Welcome back and happy Thursday, World readers. Hope you can feel the weekend coming, even under lockdown.
Alone at the Western Wall. Photo: Guy Prives/Getty Images
Few aspects of life bring as many people together as religion.
Why it matters: In most crises, that is a blessing. In a pandemic, it can be dangerous.
As the coronavirus spread beyond China, some of the earliest outbreaks were traced to religious services or pilgrimages.
But as much of the world has moved inside, places of worship have emptied as well.
Religious institutions in many countries garner far more trust than political leaders, but this is not simply a matter of church vs. state. In some cases, it’s politicians who are urging the faithful to gather.
What to watch: Billions around the world will celebrate Passover, Easter and Ramadan this month. Many, but not all, will do so at home.
We'll soon be crowding into cafes, like this one in Rapallo, Italy, in 1954. Photo: LIFE Picture Collection via Getty
Europeans and Americans are desperate to move beyond the worst of the crisis and return to something approximating normality, but the World Health Organization is cautioning that moving too fast will undermine the sacrifices made so far.
Where things stand: Nearly every country on Earth is still seeing their caseload increase, and a recent uptick in Singapore shows that apparent victory over the virus can be fleeting. But several countries are providing reason for optimism.
Four countries now report fewer active cases than one week ago, according to a report from Albright Stonebridge Group, though Cambodia’s testing rate is so low that there’s little reason to trust its data.
New Zealand saw more recoveries (35) than new cases (29) in the past 24 hours.
Austria is leading Europe’s tiptoe toward normal life, with small shops reopening next week and larger ones on May 1. Schools, restaurants and hotels are slated to open their doors in mid-May.
Italy and Spain appear now to be through the worst of what have been Europe’s deadliest outbreaks so far.
The U.K. and France are now in the eye of the storm, while Turkey has seen a sharp rise in new cases.
Merkel performs a delicate dance in Brussels. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images
Angela Merkel returned from self-quarantine to the chancellery this week, and her steady, trusted leadership has many Germans wishing she'd stay in office forever.
The flipside: Some of Merkel's EU colleagues consider her a roadblock to Europe's long-term health, Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund writes from Berlin for Axios Expert Voices:
Although Germany has not reached the peak of its pandemic curve, the country has been recognized for its decisive action.
The flipside: Within the EU, Merkel and her government are being cast in a different light.
Between the lines: Berlin has long feared getting stuck with the bill for EU partners' spending. Those partners contend that Germany has profited from the EU single market, with the euro boosting its exports, while not doing enough to ensure its stability in times of crisis.
The bottom line: Germany has started to take in patients from overwhelmed hospitals in France and Italy. That will earn some goodwill, though it could dry up quickly.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
In the depths of an economic crisis, with few well-equipped hospitals, Venezuela will struggle to cope with its coronavirus outbreak without international aid.
Why it matters: While the U.S. is attempting to oust Nicolás Maduro's government, and most in the region and around the world treat Maduro as a pariah, China is extending a helping hand, Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and I write.
The power struggle in Caracas has imbued desperately needed humanitarian efforts with political significance.
That has left Caracas leaning more heavily on Beijing than ever before.
What to watch: The U.S.-backed government led by Juan Guaidó fears Maduro is trying to exploit the crisis to enhance his international legitimacy.
Otherwise, he says, it will disappear into the pockets of corrupt officials.
Houthi fighters. Photo: Stringer/Getty Images
A two-week unilateral ceasefire announced last night by Saudi Arabia officially came into effect today in Yemen, though the Houthi rebels say they'll keep fighting until the "siege on Yemen" ends.
Why it matters: There's little to show for five years of war in Yemen beyond one of the world's most dire humanitarian crises, which would only deepen in the event of a coronavirus outbreak — a threat the Saudis said influenced their decision to suspend military activity.
The backstory: The Houthis overthrew Yemen's Saudi-aligned president in late 2014, after which Saudi Arabia and allies including the UAE began a fierce bombing campaign.
My thought bubble: If the coronavirus makes war harder to justify, that could be no small thing.
Watching over San Salvador. Photo: Marvin Recinos/AFP via Getty
Coronavirus has also led indirectly to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries, the LA Times reports.
Waiting for water, in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Gordwin Odhiambo/AFP via Getty
"Give yourself courage, have faith."— A message from 103-year-old Ada Zanusso, who survived the coronavirus, to others who fall ill