António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, warned that, with the global health agency “on the front lines” of the crisis, it is not the time to halt funding. The United States is the W.H.O.’s biggest donor, contributing more than $400 million a year.
“It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19,” he said, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, criticized the decision with a pointed message to Mr. Trump.
“It doesn’t help to blame,” he wrote on Twitter. “The virus knows no borders.”
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged the United States to fulfill its obligation to the W.H.O. at a critical time.
Mr. Trump, who has faced criticism for having overseen a slow and ineffective response to the virus, accused the W.H.O. of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the outbreak and said that the United States would halt funding until it had reviewed the organization’s actions. “So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” Mr. Trump said.
The move to end funding — depriving the W.H.O. of about 10 percent of its budget during a global health crisis — came on the same day that Mr. Trump took a more cooperative tone with U.S. governors, pledging to work closely with states to relax restrictions on movement. A day earlier, Mr. Trump asserted that he had “total” authority to reopen the American economy — a position that was widely challenged by legal scholars and elected officials from both parties.
The country’s death toll increased 17 percent on Tuesday, to more than 26,000, after New York added more than 3,700 fatalities. Officials said they were now including people who were presumed to have died of the virus but had not tested positive for it.
Germany heads toward steep recession and surge in unemployment.
The German government on Wednesday issued a bleak assessment of the effects of the coronavirus, saying that the economy was headed for a steep recession and a surge in joblessness.
Economic output in Europe’s largest economy will plunge almost 10 percent from April through June, the German Economy Ministry said. The country is expected to rebound later in the year, but gross domestic product at the end of 2020 will still be 4 percent lower than in 2019, the government said.
The effect of the virus on manufacturing, shopping and service businesses like hair salons will end a job boom that has lasted a decade, the government said. In March, the German unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, among the lowest in Europe. But more than one million people are now working reduced hours under a government “short work” program that compensates for some lost wages.
“The collapse in global demand, the interruption of supply chains, behavior changes by consumers and uncertainty among investors are having a massive effect on Germany,” the ministry said.
Millions of voters, all wearing masks, lined up at polling places across South Korea on Wednesday to elect the country’s 300-member National Assembly, even as the country fought to control the coronavirus.
Voters had their temperatures taken before being allowed to enter polling places. That step was part of safety precautions enforced by disease-control officials who are trying to ensure that the election will take place without causing mass infections. Those with high temperatures were led to vote in booths separate from the others.
Voters were asked to stand at three-foot intervals while they waited. They were also required to rub their hands with sanitizer and put on disposable plastic gloves handed out by officials before entering voting booths.
South Korea opened its 14,000 polling stations at 6 a.m. after disinfection. The voting will last until 6 p.m. More than 13,000 voters who are in a mandatory two-week quarantine but still want to vote will be escorted by government officials to vote after 6 p.m.
The election pits President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party against the main conservative opposition, the United Future Party, in a contest to control the legislature. Currently, neither party holds a majority there. More than 30 much smaller political parties also campaigned to win seats.
The approval ratings of Mr. Moon and his party have risen in recent weeks as South Korea has appeared to bring the coronavirus under control through a fast and effective operation to test and isolate patients. The country has reported fewer than 50 new cases a day in the past week.
As China has emerged from the worst of its outbreak, Chinese diplomats have become increasingly combative in defending their government against international criticism — only to sometimes inflame more tensions.
France is the latest example. On Tuesday the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, summoned the Chinese ambassador, Lu Shaye, to criticize an article that appeared on the Chinese Embassy’s website. The article accused unnamed Western politicians of letting old people starve to death en masse in abandoned retirement homes.
Mr. Le Drian said the article, which was published on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Paris as the work of an unnamed “Chinese diplomat in France,” was “not in line with the quality of the bilateral relation” between Paris and Beijing.
The article said that Western news outlets have ignored failings in their own countries while making unfounded assertions that China bore the blame for letting the virus spread. Such rebuttals have become common in Chinese state-run media. But this one went further.
It said “nursing personnel in old age homes had abandoned their posts without permission, fleeing en masse, leading to old people dying in groups from starvation or illness,” according to the Chinese version of the article, which is still on the embassy website.
The friction echoed a controversy last month when Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, asserted — despite no credible evidence — that the American military may have started the coronavirus epidemic. Mr. Zhao has muted his claims since China’s ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, dismissed such speculation as “crazy.”
Mr. Lu may have also decided to try to cool the rancor in France. On Tuesday, he published an essay on his embassy’s website warmly praising cooperation between China and France during the pandemic.
Toddlers and schoolchildren in Denmark on Wednesday marked their first day back to school and day care after five weeks of coronavirus closings. The youngest had the task of taking Danish society’s first careful steps toward some semblance of normalcy, a path that’s likely to take months, as the country begins to ease stringent measures imposed as part of the lockdown.
Denmark was one of a handful of European countries that have slowly, tentatively begun lifting constraints on daily life this week for the first time since the start of the coronavirus crisis. They are providing an early litmus test of whether Western democracies can gingerly restart their economies and restore basic freedoms without reviving the spread of the disease.
On Tuesday, Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s crisis, reopened some bookshops and children’s clothing stores. Spain allowed workers to return to factories and construction sites, despite a daily death toll that remains over 500. The Finnish government was set on Wednesday to reopen the borders of the southern region of Uusimaa, which includes Helsinki, the capital. The area has been sealed off from the rest of the country since March 28.
In Denmark, the slow return began as the number of hospital admissions remained far below capacity across the country. By Tuesday, 380 coronavirus patients were being treated in Danish hospitals, down from 535 at the peak of the outbreak in the country on April 1.
“It’s better than we dared hope for,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a news briefing on Tuesday.
With the outbreak easing, Ms. Frederiksen’s approval rating has doubled to 79 percent since the start of the crisis. But she has faced some criticism both for the drastic initial shutdown on March 11 when she closed borders, shuttered schools, shut down most of the public sector and asked the private sector to work from home.
“We may have saved lives,” she said on Tuesday of the measures, adding that she hoped to return Denmark to the “rich and secure” society it was before the coronavirus.
“But we’re still going to need some patience,” she added.
Lockdown pollution levels reveal mountain peaks in Kenya.
In the photograph, Africa’s second-highest mountain, Mount Kenya, looms in the distance, contrasted against shiny glass and concrete buildings in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The peak, more than 86 miles from the city center, is usually not visible through the pollution hanging over the city, but a lockdown has changed that.
The image was posted on Instagram by Osman Siddiqi, a resident of Nairobi, and he said it was indicative of how curfews and partial lockdowns had reduced pollution and made it possible to more clearly view the 17,000-foot peak.
“The photo is a testament to what we might be missing out on with nature,” Mr. Siddiqi wrote on Instagram. “It really begs us the question, ‘What Nairobi do we want to emerge from the crisis?’”
Nairobi is a traffic-clogged city with pollution levels that are exacerbated by factories, trash fires, diesel generators and indoor cooking stoves. Thousands die every year from air pollution.
This month, the Kenyan government imposed a three-week ban on movement to and from four counties most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, including Nairobi. The East African nation, which had 216 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, also closed schools, banned social and religious gatherings, and imposed a nationwide curfew from dusk to dawn.
Other countries have also seen skies clear as they enforced strict lockdowns. In India, for example, the formerly smog-veiled peaks of the Himalayas are now clearly visible in towns hundreds of miles away.
Romania became the first European Union nation to ban the export of agricultural goods — specifically barley, oats, corn, rice, wheat flour, oilseed and sugar — to countries outside the bloc in order to secure domestic supply during the pandemic.
According to Romania’s ban, agricultural products can be sold within the E.U., but only after proof is given that they are not intended for further export, Romanian officials said. The ban was enacted after more than 770,000 tons of wheat was exported in March.
Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said during a televised cabinet meeting last week that the government “can’t afford to accept that, out of greed, some owners of cereals send them for export, leaving us without wheat.”
Given that Romania has already harvested and shipped most of its crops for the season that ends in June, it is unclear what effect the ban will have.
According to the agriculture advisory firm UkrAgroConsult, the measure was needed because of increasing domestic wheat demand, with non-E.U. countries — principally Egypt and Jordan — absorbing more than 60 percent of Romania’s wheat exports. Romania is one of the European Union’s largest exporters of cereal crops.
The European Commission, however, has questioned Romania’s need to act. The ban will last until the end of the country’s state of emergency, which was extended on Tuesday for at least a month.
Romania, which has enacted strong measures to try to limit the spread of the virus, has so far escaped the worst of the pandemic. As of Tuesday afternoon, the country had 6,879 confirmed cases and 346 deaths. But because just 70,097 tests have been conducted, infections are likely to be higher.
WWII veteran raises $5.6 million for Britain’s health service by walking in his garden.
Tom Moore, a 99-year-old World War II veteran, had one goal in mind when he decided to make 100 laps with the help of his walker around his 82-foot-long yard. He set out to raise 1,000 pounds, around $1,250, for Britain’s National Health Service.
By Wednesday, he had raised more than £4.5 million, or $5.6 million.
He set his goal for his 100th birthday this month, and is inching toward his target with 10 laps a day, according to his fund-raising page. He’s doing it after being treated for cancer and a broken hip, according to the BBC.
Mr. Moore, who was posted in India and Myanmar, among other places, during World War II, was born and raised in Yorkshire, in northern England.
“You are an inspiration to others,” Nadine Dorries, a British lawmaker and health minister who represents Mr. Moore’s area, said on Twitter.
The moderators of his fund-raising page said when they reached £1 million in donations that they were “so glad to be able to unite our country at such a sad time.”
“Tom would like to thank all of you, from the bottom of his heart,” they wrote.
As of Tuesday, the number of confirmed infections in the Britain stood at 93,873, with at least 12,107 deaths. The country is thought to be days away from the peak of its crisis.
“When you think of who it is all for — all those brave and super doctors and nurses we have got — I think they deserve every penny” Mr. Moore told the BBC on Wednesday. “And I hope we get some more for them, too.”
Spain’s partial return to work this week — a gradual loosening of restrictions on movement — brought hopes of an easing of economic worries but also sparked a fierce debate over whether the measures have come too soon.
The coronavirus is still claiming hundreds of lives each day, though it has leveled off in recent days from the peak of the outbreak. But in practice, the return to work has amounted to a trickle rather than a flood of employees, many who are commuting back to their workplaces with mixed emotions.
“I don’t agree with it, but what else can you do?” said a 52-year-old electrician who asked to be identified only by his first name, José, as he waited at a nearly empty subway station in Barcelona. “If my bosses call me, and I say no, they won’t call me again.”
Some factory workers and those employed on construction sites and in e-commerce have been allowed to return to their jobs after a two-week halt implemented to stem the spread of the virus. The outbreak overloaded Spain’s health care system and has claimed more than 18,500 lives in the country. The Spanish authorities reported 523 new deaths on Wednesday, in line with dropping death tolls reported in previous days.
The broader lockdown rules are still in place, and most Spaniards are allowed to leave their homes only to buy groceries or walk their pet. The authorities are investigating whether former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy broke such rules after he was caught on camera exercising outdoors.
“It’s going to be long and painful, but we need to resume one day or another,” Andres Mongui, a construction worker at the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, said on Tuesday after his first day back at work.
When Guayaquil, Ecuador’s business capital, was first hit by the coronavirus, the devastation was so great that bodies were piling up in the streets.
Now, as the authorities begin to grapple with the scale of the crisis, they have reason to believe that the toll for the province that includes Guayaquil is likely many times larger than the official government figure of 173 dead.
The numbers are skewed because only those who test positive — dead or alive — are counted as coronavirus victims.
The usually bustling port city of about three million had 1,500 more deaths in March of this year than in the same month in 2019, Guayaquil’s mayor, Cynthia Viteri, said in an interview.
“They are not only dying from Covid,” she said, referring to the disease caused by coronavirus. “People with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease are dying from lack of medical attention, because the hospitals are saturated with the critically ill, because there aren’t places where women can give birth without getting infected.”
In addition, in the past two weeks, a special emergency team collected or authorized the burial of nearly 1,900 bodies from Guayaquil’s hospitals and homes, according to Ecuador’s government, which said that figure represented a fivefold increase in the city’s usual mortality rate.
To combat the spread of the virus, the city will resort to some of the most draconian quarantine measures in Latin America.
Security forces on Tuesday began cordoning off the contagion hot spots for up to three days at a time while medics looked door to door looking for potential cases and sanitary workers disinfected public spaces.
Ms. Viteri, the mayor, said movement to and from the hard-hit neighborhoods, located mostly in the city’s poor periphery, will be completely cut off. City authorities will provide residents with food while the operation lasts.
“The situation isn’t grave — it’s extremely grave,” said Ms. Viteri. “And we still haven’t reached a high point of infections in Guayaquil.”
The images are compelling: Fire trucks in Tehran or Manila spray the streets. Amazon tests a disinfectant fog inside a warehouse, hoping to calm workers’ fears and get them back on the job. Families nervously wipe their mail and newly delivered groceries.
These efforts may help people feel like they and their government are combating the coronavirus. But in these still-early days of learning how to tamp down the spread of the virus experts disagree on how best to banish the infectious germs.
“There is no scientific basis at all for all the spraying and big public works programs,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Other experts are not ready to confidently dismiss disinfecting. There are just too many unknowns about this virus, said Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. Lipsitch said it will be difficult to study the effectiveness of disinfecting outdoor spaces because “everyone is throwing a mix of interventions at the problem, as they should.”
Most transmission of the virus comes from breathing in droplets that an infected person has just breathed out — not from touching surfaces where it may be lurking. “Transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website.
After three inconclusive elections resulting in a yearlong impasse, Israel’s president has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, until Wednesday midnight to form a unity government.
If no agreement is reached by then, Israel will edge closer to a fourth election, despite the state of national emergency created by the coronavirus crisis.
On Tuesday, six weeks after the March 2 election and a series of rancorous on-again, off-again negotiations, the two sides met for talks and again failed to finalize a deal.
After a year of political deadlock, a unity deal may provide a temporary balm for a deeply divided and anxious Israel under lockdown to fight the coronavirus. But a unity coalition is unlikely to resolve Israel’s longstanding divisions.
Since Mr. Gantz’s party would be joining a coalition that would include Mr. Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies, there is likely to be little movement to resolve the religious-secular tensions that have roiled Israeli society for years.
With Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing partners in the government — and with Mr. Trump still in office — there is also unlikely to be any resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinians have rejected the Trump administration’s peace plan as hopelessly biased toward Israel.
The rule of thumb, or rather feet, has been to stand six feet apart in public. That’s supposed to be a safe distance if a person nearby is coughing or sneezing and is infected with the novel coronavirus, spreading droplets that may carry virus particles.
And scientists agree that six feet is a sensible and useful minimum distance, but, some say, farther away would be better.
Six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet.
But some scientists, having looked at studies of air flow and being concerned about smaller particles called aerosols, suggest that people consider a number of factors, including their own vulnerability and whether they are outdoors or in an enclosed room, when deciding whether six feet is enough distance.
“Everything is about probability,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, who is the head of the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “Three feet is better than nothing. Six feet is better than three feet. At that point, the larger drops have pretty much fallen down.”
Reporting was contributed by Kit Gilet, Jack Ewing, Melissa Eddy, Raphael Minder, Elian Peltier, Aurelien Breeden, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, Megan Specia, Austin Ramzy, Johanna Lemola, Aimee Ortiz, Choe Sang-Hun, Karen Weintraub, Isabel Kershner, Knvul Sheikh, James Gorman and Kenneth Chang