Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Occasions

Two months ago, New Zealand celebrated success in its fight against the coronavirus when a major outbreak in Auckland forced a withdrawal. Now, after a second round of bans, the country is hoping it has beaten back the virus for good.

New Zealand moved on Wednesday to lift the last of its restrictions in Auckland. People no longer have to wear masks in public, but must continue to keep records of the places they visit, maintain good hygiene and stay home and get tested for the virus if they feel unwell. The border remains closed to almost all foreign travelers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who faces an election next week, said there was a 95 percent chance that the country had eliminated local transmission of the virus.

The strategy: Ms. Ardern called it the “go hard and go early” approach, which combines lockdown measures with a flash of testing, contact tracing and quarantine.

Here are our latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other virus developments:

  • President Trump told White House medical staff he felt “great”. He is symptom-free and, according to a statement published by his doctor on Wednesday, does not need any additional oxygen. There were no other details about his treatment for Covid-19.

  • With virus cases in Malaysia soaring to its highest level since the pandemic began, the prime minister has quarantined himself and acknowledged that a recent election campaign was one of the causes of the surge.

  • The Italian government announced a new order that masks are mandatory, even in outdoor areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.

  • The World Bank warned on Wednesday that the pandemic could drive more than 100 million people into extreme poverty this year, raising the global poverty rate for the first time in more than two decades.

Jo Song-gil was North Korea’s acting ambassador to Rome in November 2018 when he and his wife disappeared from Italy days before his planned return to Pyongyang.

A South Korean lawmaker ended the mystery of his whereabouts on Wednesday, announcing that he had arrived in the south 15 months ago and remained under state protection.

A hit: The revelation could worsen North-South relations, which have been spiraling downwards for months. And such diplomatic defects open up the possibility of the South Korean authorities getting information about the smuggling and other ways in which North Korean diplomats are helping the regime obtain foreign currency.

Family fears: Mr. Jo and his wife had lived in Rome with their daughter. But when they disappeared, their daughter was not with them. Italy said it had been asked by North Korean authorities to return home. There are concerns that disclosing Mr. Jo’s whereabouts could further put them at risk.

The Australian National Science Agency has released the first global estimate of the extent of microplastics that accumulate on the ocean floor.

According to the researchers, 9.25 to 15.87 million tons of microplastics – fragments between five millimeters and one micrometer – are embedded in the ocean floor. That is far more than on the surface of the sea.

Microplastics can be ingested by smaller plankton and fish on the ocean floor and enter the human food chain.

How they did it: Using a robotic submarine, the scientists collected 51 deep water samples of sand and sediment in the Great Australian Bight, hundreds of miles from shore, and determined the global estimate based on the average number and size of the particles. The scientists said they made conservative estimates to take into account the full range of samples.

Years of gross mismanagement and American sanctions have brought Venezuela’s colossal oil sector to a near standstill. Above, the El Palito state refinery that sacrificed basic maintenance to keep production going and recently suffered a major oil spill.

A decade ago, the country was the largest producer in Latin America, making about $ 90 billion a year from oil exports. Net income is expected to be around $ 2.3 billion by the end of the year. Our correspondents describe a decline that Venezuela has narrowed beyond recognition.

Kenya Mall Attack: A dish in Kenya on Wednesday Two men were found guilty of helping the Shabab militants who attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013, killing 67 people. These were the first convictions in the attack.

Nobel: The Chemistry Prize was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their work on developing the Crispr tool, a method for altering the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms. It was the first time that two women had been awarded a Nobel Prize in Science.

Islamic State: Two UK detainees – half of a team of four who some of their victims have dubbed “the Beatles” – were brought to the US on Wednesday on charges of being held and involved in torture and beheading western hostages, including journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Snapshot: Above, Greek riot police clashed with protesters in Athens on Wednesday after a court found the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party guilty of leading a criminal organization systematically targeting migrants and left-wing critics during the financial crisis.

What we read: This Anchorage Daily News article about the 2020 Fat Bear Contest Winner. His name is 747 and your briefing writer has rooted him all along.

“The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit”: This is how John Nance Garner, who served as vice president from 1933 to 1941, once memorably summed up the job. In this year’s election, however, the role of the vice president is changing rapidly. A debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris a few hours after this writing promises to be the most-watched of all time.

The constitution gives the vice president the role of chairman of the Senate and voting in the Senate if there is a tie. The vice president’s only other formal responsibility is to assume the presidency if the president dies or is incapacitated. He or she is basically a waiting president.

Given that President Trump has contracted the coronavirus, Mr Pence and Mrs Harris are under pressure to use the debate to reassure worried Americans that they are qualified to stand as president. The infection of Mr. Trump – and the fact that he is 74 years old and his rival Joe Biden is 77 years old – is a reminder that either of the two comrades-in-arms could become president.

It has happened in the past few decades. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Dick Cheney was “acting president” for several hours when George W. Bush was sedated for routine medical procedures in 2002 and 2007. And Ronald Reagan transferred power to George HW Bush for about eight hours in 1985 when he was undergoing bowel surgery.

Here’s what you should keep in mind in the debate that begins at 9 p.m. East Coast Time. (That’s 9 a.m. in Hong Kong.) The Times will broadcast the event live, accompanied by analysis and fact-checking by our reporters.

That’s it for this briefing. Until next time.

– Carole

correction
In Wednesday’s briefing, the location of Touba, a city in Senegal that hosts one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, was incorrectly stated. Touba is 120 miles east of the capital, Dakar, not west.

Thank you very much
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

PS
• We listen to “The Daily”. Our latest episode is about the state of the coronavirus in the United States
• Here is our mini crossword puzzle and a hint: Quick software fix (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Genevieve Ko, the Los Angeles Times Cooking Editor, joins The New York Times Food Department and NYT Cooking Team as Senior Editor.

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