She was rushed to the hospital with a high fever and, she says, spent a week there unconscious. By May, some 18 of her co-workers had died. Before she was allowed to go home, K.G.B. agents took her a document to sign, prohibiting her from talking about the events for 25 years.

At Sverdlovsk’s epidemiological service, the epidemiologist Viktor Romanenko was a foot soldier in the cover-up. He says he knew immediately that the disease outbreak striking the city could not be intestinal, food-borne anthrax as the senior health authorities claimed. The pattern and timing of the cases’ distribution showed that the source was airborne and a one-time event.

“We all understood that this was utter nonsense,” said Dr. Romanenko, who went on to become a senior regional health official in post-Soviet times.

But in a Communist state, he had no choice but to go along with the charade, and he and his colleagues spent months seizing and testing meat. K.G.B. agents descended on his office and took away medical records. The Soviet Union had signed a treaty banning biological weapons, and national interests were at stake.

“There was an understanding that we had to get as far away as possible from the biological-weapons theory,” Dr. Romanenko recalled. “The task was to defend the honor of the country.”

There were even jitters at the Evening Sverdlovsk, a local newspaper. A correspondent from The New York Times called the newsroom as the outbreak unfolded, recalls a journalist there at the time, Aleksandr Pashkov. The editor in chief told the staff to stop answering long-distance calls, lest anyone go off-message if the correspondent called again.

“He who can keep a secret comes out on top,” Mr. Pashkov said.

As the Soviet Union crumbled, so did its ability to keep secrets. For a 1992 documentary, Mr. Pashkov tracked down a retired counterintelligence officer in Ukraine — now a different country — who had worked in Sverdlovsk at the time. Telephone intercepts at the military lab, the officer said, revealed that a technician had forgotten to replace a safety filter.

Soon, Mr. Yeltsin — who himself was part of the cover-up as the top Communist official in the region in 1979 — admitted that the military was to blame.

“You need to understand one simple thing,” Mr. Pashkov said. “Why did all this become known? The collapse of the Union.”

The husband-and-wife team of Dr. Meselson and Dr. Guillemin visited Yekaterinburg several times in the 1990s to document the leak. Interviewing survivors, they plotted the victims’ whereabouts and investigated weather records, finding that Dr. Meselson and others had been wrong to give credence to the Soviet narrative.

Dr. Meselson said that when he contacted a Russian official in the early 1990s about reinvestigating the outbreak, the response was, “Why take skeletons out of the closet?”

But he said that determining the origins of epidemics becomes more critical when geopolitics are involved. Had he and his colleagues not proved the cause of the outbreak back then, he said, the matter might still be an irritant in the relationship between Russia and the West.

The same goes for the investigation into the source of Covid-19, Dr. Meselson said. As long as the pandemic’s source remains a matter of suspicion, he said, the question will continue to raise tensions with China, more so than if the truth were known.

“There’s a huge difference between people who are still trying to prove a point against emotional opposition and people who can look back and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I was right,’” Dr. Meselson said. “One of them fuels wars. The other is history. We need to get all these things solved. We need history, we don’t need all this emotion.”

Unlike Covid-19, anthrax does not easily pass from human to human, which is why the Sverdlovsk lab leak did not cause a broader epidemic. Even the Sverdlovsk case, however, has not been fully solved. It remains unclear whether the secret activity at the factory was illegal biological weapons development — which the Soviet Union is known to have performed — or vaccine research.

Under President Vladimir V. Putin, revealing Russian historical shortcomings has increasingly been deemed unpatriotic. With the government mum on what exactly happened, a different theory has gained currency: Perhaps it was Western agents who deliberately released anthrax spores to undermine the Communist regime.

“The concept of truth, in fact, is very complicated,” said Lev Grinberg, a Yekaterinburg pathologist who secretly preserved evidence of the true nature of the outbreak in 1979. “Those who don’t want to accept the truth will always find ways not to accept it.”

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

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These Twins Lived Together. In Covid, They Died Together.

NEW DELHI — Joefred and Ralfred Gregory moved through life as one.

They went to the same college. They studied the same thing. They wore matching clothes. They trimmed their beards the exact same way.

Identical twins, they were two handsome young men in northern India who above all else really loved each other. And when they both were struck by Covid-19 last month and hospitalized, it was like they shared one sick body.

Hours after Joefred died, Ralfred’s mother told him that his brother was still alive, to keep his spirits up.

has suffered so much and keeps suffering. Though India’s overall case numbers have dropped this past week, the deaths keep going up.

On Wednesday, India broke a world record for the most reported Covid deaths in a single day: 4,529. However alarming that number is — three Indians dying every minute because of the coronavirus — experts say that it is just a small fraction of the true toll and that the real numbers are far higher.

Joefred and Ralfred, 24, had a special bond. Though their parents gave them similar names, they said they didn’t raise the twins to copy each other. Still, neighbors said that where you saw one, you saw the other, even after they reached adulthood.

the worst surge of infections that any country had seen since the pandemic began.

So many people were getting infected at the same time, especially in northern India, where Meerut is, that hospitals couldn’t cope. Sick people were being turned away. They were dying in the streets, in the back seats of cars parked in vain outside hospital gates, at home, gasping for air.

There was a deadly shortage of lifesaving oxygen and medicine. It was the Covid nightmare that all nations have feared since the pandemic began, exploding with a fury.

leading Indian newspapers ran stories, showing the two brothers side by side in identical suits. Television stations jumped in as well, with their doctor talking about how thoroughly the virus had destroyed their lungs.

Credit…via Gregory Raymond Raphael

Of all the thousands of deaths in recent days, these two seemed to really unsettle people, perhaps because the twins were just in their 20s and had looked so healthy, or maybe it was simply their closeness. Across social media, people exchanged messages such as “This is so heartbreaking!” and “How devastating it must be for the parents. So young …”

Their father says he feels like his heart has been torn from his body.

“I keep thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have brought them to the hospital,” he said. “Maybe I should have kept them at home. There is a parental love that the hospital can’t give.”

“But there’s no use of saying, ‘If this could have happened, or that could happened,’” he said. “My children are gone now.”

Every day, he said, he visits the graveyard.

Beneath a young neem tree, Joefred and Ralfred Gregory are buried in two coffins but one grave.

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Discovery of Pregnant Egyptian Mummy Is a First, Researchers Say

An Egyptian mummy that for decades was thought to be a male priest was recently discovered to have been a pregnant woman, making it the first known case of its kind, scientists said.

Scientists in Poland made the discovery while conducting a comprehensive study, which started in 2015, of more than 40 mummies at the National Museum in Warsaw, said Wojciech Ejsmond, an archaeologist and a director of the Warsaw Mummy Project, which led the research.

The findings were published last month in The Journal of Archaeological Science. “It was absolutely unexpected,” Dr. Ejsmond said.

“Our anthropologist was double-checking the pelvis area of the mummy to establish the sex of the mummy and check everything, and she observed something weird in the pelvis area, some kind of anomaly,” he said.

Papyrus from around 1825 B.C., revealed that materials such as honey and crocodile dung were used as contraceptives.

Still, very little is known about prenatal care in ancient times, Dr. Ejsmond said.

Dr. Nagel said about 30 percent of infants died within their first year of life during ancient times. After learning of the discovery of the pregnant mummy, he said he was intrigued about what further study could reveal about Egyptian beliefs concerning the afterlife of unborn children.

Further research is needed to learn more about the health of the pregnant mummy. That could require taking microsamples of soft tissue, Dr. Ejsmond said.

“It’s a very small amount of soft tissue, so one will not see any difference on the mummy, but still we’re interrogating into the structure of the object,” he said.

Scientists hope that publishing their findings can attract attention from physicians and experts in other fields to help in the next stage of research.

“This is a good base to start a bigger project about this mummy,” Dr. Ejsmond said, “because this will require a lot of experts to make decent interdisciplinary research.”

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Egyptology Is Having a Big Moment. But Will Tourists Come?

CAIRO — On a cool morning last November, Egypt’s tourism and antiquities minister stood in a packed tent at the vast necropolis of Saqqara just outside Cairo to reveal the ancient site’s largest archaeological discovery of the year.

The giant trove included 100 wooden coffins — some containing mummies interred over 2,500 years ago — 40 statues, amulets, canopic jars and funerary masks. The minister, Khaled el-Enany, said the latest findings hinted at the great potential of the ancient site and showcased the dedication of the all-Egyptian team that unearthed the gilded artifacts.

But he also singled out another reason the archaeological discoveries were crucial: it was a boon for tourism, which had been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

unearthed an ancient Pharaonic city near the southern city of Luxor that dated back more than 3,400 years.

The discovery came just days after 22 royal mummies were moved to a new museum in a lavish spectacle that was broadcast worldwide. In addition, the discovery of 59 beautifully preserved sarcophagi in Saqqara is now the subject of a recent Netflix documentary; a bejeweled statue of the god Nefertum was found in Saqqara; the 4,700-year-old Djoser’s Step Pyramid was reopened last year after a 14-year, $6.6 million restoration; and progress is apace on the stunning Grand Egyptian Museum, scheduled to open sometime this year.

But the pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the industry, and what had been expected to be a bonanza season became a bleak winter.

Tourism is a crucial part of Egypt’s economy — international tourism revenues totaled $13 billion in 2019 — and the country has been eager to attract visitors back to its archaeological sites.

attacks on tourists, bomb blasts that damaged prominent museums and a downed airliner that killed hundreds of Russian tourists in 2015.

But the sector was steadily recovering, with visitors attracted by both antiquities and the sun-and-sea offerings, growing to over 13 million in 2019 from 5.3 million in 2016. The coronavirus pandemic has reversed these gains, leaving hotels, resorts and cruises empty, popular sites without visitors and revenue, and thousands of tour guides and vendors with drastically reduced incomes or none at all.

“Tourism in Egypt just had one of its best years in 2019 and then came the pandemic which severely impacted it all,” Amr Karim, the general manager for Travco Travel, one of Egypt’s largest tour operators, said in a telephone interview. “Nobody knew what would happen, how we will handle it, how it will affect us. It’s strange.”

The pandemic, he said, disrupted how tour companies operated, how they priced their packages and how to work with hotels and abide by their new hygiene playbooks.

exposed the fragility of Egypt’s health care system, with doctors lamenting shortages in protective equipment and testing kits while patients died from lack of oxygen. With over 12,000 deaths, Egypt also recorded one of the highest fatality rates from the virus in the Arab world.

With a growing number of cases, health officials in Egypt have recently warned of a third wave of the virus. Authorities have also canceled large gatherings and festivals, and promised to fine those not complying with protective measures like mask-wearing, but many Egyptians do not abide by these rules.

Travelers are required to have a negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before arriving in Egypt, and hotels are mandated to operate at half capacity.

The crisis affected not just big companies like Travco but also smaller ones that had started betting big on the growing tourism industry.

Passainte Assem established Why Not Egypt, a boutique travel agency, in 2017 by interviewing prospective travelers and customizing itineraries for them. But after the pandemic began, most of her clients, who are from Australia, Canada and the United States, canceled their plans, she said, pushing her to suspend the business for now.

The experience left her feeling that “tourism is not stable at all,” she said. “It cannot be the only source of income. I have to have a side hustle.”

a company trying to revive and preserve traditional Egyptian handicrafts.

offered Egyptians discounts on domestic plane travel, hotels and museum admissions.

But Ahmed Samir, chief executive of the tour company Egypt Tours Portal, said the direct cash support for tourism workers was minimal. With reduced bookings, he was able to keep his employees in his marketing and social media departments on the payroll but at half salary.

“As a kind of sympathy to my employees, we tried to balance,” he said. But still, he added, “most of my friends’ companies closed completely.”

The slowdown in tourist arrivals has left areas usually swamped by tourists quiet.

At the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, Mahrous Abu Seif, a tour guide, sat waiting for clients one morning. A few small tour groups, including from Russia and China, were going through metal detector scans to go into the museum. But he hoped that more clients would come.

“What can I tell you? We sit here and wait and wait,” he said, throwing his hands in the air and adjusting his sunglasses. “We don’t know what the future holds.”

On the other side of town, at the historic El Fishawy coffee house, a few locals gurgled their water pipes and drank mint tea or Turkish coffee while melodious Quran recitation ascended from a nearby speaker. Located in the centuries-old Khan el Khalili market, the cafe, along with souvenir and jewelry shops, was hit badly by the pandemic.

“I used to bring people here and it would be packed, but look at it now,” Mohamed Said Rehan, a guide with a local company, said of the cafe. “The pandemic is a big problem.”

Mr. Rehan said that he knows many colleagues and friends who had to stay home for months without income or who left the industry altogether. But he still clings to a thread of hope that tourism will pick up soon.

And some tourists have indeed started coming back.

In February, Marcus Zimmermann, a 43-year-old architect from Germany, was visiting Egypt for the first time, stopping first in Cairo and planning trips to the southern city of Luxor, home to the iconic Valley of the Kings. Mr. Zimmermann had hoped to come to Egypt last year with his mother, who dreamed of being an archaeologist, for her 70th birthday. But they had to cancel their plans because of the pandemic.

This year, he decided to come alone but promised to “plan the trip again” with her once she’s vaccinated.

Even though it will be tough attaining the prepandemic figures quickly, people like Mr. Karim who work in the industry hope tourists will start coming back by year’s end.

With all the new discoveries, renovations and the planned opening of new sites and museums, tourists will gradually flock back to Egypt, he said.

“People will start to move. People will start to travel,” he said. “I am optimistic.”

Nada Rashwan and Asmaa Al Zohairy contributed reporting.

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A Collapse Foretold: How Brazil’s Covid-19 Outbreak Overwhelmed Hospitals

The virus has killed more than 300,000 people in Brazil, its spread aided by a highly contagious variant, political infighting and distrust of science.


PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — The patients began arriving at hospitals in Porto Alegre far sicker and younger than before. Funeral homes were experiencing a steady uptick in business, while exhausted doctors and nurses pleaded in February for a lockdown to save lives.

But Sebastião Melo, Porto Alegre’s mayor, argued there was a greater imperative.

“Put your life on the line so that we can save the economy,” Mr. Melo appealed to his constituents in late February.

Now Porto Alegre, a prosperous city in southern Brazil, is at the heart of an stunning breakdown of the country’s health care system — a crisis foretold.

More than a year into the pandemic, deaths in Brazil are at their peak and highly contagious variants of the coronavirus are sweeping the nation, enabled by political dysfunction, widespread complacency and conspiracy theories. The country, whose leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, has played down the threat of the virus, is now reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country in the world.

125 Brazilians succumbing to the disease every hour. Health officials in public and private hospitals were scrambling to expand critical care units, stock up on dwindling supplies of oxygen and procure scarce intubation sedatives that are being sold at an exponential markup.

Intensive care units in Brasília, the capital, and 16 of Brazil’s 26 states report dire shortages of available beds, with capacity below 10 percent, and many are experiencing rising contagion (when 90 percent of such beds are full the situation is considered dire.)

a model for other developing nations, with a reputation for advancing agile and creative solutions to medical crises, including a surge in H.I.V. infections and the outbreak of Zika.

Mr. Melo, who campaigned last year on a promise to lift all pandemic restrictions in the city, said a lockdown would cause people to starve.

celebrated setbacks in clinical trials for CoronaVac, the Chinese-made vaccine that Brazil came to largely rely on, and joked that pharmaceutical companies would not be held responsible if people who got newly developed vaccines turned into alligators.

“The government initially dismissed the threat of the pandemic, then the need for preventive measures, and then goes against science by promoting miracle cures,” said Natália Pasternak, a microbiologist in São Paulo. “That confuses the population, which means people felt safe going out in the street.”

Terezinha Backes, a 63-year-old retired shoemaker living in a municipality on the outskirts of Porto Alegre, had been exceedingly careful over the past year, venturing out only when necessary, said her nephew, Henrique Machado.

But her 44-year-old son, a security guard tasked with taking the temperature of people entering a medical facility, appears to have brought the virus home early this month.

Ms. Backes, who had been in good health, was taken to a hospital on March 13 after she began having trouble breathing. With no beds to spare, she was treated with oxygen and an IV in the hallway of an overflowing wing. She died three days later.

“My aunt was not given the right to fight for her life,” said Mr. Machado, 29, a pharmacist. “She was left in a hallway.”

anti-parasite drug ivermectin as a preventive measure. The drug is part of the so-called Covid kit of drugs, which also includes the antibiotic azithromycin and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. Mr. Bolsonaro’s health ministry has endorsed their use.

Leading medical experts in Brazil, the United States and Europe have said those drugs are not effective to treat Covid-19 and some can have serious side effects, including kidney failure.

“Lies,” Mr. Monteiro, 63, said about the scientific consensus on the Covid kit. “There are so many lies and myths.”

He said medical professionals have sabotaged Mr. Bolsonaro’s plan to rein in the pandemic by refusing to prescribe those drugs more decisively at the early stages of illness.

“There was one solution: to listen to the president,” he said. “When people elect a leader it is because they trust him.”

The mistrust and the denials — and the caravans of Bolsonaro supporters blasting their horns outside hospitals to protest pandemic restrictions — are crushing for medical professionals who have lost colleagues to the virus and to suicide in recent months, said Claudia Franco, the president of the nurses union in Rio Grande do Sul.

“People are in such denial,” said Ms. Franco, who has been taking care of Covid-19 patients. “The reality we’re in today is we don’t have enough respirators for everyone, we don’t have oxygen for everyone.”

Ernesto Londoño reported from Porto Alegre. Letícia Casado reported from Brasília.

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A Violent End to a Desperate Dream Leaves a Guatemalan Town Grieving

The trek from Central America to U.S. soil has always been perilous, but a massacre with many victims from one corner of Guatemala has shaken that country.


They leave behind homes, families, everything they have known, taking their chances on a dangerous trek north toward an uncertain future, driven by poverty, lack of opportunity and the hope of something better.

For most migrants who leave Central America, like those from the municipality of Comitancillo, in the mountains of western Guatemala, the goal is to reach the United States, find work, save some money and send some back home, put down roots, maybe even find love and start a family. Usually, the biggest obstacle is crossing the increasingly fortified American border without being caught.

A group of 13 migrants who left Comitancillo in January didn’t even get the chance. Their bodies were found, along with those of six other victims, shot and burned; the corpses were piled in the back of a pickup truck that had been set on fire and abandoned in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, just shy of the U.S. border. A dozen state police officers have been arrested in connection with the massacre.

The migrants’ remains made the return trip on Friday, March 12, each in a coffin draped with the Guatemalan flag, flown to a military airport in Guatemala City. A somber repatriation ceremony there, with an address by President Alejandro Giammattei, was shown live on national television. Relatives, friends and neighbors in Comitancillo watched the broadcast in their homes as they made final preparations for the arrival of the bodies and for the wakes and burials to follow.

a raid on the factory where he worked. He was held in detention for most of a year, trying to fight deportation.

He stayed in touch with Reverend Medina. “He was always trying to organize groups to pray and have faith and keep strong,” the priest recalled.

Mr. López finally lost his legal battle, however, and was deported to Guatemala in 2020, Reverend Medina said. Desperately missing his family, he decided in January to try his luck again and migrate north for a third time, the reverend said.

Last Saturday, relatives attended a wake for Mr. López in his parents’ home. The funeral service was held in a church in the village of Chicajalaj, the construction of which he had helped fund by raising money among the Guatemalan diaspora in Mississippi.

Above, relatives held wake for Mr. López. During a procession, below, carrying Mr. López’s remains to the church and then to a cemetery, his cousin, Sebastián López, 75, clutched a framed portrait of his dead relative.

Mr. López’s daughter, Evelin López, left a can of Coca-Cola, a favorite drink of his, as a tribute inside his tomb. It was her first trip to Guatemala.

In the home of Santa Cristina García Pérez, 20, another massacre victim, family members had adorned an altar with framed photos, flowers and a bottle of water — so that Ms. García’s spirit did not suffer from thirst on its journey to the next life, her father, Ricardo García Pérez, explained.

Before she migrated, Mr. García said, his daughter had been living for three years in the city of Zacapa, on the other side of the country, holding a series of low-paying jobs, including as a house cleaner and as a saleswoman in stores.

One of 11 siblings, Ms. García hoped to make enough money in the United States to cover the cost of an operation for her one-year-old sister, Angela Idalia, who was born with a cleft lip, her father said.

She wanted to save Ángela Idalia from what she thought would be a life of ridicule, relatives said.

Ms. García had hoped to make it to Miami, where a friend was living, “but unfortunately her life was cut short on the way,” her father said.

“The saddest thing in life,” he continued. “There’s no explanation.”

Relatives gathered at the mass for Ms. García and two other victims, Iván Gudiel Pablo Tomás and Rivaldo Danilo Jiménez, all of them from the village of Tuilelén.

Below, Ricardo García Pérez and Olga Pérez Guzmán de García, Ms. García’s parents, during her wake.

The killings have stunned the community, spurred a wave of international media attention on Comitancillo and an outpouring of financial support for the victim’s families. Among other acts of largess, donations from nearby communities in the region and from the Guatemalan diaspora have paid for Ángela Idalia’s first surgery to repair her cleft lip and have enabled the García family to build a new house.

Yet local residents predict that despite the massacre, migration from Comitancillo to the United States will not ebb.

Residents said that President Biden’s election and his promise of a more humane approach to migration policy had inspired many young Comitecos to set off for the United States in the past few months. Many others are thinking about leaving soon, residents said.

The options for employment in Guatemala are too scarce, Ms. Aguilón said, and the lure of possibility in the United States too great.

“For us, it was a very big blow,” she said of the massacre. “But this won’t prevent the people from migrating.”

Relatives and neighbors attending the funeral of Ms. García, Mr. Pablo and Mr. Jiménez.

Mr. Jiménez’s coffin being carried to Tuilelén cemetery, above, and friends and relatives carrying the coffin of Mr. Pablo.

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