Stay Updates: Covid Vaccines, Booster Pictures and Delta Variant Information
Here’s what you need to know:
A plan to offer all those age 50 and over a booster vaccine was announced on Tuesday as part of a winter coronavirus strategy for England designed to prevent any new surge in cases from overwhelming the National Health Service, while trying to avoid another lockdown.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, told members of Parliament on Tuesday afternoon that additional vaccine doses would start being offered beginning next week for those whose immunity from vaccination may be waning. The decision follows an announcement on Monday that one vaccine shot will be offered to children aged 12 to 15.
As part of its winter plan the government has not ruled out another lockdown completely, presenting it as a last resort that would be considered only if England faces a new and highly transmissible variant. Officials are looking to avoid the type of lockdowns that for months blocked people from seeing family and friends even in most outdoor settings, while also preventing another catastrophic winter surge like the one that pummeled the country last year.
Mr. Javid said that the government was preparing a “plan B” as a contingency in the event that cases rise significantly, as some experts fear they will in the winter months. This includes reintroducing a requirement to wear face coverings in indoor spaces and on public transportation, and advising people to work from home when possible.
On Sunday the government said it would not proceed with a vaccine passport plan that would have forced nightclubs and some other venues in England to check the status of those trying to enter. But it has kept open the option of reviving the strategy should the situation deteriorate.
“The link between cases, hospitalizations and death has weakened significantly since the start of the pandemic and deaths from Covid-19 have been mercifully low compared with previous waves,” Mr. Javid told lawmakers. “Nonetheless, we must be vigilant as autumn and winter are favorable conditions for Covid-19 and other seasonal viruses.”
On Tuesday government scientific advisers said it would be safe for additional vaccine doses to be “co-administered,” alongside flu shots, for older adults. Speaking to the BBC, Mr. Javid all but ruled out another round of severe restrictions, saying that although it’s not off the table, “I just don’t see how we get to another lockdown.”
Over the past year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has often faced pressure from a vocal group of lawmakers in the libertarian wing of his Conservative Party who campaigned for the scrapping of coronavirus rules.
In July, Mr. Johnson largely gave them what they wanted, easing most legal coronavirus restrictions on what the tabloid media called “freedom day.”
Britain is now averaging about 30,000 new coronavirus cases and about 1,000 hospital admissions each day, according to government data. And while that is significantly fewer than the 100,000 cases predicted by some experts, government officials know that another surge is possible as children return to school and the weather worsens weather through the fall and winter.
On Monday, British health officials approved the mass coronavirus vaccination program for children aged 12 to 15, despite the reservations of some medical experts who questioned whether young people would benefit significantly from the shots.
The move, announced by the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, followed weeks of uncertainty about whether children in that age group would be allowed to receive the shots.
Credit…Pool photo by Sergei Savostyanov
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he is isolating because several members of his inner circle tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr. Putin canceled a planned trip to Tajikistan this week for a Central Asian security summit, the Kremlin said, describing a phone call that Mr. Putin had on Tuesday with Emomali Rahmon, the Tajik president.
“Vladimir Putin said that in connection with identified cases of the coronavirus in his environment, he must observe self-isolation for a certain period of time,” the statement said.
In a televised videoconference later Tuesday with senior officials, Mr. Putin said that one of the people who tested positive was a vaccinated staff member with whom he had recently interacted “very closely in the course of the whole day.” Mr. Putin has said he was vaccinated with the two-dose regimen of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, but he has continued to be extraordinarily careful in his public appearances, often requiring people he meets to quarantine beforehand.
“We’ll see how Sputnik V works in practice,” Mr. Putin said in the videoconference, adding that his antibody levels were still high.
Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Mr. Putin would continue working while in isolation and expressed confidence that the vaccine would protect him from a serious case of the disease.
“We all know that the vaccine is guaranteed to protect you from serious consequences, but cases of illness are still possible,” Mr. Peskov said. “The president is absolutely healthy.”
Mr. Putin had been scheduled to attend a summit on Friday of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security group. He will still participate in the meeting, but will do so by video link, the Kremlin said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Xi Jinping of China are also scheduled to address the gathering remotely.
Mr. Putin’s isolation — the first time he has taken such a step because of potential exposure — underscores the pandemic’s continuing severity in Russia. Widespread vaccine hesitancy and lax mask-wearing have allowed the Delta variant of the coronavirus to spread largely unchecked.
Russia’s officially reported mortality from the coronavirus has been essentially flat, at just below 800 deaths per day, since July. The remarkable stability of the daily toll has led some analysts to question its veracity, though officials insist it is accurate.
Mr. Putin had several in-person events on Monday as officials were deliberating over whether he should go into quarantine, including a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a close Russian ally. That took place “before the decision was made about the necessity of self-isolation,” Mr. Peskov said, adding, “No one’s health was put in danger.”
Both Mr. al-Assad and his wife, Asma, contracted the virus but quickly recovered, officials said in March. There was no word from Syria on Tuesday that Mr. al-Assad would need to self-isolate after the meeting with Mr. Putin.
“We are working together on solving the most important problem that all of humanity faces today — the fight against the coronavirus infection,” Mr. Putin told Mr. al-Assad, according to a transcript published by the Kremlin on Tuesday. “I hope that, with our joint efforts, we will be able to help the Syrian people get back on their feet in every sense of the word.”
Russia intervened in support of Mr. al-Assad in Syria’s civil war in 2015 and turned the tide of the conflict in his favor, amid heavy criticism from human-rights groups of a brutal bombing campaign. Russia delivered 250,000 doses of its one-shot Sputnik Light vaccine to Syria in July.
Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.
Credit…Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press
Cuba will begin vaccinating children as young as 2 against the coronavirus this week, making it the only country so far to immunize children that young.
The United States and many European countries currently allow Covid-19 vaccinations for children 12 and older. U.S. regulators could authorize a vaccine for children 5 to 12 later this year.
Chile has begun vaccinating children 6 and older. China and the United Arab Emirates are now vaccinating children as young as 3.
Cuba’s health regulator, the Center for State Control of Medicines and Medical Devices, approved pediatric vaccination at the beginning of September. Last week, the country started immunizing 13- to 17-year-olds.
Coronavirus cases are skyrocketing in Cuba as the Delta variant spreads rapidly across the island. Cuba has recently been reporting an average of 70 new infections a day for every 100,000 residents, one of the highest rates in the Western Hemisphere.
Cuban children are being immunized with Soberana 2 and Soberana Plus, two domestically developed vaccines. Clinical trials in adults, and to a limited extent in children, have shown that the combination is more than 90 percent effective at protecting against the coronavirus, Cuban officials have said. But data from the trials have not been published in peer-reviewed international journals.
Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the World Health Organization, called on Cuba in June to “publish the data in a transparent way.”
“There’s a lot of things going for it, there is a need, and they are using established technology,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said about the Cuban program. “But I’m concerned about the level of regulatory oversight.”
Cuban scientists said that they have submitted papers to peer-reviewed journals, and are awaiting publication. They stressed that the Soberana vaccines use a technology similar to the one already in use in Cuba’s vaccines against other diseases.
“This is not an RNA vaccine, with no history, being administered to children,” said Dr. Vicente Vérez, the lead developer of the vaccines.
Early trials in children have shown only routine side effects and “a high degree of safety, which is what’s most important,” said Dr. José Moya, the Pan American Health Organization representative in Cuba.
Schools in Cuba have been closed through most of the pandemic, and the high cost of internet access has made online learning impossible for most children. Officials and frustrated parents are keen to get children back to school, but the reopening of classrooms has been postponed repeatedly.
So far, 56 percent of Cuba’s population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and 37 percent are fully vaccinated. The country’s health ministry aims to vaccinate more than 90 percent of the population by December.
The pandemic has pushed Cuba’s vaunted health system to the breaking point. A shortage of medicines, medical oxygen and coronavirus tests have increased social tensions, prompting anti-government protests in July. Mexico shipped supplies of oxygen to Cuba last month, and activists in the United States sent two million syringes.
U.S. economic sanctions imposed during the Trump administration have slowed vaccination efforts by making it more complicated and expensive to import materials. Production of Soberana 2 was halted for weeks in the spring when supplies of a vital component dwindled, Dr. Vérez said.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Biden will use the upcoming gathering of the United Nations General Assembly to set new targets for a global coronavirus vaccination campaign, including having 70 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated one year from now, according to draft documents prepared by the White House.
Mr. Biden is convening a virtual global Covid-19 summit next week, when heads of state gather for the annual General Assembly meeting. Invitations to world leaders were sent out last week, according to one person familiar with the planning. Another round of invitations to stakeholders went out on Monday by email.
The invitation, obtained by The New York Times, told participants that Mr. Biden would “call on chiefs of state, heads of government and international organizations, business, philanthropic, and nongovernmental leaders to come together to commit to ending the Covid-19 pandemic.” It was accompanied by a draft detailing specific targets necessary to achieve that goal.
The 70 percent target “is ambitious but consistent with existing targets,” the draft document said. In June, the heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization set a target of having 60 percent of the world’s population vaccinated by the middle of 2022.
The draft also calls for countries “with relevant capabilities” to either purchase or donate one billion additional doses of coronavirus vaccines, beyond the two billion that have already been pledged by wealthy nations; and for world leaders to ensure that $3 billion is made available in 2021 and $7 billion in 2022 in financing “for vaccine readiness and administration, combating hesitancy, and procuring ancillary supplies.”
Mr. Biden has come under fierce criticism from advocates and public health experts who say he is not living up to his pledge to make the United States the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world. Expanding global vaccination efforts is necessary to protect not only the world, but the national security and health and safety of Americans.
Pressure is building as the United Nations meeting draws near. On Tuesday, two House Democrats — Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut — are planning to host a news conference to call on Mr. Biden to unveil a global plan to end the pandemic, including a plan to transfer vaccine technology from pharmaceutical manufacturers to other vaccine makers around the world, and to ramp up manufacturing capacity.
Peter Maybarduk, who directs Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said the draft looks promising but does not go far enough. His group has a plan calling for the government to invest $25 billion in developing regional manufacturing hubs around the world, which it says would produce enough vaccine for low- and middle-income countries in a year.
“It’s not asking very much of the private sector,” Mr. Maybarduk said. “It is trying to unify commitments rather than using the very significant power of the U.S. government to move very significant manufacturing capacity on its own. That still leaves tools unused. It’s not being the vaccine arsenal for the world.”
Credit…Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The annual General Assembly, the diplomatic mega-event that was held almost entirely virtually last year because of the pandemic, will be far more physical when it convenes for two weeks beginning on Tuesday.
Although strict pandemic rules will be enforced — including mandatory mask-wearing for all participants, required vaccinations for headquarters staff and severely limited access to its 16-acre campus on Manhattan’s East Side — the United Nations is aiming for at least a partial restoration of the person-to-person diplomacy that its leaders regard as critical.
The outgoing annual president of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, told reporters in his farewell news conference last week that at least 83 leaders were planning to attend this year’s event, albeit with slimmed-down entourages. (Mr. Bozkir will be succeeded by Abdulla Shahid, foreign minister of the Maldives.)
A provisional list of speakers provided by U.N. officials indicated that President Biden would attend, for what would be his first address as president to the 193-member world body. Mr. Biden, unlike his predecessor Donald J. Trump, is a United Nations enthusiast, and diplomats say a personal appearance would reinforce his “America is back” pledge.
The White House has not specified Mr. Biden’s plans, and U.N. officials said the speakers list could change up to the last minute.
According to the provisional list, top leaders from Brazil, Britain, Canada, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey and Venezuela also plan to personally deliver their speeches, all scheduled for the second week. China’s speech will be delivered by its deputy prime minister, the list indicated, and Russia’s by its foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.
Iran’s new president has opted to send a prerecorded video, but diplomats said the country’s new foreign minister is expected to attend.
The authorities in Greece on Monday introduced new measures banning unvaccinated people from indoor venues, including cafes and restaurants, and obliging employees who have not had their coronavirus shots to undergo regular tests at their own expense.
The measures, which are to remain in place through March, are aimed at flattening a fourth wave of the virus.
The new regulations bar unvaccinated people from the indoor areas of cafes, restaurants and bars. They will only be able to enter theaters, cinemas, gyms and museums with proof of a negative rapid coronavirus test conducted within the previous 48 hours or with a certificate verifying that they have recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months.
The new rules will also apply to workplaces. All employees who do not have a certificate of vaccination or recent recovery from Covid-19 will have to undergo at least one rapid screening per week at a private clinic, at a cost of 10 euros (about $11.80) per test. Unvaccinated people working in tourism, education and food service will be required to take two tests per week, along with school and university students. The tests will be free for children.
Schools in Greece reopened on Monday, prompting concern that the virus could get fresh impetus. Children ages 12 and older in Greece are eligible for doses, though only 13 percent of those ages 12 to 14, and 25 percent of those ages 15 to 17, are fully vaccinated, according to figures announced by the country’s Health Ministry on Monday.
Matina Pagoni, head of a union of doctors in Athens and Piraeus, told Greek television last week that face masks and social distancing were crucial to averting a spread in classrooms, adding that windows should remain open. Her union has proposed that mobile vaccination centers be set up outside schools to increase the uptake of the vaccine among children.
Vaccine hesitancy is relatively strong in Greece, where only 55 percent of the population of 10.7 million have been fully vaccinated, compared with about 59 percent across the 27-nation European Union, according to figures from Our World in Data. More than 6,000 Greek health workers have been suspended without pay after refusing to get shots despite a law that requires them to be vaccinated.
Credit…Aaron Favila/Associated Press
As jubilant students across the globe trade in online learning for classrooms, millions of children in the Philippines are staying home for the second year in a row because of the pandemic, fanning concerns about a worsening education crisis in a country where access to the internet is uneven.
President Rodrigo Duterte has justified keeping elementary and high schools closed by arguing that students and their families need to be protected from the coronavirus. The Philippines has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Asia, with just 16 percent of its population fully inoculated, and Delta variant infections have surged in recent months.
“I cannot gamble on the health of the children,” Mr. Duterte said in June, rejecting recommendations by the health department to reopen schools.
The move — which has kept nearly 2,000 schools closed — has spawned a backlash among parents and students in a sprawling nation with endemic poverty. Many people, particularly in remote and rural areas, do not have access to a computer or the internet at home for online learning.
It also makes the Philippines, with its roughly 27 million students, one of only a handful of countries that has kept schools fully closed throughout the pandemic, joining Venezuela, according to UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency. Other countries that kept schools closed, like Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have moved to reopen them.
Some countries, like Britain, have taken an aggressive approach to keeping schools open, including from late spring into early summer, when the Delta variant surged. While many elementary school students and their teachers did not wear masks, the British government focused instead on other safety measures, such as rapid testing and widespread quarantining.
Singapore began administering additional Covid-19 shots to residents ages 60 and older on Tuesday as virus cases there are surging.
About 900,000 seniors will be eligible for a third dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, the Ministry of Health said, along with people with weaker immune systems. Singaporean officials say they are especially worried about a series of outbreaks at nursing homes.
New cases in the city-state have nearly quadrupled in the past two weeks despite one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns, which has fully inoculated more than 80 percent of people against the coronavirus. Other nations, including Israel, France and Germany, started offering additional doses to vulnerable groups as fears grew of waning immunity to variants of the virus.
Politicians and health officials globally are debating the value of offering third doses of vaccines to the general population. Advocates of booster shots contend that additional doses will better protect people from the virus, while opponents argue that available doses should be prioritized for poorer nations that have only been able to inoculate small percentages of their populations.
In response to the outbreaks in nursing homes, Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced that it would institute new protections for seniors residing in those facilities, including a suspension of visits until early October and increased coronavirus testing for residents and staff members.
Broadway is back. Or so it hopes.
A year and a half after the coronavirus pandemic forced all 41 theaters to go dark, silencing a symbol of New York and throwing thousands out of work, some of the industry’s biggest and best known shows are resuming performances on Tuesday.
Simba will reclaim the Pride Lands in the “The Lion King.” Elphaba and Glinda will return to Oz in “Wicked.” A young, scrappy and hungry immigrant will foment revolution in “Hamilton.” The long-running revival of “Chicago” will give ’em the old razzle dazzle. Plus there’s one new production, the childhood reminiscence “Lackawanna Blues,” offering a reminder that Broadway still provides a home for plays, too.
Broadway’s reopening is a high-stakes gamble that theater lovers, culture vultures and screen-weary adventurers are ready to return — vaccinated and masked — to these storied sanctuaries of spectacle and storytelling.
But it comes at a time of uncertainty.
Back in May, when Broadway got the green light to reopen, it seemed imaginable that the coronavirus pandemic was winding down, thanks to readily available vaccines. Since then, a combination of vaccine hesitancy and the Delta variant has sent cases skyrocketing again.
And while New York is doing better than much of the nation, the city is still facing a sharp drop in tourists, who typically make up two-thirds of the Broadway audience; many businesses in the region have postponed bringing workers back to their offices; and consumer appetite for live theater after months of anxiety and streaming remains unknown.
The industry’s recovery is enormously important to New York City, for symbolic as well as economic reasons.
There are reasons to hope. Four trailblazing productions — the concert show “Springsteen on Broadway,” the new play “Pass Over” and the musicals “Waitress” and “Hadestown” — started performances this summer, serving as laboratories for the industry’s safety protocols. None has yet missed a performance.
Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The coronavirus pandemic last year left millions of people out of work and set off the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression. Yet the share of people living in poverty in the United States last year actually declined by at least one measure because of the government’s enormous relief effort.
About 9.1 percent of Americans were poor last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That is based on a measure of poverty that accounts for the impact of government aid programs, which last year lifted millions of people out of poverty. The government’s official measure, which leaves out some major aid programs, rose to 11.4 percent, from a record low 10.5 percent in 2019.
The fact that poverty did not rise more during such an enormous economic disruption reflects the equally enormous government response. Congress expanded unemployment benefits and food aid, doled out hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses and sent direct checks to most American households. The Census Bureau estimated that the direct checks alone lifted 11.7 million people out of poverty last year, and that unemployment benefits prevented 5.5 million people from falling into poverty.
“Despite the pandemic, the unemployment, the recession, poverty did not increase,” said Irwin Garfinkel, a co-director of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work, referring to the alternative measure. “If it hadn’t been for the government benefits, poverty would have skyrocketed.”
Poverty rose much more drastically after the last recession, peaking at 15.1 percent in 2010 and improving only slowly after that.
Still, government aid programs excluded some groups, such as undocumented immigrants and their families, and failed to reach others. Millions of people endured delays of weeks or months before receiving benefits, forcing many to seek help from food banks or other charities.
“We measure poverty annually, when the reality of poverty is faced on a day-to-day-to-day basis,” said Hilary Hoynes, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied the government’s response to the pandemic.
Many of the programs that helped people avert poverty last year have expired, even as the pandemic continues. An estimated 7.5 million people lost unemployment benefits this month after Congress allowed pandemic-era expansions of the program to lapse.
The new data could feed into efforts by President Biden and congressional leaders to enact a more lasting expansion of the safety net. Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan, which is still taking shape, could include paid family and medical leave, government-supported child care and a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Liberals said the success of relief programs last year showed that such policies ought to be continued and expanded.
“It tells us it works to go big,” said Arloc Sherman, a poverty researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive research group. “We had the answer all along. These policies are extremely effective when they’re actually used.”
But many conservatives contend that although some expansion of government aid was appropriate during the pandemic, those programs should be wound down as the economy recovers.
“We needed to balance concerns about poverty, which is at an all-time low, with concerns about the federal debt,” said Scott Winship, a senior fellow and the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative group.