‘We Cannot Wait Until June’: Greece Bets on Reopening to Tourists

Greece has reopened to many overseas visitors, including from the United States, jumping ahead of most of its European neighbors in restarting tourism,even as the country’s hospitals remain full and more than three-quarters of Greeks are still unvaccinated.

It’s a big bet, but given the importance of tourism to the Greek economy — the sector accounts for one quarter of the country’s work force and more than 20 percent of gross domestic product — the country’s leaders are eager to roll out the welcome mat.

In doing so, Greece has jumped ahead of a other European countries. On Monday, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said it would recommend its member states to allow visitors who have been vaccinated. But it remains up to individual countries to set up their own rules.

“We welcome a common position” on restarting tourism in the European Union, Greece’s tourism minister, Harry Theoharis, said in an interview. “All we’re saying is that this has to be forthcoming now. We cannot wait until June.”

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Traveling to Greece? What to Know About the Reopening

Most Greeks — who have endured months of lockdown — would agree with that sentiment, said Ms. Nakou, the analyst. “I think there is little alternative, to be honest, given the importance of the sector in the economy,” she said.

But Ms. Nakou noted that Covid case numbers rose after the country’s opening to tourists last summer, and that many Greeks associated the arrival of visitors with an increase in the circulation of the virus. She noted that in a survey conducted among Greeks last fall, tourism was the most commonly cited factor in causing the second wave, ahead of people flouting lockdown rules, as well as congestion in public transport or in restaurants.

“I think that is at the back of a lot of people’s minds locally,” said Ms. Nakou. “They’re pleased to see the economy reopening; they’re also quite worried about this.”

In terms of daily new infections, Greece’s worst moment of the pandemic came in early April of this year, when the country was averaging more than 3,000 cases per day; intensive care admissions reached their peak about two weeks later. On a per-capita basis, Greece’s experience pales in comparison to the worst moments of the pandemic in the United States, Britain, France or Italy, but because Greece’s medical system has suffered from years of underfunding, it is particularly vulnerable to strain. The country’s intensive care units were 87 percent full as of April 21, even as lockdown measures were due to be peeled away.

At the same time, vaccination is picking up. Just over 20 percent of the country’s population had received at least one dose of vaccine by the end of April. The coverage is much higher in some of the Greek islands, which were targeted early in the country’s vaccination campaign in part because of their geographical isolation and limited medical facilities. But local leaders also hope that the image of heavily vaccinated, “Covid-free islands” will help to lure tourists back.

“It’s a very important step that guarantees the launch of the tourist season and sends a message of optimism,” Efi Liarou, the mayor of the island Elafonisos, told Agence-France Presse last month.

However many people end up traveling to Greece this summer, it’s clear that this year’s peak tourist season will be unlike any other.

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Vaccinated Tourists Could Soon Be Allowed to Visit Again, E.U. Says

BRUSSELS — The European Union took a crucial step on Monday toward reopening its borders to vaccinated travelers after the bloc’s executive released a plan for allowing journeys to resume after more than a year of stringent coronavirus restrictions.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, proposed that the 27 member countries reopen their borders to all travelers who have been fully vaccinated with shots approved by the bloc’s medicine regulator or by the World Health Organization. The commission also outlined other, looser, pandemic-related conditions that should permit people to travel.

The proposal would see more regular travel to the bloc gradually restart in time for the summer tourism season, which provides economic lifeblood for several member states. The plans are an important moment in Europe’s efforts to return to a semblance of normalcy after more than a year of strict limitations.

Travel from outside the bloc was halted almost entirely last spring and only restored tentatively for a handful of exceptions last summer. The measures separated families, hobbled the tourism and aviation sectors and brought business travel to an almost total halt.

interview with The New York Times last month, during which she said that vaccinated Americans should be able to visit Europe this summer. The detailed proposal laid out on Monday also confirmed Ms. von der Leyen’s earlier statements about the important role that the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates will play in resuming international travel.

To pass, the proposal released on Monday will require the backing of a reinforced majority of member states, which it is likely to receive late this month or in early June. Still, individual member countries retain a good deal of sovereignty around health policy, so each state will probably use that leeway to tailor the travel measures further.

For example, some countries that greatly depend on visitors for income and jobs, such as Greece and Spain, have already moved to reopen borders even before the European Union adopts any new, bloc-wide policy. Others, especially in the continent’s north, could maintain more stringent regulations because they don’t stand to gain as much from loosened travel rules for the summer.

Given those likely differences, the commission’s proposal comes in part to prevent a totally uncoordinated approach to travelers from outside the bloc.

“digital green pass” for inoculated citizens (and has contracted companies including the logistics giant SAP to digitize vaccine cards), the United States and other countries are further behind and as yet do not offer uniform, verifiable vaccine certificates. The European Union and the United States have been involved in technical discussions on how to ensure American certificates are verifiable and acceptable in the bloc, officials said.

Addressing some major questions that aspiring visitors have raised in recent weeks, the commission said that children would not need to be vaccinated to travel to the bloc but that they could be required to show a negative test.

British visitors to the European Union, a big pool of tourists, could be counted among those able to travel more freely given the fast advancement of vaccination there. But the European Union is not yet in touch with British officials over the question of mutually recognizable vaccine certification, officials said.

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E.U. Recommends Opening Travel to Foreigners

The European Union will recommend that its member states open borders to travelers who have been fully vaccinated, it said on Monday, clearing the way for the countries to welcome more visitors.

Member states are set later this week to debate the proposal, which was issued by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. Visitors who have received a vaccine approved by the European Union’s drug agency would be allowed to travel freely, and individual countries could still impose tougher requirements on visitors, the proposal said.

The Commission said that if certain member states were prepared to let in visitors who had tested negative, they should do the same for vaccinated ones. Unvaccinated travelers could still be permitted, but countries could require tests or quarantines.

Yet the return of tourism, which the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke about last Sunday, would be a much-needed boon for countries, particularly those in southern Europe whose economies rely heavily on tourism but have been crippled by shutdowns.

The announcement comes more than a year after the first bans on nonessential travel from most countries to the bloc came into effect.

A handful of countries with low virus caseloads, including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, have been exempt from the ban. The Commission said on Monday that it would expand that list by allowing in visitors — regardless of vaccination status — from countries with virus rates higher than the current limit (though still lower than the European Union average).

If member states accept the proposal, they would also be able activate an “emergency brake” mechanism to suspend all travel from outside of the bloc, the Commission said, to avoid the spread of coronavirus variants.

Countries including Greece, Spain and France have already said they will open for visitors who can show proof of a vaccination or a negative test.

Under the new proposal, visitors would be able to enter the European Union if they received the last recommended dose of an authorized vaccine at least 14 days before arrival.

Travelers would have to prove their status under a vaccination certificate program issued by the national authorities of the country they wished to travel to, according to the Commission. But until that program was in place, governments could also accept certificates from countries outside the bloc, impose quarantines or require a proof of a negative test.

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Europeans Question Return of American Tourists

Spain, though limiting its own citizens’ movements, has for weeks been open to visitors with negative PCR tests from the rest of Europe, and tourists have been flocking to places like Madrid, which has more relaxed restrictions than their home cities. Most of its cultural attractions are open with Covid protocols, and the city’s curfew is 11 p.m., compared to much earlier curfews in other parts of the country and Europe.

Residents there were sanguine about the idea of American visitors. “My neighborhood is already full of unvaccinated French people working remotely, so I think it’s great,” said Naroa Quiros, an interior designer specializing in restaurants, about the decision to open the country up to vaccinated Americans. “Madrid needs it and certainly businesses need it.”

In Turkey, where tourism is the lifeblood of the economy, the European Union’s announcement came just as the country was about to enter a full nationwide lockdown to curb a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, which have reached record levels. The Turkish Health Ministry recorded 37,312 new Covid-19 infections and 353 deaths over a 24-hour period on Monday.

Under the new measures, Turkish residents will be required to mostly stay at home except for grocery shopping trips and urgent medical treatment. All restaurants, cafes, bars and nonessential shops will be closed. As they have been through much of the pandemic, tourists will be exempted from the restrictions.

“At a time when Europe is entering a phase of reopening, we need to rapidly cut our case numbers to below 5,000 not to be left behind,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. “Otherwise we will inevitably face heavy costs in every area, from tourism to trade and education.”

There were, of course, practical questions about what kind of “vaccine passports” might be developed and concerns about whether amid a slow vaccine rollout in France, for instance, even vaccinated Americans could impact the evolution of the outbreak.

Michele Gargiulo, 40, who co-owns and runs LibrOsteria, a bookshop cafe in Milan that was a tourist attraction before the pandemic, said that though he is concerned about safety, he believes that “it could be tourists just like it could be anything else.”

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Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. to Reveal New Guidance on Outdoor Mask-Wearing

have already dropped mask mandates and fully reopened indoor and outdoor venues, even for large sporting events. New York still has mask requirements.

On Tuesday morning, the health and human services secretary Xavier Becerra said on “CBS This Morning” that he hoped the new guidelines would incentivize people to get vaccinated.

“The message is clear: You’re vaccinated, guess what, you get to return to a more normal lifestyle,” he said. “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re still a danger, and you’re still in danger as well, so get vaccinated.”

A growing body of research indicates that the risk of spreading the virus is far lower outdoors than indoors. Viral particles disperse quickly outdoors, experts say, meaning brief encounters with a passing walker or jogger pose very little risk of transmission.

“That biker who whizzes by without a mask poses no danger to us, at least from a respiratory virus perspective,” Dr. Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, wrote in a blog post for The New England Journal of Medicine.

A recent systematic review of studies that examined the transmission of the coronavirus and other respiratory viruses among unvaccinated individuals concluded that fewer than 10 percent of infections occurred outdoors and that the odds for indoor transmission were 18.7 times higher than outdoors. (The odds of superspreading events were 33 times higher indoors.)

But the paper’s author said that the low odds of transmission outdoors could simply reflect the fact that people had spent little time outside. In cases where transmission occurred outdoors, there was often also prolonged or frequent contact with another individual or a group of people, or an indoor component to an outdoor gathering, said Dr. Nooshin Razani, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

“It does happen: You can get infected outdoors,” she said. “It usually has to do with how long you’re with someone and how often you see them, and if you’re wearing a mask and if you’re close to each other.”

The C.D.C. currently recommends that vaccinated people should wear masks and maintain six feet of distance from others in public, including while taking public transportation such as buses, trains or planes and while in transportation hubs. It also recommends they continue to avoid crowds, large gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.

Kevin Draper contributed reporting.

United States › United StatesOn Apr. 26 14-day change
New cases 47,430* –20%
New deaths 479 –2%

*New Jersey removed many cases

World › WorldOn Apr. 26 14-day change
New cases 357,449 +13%
New deaths 7,523 +3%
U.S. vaccinations › Where states are reporting vaccines givenFully vaccinated At least one dose

Other trackers:

Coronavirus patients in New Delhi waited on the street on Sunday to receive oxygen from a Sikh house of worship.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

As a second wave of the pandemic rages in India, which logged more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for the sixth consecutive day on Tuesday, countries around the world are trying to help. But their efforts to send oxygen and other critical aid are unlikely to plug enough holes in India’s sinking health care system to end its deadly catastrophe.

The Indian health ministry reported more than 320,000 new cases and 2,771 deaths on Tuesday. Both figures represented slight declines from the previous day’s record highs, but experts said this was not a sign that the outbreak was easing. With enormous funeral pyres spilling into parking lots and city parks, there are signs that India’s reported overall toll of nearly 198,000 deaths could be a vast undercount.

Australia and the Philippines said on Tuesday they would pause commercial flights from India, joining Britain, Canada, Singapore and several other nations that have restricted travel from the country. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said his government would donate ventilators and protective equipment to help India contain the outbreak.

The emergency in India, where a worrying virus variant is spreading rapidly, is driving a new global surge in the pandemic. It also carries implications for countries relying on India for the AstraZeneca vaccine, millions of doses of which are manufactured there.

“It’s a desperate situation out there,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, adding that donations would be welcome but might make only a “dent on the problem.”

Scientists fear that part of the problem is the emergence of a virus variant known as the “double mutant,” B.1.617, because it contains genetic mutations found in two other difficult-to-control versions of the coronavirus. One of the mutations is present in the highly contagious variant that ripped through California earlier this year. The other is similar to one found in the variant dominant in South Africa and is believed to make the virus more resistant to vaccines.

Still, scientists caution that it is too early to know with certainty how pernicious the variant emerging in India is.

Earlier this year, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted as if the coronavirus battle had been won, holding huge campaign rallies and permitting thousands to gather for a Hindu religious festival.

Now, Mr. Modi is striking a far more sober tone. He said in a nationwide radio address on Sunday that India has been “shaken” by a “storm.” And countries, companies and powerful members of the diaspora have pledged to pitch in.

Patients are suffocating in the capital, New Delhi, and other cities because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out. Frantic relatives have appealed on social media for leads on intensive-care-unit beds and experimental drugs. The government has extended New Delhi’s lockdown by another week.

India’s Supreme Court last week ordered the government to come up with a “national plan” for distributing oxygen supplies.

Mr. Modi appears to be looking to the rest of the world to help India quell the wave. Britain, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have promised oxygen generators or ventilators. The United States has pledged raw material for coronavirus vaccines and intends to share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other nations, so long as the doses clear a safety review conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, officials said Monday. Indian-American businessmen have pledged millions in cash from the companies they lead.

At a news conference on Monday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, called the situation in India “beyond heartbreaking.” He said the organization had deployed 2,600 staff members to India to provide vaccination help.

The world’s seven-day average of new cases has remained well above 750,000 for the past week, according to a New York Times database, higher than the peak average during the last global surge in January. Despite more than one billion shots having been administered globally, far too small a percentage of the world’s nearly eight billion people has been vaccinated to slow the virus’s spread.

A Sputnik V vaccine production line in Saint Petersburg, Russia in February.
Credit…Emile Ducke for The New York Times

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s health authority said late Monday that it would not recommend importing Sputnik V, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Russia.

The need for vaccines is urgent in Brazil: The country has been battered by one of the world’s worst outbreaks, driven by the highly contagious P. 1 virus variant.

But the health authority, Anvisa, said that questions remained about the Russian vaccine’s development, safety and manufacturing. All five of Anvisa’s directors voted against importing the vaccine.

Data about Sputnik V’s efficacy was “uncertain,” Gustavo Mendes Lima Santos, Anvisa’s manager of medicine and biological products, said in a lengthy late-night presentation. He noted that “crucial questions” had gone unanswered, including those about potential adverse events.

Russia is using Sputnik V in its own mass vaccination campaign, and the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in dozens of countries. A peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet in February said the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 91.6 percent.

Brazil’s decision prompted a response at the highest level of the Russian government, which has been energetically promoting Sputnik V in Latin America at a time when the United States has limited its vaccine exports to reserve doses for its own citizens.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on Tuesday that the Russian government would try to win over the Brazilian regulators’ minds about the vaccine’s safety. “Contacts will continue,” Mr. Peskov said on a conference call with journalists. “If data is missing, it will be provided. There should be no doubt in this.”

The official Sputnik V Twitter account have also pushed back, with a post in Portuguese on Monday saying that the vaccine’s developers had shared “all the necessary information and documentation” with Anvisa. In another tweet, it said Anvisa’s decision “was of a political nature” and had “nothing to do with access to information or science.” It alleged that the United States had persuaded Brazil to deny approval.

Anvisa officials were under immense pressure to deliver a decision on Sputnik V, because Brazilian states had contracts to buy almost 30 million doses. The Supreme Court ordered Anvisa to make a decision.

“The days of yes to the vaccine and to treatments are celebrated,” Alex Machado, an Anvisa director, said. “There will inevitably be days of no.”

Gov. Camilo Santana of Ceará, one of the states with a Sputnik V contract, said on Twitter that he respected Anvisa’s decision but found it strange, given that Sputnik V is being used in other countries. “I will keep fighting for this authorization, in a safe manner, following all the rules,” he said.

The Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health, developed the vaccine, also known as Gam-Covid-Vac. The shot has been entangled in politics and propaganda, with President Vladimir V. Putin announcing its approval even before late-stage trials had begun.

Ana Carolina Moreira Marino Araújo, the general manager of the Anvisa department that inspects vaccine development, said at the meeting that Brazilian officials could not perform a full inspection of the Russian facilities.

She said officials who were in Russia last week were denied access to the Gamaleya Institute and inspected only two factories, finding problems in one of them. She also said Russian officials had tried to cancel the agency’s visit.

“At this moment, the inherent risk in manufacturing couldn’t be overcome,” Ms. Araújo concluded.

Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arriving at the Government House in Bangkok last month.
Credit…Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

With Thailand struggling to bring its worst coronavirus outbreak under control, Bangkok made it compulsory for residents to wear masks in public beginning on Monday. One of the first to break the new rule?

The country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was seen maskless at a government meeting in a photo published on his official Facebook page.

As a first-time offender, he agreed to pay a fine of about $190. Bangkok’s governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, came around with top police officials on Monday to help collect it.

“I informed the prime minister this was a violation of the rules,” the governor wrote on Facebook. The photograph was removed from the prime minister’s Facebook page.

For Mr. Prayuth, the gaffe is the least of his pandemic problems. His government has struggled to curb transmissions and been slow to obtain vaccines. As infections ticked upward earlier this month, he decided to let Thais continue to travel widely during a major holiday.

“Whatever will be will be,” he said then. “The government will have to try to cope with that later.”

Now, his government is scrambling to procure vaccines from a stretched global supply and rushing to set up field hospitals at sports stadiums and other locations as many hospitals report being near capacity. Only 0.3 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

On Tuesday, the government reported 15 deaths, its highest daily total since the pandemic began, and more than 2,000 new cases for the fifth day in a row. That brings Thailand’s total for the pandemic to nearly 60,000 cases and 163 deaths, according to the government.

The numbers are low by global standards; Thailand was among the world’s leaders in containing the virus last year. Nearly 90 percent of its cases have come since Jan. 1.

Many provinces have imposed their own restrictions, including Bangkok, which has ordered the closure of more than 30 types of businesses, such as fitness centers, cinemas, bars and massage parlors. Restaurants, malls and department stores can continue operating but with restrictions.

Nearly two-thirds of Thailand’s provinces have imposed fines for failing to wear a mask in public. The maximum penalty is about $635.

Global Roundup

Walking near the Acropolis in Athens last month.
Credit…Byron Smith for The New York Times

Greece lifted quarantine requirements on Monday for arrivals from seven more countries, including Russia and Australia, continuing an easing of rules for foreign visitors before a formal reopening to tourists on May 15.

Last week, Greece ended quarantine restrictions for visitors from European Union member states as well as the United States, Britain, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates. The steps were similar to those put in place in March for arrivals from Israel, which has been far ahead of most of the world in vaccinations.

Greece is also stopping restrictions this week for visitors from New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda and Singapore.

Greece had previously required arrivals to quarantine themselves for seven days. It is waiving that rule for passengers from the listed countries as long as they produce a vaccination certificate or the results of a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours of their arrival.

After heavy economic losses in 2020, the Greek authorities are determined to save this year’s summer tourist season despite experiencing a severe third wave of coronavirus infections. Health officials have said the infection rate is stabilizing, though slowly. Greek health officials have reported more than 334,000 infections and more than 10,000 deaths from the virus, according to a New York Times database.

A new concern is the appearance of the coronavirus variant that is believed to be fueling the worsening outbreak in India. On Sunday, health officials recorded the second case of that variant in Greece, found in a 33-year-old foreign woman who had traveled to Dubai in early April.

Greece’s high infection rate remains a worry for some governments. The U.S. State Department has advised against travel to Greece, citing a “very high level” of coronavirus cases. Greek health officials have expanded testing in recent weeks as they gradually lift lockdown restrictions, with bars and restaurants scheduled to reopen on May 3 after a six-month hiatus.

In other updates from around the world:

  • New Zealand said it would allow quarantine-free travel from Western Australia to resume on Wednesday, after a three-day pause prompted by two coronavirus cases in the Australian city of Perth. Travelers who have been identified as contacts of the infected Australians — a man believed to have been infected in hotel quarantine, and a woman he later stayed with — will have to self-isolate and test negative for the virus before departure, according to New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins.

  • The authorities in Portugal said they might lift a state of emergency as early as the end of this month after reporting zero deaths from the virus on Monday. It was the first such day since August. The infection rate in Portugal has recently fallen to one of the lowest levels in Europe. Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is giving a televised address on the subject Tuesday evening.

  • At first, getting the vaccine itself was the prize for older people in Russia seeking protection from the coronavirus. But with vaccinations slowing in Moscow, the city government began a program on Tuesday to encourage turnout with gift certificates. Residents over 60 will receive a voucher for 1,000 rubles, or about $13, redeemable at stores and restaurants. The Russian government has blamed widespread vaccine hesitancy for a slow start to its campaign. A shortage has also slowed the effort, with Russia exporting some of its doses. About 5 percent of Russians are now fully vaccinated; in the United States, it’s 27 percent.

The entrance of the Hilton Times Square. A new proposal would give the City Council the ability to approve all new hotel development in New York City.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

New York City leaders, led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, are closing in on a plan to drastically restrict hotel development, a move that the mayor’s own experts fear could endanger the city’s post-pandemic recovery.

It came days after the mayor announced a $30 million advertising campaign to draw tourists to the city again.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, 67 million tourists flocked to the city. About 23 million visited last year, and much of the city’s recovery hinges on bringing those visitors back.

But building hotels would become more challenging under the special approval process envisioned by Mr. de Blasio, said Moses Gates, vice president of housing and neighborhood planning at the Regional Plan Association, an influential nonprofit planning group.

Before the pandemic decimated the hotel sector, there were nearly 128,000 hotel rooms in New York City, and hotels had annual occupancy rates that averaged between 85 and 90 percent, which the city says “were among the highest of any urban market in the United States.”

Now, roughly 30 percent of those rooms have closed. New York City’s occupancy rate this month stood at 53 percent, excluding the closed hotels, according to STR, which tracks the hospitality industry.

Having a drink or two after the shot will not make any of the vaccines less effective.
Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

After a long year and a lot of anticipation, getting the vaccine can be cause for celebration, which for some might mean pouring a drink and toasting to their new immunity. But can alcohol interfere with your immune response?

The short answer is that it depends on how much you drink.

There is no evidence that having a drink or two can render any of the current Covid vaccines less effective. Some studies have even found that over the longer term, small or moderate amounts of alcohol might actually benefit the immune system by reducing inflammation.

Heavy alcohol consumption, on the other hand, particularly over the long term, can suppress the immune system and potentially interfere with your vaccine response, experts say. Since it can take weeks after a Covid shot for the body to generate protective levels of antibodies against the novel coronavirus, anything that interferes with the immune response would be cause for concern.

Health care workers prepared doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in Buffalo, W.Va., last month. Gov. Jim Justice announced a plan to give savings bonds to young people who get vaccinated.
Credit…Stephen Zenner/Getty Images

West Virginia will give $100 savings bonds to 16- to 35-year-olds who get a Covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Jim Justice said on Monday.

There are roughly 380,000 West Virginians in that age group, many of whom have already gotten at least one shot, but Mr. Justice said he hoped the money would motivate the rest to get inoculated, as “they’re not taking the vaccines as fast as we’d like them to take them.”

The state will use federal funds from the CARES Act to pay for the bonds, Mr. Justice, a Republican, said at a news conference, adding that he had “vetted this every way that we possibly can” to ensure that the unconventional use of the funds was allowed.

The bonds will be also be available to anyone in that age group who has already been vaccinated, Mr. Justice said.

West Virginia has the 16th highest rate of new coronavirus cases per person among U.S. states and ranks 12th in hospitalizations, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Justice said the state needed to stop the virus “dead in its tracks,” and that if it did, “these masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, the death toll and the body bags start to absolutely become minimal.”

Earlier this year, at the start of the country’s vaccination effort, West Virginia had stood out for its success in vaccinating its residents. At one point, it had administered second doses to more of its population than any other state; it was also behind only Alaska for the percent of its residents that had received a first dose.

But now West Virginia is fallen behind, ahead of only nine states for the portion of its residents that have had a first dose, according to a New York Times database tracking vaccines.

Mr. Justice said that young West Virginians could “always stand an extra dose of patriotism.” He urged them to “accept that wonderful savings bond” — which will allow the recipient to retrieve the $100, plus interest, at a later date — adding, “I hope that you keep it for a long, long, long time.”

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Greek Neo-Nazi Lawmaker Stripped of Immunity by European Parliament

BRUSSELS — The convicted Greek neo-Nazi Ioannis Lagos was stripped of his immunity as a member of the European Parliament on Tuesday, clearing the way for his extradition to Greece months after he was sentenced in a landmark trial.

Mr. Lagos, a leading member of the now-defunct criminal organization Golden Dawn, which formed a political party that in its heyday was the third largest in the Greek Parliament, told The New York Times in written comments earlier this year that he was planning to flee to a “European country” where his rights would be protected, but did not specify which.

On Tuesday, shortly after the waiving of his immunity was announced, he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision by the European Parliament, announced Tuesday morning after a secret ballot held a day earlier, comes after months of delays of procedure over protocol and the Covid-19 pandemic.

and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for running a criminal organization, but was protected until now by immunity afforded to members of the European Parliament.

Golden Dawn rose to prominence a decade ago, systematically targeting the European Union and migrants, especially Muslims, during the financial crisis that devastated Greece’s economy and society.

The trial in Greece lasted more than five years and is widely regarded as one of the most important cases against neo-Nazis in contemporary Europe, where forces of the far right became empowered during the financial crisis and further emboldened after the refugee crisis of 2015-2016, in some cases penetrating the mainstream political spectrum.

One of the leading members of the party, Christos Pappas, remains on the run after his conviction.

Mr. Lagos has been fighting to hold on to his immunity and avoid extradition to Greece to serve his sentence, while also claiming the case against him is political and that he’s being prosecuted for his political thoughts, not his deeds.

has come under criticism for taking months to deliberate on the waiver of Mr. Lagos’s immunity and for refusing to prioritize his case over other pending immunity cases of European lawmakers wanted in their home countries over smaller legal matters.

The Parliament’s relevant committee defended its pace and prioritization of cases as partly a matter of slowed-down deliberations because of the coronavirus outbreak and partly an effort to meticulously follow protocol to avoid any charges of bias.

The committee recommended the European Parliament waive Mr. Lagos’s immunity last week, in an anonymous vote of 22 to 2, and the full Parliament supported that decision in a vote by 658 to 25, with 10 abstentions.

The next step is for the Greek authorities to ask the authorities in Belgium, where the Parliament is based most of the time and Mr. Lagos is a resident, to arrest and extradite him.

It would then be up to Belgian courts to rule on the request, which may take months. The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Should the Belgians block a request, Mr. Lagos would continue to sit in the European Parliament, but that seems highly unlikely.

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Covid-19 Live Updates: A Billion Shots, but Global Cases Keep Rising

the devastation in India continues to break daily records and run rampant in much of the world, even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries and more than one billion shots have now been given globally.

On Sunday, the world’s seven-day average of new cases hit 774,404, according to a New York Times database. That is a jump of 15 percent from two weeks earlier, and higher than the peak average of 740,390 during the last global surge in January.

Despite the number of shots given around the world — more than one billion, according to a New York Times tracker — far from enough of the world’s estimated population of nearly eight billion have been vaccinated to slow the virus’s steady spread.

And vaccinations have been highly concentrated in wealthy nations: 82 percent of shots worldwide have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to data compiled by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

Israel is far ahead of much of the world in vaccinations: More than half of the population is now fully vaccinated. In Britain, where a highly contagious and deadly variant was discovered, nearly two thirds of the population is at least partly vaccinated and the rate of new cases is now among the lowest in Europe.

The United States has also partly vaccinated about 41 percent of its population and has loosened a ban on the export of raw materials for vaccines to help India control the world’s worst outbreak.

India is recording more than a third of all new global cases each day, averaging more than 260,000 new daily cases over the past week. The country’s sudden surge, driven by the spread of a newer variant, is casting increasing doubt on the official death toll of nearly 200,000, with more than 2,000 people dying every day.

Experts say the official numbers, however staggering, represent just a part of the virus’s spread, with hospitals overwhelmed and lacking critical supplies like oxygen.

India is home to the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker. But only about 8.6 percent of India’s population has received at least one shot of a vaccine. Its surge led to the Indian government’s decision to withhold exports of doses that many low- and middle-income countries were relying on. The vaccine rollout in Africa, which was already slower than it is in any other continent, could soon come to a near halt because of the suspension.

Public health experts say the number of global cases is most likely surging because more contagious virus variants are spreading just as people are starting to let their guards down.

In Thailand, where cases were kept at bay for months with strict quarantines and lockdowns, the virus has spread rapidly, in part by unmasked people partying. Daily cases, still low by global standards, have increased from 26 on April 1 to more than 2,000 three weeks later. And in India, many people stopped taking precautions after officials eased a lockdown that was imposed early last year.

“India let their guard down when the numbers fell and they thought they were over their last peak,” said Barry Bloom, a research professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He added that the United States should “take a lesson from other countries before we become complacent and decide everything’s OK.”

As bad as India’s situation is, the numbers have room to grow worse: Its daily caseloads, adjusted for its huge population, rank well below other countries’.

The rate of new cases in the United States is falling but remains alarmingly high — similar to last summer’s surge.

The rates of new coronavirus cases also remain high across much of South America. In Brazil, reported cases are starting to drop but remain high after a more contagious variant tore through the country and overwhelmed hospitals.

In continental Europe, the pace of vaccinations lags that in the United States and Canada, and the number of new coronavirus cases remains particularly high in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Turkey, at the crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Asia, is another hot spot.

Dr. Robert Murphy, the executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University, said the United States had a responsibility to send unused vaccine doses to other countries as supplies increase.

“We have to start thinking on a global scale and do what we can to help these other countries,” Dr. Murphy said. “Otherwise we’re never going to put out the whole fire.”

Administering the Astrazeneca vaccine at the Milan military hospital last month.
Credit…Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

BRUSSELS — The European Union has filed a lawsuit in Belgium against the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over what it says is a breach of contract in the company’s delivery of Covid-19 vaccine, the European Commission announced on Monday.

The bloc’s relationship with the company has soured rapidly since AstraZeneca said in January that it would not be able to deliver on its scheduled vaccine doses for the first quarter of the year, setting the region’s vaccination campaign back by weeks.

“The commission has started last Friday a legal action against the company AstraZeneca on the basis of breaches of the advanced purchase agreement,” said Stefan de Keersmaecker, a spokesman on health issues for the commission, the E.U.’s executive branch. “The reason indeed being that the terms of the contract, or some terms of the contract, have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses.”

Mr. de Keersmaecker said that all 27 E.U. member countries supported the move.

The company, while acknowledging that production problems have caused delays, has said its failure to deliver is not a breach of contract, because the European Union had placed its order after other clients, most notably Britain. A spokesman for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The two parties had been engaged in a dispute arbitration effort, but the European Union decided to move ahead with a legal case. The contract is under Belgian law, and legal proceedings would happen in Belgium.

The European Union’s vaccine contract with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, was the first it signed, in August last year, and covers 400 million doses. So far, the company has delivered just over 30 million.

In an interview with The Times on Sunday, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the company had only supplied a quarter of what it had promised to the bloc, and had to deliver 200 million doses of vaccines by the end of this quarter.

She indicated that the European Union would not open talks over future supply. “At the moment, the company has a delay in delivering 200 million doses of vaccine by the end of the second quarter,” she said. “The number speaks for itself.”

A line at the Louvre in Paris last summer. The European Union is allowing fully vaccinated Americans entry into the bloc this summer.
Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

BRUSSELS — American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to visit the European Union over the summer, the head of the bloc’s executive body said in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday, more than a year after shutting down nonessential travel from most countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The fast pace of vaccination in the United States, and advanced talks between the authorities there and the European Union over how to make vaccine certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors, will enable the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, to recommend a switch in policy that could see trans-Atlantic leisure travel restored.

“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Sunday in an interview with The Times in Brussels. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.

“Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.,” she added. The agency, the bloc’s drugs regulator, has approved all three vaccines being used in the United States, namely the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson shots.

Ms. von der Leyen did not offer a timeline for when exactly tourist travel might open up or details on how it would occur. But her comments are a top-level statement that the current travel restrictions are set to change on the basis of vaccination certificates.

Diplomats from Europe’s tourist destination countries, mostly led by Greece, have argued for weeks that the bloc’s criteria for determining whether a country is a “safe” origin purely based on low coronavirus cases are fast becoming irrelevant given the progress of vaccination campaigns in the United States, Britain and some other countries.

Waiting for hospital beds, Covid-19 patients received oxygen provided by a local Sikh house of worship on a sidewalk in New Delhi on Sunday.
Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

India’s coronavirus crisis deepened on Monday with the number of new reported cases setting a global record for the fifth consecutive day, as countries, companies and members of the large diaspora pledged to send oxygen and other critical aid.

India’s health ministry reported almost 353,000 new cases and 2,812 deaths on Monday, and enormous funeral pyres continued to burn in the worst-affected cities. Experts say that India’s reported overall toll of more than 195,000 deaths could be a vast undercount.

In New Delhi, where Covid-19 patients have died after hospitals ran out of oxygen, the government extended a lockdown by another week.

India’s Supreme Court last week ordered the government to come up with a “national plan” for distributing oxygen supplies.

The problems in India’s hospitals go beyond oxygen shortages. In the western state of Gujarat, more than a dozen patients were evacuated from a hospital on Sunday night after an air-conditioning unit caught fire, the Press Trust of India reported, the third accident involving virus patients in India in the past seven days.

Last Friday in another western state, Maharashtra, a hospital fire also caused by an air-conditioning unit killed 15 patients. Two days earlier, at least 22 patients died in a hospital in the city of Nashik, also in Maharashtra, after a leak cut off oxygen supplies.

The Biden administration, under pressure to help with the Indian surge as patients and their families make desperate online pleas for aid, said on Sunday that it had partially lifted a ban on the export of raw materials for vaccines and would also supply India with therapeutics, test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear. Other countries, including Britain, have also promised to send medical equipment and raw vaccine materials to India, a key producer of vaccines for lower-income countries.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” President Biden said on Twitter on Sunday.

Two Indian-American businessmen — the Microsoft chief executive, Satya Nadella, and the Google chief, Sundar Pichai — have both said that their companies will provide financial assistance to India.

“Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India,” Mr. Pichai wrote on Twitter, pledging $18 million to aid groups working in the country.

A pub in Glasgow, Scotland on Monday.
Credit…Andy Buchanan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Scotland and Wales reopened restaurants, cafes, and nonessential shops on Monday, marking the next phase of a gradual relaxation of coronavirus restrictions that have been in place for months.

In Scotland, restaurants can serve food but not alcohol indoors until 8 p.m., and they can serve food and alcohol outdoors without restrictions. Stores, beauty salons, museums and galleries also reopened, and people are permitted to book travel in the rest of Britain.

The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said she was hopeful that the country would continue its progress and lift more restrictions by the summer. But she cautioned that the virus was more infectious now than it had been in earlier waves and, therefore, “We must stick to the rules.” Free rapid tests will be available to the public.

In Wales, places of worship and retail stores reopened, and restaurants resumed outdoor service. Outdoor wedding receptions with up to 30 people can take place.

Cases remain low in Britain, with more than 40 percent of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine. On Sunday, the country reported just over 1,700 new cases and 11 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Hikers at Lion Rock in Hong Kong in January. 
Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The governments of Singapore and Hong Kong said on Monday that a long-delayed travel bubble between the two Asian financial centers would begin next month, allowing travelers on designated flights to bypass quarantine.

The travel arrangement, which was originally supposed to begin last November, was suspended at the last minute when Hong Kong experienced a sudden surge in cases. With both places now reporting relatively few local infections, officials say the travel corridor will begin on May 26.

“Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month, so that we can launch the first flights smoothly,” Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s minister of transport, said in a statement.

The arrangement, which is open to people of any nationality in Singapore and Hong Kong, will begin with one flight per day in each direction for up to 200 passengers. Travelers to both places must test negative for the coronavirus before departure and again upon arrival. They are also required to download and use government contact-tracing apps.

Travelers from Hong Kong must have received their second dose of a vaccine at least 14 days earlier, with some exceptions. Officials in Hong Kong, where the vaccination campaign has struggled to gain momentum, say they hope that this will give residents an incentive to get vaccinated. (There is no vaccination requirement for travelers from Singapore to Hong Kong.)

Officials said that the bubble would be suspended automatically for two weeks if either city recorded a seven-day average of more than five local cases from an unknown source.

The bubble is seen as an important step toward economic recovery in the two cities, both major travel hubs whose flagship carriers, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, only operate international flights. Similar travel bubbles are already in effect between Australia and New Zealand and between Palau and Taiwan, all places where local transmission of the coronavirus is almost nonexistent.

A small number of guests enjoying the pool at a resort in Phuket, Thailand, this month.
Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Only a few weeks ago, Phuket seemed poised for a comeback. After a year of practically no foreign tourists arriving in Thailand, the national government decided that Phuket would start welcoming vaccinated visitors in July, without requiring them to go through quarantine. The project was called Phuket Sandbox.

But Thailand is now gripped by its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, spread in part by the well-heeled Thais who partied in Phuket and Bangkok with no social distancing. The confirmed daily caseload — albeit low by global standards — has increased from 26 on April 1 to more than 2,000 three weeks later, in a country that in early December had about 4,000 cases total.

The opening that Phuket had planned for July 1 now appears unlikely, Thailand’s tourism minister acknowledged this month.

“If you ask me how optimistic I am, I cannot say,” said Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, the director of the tourism authority’s Phuket office. “The situation changes all the time.”

The virus’s resurgence after so many months of economic hardship is devastating for the majority of Phuket’s residents, who depend on foreign tourists for their livelihoods.

Dr. Linda Dahl at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, N.Y.
Credit…Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Compliance practices at the Academy Awards on Sunday will be closely watched as organizers prepare for the gradual resumption of major events such as the Tonys (to be coordinated with Broadway’s reopening).

Part cop, part coach, Covid compliance officers, or C.C.O.s, have become essential overseers in America’s tentative return to prepandemic life.

“We’re at a tipping point,” said Dr. Blythe Adamson, an infectious disease epidemiologist and economist. “People are going out more, they have pandemic fatigue. They’re vaccinated, but people are still getting Covid with these new strains. It makes the compliance officer role extremely important.”

The budget for Covid compliance on film sets is high: 25 to 30 percent of the total, according to Dr. Linda Dahl, an ear, nose and throat surgeon who has become a C.C.O. Complicating the job, what constitutes Covid compliance can change on a weekly or even daily basis as guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention constantly evolve.

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