Mithun Chakraborty, a Bengali actor famous for movies like “Disco Dancer” and “Cobra.”

“I am a pure cobra,” Mr. Chakraborty told one recent rally, as B.J.P. leaders behind him applauded. “One bite, and you will be at the cremation ground!”

Ms. Banerjee’s iron grip over state politics looms over the vote. The B.J.P. is trying to ride anti-incumbent sentiment fueled by her party’s corruption scandals and the way its members have used extortion and violence to keep power.

But Mr. Adhikari and many of the B.J.P.’s local candidates for the state’s 294-seat local assembly were themselves, until recently, members of her party. After decades of heavy-handedness by the Communists and Ms. Banerjee, Mr. Modi’s party began actively expanding in West Bengal only after he became prime minister in 2014, though its infrastructure is still lacking. One joke in the state holds that Trinamool will win a third term even if the B.J.P. prevails.

Ms. Banerjee’s success could depend on convincing voters that her party’s bad apples now work for the B.J.P. The B.J.P.’s dependence on Trinamool defectors has also led to a revolt among local Modi supporters who saw their presence as an insult to their years of work in the face of intimidation by the same people now chosen to represent them.

One defector, an 89-year-old assembly member named Rabindranath Bhattacharya, said he had switched parties only because Ms. Banerjee didn’t nominate him to serve a fifth term.

“I changed my party, but I am not changed,” Mr. Bhattacharya said in an interview at his house. Trinamool flags still hung from the trees and gate.

His candidacy moved hundreds of B.J.P. workers and supporters to pressure Mr. Bhattacharya to step aside. They went on a hunger strike, painted over party signs and ransacked the home of the local B.J.P. chief.

“We started here when no one dared speak as a B.J.P. member,” said Gautam Modak, who has worked for the B.J.P. in the district since 2003. “He got the party ticket three days after joining the B.J.P.”

Mr. Adhikari has said he defected from Ms. Banerjee’s camp because she and her nephew and heir-apparent, Abhishek Banerjee, use other party leaders as “employees” without sharing power. Still, in recent rallies he has put greater emphasis on identity politics, ending with chants of “Jai Shree Ram!”

Voting took place on Saturday in the town of Nandigram, a lush agricultural area, and both candidates were there. At rallies, crowds energized by their moment of power over sometimes abusive politicians braved the heat to listen, cheer and support. Turnout totaled 88 percent.

Satish Prasad Jana, a 54-year-old B.J.P. supporter at Mr. Adhikari’s rally, said he mainly supported Mr. Modi. He had no dispute with Ms. Banerjee except that she couldn’t control the abuse of her party workers, and he knew that some of those same people now work for Mr. Adhikari.

“I have 90 percent faith in Modi, 10 percent faith in Adhikari,” he said.

Hours later, a large rally of Ms. Banerjee’s supporters took place in a school courtyard surrounded by coconut trees. Women in colorful saris outnumbered men. They praised Ms. Banerjee’s government for paving the road that led to the school, for distributing rice at low prices and for making payments to families to keep their girls in school and prevent child marriage, among other initiatives.

But the energy was focused squarely on teaching Mr. Adhikari a lesson.

“You said Mamata is like your mother. The mother made you a leader, a minister, and in charge of the whole district,” said Suhajata Maity, a local leader, addressing Mr. Adhikari.

“Then, you stabbed the mother in her back.”

To resounding applause, she ended her speech with a call to the mothers in the crowd: “Will you teach him such a lesson that he abandons politics all together?”

Chandrasekhar Bhattacharjee contributed reporting.

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Garment Workers Who Lost Jobs in Pandemic Still Wait for Severance Pay

Over a crackling phone line, Ashraf Ali, a 35-year-old father in Bangladesh, described feeling suicidal and desperate to feed his family. Sokunthea Yi, in Cambodia, said she spends sleepless nights worrying about how she will pay off loans she took out to build her house. And at only 23, Dina Arviah in Indonesia said she was hopeless about her future as there were no longer any jobs in her district.

All once held jobs as garment workers in factories producing clothes and shoes for companies like Nike, Walmart and Benetton. But in the last 12 months those jobs have disappeared, as major brands in the United States and Europe canceled or refused to pay for orders in the wake of the pandemic and suppliers resorted to mass layoffs or closures.

Most garment workers earn chronically low wages, and few have any savings. Which means the only thing standing between them and dire poverty are legally mandated severance benefits that most garment workers are owed upon termination, wherever they are in the world.

According to a new report from the Worker Rights Consortium, however, garment workers like Mr. Ali, Ms. Yi and Ms. Dina Arviah are being denied some or all of these wages.

The study identified 31 export garment factories in nine countries where, the authors concluded, a total of 37,637 fired workers were not paid the full severance pay they legally earned, a collective $39.8 million.

According to Scott Nova, the group’s executive director, the report covers only about 10 percent of global garment factory closures with mass layoffs in the last year. The group is investigating another 210 factories in 18 countries, leading the authors to estimate that the final data set will detail 213 factories with severance pay violations affecting more than 160,000 workers owed $171.5 million.

severance guarantee fund. The initiative, devised in conjunction with 220 unions and other labor rights organizations, would be financed by mandatory payments from signatory brands that could then be leveraged in cases of large-scale nonpayment of severance by a factory or supplier.

Amazon, for example, reported an increase in net profit of 84 percent in 2020, while Inditex made 11.4 billion euros, about $13.4 billion, in gross profit. Nike, Next and Walmart all also had healthy earnings.

Some industry experts believe the purchasing practices of the industry’s power players are a major contributor to the severance pay crisis. The overwhelming majority of fashion retailers do not own their own production facilities, instead contracting with factories in countries where labor is cheap. The brands dictate prices, often squeezing suppliers to offer more for less, and can shift sourcing locations at will. Factory owners in developing countries say they are forced to operate on minimal margins, with few able to afford better worker wages or investments in safety and severance.

“The onus falls on the supplier,” said Genevieve LeBaron, a professor at the University of Sheffield in England who focuses on international labor standards. “But there is a reason the spotlight keeps falling on larger actors further up the supply chain. Their behavior can impact the ability of factories to deliver on their responsibilities.”

“Historically, severance hasn’t received the same amount of attention as other types of compensation,” Ms. LeBaron added. “But it should. Often workers who lose their jobs are at their most vulnerable. When they aren’t paid what they are owed, many are forced into taking desperate or dangerous measures to survive.”

labor rights code of conduct. Most say they guarantee that suppliers will pay workers their legally mandated benefits. But in some cases, factory owners can go into hiding or refuse to pay fired employees. In others, owners claim that exploitative contracts brought them to bankruptcy or made it impossible for them to reserve funds for severance.

code of conduct included checks to ensure workers received what was owed to them after factory closures or layoffs. The company did not respond to any questions about missing severance payments by A-One.

When contacted by The New York Times about wage theft at factories, most brands downplayed their relationships, even though corporate codes of conduct do not specify that responsibilities to workers are proportionate to their order size.

Ms. Yi was one of 774 workers who were laid off in June from Hana I, a factory in Cambodia that supplied Walmart and Zara. The workers are owed more than $1 million in severance, the report estimates. Although she received an initial $500, Ms. Yi, 33, was still owed $1,290 in severance and was still unemployed as of this month.

Inditex, the parent company of Zara, said it had not worked with the factory for five years. Walmart said it believed the factory had paid all the severance it legally owed to workers in June. The factory owners did not respond to requests for comment via email.

“We are saddened by the unfortunate financial hardship that has occurred for many businesses due to the pandemic and are particularly concerned about the impact it has on their employees,” a Walmart spokeswoman said. She noted that the company made efforts to “review and hold suppliers accountable for compliance” with its standards and local laws.

Hulu Garment factory in Phnom Penh, a former supplier for Walmart, Amazon, Macy’s and Adidas, owes 1,000 former workers $3.63 million, according to the report.

Adidas said it had used the company only for small orders. The owners of Hulu did not respond to a request for comment.

Of all the companies approached by The Times, only Gap, which placed orders with factories cited in the report in Indonesia, Cambodia, India and Jordan, specifically said it had investigated allegations made in the report.

“In all cases we either confirmed that severance had been provided or remediated any that were outstanding,” a Gap spokeswoman said, adding that the company would investigate any further evidence of severance not being paid out.

As consumers put pressure on companies to make amends and clean up their supply chains, brands “are shrinking their supplier bases,” Ms. LeBaron said.

“That could well produce long-term benefits, but it will mean further disruption, closures and layoffs,” she said. “And that means the severance dilemma is going to become even more common.”

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Global Brands Find It Hard to Untangle Themselves From Xinjiang Cotton

Faced with accusations that it was profiting from the forced labor of Uyghur people in the Chinese territory of Xinjiang, the H&M Group — the world’s second-largest clothing retailer — promised last year to stop buying cotton from the region.

But last month, H&M confronted a new outcry, this time from Chinese consumers who seized on the company’s renouncement of the cotton as an attack on China. Social media filled with angry demands for a boycott, urged on by the government. Global brands like H&M risked alienating a country of 1.4 billion people.

The furor underscored how international clothing brands relying on Chinese materials and factories now face the mother of all conundrums — a conflict vastly more complex than their now-familiar reputational crises over exploitative working conditions in poor countries.

ban on imports. Labor activists will charge them with complicity in the grotesque repression of the Uyghurs.

Myanmar and Bangladesh, where cheap costs of production reflect alarming safety conditions.

genocide. As many as a million Uyghurs have been herded into detention camps, and deployed as forced labor.


As China has transformed itself from an impoverished country into the world’s second-largest economy, it has leaned on the textile and apparel industries. China has courted foreign companies with the promise of low-wage workers operating free from the intrusions of unions.

regional government said last year.

statement reported by Reuters.

That assertion flew in the face of a growing body of literature, including a recent statement from the United Nations Human Rights Council expressing “serious concerns” about reports of forced labor.

The Better Cotton Initiative declined a request for an interview to discuss how it had come to its conclusion.

“We are a not-for-profit organization with a small team,” the initiative’s communications manager, Joe Woodruff, said in an email.

The body’s membership includes some of the world’s largest, most profitable clothing manufacturers and retailers — among them Inditex, the Spanish conglomerate that owns Zara, and Nike, whose sales last year exceeded $37 billion.

Trump administration furthered the trend by pressuring American multinational companies to abandon China.

“All of the economic forces that pushed this production to China are really no longer at work,” said Pietra Rivoli, a trade expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

Still, China retains attributes not easily replicated — the world’s largest ports, plus a cluster of related industries, from chemicals to plastics.

Cambodia in response to its government’s harsh crackdown on dissent.

Some global brands are seeking Beijing’s permission to import more cotton into China from the United States and Australia. They could employ that cotton to make products destined for Europe and North America, while using the Xinjiang crop for the Chinese market.

Yet that approach may leave the apparel companies exposed to the same risks they face now.

“If the brand is labeled as ‘They are still using forced labor, but they are just using it for the Chinese market,’ is this going to suffice?” said Ms. Collinson, the industry lobbyist.

Last week, H&M issued a new communication, beseeching Chinese consumers to return. “We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges,” said the statement, which did not mention Xinjiang. “China is a very important market to us.”

Those words appear to have satisfied no one — not the human rights organizations skeptical of claims that apparel companies have severed links to Xinjiang; not Chinese consumers angry over a perceived national indignity.

On Chinese social media, criticism of H&M remained fierce.

“For you, China is still an important market,” one post declared. “But for China, you are just an unnecessary brand.”

Joy Dong, Liu Yi and Chris Buckley contributed.

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Bangladesh Collision Between Cargo Ship and Ferry Leaves 27 Dead

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A collision between a cargo ship and a small ferry killed 27 people and left more than a dozen others swimming for their lives in Bangladesh late on Sunday, the latest in a long history of maritime disasters on the country’s heavily trafficked waterways.

Most of the dead were trapped inside the ferry after it was struck by the hulking cargo ship while crossing a river in central Bangladesh and then capsized, the authorities said.

The bodies of 21 passengers were recovered from the ferry after an 11-hour salvage operation to pull the vessel from the water, said Golam Sadeq, chairman of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority. The bodies of six other passengers were recovered outside the ferry, and 19 passengers were rescued after swimming from the vessel, the authorities said.

Video taken from the riverbank showed the cargo ship plowing into the ferry, lifting it from the water and tossing passengers into the current. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the rescue operation, which was aided by local residents. The screams of relatives filled the air as they desperately sought to learn the fate of their loved ones.

drowned in June after two ferries collided in Dhaka. In 2015, a cargo ship struck a ferry east of the capital, killing 69 people. In 2014, an overloaded ferry capsized in the Padma River, killing more than 100 people.

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Bangladesh and Parts of India Look to Lockdowns Amid Surges

NEW DELHI — As a new wave of coronavirus infections grips the densely populated region of South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population, Bangladesh on Saturday announced a second lockdown and officials in Mumbai, India’s largest city, said they were on the verge of declaring one.

The authorities in Bangladesh said the nation of 165 million people would go into a weeklong lockdown beginning on Monday to curb the spread of the virus. The country shut down for two months starting in March last year.

Bangladesh on Friday registered nearly 7,000 cases in 24 hours, the highest since the spread of the virus in the country last year. The daily death toll has been around 50 for the past week, but what has particularly alarmed officials is the high test positivity rate, with 24 percent of virus tests conducted coming back positive.

Farhad Hossain, Bangladesh’s state minister for public administration, told the local news media that “industries and factories will remain open,” but would operate in shifts and follow strict health protocols. The exceptions appeared to be aimed at reducing the economic impact and avoiding the kind of exodus of laborers that led to a humanitarian crisis in India last year.

sharply in Pakistan, which has struggled to source vaccines for its population, and in India, where a vaccination drive is only now picking up pace — despite the country being home to one of the world’s largest suppliers of vaccines.

Just a few weeks ago, India was a major exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it was using that to exert influence in South Asia and around the world. But as infections soared, the country decided to cut back on exports and is now holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses that the Serum Institute of India, the private company that is one of the world’s largest producers of the AstraZeneca vaccine, makes each day.

India on Saturday recorded its biggest single-day spike in cases since September, with government officials reporting nearly 90,000 cases and 714 deaths over the past 24 hours. Single-day figures sometimes contain anomalies, but the country’s seven-day average of new cases, a more reliable gauge, has been rising sharply since early March.

Nearly half of deaths and new infections in recent weeks have been traced to the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub.

large rallies in several states where local elections are underway.

The government has also allowed a huge monthlong Hindu festival to go ahead on the banks of Ganges River. One million to five million people are expected to participate in the festivities in the city of Haridwar each day, officials say.

In other virus news from around the world:

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U.S. to Seize Gloves After Finding ‘Sufficient’ Evidence of Forced Labor: Live Updates

A worker inspecting disposable gloves at a Top Glove factory near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in August.
Credit…Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

United States Customs and Border Protection has ordered port officials to seize disposable gloves made by the world’s largest rubber glove maker, a Malaysian company that the agency says uses forced labor in its factories.

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Monday that it had “sufficient information to believe” that the company, Top Glove, “uses forced labor in the production of disposable gloves.”

Last July, the agency issued an import ban on products from two Top Glove subsidiaries because they were suspected of using forced labor. On Monday, it said it had determined that rubber gloves produced by the company with forced, convict or indentured labor “are being, or are likely to be, imported into the United States.”

Based on that determination, the agency said in a notice, it had authorized U.S. port directors to seize the gloves and start forfeiture proceedings unless importers can produce evidence showing that the gloves were not produced with prohibited labor.

The notice was the result of a monthslong investigation “aimed at preventing goods made by modern slavery from entering U.S. commerce,” Troy Miller, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.

The agency, he said, “will not tolerate foreign companies’ exploitation of vulnerable workers to sell cheap, unethically made goods to American consumers.” He added that the agency had “taken steps to ensure” that the enforcement action would not significantly affect total imports of disposable gloves into the United States.

After the import ban on Top Glove subsidiaries last summer, officials at the company said they were upgrading their worker dormitories and paying restitution to affected workers.

The company said in a statement on Tuesday that it was in touch with the U.S. agency and hoped to “resolve any ongoing areas of concern immediately.”

Top Glove also said it had engaged a independent labor consultancy from Britain since last July. That consultancy, Impactt Limited, said in a statement this month that its latest investigations had not turned up any “systemic forced labor” among the company’s direct employees.

But Andy Hall, a labor rights campaigner based in Nepal, said on Tuesday that Top Glove “remains an unethical company whose factories and supply chain continue to utilize forced labor,” and one that prioritizes profits and production efficiency over its workers’ basic rights.

Mr. Hall said he welcomed the Customs and Border Protection notice, and that the next step would be holding the company’s owners and investors to account.

Top Glove controls roughly a quarter of the global rubber glove market and has 21,000 employees. Many of them come from some of Asia’s poorest countries — including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal — and live and work in crowded conditions.

The company has enjoyed record profits during the pandemic, even though thousands of its low-paid workers in Malaysia suffered from a large coronavirus outbreak last year.

A mobile touch screen doubles as a digital whiteboard while a cellphone on a tripod makes a recording that can be used later in a presentation.
Credit…John Muggenborg for The New York Times

As company heads are once again planning for a return to the office, it is not only safety measures but also the new work arrangements that are driving discussions about the post-pandemic workplace. More than 80 percent of companies are embracing a hybrid model whereby employees will be in the office three days a week, according to a new survey by KayoCloud, a real estate technology platform.

Workplaces are being reimagined for activities benefiting from face-to-face interaction, including collaboration on projects, Jane Margolies reports for The New York Times.

Common areas will be increased and equipped with furniture that can be moved as needs change. Steelcase and Knoll, suppliers of office furniture, report strong interest in mobile tables, carts and partitions.

As the amount of space devoted to gathering expands, the fate of one’s own personal turf at the office — a desk decorated with family photos, a couple of file cabinets — hangs in the balance. In some cases, personal desks are being replaced with “hoteling” workstations, also called hot desks, which can be used by whoever needs a place to touch down for a day.

Conference rooms, too, are getting a reboot. Companies are puzzling over how to give remote workers the same ability to participate as those who are physically present. There are even early discussions about using artificial intelligence to conjure up holographic representations of employees who are off-site but could still take a seat at the table. And digital whiteboards are likely to become more popular, so workers at home can see what’s being written in real time.

Kroger requires employees and customers to wear masks.
Credit…Eze Amos for The New York Times

Retail and fast-food workers feel newly vulnerable in states like Mississippi and Texas, where governments have removed mask mandates before a majority of people have been vaccinated and while troubling new variants of the coronavirus are appearing.

It feels like a return to the early days of the pandemic, when businesses said customers must wear masks but there was no legal requirement and numerous shoppers simply refused, Sapna Maheshwari reports for The New York Times. Many workers say that their stores do not enforce the requirement, and that if they do approach customers, they risk verbal or physical altercations.

For many people who work in retail, especially grocery stores and big-box chains, the repeals of the mask mandates are another example of how little protection and appreciation they have received during the pandemic. They were praised as essential workers, but that rarely translated into extra pay on top of their low wages. Grocery employees were not initially given priority for vaccinations in most states, even as health experts cautioned the public to limit time in grocery stores because of the risk posed by new coronavirus variants. (Texas opened availability to everyone 16 and older on Monday.)

The differing state and business mandates have some workers worried about more confrontations. Refusing service to people without masks, or asking them to leave, has led to incidents in the past year like a cashier’s being punched in the face, a Target employee getting his arm broken and the fatal shooting of a Family Dollar security guard.

Emily Francois, a sales associate at a Walmart in Port Arthur, Texas, said that customers had been ignoring signs to wear masks and that Walmart had not been enforcing the policy.

“I see customers coming in without a mask and they’re coughing, sneezing, they’re not covering their mouths,” said Ms. Francois, who has worked at Walmart for 14 years and is a member of United for Respect, an advocacy group. “Customers coming in the store without masks make us feel like we aren’t worthy, we aren’t safe.”

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As Vaccines Flood the U.S.,Covid-19 Soars Where Shots Are Scarce

As rapid Covid-19 vaccine campaigns in the U.S. and some other rich countries hold the promise of a return to more normal life for their citizens, some countries, particularly poor ones, face a starkly different reality: soaring coronavirus cases, including new highs, more than a year into the pandemic.

Public health experts have for months warned that uneven vaccine distribution would leave swaths of the world exposed to fresh waves of infection, economically devastating lockdowns and potentially new virus strains. That divide—between rapidly vaccinating nations poised for an economic revival and those still trapped in the throes of the pandemic—is beginning to emerge.

The schism is particularly pronounced between rich countries such as the U.S. and the U.K and developing nations.

In the Philippines—a nation of 110 million people that has received around 1.5 million vaccine doses so far—daily caseloads since mid-March have regularly exceeded last year’s peak. The U.K. and South Africa variants of the virus, associated with infection spikes in those places, are spreading in the Philippines, health authorities say. The Catholic-majority country has banned religious gatherings in the capital of Manila and its surrounding areas ahead of the Easter holiday and curbed travel.

Workers prepared on Friday to bury a Covid-19 victim in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a country where the disease is now killing about 3,000 people a day.

Photo: silvio avila/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The surge is mirrored in other largely unvaccinated countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Brazil. In Brazil, Covid-19 has killed more than 300,000 people, and about 3,000 people are dying a day now.

By contrast, in the U.S., where more than a quarter of the population has received at least one dose, around 15% are fully vaccinated and the Biden administration aims to hit 200 million doses during its first 100 days in office, schools and businesses are reopening and restrictions are being lifted in many places.

Similarly, fast-moving vaccination drives in the U.K. and Israel have prompted officials there to ease some restrictions. The U.K. has administered at least one shot to roughly 40% of its population and plans to offer vaccination to all adults by the end of July. More than 55% of Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Instead, in the Philippines, with cases rising fast, the government is enacting new rounds of curbs. For the two weeks leading up to Easter on April 4, residents of Manila and some surrounding areas are barred from going to other parts of the country except for essential travel. As infections climbed this past weekend, the Philippine government tightened restrictions further, imposing a 6 p.m. curfew and ordering companies to strictly limit on-site staff.

Filipinos stocked up on food on Sunday in Manila before the advent of new restrictions.

Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

People observing social distancing outside a Manila market on Sunday.

Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

For a second year in a row, Easter festivities will be muted. Mario Panaligan, a doctor in the capital, would typically travel to his family village for Maundy Thursday, a holiday that precedes Easter Sunday. Instead, he will tune into online mass this year. “It’s definitely a sad reality,” he said of the Philippines’ difficulties in acquiring vaccines.

The pandemic has already upended livelihoods, with workers bringing in nearly 10% less income than they had before Covid-19, according to the World Bank, which predicts that the Southeast Asian country’s economic output won’t return to pre-pandemic levels before mid-2022. The economic contraction was due in part to strict nationwide lockdowns and mobility restrictions, the bank said.

Related Vaccine Articles

Limited global supply of vaccines and large orders by rich countries have made it harder for developing nations to secure deals. The Philippines has so far received around 500,000 doses of  AstraZeneca PLC’s  shot from a World Health Organization program for poorer countries and a million doses of Chinese company Sinovac’s vaccine, donated by Beijing. Moderna Inc. said last week it would begin supplying the Philippines with 20 million doses of its vaccine by the middle of the year.

“We would like to have done vaccination in the areas with an uptick in cases, but the world does not function that way,” said Cynthia Saloma, executive director of the Philippine Genome Center, which analyzes Covid-19 samples to determine which variants are circulating. “Countries which are not vaccinated will become…new ground for more variants coming out.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom last week described inequitable vaccine distribution as a moral outrage. The gap between shots administered in rich countries and through the Covax program for poorer countries was “becoming more grotesque every day,” he said. Although some wealthy European countries like France and Germany have been slower to vaccinate than the U.S. or Israel, they still have immunized a higher share than poorer countries like Mexico, Philippines and Bangladesh.

A warning sign in Marikina, Philippines. Scientists blame a new Covid wave in part on loosened restrictions to boost the economy.

Photo: Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Scientists in the Philippines blame the new wave in part on loosened restrictions to boost the economy and pandemic fatigue. In addition to the U.K. and South Africa variants now circulating in the country, recent genomic sampling uncovered a new strain called P.3, first discovered in the Philippines. Health authorities say they don’t yet know if it is more transmissible or dangerous and are studying it.


What has life been like in your community? Have there been any signs of a return to normal life? Join the conversation below.

The emergency room at metro Manila’s St. Luke’s Medical Center is at full capacity, with Covid-19 patients waiting to be admitted. Despite an increase in critical care beds, a post on its Facebook page said that its Covid wards were occupied and those needing immediate treatment for Covid-19 should head to other institutions.

“It’s really stressful,” said Kristine Gregorio, a nurse at St. Luke’s who is working 12-hour shifts. “If we move [a recovering] patient outside of the ICU another very sick patient will replace [them].”

As highly transmissible coronavirus variants sweep across the world, scientists are racing to understand why these new versions of the virus are spreading faster, and what this could mean for vaccine efforts. New research says the key may be the spike protein, which gives the coronavirus its unmistakable shape. Illustration: Nick Collingwood/WSJ

Write to Jon Emont at

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At Least 10 Killed in Protests Against Modi’s Visit to Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh — At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in protests against a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to Bangladesh as part of celebrations for the country’s 50th anniversary.

Clashes between protesters and security forces began Friday after weekly prayers in three cities — Dhaka, the capital; Brahammanbaria, near the Indian border; and the coastal city of Chattogram.

An Islamist group called Hefazat-e-Islam led street processions denouncing Mr. Modi. On Friday, four people were killed in Chattogram and one person was killed in Brahammanbaria, where hundreds of protesters had gathered outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque. The clashes began there after one group of protesters began waving their shoes in a sign of contempt for Mr. Modi, according to local television news reports.

One channel reported that at least 40 people had been injured in the clashes, including some journalists.

Bangladeshi and Muslim migrants from India — could make such a partnership more difficult.

At a press briefing Saturday, Mamunul Haque, a senior leader for Hefajat-e-Islami, said that a shutdown had been called to protest the deaths of those demonstrating against Mr. Modi’s visit to Bangladesh.

“We want to make this clear,” Mr. Mamunul said, “our movement is not against the government, our movement is against atheists and apostates.”

Conservative Islamic views have been gaining ground in Bangladesh, a secular democracy that is more than 90 percent Muslim. Anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment has been used to challenge Ms. Hasina’s party, the Awami League, since the country was founded after a bloody war for independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Under Ms. Hasina, who has been in power on and off since 1996, and is serving a fourth consecutive term, Bangladesh has come to be seen as somewhat of an economic miracle, regularly posting 8 percent annual growth. Its ready-made garment industry is considered second only to China’s. And the country of 160 million has risen steadily up the United Nations Human Development Index.

Bangladesh’s success story, however, has a dark underbelly: accusations of deep corruption and the stifling of dissent in the increasingly authoritarian government of a country that has been prone to coups and political violence.

While Mr. Modi’s trip is mainly focused on Bangladesh’s anniversary celebrations, the visit also has political implications in India, where voting began Saturday in several state-level elections, including West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh.

series of tweets late Saturday after returning to New Delhi, Mr. Modi said he and Ms. Hasina had discussed how to deepen their relationship.

“I would like to thank the people of Bangladesh for their affection during my visit,” Mr. Modi wrote. “I am sure this visit will lead to further strengthening of bilateral ties between our nations.”

Mr. Modi made no mention of the violence and deaths.

Julfikar Ali Manik reported from Dhaka and Emily Schmall reported from New Delhi.

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Modi’s Visit to Bangladesh Sets Off Violent Protests

DHAKA, Bangladesh — At least four people were killed and dozens injured in violent protests in Bangladesh on Friday, set off by the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to mark 50 years since Bangladesh gained independence.

The deaths occurred in the southeastern district of Chattogram, where students from a prominent Islamic school and members of an Islamist group clashed with the police, officials said.

Alauddin Talukder, a police official, told reporters that five injured people had been taken to a Chattogram hospital and that four had died during treatment.

During Mr. Modi’s two-day visit, his first abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began, he will also commemorate the centennial of the birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Bangladeshi independence leader whose daughter, Sheikh Hasina, is now prime minister.

welcomed Mr. Modi at the airport on Friday morning.

Critics in India and elsewhere have accused Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist party of stoking religious polarization in India and discriminating against minorities, particularly Muslims. In recent weeks, demonstrators in Muslim-majority Bangladesh have urged Mr. Modi not to visit and criticized Ms. Hasina for inviting him.

Bangladeshi news outlets reported on Friday that members of an Islamist group had attacked government buildings, including a police station, in the Hathazari area of Chattogram before the clashes that led to the deaths.

Violence also broke out at the Baitul Mokarram mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, as rival groups of demonstrators clashed. Police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, injuring scores of people, officials and witnesses said.

Protesters also set fire to offices at a railway station in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, disrupting communications.

Outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque, hundreds of protesters had gathered by Friday afternoon. Witnesses said the clashes started after one faction of protesters began waving their shoes in a sign of contempt for Mr. Modi, and another group tried to stop them.

Local news outlets said the protesters who tried to stop the shoe-waving were aligned with Ms. Hasina’s governing Awami League party. TV broadcasts showed some protesters throwing stones at the police, who had been maintaining a heavy presence near the mosque. One channel reported that at least 40 people were injured in the clashes, including some journalists.

Abdul Mazid, a businessman, said he was trapped in the mosque after trying to flee when violence erupted during prayers. “I had a feeling that something was going to happen. I am still inside the mosque,” he said by telephone. “There is huge violence, I can see from here.”

After Mr. Modi’s arrival, Ms. Hasina told an audience in a parade square in Dhaka that Bangladesh’s relations with India had reached a new high. “If we move forward hand in hand, the development of our people is inevitable,” she said.

While Mr. Modi’s trip is mainly focused on Bangladesh’s anniversary celebrations, the visit also has political implications in India, where voting begins on Saturday in several state-level elections, including West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh.

With an eye toward galvanizing Hindu support in that battleground state, Mr. Modi is scheduled to visit a Hindu temple outside Dhaka that is sacred to the Matua community in West Bengal. The Matua sect’s vote could decide at least seven seats in a close race for control of the state assembly.

In a tweet late Thursday before his trip, Mr. Modi said the two countries shared a vital relationship.

“Our partnership with Bangladesh is an important pillar of our Neighborhood First policy, and we are committed to further deepen and diversify it. We will continue to support Bangladesh’s remarkable development journey, under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s dynamic leadership,” he said.

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Fire in Rohingya Refugee Camp Leaves Hundreds Missing

As a fire tore through a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, Dildar Begum ran, terrified, from her family’s shanty to her brother’s home. “It looked like hellfire,” she said.

The fire that destroyed her home killed at least 15 people and left about 400 missing, the United Nations’ refugee agency said. Nonprofit organizations that operate there warn of deteriorating conditions in the camp that is home to more than 720,000 Rohingya who fled a 2017 military offensive in neighboring Myanmar.

The fire began on Monday afternoon and burned through the night, displacing an estimated 45,000 people and injuring more than 560, a spokeswoman for the U.N. agency said Tuesday.

Once the fire was finally out, Ms. Begum, who is 48, walked back to her family’s camp bloc, passing burned cows and human corpses. Her family’s shanty had been reduced to ash, along with their possessions. “We are in turmoil now. It seems it would be better if we die, as we lost everything,” she said.

Anowar Azim, 25, said he tried to beat back the fire as it approached his home but couldn’t. His wife emerged from their dwelling with his 1-year-old daughter, as thick smoke and fire engulfed the area. They rushed to safety and are now staying with relatives.

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