Tuesday, November 24

Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times


Officials reported 441 new cases on Thursday, the country’s highest daily total since early March. The government said it was facing two great obstacles in fighting the coronavirus: doctors on strike and churches obstructing epidemiological efforts.

South Korea has reported three-digit daily jumps in infections since Aug. 14. Many have been traced to churches, and come as doctors are on strike over plans to overhaul the medical work force. Hospitals in Seoul reported bottlenecks because of the strike. The National Assembly came to a halt with more than a dozen lawmakers in self-isolation after contact with a journalist who tested positive.

Health officials have described the outbreak over the past two weeks as the country’s biggest since the start of the pandemic, and said tougher restrictions were likely. Such measures could hurt the already struggling economy.

Related: South Korea’s central bank sharply downgraded its growth outlook, forecasting a 1.3 percent contraction in 2020. That would be its worst performance since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

A warning to the West: Mr. Putin’s warning that Russia could intervene to restore order, said Nina Khrushcheva, a Russia expert at the New School in New York, signaled less “full-throated support for Lukashenko than a message to the West: If you keep pushing on Belarus, you will have another Ukraine on your hands.”


I’m used to my colleagues coming up to me when an outbreak threatens to reach U.S. shores, clutching my arm and asking quietly: “So, how bad is it? Are we all going to die?”

“Yes,” I always answer. Then I pause, and say: “But not of Ebola” — or whatever they’re worried about.

This was the first time I couldn’t do that. I had to say: “No, not all of us. But someone you know might. Be careful.”

The story is now so complex that keeping up with it is nearly impossible. I feel as if I conduct interviews, read studies, and watch TV day and night, just trying to follow shutdowns, school openings, vaccines, treatments, mask battles and what’s happening in Sweden, Hong Kong and New Zealand. You can’t deduce what might happen here without knowing what has worked elsewhere and calculating whether we can do the same thing — or if we’re just too stubborn and too polarized.

My editors found my early prognostications pretty bleak. I’ve been called everything from Mr. Doom ’n’ Gloom to Cassandra to “the Eeyore of the moment.” And there’s no way I can prove I have the facts right — because they don’t exist yet.

When enough time has passed to put some facts on the ground, I have sometimes found that, when I have erred, it was because the scientists I interviewed weren’t pessimistic enough.



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