Covid News: Canada Will Reopen Border With U.S.

The Canadian border as seen from Buffalo in April. The U.S.-Canadian border has been closed to non-essential travel since March last year.
Credit…Lindsay Dedario/Reuters

Canada is poised to welcome back fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans, after over a year of strict controls at the border.

Beginning on Aug. 9, citizens and permanent residents of the United States will be allowed to enter Canada as long as they have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before travel, federal government officials said on Monday.

Canada then hopes to allow visitors from other countries beginning on Sept. 7, a date that could change depending on conditions.

Pressure has been building on both sides of the border to reopen, to bolster tourism and allow separated families to reunite (though Canada has already made some exceptions for relatives). The two countries have renewed the closure every month since the border closed to nonessential travel on March 21, 2020. Commercial traffic was never halted.

Before the pandemic, Canada was the second most popular foreign destination for Americans, behind Mexico.

Canada is ready to lift border restrictions because it has made rapid progress vaccinating its population after months of delays. It now has higher vaccination rates than the United States, with 50 percent of its population fully vaccinated, and 75 percent of residents having received at least one dose, according to its federal public health agency.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had indicated that Canada would begin to open its border after it crossed the 75 percent threshold for residents who are at least partly vaccinated.

Travelers must present Canadian border officials with proof of vaccination. Canada will accept only the Covid vaccines it has approved for its population: those made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or the Serum Institute of India, and Janssen, the brand used by Johnson & Johnson in Canada.

In a news conference on Monday, Bill Blair, the public safety minister, said he shared Canada’s border plan with his U.S. counterparts last week, but “they’ve not yet made a decision.”

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a briefing Monday that the United States would continue travel restrictions.

“Any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. We take this incredibly seriously, but we look and are guided by our own medical experts,” Ms. Psaki said. “I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”

Several members of Congress from both parties applauded Canada’s move and called on the United States to follow suit. Representative Brian Higgins, Democrat of western New York, criticized the Biden administration for what he called a “lack of urgency” in lifting restrictions at the border.

Representative Pete Stauber, Republican of Minnesota, said on Twitter that the news was “long overdue. Our border communities have suffered for over a year.”

The United States must decide by July 21 to either extend its border closures with Canada and Mexico by a month or lift them altogether.

Also as of Aug. 9, Canada is dropping its mandatory government-approved-hotel quarantine requirement for air travelers, and removing the quarantine period for eligible, fully vaccinated visitors.

Children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccines, or dependents of fully vaccinated travelers, will also be exempt from a 14-day quarantine. They may “move around with their parents, but must avoid group settings, such as camps or daycares,” public health officials said in briefing documents.

The highly contagious Delta virus variant remains a concern, so some fully vaccinated travelers will be randomly selected to complete a post-arrival test for the virus.

Regardless of vaccination status, all travelers will be required to present a negative test taken within 72 hours before arrival.

Airline passengers have so far been limited to traveling through four international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Now, the government is expanding international flights to Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

On Friday the Toronto Blue Jays, a Major League Baseball team, were granted a travel exemption allowing them to return to Canada, after being forced to play across the border throughout the pandemic.

Canada also let National Hockey League teams cross the border for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Miriam Jordan contributed from Los Angeles.

The campus at Indiana University in 2017.
Credit…Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

In what appeared to be the first ruling upholding a coronavirus vaccine mandate by a university, a federal judge affirmed on Monday that Indiana University could require that its students be vaccinated against the virus.

A lawyer for eight student plaintiffs had argued that requiring the vaccine violated their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and that the coronavirus vaccines have only emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and should not be considered as part of the normal range of vaccinations schools require. He vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

“What we have here is the government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process,” said the lawyer, James Bopp Jr.

He said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization that has been pursuing an anti-vaccine agenda. Mr. Bopp, of Terre Haute, Ind., is known for his legal advocacy promoting conservative causes.

Mr. Bopp filed the lawsuit in June, after Indiana University announced the previous month that faculty, staff and students would be required to get coronavirus vaccinations before coming to school this fall.

The university, whose main campus is in Bloomington, Ind., said that students who did not comply would have their class registrations canceled and would be barred from campus activities.

The requirement permitted exemptions only for religious objections, documented allergies to the vaccine, medical deferrals and virtual class attendance.

On Monday, Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana said that while he recognized the students’ interest in refusing unwarranted medical treatment, such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest.

“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” his ruling said, also noting that the university had made exceptions for students who object.

Judge Leichty was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump.

Universities around the country have taken different positions on the question of requiring coronavirus vaccines, with about 400 campuses mandating them. Students on several campuses have filed or threatened lawsuits.

The A.A.P. recommendation is a departure from the the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month.
Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new Covid-19 guidelines for schools on Monday, recommending that everyone over age 2 wear masks this fall, even if they have been vaccinated. Exceptions may be made for those with medical or developmental conditions that complicate mask wearing, the group said.

The universal masking recommendation is a departure from the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month, which recommends masking in schools only for unvaccinated people over age 2. Those guidelines heavily implied that fully vaccinated children and adults would not need to wear masks in the classroom — although they also said that individual schools were free to implement universal mask mandates.

In many other ways, however, the two sets of guidelines are similar. The A.A.P., like the C.D.C., emphasized the importance of returning to in-person learning.

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Dr. Sonja O’Leary, the chair of the A.A.P. Council on School Health, said in a statement.

Like the C.D.C., the A.A.P. recommended a “layered” approach that combines a variety of measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. In addition to universal masking, those measures include vaccination, improved ventilation, virus testing, quarantines, and cleaning and disinfection, the group said.

The A.A.P. laid out several reasons for its universal masking recommendation.

Many students are too young to be eligible for the vaccines, which are authorized only for those ages 12 and older, the group noted. And universal masking could reduce overall transmission of the virus, helping to protect those who are unvaccinated.

The group also cited concerns about more transmissible virus variants and the possibility that vaccination rates could be low in the surrounding community, which could raise the risk of an outbreak at a particular school. The A.A.P. recommended universal masking also because it may be difficult to verify whether individual students or staff members have been vaccinated.

Some state and local officials have already announced that they will not require universal masking in the fall, and at least eight states have banned such mandates.

The A.A.P. guidance stopped short of outright recommending vaccine mandates, but said that they may ultimately be needed. “It may become necessary for schools to collect Covid-19 vaccine information of staff and students and for schools to require Covid-19 vaccination for in-person learning,” the guidelines said.

Like the C.D.C., the A.A.P. also encouraged families to ensure that students catch up on any other childhood vaccines they may have missed during the pandemic.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday in Tokyo.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

TOKYO — The U.S. men’s national basketball team traveled to Tokyo on Monday without guard Zach LaVine, who entered coronavirus health and safety protocols.

In a statement, Team USA said it was hopeful LaVine could take up his place in Japan later this week. The U.S. men’s basketball team had reshuffled its roster last week after it lost guard Bradley Beal to health and safety protocols and forward Kevin Love withdrew from participation.

U.S. women’s basketball also suffered a blow with the news that Katie Lou Samuelson, a member of the 3×3 Olympics team, would miss the Games following a positive test result. Samuelson said she was fully vaccinated.

“Competing in the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I hope someday soon, I can come back to realize that dream,” Samuelson, 24, wrote in an Instagram post.

Earlier Monday, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee confirmed that an alternate on the women’s gymnastics team had tested positive for the coronavirus while in training in Chiba Prefecture outside Tokyo.

Despite being vaccinated, Kara Eaker, 18, of Grain Valley, Mo., began a 10- to 14-day quarantine, her coach, Al Fong, said in a text message. He added that she “feels fine.”

Credit…Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Fong said that Leanne Wong, another alternate and Eaker’s teammate at his GAGE Center gym in Blue Springs, Mo., was also under quarantine, expected to last until about July 31, because she is considered a close contact. Wong, who is 17 and from Overland Park, Kansas, said at the Olympic trials last month that she had not been vaccinated.

The opening ceremony is Friday and the first competitions are Wednesday. But organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are struggling to manage public anxiety about the Games after a cluster of coronavirus cases that threaten to overshadow the festivities.

As about 20,000 athletes, coaches, referees and other officials have poured into Japan in recent days, more than two dozen of them have tested positive for the virus, including three cases within the Olympic Village. An additional 33 staff members or contractors who are Japanese residents working on the Games have tested positive.

Olympics organizers have said their measures — including repeated testing, social distancing and restrictions on movement — would limit, but not eliminate, coronavirus cases. The Games, originally scheduled for 2020, were postponed a year in the hopes the pandemic would have eased and they could herald a triumphant return to normal.

Instead, they have become a reminder of the staying power of the virus and have fed a debate over whether Japan and the International Olympic Committee have their priorities straight.

Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
Credit…Laura Morton for The New York Times

After a weekend of rancor between the White House and Facebook, President Bidenhas softened his forceful criticism of social networks over the spread of misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

At a White House news conference on Monday largely focused on the economy, Mr. Biden stepped back from his comment on Friday that platforms like Facebook were “killing people.”

“Facebook isn’t killing people,” Mr. Biden said. “These 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information.”

He appeared to be referring to a study from earlier this year showing that 12 online personalities, with a combined following of 59 million people, were responsible for the vast majority of Covid-19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories, and that Facebook provided the most consequential platform.

“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that I’m somehow saying ‘Facebook is killing people,’ that they would do something about the misinformation,” Mr. Biden said.

In a blog post on Saturday, Facebook called on the administration to stop “finger pointing,” laid out what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated, and detailed how it had clamped down on lies about the vaccines.

“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the post. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased.”

Mr. Rosen said that the company’s data showed that 85 percent of its U.S. users had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The country fell short of meeting Mr. Biden’s target of having 70 percent of American adults vaccinated by July 4, but, Mr. Rosen said, “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”

On Sunday, the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, reiterated warnings that false stories about the vaccines had become a dangerous health hazard. “These platforms have to recognize they’ve played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading,” Mr. Murthy said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

On Monday, Mr. Biden called on Facebook’s officials to consider the impact the spread of misinformation about the vaccine could have on people they cared about.

“Look in the mirror,” Mr. Biden said. “Think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love. That’s all I’m asking.”




‘If Not Now, When?’ Johnson Asks as England Ends Restrictions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain defended his decision to lift almost all of England’s pandemic restrictions in an address from his country house where he was in quarantine after a Covid-19 exposure.

If we don’t open up now, then we face a risk of even tougher conditions in the colder months when the virus has a natural advantage. We lose that firebreak of the school holidays. And there comes a point after so many have been vaccinated, when further restrictions no longer prevent hospitalizations and deaths, but simply delay the inevitable. And so we have to ask ourselves the question, if not now, when? And though both deaths and hospitalizations, as I say, are sadly rising, these numbers are well within the margins of what our scientists predicted at the outset of the roadmap. And so it is right to proceed cautiously in the way that we are. But it’s also right to recognize that this pandemic is far from over. And that’s why I’m afraid it is essential to keep up the system of test, trace and isolate. The continuing sacrifice of this large minority, those of us who are being asked to isolate, remains important to allow the rest of society to get back to something like normality.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain defended his decision to lift almost all of England’s pandemic restrictions in an address from his country house where he was in quarantine after a Covid-19 exposure.CreditCredit…Matt Dunham/Associated Press

“Freedom Day” arrived in England on Monday with its chief architect, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, confined in quarantine, millions of Britons facing the same prospect and untold people more anxious about the risks of liberation.

Those were the incongruities on the long-awaited day when the government lifted all but a few remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Even as nightclubs and pubs threw open their doors and patrons embraced each other, 39,950 new cases were reported on Monday and tens of thousands were forced into quarantine after they were notified by the National Health Service’s cellphone app that they had been in contact with an infected person.

The U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their highest-level travel warnings Monday for the United Kingdom, citing high levels of the virus.

Mr. Johnson defended the decision to reopen from his country residence, Chequers, where he has been in self-isolation since Sunday after the N.H.S. notified, or “pinged,” him because he had met with his health secretary, Sajid Javid, before he tested positive for the virus on Saturday.

“If we don’t open up now, then we face a risk of even tougher conditions in the coming months when the virus has a natural advantage,” Mr. Johnson said in a news conference. “We have to ask ourselves the question, ‘If not now, when?’”

“It is right to proceed cautiously in the way we are,” he added. “It is also right to recognize that this pandemic is far from over.”

British newspapers had dubbed Monday “Freedom Day,” celebrating it as a symbolic end to the country’s 16-month ordeal with the pandemic.




London Nightclubs Ring in ‘Freedom Day’ as Virus Cases Rise

Crowds packed onto dance floors after England lifted most coronavirus restrictions on social contact and ended its mask mandate, despite surging cases.

Crowd: “Five, four, three, two, one …” [cheering] “I definitely feel so relieved that things are going back to normal. It feels like it is, but it still is a little bit apprehensive, like —” “Yeah, I still don’t feel like it’s real.” “Yeah. Like, are they going to put us back in a lockdown?” “Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about is that we’re going to be back into another lockdown.” “Yeah —” “Afterwards but —” “So we’re going to make the most of this.” “Yes.” “I love dancing, and literally all my friends love dancing and we haven’t been able to do that for 1 and a half years approximately. So yeah, we’re really excited about it. This mask doesn’t show it, but you know, there’s a big smile underneath it.” Crowd: “Five, four, three, two, one …” [cheering] “I want to dance, I want to hear live music, I want the vibe of being at a gig, being around people. I think I’m really excited for that.”

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Crowds packed onto dance floors after England lifted most coronavirus restrictions on social contact and ended its mask mandate, despite surging cases.CreditCredit…Rob Pinney/Getty Images

But as new cases have soared and hospital admissions have begun to follow, the plan to throw open the economy instead looks like a likely recipe for a massive third wave. Mr. Johnson appeared to view a surge of infections as inevitable and worth getting through during the summer, when warmer weather and school vacations could mitigate transmission.

The government’s decision amounts to a breathtaking gamble that a country with fairly widely deployed vaccines in its adult population can learn to live with the coronavirus. Nearly 70 percent of adults in the United Kingdom have gotten both doses of a vaccine.

Much will depend on the resilience of the vaccines and the capacity of the nation’s health care system to handle those who do become sick.

“The government is basically saying, ‘We’ve done all we can. Now it’s up to you,’” said Devi Sridhar, head of the global public health program at the University of Edinburgh. “They’ve become the first country to surrender.”

Under the new rules, pubs and restaurants can operate at full capacity and nightclubs are allowed to reopen. Curbs on the number of people who can meet indoors, generally limited to six, were also lifted. The legal requirement to wear face masks was dropped, though the government is urging people to keep wearing them on public transportation. (They remain compulsory on subways and buses in London.)

The government has resisted linking vaccination status with restrictions like those recently announced in France.

There were indications of a more buoyant mood, with many restaurants scrawling “Happy Freedom Day” on their signs. Still, many people said they felt conflicted about the government’s decision to ease restrictions.

“The deaths are a bit less with the vaccination, but the people still have corona — we still have high numbers,” said Simone Papi, 24, a chef.

Isabella Kwai contributed reporting from London, and Aina J. Khan from Bradford, England.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, has been an outspoken opponent of vaccines and masks as tools to curb the pandemic.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Twitter said on Monday that it was suspending Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from its service for 12 hours after she posted messages that violated its policy against sharing misleading information about the coronavirus.

Ms. Greene, Republican of Georgia, has been an outspoken opponent of vaccines and masks as tools to curb the pandemic. In tweets on Sunday and Monday, she argued that Covid-19 was not dangerous for people unless they are obese or over age 65, and said vaccines should not be required.

But cases of the coronavirus are on the rise, and the highly contagious Delta variant accounts for more than half of new infections in the United States, federal health officials said this month. In Ms. Greene’s home state, Georgia, new cases have increased 193 percent in the past two weeks.

Twitter said Ms. Greene’s tweets were misinformation, and it barred her from the service until Tuesday. “We took enforcement action on the account @mtgreenee for violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically the Covid-19 misleading information policy,” a Twitter spokesman said. The company also added labels to Ms. Greene’s posts about the vaccines, calling them “misleading” and pointing to information about the safety of the inoculations.

Twitter has long barred users from sharing misinformation about the coronavirus that could lead to harm. In March, the company introduced a policy that explained the penalties for sharing lies about the virus and vaccines.

People who violate that policy are subject to escalating punishments known as strikes and could face a permanent ban if they repeatedly share misinformation about the virus. A 12-hour ban, like the one Ms. Greene is experiencing, is Twitter’s response to users who have either two or three strikes. After four strikes, Twitter suspends users for seven days, and after five strikes, Twitter bars the user altogether.

Travelers lining up to pass through a security checkpoint last month in Denver International Airport.
Credit…David Zalubowski/Associated Press

More travelers passed through U.S. airports on Sunday than at any time since the start of the pandemic, federal data show, suggesting that the desire to get away this summer remains strong in the face of discouraging coronavirus news.

About 2.2 million people passed through security checkpoints at airports in the United States, nearly three times as many as the same day a year ago, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration. That was still half a million short of the same day in 2019, before the pandemic, and about 300,000 short of July 21, 2019, which was also a late-July Sunday.

The number of travelers continues to grow even though reported coronavirus infections are rising, particularly in areas with low rates of vaccination.

R. Carter Langston, a spokesman for the T.S.A., said that the number of travelers screened was hovering just below 2019 levels, even though business and international travel have not recovered ground lost during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen a steady drumbeat of interest among travelers,” Mr. Langston said.

The number of domestic travelers is growing even though there are fewer flights for them to take. U.S. airlines are expected to operate about 615,000 domestic flights this month, down more than 14 percent from July 2019, according to an analysis of flight schedules from Cirium, an aviation data provider.

The number of passengers on domestic flights has climbed for months as vaccinations have risen and the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined.

The number of air travelers on July 1 and 2 — just before Independence Day — was actually greater in 2021 than in 2019, T.S.A. data showed. (The T.S.A. noted that more people traveled over the entire holiday weekend in 2019.)

“We’re back traveling again,” Mr. Biden said in a July 4 address from the South Lawn of the White House. “We’re back seeing one another again.”

The Biden administration’s efforts to persuade more of the country to get inoculated have faced major headwinds. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of Monday, just over 68 percent of the country’s adult population had received at least one shot.

Reported cases of the coronavirus, hospitalizations and deaths are all trending upward, and states with low rates of vaccination, like Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada, are battling outbreaks as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads around the country.

Officials warned of a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” last week, and the Biden administration announced this month that it would send “surge response teams” to states that need help.

The C.D.C. has retained many coronavirus precautions for travelers on public transportation, like mask wearing, even as it relaxes them in other areas. There have been thousands of reports of unruly passengers acting out against mask mandates, particularly on airplanes.

Mr. Langston said that the T.S.A. had seen about 3,000 mask-related incidents across different modes of public transportation since the federal mask rule went into effect last winter, which he called “a relatively insignificant number compared to the millions of travelers each day affected by the mask mandate.”

Niraj Chokshi contributed reporting.

Representative Vern Buchanan in Sarasota, Fla., in October 2020.
Credit…Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

Representative Vern Buchanan, Republican of Florida, has tested positive for the coronavirus after having been fully vaccinated earlier this year, his office announced on Monday.

Mr. Buchanan was tested after “experiencing very mild flu-like symptoms” and is now quarantining at home, the statement said.

Mr. Buchanan said in the statement that he looked forward to returning to work “as soon as possible.” He added, “In the meantime, this should serve as a reminder that although the vaccines provide a very high degree of protection, we must remain vigilant in the fight against Covid-19.”

A telephone message left at Mr. Buchanan’s office in Washington was not immediately returned on Monday evening.

Mr. Buchanan is the latest lawmaker to report being infected. More than 70 senators and members of the House of Representatives have been diagnosed with the virus, according to GovTrack.

The announcement came as Florida reported a 190 percent increase in the number of people who have tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks, according to data collected by The New York Times, though cases remain at a fraction of their peak levels.

Overall in Florida, 48 percent of people are fully vaccinated. Mr. Buchanan’s coastal district includes parts of three counties, where vaccination rates hover near the statewide figure: Sarasota (56 percent), Manatee (46 percent) and Hillsborough (43 percent), according to the Times data.

The St. Pancras railway station in London on Sunday. Unlike other European nations on Britain’s medium-risk amber list, travelers arriving in England from France must continue to quarantine upon arrival.
Credit…Yui Mok/Press Association, via Associated Press

Nearly all of England’s pandemic restrictions were lifted on Monday, with a notable exception: Travelers to England from France must continue to quarantine upon arrival, even if they are fully vaccinated.

The rule, announced on Friday, was spurred by concerns about the presence of the Beta variant of the coronavirus in France and is intended as a precautionary measure, officials said.

So what is the Beta variant?

Formerly known as B.1.351, Beta was first detected in South Africa last year. It contains several mutations, in a protein called spike, that help the virus bind more tightly to human cells.

It also contains the E484K mutation, sometimes known as the “Eek” mutation, which appears to help the virus partially evade antibodies. This mutation has emerged independently in multiple variants, including Gamma, which surfaced in Brazil, and in some samples of Alpha, which was first identified in Britain.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both designated Beta as a “variant of concern.”

Scientists and health officials became concerned about Beta because it spread quickly through South Africa and research indicated that some vaccines were less powerful against it. One of them, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca, is the vaccine Britain has depended on most heavily.

Several authorized vaccines do provide strong protection against severe disease caused by the variant, however.

Some monoclonal antibody treatments are also less effective against Beta, although there are other authorized antibody treatments that appear to work well against it.

Beta’s ability to bind tightly to human cells may also make it more transmissible; the C.D.C. notes that it appears to be roughly 50 percent more infectious than the original form of the virus. It does not appear to be as contagious as the Delta variant that was first detected in India.

Beta has now been reported in 123 countries, but it remains far less prevalent than Delta, which the World Health Organization has said is likely to become the dominant variant globally in the coming months.

Over the last four weeks, the Beta variant has appeared in 3.7 percent of virus samples sequenced in France, according to GISAID, a repository of viral genomes. French officials have criticized the British restrictions as excessive, saying the majority of their Beta cases are in overseas territories like Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean where Beta accounts for 31.2 percent of sequences.

Beta is not common in the United States, where it represents just 0.1 percent of infections, according to C.D.C. estimates. It has been detected in Britain, but accounts for a negligible share of cases there.




De Blasio Says He Won’t Mandate Masks to Fight Delta Variant

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said he would not support additional indoor mask requirements as the Delta variant fuels rising coronavirus cases in the city, and doubled down on vaccinations as the best defense.

Reporter: “Due to the challenge with Delta variant, do you expect or do you support any executive order to enforce mandatory mask-wearing indoors and outdoors in New York City?” “No — simple answer, no. We’ve got, again, 4.8 million New Yorkers who have had at least one vaccine dose. That number grows thousands and thousands of people every day. That’s the ballgame. That’s where we make the impact. The thing that actually stops Covid, not the thing that masks — you know, masks have value, unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem. Vaccination is, so we do not intend mask mandate. We do intend to double down on vaccination.” “It now makes up about 69 percent of the cases that we’re sequencing. But our concern is primarily for people who remain unvaccinated, which is why the single most important thing that we can do to keep individuals, as well as our communities, our city, safe is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. I do also want to clarify that there are some settings where the mask mandate, particularly indoors, remains in effect. This includes public transit. It includes schools and other high-risk settings like our congregate settings and in health care facilities. And in those places, we do want people to continue wearing their masks regardless of their vaccination status. But as the mayor has said, the key to our getting out of this pandemic is vaccination.”

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Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said he would not support additional indoor mask requirements as the Delta variant fuels rising coronavirus cases in the city, and doubled down on vaccinations as the best defense.CreditCredit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Though the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he would not issue an executive order mandating the use of masks indoors, instead doubling down on vaccination as the best line of defense.

During a news conference, Mr. de Blasio announced the average rate of positive tests over the last seven days had risen to 1.69 percent. That figure has been steadily rising in recent weeks as the more contagious Delta variant continues to spread throughout the city, but is still well below the 6 percent positivity rate the city recorded in late March, just before the second wave began to recede. Hospitalizations and deaths have remained low.

Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city health commissioner, said that the Delta variant appeared to be responsible for the increase and now accounted for 69 percent of cases sequenced by the city.

Over the weekend, Mark Levine, chair of the New York City Council health committee, called for the renewal of a broad indoor mask mandate. The city has dropped the mask rule except on public transportation, in hospitals and schools, and in congregate settings like homeless shelters.

But the mayor flatly rejected the idea on Monday, emphasizing instead the importance of getting all New Yorkers vaccinated. “No. Simple answer is no,” Mr. de Blasio said.

“Masks have value, unquestionably,” he added. “But masks are not going at the root of the problem. Vaccination is.”

Mr. de Blasio said that the city would increase its efforts to reach the unvaccinated and that he anticipated a surge in the number of children over 12 getting inoculated before school resumed in the fall.

Inoculation rates across the city are uneven, and the city’s vaccination campaign has slowed dramatically in recent months. About 42 percent of adults in New York City have yet to be vaccinated, according to the city’s health department.

As of Monday, 4.8 million New Yorkers had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 4.4 million had been fully vaccinated.

Texas House Democrats held a news conference last week at Dulles International Airport in Washington after leaving Texas in an effort to block Republicans’ voting restrictions bill.
Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers from the Texas House of Representatives on Monday resumed their lobbying campaign in Washington for federal voting rights legislation, but they were forced to switch many of their events from in-person to virtual after five of the legislators tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.

A battery of events, including an hourlong town-hall-style broadcast on MSNBC, will now be held virtually, with legislators appearing from either a conference room or their rooms at their hotel in downtown Washington.

The shift has taken some of the steam out of the second week of what the Texas Democrats say will be a nearly monthlong stay to fight for voting rights at the Capitol.

After spending their initial days in a series of well-documented meetings with Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the Texans have no additional congressional meetings scheduled, though they may gather with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It is not clear whether those sessions will be in-person or virtual.

All five lawmakers are fully vaccinated and were experiencing mild or no symptoms, the Texas House Democratic Caucus said in a statement. It said all caucus members and their staff members in Washington were being tested daily.

“I am quarantining until I test negative, and I am grateful to be only experiencing extremely mild symptoms,” said State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the five legislators who tested positive for the virus. “I will be teleworking with my colleagues, staff, partners and allies. We’re planning more good trouble, and hope to make announcements soon.”

On Monday, that meant participating in the first day of what the Democrats are now calling a “virtual voting rights conference” with Mi Familia Vota and S.E.I.U. Texas. The morning sessions will continue through the week, live from the Texas Democrats’ hotel.

Anti-vaccine demonstrators marching past the Louvre in Paris on Saturday.
Credit…Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

More than 100,000 people took to the streets across France over the weekend to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s tough new vaccination strategy, which will restrict access to restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, long-distance trains and more for the unvaccinated.

Demonstrators in Paris and elsewhere vented against what some called Mr. Macron’s “dictatorship” after he announced that a “health pass” — official proof of vaccination, a recent negative test, or recent Covid-19 recovery — would be required for many to attend or enter most public events and venues.

At the same time, however, his policy seemed to have the desired effect: Record numbers of people flocked to vaccination centers in advance of the new rules coming into effect next month.

It made for a striking split-screen image as millions lined up for vaccines — so desperately sought in much of the world suffering outbreaks but with little access to doses — while an increasingly strident group from both the far left and far right decried Mr. Macron’s policies as government overreach.

Some protesters caused particular outrage after drawing parallels between their situation and that of the Jews during the Holocaust. Some wore a yellow star that said “nonvaccinated,” others carried signs or shouted slogans that compared the health pass to a Nazi-era measure.

“This comparison is abhorrent,” said Joseph Szwarc, 94, a Holocaust survivor who was speaking on Sunday as France commemorated the victims of racist or anti-Semitic acts by the Vichy government.

“I wore the star, I know what it is, I still have it in my flesh,” Mr. Szwarc said at a ceremony in Paris.

Two vaccination centers were also vandalized over the weekend. One, in southwestern France, near the Spanish border, suffered a fire that the local authorities suspect to have been arson; another, in southeastern France, near Grenoble, was flooded and tagged with anti-vaccine graffiti.

The number of protesters, however, has paled in comparison with the daily figures for new vaccination appointments and injections, which have skyrocketed since Mr. Macron’s announcements. Right after his speech, over 1.7 million appointments were booked within 24 hours on a single website; last Friday, nearly 880,000 people received a shot in a single day, a record.

Credit…Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Fifty-five percent of the French population has received a first shot so far, and 40 percent has been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

And polls show broad support for Mr. Macron’s muscular strategy, which also plans to force people who test positive to self-isolate for 10 days, to make vaccination mandatory for health workers — who will face suspension of pay or even dismissal by the fall if they don’t get their shots — and to stop widespread free testing.

Mr. Macron’s announcements were formalized in a bill presented by the government on Monday that is set to be passed by Parliament later in the week.

The number of daily infections has jumped in recent days, a rise that health officials have attributed to the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. Over 12,500 new cases were recorded on Sunday, the highest number since mid-May.

“It’s either general vaccination, or a viral tsunami, there is no alternative,” Gabriel Attal, the government spokesman, told Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday.

Mr. Attal described the protesters who have marched against the government’s plans as “a fickle and defeatist fringe” that did not reflect the majority opinion of “hardworking and proactive” France.

“Between the two, there are obviously French who have sincere doubts and must be convinced,” Mr. Attal said. But, he added, “we don’t want the choice of the unvaccinated to weigh upon the vaccinated.”

Some politicians, especially on the far left and far right, have criticized Mr. Macron for suddenly imposing the health pass after promising several months ago not to use such a measure.

“There were and there are other solutions, including to convince our fellow citizens to get vaccinated,” lawmakers for the far-left France Unbowed party said in a statement on Monday.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum have also said that they will file a motion with France’s Constitutional Council to verify that the new bill complies with the French Constitution.

Times Square in March last year as lockdown began in New York. Employers cut 22 million jobs in March and April 2020.
Credit…Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

The pandemic recession is officially over.

In fact, it has been over for more than a year.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, the semiofficial arbiter of U.S. business cycles, said Monday that the recession had ended in April 2020, after a mere two months. That makes it by far the shortest contraction on record — so short that by June 2020, when the bureau officially determined that a recession had begun, it had been over for two months. (The previous shortest recession on record, in 1980, lasted six months.)

But while the 2020 recession was short, it was unusually severe. Employers cut 22 million jobs in March and April, and the unemployment rate hit 14.8 percent, the worst level since the Great Depression. Gross domestic product fell by more than 10 percent.

The end of the recession doesn’t mean that the economy has healed. The United States has nearly seven million fewer jobs than before the pandemic, and while gross domestic product has most likely returned to its prepandemic level, thousands of businesses have failed, and millions of individuals are still struggling to get back on their feet.

To economists, however, recessions aren’t simply periods of financial hardship. They are periods of economic contraction, as measured by employment, income, production and other indicators. Once growth resumes, the recession is over, no matter how deep a hole remains. The recession that accompanied the 2008 financial crisis, for example, ended in June 2009 — four months before the unemployment rate hit its peak, and years before many Americans began to experience a meaningful rebound.

The unusual nature of the pandemic-induced economic collapse challenged the traditional concept of a “recession.” The National Bureau of Economic Research defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.” Taken literally, the latest downturn fails that test — the recession lasted mere weeks. But the bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee decided that the contraction should count nonetheless.

“The committee concluded that the unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production, and its broad reach across the entire economy, warranted the designation of this episode as a recession, even though the downturn was briefer than earlier contractions,” the committee said in a statement.

A table cordoned off for social distancing at the Amoy Street Food Center in Singapore in June.
Credit…Wallace Woon/EPA, via Shutterstock

Singapore reported 163 new locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus on Monday, its highest daily tally since August, as a growing cluster of infections has stalled the city-state’s return to normal life.

Of the 163 cases, 106 were linked to the Jurong Fishery Port, and 19 were tied to karaoke bars. Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s health minister, said in a Facebook post on Monday that the two clusters were linked. The Health Ministry says the number is likely to rise in coming days.

The outbreak has delayed Singapore’s reopening plans just a week after it eased some restrictions, some of which have been restored. In addition, the port was closed for two weeks, and the authorities temporarily shut down more than 400 nightlife establishments that had been serving food and beverages to remain in business under pandemic restrictions. The Health Ministry said several of those businesses had “abused the system by operating clandestine and illegal activities,” contributing to the infections.

“Unfortunately, there are a few who have flouted the rules,” Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s finance minister, said in a video released on Friday. He added, “We will take firm action against them.”

Testing and tracing in the karaoke cluster, Singapore’s biggest of the pandemic, may have been hampered by the reluctance of some customers to come forward. The Singapore police said last week that they had arrested 20 women on suspicion of involvement in vice-related activities at three of the lounges.

Officials said the reopening, though delayed, would be bolstered by the success of the vaccination campaign, which has moved faster than those of most other countries in Asia. About 47 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and the government aims to reach a two-thirds vaccination rate by Singapore’s National Day on Aug. 9.

Singapore, which has a population of almost six million people, has recorded a total of more than 63,000 cases and 36 reported deaths during the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.

High school seniors and teachers being monitored after receiving the Pfizer vaccine in Daegu, South Korea, on Monday.
Credit…Kim Jun-Beom/Yonhap, via Associated Press

South Korea started vaccinating high school seniors and members of teaching staff on Monday in the latest effort to expand the country’s vaccination program, even as older residents remain ineligible for shots.

The Ministry of Education said the move would “facilitate safe and smooth academic operations” for the second half of the year and ease the burden on students preparing for critical exams.

According to health officials, 460,000 students and 190,000 teachers will be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine across 280 vaccination centers. They will be eligible to receive the shots through July 30.

Last year, the pandemic added another layer of stress and anxiety for students who were preparing for their college entrance exam. The nine-hour exams are held once a year, typically in November. They were postponed by two weeks last year because of the pandemic.

High school seniors are the first group of adolescents to be vaccinated in South Korea, where until Monday vaccination was available only to people 55 and older. Monday was the first day vaccine appointments were opened to those ages 50 to 54.

Though South Korea, a country of 50 million people, has kept the coronavirus relatively under control at 180,000 cases and 2,058 deaths, its vaccination campaign has been sluggish. About 13 percent of its population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. As the country faces a surge in infections — especially in the capital, Seoul — the vaccines offer relief to students preparing for what many consider the most important test of their lives.

“Covid-19 made me lose motivation since I was not able to study with my friends,” said Lee Lim, a high school senior in Seoul preparing for her college entrance exam. Ms. Lee, who prefers studying at cafes or study rooms, said that being stuck at home made her more prone to get sidetracked with YouTube or Netflix.

While Ms. Lee has some concerns about potential vaccine side effects, she considers herself lucky to be eligible for a shot when so many adults are not. “I feel relieved,” she said.

Teachers who work at public schools and private academies also spoke of a sense of comfort.

“Covid-19 has affected everything for students,” said Kang Seung-hyun, an English teacher in Seoul. “They couldn’t see or study with their friends, they had to cope with schools shutting down and reopening constantly, things that I’ve never had to go through and took for granted.”

Mr. Kang said that he and his fellow teachers were greatly reassured by their eligibility for vaccines. “It finally feels like something good is happening,” he said.

Seoul and its surrounding areas are under Level 4 of the government’s social distancing measures until July 25, meaning people are not allowed to gather in groups of more than two after 6 p.m. Certain businesses like clubs are also barred from operating, and restaurants and cafes are required to close at 10 p.m.

Katie Hopkins, center, in 2019.
Credit…Joe Giddens/Press Association, via Associated Press

Katie Hopkins, a British right-wing provocateur who has drawn criticism for hateful comments including comparing migrants to cockroaches, will be deported from Australia after bragging about flouting the country’s hotel quarantine rules.

Ms. Hopkins arrived in the country to take part in a reality show, “Big Brother VIP,” and was required to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel under coronavirus safety rules. On Saturday, she posted a video to Instagram and YouTube mocking these rules and detailing how she tried to frighten hotel staff by flinging open the door of her room “naked with no facemask.”

With over 40 percent of the country in lockdown and tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas because of strict caps on the number of returnees, her antics drew an immediate backlash.

On Sunday, she was reportedly dropped from the show with its host broadcaster, Seven Network, saying in a statement that it strongly condemned “her irresponsible and reckless comments in hotel quarantine.”

On Monday, the Australian home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, said Ms. Hopkins’s visa had been canceled, describing her conduct as “appalling” and “a slap in the face to all those Australians currently in lockdown.”

Ms. Hopkins had initially been allowed into the country “on the basis of potential benefit to the economy,” Ms. Andrews told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but “we will be getting her out of the country as soon as we can possibly arrange that.”