Three virus patients die at a hospital in Romania after its oxygen supply malfunctions.

Three people infected with the coronavirus died at a hospital in Bucharest on Monday evening after the oxygen supply stopped functioning, according to the authorities, the latest incident involving oxygen failure, which in many countries has driven up the virus death toll.

It was also another fatal setback for Romania’s ageing and overwhelmed health care system, which has suffered two fires in Covid-19 wards in recent months, killing at least 15 people.

Ventilators shut down at a mobile intensive care unit set up at the Victor Babes hospital in Bucharest after oxygen pressure reached too high a level, the country’s health authorities said in a statement, depriving patients of a vital supply. In addition to the three patients who died, five others were evacuated and moved to other facilities in the city.

Romania has recorded its highest rate of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units since the pandemic began, and on Sunday Prime Minister Florin Citu said that there were just six intensive care beds available across Romania, out of nearly 1,600.

five patients died and a further 102 were evacuated from a different hospital in Bucharest after a fire broke out. In November, 10 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus died after a fire broke out in a hospital in the northeastern city of Piatra Neamt.

Romania’s spending on health care is among the lowest in the European Union, with just over five percent of gross domestic product allocated toward it, compared with 10 percent on average among other countries of the bloc.

More than 25,000 people who tested positive for the virus have died in Romania, and the authorities have closed schools and kindergartens throughout April as part of an extended Easter holiday.

The authorities have so far administered more than 3.5 million vaccine doses, in a population of about 19 million.

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Britain Rejoices and Asks: Are Lockdowns Finally Finished?

LONDON — In China it was fengcheng. In Spain it was el confinamiento. In France it was le confinement. In Britain it was known as lockdown, plain and simple — but it had the distinction of being one of the longest and most stringent in the world.

On Monday, that finally began drawing to an end.

After months of coronavirus restrictions that encroached on almost every aspect of daily life, the English celebrated a hopeful new chapter, many of them in what seemed the most fitting way possible: with a pint at a pub.

“It’s like being out of prison,” said Kate Asani, who was sitting at a small table with two friends in the back garden of the Carlton Tavern in the Kilburn area of London, where they basked in each other’s company as much as in the sunshine.

For people across Europe, struggling with yet another wave of the pandemic and demoralized by a vaccine rollout that, outside of Britain, has been deeply troubled, this is hardly a time to rejoice.

Images from the ghostly streets of Wuhan riveted the world’s attention, and it soon became clear that the virus respected no national borders. But there was debate over whether Western democracies could — or should — resort to the extreme measures taken by Beijing.

As hospitals struggled to deal with a flood of patients and death tolls soared, the debate was overtaken by the undeniable reality that traditional methods of infectious disease control, like testing and contact tracing, had failed.

And so lockdowns became a way of life.

held out longer than many of its European neighbors, entered its first national lockdown on March 26, 2020.

Although it is difficult to compare lockdowns, researchers at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford have developed a system ranking their stringency. They found that Britain had spent 175 days at its “maximum stringency level.”

“In this sense, we can say that the U.K. is globally unique in spending the longest period of time at a very high level of stringency,” said Thomas Hale, an associate professor of global public policy at Oxford.

2,500 cases and 36 fatalities.

first shut down last year, even the prime minister sounded shaken.

“I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary,” Mr. Johnson said last March. “We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub.”

Days earlier, Mr. Johnson’s recommendation that the public voluntarily stay away from pubs and other social venues was not universally well received. His own father said: “Of course I’ll go to a pub if I need to go to a pub.”

It was not just pubs that suffered under lockdown. Retail stories, too, struggled to survive.

The flagship store of the British retailer Topshop on Oxford Circus, once a destination for fashion-hungry young adults, permanently shut its doors after its parent company filed for bankruptcy last year. And plywood boards now cover the front of Debenhams, another retail chain that floundered during the pandemic.

The two companies crumbled within days of one another, as the country bounced from one lockdown to the next and the pandemic hastened the end of British high-street brands that were already teetering on the edge.

But now, those stores that have survived are hoping for a heyday, after the worst recession in decades.

Retailers hope that there will be a splurge in spending by people who have amassed a record amount of savings, nearly $250 billion according to government estimates, roughly 10 percent of Britain’s gross domestic product.

Plastered in big letters on the shop front of John Lewis, a British department store, there was an invitation coupled with a fingers-crossed prediction: “Come on in London, brighter days are coming.”

Marc Santora and Megan Specia reported from London and Eric Nagourney from New York.

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After months of near-total lockdown, Britain begins to reopen.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are following separate but similar timetables, under which some restrictions eased on Monday in England will remain in place a while longer.

Despite chilly weather with occasional snow flurries, the moment was greeted with an enthusiasm born of more than a year of deprivation — as the once unimaginable notion of conscripting to government decree has become a way of life.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “a major step forward in our road map to freedom.”

In the first weeks of the global health crisis — when the World Health Organization was still debating whether to call the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic — a new word entered the popular lexicon.

Lockdown in English. Le confinement in French. El confinamiento in Spanish. But first came fengcheng in China, literally meaning to lock down a city.

At the time, as images from ghostly streets of Wuhan, China, started to grab the world’s attention and it became clear that the virus respected no national borders, there was a debate about whether Western democracies could — or should — resort to such extreme measures.

As hospitals struggled to deal with a flood of patients and death tolls soared, the debate was overtaken by the reality that traditional methods of infectious disease control, like testing and contact tracing, had failed.

Britain, which held out longer than many of its European neighbors, entered its first national lockdown on March 26, 2020.

Since then, lockdown has come to mean many things to many people — dictated as often by individual circumstance and risk assessment as government decree.

While no country matched China’s draconian measures, liberal democracies have been engaged in a yearlong effort to balance economic, political and public health concerns.

Last spring, that meant that much of the world looked alike, with about four billion people — half of humanity — living under some form of stay-at-home order.

A year later, national approaches to the virus vary wildly. And no region has relied on lockdowns to the extent Europe has.

Although it is difficult to compare lockdowns, since the use of the word differs in different places, researchers at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government have developed a system ranking the rules’ stringency. They found that Britain has spent 175 days at its “maximum stringency level.”

“In this sense, we can say that the U.K. is globally unique in spending the longest period of time at a very high level of stringency,” said Thomas Hale, an associate professor of global public policy at Oxford.

Though there was still a winter chill in the air Monday morning, people in Britain flocked to stores and restaurants. After so many false dawns, there was a widespread hope that, this time, there would be no going back.

Treating a Covid-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Homerton University Hospital in London, in January.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The British lockdown that is being eased on Monday is the nation’s third. But it was first aimed at containing a variant of the coronavirus — offering an early warning to the world of the threat posed by the evolution of the virus and the difficulties in trying to control this particular form.

When the variant, known as B.1.1.7, was first discovered late last year in the southeastern English county of Kent, much about it was a mystery.

It appeared to be more contagious, but to what degree? Was it more deadly? How far had it spread?

The picture is becoming clearer. The most recent estimates suggest it is about 60 percent more contagious than the original form of the virus, and significantly more deadly.

That same variant is now spreading across continental Europe, prompting governments like those of France and Italy to impose new national lockdowns. The variant has also added urgency to the vaccination campaign in the United States — which is getting doses into millions of arms every day but still might not be fast enough to avoid yet another wave.

The vaccines being used in many countries have shown to be effective against it.

Britain’s vaccination campaign was launched with an urgency dictated by the moment, prioritizing first doses to spread a degree of protection as quickly and widely as possible.

Even after the lockdown was put in place, the variant propelled the country’s daily fatality rates to levels not seen since the peak of the pandemic’s first wave in April.

On Friday, the number of people with Covid-19 on their death certificate was just shy of 150,000.

But another statistic now offers hope. Nearly 32 million people have been given at least one dose of a vaccine — roughly half the adult population.

Officials are confident the combined effects of the lockdown and mass vaccination will provide a wall of protection. But, as England’s chief medical officer Chris Witty warned, it is a “leaky wall.”

A large majority of people under the age of 50 have yet to be offered a jab. And with supplies constrained around the world, eligibility is unlikely to be expanded for weeks or more.

A line outside an athletic wear shop in central London early Monday. 
Credit…Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press

The once-routine act of visiting a clothes store or shoe merchant took on a new meaning for the first shoppers who made an early-morning pilgrimage to Oxford Street, London’s busiest retail road that in recent months has been a desolate stretch of boarded up shops and empty stores.

Outside Niketown, JD Sports and Foot Locker, crowds were lining up by 7 a.m. as groups of mostly young men waited in line for a chance to get their hands on new sneakers.

Julian Randall, a dedicated collector who has spent the last 15 years amassing sneakers, left his London home at 2 a.m. to be there. He said he preferred to buy in store, rather than online, where it was harder to find specific shoes at a reasonable price.

“It’s virtually impossible to hop online and buy the shoes online — you don’t even have a chance,” he said. “In this day and age, we are in a recession, and I don’t want to be paying resell prices for shoes. I want to buy retail.”

The shops have remained mostly shuttered since the week of Christmas, when nonessential stores were forced to close across the region, but elsewhere in England, the closures have been in place even longer after coronavirus cases surged.

Retailers hope that there will be a splurge in spending by people who have amassed a record amount of savings — nearly $250 billion according to government estimates, roughly 10 percent of the Britain’s gross domestic product.

But for many stores, it is too late.

The flagship store of the British retailer Topshop on Oxford Circus, once a destination for fashion-hungry young adults, permanently shut its doors after its parent company, Arcadia Group, filed for bankruptcy last year.

Plywood boards cover the front of Debenhams, another retail chain that floundered during the pandemic, its extensive window displays now bare. The two companies crumbled within days of one another, as the country bounced from one lockdown to the next and the pandemic hastened the end of British high-street brands that were already teetering on the edge.

But the shuttered windows stood alongside some hopeful signs. Plastered in big letters on the shop front of John Lewis, a British department store, there was a clear message: “Come on in London, brighter days are coming.”

(Even that retailer has struggled, and it has explored converting parts of its Oxford Street store into office space.)

For those stores that did reopen, coronavirus precautions seemed to be front of mind, at least as the day began. Bokara Begum wanted to be as safe as she could during her shopping outing to Primark, so she arrived as doors swung open to beat the crowd.

“It’s just after 7 a.m., so I took advantage of that and came out here early,” she said, two brown paper bags in tow. “I was a bit panicky, really — I thought there would be a massive queue.”

Customers with their first pints of beer outside The Kentish Belle in London shortly after midnight on Monday.
Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

One man showed up in his robe. Another couple had made a two-hour trek from a neighboring county.

A little over a dozen patrons, shivering in the Arctic chill gripping England, stood at the ready as Nicholas Hair, owner of The Kentish Belle, counted the seconds until the clock ticked over to a minute past midnight.

“Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats!” he said to applause.

Then, for the first time in months, he poured and served a pint.

“I mean, I’ve not seen my friends like this together for so long,” said Ryan Osbourne, 22. “When we have an opportunity like today to bring my friends together, it’s incredible.”

Not all pubs will be allowed to reopen on Monday — only the estimated 15,000 with outdoor space, for outdoor service only. And most of those will open later in the day.

But Mr. Hair had secured a special license to open The Kentish Belle, a small pub specializing in artisanal beers in a quiet southeast London neighborhood, at the earliest possible opportunity.

Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

He was circled by news crews as he prepared to open.

The past year had been “dreadful,” he said, adding that he had not been able to access government funding for the past two months. “There are a lot of businesses like this that won’t survive.”

Uma Nunn, 43, traveled from Surrey to attend the night’s festivities. “We just wanted to show our support,” she said.

Her husband, Benjamin Nunn, a beer writer who spent the last open day for pubs at The Kentish Belle, said he thought it only fitting to return for the first. “This is one of the big things in my life, beer and music,” he said. “Now to be able to get that started up again, it’s energizing, it’s exciting.”

“It’s the middle of he night but hey, hopefully this will never happen again,” he added.

Decorating a restaurant before its reopening on April 12.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England, the next bounce began.

The pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.

Last March and April, there was an economic slump unlike anything ever seen before when schools, workplaces and businesses abruptly shut. Then a summertime boom, when restrictions eased and the government helped usher people out of their homes with a popular meal-discount initiative called “Eat Out to Help Out.”

Beginning in the fall, a second wave of the pandemic stalled the recovery, though the economic impact wasn’t as severe as it had been last spring. Still, the government has spent about 344 billion pounds, or $471 billion, on its pandemic response. To pay for it, the government has borrowed a record sum and is planning the first increase in corporate taxes since 1974 to help rebalance its budget.

By the end of the year, the size of Britain’s economy will be back where it was at the end of 2019, the Bank of England predicts. “The economy is poised like a coiled spring,” Andy Haldane, the central bank’s chief economist said in February. “As its energies are released, the recovery should be one to remember after a year to forget.”

Even though a lot of retail spending has shifted online, reopening shop doors will make a huge difference to many businesses.

Daunt Books, a small chain of independent bookstores, was busy preparing to reopen for the past week, including offering a click-and-collect service in all of its stores. Throughout the lockdown, a skeleton crew “worked harder than they’ve ever worked before, just to keep a trickle” of revenue coming in from online and telephone orders, said Brett Wolstencroft, the bookseller’s manager.

“The worst moment for us was December,” Mr. Wolstencroft said, when shops were shut in large parts of the country beginning on Dec. 20. “Realizing you’re losing your last bit of Christmas is exceptionally tough.”

He says he is looking forward to having customers return to browse the shelves and talk to the sellers. “We’d sort of turned ourselves into a warehouse” during the lockdown, he said, “but that doesn’t work for a good bookshop.”

With the likes of pubs, hairdressers, cinemas and hotels shut for months on end, Brits have built up more than £180 billion in excess savings, according to government estimates. That money, once people can get out more, is expected to be the engine of this recovery — even though economists are debating how much of this windfall will end up in the tills of these businesses.

Monday is just one phase of the reopening. Pubs can serve customers only in outdoor seating areas, and less than half, about 15,000, have such facilities. Hotels will also remain closed for at least another month alongside indoor dining, museums and theaters. The next reopening phase is scheduled for May 17.

Over all, two-fifths of hospitality businesses have outside space, said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of U.K. Hospitality, a trade group.

“Monday is a really positive start,” she said. “It helps us to get businesses gradually back open, get staff gradually back off furlough and build up toward the real reopening of hospitality that will be May 17.”

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How the Stimulus Could Power a Rebound in Other Countries

Washington’s robust spending in response to the coronavirus crisis is helping to pull the United States out of its sharpest economic slump in decades, funneling trillions of dollars to Americans’ checking accounts and to businesses.

Now, the rest of the world is expected to benefit, too.

Global forecasters are predicting that the United States and its record-setting stimulus spending could help to haul a weakened Europe and struggling developing countries out of their own economic morass, especially when paired with a rapid vaccine rollout that has poised the U.S. economy for a faster recovery.

As Americans buy more, they should spur trade and investment and invigorate demand for German cars, Australian wine, Mexican auto parts and French fashions.

The anticipated economic rebound in the United States is expected to join China’s recovery, adding impetus to world output. China’s economy is forecast to expand rapidly this year, with the International Monetary Fund predicting 8.1 percent growth. That is good news for countries like Germany, which depends on Chinese demand for cars and machinery.

just begun to push infections higher in the United States — and a large policy response, including more than $5 trillion in debt-fueled pandemic relief spending passed into law over the past 12 months. Those trends, paired with the accelerating spread of effective vaccinations, seem likely to leave the American economy in a stronger position.

“When the U.S. economy is strong, that strength tends to support global activity as well,” Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said at a recent news conference.

A year ago, it was not at all certain that the United States would gain the strength to help lift the global economy.

International Monetary Fund forecast in April 2020 that the U.S. economy might expand by 4.7 percent this year, roughly in line with forecasts for Europe’s growth, following an expected slump of 5.9 percent in 2020. But the actual contraction in the United States was smaller, and in January, the I.M.F. upgraded the outlook for U.S. growth to 5.1 percent this year, while the euro area’s expected growth was marked down to 4.2 percent.

I.M.F. has signaled that the estimates for the country’s growth will be marked up further when it releases fresh forecasts on April 6.

The recent relief package continues a trend: America has been willing to spend to combat the pandemic’s economic fallout from the start.

America’s initial pandemic response spending, amounting to a little less than $3 trillion, was 50 percent larger, as a share of G.D.P., than what the United Kingdom rolled out, and roughly three times as much as in France, Italy or Spain, based on an analysis by Christina D. Romer at the University of California, Berkeley.

Among a set of advanced economies, only New Zealand has borrowed and spent as big a share of its G.D.P. as the United States has, the analysis found.

In Europe, where workers in many countries were shielded from job losses and plunging income by government furlough programs, the slow pace of the European Union’s vaccination campaign will probably hurt the economy, said Ludovic Subran, the chief economist of German insurance giant Allianz.

On Wednesday, France announced its third national lockdown as infected patients fill its hospitals.

Mr. Subran also questioned whether the European Union can distribute stimulus financing fast enough. The money from a 750 billion euro, or $880 billion, relief program agreed to by European governments last July has been slow to reach the businesses and people who need it because of political squabbling, creaky public administration and a court challenge in Germany.

administered only about 1 vaccine dose per 1,000 people, if that, based on New York Times data. In the United States, the rate is more than 400 doses per 1,000 people.

Still, a booming American economy poses some hazard to other nations — and especially emerging markets — as economic fates diverge.

Market-based interest rates in the United States are already climbing, as investors, sensing faster growth and quicker inflation around the corner, decide to sell bonds. That could make financing more expensive around the globe: If investors can earn higher rates on U.S. bonds, they are less likely to invest in foreign debt that offers either lower rates or higher risk.

If the United States lures capital away from the rest of the world, “the rose-colored view that we are helping everyone is very much in doubt,” said Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance.

trade tensions with Europe, which the Trump administration treated like an adversary. President Biden met online with European leaders last week.

The U.S. stimulus packages “will be part of the water that lifts all boats,” Selina Jackson, senior vice president for global government relations and public policy at consumer products company Procter & Gamble, said during a recent panel discussion organized by the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union. “We are hoping for a calm slide out of this economic situation.”

Keith Bradsher contributed reporting.

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