Covid-19 Live Updates: Travel Restrictions, Booster Shots and Vaccines


ImageTravelers exiting a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport in May.
Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions starting in November on those from abroad who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, ending a travel ban implemented to limit the spread of disease and reopening the United States to relatives who have been separated from families and employees from businesses.

Foreign travelers who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated before boarding a flight will be able to fly to the United States starting in “early November,” Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, said Monday.

“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange ideas and culture,” Mr. Zients said. “That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”

The administration has restricted travel for foreigners looking to fly to the United States from a group of European countries, Iran and China for more than a year. Fully vaccinated travelers will also need to show proof of a negative test for the coronavirus within three days before coming to the United States, Mr. Zients said.

Unvaccinated Americans overseas aiming to travel home will have to clear stricter testing requirements. They will need to test negative for the coronavirus one day before traveling to the United States and will need to be tested again after arriving, Mr. Zients said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also soon issue an order directing airlines to collect phone numbers and email addresses of travelers for a new contact-tracing system. Authorities will then follow up with the travelers after arrival to ask whether they are experiencing symptoms of the virus.

The administration’s action came on the eve of a visit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was expected to press Mr. Biden to lift the ban. British officials had hoped the president would announce a relaxation of restrictions when he came to Cornwall, England, in June for the Group of 7 summit meeting and were disappointed when he did not. Their frustration has only deepened since then.

British officials note that the United States had not imposed a similar ban on people from Caribbean nations, which had a higher rate of infection than Britain, or from Argentina, which had lower percentage of its population vaccinated. About 82 percent of people in Britain above the age of 16 have had two shots.

The European Union and Britain both allowed fully vaccinated people from the United States to travel without quarantining and officials there were annoyed when the United States did not reciprocate.

The ban, European officials point out, has kept families separated since March 2020, when former President Donald J. Trump first announced it, as the coronavirus was erupting across Europe. European countries have weathered a third wave of infections propelled by the Delta variant. But in several countries, including Britain, infection rates have begun to level off and even decline.

Stephen Castle contributed reporting from London.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

New York City will introduce weekly coronavirus testing at all public schools starting next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday, as officials try to strengthen safety protocols.

The city’s powerful teachers’ union called on Sunday for the city to conduct weekly surveillance testing in schools, instead of the current policy of testing students every other week.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, also announced a change to quarantine rules: Unvaccinated students will not have to quarantine if they had close contact with a student who tested positive — if they were masked and three feet apart. The announcement signaled a relaxing of the previous quarantine rules, which required unvaccinated close contacts of a student who tested positive to quarantine for 10 days.

The new rules are set to take effect on Sept. 27, the same day that a vaccine mandate for teachers and other school staff is expected to go into effect.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, wrote a letter to Mr. de Blasio on Sunday calling on the city to strengthen its testing policy.

“While so far our public schools have successfully reopened, I am concerned that this year’s reduced frequency of Covid testing means that thousands of children will spend days in classrooms without the early warning system that last year made our schools among the safest places in the community,” Mr. Mulgrew said in the letter.

Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration is likely to authorize Pfizer booster shots this week for many Americans at high risk of falling seriously ill from the coronavirus, now that a key advisory committee has voted to recommend the measure.

On Friday, a panel of experts endorsed offering Pfizer booster shots for ages 65 and older, and people 16 and over who are at high risk of getting severe Covid-19 or who work in settings that make them more likely to get infected.

The agency, which often follows the committee’s advice but is not required to, is expected to decide early this week. An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday to discuss booster shots before that agency — which sets vaccine policy — issues its recommendations.

The decision on Pfizer booster shots is just one of a series of key questions that the agency is expected to consider in coming weeks. Officials have said they expect to soon have data on whether boosters are needed for people who got the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Also expected this fall is a decision on a shot for children ages 5 to 11, an intensely watched issue given that about 48 million children are not yet eligible for a vaccine, but have largely returned to classrooms. On Monday, Pfizer said that a trial showed that its vaccine produced a strong immune response in children ages 5 to 11, and officials have said they expect results from Moderna’s children’s trial later this fall.

Interviewed on Sunday-morning news shows, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor and an adviser to President Biden, asked Americans to be patient and not to get a booster shot until they were eligible. That includes people 65 and over who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“We’re working on that right now to get the data to the F.D.A., so they can examine it and make a determination about the boosters for those people,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’re not being left behind by any means.”

Last month, the Biden administration proposed a plan that would have made all vaccinated Americans eligible for a booster shot eight months after their second shot, or their first in the case of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

But the expert panel concluded that boosters were not necessary for most younger, healthier Americans, unless their jobs put them at special risk for infection.

Jobs in that category would include health care workers, emergency responders and teachers, according to Dr. Peter Marks, who oversees the F.D.A.’s vaccine division.

Whatever the F.D.A. decides about boosters this week, Dr. Fauci predicted it will likely be revised as more data comes in. “In real time, more and more data are accumulating,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “There will be a continual re-examination of that data, and potential modification of recommendations.”

Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, echoed those remarks on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” saying that the category of who is eligible for an extra shot was likely to be expanded in the “coming weeks.”

F.D.A. officials will also spend the coming weeks and months evaluating vaccines for children under 12. On Sunday on ABC, Dr. Fauci said a decision on children’s vaccines would certainly come “this fall,” adding, “sometime in the mid- to late fall, we will be seeing enough data from the children from 11 down to 5 to be able to make a decision to vaccinate them.” A decision on vaccines for children under 5 would come after that.

The flurry of decisions comes as public health officials hope to avoid a repeat of last fall and winter, when a surge of infections led to peak levels of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

The extremely transmissible Delta variant now accounts for more than 99 percent of cases tracked in the country, according to the C.D.C. While hospitalizations and new cases have started to trend slowly downward, deaths have topped an average of 2,000 a day for the first time since March 1, according to a New York Times database. Vaccinations have been shown to protect against severe illness brought on by the variant.

Dr. Fauci said on Sunday that the key to avoiding a fall and winter surge would be encouraging adults who were eligible but still unvaccinated to change their mind.

“I believe if we get that overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated as we enter into the fall and winter, we can have good control over this and not have a really bad winter at all,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

India’s health minister said on Monday that the country would resume exports of Covid-19 vaccines, five months after halting shipments during its own devastating wave of infections.

The health minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, said that exports would resume starting next month, and that the vaccines would help fulfill India’s commitment to Covax, the United Nations-backed vaccine sharing initiative.

He said that India would produce more than 300 million vaccine doses in October and a total of at least a billion over the final three months of 2021.

“We will help the world and also fulfill our commitment toward Covax,” Mr. Mandaviya said.

The minister did not specify which vaccines India would supply to Covax, or how many doses. Before halting exports in April, the country exported 66.4 million doses, a combination of commercial sales, grants and shipments to Covax, which is designed mainly to help low- and middle- income countries.

India’s decision comes as its domestic vaccination campaign has picked up after a slow start. The government says it expects to finish inoculating all 944 million adults in the country by December.

So far, 61 percent of adults in India have received their first dose, according to government data. The two main vaccines in use are Covishield, the local name for the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, produced by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.

The decision on exports comes days before India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in the United States, where he is scheduled to participate in a summit including President Biden and the leaders of Australia and Japan, and to speak at the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly. The global vaccination effort is expected to be a focus of both meetings, and the Biden administration had been trying to persuade Mr. Modi to resume exports.

India was initially expected to be the main vaccine supplier for the Covax initiative, and its export ban came as a heavy blow to the program, which is so far behind schedule that fewer than 10 percent of people in poor countries are vaccinated.

India began to expand vaccine coverage to all adults in the country in May, after a devastating second wave of infections that overburdened its health care infrastructure, leaving thousands dead and many struggling to find hospital beds. The country’s total caseload stood on Monday about 318,000, the lowest in approximately six months, according to official data.

Credit…Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand will ease coronavirus restrictions in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday, ending nearly five weeks of the strictest lockdown in the country’s most populous city.

Some businesses, including restaurants and cafes, will be allowed to reopen for takeout and delivery beginning Tuesday night, and as many as 10 people will be permitted to gather in the city for ceremonies including funerals and weddings, Ms. Ardern told reporters. In New Zealand’s four-tier system of Covid rules, Auckland will now be at Level 3, the second most restrictive. The rest of the country has been under Level 2 for the past two weeks.

The measures have frustrated residents and shuttered businesses, as the country remained one of the few committed to completely eliminating the Delta variant of the coronavirus. There were 22 new cases reported on Monday, down from a peak of 83 during this outbreak. New Zealand began slowly relaxing some of the world’s strictest antivirus measures earlier this month, aiming to reopen borders to foreigners some time next year.

“We keep doing the job of stamping out Covid,” Ms. Ardern said. “We are not stepping out of Level 4 because the job is done. Nor are we moving because we don’t think we can achieve the goal of stamping out Covid-19.”

Other nations in the Asia Pacific region have begun to reopen despite rising numbers of new cases, acknowledging that strategies that aim to eliminate the virus may be untenable. Australian authorities have said that country will begin to reopen once 70 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated. Singapore has loosened quarantine rules for some travelers. In Vietnam, businesses are reopening, although cases are still high.

Ms. Ardern insisted that the change in rules for Auckland should be considered a cautious step. Across the rest of New Zealand, restrictions at indoor gatherings, including restaurants and bars, will be further eased, allowing 100 people to gather. The new restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks, and will be reassessed on Oct. 4.

Credit…Brian Inganga/Associated Press

At a virtual summit on Wednesday, while the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting is underway, President Biden will urge other vaccine-producing countries to balance their domestic needs with a renewed focus on manufacturing and distributing doses to poor nations in desperate need of them.

The push, which White House officials say seeks to inject urgency into vaccine diplomacy, will test Mr. Biden’s doctrine of furthering American interests by building global coalitions. Covax, the United Nations-backed vaccine program, is so far behind schedule that not even 10 percent of the population in poor nations is fully vaccinated, experts said. And the landscape is even more challenging now than when Covax was created in April 2020.

Some nations in Asia have imposed tariffs and other trade restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines, slowing their delivery. India, home to the world’s largest vaccine maker, banned coronavirus vaccine exports. And an F.D.A. panel on Friday recommended Pfizer booster shots for those over 65 or at high risk of severe Covid, meaning that vaccine doses that could have gone to low and lower-middle income countries would remain in the United States.

Officials said Wednesday’s summit would be the largest gathering of heads of state to address the coronavirus crisis. It aims to encourage pharmaceutical makers, philanthropists and nongovernmental organizations to work together toward vaccinating 70 percent of the world’s population by the time the U.N. General Assembly meets in September 2022, according to a draft document the White House sent to the summit participants.

Experts estimate that 11 billion doses are necessary to achieve widespread global immunity. The United States has pledged to donate more than 600 million — more than any other nation — and the Biden administration has taken steps to expand vaccine manufacturing in the United States, India and South Africa. The 27-nation European Union aims to export 700 million doses by the end of the year.

But on the heels of the United States’ calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan last month that drew condemnation from allies and adversaries alike, the effort to rally world leaders will be closely watched by public health experts and advocates who say Mr. Biden is not living up to his pledges to make the United States the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world.

Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective in young children ages 5 to 11, the companies announced early on Monday. The news should help ease months of anxiety among parents and teachers about when children, and their close contacts, might be shielded from the coronavirus.

The need is urgent: Children now account for more than one in five new cases, and the highly contagious Delta variant has sent more children into hospitals and intensive care units in the past few weeks than at any other time in the pandemic.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for authorization to use the vaccine for ages 5 to 11. If the regulatory review goes as smoothly as it did for older children and adults, millions of elementary school students could be inoculated before Halloween.

Trial results for children younger than 5 are not expected until the fourth quarter of this year at the earliest, according to Dr. Bill Gruber, a senior vice president at Pfizer and a pediatrician.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced the results in a statement that did not include detailed data from the trial. The findings have not yet been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal.

But the new results dovetail with those seen in older children and in adults, experts said.

“There’s going to be a huge number of parents who are going to heave a big sigh of relief when they hear this,” said Dr. Kristin Oliver, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “We’ve been waiting for these kids to be protected.”

Children have a much lower risk of Covid-19 than adults, even when exposed to the Delta variant. Still, some small number of those infected develop a life-threatening condition called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Others may have lingering symptoms for months.

Nearly 30,000 children were hospitalized for Covid in August; the least vaccinated states reported the highest rates. At Seattle Children’s hospital, about half of the children who are admitted for Covid are older than 12, according to Dr. Danielle Zerr, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the hospital.

“I’ve been dismayed at the fact that the sickest children in our hospital with acute Covid-19 or MIS-C are children who could have been vaccinated,” Dr. Zerr said.



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