More coronavirus restrictions were lifted in England on Monday, with hugs, indoor drinking and limited foreign travel allowed again, even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to apply a “heavy dose of caution.”
People in England are now allowed to socialize outside in groups of up to 30, meet indoors in groups of six from no more than two households, visit the cinema and hug relatives and friends after more than a year of social distancing restrictions.
Here are some significant developments:
About 39 million American families will begin receiving direct cash payments in July under a child benefit created by Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill, the Biden administration announced.
The CDC turnaround on masks caught many in the Biden administration by surprise, frustrating some who felt the rollout of the new policy was bungled and premature.
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline teased promising results from their coronavirus vaccine trial and predicted that regulators could authorize their shots in the fourth quarter of this year, the companies announced Monday.
The Biden administration announced Monday that roughly 39 million American families will begin receiving direct cash payments in July under a new child benefit created by Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill.
The Internal Revenue Service will on July 15 start delivering a monthly payment of $300 per child under 6 and $250 per child 6 or older for those who qualify. The monthly benefits will be deposited directly in most families’ bank accounts on the 15th of every month — or the closest day to that date, if the 15th falls on a holiday or weekend — for the rest of the year, without any action required. For instance, an eligible family with two children aged 5 and 13 will receive $550 from the IRS directly to their bank accounts on or close to the 15th of every month from July to December.
Biden administration officials estimate that households representing more than 65 million children — or 88 percent of all U.S. kids nationwide — will begin receiving the benefit through direct deposit, paper checks, or debit cards. Of that population, roughly 80 percent of that population will be sent the cash directly via direct deposit, administration officials told reporters on a call Sunday. High-income parents will receive a smaller benefit or none at all, depending on how much they make. The credit diminishes for individuals with adjusted gross income of more than $75,000, as well as couples earning more than $150,000.
When Patterson Elementary in Southwest Washington reopened for in-person learning, about half of the 71 students who signed up were in classrooms those first days. Many of those absent lacked the required immunizations — including the measles, mumps and rubella and hepatitis vaccines — to attend.
At KIPP DC, the city’s largest charter network, more than 100 students who have expressed interest in returning to in-person learning in the past two months couldn’t attend because they lacked the required shots.
The District had a relatively low youth compliance rate for routine immunizations even before the pandemic made non-emergency visits to doctors less frequent — and the rates have only fallen since then. Seventy-seven percent of D.C. Public School students and 76 percent of charter students are current on their routine vaccinations, according to city data.
A smaller than usual field of runners will take to the streets for the New York City Marathon in November, a necessary concession to the coronavirus pandemic that forced cancellation of the race last year.
The race annually draws 55,000 runners, but this year’s field will be reduced to 33,000, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday. The 26.2-mile race will take place Nov. 7, occupying its typical place on the first Sunday of November.
“It’s the North Star,” Ted Metellus, the race director, said of the marathon’s significance (via the New York Times). “It’s the thing that says we’re back.”
BEL AIR, Md. — Some employees felt trepidation at first, stepping back more than twice the social distancing recommendation if someone walked by them in a hallway.
Two months later, things have changed dramatically. Harford County government workers gather in small clusters to discuss their weekends. Some started sitting at their desks unmasked — weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said doing so was safe for fully vaccinated residents.
Many office workers in the Washington region and around the country are just starting to contemplate a return to their cubicles, as case numbers plummet and Maryland and Virginia are lifting mask mandates. But the approximately 1,000-person government workforce in this red-leaning county north of Baltimore transitioned back to their pre-pandemic work spaces in March.
NEW DELHI — As India confronts a devastating coronavirus outbreak where thousands are dying each day, the country desperately needs to vaccinate its population as soon as possible.
Yet the vaccine drive is stumbling just when it is most crucial.
Over the past six weeks, the number of vaccinations per day has fallen by about half, from a high of 4.2 million per day on April 2 to 2 million on Thursday.
Vaunted as the largest in the world, India’s vaccine program is being hobbled by supply shortages and an abrupt shift in procurement policythat appears to be without parallel. The woes of the inoculation drive are especially striking given India’s unique advantages, including a large vaccine industry and a record of mass immunization campaigns.
On the slides, the monkey bars and the swings in between, no one standard reigned. Some parents had masks on, some did not. Kids, too young to get coronavirus vaccines yet, generally did wear masks — but not all of them.
Maryland and Virginia lifted their indoor mask mandates Saturday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus could go safely without them. But not everyone was rushing headlong to discard them.
Outdoors, noses and mouths emerged, but many people said going barefaced indoors still felt like a step too far, even if they were vaccinated. But making decisions isn’t straightforward, with people looking to a patchwork of different rules set by states and local governments to help figure out was right, and drawing conclusions based on what seems polite as much as what is safe.
Delta Air Lines announced Friday that it will offer flights to Italy to all U.S. travelers regardless of vaccination or eligibility status, beginning Sunday. Travelers must undergo coronavirus tests before and after taking the designated flights.
In November, Delta announced a similar program with quarantine-free flights from Atlanta to Rome for travelers who tested negative for the coronavirus and were eligible to enter the European Union despite existing travel restrictions. American Airlines also has a program. However, Friday’s announcement applies beyond essential workers to leisure travelers.
Italy is set to lift mandatory quarantine restrictions on travelers from the European Union, United Kingdom and Israel on Sunday.
Global policy experts Monday called on President Biden to designate a single coordinator for the U.S. international virus response and take four other specific steps to address worldwide vaccine shortfalls.
“American leadership is required to ensure universal global access to high-quality and safe vaccines, support rapid vaccine distribution and administration, and build a sustainable global network of vaccine manufacturing capacity,” the experts write in an open letter, arguing that the United States must do more to share its vaccine breakthroughs and stockpile with the world. Nearly half of Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared with less than 5 percent of people in Asia and about 1 percent of people in Africa, they note.
The letter was signed by leaders at the Center for Global Development, the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the COVID Collaborative and three Duke University centers. The signers included Mark McClellan, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who now serves as director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.
The letter writers also call on Biden to commit to sharing more vaccine doses, improving vaccine manufacturing capacity, boosting global distribution of shots and announcing a five-year plan to scale up worldwide vaccine output. The United States should work to secure similar commitments from other wealthy countries, beginning at this week’s G-20 Global Health Summit, the experts argue.
The Biden administration has faced internal and external pressure to produce a plan explaining its global coronavirus strategy. Some administration officials have been frustrated by the White House’s fragmented decision-making process, The Washington Post reported last week.
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Tourists will face different mask rules depending on where they are
That means a vaccinated traveler flying to another state to stay in a hotel and visit local restaurants and attractions shouldn’t assume there will be one overarching mask rule for the entire journey. Corporate policies, state rules and local restrictions might not yet fall in line with the CDC guidelines — or with each other, but mask requirements could change quickly.
As demand for the coronavirus vaccine wanes, public health officials are shifting from not wasting a single dose to not wasting a single arm — even if it means cracking a multi-dose vial to vaccinate one patient.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday advised providers not to miss an opportunity to vaccinate someone who wants the shot — even if that means opening a vial containing many doses without knowing if all of them will be used.
The message prompted public health officials in many states, including Virginia and Maryland, and in the District of Columbia, to align with the new guidance and encourage primary-care doctors — who might only vaccinate a few patients at a time — to administer the doses without worrying as much about wastage.
Jason Clay was excited on Thursday to hear about the new guidance from federal health officials telling vaccinated people they could ditch masks and social distancing in most circumstances. “It’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” says the director of operations for Governor’s Restaurant and Bakery, which operates six locations throughout Maine.
But he knew right away that the news would prompt another reaction: confusion.
Across the country, restaurant owners are grappling with similar scenarios, wondering what the new rules mean for their businesses and some fearing that the shift could lead to more potential conflict with guests over masking up and spreading out. Even before the CDC announcement, many were attempting what feels like their 1,000th “pivot” of the pandemic, as many states and localities are loosening rules on restaurants’ capacity limits.
Following his return Monday to the White House from Wilmington, Del., Biden plans to speak to the nation from the East Room on his administration’s coronavirus response and vaccinations.
His planned remarks follow last week’s decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to overhaul its guidance to no longer require fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks or physically distance in most cases.
TAIPEI — Taiwan reported 335 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday as authorities closed schools and tightened border restrictions to contain a new outbreak that threatens to overturn the island’s early success containing the pandemic.
Over the past week, Taiwan has reported more than 700 local infections and raised its coronavirus alert level twice in the capital, Taipei, and the surrounding New Taipei City, to the second-highest stage. The outbreak, which began in late April, has been connected to clusters in Wanhua, an old district of Taipei; teahouses; and a hotel in Taoyuan near Taiwan’s main airport.
On Monday, officials said schools in Taipei and New Taipei City would be closed from Tuesday until May 28, with some schools moving to online classes. Border authorities tightened previously loosened travel restrictions, barring foreign travelers without residence permits for a month starting Wednesday.
Facing a shortage in vaccinations, several hospitals temporarily closed bookings and asked that residents with appointments for their second dose delay receiving the shot until after June 8 to give priority groups a chance to be inoculated.
Taiwan’s health minister, Chen Shih-chung, said 40,000 doses of vaccine would be sent to public health centers Tuesday while Taiwan’s representative in the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, said her government was pressing for a delivery of Moderna vaccines by the end of June.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan recorded just over 1,000 cases and 12 deaths, earning plaudits as a covid success story where citizens enjoyed life as normal, without having to undergo mass lockdowns. Yet Taiwan’s early containment of the virus has also led to a slow vaccine rollout, with about 1 percent of the population inoculated, as residents opted to wait for other vaccine options.
On Monday, as businesses were encouraged to allow remote working and flexible hours, the streets of Taipei were deserted while the Taipei Rapid Transit Corp. said volume in the city’s public transport system was half of levels two weeks ago. Photos of empty grocery store shelves were posted online, with residents complaining of a run on toilet paper, instant noodles and other supplies.
It’s all hugs and indoor drinking as England takes new steps out of lockdown
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to apply a “heavy dose of caution” as yet more coronavirus restrictions lift in England on Monday, with hugs, indoor drinking and limited foreign travel allowed again from Monday — despite growing concerns that the variant first identified in India may be a substantial threat.
From Monday, people in England are allowed to socialize outside in groups of up to 30, meet indoors in groups of six from no more than two households, visit the cinema, and choose to hug relatives and friends after more than a year of social distancing restrictions.
The government has hailed its mass vaccination efforts for helping the country get a firm grasp on the disease that has claimed almost 128,000 lives on British soil.
While the government said it was allowing people to make “informed decisions” as to whether to social distance around loved ones, the prime minister urged people to think carefully of the risks before embracing.
“Remember that close contact such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease,” he said.
Other officials also urged caution amid concerns about variants. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the variant of the virus first identified in India, known as B.1.617.2, has the ability to “spread like wildfire” among those who aren’t yet vaccinated.
While many across England reacted with joy at the news that restrictions had been eased further, scientific experts have expressed concern that the country may be moving too fast back to normality — which they say could have dire consequences amid growing cases of the B.1.617.2 variant.
Members of Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies say that socializing inside houses and pubs could spark fresh outbreaks as the virus is more transmissible inside.
“Stay outside as much as you can,” the experts warned the public. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail warned readers, “Don’t blow it, Britain.”
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