British medical officials announced Friday that fully vaccinated travelers returning to England from France must continue to quarantine because of the threat posed by the Beta variant.
Travelers arriving from France must quarantine for five to 10 days, at home or elsewhere, the British health ministry said.
Beginning on Monday, vaccinated travelers from other European nations that Britain had placed on its medium-risk amber list no longer have to quarantine. Most virus-related restrictions in England will be lifted, allowing pubs and restaurants to operate at full capacity and nightclubs to open their doors. Curbs on the number of people who can meet indoors, generally limited to six, will also be removed.
“With restrictions lifting on Monday across the country, we will do everything we can to ensure international travel is conducted as safely as possible, and protect our borders from the threat of variants,” Health Minister Sajid Javid said in a statement.
While attention has been focused on the threat from the Delta variant, which is now dominant in Britain and France as well as the United States, scientists are also concerned about the Beta variant because clinical trials of vaccines are showing that they offer less protection against it. The Beta variant was first identified in South Africa in December.
The presence of Beta in France remains relatively low, according to GISAID, an international open source database; it accounts for 3.4 percent of new cases over the past four weeks.
Some research has shown that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, the backbone of Britain’s inoculation campaign, has been less effective in preventing mild and moderate Beta cases. In February, South Africa halted use of the vaccine over those concerns.
In France, concerns that the Delta variant, which accounts for about half of the country’s new cases, could unleash a fourth wave of the virus prompted President Emmanuel Macron this week to announce new vaccination requirements. They include mandatory inoculations for health care workers and proof of immunization or a recent negative test to enter restaurants and cultural venues.
Mr. Macron’s announcement came just three days after nightclubs reopened for the first time in 16 months, which many believed had signaled the completion of France’s protracted efforts to emerge from the pandemic. But the new measures dashed hopes of a return to a prepandemic normal and of a smooth summer vacation season.
British travelers, after enduring a miserable winter and a four-month national lockdown, are finding it difficult to visit some of their favorite summer destinations. In June, British tourists had to scramble to leave Portugal ahead of a quarantine deadline, after London changed travel rules over concerns about the Delta variant.
“The U.K. is entrenching itself as an outlier in its confused approach to travel. This, in turn, is destroying its own travel sector and the thousands of jobs that rely on it,” Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, said in an interview with Reuters.
Graham McLeod, from Bolton in northwest England, said that the government’s messaging was “inconsistent, irregular, unclear and frankly unworkable.” In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. McLeod, who is staying at his vacation home on France’s Atlantic coast, added: “We struggle to understand the sudden desire to introduce quarantine for returnees from France and cannot help feel this has far more to do with politics and much less to do with science.”
As the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus fuels outbreaks in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Friday that “this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far below last winter’s peak, and vaccines are effective against Delta, but the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, urged people to get fully vaccinated to receive robust protection, pleading: “Do it for yourself, your family and for your community. And please do it to protect your young children who right now can’t get vaccinated themselves.”
The number of new virus cases is likely to increase in the coming weeks, and those cases are likely to be concentrated in areas with low vaccine coverage, officials said at a White House briefing on the pandemic.
“Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” Dr. Walensky said. The nation surpassed 34 million cumulative cases on Friday, according to a New York Times database.
Delta now accounts for more than half of new infections across the country, and case numbers have been rising in every state. Roughly 28,000 new cases are reported each day, up from just 11,000 a day less than a month ago.
So far, data suggests that many of the vaccines — including the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots — provide good protection against Delta, especially against the worst outcomes, including hospitalization and death. (Receiving a single dose of a two-shot regimen provides only weak protection against the variant, however.) Nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated, but fewer than 50 percent of all Americans have been; only those 12 and older are eligible.
“We have come a long way in our fight against this virus,” Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said at the briefing.
The pace of vaccination has slowed considerably since the spring, and vaccine coverage remains highly uneven. Delta is already driving case numbers up in undervaccinated areas, including in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The office of Arizona’s governor has said that school districts in the state cannot require unvaccinated students to quarantine for 10 days if they have been exposed to the coronavirus, prompting a standoff with some local education officials.
A senior adviser to Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, sent letters dated on Wednesday to two large school districts, asserting that their policies of requiring unvaccinated students to quarantine was illegal under state law. Governor Ducey’s office posted the letters on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
“Parents are the sole decision makers in the State of Arizona when it comes to the health and well-being of their children,” the letters said, adding later that “children of parents who choose not to have their children get the Covid-19 vaccine should not be discriminated against for such decisions.”
READ: Our office today notified the superintendents of Peoria Unified School District and Catalina Foothills School District of their unlawful policy to require unvaccinated students who have a #COVID19 exposure to quarantine. @dougducey pic.twitter.com/iCuCuAoq53
— The 9th Floor (@9thFloorAZ) July 14, 2021
The two districts — the Catalina Foothills Unified School District of Pima County and the Peoria Unified School District in Maricopa County — disputed the Ducey administration’s position in a joint response sent to the governor’s education policy adviser, Kaitlin Harrier.
The districts said their policies were in compliance with state law, arguing the statute only bans districts from requiring students to wear masks or to get vaccinated but does not address the 10-day quarantine policy. They also said they were following the guidance of federal and local officials.
“While parents in Arizona are empowered to decide whether and where their children attend public school, they are not permitted to dictate which of the school’s otherwise lawful health and safety procedures their children will follow,” the districts said in their letter.
Mary Kamerzell, the Catalina Foothills superintendent, called the letter from the governor’s office puzzling and said her district, which is in Tucson, was “in full compliance with the new statutes.”
“Our number one priority is to provide a safe and rigorous learning environment for our students,” she said in an email. “We are counting on the state for support, not roadblocks, in this endeavor.”
The dispute has pitted the governor against local school officials in the state’s continuing battle over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.
With many districts preparing to start school in the next few weeks, the Arizona School Boards Association sent a statement to its members on Thursday expressing support for the two school districts.
“The lack of state leadership has and continues to put our schools at risk for political gain and attention,” a spokeswoman for the association, Heidi Otero, said in an email.
Gov. Ducey lifted stay-at-home orders in mid-May of last year, making Arizona one of the first states to reopen widely after the spring Covid-19 lockdowns. But the state soon was forced to reimpose to stricter orders to counter a rapid rise in cases, closing bars and gyms and allowing cities and counties to declare mask mandates.
While the governor announced some measures aimed at curbing the virus in early December — and has urged people to follow recommended public health guidelines — he has consistently rebuffed appeals for more stringent restrictions, such as a statewide mask mandate, the cancellation of big sports events or a delay to the return of in-person schooling.
C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for Governor Ducey, said the governor was not going to back down because “we’re not going to allow anyone to deny Arizona kids an education.”
Athletes in isolation. A host city under a state of emergency with coronavirus cases surging. Empty venues where winners will place medals around their own necks.
One week before the Summer Olympics are scheduled to begin in Tokyo, organizers, participants and officials in Japan face ever-growing challenges as they try to pull off the world’s biggest sporting event in the middle of a pandemic.
Organizers have instituted strict Covid rules, barring spectators from most events, mass-testing Olympics personnel, and creating bubbles aimed at separating the public from the thousands of athletes, coaches and guests flying in from around the world. On Thursday, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, insisted that there was no risk that the Games would spread infections, saying that organizers would do everything they could to ensure “that we do not bring any risk to the Japanese people.”
But concerns have grown after several coronavirus cases emerged in recent days among competitors and others involved with the Games.
On Friday, the organizing committee reported four new infections among Olympics-related personnel, bringing to 30 the total confirmed cases this month. One of the cases is of a Nigerian official who tested positive upon arrival and was hospitalized, according to Japanese news outlets, the fifth case detected among delegations from overseas.
This week, 21 South African rugby players went into isolation after being identified as close contacts of an infected person on their flight. Several staff members at a hotel where Brazilian athletes are staying also tested positive for the virus, sending the competitors into isolation.
Bradley Beal, a guard who had been expected to be one of the primary scorers for the U.S. men’s basketball team, will miss the Tokyo Olympics after being placed in health and safety protocols.
Team USA also canceled Friday’s scheduled exhibition against Australia and placed forward Jerami Grant in health and safety protocols as the team faces hurdles in anticipation of the Olympics. Gregg Popovich, Team USA’s coach, told reporters that he expected Grant would still participate in the Olympics.
Australian player Liz Cambage said she had been suffering panic attacks about the prospect of entering an Olympic Covid-19 bubble.
“Every athlete competing in the Olympic Games should be at their mental and physical peak, and at the moment, I’m a long way from where I want and need to be,” she said.
Out of an abundance of caution, the USA Men’s National Team exhibition versus Australia on Friday has been cancelled.
The USA Women’s National Team’s matchup with Australia will be played at 2:30 PM ET on NBCSN.
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) July 16, 2021
Cases are climbing in Tokyo, which recorded 1,271 new infections on Friday, continuing its biggest surge in six months. Across Japan, despite social distancing restrictions in much of the country, the daily average of cases has risen 63 percent in the past two weeks, according to New York Times data. About 20 percent of Japan’s 126 million people are fully vaccinated, far lower than in many Western countries.
The developments prompted one of Japan’s leading newspapers, The Asahi Shimbun, to declare that the Olympics’ Covid bubble “has already burst.” In an article published on Thursday, the newspaper described confusion at airports, where some arriving athletes took selfies and exchanged fist-bumps with other passengers, and at hotels, where staff members said they sometimes could not determine which guests were part of Olympics delegations and subject to stricter rules.
“It has become clear that organizers’ plans to separate Olympic-related people and the general public are failing miserably,” the newspaper wrote.
Organizers say that their protocols are working and that infections have occurred among only a handful of the tens of thousands of people involved in the Games. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, said on Friday that the Games would “draw attention from the world, where they can be a light of hope under the predicament of Covid.”
During a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday, Mr. Bach said that 85 percent of residents of the Olympic Village would be vaccinated against Covid-19, and that nearly all I.O.C. members and staff would arrive in Japan fully immunized.
Last week, officials said that they would bar spectators from most events, after Tokyo’s decision to extend a state of emergency for the duration of the Games. On Thursday, the I.O.C. announced changes to the medal ceremonies, saying that medals would be laid out on trays for the athletes to pick up themselves and that podiums would be larger than usual to ensure social distancing.
Still, public opposition to the Games, which were postponed from last year, has remained intense. Protesters have picketed outside Mr. Bach’s hotel and circulated petitions demanding that the event be called off. Kenji Utsunomiya, a former chairman of Japan’s bar association, submitted a petition with more than 450,000 signatures to the Tokyo metropolitan government on Thursday, arguing that the Games should not be held under a state of emergency.
“We won’t be able to save lives if the infection spreads further and the medical system collapses,” he told reporters. “Now is the time to cancel the Games with courage.”
From protests and Covid-related bans on fans, join Times journalists for an exclusive virtual event as we discuss what this moment means for Tokyo 2020. Plus learn about the sports new to the Olympics through interviews with U.S. surfer Carissa Moore and Czech climber Adam Ondra. Click the button above to R.S.V.P.
President Biden unleashed his growing frustration with social media on Friday, saying that platforms like Facebook were “killing people” by allowing disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine to spread online.
Mr. Biden’s forceful statement capped weeks of grievance in the White House over the dissemination of vaccine disinformation online, even as the pace of inoculations slows and health officials warn of the rising danger of the Delta variant.
Just before boarding Marine One for a weekend in Camp David in Maryland, Mr. Biden was asked what his message was to social media platforms when it came to Covid-19 disinformation.
“They’re killing people,” he said. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that — and they’re killing people.”
Mr. Biden spoke a day after the surgeon general of the United States used his first formal advisory to criticize tech and social media companies to stop dangerous health information that presents “an urgent threat to public health.”
The Biden administration has warned of the spread of misinformation about vaccines and the coronavirus from a range of sources, including politicians and news outlets. But this week, White House officials went further and singled out social media companies for allowing false information to proliferate. That came after weeks of failed attempts to get Facebook to turn over information detailing what mechanisms were in place to combat misinformation about the vaccine, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The spread of false information has become the latest flash point for social media companies. Facebook and other social media sites have struggled with their role as platforms for speech while protecting their users from disinformation campaigns, like Russian efforts to influence presidential elections or false statements about the pandemic.
The relaxation of pandemic restrictions and the growing ranks of people vaccinated against the coronavirus have propelled Europe’s economy forward in the past few months. And the European Commission even upgraded its forecasts for the region.
But the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant has made the path of the recovery much more unpredictable and uneven.
In Britain, the final lifting of restrictions on Monday is expected to add fresh momentum to the economic recovery. But the surge in infections presents a new hurdle to businesses trying to operate at full capacity. Sectors like hospitality, theater and trucking are having to temporarily shut as workers go into self-isolation because they have either caught the virus or have been told they have come into contact with someone who has.
In Spain, which once again has one of the highest infection rates in Europe, some regional governments have reintroduced restrictions. Portugal has reintroduced a curfew in Lisbon, Porto and other popular tourism spots, dampening a second summer travel season. The Netherlands also announced new measures this week.
The German economy has been bouncing back quickly, and the country’s unemployment rate, at 5.9 percent, is almost back to the pre-crisis level.
But Germany’s recovery has also been bumpy. The number of new cases has doubled in the last week, and three-quarters of those were attributed to the variant. Although there is no talk of renewed lockdowns in Germany so far, quarantine rules for returning travelers may discourage tourism.
That is bad news for the rest of Europe: Germans are among the continent’s most avid travelers.
Africa is in its deadliest stage of the pandemic so far, and there is little relief in sight.
The more contagious Delta variant is sweeping across the continent. Namibia and Tunisia are reporting more deaths per capita than any other country. Hospitals across the continent are filling up, oxygen supplies and medical workers are stretched thin, and recorded deaths jumped 40 percent last week alone.
But only about 1 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated. And even the African Union’s modest goal of inoculating 20 percent of the population by the end of this year seems out of reach.
Rich nations have bought up most doses long into the future, often far more than they could conceivably need. Hundreds of millions of shots from a global vaccine-sharing effort have failed to materialize.
Supplies to African countries are unlikely to increase much in the next few months, rendering vaccines, the most effective tool against Covid, of little use in the current wave. Instead, many countries are resorting to lockdowns and curfews.
On Friday, Gavi, the vaccine alliance that co-lead the vaccine sharing program Covax, said the United States would deliver 25 millions doses of the vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson to African countries in the coming weeks.
Yet even a year from now, supplies may not be enough to meet demand from Africa’s 1.3 billion people unless richer countries share their stockpiles and rethink how the distribution system should work.
“The blame squarely lies with the rich countries,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, a commissioner with Africa Covid-19 Response, a continental task force. “A vaccine delayed is a vaccine denied.”
Exactly one month after Gov. Gavin Newsom triumphantly announced California’s “grand reopening” from more than a year of health restrictions, Los Angeles County said on Thursday that it would again require face masks indoors starting this weekend.
The proclamation — along with a warning from the University of California that most unvaccinated faculty, staff and students would be barred from its campuses this fall — underscored the gathering concern that the coronavirus may be poised for a resurgence, although not one nearly as concerning as previous spikes.
Every U.S. state has reported an increase in new virus cases in recent days. California’s figures have nearly tripled over the past month, largely because of cases in San Bernardino and Los Angeles. Still, the current rate of 3,000 new cases a day is a blip compared with the winter peak, when there were more than 44,000.
Scientists say that the about 160 million people across the country who are fully vaccinated are largely protected from the virus, including against the highly contagious Delta variant. Fifty-one percent of Californians are fully vaccinated, well below the levels in some Northeastern states but above the national rate.
“If we want to extinguish this pandemic, this disease, we’ve got to get vaccinated. Period. Full stop,” Mr. Newsom said this week.
Los Angeles County, where public health officials had been recommending masks indoors but not requiring them, has reported more than 1,000 daily cases, a tripling in the past two weeks. The reinstated masking mandate is set to take effect on Saturday.
At the 10-campus University of California system, which serves more than 285,000 students, the university president, Michael V. Drake, said in a letter to chancellors that the current research, both from medical studies and the university’s own infectious-disease experts, pointed to the need for a vaccine mandate for anyone who was going to be on campus.
The requirement will apply to students and employees alike, and to participants in athletic and study-abroad programs, Dr. Drake said.
Under the policy, students without approved vaccine exemptions will be barred from campus housing, events, facilities and classrooms. While there will be “limited exceptions, accommodations and deferrals,” not all classes will be offered remotely.
A Ugandan weight lifter who traveled to Japan in the hopes of competing in the Tokyo Olympics has gone missing after failing to show up for a coronavirus test, officials said on Friday.
The weight lifter, Julius Ssekitoleko, 20, is one of nine Ugandans who had been staying in Izumisano, a city in Osaka Prefecture in western Japan, since mid-June.
Olympic organizers have tried to keep all Games participants in a “bubble” and under strict rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while they are in the country. Athletes training outside Japan have been restricted to hotels and training venues.
Last month, two people traveling with the Ugandan Olympic delegation tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Japan. It is not clear whether Mr. Ssekitoleko was one of them.
The police are conducting a search, said Katsunobu Kato, the chief cabinet secretary to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Mr. Kato said the police and city officials were making an “all-out effort” to find the weight lifter.
Yuji Fukuoka, a spokesman for the city of Izumisano, said that an official who had traveled with the Ugandan delegation checked Mr. Ssekitoleko’s hotel room on Friday, only to find that he was not there.
“All we want is that he’s found as soon as possible,” Mr. Fukuoka said. “He might be having a tough time.”
The mayor of Windsor, Ontario, said the Canadian government had blocked his plan to vaccinate residents inside the tunnel that connects his city with Detroit, using some of Michigan’s surplus, soon-to-expire Covid-19 vaccine doses.
It was an ambitious idea: Since Canadian officials wouldn’t allow U.S. vaccines into the country, American pharmacists would come to the edge of the U.S. border inside the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which connects the two cities, and jab the vaccine into the arms of Canadians on the other side.
The plan, which was reported by The Detroit Free Press, was the brainchild of Drew Dilkens, the mayor of Windsor. He said in an interview on Thursday that medical professionals in Detroit had told him they were tossing extra vaccines as the demand for the shots in the United States slowed.
Michigan has scrapped nearly 150,000 unused vaccine doses since December, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to looming expiration dates, she said, doses were also discarded because of broken syringes or vials.
The Canadian government has not allowed those surplus vaccines to enter the country, so Mr. Dilkens figured that his tunnel plan would keep the doses in Michigan and his residents in Canada. He even arranged for a white line to be painted along the border in the tunnel.
“When the Canadians go down, their feet would stay on the right side of the line,” he said, “and the United States folks, their feet stand on the left.”
But the Canada Border Services Agency denied the request, saying in a letter last month that closing the tunnel for the proposed vaccination effort could disrupt trade and would have “significant security implications.”
Canada had lagged behind the United States in distributing vaccines but has recently caught up. According to the government’s health database, nearly 68 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and nearly 36 percent have been fully vaccinated. In the United States, where demand for vaccines has cooled in recent weeks, nearly 56 percent of Americans have received at least one dose and just over 43 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a Times database.