Wednesday, May 12

Your Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times

Restrictions on Tokyo and the northern island of Hokkaido were lifted on Monday, ending the last measures that were put in place. Japan entered a new phase of its pandemic response.

The next steps will focus on avoiding a resurgence, as happened after Japan partially lifted the state of emergency a few weeks ago. The restrictions imposed in Tokyo were more successful than anticipated, defying predictions that the densely populated capital would experience a catastrophe.

“We need to make a new normal. Let’s change our thinking,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he announced the shift. He called on the public to keep taking actions that will curb the spread of the virus, warning, “We can’t continue to live and work in the way we’ve done until now.”

Context: The measures were lifted for most of the rest of the country earlier this month after a drop in the number of new coronavirus cases.

President Vladimir Putin’s promise of cash bonuses for the doctors and nurses leading Russia’s battle with the coronavirus has turned into a bureaucratic mess, with some medical workers getting visits from the security services rather than money.

The promise of up to $1,100 a month was meant to showcase Mr. Putin’s proudest achievement — the revitalization of the Russian state after the chaos of the 1990s.

A month after the pledge, though, Mr. Putin said that 29 regions have ignored his order and that less than half of medical workers nationwide had received the money he had promised.

Quotable: “The diagnosis is obvious,” said Dmitri Drize, a Moscow-based human rights lawyer. “Officials have forgotten how to make decisions on their own. And this disease is worse than the coronavirus.”

Background: With more than 350,000 cases, Russia is the third most infected country after the United States and Brazil. Mr. Putin’s approval rating has taken a beating over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Many observers, however, expect the president to bounce back, albeit in a weakened position.

“What have we learned? Honestly, less about school than ourselves,” he wrote. “Our children said they were surprised to discover how hard their parents worked. I come away with a deeper understanding of my children as students.”

To get ready for hurricane season, Christopher Flavelle, a Times reporter who covers the climate, recently called Samantha Montano, a professor of emergency management at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He asked her what was making local officials nervous this year. Her answer: The effect that the coronavirus will have on the volunteers who normally respond to storms.

The U.S. disaster response system relies heavily on volunteers, and many won’t be able to fly to disaster zones, Christopher says. Those who do go will have a harder time interacting with people. “Volunteers do everything,” Dr. Montano told him — handing out donations, moving debris off the roads, repairing houses, helping survivors navigate state and federal aid programs. “Every single task we do in emergency management involves volunteers,” she said.

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