Caught violating his own social distancing advice, a top British scientist quits a government panel.
Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose frightening projections of coronavirus deaths precipitated the lockdown in Britain, resigned from the government’s scientific advisory group on Tuesday, after admitting he breached social distancing rules by illicitly meeting his lover.
Dr. Ferguson, whose research also influenced thinking in the White House, said in a statement to The Daily Telegraph, which first reported the story, “I accept I made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action.”
“I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing,” said Dr. Ferguson, who has become a household name in Britain over the last two months, preaching the virtues of staying apart.
Leading a respected team of scientists at Imperial College London, Dr. Ferguson has long been an influential voice on infectious diseases. But he achieved a new level of prominence in mid-March, with a report warning that without steps to control it, the virus could kill 250,000 to 510,000 Britons.
During this period of confinement, The Telegraph reported that Dr. Ferguson, 51, allowed a woman with whom he had a relationship to visit him at home. He had just come out of his own self-isolation after suffering from Covid-19.
In his statement to The Telegraph, he said, “I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms.”
Dr. Ferguson sat on the government’s secretive Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, or SAGE. His membership was only formally confirmed on Monday, when the government published the names of 50 of the 52 members.
Approaching 30,000 coronavirus deaths, Britain has been one of the hardest-hit countries, and the government’s handling of the crisis has come under harsh scrutiny.
A major media network in the Philippines was forced off the air on Tuesday, making it the first major broadcaster to have met such a fate during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which is cracking down on news outlets that have been critical of his leadership.
The government’s telecommunications commission issued ABS-CBN Corp. a cease-and-desist order one day after the media giant’s broadcast franchise, which is granted by Congress, expired.
Critics have said the timing of the move is especially bad for viewers, who have an increased need for timely information during the pandemic.
Mr. Duterte had earlier warned that he would not allow the renewal of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise. The House of Representatives, which is stacked with allies of Mr. Duterte, has sat on several bills supporting the network’s license renewal.
The network, which has closely documented Mr. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead, said that it would comply with the order.
“Millions of Filipinos will lose their source of news and entertainment when ABS-CBN is ordered to go off the air on TV and radio tonight when people need crucial and timely information as the nation deals with the Covid-19 pandemic,” the company said.
ABS-CBN is known for its prime-time flagship news program, TV Patrol, as well as soaps and afternoon variety TV shows. Its offerings also include coverage of popular sports such as basketball and boxing.
Human Rights Watch decried the government’s move to shut down the network, saying the solicitor general should “stop acting like Duterte’s attack dog.”
Right before India went into lockdown, on March 24, a magician named Karan Singh canceled all of his public shows and issued an invitation to his 42,000 Instagram followers. He would perform for free, over Skype, for anyone who contacted him. It could be one person, two people, 50, whatever. Book a slot and he’d appear in your home, virtually, for a 15-minute set.
“You don’t need advice on how to deal with coronavirus from a magician,” he said, wearing a black polo shirt and speaking earnestly, with a slight British accent, into his laptop camera. “But what you can get from a magician is entertainment.”
That was more than 400 shows ago. From his bedroom in New Delhi, Mr. Singh has spent roughly 12 hours a day, nearly every day, digitally performing card tricks and feats of mentalism all over India — the core of his fan base — as well as Canada, Britain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Nepal, the United States, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and the list goes on.
A variety of artists, from musicians to chefs to dancers, have found ways to perform during the Covid-19 crisis. Most post their work on the web and beckon to the masses. Mr. Singh, a 28-year-old who studied acting in London and who typically plays corporate gigs and small theaters, has taken a more door-to-door approach. In part, the goal was self-preservation.
“I did it for my mental health, because I would have gone mad if I didn’t have an audience to perform for,” he said in an interview. “This just gives me an outlet.”
As the United States continues easing coronavirus restrictions, President Trump said on Tuesday that the White House’s task force for the pandemic would be shut down and replaced.
The president said his administration was “looking at Phase 2, and we’re looking at other phases,” after he was asked whether it was a good idea to shut down the task force while the virus was still spreading through the country.
Administration officials have been telling staff members of the task force that the White House plans to wind down the operation in the weeks to come, despite growing evidence that the crisis is still raging.
It’s unclear exactly what might replace the task force.
As Covid-19 cuts a wide swath through the Russian Orthodox Church’s monasteries and parishes, many clerics are thundering against both the coronavirus and the government’s efforts to contain it, carving a deep rift between the usually allied powers of church and state.
As the government tries to block public gatherings like church services, some priests have complied readily, keeping parish doors locked and urging worshipers to take part by video link.
But others preach that it is impossible to become infected in a church, or threaten damnation for those who enforce or obey the restrictions. They have resisted shutting even monasteries devastated by the virus.
A bishop in the northern Komi region declared that ringing church bells was the best way to combat the pandemic. He claimed that the word coronavirus, from the Latin for crown, is “not coincidental but is linked to the coronation and enthronement of the Antichrist.”
The outburst of discord is rare within the rigidly hierarchical church. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the church and an ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, has wavered between enforcing the government’s social distancing orders and placating the most fervent clerics. He urged worshipers to skip Holy Week services last month — but left it up to each diocese whether to hold them.
The patriarch issued an order last week that monastery abbots and parish rectors in Moscow must comply with lockdown measures, but so far he has taken formal disciplinary action against only one cleric: the relatively liberal Andrei Kuraev, who mocked the head of a Moscow cathedral who had died from the virus.
Around the world, zealous believers of many faiths have been among the most resistant to stay-at-home orders. The clash has been particularly divisive in Russia, where memories of religious persecution in the Soviet Union make people highly sensitive to government restrictions.
Russia has been recording more than 10,000 new confirmed infections per day.
Reporting was contributed by David Segal, Abdi Latif Dahir and Natalie Kitroeff.