By Daniel Victor
There was every reason to believe that the restrictions imposed to keep the virus from spreading would have such an effect, said Marianne Hester, a Bristol University sociologist who studies abusive relationships. Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations, she said.
Now, with families in lockdown worldwide, hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming.
The United Nations called on Sunday for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. “I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” Secretary General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.
[Analysis: Peaks, testing and lockdowns: How coronavirus vocabulary causes confusion.]
But governments largely failed to prepare for the way the new public health measures would create opportunities for abusers to terrorize their victims. Now, many are scrambling to offer services to those at risk.
But, as with the response to the virus itself, the delays mean that irreparable harm may already have occurred.
As cities and towns across China locked down, a 26-year-old woman named Lele found herself entangled in more and more arguments with her husband, with whom she now had to spend every hour in their home in Anhui Province, in eastern China.
On March 1, while Lele was holding her 11-month-old daughter, her husband began to beat her with a high chair. She is not sure how many times he hit her. Eventually, she says, one of her legs lost feeling and she fell to the ground, still holding the baby in her arms.
A photograph she took after the incident shows the high chair lying on the floor in pieces, two of its metal legs snapped off — evidence of the force with which her husband wielded it against her. Another image documents Lele’s injuries: Nearly every inch of her lower legs was covered in bruises, a huge hematoma blooming on her left calf.
Lele — her full name is not being used for her safety — said that her husband had abused her throughout their six-year relationship, but that the Covid-19 outbreak made things far worse.
Cyclone Harold ripped through Vanuatu for a second straight day on Tuesday, cutting off communications in some areas and complicating the Pacific nation’s efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Category 5 cyclone made landfall on Monday on an island north of the capital, Port Vila. It cut off “many areas” of the country’s northern provinces, the authorities said. It was later downgraded to a Category 4 storm.
No deaths had been reported as of late Tuesday afternoon, but early photos of the storm’s devastation showed villages where thatch roofs had been damaged or blown away entirely, raising fears.
Last week, as Harold churned through the nearby Solomon Islands, passengers were washed from a ferry as they tried to make a dangerous journey through normally calm seas. Dozens are still missing and feared dead.
Harold was moving eastward toward Fiji on Tuesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, the Meteorology and Geo-hazards Division said. The agency estimated that the storm was churning along with maximum wind speeds of about 115 miles per hour, and it advised residents to take extra precautions until the storm had completely left Vanuatu’s waters.
The storm was expected to track south of Fiji’s southern islands, but the authorities there were still bracing for strong winds and heavy rains. Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office on Tuesday ordered some people to move into evacuation centers, and warned others to watch out for floodwaters and move livestock to higher ground.
The powerful cyclone complicates travel restrictions and social distancing measures that had been instituted in both countries to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That includes a virtual lockdown in Fiji and a ban on travel between Vanuatu’s 83 islands.
Fiji has 15 confirmed coronavirus cases but no deaths, and Vanuatu, which has a population of about 300,000 people, is among the few countries in the world with none of either.
“Given this virus struck Fiji in cyclone season, we knew from the start we had to weatherproof our Covid-19 containment efforts to the very real possibility of a severe storm striking,” Fiji’s government said on Twitter, referring to the disease caused by the virus.
“Thank God we have,” it added, noting that the cyclone was “currently wreaking havoc on our Pacific brothers and sisters in Vanuatu.”
The Fijian government grounded the entire domestic fleet of Fiji Airways. It allowed several virus-related evacuation flights to Sydney and Los Angeles to go ahead as scheduled, but said that the aircraft would not return until the threat of the cyclone had passed.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — On a sprawling abandoned sugar estate by the coast of Guyana, the scale of the changes sweeping across the country is immediately visible.
In just a few years, enormous warehouses and office buildings servicing international oil companies have sprung up amid the shrub land, irrigation canals and fields of wild cane.
People are “moving from cutting cane to businessmen,” said Mona Harisha, a local shop owner. “It changed so fast.”
Guyana is giving up its past as an agricultural economy and speeding toward its near-term future as an oil-producing giant. And so Ms. Harisha has renovated her general goods shop, redolent of Indian spices, which she runs from a side of her cottage in the Houston neighborhood of Georgetown, the county’s capital.
HONG KONG — Ying Ying and Le Le, two giant pandas who could never quite get in the mood over 13 years of living together in a Hong Kong zoo, successfully mated on Monday, a rare feat for the famously low-libido species and a cause of celebration in the world of animal conservation.
The coupling of the pandas, animals that have a mating “season” of just a few days per year, lifted hope that the population of the vulnerable species might be about to increase. Whether in captivity or in the wild, giant pandas rarely show the desire or skill to mate, imperiling their survival and making their infrequent romps worthy of acclaim.
Perhaps Ying Ying and Le Le just needed some privacy. Ocean Park shut down on Jan. 26 as part of Hong Kong’s measures to fight the coronavirus, leaving the amusement park and zoo free of its usual throngs of visitors.
“Since Ying Ying and Le Le’s arrival in Hong Kong in 2007 and attempts at natural mating since 2010, they unfortunately have yet to succeed until this year upon years of trial and learning,” said Michael Boos, executive director in zoological operations and conservation at Ocean Park. “The successful natural mating process today is extremely exciting for all of us, as the chance of pregnancy via natural mating is higher than by artificial insemination.”
It won’t be known for a while whether the patter of tiny panda paws is on the way. The gestation period is from 72 to 324 days, and ultrasound scans can’t detect a cub until 14 to 17 days before birth, the zoo said.
Ying Ying and Le Le, both 14 years old, had followed the classic song and dance of mating season. Ying Ying had been playing in the water more. Le Le left scent markings around his habitat and searched for Ying Ying’s scent. Typical panda courtship.
Having seen Ying Ying’s hormonal levels change, park officials said they were aware that the pandas had entered the brief window in which they might mate, and they knew Monday morning might be the peak time for action. Park staff members stood by with cameras, capturing some slightly risqué photographs during the event and a romantic-looking cuddle.
(You can follow this link to see video and hear audio of the act, but be warned, you know exactly what you are getting into.)
The difficulties that pandas find in reproducing has contributed to the species becoming vulnerable. In 2014, the Worldwide Fund for Nature estimated that there were only 1,864 giant pandas remaining in the wild.
Pandas have historically been so bad at mating that some zookeepers have even tried showing the animals video footage of other pandas having sex, as a sort of how-to guide.
Females are receptive and fertile for just 24 to 72 hours each year. If a male doesn’t step up then, they have to wait a full year for another chance.