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Coronavirus, Italy’s Overwhelmed Hospitals, Israel Protests: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a grim milestone in Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, two Times reporters on how they faced the virus and an effort to save the wallabies.

Italy has become so overwhelmed that it’s called on its army to help transport bodies to be cremated, and sent army health workers to two cities in Lombardy — Bergamo and Lodi.

China confirmed just 34 cases, all in people who arrived in the country from elsewhere. If the news is more than a statistical blip, it would be a remarkable turnaround, and would enable the focus to shift to restarting the Chinese economy. But experts have said at least 14 straight days without new infections are needed for the outbreak to be considered over.

Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have managed to keep caseloads low, but the virus continues to spread rapidly in most of the world. Our charts show the trajectory of the pandemic in various places.

Here are the latest updates and maps.

In other developments:

  • A new study offered some good news: Death rates in Wuhan were lower than previously thought — around 1.4 percent, instead of the previously reported 2 percent to 3.4 percent.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is urging citizens to stay home, hoping to dissuade hundreds of thousands of Hindus from heading to the northern town of Ayodha next week for a nine-day celebration of the god Ram.

  • Global markets were mixed on Thursday as the United States and Europe took more steps to offset the sharp decline in their economies. Here’s the latest.

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

Our Rome correspondent, Jason Horowitz, has spent the last two weeks in quarantine after traveling to northern Italy to report on the raging coronavirus outbreak. The last time he was able to hug his children was a month ago, just as a family ski trip was derailed by the outbreak.

“My wife was worried,” he writes. “Home schooling was hard. The piano teacher bailed. The government wasn’t being clear about whether or not people could go to the park. Also, she thought maybe we were all going to die?”

In New York City, our Smarter Living editor, Tim Herrera, went through dozens of calls, long hospital waits and lots of confusion to get tested. Four days later, he finally learned that he’d been infected.

“Enormous numbers of people across the country, even those who have severe symptoms or who are especially vulnerable, are facing roadblock after roadblock as they try to get answers,” he writes.

Years of drought and devastating fires have wiped out a huge proportion of Australia’s brush-tailed rock wallabies and singed their natural foraging grounds.

Snapshot: Above, Rada Akbar, the artist behind an art exhibit in Kabul called Abarzanan — Superwomen. It’s an ode to the achievements of ancient and modern Afghan women, at a moment when the chance of a Taliban return to power threatens the progress of women’s rights there.

What we’re reading: More than 6,000 ebooks and over 150 journals that JSTOR, a digital library for researchers and students, just made open to the public. “The site’s open access content is extensive,” writes Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor. “Heaven for the academically minded.”

Cook: Melissa Clark’s Baked Oats, from her “cooking from your pantry” series in our daily roundup of coronavirus coverage. To make enough for three or four, heat your oven to 350 degrees, and bring a kettle of water to a boil.

In a shallow baking dish, combine 3 cups boiling water and 1 cup steel-cut or cracked oats. Stir in ¼ cup peanut butter (or almond butter) until smooth-ish. (Don’t worry about a few lumps.) Season the mix with a big pinch of salt, and some cinnamon or nutmeg if you like. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, stirring halfway through. Taste, and if the oats aren’t cooked enough, let it bake a few minutes longer.

“I like this splashed with cream and drizzled with maple syrup (or brown sugar is great, too). But it’s good on its own, or maybe with sliced bananas. And it will keep you going all day long.”

Watch: Our critic recommends 12 true-crime documentaries on Netflix.

Read: Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt’s “The Gift of Forgiveness” is on this week’s hardcover nonfiction and combined print and e-book nonfiction best-seller lists.

Smarter Living: Exercising right now is tricky — but for many of us, there are ways to go outside and get moving safely.

As of Thursday, Spain had more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 800 deaths — the most in both categories after mainland China, Italy and Iran. Mike Ives, on the Briefings team, asked our correspondent Raphael Minder what he’s seeing on the ground in the Spanish capital.

What’s the mood in Madrid right now?

In normal times, Madrid ranks as one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, with thousands of tapas bars and good weather that encourages people to socialize outdoors into the early hours of the morning. So it’s been very weird to see the city almost closed down and so silent.

The schools have already been shut for one week, so this crisis is starting to make people very anxious about how long the lockdown could last. Among the few people out on the street, many are walking their dog or pushing a shopping trolley — two of the activities that are exempt from the government order to stay indoors.

But there are gestures of solidarity, like the applause given daily by residents from their balconies to thank the doctors and nurses who are fighting coronavirus.

What else are you noticing?

Almost everybody in my neighborhood is trying hard to respect the one-meter distance recommended by the authorities, lining up in silence at cash registers. But at my local fruit stand on Wednesday, a woman forcefully challenged a man who had grasped an apple without wearing one of the gloves provided by the supermarket.

“You dirty, selfish guy!” she told him. He looked startled but didn’t answer. It seemed to me that, in the time of coronavirus, citizens have turned into much more efficient vigilantes than store security cameras.

You’ve written that Spain’s fractured politics have complicated the government’s response to the virus. Do you expect to see less arguing, and more unity, as the crisis escalates?

Last weekend, when Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a state of emergency, he got some scathing criticism from opposition parties for having responded too late. The crisis has also fueled territorial tensions, particularly since health care is one of the policy areas that is managed by regional administrations rather than the central government. Both Catalan and Basque politicians [two regions where there have been strong independence movements] have been warning Mr. Sánchez against reducing their powers.

But as the coronavirus numbers for Spain have kept climbing, politicians have mostly set aside their differences. Before the crisis, Mr. Sánchez was facing an uphill struggle to get approval for his next budget. Instead, he got broad support for a €200 billion relief package.

The question is whether this economic aid will be disbursed efficiently and fast enough. And if the lockdown doesn’t start slowing the coronavirus in Spain soon, it could put Mr. Sánchez under renewed political pressure.

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

— Melina

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about a cluster of coronavirus cases near New York City.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Wheelchair-accessible path (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The New York Times has published a free e-book answering your questions about the coronavirus outbreak.

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