violations stemming from parties held in violation of virus safety regulations. There were 553 active cases of the virus among students as of Aug. 27, according to the university.
Many small businesses across the country have reached a breaking point going into the fall and winter, with their survival dependent on an uncertain infusion of economic aid from the federal government. For some, such as the Cheers Replica Bar in Faneuil Hall in Boston, a casualty of the downturn, it’s already too late.
Indonesia’s outbreak takes a heavy toll on its medical workers.
As the number of new cases in Indonesia surges to record highs, professional associations say that more than 100 doctors and 70 nurses have died from Covid-19, one of the highest rates in the world.
As of Wednesday, Indonesia has reported 7,505 deaths and 177,571 cases since the pandemic began, including about 20,000 cases in the past week, according to a New York Times database. Independent experts say the actual number of cases could be many times higher because Indonesia lags far behind other nations in testing and its positivity rate is nearly 15 percent.
The daily caseload in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, peaked on Saturday, with 3,308 cases. On Sunday, Jakarta, the capital, reported more than 1,000 new daily cases for the first time.
Some hospitals in the country’s three biggest cities, Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan, are nearing capacity. Experts fear that the underfunded health care system could be overwhelmed if the outbreak worsens.
The virus has already taken a heavy toll on the country’s medical professionals. The Indonesian Medical Association said on Tuesday that 102 doctors and nine dentists had died from Covid-19, and the Indonesian National Nurses Association said 70 nurses had died.
Only Russia and Egypt have had a higher Covid-19 death rate among doctors, said Dr. Adib Khumaidi, the medical association’s risk mitigation team leader. His calculation could not be independently verified; an Italian association of surgeons and dentists has compiled a list of 176 in that country who have died.
“We are now facing the problem of our mental endurance too,” said Dr. Adib, an orthopedist and trauma surgeon. “We have been through six months of a situation that is getting worse, not better, and the news of our peers who died really affects the mentality of our colleagues.”
The medical association attributed the high death rate among medical workers to minimal personal protective equipment and a lack of preparedness on the part of medical facilities. Screening of patients is often poor, tests results are slow in arriving and many doctors are fatigued from working long hours, the group said.
Early in the pandemic, the central government closed most schools and encouraged people to work from home. But it later loosened those requirements, and it has been reluctant to impose further restrictions for fear of damaging an economy in which millions of people already live a precarious existence.
At the same time, many people have become less disciplined about social distancing and wearing face masks in public.
The spokesman for Indonesia’s coronavirus task force, Wiku Adisasmito, attributed the recent national spike in cases to a holiday week that ended on Aug. 22. The government did not impose travel restrictions for that week, as it did during the Idul Fitri holiday in May.
Russia’s government says virus cases there have passed 1 million.
The number of coronavirus cases reported in Russia since the start of the pandemic passed 1 million on Tuesday, the government said, and continues to rise by about 5,000 per day despite an official declaration in early August that the country had a vaccine.
The authorities reported 4,729 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,000,048. The death toll in Russia is now 17,299.
President Vladimir V. Putin announced that the vaccine, Sputnik V, was ready for use outside of clinical trials, and health officials said mass vaccination would begin in October. The health ministry on Monday pushed back the timeline for general vaccinations to November or December, closer to when other countries have said a vaccine may be available.
In the early months of the pandemic, Russia reported so few cases it seemed to have been all but passed over as the disease spread.
Russia had closed its border with China early on — a day before the United States banned travel from China — and later with European countries. A Soviet-era system of quarantines developed to stop plague and other infectious diseases may have helped for a time.
Bad news soon followed. Infections picked up, and most of the country was forced into a lockdown.
Experts blamed spread in hospitals, haphazard social distancing, and a faulty early test kit that produced many false negatives and obscured the initial scale of the problem.
Russia, with a population of about 145 million, is now fourth in the world for reported total infections, after the United States, Brazil and India.
Per capita, Russia’s rate of infection is about one-third that of the United States. Russia by Monday had reported 687 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 1,836 reported infections per 100,000 people in the United States.//check this on the day//
Despite the steady rise in cases, Russian schools opened on Tuesday with few precautions. Teachers and children are not required to wear masks.
Berlin makes masks mandatory for protesters.
After tens of thousands of unmasked protesters turned out to rally against virus restrictions in the German capital over the weekend, the city instituted a rule that requires masks for demonstrations with more than 100 participants.
Dilek Kalayci, the city senator for public health, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the rules would go into effect immediately. She noted that in certain cases, like when demonstrators are singing or chanting, masks could become mandatory even for smaller protests.
Last week, the city tried to ban the scheduled protests because the authorities worried that infection rules would be flaunted, but the decision was overturned in a court. Soon after a march numbering 18,000 began on Saturday morning, the police chief ordered the protesters to wear masks. When many refused, the police shut down the protest, although it let another, bigger gathering in the afternoon go forward.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 1, 2020
Why is it safer to spend time together outside?
- Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Though Germany has been lauded for its coronavirus response and low death rate, a vocal minority has taken to the streets to protest measures to contain the spread. On Monday, the country registered 1,218 new virus cases, according to the federal agency keeping track.
Other rules set by Berlin on Tuesday regulated family gatherings and large crowds.
The new laws will be tested quickly: On Tuesday afternoon, another demonstration against virus rules is expected in Tiergarten, the large central park in Berlin. If all 500 registered protesters show up, masks will no longer be optional.
Mass testing at a Tennessee prison finds that nearly 2 out of 3 inmates have the virus.
The coronavirus situation at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tenn., did not look like a crisis a week ago. The prison had reported fewer than 100 cases since the pandemic began. And according to Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman for CoreCivic, the private company that runs South Central, only 10 of the prison’s roughly 1,500 inmates were showing Covid-19 symptoms.
But state officials ordered mass testing at the prison last week, and the results are eye-popping: As of Tuesday morning, 965 inmates of 1,410 tested — about two-thirds of the total population — were positive, and another 168 test results were still pending, the state said.
Prisons, jails and immigration detention centers across the country have struggled with virus outbreaks. In all, more than 180,000 prisoners and correctional officers have tested positive, and nearly 1,100 people have died, according to a New York Times database.
Relatively little testing has been done at many correctional facilities. When officials do conduct mass testing in those facilities, they have often found high rates of transmission. A recent study found that prisoners have been infected at more than five times the nation’s overall rate.
The Tennessee Department of Correction said on its website that the inmates at South Central who tested positive but had no symptoms would be monitored and assessed daily, and that staff members who tested positive would self-quarantine. All inmates and staff members in state facilities are required to wear masks and adhere to disinfection and safety rules, the department said.
Ms. Gilchrist said in a statement on Tuesday that “the health and safety of the individuals entrusted to our care and our staff is the top priority for CoreCivic.”
Florida’s schools reopened this week, with many students attending classes in person.
Schools reopened across Florida this week with in-person instruction, though the state has among the highest coronavirus per capita infection rates in the country and despite public health concerns among teachers and many education officials.
Over one million students — or about 55 percent of the state’s total student population — have opted for some form of in-person instruction, according to the Florida Department of Education.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has aggressively pushed to bring students back into classrooms, hailed the reopening in an event Monday, saying that Florida parents have “enthusiastically embraced” in-person instruction and asserting that the virus doesn’t have as much of an impact on young people. Scott Atlas, a top adviser to President Trump on the pandemic, was also at the event, an indication of Florida’s importance in the November election.
“We’ve seen now through examples in the U.S. and the rest of the world that having a functioning society is very important in fighting an epidemic,” Mr. DeSantis said at the event in Tallahassee, Fla.
But the state’s main teachers’ union, as well as many local school officials and parents’ groups, remain uncomfortable with the resumption of in-person classes. Though its infection rate has been declining, Florida still reported more than 20,600 new cases in the past week, the third-most in the country.
“The question now is: Is the state and our school districts doing everything possible to make sure that our kids are safe — and the people who work in our schools, are they safe?” said Andrew Spar, vice president of the Florida Education Association. “And the answer to that right now appears to be no.”
In July, Richard Corcoran, Florida’s commissioner of education, issued an emergency order requiring schools to offer at least some in-person instruction, under threat of losing state aid. The state’s largest districts — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — were granted exemptions from the order.
Teachers’ unions sued Mr. DeSantis, arguing that the order went against the state’s Constitution and jeopardized the safety of public schools. Although a Florida judge ruled that the order violated the state’s Constitution, the state appealed the ruling, and the lower court’s decision was stayed, allowing schools to reopen for in-person instruction this week.
Children of color are infected and hospitalized at higher rates than white children, new U.S. research shows.
People of color have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and new U.S. research is heightening concern about the susceptibility of children in these communities.
They are infected at higher rates than white children and hospitalized at rates five to eight times that of white children, the data shows. Children of color also make up an overwhelming majority of those who develop a life-threatening complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.
Of more than 180,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19, fewer than 100 are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But children of color make up a majority of these children.
The deaths include 41 Hispanic children, 24 Black children, 19 white children, three Asian-American children, three American Indian/Alaska Native children and two multiracial children.
The unique vulnerabilities of these children are coming to light even as their number of infections is rising, and schools and parents around the country are grappling with nettlesome decisions about reopening safely.
“Children don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Dr. Monika K. Goyal, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington.
Among 1,000 children tested for the virus at a site in Washington in March and April, nearly half of the Hispanic children and nearly one-third of the Black children were positive, Dr. Goyal found in a recent study.
They are more likely to live in homes where the parent or caregiver cannot telecommute, she said, so they are at increased risk of exposure.
“They are also more likely to live in multigenerational households — it’s all connected,” Dr. Goyal said.
Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford, agreed: “I know exactly what’s happening to those kids. Their parents are frontline, blue-collar or essential workers.”
Researchers at Harvard have documented higher infection rates in Massachusetts communities with high proportions of immigrants, high numbers of food service workers and high numbers of people living in large, shared households.
“What you have is the perfect recipe for fast transmission of Covid-19 in the Latino community,” said Jose Figueroa, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The true number of children who have been infected with the virus may not be known, as young children tend to have milder courses of the disease and have never been routinely tested in the United States.
Across the globe, students are returning to the classroom.
From Wuhan to London to Paris and many places in between, students have returned to classrooms after months of staying home in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, the original center of the epidemic, state-run news media said that more than 2,840 primary and secondary schools, serving nearly 1.4 million students, reopened on Tuesday.
“School is open, and I’m very excited and happy,” a sixth-grader named Li Xinnuo told a radio broadcaster in Wuhan. “I can see my classmates, whom I haven’t seen for a long time.”
In Britain, classrooms and schoolyards rang with the clamor of students on Tuesday morning as hundreds of thousands of children returned to classrooms in the government’s boldest bid yet to reopen society.
In Russia, which reached 1 million virus cases on Tuesday, schools opened with few precautions. Teachers and children are not required to wear masks.
After six months off, other than a brief return in June, more than 12 million students in France are also back in classrooms. Students over 11 and all teachers have to wear masks and try to maintain social distance.
In Israel, more than 2 million students returned Tuesday despite a relatively high coronavirus infection rate and concerns that academic institutions could facilitate the spread. Experts have said that Israel’s quick reopening of schools last May — after Covid-19 cases had subsided — played a significant role in the virus’s comeback. Israeli authorities instituted new regulations meant to prevent outbreaks, and decided to keep schools closed in 23 cities and towns with especially high infection rates.
In Belgium, children 5 and older also headed back to school Tuesday. Only those in high-risk groups were allowed to stay home. But children returning from vacation in dangerous areas are not allowed back in school for 14 days. Masks are required for older students.
Bhutan’s government has started to sell tobacco to fight the virus.
Openly selling or smoking tobacco has been highly restricted in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan since 2010. But now the government has begun selling tobacco directly to smokers as part of an unconventional strategy aimed at fighting a more pressing problem: Covid-19.
Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, a medical doctor by profession, recently blamed tobacco smuggling for propelling the deadly virus. Even with borders closed and visitors prohibited from Bhutan, the tobacco black market has carried on.
Where that has been reduced, nicotine-deprived smokers have flocked to the border with India to get cigarettes. As virus cases have spiked in India, concerns have grown that the virus will return with the tobacco.
Dr. Tshering said that left his government with no other choice other than to sell tobacco products on its own to rein in movement to the border. In recent weeks, the government has been establishing duty-free outlets selling cigarettes in the capital, Thimphu, and other places.
In mid-August, Namgay Tshering, the finance minister, also announced a government program that would bring “tobacco products to your doorstep.” Both measures have been described as temporary.
Bhutan, a Buddhist nation of around 750,000 people, has recorded fewer than 230 coronavirus cases and no related deaths. Recently, loaders working at Phuentsholing, a major Bhutan-India border point, tested positive for coronavirus, reinforcing the difficulties of controlling transmission across a porous border.
Reporting was contributed by Ben Casselman, Nicholas Fandos, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Antonella Francini, Ruth Fremson, Matthew Futterman, Michael Gold, Javier C. Hernández, Andrew E. Kramer, Isabella Kwai, Mark Landler, Ruth Maclean, Apoorva Mandavilli, Heather Murphy, Jack Nicas, Benjamin Novak, Richard C. Paddock, Monika Pronczuk, Roni Caryn Rabin, Adam Rasgon, Matt Richtel, Campbell Robertson, Frances Robles, Christopher F. Schuetze, Eliza Shapiro, Bhadra Sharma, Dera Menra Sijabat, Natasha Singer, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tompkins, Maura Turcotte, Neil Vigdor, Allyson Waller, Timothy Williams, Katherine J. Wu, Liu Yi, Elaine Yu and Albee Zhang.