South Korea’s economic growth slowed in the third quarter as strong exports were offset by weak domestic consumption due to the country’s toughest Covid-19 restrictions, clouding the Bank of Korea’s prospect for another rate increase this year.
Gross domestic product rose 0.3 per cent in the July-September period, decelerating from 0.8 per cent in the second quarter and missing a 0.6 per cent growth forecast in a Reuters survey.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy expanded 4 per cent from a year earlier, slowing sharply from 6 per cent growth in the second quarter, which was the fastest in a decade.
Weaker quarterly growth was widely expected as health authorities struggled to contain the country’s worst virus outbreak after daily infections surged above 1,000 from July. Exports rose 1.5 per cent in the third quarter from the previous quarter while private consumption fell 0.3 per cent.
The BoK told an online seminar on Monday that consumption was expected to pick up in the current quarter, helped by rising vaccinations and a transition to “living with Covid-19.” More than 70 per cent of the country’s 51m population has been fully vaccinated.
The bank has flagged China’s energy crunch and supply chain bottlenecks as downside risks for the Korean economy although exports remain robust. Overseas shipments jumped 36.1 per cent in the first 20 days of October from a year earlier, according to customs data.
BoK governor Lee Ju-yeol has said the central bank will consider another rate hike in November after South Korea became the first major Asian economy in August to tighten monetary policy since the pandemic hit.
The BoK is widely expected to increase its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to one per cent on November 25 to ease growing financial risks amid rising inflation and household debt.
“While Korea’s recovery lost some momentum last quarter as the virus weighed on growth, the economy should pick up pace again this quarter as high vaccination levels allow the rolling back of containment measures,” Alex Holmes, Asia economist at Capital Economics, said in a report. “[But] the BoK is unlikely to be deterred from tightening further by today’s data.”
The World Health Organization on Thursday urged countries to do more to protect health care workers, saying that they are increasingly plagued by anxiety, burnout, illness and death on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency estimates that 115,500 health care workers around the world died of Covid-19 between January 2020 and May 2021, the middle scenario of its broader estimate of 80,000 to 180,000 deaths during that period.
Speaking at a W.H.O. briefing on Thursday, Annette Kennedy, the president of the International Council of Nurses, said that the world had entered the pandemic with a shortage of nurses and that the problem was only being worsened by the stresses of the pandemic.
“There is another crisis coming down the tracks,” she said, “and that is a shortage of health care workers.”
To combat the problem, the W.H.O. called on governments to strengthen their collection of data on Covid infections and deaths among health care workers and to accelerate the vaccination of those workers.
On average, two in five health care workers had been fully vaccinated by September, according to W.H.O. data from 119 countries, but that included less than one in 10 of health care workers in Africa and the western Pacific region. By contrast, 80 percent of health care workers in 22 mostly high-income countries had been vaccinated.
Ms. Kennedy noted a major problem that women face when working in health care settings: personal protective equipment designed by men. “And yet,” she noted, “90 percent of nurses are women. Seventy percent of all health care workers are women.”
W.H.O. leaders also highlighted inequality in the global distribution of vaccines and called on wealthy nations to lead the charge in addressing the issue.
The agency’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said it had been more than 10 months since the first vaccines were approved and that the lack of vaccinations for millions of health workers was “an indictment on the countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines.”
High- and upper-middle-income countries have administered almost half as many booster shots as the total number of doses administered in low-income countries, he said.
To meet global vaccination goals, Dr. Tedros said, “the barrier is not production. The barriers are politics and profit.”
Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister who is now the W.H.O.’s ambassador for global health financing, said the goal of vaccinating 40 percent of adults around the world by December, which was put forward last month at the Global Covid-19 Summit led by President Biden, had “no chance” of being met without action from wealthy countries.
Mr. Brown said 240 million vaccine doses were lying unused in the West, citing figures from Airfinity, a data research agency. He added that the number of unused doses was projected to reach 600 million by the end of December. A shortfall of 500 million doses in the global South could be alleviated by flying vaccine stockpiles to countries in need and by switching delivery contracts. Up to 100 million doses could pass their use-by dates and end up being destroyed, he said.
Ahead of the Group of 20 summit that starts in Rome on Oct. 30, Western leaders should make a plan to transfer vaccines, Mr. Brown said, and other G20 nations could follow suit.
In a sweeping victory for the Biden administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for tens of millions of Americans.
The decision follows an agency endorsement last month of booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and opens the door for many Americans to seek out a booster shot as early as Friday.
The coronavirus vaccines “are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the C.D.C. said in a statement on Thursday night.
Her approval brings the country closer to fulfilling President Biden’s promise in August to offer boosters to all adults. The pandemic is now retreating in most parts of the country, but there are still about 75,000 new cases every day, and about 1,500 Covid deaths.
That pledge angered many experts, including some advising the Food and Drug Administration and the C.D.C., who said that scientists had not yet had a chance to determine whether boosters were actually necessary.
Studies showed that the vaccines remained very effective against severe disease and death, although their effectiveness might have waned against milder infections, particularly as the Delta variant spread across the nation this summer.
The purpose of the vaccines is to prevent illness severe enough to require medical attention, not to prevent infection, Dr. Wilbur Chen, an infectious disease physician at the University of Maryland and a member of the C.D.C. panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said during the deliberations on Thursday.
“It might be too much to ask for a vaccine, either a primary series or the booster, to prevent all forms of infections,” Dr. Chen said.
The C.D.C.’s advisers last month tried to narrow the number of Americans who should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, saying that research did not support boosters for people whose jobs exposed them to the coronavirus, as the F.D.A. had indicated.
But in a highly unusual move, Dr. Walensky overturned their decision, aligning the agency’s advice with the criteria laid out by the F.D.A.
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for millions of people who received the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, just as it did for recipients of Pfizer-BioNTech shots last month. The F.D.A. also gave the green light for people eligible for booster shots to get a dose of a different brand.
But in practice, who will get the shots and when depends greatly on the C.D.C.’s final guidance. Though the agency’s recommendations do not bind state and local officials, they hold great sway in the medical community.
On Thursday, members of the C.D.C.’s panel endorsed the so-called mix-and-match strategy, saying people fully immunized with one company’s vaccine should be allowed to receive a different vaccine for their booster shot.
Limited evidence strongly suggests that booster doses of one of the two mRNA vaccines — Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech — more effectively raise antibody levels than a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The committee advised that recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine should receive a booster shot at least two months after their first dose.
Among Americans initially immunized with an mRNA vaccine, adults over 65, adults who are 50 to 65 with certain medical conditions, and those who reside in long-term care settings should receive a single booster dose six months or longer after their second dose, the committee decided.
For adults ages 18 to 49 with certain medical conditions and adults whose jobs regularly expose them to the virus, the panel opted for softer language, saying they may choose to get a booster after considering their individual risk.
The experts emphasized that people who have received two mRNA vaccine doses or a single Johnson & Johnson dose should still consider themselves fully vaccinated. Federal health officials said they would continue to study whether those who had weak immune systems and had already received a third dose of a vaccine should go on to get a fourth dose.
Some advisers were concerned that young and healthy Americans who don’t need a booster might choose to get one anyway. Side effects are uncommon, but in younger Americans they may outweigh the potential benefits of booster doses, the scientists said.
“Those that are not at high risk should really be thoughtful about getting that dose,” said Dr. Helen Talbot, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
Booster shots in adults who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were highly effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 breakthrough infections, Pfizer announced on Thursday.
The company said that out of more than 5,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients enrolled in its study who received a booster shot, only five later developed symptomatic disease, compared with 109 people among a similar group that received a placebo instead of a booster dose.
The news arrived as an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention debates whether Americans should receive booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The company claimed the findings came from the first randomized efficacy trial of booster shots. But the results, announced in a news release, have not been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for people 65 and over, people who are at high risk of severe Covid-19, and those who are at elevated risk of exposure because of where they work or live. That decision was based on limited effectiveness data.
The new findings appear to bolster proof that booster shots are highly effective, though the trial participants were only followed for a median period of two and a half months after receiving the booster.
“These important data add to the body of evidence suggesting that a booster dose of our vaccine can help protect a broad population of people from this virus and its variants,” said Dr. Ugur Sahin, founder and chief executive of BioNTech.
The results will be shared with the F.D.A. and its European equivalent, the European Medicines Agency, as well as other international regulatory agencies, according to Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive.
The randomized controlled trial of the booster included more than 10,000 participants aged 16 and older, half of whom received a booster that contains the same amount of vaccine as each of the two primary doses, and half of whom received a placebo.
The booster was given an average of 11 months after the initial regimen, and participants were monitored for symptoms of Covid that developed between a week and 2.5 months after the booster, on average.
Stratified analyses showed the relative efficacy rate of 95.6 percent for the boosters was consistent regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity or chronic medical conditions.
Slightly more than half of the participants were between 16 and 55 years old, and just under one quarter were 65 or older. The companies said that they had not identified any new side effects or safety concerns during the trial.
An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discussed on Thursday whether Americans would be allowed to switch vaccines when choosing a Covid-19 booster shot.
The panel endorsed the so-called mix-and-match strategy — whether people fully immunized with one company’s vaccine should be allowed to switch to a different one for their booster. Limited evidence strongly suggests that booster doses of one of the two mRNA vaccines — Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech — more effectively raise antibody levels than a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the committee noted.
Below is a rundown of the science behind mixing and matching, and what the future of the strategy may hold.
Immunizations typically consist of two or more doses of the same vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine, for example, is administered in two identical shots of mRNA, separated by four weeks.
A double dose can create much more protection against a disease than a single shot. The first dose causes the immune system’s B cells to make antibodies against a pathogen. Other immune cells, called T cells, develop the ability to recognize and kill infected cells.
The second shot amplifies that response. The B cells and T cells dedicated to fighting the virus multiply into much bigger numbers. They also develop more potent attackers against the enemy.
In recent years, some vaccine researchers have experimented with a switch from one vaccine to another for the second dose.
This mixed strategy is technically known as a heterologous prime boost. One of the first authorized vaccines of this kind for any disease is the Sputnik V vaccine, developed last year by Russian researchers to prevent Covid-19. It uses two different adenoviruses to deliver coronavirus proteins, which the immune system then attacks. The first dose contains an adenovirus called Ad5, and the second contains another, called Ad26.
Different types of vaccines stimulate the immune system in different ways, and switching between two vaccines might give people the best of both worlds.
Experiments on animals have suggested that two different vaccines can build a stronger defense by strengthening different parts of the immune system. In a study published Thursday, French researchers looked at what happened when people switched from a first dose of AstraZeneca to a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech. The mixed vaccines were more effective at protecting against Covid-19 than two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech.
The mix-and-match option could also offer lifesaving flexibility in a world where Covid-19 vaccines remain in desperately short supply. If supplies were to run out before people got a second dose, they could switch to another vaccine and still get a strong immunity to the coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which are both delivered in two doses, began showing some loss of effectiveness against infection over the summer, although they both remained strong against hospitalization. (A study published last month found that the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 71 percent effective against hospitalization, compared with 88 percent for Pfizer-BioNTech and 93 percent for Moderna.)
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and updated the authorizations for all three vaccines to allow mixing and matching of booster doses.
In June, the National Institutes of Health started a study looking at what happens when fully vaccinated people switch to a new vaccine for a booster.
Dr. Kirsten Lyke of the University of Maryland School of Medicine presented the first results of the trial at a F.D.A. meeting last week. The researchers recruited people who had gotten one of the three vaccines authorized in the United States, and then gave them one of the three vaccines as a booster.
Dr. Lyke and her colleagues found that switching boosters raised the level of coronavirus antibodies, no matter which combination people got. And switching to a new booster did not produce any notable side effects.
The results for people who initially received a Johnson & Johnson vaccination were particularly striking.
Those receiving a Johnson & Johnson booster saw antibodies go up just fourfold. Switching to a Pfizer-BioNTech booster raised antibody levels by a factor of 35. A Moderna booster raised them 76-fold.
Dr. Lyke cautioned against drawing hasty conclusions from the results so far.
The researchers hope that by next month they’ll know how well the different boosters increase T cells, not just antibodies. It’s possible that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will shine in those results. “We’ll get a more rounded picture,” she said.
Over 100 Covid-19 vaccines are now in clinical trials, with even more being tested in animals.
Adam Wheatley, an immunologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, predicted that some of those new vaccines could prove to be superior boosters. Unlike vaccines made from mRNA or adenoviruses, those from companies like Sanofi-Pasteur and Novavax contain large amounts of viral proteins.
Nicolas Kressmann, a spokesman for Sanofi, said the company was far along in trials of its protein-based vaccine as a booster for people who have already received other vaccines. “Our intention is also to develop our vaccine as a universal booster, able to boost immunity regardless of the vaccination first received,” he said.
MOSCOW — Schools, shops and restaurants in the city of Moscow will close next week, municipal officials said, in one of the tightest lockdowns in the Russian capital since the pandemic began, a measure made necessary by low vaccination rates.
Russia’s coronavirus response, like that of many other countries, has seesawed between strict controls and lax enforcement of mask-wearing and vaccination rules. Russia pivoted again this week toward tighter lockdowns as reports of new cases and Covid-19 deaths climbed.
Reported cases are up 33 percent over the last two weeks, reaching more than 32,400, according to a New York Times database. And on average over the past week, 983 people a day died from the coronavirus; on some days that number exceeded 1,000. Only Russian-made coronavirus vaccines are available in the country, and many people are hesitant to get them. Russia’s vaccination rate of 33 percent of the population is lower than the global average of 37 percent and far behind the rates in most of Europe.
To combat the surge in cases and deaths, President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday declared a countrywide “nonworking” week from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, extending a regular fall holiday by several days. The restrictions the city of Moscow announced on Thursday were even stricter.
Mayor Sergey Sobyanin ordered schools and nonessential businesses to close two days sooner, starting on Oct. 28. He said in a statement posted online that the spread of the virus had gone “by the worst scenario” and that Moscow would soon be setting daily records for new cases.
Early in the pandemic, Moscow locked down more strictly than many Western countries did. Residents were prohibited from leaving their apartments other than to shop at grocery stores or pharmacies, attend medical appointments or walk their dogs.
The city also lifted many restrictions this year before other European countries did on a wide scale, a move that became a point of pride. Mr. Putin contrasted Moscow’s bustling restaurants with the continuing lockdowns abroad.
Over the summer, Moscow imposed, but then dropped, a requirement that patrons be vaccinated to eat in some restaurants or to visit bars. Enforcement of mask-wearing rules in Russia is generally lax.
Canada is rolling out a national standard for vaccination credentials that will be required for domestic and international travel, unifying the country’s patchwork of proof-of-immunization programs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.
The national proof of vaccination standard features a QR code and official logos from the federal government and the recipient’s province or territory. It will be available digitally and in hard copy.
Some of the country’s 10 provinces and its three territories, which are responsible for delivering health care, now offer digital vaccine cards with scannable QR codes and paper copies; others offer paper cards that can be digitized or displayed in phone photos. Regulations about what residents may be asked to present when they enter places like restaurants and movie theaters vary from province to province.
So far, five provinces — Saskatchewan; Ontario; Quebec; Nova Scotia; and Newfoundland and Labrador — as well as the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories have implemented what will now be the national standard, Mr. Trudeau said, adding that the remaining five provinces were expected to catch up soon.
“We will be picking up the tab for it at the federal level, to ensure that all provinces are able to do it,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters outside the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.
On Oct. 30, Canada is scheduled to begin enforcing requirements that anyone aged 12 or over who travels domestically by air, rail or cruise ship must be fully vaccinated. For a month, proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test will also be accepted, but immigration authorities warn the unvaccinated that “they risk not qualifying for travel as of Nov. 30.”
About 72 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, according to government figures.
No vaccine is yet authorized in Canada for children under 12, but Mr. Trudeau said on Thursday that Pfizer was seeking regulatory approval to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to children aged 5 to 11.
“This is great news,” he said. “I can assure you that Health Canada is going to be examining attentively that submission.”
When the authorization is granted, the Canadian government would be scheduled to receive 2.9 million pediatric doses of the vaccine, Anita Anand, the minister of public services and procurement, said in an emailed statement.
Also Thursday, the government announced it was no longer advising against non-essential travel for fully vaccinated people.
India on Thursday celebrated having administered a billion doses of Covid vaccine, drawing on local manufacturing after devastating early stumbles in its pandemic response.
Still, the country has some way to go in fully vaccinating its population: Just 30 percent of the 900 million people eligible for vaccination in India have received two doses.
The billion-dose milestone represented a turnaround in a vaccination drive that got off to a slow start, as India’s governing party prioritized elections and took up a lax attitude in tackling the virus, continuing to hold crowded political rallies and allowing religious festivals to take place even as cases surged.
“Gratitude to our doctors, nurses and all those who worked to achieve this feat,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter. More than 70 percent of adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to government figures. India is administering second doses 12 to 16 weeks after the first.
More than 450,000 people have died from Covid in India, according to government data that many experts say greatly downplays the true toll. India’s second wave earlier this year led to a shortage of medical care, oxygen, and hospital beds.
But the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, with India reporting about 15,000 new cases daily, down from a recorded peak of more than 400,000.
While other countries have struggled to secure enough doses to vaccinate their populations, India’s gigantic vaccination drive was made possible by domestic manufacturing capacity. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has supplied more than 80 percent of the doses administered in the country.
The demand for vaccines in India after the devastating second wave was such that the Serum Institute fell short on its commitments to supply vaccines to poorer nations. But as India’s situation stabilizes, vaccine exports from India — seen as crucial to global efforts — have slowly resumed.
The toll of the pandemic on India’s already slowing economy, however, will take years to reverse.
In other news from around the world:
Melbourne, Australia, came out of its 78-day lockdown late on Thursday night, after the state of Victoria passed the milestone of having 70 percent of the eligible population fully inoculated against Covid, though the state’s cases are still spiking. Melbourne has spent more time under heavy virus restrictions than any other in the world, with 262 days in lockdown since March 2020.
Bulgaria, which is struggling with record coronavirus cases and rising deaths and has the lowest vaccination rate of any E.U. nation, began requiring residents to show proof of vaccination to eat at restaurants, attend movie theaters and enter shopping malls starting Thursday. “The situation is critical,” the interim health minister, Dr. Stoycho Katsarov, said in a television interview on Wednesday. “The nation is facing tremendous hardship and most people cannot even reckon the scale of the calamity.”
Several Caribbean countries are reporting significant surges in known coronavirus cases, World Health Organization officials warned on Wednesday. Many Caribbean countries have had difficulty with vaccination efforts, because of both difficulty obtaining doses and widespread public hesitancy. Reports of new cases are up 40 percent over the last week in the Dominican Republic and Barbados, and cases are also rising in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Martin, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the Cayman Islands.
Sweden has extended its pause of Moderna’s Covid vaccine for people aged 30 and younger beyond Dec. 1, out of concern over rare heart-related side effects, the country’s public health agency said on Thursday, according to Reuters. The agency also said it would remove the recommendation for testing for those who are fully vaccinated, even if they are displaying symptoms, because the vaccine was so effective at preventing severe disease and the spread of infection.
Singapore extended social curbs for around a month on Wednesday to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported, aiming to ease pressure on the health care system amid a spike in infections that thwarted the country’s nascent reopening. The health ministry recorded 18 new Covid deaths on Wednesday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
As New York City struggles to revive its economy after the devastation wrought by the pandemic on restaurants, hotels, theaters, tours, souvenir shops and the people who keep them running, one crucial element is still missing: big-spending foreign tourists.
Before the virus, the city was flooded with record numbers of visitors from Europe, Asia and South America. In 2019, they filled hotels, restaurants, Broadway theaters and museums, spending billions and fueling a surge in jobs. While American tourists have returned, the city can’t wait until Nov. 8, when the federal government is opening the country’s borders to vaccinated visitors. New York is preparing its most aggressive campaign in an effort to lure those visitors back in time to salvage, if it can, the end-of-year holiday season.
The city’s tourism agency, NYC & Company, plans to spend $6 million in eight countries on an advertising campaign themed “It’s Time for New York City,” with billboards trumpeting the message: “New York City Is Ready for You.”
Fred Dixon, the chief executive of the agency, said it would take years to regain all the lost tourism, but that the campaign could help. “There is an enormous amount of pent-up demand, and people are anxious to travel again,” he said.
Before the pandemic, tourists spent $47 billion annually and supported more than 280,000 jobs in the city, according to official estimates. About half of that came from international visitors, even though they accounted for just 20 percent of all tourists.
This year, the city’s tourism agency forecasts visitor spending of about $24 billion, half of the 2019 total.
Many New York businesses and workers say their survival depends on the robust return of international tourists.
“We’re hoping the city tries to bring back these international tourists because they’re our lifeline,” said Mohammed Rufai, an immigrant from Ghana who sells tickets in Times Square for a double-decker bus tour of Manhattan. “We need them.”
Mr. Rufai, 45, said he could earn $200 a day before the pandemic, more than 70 percent of it from other parts of the world. He now struggles to make half that.
“You cannot ask people to ride if there are no people here to ask,” he said.
While fully vaccinated Americans can fly to hundreds of cities and towns across the country and 27 European capitals, border rules across Asia remain far stricter than in any other region in the world.
Governments in Asia have promised to reopen their borders because of the improved Covid situation and progress on vaccinations. But they are falling behind the rest of the world. Air travel in August across the region was still 10 percent of what it was two years ago, lagging the rebound in the United States. Travelers must navigate an inconsistent patchwork of border restrictions, visa rules and travel corridors — one likely to continue for months.
Vaccinated travelers from a handful of countries, including Britain and Spain, won’t have to quarantine to visit Singapore. But Ireland and Portugal, which have comparable vaccination rates, didn’t make the list. And visitors from only four places in Asia — Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan — may enter by applying for a special pass.
The list of eligible countries from which tourists can visit Indonesia is longer, with travelers from 19 countries cleared to visit Bali and the Riau Islands. People from India, which has vaccinated about a quarter of its population, are good to travel. But those from Malaysia, which has vaccinated 72 percent, or Singapore, 82 percent, aren’t yet welcome.
And the regulations in the Philippines have led to some confusion. Two tourists were sent back to Singapore after they arrived without the proper visas. They were not aware that the Philippines had only opened travel for business or humanitarian reasons.
Thailand is taking a different approach, requiring visitors not to make any stopovers. Tourists can go to the island of Phuket without quarantining if they arrive on a direct flight, and they can tour other parts of the country after seven days. Quarantine-free arrivals to the rest of Thailand will be open to vaccinated tourists from at least 10 countries starting Nov. 1, the authorities said last week.
South Korea has taken yet another path: Instead of allowing tourists to arrive from particular locations, it has allowed people of certain nationalities to visit without a visa. Tourists of one of 49 nationalities may apply for permission to visit.
But a separate list, based on where travelers arrive from, governs who has to undergo two weeks of quarantine on arrival in South Korea; the authorities are adding five countries to the list of those from which fully vaccinated travelers will not have to quarantine starting next month.
Fully vaccinated people flying in from Malawi, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zambia and Chile will not be required to isolate for two weeks starting in November. Visitors from 16 nations will still need to quarantine, down from 20 in October.
South Korea also relaxed some social distancing regulations on Monday, after several months in which they have been at the highest level in the capital.
Most other countries in the region, including China and Japan, still require visas for vaccinated foreign travelers. Tourists have yet to get approval to enter.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Israeli health officials announced a plan on Thursday to allow vaccinated tourists to enter the country starting Nov. 1, the first time the country will open its borders to tourism since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since May, Israel has allowed entry only to immediate relatives of Israelis who are vaccinated or have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection, provided they obtain approval from the government. The new plan, which still requires official government approval, comes at a time when infection rates in Israel are steadily declining after a fourth wave.
The country, which had one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives but has now been surpassed by more than 30 countries, is currently leading in booster shot distribution, with some 3.8 million of its 8.8 million people having received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Israelis lifted domestic restrictions and largely returned to normal in May.
According to the office of the prime minister, tourists who have been fully vaccinated with most internationally recognized vaccines, as well as those who have recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months, will be allowed to enter the country, unless they are from “red” countries with severe outbreaks.
Tourists qualified to enter the country can receive a digital Green Pass, allowing them to enter restaurants, cafes, bars and other indoor places in Israel.
The plan will not allow those vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which is not approved by the World Health Organization, to enter the country yet. Mr. Bennett is mulling postponing their entry until Dec. 1.
The plan came a day before Mr. Bennett was scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
The National Institutes of Health said on Wednesday that a nonprofit group under fire from some congressional Republicans for its research collaborations in China had failed to promptly report findings from studies on how well bat coronaviruses grow in mice.
In a letter to Representative James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, the N.I.H. said that the group, EcoHealth Alliance, had five days to submit all unpublished data from work conducted under a multiyear grant it was given in 2014 for the research. The organization’s grant was canceled in 2020 under President Trump’s administration during his feud with China over the origins of the coronavirus.
In recent months, N.I.H. officials have rejected claims — sometimes in heated exchanges with congressional Republicans — that coronaviruses studied with federal funding might have unleashed the pandemic. Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the N.I.H., released a statement Wednesday night reiterating that rebuttal.
“Naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the N.I.H. grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in the statement. “Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.”
EcoHealth Alliance has come under scrutiny because of its collaboration on coronavirus research with researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is situated in the city where the pandemic began.
Robert Kessler, a spokesman for the group, said on Thursday that EcoHealth Alliance was trying to resolve what it described as a “misconception” about its findings with the N.I.H. He said that the group had reported data from its studies “as soon as we were made aware” in April 2018, and that the agency had reviewed the data and never indicated that further reviews were needed.
Some scientists have argued that it’s possible SARS-CoV-2 was the result of genetic engineering experiments or simply escaped from a lab in an accident. But direct evidence for those theories has yet to emerge. Others have deemed those scenarios unlikely, pointing instead to many lines of evidence suggesting that people acquired the coronavirus in a natural spillover from bats or an intermediate mammal host.
The controversy has drawn scrutiny to the experiments that EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology carried out with funding from the N.I.H.
As Australia’s vaccination rate soars, local restrictions for COVID-affected areas are easing and so, too, are some state border restrictions.
From earlier this week, travel became possible from all areas of New South Wales to Victoria, with vaccinated people not even needing to get a test before entering the community.
However, if you’re confused by the mishmash of border rules around the states and territories, we’ve compiled a guide of who can enter each state and territory.
Keep in mind that this article sets out who can get in, so if you’re planning a return trip be sure to check your home state or territory as well as your destination, to make sure you don’t have to quarantine in either direction.
These rules are only a guide and might not fit your circumstances if, for instance, you’re a close contact of a potentially infectious person.
Pick your destination:
Who can travel to NSW?
Most of the country is now able to travel to New South Wales without restriction, however all jurisdictions have rules in place for people who’ve been in the state.
The only state that NSW restricts entry from is Victoria, which has been listed as an affected area.
Anyone entering NSW from Victoria has to fill out a declaration form and follow stay-at-home rules for 14 days since they left Victoria.
They are still allowed to leave home for some restricted reasons, such as obtaining food and services, travelling for work or education if you can’t do it from home, medical care, getting vaccinated and exercising.
Exemptions apply for residents of some border communities.
Who can travel to Victoria?
People currently in Queensland, SA, WA, Tasmania and the NT are all permitted to travel to Victoria, however those states also have rules in place for people coming back from the garden state.
Victoria has designated the ACT and the Greater Sydney area of NSW as Orange Zones.
That means fully vaccinated people who have been in those areas in the past 14 days are are allowed to enter with a permit from Service Victoria and go about their business (following all local restrictions, of course).
People who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to get a test and isolate until a negative result is returned.
People from parts of NSW outside Greater Sydney are able to enter Victoria without restriction if they have a border pass.
Who can travel to the ACT?
The ACT has closed its border to all of Victoria and much of NSW, outside of surrounding postcode areas in the south-eastern corner of the state.
People who’ve been in Victoria or non-exempted parts of NSW in the 14 days prior to entering must complete an exemption form and quarantine upon their arrival in the ACT.
Non-residents need an exemption before arriving.
The ACT has designated “approved border postcodes” in southern NSW, which allows travel into and out of those areas without quarantine.
From November 1, ACT residents will be able to visit Sydney and the rest of NSW without having to quarantine on their return.
Who can travel to Queensland?
Queensland lists NSW, Victoria and the ACT as COVID-19 hotspots, obstructing travel from the southeastern corner of mainland Australia.
There are different circumstances in place for border communities in northern NSW.
People coming from a hotspot area are not allowed to enter Queensland unless they’re a resident, relocating or have an exemption.
Anyone allowed in must quarantine for 14 days.
People from the rest of Australia are able to enter Queensland freely, provided they complete a Queensland entry pass.
The Queensland government plans to allow all fully vaccinated domestic travellers to enter the state without quarantine by December 17.
Who can travel to WA?
Right now, people in Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory can travel to WA with a G2G pass and not have to quarantine.
From Friday, Queensland was set to join those states classified “very low risk”, the only classification that allows interstate travellers to enter WA without quarantine.
But that plan has been dumped following a single case of COVID-19 on the Gold Coast, meaning Queensland will remain classified as “low risk” and quarantine is still required.
The ACT is classified as medium risk, meaning people can only enter with approval, and must quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
Victoria and NSW are classified as “extreme risk”, meaning “exemptions are restricted to Commonwealth, State and specialist functions only”, and anyone allowed in must enter hotel quarantine.
Who can travel to SA?
People from the NT, Queensland, Tasmania and WA can enter SA without quarantine.
Travel to SA from Victoria, NSW or the ACT is not allowed, except for some exemptions, including essential travellers, SA residents returning home and people escaping domestic violence.
Exempted travellers must quarantine as directed (at home for essential travellers or as directed for other categories) and submit to a COVID-19 test on days 1, 5 and 13 of their time in quarantine.
Who can travel to Tasmania?
Tasmania is open to people from Queensland, WA, South Australia and the NT.
NSW, the ACT and Victoria have all been declared high-risk areas by Tasmania and are subject to travel restrictions.
Travel is not allowed for people who’ve been in those areas in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Tasmania, unless they area approved as an essential traveller.
People approved must undergo hotel quarantine, unless they are otherwise eligible for Tasmania’s home quarantine program.
Who can travel to the NT?
People in Queensland, Tasmania, SA and WA are all permitted to enter the NT.
NSW, Victoria and the ACT have all been declared hotspots, meaning only returning residents will be allowed in.
Travellers into the NT from those areas will be required to enter supervised quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.
Mark Ridley-Thomas was criticized in 2014 for having county-paid crews remodel his garage and in 2015 for having them wash his car two or three times weekly during a drought. That year, emails revealed a potentially questionable donation to his political action committee. But none of those accusations resulted in legal trouble.
“Mark Ridley-Thomas was shocked by the federal allegations leveled against him, and with good reason,” his lawyer, Michael J. Proctor, said in a statement on Thursday. “They are wrong, and we look forward to disproving them.” He added that “at no point in his career as an elected official” had Ridley-Thomas abused his position for personal gain.
Flynn’s lawyers, Vicki I. Podberesky and Brian Hennigan, said their client had devoted her entire professional life and 45 years in academia to the city’s social welfare network and “has not committed any crime.”
Ridley-Thomas, 66, and Flynn, 83, were each charged with conspiracy, bribery and honest services mail fraud and wire fraud.
The charges shake a City Hall that is already unsteady, with Mayor Eric Garcetti awaiting uncertain confirmation on his nomination to become U.S. ambassador to India and neighborhoods arguing over the redistricting of the 15 council districts.
The Council president, Nury Martinez, has threatened “appropriate action” against Ridley-Thomas. Garcetti, whose father was a Los Angeles district attorney, has said “everything should be on the table,” including the Council’s “prerogative” to suspend him. Joe Buscaino, a councilman running for mayor, called for his resignation.
Paul Krekorian, another councilman, would not go that far on Thursday, but noted that “when people are facing federal indictments, it’s very difficult for them to do their jobs.”
People who received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may be better off with a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, according to preliminary data from a federal clinical trial published on Wednesday.
That finding, along with a mixed review by the Food and Drug Administration of the case made by Johnson & Johnson for an authorization of its booster, could lead to a heated debate about how and when to offer additional shots to the 15 million Americans who have received the single-dose vaccine.
The agency’s panel of vaccine advisers will meet Thursday and Friday to vote on whether to recommend that the agency allow Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to offer booster shots.
Despite the questions raised by the new data on the strength of Johnson & Johnson’s boosters, some experts anticipated that the agency would clear the shots anyway, since the effectiveness of the one-shot vaccine is lower than that of the two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. And the broader public may also be expecting the authorizations, given the Biden administration’s push for boosters from all brands.
Once the agency authorized a booster from Pfizer-BioNTech last month, “the die was cast,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are by far the most used in the United States, with more than 170 million people in the United States fully immunized with either one or the other vaccine. When Johnson & Johnson’s was authorized in February, public health experts were eager to deploy the “one-and-done” option, particularly in communities with poor access to health care. But the shot’s popularity plummeted when the F.D.A. later paused its use to investigate rare blood clotting cases.
For those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the timing of a booster authorization — of any brand — is still uncertain. The F.D.A. panel is set to vote Friday only on whether the agency should permit a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a scenario the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own vaccine advisory committee will discuss next week. If both agencies believe an additional dose should be offered, people could seek them out as early as next week.
Whether the F.D.A. might authorize the mix-and-match approach, and how, is unclear. The strategy will be discussed at the agency panel’s meeting on Friday, but no vote will be taken. If regulators eventually believe there is enough scientific support for the approach, they would likely need to update the authorization language of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to allow for their use in people who initially received Johnson & Johnson’s.
In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, researchers organized nine groups of roughly 50 people each. Each group received one of the three authorized vaccines, followed by a booster. In three groups, volunteers received the same vaccine for a boost. In the other six, they switched to a different brand.
The researchers found that those who got a Johnson & Johnson shot followed by a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold within 15 days, whereas those who received another dose of Johnson & Johnson saw only a fourfold rise in the same period. A Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot raised antibody levels in Johnson & Johnson recipients 35-fold.
The authors cautioned about the study’s small size and noted that they did not follow the volunteers long enough to identify rare side effects.
Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting from Washington.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico starting in November for fully vaccinated travelers, reopening the doors of the United States to tourists and separated family members who have been sealed out of the country during the pandemic.
Foreign travelers who provide proof of vaccination and are looking to visit families or friends or shop in the United States will be allowed to enter, senior administration officials said on Tuesday, weeks after the administration said it would soon lift a similar sweeping restriction on foreigners traveling to the country from overseas.
The lifting of the bans will effectively mark the reopening of the United States to travelers and tourism, signaling a new phase in the recovery from the pandemic after the country closed its borders for nearly 19 months.
But the new requirements also indicate that the United States will welcome only visitors who are vaccinated. Unvaccinated travelers will continue to be banned from crossing the borders with Mexico or Canada, officials said. Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination when crossing starting in January, giving them some time to adjust to the new rules, officials said.
The travel restrictions, imposed in March 2020, only applied to “nonessential travelers” — relatives looking to visit family members, or shoppers, whom border communities relied on for profits. Politicians representing such communities have pleaded with the Biden administration to lift the restrictions to provide a reprieve for suffering businesses.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said the restrictions had cost Erie County in her state at least $660 million annually.
“This reopening will be welcome news to countless businesses, medical providers, families and loved ones that depend on travel across the northern border,” Ms. Gillibrand said.
More than half of the 20.7 million people who visited the United States from Canada in 2019 traveled by crossing the land border, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group. More than 15 million people visited the United States that year by crossing the land border with Mexico, roughly 85 percent of all of the visitors who entered legally from Mexico.
“After months of closure, the reopening of U.S. land borders to vaccinated visitors will bring a welcome surge in travel from our two top source markets of inbound travel, Canada and Mexico,” said Roger Dow, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association.
Officials did not give an exact date for the lifting of the travel restrictions. The announcement comes more than two months after Canada reopened its borders; Mexico did not close its northern border during the pandemic.
People entering the United States at the borders with Mexico or Canada will be questioned by Customs and Border Protection officers about their vaccination status before being allowed to cross. The officers will have the discretion to send travelers to secondary screenings for their documents to be checked, officials said. The administration will have limited exemptions for unvaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada, including some children.
However, President Biden will continue to use a separate border policy, implemented early in the pandemic, to turn away migrants who are seeking protection or economic opportunity — a policy that has been criticized by a top State Department official and the administration’s own medical consultants.
The decision on the land borders was made in part to coincide with the reopening to foreign air travelers, officials said. While those traveling by air will need to show both proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test to enter the United States, there will be no testing requirement for those crossing the land borders.
Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said at a news conference on Wednesday that his country’s vaccine rollout played a role in the reopening.
“The vaccination averages in Mexico, especially in the northern region, but also the rest of the country, are very high or are comparable to those in the United States,” Mr. Ebrard said. “The basis of global mobility will be vaccination.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers people fully inoculated two weeks after they receive a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s.
Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca’s, would also be considered fully vaccinated — a standard that one senior official said would probably be applied to those crossing the land border. Officials added that the C.D.C. was still discussing whether foreigners crossing from Canada or Mexico with two doses from different vaccines could enter.
Many Mexicans have received vaccines that do not have W.H.O. authorization, like Sputnik V, developed in Russia, or the CanSino vaccine from China. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Wednesday that he would press the W.H.O. to authorize them soon.
The decision to lift the restrictions on air travel has been celebrated by business leaders overseas and in the United States. Travel spending dropped nearly in half to about $600 billion in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
And businesses in places from Buffalo to San Diego to South Texas rely on tourists or those making a short visit to shop before returning home.
The Texas border city of Del Rio sees its population of 36,000 fluctuate with cross-border traffic, as workers and residents travel back and forth on a daily basis. The lifting of the restrictions was celebrated by residents like Irma G. Rocha, 55, a clerk at a gas station, Border One Stop, a few miles from the bridge.
“We are a small border town and we need the people to come from Mexico to shop,” Ms. Rocha said. “This is going to help our economy greatly. We have not had people from Mexico come shop here for more than a year.”
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, said the lifting of the restrictions would benefit communities she represents like Point Roberts, which are “almost entirely dependent on cross-border travel to sustain their economy.”
But she warned that after “months of economic calamity” inflicted largely by the border closure, more measures would be needed to ensure that the community could fully recover.
Reporting was contributed by Nicholas Fandos and Heather Murphy from New York, Edgar Sandoval from San Antonio, and Oscar Lopez and Maria Abi-Habib from Mexico City.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday named 26 scientists to a new advisory group charged with studying the origins of the coronavirus, opening another chapter of the fraught search for how the pandemic began.
The group, chosen from more than 700 applicants, includes scientists from 26 countries, a reflection of the W.H.O.’s effort to amass widespread international support for the work.
Among them are an American researcher — Dr. Inger Damon, a veteran of the country’s Ebola response who directs work on highly lethal diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and a Chinese scientist. The Chinese scientist, Dr. Yungui Yang, is the deputy director at the Beijing Institute of Genomics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government institution.
With this new group, the W.H.O. is trying to revive its study of the pandemic’s origins. That work that had become bogged down in a political rivalry between China and the United States, and concerns about scientists’ conflicts of interest, since the W.H.O. sent a previous team to China in early 2021.
The result of that visit was a joint report by the W.H.O.-chosen team and China that said a leak of the coronavirus from a lab, while possible, was “extremely unlikely,” a conclusion that the W.H.O.’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, later called premature.
Six members of that since-disbanded W.H.O. team have joined the new advisory group. The committee also includes the head of a Swiss biosafety center, an indication of W.H.O.’s efforts to ensure that a laboratory leak be considered alongside scenarios in which the virus spilled over naturally from animals to humans.
“A lab accident cannot be ruled out until there is sufficient evidence to do so and those results are openly shared,” Dr. Tedros and two top W.H.O. officials wrote in an editorial in Science outlining the advisory group’s mandate.
After a two-week public comment period that is customary before W.H.O. advisory groups are set up, the committee will begin to meet.
W.H.O. officials said the group would assess recent studies, including those describing bats harboring close relatives of the virus behind Covid-19, and advise the organization on what future studies were needed — potentially including field research in China.
China has reacted angrily to the idea that the virus may have emerged from a lab and, analysts have said, is almost certain to resist outside requests to visit research centers, bat caves or wildlife farms within its borders.
Unlike the last W.H.O. team, which was assembled specifically for the visit to China, the new committee will also have a mandate to weigh in on the emergence of any new pathogens beyond the coronavirus, giving it a permanence that the W.H.O. hopes will help insulate it from political squabbling.
At a news briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the W.H.O. Health Emergencies Program, said it was impossible to ignore obstacles like “national pride” standing in the way of hunting down the origins of the coronavirus. But he said the new advisory group was an effort to return to the scientific issues at the core of that effort.
“This is our best chance,” he said. “And it may be our last chance to understand the origins of this virus in a collegiate and collective and mutually responsible way.”
In Guatemala, shortages of syringes have slowed vaccination efforts. In Haiti, logistical and security challenges after the devastating Aug. 14 earthquake have contributed to making it the country with the lowest vaccination coverage in the world.
And across the Caribbean, countries are grappling with unequal distribution of doses and vaccine hesitancy, World Health Organization officials warned today in an online news conference.
An “important challenge that the Caribbean is facing — English-speaking countries and French- speaking countries and territories — is vaccine hesitancy,” said Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, the Covid-19 incident manager at the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the W.H.O.
“Even if some territories of the Caribbean are leading the regional effort in terms of vaccination coverage, we can say that the vaccine uptick is suboptimal in most of the Caribbean countries,” he said.
The W.H.O. has set a goal of having every country in the world vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population by the end of the year. Four of the six countries in the Americas that have yet to reach the 20 percent threshold are in the Caribbean: Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia. The other two — Nicaragua and Guatemala — are in Central America.
“Across all these countries, vaccine availability due to unequal distribution of doses has been a central challenge,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the Pan-American agency’s director.
But several of the countries are also “facing their own unique barriers,” she added, like the shortage of syringes in Guatemala.
At the same time, Jamaica has had to cope with supply delays.
Haiti, where the August earthquake killed at least 2,200 people, has fully inoculated less than 1 percent of its population.
“The sociopolitical situation in Haiti is still tense, and that has negatively impacted” vaccination efforts, said Ciro Ugarte, the Pan-American agency’s director of health emergencies.
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean receive vaccines through bilateral agreements with manufacturers as well as through the United Nations-backed Covax program and donations from countries with excess doses. The Pan-American agency has also sealed deals for countries to buy millions of vaccine doses from China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, as well as from AstraZeneca.
Although the numbers of Covid cases in much of Latin America and the Caribbean are declining, several islands in the Caribbean are seeing increases.
Barbados, for example, is reporting the highest number of infections and deaths since the pandemic started, said Dr. Etienne, the agency’s director. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla are also reporting increases in cases.
“In the eastern Caribbean, health services have been — or are still — overwhelmed by the influx of patients requiring hospitalization,” Dr. Aldighieri said. He also noted that the situation was a sharp contrast to last year, when most of the Caribbean island countries were largely able to avoid widespread transmission of the virus.
Despite vaccine hesitancy, 39 percent of the population across Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Dr. Etienne said. That is sharply higher than in Africa, where less than 5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As more vaccines start to flow to the region, though, it’s important for countries “to make the necessary preparations so these doses can be used as quickly as possible,” Dr. Etienne said.
Intensive care units are nearing capacity and health care workers are in short supply in Minnesota, as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths all reach levels not seen since vaccines became widely available.
All of the state’s counties are at high risk for community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New daily cases have risen by 29 percent in the last two weeks and hospitalizations by 17 percent, according to a New York Times database.
The state’s daily case average is at its highest level for 2021 and reached 2,932 on Monday, a dramatic increase since the summer, when it bottomed out at an average of 81 daily cases.
While a monthslong increase driven by the Delta virus variant is waning in much of the country, Minnesota is just one of several Upper Midwestern and Mountain West states where the virus is surging. Cases are up and hospitals have been overwhelmed in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, all of which have low vaccination rates. Some areas have had to ration care and send patients to distant hospitals for treatment.
The Minnesota Department of Health said the state’s surge is overwhelming hospitals, with rural and metropolitan areas equally stretched.
“Even before Covid cases started to rise in this latest surge, our hospitals were very full with patients needing care for other critical conditions,” Jan Malcolm, the state’s health commissioner, said in a news conference last week.
According to a state health department database, 96 percent of I.C.U. beds in Minnesota are in use along with 93 percent of non-intensive care beds. Although beds are almost at capacity, the state is equipped with respirators to combat the surge, Ms. Malcolm said. The bigger issue now is a shortage of medical personnel, she said.
“What’s important to understand is that this isn’t so much about the physical asset of a hospital bed or a ventilator, and those were big focuses earlier in the pandemic, but now this is really an issue of health care worker capacity,” Ms. Malcolm said. “There are actually fewer health care workers on the job today than there were last year due to the extreme stress and burnout that they have faced for over 18 months now.”
Dr. Kevin Croston, chief executive officer at North Memorial Health, one of Minnesota’s largest medical systems, said “every element of our health system is incredibly stressed.”
Both hospitals run by North Memorial — North Memorial in Robbinsdale and Maple Grove Hospital — are almost running at capacity and are experiencing staffing shortages that have reached a “critical level.”
“Staff vacancies are increasing while our customer patient volumes remain high,” Mr. Croston said. “We have rapidly escalated measures to attract and retain talent in health care and that’s adding more expense to an already stressed financial picture for all these health care systems.”
He also noted that all patients hospitalized with Covid were unvaccinated.
In Minnesota, 59 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated compared to 56 percent of the population nationally.
“With the amount of virus that’s out there and the amount of the population that is not protected by the vaccine, there’s unfortunately plenty of room for the virus to still do its harm,” Ms. Malcolm said.
President Biden said Wednesday afternoon that his administration is taking steps to untangle supply chains and clear disruptions that have threatened the holiday shopping season, including moving a key port and some large retailers toward round-the-clock operations.
Speaking from the White House, Mr. Biden said the country must “take a longer view” and invest in shoring up supply chain vulnerabilities that have been exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The remarks came as the White House sought to spotlight its efforts to address the problems in ports, factories and shipping lanes that have helped produce shortages, long delivery times and rapid price increases for food, televisions, automobiles and much more.
The resulting inflation has chilled consumer confidence and weighed on Mr. Biden’s approval ratings. On Wednesday, the Labor Department announced that the Consumer Price Index, a key reading of monthly inflation, jumped 5.4 percent in September when compared with the prior year, raising the stakes for the White House and the Federal Reserve.
Mr. Biden cheered an announcement that the Port of Los Angeles will begin operating around the clock as his administration struggles to relieve growing backlogs in the global supply chains that deliver critical goods to the United States.
“Today’s announcement has the potential to be a game-changer,” Mr. Biden said, but added that its success would depend on private retailers taking steps to more rapidly move products from ports to stores around the country.
Administration officials say that they have brokered a deal to move the Port of Los Angeles toward 24/7 operations, joining Long Beach, which is already operating around the clock, and that they are encouraging states to accelerate the licensing of more truck drivers. UPS, Walmart and FedEx will also announce they are moving to work more off-peak hours.
Mr. Biden’s team, including a supply chain task force he established earlier this year, is working to make tangible progress toward unblocking the flow of goods and helping the retail industry return to a prepandemic normal.
But it is unclear how much the White House’s efforts can realistically help. The blockages stretch up and down supply chains, from foreign harbors to American rail yards and warehouses. Companies are exacerbating the situation by rushing to obtain products and bidding up their own prices. Analysts say some of these issues may last into late next year or even 2023.
Reporters peppered Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, with questions Wednesday about lingering effects on holiday shopping, including whether she could guarantee it would not be disrupted by supply chain issues. “We cannot guarantee,” she said. “What we can do is use every lever at the federal level to reduce delays.”
Chinese authorities are rolling out third shots of coronavirus vaccines for high-risk groups in at least 10 regions, according to state media, as the country races to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of its population by the end of the year.
After a series of outbreaks of the Delta variant, Wang Huaqing, chief expert for China’s immunization program at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, recommended last month that additional shots be administered to people in frontline professions, including medical workers; people with weaker immune systems; those age 60 or older; and travelers going to countries deemed at high risk.
Chinese health officials have said that further studies were still needed to determine whether the rest of the population would benefit from getting an additional shot.
By Sunday, more than 40,000 people in Hubei, the province encompassing Wuhan where the virus first emerged, had received booster shots, according to state media reports. In the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which had a flare-up of the Delta variant last month, local health officials said that people who got the booster shot would see their government-issued health codes upgraded to reflect their strengthened immune status.
Last month, China announced that it had fully inoculated 1 billion people, or about 71 percent of its population of 1.4 billion. The country has administered 2.21 billion doses, more than twice that of India, which is ranked second for shots given, according to Our World in Data, which tracks vaccination figures.
Despite its high vaccination rate, China has shown no signs of abandoning its “zero Covid” strategy, and has instead continued to employ a mix of stringent border controls, mass testing and snap lockdowns to tame outbreaks.
On Monday, a panel of experts advising the World Health Organization recommended that an additional dose be administered to people over 60 who were inoculated with vaccines made by the Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac. The panel cited evidence from studies in Latin America that immune protection from the Chinese vaccines wanes significantly over time. While the experts also recommended additional doses of the seven W.H.O.-authorized vaccines for people with weaker immune systems, the Chinese-made shots were the only ones that were singled out for expanded use for older people in the general population.
In a nod to concerns that poorer countries are struggling to offer first doses to their populations while some wealthier countries administer boosters, the W.H.O. panel recommended that health authorities using the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines aim to fully inoculate older populations before administering third doses.
Authorities in Turkey have already been allowing people inoculated with Sinovac’s vaccine to get an additional shot of the Pfizer vaccine to help facilitate travel to countries where the Chinese vaccines have not been approved.
More than 1 billion Chinese-made doses have been administered in over 90 countries outside China, though outbreaks in several countries over the summer have raised questions about the efficacy of the shots at preventing the spread of the virus, especially new variants.
The concerns have not slowed China’s efforts to engage in vaccine diplomacy. Last month, the Pan American Health Organization struck a deal with Sinovac to buy millions of Covid-19 vaccines for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where access to vaccines has been highly uneven.
The Anchorage Assembly approved a mask mandate on Tuesday after two weeks of heated public discussion amid a Covid outbreak that has forced doctors to ration life-saving care in Alaska’s largest city.
The vote was 9-1, concluding a tense, often chaotic debate that included doctors being heckled by members of the public, an armed man being arrested, and protesters sparking outrage by turning up to meetings wearing Stars of David — an attempt to liken mask requirements to the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust.
“The time to act is now,” Meg Zaletel, an assembly member, said on Tuesday night while pressing for a vote. One person in the crowd shouted objections, leading security officers to intervene.
The order requires everyone to wear a mask or face covering in public indoor spaces, with limited exemptions for younger children and for religious or medical reasons.
Alaska has recorded the highest coronavirus case numbers per person in the United States in recent weeks. Although new infections have fallen from a late September high, the surge has overwhelmed hospitals, especially in Anchorage, where many of the state’s patients come for critical needs.
Heart surgeries have been canceled to preserve space in hospitals. One facility rationed oxygen. And doctors have been forced to implement “crisis standards of care,” prioritizing some critical patients over others because of the lack of resources.
One patient who needed emergency surgery was not attended to; a second was taken off of dialysis because another needed it. In both cases, the patients who received substandard care died.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has resisted a statewide mask mandate, but assembly members in Anchorage — home to about 40 percent of the state’s population — moved forward. Doctors had gone to the assembly meetings in recent weeks to detail the crisis they have been facing, but they faced blowback from community members. One man followed doctors out of a meeting, calling them liars.
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who has opposed a mask requirement, vowed to veto the mandate, although it appears the assembly has the votes to override it.
About 51 percent of Alaska’s population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database, lower than the national figure of 57 percent.