Your Thursday Briefing

India is now producing more new daily coronavirus infections, around 10,000, than all but two countries, the United States and Brazil.

But, ready or not, much of India’s coronavirus lockdown has ended, as have those in other countries struggling to balance economic damage with coronavirus risk.

As the pandemic surges in New Delhi, a public health care system that was already strained might be reaching its breaking point. People can’t get tested. And government officials, desperate for more beds, have proposed turning the city’s fanciest hotels into hospitals.

Our correspondents looked at the reopening in India and four other countries with rising cases that have decided to restart their economies: Iran, Pakistan, Mexico and Russia.

Iran: A center of the pandemic early on, Iran thought it had seen the worst. It reopened in early May, and it is seeing a second surge, experts say. On June 4, Iran reported 3,574 new infections in one day, the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began.

Pakistan: Outside the cities, almost no one is wearing a mask or making attempts to socially distance. Infections have nearly doubled in the past week, but there’s no way to gauge how prevalent the virus really is because testing has been so scarce.

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It’s unclear what form that message will take, but players have been vocal about what they say is their duty to speak out on an issue that affects them and their fans.

The league, which is the top level of the English football system, has traditionally shied away from gestures that might be considered political, but it is not expected to stand in the players’ way. And FIFA, football’s global governing body, advised national federations that players should not be punished for such shows of support.

Public opinion: In the last two weeks, U.S. voters’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement has increased almost as much as it had in the preceding two years, according to data from an online survey firm.

Only the worst disasters completely upend normal patterns of death, overshadowing, if only briefly, everyday causes like cancer, heart disease and car accidents.

Our reporters looked at how the devastation brought by the pandemic in 25 cities and regions compares with other deadly events.

Once deaths soar to five times the normal levels, that city is in territory that few places have ever seen outside of famine or war. Here are a few takeaways:

  • The 1918 flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide, and its toll in New York City in Oct. 1918 raised the city’s deaths to 3.97 times the normal amount. The city’s coronavirus toll could be seen as more severe: Deaths in April grew to almost six times the usual number.

  • Latin America’s outbreak is growing worse. Ecuador has one of the world’s worst death tolls. In Guayas, a coastal province, deaths surged more than five times. The death toll in Lima, Peru, spiked to more than 11,000 in May — raising its mortality rate nearly four times.

  • Bergamo, in northern Italy, saw deaths in March, at the peak of its outbreak, grow to 6.67 times the normal amount. In comparison, a tsunami in northern Japan in 2011 that killed 11,000 people in Miyagi increased its mortality by 6.85 times.

In April, as people across Indonesia stayed home during the coronavirus outbreak, about 10 million married couples stopped using contraception, according to official data. A month later, government officials turned up in towns and cities on trucks, equipped with loudspeakers blaring: “You can have sex. You can get married. But don’t get pregnant.” Above, newborns in Jakarta in April.

A baby boom would be a setback for Indonesia’s huge efforts to promote smaller families and fight child malnutrition, write our correspondents. They looked at how the government is trying to get family planning back on track.

Brazil: As the country reels from one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, President Jair Bolsonaro is threatening to resort to a military intervention to protect his grip on power. Political leaders and analysts say that military action remains unlikely, but the possibility is hanging over Brazil’s democratic institutions.

Sweden: The country’s judiciary has finally named a man who they believe gunned down Prime Minister Olof Palme in a quiet Stockholm street in 1986. A prosecutor cited “reasonable evidence” that the assailant was Stig Engstrom, a graphic designer, who took his own life in 2000.

‘Gone With the Wind’: The streaming service HBO Max has removed the 1939 movie from its catalog, pledging to eventually bring the film back “with a discussion of its historical context.” It was long considered a cinematic triumph, but has come under scrutiny for romanticizing the Civil War-era South and glossing over the horrors of slavery.

Snapshot: Above, members the Sikh Center of New York feeding protesters in Queens. The center has served more than 145,000 free meals in the last two months. It’s part of a Sikh tradition of feeding anyone in need, which has found new purpose during the pandemic and the protests.

What we’re looking at: This drone footage of green turtles migrating to Raine Island, the world’s largest sea turtle rookery, courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Cook: These crispy kimchi pancakes are both satisfyingly chewy and shatteringly crisp. Use the most flavorful traditionally prepared kimchi you can find — it’ll make all the difference in this simple recipe.

Watch: Our TV critic has some suggestions on what to watch if you’re looking for a foreign spy thriller or simply, something light. And, these movies showcase L.G.B.T.Q. characters in all their wonderful complexity.

Behold: We asked 11 illustrators of Asian descent to create a self-portrait, reflecting on their heritage, their stories of immigration and how they identify as an Asian-American.

Read: Here’s a look at down-and-out graphic novels including “The Complete Works of Fante Bukowski,” which our reviewer says is both gleefully malicious and unrepentantly stupid — a winning combination, for the most part.

We may be venturing outside, but with the virus still raging we’re still safest inside. At Home can help make that tolerable, even fun, with ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

Hosam al-Ali is a pharmacist in Idlib who volunteered to be the main virus-response coordinator in his region. He keeps an audio diary, which he shared day by day with our Istanbul bureau chief. Here are some of his entries on fighting a pandemic in a war zone.


A Day of Pain

Today I conducted training for the White Helmets [a Syrian civil defense group].

There were two teams, each with 10 people. We did two sessions to avoid crowding.

The next morning, I woke at 5 a.m., and we modified slides for the lecture. The slides outline the criteria for sending people to health facilities. They also tell people how to handle dead bodies.

The trainees from the White Helmets are very interested. Their motto, I learned, is from the Quran: “Whoever saves the life of one, it is as if he saves the life of all mankind.”

The whole day my mood was very bad, because my tooth infection had moved from my mouth to my eye, and it was very painful. I started to look like a teddy bear.


The Search for a Ventilator

Yesterday a friend called me. He was looking for a ventilator for his newborn baby. All the hospital ventilators were busy — and still we don’t have a single coronavirus case.

If that is happening, it means the medical capacity is very poor.

Today I felt depressed: I heard the baby died.


Pressure on All Fronts

There is something very important going on these days. It is not about coronavirus.

It is about the people. They are in a very difficult situation. Everything is super-expensive now. The dollar is rising and the Syrian pound is on the floor. The rate of one dollar is 1,500 Syrian pounds. People are going crazy. God help the people with Ramadan, coronavirus and high prices. God help the people.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
Carole Landry helped write this briefing. Samin Nosrat provided the recipe, and Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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