Months into the coronavirus crisis, big questions remain

  17 April 2020    Read: 707
  Months into the coronavirus crisis, big questions remain  @Getty Images

In the months since the coronavirus has spread across the globe — infecting more than 2.1 million people and leaving at least 142,000 dead — scientists and leaders have scrambled to measure the scale and understand the outbreak. But even as cases have continued to grow, there are discrepancies and divisions over the disease’s toll and death rate.

China on Friday revised upward the death toll in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus first emerged and where it was the center of the epidemic for weeks before it spread to the rest of the world.

The new numbers, an increase of 50 percent in the tally, added to the skepticism about the accuracy of China’s coronavirus count, but Beijing maintains that there has been no cover-up.

Efforts have been made in Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, to recount the dead. The revisions underscore how little is known about the true extent of the global outbreak and the disease itself. Determining what percentage of people infected by the coronavirus will die has also proved elusive, and experts say an accurate picture of the death rate is likely to take years to calculate.

In the United States, President Trump on Thursday released a set of nonbinding guidelines for states on when and how to reopen their economies, backing away from a threat to dictate when they should begin to lift restrictions.

Elsewhere, the balancing of privacy and freedom with new tracking systems to trace infections and security measures to stem the virus’s spread has rubbed up against cultural values. In Europe, which has some of the world’s toughest online privacy rules, this has been a sticking point. But in France, where a love of liberty is baked into the national identity, options that once seemed unfathomable have steadily become more palatable.

In Spain, where children have been barred from leaving their homes for walks or other outdoor activities, the limits are raising concerns in parents and health experts about the effects on young people’s physical and mental health.

And in Germany, which this week announced its first small measures to loosen coronavirus restrictions beginning on Monday, the national public health institute said the country’s average rate of new coronavirus infections had dropped to 0.7 percent. That figure means that each infected person is spreading the virus to less than one other person.

At a news conference on Friday, Jens Spahn, the country’s health minister, called it “an important and encouraging development.”



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