Covid News: Live Updates – The New York Times
Australia will lift its bans on international travel in November under a plan that Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined on Friday. It is the second time in 10 days that officials have accelerated the country’s plans to ease travel restrictions.
Until last month, Australia was poised to keep its borders closed into 2022. The tourism minister, Dan Tehan, then said that they could reopen by Christmas.
“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” Mr. Morrison said, announcing that he would begin to reverse a policy that since March 2020 has only allowed some Australians and others to enter the country and blocked all outbound trips except for essential work.
Australia’s tough Covid restrictions, including its strict border rules and local lockdowns, have been praised for helping to contain infections, but have also separated families.
As vaccinations speed up, Mr. Morrison is urging state leaders to ease lockdown measures that have challenged the economy and subjected over half the population to strict lockdown orders for months.
The moves come amid a recent surge of infections nationwide. In Victoria, the state that includes Melbourne, the authorities reported a record 1,438 daily cases on Thursday, a third of which were traced to illegal social gatherings, including parties for last weekend’s Grand Final, Australia’s Super Bowl.
Starting next month, various regions will reopen at different times according to their vaccination rates. States and territories will be able to reopen to international travel once they fully vaccinate 80 percent of their eligible residents.
New South Wales, which includes Sydney, is on track to be the first region to cross the 80-percent threshold and could become the first test for Mr. Morrison’s push to allow Australians to travel internationally. The state has fully vaccinated about 65.2 percent of its eligible residents, according to data released by the Australian officials.
About 44 percent of Australia’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Once the borders start to open, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will still need to quarantine at home for seven days upon entry. Foreign tourists will not immediately be able to visit, but the government said it was working toward allowing them to come in.
A British clinical trial found no sign of danger in getting a flu shot and a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at the same time, results that support the advice of U.S. health authorities and are welcome news for strained health care workers as flu season hits.
In the study, doctors recruited 679 people from April to June across Britain. At the time, all of the volunteers had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, either from AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech, the two vaccines first authorized there.
When the volunteers returned for a second vaccine dose, the researchers also gave half of them a flu shot and the other half a placebo. The researchers then monitored the volunteers for side effects, such as aches and fevers.
“There are no safety concerns raised in this trial,” the authors wrote in their preliminary report, which was posted online on Thursday and has not yet been published in a scientific journal.
In addition to looking at the safety of the vaccines, the researchers also collected blood to measure antibodies to the coronavirus. Some combinations of different vaccine brands led to a slightly lower level of antibodies, and a slightly higher level in other cases. But the researchers did not suspect that any combination of a flu and Covid vaccine would result in a lower effectiveness than each given individually.
The researchers did not speculate about what immune responses people might experience if they get a flu shot at the same time as a third Covid-19 shot, which many people may be doing as countries authorize boosters.
A new survey found that more parents were willing to vaccinate their children in mid-September than were willing to do so in July, a shift that coincided with schools reopening in the middle of a wave of hospitalizations and deaths caused by the highly contagious Delta.
The latest monthly survey about vaccine attitudes by the Kaiser Family Foundation also found that about one in four U.S. parents reported that a child of theirs had to quarantine at home because of a possible exposure to Covid-19 since the beginning of the school year.
That is even as two-thirds of parents say they feel that their school is taking appropriate measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The report suggests that many parents are conflicted about which courses of action will keep their children both healthy and educated.
The survey found that 58 percent of parents say that schools should have comprehensive mask requirements, 35 percent say there should be no mask mandates at all, and 4 percent believe that only unvaccinated students and staff members should be compelled to wear masks, according to the report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all students, teachers and staff members in elementary and secondary schools wear masks.
Kaiser conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,519 people from Sept. 13-22 — a time of surging Covid deaths — and was mostly completed before Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine was safe and effective for children age 5 to 11. No vaccine is currently authorized in the United States for children under 12. Of all the people who were polled, 414 349 identified themselves as parents of children 17 or younger, and were included in the analysis of parents’ responses.
The Pfizer vaccine, already in use for older children and adults, was authorized in mid-May for children age 12 to 15, and the report suggests that over time, parents of children in that age group and older are slowly becoming more comfortable with it. By the time of the September interviews, 48 percent said that their children age 12 to 17 had gotten at least one dose, up from 41 percent in July. According to federal data, 57 percent of that age group has received at least one dose.
And perhaps prompted by a constellation of factors, including rising numbers of children hospitalized because of the Delta variant as well as seeing older vaccinated children remain healthy, parents of children age 5 to 11 increasingly report favoring the vaccine as well. Thirty-four percent of those parents said they would have their children vaccinated as soon as possible, up from 26 percent in July.
Of note, the share of parents of children age 5 to 17 who said they would “definitely not” vaccinate their children has scarcely budged in months. In April, 22 percent of parents of the older cohort, age 12 to 17, said they would definitely not have their children get shots; in September, 21 percent reported holding the same view. Parents of younger children are similarly adamant: In July, 25 percent were in the “definitely not” position, and in September, 24 percent did.
There is a high risk of a surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths in European countries with insufficient vaccination coverage if they relax Covid-19 restrictions in the next few weeks, according to a new report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Just over 62 percent of the total population of the European Union is fully vaccinated, and only three of its 27 member countries have fully inoculated more than 75 percent of their residents, according to the agency’s data.
That level of vaccine coverage is not enough to forestall the virus from spreading when Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed, the agency warned, especially now that the highly contagious Delta variant is causing most new reported coronavirus cases on the continent.
“Countries should continuously strive to increase their vaccination coverage in all eligible age groups, regardless of current vaccination coverage levels,” said Andrea Ammon, the agency’s director.
Anticipating surges of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths if precautions are relaxed soon, Ms. Ammon said it might be necessary to keep Covid-19 restrictions in place until the end of November.
The report comes at a time when most children in the European Union have resumed attending school in person, with no coronavirus vaccine authorized yet for use in children under 12. For this reason, the report said that it was especially important for the education system to implement preventive measures. The European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, said last week that it would decide by early November whether to approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children under 12.
As a whole, the European Union is well advanced with vaccination efforts; more than 73 percent of the bloc’s adults are fully vaccinated. But there are considerable differences from country to country.
Eastern nations like Romania and Bulgaria are far behind wealthier countries to the west, putting a large portion of the bloc’s population at greater risk. The agency’s report said it was crucial for those countries to increase their vaccination rates, by understanding why residents are not getting vaccinated and by adopting policies tailored to reach groups with particularly low vaccination uptake.
The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, apologized on Thursday for defending people who chose to wear a yellow Star of David at a town hall meeting to show their opposition to a proposed city mask ordinance.
The mayor, Dave Bronson, a Republican, said in a statement, “We should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate.”
“I want to apologize for any perception that my statements support or compare what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany,” the statement read. “I should have chosen my words more carefully, and if I offended anyone, I am truly sorry.”
The apology came a day after a contentious debate at a town hall meeting with the Anchorage Assembly about a proposal to require that face coverings be worn indoors and at large outdoor events, regardless of vaccination status, to combat a surge in coronavirus infections throughout the state.
Several community members at the meeting who opposed the ordinance wore yellow Stars of David, a reference to patches that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. Across the United States and around the world, some conservatives, libertarians and others opposed to mask and vaccine mandates have been using yellow stars and other Holocaust imagery, drawing condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations. The imagery has shown up at protests in Staten Island and Kansas City, as well as in England, France and Germany. One Republican lawmaker from Washington State issued an apology after wearing the star on his shirt at a protest in June.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that at the meeting, Mayor Bronson, who opposes the mask ordinance, seemed to defend the use of the star imagery.
“We’ve referenced the Star of David quite a bit here tonight, but there was a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was, ‘Never again,’” the mayor said, according to the Daily News. “That’s an ethos. And that’s what that star really means is, ‘We will not forget, this will never happen again.’ And I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them.”
The Anti-Defamation League called his comments “disturbing and offensive.”
Alaska, once a leader in vaccinations, has seen hospitals struggle amid a marked increase in cases in recent months, with the state averaging 125 new cases a day for every 100,000 people, more than any other in the nation. Despite the surge and the strain on hospitals, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, said introducing that regulations to stop the surge were unnecessary.