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Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

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Your Monday Briefing – The New York Times

Australia has called for an inquiry into the origin of the virus. President Trump has blamed China for the contagion and is seeking to punish the country. Some governments want to sue Beijing for damages and reparations. Germany and Britain are having second thoughts about dealing with the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

China has responded aggressively, mixing medical aid to other countries with economic threats.

Quotable: “The mistrust of China has accelerated so quickly with the virus that no ministry knows how to deal with it,” said Angela Stanzel, a China expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Here are the latest updates, as well as maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • The U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, doubled down on President Trump’s assertions about the origins of the virus, saying on Sunday that “there’s enormous evidence” the coronavirus originated in a research laboratory in Wuhan, China. However, U.S. intelligence agencies say they have reached no conclusion on the issue.

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of his ordeal battling the coronavirus in an interview with The Sun newspaper. Even after receiving “liters and liters of oxygen” while hospitalized, the British prime minister said he was not getting better and he could not understand why.

  • Italy is set to enter a reopening phase today but strong protests from politicians, business leaders, mayors and others confused about the government’s plans have created a sense of impending chaos.

  • Former President George W. Bush called on Americans to put aside partisan differences, heed the guidance of medical professionals and show empathy for those stricken by the coronavirus and the resulting economic devastation. President Trump swiped at him in response.

The Times is providing free access to much of our coronavirus coverage, and our Coronavirus Briefing newsletter — like all of our newsletters — is free. Please consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.

The coronavirus has touched almost every country, but its impact has been uneven. Some big cities like New York, Paris and London have been hit hard. Others, like Bangkok, New Delhi and Lagos have, so far, fared much better.

Our team of correspondents reporting from around the world — Hannah Beech in Southeast Asia, Alissa J. Rubin in the Middle East, Anatoly Kurmanaev in South America and Ruth Maclean in Africa — delve into the puzzle of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively unscathed.

Research: There are hundreds of studies underway on how demographics, public health and genetics could possibly explain the virus’ differing impact. Each possible explanation seems to come with caveats and counterevidence. If older people are highly vulnerable, for instance, Japan, with its aging population, should be devastated. It is far from it.

Asia’s new normal: As cities in Australia and Asia and elsewhere get their outbreaks under control, churches, schools, restaurants, theaters and even sports venues are starting to reopen.

But those emerging from weeks or months of isolation are returning to a different world, where social distancing, hygiene standards and government-imposed restrictions infuse nearly every activity — a reality likely to persist until a vaccine or a treatment is found.

South Korea said it was contacting North Korea through a military hotline to prevent an escalation after the North’s forces opened fire near the Demilitarized Zone on Sunday.

The gunshots hit a guard post inside the DMZ, which separates the North from the South, according to a statement by the South’s military. South Korean soldiers fired back, officials added. No casualties were reported.

The reason for the gunshots remained unclear. The U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the fire had most likely been accidental.

Context: The episode came two days after North Korean state media reported that the leader, Kim Jong-un, had appeared in public. Mr. Kim had been absent for three weeks, prompting speculation about his health.

A big question: Our correspondent in Seoul writes that the weeks of uncertainty about Mr. Kim brought home an alarming fact: No one knows who will control North Korea, or its nuclear weapons, should he die.

The search for a vaccine for the coronavirus has taken on an intensity never before seen in medical research. But there’s much more at play than just science.

Our reporters look at the political and business interests in the endeavor as well as questions about safety and the challenges of producing billions of doses of vaccine.

Afghan migrants in Iran: Afghanistan is investigating claims that dozens of Afghans being smuggled into Iran to work were tortured by Iranian border guards and thrown into a river, where many drowned.

Pakistani exile: The body of Sajid Hussain, a Pakistani journalist in exile in Sweden who edited a news site that chronicled organized crime, drug smuggling and the decades-long insurgency in Balochistan Province, was found in a river north of Stockholm on Friday. Reporters Without Borders suggested that Mr. Hussain’s death could have followed an abduction “at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency.”

Imprisoned Egyptian: Shady Habash, an Egyptian filmmaker imprisoned over a music video that mocked President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has died at a maximum-security facility after two years in detention without trial, his lawyer said. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Snapshot: Above, a waterfront park in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday, as the arrival of warm spring weather tempted New Yorkers to abandon the discipline of weeks of lockdown. Worried officials are warning them to wear masks and keep social distance.

Cook: Warming and gently spiced, Melissa Clark’s easy snickerdoodle loaf cake comes together in just about an hour — and may not last nearly as long.

Celebrate: A socially distant birthday party calls for a dash of corniness and a pinch of magical thinking. Here’s how to blow out those candles via videochat.

Gardening: It’s not too late to start a flower garden. Get some homegrown color with zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers.

For a million more ideas (OK, hundreds of ideas) about things to do while staying safe, check out our At Home collection.

Our reporter Vivian Lee left New York in late 2018 and moved to Beirut to cover the Middle East. The city had been home for six and half years, and it was where she started as a Times metro reporter.

When I arrived here as a foreign correspondent, I found stories — civil war in Syria, authoritarianism in Egypt. But now the loudest headlines are all at home.

I text people in New York in the same tones my mother has taken to using since I moved to the Middle East: “Are you OK? Be careful.”

Every space in New York is its own theater. If the city offers absolution in anonymity, it also offers fleeting fame in the simple act of walking around.

But now the streets of New York are empty.

Disaster is making New Yorkers pine for the city that is as much out of their reach as mine. From Beirut, I scroll through the Instagram accounts devoted to immortalizing New Yorkers, read the essays about choosing to stay, follow the #BestNYAccent contest.

When I left, everyone said, Oh, you’ll come back, and it’ll be exactly the same. You’ll change, but New York never does. Even then I didn’t believe them, though I trusted that a certain timelessness would prevail. Now they don’t believe it either.

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