Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and the European Union will be allowed to enter England without quarantining upon arrival starting Aug. 2, the British authorities said on Wednesday as they seek to attract tourists after months of restrictions.
“We’re helping reunite people living in the U.S. and European countries with their family and friends in U.K.,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.
New coronavirus cases have been declining in Britain lately, a shift that is baffling scientists, many of whom predicted a powerful surge in cases after the government relaxed all but a handful of restrictions in England last week.
Under the current rules, a person who has been vaccinated in Britain doesn’t have to self-isolate when returning from most “amber list” countries, but that exemption doesn’t apply to those who have been inoculated outside Britain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he wanted American travelers to come to England “freely,” and airline and airport operators have urged the authorities to lift restrictions in the hope of reopening travel.
Most European countries have been open to American tourists after the European Union recommended lifting a ban on nonessential travel last month. Yet E.U. and British residents are still mostly banned from traveling to the United States, unless they are U.S. citizens.
Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the downward trend in cases in Britain, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer people getting tested for the virus.
But if the trend is sustained, the case numbers raise a tantalizing prospect that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the rapidly transmissible Delta variant widely circulating in the population. His own health secretary, Sajid Javid, who is vaccinated and nonetheless tested positive on July 19, predicted the opposite — that cases could skyrocket to 100,000 a day before the country’s third wave of the pandemic ebbed.
The Biden administration said on Monday that it would continue to restrict the entry of Britons and others into the United States, citing concerns that infected travelers may contribute to further spread of the contagious Delta variant across the country.
Mark Landler contributed reporting.
In urging Americans to return to wearing masks indoors, at least in areas where the coronavirus is surging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued only a guideline, not a legally binding mandate.
How and whether the new mask guidance is implemented depends entirely on state and local authorities, which in turn depends greatly on local politics.
As in the early days of the pandemic, the C.D.C.’s recommendation, which applies to the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, was met with a sharp backlash, especially from political leaders in Republican-leaning states where mask mandates have been banned.
Officials in some states took the new guidance from federal experts and swiftly ran with it. Others decided to take a wait-and-see approach. And some stood firmly against it.
Shortly after the C.D.C. announcement, officials in Illinois and Nevada said they would follow the guidance, asking residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said that despite the effectiveness of current vaccines, including against the highly contagious Delta variant, “We are still seeing the virus rapidly spread among the unvaccinated.”
“The risk is greater for everyone if we do not stop the ongoing spread of the virus and the Delta variant,” she said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada went further, reinstating a mask mandate for all residents in indoor public spaces in counties with high rates of transmission. The requirement includes Clark County, home to Las Vegas.
Two Republican governors, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, signaled their opposition to the recommendation. Conservative politicians and their supporters in those states have cast public health measures as an attack on freedom.
“Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” Mr. Ducey said on Tuesday. “This is just another example of the Biden-Harris administration’s inability to effectively confront the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Mr. Ducey added that he was concerned the C.D.C.’s announcement would undermine confidence in the vaccines.
Mr. Abbott, who in May signed an executive order preventing local governments from requiring masks, said that wearing a face covering was a matter of personal responsibility.
“Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks,” Mr. Abbott said in a tweet.
C.D.C. officials on Tuesday also called for universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status and transmission rates of the virus. Some school districts in Alabama and Georgia did not wait for state governments to weigh in and immediately instituted mask requirements.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida issued a statement encouraging parents in his state to decide what’s best for their children when it comes to masking. He said experts had raised concerns that the risks of masking children outweighed the potential benefits, having negative effects on their learning, speech, social development and physical health.
“Fortunately, the data indicate that Covid is not a serious risk to healthy children,” he said. He said that he “trusts parents to weigh the risks and benefits.”
Other jurisdictions, like Los Angeles County and St. Louis County, Mo., had reinstated mask mandates even before the C.D.C.’s announcement.
The House of Representatives will once again require all lawmakers and staff members to wear masks inside, a sharp reversal of policy as growing fears about the Delta variant reach the doorstep of Congress. Senators will be encouraged to mask up, too, but are not required to do so.
In a memo late Tuesday night, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, Congress’s top doctor, said he was recommending the change based on new C.D.C. guidance and the nature of the Capitol, where thousands of people traveling from across the country mix each week.
“For the Congress, representing a collection of individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission), all individuals should wear a well-fitted, medical-grade filtration mask (for example an ear loop surgical mask or a KN95 mask) when they are in an interior space,” Dr. Monahan wrote to House officials.
In a letter to top Senate leaders, Dr. Monahan dispensed the same advice but stopped short of recommending a mask mandate. The Senate is a smaller body, and for much of the pandemic, its members wore masks voluntarily. Most Senators are vaccinated.
The House triumphantly dropped its longtime mask requirement six weeks ago in a show of optimism that the grip of the pandemic was loosening. Since then, at least one House lawmaker and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi have tested positive for the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated, and others on Capitol Hill have gone into voluntary quarantine after exposure to individuals who were sick with Covid-19. At the same time, new cases have skyrocketed across the country.
Like broader mask guidance from the C.D.C. and aggressive interventions being considered by President Biden to increase the nation’s vaccination rate, the new mask mandate in the House is likely to test the patience of a weary public and the opposition Republican party, which is eager to accuse Democrats of undermining confidence in vaccines and jeopardizing the health of the recovering economy. Republicans in the House immediately protested and raised the prospect that they may refuse to comply.
“Make no mistake — The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, wrote on Twitter.
House rules say that any lawmaker who does not wear a mask in specified spaces in the Capitol complex can be fined $500 or more. Several Republicans were fined earlier this year for that reason. But it is unclear what Ms. Pelosi and other House leaders would do if many Republican members refuse to go along. Democrats have been far more compliant in the past, and many have begun voluntarily wearing masks again in recent days.
On a global scale, the latest wave of the pandemic appears to be cresting at a lower level than those of the winter and spring, but the pattern differs markedly from place to place, as each nation endures its own particular drama.
The patchwork reflects the radically different paths the coronavirus takes from nation to nation, depending not only on vaccines, but on geographic isolation, the spread of the highly infectious Delta and other variants, social and economic restrictions, public compliance and an element of luck.
Conditions have improved substantially in places like India and South America that a few months ago were among the hardest-hit in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
In May, India reached about 400,000 new infections and 4,000 Covid-19 deaths officially reported per day, though experts said the true toll was much higher. On Monday, the daily tally of new cases in India dipped below 30,000 for the first time in more than four months, and the country is now reporting fewer than 1,000 deaths a day.
The most troubled countries now are a scattered assortment, not concentrated in any one region. Botswana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Spain have among the highest infection rates in the world, with numbers still climbing. Indonesia, which was recording more cases than any other country this month, remains badly affected, but the pace there has eased somewhat.
In many countries, rates of new cases are relatively low but have risen sharply in recent days. They include countries with some of the highest inoculation rates, like Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel and the United States.
Vaccination rates range from more than 80 percent of adults in some countries to less than 1 percent in others, including in many of the world’s poorest nations, according to data from the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Globally, more than 500,000 new cases are being recorded daily, compared with more than 800,000 three months ago. But comparisons like that are fraught, because official reporting practices vary widely from region to region. The picture is especially difficult to gauge across most of Africa, where both testing and vaccines remain scarce.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel, officials said Tuesday — a major shift in approach by President Biden that reflects the government’s growing concern about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mr. Biden said on Tuesday that a vaccine mandate for all federal workers was under consideration, but did not provide details. Administration officials said the idea being debated was similar to a plan announced by New York City, which would require any of the city’s 300,000 employees who refuse to be vaccinated to submit to weekly testing.
Officials said there was no consideration of simply firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated, but that the government could add additional burdens or restrictions on those who do not get the protections in an effort to convince more people to get the shot in the first place. They said there was evidence that making life inconvenient for those who refuse the vaccine works reasonably well to increase vaccination rates.
Around the country, mayors, business leaders, hospital administrators and college presidents are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations, even for those who have refused to voluntarily roll up their sleeves. So far, Mr. Biden has resisted. He has not yet required all federal workers to be vaccinated. He has not ordered members of the military to get shots. And he has not used his bully pulpit to call for a broader use of vaccine mandates.
But the president’s stance may be shifting quickly.
Inside the West Wing, his top public health experts are furiously debating the right path forward, according to administration officials, as the Delta variant surges in places where there are high numbers of unvaccinated Americans, posing a special threat to children, older people, cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems.
Two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was OK for vaccinated people to forgo masks indoors, the agency reversed course on Tuesday, saying that Americans should put masks on again — at least in areas where the coronavirus infection rate is high.
The official guidance — swayed by research on the Delta variant, which is causing rising case counts and “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated people — is aimed at places where the virus is surging. At the moment, that covers nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties. Per the guidance, all residents of Florida, vaccinated or not, should wear masks indoors.
The announcement complicates return-to-office plans for many companies at a time the Delta variant is already forced some of them to push back their start dates. Asana, a software company, told employees last week that it was pushing its return-to-office date for all employees in San Francisco and New York to no earlier than Feb. 1, a person familiar with the situation said. The company is also mandating vaccines for all employees coming into the office.
Companies that have already opened their doors must decide whether to retrench on masking policies. When the C.D.C. lifted its masking guidance in May, many companies issued new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated employees and customers to return without masks. The move served as an important incentive for workers, as well as a signal that the pandemic was winding down. For employees, it provided a sense of safety and normality in returning to offices.
Walmart, which began to allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free in May, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokeswoman for Kroger, which has likewise reduced its masking restrictions.
In New York City, finance firms have already begun to call back workers. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which allow fully vaccinated employees to go mask-free, had no comment about the C.D.C.’s announcement. A spokeswoman for American Express said the company had “no updates to share,” as the company is not back in the office yet.
“People are enjoying their freedom, so I don’t know if we’re going to go back or not,” said Alana Ackels, a labor lawyer at Bell Nunnally. She added that after the C.D.C.’s guidance in May, her phone “was ringing off the hook because everyone wanted to get rid of the mask. On Tuesday evening, after the agency’s reversal, “I haven’t gotten a single call about it,” she said.
MGM Resorts International, the casino and hotel giant, said Tuesday it would require all guests and visitors to wear masks indoors in public areas, “based on the latest information and guidance from health experts and public officials.”
The National Retail Federation, which represents businesses on the front lines of managing and enforcing public masking policies, said in a statement that “retailers will continue to follow the guidance of the C.D.C.” It added, “It is truly unfortunate that mask recommendations have returned when the surest known way to reduce the threat of the virus is widespread vaccination.”
The C.D.C.’s move may spur more corporate vaccine mandates, said David Schwartz, who runs the labor group at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. This might be a preferable alternative to “requiring employees and customers to wear masks and not being able to maintain a consistent policy,” he said. The Washington Post on Tuesday joined a short but growing list of private companies requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.
If businesses think vaccine mandates are beneficial, “we encourage them to do so,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C.’s director.
Government officials have been imposing vaccine mandates at the state, local and federal levels recently, and encouraging private companies to follow suit. President Biden is weighing a vaccine mandate for all two million federal employees, and is expected to deliver a speech on Thursday about it.
Kellen Browning and Sarah Kessler contributed reporting.
Confronted with surging infections, California this week became the first state to mandate coronavirus vaccines or regular testing for state employees and health care workers.
No state has vaccinated more people against Covid-19, but infections in California have risen sharply, largely because unvaccinated people are spreading the highly contagious Delta variant.
Most of the state’s labor groups and hospital systems have been publicly supportive of the new rules announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, including the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association and Kaiser Permanente, which said it would require all of its employees nationwide to get vaccinated or tested regularly.
But pockets of vaccine resistance have been stubborn, even in liberal-leaning California, where the vaccination rate is relatively high, and even among health care workers.
Like the state as a whole, where about 52 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the government and health care work forces and their unions include a striking number of vaccine resisters.
Starting next month, all public- and private-sector health care workers — two million people — along with some 246,000 state government employees, will have to show proof of vaccination. If they cannot, they will be required to wear face masks at all indoor work locations and to be tested at least weekly, and in some cases several times a week.
Sophia Perkins, 58, an unvaccinated state employee who processes death certificates for the Department of Health Care Services in Sacramento and is a union member, said she would be “forced into retirement” rather than adhere to the new rules.
“Nobody should mandate somebody else to inject poison into their body,” Ms. Perkins said. “There’s not enough research on this vaccine.”
Some state employees may pose more of a challenge than others.
Only about half of the thousands of unionized prison guards working in California’s vast correctional system have received a vaccine dose, according to Donald Specter, the executive director of the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Berkeley, Calif.
“It’s no secret that many of the staff who work in prisons are not progressive liberals,” Mr. Specter said.
Kellen Browning and Matt Craig contributed reporting.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s declaration on Monday that more than 300,000 municipal workers in New York City must get vaccinated against the coronavirus or agree to weekly testing was an unwelcome surprise to many of the city’s municipal unions.
“The unions are really, really aggravated that the mayor sprung this on everybody,” said Harry Nespoli, the president of the sanitation workers’ union.
Since the announcement, unions representing a diverse city work force of firefighters and paramedics have come out against the mayor’s mandate. Some have made demands, like exemptions for workers who have antibodies after recovering from Covid-19.
And just about every major union has argued that the mayor cannot unilaterally impose the mandate without first negotiating with labor leaders.
But Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, expressed confidence on Tuesday that the city could legally require vaccination or testing for its workers, and that his administration would sort out how to implement the mandate with union leadership.
Mr. de Blasio said the mandate — starting Sept. 13, when schools reopen — was necessary to combat a troubling rise of cases as the contagious Delta variant spreads in the city. Officials in California and at the Department of Veterans Affairs also moved to vaccinate government workers.
The opposition from unions is based in part in a general reluctance to force members, many of whom are Black and Latino, to get the vaccine. It is largely focused on the logistics of offering vaccines or weekly tests and the form of discipline for those who do not comply. For now, it seems unlikely that it could lead to lawsuits or strikes.
The threat to public workers who are not vaccinated was reinforced on Tuesday when the city’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said that five unvaccinated employees of the Police Department were in the hospital with the virus. The Police Department appears to have one of the lowest vaccination rates among city agencies.
Tokyo 2020 organizers on Wednesday reported 16 new coronavirus infections among Olympic personnel, bringing to 174 the total number of people connected to the Games who have tested positive since July 1.
No new infections were reported among athletes. Organizers also removed two earlier cases from their tally, including of one athlete, but did not offer details.
A total of 20 athletes are confirmed to have tested positive since arriving in Tokyo, derailing many of their Olympic hopes, but so far Covid-19 has mostly been a sidelight to the Games.
That is far from the case outside the Olympic bubble, where the virus is surging. Tokyo officials said on Tuesday that 2,848 people had tested positive for the virus, the city’s highest total in one day since the pandemic began. Government data also showed that 14.5 percent of coronavirus tests in the city were turning up positive, suggesting that many cases may be going unrecorded.
Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency since early 2020, with bars and restaurants closing early and sales of alcohol tightly restricted. But health experts said that the continuing surge in cases suggests that the measures, which had helped subdue earlier outbreaks, may no longer be as effective as the more contagious Delta variant accounts for a larger proportion of new cases.
The United States is ramping up vaccine deliveries to Africa as a third wave of the pandemic continues to accelerate across the continent.
On Wednesday, Washington will ship almost 10 million Covid-19 vaccines to two of Africa’s most populous nations, with 5.6 million Pfizer doses going to South Africa and four million Moderna doses to Nigeria. The deliveries are part of a pledge President Biden made in June to share 80 million doses globally — with about 25 million doses expected to arrive in 49 African states.
Over the past two weeks, Covax, the global vaccine partnership, has, in collaboration with the African Union, delivered millions of Johnson & Johnson doses from the United States to countries including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gambia, Lesotho, Niger, Tunisia, and Zambia. The latest shipments to Nigeria and South Africa brings the total number of vaccines donated to 16.4 million doses.
The donations from the United States come as Africa continues to lag behind the rest of the world in vaccination. Only about 21 million of the continent’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization, with 77 percent of all the doses received already administered. With the current inoculation rates, almost two-thirds of African countries will not reach a W.H.O. target of vaccinating 10 percent of their populations by the end of September.
Vaccine availability in Africa has been hampered because wealthy nations have bought excess doses and was set back further with India’s decision in March to cut back on vaccine exports, particularly the supplies from the Serum Institute of India that Covax had been relying on. Because of those issues, the African continent will most likely not be able to meet the slightly longer-term goal of vaccinating 20 percent of the population by the end of 2022.
The continent is experiencing vaccine shortages even as the severe third wave overwhelms health care systems and pushes countries to institute lockdowns and extend overnight curfews. The current surge in cases has been attributed to a lack of inoculation; loose compliance with public health measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing; and the spread of more contagious variants. More than 20 African countries have seen cases rise by more than 20 percent for at least two weeks, according to the W.H.O., with the Delta variant reported in 26 countries.
The W.H.O. has said that political crises in several countries threaten to undermine efforts to vaccinate people and curb the virus. That includes Ethiopia, where the conflict in Tigray is set to intensify, and Eswatini, where deadly antigovernment protests broke out this month. In South Africa, the looting and killings that followed the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma have had a negative impact on vaccination efforts in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the health organization’s Africa director, has said.
Both the W.H.O. and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that vaccine deliveries will continue to ramp up. Besides the United States, millions of doses from the European Union are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. And Britain said it would start delivering nine million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week to countries including Kenya. China also raised its vaccine pledges to Africa this month, sending Sinovac doses to nations including Tanzania and Uganda. Covax has said that it will deliver over 500 million vaccines to Africa by the end of the year.
Vaccines are now reaching countries like Tanzania, which previously made no effort to secure doses and whose former president played down the pandemic and pronounced that God helped eliminate the virus.
On Saturday, Tanzania received over one million Johnson & Johnson doses from the United States. On Wednesday morning, President Samia Suluhu Hassan received her Covid-19 vaccine, beginning the country’s vaccination campaign.
During the ceremony, Ms. Hassan assured the public of the safety of the shots and urged those vaccinated to continue following public health measures.
“I have agreed to be vaccinated today,” Ms. Hassan said, “just as my body has been vaccinated a lot since childhood.”
global round up
After a slow start, Spain’s vaccination program has accelerated to near the forefront in Europe, with just over 55 percent of its population fully vaccinated, according to figures released Tuesday by the country’s health ministry.
But for all its recent success with vaccines, Spain is also experiencing one of the worst surges in new Covid-19 cases on the continent, forcing several of its regions to reintroduce nighttime curfews and other restrictions. The country is now averaging more than 25,000 new cases a day, a sixfold increase from late June.
The State Department warned Americans on Monday to avoid traveling to Spain because of its recent rise in Covid-19 infections, a setback for a country where tourism is an important industry. Germany took a similar step last week, classifying Spain as a high-incidence country and requiring unvaccinated travelers arriving from there to quarantine for five days.
Spain started administering vaccines in late December, and took until mid-February to fully vaccinate its first million residents; since then, the effort has gathered pace, and as of Tuesday, just over 26 million people had been fully vaccinated. The latest data suggests that Spain is now on track to fulfill a pledge made early this year by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that 70 percent of Spaniards would be vaccinated by late August.
Nearly two-thirds of new infections in recent weeks have been among people under 40, the deputy health minister, Silvia Calzón, told reporters on Friday, according to Reuters. Spain has prioritized vaccination by age.
The country has been using all of the main vaccines acquired by the European Union, including the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, as well as the one-shot vaccine from Janssen, a European subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. But the vast majority of Spaniards have received the Pfizer shot.
Unlike some other European nations, which have delayed second shots in order to administer first shots sooner to more people, Spain is administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the recommended time, 21 days after the initial dose. As a result, it has relatively few partly vaccinated people at any given time.
In other developments around the globe:
Unvaccinated middle and high school students in France will be forced out of classrooms and into remote learning in the fall if a Covid-19 case is detected in their class, the French education minister said on Wednesday. The minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, told the news outlet Franceinfo, “If there is an infection, it is the nonvaccinated students who will be removed, but not the vaccinated ones,” adding, “It is obviously a strong incentive to get vaccinated,” as well as a way to avoid imposing so-called health passes in schools. The announcement follows a strategy by President Emmanuel Macron that aims to make life increasingly uncomfortable for the unvaccinated.
Norway on Wednesday postponed for a second time a planned final step in the reopening of its economy, Reuters reported. The delay is because of the continued spread of the Delta variant, the government said. Measures that will be kept in place include allowing only table service in bars and restaurants and limiting gatherings in private homes to 20 people. The government in April introduced a four-step plan to gradually remove most pandemic restrictions, and had completed the first three of those steps by mid-June. “A new assessment will be made in mid-August,” the country’s health minister, Bent Hoie, said at a news conference.
Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.
When South Koreans logged on to a government website this month to book Covid-19 vaccine appointments, a pop-up window told them there was “just a bit” of a delay.
“There are 401,032 people waiting in front of you,” read one of the messages that exasperated South Koreans captured in screenshots and shared online. “Your expected waiting time: 111 hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds.”
Most people in the country are still waiting for shots.
Once held up as a model in fighting the pandemic, South Korea has stumbled for months with its vaccination program. The country is among the least vaccinated in the Group of 20 nations, with only 34.9 percent of its 52 million people having received at least one dose as of Wednesday, well below the 55 to 70 percent in other advanced nations. And now South Koreans are more desperate than ever for shots.
The country is in the throes of its worst wave of infections, with 1,896 new cases reported on Wednesday, its highest daily count. Critics say that the government, resting on its early success in the pandemic, miscalculated how urgently South Korea needed to secure shots, and that those mistakes are being amplified at a time when the country appears to be most vulnerable against the disease.
Just weeks ago, the government considered relaxing restrictions ahead of summer vacation. It announced that up to six people would be allowed to dine together starting July 1, up from the previous cap of four. Nightclubs would reopen. Restaurants, cafes and gyms would be allowed to stay open until later in the night.
Epidemiologists warned against easing restrictions while inoculations remained low and the more contagious Delta variant appeared to be spreading.
“The government was sending a wrong signal to the people,” said Kim Woo-joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University in Seoul.
The country’s biggest trade group for residential landlords is suing the federal government for imposing a national moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, claiming that the freeze cost owners around $27 billion not covered by existing aid programs.
The suit by the group, the National Apartment Association, comes less than a week before the moratorium, imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last November and extended twice under President Biden, is set to expire.
Industry analysts cited in the landlords’ suit estimate that 10 million delinquent tenants owed $57 billion in back rent by the end of 2020, and that $17 billion more had gone unpaid since then.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, in D.C., is meant in part to press the Biden administration to speed up disbursement of $47 billion in emergency rental relief that was included in the two coronavirus relief packages. Landlords also hope to prod the White House to loosen the application requirements for the relief, which many owners say are too onerous.
“If the government takes a hard-line approach, renters and rental housing providers will suffer credit damage and economic harm that could follow them for years to come,” Robert Pinnegar, the association’s president, said in an interview. “Alternatively, our nation’s leaders could work alongside the industry to make everyone whole and find a resolution that fully funds the economic impact of the C.D.C. eviction order and swiftly distributes those funds.”
Calls to the White House and the Justice Department for comment were not immediately returned.
The case is also intended to challenge the federal government’s right to impose such restrictions in the future, arguing that the C.D.C.’s actions violated private property rights protected by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires the government to compensate private parties when it seizes their assets.
The administration has been stepping up pressure on landlords, local governments and housing court judges to head off a wave of evictions that is expected when the moratorium expires at the end of the month.
Last week, White House officials said that effort was gaining modest momentum, with 290,000 tenants receiving $1.5 billion in pandemic relief in June, according to new Treasury Department statistics.
But the flow of the cash remains sluggish, hampered by confusion at the state level, potentially endangering tenants who have fallen behind in their rent over the past year.
“While more households are getting help, in many states and localities, funds are still not flowing fast enough to renters and landlords,” Treasury officials warned in a statement accompanying the statistics.
Several other challenges to the freeze are already making their way through various federal courts. Last month, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of declining to consider a broad constitutional challenge to the moratorium, buying more time for the relief money to reach tenants and landlords.